I recently launched my 5th iOS app, this one’s for diabetics. As the tagline says, it’s an app for diabetics by a diabetic.
When I was diagnosed with Type 2 in 2011, I wasn’t told why I got it. The doctor simply said, ‘if you are over 40, have someone in the family with diabetes, then you’re likely to get it’. And I was prescribed Metformin and statin. End of discussion.
I wasn't happy with the explanation. So I started doing a lot of research online and offline to understand why people get diabetes. I found the answers and explanations from various online sources (Personally I found Dr. Berg’s YouTube channel extremely useful) and books (‘The case against sugar’ by Gary Taubes) in understanding the condition. I discovered keto and low carb recipes which have helped me keep my sugar levels in check.
So with all the information I gathered over time, I designed GlucoTrak to help fellow diabetics deal with the condition and make informed decisions. It's a simple, straightforward, no fuss app. It doesn’t require social media log-in, or your personal details. It lets you log in your sugar readings and keep track of sugar levels. It helps you take pictures of your reports or articles and store them for ready reference. It connects you to various low carb and vegetarian recipes, as well as exercises including yoga. It also provides links to a range of informative videos on different types of diabetes.
GlucoTrak is a compilation of all the information I personally found useful, in one app. I hope it helps you the way it helped me keep my sugar levels under control and stay healthy.
If you or anyone you know have this condition, please download here.
To know more about it, go here.
That was the gist of the brief I got circa 99 when I was a resident freelancer at BBDO Singapore. We had some wonderful people there at that time which made getting up to go to work a real pleasure. Seriously. Sure enough that feeling didn't last long as most of the people left for various reasons (it's the people that make an agency good, people).
It was for Contact Singapore and the brief was essentially to invite people from around the world to try the sunny island and settle down for work.
Being an outsider (having been there for just five years), I had a completely different perspective about the little red dot. After spending a while in Singapore, you start sounding like a travel brochure. 'Streets are clean', 'Crime is low', 'Women can walk wearing skimpy clothes safely without a worry', 'MRT is great', 'Everything works' ... the list goes on (still does).
As the received wisdom goes, the magic is in the product and I didn't have to look too far or try too hard to make the idea work. All my art director and I had to do was bring out the truth in an interesting way.
Here are some of the samples, (funny how the propositions are still relevant even now).
But what the client chose was not any of the ads you see here. Instead, what ran was a sappy, sugary picture of an ang mo (means 'white' in local lingo) family, with four words that said 'Work, Live, Play in Singapore'. Go figure.
That's Lee Kuan Yew for those not familiar with Singapore or its epic journey from a third world colonial outpost to a bustling first world metropolis that boasts a robust yet stable economy, a multicultural society that works in harmony, gleaming skyscrapers, enviable infrastructure, clean roads, a world class airline and airport, one of the busiest ports among others.
It didn't come easy (In his book 'From Third World to First', you get to know the challenges faced by the fledgling nation). But there's one interview by an L.A.Times journalist which, to me, sums up the vision of LKY (it appeared in the Straits Times maybe early 2000s, not sure). I still remember one section, which I paraphrase from memory:
Journalist: "So when you took over Singapore it must have been difficult."
LKY: "Yes, there were gangs every where, gang wars occurred frequently."
Journalist; "What did you do?"
LKY:"Well, we rounded them up and put them prison."
Journalist: "That must have been a long trial."
LKY (looks at the journalist): "There was no trial."
Journalist (after a pause): "Isn' that undemocratic?"
LKY: "Well, I knew you'd say that. I had a nation to build, I didn't have time to waste. Now you step out on the streets of Singapore, you can be sure they are safe."
That was about the gist of the part I remember. But I admire the vision, the focus, he had for the country. He was involved in every aspect of the governing process, from its defence to housing to water treaties with the neighbours to how the road from the airport to city centre should look and everything in between. In Singapore, you'll notice gaps between flyovers. Why, you ask? Well, LKY observed that the plants in between the flyovers need sunshine hence it was essential to have gaps. Even on his last day, he is reported to have told his assistants to clear some debris floating on the Singapore River.
While he had an excellent team to support him, he always led from the front. fielded uncomfortable questions from the reporters, faced the media boldly, made tough decisions, and made sure the red dot thrived.
All of which proves you don't need reams of text to write a success story. Just three letters will do.
Every once in a while, our little world is blessed with a leader. A leader with a vision who becomes so entwined with the entity he represents that they become one, so much so that it’s impossible to separate the founder from the founded.
Like Arsene Wenger and Arsenal. Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore. Steve Jobs and Apple.
Arsene was Arsenal, just the way LKY was Singapore and Jobs was Apple. By putting their heart and soul into building what they believe is right, they became what they built (in Wenger’s case though, the club existed before he came on the scene 22 years ago, but his ways revolutionised the club and the game in general, and rebuilt the club to represent what he believed in: Wengerball).
They spent every waking second, their every breath, improving, perfecting, questioning and defending what they’ve built. “It’s not work, it’s my life,” said Jobs. Wenger summed up his ambition with “When I arrive at the gates of Heaven the Good Lord will ask ‘what did you do in your life?’ I will respond ‘I tried to win football matches.” LKY went a step further, when he said, "Even from my sickbed, even if you are going to lower me to the grave and I feel that something is going wrong, I will get up."
So it always made me wonder what Arsenal would be like without Arsene, who has become synonymous with the club. Or Singapore without its legendary architect. Or Apple without the genius of Jobs.
Now, with the divided fanbase coming together to bid farewell to Wenger, whose emphasis on delivering winning (largely) performance with style attracted me to Arsenal some fifteen years ago, the answers seem closer.
Apple isn’t the same without the guiding insight of its founder. iPad with stylus and the Apple map disaster come to mind.
Singapore isn’t exactly struggling but the big man is missed. Recent MRT breakdowns made people wonder wistfully how the ‘old man’ would have handled it, and whether he would have allowed such lapses at all.
As for Arsenal, it is too soon to tell. Like a Chelsea supporter friend of mine said a few years ago, we will feel the magnitude of Arsene’s impact only after he’s gone.
While they leave an illustrious legacy, they also leave massive shoe sizes to be filled for their potential replacements. But like someone recently said about Wenger, he wasn’t bigger than Arsenal, but Arsenal are bigger because of him. I think it’s a sentiment that fits the other two perfectly.
The sentiment, leave it better than you found it, probably sums up what they gave their lives for I guess.
For a long time I had wanted to do an app, a quote app to be specific, for this great sage of Arunachala, Ramana Maharishi. This dream came true on 4 Jan 2017 when the App Store, after rejecting the binary twice and asking me to add more of their APIs, said 'Congratulations! Your app is now ready for sale!'
My coding journey started a couple of years ago with Gamesalad, which didn't help, besides they were charging for just downloading and playing around with it.Then I bought a book on Python, which led me to take a few courses on Udemy where I found more courses on Ruby and Rails, which made me abandon Python. While learning Rails there and OneMonth, I discovered Swift and Xcode.
This seemed like an environment where I could build my dream app for Xcode came with drag and drop storyboards and Swift was a bit similar to Ruby. After taking multiple Swift courses, I found one that came close to what I was looking for on Udemy. After trying a few more, I started building my app based on the first course. Luckily there was a more updated version in Treehouse. I built a simple app with an image of the saint above and a randomly generated quote that would appear below, with a button below that. Clicking that would produce a different quote each time while changing the background colour.
Submitting is not an easy process the first time around. That took a while, maybe about an hour, for the app to be uploaded to the App Store. Received wisdom was that it would take a week to hear from them, and it was way off the mark. They got back within a day, saying it didn't meet the requirements,
4.2 minimum functionality, more specifically.
So I added a map and decided to embed multiple pdf files. Which was a challenge, as there were not many lessons on embedding pdf files with Swift 4, the latest version. Swift is an evolving language which meant what worked with Swift 3 would break in a later version. I managed to find one on YouTube (which, by the way, has many kind souls who have uploaded many useful videos on Swift) that showed how to embed one file using WebView. I needed more. So from another lesson on building a music app on Udemy, I figured out how to use similar methods to implement what I wanted. Now I had a quote page (screen, if you will), a Map view, a page with 3 pdfs, and another page that displayed a pdf.
This time, App Store said it looks more like a PDF app, and asked me to add more APIs and make it more of an app users will want for entertainment. And they said it should work on iPad as well, even if the app is specifically for iPhones!
Went back to the drawing board/laptop, and started looking for ways to add videos and audio files. Some Udemy lessons came in handy for embedding audio files, while a few YouTube lessons helped me with embedding videos. I added a page that displayed 5 videos. It was working ok. But I wasn't 100% satisfied.
Then I discovered a life-saving framework, SafariSevices, which helped me embed not just a few videos but link a button to playlists and websites without taking the user out of the app.
So added that, cleaned up the app, and re-submitted on 3 Jan. Within a few hours as usual App Store got back saying the sound files don't play on iPad on their end. I rechecked at my side, on all simulators, and informed them that all was working fine.
Next day, I woke up to the most encouraging and memorable email ever. 'Welcome to the App Store' said the subject line, and the email proceeded with: 'Congratulations! We are pleased to let you know that your app Ramana Maharishi has been approved for the App Store'.
Done! If any of you are interested in the teachings and life of Bhagwan Ramana, you can download it from here It's free.
PS: I'm in the process of updating the app with swipe gestures and clean up the UI a bit.
Tips, tricks and even full lessons
Have a problem? You are not alone.
For creating app icons and image resizing across screen sizes
paramasivan kazhuthil irundhu paambu kettadhu
yarum irukkum idathil irundhu vittaal ellam sowkyame
garudan sonnadhu adhil artham ulladhu
The cobra coiled around Lord Shiva's neck,
asked Garuda (eagle) flying above
'How are you? Are you well?'
'When everyone stays where they are supposed to
Everybody is well',
said the eagle, there's sense in what he said.
The moral of the story
The moral of the song
Is that one should never be
Where one does not belong.
(From 'Franky Lee and Judas Priest')
Moving is stressful, and even more so if it involves crossing borders. Like relocating from Singapore to India, which is what we did recently (in 2016) after living in Singapore for 22 years. What makes it worse is there are not that many helpful accounts online, and annoyingly, every time you search ‘moving to India’, Google throws up 15000 results on moving FROM India. Hope the following account helps you with your move back to India (and shows up when you Google moving TO India).
First, the movers.
We did a lot of research and shortlisted 4 movers of international repute. There was a post in Quora where someone had a harrowing experience with a mover who forgot to tell the people that the port at Goa is not vested with powers to clear international customs resulting in days of anguish and increasing expenses of storing uncleared goods at the dock. Finally he managed to speak directly to the officer involved and sort the mess out amicably.
So we had to make sure our mover delivered door-to-door from Singapore to Goa. And we wanted to deal with just one mover to minimize points of contact and keep it simple. We didn’t want the trouble of dealing with two different movers as there may be gaps in communication, and knowing Murphy, it is better to be on the safe side.
Our list comprised Allied Pickfords, AGS Fourwinds, KCDat, Santa Fe and RelocAsia. They all came on time, were very professional in their assessment and gave pretty much the same information. The container sizes varied slightly but the rest were pretty much the same.
All reverted when they said they would except AGS which was strange. I checked spam folder, nothing.
Allied’s email had gone to the wrong email id, which I found out when I wrote to them saying I hadn’t received any update from them, seems they had gotten my email id wrong.
Of all the quotes, we found Allied the most sensible. Followed by RelocaAsia. But the terms and conditions of the bordered on the ridiculous. Anything that happened to the crew while packing was our fault. If they lost the shipment in the middle of the sea, it’s our fault. Seriously.
After you choose the mover, the project is handed over to another person at the mover’s, meaning it’s not the same person who came for the quote. Note that they quote based on the container size, 20 foot or 40 foot etc. The assessment made by the representative usually matches up so there will be no surprises. That said, we thought there was a fair amount of space in the truck after all the items were packed. Later we found that most of the boxes were just half-full (not in the optimistic way either), when they could have easily packed more.
Our contact in Singapore, Christine was excellent. She was patient, helpful and cheerful, even though we had to change the date of moving 3 times. But the movers themselves were not as professional, more on that later.
Now, once you’ve decided on the mover, you will have to go through the pack they would have given you including insurance form and check list. This will take a good 10-15 days, depending on how much you have managed to accumulate over the years. We took about 3 weeks itemizing our 22 years of gathering, spending a few hours every day.
We created a spreadsheet for ornaments, electronics, furniture, and list of items in each room. We entered the original value (I had receipts for purchases made all the way back in 1996), a description of the item and insured value. The process was as exhausting as the list but it served as a good reference for us. And it comes in handy when claiming insurance for damaged items.
DVDs, CDs and Books
While I listed the name of each DVD, it is recommended you just give a lump-sum value for movies and music collection, unless of course you have signed copies of DVD/CD by your favourite director/musician. Same goes for books.
You are not allowed to carry perishables, spices, or even tea. One look at the container and you’ll see why it’s hard for anything less than teak wood furniture to survive that trapped heat for weeks. That leaves pots and pans, cutlery and crockery. Again, lumpsum value for insurance but you can be specific if you have anything precious.
Just make sure all of them are labelled properly so you don’t spend days figuring out the location of the box with your underwear. Mark the boxes with ‘bedroom 1’ and the name of the person whose clothes it contains, it’ll save you a lot of time while unpacking.
We collected a whole lot of stuff from our travels around the world, which we itemized in the list, with a description, value of the item, and when it was bought. Rough estimate will do.
Customs department requires your presence in the country when your shipment arrives in India. So plan accordingly. Make arrangements to stay at a friend’s place or book a hotel to tide you over after you move out and before you board the flight back home.
Get a local number so your mover in India can contact you and keep you posted about the status of your shipment. All going well, it should take a month. Remember, India has a lot of holidays. Once you are back, your mover will send someone to collect your passport for customs clearance. Your presence is not required normally. This process takes a few days, not longer than 4 or 5 days.
After this, you will be informed about the date of release from the port, make sure it gets out quickly as demurrage costs are quite high. Your mover will advice you on this. Make sure the house you are going to is ready for move-in.
If you need storage in the meanwhile, most of the movers offer facilities but the fee is quite high. Keep that in mind.
I'll write about our experience with Allied Pickfords in the next post.
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