Saturday, June 28, 2014

Incredible Kerala -- Spirituality at its best

So my first week in Kerala went very well and I got adjusted to the new lifestyle here, as it would be a long hiatus of 21 days. In the end of the first week, procedures like purgation made me weak . But it was not long before I  was told about the rejuvenation techniques  which would help me restore the  lost  energy due to the treatment.

My diet for the first one week Rice soup in the afternoons. 

To compensate this physical weakness in the body, I decided to have some spiritual sojourn in the evenings everyday. There are many options which were available to me at the rehab center . So I took a choice of Indian philosophy, Yoga and meditation, Ayurvedic History and Cookery classes, yes cookery classes finally! I've been learning to prepare some dishes from my mum while at home sooo this time period was definitely a plus point for me.

I was staying at a place called Kalady, which is very close to the Cochin international airport. My mother told me that this was the birth place of one the greatest Indian saints of all times - Aadi Sankaracharya. Being in such a blessed place, I wasted no time and went around places in an thuk thuk. The first place I visited was the Shakaracharya Stupa
Shankaracharya Stupa at Kalady


The tower is almost 8 stories tall, and as one starts to take the staircase, the sidewalls showcase the birth of the great saint with the blessings of lord shiva, and one who at a very young age left this holy place and started a pan India yatra  on his foot. I've heard of these stories via films and books - but visiting such a place is seriously surreal. There were some other places which I visited, on that rainy evening. trying to collect information about the advaita philosophy ( Discovering our true self) of this great saint.


The grave of the holy mother - Circa 8 A.D


 I also had an opportunity to visit the grave of his holy mother within kalady. Rama krishna Ashram was an un-expected destination in our route, but the thuk thuk driver took me there as it was a place where people from any faith could come and meditate or pray. The driver was a roman catholic but was spiritually inclined towards the teaching of the great saint. So I payed a visit to the Ashram at the bank of the Periyar river.


Rama krishna ashram - A place for people from all faiths to pray


With so much spiritual places around a tiny town, my daily dosage of yoga classes in the evenings were making me more calm and relaxed. The hymns  and the asans combined were very effective in making me sane. I also lost some weight during this stay at Kalady around 6 kgs. Not bad huh . My yoga guru was kind enough to teach me breathing exercises for my specific health issue. 













Saturday, June 7, 2014

Week 1 in Kerala --- My fight with Psoriasis has begun

After having an extensive 9 months treatment with a regular skin specialist, I took a detour and stopped taking the conventional treatment all together in this January. I was not happy since there was no visible improvement from my end. Later after a gap of 4 months, I zeroed in on a more traditional approach to fight my skin condition. That meant, I had to travel all the way to  Kochi, a city in the southern Indian state of Kerala. This traditional method ,also known to Indians as "Ayurveda" has been in to practice since thousands of years. My aunt suggested that I follow this path because it was a natural way to get past things and it has it's own proven track record. So with lot of hope and anxiety, I made up my mind and came here last week .

I planned to stay here for three weeks to see if this would give me enough time to make me sane and also a better person. After having an initial consultation with the doctor, I called it a day as the long distance travel had taken the toll. It was bedtime for me by 8 in the night.  

The first day started at 6 o clock with 50ml of medicated ghee (yuk). I just closed my nose and took it in mouthfuls to avoid a vomiting. The medication within the ghee was so overpowering, that  I had to use the smell of a  lemon to counter a possible vomit lol.

Medicated ghee kept outside my room 

Taking the ghee was a major hurdle for me to go through this ayurvedic process of "Panchakarma" .  The medicine inside the ghee is supposed to saturate my whole body which will, at a later stage help in remove the unwanted toxins away. Since the first day, I was also going through a treatment process of Lengthy oil massage for an hour in the morning and short timed facial massage in the afternoon in addition to a process called "Nasyam" . And I must say, after four continuous days of Nasyam, my headache problem with which I was suffering from has gone away completely. I've been told that the oil massages in the morning would help to remove the scaling and reddish lesions by the end of my treatment. I see a ray of hope, because they have diminished by 90% in some areas and there are still 2 weeks to go. 

Another therapy which was started very recently was "Takradhara" . In this treatment, medicated buttermilk is allowed to flow over the forehead through a narrow stream from the vessel above. This therapy has been one my best experiences so far. It is so relaxing,that  I've been able to sleep for longer hours now (8 hours straight) . I also notice that this process has inhibited my headache problem to a large extent. 

Takra dhara - Photo courtesy of Keralatourism.com


The place where I am staying  is a heavenly world. Located on the bank of the Periyar river, it is  a self sufficient campus,far away from the bustling city of Kochi. The Buildings which include the Treatment rooms, the office and the rooms for the patients are located in the midst of a a large herbal garden. The whole area is dense with green everywhere,with a large variety of flowers and gigantic trees overlooking the entire campus. I fell in love in this place the moment I arrived and have been trying to enjoy my every moment here. 



I've been going around for a short walk in the morning and evening around the place, and the best thing is that the monsoon season has arrived here . Both the rain and the green have brought a sense of serenity within me. I can feel a lot of change within myself and I am hopeful that by the end of all this, I will leave this face with a happy mind. I am beaming with positiveness everyday. Above all, I hope that god will also me to move ahead of this condition in the near future.  








Friday, May 9, 2014

Custom ROM installation on Xperia ZR

I've always been intrigued by Android. The sheer scale at which it commands the smart phone arena is fascinating . ( I know there is iOS on the other end by it is completely oblivious to me ) . My first smart phone was an android which I brought in 2011. It was a Sony Xperia X10minipro which I brought  after an impromptu decision. I loved my new phone  and was very much attached . It had best of both the worlds, Great OS and of course a sliding keyboard. Two years on, my second phone also happens  to be a Sony, this time with a bigger screen . I have also always admired Sony's tremendous support to the developer community, and was quite happy with their android upgrade cycle for the model which I use. Kit Kat OTA is right around the corner, but I did not want to wait any long . So I took the plunge once again in XDA, and after a lot of reading and careful precautions, was able to install a custom rom successfully . I wanted to share this article because I did not see anyone doing so for the ZR models. So here goes....


First and foremost, don't even think of installing one if you have no idea about any of the technical jargons in Android/XDA community, just forget it. You will void your warranty and may even permanently brick your device for good. For hobbyists though, a good place to begin would be the ZR board at the XDA forums .

Before thinking to start the process ,there are some essential downloads which are MUST if you ever want to come back to stock rom.

1) Sony flash tool             By Androxyde
2)Pre-rooted Sony Rom.  This is the easiest way than to flash older Roms and try rooting.
3) Backup TA tool .         Very important that you use this before unlocking your boot loader
4)Doomlord's root kit       For people who are still on 4.1.2 where perf_event exploit has not been patched
5)Android sdk tools          From Google
6)Flash tool driver pack    From DoomLord
6)Lastly, a strong heart which should be ready to face any eventuality, be it a bricked device or a buggy custom Rom

1) This is what I did. Downloaded an older android version for my phone with build number  10.1.1.A.1.310 . It is available for download from this website. Mind you this is only for Indian model, there are other versions available. Please check this link for the same

2) The second thing to do, is to flash the older or pre-rooted Rom using the flash tool which we downloaded earlier. Make sure that you copy the ftf file to firmwares  folder of the tool. The default directory path would be C:\Flashtool\firmwares .  For instructions refer to this link

3) Now that you have an older Rom, you need to root it and the best way to do so is to use doom lord's easy rooting toolkit. Make sure that usb debugging and "unknown" sources are enables in developer options. Detailed instructions are being  by doomlord in the following link

4) After rooting the device, you may have to unlock your boot loader to install a custom Rom. The requirements vary sometimes, and some stock based Roms may work on a locked bootloader too. But, if you want to try something completely different like Cyanogenmod, Carbon or Free Xperia which are based on AOSP, the only option is to unlock your bootloader. Please make sure that you backup your TA partition not once but n several times - to be on the safer side before starting the procedure. There is a video tutorial here which will guide you through the process. Also, there are a number of FAQ's which I would suggest you go through before proceeding with the process.

5) After finishing with the unlock - the last thing to do is to flash a custom Rom, there are a couple of them on the ZR board which you can go through. Make sure you read all the bugs which are present in the current Rom before trying to install it.

I selected Carbon Rom from the lot, as I've been a fan of them since last year. My nexus 7 has a carbon rom too --  so after going through all the features, it was the best option for me. The interface is very close and resembles stock version of Kit Kat. However, being a custom rom, there are many additions thrown in . I am sharing some of the screenshots here for a better understanding
The first one is a stock Kit Kat experience which includes the translucent menu bar. I also notice that the capacitive buttons are also transparent when opening up a book or a video allowing to enjoy a full screen - immersive experience




The second is the presence of a privacy guard which allows us to control the data which is being shared with 3rd party apps. (This is not possible with the system apps though)




The third is an extensive set of customisation settings in the Rom. I've not seen so many in Cyanogenmod .




There might be many more, but I've not tinkered with them as of now. Happy with what I have finally. There are also certain measures which I took to prevent anything going wrong during this process. They were



1)Disabling blue stacks service while performing rooting mechanism or TA backup method. If you don't do this you will get a message saying that there is more than one emulator installed on the system. Not good eh?


2)Disable Antivirus protection. Recommended


3) If you are using windows 8,you will have to disable driver enforcement


4) Backup the TA partition its a must. Also, make a nandroid backup - just in case


5) Make sure your battery is charged to at least 80% 



I hope my article helps other customers of Xperia ZR who are planning to go through this process. It was a big headache for me and was not so easy to achieve. All the credits go to the respective developers at XDA forums. I have only tried to bring together all the tools and practises for the benefit of others.















Friday, April 11, 2014

Life without a smartphone -- The better and the worse

It happens when you least expect about it. On one fine evening, I was on the scooter with my mum going to my aunt's place when one of my worst nightmares happened. I call it a nightmare because I did not dread about it, but I started once I faced the situation. I guess people who are so attached with their phones go through which I went through

I was so lazy in the evening on that day that I was still on my pyjamas, got on the bike and put my phone in the pocket which  did not have a zip. I was taking a turn near my aunt's home when I realised that my left pocket seemed lighter. The phone had slipped off and fell on the road. Worst thing another bike went over and it! . My heart stopped for a couple of seconds and my brain went blank. My darling phone had just been run over by a bike ;(

Having no faith left that the phone could be repaired, I  took it to an authorised service centre anyways.  later on ,I was  told that my Xperia ZR's screen is way different from the others. Both the touch screen and the panel are fused together in some way and there was no option to source the panel. When I enquired a bit more about it in the Sony forums, I was told that it would cost around 70% of the MRP price for the screen :0 . That means around ten thousand bucks for the damned screen! 

Leaving with no other option, I started using my mum's phone for a month. There was no update what so ever from the service centre for this whole period. It only created more aggravation within me as I was very much attached to my phone. So much so that I would even take it to the loo with me and read my daily dose of BBC news and flip board there. I recapped what has happened for two months without it and this is what I realised. Couldn't go for the morning jog because I was depending on run keeper. Would not read the news as I used to as I would only do so in the loo (We no longer get BBC on our cable TV nowadays) . Stopped listening to songs even though I had a yoga tab with me. One of my friend loaned me his Apple iPad for a while to see if I could adapt to it but, that wasn't helping me much either. Being obsessed with photography, my Instagram feed was always running. Even that activity had come to a halt. These were some of the bad instances which I faced and could not do anything from my end.

Coming to the good, the two months gave me ample opportunity to detach from my virtual  life. Sometimes, you take your phone for granted as your best buddy. There is a life outside the interconnected world which we access through applications like whatsapp,viber,messenger and what not . Not having these for two months would also mean that I had to groom my self to go outside more often, meet my friends and perhaps travel to places to do the same. Did I feel good? Initially no.But as time progressed , I realised that hanging out with the people you care and who give you some great time made more sense then doing so virtually. Overall, it has been a mixed bag. I have decreased my phone usage now and stay online only when I need to be there. There are always two sides to a coin and the case is the same when you adapt smarter technology.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Giving away a better way - Yoga tab donation

People say that things happen for a reason. I didn't understand it then, but now I really do. This is my short story of fruitful things that I've been able to do since I joined the Lenovo community in 2008.For those of you who are not familiar with it, it's a place where people help each other with their tech issues. Some of  the loyal lot stay back and become it's core users or super users. They are people who's names are never  known but ,they help the brand by staying in the front line -  defending it as an advocate, as a super user or a loyal customer. I was fortunate enough to be one of an  earlier member who was mentored upon by a handful of people to become  a moderator. And this was when I  got a sense of fulfillment for joining the forums.



Fast forward six years, I've had plenty of opportunities to interact with many people and was  invited to  join a Lenovo influencer network  which gives me an opportunity to reach out and share my story. And this is story one of those. It was in late January when I was given a chance by Lenovo to donate a Yoga tab to a charity of my choice. I agreed  to take on this opportunity and was looking out for a fitting organization or a person. This is when one of my family friend came to my rescue. Ms Premalatha is a Child development project officer who works  with the Department of Women welfare. She suggested that I take a tour of  Maaillu(Our home when translated) and then decide if it was the right place where  I could  donate the tab. This is when I told about Rajitha. The moment I met this girl, I knew that she was a deserving person.
 
 
 
Being an orphan did not stop her from pursuing her dreams. I personally spoke with her as she took me for a tour of the massive campus which is run for the betterment of orphan kids and especially girls. I was moved by the enthusiasm and dedication that the girls were putting upon. She also explained her own story about how she joined the orphanage around 8 years ago, and how her interest in Mathematics allowed to complete her master's in one of India's most prestigious colleges. 
 
Maaillu is located in a serene location, far way from the chaos of the city. This helps the kids to grow up in a peaceful environment. Maintaining a constant flow of donations for 200 orphans is quite a big deal but they have been able to pull through situations because of  the kids are bright and  have shown their mettle in various streams they are pursuing. I've seen girls who are pursuing their education in Math, Computers, Medicine, Nursing and other vocational courses.
 
 



It was a humbling experience for me to spend that day at the orphanage. After being told about how people from companies like oracle come over in the weekends to teach the students when needed, I was wondering if I could do the same  from my end whenever time permits me. Women empowerment is the key here,and the better way is only when these girls have the right tools to utilize and source information for their needs. I thank Lenovo from the bottom of my heart for making this happen, and I look forward towards similar opportunities where I can do my bit of help to the society.

 



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Psoriasis and beyond

When a person is  passing through one of those times when  pressures of  career growth and lack of stable health converge as a problem upon you - it might result in something which you would never have expected before. I faced the same issue in the last week of October after loosing my job when   Psoriasis was at an aggravating stage.

 The world we live in is sometimes so full of mysteries I might say because, you would least expect to suffer from something which has been wrongly diagnosed twice and only when you really face  the outcome of it  is when you go for an alternative opinion. I was devastated when a doctor in Hyderabad confirmed my worst fears of having Psoriasis. This was more of having a social stigma then a health condition because, you cannot hide it unless your mental condition is stabilized. It will  start effecting your scalp and other parts of the body with reddish lesions which are nothing but extra cells that have come out of the inner dermis layers.

Although I was taking tropical treatment and was trying to keep it in check as much as  I could, rapid changes in my career around 4 months back have catalysed the condition and I decided enough was enough. I was told that Psoriasis also causes mental depression and it wouldn't have come at the wrong time . However, during my recent trip to Bangalore, my perspective of the condition has changed a lot and here is what I learned

One of my aunt is a professor of Biochemistry at a dental college. She is like a motherly figure to me  and it was she who told me that there were many reasons due to which the condition would occur and that could include hereditary ones.  Her son(My cousin) was facing the same issue and so was my mother's uncle. She explained that somewhere down the line we all were sharing the common genes which lead to have this condition an there was nothing to worry about it. She also suggested that I hit the gym as early as possible because regular exercise leads to the creation of  Endorphins which control your mental state and mitigate your depression levels. I believed her and joined in a nearby gym for a cardio program(to reduce my body weight) and it had resulted in wonders. 15 days after regular cardio, the feel  the change already and have also been able to control my heighted level of excitement over time.

I realised this last week when my Sony phone fell from my pocket onto the road and a vehicle went over it. I wasn't thinking of the worst case scenario this time as I believe that something magical(or scientific) process was going on in my brain and that was the increased state of sanity! .So yes I finally got my level of sanity after regular exercise and also by infusing a bit of spirituality within me!

So there you are folks, do not worry if you have psoriasis, it might not have a cure in sight but you can certainly control it using various methods. Be calm, stay positive, do the hard work you have to do and trust in god.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A week with the Lenovo Horizon

I first heard of  the Horizon PC when Lenovo announced it in CES this year. But what made it to gain recognition from the rest of the products was something which fascinated me. Because this is a family of PC's which no other company out there had ever attempted to set their foot in. Rightly called as table PC due to its form factor and usage, Lenovo has rolled the ball which has allowed other PC manufacturers to follow suite.

Luckily for me, I've finally got the opportunity to share my thoughts about this amazing machine which brings in  a whole new breed of PC's in the market. 

For starters,the horizon looks like a big tablet albeit till you understand the exact form factor. While it's an all  in one PC in purpose, the main intention of the horizon has been to bring people together to spend some quality time be it for multi user gaming or as a  weekend entertainment hotspot. 


The Horizon which  I got came with the following specifications 

                 Operating System : Windows 8 64bits 
               CPU                    : Intel Core i7 3667U @ 2.00GHz
               RAM                   : 8.00GB Dual-Channel DDR3
               Graphics              :Intel HD Graphics 4000 and NVIDIA GeForce GT620M
                Storage               : 1 TB segate HDD

Depending on what model of Horizon you get, there might be variations in CPU make  and the graphics processing unit. The display of the Horizon is approximately 27 inches - making it a perfect instrument for your multimedia and  multi user gaming. I upgraded mine to windows 8.1 and I do feel the fluidness of the OS throughout the UI and in the desktop mode as well. The screen comes with a resolution of  1920 x 1080 (Full HD) . If you have a switchable graphics model,there is the advantage of taking the help of both the GPU's depending on your power management mode. 



It was a delight to watch the colors come to life when I started using the desktop backgrounds which come with windows8/8.1 . I've actually found some wonderful wallpapers some having panoramic views - which bring a sense of liveliness to the horizon! It is one thing to experience them on a regular desktop but when you have such a system it is sometimes hard to choose the right wallpaper too! Another good thing of using a big screen AIO would be the full screen experience which you get with the metro apps in windows 8. It feels intuitive when you open them for the first time and there is natural interaction between you and the system. 



Watching movies or playing multi user games is what the Horizon has been designed apart from saving space in our homes.The system comes with built in support for Dolby home theater .Watching movies has been a delight on the horizon. You will get to know the full potential of the pc when running a high definition movie. I was watching Life of Pi on it the other day and the presence of the tiger on the screen was thrilling experience. 

With one of the main purpose being to save space, the horizon comes with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse.It reduces the overall clutter on your desk which also helps you to concentrate on your work rather than messing around with wires which happens on a conventional desktop. The keyboard is of an accutype one but I haven't really found as comfortable as a traditional one. So I keep using my Microsoft ergonomic keyboard at times.The mouse is my favorite though .You will always feel that things are in control as long as you are using it because it is a big screen and once again requires a clutter free environment.You need to rotate the mouse to 180 degrees to switch it on and vice versa. I never saw these kind of devices but that could be just me 


One of the other main features of the horizon is the ability to play multi user games. It comes pre loaded with variety of games like Roulette, Monopoly,Tycoon and Air hockey and many other which are available in the Lenovo app shop. There also a number of education based titles which can be useful to parents who might want to teach to their kids.Whether playing a multi user game or working on your photos or education,the table mode brings in people together which also creates more interaction between people on a same thing. Lenovo has made this possible though an interface called "Aura" which kicks into action once you lay down the horizon. 
























  While I have enjoyed this PC for a week,there are certain hiccups which I have faced and I hope lenovo takes note of them for the future versions. There are only two USB ports which are not really enough when one of the port taken up by the wireless keyboard and mouse. While there is an option to increase and decrease the volume via the capacitive touch buttons,it is not in the case of screen brightness - where only a single button has been given to increase/decrease the brightness value.This means if you want to decrease to the lowest level or next, you need to increase it to the full level before decreasing it down. The included battery has lasted for 3 hours This has been a noble attempt from Lenovo to produce a new breed of PC's. If you are looking to fill the gap between your multimedia centers and your conventional TV this would help you do that.It would also be a great way to spend some time with your family with the level of interactive features that this PC has to offer. Disclosure : - I am a member of the Lenovo Influencer network. Been lucky to be a part of the group which allows me to share my experiences and stories of the tech side of my life.