Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review : Offworld by Robin Parrish

What if you were all alone in this world ? .. What if you weren't ?

Offworld by Robin Parrish
Astronauts go through a huge deal of training to prepare them for the unexpected millions of miles away from home. The first manned mission to Mars was no different. But the biggest challenge they face, the biggest "unknown unknown" for them is waiting right here back at home. Losing all contact with home on way back, they return to an world that's completely uninhabited. They set off an a journey to determine the cause and run into more than they can handle.

And then there's some unexpected things happening - buildings burning down, unexplained black outs - which leads to the only logical conclusion : There is some..er.."thing" out there. And these brave astronauts might not be as "alone" as they thought they were.

This book keeps you guessing right from the very beginning as to what could be the reason behind this sudden disappearance. Is it an alien abduction? Is it a conspiracy ? Is it a divine interjection ? Is this their minds playing tricks ? Is it a sick joke ? Or is it just a bad, bad dream ? - The answer is stranger than you'd expect.

Having just a handful of characters in the entire storyline is needle that the author has threaded quite expertly. You get to know the characters in quite the depth, but you still feel like you've barely scratched the surface. You might get to know them very well, but you'd rarely trust any one of them as all of them have this hidden facet to their personality, some hidden agenda which makes you question each and every one and their motives right from page 1. .

Especially this one survivor they meet along the way. The only one to still be "there" wile the rest of the world's evaporated away. The fact that you know so very little about this person haunts the reader at every turn of the page.

I guess the story would be best summarised by this quote form the book itself :

"Life is poetry.
Stop. Watch. Listen.
There’s poetry all over.
And the thing about poetry?

It don’t write itself."

Book Review : Inception , The Catherine Kimbridge Chronicles #1

Inception by Andrew Beery
It's been years since I sacrificed an night's sleep because I just couldn't put down a book I'd picked up. Just one line - the first line, that's all it took, and I was hooked.

"2067 was the year I died for the first time" - The first line

This book has all the ingredients of a gripping space drama - Fictional technology with names and back-"science" that nobody understands, but sounds good to hear and flatters you into feeling intelligent  ;-) , the strong central characters, cheesy references to pop culture, the aliens ( and how they relate to humanity ), a long forgotten powerful and omnipotent race, the symbiosis between organics and synthetics and the ultimate triumph of human ingenuity and curiosity over everything else.

If you love any of the space exploration fictions like StarTrek, Star Wars, Star gate, Battle Star, FireFly - then this book would be just up your alley.

***** / *****

Saturday, August 17, 2013

EpisodeCalendar Android App

About a couple of weeks back, I stumbled upon this amazing website : EpisodeCalendar . Its a great way to keep track of the TV shows I watch ( and plan to watch at some later time ) . But I was really saddened by a lack of an Android app. After quick look though the FAQ, I realized that there used to be Android ( and iOS ) apps , but they were pulled off the air just a couple of months ago.

There was a nice RSS feed, though. And then it struck me - Let's harness this RSS feed into an Android app !
Presenting : My first ever android app !!

This is a very basic application for EpisodeCalendar which lets me know which of my shows are on today ( and a few days next and previously ) and provides some additional details about them. That's about it ! No real login required ( just need to enter email address registered with EpisodeCalendar ), not complex features, just a simple list of shows to watch today ! ( an an option to set a reminder )

Swipe from left, or click on app icon for navigation drawer to navigate to other days.

Screenshots :

Download apk :
--removed--
Source :
https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B4Q2yQONzG4TRjFxT3VHRm1BcEk&usp=sharing
License :
https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4Q2yQONzG4TUk1Ja2R1cURYRGc/edit?usp=sharing

This is a project meant for personal use and presented for example purpose only. The app is in no way associated with EpisodeCalendar . This app is in no way complete. Do check back for revisions and updates.

PeeKay , 17 August 2013
cuz i was bored
http://pranav.inkoli.com/
-=BlaH - BlaH=-

UPDATE : According to Kristian from EpisodeCalendar, the official app from EpisodeCalendar is just around the corner.I'm removing the direct download link. But I'd be keeping the source code up for reference only.

UPDATE : The episode list now also shows episode title, swipe left and right to switch days. Not tested on tablets

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Learning Android

It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Android. But I'd about HAD IT with just standing on the sidelines. I wanted to learn to develop for Android.
Now, I'd tried to do this a few times earlier. But then, me, with my fickle interests, could never really stick to it. Not to mention, the troubles with just getting a Java Environment setup on my computer almost took my enthusiasm away.

Enter : Android Studio

This is a nifty little Android IDE based on the popular IntelliJ platform. I've been impressed by the tool ever since it had been announced and showcased at this year's Google I/O .

And then, last week, I finally took the plunge ! Started seriously working on a small little app.

Will update the progress right here on http://pranav.inkoli.com/

PeeKay , 13 August 2013
cuz i was bored
http://pranav.inkoli.com/
-=BlaH - BlaH=- 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bugs on my face

"Been a while since I felt the bugs on my face" - A beautiful thought that hit my mind

It's a scenario that every biker can relate to - Its twilight, the sun has just crossed the horizon on its way to end the day, you are on your bike, sans your helmet, just passing by foliage and then suddenly ... an army of tiny bugs just burst out of nowhere and just swarm the entire airspace ! There are bugs hitting your face, hitting your arms, getting tangled all up in your hair, and if its an especially unlucky day - entering your mouth, into your eyes and even up your nose. Not really a happy memory for anyone.

Alok's Bicycle
It's been a couple of years since I parked my motorcycle in one corner and just completely forgot about it. But today, I was just on a stroll on my friend's bicycle around dusk and I felt a few bugs hit my face. And I was just hit with a huge wave of nostalgia. Just remembering all those times I (involuntarily) spat out bugs or cursed my fates for the searing pain in my eyes as a bug entered it. I just kept reaching out to all those not so happy memories.

And with it came a wave of longing for riding my motorcycle again. Riding along the highways, being one with the road, feeling the wind in my hair, leaning into curves of the roads - almost scraping my shoes on the road as I negotiated an extremely tricky turn, freedom from being trapped in a roll cage. ( There's a reason it's called a cage )

This event has inspired me to take the keys off the nail on the wall, dust off my jacket, get my Honda fixed and once again be part of the culture that is 'biking'. Now more than ever.
But, then, it doesn't take much to inspire me. This must not be just an inspiration - this has to be something more. A movement.

UPDATE : Just days after this, I got my bike fixed !
https://plus.google.com/106658894895516889579/posts/hHERuVrLe7U )

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Green Marketing

The American Marketing Association defines green marketing as  “the marketing of products that are presumed environmentally safe”. It includes a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, packaging changes, as well as modifying advertising.

However, this definition does not do the term justice. Green marketing ( or Environmental Marketing or Ecological Marketing as it is also called ) does not just include the marketing of green products, but also suiting your marketing methodologies and strategies so that they themselves are more environment friendly.

Let us attempt to understand this with the help of our tried and tested : 7 P’s of marketing


Product


It all begins with the product. First of all you have to ensure that your product is environment friendly.
You have to pay special attention to things like manufacturing processes, packaging, waste management, sources of energy and others to achieve this.
Some of the major considerations are :

  • What is the impact of production, sourcing of materials and packaging on the environment?
  • Can minimum levels of packaging and environment friendly packaging be achieved without compromising product quality or appeal?
  • Are your suppliers at least as environmentally friendly as you?


Price


Employing green manufacturing techniques might lead to increases or decreases in the cost of production. In many cases the initial high investments will be off set in the longer run by lower fuel bills through energy efficiency measures or an increase in sales caused by a positive product image.  An organization might be able to pass the increase in production costs to its customers, but this would depend on various factors such as the level of increase, type of consumer, competitor prices and the strength of the economy. 


Place


Organizations need to carefully plan their distribution centers, distribution timings, distribution strategies to ensure that they have minimum impact on the environment.
The fastest mode of transportation might be damaging to the environment ( e.g. AirPlanes ), a environmentally friendly mode of transportation might not be fast enough to meet your needs ( e.g. Canals ), a method of distribution that combines speed with “environmentally friendliness” may increase distribution costs ( e.g. Electric Vehicles ). You have to ensure that you strike a proper balance between the three


People


Your employees are the face of your organization. They must not behave in a manner which would conflict with your organization’s image as a green company. You should encourage your employees to use environmentally friendly methods of transportation while commuting to their offices like mass transit systems, hybrid vehicles, carpooling etc. For example. Google offers incentives to its employees who opt-in to buy hybrid vehicles. One other example is the increasing use of teleconferencing to replace frequent travel.


Process


Processes are referred to the systems that enable an organization to effectively deliver its goods and services. They refer to the activities that your organization performs which are not the core activities of your company. It is very important to incorporate environmentally friendly processes in the day-to-day activities of your organization to convey to world that you take the environment seriously. Croma, the electronics retail chain by TATA has recently started allowing customers to opt-in for an eReceipt. IRCTC has allowed customers to carry digital copies of their reservation receipts.


Physical Evidence


Much of what your organization does to incorporate green practices is back-end oriented, many times it is intangible. Therefore it becomes very important to let your customer know the steps you have taken to ensure the future of the planet. Many a times, this is as simple as letting your customer know why certain things are done the way they are done. E.g. To preserve water many hotels wash towels, bed sheets, etc, only when you explicitly ask them to do so. Some customers might believe that this has been done by the hotel only to save some money. In this case it becomes important to convey the thinking the behind your actions to your clients. This is done by placing a green card in hotel rooms ( as shown alongside ) which conveys this to the customers.


Promotion

Now that you have ensured that your product and your marketing is environmentally friendly, it is very important to convey that to your customers.  Some of the above pictures / logos are an internationally and instantly recognized signs of a green product. Incorporating these on your product packaging and on your communication is an instant signal to your audience that your product is environment friendly. 
At the same time, its is also very important to ensure that your promotion strategy itself is environment friendly. Example : 
  • If you cannot completely avoid using pamphlets to promote your products, you can atleast ensure that they are printed on recycled paper
  • Employ environmental friendly methods when filming your advertisement films
  • Avoid use of paper as much as possible, don't ask users to fill in unnecessary forms, try and utilize the internet as a medium as much as possible
  • If you are using outdoor mobile advertisements, ensure that the vehicles you use are environment friendly
  • Make extensive use of mobile advertising, online advertising, social media marketing and other such means of marketing which would reduce the impact on the environment as compared to using newspapers, television ad spots, etc;

Roadblocks

High Initial Costs
The initial investment in going green is quite high. Not just in terms of money being invested, but in terms of huge R&D involved in figuring out newer, better and environment friendly methods of manufacturing, packaging, etc; a huge change in the operating of the company itself , changing of the company’s corporate structure, time lag required to get your company onto the green track.

Going green as a CSR initiative
Many companies undertake green marketing strategies as part of their CSR activities. However, every company should realize that going green is not just a CSR activity but something that should be incorporated in the corporate structure of the company itself.

Customers not ready
In a recent study published by MeidaPost, much of the American customers think that green marketing is nothing more than a marketing ploy. This mindset has be changed with effective communication.

Green Washing
Green washing is a  form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization's aims and policies are environmentally friendly, when they might not really be so.  Whether it is to increase profits or gain political support, greenwashing may be used to manipulate popular opinion to support otherwise questionable aims.  ( more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenwashing)


The Road Ahead


Why should a company go green ?  Well, because it’s the right thing to do. And in the long term, you might not really have any other option. Costs of traditional fuels is skyrocketing day-by-day. The rate at which the environment is deteriorating is alarming, this is causing even the most arrogant governments to take notice. And many countries are passing laws which are incentivizing or even forcing companies to adapt green practices in their business. Eventually every company will be required to conduct business in an environmentally responsible way.
So why not do the right thing now instead of waiting? Why not keep up with the competition—maybe even beat them to the punch—by becoming the company that owns green in your category?
And if you think the economy will keep customers from paying more for an environmentally responsible product or service, think again. A recent survey has shown that 82% of consumers are still purchasing green products during the recession


Originally appeared in MAGMA, the newsletter of the Marketing Club of the Sydenham Institute of Management Studies, Research and Entrepreneurship Education. ( http://goo.gl/AyPl1 )