A piece of paper under the wheel of time

I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop. Maybe not a full stop, all that I wanted was a reset back to the day when my troubles started. I guess at this point, I take a break and give you a flashback of what exactly had happened.
The sun was up early and was trying his best to cheer me up but it was not really helping. I had a Sanskrit exam that day in school, and that was a subject that I rarely passed. School was just five minutes away from home and as I bicycled my way to the school cycle stand my heart missed a beat.  A lady’s cycle with pink tassels was already parked.
‘She has already come in,’ I thought. The ‘she’ in this case was Priya, the daughter of the District Collector who also happened to be in my class. In my other life as Superman, I had saved Priya in battles across galaxies. In my real life, she hardly noticed me. With a sigh, I unhooked by bag and started to lock the cycle. I saw that a piece of paper was caught under the cycle tyre. I looked closer and the very first line on it, made my heart stop. “Sanskrit test paper – 12 Aug “it said on the top and below neatly laid out were the questions in rows.
Looking all around I realized that I was all alone in the bicycle stand. Bending as if to tie my shoe lace I picked up the paper and quickly pocketed it. After retying the already tied shoe lace I stood up. For a few minutes, I did not know what to do. It looked to be the question paper for the day’s class test. I opened my bag and took out one of the books. By a strange co incidence it was moral science and the chapter was on Gandhi ji, you know the story where Gandhi ji as a school student was asked to copy in class and he refused. I removed the question paper from my pocket and placed it neatly between the pages of this story and went through it again. The questions all 25 of them were there. It was an exam of fifty marks and each question was worth two marks.
“Studying for today’s exam?”
A voice from behind startled me. It was Priya. I smiled, laughed, grinned and coughed all at once.
“I hate Sanskrit. No matter how much you study, you never get more than fifty percent,” she continued.
“That is correct,” I said.  A part of me was thinking how even fifty percent was way beyond what i usually scored in Sanskrit, while another part of me was trying to find something witty to say. I noticed that she was walking away. It was then that one of those light bulbs you see in cartoon movies popped in my brain.
“Priya, look what I found,” I said taking out the paper from my bag.
She stopped and turned back.
“What?”
“This,” I said and extended the paper in her direction.
She pulled back for a second looked suspiciously at me.
“What is that?”
“It looks like today’s question paper.”
For a few seconds she just stood there as if in shock then she recovered and took the paper from my hand. She looked at it carefully.
“Yes, it does look like todays question paper. Where did you get it from?”
“It was lying here on the ground.”
“Just like that?
“Yes.”
On the ground? Today’s question paper?”
“Yes, I swear,” I said. I felt offended. I was trying to help and she was doubting my sincerity.
“Have you copied the questions down? Can I take this?”
“Yes, you can,” I said. One part of mind was telling me that I had barely looked at the questions but the other part the ‘super-hero’ part was telling me that this was sacrifice time.
“You can take it,” I said.
She turned and quickly left leaving me standing there.
“Was that Priya you were talking to?”
It was Krishnan my friend who now wheeled his cycle in. I was still in a daze and did not hear him so he punched me in the stomach.
“Ohfff, that hurt. why did you do that for?” I asked.
“What were you talking with Priya? Did she ask about me?”
“Yes, she asked who is that dirty looking boy who sits next to you in class?”
This got me another punch in the stomach but this time with a lot of energy behind it. I jumped at Krishnan but he was too fast and ran off in the direction of our classroom. It is not easy lugging a heavy bag of books and running at the same time, but we put in our best efforts. The chase was cut short by the sound of the assembly bell. Throwing my bag on my desk I came out and joined the line which was forming outside the class. Every day we had a prayer session in the morning where we sang our way through a lot of prayers, finally winding up with the national anthem.
I noticed the girls in the line were all looking in my direction. It took me a few seconds to realize this but there was a lot of nudging and finger-pointing as well. For a brief second I thought that I may have forgotten to zip my trousers. A quick check revealed that was not the case. Next I thought there may be snot on my face and quickly wiped my face with my handkerchief.
“Is there anything wrong on my face?” I asked Krishnan who was behind me in the line.
He looked me over quickly and reported,” Other than the fact that you look like a monkey, no nothing wrong.”
I kicked him in his shin and we commenced hostiles.
“You two come and stand here,” Kumari Madam was our class teacher. She had seen the shin-kicking match going on between us and ordered the two of us to stand in front of the whole class.
“There seems to be a problem?” said Krishnan whispering through the corner of his mouth. “Why are all the girls looking in our direction? May be now that they are seeing me in front they have suddenly realized how handsome I look. Like a mutant with genes of Tom Cruise and Shah Rukh Khan.”
I found that combination funny and sniggered.
“You two do that once more and I will march both of you to the Principal’s office,” said Kumari the ‘Terror’. This ultimatum had an immediate sobering effect on us.
The Sanskrit test was the last period of the day. In class, again I noticed the girls standing in a group and discussing.  Then it hit me. Priya must have had passed the question paper to her friends who had handed it to their friends and now it seemed that all girls in the class had got it.
“So where did you get the question paper from?”
It was Rajesh, that class-bully who always hung around Priya. I could not believe it, she has given him the question paper as well. This was turning out to be nightmare.
“What paper? What are you talking about?” I asked innocently.
“Come on, I have seen it. Don’t lie to me, you scoundrel. I thought you were a weak-kneed sissy. Lifting question papers from teachers closets…hmm not bad, not bad,” Rajesh thumped me on my back and went away. I was sweating from all pores now. I did not know how to react to this. Was I to feel happy that I had been acknowledged as a hero by Rajesh or should I be worried that almost the whole class had access to the question paper now.
“You rat, you call yourself my friend and you did not share it with me. I had to copy it from Rajesh and that too he only showed me half the questions,” said Krishnan and pinched me on my arm.
“I gave it to Priya as soon as I got it,” I said rubbing my arm.
“Oh, so you will give it to a girl and not to your best friend.”
“Well, if you had been as pretty as she is I would have given it to you first.”
He would have jumped at me and we would have resumed from where we had left earlier, had it not been for Mr. R.N Singh our Physics teacher’s entrance.
During recess except for me everyone seemed to be studying. Even the idli-chutney in my tiffin did not work its magic. Normally the other children in class would eat it while I got helpings from their tiffin’s, but today everyone had their nose in their Sanskrit text books. I was not feeling hungry. I was beginning to feel worried. One by one the classes went by and finally it was time for Mrs. Bedekar to come in. She had been a gestapo jailer in her previous life and enjoyed throwing her class test at us. Today as she came in she found the class unusually cheerful.
“It seems all of you have prepared well for the class test,” she said and reached into her bag. Then a frown took over her face. She started searching again and then looked up.
“There seems to be a problem. I seem to have misplaced the question paper,” she said. “Wait, let me get another one from the staff room.” The staff room was just around the corner and the entire class stopped breathing till she returned.
“What if she has another question paper?” asked Rajesh and seemed to echo the one question everyone in the class had.
Mrs. Bedekar waddled in and plopped herself on the chair in front of the black board, wiping the sweat from her brow. She had a paper in her hand.
“Luckily for you all I had another copy of the question paper,” she said. She sat for a few minutes catching her breath and then got up turned towards the board and started writing the questions. As the question appeared on the board, smiles spread across the classroom. The questions were exactly what was on the paper I had found. Everyone had an easy test, everyone except me. For in my eagerness to give it to Priya and later in all the worrying about the rapid spread of the question paper I had forgotten to study. As usual it was a bad test for me.
A week later Mr. Gopal, our History teacher was explaining to us the Crusades when Mrs Bedekar stormed in.
“Wait Gopal there is something I need to clear up first,” she said and turned towards us. “The test I took last week, all of you did well in it. How is that possible, I was wondering about this and did some investigation of my own. Mr. Hari Kumar, would you care to explain what happened.”
All eyes turned towards me as I stood up. Putting on the most innocent looking face that I could come up with I said, “Madam, I did not understand what you are asking,”
“Perhaps you will understand when the principal asks this,” she said and marched me straight towards the principal’s office.
The principal had already got some other staff members in his room and I was asked to stand outside and wait. Standing outside the door of the Principals office I could hear the voices, especially Mrs. Bedekar’s shrill voice cutting through all the discussion.
“He has cheated. We should call his parents.”
“Everyone cheated. We should call all the parents,”
“But he is the one who got it,”
“Even Priya has cheated.”
Immediately the discussion stopped and everyone thought about the repercussion of calling her parents especially her father.
“Call Hari in,” I heard the Principal’s voice which cut the silence. I was called in.
“So, young man would you care to explain your story. No need to lie. Priya has already told us that you had given her the question paper. Just for your information the whole class has scored over 80% in the test.”
The result of the class test was neatly written on a paper right on the Principals desk. With my head down I started my story. The cycle stand, the piece of paper stuck under the tyre, the shoe lace, Priya coming up – I did not leave out any detail. No point hiding anything they already knew the details, I was just validating it.
“You found that paper under your cycle tyre. I don’t believe that,” said Mrs Bedekar.
“I did find it there, Madam,” I said, now almost on the verge of tears.
“Let him finish,” said Principal Narayanan.
“Sir, I am telling the truth. The question paper was lying there on the ground. It was under the tyre. “
After I had finished there was silence all around. Then Principal Narayanan started speaking.
“Hari, I know the part of the question paper coming under your cycle tyre was not your fault, but what happened after that is something you had control over. You could have come over and handed the question paper to me or to Mrs. Bedekar. If that had been the case, I may even have given you a prize. Instead you chose to share the question paper with your friends, who by the way are also to blame. Now look what has happened. Your entire class has scored well in the exam. Everyone has scored over eighty percent.”
As if to emphasize his point he picked up the sheet with the marks and scanned it. As his eyes ran down the list, it stopped.
“What? How much did Hari get in the test?” he asked Mrs. Bedekar.
“I don’t remember. He must have scored the highest,” she said.
“Well, your name is Hari Kumar, right?”
“Yes Sir,” I said.
“Do you know how much marks you have scored?” he asked.
“No Sir.”
“How was your test?” he asked
“He had the question paper Sir he..,” said Mrs Bedekar, exasperated at the slow progress of the Principal’s enquiry was looking for quick justice. In her eyes, I was the culprit, the guilty one who deserved no mercy.
“Wait, let him speak, Mrs. Bedekar. So, Hari, you had the question paper, how did you find the exam?”
“Not good, Sir,” I said in a low voice, head down, eyes examining the mud encrusted on my shoe.
“Speak up, young man.”
“I did not do well Sir,” I repeated.
“Do you know you have failed in the test. You had the question paper, and yet you failed.”
I did not look up. I was expecting that.
“I find this amazing. You are the person who had the question paper, you shared it with the rest of the class, all the other who saw the question paper got good marks and yet you failed,” said Principal Narayanan.
“He is not smart,” said Mrs. Bedekar and gave me a nasty look.
“Or he is honest and refused to do what the others were doing. He knew he was doing something wrong and so did not follow through and add more wrongs. You are excused. Young man in future if you get any question paper before an exam please come and give it to me. Would you do that?” asked Mr. Narayanan.
I could not believe my ears. I was free to go.
“Sir, can I go?” I asked.
“Yes, you can, unless you want to sit with me and discuss other equally important issues,” said Principal Narayanan.
“No Sir. I mean thank you, Sir, thank you very much. I would never ever repeat such a mistake,” I said and ran out of the room.

The epilogue to my story was that the exam was cancelled and a fresh exam was held. Bedekar ‘the horror’ this time ensured that almost everyone failed. My classmates looked upon me as if I was a traitor. My crime was I had shared the question paper, my crime was failing the test while they had all done well. It was a week before anyone including Krishnan spoke to me again. As for Priya, she had lost her sheen in front of the teachers and blamed me for it, she never spoke to me after this. The rest of the year was mostly uneventful. Principal Narayanan remembered me till the day he retired, which was about a year later. He would always stop me and talk to me and check how my studies were progressing.
Personally, I would have given anything to move the clock back to the time before that piece of paper landed under my bicycle tyre. My life may have been uneventful, unnoticed even boring perhaps but at least I would have been happy.

 

The kick that changed my life

I hated the new school. I had no friends. Not that I was used to many friends before, but the situation in this one was worse. The fact that I had to learn a new language, Malayalam, to interact with my class mates may also have had something to do it. You see the problem was my father’s job. He was in the army and was packed off to a different location every couple of years. I was an average student at best, add to that the fact that every two years I had to learn a new language and adapt to a new syllabus, well my marks were usually near the bottom of the class.
To solve the ‘no-friend’ problem, I took refuge in books. I loved reading even as a child. Starting with Enid Blyton I graduated to Hardy Boys and Conan Doyle. While my classmates were struggling through Noddy I was travelling the world with Dick Francis and Ruth Rendell. All this reading did not in any way help my studies. My teachers at school considered me as a slow learner. They took out their frustration by either beating me up or giving me extra homework. Soon I got used to the hits and bruises and became indifferent. I ended up a loaner.
The school had a huge playground. On one side of the ground was a football field. Most days we had a Games period when you could play football, hockey or cricket. No body selected me so I usually ended up walking around the ground staring at the ground or watching and listening to the birds on tree singing their hearts out. This continued for about two months, till one day a football rolled over and landed near my feet as I was walking. The other boys in my class were playing football that day. As usual they did not include me in the team and I was busy doing my rounds when the ball rolled over and landed near me.
“Kick it over, “shouted one of the boys. I knew him. His name was Santosh. He was the class monitor the teacher’s pet.
I had watched a lot of football on TV and kicked the ball back. The ball made a graceful loop through the air and landed almost near the goal post on the other side of the field. The whole team let out a gasp including myself. It must have been the first time I had kicked a football in my life. I did not know I had such a strong leg.
“That was a good kick,” said Santosh. “Ok try that again.” He passed the ball back to me.

Now I was excited. Boys who till that morning did not even look in my direction were now staring at me as if I was the next Pele. I took a deep breath, went a few steps back paused and rushed in. The kick was more forceful than before but way of target. Instead of going straight it went at an angle and in a different direction. It went over the school boundary wall and hit the tiled roof of a house there. We could see the ball slowly rolled down hitting various obstructions on the roof before finally disappearing somewhere behind the wall.
For a few seconds there was total silence then the whole team started talking and shouting together.
“Oh no, it landed in that house!”
“Why did you ask him to kick it?”
“He is such a jerk, now we are all dead,”
The way they looked at me said it all. I had kicked the ball out of the school compound and spoilt the one period when they had some fun. Now, not only would they have to explain to the games teacher how they had lost the ball, they would also have to pay a fine to cover the cost of the lost ball. That was the rule in our school.
I knew I had overdone my efforts. For a moment I had enjoyed the adulation that had come with the first kick, but the second one had spoilt everything. After all I was also a kid.  A part inside me wanted to live a normal life, make a few friends, talk, walk and laugh with them. For a moment I had seen an opportunity to become a part of the crowd but now by kicking the ball out I had made things worse. I had to redeem myself.
I ran over to the wall and peered over. The house on the other side was huge. It must have been at least a hundred years old. It looked like a bungalow from the British era. Huge round pillars covered a verandah and there was a massive door right in the middle. There were large windows on the walls. The glass panes on most of them were broken. The entire yard was covered with bushes and thorny vines. I looked all over but the ball was nowhere to be seen. I began to climb over the wall.
I could hear a gasp from behind. The team members were all far away and surprisingly no one had made any attempts to retrieve the ball.
“Don’t go there……” I could hear Santosh’s voice as I jumped over. I missed the second part of his sentence, as I was more worried not to get hurt as I landed on the ground. I looked back at the wall and saw that it was built of bricks. That was enough to reassure me that I could climb back and get back.
I began looking around. There were wild bushes growing all over the place. In some places there were huge rocks. One thing was obviously no one lived there. I began walking around the house. It looked even bigger from the ground. I tried to think where it had hit and remember it had bounced against one of the strange looking statues which were there on each corner of the building. It was a sunny day so I could clearly see the statues. The looked like gargoyles, ugly looking beast that were supposed to funnel the water rain water away from the walls.
‘This house certainly is old,’ I said to myself. The ball I remembered had hit the gargoyle on the side facing the school. I walked over and stood below that section of the room. There was no sign of the ball anywhere there. Then I saw the ball. It had somehow bounced off the roof and entered the house may be through a broken section of the room. I could clearly see it in inside one of the rooms.
“Hari, what are you doing? Come back here.”
The shout startled me and I jumped. I looked back. The whole team was standing on the other side of the wall.
“Let me get the ball. It was my fault. I can see it, it is inside this room, I can see it,” I said. “I don’t think anyone stays here. Let me get it.”
I turned and ran up the short flight of steps leading to the house.
“No Hari, No. Come back. Forget the ball,” Santosh was shouting behind me.
“Yes, yes leave the ball. Come back,” There were others also who joined in the chorus.
I was not sure suddenly why they had all become so magnanimous. Just a while back they were all cursing me. I knew what would happen. I was not going to let that happen. I ignored their shouts and walked up to the window.
The window was massive. It could have been about seven feet tall and around six feet wide. That was more than the size of the doors I had seen. I pushed at the wooden frame and nothing happened. It was stuck fast. I tried again, this time using all my strength. After a moment there was a response. With an unearthly creaking sound, it slowly opened. The room it opened was massive. My whole house would have easily come in that one room.
I jumped on the window sill and climbed in.  As I landed inside I noticed that the room had a huge pile of very old furniture. Huge arm chairs that had a thick coating of dust on them. Large painting of fat men in tail coats and top hats adorned the wall. Their painting has layers of cobwebs hanging all over them.
“This definitely looks like an old British house,” I said to myself.
“British house,” my voice echoed back and I almost had a heart attack. I quickly recovered and realized that I had come there to get the ball. I ran towards it, picked it up, went towards the windows and jumped out.
“Here take it,” I said and threw it at Santosh who was still there along with the other team members.
Quickly I climbed back over the wall and jumped back into the school compound. The football was lying on the ground. No one touched instead surprisingly my class mates just stood there staring at me.
“I am sorry I kicked the ball there,” I said in general to the whole team. No one responded to this, they just stood there, some with their mouths open, all looking at me. I felt that I had done the right thing by retrieving the ball. If they still wanted to ignore me then so be it. I had my books and novels to keep me company. At that time the bell rang and our games period ended.
I started walking towards class. After a few steps I realized that the whole class was following me. Then I heard footsteps behind me. It was Santosh.
“What you did back there was very brave,” he said.
“I am sorry I kicked the ball like that,” I said.
“I was talking about getting the ball back from that house,” he said
“What about it?”
“You were very brave to have done that,” he said, “No one in this school has done that before.”
“Well if the ball is on the other side of the wall, isn’t it natural that someone retrieves it?” I said.
“Yes, but not from that house,” Santosh said, “No one in this school has the guts to enter the haunted house.”
“Haunted house? What haunted house?” I asked.
“That house you entered. It is haunted. No one has lived there for almost fifty years. The last occupant was the then British resident who lived there with him family. They say he went mad. Some local sorcerer did some black magic and drove him mad. He apparently killed his wife and children and then committed suicide. It is said that even today on full moon nights you can hear screams coming from the house. People say it the ghost of the wife and children who still haunt the place. I think you were really brave to go in even though you knew all this, just to retrieve a football.”
I could not reply. In fact, it took me a few seconds to digest what he had just said. Then I started to sweat. My breathing was coming in gasps. I was having some difficulty walking. Somehow, I reached the classroom and collapsed into my seat.
The next class was Mathematics and then science. Subjects which under normal circumstances I rarely understood, that day it was as if I was in a daze.  Occasionally I saw the other boys look at me and smile! Somehow the day went by and I went home. The next day I saw a change in the seating arrangements. I was now sitting in the middle of the class. Earlier I had been a happy backbencher, now Santosh had asked the teacher to move me next to his seat. I got a few new friends. Boys from other classes came over, introduced themselves and some even shook my hand! As if that wasn’t enough even some of the girls started talking to me. One even wanted to clear some doubts in Physics. I barely made passing grades in Physics so was no help and truthfully told her so. She said it was alright and even smiled sweetly while saying that!

It would be wrong on my part to say that I did not enjoy this change in my status in life. Dick Francis and Ruth Rendell were forgotten and put aside and I moved from being a loner, to a regular fixture on the football and cricket teams. What I lacked in studies I made up through sports. As for the haunted house that same year the municipality demolished it and converted the area into a public park. Soon all that remained were memories of a wayward football and a misdirected kick.

 

 

 

 

WordPress android app – a user review

I recently downloaded the latest version of the WordPress app from Google play. This post is a review of the app. As you may have guessed this post is also being written using the same app!!!

First things first the phone I am using is a Xiaomi Mi A1. Three phone has Nougat 7.1.2 and 4GB of RAM. I am providing this information so that the end user experience is based on some solid facts.

The app has been downloaded more than 5 million times and the latest version is 8.3. installation on my phone took a few seconds and the initial login screens are also simple. I already had a WordPress blog so simply used the credentials to log in.

The user interface is easy and provides a menu showing all the standard options available to upload, save as draft or publish immediately.

The draft thing works, just now I got called away by a friend and for an opportunity to test the feature out. Have to say it works smoothly.

There is an inbuilt dictionary as well. Type something wrong and the word gets a red coloured line below. A basic level of formatting is also possible from the screen.

One factor that would be important is the screen size. Mine’s is a 5 inch screen so have no issues seeing the keyboard and moving around. The experience on a smaller screen may be a lot different. Also some specialised features like trying to link some words using urls to existing posts does not work from within the app and may require a laptop or PC.

Overall a decent app, handy in case you are planning to shoot out posts to your blog while traveling or have no immediate access to your laptop.

Life in 2117

Let us think about the future. Let us image how the world would look like say a hundred years from now. This is a no holds barred vision of the future, read on….

Food tablets: Food tablets which would have all the basic protein and vitamins in a concentrated form. A table at mealtime would be all that is required. Distribution would be through the public distribution system and free for all.

Eradication of disease: Human immunity is boosted by good food. The food tablets will improve immunity. Make farming redundant and increase human life span. Average life span would be 90 – 100 years. This will cause the next problem of over population.
Towers Cities: Individual habitats would be restricted to living units inside these massive towers. The towers would contain everything from schools, hospitals to mortuaries. People may never ever need to leave the perimeter of their towers. These 500 floor towers would be spread all over the world on land and on sea. The living units would be similar in shape and confirm to the same design and standards. The towers would be interconnected and have conveyor belts which will transport people and goods between them.
Mineral Mining: The main occupation for people would be mining. Mining the earth, moon, mars any other planets or comets for minerals. These minerals would be used to make food tablets, energy sources, more towers for citizens of the world.
Colonies in space: This would become a necessity due to growing world population. We would have colonized our Moon and Mars. Exploration of Jupiter’s moons would be in progress.
Embedded entertainment and communication systems: There would be no need to lug around laptops, cell phones or any electronic devices separately. They would be embedded in our bodies. A citizen would have access to the entire repository of global knowledge and entertainment. The access would be available to all. There would an induction training for child to use the system and access information. With easy access to the entire repository of knowledge there would be no need to have a detailed education system.
Energy and Travel: More efficient and safer sources of energy would be discovered. They would be compact, efficient and environment friendly. There will be a better understanding of anti-gravity and how to channel it to travel.  Maglev would be the mode of transport for vehicles. Personal vehicles will not be allowed. Instead the focus would be on public transportation systems. Conveyor belt like pavements would carry people from one destination to another.
Human interaction: There will be very limited direct human interaction. People would prefer to live alone in their home units. Communication would be through the network. Mind reading chips would be available which would take the communication process a step further and process human desires and wishes and translate them into words for others to understand. We will slowly loose out vocal capabilities.
Transport and travels: Travelling if required would be done by Maglev trains. There will be no personal or individual means of conveyance. Moving conveyor belt style pavements will transport people from one block to the other- that is if they want to travel. Auto pilots will do the driving not humans.
A global AI driven operating system: It would not be like a machine but more like a material that is self-aware and will be used for construction. All devices, vehicles, houses, utilities will be constructed of the same material which will be connected to a single massive operating system. It would track monitor and guide citizens. Check on the individual’s state of mind and health. It will keep track of any aliments if they are likely to occur. The system will diagnose and treat. The system will be AI driven. It will learn, adapt and modify and heal itself where needed. The system will be everywhere in the walls, pavement. roof, floor, vehicles, in the space ships – anywhere and everywhere.
A world government: The UN would become the world government. Colonizing of planets, transport and resettlement of humanity will require a global initiative. This will not be possible with nations at an individual level. A global outlook and a global government would be required to administer.
Robots in Service: Certain areas like Police, Administration, health care would be through robots who would work impartiality and with objectivity and integrity.
Religion non-existent: Human race would have integrated to such an extent that preserving one’s individual ideas or beliefs would be practically impossible. There will be some who would refuse to integrate but they would be segregated, isolated and left to fend for themselves outside the towers. The ease of life in the towers will make such communes eventually die out.
Space exploration: Exploration of newer and better worlds would be the focus of the future. Rockets and star ships which travel by displacing gravity and use anti matter propulsion systems will help humanity go far into the galaxy. Robotic spaceships would be at the forefront and venture out first into unknown terrain.
Birth through machines: Human baby incubators will be the mode of conceiving children. With artificial cultivation of all the ingredients required for life, human birth will be surrogated to machines which will result in a more regulated and controlled population. Humans will not want to bear the pain of childbirth nor take the responsibility of rearing children. This would make the matter of human birth a matter for the state. Factors like availability of resources, scarcity of population regions and future requirement projections will decide the number of children to be conceived.

This list can go on and on but the fact remains that throughout history dictators and mad scientists have tried some of these options with various degree of success. Given the way the world is going may be some of these may indeed be a reality in a century from now. Would you want to be a part of such a world? Luckily I would not be around to see such a world 😊

Phones getting a taste of Oreo

Oreo is the flavor of the day from Android. As usual end users would be interested in knowing which are the phones getting it and when. On the ‘when’ part there are no confirmed dates. The list below is of phones which are getting the upgrade.

Google
Pixel, Pixel XL ,Pixel C Tablet
Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player

HTC
HTC U11, HTC U Ultra, HTC U Play

Samsung
Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus (G950F, G950W, G950R4, G955, G955F), Galaxy S7 Edge (G935F, G935FD, G935W8) , Galaxy S8 Active , Galaxy S7 Active ,Galaxy S7 (G930, G930F, G930W8, G930FD) ,Galaxy S6 (all variants)

OnePlus
OnePlus 3, OnePlus 3T , OnePlus 5

LG
LG V30, LG G6, LG V20, LG G5, LG Q6, LG Q6+, LG Q8

Xiaomi
Mi A1, Mi6, Mi Mix 2, Mi Note 3 Xiaomi Mi 5

Nokia
All Nokia phones to get the oreo update!!
……HMD Global’s Chief Product Officer Juho Sarvikas tweeted that all Nokia-branded Android phones — including the entry-level Nokia 3 — will receive the Android 8.0 Oreo update. Check out the screenshot below

Nokia

This would mean the Nokia 3 as mentioned in the tweet above, Nokia 5, Nokia 6, and the flagship Nokia 8.

 

Moto
Moto G5S , Moto G4 Plus, Moto G5S Plus , Moto G5 , Moto G5 Plus ,Moto X4a ,Moto Z2 Play ,Moto Z2 Force , Moto Z / Z Droid, Moto Z Play / Z Play Droid, Moto Z Force Droid

 

Sony
Xperia X, Xperia X Performance, Xperia XZ, Xperia X Compact, Xperia XZ Premium, Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1, Xperia XA1 Ultra, Xperia Touch and Xperia XA1 Plus (Xperia XZ1 and  Xperia XZ1 Compact will launch with Android Oreo

 

 

Biceps at Fifty

Well, that is my latest dream. You might wonder why someone about to hit fifty would want big biceps. Shouldn’t that person have more age-appropriate, achievable and practical goals? To tell you the truth, even I am not quite sure why I want them. I also know that if I do get them, I may not have much use for them in my everyday life. You see, I work in a IT company. Have been in this field for the last twenty years and expect to go on at least for a few more years. Not much muscles required in my line of business. Yet this dream of big muscles keeps popping up and pulls me off track.
It all started a few days back when I caught a reflection of myself in a mirror. What stared back at me was not something I particularly liked. I am not referring to the pot belly or the sunken chest, those I can live with, it was my thin arms that were screaming out for improvement.
Over the years, I have made various attempts at changing and upgrading what nature had endowed me with. I must confess that the attempts have not all been successful. After days of pain and little gain I usually find the philosophical side in me taking over. I would come to the realization that peace of mind and a comfortable bank balance were targets I should be chasing. These lofty thoughts would put an end to my attempts at self-improvement. The result was that I would get back to spending all my quality time in front of the TV, finishing of extra-large bags of potato chips.

Now the look in the mirror has again revived my inner demons. They are asking me to do something drastic. This is not a new experience for me. Over the years I have frequently given in to these shadier impulses and started short lived exercise programs. Over the years I have also collected and an impressive array of exercise equipment which now take up considerable spaces in my house. This includes a tread mill which doubles up as a storage shelf, a bench press bench with the packing stickers and tape still showing after a decade, an assortment of weights and barbells that help hold down old newspapers and magazines…I think you must have got the general idea.

These mood swings have always followed a similar pattern. It would usually come at the start of a weekend. It would start with me dragging out the weights and bars from the store room. I brush off all the cobwebs sticking to them and cart them over to the bedroom. First, I arrange them neatly in a corner of the room. Next, I shift the full-length mirror, in the bedroom and arrange it in such a way that it can give a real-time image of me working up a sweat. Another important activity at this point is recording and noting measurement of all strategic parts of my body that I expect to explode as part of my exertions with the weights.  A full water bottle, the TV stocked with all my favorite movies and the window curtain arranged at the correct angle basically to prevent the pesky neighbors from catching me in various stages of undress and I would be ready to go.
My wife usually keeps out of the way when she sees me lugging the weights and bench back to the bedroom. Over two-decade of our married life she has seen happen a number of times. She especially likes it when I bring out the exercise bench, because it gives her a wide range of options to hang wet clothes to dry on, especially during the rainy season. She also knows that within a few days I would be taking it all back to the store room. My son likes to sleep on the bench as it is strategically positioned right under the ceiling fan. When awake he occasionally tries out various weight combinations and then threatens us that he would stop his studies and become a professional body builder once in his teens. He would try out a few body-builder poses in the mirror and then tired from all that physical work would go back to sleep on the bench.
As for me after all the lugging around and placing-in-the-right-spot business, I would be too tired and roll out my yoga mat and fall asleep in a corner. So, coming back to the dream that I am chasing at present, I will let you know how matters proceed once I wake up.

Xiaomi – Mi A1 – Users review

Last month Xiaomi did something which was totally unexpected. They released a phone which is a Android One smart phone. What is the unexpected part in all this is that Xiaomi has its own heavily customized version of android which it called MiUi. I wasxiaomi-mi-a1-front one of the first people who jumped at the opportunity to buy one of these phones. Today I complete almost a month of using the Mi A1 and would like to share my experiences through this post.

So before i jump into my review of the phone let me explain some of the concept behind this.
What is Android One?
As you may be knowing,Google the masters of Android release updated version of their mobile OS regularly. These versions are usually named after desserts for example we had the following
Android 4.1-4.3 Jelly Bean (mid-2012)
Android 4.4 KitKat (late 2013)
Android 5.0 Lollipop (late 2014)
Android 6.0 Marshmallow (late 2015)
Android 7.0 Nougat (2016) and the latest Android 8.0 Oreo which came out this year -2017.
Ideally mobile phone users should get the updated version of the Android os once they are released. That is the theory but in practice this does not happen. The reason is very simple. Mobile phones are made by manufactures like Samsung, Nokia, HTC, Motorola etc. These manufactures usually customize the base android code, add a layer of their own code on top of it and then with the help of the service providers who provide your sim or network services, ship the OS to the end user. All this takes time. In most cases it never happens and end users, i.e. you and me – the people who buy the smart phones never get the new Operating System.
The manufacturers also know that if people could indefinitely upgrade their phones then they end up loosing new business or no one would buy their latest phone models. Plus given the fact that these changes to the base Android OS would require months and months of development, testing effort from their side, they simply do not put in any efforts to upgrade.
Given this background Google came up with this concept of having a dedicated set of Phones which would run the bare bone model of their OS. These phone were meant to be cheap and specifically aimed at developing countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal,Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and other South Asian countries. This was in 2014. Later on the plan was to target the developed countries as well.
The concept was good, but did not catch on. For example in India it was felt that the initial set of phones had poor hardware specifications and the concept never really caught on. The Android One dream was slowly fading away. That was when Mi A1 happened.

Let me now come to the part where I share what I like about the phone

The Pro’s

  • The Pure Android experience                                                                                              For the purists there is nothing that beats the basic needs that Android provides. I for one preferred to use AOSP ROM‘s on my previous phone which was a Redmi 3S. When my office decided to go in for Intune Company Portal as the administrator of our cell phones I was forced to switch back to the stock MiUI. You see the Intune Company Portal app does not allow custom ROM’s or rooted phone. Phone’s which do not have the standard OS.
  • Regular updates                                                                                                                             Xiaomi users are very excited these days. The reason being that Nougat or Android 7 is expected on their phones by the end of 2017. The problem with this is that Nougat came out last year i.e. in 2016!!! This is the sorry state of affairs for most phone users. The updates just never come in time. This issue is resolved in the Mi A1. Currently it runs on Nougat 7.1.2. Android Oreo which is version 8 of Android is expected to come by end of 2017 and Android P the next version somewhere towards the end of 2018!!!
  • Regular security updates                                                                                                             Google sends out security patches on a monthly basis. The Mi A1 gets them also in the same month. Currently the patch running on my Mi A1 was released on Sep 1, 2017. The October patch is expected soon.
  • Xiaomi does not control this phone but Google does                                                            On a fresh installation you would see 3 apps from Xiaomi. Feedback, Mi Store and Mi Remote. You can uninstall Mi Store and Mi Remote. Mi Feedback refused to be removed. You can disable Mi Feedback from under Setting >>Apps >Feedback.
  • No Mi Account setup required                                                                                                   During setup you can ignore the setup of you Mi account. That gives you more control over you phone and some peace of mind! Remember you still log in to your Google account!!

The Con’s

  • There is a variation in the price of the product                                                                Try this as a sample. During the initial launch Mi.com the parent web side put out a sale where it offered the phone for Rs. 14,500. The only problem was very,very few people were able to log in during the few minutes the sale was on! Even today the price varies from INR 14,999 to INR 16999 in India. I had to dish out 15,499 to get mine from an online store.
  • Camera quality is not all that great especially in low light. This has not been an issue for me as I rarely if ever use the cameras. In case you are a hard core camera user, and a firm believer in selfies, then my suggestion is you look at other options available in the market.
  • Battery life is on the lower side, the reason here could be that pure android experience does not use much battery life. Personally  I have got more than a days worth of juice when charged to 100%. This is after using the phone to make around 10- 15 official calls, check and respond to emails using Microsoft Outlook every 15 minutes .
  • The inbuilt launcher – Launcher3 is not all that great                                                         Launcher3 is rudimentary in its abilities. This problem can be easily resolved by choosing from the wide variety of  launcher available on Google Play.

Overall I would say it has been a good buy for me. If you are someone who likes the pure android experience and does not want to be weighed down by fancy UI’s and extra customization the Mi A1 is the phone for you. The extra gizmos are available on Google Play in case you need them.
For me the single most important factor was the sense of security I get when I know my data is not being uploaded to Mi servers without my knowledge.
I have a weird and scary experience to narrate here. On my previous Redmi 3s I had logged in to the Mi Cloud and had authorized them to upload my contacts and sms messages. After about a month of this I disabled the uploads to the Mi Cloud. After a couple of months while checking I found my sms messages and all other data was still being uploaded on to the Mi Cloud!! There were hundreds of text messages, photos and contact details there. This when I had not enabled the feature. I had to personally delete all that data and was one of the main reasons why I went in for the Mi A1.
While it may seem a bit silly to have still gone in for a phone frpm the same manufacturer the point is Xiaomi makes good hardware. That plus the price range is affordable. There is no denying these two factors. Now in the Mi A1 add the factors that the software is controlled by google and there are regular updates, plus the option to get next OS update, the combination is unbeatable.

In conclusion the Mi A1 is a great buy.

The Mi A1 specifications

NETWORK Technology GSM / HSPA / LTE
LAUNCH Announced 2017, September
Status Available. Released 2017, September
BODY Dimensions 155.4 x 75.8 x 7.3 mm (6.12 x 2.98 x 0.29 in)
Weight 165 g (5.82 oz)
SIM Hybrid Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
DISPLAY Type LTPS IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size 5.5 inches (~70.1% screen-to-body ratio)
Resolution 1080 x 1920 pixels (~403 ppi pixel density)
Multi touch Yes
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3
PLATFORM OS Android 7.1.2 (Nougat), planned upgrade to Android 8.0 (Oreo)
Chipset Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625
CPU Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53
GPU Adreno 506
MEMORY Card slot microSD, up to 128 GB (uses SIM 2 slot)
Internal 64 GB, 4 GB RAM
CAMERA Primary Dual 12 MP (26mm, f/2.2; 50mm, f/2.6), phase detection autofocus, 2x optical zoom, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
Features 1.25 µm/ 1.0 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama
Video 2160p@30fps, 720p@120fps
Secondary 5 MP, 1080p
SOUND Alert types Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker Yes
3.5mm jack Yes
– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
COMMS WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, WiFi Direct, hotspot
Bluetooth 4.2, A2DP, LE
GPS Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS, BDS
Infrared port Yes
Radio FM radio
USB 2.0, Type-C 1.0 reversible connector
FEATURES Sensors Fingerprint (rear-mounted), accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM
Browser HTML5
Java No
– Fast battery charging
– Xvid/MP4/H.265 player
– MP3/WAV/eAAC+/FLAC player
– Photo/video editor
– Document viewer
BATTERY Non-removable Li-Ion 3080 mAh battery
MISC Colors Black, Gold, Rose Gold
Price About 220 EUR

For complete specifications please check this website

For details on Android One please read more here