iOS to Android [P1]: Perks outside the walled garden

I had never used Android as my exclusive daily driver, and my last proper Android phone usage on the Mi 4 was in parallel with my iPhone 5s around 6-7 years ago. A lot has changed in this time, and a lot has also remained the same especially when it comes to the customizations possible.

Here’s a quick rundown of the key new features I’ve recently (re)discovered on this side of the fence.

Ad blocking with Blokada

Ad blocking apps are of course nothing new on the iOS side, but are largely limited to browsers & webviews at best. This is where Blokada for Android comes in. It sets up a local VPN on the device and does local DNS filtering a la Pi-hole to block ads across apps. There is going to be a slight performance & battery life penalty, but you get ad blocking on the go. You can sideload the full featured version, or just get the Slim version from the Play store. It’s also available for Android TV, in case you do not want to use Pi-hole.

You can get similar functionality on the iPhone side of things, but need to use cloud services to get similar features which add on subscription costs & connection latency.

SMS Organizer

Custom launchers, dialers & SMS apps have been around from the very beginning on the Android side and have also been one of the biggest attractions of the platform. That said, the way we use SMS has changed a lot and it has become more of a platform to get transaction notifications, esp. for OTPs. This of course means that you have to be really careful in which custom apps you choose as a rogue app could easily siphon off your identity or bank balance.

That said, the SMS Organizer app from Microsoft Garage is a really smart app that makes life much easier and feels like a breath of fresh air after having used the iPhone Messages app for the last several years.

Transaction messages don’t just get a separate tab, but the notifications are also designed to highlight the key portion. Promotional & personal messages get their own tab as well. Then there’s the tab for reminders, finance & offers – each of which intelligently parse the messages and put the key information in a usable or actionable form. So, you can glance your bank, credit card, EPF, PPF & other such accounts including a transaction list (not completely accurate at times due to duplicate messages), get a reminder of your upcoming bills & travel plans and also surface the coupon codes that get sent in umpteen promo messages.

Then there’s the simple but great QoL improvement due to the ability to mark all messages as read and delete old OTP messages after a certain period. It also backs up the messages to Google Drive in case you want to restore later.

I’ve also been using the Microsoft Launcher which neatly integrates with Outlook and makes it easier to glance upcoming work meetings.

Windows integration

Yet another point around a Microsoft feature for Google’s OS. When I had switched to iPhones in 2014, it was from a Lumia 720 and Microsoft was still making Windows Phones at that time. Now, Microsoft seems to have embraced mobile devices & the cloud and their apps have features to further this vision. The Microsoft Phone Companion app on Windows makes it easy to connect to any Android phone, and in my case, the Samsung Galaxy S20FE has the required apps pre-installed.

Microsoft’s Phone Companion app in action along with the Swiggy app running from the mobile on the laptop

While it is not quite the kind of integration between macOS & iOS devices, there are many ways this is more fully featured as you can not just control basic settings like volume but also access your phone’s notifications, messages, photos & apps right from a Windows machine. This makes it quite easy to stay tuned to a single device, unless you are a Mac user, or are using a work laptop where this feature is restricted.

Working on large screens

This is a perk of Samsung devices with DeX support where you can connect to a larger screen like a monitor or TV (USB to HDMI dongle required) or to a PC (wirelessly or through a USB cable), and then get a desktop like experience.

I got a USB-C to HDMI adapter which also has a USB A port & USB C pass through charging, which allows me to connect a key + mouse combo along with the monitor to access the DeX mode. This mainly comes in handy when you need a larger screen to edit audio/video/images taken on the phone, or just want a larger screen to view content.

Also a quick mention of the split screen & hover apps feature on Samsung devices that has been supported since the earliest Galaxy Note devices, and has been available on iPads for a while but not on iPhones.


iOS devices have made great strides on this front with the Shortcuts app which started off as Workflow before being acquired by Apple. This largely pales when one compares to Android veterans like Tasker & Llama that have been around since the early days. Services like IFTTT & Zapier can also do more on Android than iOS. Then, there are the Shortcuts contemporaries like Google Assistant & Bixby routines which provide an easier interface.

Most of my automations deal with silencing & unsilencing the phone based on different conditions like location & time of the day. This is where the iPhone’s hardware mute switch gets in the way as automations can’t alter its state.

Coming out of blog hibernation & moving to Android

It’s been over 16 years since I started this blog, but I have not posted anything in the last couple of years. So, taking another shot at reactivating it by restarting my linkblog posts through Pocket & IFTTT, and a bit of a tweak to the theme as well.

As for my gadget journey, quite a lot has happened in the last couple of years, starting with iPhone 11 Pro that I got to replace my iPhone 7 Plus. I also added the Homepod & Homepod mini towards the end of 2020 along with the Apple Watch 5, Airpods Pro & iPad mini the same year.

I was getting more & more entrenched into the Apple ecosystem till about a couple of months ago when the iPhone 11 Pro died (no damage – just refused to wake up). I ended up getting a Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G along with the Galaxy Watch 4 for the same cost as a replacement for the 11 Pro. The rock solid reliability of Apple hardware seems to be faltering for me, with the Airpods Pro also developing an issue on the left ear piece. I’ve also had different issues with iOS over the years ranging from failed updates requiring device resets to crashing home screens, so the OS side of things is not overtly different from Android in terms of stability.

That said, it has been quite refreshing to get into the modern Android ecosystem, with my last proper usage being Android 6 on the Mi 4. Quite a few things seem smarter on the Android side thanks to the openness of the platform, despite the flexibility Apple has introduced in the last few years with Shortcuts & the likes. Microsoft has also done quite a bit to enable integration with Windows. The link to Windows feature is quite handy to get notifications on my laptop in addition to being able run Android apps from the phone on the laptop as well. Then there’s the DeX mode on Samsung phones that comes in handy when editing videos or creating content using a monitor + keyboard + mouse combo, and of course the split screen & floating apps on the phone that have been around since the early Galaxy Note days.

The camera on the new phone is about on par with the 11 Pro with the telephoto having a longer focal length which I prefer, but the ultrawide is not as wide. The camera app performance is not as smooth, especially on the shot to shot performance when using the on screen shutter. I did try a few Google Camera ports, and their shot to shot performance is better but image quality is on the iffy side.

Either way, I’m in the Android ecosystem as my daily driver and the performance has been perfectly fine. Plus, the flexibility in using smarter apps for SMS & the likes is a more than worthwhile tradeoff for the camera performance.

The Reasonable Man

If you think about it, the reasonable man actually adapts himself to the unreasonable man. After all, the world in which he resides is pretty much shaped by the unreasonable one.

Money can buy happiness (if you do the charts right)

Chart making 101

If you make the charts the right way, you can definitely make money buy happiness. Read How to Lie with Statistics, and you’ll see the above chart as a poster child for most of the tricks explained in the book:

  • The Satisfaction axis is truncated to magnify the increases – most countries have a difference of just 1 point between the lowest and highest scores
  • The income reported axis is on a log scale to compress the differences. In most cases the reported income needs to go up 2-4x for a single point increase in satisfaction.
  • The figures are self reported through an online poll (Gallup or not, after doing assignments during my management education I have increased my dose of salt when reading online poll results).

Check out the original paper for more data along with detailed graphs, and to draw your own conclusion:

While the idea that there is some critical level of income beyond which income no longer impacts well-being is intuitively appealing, it is at odds with the data. As we have shown, there is no major well-being dataset that supports this commonly made claim. To be clear, our analysis in this paper has been confined to the sorts of evaluative measures of life satisfaction and happiness that have been the focus of proponents of the (modified) Easterlin hypothesis. In an interesting recent contribution, Kahneman and Deaton (2010) have shown that in the United States, people earning above $75,000 do not appear to enjoy either more positive affect nor less negative affect than those earning just below that. We are intrigued by these findings, although we conclude by noting that they are based on very different measures of well-being, and so they are not necessarily in tension with our results. Indeed, those authors also find no satiation point for evaluative measures of well-being.

As for my thoughts on the graph? Brazilians and Mexicans seem to do better with what they have than the rest of the world. Then, there’s Nigeria where money doesn’t seem to buy happiness – must be the conscience kicking in after scamming all those thousands of dollars from gullible people in the other countries.

via Daily chart: Money can buy happiness | The Economist.

Analysts, Statistics and Apple

Given the kind of speculation and advice given out by experts and analysts when it comes to Apple, I’m tempted to apply their brand of analysis to myself. Look! I’m growing older by only around 3.5% vs 100% on my 2nd birthday. Can’t wait to touch 1% when I’m over 100…

P.S. For a sane take on the Apple earnings check here.

Quora: What should I do about my early life crisis?

I’m coasting along, getting lost along the way at times…

Answer by Marcus Geduld:

Here’s a secret: there are four types of people in the world:

1. People who, from an early age, know exactly what they want to do and are still doing it in their 50s and 60s. My friend Meggin is like that. In elementary school, she was already writing. By high school, she had written several novels. Now she’s the best-selling author of “The Princess Diaries.” It’s incredible because it’s so rare. A tiny percentile of people are like her. You’re not like her; I’m not either. Get over it.

2. People who, from an early age, think they know what they want to do. They often have big surprises in their 40s, realizing they don’t actually enjoy what they’ve committed to. Many of the apparently-directed people you see are in this group. You’re feeling lost now. They’ll go through what you’re going through later, but it will be much more complicated, because they’ll have husbands, wives, kids, and mortgages. So as nuts as it seems, you’re lucky.

3. People who don’t care about big goals. They know how to follow rules (e.g. do the homework, study for the test, do what the boss demands) and the enjoy dotting I’s and crossing T’s. They coast.

4. People like you who are lost.

Most young people are in that final category. Some hide it better than others. Some even hide it from themselves. Do your peers all seem more confident and directed than you? They’re not. Most of them are faking it or just aren’t as introspective as you are. Talk to them in 20 years and they’ll tell you how frightened and confused they were back when they were in college. So the first thing to realize is that feeling lost is part of being a 20-something.

To be honest, it’s part of being a 40-something, but those of us who don’t have midlife crises tend to embrace it. I enjoy being lost, because it allows me to be surprised. I prefer to have life hit me than to hit life. Anything could happen!

When I first started directing plays, I was terrified because I didn’t know what I was doing. My goal was to come up with a plan so that I could have some confidence. It took me 20 years to figure out that the fun was having no idea what I was doing. The fun part of directing is making it up as I go along. So I’m just as lost now as I was back then. But when you’re lost, you can either view it as a scared child, alone in the woods, or as a brave explorer, open to experience.

We can subdivide lost people into two groups:

1. People who are truly lost. They really do have no passions. Their emotions are blunted. This group may be clinically depressed. If you’re a member, I urge you to seek professional help. There are treatments for depression. There are ones involving meds and ones involving talk therapy (e.g. cognitive-behavioral therapy) that can be quite effective. If you’re clinically depressed, Quora can’t help you but a doctor probably can.

Also note that lots of people use “my career” and “my major” as proxies for their real concerns. When I was in college, most of my complaints about lofty things (“what am I going to do with my life?” “what’s it all about?” “how can I find meaning?”) really came down to panic that I didn’t have a girlfriend.

2. People who have bought into cultural norms of what they’re “supposed” to do. For example, George loves video games. They really, really excite him, but he’s been told “you can’t make a career out of that” or “that’s not for grownups,” so when he wonders what he’s passionate about, he doesn’t count gaming and decides he doesn’t have any passions. Be he does have a passion. A passion is a passion, whether it’s a sanctioned one or not.

Or Mary, who has bought into the idea that she has to choose a major in college, and that whatever you choose should be your passion, and that this choice is all tied up with a lifelong career. What Mary most loves is singing. But she doesn’t have a great voice, and she’s been told she’ll never make it as a professional singer. So she doesn’t even consider majoring in music. As far as she’s concerned — based on what she’s been told — she has no passion.

Or Dan, who dreams about being a dad. No career interests him, but he really, really wants to have children. Or Amy, who longs for a boyfriend. She’s very passionate when she imagines being in a relationship, but she feels guilty because modern women are “supposed” to be independent.

If you’re in this group then you’re not really lost. You just don’t fit well in generally-accepted categories. Well, then that’s your lot in life. If you love doodling, you can’t make yourself stop loving it and start loving banking instead. What you can do is work to arrange your life so that you can have as much doodle time as possible. You can stop confusing what-you’ll-get-paid-for with what-you’re-into.

Some people are lucky enough to get paid for their passions. Many aren’t. It’s a fact of life, and it’s one you can cope with. I’m 30 years into an adulthood in which I can’t make money doing what I most love. I don’t even think about it any more. I have a great life. I have a day job that’s interesting and a night-and-weekend life that’s thrilling.

Adrian Thomas suggests some ducks you should line up. He’s right. Do that. Then quit worrying about what you’re supposed to do. Your major? It’s not important no matter how many people tell you it is. Your passion? You have one or you don’t. Maybe you don’t have one now but you’ll have one later. It doesn’t matter. Just work to give yourself opportunities.

One last piece of advice: how much have you traveled? How often have you ventured out of your comfort zone? Consider taking a year off and backpacking around the world. Do it with little or no money, paying for your room and board by working in restaurant kitchens or whatever. Let Planet Earth and its peoples and sights shock you into becoming a passionate person. Many young people can’t be passionate because they haven’t been exposed to enough sensations and experiences to be awakened into the possibilites of the world.

Ekushe Ain (21st Law) for the 21st Century

Given the recent events in Bengal, India and the World as a whole, the Sukumar Ray poem seems to ring truer than ever.

শিবঠাকুরের আপন দেশে ,
আইন কানুন সর্বনেশে!
কেউ যদি যায় পিছলে প’ড়ে,
প্যায়দা এসে পাক্‌‌ড়ে ধরে ,
কাজির কাছে হয় বিচার-
একুশ টাকা দন্ড তার।।
সেথায় সন্ধে ছটার আগে
হাঁচতে হলে টিকিট লাগে
হাঁচলে পরে বিন্ টিকিটে
দম‌্দমাদম্ লাগায় পিঠে ,
কোটাল এসে নস্যি ঝাড়ে-
একুশ দফা হাচিয়ে মারে।।
কারুর যদি দাতটি নড়ে,
চার্‌টি টাকা মাশুল ধরে ,
কারুর যদি গোঁফ গজায় ,
একশো আনা ট্যাক্সো চায়-
খুঁচিয়ে পিঠে গুঁজিয়ে ঘাড়,
সেলাম ঠোকায় একুশ বার।।
চলতে গিয়ে কেউ যদি চায়
এদিক্ ওদিক্ ডাইনে বাঁয়,
রাজার কাছে খবর ছোটে,
পল্টনেরা লাফিয়ে ওঠে ,
দুপুরে রোদে ঘামিয়ে তায়-
একুশ হাতা জল গেলায়।।
যে সব লোকে পদ্য লেখে,
তাদের ধরে খাঁচায় রেখে,
কানের কাছে নানান্ সুরে
নামতা শোনায় একশো উড়ে,
সামনে রেখে মুদীর খাতা-
হিসেব কষায় একুশ পাতা।।
হঠাৎ সেথায় রাত দুপুরে
নাক ডাকালে ঘুমের ঘোরে,
অম্‌‌নি তেড়ে মাথায় ঘষে,
গোবর গুলে বেলের কষে,
একুশটি পাক ঘুরিয়ে তাকে-
একুশ ঘন্টা ঝুলিয়ে রাখে।।

Rough translation:
In Shiva’s homeland, the rules are quite strange, as I can truly attest,
If someone slips, and falls by err, police come by to arrest.
Your ordeal continues inside of a court room,
Where judges are ready to fine you a fortune –
21 rupees is the price you must pay,
but wait till you hear what they charge in the day –
for sneezing before six, a ticket is needed,
without this in hand, you will be ill-treated –
they beat you like drums, and snuff up your nose,
you sneeze not just once, but 21 blows!
The fine for teeth-chattering is 4 rupees flat,
for growing a mustache a bit more than that –
a hundred nickles, paid out in cash,
plus 21 prayers with both hands clasped.

While walking the streets, your steps cannot wander,
a step left or right and the king is called yonder.
He summons his guards who come in with a run,
to force you to sit while you sweat in the sun.
There is some relief, as they offer some water,
unfortunately so much that its not worth the bother.

But this isn’t the worst of it, by any means really,
for those who write poems, their punishment is silly,
they’re placed in a cage under strict lock and key,
with no chance of exile, or option to flee.
A hundred Orrisans are placed, so it’s fabled,
proclaiming exhaustively the multiplications table.
And then there’s more math as you tend to a store,
account for the sales – it’s a menial chore.

One last offense, that’s punishable by law,
Is snoring at all – it’s seen as a flaw.
The glue from a bilva tree, the dung from a cow,
It’s all used quite viciously, here’s how:
they rub it in coarsely, the hair of an offender,
who’s tied to a tree and spun like a blender.
For 21 spins he goes round and round,
and 21 hours till his feet touch the ground.

Most Reviewed Amazon Book?

I was wondering which was the most reviewed book on Amazon and came across this list on the site (been a while since its been updated though). It seems that the first Harry Potter book is most probably the most reviewed product with over 7000 reviews of which nearly 6000 are 5 stars. Interestingly, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix had more reviews at the time the list was last updated (in 2008).

Wonder whether there are any other books\products with a higher number of reviews… Customer Reviews: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Book 1.

Wine: What’s in a name and price?

After my post on diamonds and water, I came across a really detailed article – The Price of Wine – on how the price and brand of wine influences the “taste-buds”. Also covers the wine investment market and wine making. This bit sums up the taste bit:

However, it’s unclear whether anyone can tell the difference between a $2,000 Lafite Bordeaux and a $3 table wine. In fact, most wine economists consider the matter settled. Blind tastings and academic studies robustly show that neither amateur consumers nor expert judges can consistently differentiate between fine wines and cheap wines, nor identify the flavors within them.

Personally, I prefer my grapes unfermented.