How Difficult Is It To Buy a Laptop These Days?

Pretty difficult. As I found last month while looking for a decent, mid-range laptop for a friend.

What Seems to Be the Problem?

You would think that all the guides, discussions in various forums, and video reviews on YouTube would come in handy when you are looking for a computer. But that’s not the case. Especially if you are like me, someone who does not keep track of the latest laptop models. For instance, I have no idea what’s the current highest standard when it comes to a laptop’s processor or why Alienware computers are so damn expensive. Or is it Apple that I am talking about? I know Apple boasts about its design and centres its marketing around the quality of the work that you can produce using its products. But I don’t know how its MacBook it different from, say, a high-end Lenovo laptop other than the operating systems they use. I just want to be able to work, play games, and listen to some music, that’s it.

You could call it ignorance. And I am not proud about my lack of knowledge about these technologies or that I haven’t yet figured out the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit systems. I plan to do it, but it’s just farther away in my long list of things to know and learn about.

But that is exactly my point too. I don’t know what the best laptops under 40,000 rupees are. So, I would expect tech bloggers, reviewers, and influencers to tell me. They are better equipped with that information and they understand the terms that are used to gauge the usability and functionality of a laptop. Plus, I am the exact audience they are targeting. Unfortunately, none of the guides or reviews that I read or viewed helped me make a decision. While the blame is partly on Google for burying honest pages in the nether search results, I would think that the quality of such guides and technology review in general in India is subpar.

How Difficult Is It Actually?

There is no Wirecutter or a Tom’s Guide for Indians. The closest we have to those dependable review havens is NDTV Gadgets 360, but even it resorts to paid promotions. The sponsored posts automatically diminish its overall dependence. A lack of credible source is why the difficulty stings.

paradox of choice buying laptop india
Paradox of choice in a nutshell – a snapshot of a section in Amazon India that came up when I searched for laptops

I had a hard time finding a decent laptop for my friend because of two reasons: no idea about what’s selling (or what’s worth buying) these days and the paradox of choice (or overchoice). The requirement was for a mid-range laptop for heavy office use (spreadsheets, Outlook, at least three different VC apps – you know the drill these days), heavy web browsing (over a dozen Chrome tabs), some moderate video gaming (GTA IV and Among Us, maybe Phasmophobia), and decent portability. So, naturally I started by searching for models in the price range. Then, I compared brands, sub-brands, and features. I entered the rabbit hole and came out with more questions that I couldn’t answer.

Should I go with Lenovo, Dell, or a third brand? Or should I go for a notebook? How is it different from a laptop? What about a tablet that doubles up as a laptop? All this while HP and Apple were staring at me with their ads about laptops. I started losing patience. No luck.

So, I created a spreadsheet and added into it the features, pros, and cons of the top five laptop models that I found satisfactory based on their marketing texts. This is when a new problem appeared. All the models had similar features, were within a narrow price range, and seemed good enough against the requirement. But the problem? Polarizing user reviews. Each one of those models had almost equal number of critical and positive reviews. The aggregate ratings didn’t help nor did individual reviews by tech bloggers that I wrote about earlier.

I stopped putting any more time on the exercise, forwarded the spreadsheet to my friend, and moved on. I moved on with the hope that my current laptop (by HP) never dies on me. So far, so good. TN.

Books I Read in 2019

I know I am late to the party here in all possible senses. I have wanted to do these lists ever since I began reading for knowledge (2012) and this specific list since I closed 2019 with the best-ever reading record in my life so far (28 books). So, here goes a list of all the books I read in 2019 along with a short description of how I feel about them. The descriptions are based on my notes that I scribbled after finishing the books.

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein – Finished it in 5 minutes. I can’t say I totally agree with the message (that unconditional love is the only love), but still amazing. (B+)

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari – Brilliantly written and eye-opening, especially about anthropology. (A-)

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury – A classic story and one that I feel every reader should read at least once. (C+)

It’s Normal! by Mahinder Watsa – Sex ed basics for the ignorant. A book that every Indian couple should read, ideally together. My go-to gift to newly marrieds. (B-)

Educated by Tara Westover – Devastating, powerful, and mind-blowing account that seems too good to be true. A great reaffirmation to the power of education. (A-)

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell – One of my all-time favourites, this still remains a great account on poverty. (A-)

The Crow Eaters by Bapsi Sidhwa – A mix of history and comedy, this one introduced me to Sidhwa and her powerful writing about Parsis. (B-)

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley – Absolutely stunning horror book that also gives you a lot to chew on about mortality and friendship. (A-)

Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson – A disappointing read that attempts and fails to trace the English language. Probably Bryson’s worst. (D+)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Another dystopian novel I picked up due to all the buzz but a bit too repetitive and inconsequential for me. (C+)

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – Fresh crime novel that kept me engaging till the last page. (A-)

Lanny by Max Porter – Rubbish. (D+)

The Wall by John Lanchester – A good reading experience but a weak dystopian novel. (B-)

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli – Pretentious nonsense. (D+)

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead – Ordinary crime story discussing spine-tingling racism in backward America. (B-)

Exhalation by Ted Chiang – Wonderful short stories about ethics, human nature, and futuristic tech. A very good read. (A-)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Second time reading and still hilarious yet massively sexist (which is my only problem with the book). (A-)

How To by Randall Munroe – A great follow-up to What If?, one of my most favourite books of all time, this one kept me gelled to my Kindle for hours. (A-)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – Charming, best book I read in 2019. (A+)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley – Another fabulous dystopian novel that is worth a read every few years. (A-)

The Heat and Dust Project by Devapriya Roy and Saurav Jha – Cringeworthy travelogue written by writers who behave like cheap gram influencers. (D+)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell – Confirms my dislike towards romantic stories. A gimmick. (D+)

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Close contender for the best book I read in 2019 just because of the 13-point virtue table that needs a bit of update and is ready for use even today. (A)

Normal People by Sally Rooney – Reminded me of my own relationships. A very good book on millennial romance. (B)

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl – A solid account about her life as a gourmet magazine publisher. Makes me want to apply to Conde Nast. (B-)

Pure by Andrew Miller – One of the best grippy horror books I have ever read. A fantastic story. (A)

The Vegetarian by Han Kang – Mind-numbing perfection. (A+)

Ending this quickly so that I can get back to reading and create a list for 2020 as early as January. TN.

My Lockdown Novelties

The lockdown has almost upended my life and now it is just a stream of unhealthy lifestyle choices including this new habit of writing at three in the morning. One of the major discussions that I participate in these days that is not work is about what food to cook and eat for the next meal.

I have been working from home for four months now, making a lot of time to read and write, and overall enjoying this stay-at-home model. But what is interesting to me is that I have some newfound activities that are not substantial enough to be called hobbies but just enough occupying to be regarded as work killers. They are keeping me sane.

  • I have started playing scrabble. And it has grown on me so much that I spend at least an hour hunched over my smartphone every day forming words out of random letters to beat my international opponents. I don’t know what beef TechRadar has[1]despite giving a 4-star rating (out of 5) with Wordfeud but so far I have found it to be the best scrabble game for Android. (I’m at ‘Tejas Nair’ if you want to play a game.)
  • I have started making memes. I didn’t know I had it in me to be this funny (trust me) but I have been making a lot of memes using an Android application called Meme Generator (by ZomboDroid) and have been tickling the bones of my colleagues and friends. Sure, my memes may never feature on Know Your Meme but one of them at least got me a Brave Grande! award on Reddit. (See below.)
  • I have started to take my side project (Book Title Drops) seriously. I also started an Instagram account where I post regularly (once a week).
  • I have started recording my book readings and after-thoughts to help me retain more of what I read. This is going great so far but requires a bit more motivation than I originally imagined.
  • I have been shutting off from work on time. This was not possible during the pre-coronavirus days.

Overall, like I said, I am having the time of my life. Even more so enjoying the monsoon the way I have always wanted to: at home without having to worry about opening and closing my umbrella and get wet while commuting to work. TN.

Mumbai middle-class starter pack from mumbai
My award-winning creation at r/mumbai

footnotes

1 despite giving a 4-star rating (out of 5)

Book Title Drops – A Project

Book Title Drops is my latest side project where I snap title drops in books and post them on Instagram. Here’s the account. The process I follow is to simply record instances where the title of the book is mentioned in the book, click a picture, and upload it with details. These include the page number (or sometimes location if it’s an ebook), edition year and publisher, type of book (paperback, hardcover, or Kindle version), and genre.

The Idea Behind Book Title Drops

The idea behind this project is to record title drops in books as a way to appreciate authorial craft. I believe that when writers mention the title of their book in the script, they are having fun. This project is just my way of celebrating and extending that sentiment.

I have always been fascinated by this practice and it is only recently I found out that it is called a title drop, synonymized as name drop. Title drops in movies, TV/web shows, and video games are more popular. According to TV Tropes, they aren’t always deliberate and either way I just get a tinge of excitement whenever I come across one. It definitely helps me make more sense of the book and retain more of the story. And I haven’t put much thought into it from a literary device angle despite myself. For example, here’s a recent one, a favourite, in Celeste Ng’s 2017 novel, Little Fires Everywhere. Without giving you spoilers, here it tells me a tad more about the context in which the title’s meaning is to be taken. And would you believe the title drops right at the start of the story, at page #8?

View this post on Instagram

#titledrop on page #8. Spoken by a character, Lexie. “The firemen said there were little fires everywhere.” In “Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng Fiction – Penguin, 2017 edition, Kindle

A post shared by Book Title Drops (@booktitledrops) on

I originally started this recording side project on Tumblr but then realized Instagram is a more worthy platform where it will get more eyeballs. It is not much right now, but hey, I have only started. History tells me it’s always good to start and not worry about how it develops.

If you are into reading and share my excitement about book title drops, please follow the account on Instagram. TN.

Here are a few more:

Updating my Support Page

A fresh support button is now available on my website. It is powered by Razorpay and I am sure this will work better than the previous attempts.

I have used PayPal Me, Google Play, Buy Me a Coffee, and Amazon wishlist links to create this in the past. None were successful. But this one here is far less buggy. More than anything, it works. Try it below.

I have also removed all other links and solicitations from other pages and posts. Thank you for passing by. TN.

Zapping Google Analytics User Tracking From My Website

As of 22 June 2020, I have disconnected the Google Analytics property attached to my website, nairtejas.com. This means that starting today, your presence on this site will not be tracked. I am currently trying to disconnect Jetpack/WordPress tracking too which I don’t know if is entirely possible.

This move was taken as part of my larger vision to keep away from adopting the user-hostile nature of the majority of the sites on the web. I don’t want to know what device you are browsing my website from, how much time you are spending reading my content, or which city you are located in. None of these ‘metrics’ matter to me. Which is what I also told, in another fashion, to my company before I moved to my current role focusing on content.

I haven’t published much in the last few weeks since the start of the pandemic but I hope to get back on my feet soon. I plan to spend the next few weeks doing some hygiene check of this website and then proceed to publishing.

As always, thanks for stopping by. TN.

My Nostalgic Pre-Coronavirus Experiences

self isolation india

On 16 April 2020, I completed a month of remote working. As I continue to practice spatial distancing and occupy myself with some indoor activities, I have grown nostalgic of some experiences that I used to enjoy before the Covid-19 epidemic. Experiences that I never thought I would have to live without. Or at least wasn’t prepared to live without for such a long stretch.

Here they are in no order.

  • Watching a movie in a packed theatre and sometimes getting so absorbed in it that I pay no attention to anything else (even my phone or my mom sitting next to me)
  • Going for a solo walk or just strolling through the busy streets near my house while running errands in between and observing people carry on with their own tasks
  • Going for an unrestrained bike/car ride with some music on to enjoy the feeling of moving faster (despite the threats)
  • Travelling to work in a local train (which I took up back in January) that for more than two decades was an activity that made me anxious and exhausted but still made me feel like a part of something, a collective group, a herd
  • Going to a restaurant with friends or family to have a complete meal and getting lost in the food and conversations
  • Catching up with friends and replenishing the feeling of belonging
  • Travelling to farther places to de-stress after weeks of hectic schedule at work (my Bengaluru trip earlier in 2020 is going to go down as very special in my personal history)
  • Staying at a resort and enjoying the comforts of a laid-back holiday characterised by borderline decadence.

Some or all of these may sound like thoughts of a privileged person. It’s not that I do not understand the gravity of the coronavirus situation where healthcare professionals, law enforcement, and essential service workers are putting their life on the line for the sake of the greater good. I also understand that the essentials – food, shelter, internet – that I am enjoying may look like privileges to those without some of them.

But hiding these feelings wouldn’t have been right either. They had to be recorded. TN.