2010 in retrospect

It’s that time of year again — namely the end. I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions but I think it’s a good idea to take some time and reflect on the year that’s past and see if there are lessons to be learned.

2010 was an interesting and exciting year. I think it’ll be remembered as the year the iPad launched and gave us a glimpse of what computing in the near future looked like. I didn’t get one, but I’ve spent some time with them and I think they’re a very interesting piece of technology. This was also the year that Android came into it’s own. Sure, it’s been around longer, but I think it didn’t really take off until this year with the newer Droids and the Samsung Galaxy. Android also made it’s way onto the tablet but it remains to be seen how far that will go. While we’re on the topic of mobile systems, I might as well mention Chrome OS. I got one of the Chrome netbooks a while ago. I haven’t had much of chance of playing around with it since I left for India, but it’s certainly an interesting idea and I look forward to spending more time with it once I get back in January.

Personally, 2010 was the year that I decided that I actually did want to go to graduate school to study programming languages. I mostly finished my applications before coming home and I’m looking forward to hearing back sometime in early March. While I don’t have plans of becoming a full-fledged academic, I’ve realized that I don’t have all the knowledge I need to be a competent computer scientist and I’m also undecided as to what would be the best way to put my growing skillset to use. Graduate school is a chance for me to learn some more and put forward a good contribution or two to the field of computer science, hopefully something that a wider audience will find genuinely useful.

This was also the year where I reaffirmed by belief in the value of reading and writing. When you’re someone who’s work is mostly in the realm of pure thought and abstract structures, writing is very important as it provides a way for you to condense and concentrate your thoughts into a communicable and understandable form. I’ve also increased my reading a lot this year. To a large extent it’s been blogs on my fields of interest — languages, applied computer technology, how society interacts with technology — but I’ve also been reading technical papers and journals. I’ve been wanting to read more books and that’s something to try for next year. I’ve also fallen in love with the Kindle DX. It’s just the right size for reading papers and the font rendering is of really high quality. In fact, I sometimes catch myself just staring at the e-ink screen instead of actually reading.

Talking of writing, I’ve had two small revelations — one that programming is essentially a form of writing and secondly, that whenever I stop writing on a regular basis, my personal efficiency plummets. Like I’ve said, writing is a great way to organize thoughts and ideas and I really appreciate having a well organized, clutter-free mind. One of the best ways I’ve found to concentrate and center myself is to sit down and write something (like I’m doing now). It doesn’t have to be great, but the very act of putting thoughts down is very beneficial to me.

Of course, this blog is one of my main outlets for writing. I’m happy to say that I’ve seen some real growth in readership this year, especially over the last few months. I’m at the point where I get about 7000 hits a month, though most of that is to just a few posts. Next year I’d like to grow that number, first to 7000 hits a week and then to that number a day. I also want to increase the number of high hit count posts. I have to sit down and give some thought to the direction and purpose of the blog (like I do every year) but it’s probably not going to change very much. If you’re a regular reader, you won’t be disappointed.

2010 has been a great learning year for me. I learned a lot about the things I’m interested in and a lot about totally new areas (art history for example). I also learned a lot about myself, how I work, what I like doing and most importantly what kind of a person I’m becoming. And through all that, learning about what I can do with my life now that I’m about to graduate.

2011, I hope, will be the year of applying all that learning. How? That’s something I’ll be thinking about in the three weeks I have until I head back to the US. I don’t know the details, but I can tell that it’s going to involve a lot of coding, writing and creating. And I’m really looking forward to it.

Looking forward to the Google Nexus S

Google recently announced the Nexus S — the successor to the Nexus One phone. More importantly, it’s an Android phone straight from Google with the latest version of the OS and none of the distractions that the carriers tend to add on. I’m not really a phone person, I don’t use an actual phone very much and my actual phone is a cheap prepaid T-mobile phone I’ve had for 2 years and have no plans of changing.┬áSo why am I interested in the Nexus S?

The thing is that enough though I don’t use a phone very much, I do use other devices a lot. I love my iPod touch (which apart from my computer is my primary communications device) and I wish my camera was smaller so that I could carry it around. However, the thing is I want to do more with fewer gadgets. I’m a bit tired of carrying a phone and an iPod Touch and I really wish I had a camera for all those little moments I want share. But I don’t want to carry another specific device around. I’m at the point where I really want just one device that does everything.

A smartphone would be really nice except for tone thing — the phone plan. Like I said I barely use the actual phone functionality. Also I’m at college which means I’m surrounded by WiFi (and will be at graduate school) which means that I don’t need 3G. Spending upwards of $60 a month when I can get about 2 months on a $30 prepaid charge makes no sense at all. An unlocked smartphone would be great, especially if I could just use it with my existing T-mobile plan. Even if I had to move to a new number, Google Voice makes that mostly irrelevant.

The Nexus S looks to be a strong device. It has all the usual features we’ve come to expect from a top-of-the-line smartphone. Along with the usual Android things, it also sports a 5MP backfacing camera which is something I’m looking forward to. Since it’s straight from Google, I can expect to get updates to Android as soon as they’re released without having to deal with a carrier as man-in-the-middle. Like the Nexus One, the Nexus S will probably be the “reference phone” for the next few releases of Android.

One part I’m a bit unsure about is actually getting the Nexus S. It won’t be sold by Google directory, but by Best Buy, which I guess is fine. By only real concern is whether it will work with my current number and SIM or if I need to get another one. Besides that, there is the question of price: according to Best Buy the unlocked version will be a hefty $529. That’s almost 6 months of the basic T-mobile data/voice plan. Of course, I do plan on holding on to the Nexus S for somewhat longer than 6 months, so in the long run paying upfront would be worth it. Still dropping $529 on a phone isn’t something I feel entirely comfortable doing.

The Nexus S is looking to be a great device and a good fit for my current device usage. However, the unlocked price is rather steep and will definitely be something to keep in mind. Luckily it’s not a decision I plan on making for another month and half at least.