Moving to Ghost

After a long run with Wordpress1, this blog is finally switching to Ghost. Why Ghost? Here are three sweet reasons:

  • Markdown. Probably the single biggest reason by far. Markdown has won the format war for me and it's the easiest and most portable text editing format out there. Wordpress support for Markdown feels like an afterthought at best but Ghost has it as a first class citizen.
  • Ghost is a non-profit. This is another biggie. I'd like to have a simple, stable solution that'll last for the next 10 years. And where the CEO will never say things like he wants to be the next web platform.
  • Ghost is built in Node. Which is far more hackable for me nowadays than Wordpress PHP.

Here's three things I'll miss:

  • Comments: this is the biggie. Ghost doesn't have comments inbuilt, and the best solution seems to be Disqus, whose UI I abhor for some reason. This site hasn't been particularly comment-heavy ever2, so this is not a pressing concern.
  • Hosting: I used to use Wordpress.com hosting and even though it was expensive, there wasn't a worry of managing servers or backups yourself. I've now created a Digital Ocean account.
  • The Publicize plugin. I liked the notifications being posted to Twitter every time I posted & that'll not happen anymore.

A nod of the hat to the following projects who made this happen:

  • wp2ghost: An importer from Wordpress XML.
  • Vapor: A great theme that I instantly liked.

Why not move entirely to a static site generator like Jekyll? While that might yet happen, I like friendly UIs a bit much because it lets me focus on the writing.

Things left to do:

  • Set up redirection for old blog posts.
  • Set up comments. I'm leaning towards Facebook comments for now. Implemented Disqus despite its ugliness because the other options seem worse. Facebook comments aren't responsive, and Google+ is just meh.
  • Set up Cloudflare for DDOS protection. This is necessary, not a luxury anymore for this site.
  • Move code to Github. Here!
  • Bring back old comments. Surprisingly not as hard as I thought. Disqus has a very robust import system.
  • Move to SSL default. Slight weirdness, but Cloudflare has a Force SSL Page rule.
  • Send email via Mailgun Very easy.
  • Bring back images on older posts.
  • Correct links to old writing posts.

I'll keep updating this post as the adventure begins again.

  1. This blog used to work with B2, Wordpress' predecessor.

  2. Except for a few articles about the dastardly Relief India Trust.

Android & iOS

I've been a long-time iOS user, and recently when my two-year old iPhone 5 fell down and broke its screen, I bought an interim Android device and used it for around two months. I took notes during these 2 months on what's better about Android & what's worse, and these are my impressions. I now own and use an iPhone 6 Plus.

Caveats:

  • The device I bought was the Micromax Unite 2 which costed me ₹7300. The device (iPhone 5) I compared it with costed me close to eight times that. This should be on the top of everybody's head. Having said that, I tried to ignore device quirks and am mostly just commenting on the OS differences.
  • I had iOS 8 on the iPhone for around 2 weeks before I broke it. The Micromax device had Android 4.4.2, and not Lollipop, so I'm not comparing the latest versions. From what I've seen of Lollipop, it looks much nicer.
  • I'm a longtime Apple user. My first Apple device was a Mac Mini in 2006, and I've used only Macs since. My first iPhone was the iPhone 4, and I've only used iOS since. A lot of these impressions can be just because I'm used to the way Apple does things.

Having gotten that out of the way, let me start with the areas where I found Android was significantly better:

  • Widgets make the home screen look much nicer. I didn't use many widgets, but I appreciated the ability to have them. I liked the Timely Alarm clock widget in particular.
  • Passwords are not asked so frequently for app installs, which is very nice. This was one of the constant irritants on iOS. Having Touch ID mitigates this a lot though, because it's much easier to thumb than type in a complex password. The Google App install experience is way better, with detailed time remaining sliders in the notification centre and a lot more info.
  • Phone seems to shut down & start up way faster. While I don't do this much, the difference is pretty amazing.
  • Contacts integration with Gmail contacts is much better & smoother, especially the option to find and consolidate duplicates. Somehow it doesn't work as well on the iPhone.
  • The Dialer app is much better looking & far more functional, but seems a tad slower. Frankly, I hate how the iOS7+ Dialer looks like. Plus receiving location information ("Calling from Hyderabad") for unknown calls is great & Truecaller integration makes this even better.
  • I installed the Google Now launcher & having Google Now on the home screen is very convenient. When traveling, glancing at how long it takes to reach home is nice. Google Now itself in India is at least 5x better than Siri. The offline voice recognition itself makes a ton of difference. Note that much of this functionality is available on iOS via the Google app, but somehow I never use that app much there. Having it front and centre makes it much more useful.
  • The Notification Centre is far better. Having icons in the Notification bar is super convenient. At a glance one can see if the notification must be read. And in addition, swiping to clear notifications & the super useful clear all button is nice to have. iOS also has actionable notifications now, but the Android implementation is far better, has more features and is much more refined.
  • Like the folders in the home screen better. While the iOS wiggling around animation is cute, the Android implementation feels faster & is more responsive and flexible to edit & reorganize.
  • Expandable storage is just 350 rupees for 8GB. The fact that Google seems to be encouraging Android to move away from external storage seems very weird to me. Maybe they can enforce or encourage class 10 SDs, but this is a major positive factor that I think Android shouldn't give up. I understand the arguments in favour of inbuilt storage, but it seems like the tradeoff is worth it, especially for the user audience.
  • This came as a surprise, but the thing I missed most when I switched back to the iPhone was the back button. The muscle memory associated with the back button isn't easy to forget :). While I think the Android navigation hierarchy is a mess ("Up caret anybody?"), having a dedicated back button is super convenient to navigate between apps. This is something that iOS hasn't ever tackled.

Now some niggles:

  • When I first clicked on the Date widget accidentally, I was a very confused person. Android UIs vary a ton from app to app, and most of them hide the status bar too.
  • The stock keyboard is much, much worse than the iOS one. It's uglier and doesn't work as well. The cut-copy-paste experience is also worse. I installed Fleksy which improves the situation a little bit.
  • There seems to be no way to scroll to the top of the list. On iOS you just tap the header. This was very jarring.
  • GPS is far slower and less reliable than iOS. Am not sure if it's even working. I've noticed this on many cheap Android phones. Seems ridiculous to ship a phone with a feature and not even ensure it's working.
  • The Google Camera app is way slower. I'm not commenting on the photo quality, just how the app works.
  • Contacts search does not seem to search notes, company name etc. This was a big issue for me because I am a stickler for proper first names and last names in my contact list & I often only remember the company name of the person I'm supposed to be speaking to.
  • This is phone-specific, but the Phone/Internal/External memory separation on the Micromax Unite 2 is a big hassle, and I needed to figure out things like rooting just so that I can delete some apps and install new ones. Somehow, this particular phone didn't allow me an option to install to the "Internal SD". This can obviously be solved by buying a Nexus or an Android One device.
  • The lack of a silent button was very jarring and I had to ask somebody how to turn the phone silent from the lock screen (you long press the power button). It's much more convenient on iPhone hardware though, and you can do it by feel.
  • There seems to be no standard emoji keyboard, and the one inbuilt looks crazy. WhatsApp has one inbuilt that looks nicer, but that's not what it displayed on the keyboard.
  • Again phone-specific, but there were lots of random slowdowns & jitter when installing apps.
  • Most third-party apps still look much worse than they do on the iPhone. I almost stopped tweeting because Twitter for Android looks & works like a piece of shit. WhatsApp wasn't much better, and even Facebook was slower. The iPhone apps are more refined, look much better and work much faster. The only apps which seem to be "okay" on Android were the ones from Google. I hope this will be solved by the Lollipop update & app makers switch over to the Material UI because I can never use an Android phone full-time for this reason. I need my apps to look consistent. Having said that, one app that I'm missing is MoneyView: a clever little app that read my SMS notifications from banks & compiled it into actionable finance information. Nothing like that is allowed on iOS.
  • The iOS animations in general seem much smoother and better. Apps also didn't seem to use many animations and were pretty boring.
  • iOS 8 adds Continuity and that's pretty much a killer feature set that Android doesn't have right now. If you use a Mac too, it's a bunch of useful stuff: picking up & making calls on my Mac (I use this a lot when working), SMS forwarding & App handoff. I tried a few Android solutions that require third-party additions and they don't work as well or at all.

That's it! I compiled these form notes that I jotted down every day. If you've used both Android & iOS, what do you think?

Two New Talks

Two new talks I gave recently. The first was as a guest speaker at an AWS 101 conference:

And the second one was one of my better talks on how to use some freely available tools for quick startup validation:

Talk at DTE, Kerala Event

This is a talk that I gave at an event organised by the Department of Technical Education in Thiruvananthapuram a couple of days ago. The audience was campus placement officers, and it was interesting talking to them about campus hiring & letting them know the startup viewpoint.

Talk at #smdaykochi

Author

Vishnu Gopal

Anime fanatic, Apple nerd, SciFi nut, hopeless romantic & CTO at MobME Wireless.