Sunday, December 11, 2011

My first Half Marathon!

"Did It"

That was the SMS I sent to Sangeeta at 4:00 AM after finishing my half marathon in the Midnight Marathon held in Whitefield, Bangalore on Dec 11, 2011.

Now to the story.

The Irrational act !

A month back on Nov 11, some one tweeted saying "Registered at Midnight Marathon". I just clicked on the link and paid 600Rs for the half-marathon. Human progress happens on such irrational acts.

Why was it irrational? : My personal best was 12.5 Kms. The half marathon is 21kms. I thought I can practice harder and increase my mileage.

After signing up for the marathon, I announced on Facebook and even got 13 likes and 5 comments and tips. I duly forgot about the marathon and went on with my work + occasional runs ( I average 6 runs a month - yes its very bad - good runners run almost 4 times a week )

The Panic Attack

Suddenly around Nov 26th I panicked. I SoSed some of my friends and runners I follow on Twitter and got useful tips.

@nilakanta, @_bharath_k,@ulaar and Jayaram Srinivasan ( ex SAP VP and now entrepreneur ) - Thank you guys for the pep talk and encouragement.

Some of the tips I got from them :

* eat curd rice couple of days before the race to load up on carbohydrates

* watch out for the cold in the midnight marathon - it will be good if you can change your t-shirt in the middle of the race

* Just run - thats what running is all about. Don't over analyze things

* You can easily stretch your 12.5Kms to 21Kms on race day - adrenaline will keep you going.

So I started pushing myself a bit - went for 3 runs on alternate days and ended up with a new pain - "runners knee".  This was Nov 30th.

The Suspense

The next 10 days was the most harrowing time. I was reading more and more of runners knee - and learnt that I should have been doing strength training exercises - not just running. Now it was too late - so I decided to just take rest and not injure my leg any further.

Twice I was tempted to run but better sense prevailed and stayed at home. Walked gingerly all the time and even got a knee socks kind of thing and wore it now and then hoping it will do some magic.

Race Night

I was very anxious through out the day. We reached around 10:30 pm and I got my first whiff of a marathon event. The atmosphere was electric. So many were walking in shorts and wearing sports shoes, wearing bibs, people stretching, warming up. There was a rockband called "one night stand" playing some oldie hits. I couldnt quite enjoy it as I could only think of the race.

Thats me with my Bib - 764 and Prithvi - who was excited all day since we told him that we will be all going to the midnight marathon.

  Also there was a timing chip - which I tied to my shoe lace - after seeing some one near me tie it to the shoe lace. I was planning to put the chip on my pocket ;)  At the race start and at the mid way mark where we turn around - there is an RFID sensor placed underneath a red carpet - which will give a beep when it detects the chip.

Around 11:40 PM went to the race line. A huge crowd was there already. Here are some snaps from the starting line :
My Running Accessories : Bata Canvas Shoe, Sennheiser headphone, SGS Android phone with Cardio Trainer App for tracking time and distance

The ambulance was reassuring. Also behind my Bib had to write emergency contact person name and mobile, blood group, alergies to any medications etc.

My Cheer Party!
Just before the start

The Race

At 12 precisely the race started. There were drums at the entrance and people were cheering. After the first bend it was quite and all I can hear was the sweet thump of foot hitting the road - and ahead of me - for the entire stretch that I can see where heads bobbling rhythmically. It was beautiful the very sight.

We were to complete 5 laps for the Half Marathon ( 10 laps for Full Marathon ) - each one was around 4Kms. I typically alternate between running and walking - and keep increasing my running time and reducing the time I walk. My knee pain did not surface and I was very much relieved.

The course had 3 slopes. I have never practiced on a slope and I found that it was hard to run on an upward slope. I had to redo my strategy and started walking on upward slope - this totally messed up my rhythm - but I didnt mind much as I was enjoying the whole experience. When I crossed 1Km I saw the Ethiopian runners on the opposite side - they were already returning from the half way mark. Just watched them with my mouth open !

I managed Laps 1 and 2 pretty smoothly.

And it gets tough

I reached my 12.5km mark without much trouble and felt elated. I typically average 7Kms per hour, but this time it was 6.5Kms per hour...because of the slope walking.

Then I felt a tinge at the back of my right knee. This always surfaces when I cross 12kms ( and this is the reason I stop running after that and go home ). I knew what was coming - so stopped stretched, ate a banana and gulped some gatorade in one of the stations. I completed Lap 3 running.

The pain was pretty acute now and so I stopped and rested again. Did some more stretching and ran gingerly putting more weight on my left leg ( earlier this was the problem leg with shin splints - thankfully I am beyond that now )

By the time I was returning on the 4th lap I knew I could not run in this race anymore. The right leg will not bend. Also since I was putting more pressure on my left leg, started getting pain around the knees on left leg too.

The last lap

I walked slowly to the finish line at the end of lap 4. The experienced half marathoners were completing their runs and the newbies like me were walking or slowly jogging.

I went and sat. I had carried Volini - a pain ointment my mother uses - and applied it generously on my knees. Removed my shoe and let my toes breathe - they were literally burning.

I did not bother looking at the clock as I knew it will depress me. I took a deep breathe and started walking. I had another 4+ kms ahead - and it looked very far. I was literally dragging my right leg as bending it would send pain waves through my leg.

Most of the half marathoners had completed by now and only the full marathoners were now running or were also walking. But they walked briskly and also jogged - unlike me.

One kind soul while over taking me said - walk briskly sir thats all you have to do. I just smiled at him and said Thanks!

I dropped the idea of sitting and resting - as I knew the last time I sat and applied ointment I had a tough time getting up. Lot of thoughts were buzzing in my head. Why the heck did I even decide to run? This is it - I kept thinking - I am not going to run any more Marathons ever. I tried to banish such thoughts but the negativity in me was going on increasing.

To shut up the devil in my head I started focussing on the pain. The toes were literally burning, there was a sensation of a tight pull above my knees and also a searing pain behind my knee. I tried diverting my mind to think of positive things - but the negative thoughts started coming and it was making me angry and wanted to give up - so I started focussing on the pain again.

I think focussing on the pain strategy might have worked. I reached the mid way point and was elated. Phoo - just 2 Kms more. I was certain at this point that I would be completing the race.

I did not stop for any refreshments but kept walking dragging my right leg literally. I had become an expert on my pain  as I had been observing it so much. I literally lost track of how long I was walking and I started hearing drums - I was getting closer to the finish line.

The finish

I registered my final beep on the RFID scanner and crossed the finish line. I need not turn back for any more laps. I had such a surge in emotion that very moment. I walked very slowly and found a chair and slouched on it.

A kind organizer came to me and asked if I was alright. I had a tough time talking and said yes, Thank you. He let me alone and went away ( later he would come back give me a bourbon biscuit packet saying apologetically - this is all I could get! - he had no idea how grateful I was  ). I was basking in pure joy. The pain was still there but I did not mind it anymore. I just sat there stretching my legs. I could see the full marathoners turning back for their remaining laps.

The kind soul who asked me to walk briskly was coming towards the finish line. I clapped and he saw me - he put his thumbs up and smiled. He went back on his lap - don't know who that person is - wish I had shouted to ask for his twitter handle.

Here are some screenshots of my phone.

My home screen - always shows the calories burnt from previous runs - was 0  at the start of the race. 

My running graph captured by Cardio Trainer

And for the time I took to complete this race - it is pretty embarrassing when I think of it - this is the typical time runners take to complete a full marathon. Anyway I can only do better next time - that is guaranteed :)

Thankfully I have no blisters or swelling - the poor muscles in my legs are just tired I guess. My confidence on running has only increased -  I will try to run smarter - run on slopes and also try to mix up strength training to my routine. 

Now to the devil in my head - I will participate in marathons again and again - year after year. I will try to better my time, will aim for 42 kms and more. You sir, the devil in my head, can go take a hike!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Aleph by Paulo Coelho

I am getting back to Paulo Coelho after a very long time. The last one was disappointing - "The winner stands alone",

This book - Aleph - hits me at a time when I am going through a spiritual turmoil sort of. 

I have told this incident to a few folks, but never in this blog - long back in December 2010 - I ran out of Petrol on my bike. A very first in my history. I pushed the bike for more than a kilometer, and managed to buy some questionable looking fluid and resumed my journey.

I was to meet a gentleman to show a demo of our product - and I was late by 1 bloody hour. He waited patiently for me even though it was already his lunch time and did not cancel the appointment.

We spoke for an hour about the product and then we started chatting - what I read, what is my philosophy. He then said this :

"Venkat, do you think we meeting at this moment is coincidental? It is all planned"

Yeah yeah I thought - have heard that one before. Was being polite and just smiled as I did not agree or disagree with it. 

He then gave me 9 book titles - 3 of them I have read so far. The 3 are - Conversations with God 1,2 and 3 by Neale Donald Walsch ( another incredible story this author has - from a homeless man to a best selling author ).

What I am going to write below is a gist of things I have read both from the 3 books and Aleph. 

* We are all one soul - yes you me and everyone.

* God is manifesting in us to discover who he is 

* There are infinite parallel worlds - right now right this minute I am living another life in another time

* Dreams are like a snapshot into these parallel existences

* There are 3 things - Mind, Body and Soul. Soul is actually unhappy when it is trapped - but it is the only way the soul can experience its being

* Death is beautiful - when the secret is revealed and soul is liberated ( remember Steve Job's last words : Oh Wow ! )

* The soul choses what it wants to do in this life - but the mind and body do not allow the soul to do what it wants for various reasons - dogma, fear etc. ( Alchemist : The soul knows - just follow the heart )

* What the soul learns in previous life it brings to this life - the present is a product of the past and future ( yeah its weird but its all parallel remember )

* The whole world is actually going towards euphoria ( the old Gentleman said this same thing ) - as in each reincarnation the soul seeks and reconciles with its previous / future conflicts.

* Religion - the way it has evolved is not right. - this is my humble opinion.

I will leave it here. Try these books - even if you do not agree and read it for entertainment value - will give you a different perspective to who we are and why we are here? 

Aleph is not in the same league as Alchemist - it is more profound and there are some brilliant passages where Paulo Coelho talks about love, loss, gift and particularly one on what is Hell and Heaven - this book deserves a second read. 

One word of caution though - if you have never read Paulo Coelho before do not start with Aleph. Start with Alchemist, and see if you can get hold of The Pilgrimage too - his personal experience that made him a writer that he is now. Then start on Aleph - he is a genius  and you will mis interpret him if you read Aleph first.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

ApartmentADDA turns 3 Years!

We launched ApartmentADDA on Nov 12th, 2008 and today this site turns 3 !

I think it is apt to look at the analytics like how we would look at a kid - how tall he or she has grown! The above snapshot is from Google Analytics of Visitors from the beginning of time till today.

The mini spike after Nov 2008 was on January 2009 - when I informed about this venture in my batch's email list. Facebook had not taken off then yet.

The next big spike after Nov 2009 was on January 2010 - when Bangalore Mirror put us on Front page! Today we get more than 3 times that much traffic in a day.

Google Analytics now gives realtime reporting - it is surreal to watch the clicks and the dots show up on the world's map.

So what is next for this kid? "Changing Orbits" of course - quoting our good friend and mentor Mr.Sharad Sharma.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Speed, Distance, Pain-free Running - Pick 2

Here is an equation that dawned on me today while running. It is quite simple.

a) Speed at which you can run.
b) Distance that you can cover.
c) Running without any pain or injuries.

You can only have two of the above.

Obviously c) has to be selected - cannot imagine a life with pain - unless you are Zahir Khan or one of the sissy Indian cricketers who always feign pain in order to skip playing and go act in more Ads.

That leaves us to pick either a) or b). So if you have only 30 minutes to run - run as fast as possible for a short distance. If you have lot of time on hand - run as far as possible - but slowly with enough breaks.

At times these constraints are a real PITA - but that's life - we should just try to make the most of it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

CyanogenMod on Samsung Galaxy S and 3 Button fix

I did not brick my phone this time. And now I am on CyanogenMod 7 - with Gingerbread. It looks beautiful and is very responsive ( thanks to the Hardcore's Speedmod kernel ) - Samsung Galaxy S feels like a new phone once again.

Some of the SGS had the 3 button method ( Volume button  + Home + Power key ) to reboot into Recovery or Download mode disabled -  which is essential to install any kernels or ROMS. 

The trick was to enable the 3 Button Fix and it becomes easy to install ROMS. In my previous failed attempt I tried to accomplish the same using adb and bricked my phone. (

1. Root SGS

This is quite simple. Download SuperOneClick from shortfuse ( ) and root the phone.

2. Enable the 3 button fix

If you can go to download / recovery mode with the 3 buttons you can skip this step. Use the below link and it worked without any hiccups : Has links to Odin and a PDA file which will enable the 3 buttons.

There is a similar article in - you can give it a pass.

One word of caution : ALWAYS read the comments before you get your hands dirty. I read horror stories of some Samsung Galaxy S 4G ( newer models ) that got completely bricked as this is not supported.

3. Now I can install ROMs using Clockworkmod. The instructions in cyanogenMod wiki were so straightforward it was as simple as installing Ubuntu ( from Version 6 I guess ) and the whole process was done under 2 minutes.

Here are some screenshots - I could not take the lock screen though - it came out blank. There are 5 "pages". The one in the middle is the landing zone.

To the left I put my "fun" stuff

Further left is google+, twitter and facebook.

To the right of my home is "work"

Yet to organize better. And guess what - the bottom tray - even that is configurable. The = sign is the calculator - yet another reason why android can never beat iOS. I can drag any app to this dock - something I could not do in Froyo ( don't know if this is a Gingerbread thingy or Cyanogenmod's gift )

And so far the phone responds really fast and had no app crashes. I doubt if there is any improvement on battery life - it is already visibly down ( had a 1.2 hour run today morning with GPS and music player on ), and was playing music at home through an amplifier after that. I saw a setting where I can switch the CPU for performance or battery.. right now it is in optimal setting.

And btw - these things void your warranty - but totally worth doing it. If you have a SGS and want it rooted just ping me - I can help you.

Finally - great work Cyanogenmod team - simply amazing.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Steve Jobs is Howard Roark

Claimer : This is not a post to mourn but to Celebrate Steve Jobs. 

I read Ayn Rand's FountainHead in 2008. A life changing novel.

If you haven't read here is a gist.

The hero of the book is Howard Roark. 
He hates the old school architecture - where you have the professors expecting one to design buildings with 18th Century architecture - the pillars and ornate designs. Howard Roark could not stand this "apeing" and refuses to follow the college's dictum and drops out and moves to New York to start his own design firm.
At the same time - Peter Keating, his fellow student, graduates with top honors and moves to New York.  The first half of the story is all about how Peter Keating's career rises while Howard Roark is rejected by the System and he goes to work as a day laborer in a mine quarry and as a construction worker. 
The second half is all about how Howard Roark's style of architecture is accepted and creates a new School of Thought. He creates a design secretly for Peter Keating which wins an architectural award by the same people who rejected Howard Roark. 

In the end, Howard Roark Wins. 

Towards the end of the book I almost believed that a Howard Roark existed. I was so fascinated by the idea of a single "man" revolutionizing an entire industry.

Whenever I heard about Steve Jobs or read about him - the picture of Howard Roark kept coming to my mind and I secretly believe Steve Jobs is Howard Roark!

Here is one man - who was instrumental in creating not one - but many industries.

1. The PC Industry

You and I would still be stuck with the 'dumb' terminals with green fonts had not the visionary Steve Job spotted the whizkid Steve Woznaik tinkering on a project.

2. CGI Animated Movies

Animation was just another special effect in a movie - until Pixar came along created those magical CGI animated movies.

3. Glamorous OS

It was love at first sight when I first saw Puma in 2001 - borrowed from NeXT OS. If you enter a wrong password the login dialog box would shake like a head refusing to accept the answer - an OS can be fun and elegant while still doing the OSy stuff. Was a convert from that day onwards.

4. Portable Music Device

iPod. What a simple elegant device ( except the fat nano ). Apple did not invent the hard drive based mp3 player, nor the clickwheel - but took them to the next level.

5. Online Media

People wrongly attribute the success of Apple's Digital Media Offerings to iPod - but the secret is iTunes - it made the process of media consumption easy.

6. Podcasts

What will I do without them? Twit, Car Talk, Macworld podcast, TED Talks - all at my finger tips waiting to soak my brain whenever I run or for a long journey to kill time.

7. Smart Phones and Tablets

My Brother in law bought a Nokia smartphone in 2007 - it had a touch screen, a gyroscope etc. It was jerky and will freeze now and then. I liked the touch concept but did not excite me. Then came iPhone and elevated the SmartPhones to an entirely new level. And alongside the "App Industry".

This man had Taste and Instinct like no other. He created multiple industries. He turned around Apple from the brink of death. He brought smile to millions of kids and adults. He inspired so many entrepreneurs to go against the current.

The world is a better place because of him.

In the end, Steve Jobs won.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Three Running Myths Busted

I love running.

I was never an athletic person - whenever there was a race, I was the last, play any competitive physical sport with me and I assure you I would have made you triumphant. As a kid I never cared much about sports and hated PT classes. However I discovered running the last couple of years and it was just what the Doctor ordered. I set my own pace, listen to a podcast and I am content and happy.

I touched 10km a few months back and I celebrated. Then I pushed to 12km and a nagging pain started - "shin splints". Read all about it and in the process came to know the names of other minor pains I was having. So I tweeted

 venkat kandaswamy 

dear runner friends - did any of you have shin splints.. I am touching 12 km and having this pain.. any help/pointers appreciated

got a few replies


 yeah it does creep slowly. Back off a bit, increase gradually when you get back and examine how you land on your feet when you run


 got it when i touched 6-7km because I pushed too quickly. It put me out of action and it took me ages to recover. Ease up a little.


 have you read 'born to run' by Chris Mcdougall ? It could help.

A book suggestion - wow! - immediately I grabbed Born to Run and started crunching it.

The author who writes in a sports journal is also a runner and is always in pain because of his runs. He meets various podiatrists, physiotherapists and the answer is always the same - slow down on running, human body is not supposed to take so much of shock while running. 

Then on a trip to Mexico he reads an article about a runner tribe - Tarahumara - who run for days in one of their parties (tesguinado) and the winners usually are the veterans at the age of 60s, they just wear a handmade sandal and run on hostile terrain. They contradict everything we have come to know of running.

This leads him to Kabayo Blanco, an american who has is now living with the Tarahumarians and follow their simple life style. They arrange for a run where the best of ultra runners in America ( an ultra is > than a marathon - 160 KMs and even more, while a marathon is only 42Kms ) - come to the Copper Canyons and they run with the Tarahumara.

While the story progresses Chris Mcdougall keeps uncovering interesting facts about running.

Myth 1 : You need sophisticated shoes.

I love conspiracies and this one is about a $20 Billion industry started by Nike. Prior to 1970s - there were no shin splints, plantar fascilitis, over pronation, plica syndrome or the running ailments that are so common today. Then Nike was born and it made a good shoe ( Nike Pegasus ) - which had a thin sole and was great for running. Then the Capitalist greed kicked in and Nike started retiring their successful models every 10 months.

Nike gave more and more support and cushion to the feet - and the feet forgot how to run how the way the human body was supposed to run. All the nerves in our human body that starts in the brain - ends in the feet ( Some 70,000 or so ). Whenever the feet touches the ground it is taking a snapshot of the temperature, the hardness of the surface etc. - and this feedback is used to plan the next step.

a) When the feet is put in a nice comfortable soft shoe - the brain thinks that it has to put more force on the next step for stability as it feels its on soft ground and has to plant the leg firmly.

b) Also the way the shoe is designed ( thicker heel ) - the body lands on the heel - and the shock wave gets multiplied. Our foot is designed to land on the toes to dissipate the shock.

so a) makes your foot to land harder and b) makes you land the whole body on the wrong place - a) x b) has a multiplicative effect on the "wrong" way of running - and it leads to pain.

This brings us to the "barefoot movement" - people are kicking their shoes off and running barefoot - as the best shoe is "nothing".

This was an ahaa moment for me - it made complete sense. My running shoe ( which I got free for a Reebok sandals that I got 5 years back ) has a thin sole but still has a nice cushion at the heel. I started noticing that I was landing on my heel. I contemplated running bare foot - but before that I want to get the cheapest Bata canvas shoe and give it a shot. The road has got lots of dirt and sharp objects - do not want to take chances.

This book just saved me a few thousands of rupees. One of the things I was going to do was get a more fancy, cushiony Nike or Reebok shoe - thinking it will ease my pain. Myth busted.

Myth 2 : Woman cannot run.

This one is for the Wife who I am encouraging her to run with me. There are stories of 2 lady ultra marathoners - one a school teacher who has won so many ultra marathons and one a young upcoming ultra marathoner - both have no special training - but they beat the best American runners and even beat the Tarahumara tribe's best runners. As the distance increases - women seem to beat men - as their endurance levels are much higher.

Men are wimps when it comes to pain. I keep crying all the time that my feet hurt, my shin hurts.

However a woman can experience an incredible amount of pain during child birth and can laugh about it later.

Also the human body was designed to run - as the title of this book "Born to run". We are not supposed to walk or pump irons or pull fancy weights in gym - but run. This is the best way to exercise and can ward off diabetes, hypertension, back pain and whole lot of ailments brought to us thanks to the progressive and lazy lifestyle. The whole body reacts beautifully to running - I am no longer a coffee addict - I drink coffee when I am bored - thats all.

So ladies rethink again if you have any doubts on running - the "Men" have spread lot of mis information and taken away your right to run. Second Myth - Woman cannot run - is also busted.

Myth 3 : You need to be a carnivore if you have to run.

Another eye-opener. The best ultra marathoner ever - Scott Jurek - who has won 7 titles in his career and has won in all hostile environments - turned a vegetarian. The tarahumara are vegetarians. There are these monks in Japan who run 70 miles every day for 7 years.. ( as they reach Nirvana daily by running ) - eat just Tofu and veggies.

Animal protein is bad for the human body. It brings cancer and also gets stored as fat. Like all the studies - we were not supposed to process animal flesh. It is bad for running. There are issues with water retention and fat build up. Also when you are a vegan - your body is more supple, leaner and can run better, faster and longer - I am sold.

Other than the humanitarian and ecological aspects of turning Vegan - the running angle appeals to me a lot. Already I am cutting down on my carnivorishness - and I am now following the Veggie on auspicious days strictly ( Monday,Thursday,Friday,Saturday) - and planning to expand it to all 7 days so I can joke like my good friend Sathya [ he is a Vegetarian and will joke - oh I do not eat meat today - because its  ____day ]

Myth 3 busted - you need to be a carnivore to run.

So thats all folks - all the pre conceived notions I have about running are all over turned. Thank you Christopher McDougall, Barefoot Ted, Scott Jurek, Kabayo Blanco ( search these names on You Tube and you can see videos, TED Talks, interviews ) and Harruki Murrakami. You guys have changed me for the better.

Friday, September 23, 2011

An Identity Crisis!

Whoosh... that is how the time went the last 3 years. Sep 18th, 2008 - the day the Lehman Brothers collapsed and the sub prime crisis erupted - I started my entrepreneurial journey.

3 years down the lane - I still feel young and wide eyed. And this brings us to an identity crisis I am having. How do I introduce myself to strangers? Earlier it was easy - I work for an IT company and the other party just imagines me walking in with a laptop bag, boarding a flight to US of A and bringing back lot of foreign chocolates - and of course living the high life and someone who can afford the high rents and bribes. [ honestly this is not true, and I am always frustrated when the non-ITians think that we are having an easy life ]

Now I honestly do not know how to introduce myself.  Here are the few attempts :

I run a startup. The problem is - it is now my 4th year. How long will i keep starting should I not have started up by now? Also it feels as if I am toying with an idea or a business model - and the other party might not take me seriously. Anyone else other than the entrepreneurial community will not even understand the term "startup" correctly. So I stopped using this.

I run a business. This I tell with the least confidence. Because to me a business man is one who wears a suit / dhoti ( I was b&bup from Coimbatore ) , chews paan, has a waddle of cash, is chauffeured around in a car, tips heavily,speaks loudly to everyone, and is on phone all the time. I am none of them - and I do not sound confident because something inside me is trying to shut my mouth when I use this introduction.

I am an entrepreneur. It took ages for me to get the spelling right. And I attended a french class for 2 weeks - not that it helped but at least I can tell it is a french word. Aside anything that sounds french is cool ( expose, creme-da-la-creme, fiancee ). I love this introduction - however the majority cannot identify this word.

I have my company. Lame.. Doesnt excite me one bit - how will the other party even talk to me after such a dead introduction.

Hopefully by next year I should have a good introduction. Till then I will shake hands and tell the first thing that comes to my mind and keep trying various options.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Android Adventures - How I brick'd my phone

There is one more advantage to Running. It helped me skip a Puja shopping session - citing pain because of my run the previous day - and had a nice 6 hour window for myself.

I have been using Samsung Galaxy S for the last 1 year. It is a fantastic phone and has helped me in my running, exploring unknown places, keeping an eye on the server without booting up a laptop every time.

The PoS called Kies allowed me to upgrade to Froyo ( 2.2 ) from Eclairs ( 2.1 ). However it does not upgrade to Gingerbread (2.3) for whatever reason. While the rest of the Android world is enjoying Gingerbread I am stuck on Froyo. It was a long time dream to understand what this Android ecosystem is all about - and finally I found the time to sit and read about it and perhaps install Gingerbread.

Here are the steps to brick a phone.

1. Root the phone. This is the easy part. It does not brick it - totally harmless.

2. Get ADB. There is a defect in my phone. The hardware way of reaching recovery screen ( Volume Up + Home button + Power button ) does not work. A few SGS phones have this problem. The workaround is to install Android SDK. This gives you Android Debug Bridge ( ADB ) which can reboot your phone into recovery or download mode by running a command from the console ( adb reboot recovery or adb reboot download )

3. ClockworkMod. What an Idea Sirji! - Free download from App Market. It can install any ROM / firmware. You do not need ODIN ( coming up in a minute ) - just install this app, copy the ROM to your SD Card, reboot and install it. Also helps you to do a backup of your existing ROM - so you can revert back to a working copy.

4. Stock 3e. This is the recovery console that Froyo has put - and it is incompatible with ClockworkMod. When you install it will say Unable to verify signature. Lots of googling ( how did people ever live before Google? ) and I had to downgrade it to 2e.

5. ODIN. In order to downgrade to Stock 2e I had to flash a different Kernel. This video has good instructions : Using ODIN is not that hard - and I feel this is the best way to flash ROMs or Kernels.

6. Confidence increases. Still my phone was working after every reboot. For a geek where things keep working one after the other - the confidence builds up. I typically watch for these signs as law of average will kick in soon and something bad will happen.

7. Installing Gingerbread. I was as excited as a child. I downloaded Gingerbread, copied it to sdcard, rebooted into recovery mode ( 2e now ), and started the installation process...and was enjoying reading the messages scrolling.

Removing the crap you installed before....
Unmounting mount points...
Your phone is now High, ReBo0t .

8. The Brick. The phone didnt ReBo0t after the installation and it went to the 3e console. I should have panicked here but I was ignorant. I happily rebooted the phone and thankfully the SGS splash screen came. But then the screen started going crazy. The phone started making androidish noises. Waited for a while with my BP rising. Powered the phone again and the screen was stuck at the SGS splash screen. 

9. The hardware defect surfaces. The 3 button trick to reboot to recovery console does not work. The phone has to first get picked up by the Laptop so I can run adb reboot recovery. Adb kept saying device not found. After lots of trial and error ( plug the usb cable and power up the phone, plug cable before splash screen comes up, plug cable after splash screen ) some combination worked and was able to reboot the phone. But the recovery mode never came and the phone kept hanging. Here I switched on the fan as I was sweating. 

10. ODIN saves the day. I had left ODIN ON and while I was trying to get adb to recognize the phone - so I can run reboot command - while switching windows I happened to notice that the phone was showing in one of the COM ports of ODIN. This gave me some hope. I downloaded the same Froyo version I had at the beginning of this adventure - it is a 190MB download - while reading more of the How Tos to unbrick a phone. Did a adb reboot download mode - the Android icon with the spade icon showed up, loaded it on ODIN, installed it, phone rebooted and the regular Samsung Galaxy S 1900 showed up and the second animated Samsung Galaxy S icon came up. No I didnt thank God but I thanked the entire Android community for bringing back the phone.

I was too exhausted at the end of this. Now I have the phone in the exact state I started it - ( lost the apps etc. - which is not a big deal anyway ). Since I have everything tied to Google - got all the contacts back. 

You might wonder - why did I download a Froyo ROM and not the Gingerbread ROM - since anyway I was going to flash. Remember the thing I said above about law of averages? I wasn't prepared to take any more chances. I just wanted my phone in a working condition - I was even prepared to go back to the slow Eclairs with the infamous Lag. 

Quite an adventure! 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I Support Anna Hazare.

There you go - let me come out in the open.

While I might doubt the success of the JanLokpal bill - which no politician in the right mind will ever pass it - I love the revolution Anna Hazare and team is creating.

Dear Egypt, Syria, Lebonon - watch what is happening here. We are a healthy democracy and we are not fighting dictators. In another 50 years you will be going through what we are going through. You might be getting a honest leader now - but slowly without you even knowing - like the proverbial frog on a hot stove - your country will start getting looted. You will get so used to corruption tax that you will not even know that this is a crime you are committing. Then look back at history and see 2011 - what happened in India. You can get some inspiration out of this.

Back to my beloved country people - Go ahead - ask me - have you bribed?

Yes. I have. I am guilty but I am not ashamed. Before you call me a hypocrite read further.

Karnataka - the most corrupt state in India - is the only state in India to have Lokyukta. Santosh Hegde and his brave team keeps unearthing stash of illegally got wealth from officials from every department. We see in newspapers the photos and the grand total - that run into crores. What happens next? The officials get suspended for a few weeks or months - and they are back to their jobs - milking the system.

All we are asking is a Lokyukta with powers to prosecute.

These are the benefits :

1. Of course the whole corruption industry will go into recession.

2. The "tout-layer" will go out of business. There are honest officials and the buyer ( we ) are not aware of them - however the touts charge a fee saying it is for bribe and pocket the money. All these lazy goons will stop loitering around the government buildings and we go meet with these honest officials directly.

3. The rich country that India has become - will see less poverty. The largesses dished out ( no not the TVs and Fridges from TN govt ) - the subsidized rice from ration shops, the compensation from calamities ( gosh how can they even think of stealing from this )  - will all reach the people to the last paise.

4. People will donate to the PM's relief fund.

5. Probably the goons will start concentrating on other ways to make money and will quit politics - so educated youth like you and me can start thinking of Politics as a career option.

Provided I have the confidence in me - that I will not be beaten up by goons for raising an RTI, or my house transfer is frozen for ever - because I refused to pay a bribe - I will not pay a bribe. I will use that money to go buy something tangible - that will provide more jobs and make everyone richer.

So my friend - you support Anna Hazare or not - let us work towards revolutionizing India.

I am following Anna Hazare's path - you find a better path take it. Probably I will join you as well - and let us let India rise to its true potential.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

My Talk at BSPIN-North - The Manual of an Agile Warrior

Here are the slides from my presentation in Manyata Tech Park for on Aug 23rd, 2011.

Manual of an agile warrior

Note : Its actually only 15 slides. Slideshare counts each text bullet also as a slide. 

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Why any product needs "Mac Users"

First the Disclaimer : This is not a mac fanboy post. I am loosely stereotyping the 3 kinds of users based on the 3 OSes - Mac, Windows and Linux. This is mainly to drive home the point of how an "ideal user" will help your product become better and better. The "Mac User", who I call - can also be a Windows, Linux,BeOs,OS 390.... user.  OS X has been successful mainly because of their Users - look at the amount of podcasts, fan sites, hints sites, magazines for this platform alone. Apple listens to these feedbacks - and incorporates some into every release of their OS.

I am tending to call these "ideal users" as "Mac Users". Had linux/windows had the same level of success - will be labeling them likewise. Shall we move on? :)

Here are some reasons why you need Mac users.

1. They demand Perfection

This is from my personal experience. Some of the CxO users, ex-Entrepreneurs who use our product - just cannot stand mediocrity or minor bugs. As developers we gloss over things and we fail to cross the 't's and dot the 'i's. But this irritates the hell out of these high achievers. When I look things through their eyes - it does make sense. Any aberrations - big or small - breaks the flow and harmony.

Switch to Linux Desktop. The flow gets broken everywhere. The applications are not consistent - each one I have to remember where I should go to do a certain thing. There are KDE apps, and Gnome Apps - and some apps who do not follow any school of UI philosophy. It kills me.  Linux as a Desktop has a very long way to go.

Windows 7 has come a long way from the Windows ME days. Still there are certain things that does not make sense - like exporting an Excel file as a CSV file - you have to put up with 3 dialog boxes - twice. This is sheer madness.

2. They improve your Product

The best part of working with the "Mac users" is they give great ideas. We built the initial product based on our knowledge / creativity. After that the product has grown from these inputs given by our users. They bring lot of expertise and cross-functional knowledge to the table. The earlier you identify them it is better for the product. Any prototypes you are building, or just want to bounce an idea about a feature - these are the users you should call first. They have a big picture view of your product - on functionality / usability / and even marketability.

Then there are the linux and windows users. Linux users will be bent on functionality without any respect to the marketability of the feature. Stay away. The Windows users might want a feature that is there in an X ( eg. in Tally or SAP ). They will not understand that building it will flush the usability down the drain - or how it does not fit with the overall design philosophy. Give them a hearing, explain why you might not incorporate - leave it at that.

3. The Best Part - They pay you

These demanding users also pay you - ungrudgingly. They do not haggle with you, they respect your business model, they do not ask you to sell Pizza online and give the product free, they do not ask you to do what X is doing and follow their model and hence give the product free. They respect what you have built - and pay because they see value. If they are not paying - then there is no value in the product. Loud and Clear.

Now going back to the 3 OSes - OS X, Linux and Windows - see the kind of users / followers each group has. Apple is lucky to have the kind of crowd following them ( Power users, artists, designers... ). All apple has to do now onwards is to listen - the best ideas come from their users - not from 1, Infinite Loop anymore.

So - have you identified your Mac Users?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What I talk about when I talk about Running

This is the book written by Haruki Murakami (thanks to @kgthegreat for pointing my spelling flaw) Nila mentioned to me about this book on Thursday evening, Friday morning I had to plan for a surprise one day trip to Chennai, Saturday found an audio version of this book and Sunday listened to this book on the afternoon return journey. At times it is really amazing how it looks like as if someone sat and planned the whole situation to the very last detail.

I have read only one book of his before - kafka on the shore. He is an amazing fiction writer and paints such crazy images and situations. ( ). I was very curious to know what he had to talk about when he talks about running!

Pic from one of his interviews (,7120,s6-243-410--8908-0,00.html)
The book starts with him training in Kauai, Hawaii 6 days a week, 10kms a day with 1 rest day. He is putting in these miles in preparation for the New York Marathon. The story weaves in and out of of how he started running ( at the age of 33 around the same age I started running and this is where our similarity ends - I am yet to touch even 10kms, yet to write my first novel and I can't speak Japanese - neither can he speak Tamil ).

I will list down some interesting facts I still remember.

* He does not walk when he runs in the marathon. He will take a break to stretch his legs - but he never walks as a policy. I am still in the run-walk-run routine, will try to emulate this.

* He has run the ultra marathon - 100 Kms in a day. This very thought is crazy. While a marathon with 42 kms is itself a crazy number - I just could not digest this number. He gives a vivid account on what went through his mind and body on that day when he ran this. How his body resisted and finally something inside him gave away and he could run with no pain. He reaches a meditative state. It is so beautiful to just listen to this part - imagine if you could experience it.

* He talks about how running helps his writing. Makes absolute sense - It is all about Focus, Endurance and Rhythm. This passage is brilliant how he relates his writing to running.

* Our man ran the real "Marathon" - between Athens and the small town of Marathon.

* He has run 1 marathon every year for the past 24 years.

* Best quote from the book "Pain is inevitable but suffering is optional".

This book is like an adrenaline shot to beginner runners like me.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

I give Newspaper the boot.

Finally - after years of reading Newspaper with a cup of filter coffee in the morning - I am breaking free from the thing called Newspaper.

The disillusionment started with Indian Express becoming more of yet another run of the mill Masala Newspaper. When the world was burning with Wikileaks - IE choose to look the other way.

"Tata Sumo turns turtle on NH-4"
"Mugging on ORR, techie loses mobile,laptop"
"Old Couple Murdered in Jayanagar"

I started feeling that it is a random generator which picks these news. Of course there were these moments of brilliance - when the editorial will go hammer and tongs against the establishment. But it was becoming less and less.

Then Nadia Tapes leak happened. With it Vir Singhvi - whose columns I used to love - was chucked out. Swapan DasGupta left IE long back to write for ToI. Gurumurthy and TJS George's columns were coming very sporadically..they were getting old. IE could never find anyone to sit at their desks.

Finally I gave up - and switched to ToI for 2 months.

"Should item numbers be done by popular actress" - center page editorial debate.
"Strawberries good for health" - with an accompanying photo revealing all other details.
"Property News" - actually Ads - you can't guess which is which anyway

And always the opening page - being sold to companies with deep pockets. It is like a coupon book the whole newspaper. There was no sincere intelligent editorial. Swapan Dasgupta's editorials didn't have the punch it used to have -felt very much tamed. The leaks, scams, Anna Hazare - all had a passing reference - something that should have been the front page news.

Finally with my disillusionment complete - I gave up.

Now I have filter coffee with a book in hand. It is so much peaceful.

And for the world and scams - I get them on my twitter & facebook feeds - can make my own judgments - I am grown up now.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Have you kept rice in the pressure cooker?

5 years back we emigrated to India - and here is the story.

July 13th - 2006 :

My sister got a phone call around 10.30 AM. We called her from Meenambakkam airport - and this is what we asked her : "Have you kept rice in the pressure cooker?" - she did not understand - why will we call from US to know if she has kept rice in the pressure cooker for the afternoon.

We were not supposed to come to India till October and it was not yet confirmed - and why was he asking this dumb question. Anyway I did not let her wonder too much - and broke the news that will be in landing in Coimbatore airport in another hour. So please add some more rice for both of us!

Good my mother did not take the call - she would have got a heartattack.

My sister's and my mother's BP shot up. After we had spoken, my sister suspected I was playing a prank. But she knew I will not play with sentiments like this - so it has to be true. And for the first time ( her claim ) she scolded me as "Naai" (dog ).

July 11th, 2006 :

We had to board Air India flight in Chicago's O Hare Airport. We packed a little too many things - thought will pay ( no not bribe ) for the excess and get through. We had a little too many sentimental things and of course chocolates. The iron lady behind the counter was unforgiving. She hated Sangeeta for some reason and will not allow any slack to us. So we had to take off all the chocolates and bring it to precisely within the range. Ideally we should have got embarrased with so many people watching us take things out and giving it away to a lady who had come to see someone off ( her lucky day ) - but we were so excited about getting back to India - and the very thought that we were going to shock everyone..kept us in high spirits.

July 2, 2006 :

Witnessed Formula 1 at Indianapolis - one of my lifetime dreams to watch Formula 1 Live. Schumi won - but what a bore. Watching it on TV was much better. Some dreams should always remain dreams - should never meet them.

It was hot sweaty, everything was expensive, nothing good to eat. Bought 2 Ferrari caps and Ferrari 2005 replica adding to the weight of our suitcases ! This was our last long drive in US. Will surely miss those gas stations, slurpies, starbucks, cruise control...

June 2006 :

Shipped off 10 boxes of stuff we had accumulated. Then put ads in craiglist etc to sell off our cars, router, futon, table..

A cousin's family was planning to visit Chicago in end July - and we had to discourage them without letting out the big secret. Having a secret was too much of stress - especially when the D day was just a couple of weeks away- we had to watch what we speak to home and friends.

May 2006 :

Applied for transfer to India - and finally got it approved after a few twists and turns. Got off work early that day and went to Devon avenue to book tickets to India. Picked Air India as they let people carry a little excess weight - someone knowledgable had once advised me. 2 one way tickets - and they were quite expensive.

Sangeeta was in Cleveland that time - got into the car, kept the tickets on the passenger seat and called Sangeeta to tell that I have got the tickets. It was an amazing feeling.


So that was what happened 5 years back. The story had some more events - none of our suitcases arrived with us, flight got delayed, missed the connecting flight, they put us on a flight to Hyderabad (??) and finally landed in Chennai. There Sangeeta & I lost each other in Meenambakkam airport - and we had no cell phones to find each other.

And since we had to give away all the chocolates while checking in, I bought some in a shop inside OHare, and had kept it under the foot, but forgot while changing planes. So we landed without a single chocolate on our hand. Till date my sister, my nephew and Sangeeta's brother have not forgiven us for this oversight on our part.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Eat Pray Love

I picked this book because the cover had Julia Roberts saying - "this is an amazing book and I gifted this to all my girl friends". Before you start passing a judgement let me just say - I agree. It is not a smart way to pick a book.

But - I did and ended up reading this one. and I recommend it wholeheartedly to both boys and girls.

This lady, Liz 34 years of age, goes through a pretty messy divorce. She is an accomplished writer/journalist living in New York - like one of the New York movies ( wait they did make a movie out of this - with Julia Roberts ). Has an affair that does not go well either.

So she takes off on a vacation for a year - split in 3 parts equally - Italy, India and Indonesia ( Bali actually ).

In Italy she joins a class to learn Italian. And she hunts for great food. I was hungry all the time while I was reading this part of the book - every page will have some dish or the other that she relished to the core. That is all she does - day in and day out and puts a lot of weight.

Then she moves to India - to an ashram near Mumbai. She was to spend 6 weeks and then go around India - but she ends up staying the full 4 months and never leaves this place. There are some hilarious bits here - how she does meditation and how her mind keeps getting in the way. If you are a beginner in meditation you should read this part - you are not alone.

Then something magical happens during her stay. She experiences ecstasy - the divine one. Till date I have only heard of this - but she explains it beautifully. She gets over her messy divorce finally - and is at peace with herself.

Then the story moves to Bali - where she had a deal with a renowned medicine man who had said during one of her earlier visits ( she is a journalist - and keeps travelling to interesting places - and during one of her trips she had met him ) - she can come and live with him to understand things better.

However the medicine man does not remember - but accepts her and she learns interesting things. She finds a place to stay and from here it is like a fiction. She is to find the balance in life in Bali - between the pleasure ( Italy ) and divine stuff ( India ). She gets lot of insights into the medicine man - he has mastered various types of meditation and can visit Heaven and Hell apparently.

It was interesting reading on Bali culture - Bali babies never touch the ground for the first 6 months of their life - as they are still Gods. After 6 months there is a ceremony to convert them to humans. Also they have only 4  names - The firstborn is "Wokalayan" (or Yan, for short), second is "Made," third is "Nyoman" or Komang (Man or Mang for short), and fourth is "Ketut" (often elided to Tut). [got this from wikipedia] The fifth kid on wards the names are repeated. So if someone tells their name you can easily place them where they are in the family.

The books ends well - she falls in love with a 55 year old divorced Brazilian and ends on a high note. I read that her second part of this book ( which I am not going to read - as 2nd part always suck ) is about this second phase of her relationship.

So that is it - got a nice mix of spiritual and meta physical, 2 interesting cultures ( Italy and Bali ) - all written very fluently and in an entertaining manner - good TP.

and for me - I have moved on to metaphysical stuff - I am conversing with God now for the third time - perhaps will write about it next. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Pixar Touch

The above video is from 1967 Disney's Jungle Book - and this is the best part of this movie in my opinion - smooth animation, great synchronization wtih music and great drama. While watching the movie it does not feel it is a cartoon - what an achievement Disney!

This post is however about the story of Pixar. The founders have a dream - to create a full length animated movie - not hand drawn like Disney's but animated on a Computer. The founders were all along inspired / coached / educated by Disney's philosophy on how to make an animated movie with emotion and a story. Pixar wouldnt  be Pixar without Disney.

The technology, software, methodology - none existed when they started. This core team of Pixar - which came into existence as part of George Lucas's Studio and later got sold to Steve Jobs later - were involved in developing some of these methodologies - Z Buffer, Ray Tracing, Shadow on Shadow, Particle animation - Photoshop was originally developed at Pixar and then sold to Adobe.

The second half of the book devotes a chapter each for each of the Pixar's hits - right till Ratatouille.  The story behind how the team was formed, how the idea originated, the legal troubles they fought - you will get tremendous respect for each of these movies.

If you are a fan of animation and Pixar ( /Steve Jobs ) you would love this book. Here are some interesting stories :

* It took almost 2 years of coercing to make Disney approve Toy Story. And mid way they almost scraped it  thinking it was not good

* Finding Nemo was laughed at by Eisner ( Disney's horrible CEO ) - and when it is released Finding Nemo eclipses The Lion King in BO collection ( till then held the all time record for biggest BO collection )

* For Monster's Inc - Pixar gets sued for copyright violation of the theme - Monster hiding under a closet. Apparently the brave girl, the hairy hero and one eyed side kick were part of a poem - and inadvertently Pixar's story writers got influenced / inspired ( their defense ). They settled out of court for an undisclosed sum

* Dreamworks was started by a guy who was pissed off by Eisner. He wanted to hurt Disney - so he stole the 2nd movie idea - Bugs Life from Pixar's director over coffee - and made a clone called - AntZ - similar theme, story line - and released it before Bugs Life. After that Pixar became very closed to outsiders.

* Cars is the worst movie to come out of Pixar - though technically it had many advancements like Ray Tracing in it. Each frame took some 20 hours to render. That is 24 frames per second, and movie is more than an hour. But made hell lot of money for Disney

* There is a very intriguing movie called Princess Mononke that I watched last month - the director is apparently a respected Japanese Animator - Miyazaki - he visits Pixar HQ. They pitch the idea of Incredibles to him and he gives some wise crack I cant recollect now. One of the directors have a wall full of Miyazaki's characters.

* Pixar went IPO 10 days after the release of Toy Story - Steve Job's idea - so they had the movie drive their opening day numbers.

Incidentally - my review of Incredibles - written way back in 2004 was the first post of my blog. I for one love Computer Animation and I watch all cartoon movies. If you read this book you will get the answer to the following question - which keeps coming to me whenever I watch a Pixar movie.

How in the LIVING HELL can Pixar manage to make hit after hit after hit.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Business Card Title

A startup has many challenges - market, cash flow, competition, support, hack attacks, attrition, power cut, hunt for the perfect coffee - add one more to the long list - Business Card Title.

Today, Sangeeta and I had a chat on IM ( yes we are in the same office - long story :) ) regarding what will be the title. We cannot have traditional roles like CxO, X Manager etc. - as in a startup you have to specifically generalize.

When we started ApartmentAdda, I had a short title on my Business card - Chief. - with a period at the end. I was ragged for 15 minutes by one committee when I had gone for a demo. Also later Sachin who was our Product Innovation Lead - used to tease me - Chief What?

So when we went for a reprint had it printed as Chief, Technology. That explains one aspect of my job - the primary role. But there are lot other things I handle daily - support, IS, patching, backups, opening office, UPS rationing, analytics, accounting, server, domain renewals, organize team outings...

Over to Sangeeta. She does Sales, Marketing, Product Management, Support and lot other things like - hunting for the perfect coffee, head hunting, accounting, Weekly quicksters ( check our page on ).

Taking all the factors into consideration - customers,partners,vendors,investors - we finally decided to have functional titles based on our primary roles.

This will be the 3rd reprint of my card and the Title is a little bigger than last years. Curious to know? Will do the handshake next time we meet and give my card :)

So - what are the titles in your startup/organization ?

Couple of tweets I received on this :

 Vishy Kuruganti 
@ Hmm.. The business card STILL lives on in this day and age? ;)

 Vivek Shukla 
You can use "Vision Manager" RT @: Finding a designation for the Business card is not easy.