in General, Personal, Photography

How to delete all Photos and get off Google Photos

Nigh Sky over Bangalore Construction

If you are on the Internet, you might have used one or more of Google’s many products. Sometimes, Google makes decisions that impact the lives of many people. Some of these decisions have a detrimental effect on people.

Google Photos

Google Photos was a free service (with limitations) until May 31, 2021. From Jun 1, 2021, you have to subscribe to a paid plan once you hit your 15GB Google storage limit spread across Gmail, Google Drive, and Google Photos.

I wanted a backup option to our family’s primary Apple Photos. I also liked Google Photos’s ability to have a single pool for your whole family. We had subscribed to the 2TB plan for quite a while, where we sync up the original resolution of the photos.

Recently, while trying to prune and clear up storage, I realize that Google had made it extremely difficult to do so.

Backup / Google Takeout

Before doing anything, I strongly suggest creating a full back of your Google content. Follow the instructions at Google Takeout and get a copy of your Backups.

Deleting Photos

Google Photos was the one taking up most of the storage. It wasn’t an easy task to bulk-delete. You have to select photos within your viewport and delete them manually. The best case is going inside an “Album” or Categories and deleting all of them.

I found a working script for Google Chrome Google Photos Delete All Tool, which helped deletion. Unfortunately, Google Photos web interface seems to update their HTML tag and CSS classes, which no longer worked. I made a tiny tweak in the Button Labels and DELETE duration between actions. Even then, it was not without flaws. It did not work all the time, and I had to tweak/resize the viewport, retry few times, and when it worked, I just let it do its magic. I have a pretty beefy computer (40GB RAM), and I still needed to pick a longer delay between delete cycles.

Activity Monitor

I sent a Pull Request to the source. By the time of writing this article, the Pull Request is yet to be honored. The updated script is at github.com/oinam/google-photos-delete-tool.

About iMac

Follow the steps to delete your Google Photos.

  1. Block images on photos.google.com.
  2. Open Developer Tools > Console.
  3. Copy and Paste the script — delete_photos.js (you might want to view the Raw File).
  4. Hit ENTER and let it run.

It will take hours, even days, if you have lots of photos. Let it run. It took me over two weeks to clean up about 1TB of data (Gmail, Google Photos, and Google Drive). You will need to do this for every individual member of the family who is on Google One.

Google One

Google One Storage Management

Clean up at Google One’s Storage isn’t easy either. The hardest ones are going to be the Large Items. I had no idea where the “Large Files” were stored. So, I cannot delete it from the local synced Drive but have to hunt and peck at the Google Storage Management Dashboard. Be careful; you might be deleting important files.

Google One Support Chat

For Google One Subscribers, you do get the opportunity to talk to an actual person from Google Support. From my interaction, I learned that, in India, due to the new Reserve bank of India eMandate, Google can’t automatically charge you for your subscription and change to a different plan. You’ll have to cancel your current subscription and re-subscribe with the desired Plan.

Block of Images in your Browser Settings, and try the List View instead of Thumbnails. It will make it faster for you to select and delete. Best of luck and I hope it goes well for you.

As of Jun, 2021, I have decided to stay with the Google One Plan of 100GB and stay within that limit.

Most Crypto-Friendly Cities

About 3.3 million years ago humans first technology involved shaping and sharpening stones for a variety of uses. Now, thanks to the (comparatively) quite recent technological advancement of computer networks leading us to the modern internet, today data scientists are using blockchain to revolutionalize our worlds and introduce crypto-currencies into the mainstream.

We can only imagine what the next technologies on the horizon will be, but for now, blockchain is the powerhouse behind trending digital currencies like Bitcoin, Ethereum, Dogecoin, Litecoin, and many, many others.

Billionaires are investing deeply, governments are devising ways to regulate, and more and more businesses are accepting digital currencies as payment. There’s no doubt this decentralized financial system has massive future potential.

So, for those who are interested in finding crypto-friendly communities, where do you go?

That’s one thing that’s difficult when it comes to digital currencies, it’s digital. It lives in virtual spaces. Luckily, for those who want to live around other like-minded crypto-enthusiasts and in a community of fast adaptors a new crypto-friendly city study has been released from moveBuddha to shine some light on those spaces and places.

Their data analyst team sorted through the data to uncover top cities in the US and around the world with concentrations of bitcoin ATMs. To get past the density of bitcoin ATMs in the US compared to the rest of the world, they opted to use comparisons of the total number of bATM’s with populations and GDP.

This unique look uncovered some unexpected cities in both the US and globally.

Unexpected US Small Towns Stands Out as Fast Adaptors

Retailers and business owners choosing to install bitcoin ATMs allow locals to both purchase Bitcoin and even withdraw it for cash. It could be said that the higher density of bitcoin ATMs is supportive of a community model that encourages digital transactions on a larger scale. If local residents have the ability to purchase Bitcoin, they then have the power to use a digital wallet to make transactions in other businesses that accept cryptocurrency for payment.

So, it was surprising to see two small towns in the US-led the way when taking a closer look at the density of bitcoin ATMs:

  • With less than 50,000 residents, Harrisburg, PA outranks Orlando, FL, Atlanta, GA, and even Miami, FL for the highest density of total bitcoin ATMs per 10,000 people.
  • Another unexpected small town taking the #1 spot for the highest number of bitcoin ATMs per $10 Billion GDP is Raleigh, NC.

These two communities have unexpected pockets of crypto-enthusiasts. For example, in Harrisburg, PA there is an active local meetup group of 300 members strong that meets monthly called Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. Over in Raleigh, NC, bitcoin mining has become a family business kind of operation. Oh, and they have a really active Triangle Bitcoin Meetup with more than 1K members!

International Locations for Bitcoin ATM Adoption

While the US leads the way overall with the (by far) largest number of total bitcoin ATMs, other top countries include expected spots such as — Austria, Hong Kong (naturally), and Switzerland (banking capital of Europe).

Then there is the unexpected. Like smaller countries such as Slovakia, Slovenia, and Czechia all making the top 10 list of countries with the most total Bitcoin ATMs.

To hone in on international cities, the team at moveBuddha looked again at GDP. Looking at the highest concentration of bitcoin ATMs per $10 Billion GDP, the city of Tbilisi, Georgia won the #1 spot with only 23 machines. This is largely due to their status as a major hub for crypto mining thanks to inexpensive hydropower.

Crypto Friendly Cities

Ninu – A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos

Ninu - A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos

Ninu – A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos

I find the book a bit hard to have a smooth reading. Perhaps it is the author, Mady Menon’s writing style, trying to blend the modern day with the ancient history while being fictitious but punctuated with historical places, facts, and events.

Set in India’s North-East, NINU: A Saga of the Valorous Wanchos is a military fiction story about the tribe, Wanchos, told by Peter Atamkhung Shawang. Peter studies at Trinity College in London, but he plans to return to India to work on his thesis. His family is from the tribe of headhunters who lives in Ninu.

Peter loves narrating the history and the story of his father’s childhood with his classmates. What will Peter do to uphold his rich history while living in a modern world?

My history of my home-town, Manipur, and the surrounding north-eastern states are fuzzy at best. I’m clueless about the complexities and intricate beauties of the history of the North-Eastern region of India.

Ninu included many historical events that happened in the past, especially in Assam and Nagaland. You will enjoy the struggle of Assam, the tribes surviving under the British rule, and the changes in that region after India’s Independence.

This book will be hard for non-Indians to relate to, and may even be so for most modern Indians. Check it out for a tiny glimpse of the exotic and intriguing culture of the North-Eastern region of India.

Books of 2020

Books of 2020

Without adding much of my own views, here are some details and snippets about some of the critical books that I read this year, 2020. The global pandemic pushed me into cocoons where my default blame turned out to be books, and I did read quite a lot this year.

A

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf is an essential feminist essay that argues for both a literal and figurative space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by men.

A Guide to the Good Life offers a refreshing presentation of Stoicism, showing how this ancient philosophy can still direct us toward a better life. Using the psychological insights and the Stoics’ practical techniques, the book offers a roadmap for anyone seeking to avoid the feelings of chronic dissatisfaction that plague so many of us.

The book shows readers how to become thoughtful observers of their own life. If we watch ourselves as we go about our daily business and later reflect on what we saw, we can better identify the sources of distress and eventually avoid that pain in our life. By doing this, the Stoics thought, we can hope to attain a truly joyful life.

C

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins is another of those books which is not for everyone. David shares his life story revealing that most of us only tap into 40% of our capabilities. Goggins calls this the 40% Rule, and his story illuminates a path that anyone can follow to push past pain, demolish fear, and reach their full potential. David overcame his nightmare of poverty, prejudice, and physical abuse through self-discipline, mental toughness, and hard work. He transformed from a depressed, overweight young man with no future into a U.S. Armed Forces icon and one of the world’s top endurance athletes.

Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore is a marketing book that focuses on the specifics of marketing high tech products during the early startup period. In 2006, Tom Byers, director of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, described it as “still the bible for entrepreneurial marketing 15 years later”.

E

Early Indians by Indian journalist Tony Joseph, focuses on the ancestors of people living today in South Asia. He goes 65,000 years into the past – when anatomically modern humans (Homo sapiens), first made their way from Africa into the Indian subcontinent. The book relies on research findings from six major disciplines – history, archaeology, linguistics, population genetics, philology, and epigraphy, and includes path-breaking ancient DNA research of recent years.

The book discusses four prehistoric migrations in India. The book posits that the Harappans were a mixture of Zagros agriculturists (from the modern-day Iran area) and First Indians, a wave of migrants who came from Africa into Arabia and then reached India around 65,000 years ago. The book traces the subsequent large migrations of anatomically modern humans into India – of agriculturalists from Iran between 7,000 and 3,000 BCE and Indo-European languages speaking pastoralists from the Central Asian Steppe (Aryans) between 2,000 and 1,000 BCE, among others.

My daughter liked the book, and so I decided to read it too. Earthquake Boy by Leela Gour Broome is a fiction with a lot of Bombay scenes, which will is much appreciated and likely to be more cherished by people who know the underbelly of Bombay.

G

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo follows the lives of twelve characters in the United Kingdom over several decades as they navigate the world. The book is divided into four chapters, each containing episodes about three women connected directly to one another in some way. Although each character has their own chapter set across a particular time, their lives intertwine in numerous ways – from friends and relatives to chance acquaintances.

In this revolutionary book, renowned MIT economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo take on this challenge, building on cutting-edge research in economics explained with lucidity and grace. Good Economics for Hard Times makes a persuasive case for intelligent interventionism and a society built on compassion and respect and show how economics, when done right, can help us solve the thorniest social and political problems of the day. It is an extraordinary achievement, one that shines a light to help us appreciate and understand our precariously, balanced world.

H

Hackers & Painters examines the world of hackers and the motivations of the people who occupy it. In clear, thoughtful prose that draws on illuminating historical examples, Paul Graham takes readers on a fast-moving tour of what he calls “an intellectual Wild West.”

High Growth Handbook by Elad Gil has a collection of interviews with entrepreneurs who have built successful high-growth companies. The book contains key frameworks for building and scaling a high-growth company. The interviews are organized into sections so you can jump directly to the interviews with the topics of your choice.

By exploring the most complicated ways to do simple tasks, Randall Munroe doesn’t just make things difficult for himself and his readers. He invites us to explore the most absurd reaches of the possible. Full of creative infographics and amusing illustrations, How To is a delightfully mind-bending way to better understand the science and technology underlying the things we do every day.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is one of those old books that you can re-read again and again. I re-read it this year, and I love it. This book can be read as a course corrector for your life, every once in a while.

I

I am Malala

My daughter wanted to read I Am Malala and so, I did too. The book chronicles the story of Malala Yousafzai who stood up for education and was shot by the taliban. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school.

Malala’s miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the United Nations’ halls in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest-ever Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

L

Walter Isaacson’s new biography, Leonardo da Vinci, is a book that covered all the different facets of his life and work.

The book shows how Leonardo’s genius was based on skills we can improve in ourselves, such as passionate curiosity, careful observation, and an imagination so playful that it flirted with fantasy. He produced the two most famous paintings in history — The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa. With a passion that sometimes became obsessive, he pursued innovative studies of anatomy, fossils, birds, the heart, flying machines, botany, geology, and weaponry. His ability to stand at the crossroads of the humanities and the sciences, made iconic by his drawing of Vitruvian Man, made him history’s most creative genius.

Safi Bahcall shows why teams, companies, or any group with a mission will suddenly change from embracing wild new ideas to rigidly rejecting them. Loonshots identifies the small shifts in the structure that controls this transition, the same way that temperature controls the change from water to ice. The book is a distillation of the insights into lessons for creatives, entrepreneurs, and visionaries everywhere.

M

My Family and Other Animals

My Family and Other Animals is an autobiographical work by British naturalist Gerald Durrell. The book is divided into three sections, marking the three villas where the family lived on the island. Gerald is the youngest in a family consisting of their widowed mother, writer, and eldest son Larry, Leslie, and diet-obsessed sister Margo, together with Roger, the dog. They are fiercely protected by their taxi-driver friend Spiro and mentored by the polymath Dr. Theodore Stephanides who provides Gerald with his education in natural history. Other human characters include Gerald’s private tutors, the artistic and literary visitors Larry invites to stay, and the local people who befriend the family.

R

David Epstein examined the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters, and scientists. He discovered that in most fields, especially those that are complex and unpredictable, the generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t see.

Provocative, rigorous, and engrossing, Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World makes a compelling case for actively cultivating inefficiency. Failing a test is the best way to learn. Frequent quitters end up with the most fulfilling careers. The most impactful inventors cross domains rather than deepening their knowledge in a single area. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

S

Saying No to Jugaad takes you on the Startup journey of BigBasket. TN Hari and MS Subramanian narrate the inspirational story of people and processes they followed over the years in the company, the challenges they faced to overcome the difficult situations and the reasons behind the success of BigBasket.

T

Tao Te Ching is a fundamental text for both philosophical and religious Taoism. It strongly influenced other schools, such as Legalism, Confucianism, and Chinese Buddhism. Its influence has also spread widely outside East Asia and is among the most translated works in world literature.

From idea generation to team building to knowing when it’s time to let go, That Will Never Work is not only the ultimate follow-your-dreams parable but also one of the most dramatic and insightful entrepreneurial stories of our time. Read the story of how Netflix went from concept to company by co-founder and first CEO Marc Randolph.

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant collects and curates Naval’s wisdom from Twitter, Podcasts, and Essays over the past decade. The wisdom of Naval Ravikant, created and edited by Eric Jorgenson. The book is free to read, as well as complete pdf and e-reader versions for free download.

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself is a non-fiction book by theoretical physicist Sean Carroll. In this book, Carroll defends the argument that the Universe can be entirely interpreted by science, introducing “poetic naturalism” as a philosophy that explains the world. Naturalism defines the world entirely in terms of physical forces, fields, and entities, and these forces and fields are unforgiving: they do not permit telekinesis, psychic powers, miracles, life after death, or an immortal soul.

The Choice: Embrace the Possible is about the author, Edith Eger, one of the last remaining Holocaust survivors. Dr. Edith tells her unforgettable story in this moving testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of choice in our lives. In 1944, sixteen-year-old ballerina and gymnast Edith Eger was sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents, she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive. The horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. In fact, they helped her learn to live again with a life-affirming strength and genuinely remarkable resilience.

This is one of those unassuming books that I picked up at the Airport. The Climate Solution by Mridula Ramesh was a quick and fast read for me. It does contain a whole lot of new-found information and I learned a lot. This is an Indian specific problem-solution story and how we can play a part in our fight against climate change.

The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World

The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World

In her lifetime, Margaret Cavendish published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction, in 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World. Unless, you have a genuine interest in the subject of the book, the fact that this is from the 17th century, it will be hard for most modern-day expectations of science fiction. Read it to have a sense of gratification that you read the “the first-ever” and the origin of science fiction stories, written by a woman.

The Future is Asian by Parag Khanna talks about the rise of Asia and Asian systems – technocracy, illiberalism, meritocracy, economic dynamism, and free trade. The book takes you through a sweep of history and modern politics and economic pragmatism. There is an air of pragmatic development and a breathless hope for the future in Asia. It also highlights the negatives in the Asian system — corruption, political repression, ethnic cleansing, and violence, etc.

The Infinite Game is yet another book by Simon Sinek. I liked his prior book, the much better Start With Why. Unfortunately, I feel the quality has dropped in his latest one.

Using his experience at Google, his success as an entrepreneur and consultant, and insights from his lectures at Stanford University and Google, Alberto Savoia’s The Right It: Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeed offers an unparalleled approach to beating the beast that is market failure.

The Selfish Gene is a 1976 book on evolution by the biologist Richard Dawkins, in which the author builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams’s Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins uses the term “selfish gene” to express the gene-centered view of evolution, popularising ideas developed during the 1960s by W. D. Hamilton and others. From the gene-centered perspective, it follows that the more two individuals are genetically related, the more sense (at the level of the genes) it makes for them to behave selflessly with each other.

David Marquet, a Navy officer, narrates his experiences as the USS Santa Fe captain, a nuclear-powered submarine. In this high-stress environment, where there is no margin for error, it was crucial his men did their job and did it well.

Turn The Ship Around is the true story of how the Santa Fe skyrocketed from worst to first in the fleet by challenging the U.S. Navy’s traditional leader-follower approach. Struggling against his own instincts to take control, he instead achieved the vastly more powerful model of giving control. Before long, each member of Marquet’s crew became a leader and assumed responsibility for everything he did, from clerical tasks to crucial combat decisions. The team became fully engaged, contributing their full intellectual capacity every day, and Santa Fe started winning awards and promoting a highly disproportionate number of officers to submarine command.

“Leadership should mean giving control rather than taking control and creating leaders rather than forging followers.”

U

As the parent of a pre-teen, I decided to read quite a few books about women and their general struggle with the world.

In the book, Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, Lisa Damour explains the incredible and underappreciated value of stress and anxiety: that stress can helpfully stretch us beyond our comfort zones, and anxiety can play a crucial role in keeping girls safe. When we emphasize the benefits of stress and anxiety, we can help our daughters take them in stride.

The author writes about many facets of girls’ lives where tension occurs — their interactions at home, pressures at school, social anxiety among other girls and boys, and their online lives. Readers can learn about the critical steps that adults can take to shield their daughters from the toxic pressures that our culture, including us, as parents—subjects girls.

V

Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley is a candid, colorful, and comprehensive oral history that reveals the secrets of Silicon Valley — from the origins of Apple and Atari to the present day clashes of Google and Facebook, and all the Startups and disruptions that happened along the way.
Rarely has one economy asserted itself as swiftly — and as aggressively — as the entity we now know as Silicon Valley. Built with a seemingly permanent culture of reinvention, Silicon Valley does not fight change; it embraces it and now powers the American economy and global innovation.

Drawing on over two hundred in-depth interviews, author Adam Fisher takes readers from the dawn of the personal computer and the internet, through the heyday of the web, up to the very moment when our current technological reality was invented. It interweaves accounts of invention and betrayal, overnight success and underground exploits, to tell Silicon Valley’s story as it has never been told before.

The venture capital deal process is a complex and competitive place, but with this book as your guide, you’ll discover what it takes to make your way through it.

Venture Deals dives deeply into how deals are constructed, why specific terms matter (and others don’t), and, more importantly, what motivates venture capitalists to propose particular outcomes. You’ll see the process of negotiating from the eyes of two seasoned venture capitalists, Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson, who have over 40 years of investing experience as VCs, LPs, angels, and founders.

W

What If is a non-fiction book by Randall Munroe. The author answers hypothetical science questions sent to him by readers of his webcomic, XKCD. In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, studded with memorable cartoons and infographics. They often predict the complete annihilation of humankind or at least a really big explosion. Far more than a book for geeks, it explains the laws of science in operation in a way that every intelligent reader will enjoy and feel much the smarter for having read.

Why We Sleep

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker is one of the most mind-altering books that I read this year. Of course, there are lots of opinions around the research and the facts mentioned in the book. Read the book to access a broad collection of sleep research.

Z

Zen and the Art of Happiness will teach you how to think and feel so that what you think and feel; creates happiness and vibrancy in your life rather than gloominess or depression.

Zen: The Art of Simple Living lays out clear, practical, and easy to follow lessons. Evert day for 100 days – renowned Buddhist monk Shunmyo Masuno draws on centuries of wisdom to show you how to apply Zen’s essence to modern life.

Simplify your life with the art of Zen, and learn how to feel more relaxed, fulfilled, and with a renewed sense of peace.

Weak cybersecurity — steps to protect your online activities

2020 has been one of the worst years ever with the blast in Beirut, fires in Abu Dhabi, Earth Quakes in Turkey, destructive floods in Indonesia, US-Iran crisis, Amazon rainforest wildfires, and the most dangerous of all — COVID-19 Pandemic. It’s almost as if calamity has struck every corner of the world.

And with this, we have seen a huge rise of people being more digitally connected than ever; indulging in remote working, online shopping, and video calling to keep things afloat. One of the biggest issues of this increased reliance on the digital world is that cyberattacks have skyrocketed, taking advantage of the general fear and uncertainty that the global pandemic has instilled in the minds of people.

From phishing attacks, ransomware, to online identity thefts, cybercriminals have taken this opportunity of the coronavirus pandemic to boost their malicious activities, both in scope and frequency. The FBI has reported receiving as many as 4,000 complaints in their Cyber Division per day.

This is a 400% increase in ransomware attacks since covid-19 became a pandemic. From the perspective of criminals, this unfortunate situation is like stepping on a gold mine, and with that, it has now become more important than ever to become more vigilant about your cybersecurity.

Here are 12 steps to increase your cybersecurity and protect your data from prying eyes, viruses, and malicious entities.

  1. Implement Two-Factor Authentication. Even if you are not security conscious about your email address and personal accounts, it is always a good idea to implement Two-Factor Authentication (2FA) on all avenues. It typically adds an extra layer of verification like a One-Time-Password (OTP) sent to your smartphone. You have to enter that code (valid for a limited time) to log in.
  2. Always Use Strong Passwords. There are a few protocols to follow when creating passwords for your accounts. This includes using variations of symbols, numbers, and lower/upper case letters, never copying the same password on different accounts and generally avoiding adding any predictable details in passwords. Bear in mind, cybercriminals have a lot of experience cracking weak passwords, so you have to be clever than them. Use a Password Manager to manage all your passwords.
  3. Install an Anti-Malware and Antivirus. Almost all internet-enabled devices, be it your smartphone, laptop, desktop, or tablet are vulnerable to being hacked, affected by malware/viruses, and dangerous spyware attacks. If you want to receive protection from them, you need to invest in a reliable Antivirus, Anti-Spyware, and Anti-Malware software. For Android, these are some tools that can help your personal security.
  4. Update All Your Devices/Applications. After installing the operating system, different applications, and network configurations, most people either turn off “automatic updates” or forget to keep their devices up to date with the latest patches, bug fixes, and product enhancements. Don’t make this mistake and make sure you actively implement software and system security updates to avoid being exposed to malicious entities and vulnerabilities.
  5. Decommission All Unused Services. If you upgrade to a better device, make sure to decommission the older ones, unless needed. This goes true for other limited-duration products as well. If you are not using them, retire the applications, logins, and user credentials associated with them. This will protect you in the circumstances any product/company suffers from a security breach, exposing your data simply for being associated!
  6. Avoid Clicking on Suspicious URLs. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the “coronavirus fearware” to introduce COVID-19 themed phishing attacks and ransomware to lure victims. Malwarebytes discovered a clever ploy wherein implemented a variant of the AZORult malware in coronavirus maps. This allowed them to steal data of users visiting the website, hence why it is advised to always look at URL carefully before opening them.
  7. Use a Security/Privacy Tool like a VPN. In addition to cover all aspects of system security, you need to invest in a reliable solution for online security. This is where a VPN comes in handy, changing your IP address, shifting your location, employing encryption, and assigning you a dynamic IP for protecting your anonymity online. You have to be careful when picking a VPN because providers often make claims that are later found to be false when the VPN is subjected to a thorough review and testing. But, as any unbiased review will show, well-reputed providers like NordVPN generally live up to their promises in terms of the features and performance they have to offer.
  8. Avoid Connecting to Public Networks. It may seem like a great idea to connect to a public Wi-Fi network when outside. The place could be a bar, restaurant, or a pub. What’s bad about this is that these places are vulnerable to cybercriminals who either hack into these networks or create a phony one, so that you hit the “connect” button and grant them the ability to snoop on your activity. It’s always safer to use your Mobile Data on public Wi-Fi instead.
  9. Don’t Overshare on Social Media. Many people don’t think before posting their details online, even going as far as adding their home address. Why would you do that? Refrain from publically posting your contact details or any extremely private information on social media, unless you are running a business. Cybercriminals use OSINT (open-source intelligence) to scour social media for potentially telltale information.
  10. Be Alert When Shopping Online. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries have issued state-wide lockdowns with citizens practicing social distancing, as to avoid the spread of the virus. This has directly resulted in people relying on eCommerce websites for getting their groceries and other essentials. If you shop online too, always check the URL. Only open websites that utilize “HTTPS”, as the connection is encrypted via TLS/SSL.
  11. Inspect All Banking Transactions. If you do shop online a lot, it is vital that you be vigilant about all transactions occurring. In addition to being extra cautious when giving your credit card information online, make sure to inspect all transactions every month. This way, you can quickly take notice of any malicious purchases, and get in touch with the bank instantly. If you report within time, you may even get your money back.
  12. Don’t Ignore Aspects of Physical Security. Last, but not least, while being so encompassed with cybersecurity, make sure to not overlook simple security risks. In addition to physical restrictions on accessing your private computers/laptops, avoid security lapses like leaving behind your entry/access cards, keeping sensitive documents in the open, leaving crucial information on Whiteboards, or written down passwords on notepads.

It is important to remember that working on your online privacy/security and making adjustments like the ones above are crucial for getting used to the new reality and the tricky cybersecurity atmosphere as of recent. As always, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Now, while these steps above may not get rid of every cyberattack imaginable, you can use them for making yourself a less visible target in the eyes of malicious actors. Therefore, if you have not started implementing them yet, it is high time you do.

Fincurious – Indian Startup Finance

Fincurious - Startup Finance

Fincurious – Startup Finance

This is a short book and can easily be kept aside as a quick reference guide if you are running a Startup or starting one. This book does not teach you to be a financial expert but will help you keep you informed so you have an idea.

Rahul Saria is a Chartered Accountant. He has served as heads of many Startups such as Near, Rentomojo, and Vedantu. He is currently the financial advisor to my Startup – Valinor Earth.

The book is written from the lens of starting and running a Startup in India. The book is short at less than 200 pages and you can finish it off in an hour or so.

Buy it at

If you show a gun, fire it

Antique Gun

I tend to be the super-excited founder who will talk and suggest doing things that would likely be years ahead of the current circumstances. My co-founder, and business partner for the last 8+ years, is the one who will help me glide down to earth, all the way to the very first principle.

A few days back, we were discussing the features of our new product for our Startup, Valinor Earth.

I was eager and was planning to demo some of the tools which were not ready. My co-founder insists that we are not prepared and would set off expectations that we may not be able to satisfy for a while. We might end up building a fancy tool without actually solving the customer’s problem.

As a normal human being, our customer will praise the tools and say good things – which, btw, is the least useful data for us to evaluate anything.

If you are going to show a gun, be ready to fire it. If we are showing the tools, then that tool should be made useful soon enough, if not immediately.

Chekhov’s Gun

Chekhov’s gun is a dramatic principle stating that every element in a story must be necessary, and unnecessary details removed. A feature should not appear to make “false promises” by never coming into play.

If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, it absolutely must go off in the second or third chapter. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.

One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.

If you are going to show a tool or do a demo, be ready to use it and make sure it is relevant to the customer’s needs.

Photo by Alexander Andrews

A Non-Technical Parents’ Guide to Digital Tools for Kids Online Classes

Laaija's Desk

A new school season has started, and schools are moving online for the classes. There are lots of changes, and they are happening real fast, and all-at-once. Not all parents are ready to switch to a new lifestyle so fast, but we have to.

Schooling is going to be an entirely different experience for everyone involved — students, parents, teachers, and schools. It is not just about transitioning everything that happened offline in schools to the online world. It is a totally different approach, new thinking, and the eventual “normal.” Everyone involved will have to treat this in a new way — by the schools, teachers, and parents.

Today, I will try to focus on just a small piece of the more significant change — tools that will help kids be part of the new learning paradigm.

The Room, Space, and Lighting

You should try to have a separate space or a room dedicated to your kid to be part of the classes. The better lit the room is, the better. Try to have the light facing your kid — liting up her face and not from the back. A better option is to have sunlight coming in from an angle that is not too bright to the eye, but enough to light up the face. Try to avoid the sunlight shining directly onto the screen/monitor.

If you need artificial lighting, then a LED light lamp should do just fine.

Search for;

  • LED lamp
  • studio lamp

Devices

This depends a lot on the activities your kid will be involved in. Will it be just listening to the teachers, or will she be presenting at times, talking, and discussing with her friends and doing other digital activities during the classes? Let’s assume that the events will be a bit of all and better prepare for them than stand short when needed.

If your kid already has a device, use it and gauge the device’s performance before spending money on upgrades. Look for performance degradation of the quality of audio and/or video. It is always better to have much better quality audio than video.

New Device / Computer

Apple MacMini

If you have to buy new devices, and unless portability is crucial, invest in a desktop computer instead. Desktop computers allow for easier upgrades, have better performance, and are usually more economical.

I would personally suggest for a 16GB of RAM, and an SSD (Solid State Drive) instead of hard drives that have mechanical spinning parts. Don’t worry too much about the size of the SSD, a minimum of 200GB+ is suggested. You can always have a cheaper external drive for more storage. The other components will be good enough when you try the above particular configuration. If you are already thinking Intel, AMD, etc., then I believe you already know what you need.

If you’re more of a Mac Family and find it more comfortable, the cheapest MacMini would do just fine. If you can get an earlier generation MacMini or a refurbished one, it will still be suitable for a less expensive investment.

My daughter uses a 2012 MacMini with an upgraded RAM and SSD replaced drive. Well, Apple’s 2012 MacMini model is the last easily upgradable model. Please be advised that Apple hardware are tightly coupled and integrated with their software that an 8GB RAM might just work great.

Search for

  • Laptop with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
  • Computer with 16GB Ram, 256GB SSD
  • Laptop with 16GB RAM
  • Computer with 16GB RAM

Microphone

Even if you use a Laptop with a built-in microphone, I can guarantee you that they are not the best. Most software has become really good these days to filter out echo and other noises. However, a decent microphone goes a long way and will really help.

Here is my suggestion, in order of preference;

  1. Pop Filter Microphone with a stand, either on the desk or clipped/screwed to the table.
  2. Lavalier Microphone that can be clipped to your kid’s top/shirt.
  3. The last option is an audio headset (speaker + microphone). However, they come in the way of your kid studying or listening to the teacher.

Search for

  • Microphone kit
  • Lavalier Microphone
  • Headset
  • Microphone with Stand

Speaker

If your device or computer comes with a speaker, stick with it. Otherwise, any desktop speaker should do the job. If you have already invested in a Headset, then a separate speaker may not be necessary.

Search for

  • Desktop Speaker
  • Computer Speaker

Webcam / Camera

Video is needed but not as crucial as a Microphone. Your kid can get away with a not-so-good video, but her voice/audio should be the best possible. So, depending on your budget get for something you can afford. If your kid has a Laptop, stay with the built-in webcam but invest in the external microphone and audio setup.

Search for

  • Logitech Webcam
  • 720p Webcam
  • HD Webcam

UPS

Invest in a entry-level UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply). A UPS is used to protect hardware such as computers and other electrical devices where an unexpected power disruption could cause data loss, or damage to the devices.

Software

Besides the usual software that she will need, as suggested by the school, try to get some additional life-skill software-tools that will come handy. Some of the basics include but not limited to;

  • A calendar. Teach your kid to schedule class video calls, homework submissions, peer-to-peer meetings, etc. You should also have access to it, so you can help when needed. Google Calendar is a pretty good option.
  • A TODO app. Try to stay with the basic simple listings and not overwhelm them. A lot many people have wasted countless hours trying to hunt for the best TODO app, the best ways of using it. So, just stick to simple listings and checking items off. Better yet, stick to the physical Sticky / Post-it Note.
  • A Password Manager. It is high time to teach your kid to use a Password Manager. Some of the good ones are 1Password (paid), Keepass (free, open-source), Bitwarden (free, open-source, paid)

Upgrades

The next best upgrade after the basics are taken care off, would be, to separate their activity/study computer from the video device — have a device such as an iPad, a Tablet or a Phone just for the video calls/classes and a desktop or a laptop or a Raspberry Pi as their study computer.

Books of 2019

Books of 2019 at Oinam

In the year 2019, I re-read over 5+ books and read another 50+ new books in both digital (Kindle) and physical books. I’ve enough books lined up, either purchased or bookmarked on Amazon to last me quite a lot of reading.

I have also made a simple guideline that my daughter can read as many books as she wants. The only caveat being that if she cannot or does not want to finish a book, they have to wait for the week to pass before they can buy another book. She is used to both physical and digital (Kindle) books.

Dan Roam’s Books

Dan Roam Books

I wanted to learn to draw/sketch out my ideas better. The best source for me was the books by Dan Roam. I enjoyed reading Show and Tell, Draw to Win, and Unfolding the Napkin. I’m yet to read Back of the Napkin, and Blah Blah Blah.

I adapted the idea of doing presentations and storytelling to my teams, via sketches and not slides. I have a long way to go to master this beautiful art of storytelling with visuals, sketches, and speeches.

Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

Genghis Khan

The most surprising book and one of my personal favorite turn out to be “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World” by Jack Weatherford.

From our history books, Genghis Khan was definitely not a good person. He conquered, murdered, and lay waste to vast lands and inhabitants. However, his advocacy for human rights, freedom of religion, free trade, propagation and preservation of knowledge, turns out to be pretty impressive for that time.

Well, Genghis Khan was a visionary leader whose conquests joined backward Europe with the flourishing cultures of Asia to trigger a global awakening, an unprecedented explosion of technologies, trade, and ideas.

The book will give you enough details to make it applicable to the current world scenarios and events. I’m sure you will like the book.

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Should Businesses Accept Cryptocurrencies – an Infographic

Bitcoin

Plenty of major companies like Subway, AT&T, Expedia, Dish Network, and Microsoft have recently decided to accept cryptocurrency. These are large corporations that have the resources to experiment with relatively new technology.

But should the average business, or small business, accept cryptocurrency?

A high population of the world has heard of or are familiar with Bitcoin. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to use it. Only a few percentages own it. An even smaller number use cryptocurrency.

There are more than 40 million cryptocurrency wallets out there. Cryptocurrency usage has soared in places such as San Francisco, New York, and Tampa — and in places like Canada (the first country to regulate the digital currency), the Netherlands, Slovenia, Israel, Switzerland, and countries with volatile currencies, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela.

To give you a perspective, there are almost 300 million active users of PayPal worldwide and about 1 billion Visa and 900 million MasterCard credit cards in circulation. Cryptocurrency has to catch up when compared to these other digital ways to pay.

It is widely thought that if small businesses make the necessary investments in cryptocurrency infrastructure, then cryptocurrency usage will rise enormously. But there are plenty of pros and cons for businesses to consider before they take that leap.

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