Lottie – Amazing Animations for the Web

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Modern websites come with some amazing animations. I remember Sentry.io used to have an animation that showed packets of information going through a system and it getting processed in a processor.etc., If you browse Dribble you will see a number of landing page animations that just blow our mind. The most mainstream brand that employs animations is Apple. Their web page was a playground when they launched Apple Arcade.

Sidenote: Sadly all these animations vanish once the pages are updated. It would be cool if they could be saved in some gallery when we can view them at later points in time.

We were left wondering how do they do it?

animation_discussion

I might have found the answer to this. The answer could be Lottie.

What is Lottie? The website says

A Lottie is a JSON-based animation file format that enables designers to ship animations on any platform as easily as shipping static assets. They are small files that work on any device and can scale up or down without pixelation.

Go to their official page here to learn more. It is quite interesting.

Take a peek at the gallery as well, there are some interesting animations that can be downloaded and used in websites for free as well.

Moving back from Mac to Windows + Linux

Content Warning: Rant ahead

As my Macbook Air is becoming more and more restrictive to the things I could do, due to low memory of 4 GB and 128GB SSD, I decided to buy a new laptop with better specifications. After some filtering and comparison on Flipkart and Amazon, I finally settled on Lenovo S540 14″ with 8 GB RAM and 1TB SSD. It also came fitted with a 2GB Graphics card which I think will help working with ML algorithms easier. While the hardware is great for my requirement, the software is a complete let down.

Issue 1: Windows Font Rendering is Crap

The screen is a full HD 1920×1080 display in 14 inches. One would think the display would try to match that of the display of my Macbook Air (1440×900), but nope. Not in a million chance.

The system recommends a scaling of 150% for good results, anything below that the system font Calibri starts breaking down and there seems to be no anti-aliasing effect.

There are a couple of solutions to this problem, like setting the scaling to 100% and increasing the font size separately. This works to a certain degree, but doesn’t achieve the smoothness of 150% scale.

Now I have an interface that seems to be adjusted for my Grandma’s failing eye sight.

Issue 2: Microsoft loves Linux – My Feet

I think the whole MS loves Linux non-sense started almost the same time I bought a Macbook. So I never experienced what it meant. I now get what it meant, they wanted to sell Linux machines on their Azure cloud and that’s about it. Whatever contributions they must have done, should have centered around that goal. Because installing Linux in a Windows 10 machine is more difficult now than it was 5-8 years ago. Back then, it was just a matter of knowing how to partition disks and ability to choose the boot disk. Now I had to:

  • Create the bootable disk in a specific format for UEFI compatibility
  • Run a command to change the Storage access method from RST to ACHPI
  • Go into BIOS and disable Secure Boot, and change the ACHPI
  • Boot into Safe Mode so that the disk can work with changed storage
  • Finally boot into install disk and install.

What should have taken me 15-30 minutes took me 2 and a half hours.

Issue 3: Windows 10 is a Data Collection Pipeline

I am really horrified at the number of buttons that I had to turn off during the setup process and I still find as I use the system.

Issue 4: Application Management in Windows

Windows Store is a disaster, I don’t know what is installed in my system and what isn’t. There are tiles for games that aren’t installed and there is no way to differentiate between a tile of an installed application and a tile of a shortcut for an application that is recommended for install.

Issue 5: Why are tiles in Start Menu?

With 150% scale, it always feels like I am seeing only a part of the actual screen when the tiles come up. I don’t understand how MSFT understood that they should go back to the start menu but decided they will keep the tiles nonetheless. Either tile or don’t, consistency please, the mashup is nuisance and everybody should just learn to live with it.

Issue 6: Application Management in Ubuntu

So everybody has been bit by the centralised application distribution model. But tell me which serious software actually gets published? At least none of the ones I seem to use, even in the Mac OS ecosystem which started the stores concept. MS Office, Adobe Creative Suite, IDEs like PyCharm, Android Studio, Eclipse, Browsers… everything is package download from vendor sites. But that hasn’t stopped Canonical from creating Snap store. Now I seriously don’t know why there is a software centre and also a Snap Store and there is good old apt package manager.

The Good Bits in Linux

It’s been 24 hours of hell with the new system. Yet, not everything is bad.

  • Once up and running, I haven’t encountered Wifi or Bluetooth driver issues.
  • The Kernel seem to be pretty stable.
  • Grub has themes and OS selection is stylish.
  • Memory usage is pretty low
  • Font rendering and antialiasing is spot on. I think I just need some time to get used to 16:10 to 16:9 aspect ratio
  • The drivers for the Graphics card are in place
  • Tap to click and Natural Scrolling keep my UX is same across both my machines

Conclusion

After a frustrating 24 hours of the setting up the system. I have completely given up on Windows. As ususal Linux will be my primary OS. Will turn to Windows for recording tutorial videos or when collaboration required MS Office, or maybe games. If money wasn’t an issue, I don’t think I would have moved from Mac to PC at all. Things like 3 finger application switching, desktop switching are still etched in me. So, personally I prefer

  1. MacOS
  2. Ubuntu
  3. Windows… I would try my best not to boot this thing.

OSM Mapping with AI from Facebook

Facebook and HOT OSM have come together to use machine learning to make maps better. It looks like a mutually beneficial collaboration that will help OSM

“AI is supercharging the creation of maps around the world” is a very interesting development in OSM mapping. It perhaps will reduce the number of hours required to map areas by at least a couple of orders of magnitude.

Automatic feature extraction is nothing new of course. People have been doing it for decades. I should know, I spent two years mastering (supposedly) on Remote Sensing, the domain that deals with capturing information about the earth using satellites and extracting useful information from the captured data. The traditional remote sensing workflow uses techniques like Supervised Classification and Unsupervised Classification for feature extraction. The beauty of machine learning algorithms is that models can be built which can merge these two classification techniques and automate the process.

OSM community AFAIK stayed away from automated data generation mostly because the work involved in cleaning up bad data is more difficult and tedious than in creating new data. It looks like the collaboration from HOT OSM and the development of RapID (enhanced ID), the process put in place ensures that only quality data goes into the system preventing the issues of bad data from happening.

While it is all colourful for the OSM community, the question with profit seekers like Facebook is always what’s the catch? I tend to think there is no catch for the OSM community and that FB has decided to invest some money in the OSM so that they can use the fruits of community work for their benefits. It looks like a mutually beneficial arrangement. The community gets the resources from FB to create a better dataset and FB gets the data for its usage. I am sure FB will extract more value out of their investment in the long run and reap more benefits than the community. They will obviously have their own data layers on top of the OSM data, they will overlay all sorts of tracking data and enhance their capabilities as a surveillance machine. But all that is left to them and their corporate interests.

For now this is a good thing and doesn’t seem to do any harm to OSM.

The Social Media Dilemma

Woke up today morning and saw this piece on High Frequency Trading. I have already read Michael Lewis’Flash Boys and The Big Short which has kindled a strong dislike towards this HFT, not before dreaming about millions by doing it. When I hit this

We tend to understand the concept of actively using technology to achieve certain ends (exercising agency), but we find it harder to conceptualise the potential loss of agency that technology can bring. It’s a phenomenon perhaps best demonstrated with email: I can use email to exercise my agency in this world, to send messages that make things happen. At the same time, it’s not like I truly have the option to not use email. In fact, if I did not have an email account, I would be severely disabled. There is a contradiction at play: The email empowers me, whilst simultaneously threatening me with disempowerment if I refuse to use it.

my mind automatically went to one point of long time consternation – Facebook. With the recent reports of both Google and Facebook pushing for face recognition technologies and even people at MIT Technology Review are wondering what it means and how people take it, I am more spooked on the issue than I usually am.

The Dilemma

I am trying to setup something which requires inputs from a number of people intellectually, monetarily and personally. And one place where all these people could be reached out easily, coordinated, and followed upon is Facebook. There is no denying it. I have seen a lot of groups coordiante a lot of stuff over there before I deleted my account. It has become so ubiquitous in everyday lives of millions of people that people like me will be looked down as the ‘anti-vaxers’ of the digital connectivity. I am also finding it increasingly hard to explain why I don’t have account, more so when it comes to why I deleted it.

For most people the perceived threat of someone owning our identity in some distant place as one among the millions far outweighs the benefit of being ‘connected’ to friends and family.

The email empowers me, whilst simultaneously threatening me with disempowerment if I refuse to use it.

This sounds so much like

The Facebook empowers me, whilst simultaneously threatening me with disempowerment if I refuse to use it.

The compromise of having to let facebook’s scripts stalk me, monitor me, and feed me what it thinks is good for me in order for me to setup and run things I want to has resulted in a dilemma like no other.

Probable Ways Out

  • The old way: Restrain from going to FB and do things the old way. Which is call the first person you know, get to know about the next person and from him the next one. So on so forth. While it is entirely doable, it does involve retelling the same story multiple number of times.
  • Be the hypocrite: Let somebody else do the co-ordination on platforms like Facebook like celebrities do. I don’t think I am that wealthy or famous to hire a SoMe firm. It also involves being a hypocrite for using Facebook and calling it a bad thing.
  • One among the millions: Throw out all reservations and jump into FB. Let whatever hits the millions hit me.

All the three is equally straining for a variety of reasons. And is killing me.

 

People’s Mobile

Caution: This is a bit wild man.

Here is my idea.

Open a part of the spectrum used for mobile communication for public non-commercial use

Really!? What to do with it?

My plan is to run a community/volunteer/enthusiast/philanthropist sponsored mobile network which is free for everybody to use. That is, if you could bear the initial installation charges. If we could put enough towers in enough places, we could all talk to each other for free, send messages for free, access internet for free throughout our lives. And we can put an end to all this noise that projects messaging apps as technology disruption, we can engage in more serious pursuit that shout on the road internet for net neutrality, do away recharge coupons, payment gateways like PayTM, freeCharge etc., …… oh my, we can actually do away with a lot of unnecessary stuff.Then, we would have an open internet with all the bandwidth that the technology could offer -say “bye bye data plans”.

Wonderful!

Exactly. Isn’t this the best thing you have heard in a while.

Yay, I am the man from an utopian future.

Sadly this won’t happen – Money.

Net-neutrality. This is why.

This post is a reply to the previous post by me titled Why Net-Neutrality? or Why not tiered pricing?.

After a hour long discussion and debate with a couple of people, these are the things that tell me why net-neutrality is essentially a social issue and not a capitalist one. I am going to outlay the arguments that I made in the previous article and try to point out the flaws and get a better understanding.

1. Greed of companies like Netflix and YouTube

The flaw with the argument “since these services use the ISP’s pipe for their service, they owe a part of income to the ISP” is akin to arguing a runner ran through this road to win his marathon and thus owes a part of the prize to the local government.

The point that it is streaming that clogs the pipe is countered by the argument that it is precisely because of those services, the size of the pipe is getting bigger and definition of broadband internet getting revised to higher speeds.

2. The cost of usage

I have argued the one difference between electric company and ISP is the cost of usage. While an electric equipment doesn’t mean recurring income to the manufacturer, a web service gets an income. Thus there is cost involved in usage of internet services which the ISPs want a slice of.In short, the ISPs are greedy.

Because the initial cost for both the internet and electric connection are very similar. Replace the electric line with a coaxial or CAT line, replace the local transformers with switches and repeaters, replace the high tension substation transformers with the servers of ISP, we have almost exactly the same setup except only electricity is an utility and internet is not

3. More speed more money

I argued why would any ISP want to create a slow lane if they make more money for more speed / more volume. Simply put, why would there be a fast lane and a slow lane?

It seems that it is exactly for the same reason “more speed/volume more money”. In a situation when the ISP can more money why would he be willing to give out a connection involving the same initial costs for a low volume low income connection? The flaw here is assuming that volume/speed is limited and the ISPs are really worried about their precious resource from getting sucked up by the streamers. I should have known better.

Finally

I previously concluded,

I as a layman consumer is completely ok with the current state of affairs and don’t mind if the billing becomes usage based, or someone creates a fast-lane for those who pay more as long as the slow lane is at the mandated minimum speed, which is the present case anyways.

Though I still say the same, I would say it in fewer words – I want a neutral net, which is the present case anyways 🙂

Why Net-Neutrality? Or Why not tiered pricing?

Update: Kindly read the follow up article Net-neutrality. This is why.

I have genuine question. Why net neutrality? I know there are reams of pages of content answering the question, but I am asking from a completely lay man non-techie version of the question. Why? The only answer that I seem to get is – It protects the interests of the consumer.

Interest or Greed?

The current pricing model used by the internet service providers is something akin to an electric connection. They give you a line to use and bill based on the connection speed and the quantity of data or amount of time you spend online. The electric company doesn’t worry whether you use a geyser or lamp as long as you pay the bill. Similarly the present ISP models doesn’t care whether you stream YouTube or read Wikipedia. The analogy seems extremely apt, except for one difference – the cost of usage.

In case of an electric connection, you buy any equipment that you want to use and pay the cost of the hardware. The more you use the more the electric company gains, the equipment manufacturer gets nothing most of the time. Exceptions like cable TV exist, but again cable is another utility altogether and we will get into that shortly. But in case of the ISP, you buy services over its line which earns money for those services. In this case it is completely opposite; the ISP gains almost no money no matter how much you use any kind of service over their lines.
For example, using geyser on a daily basis could consume a lot of energy and prove to be great revenue for the electric company, whereas streaming movies 24×7 is going to benefit only Netflix of YouTube and does nothing to the ISP except choking their lines.

The ISPs this want to take a part of the money paid to the service as it also utilizes on their resource. The invention of thing like Fair Usage Policy (FUP) is a way to limit this choking of the lines.
So when companies like Google talk about net neutrality (against tired pricing), the real question is whether the company is really trying to protect the consumer or just trying to enjoy the free ride that it currently enjoys.

The Cable TV Pricing

From a consumer standpoint this is certainly against the interest because we don’t really want to pay more for certain services. It is time we visit the cable TV evolution and see what the consumer really has said and done about it.

Initially there were there was only one way of getting satellite TV – Using a Dish Antenna. The intial investment was huge. Then came cable operators, who charged a certain amount of fees for certain number of channels, no choices, all just paid an amount. After that came the Direct to Home (DTH) services replacing the cable TV operator with a corporate body. Until to this day we pay per channel, called packages. And the customer has hopped on merrily with some noises here and there. Nothing in the transition has affected the channels’ (services) revenue.

Applying the same route, we are currently in the cable operator state, where the ISP is giving us a cable, we pay an amount. If the model evolves into one which prices textual data, VOIP, and media streaming at different rates, like that of a channel based DTH pricing, and bills the consumer on what is consumed, a lot of people would might end up paying a lot more as well as a lot less. Just as I avoid all sports channels, I might avoid all VOIP usage. If I am programmer, most of my requirement is software package and code, there is no need for me to pay more. But people preferring YouTube to TV would pay a lot, and thus reduce revenue to business like Apple TV, Google TV, Netflix, etc., but taking away a share of the pie. So for me a consumer, paying on how much traffic I use seems as much legit as big truck paying more than car on a toll road, simply because I use more resource.

This argument so seems biased towards ISPs. What if things like the ones below, said in Wikipedia, happens?

From Wikipedia
Neutrality proponents claim that telecom companies seek to impose a tiered service model in order to control the pipeline and thereby remove competition, create artificial scarcity, and oblige subscribers to buy their otherwise uncompetitive services.

From HuffingtonPost
A fast lane would let some websites operate at higher speeds and essentially relegate many sites — likely smaller, less-moneyed ones — to a slower pace.

Where are the regulatory authorities who enforce mobile communication and telecommunication pricing? Why such an authority can’t be created and clear rules saying what could and couldn’t be charged drafted? Why can’t things like slow lanes be completely outlawed? Say we create a law which says Non-profit sites like Wikipedia, Khan Academy should never be charged (extra) even for streaming content and pricing can only be done on For-profit entities like YouTube and Netflix. Calls for making internet a utility are a step in this direction of regulation. Why would anyone really want to create a slow-lane if more speed and more data transfer results in more money for the utility provider?

So.,

The entire thing about raising hue and cry over differentiated pricing seems to be for only one reason – Greed.
The greed of the companies to make money. They pull us, consumers, into the issue by terrifying us that our bills would shoot sky high and ISPs will fleece consumer. If that is the real issue, I think it is better dealt by talking to (or even creating new) regulatory authorities, consumer protection agencies and other similar governmental organizations and certainly not by tactfully converting a purely capitalistic issue a social issue involving rights and freedom.

I as a layman consumer is completely ok with the current state of affairs and don’t mind if the billing becomes usage based, or someone creates a fast-lane for those who pay more as long as the slow lane is at the mandated minimum speed, which is the present case anyways.