Nilesh Gonsalves

Sep 212017
 

Myth : My House is always free from Pollutants

We always live under the impression that pollution exists everywhere but in our house. It may be because we  take trouble cleaning it thoroughly every alternate week. Or we keep the windows closed all the time. We assume that all our measures are sufficient to keep the germs and harmful pollutants out of your homes.

Reality : Your house may harbor more harmful pollutants than you think

Organic Pollutants

As a matter of fact, the air in the surrounding might be much safer than the air inside your house. Here’s why……

  • Your house is a confined space which restricts air flow due to walls. Rarely do we see a well ventilated house in city. The fear of vehicle emissions entering in our personal space, force us to keep the windows closed too. The result is that the air inside remains stagnant. Time and again when we open the doors, we inadvertently exchange only the surrounding air pockets. So ideally, we are breathing air which has higher contents of our exhaled CO2. If any of our family member suffers from an infection which transfers via air, we inhale that too. This increases our chance of catching the infection.
  • The second source of harmful pollutants are dust-mites. Any asthmatic person will know this terms. These are microscopic organisms which are present in our surrounding, largely in fabric. So a curtain which we have not washed since a long time, or a bed spreads which we do not changed frequently, are the likely places where we find the dust-mites breeding. They feed on dead skin and breed in damp environment. And the source for this is our dead skin which we shed unknowingly every day, and our sweat which is absorbed in the bed spreads. Presence of humidity in air will also help breeding this tiny enemies.
  • Mold is another pollutant in your house. You will normally observe it in damp environment, especially on furniture which is not been used. Are you neglected wiping off the surface of the wooden  cupboard door? Observe carefully and you will find layer of fungus growth. This can start fungal infection on your skin leading to various skin diseases.
Chemical Pollutants

Your house can also contain certain chemical pollutants. Below is a list of few with their source and the effects they have.

  • Acidic Fumes: The cleaning agents which we use in our house, especially the bathroom, normally contain acidic components in various proportions. These chemicals give out acidic fumes when exposed to air. These fumes are harmful to health and can cause nausea, irritation to eyes, inflammation of breathing track etc. If inhaled in large quantity, these can lead to death too.
  • Lead: Lead is the primary culprit of brain damage in growing kids. Low quality paint on toys and walls of our house can contain large amount lead primarily. If we ingest the paint flakes, it can lead to lead poisoning and possible neural damage.
  • Aerosol Sprays: The aerosol sprays contain chemicals like formaldehyde and xylene, which are toxins. The next time you are “freshening up” your room, consider checking the contents. These ingredients are carcinogens and neurotoxins which are harmful to human bodies.

Prevention: Here’s how you safeguard you homes

Organic Pollutants

If you have read carefully, you will notice that the one very important aspect which encourages organic pollutants is presence of damp atmosphere and lack of air circulation. If you ensure that you house remains dry and well ventilates, you have solved half your problems

  • When you wake up in the morning, keep your windows open. Let the sun rays and morning fresh air enter your rooms. Fresh air ventilates the room and carries out the accumulated carbon dioxide and other dust borne microbes. Sunlight removes the humidity from air thus prevents growth of fungus and dust mites. It is also advisable not to fold your bed covers after you wake up. Keep them spread-out shabbily so that they too become dry and prohibit these microbes from breeding. Change the sheets regularly.
  • Along with your floors, also clean your walls, ceiling and wooden furniture once in a while. This will help remove dust which normally settles on flat surface.
  • If you are using air conditioner, clean the filters of the indoor unit. These filters normally accumulate a lot of dust which can be a breeding ground for dust-mites. Carpets and curtains too tend to absorb lot of dust. A powerful vacuum cleaner can do the trick.
Chemical Pollutants
  • Avoid chemical cleaning solvents. Search for herbal solutions for cleaning as far as possible. In case not feasible, use the chemicals only in well ventilated room, if possible, with exhaust fan running.
  • Avoid chemical based aerosols as room fresheners. You can use natural solution like scented candles. Fresh flowers are a very good source of mild fragrances. Keep a vase full of them and change them daily. Just ensure that none of your family members are allergic to pollen.
  • Use good quality paints. Check the contents of the paints. It should not contain harmful toxins like formaldehyde. One such paint is Asian Paints Royale Atmos . This paint contains activated carbon which absorbs bad odors and released mild fragrances. The paint follows strict international and safety standards. The carcinogens content in it is very less. It is also washable. The Royale Atmos helps you get cleaner and fresher air in your homes.

For more info check https://www.asianpaints.com/atmos

 

Sep 202017
 

 Games and Us

We all play various games in our life. Right from the childhood, when we used to play outdoor games way back in the 80’s and 90’s to the indoor digital games which we play currently. The games included Cricket, football, Badminton, Chess etc in those days whereas currently all these games are digitized.

Digitization of games has its own advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that we tend to reduce the movement of our body, which normally we associate with these games. But the advantage is that we get to play against the world community as against the local community. This can help us develop our skill in a particular game, much better.

This is mostly true for certain indoor games which require more use of brain than muscle. No one can replace physical sports like football with digitized games and yet maintain the level of physical involvement required. Or may be I am wrong, time will tell.

Here in this post, I will help you learn to play Sudoku. Sudoku is primarily a number game. It involves use of basic math reading, no calculation required. If you know which numbers lie between 1 and 9, you qualify for taking this lesson.

Sudoku primarily appeared in newspapers but programmers have digitized this game. They have also added certain difficulty measures to it, one of them being time constrain. Playing Sudoku under time constrain will help you in improving your logical thought process and keeps your brain active. This also helps reduce the chance Alzheimer. And it’s fun too.

So let’s begin.

Playing Sudoku

 The view

Once you launch Sudoku in your computer or mobile phone, the screen will show a square subdivided in to 9 equal sub-squares. Each of these smaller squares are further subdivided in to 9 equal cells. This 9 X 9 configuration is a standard configuration in any version of Sudoku. Refer picture on left.

You can see few digits entered in cells. Note that the numbers are completely random. But still there exists a logic in their placement. You will understand it once we move ahead.

As you can see, the big outer square is sub divided in to nine smaller sub-squares. I have marked one of them in green. Each of these smaller sub-squares is subdivided in to nine smaller cells. I have marked two of them in red. We must fill up the blank cells to complete the puzzle.

 Game Rules

The rules for the game are pretty simple. All you should do is fill up the empty cells with following constrains in mind:

  • Each sub-square(green) must contain the numbers from 1 to 9 without repetition.
  • Also, each vertical column must contain the numbers from 1 to 9 without repetition.
  • And each horizontal row must contain the numbers from 1 to 9 without repetition.

Straight forward,isn’t it? It is if you follow certain tips and tricks. The level of difficulty you select while launching the game defines this. The difficulty level depends more on which cells are pre-filled with respect to blank cells rather than the number of pre-filled cells. I suggest that a new user should start with easier levels, to get a hang of it.

For the sake of explanation, I have numbered the cells as below. If you use excel, you will be very familiar with this cell address scheme. You may or may not see this numbering scheme in the game depending the developer. We refer to the first row first column as a1, first row second column as a2 and so on up to i9.

Game Play Tips and Tricks

This game is played using the process of elimination. First of all, look up for any sub-square which has the maximum pre-filled digits. You can see in our example above that there quite a few sub-squares. Pick up any one of these sub squares and start counting from 1 to 9 while checking which number is missing.

Playing the Sub-Squares

Let’s say the we are playing with the very first sub-square contained by the cells a1 to c3. We see that the number 1 is missing. There are 5 empty cells in the square a1-c3. But when we take in to consideration the rules, only two cells qualify to accommodate the number 1. These cells are a1 and c1. The cell b2 cannot contain the number 1 because the cell d2 contains the number 1. Similarly a3 cannot contain the number on because the cell g3 contains the number 1. If we place the number 1 in b2 or a3, this would be repetition, which is against the rules.

So now we have the cells a1 and c1 where we can possibly place the number 1. But there is no way at this moment to tell where we should place number 1 without having a conflict in future. So we move forward.

Counting ahead, numbers, 2, 3, 4 and 5 are already present in the sub-square. Number 6 is not present. We can place number 6 in either a1 or a3, but we are not sure even in this case whether there will be future conflict. Same is the case with numbers 7 and 8. Number 9 is already present in the sub-square. So we move forward to analyzing sub-square a4 to c6.

In this, while counting we find that numbers 1, 4, 5, 8, 9 are in same situation as previous sub-square and numbers 2, 3, 6, 7 are already present.

We keep on moving forward among these sub-squares. In sub-square a7-c9 we are able to fill in number 3 at cell b8. This is because it is the only cell which allows the missing 3 to be entered without conflicting with all the already present 3s highlighted in red.

We can keep on analyzing in this way and we come up the final result as below.

Since we have entered few numbered in blank cells in the first iteration, we have to go back and carry out second iteration. Since we have filled up some numbers, they might help us to determine those cells where we not sure previously. We keep on repeating these iterations till we are not able to enter any single number in the entire iteration.

The final matrix after multiple iterations in example above is as below.

Playing the Columns

Since the difficulty level for the puzzle above was easy, we solved this by analyzing the sub-squares. But as the difficulty increases, analyzing the sub-squares alone will not be sufficient and in such case we need to start analyzing using rows or columns method.

Let’s say we tried iterations number of times but were unable to fill up the matrix as below. Then we can go for the next method.

In this case we start analyzing either each row or each column, one by one. Let’s pick up column 1. We again start counting and checking whether the numbers 1 to 9 are present in that column. If any number is absent, we search for the possible cell where we can fill that number. This is done by checking the corresponding row for each cell.

For example, if we want to check if we can fill a missing number, let’s say number 1 in the above case,  in cell a1, we check cells a2- to a9 for the presence of number 1. If number 1 is not present in cells from a2 to a9, then the cell a1 becomes a possible location for number 1. Now we need to check for any other possible locations in column 1 where we can place number 1. If there is only one cell location in column 1 where we can fill the number 1, then we should fill it. If there are more then one possible locations to fill in the missing number 1, we can’t fill it and we should move ahead analyzing the next number.

Once we analyze one column, we analyze the next column in the same way. We can continue this for number of iteration till we either solve the puzzle or we are not able to fill up any number in a single iteration.

Playing the Rows

Once we are not able to fill up any number in a single column iteration but are are left with blank cells, we should start analyzing rows.

Analyzing the rows and filling them ups is same as analyzing the columns as explained above. In this we check the possibility of filling up each cell of the row by cross checking them against the corresponding column. Once done with one row, we mode on to the next row.

Spotting the Numbers

Another method which we can use along with the above three is singling out an individual number and checking their position in the matrix. This method, though similar to analyzing each sub-square, is different from it because in this method, we analyze a particular number. The presence and position of this number in corresponding horizontal and vertical sub-squares determine the position in the sub-square where it is not present.

Let’s take an example of number 5.

You can see that the number 5 appears in each sub-square except in the sub-square a4 to c6. There are four cells empty in a4 to c6. These cells are a4, a6, b5 and b6. Cell a4 abd a6 cannot contain number 5 because cells g5, a8, d6 conflicts. Similarly cell b6 cannot contain number 5 because cell d6 conflicts. So cell b5 is the only cell where we can place number 5.

This analysis can be done starting from number 1 to 9 in sequence.

Mixing it Up

We can even opt for mixing these methods instead of carrying out multiple iteration of each method. For example, we can start with analysis of rows, complete one iteration then move to next method, say column analysis for one iteration and then sub-squares for one iteration and number analysis. Mixing and matching can keep things interesting.

Endgame

So you see, Sudoku is not a difficult game. It just needs few tricks and some practice.

If this article has helped you learn Sudoku, kindly share it across. Leave comments if any help needed.

 

Sep 192017
 

At this very moment, Mumbai and its suburban areas including Thane, Vasai – virar etc are experiencing heavy rains. Naturally people are circulating messages on various Social media with updates on rain and transport conditions.

There seem to be lots of rumors going around. Kindly do not believe in or spread rumors. Stay in touch with disaster management cell on Twitter at their handle @DisasterMgmtMum.

Currently they maintain that there is no forecast of very heavy rain and they have not issued any advisory for schools, offices to remain closed tomorrow.

But I suggest that you step out tomorrow only after checking their Twitter handle. Also keep watch on official news. Stay safe. Keep your mobile battery charged if you are going out. Carry a water bottle for the sake of emergency use. I suggest you also carry along a pack of chocolate, biscuits etc. as a standby measure.

Sep 182017
 

NPCI stands for National Payments Corporation of India. It is an umbrella corporation which a robust infrastructure for payment and settlement solutions in India. NPCI has been operational since nearly a decade but the awareness levels of the brand as a whole is not as expected.

Recently, NPCI arranged a blogger meet in collaboration with Indiblogger. The intention behind the NPCI Indimeet was to create awareness about NPCI and its various products and service among the blogging community. The bloggers would further spread this to the masses via the digital media. Thanks NPCI for warmly accommodating us at your office and enlightening us about the organisation.

History of NPCI

With the advent of digital age and the foreseen benefits of adopting it, the world started moving its service industry to zeros and ones. Financial sector was among the first industries to adopt it since they were well apprised with the potential increase in reach and ease of serviceability. World over the adoption was quick but the story in India was a quite different.

India had the financial infrastructure for paper based transaction but had to rely on a handful of foreign players for digital transactions. This attracted higher service change and limited the adoption to the “top cream” of consumers. The masses, though unintentionally, were left out. Lack of any standardization resulted in various service level issues including delays in payment processes. These delays later became standards of operation and the overall system had a lag in it.

RBI and promoting banks incorporated NPCI in the year 2008. The objective was financial inclusion of masses into this digital revolution and provide a uniform and a standard business process across all institutions. It has 10 promoting banks, including the biggies of the Indian banking like SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank etc. International banks with India presence like Citibank and HSBC are also among the promoter banks.

Major Achievements

Since it incorporation, NPCI has launched various products and solutions to unify and better the payment infrastructure. NPCI with its products and solutions could be the biggest of India contribution to the world. You could even say that Indians taught the world how to use 0 and now Indians teach them how to transact online.

The government efforts in the digital revolution have helped NPCI in launching superior products like Aadhar enabled payment system. This continues to be the flagship product of NPCI. Their other products include, Bharat interface for Money, also called as BHIM. They have a large portfolio of debit, credit, contact less and prepaid cards under the brand RuPay. Following are few of the various important offerings from NPCI.

RuPay (#FriendsOfRuPay)

Rupay is a term coined by combination of Rupee and Payment. RBI concieved this card payment system to fulfill their vision to offer a domestic, open-loop, multilateral system which will allow all Indian banks and financial institutions in India to participate in electronic payments. One of the objectives of RuPay is to assist India in moving towards “less cash” society.

Under the RuPay banner, NPCI offers cards various debit, credit, prepaid and contactless cards. These cards cater to every need and intends to involve the people from all classes of society.  Depending on the card you opt for, Rupay credit cards even allow the holders, access to lounge services, 24/7 Concierge Services and comprehensive insurance. This is in addition to the various offers and schemes available on all the cards.

You can use the RuPay prepaid range of cards to surprise your loved ones or your employees during festival season, and otherwise. The RuPay Global card provides access to various services world over via the tie up with major international partners like Discoverr, Diners Club International etc.

So lets be the #FriendsOfRuPay and opt for a RuPay card with your bank.

More information on the RuPay at their microsite at www.Rupay.co.in . You can also contact them on twitter @RuPay_npci

UPI (#HighOnUPI)

UPI, or the Unified Payment Interface is a system that powers multiple bank accounts into a single mobile application of any participating bank. It facilitates merger of several banking features, seamless fund routing and merchant payments under one hood.

UPI supports pay request and collect request. A Pay Request is a transaction where the initiating customer is pushing funds to the intended beneficiary. A Collect Request is a transaction where the customer is pulling funds from the intended remitter.

What UPI actually did was that it nullified the inter-operability issues arising due to different service level prcedures followed by different banks. Pre-UPI era, the remitter and the beneficiary needed to exchange their details which included bank account number, IFSC code, branch etc. The banks would verifythe details and the transction would only be possible after the banks authorised the beneficiary.

While using UPI, the beneficiary need to only exchange his UPI address which could be in a format as simple as nileshgonsalves@upi. UPI also allows requesting money transfer. For example, if I am supposed to receive an amount XXX from a party YYY, I would just have to know the UPI id of that party. Then I could send a payment request to yyy@upi and would receive funds immediately upon acceptance by the remitter.

Note that the UPI id varies based on where it is created. For e.g. a UPI ID created using HDFC would look like xxxxxx@hdfcbank and the one created using Axis bank would look like xxxxx@axisbank. It is required to have a mobile number linked to the account which is used for UPI transactions.

So what are you waiting for. Go ahead and get #HighOnUPI

BHIM (#BHIMKADum)

The NPCI developed the BHIM app to enable the users to make simple, easy and quick payment transactions using Unified Payments Interface (UPI). BHIM is a 24 X 7 payment solution and anyone in possession of a phone number and debit card and use it.

The unique feature of this app is that it is generic. So if you link your HDFC bank account as the primary account to this app, the app home screen will convert to the shades of HDFC bank color scheme. This will make it easier to know which account you are using for transaction.

Along with the regular Send Money and Request Money transactions, you can also transact using QR Code. Whenever you are at a POS terminal, if the merchant has a QR code, you can make payment by scanning the QR code in BHIM app. Your will now need need to confirm and enter the pin to finalise the transaction. BHIM app provides facility to block request for collect from illicit source.

This shows the true power of BHIM or we can say its the #BHIMKADum

For more information on UPI and BHIM visit their microsite at www.Bhimupi.org.in . You can also contact them on twitter @UPI_NPCI and @NPCI_BHIM .

Other Services and Products

For information on their other products and services, click on the logos below.

    

                                    

 

Conclusion

What we have seen so far is convergence of products and services like in the case of BHIM and UPI. This enables the provision of more efficient and reliable service.

With all these services and products under its umbrella, NPCI aims to facilitate transactions faster than a Pizza delivery.

For more information, visit NPCI at their website www.npci.org.in. You can also tweet them on @NPCI_NPCI

(The logos and graphics used in the post are property of NPCI. The writer intends no misuse or personal gains using these logos. We use them to increase visibility of NPCI and its products portfolio)

 

Sep 152017
 

What is Aadhar about?

India is turning in to a digitally enabled country and the role of Aadhar(unique identification number) can be considered as pivotal. Though it took some time to gain momentum, Aadhar has started rolling along with speed and we keep on seeing large number of government and private services being linked to Aadhar. The latest in the list of services which was linked recently was PAN card details. Going forward, it will be mandatory to link phone number to your Aadhar number.

Aadhar is a 12 digit unique identification number which identifies an individual. Aadhar details currently contain lots of personal data including address, date of birth, phone number, biometric data etc. This data is used to provide various services while authenticating the identity via backend data servers. So naturally it is of prime importance that Aadhar data stays secure. If it falls in wrong hands, it could be misused resulting in unwanted losses and unpleasant events.

How to enable Aadhar biometric Authentication Lock

There is a way in which this data can be locked to prevent unauthorised use and unlocked whenever required. For that, you will need to go on to Aadhar webpage here.

Important : You need to have a phone number linked to your Aadhar before you can proceed. In case you do not have a phone number linked to Aadhar, you should visit a Aadhar enrolment center to get it linked.

So continuing, once you are on the webpage, you will be greeted with the front page as shown below

Click on “Lock/Unlock Biometrics” shown in the circle. You will get a pop up in which you have to click on “OK”

It will take you to another webpage which details out how the Lock/Unlock affects your Aadhar. Read it carefully. In brief it says:

  • If you lock the Aadhar, you will not be able to use biometric authentication.
  • To be able to use biometric authentication, you need to unlock it temporarily or disable the lock.

Remember if you Lock Aadhar, you should unlock it first before attempting biometric authentication for any service.

Now when you scroll down on the page, you will find the login page. Enter your Aadhar number and the security code displayed in the window. Then click on “Send OTP” button.

Next, you will get a One Time Password on your mobile(OTP) and the OTP entry field will be enabled along with Login button. Enter the OTP and click on Login.

This will take you to a page which gives you Aadhar biometric authentication service status. To enable the biometric lock and thus disabling biometric authentication using Aadhar, enter the security code and click “Enable”.

If you have done all the process in correct manner, your biometric authentication will be locked and the status will be displayed on next page as below.

How to disable Aadhar biometric Authentication Lock

To disable the lock, login using your Aadhar number and OTP as mentioned above. Once you are logged in, you will be greeted with a page which allows you to either temporarily unlock or disable the lock completely.

Enter the security code and click on the button of your choice(Unlock or Disable).

If you unlock the biometric authentication temporarily, it will be unlocked for only 10 minutes and will automatically get re-locked after 10 minutes.

If you disable the biometric authentication, it will be disabled permanently until you re-lock it using the above mentioned procedure.

Remember, if you lock biometric authentication ,you should unlock before you try to authenticate using biometrics for any service.

Sep 092017
 

The idiot box has been in control of our entertainment since quite a few decades. It has come a long way from B&W to Color, from the old CRT to the latest LCD and LED, from terrestrial transmission to satellite. But you have never been in control of what you view. The entertainment companies controlled your viewing habit and you will stuck with whatever was available.

But the advent of internet age has changed it all. Now is the time to take control of what you view on that rectangular piece of electronic equipment.

Introducing to you, the Amazon Fire Stick.

Exclusively available on amazon, its a very brilliant piece of equipment. All you need to have is a TV with HDMI port(even your computer monitor with HDMI port will suffice) capable of displaying HD resolution at 50/60 Hz and internet connection accessible on wifi. Your are all set to go.

The Amazon Fire Stick comes with a voice remote controller, a power adapter, two batteries for the remote and a HDMI extender. A quick start guide helps you to set thing up before you can watch your first video via the Fire Stick.

Here are a few features in brief:

  • The Fire Stick can be configured with your amazon account which will enable you to view all the contents served via the Amazon Prime Video service, right on your TV.
  • With the built in video and audio streaming apps, you won’t be wanting anything more. Play videos from YouTube, Netflix, Hotstar etc. right on your TV for everyone.
  • A remote which accepts voice commands is a very thoughtful addition to the setup.
  • You can move the Fire Stick along with you on that vacation of business conference and never miss the latest episode of your favourite TV show.
  • You can download various apps readily available in the inbuilt app store.
  • For the geeks, you can even configure the stick to access media on your network easily.
  • Works over wifi, so no messy wires hanging around your TV(of course you need to hide the power adapter)

So all you out there longing to buy a smart TV, wait. This might just be the thing which satisfies your need.

Note: Internet access over wifi needed to access most features. An unlimited data plan would be best for this product. For capped data plan, keep a tab of data consumption and use accordingly.

Buy on Amazon here.

 

Sep 072017
 

Apple is all set to launch its 10th anniversary edition of their iPhone lineage, the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X edition. Expectations are running high as we move in towards 12th September, the day when the phone is supposed to be launched. Knowing Apple, we can be sure of some surprises and a punch of upgrades in the latest scheduled release. There could be something to commemorate Steve Jobs too in the package of products slated to launch.

Here’s what we expect to see.

  • The iPhone X could be the costliest flagship of all times. Expected to cost Rs. 1,00,000, it certainly is not within the reach of a common man. But then, Apple product has set certain precedents which, when broken, have not gone well for their product(remember iPhone 5c?).
  • Though the moniker “8” is a natural successor to “7”, seems like Apple just might skip the “8” and “9” and bring in iPhone 10 to coincide with their 10th anniversary. They could also have two different variants of their flagship, one a regular flagship and the second one a commemorative flagship. They could even move from their conventional numbering to Roman Numerals, iPhone X, probably representing the 10th anniversary edition while also creating the extreme aura.
  • Rumors suggest the latest iPhone X will sport a completely new design, thus departing from the tradition which is being followed since iPhone 4. A shift in fingerprint sensor from front to rear and integrated in the apple logo would not be a surprise. The front would thus be button free and could integrate a neat speaker grille or the front could be a simple touch screen with very narrow top and bottom bezels. What its going to be is hard to know as of now as we do not have those episodes of unintentional leaks as in case of previous iPhones. But we still have 4 day, so fingers crossed.
  • Apple may not look to jumbo sizing the iPhone above current levels and may just stick to the sweet spot of 5.2”
  • We can expect an upgrade to Processor and RAM. We can expect something in camera section too. Apple has been using their camera upgrades as their USP since some time now. Same could be the case with iPhone X.
  • Wireless charging could be a standard feature and the 3.5 mm may not reappear again. It seems likely Apple may help this transition further by including the airpods as in-the-box accessory.

Stay tuned for the official launch of the iPhone X on 12th September 2017. And check your bank accounts. You will need it on 15th September when the sale is expected to commence.

Sep 022017
 

The existence of a new real life game called “Blue whale” and the incidents of suicides related to it are all over the news. Quite scary to read. How few unknown people can take control of your life without ever meeting you, points towards the various dangers lurking out there in the digital world. We have to stay alert and keep ourselves protected from these dangers. And ensure that our kids are protected too. Modern age parents take pride in the facts that their kid of age 2 years very easily navigates through their phones, click photos on them, run apps like YouTube and make their parents proud. Have we ever wondered that the kids learn things very fast and it might be so that they manage to learn thing which even we adults find difficult. For example, installing an unwanted/forbidden app and using it without our knowledge. Its true that new generation kids shouldn’t be deprived of access to technology, but parents need to control and monitor properly.

Coming back to Blue Whale, it is said that it is not an app, but a social network group/page/whatever you may call it, which lures people in to taking up unearthly challenges and ending these challenges with the ultimate challenge to commit suicide. The facts are not yet clear but certain things are. It is not an app. Atleast not an app on Google Play Store or iphone App Store. These stores are monitored and controlled very closely and such a game would not have passed their scrutiny so easily. So even if it was an app, or ever is converted in to an installable app, it will be available via uncontrolled third party app stores or as a third party app which can be installed by clicking suspicious links. But the security features in Android and iOS doesn’t let you install such apps so easily, and even has security features which disable installation of third party apps. My advice, enable these security features first.

You can take certain measures to ensure that unwanted apps are not present on your phone.

Disabling installation of Apps from unknown source:

In android settings under security options, find the option “Unknown Source” and disable it. If this is enabled, you are giving access to installation of third party unverified application. If your kids click on unverified insecure links, these apps can be easily hidden behind the link and can get downloaded.

Uninstalling suspicious apps:

Now-a-days, all apps are required to ask for permission to certain device features which are security sensitive. Eg. access to your SMS application, phone book, camera etc. If you install an app which, when launched, requests permission to certain features which its doesn’t have any business asking for, do not give the access and uninstall it if it is not important. Ask the developer via the feedback regarding this access request if this app is very much required by you and give access only once you are sure what you are doing. For example, certain games ask access to phone book. This is required in case they have a feature where you can invite your friends on the phonebook to download the same app and play with you. But in case the app has no such feature, it has no business asking for phone book access. Its better to uninstall it rather than give them all information about your contacts.

Do not Root the phone:

In case you use lots of apps which are financially sensitive, like banking apps, on your mobile, do not root your phone. Even if you root the phone, ensure you give access only to legitimate verified apps, which really need the root access for their usage. The rooting of a phone is equivalent to giving administration access on your windows computer of super user access on Linux. A normal phone user doesn’t need root a phone as all his work can be done without root. Rooting is done only by super users who try to squeeze every bit out of their phones and a little bit more. They are the nerd and know what they are doing.

Update you phones regularly:

Keep on checking your phone for updates and update it as son as you get one. A good mobile manufacturer provides updates with latest security patches and features. These patches close any backdoors which might have been present in your phone which can give unauthorized access to a third party.

Coming to Blue Whale and securing your kids, there is nothing in this world which can protect them other than you. Keep an eye on their digital habits and their real life habits. You, as a parent, can easily detect any change in their habits and find the cause. No amount of other digital security can protect your kids as much as your sharp eyes on them.

Sep 022017
 

OnePlus, the famed Chinese manufacture of smart phones is celebrating their 1000 days in India. And on this occasion, they have announced a anniversary discount on their OnePlus 3T smart phone. OnePlus 3T is a well known flagship(though a generation old now) and the discounts offered puts this smart phone in a very mouth watering slop of pricing.

The phone is offered at a discount of Rs. 4000 and will be available for Rs. 25,999 instead of the usual R. 29,999 of the MRP. Of course this phone is sold at Rs. 27,999 on Amazon.in currently, a discount of Rs. 2000 over MRP.

Under the anniversary offer, additional cashback of Rs. 2000 can be availed by customers purchasing using Axis bank Credit or Debit cards. A discount of additional 2000 Rs. is available for exchange of old phone(also available on OnePlus 5. So all in all, this phone can be purchased for Rs. 21,999 which is a very sweet deal.

Other offers include zero interest EMI on major credit and debit cards and 100 lucky winners will get complimentary domestic flight vouchers from Cleartrip. It is not clear whether all the offers will be available only on One Plus e-store or also with their exclusive partners Amazon India. This will be clear when the offer period starts.The offer will be available between 5th September to 7th September 2017.

Currently, If you try to exchange on Amazon.in, you might be able to match the discount which is to be offered between the offer period.

The smartphones is powered by a Snapdragon 821 processor(known to be powerful as well as efficient) with 6GB RAM and 64GB/128GB internal memory, a configuration which puts itself somewhere near the current top levels. It boasts of a 5.5-inch AMOLED display with Full HD resolution protected by Gorilla Glass 4. The phone is available in Gunmetal and Soft Gold color options and in 6GB RAM/64GB storage options only.

Aug 302017
 

In my last post, I had promised to come back with a guide on setting up your Pi as a media server. It has been some time now, but here it follows.

Before we begin, how about some insight to media servers and certain technology standard called DLNA?

We all have a lots of media lying around in various storage devices and we(some of us at least) still use the stone age methods of transferring media to our media players(USB stick to use on smart TV, phones, tablets etc.). How good it would be if we were able to access our media right from its source without getting up from the chair!!

Enter media servers. These are a bit of software running on a network connected computer, which organise, and share your media to anyone connected on to the network. To unify the way these network connected devices access media, a certification standard was formulated by various electronics giants like Sony. The basic idea behind formulating this standard was to ensure that media can be accessed across various platforms with ease. So the media content might be on a windows based server but it could be accessed by DLNA compliant devices which could range from a smart TV with proprietary operating system, or a android based mobile phone(android was just in making back then but the standard was platform independent so could be adopted at a later stage easily) or even a linux based computer. More information on DLNA of Digital Living Network Alliance can be found here.

Anyway, if you are following this guide, it means you are a potential candidate to setup media server on your home network. This guide is specific to Raspbian OS and the prerequisites are to have a Raspberry Pi which is connected to your network(via wired network preferably) and your HDDs with the media folders mounted to an accessible folder. You can follow the guides in my previous posts here and here for that.

Let’s begin!!

Login to you pi via SSH. Remember we are running the device headless since we want to conserve the processing power. In case you are still using desktop, you can launch terminal from the desktop.

First ensure that your Raspbian installation is up-to-date. Run the following commands for that.

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get upgrade

Next install minidlna using:

sudo apt-get install minidlna

Once installed, backup the minidlna configuration file using:

sudo cp /etc/minidlna.conf /etc/backup_minidlna.conf

Open the minidlna configuration file in nano for editing using:

sudo nano /etc/minidlna.conf

(you can use sudo leafpad /etc/minidlna.conf to open in leafpad in case you are working on desktop instead of terminal)

In the configuration file, find(using up/dn arrow keys) db_dir and set its value to :

db_dir=/home/pi/.minidlna

Remember, most of these settings are commented out using #. Remove the # to uncomment them and make them usable.

Set minidlna media directories to point at the directories which hold your media as follows:

media_dir=V, /media/WD/movies

Here “V” stands for Videos. For specifying aa audio directory, use “A” and “P” for photos . The above line in the configuration file will specify that one of the media directory to scan for video files only is located /media/WD/movies. I have used WD since I have mounted one of my HDD at /media/WD and the “movies” is a folder in that HDD which contains movies. You will certainly have a different configuration so check your setup and edit this line accordingly.

If you are specifying media_dir=V, /XXX/XXXX/XXX, the server will only serve video files to the network. If you do not specify “V”, it will search for all media contents in music, photos, videos. So the line can also be :

media_dir=/media/WD/movies

You can have multiple configuration lines here. But I suggest you organise the media properly before sharing else your media devices will show you a lot of directories and you will find it difficult to locate specific media in them.

In friendly_name suggest a recognisable name. Mine is :

friendly_name=Raspberry Pi MiniDLNA

You can have anything you like.

Uncomment out the inotify=yes so that the server keeps on searching for new media, whenever you add new files.

Now click ctrl+x.. It will as whether to save the file. Select yes. Then run the following commands.

sudo service minidlna restart

sudo service minidlna force-reload

To ensure minidlna service starts at reboot run the command:

sudo update-rc.d minidlna defaults

No go for a reboot once using:

sudo reboot

If you have done everything right, upon reboot you should be able to see your media server on you DLNA compliant devices, or DLNA media player softwares.

Do ping me in case you have trouble.

%d bloggers like this: