How to comfortably sleep on airplanes

I think there are probably three keys:
1, Proper preparation
2, Good seating
3, Contingency handling

1, Proper Preparation:

What are the keys to rest? Comfort, bodily preparedness, space, lack of distractions, temperature, among other things.

Comfort: neck pillows are lifesavers. They make sleeping on your back much easier. I particularly like neck pillows with hoodies to keep you especially cozy and warm. Plus, jersey is just the best material to sleep on. So comfortable.

Think about what brings comfort to you. Is it a super soft blanket? Consider taking one along. Consider buying a small version of what you like if yours is big. Is it listening to soft music? Consider buying sleep-friendly headphones or earphones. Most are really annoying. Is it a regular pillow? Maybe you bring one along.

Bodily preparedness: there are some keys to regular sleep that involve bodily preparedness. Your body is going to have a tough enough time sleeping on a plane. Check these off! 

  • Eat well that day, including not having eaten much before going to bed and especially having avoided coffee in like the half day before
  • Have an active day, preferably have worked out earlier
  • Stretch out and be limber, your body is going to get cooped up on the plane; have good posture throughout the day (The Tim Ferriss Podcast, Episode 3: Kelly Starrett and Dr. Justin Mager)
  • Try to be on a sleep schedule in the days preceding it so you just naturally want to sleep at those times and are used to
  • Go to the bathroom and have that taken care of
  • Don’t stare at a screen right before going to bed. Try something more old school: talk to someone, read a book, or just ponder / plan…

Space: have you thought through your plan for your carry-ons? If you’re going to be bringing two on, will you be okay with putting one under your seat? That’s going to take up some leg room. Maybe you want to consolidate. Or, maybe it can be positive: you can put your feet on that bag? If so, pack accordingly so you’re not worried about breaking something.

Hacker tip: I don’t recommend being rude and putting both your bags up at the beginning of a flight. But, once everyone has boarded, that space is fair game! Put the bag at your feet up there if there’s space.

Lack of Distractions: distractions can come in many types: sound, touch, sight, smell. In my opinion, the one you definitely should prepare for and is very common is sight. Eye covers are amazing. Again, material quality is a  key differentiator here. But I highly recommend you use one. It helps you simulate the feeling of being in a place to go to sleep.

Think about what distractions bother you most and have an item or plan in place to tackle them. We’ll cover this in more detail in 3, too.

Temperature: most times, planes can be really cold. Sometimes, especially in Asia in my experience, they can also be too hot. Be prepared by dressing in layers. This allows you to get cooler or warmer as necessary. If you are a person who likes to be warm while sleeping, or tucked in at least, consider bringing a small/thin blanket.

2, Good seating

What are your preferences about bathroom going, bag access, and percentage of time sleeping? Do you like leaning against the window? 

Even if you do not like leaning against the window, if you plan on sleeping 100% of the time and don’t care about getting to your carry-on in the compartments above, plus you don’t wake up at night to go to the bathroom  much, it makes sense to get a window seat. The window seat isn’t disturbed by people needing to get out. 

On the other hand, for me, I usually don’t plan on sleeping the whole time, don’t care much about being woken up to get up, and prefer the access to my bag, so I take aisle seats.

Are you tallDo you love space? You might want to check out how much space you are getting. A different airline, or premium seat, or even exit seat may be worth the investment. Sometimes, for an exit seat, all you have to do is madly refresh your internet browser 1 minute before you are allowed to check in (which is 24 hours before your first flight).

In general, I highly recommend getting a seat as close to the front as possible and either an aisle or window. So check in as soon as you can!

3, Contingency planning & handling

Be prepared for the things that happen on planes and suck. These include delays, turbulence, annoying neighbors, light at weird times, and loud people.

Delays: these may very well happen. It might mean you get in much later in the morning. How does this effect you? For me, I tend to be picky about eating when traveling. And on red eye type flights, there often is no good food available at airports. So you probably want to pack a few snacks you like. 

In addition, I tend to want to get some sleep. The key here is to obtain an estimate for when the plane is being boarded, sit near the gate anyways so you can be woken up by commotion if, for example, everyone is switching gates, set an alarm for when boarding starts, and try to get some rest there.

Turbulence: sometimes, planes just suck and make your stomach turn. 

I always like to get my mindset right in these situations. ‘Poor pilots, they’re probably trying like heck to get us into stable airspace but the air authorities have guided them into a rough patch.’ Or ‘Wow, it’s so cool that we’re traveling the world here. Looks like we hit a more violent weather path.’ This helps you feel okay about the situation, or maybe even amazed that you guys are just cutting through it like nothing and more people are just taking it as an annoyance and not realizing how lucky we are to be living in this time.

In addition, if you know you are sensitive to these situations, it may make sense to bring some medicine. Dramamine is an over the counter motion sickness drug that seems to do the trick for people. I personally do not use it.

Annoying neighbors: people can be awful on planes. They can elbow you with loose arms on the arm rest. They can take up more space than they are allotted by unfortunate body types (bodybuilders, obese) or “wide knees.” They can be loud. They can shine their light on you. They can smell. 

Sometimes, the easiest solution is to find another seat. If you are on a redeye, there may very well be some place for you to switch once the plane is airborne. 

Other times, it means combating their problem. You can ask them politely. Or you can put an eye cover on. Or you can put headphones in. Or you can speak with the hostess. Try to balance being a warm, nice human that realizes everyone hates planes with getting what is within your “cultural rights,” like space and not getting elbowed.

One problem I will sometimes encounter is particularly annoying. People not being equitable or recognizing what is important on a plane. 

  • If someone has a whole row to themselves, even if it is an exit row, do not assume you can just move into the row. They may be planning on sleeping in it. Ask very nicely if you want to and do not be upset if they say no.
  • If the middle seat between you two is available, only take up half the space! Half the space is for the other person; do not use it all. That is rude.

Now that we have those base guidelines in place, what to do when someone violates them? Either give up, speak to them very nicely, or speak to the hostess. And also, educate. Please educate on airplane etiquette. 

I once had a woman do both to me and the air hostess was so horrified she told the person herself, without me saying anything (I just gave up).

Light at weird times: sometimes, the airline decides to serve food on the old place’s time zone (almost always, see bonus jet lag tip for  more details). Other times, they just have the lights on for long periods at takeoff and landing. It can be annoying when you are trying to sleep. Have the right tools, like an eye cover and hoodie ready. And get your mental state prepared for it so it doesn’t bother you much.

Loud people: sometimes babies are onboard and unhappy with the air pressure differences. Other times, friends come on the plane. Or if it’s a flight from Vegas, sometimes people are still partying. Loud people happen on planes.

One solution is obviously get your mental state right. Try to empathize with them and forgive them and go to sleep. Pretend they were someone you actually liked. Also, it helps to think about your ideal solution. Perhaps it’s one ear to the seat and the other with a headphone. Or it’s bringing a headband and putting that over your ears for some modicum of blockage. 

I don’t recommend…

  • Sleeping pills. These things are not good for you and cause bad habits. If you must use one, go with a very small dose of melatonin. Most modern doses of melatonin are way too high. You do not need much.

Bonus jet lag tip…

  • I see almost no one do this, and it boggles my mind. Sleep according to the time zone you are going into! Not the one you are coming from. Usually this means keeping yourself awake for unreasonable periods, which makes going to sleep easier anyways. I always do this going to India (basically stay up like 23 hours) and then sleep on India time and everyone is amazed that I am the only person not jet lagged.
  • Warning: this actually makes it harder to sleep on the plane. Typically, airlines serve meals and disturb you as if we were all still on the time zone from where we left. But it makes your overall life better. And if you adopt all the tips in this post, you should be able to sleep through it.

(Note: originally posted as Quora post.)

So you want to install eclipse on Mavericks?

So you want to install Eclipse on your new Mac? Getting back into JAVA programming? Get ready for this error:

Error: Eclipse requires Java 7

For us Mac users, this experience can be pretty jarring – what, something didn’t install on the first try and work right away? Another sign of a company deteriorating without Steve Jobs…

The problem is Eclipse requires Java 7, but Mac OSX requires Java 6. If you try to download Java 7 in Chrome, you’ll run against a pleasant message along these lines:

Error Java 7 doesn't work with ChromeAgain, totally useless. Why make your web browsing not work to code?

Alas, if you Google around, you’ll find complex solutions that involve using sudo and the command line to manually remove 1.6 and symlink 1.7. Basically, you can smash your head into a wall for hours just to get programming.

Why go through all the trouble when there’s an easy solution?

Download Google’s version of the SDK. The version of the Eclipse included there works on your Mac.

Your welcome :).

Software Designers, Let’s be more playful!

I want to extend the idea of playfulness as an underutilized concept in user experience and product design.

Let’s take a second to think back to the days when we were all just getting introduced to the world of computers, Windows 95:

Windows 95

Doesn’t that just look – not fun? Not playful?

I use Windows 95 as an archetype for the non-playful. Analyzing it, we can identify several elements that make this product particularly non-playful:

  • Functionally oriented – the best software is going to do what you want it to, but it appears that Windows 95 developers were primarily concerned with what the software does not how it does, let alone how beautifully or how playfully it does so
  • Boxy design – the design is regimented and recalls notions of standardization, functional orientation, and even autocracy: everything is laid out in ordered, neat boxes
  • Straightforward – features and applications are included when they have a strict utilitarian purpose for the user, rarely as flourishes for the user to view

On the other hand, some software is simply a delight to use. Games can be addicting in this way, and hence we use the term playful.

Here’s one of my favorite recent examples of playfulness, Google Drive’s feature for simultaneous massive editing. It uses cute icons and names to identify people, like Anonymous Chupacabra:

Playfulness in Action

Aren’t those icons just a joy? Doesn’t that name make you laugh?

What makes this software so playful? By analyzing the attributes, we can hopefully begin to incorporate playfulness in our software as well:

  • Experience oriented – there may not have been a user specification to make the software fun or have memorable identifiers for distinct anonymous contributors, but instead of stick with ‘Anonymous A, Anonymous B,…’ or ‘User 1, User 2,…’ the team behind drive thought about the experience of having funny, identifiable anonymous contributors
  • Modern design – the look of the images and the use of the latest design concepts, including flat design and simple conceptual design (see iOS 7, twitter redesign), makes the feature very appealing to the eye
  • Funny – both the names and images are done with an attention to humor; one does not expect to think about chupacabras or axolotls after 12, but their appearance out of context makes them quite funny

So, I encourage all of us to be experience oriented, use modern design, and be funny. In our mockups, wireframes, and flows, we can think a little bit less about the functional requirements and more about the playful experience, taking after the definition of play itself:

  1. engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

Doing so, we can improve all of our software.

Note: this post was originally published to Medium and is included here for visitors of my personal website.

Github error: The key is invalid

Error Invalid Key

So, you’ve resolved to use Github.

You’ve bought into all the benefits – everyone uses it, you can contribute to open source software, and, frankly, it is the best version control system out there.

However, when you try to push things up to github, it keeps asking you weird questions about your passcode and/or passphrase. You simply can’t push things up.

You finally find out the problem has to do with your SSH key. Then you follow the instructions for SSH keys according to github, you read the troubleshooting as well, you check out StackOverflow, and a few other websites, and you still keep getting the doggone error!

Error Invalid Key

Here’s one thing to try: are you putting the key in the right place?

I turned out to be making the silly mistake of putting the key in the title instead of the actual area for the key:

Adding keys to github

So if you are facing the annoying ‘key is invalid’ error on Github and (1) your key does indeed start with one of the prefixes they list and (2) you are indeed sharing your public key, then try to see if you are pasting the key in the right field!

Hope this helps!

Revisiting a Great: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Something for Everyone: Success Where Dhoom 3 Failed

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

The moment flows by like molten sapphire
Deep Blue silences
No Earth below
No Sky above
The rustling branches and leaves
Saying that only you are here
Only me
My breath
My heartbeat
Such Depth like this
Such Loneliness like this
And me only me
I now believe I exist

My latest craze might surprise you. It’s a movie, and a dated one at that – Bollywood’s 2011 mega hit: Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD). I have watched it four times in the past week. Having been in India at the time of this movie’s release, it is quite peculiar that I did not even see this movie until a few weeks ago. The movie has all the big names – Hrithik Roshan, Abhay Doel, Farhan Akhtar, Katrina Kaif, Zoya Akthar.

However, it also has the Bollywood label. At the time, I had several preconceptions about Bollywood movies. Bollywood movies tend to have a formulism to them. So I expected ZNMD to be more Dhoom 3 than Dil Chahta Hai, with all the trappings of a typical Bollywood film: oversized personalities, familiar plot, typical treatment of women, and general inhabitation of the realm of fantasy more than of reality. While Dhoom 3 was a nice film, it ultimately tried to be everything for everyone: it had the big action scenes, it had the sexy item number, and it had the star-studded cast. But the film lacked soul. Katrina was a completely flat character, a mere sexy thing to be the object of affection. The typical moviegoer can not relate to having a twin brother and life in a foreign country.

ZNMD is diametrically opposed to Dhoom 3. ZNMD has soul. The heart of the movie does not lie within the cast, or the plot, or the scenery – do not get me wrong, all those things are fantastic – but it is in the experience of the movie itself. It is in watching the playful moments of friendship between three buddies. It is in watching the growth of these three men as they are completely changed by a trip. The movie work ‘seriocomedy’ to its most magical effect. The movie conveys serious messages all the while being an absolute pleasure to take in. Every moment is fun, easy-going, and well paced.

And, of course, the movie is something anyone can relate to. Hrithik pinpointed this himself, in an interview with Bolly Spice; “it resonates very well with the professional, aspirational 20 something male and female audience which sometimes a lot of our films overlook.” Even not being a workaholic, there’s a bit of all of us in Arjun’s single-mindedness towards achieving financial security by 40. Even not being abandoned by our father, there’s a bit of all of us in the sadness behind Irmaan’s happy eyes. Even not having committed to an ill-conceived relationship, there’s a bit all of us in Kabir’s steadfastness to stick to a marriage his family has already become involved in.  The growth they undergo is something each of us can empathize with. We all could emerge changed individuals from a road trip with buddies, and the movie does a fantastic job of conveying the titular message: that we must seize the day.

Part of the movie’s magic is due, indeed, to the acting of those very real situations. One of the great feats of the movie is to get us to believe in Hrithik’s transformation from Arjun, a career-obsessed prick, to Arjun, a free-wheeling fiancé of Laila. For this Hrithik, really ought to be commended. Neither the Arjun at the beginning nor the end of the film seems fake. Abhay and Farhan also magnificently play funny guys with deep sadness’s hiding behind their smirks. Katrina does one of her best jobs ever as well, this being one of the first movies most audiences walk away really happy with her character. She is perfect for the role of Laila: funny but not over the top, beautiful but perhaps not completely out of reach. Even Kalki does a good job as the completely unlikable Laila.

The acting is further enhanced by the other things “the movie people do.” The directing by Zoya is exquisite, freshly combining Javed Akther’s poetry with a movie. The cinematography is also breathtaking. Spain is a truly gorgeous setting for a movie, and the filmmakers do a wonderful job highlighting the most exciting aspects of its culture: from the Running of the Bulls to the Tomatina festival to a Flamenco show, you get to experience all the iconic aspects of the country. The audiography is similarly spot on, with great songs like Senorita acting as long-lasting memories of the film.

Finally, the scene choice and editing is fantastic. Many of the films greatest scenes actually occur when there is no dialogue. Much of the emotion of the film is conveyed solely through sound and visual. The sky diving scene, for instance. We experience the wonderful thrills and angst of Irmaan as he awaits his turn and eventually asks to be pushed out of the plane, the pure joy of the group as they unite as a circle in the sky, and then the great relief and growth that is landing safely. All of this occurs through action and magnificent camera work. The diving scene is similar; it is within Arjun’s tears upon resurfacing that we see his growth. Similarly, the end of the movie is a model of filmmaking. It is simply their final adventure sport – just them running around – but we know they all have grown forever. Through the plot, through the acting, through the directing, and through the experience of the movie itself, we feel the change.

This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy Dhoom 3. Dhoom 3 was a ‘majadar’ film, one that kept me riotously laughing and also deeply interested. However, the plot was necessarily contrived, necessarily in the world of fantasy. It didn’t touch the heart. It didn’t speak to the soul.

ZNMD speaks to your soul.

The poetry from the beginning of the article in Hindi:
Pighlay neelam sa behta hua yeh samaan
Neeli neeli si khamoshiyaan
Na kahin hai zameen
Na kahin aasmaan
Sarsaraati huyi tehniyaan, pattiyaan
Keh rahi hain ki bas ek tum ho yahaan
Sirf main hoon meri saansein hain aur meri dhadkanein
Aisi gehraiyaan
Aisi tanhaiyaan
Aur main sirf main
Apne honay pe mujhko yaqeen aa gaya

#4 in Rap!

Rap to Beats is the 4th App when you search Rap in Apple's Apple Store on the iPhone

That’s pretty cool – if you search ‘rap’ on your iPhone, Rap to Beats is the 4th result. And it’s a result of downloads only accelerating, on all devices.

We’ve been getting there with your help. Your suggestions on features, DJ intros, and the rest are helping. Thank you!

I have been loving beats by our latest 2 featured producers. Some of my favorites by redhooknoodles:

And these tracks by Spence Mills also really burn:

But our ambition is much bigger than #4 for rap. It’s to be the first in the music category. We have many features we are working as fast as possible to roll out to you. Keep updating, and talk to you soon.

PS-If you are a DJ who would like to market yourself to our huge user base, kindly contact us.

So, Rap to Beats is killing it…

Just in its soft release, Rap to Beats has absolutely killed it. We were a featured app in the United States and India, and 100% of the reviews have given a rating of 5 stars.

We definitely count ourselves as blessed.

As we make a push now for the hard release, news coverage, and mass public usage, I look forward to updating you all with more tales of success.

Did I spot an iPad Mini in Madrid?

At the end of my Eurotrip, I think I spotted an iPad Mini, adding only more fuel to the internet rumor fire that Apple will be releasing a smaller, cheaper tablet. Here are the pictures in front of the wonderful Reina Sofia (houses Picasso’s Guernica and some of my favorite Dali’s).

We think this might be an iPad Mini

We think this might be the iPad Mini before it has been released

Our last picture of the potential iPad Mini

What’s interesting about these pictures is that the device may be a little thicker than the current zeitgeist seems to think. It also seems to retain that signature Apple styling that some (fake) pictures seem to go away from. To those saying it’s a Nexus 7 or Tab, it sure didn’t look like one although I can see how these pictures are a bit worse than the view I had.

Whether it is a Mini or not, I think the trend of Apple products and pricing makes a Mini all but inevitable, and I think it will be good for Apple’s business. Of course, the Mini will cannibalize sales of the larger iPad. But, I think it will make up for that with it’s own volume. The current iPad is simply too expensive for a large portion of the world. A cheaper device will allow the masses to enjoy an Apple tablet. I just purchased an iPad, but that was with a family of tech geeks, and I can say that Apple Tablets are indeed awesome. So, yes, I think the iPad Mini will catch on and become a mass consumption device you see everyone toting around.

Also – I’m sneaking in a picture of Pierrot Playing the Guitar, as this is one of my favorite Dali’s. Happy rumorville, everyone!

This is one of my favorite Dali's at the Reina Sofia in Madrid - Pierrot Playing the Guitar


Our New “Favorite” Way to Use Rap to Beats

Gagan has been getting his usual funk on and dropped me this soundbyte using Rap to Beats when he solved a programming problem I had in all of about 5 seconds. Predictable.

I love the use of Rap to Beats for 5 second little e-mail bombs on friends like this. [For those of you who can’t play the file for whatever reason: he says Boom, slowly, over a funny background.] Going to come in great use when I beat someone in fantasy football ;). It is the ultimate, easy to record diss; it’s the 5 second funny audio diss.

As predictable as Gagan being fun and goofy, I have three reasons I really like the 5 second audio diss:

1. They’re really small, as in only 39 kilobytes!

2. They’re really easy to do. People who are afraid of “rapping” can do these.

3. They are really fun and have a broad appeal. Who doesn’t like to do fun stuff like this? Boring people?


New Design for Rap to Beats

We have just submitted to Apple a major upgrade: a completely new interface (along with a few little changes like better offline functionality). I wanted to use this space to walk through some of the new design features that should go live as soon as Apple accepts them.

We went through several iterations before reaching this final design, essentially a dark denim texture theme. The first iteration of our theme was intended to be a leathery texture with cloth “sewed on.” But that did not turn out so well. The second iteration of our theme was intended to be a dark, futuristic take on a music player. But that also did not turn out so well. After a few more iterations, changing the colors and textures, we ultimately decided this interface was the best of the bunch we created:

This is the new home page for the redesigned Rap to Beats

We could see a few iterations of making this better, perhaps changing the colors of the button and title patches and fraying the edges further, but we will try to A/B test those landing pages now that the App is available in the App Store.

An interesting roadblock we had throughout the design was what background texture to use. After consulting various design resources, we were ultimately able to decide on the final texture, the dark denim, by looking at how the second most visited page in the app would look:

This is the completely redesigned studio page for Rap to Beats, my iPhone App

We really liked the contrasting colors on this page. Once we had the home and studio pages complete, the final large design hurdle was the icon. There is no shortage of advice on how to make a great icon, and we tended to agree with most of it. So, ultimately, we decided to make a no-text image that fits with our overall theme and conveys the functionality of the app. The stitching from the other pages is there, and then we have a very low opacity silhoutte of a dread-locked female singing on a microphone and pointing to the sky:

The new Rap to Beats Icon, v 1.1

This iteration of the Rap To Beats design was a great workout for my Photoshop skills, and I look forward to further development as we get feedback from YOU! Indeed, any comments at all are appreciated.