Saturday, August 8, 2015

How to be more Productive - "The Productivity Pyramid"

Hey guys, 

So do you feel just like me that you’re very productive sometimes even if you have less time and sometimes you are lazy and unproductive even when you have a lot of time in hand? Cool. I was thinking about why was it happening to me many times and was able to understand a thing or two about how can we make ourselves more productive. 

Productivity isn’t about reading a few inspirational lines or articles and going back to your desk and forcing yourself to finish your task. The real problem isn’t that we don’t have enough time, the real problem is that we’re lazy. I wanted to attack the very problem of being lethargic. Why are we lethargic and feel lazy? That’s when unproductively strikes in. If you notice we are highly productive when we are energetic and excited to do the work. That’s natural. If we somehow make ourselves energetic and excited about the tasks at hand then being productive is just a very natural thing to happen. Rather than attacking Productivity, we should attack the problem of being lethargic.

I gave myself about 2 months to observe myself how I behave when I’m energetic and when I’m not energetic, then I started observing what did I do the day and the day before when I was energetic and was amazingly productive, and the other way around too. There was no single day when I was energetic yet unproductive. Energy and productivity just go hand in hand, and you too get done the tasks which aren’t that you aren’t excited about, some mundane tasks you know. This naturally helped me realize that the problem of not having time also is resolved when you’re energetic. All people have only 24 hours in a day but what really counts towards your success or failure is how you use them. Partially true. In a more correct way, what matters is for how many hours are you productive.. really really productive. If you’ve 4 hours of free time daily after finishing your school or work and if you aren’t even productive for 1 hour then what’s the use of that free time? It’s not going to help you progress in your life, to move ahead towards your goals. In comparison if you only have 2 hours after school or work and if you’re productive in those 2 hours then you’re far far ahead of the person who has 4 hours of free time. So, to cut short, having free time is beneficial but that’s not the only thing. How productive you’re in those hours? 

Be more productive and automatically you’ll feel you have a lot of time left in hand.

So how to be more productive? 

I have come up with a productivity pyramid after analyzing my own behavior every day for a period of 2 months, tracking everything. Take a look at the Productivity Pyramid below, having more time and being productive is just the tip of the iceberg (or a pyramid in this case). To build unto that level you have to first have a strong base of the other 3 layers which indirectly affect your mood, energy levels and ability to do any task - mentally or physically challenging.

Layer 1. Sound sleep

Sound sleep is the first layer and the base for all the other layers to build upon. It isn't a surprise that we feel fresh after a good sleep. There is a science behind it. Scientist have proved that sound sleep, a deep sleep is important to flush out the toxic chemicals from out brain. Cerebral Spinal Fluid does the task of flushing out the waste from the brain and guess what, this happens “only” when you’re asleep! Take a look at this interesting video :
You cannot fool your sleep for more than 2 days, you have to sleep everyday may be you can stretch 2 or 3 days, more than that is life threatening. So getting a good night’s sleep is important and the first step towards being productive. 

Layer 2. Healthy food

This is self explanatory. You are what you consume. Your body is what you feed to it. Eat healthy food, green leafy vegetables, carrots, spinach and lots of fruits. Eat 3-4 times a day if you can, don’t overstuff yourself. This is the 2nd most important thing after sleep. You cannot be productive on a hungry stomach or if your body lacks essential nutrients. 

Layer 3. Energy

Being energetic is the goal. How? An easy way to do it is do some exercise. Just jog or do some light workout. Exercise increases your blood flow to the muscles and is also effective in making your brain more attentive and focused. Also, remember jogging for a few miles isn’t a physical activity, it’s a mental feat too because your body is tired but your mind and will power is constantly telling you to take a few more steps. This increases your will power and confidence tremendously. I have been most confident and filled with positive energy when I've just finished a run. You don’t need to strain a lot, just run 10 mins if you’re a beginner - that helps too! You cannot be productive unless you bring some kind of physical activity into your daily routine. 

Layer 4. Time

This is finite for everyone. Everyone has been assigned a finite set of breaths we can take before we say goodbye to the 3rd rock from the Sun. So the question only is how to utilize whatever time we’ve got. If all the 3 layers of pyramid are rock solid, this layer will automatically would be stable, shine and would make you more productive. Productive time is directly a result of the basic 3 layers. 

These layers are strictly in that order. If you have to choose between sleep and food, choose sleep. If you’ve to choose between exercise and food, choose food and so on.

So now you know what you should do to be more productive. This isn’t a hack. This is a fundamental change in the way you look towards making your time more valuable & get more things done. It will take a few days or weeks to make the 3 layers of pyramid strong and include it in to your daily routine, but when it sets in, you would never feel that you aren’t productive or you have less time. Remember, the problem isn’t that you have less time, the problem is laziness and lethargy. Attack that and you’ll automatically be more productive and would be capable to achieve amazing things in your life. 

Opinions, comments, suggestions are welcome. 

Start building your productivity pyramid now!


Monday, May 25, 2015

Pinching Reminder ~ Execution beats novelty of ideas ~ Story of the start up "Zerodha"

Today morning, I heard the story of Indian startup Zerodha - a brokerage firm with discount brokerage fees and had a rush of mixed emotions. Reason? Zerodha started in 2010 based on a very simple and a basic thought that why should stock market brokerage firms charge more for trades of greater amount if the effort remains the same regardless of the trade amount?!! What pinches me is that I thought about the exact same thing 3 years before Zerodha started and did nothing. And I'm so sure that there are other dozens like me who thought of this even before I did and did nothing. Looking at the startup and BSE/NSE awards Zerodha has won it looks like the founder Kamath has done a stellar job. Zerodha today carries around Rs:5000 crores of trades daily, grossly $1 billion through it's solid 42000 customer base. I'm happy that finally such a brokerage firm is born and is helping lots of small investors to invest their money.

I am myself to blame for not acting on the thought I had. This wasn't a novel idea I knew very well even then and the founder of Zerodha also agrees, but there was a dire need of such a service. Need of the market beats novelty. I was actively trading in stock markets in 2007 through Sharekhan so I was aware that such an service would flourish. I wonder what stopped me. Self doubt. May be.

It is so important to learn the right lessons in life. Reading about the mind blowing success of Zerodha today morning at 4am and then not being able to sleep is a wonderful experience & a right lesson. Thinking for a couple of hours why I didn't take the next step is the right lesson. What stopped me is the right lesson. Introspection is a great learning.

Entrepreneurship isn't about novel ideas, but it's about passionate execution of simply ideas which the market needs direly.

Here are some interesting articles that would tell you more about Zerodha -

Friday, July 4, 2014

Why should you spend life working?

That was a question on Quora to which I saw an amazing answer worth reading by Keinosuke Johan Miyanaga.

This is one of the best things I've read in a long time, hope you find it equally thoughtful. 

You shouldn't. 
Live life to the fullest, and if it entails working or doing something you'd rather not be doing, then so be it. But sacrifices should be minimal, we should strive to find happiness in the present, and life should be the pursuit of what you love. Love can be many things. It can be your passion, your family, your community, your religion, your studies... Love is personal, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Never let anyone take it away from you, because they can't. It is also the most valuable thing you will ever have. 
Most successful people do not consider their jobs work. Jobs are overrated, and most of us already know that. In fact, they don't even consider their job a job. It's an investment of time and focus for a greater cause. For this greater cause to be work related would be marginalizing yourself. A promotion isn't much of a greater cause. Helping people. Building the future. Winning championships. Traveling around the world. These are greater causes. Work may be required here and there. These pursuits may grant you a job title or two along the way. But the job part is what they can quit at anytime.  
If you'd rather quit but can't, you're a slave being paid for your time. I have the greatest respect for those in these types of jobs, but I am just saying what they already know. I respect them all for their sacrifices, not for their success.
Jobs devalue people. This is a fact. When money changes hands, it defines how much something is worth. If I buy an apple for 1 dollar, that apple is now 1 dollar. 2 people agree, and the paper trail proves it. Say I buy 1 hour from you for 10 dollars. Now your time is 10 dollars. But how much is your time really worth? 
Prostitution is illegal because it devalues sex and people. Serving the army can't be rewarded financially because it would devalue service and lives. That is why military contractors are expensive. They cannot be compensated with honor. Slavery was abolished because no one is worth less than anyone else. Except, now we could compare our incomes if we wanted to. But we don't. We'd rather not talk about money because it devalues us. We understand there is no shame or pride in what we make. Talking about income would put one of us over the other, so instead we choose to keep it private to remain equal. 
When something is priceless, pricing it devalues it. No matter what the price, it is still less than it's true value. Your time is one such priceless asset. 
The solution is simple. You just need to get more out of work than money to make up for the difference. This difference must be priceless, and at this point there are not many options. In fact, there are only two: 1) Do what you love. Whatever you make doing it, you will be happy with it -- happy not because you appreciate the money (you're okay to do that also), but for how it allows you to spend your time. And, 2) do it for what you love. This entails sacrifice. It's a negative for a positive. These things happen especially as we gain responsibilities, but your goal should always be to get back to #1. Never give up. Never be in denial. Seek those who share your cause.  
Either way, love is the answer, which is so often the case.
In most first world countries we talk about how much we enjoy our jobs or why we are stuck in them. We hardly talk about how much we make. I say we are moving in the right direction.
Now get back to work!

Hope you like it. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

My response to the UK's criticism on India's Mars Orbiter mission by ISRO

If you think that everyone is proud of India for being ambitious and sending the Mangalyaan - Mars Orbiter Mission(MOM) into the space in Nov 2013, then you better read the following articles first filled with racism and egoism.

The Economist How can poor countries afford space programme?
The CS Monitor India's Mars Mission - worth the cost?
CNNIs India's Mars mission the latest escalation in Asia's space race?

India's Mars Orbiter Mission, something that not only India but the whole mankind should be happy and excited about has sadly faced some illogical views from questionable intellectuals across the world. But I'm happy to observe that none of them belongs to any scientific community of any country.

Let's get some facts together.

The aid of US$343 million from UK is peanuts. 

India is a $1.5 trillion economy. The aid of US$343 million from UK is peanuts. The profit one single UK company Unilever makes from its India business is $3.4 billion that is 10 times that aid. (Source: Wikipedia Hindustan Unilever )  I suspect the inter-country aid business can be related to business contracts one country gets from another, a lot goes into politics that the common man, including the poor UK taxpayers don't know about. I mean seriously, do you think $343 million, a meager INR 450 crore is a big amount for India?

Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh spends more than INR 7000 crores on her statues and nobody gives a fuck, India sends a space mission for less than 10% of that amount and everybody is making a fuss!! By the way, 2G scam in India was INR 1,70,000 crore, making some math we can send more than 300 such Mars missions by that money!

In fact, India had rejected the British aid in June, 2012 saying it's peanuts. Don't believe me? Source: Read this article from the famous UK news media : India tells Britain: We don't want your aid - Telegraph. How about this - India itself has allocated donation of US $1.3 billion in 2013-14 to Bhutan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and various other poor countries for reestablishing and restructuring them thereby strengthening our Asian ties and influence. This is growing by around 10% every year.

All this to make you realize that you are talking about a paltry amount of money even by Indian standards.

Why space missions are important?

In 1970, a Zambia-based nun named Sister Mary Jucunda wrote to Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger, then-associate director of science at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, in response to his ongoing research into a piloted mission to Mars. Specifically, she asked how he could suggest spending billions of dollars on such a project at a time when so many children were starving on Earth.

He replies back with a response letter (If you want to read his full response letter, you can read it here: Why Explore Space? ). To keep it short, the point he made was, science is an investment that takes time to bear fruits, but when it does, it's a big leap towards the better future of mankind.

He also sends a photograph of Earth taken from the Apollo-8 mission. This photograph is also my personal favourite. This is a real pic guys, this is our beautiful mother Earth. In this photo I see my dear home in the wild darkness of space. This photo tells me who has gifted me this life. Who I am indebted to the most?

Who I am indebted to the most ?

You have seen a sunrise, now look at the Earthrise above :)

What people misunderstand? 

Here's another thing that is important to mention. People forget that ISRO is in the business of launching satellites. And it's a boon to many developing countries because ISRO launches satellites at 10% of the cost that of NASA or Europe. A successful mars mission will deepen the trust in ISRO & it's command over the space technologies.

How space science has helped India to save lives?

In 1999, when India was struck by the Odisha cyclone (also called Paradip cyclone) more than 10,000 people died, homes and livelihood of more than 45,000 were destroyed. Source: Wikipedia: 1999 Odisha cycloneIndia didn't had enough number of satellites in 1999 to detect this cyclone. Fast forward this by 14 years. On Oct 13th 2013, yes last month, a cyclone hit Indian east coast again with equal speed and vigour (Source: )  We had enough information about this and more than 90,000 people were moved and only around 21 people died. Morons, do you have a price tag for this too?

Real Reason why India is sending the Mars Orbiter Mission

So if all this doesn't convince you & you don't care about the Indian lives saved, we are doing this Mars mission for the following reasons..
  1. India needs more land for more slums and drains. We deeply believe Mars is going to be useful for that.
  2. We want to invade and colonize for a change. We didn't invade any country in our history of 2000 years, because our aims are high. We don't bother about paltry things like invading a country. We believe in invading planets. 
  3. We almost have all the religions and castes in the world. We are looking for new minority (Martians) to treat badly.
  4. We deeply believe in "Astrology-applied-to-marriage" science and especially how Mangal (Mars) sitting in the Kundli affects the marriage prospects of young Indians. We want to see whether there are some Martians too having problems in their marriage because of the positioning of the Earth.     

Peace! :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to set up Git and GitHub on Mac in 10 minutes

Git is one of the fastest and pretty good SCM (software configuration management) tool that has been used extensively by everyone since a couple of years. There are fundamental differences in the way Git as a SCM operates but that's not in the scope of this article. Click Here for an awesome crash course in Git if you are interested to learn more about it. 

This tutorial will tell you how you can use GitHub. The steps are:

1. Install Git on your computer, in this case Mac. 
2. Create an account on If you are a developer and serious about giving your GitHub link to the recruiters then coin a sober name. Rest of the process is straight forward.
3. Create a repository.
4. Open your terminal. Connect the folder on your Mac where you store/will store your code to a reporsitory in your GitHub account. 
5. Commit/Push the code to your GitHub account! 
Voila! It's done! Okay, not yet. 

Let's take a detailed look at each of the steps.. 

1. Install Git on your computer

Rush to with the speed of light. Download Git for whatever OS you are using. In case of Mac it would be a *.dmg file. Double click - > Install it. Done!

2. Create an account on
Well, this is pretty easy guys. Remember to give a proper name to your account. If your name is common one, most probably the easy to remember combinations of name & surname would be taken, use your imagination to create a good one. - is allowed so you can try firstname-lastname. Once done it will look something like this.. 

3. Create a GitHub repository
Think of a repository as a top level package for your code. You can have multiple repositories with a single GitHub account. You commit your code into one of your repositories in your GitHub account. Click Repositories tab on the profile page of your's and just follow the instructions. Select the public repo option as the private repositories cost money. Once done the screen will look like this.. I have erased my personal details from the screenshots..

Here, helloworld is the name of the repository. It tells you how to set up the repository through the command line and that's what we are going to do now..

 4. Connect the folder on your Mac where you store/will store your code to a repository in your GitHub account.

Just follow the following screenshots that I did. In my case my code is in the folder github/repositories/helloworld

I have scrambled my personal details.. 

Goto the folder where you have your code/files to store on GitHub. And run command git init as shown below

You can see that we have added the files that we need to push to out GitHub repo using command git add *.txt

Once GIT is set up properly, you will get to see .git file created. This is a hidden file so you need to use ls -a . Then you can commit the files you want. I have only once file for demo purpose.  -m is for message and my message is "first commit ever :)" 

 And then once we commit the files, we can push the files to the GitHub. Remember that when you do commit the files are still on your local machine. Hey but wait, what's that error it shows.. it says No configured Push destination. ! Yes, we have not yet connected out GitHub account & repo to this folder. Time to do just that..  use the command given in the repo screen shown in step 3.

Once that happens, you can do the next step that is to finally push the files to remote location.

That's all!  Simple, ain't it? :)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Wake Up!!

        There are not many moments when my eyes are wet. This post is inspired by a 3 minute short film "Wake Up!" made by Kostas Karydas. There is a subtle message in it that everyone should understand and feel. In fact I think there are a couple of messages in that and everyone would probably draw a different and a personal message out of it. That's the beauty of this short film. Before any delay watch the short film "Wake Up!" below, don't just watch it, stop what you are doing, maximize your screen and feel it !!

          Understanding and living life when you're still young is so important. Most of the times, life isn't about what we are worried about or our future goals. Life is about what is happening to you right now, what all happened to you since today morning? We get entangled in our future goals that we forget to enjoy the fresh fruit that the nature has placed right in front of us right now. There are so many great men who have time and again told us that happiness lies along the way and not at the end of the road. It's the journey that gives us happiness more than the end - of course you would be happy at the end if you have achieved what you wanted, but was the journey cherishing? You may achieve what you want when you're say 50 or 60 years old but if you haven't enjoyed chasing that goal, if you haven't laughed, loved, cheered, pursued your passions, loved, made great friends or haven't lived your life in the pursuit of that goal, then should you really be happy? I don't know. Would I be? No. Journey is where you spend your most time in, make it beautiful. Chase your goals, but don't forget to do all the things that the old man felt he will do when he's 30 again - laugh, play, love, dance & let me add my own personal favourites - read & travel more! 

          Another silent message I could draw from the above film is "You're always young!" If you can laugh, play a little, express love and care then are you really old? May be you won't be able to dance because of your weak bones, but if can do rest of the things, then aren't you equally young? Answer this - what makes you young? :) You are young. I remember my dad saying on his 60th birthday - I'm now 60 years young! 

Youth lives inside you. Awaken it. 

Wake up!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fundamental stock market investing - Analyzing companies with CANSLIM technique

We need to analyze the companies before we invest in them, and the factors we are considering for this analysis will be robust and will be helpful in long term investing. I read an article some time back on Economic Times and I am taking some part of it here that may help you.
One tool that can help in identifying the right company is an investment strategy called CANSLIM. Developed by William O’Neil , the acronym actually stands for a very successful investment strategy. This strategy has been proven and has yield good returns in the past. CANSLIM consists of seven components. They are mainly quantitative parameters to be applied while selecting any company for investment. Each letter of the word CANSLIM denotes one parameter to be analysed in depth. They are:
C – Current quarterly earnings per share
It is important to choose stocks that have grown on a quarterly basis. For example, a company’s earnings per share (EPS) figures reported in this year’s April-June quarter should have grown relative to the EPS figures for that same three-month period of the previous year.
The percentage of growth a company’s EPS should grow by is subjective , but the CANSLIM system suggests around 18-20 percent. This suggests that basically all of the high performance stocks show an outstanding quarter-on-quarter growth.
A – Annual earnings per share
These figures should show meaningful growth over the past five years. CANSLIM stresses on the importance of annual earnings’ growth. The system indicates that a company should have shown good annual growth (annual EPS) in each of the last five years.
N – New things
The third criterion for a good company is that it has recently undergone a change, which is often necessary for a company to become successful. It could be a new management team, a new product, a new market, or a new high in stock price.
S – Shares outstanding
This should be a small and reasonable number. CANSLIM investors are not looking for older companies with a large capitalisation.
L – Leaders:
Buy market leaders and avoid laggards. In each industry, there are always those that lead, providing great gains to shareholders, and those that lag behind In CANSLIM analysis, distinguishing between market leaders and market laggards is of importance.
I – Institutional sponsorship
Buy stocks with at least a few institutional sponsors who have better-than-average recent performance records. Explore all the factors that should be considered when determining whether a company’s institutional ownership is of high quality.
M - General market
The market will determine whether you win or lose. So learn how to discern the market’s current direction, to interpret the indices (price and volume changes), and actions of the individual market leaders.The final CANSLIM criterion talks about market direction. When picking stocks, it is important to recognise the type of market.
My thoughts...
The first two parts of the CANSLIM system are logical steps employing quantitative analysis by identifying a company that has demonstrated strong earnings both quarterly and annually. By rigorously following them you have a good basis for a good stock selection.
I personally feel that the CANSLIM has the S and L factors contradicting eachother. S factors tells us that the shares outstanding should be low, that mean it’s not concentrating on large companies but the L factors says that the company should be a leader in its segment, but hows that possible practically? How can a small company be a market leader? Take examples of market leaders of sectors, Infosys, Larsen and Toubro, Reliance, DLF etc all are market leaders but are huge companies. Anyways, I would rather give importance to S factor than the L factor because we should concentrate upon choosing the future market leaders rather than the current market leaders. If we modify the L definition a little bit then perhaps a better CANSLIM will come forward.
My changes to L: Let L mean to choose the future market leaders, rather than current market leaders. We can track the growth of market capitalisation of the companies which can give us an insight on this.
After you invest following this strategy and if the price falls and you become restless then again analyze the stocks you purchased and thereby again draw the conclusions whether you want to hold it or sell it or want to buy more.
Please post comments on what you think about CANSLIM.  
Disclaimer: Anything I write about investing should not be taken as my financial advice, these are just my personal opinions. Stock market investing is risky stuff.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How to install JDK 7 and set up JAVA_HOME in Mac OS X Mountain Lion

The last 2 hours have been exciting! Thanks to the complexities involved in setting up the Java development environment on Mac OS X (10.8.2) code named as Mountain Lion (latest as of today). 

Apple did something nasty after Oracle took over the SUN Microsystems, Apple announced some months back that they are not going to support the further releases of the JDK. As a result the Mac OS now doesn't come with the JRE installed by default. We have to manually install it. If you are a Java developer simply JRE won't suffice, you need to install the JDK (Java Development Kit).

Okay, that's the crappy story behind why this complexity arise now and was not present earlier. Installing JDK 7 is easy on Mac OS X. (Installing JDK 6 is impossible as of now on Mac OS X Mountain Lion, I've done some reading on this and I couldn't find a way - the main reason is Oracle has not released Mac OS compliant JDK 6 installation. If you know installing JDK 6 on Mac OS X, please post it in the comments). The Oracle guide for installing JDK 7 on Mac OS X is pretty clean so I'm not wasting my time in writing something that is already clean and clear. JDK is installed system-wide and you cannot install it on user basis. You also need admin access for this installation. Installing JDK also installs JRE on your system. 

To summarize, the steps are:

1. Go to and download the appropriate .dmg file (for me it was jdk-7u9-macosx-x64.dmg). 

2. The file will take some time to download, it took me like 30 mins. The file will be downloaded in the Downloads folder, can be accessed through Dock. Double click the .dmg file and a Finder window will appear with a box - double click it too and the installation will start. That's it!! A confirmation window will appear when installation is done.

It's that simple! 

What sucks is setting up of $JAVA_HOME!! 

It took me more than an hour to figure this out! It's also because I'm pretty new to Mac OS. 

Okay so where is JDK exactly installed on Max OS? It's here: /Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.7.0_09.jdk

And where is the bin folder of the JDK, it's here:

And where the JAVA_HOME should point to? 

JAVA_HOME should point to the home directory and not the bin folder. 

How to set up JAVA_HOME ? The real reason I'm writing this post...

Step 1: 
Check out whether you already have set up $JAVA_HOME and $PATH. Remember the letters should be capital. Open the terminal and type the following commands
echo $PATH 

These will print out the current values of $PATH and $JAVA_HOME. You would probably have some value for your $PATH but it will be blank for $JAVA_HOME. 

Step 2:
$PATH and $JAVA_HOME should be present in your .profile file. This file is present in your home folder - it is the place where your terminal opens by default. If .profile file is not present you have to create it! This is the trickest part but it is simple!! Following are the steps:
  • Open your terminal and type the command vi .profile This will open the .profile file and if not present will create it. 
  • Paste the following in the file

export JAVA_HOME;

export PATH;
          • Write & quit the file by typing :wq   

          Now, try to see the values of the $PATH and $JAVA_HOME as specified in the Step 1. In my case they show the following values: 

          echo $PATH

          echo $JAVA_HOME

          Step 3:
          Verifying everything. Just once command will verify everything: 

          $JAVA_HOME/bin/java -version

          If this command gives you the Java version that you installed, then you are good to go! In my case it prints out
          java version "1.7.0_09"

          That's it!! Wasn't it simple? :)

          Sunday, September 30, 2012

          Guidelines, Tips and Tricks for buying a used car in USA

          If you are looking to step into U.S.A anytime soon, or have already stepped I would strongly suggest to get a car right away! 

          Why is it so important to get a car in U.S.A? 

          A car in U.S.A is not a luxury but a necessity. The main reasons are lack of proper public transport except some cities/downtown areas like that of NY/San Francisco. Speaking in general, the frequency of buses is less and also the routes the buses take are strange, I need to take 2 buses even if I have to travel only 6 miles. One more reason is the the way cities are spread across a diameter of more than 30 miles! It's difficult to provide a good public transport covering such a large area considering the costs, so I don't really blame the transport authorities, may be they are doing their best.

          Yeah, I wanna buy a car, what's Next? 

          First things first, answer all the following questions honestly, 
          1. What would be the major use of the car - work commute? Pleasure? luxury? Long distance travels?  
          2. Your budget? You can get a car from $2000 to $20,000 and above! Decide how much money you can lock into your car, this also goes along with for how much time are you thinking to use your car?

          Once you answer these two questions honestly, you will never go wrong with your final decision on the car you select to buy. 

          There are 2 options:
          1. Buying from a private party(some individual who wants to sell his own car)
          2. Buying from a dealer

          Both have there own pros and cons, let me explain,
          Buying from a dealer can be expensive by about $1000 to $3000 more than what you would get the same car from a private party, depending on the market value of the car. But he may give you additional benefits like warranty for 1 year or more so you return with a peace of mind. Usually dealers do a thorough check of the engine/history/condition of the car before buying a used car and putting it on sale so there is a little more surety on the condition of the car. 

          If you ask me personally, there are many many honest individual sellers out there and I think dealers rip you off! And they also rip off the seller of the car! They are there to do business! They may sell you a not-so-good car, so do not trust them blindly. I bought the car from an individual and this post is written mainly for people who are buying from a private party. If you want to go with buying from a private seller then you must consider the two best sources that I have found during my research for a used car:

          3. Tell all your friends that you are going to buy a car!! You never know a friend of your friend is looking to sell one! Put up a ad at your workplace. Look out for "For Sale" piece of paper on the cars on your streets and a few around your house - you may get lucky!

          Even though Craigslist has many fake people/ads and you meet funny people but still as far as buying used cars goes, the honest ads vastly outnumber the fake ones. There are some tricks to search genuine used car ads on Craigslist - look out if the seller has displayed the following things in his post.. 

          1. His contact no./any phone no. -if he is a genuine seller and really wants to sell his car he would like potential buyers to call him up!
          2. Details and pics of his car - he will post a few pictures of his car as well as information of his car, the way it feels to ride, the way he has babied it, that it has stored in the garage etc etc all the things that tells us about the car, because if he really want to sell the car, he will interest the buyer. 
          3. He will mention the price he is expecting.

          If you don't find any one of the above missing, then the seller is not serious and probably you shouldn't waste your time.

          How to recognize a good deal? 

          1. Honda & Toyota and Nissan command a good resale price. They hold their value pretty well compared to Ford/Chevy any other brand because they cost less to maintain, give good fuel mileage and also the parts are cheaper  (but don't take this too seriously, the parts of Ford can be cheaper as its a USA home production) and many times the difference is not big. They are considered no-hassle cars, but this doesn't mean none of them have issues, it depends from car to car and your luck plays here. 

          2. If a seller is asking you say $5500 for a Honda Civic of 2004 with 120k miles on it, then before thinking the price is ridiculous visit and get the fair and good price of the car. KBB and Nada are two places which will give you an idea of how much should you pay for the used car. Once you know the range of the market value of the similar cars you are in a better place to negotiate with the seller. Use the Good price/Fair price. I have seen Honda Accords and Ford Mustangs trade above the good price because they are so rare in the used markets and they get sell quickly!! - at least in LA where I live. But it all depends on how the seller has maintained the car - if the seller has really taken care of the car, always garaged, has owed it from a long time or is a single owner till now, it makes sense to pay a couple of hundred dollars more than the kbb. My point is use kbb to make sure you are not paying extraordinarily high for some car, also if it is too cheap compared to the kbb, something is wrong with the car! If something is too rosy to be true, probably it is!!

          3. Check the regular maintenance schedule specified by the company of the car you are considering, you can find the schedule here. You may want to negotiate if you have to do some regular maintenance work soon, say like Honda Civic requires changing of the timing belt at 120k miles and if you are buying a Honda Civic that has already done 115k miles, may be you want to consider the cost of changing the timing belt to get deducted from the price seller is quoting. Also check if the specified regular maintenance has been done till the date. If there is any maintenance work that has been done on the car, ask the owner if he has any receipts to prove it. You will never know if he has really replaced some parts/oil if he isn't able to provide the receipt for it.

          4. Get the VIN number of the car from the seller over the phone/internet before you visit the seller - this is important! VIN (Vehicle Identification Number) is the unique no. assigned to every car by the manufacturing company. There are companies (even DMV - Department of Motorized Vehicles) that maintain the car history for every car and to get these report you need the VIN no. Get the carfax report and Autocheck report for the car you are considering. Autocheck has a one month plan for around $45 that allows you to run unlimited history reports. Carfax is expensive- around $30 for each car report but is detailed and gives correct/latest information, so its important to get the carfax report of the car you are serious about. There are many deals around and you can get a carfax report for like $6 per report - just Google about it. In the history report check out if the car has gone through any accidents/if an accident is reported then probably it was a major accident because an insurance claim has been done for that event and hence it has appeared in the history report. History report will also give you the history of previous owners and the miles each one has driven and also their ownership duration - you can here make out if the seller has owned the vehicle from a long time or has bought it just some days back and selling it to make money. There are flippers around and they don't thoroughly know what they are selling, it doesn't mean the car is bad, but remember that they are doing business here, unless they earn profit they aren't going to sell it to you. Genuine car sellers aren't looking for any profit, they just want to get rid of the car for a fair price. Look out if the car has been a lease car/rental car - it is not advisable to buy such a car because rental cars are driven by hundreds of people with different driving habits - not good for the engine life. So, be cautious about such cars. Look out if the report says anything about the theft, if this car has been stolen even some years back, you may want to get more information about this from the seller or if he denies it may be you want to get more information about this from local DMV in your city - but do not ignore this!! 

          Note: there are some strange people who think giving out the VIN no. will do any harm, but let me tell you there is no harm in giving out the VIN no. to the potential buyers. If the seller tells you that he will give the VIN no. only when you visit him, make an attempt to explain him why, if he still disagrees, you should not consider visiting him unless he is very close to where you live/work. 

          4. Get the car checked from the mechanic for the condition of the engine and integral parts. FireStone does a visual check which costs around $20 but I would recommend a detailed check (say 80 or 100 point check) through some experienced local mechanic (check yelp reviews to find who is good around). You will come to know about the possible wear and tear of the various parts and you will get an edge in negotiating the price of the car. If there is a serious damage to the engine or the repair costs are above $1000 you may want to drop the deal, ask the mechanic frankly that if he feels that this car will have periodic repairs? During one of my visits to Firestone, the mechanic missed out that the engine doesn't accelerate properly when the accelerator is pressed down during his test drive and I was so concerned about anything related to engine that I asked him to take the test drive again with I sitting next to him. In that round I asked him to accelerate fast and yeah he felt it! When we came out he frankly suggested me he can work on the spark plugs/other stuff that may improve the condition but not totally remove the problem as it was the inherent engine problem because of the way engine was  used till now and frankly suggested me not to go with the car! Driving to the mechanic and spending a hundred dollars can save you thousands of dollars, lot of time and headache!

          Closing the deal..

          Now that you have finalized buying the car, don't make any delay in paying the seller because if the car is really good then there are others waiting in line if you don't get it. And who the hell has time to go through the whole process again to find a good deal!! Bah! But here are a few things you should make sure

          1. Title of the car is the piece of paper that tells us who is the current owner of the car. Check if the title is in the name of the owner and if there is any other name listed along with the person from whom you are buying the car. Say if his wife's name is also included in the title, then the car belongs to both him and his wife and you need to get signatures from both. So, before you pay the money meet in person to all the owners of the car and make sure they all want the car to be sold.

          2. Smog check: It is mandatory by law that the seller does a smog check before selling the car. Look out for coupons in you local area, it costs around $30-50. The smog inspection center will hand over to you the smog certification if your car passes the test. You need to show this certification to the DMV while transferring the title to your name. 

          3. Most of the private sellers ask for hard cash. That is okay unless the sum is too large like more than $7-8k. The seller has to fill in your name in the section of buyer of the vehicle on the same title and also write your address. Then all the current owners have to sign the title. Only after your name is mentioned on the title and all the current owners sign the title place the money on his hand. Remember, there have been cases when the buyer is looted at the time of payment and also physically injured. Tips - select a public place like starbucks to pay the money, take a muscular friend with you, be close to the police station if possible and get the contact no. of the nearest police station. I exchanged the money right in front of the bank from where I withdrew the money. A better place would be inside the bank next to the security with a gun! lol..just kidding :) Once the money is being paid, get the title, check whether he has signed the transfer of title section, I guess every owner has to sign twice, and walk home happily. 

          4. The seller has to intimate DMV that he has sold his car in 5 days from date of buying the car(transaction) and buyer has to then visit the DMV and carry out the title transfer process in 10 days from the date of buying the car (transaction). Now-a-days the seller can do everything online, but you need to visit to the DMV for signing the title transfer form, submit the smog check doc and pay the title transfer fee. You need to register the car with the DMV if the registration period has expired. You need not take your car to DMV for title transfer! I didn't! You need not have car insurance for title transfer! I didn't! 

          More tips!

          1. Search someone close to your area, it will save you a lot of pain of travelling to the car owner only to find the car is not worth buying. Make sure you have a friend who has a car and you can reach the seller immediately. If you plan to visit all the cars on weekends then you may miss out all the good deals. All the good cars are sold in a single day!! Yes!! I have missed out many good deals just because I couldn't physically reach the seller in time!! And it is important to test drive the car yourself before buying it.

          2. Meet all the owners of the car at least once and get the confirmation from them that they are willing to sell the car. My friend encountered a guy who claimed that his girlfriend owned the car and she will sign the title and let him handle the finances. My friend denied it saying he will hand over the money only to the person who is listed on the title and to no one else - and he was saved because of that! The car turned out to be a stolen one and the person was someone who flipped cars. 

          3. History reports don't give you all the information. There are tricks to hide things from appearing in the history reports. I have come across the car whose history report tells me that it had only a single owner since the car was first sold but in reality there were 3 owners of the car! And the seller told this to me himself! 

          4. Look out for the clean title, especially if you are looking to sell the car again. If a car is involved in an accident and the repairs of the car is more than the market value of the car then the insurance company marks it as salvaged title. Salvaged title cars have had serious accidents in past and there could be structural/physical damage to the engine which may crop up anytime! Strictly stay away from salvaged title cars which are newer, because when the cars are new they have good market value and still then the car was titled salvaged means that there was a serious accident with damage more than the market value of the car. 

          5. I would stay away from cars who have been in accident. When an accident is reported on the car history, you don't know whether that was just a small incident in the parking lot or a major accident on the freeway! Every seller tells it was a small fender bender. In more than 150+ posts I have visited on craigslist while buying my car, I have never met any seller who told the accident was major one.

          6. Give more importance to mileage than the age of the car. I would go with a 2003 model with 90k miles rather than 2005 model with 120k miles on it. But that's just me. 

          7. Check a few videos on youtube what to look out for during the car inspection. 

          8. You can find killing deals in car auctions! But not everyone can buy at car auctions. You may need to find someone who has a license to buy from auctions and buy from him paying him some money for his help. But the drawback is you cannot take it to the mechanic and test it, even sometimes you cannot even test drive the vehicle (that's what I have heard). Sometimes, all you can do is just kick the tire! So, its all luck! 

          Happy shopping!

          Sunday, March 25, 2012

          Searching a song by singing into the search engine!!

          I was thinking about a song to search but I didn't know its lyrics so that I can search it through Google. And then I thought of this - can't we search songs singing back into the search engine? Wouldn't it be nice to search music, songs, any kind of audio using an audio input? And the search began to satisfy myself on this question..

          I searched internet for any resources/pointers I can get to any such search engines already built or any papers/thesis/reasearch work going on in this area and my search brought me to this paper: "Music Search Engines: Specification and Challenges". And I was enlightened by the research going on in this area since 1999. After searching a bit more I finally found out one website where we can search a song we want by singing or even humming into it! Check this website: Midomi is a wonderful search engine that searches audio/music/songs using an audio input! You can not only sing into it, but it is effective even in my very case when you don't know the exact words/lyrics - you can search by humming into it! Or even just by whistling into it!! Isn't it amazing?

          It doesn't just limit you to that. They claim to have a very good database of songs of all languages and genre but I must say they aren't strong on songs other than English language. But one interesting thing is that you can record the song for yourself and that gets added in their database. After that, when someone else searches the same song by singing/humming/whistling into their search engine, it produces your song!! At Midoni, you can create your own songs by singing into it and then get discovered by others who search similar audio/song.

          To those retards who are thinking this is paid review or something like that ~ it is not! I was fascinated by the idea and so happy to find such a search engine already built that I couldn't help it sharing it with my readers. There may be other search engines doing the same and probably better and I would be very happy to know & use them. Happy singing!! :)