iOS 9 on the original iPad mini & iPhone 5s

I updated to iOS 9 on my iPad mini and iPhone 5s within the first week of launch, and been using it for nearly 2 weeks now. The update was a lot easier this time due to the space optimisations and I managed to do an OTA update on the iPhone unlike last time.

iOS 9 comes with its share of tweaks and optimisations that are supposed to improve performance on older devices, but I haven’t noticed much difference in terms of performance on either device which is in line with the observations of others. That said a few games like Limbo that were crashing on startup on my iPad mini (even after device restarts) seem to be at least working now.

While the iPhone 5s gets pretty much all the new features introduced in iOS 9 barring the ones that require special hardware, the iPad mini is left out of practically all the marquee features like content blocking, Siri-Spotlight search improvements and all of the split screen features. That said the iPad keyboard is improved and sports the cut-copy-paste & undo-redo buttons and also supports the two finger cursor navigation gesture. iOS 9 also brings back the 4×4 grid of icons in folders on the iPad, so it is not a total lost cause.

Battery life also seems to be in the same ballpark, though the iPhone seems to be exhibiting a slight improvement in the last few days. Of course that is hardly sufficient to last me a full day even with the new Low Power Mode. The additional details in the battery usage section of settings is also quite useful as it shows the screen on time and overall active time for each item as well.

I also noticed that iPhone only apps when run on the iPad no longer show the top status bar as a part of the app, but leave it on the top of the screen. This is possibly a result of the split screen multitasking capabilities introduced in iOS 9.

A gotcha to keep in mind on the iPhone is the Wifi assist feature (something that’s been on Android for a while) that’s on by default and tries to use the mobile network when the wifi is poor. This can easily burn through your data plan and is best left turned off on limited data plans.

There are also some features like app slicing that are currently disabled due to glitches, but should improve the storage situation on all devices. This is one of the features I’m really looking forward to on my 16 GB iPhone.

Overall, the experience has been quite good though the iPad mini is beginning to show its age. Pretty evident why Apple pulled the device off the market earlier this year. This year also marks a complete 64 bit transition for Apple’s entire device lineup starting from the iPod Touch to the iPad and Apple TV.

The Rusty Sword of Justice

I managed to watch Talvar on its release day thanks to the holiday yesterday. It was a pretty sad commentary on the state of the investigation organisations, judicial system and society as a whole. The performances all around were excellent as expected. The organisation dynamics (or politics, if you prefer) depicted in the CDI could just as easily be representative of your organisation.

The movie does not leave any ambiguity on the theory it prefers. Personally, I would have preferred some degree of subtlety and the graphic violence to have been off screen. Nonetheless, the movie leaves its mark on you, and shows the importance of forensics.

As for my regular tech thoughts:

  • The mobile phones shown in the movie are pretty much used to establish the period of the events.
  • They managed to get hold of laptops with old Intel logos as well. Then again this may not have been by design given the slow down in laptop replacement cycle.
  • The so called back stabbing video of police brutality captured on the mobile phone was a bit of a stretch given the poor lighting conditions. Most of today’s phones would struggle in those conditions and a Blackberry from 5-7 years ago would’ve captured a blurry unidentifiable mess.


A simple yet engaging game for the mobile world. Imagine you’re communicating with a person stranded in a remote location and guiding them along. Your inputs could easily be a matter of life and death at that.

In terms of game mechanics, it is a very simple game since it’s just plain text with A-B choice making. The real novelty is in the game pacing as the communication happens in real time, so you’ll be playing it over the course of a few days.

The game’s currently on sale on both the App Store (just ₹10 in India) and Play Store, so go get it and enjoy a round of innovative story telling.  

Thoughts on the Sep 2015 Apple event

Looks like Apple is revamping their event calendar and spacing out the events a bit more reasonable with one at the start and one towards the end. It was also a pretty busy event with ton of new launches and quite a few items that were skipped altogether – most notably the Mac OS X update. Of course the gist most of the announcements made in the event were known beforehand, but there were some surprises nonetheless.

The long rumoured iPad Pro finally made its debut and pretty much validated the strategy that Microsoft had pioneered with their Surface Pro series – you need a screen larger than 10″, split screen multitasking and a keyboard to make tablets more productive. And then of course there was the Apple Pencil which was again expected given the need for precision & flexibility when drawing. The 2 biggest takeaways was first, Microsoft demoing Office in the session that pretty much sums up the vastly different approach taken in the Satya Nadella era, and second the near doubling of quoted performance of the iPad Pro over the Air 2. This definitely makes the writing clearer on the wall for Intel, as the iPad Air 2 was nearly half as fast as the Core M processors and this should bring the performance in the same ballpark. In fact, in the last few years, Apple has probably been the biggest factor behind Intel’s innovations given the dearth of competition from AMD.

The fact that there was no other iPad update, unless you count the passing mention of the iPad mini 4, shows the speed at which the tablet market has matured and reached a good enough state. Arguably, the iPad 2 was at a good enough state in terms of hardware power and is still being supported with iOS 9. The iPad Pro is Apple’s attempt to grow the tablet market beyond home users and into the enterprise segment. That will definitely take a good deal of time given that most enterprises are Microsoft strongholds and the cost factor will prevent them from outright replacing PCs. Also, whatever the demos may want you to believe, most enterprise workers do not get to do such fancy stuff with their devices.

Health seems to have become the main usage focus for the Apple Watch given the proportion of time given for fitness and health related aspects. This is also probably one of the scenarios where the performance of the Watch will not be constrained as a first generation hardware. The partnership with Hermes also emphasised the luxury status of the Watch, and unless the pricing changes over the years (unusual for new launches), price will remain one of the major roadblocks to its adoption. The second generation of the Watch is likely to improve the internals significantly, and we are likely to have a white iPhone moment in the future with a round Apple Watch.

Then there was the Apple TV that at last gave us a glimpse of Steve Jobs famous “I finally cracked it” quote. Technology was definitely not one of the factors that had held back the Apple TV from being launched in the last couple of years, as the real battle is with the content providers rather than any of the other apps. In fact, it will probably be a while before people outside the US or some of the typical Apple strongholds will get much in form of regional content on the Apple TV. There was also no mention of HomeKit in the entire session, and this likely means that while the hardware is probably present in the new TV, the ecosystem has some way to go. The Apple TV also affirms the A8s new role as the venerable A5s long term replacement given that the iPod Touch and iPad Mini 4 upgrade to A8.

Last but not the least, the iPhone 6s\6s+ updates were also along expected lines and oddly enough relegated to the end of the show. Force Touch or rather 3D Touch definitely opens up a new dimension of interaction, but the real innovation will be when we have touchscreens that are able to simulate the feel of different surfaces. The camera improvements were also pretty much mandatory given the older 8 MP sensors inability to shoot 4K videos. The unusual part of the new devices was the increase in weight of both models by almost 10% and an almost imperceptible increase in size. Then there were a bunch of touted features that have been seen before in other phones on the Android and Windows side of the fence like moving photos (HTC Zoe) and using the display as a flash (LG).

Overall, the product launches rounded off a very busy year for Apple, but there was a sense of deja vu with many of the showcased features which other companies have previously demonstrated to about 80% of their potential. It is however, the last 20% of spit, polish and sweat that typically separates the Apple experiences from the rest.

Upgrading to Windows 10 on a 4 year old laptop

Upgrading to Windows 10
Upgrading to Windows 10

I finally bit the bullet and upgraded my 4 year old Acer Aspire 5750G laptop to Windows 10 from Windows 7 thanks to the free upgrade offer. I managed to wait for a couple of weeks after the release before pulling the plug. The machine is quite reasonably specced with a Core i5-2410M processor, 4 GB RAM, 1 TB HDD (upgraded from 500 GB) and the NVIDIA 540M GPU, and barring the slow hard disk is well equipped to run Windows 10.

The upgrade process was itself quite painless – took a good amount of time to download on my 2 Mbps connection, but the installation itself took around 1.5 hours. There were a few updates including one for the touchpad, and they installed without much fuss either. I also updated the NVIDIA graphics drivers to the Windows 10 version.

The OS itself is quite easy to use and I find the interface an improvement over Windows 7 and agree with my most read reviewers. Compared to Windows 8\8.1 that I’ve used intermittently over the last few years, the experience is definitely a marked improvement particularly on laptops.

The overall experience is pretty much as it was in Windows 7 for me as there are not that many useful Windows Store apps yet, and the laptop is without a touchscreen to make use of full screen apps. The improvements to Explorer, Task Manager and rest of the OS are of course welcome, but would definitely have not been a compelling reason to upgrade were it not free. Cortana has unfortunately not yet released for India, and some of the newer security features require newer hardware.

Having used a MacBook Air for over a year and a half now, I do find some of the new features like multiple desktops quite useful but the experience is hampered by the poor touchpad. Then of course there is the HDD vs SSD performance chasm that puts a big dampener on the Windows usage. If you are eligible for an update, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger (unless you have some incompatible components of course). I’ve also signed up for the Insider builds for some more excitement and quicker access to new features.

The next few months should be interesting with the touch versions of Office for Windows being released and the next generation of Intel processors showing up in devices. Maybe a compelling time for an update…

What a commuter wants…

… is a reliable means of transport to get them from point A to point B. Of course, it helps if the commute is pocket friendly, comfortable and fast. While taxis & autos in Mumbai adhere to the fare meters (unlike certain other metros), refusal is a universal problem shared by all commuters irrespective of the availability. The first generation of private cab services like Meru, TabCab, EasyCab did try to sort out this problem to an extent, but never managed to have enough cabs available or offer fares competitive with kaali-peelis or autos (AC notwithstanding).

Ola also jumped into this space following in Meru’s footsteps before significantly restructuring their pricing model upon Uber’s entry. These 2 taxi service aggregators reached near kaali peeli fare levels and offered a much more reliable (read disincentivised refusals) and more readily available service. In fact, Ola even tried to get kaali peelis on their app, but the effort seems to have fizzled out after a promising start.

The rest of the script is also playing out just like in the rest of the world and even a city like Mumbai, the so called commercial capital of India, has witnessed 2 taxi strikes within a couple of months. While the first strike was accompanied by Mumbai commuters discovering the basic Economics concept of supply and demand thanks to the Uber surge pricing, the second one has shown how disabling surge pricing makes life difficult and reduces the availability of cabs. Either way, the commuter has gotten the wrong end of the stick.

I just hope that we find a better solution than the other countries to this whole standoff between the incumbents and upstarts. Too bad the kaali peelis and autos don’t think of adopting a no refusal policy – something that’d get Ola and Uber in real trouble.

Bookniture: First impressions

Bookniture was one of the more interesting non-electronic Kickstarter projects that I’ve ever backed. The concept is pretty simple but innovative – a small piece of furniture made of special paper that can be folded away like a book.


I finally received the piece today and it is a very interesting item as expected. In terms of weight, it is about as heavy as a MacBook Air or your typical Ultrabook, and the piece feels really sturdy once setup. You just open and close it like a book and there’s a felt top to give you a flat surface on top. It supposedly supports a ton of weight too, so you can sit on it without any worries.

As an origami enthusiast, it is quite nice to see something as innovative as this. There are a few kinks to the piece though. First is that the folds do not open out uniformly, and this is to be expected given the modus operandi. Still, it does give a sort of non-symmetric look. Secondly, the felt top could have used a bit of a smoother finish for the edges.

That said, both are minor complaints and the whole piece feels quite nice to open and use. In fact, I’m typing this out with my laptop perched on top of my Bookniture at this very moment. Check out the gallery below for images and if you want to get one for yourself, just head over to their site.

Reality catches up with Uber – Mumbai taxi fares re-revisited

Uber Mumbai has just announced a big hike on the Black and SUV services, pretty much bringing them on par with the Ola Prime SUV service. So here’s the latest fare chart (older versions here – v1, v2):

Approx. taxi fares in Mumbai as on 13 July 2015
Approx. taxi fares in Mumbai as on 13 July 2015

Note on the calculation methodology:

  • Travel time calculated assuming 3 min per km (Uber, Ola, TFS)
  • Waiting time taken as 1/2 min per km (kaali peeli & Meru\TabCab)

Activity tracking with Misfit and Pebble Time: OneHandedReview

It’s been over 2 weeks since I got my Pebble Time, and one of the main things I wanted to try with it was the activity tracking functionality. I’ve been using the Misfit app for this purpose for the last 2 weeks. I prefer to wear watches on my left hand as most right handed people do, but having my left arm in a sling has forced me to wear the device on my right hand. This has given me some interesting perspective on the way the app and device work.

Step counting

Brushing teeth can be really vigorous
Brushing teeth can be really vigorous

Wrist worn activity trackers do have some limitations particularly when it comes to step counting accuracy as elaborated in The Wirecutter fitness tracker recommendation, and my experience has been no different. I found that I was hitting the goal of 600 points (approx 6000 steps) just sitting at home with my arm in a sling, all thanks to the app failing to reject mundane activities like brushing teeth from the count. Granted that I was wearing the device on my dominant hand, but the iPhone 5s is a much better step counter in this regard. The whole purpose of using a wrist worn device rather than a smartphone for step counting is to cover those times when you don’t have your phone with you, but the accuracy in this case leaves a lot to be desired.

Sleep tracking

This is one area where the Misfit app seems to do quite well, particularly since the detection is automatic and you don’t have to worry about forgetting to switch to the sleep mode. Since the Pebble Time does not have any sensor to detect whether it is worn, there were times when I removed the Pebble from my wrist and the app thought that I was sleeping. These false activities can of course be deleted from the Misfit app on the phone. There were also times when I got up for a while and then decided to sleep in and the app handled these activities quite gracefully.

I also did a mini experiment over the last couple of days by wearing the Pebble on my left hand which is bound in the sling at bedtime, and found that the awake periods came down significantly over my previous recordings using my right hand. I wonder whether it will make a difference if I put the Pebble in the pillow cover which should be a similar scenario as my sling bound arm.


The Misfit app for the Pebble is pretty decent overall and particularly good for sleep tracking. The battery life is also pretty decent at 3-4 days, when compared to dedicated fitness trackers and miles ahead of other smartwatches. However, if step counting is your primary objective or you want to use it with Android (only the iOS version of the Misfit app supports the Pebble), then look elsewhere. That said, I have found the app pretty useful though I plan to try out some of the other activity tracking apps for the Pebble like Jawbone, FitCat and Morpheuz.