Rap to Beats Available Now!

7 business days after submission, our AppRap To Beats was just accepted! When I first got the text from Gagan, I did not even believe him. Then he sent me the screenshot of the e-mail, and I kept checking it again, and again, and again–just to make sure it was real. Alas, when you search ‘Rap To Beats’ in the App Store, the app does indeed come up!

So, please check it out! Enjoy it, and, if you would be kind enough, (5-star) review it! We think you will have oodles of fun.

First App, Rap To Beats, Submitted!

After months of coding and design work, Gagan and I submitted Rap to Beats to the Apple App store on Tuesday night! Here’s our homescreen, simple and effective:

Rap To Beats has been Uploaded! This is the home screen.

Why did we create this app?

1. Glaring Market Weakness: there is no free Rap app for your Apple device with

A) a rich selection of free beats

B) the ability to use your own beats.

This is the only app that allows you the ability to rap over the best beats. While serious artists will probably defer to their Studios, for the up and coming rapper or average Joe looking to have fun with his/her friends, this app fulfills a crucial need. We will soon be making the app full featured and equipped even for the most serious of artists [interviewing them on what they need now].

2. Very Fun: Gagan and I love recording things while singing to songs. We throwdown all the time. After we submitted the app, we got particularly goofy. What a memory! We think this app could definitely go viral; it’s just way too fun.

3. Our First App: we love coding and designing mobile applications, but amongst our litany of ideas, this stood out as having a clear first version that we could release with sufficient functionality and added features over the current market offerings to make it an attractive app the day it is released while simultaneously having future iterations — for example, eventually the app will be a platform for beat producers — that allowed us to release an app quickly and learn by doing.

We will let you know if/when the app is accepted and you can use it to make fun memories as well!

Product Creation and the 80/20 Rule

Throughout my life, I have found great evidence for the Pareto principle, or 80/20 rule — that is, sometimes the best way to succeed is to focus on that 20% of work that produces the 80% of results you aim to achieve.

In the case of my interest in fully jumping into the product creation game, I have decided to apply the 80/20 rule to my to-do list.

Sometimes good is good enough.

The best ideas I currently have are in the mobile space, and I am not making the apps in HTML5. Furthermore, my brother is extremely proficient in the mobile space and an amazing partner. As a result, the core focus of my coding efforts has been, and will be for the next few months, on the mobile projects with my brother — nothing else.

That means, for my personal website, WordPress with a stock theme is good — good enough.

The creation of an organic blog will be a side project for another time. I will certainly return to the internet game, but Objective C and Photoshop currently demand all the time I can give them. This is a pragmatic decision to make the best product I can, a product which I cannot wait to share with you. So, ’till then, cheers.

Austin Lake - Sunset View

Why this site is not awesome

Yes – someone who was once known as an html programmer should have a much more functional, impressive site than a WordPress with a stock theme. Honestly, this will only be live for about 10 more days. Then, it will be relegated to the internet archives.

A few days after I finish the GMAT — I take it Thursday — I will have my own ground-up blog up. It will be one of my many projects to get back into product creation.

My programming since senior year of high school has been focused on two research pursuits:

— Sensor networks: JAVA and Bayesian Statistics to improve anomaly detection

— Psychological applications: creating novel tasks using the PEBL language, all manners of statistical software, advanced clustering using MATLAB

Neither were particularly end-user oriented, nor were they intended to be sold. But now that I am moving to Silicon Valley, I have been inspired to enter a new combination of business and tech. I think it is the perfect fit for my life arc. I cannot wait to share more of it with you.

For now, here is a list of some of the ways I am getting back into product development:

1. Basics, lecture notes of Stanford CS CS106A course available on Stanford Engineering Everywhere

2. Developing two iOs apps with my brother under the Sky Brothers moniker, mainly at this stage on user design and improving my Photoshop savvy; he’s a passionate code guy

3. Developing a Google app engine based blog, mainly through instruction from the Udacity course CS253 and learn HTML5, CSS3, PHP, Javascript, etc through a variety of resources as well

So this site was just a jump start on my effort to motivate me to display all my work. Cheers for finding it early.


Backyard Tandoor: The Authentic, Easy Way


After tens of hours of research by multiple family members, my family recently built what you see below: an authentic tandoor purely from ingredients at your local Lowe’s/ Home Depot/ Regional Equivalent. Our favorite parts? It cooks like an authentic tandoor, and it was less than $200!

Front View of Backyard Tandoor

This post will go over exactly how you can build your own.


Tandoor Building Stats

TOTAL TIME: 1 Week, 2-3 hrs/ day

DIFFICULTY: For the experienced, or confident, DIY-er


We had a diverse set of goals in building our tandoor:

  1. Sufficient Temperature: it turns out that yogurt based marinades acquire a distinct flavor when cooked at 850 degrees, the traditional temperature of Tandoors. Therefore, we wanted to ensure that our Tandoor could consistently reach the desired heat.
  2. Authenticity: the authentic flavor arises from the use of charcoal and all clay.
  3. Safety: materials many DIY-ers tend to rely on to build Tandoors are hazardous. Galvanized metal releases fumes at the temperatures we wanted, and even insulation surrounding the clay pots can be toxic to sniff. We wanted to stay away from any potential toxins.
  4. Easy to Purchase Parts: we did not want to have to wait for an online order, and we wanted to minimize our trips to stores around town.
  5. Cheap: we found $500 for a 14″ pre-built tandoor to be quite ridiculous, but love the flavor of Tandoori Bread and Meat.

So, here is how to replicate our process. We think we met all five goals. A good starting point is the shopping list:

— 2 Terra Cotta Pots that fit together when the bigger is standing up and the other is flipped to fit in and make a hexagon shape. We chose the biggest combination we could find, 20″ and 18,” because we planned to use the Tandoor at many gatherings, family dinners, and parties. We found that any pots 2″ apart worked: 18″ and 16″, 16″ and 14″, etc. Pick a size based on the size of the Tandoor you want [fourth to last image below provides clarification of the hexagonal fitting if you do not understand].

— Box of Fire Bricks, which are not typically sold near the rest of the bricks, but instead in the area where high-heat adhesives and other equipment for wood-fired ovens is.

— A great deal of high-temp mortar, located next to the fire bricks likely. Ours was even by the same brand.

— Bricks for the outside of your structure. You can actually make a square or a circular structure:

  • If you prefer to make a square structure, any old brick will do. And you should just calculate based on the size of the brick, leaving 3″ minimum on all sides for insulation, and the height of the pot how many bricks you will need.
  • We personally preferred a circular structure, because we felt it would help with getting the breads on the side and giving it the authentic look. Perform a similar calculation as described for the square bricks, except 100% actually lay out the brick and see how many you would need around the bigger pot with 3″ space for insulation [recommended for square as well, but not necessary] then take into account the height of the pots put together.
  • Consider colors. As you can see, we made a custom G for Gupta, Gagan, and Geeta, and we included a top tan layer to match our existing supporting wall. So you can buy certain numbers of certain colors of bricks for custom designs.
Test Partial Homemade Tandoor Structure to Ascertain Brick Color, Layout, and Number

— Masonry blade for angle grinder, and metal blade (it it does not come with the grinder – it does with most).

— Thin, relatively large bricks. You will be cutting these with an angle grinder to help the ventilation gate. Example of the cut brick below — it was in fact just a broken brick we found laying around Home Depot. It was about an inch thick, so sturdy enough to hold the roof of the ventilation gate’s tunnel, but not too thick to make cutting it tedious.

Brick to Build Air Gate

— Pellet Vermiculite Insulation. It’s a triple threat: improves safety by keeping the outside brick cool, retains the heat so you use less coal, and helps the Tandoor heat up faster.

Vermiculite Insulation for your Backyard Tandoor

— Bag of concrete mix.

— Some sort of lid. We use a trash can’s. This helps keep most water off the insulation and clay.

Lid/ Top View of Homemade Tandoor

1. The Base.

You do not want to set dry, hot ground on fire: Safety! So, the goal of our base will be to create a safe, heat-proof base upon which to build the Tandoor.

To achieve this goal, you will want to dig out a square area where you want to place the tandoor and lay down a layer of concrete. If you have not done this before, it is actually as easy digging a square hole, potentially laying down wood pieces around the edge – we did not – pouring a sandy like bag in, and mixing with water. You then continue to water down the concrete every now and again, letting it sit for at least 24 hours.

How do you know how big to make the base? The diameter of the base of your bigger pot + 6 inches + the thickness of the bricks  you choose + 6 inches extra should be the side length of the square base.

Now, on top of the concrete we will lay a layer of fire brick, ensuring the cement or clay on top of it doesn’t crack. To do so, lay out the first layer of your brick outer structure, place as many fire bricks in as you can, and then filled all the gaps with sand as shown below.

The base is then complete!

2. The Tandoor Pot

The key to a Tandoor getting to a high temperature quickly is having good air flow. One achieves this by building an appropriate door into the bottom, bigger terra cotta pot. To do this, you will need an angle grinder fitted with a masonry blade, gloves, and protective eyeglasses.

Draw out a decently large shaped square just above the bottom rim of the pot (the part it could be impossible to cut something out of because it is the base). Be aware that making too large a door could hurt the structural integrity of the pot. Our door is shown below; it is about a 4 inch side length square, almost cut too close to the bottom rim – it is quite thick, so get up high.

But before taking the angle grinder to it, now shift your attention to the smaller pot. You want to get practice using the angle grinder by making the easier cut we need to make on this smaller pot. We need to have an opening for the top of our Tandoor, so you need to cut the bottom of the pot off with the angle grinder. Use a pencil to draw a straight line 1.5 inches below the bottom of the pot, and use the angle grinder to slowly cut the bottom off. Be sure to place your terra cotta pot face down in grass so that it is stable. The angle grinder is very dangerous.

Once you have cut the base, you can cut the door as well. We used diamond-tipped concrete drill bits to drill holes at the four corners to eliminate the amount of pressure put on the pots, but it seems the pots would have withstood the pressure of the angle grinder had we not drilled the holes.

After both cuts have been made, carefully fit the smaller pot into the bigger pot upside down. [Before placing the smaller pot into the bigger pot, we actually used the angle grinder to the round the edges on the smaller pot. In hindsight, this actually released some of the tightness of the fit and is not recommended. However, if you have any concerns about the sharp edges, rounded edges do work perfectly well as long as you are generous with your mortar.] Then, apply mortar all along the joint of the two pots. You will want to wear a disposable glove to apply a thick layer of mortar on the inside in addition to the outside.

You will then want to wait as long as it takes for your mortar to solidify; for us, this was around 48 hours. As you can see, we peeled off any stickers because we did not want to be smelling those fumes once the tandoor reached 850 degrees!

3. The Final Structure

There is one final difficult task in our quest to build a Tandoor: building the tunnel for the ventilation gate. From the shopping list, you might be able to guess what we are using: thin, relatively large bricks. You will be using the angle grinder to cut these. Unlike with the clay, you can expect sparks in this process. Be sure to don complete pants and shirt. We shaped the top brick rounded to fit perfectly as following:

Cut Bricks Top View - Rounded

Then we shaped the sides as well:

Side View of Air Vent Brick for Homemade Tandoor

We filled in any remaining holes or gaps with a healthy dose of mortar.

From there you lay out the bricks you have for the outside structure. Do notice that in the above pictures, we already have several of those up to see the cuts we would need to make on the bricks.  This time, we need to set them down with mortar. What we did is lay down a layer – the circular bricks are very tight fitting – and then put a thin layer of mortar in the inside portion of every brick joint, as well as a thin layer of mortar on the inner half of the bricks, such that no mortar we seep out to the outside. Then we would lay the next layer on top.

The final step is to let it dry, and then fill with insulation. Then, you can equip your Tandoor with a thermometer if you wish, and you are ready to fire it up.

Top View of Homemade Tandoor

4. Guidelines for Great Tandoori Cooking

The most important thing to do for great Tandoori cooking is to use authentic recipes and spices. This is even more important than temperature.

But the next most important thing is what most DIY-buffs have been mentioning: get a temperature gun, and run the coal for the 1.5 hours needed (and multiple loads) to get the Tandoor up in the 750-850 degree range. This is when those yogurt marinades your authentic recipes provide really come to full flavor. Your bread also cooks fast enough that it is really easy to get off the sides.

So, happy cooking! We love our Tandoor.