A Great Way To Remember … You!

Journal writing is something I’ve always been inclined towards. And I’ve tried to maintain one many times in the last eight years or so – failing, of course.

Then I discovered this app called DayOne. Even though it may look like one, it is not just another journal or diary app. DayOne has a feature which prompts you to write an entry after a fixed interval of time. This is really great because otherwise, most of us who try to write a journal, do it at a specific time in the day. But many a times, the ‘I need to write an entry in the journal today’ thought simply doesn’t come or we’re too lazy to execute it.

DayOne puts a text prompt (on the Mac) and all you have to do is type a few lines (maybe more) and press save. That’s it! This way, even if you’re in the middle of something, you may actually take out 30 seconds from your busy schedule and type something. I have so many entries in the journal that go something like ‘Working!’ or ‘Grad lab on a Sunday morning. Nothing new.’ Of course, when you do have the time, you’d want to write a detailed post about things happening in your life. 

The app will also suggest you things you’d want to write about if nothing comes to mind. Once, it prompted me to copy-past an email! It’ll also give you inspirational messages, should you choose to receive them.

And the experience is worth it! I started using this app in August 2011. Now when I look back at the entries I’ve written, it feels really weird! Good weird! Obviously, I’m going to remember a lot of things that happened just a year ago but it’s the small details that make it such an amazing read! Things like what made you happy on a particular day or a small joke you shared with a friend … these things will make you nostalgic! I’m sure most of us will find looking back at such detailed ‘snapshots’ of our lives interesting, if not an amazing experience!

But there’s a waiting period of course. You can’t start writing a journal and be fascinated by what happened on last Tuesday! Give it time, keep writing and experience something amazing!

The developers are amazing and listen to the users’ feedback/requests and incorporate new features into the app. Hope they keep it up!

The app is (unfortunately) available for iOS devices and Mac only. And it is a paid app. I don’t know if the developers are making an Android/Windows version but I hope they do! This app is too good to be restricted by platforms.

 

 

 

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The Unsung Hero

This post was originally posted on my old blog. Recently, while having a conversation with a friend of mine, I realized that this topic needs to be discussed more.

 

We watch movies, listen to songs/albums and read books. If we like these works of art, we immediately think about their creators and transpose our liking of their works – ‘Wow, great direction!’, ‘Awesome guitar riff!’, ‘Brilliant writing style! What a page-turner!’ and so on – onto them. That’s how it works most of the times, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, most of us don’t think about or give enough credit to the people who support these artists. Not support as in ‘family support’ or ‘moral support’ but technical associates and assistants who put in a lot of hard work to refine and fine tune the work of art created by someone else.

To a certain extent, I don’t blame the general public. For a reader to appreciate the work put in by an editor, they must first be aware of the kind of work he does. How does their job affect the final, published novel? Surely they must be doing something more than just spell-checking! The same can be said about studio engineers, album producers w.r.t music and editors, assistant directors, cinematographers w.r.t film making (just to give very few examples.)

As a bassist who’s performed with a band and as someone who has been ‘behind the scenes’ a few times observing recordings, I can say that the final song/album of any artist has everyone’s fingerprints on it – the artists themselves, the producer, the recording engineer (his assistants even!), the mixing and mastering engineers and even the record label executives who decide the platform on which the music is going to be published!

Let me go into detail about the role of a  producer in the music industry.

In India, many people aren’t even aware of an album producer. That’s because –

  1. Bollywood accounts for a huge chunk of music production in India – where there is a music director and no producer as such.
  2. People tend to think of a producer as ‘the guy who finances the production’ only.

The producer, in fact is one of the most important people in any album’s production. To sum it up loosely in one line, a producer is ‘the person who tells the artist what the album should sound like as a whole and sees to it that it does’. The producer generally does not get involved in the composition directly. Of course, even within the music industry, the producer’s role changes with the genre of music.

To illustrate this, I’ll use an example. We’ve all heard Michael Jackson’s songs. We’ve also heard the awesome guitar solo in ‘Beat It’, the funky groove in ‘Thriller’ and the kick-ass bass line of ‘Bad’. Also, in songs like ‘Heal The World’ and ‘Earth Song’, we can hear violins and other string instruments in the background. Now, it’s pretty well known that MJ himself did not play any instruments and so hired musicians had to be involved. Who got the musicians? Who decided how ‘loud’ each song should be? Who made sure that every musician’s work ‘fit’ perfectly in the songs? The producers of his albums. Of course, MJ was also consulted and involved in these processes. A producer in the music industry is analogous to a director in the film industry.

Michael Jackson with Quincy Jones – The producer of his most successful album ‘Thriller’

To explain how a producer’s role varies by genre, let me take the example of a little known band called Linkin Park. As every single Linkin Park fan must’ve observed that their last two albums – Minutes To Midnight and A Thousand Suns – are drastically different from their earlier albums like Hybrid Theory. The band wanted to experiment or change the sound. And so they hired a new producer for Minutes To Midnight (Rick Rubin). Initially, the band discussed their ideas about how the album should sound like, with him. Then they proceeded to create more than a hundred ‘rough’ tracks for the album keeping in mind the overall theme and feel of the album; 12 songs were shortlisted and finished after discussions with the producer.

The band had said they wanted the next album to sound more ‘mature’. The result? The album is much ‘softer’ compared to their earlier work with more emphasis on the melodies. Chester Bennington screams his head off in just one song in the entire album! Also, one should note that Linkin Park still have their ‘signature’ in every song. Be it Joe Hahn’s loops or Mike Shinoda’s rapping. Linkin Park’s guitarist Brad Delson had no solos in their albums prior to M2M. That didn’t mean he couldn’t play solos! So what did the producer do in Minutes to Midnight? He changed Linkin Park’s sound while maintaining their personality.

The aim of this post was not to be ‘technical’ or precisely defining things but to spread awareness about a vital person in the music industry who almost always goes unnoticed.

I’d like to specially thank my guitar professor and a wonderful musician, Shitalchandra Kulkarni for explaining many of the above things to me. Also used as references are many articles on music sites, blogs and videos.

Thanks for reading this rather wordy post! Hope you found it informative! Feel free to give your feedback in the comments section below.

Why Your Facebook App Sucks So Much

Love it, hate it or get bored of it – we all use Facebook. In fact, I’m sure most of you are here reading this because of Facebook! And so Facebook came out with apps for iOS and Android since these two mobile operating systems account for about 80% smartphones worldwide. And they’ve been downloaded millions of times since the release date. But one thing became clear right away – the apps sucked! Big time! And they continue to do so. This had many people wondering as to how could a company like Facebook, with the kind of resources and talent at their disposal, release such poorly performing and buggy products. Here’s why –

While this involves some technical stuff I’m going to try to keep it as simple as possible. Apps on iOS and Android are usually developed in Objective-C and Java programming languages. The interface which we users see and interact with, as well as the ‘brains’ of the app are thus said to be programmed natively. But the Facebook apps don’t do that. Sure, the apps are advertised as being available specifically for iOS and Android in their respective marketplaces, but on the inside, it’s a different story.

What Facebook has actually done is that it has created native applications for these mobile operating systems that contain a ‘stripped-down browser’ (a web-view, technically). And in that browser you are actually seeing a minimalistic version of the Facebook website! Not all of it is the website though. The friend request, notifications and messages that appear on the top bar are a part of the native application. And that is the reason for one of the most common bugs in the app – notifications not syncing properly. You may have observed that sometimes, the app tells you that you have a couple of notifications. But when you tap on the notifications button, there’s nothing new there. The same happens for friend requests.

Also, many of you may have noticed that the mobile version of Facebook’s website (accessed on a mobile browser) is much faster compared to the app. This is because the ‘stripped-down browser’ inside the app is not as powerful as a mobile browser application.

But there’s good news. Facebook is finally working on native versions of their iOS and Android apps. Till then, it’s better to use the mobile version of the website.

For a more detailed explanation, check out this awesome link!

– Omkar