A fun ride with gadget based coding!

Gadget based coding !

Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ the latest innovation of this gadget era is a useful and excellent gadget as a home assistant, if used effectively. I got really excited when I watched about it and its feature in youtube two years ago. Got super delighted when I recently received an invitation from Amazon, to buy a Alexa product. Ordered an ‘Echo’ version and got delivered by next day. In India, though it would take some time to make it to serve on connected home skills, it is really exciting to make it to play our favourite music, current weather, ask for some facts, make mathematical calculations, explore scientific facts and much more. 

echoWhen my hubby’ first ask was to play his favorite S.Janaki song,  my daughter’s first request was to ask, Alexa, play ‘Shape of You’ by Ed Sheeran, my neighbour’s son asked for ‘Newton’s III Law of Motion’ and me asked for ‘Kandha Shashti Kavasam’ played by my favorite singer. So Alexa has the capability to cater to all kinds of generation and can effectively balance between generation gaps. It cannot have any bias towards any one’s likes or dislikes, since after all it is just a gadget. Am I right?

Ok. It can sing, it can calculate, it can tell facts, what else? What technologies are behind it? How this text to speech happens? How simple or complex it is? My programmer brain jumped to the next level and suggested me what if, if I try to build my own skill and see how easy or tough to make it to publish. Curiosity pushed me to search for  ‘Alexa Skill Development’. Got so many urls, suggestions and recommendations from Alexa Skill Developer Kit(ASK).  Read through many blogs and Alexa forum support which is still evolving though.

After a proper research and having a decent knowledge on the various steps involved, I moved from “Ideation” to  ‘Ready’ to ‘Execution’ state. Then everything happened in super fast mode. Created an ASK account. ASK suggests the developer to provide the skill execution link either from AWS or a certified deployed code. I wanted to explore this server less computing for long time. So used this opportunity to create a Amazon Web Services (AWS) account and choose ‘Lambda’ as my skill execution platform. Got the relevant security authentication keys and administrator privileges.  Next what, I need a resource store. Got a domain registered from wordpress.

In Lambda, I started to code initially in Java and switched to Python, since Python also was in my kitty long time to be practiced. So much of hiccups in between, to switch from Java syntax to Python syntax. I found Semicolon ‘;’ which played a major role in Java is an acute allergy for Python. Instead Python likes Colon- ‘:’ more. My roller coaster drive started towards developing a  basic skill of playing a famous South Indian verse, which is not available in Saavn Music at present.

Explored on the ‘Audio Player’ skill option in Alexa.  Systematically read through their excellent guide provided by Amazon. Learnt how to gracefully stop, cancel and use other ‘intents’. Yes i learnt new terminologies such as ‘Directives, ‘Utterance’, ‘Intents’, ‘Slots’ , Invocation Name’, ‘Speechlets’ etc. Enjoyed thoroughly to explore the usage of these new terms in ASK. Played with English on utterances, speechlets responses while deciding on the  intent slots and intents using ‘SSML’. Struggled hard to try different dimensions while coding for pause and resume intents by missing out some important parameters to handle with. When I made it to work, the amount of happiness cannot be explained in simple English.

Learnt many concepts from mistakes by submitting the skill for certification with the Alexa certification team, and they sent excellent detailed review of my skill, explaining where I went wrong and how to correct them with respect to invocation of the skill. Alexa’s Beta Test ground is very much helpful to test the developed skill before submitting it for certification. The excitement earned from testing my own skill in my own gadget and playing it, motivated me to move on further in improving the skill.

One would ask, why struggle when you can go for a small training or workshops to learn them. IMHO it is a great fun to try these on our own and swim to explore various options available, get stuck at some juncture and search for the solution and make it to work. I swam through Python, Lambda, server less computing, ASK and it’s new terminologies, and my own hosting server.  if there are no milestones or deadlines to meet with, it is a great hobby to pursue with. I started to enjoy this hobby and planning to release as many skills as possible and  enjoy coding in this automation era. Gadget based coding is fun! Yes coding is fun beyond Enterprise Architecture!

If you need help in developing an Alexa skill or stuck at some place during skill development, please reach out to me : msraje@gmail.com

I am old and alone at home! Who can be my companion?

I am old and alone at home!

We hear this quite often these days by our elder folks at home. In this material world everyone at home runs behind something, leaving behind the old ones at home. No one has any time to show care, give affection,  a warm hug,  protection, basically the most needed attention to elders at home. Every single soul in the world runs behind something which they think they could achieve but conveniently they forget that there is a phase of life that all need to face. That is called old age.

Who can be my companion then? Parents/old ones at home raise their brows with perplexed attitude!

  • Who will now remind me to take tablets?
  • Who can ask me to go for a walk?
  • Who can book me a cab when I want to go out?
  • Is there a way, I can ask for some food without using my mobile. I have eyesight issues, I can’t use mobile apps?
  • Can anyone speak with me for a while?
  • Can I listen to spiritual songs?

oldage.png Amazon Alexa, can resolve these and be a good companion at home for the age old folks. Somewhat less  than the warmth of the  family though!

Do you agree?

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எனக்கு பிடித்த பாரதி…

எனக்கு பிடித்த பாரதி. கண்ணனை சேவகனாக்கி, இன்றும் நம் பெண்கள் சேவகிகளால் படும் அவஸ்தையை அருமையாக எழுதியிருக்கும் – கண்ணன் என் சேவகன்:

பாரதியார், கண்ணன் மீது நீங்காத பற்றுக் கொண்டமையால், கண்ணனைத் தாயாக, தந்தையாக, நண்பனாக, சேவகனாக வைத்துப் பாடியுள்ளார். அதனுள் கண்ணனை சேவகனாகப் பாவித்துப் பாடிய பாடலொன்றைக் காணலாம்.
சேவகன் பொய்யுரைத்தல்:
கூலியை மிகுதியாக்க் கேட்பதும், முன்பு கொடுத்ததை மறப்பதும், வேலையுள்ள போது வராமல் வீட்டில் தங்கி விடுதலும், ஏன் நேற்று வேலைக்கு வரவில்லை என்று கேட்கையில் தொடர்பற்ற செய்திகளை தொடர்பாக்குதல் போன்று
“பானையில் தேள் இருந்து பல்லால் கடித்தது என்பார்
. . . . .
பாட்டியார் செத்துவிட்ட பன்னிரண்டாம் நாள் என்பார்”

என்ற பொய்யொன்றை மறைக்க வேறொரு பொய்யைச் சொல்வார். தனக்கு வேண்டியவர்களிடம் தனிமையில் பேசிவிடுவர். வீட்டுச் செய்திகளை எல்லாம் வீதிக்கு கொண்டு செல்வர். எள் இல்லை என்றாலும் எங்கும் முரசறைந்து சொல்வர்.
“தாயாதியோடு தனியிடத்தே பேசிடுவர்
உள்வீட்டுச் செய்தி எலாம் ஊர் அம்பலத்து உரைப்பர்
எள் வீட்டில் இல்லை என்றால் எங்கும் முரசு அறைவார்”

என்று பாரதியார் சேவகனின் பொய்யுரைகளை எடுத்துரைக்கின்றனர். சேவகரால் அடைந்த துன்பம்:
“சேவகரால் பட்ட சிரம்ம் மிக உண்டு கண்டீர்
சேவகர் இல்லாவிடிலோ செய்கை நடக்கவில்லை
இங்கிதனால் யானும் இடர்மிகுத்து வாடுகையில்”

பாரதியார், சேவகர்களால் படும் துன்பம் கொஞ்சமன்று எனினும் சேவகர் இல்லாவிடிலோ எச்செயலையும் செய்ய முடியாது என்று சேவகரால் தான் பட்ட துன்பத்தை நயம்பட கூறுகின்றார்.

Alexa, how many oranges do I have?

How nice it would be if Amazon Alexa could prompt the stock of grocery, medicine, vegetables, fruits, baby care or personal care products, from a house hold?  How good if we update our stock by making verbal statements using Alexa? How good it would be to get rid of confusing excel sheets in maintaining home inventory? How good it would be to make Alexa to send the shopping list in any category as an SMS to your number? How good it would be to check the grocery stock at home by sitting in our living room?

Watch this short demo:

 

To participate in #amazonalexalifehackschallenge,  recently I developed a useful Alexa skill to maintain, monitor and track the home inventory,  programmed to interact with the user and grow the inventory of the household items.

At many households, family members tend to forget what they require to buy while going shopping for their grocery, medicine, baby care, fruits, vegetables or personal care items. Only after returning home from the store, they remember and feel irritated for missing out on a few essential items.

This occurs as people lose track of the usage of day-to-day items to build their shopping list, which leads to lack of availability of important items at home, when needed – further leading to some inconvenience, anger or uncomfortable issues among the family members.

Inspiration:

We were inspired by such occurrences (in our own household too!) wherein poor inventory checks led to deficits or overstocking of day-to-day items. Hence, we wanted to create an efficient skill to maintain the home inventory in a fun way. This skill is designed in such a way that the members at home can maintain and monitor the inventory at their own convenience, at every instance of usage of the item.

This skill allows the user to refresh an item, use an item, get the shopping list by a specified category, check the number of items available, as well message the shopping list to the  user specified number. This skill, provides a convenient way to update a stock position at home whenever a person uses an item.

Hence, this skill can be considered as a centralized management of the home inventory. It saves time to check on each item available at home. It is more convenient for people to maintain their stock in a separate category such as medicine, baby care, fruits, vegetables, grocery etc.

Built using:

We built it using Python 2.7 (AWS Lambda environment), AWS DynamoDB (AWS Lambda environment), integrated with Way2Sms for messaging the shopping list to a user.

Challenges met with:

Setting up and designing the potential item names, categories, start of words of a phrase, end words for a phrase which is to be recognized by the Skill’s various intents.

Accomplishments that we’re proud of:

This is very useful skill to maintain, monitor and refresh items in different categories.The skill can grow the inventory by user’s inputs and can be maintained over a period of time. It can clear the items and can be refreshed with new items. We believe this skill will be of great use by the users at home in a day to day basis and to maintain and monitor their essential products and keep them available at home.  Integration with Way2Sms allows the skill to send message to the mobile number specified by the user and with the consent of the user.

What we learned

If Alexa misses to recognize the accent of the user, the skill might behave differently. The unknown phrases are handled in such a way, the skill will speak out to the user to try again.

What’s next for Home Stock

Integrate the shopping list with external applications to order online through superstores such as grocery , pharmacy, Amazon Pantry by sending the shopping list with the number of items required.

Sample statements:

Step 1: Enable Home Stock
Step 2: Say, :Alexa, Open Home Stock
Step 3: Say :Alexa I refreshed 12 oranges in fruits category
Step 4: Say :Alexa I used 5 oranges

Step 5 : Say: Alexa send my shopping list in grocery to my number XXXXXXXXXX
Step 6: Say :Alexa I added 6 oranges
Step 7: Say :Alexa Do I have any oranges?
Step 8: Say: What is my shopping list in fruits

Step 9: Say, Check my current stock in fruits
Step 10: Say: Alexa I removed oranges
Step 11: Say: Alexa I refreshed 15 oranges in fruits category
Step 12: Say: Alexa how many oranges do I have?
Step 13 Say: Alexa  stop

The skill allows to completely wipe out their inventory and start from the beginning by stating “Alexa, clear all items”. The users permission will be asked before clearing all the items and based on the response, the data will be cleared for that particular user.

Watch a demo of this skill : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9m1LceECIo

 

Marriage compliance check ..is it a myth or a boon?

Have you tried a simple android application “Nakshatra Porutham” which instantly displays compliance check details of a prospective bride and a groom – a first step to be processed in an arranged marriage?

In most of the households in southern part of India, arranged marriages are still happening. The first step on an arranged marriage is to check the compliance between the prospective bride and the bridegroom, beyond photo exchange, family background details exchange etc. ‘Janma nakshatram’ (Birth Star) plays a major role in checking such compliance.

welcome3editFrom ancient times it has become a ceremony to consult an astrologer, get his blessings to proceed with the marriage. There are many compliance factors which is expected to be matching between the bride and the bride groom. If the important factors like ‘Rajju’ or ‘Yoni’ are not matching, many elders reject the alliance stating there is ‘No proptham’ meaning its not conducive to proceed and to check with another prospect. More details here.

Astrologers normally provide this by making lots of calculations by matching the stars derived from the date of birth, time of birth of the bride and the groom. For those who does not know their birth star can generate from online web pages also. In our modern age there are people who still, strictly follow such rules when it comes to match making. For such kind of people this application will be a boon, which is built to emit the compliance results in a fraction of second 🙂

 

Hear your conscious not your mind!

Do we all have the responsibility to leave our healthier footprints to the next generation in this society?

I read somewhere, hear your conscious, not your mind! If we do so, we could create a healthier society with a nice atmosphere.

Do you agree?

Mind thinks intellectually and only about you. Mind can do only inward thinking. Only our conscious overrides mind and think about others around leading to an attitude towards helping others. It’s a practice and can be developed as a habit.

When it rains hard, and all shops are closed, if a neighbour asks for a cup of milk for their kid, have you observed your mind by then? Your mind will immediately respond  with an inner voice, ‘hey, you might need this for the evening’. At the same time conscious would say ‘hey, it’s for a kid. You will not die, if you don’t drink a cup of milk in the evening’, and end up in sharing the milk to a kid as a tiny-winy help.

You are at a bank or some similar kind of public office. You are filling up a form. Someone is nearing to your personal space and asks you, if you could spare your pen for a while. Have you observed? Your mind will say, ‘what if this stranger takes away my pen?”. At the same time conscious would wake up and say, ‘hey, it’s just a pen. What am I going to lose if he takes it away” and end up in sharing the pen as a small help.

Help.jpg

You are on a super market billing counter. The person in front of you is having some problem to get his billing cleared due to a small penny change. Have you observed? Your conscious would say, “why don’t you give that small change and clear the billing counter as well help the person in front of you? At the same time your mind would say, “why should I care about other people’s problem ?” At this moment if conscious overrides, the billing counter would clear soon and a cool environment will be created around.

We could write n number of situations like this. If we all listen to our consciousness, and think about others for a fraction of second in little things, human society will be healthier than now with a pleasant atmosphere. We could leave great footprints to this world when we leave it to the next generation!

Making business out of motivation !

Many businesses mint money through the motivation factors of human life. They use the key factors of human life such as laziness, a carrot for doing something or some kind of common motivation facts initiated through some medical ailments. They invest on these factors and it is very much amusing to see their growth. Imagine, what if no one is motivated to jog or walk in the morning. No one is feeling lazy or no one is thronging for some new clothing, shoes and gadgets, what will happen to these multi billion businesses.

Nike

A normal 20-30 minutes walk and few minimum stretching exercise is enough for a human to start their day and have an active day through out. They start doing it with a new year resolution in January and within a week their mind throngs for something. They go for shopping, browse through e-commerce websites such as Amazon, FlipKart and buy/order some running shorts, shoes based on their economical strength companies like Nike, Adidas flourish and sustain in the market.

FitbitI was thinking, why not human live a simple life with a normal shoes, and normal attire for going for workout?

Why do they invest on so much on shoes, jogging suits. Modern electronic gadgets like Fitbit, MiBand also join this bandwagon these days. If one does not use a Fitbit, its like a crime, its seen among people. Apart from clothing, shoes the music industries also flourishes and mints money using the work out regime of people. It has become inevitable for people to possess minimum a shoe, jogging suit , electronic wear and a music accessory.

Workout

People need some kind of self-motivation things to do anything in life. Laziness is one factor which triggers many to get motivated. If one understands that this factor never fades in human life, these businesses will sustain and flourish. Parents motivate children buying new clothes, electronic gadgets to make them active and do workouts. Spouses gift each other with Fitbits to have a healthy life. Sons and daughters motivate their parents by buying comfortable shoes and music accessories advising them to keep thier glucose level intact. This goes on and on.

Yes. Investing on ‘Lazyness’ is the secret behind success of many businesses across the world.  Am I right?

 

 

Are we ready to “learn to unlearn” for a quality life?

Have you ever thought what kind of quality life you are leading to? One of my colleague asked me once. We discussed it over a cup of green tea.

For many years, mankind is improving its quality of life but with a price. Many people started to belive, the more you spend the more quality you achieve in your life. Many equated quality with luxury.

The naked truth is ‘quality’ is not related with luxury. Luxury is a style of life, if one wants to live with the money he spent on various newer things released in the market by the business people whose only aim is to make money. Life’s quality does not depend on luxury. Am I complicating to make you understand?

Just think of a man with his intelligence, has earned more and got a nice luxurious apartment in a plush locality and has everything in the house positioned with great care and maintained by servants for every category, which the house holds. End of the day when this man lies down in the bed and think of his self, he might have got great stress, developed with anxiety leading to depression just to achieve this luxury and success in his life. Due to the developed stress, this man’s body would have developed all kinds of ailments without having time to take care of himself, he would have already crossed his crucial age to enjoy his life. The earned money will be of no use, if not able to use at the right age.

So do you agree, in the search of luxury people lose the quality in their life. Visit to the doctors increases, but the man is so used to go in the search of luxury, he has no time to accept what the doctors say and follow. He overrides the advises thinking nothing will happen to him. He misses to realize the truth and fact of life when the life shows to him at many occasions. He misses the bus and falls into the medical attention which becomes sometimes impossible.

butterfly

You might ask me, what am I trying to say and what is my point?

My point is, while running to create luxury in one’s life, man should know how to feed his mind, body and soul. He should know what are the required food for the mind, body and soul and understand not only the money he generated or the luxury can feed them. The money and the luxury which he created using the money might bring self-satisfaction but not the real quality one require in life.

Learning to unlearn a few things in life is the only way to achieve a good quality.

  • Unlearn to consume junk food and learn to feed the body with good nutritional food!
  • Unlearn the process of  having negative thoughts, and learn to feed the mind & soul with good intentions, required information and positive thoughts!
  • Unlearn to chat and gossip useless information,  and learn to read good books and exchange good authentic information!
  • Unlearn the ways of having a sedentary life, and learn to lead an active life through Yoga, regular exercise and planned workouts!

So my friends, ‘Quality of life’ is not something procured, it should be generated from one’s inner self…. 🙂

Do you agree?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visiting patients – Ethics

Visiting a patient is not for marking attendance but to wish for their speedy recovery !

Sometimes I feel visiting patients at hospital has become a JAC..Just a ceremony. With the stamp of ‘dears & nears’ people try visiting an ailing or recovering patients. They see to that that they visited the patient and mark their attendance for name sake. Why this fake mask? I always feel.

Some ethics needs to be followed while visiting an ailing patient. First rule of thumb is a crowd should never be made. Related people should talk to each other in this whatsapp age and plan their visit. Like a bunch of lemons, everyone should not assemble and roll over on the patient. Never try to use this opportunity as a family get together event.

patient.jpg

It has become a pattern that if one hears about someone is ill, it is very much needed to immediately call on them and show their concern. Actually its not necessary in this skype , whatsapp or internet age. Its a curt to call on the patient’s attender rather than calling the patient itself. No one follows this rule. They call the patient directly and hit on them, and drag the call by saying ‘you should not be talking and need to take rest’, they suck out all the information starting from hospital expenses to the type of ailment. People wants information. Information is power. Agree. But not in certain specific junctures in life.

A patient once reached home is not allowed with proper rest. In the name of  ‘concern’ people call on them and disturb by keep saying they dont want to disturb at all. If its a sunday , the crowd doubles up since they cannot come on other days. If there is a real concern patient’s attender should they discuss with before coming. Ask about the comfort of the patient and before buying something for the patient, they should be aware of what the patient can take and what not from the attender.

Yes. Visiting a patient is not for marking attendance but to wish for their speedy recovery !

Do you agree?

OMG! I have no clothes !!!

OMG! I have no clothes…a scream which always and constantly heard at homes blessed with teenage to all age girls 🙂

80/20 rule is strictly applied here. 80% of the time we girls wear only 20% of our dresses available in our wardrobe. Do we agree?

My evolution from a teenage girl to a married girl to a mother to a mother in law and to-be grandma, I have felt the same, everytime whenever I open my wardrobe. OMG…I have no clothes!!! and No space for my clothes !!!

22688904_1580923001943328_2768399821125077435_n

Why this feeling?

I have observed 99% of the girls don’t maintain their wardrobes and a waterfalls technique is followed by the wardrobes once it is opened. So the good clothes gets entangled at some corners and never be visible at the right time or appropriate occassions leading to buy a new one. Especiallay t-shirts, thin nylon based dresses and such kind of clothes easily hide somewhere. If we consistently keep them intact, we could find them but when they gets hidden how to find them ???

It could be due to our constant weight changes which leads to OMG! I have no clothes!!! Whenever we buy new clothes, we tend to buy smaller size, by listening to our mind voice, which states, “From tomorrow diet diet and diet…and reduce to this size” . Once home, see a cake and elevate the hip and conveniently forget to drop to the size envisioned at the clothe store …

Or, it could be our mindset and preferences varies season to season and time to time. Oh this color, i dont like to wear this occassion, oh this neck line, not suited for evening..oh this does not have a hip belt..oh the top has lost its color etc.etc… how much of preferences in style and appearance varies from season to season.

A girl’s mind always attracted towards a cloth shop and end up in buying a new one which is inevitable and happens….

So OMG! I have no clothes!!! will be a constant scream and would never end in a girl’s life…

Unless……… an idea pops up in my mind….

All cloth stores should sell ‘use and throw’ dresses in different, trendy, colourful patterns and styles. Girls will buy, use for an occassion and throw it into the bin and no need for maintaining a costlier wardrobe too. So much of money is spent on marriage reception dresses and other events which a girl does not even touch those for another time. So why worry if there is a ‘Use and throw’ shop 🙂

Envisioning an ‘use and throw’ shop sooner or later displayed with trendy clothes and can be easily ordered ‘on demand’. Leaves also could be considered …just for a change

What do you say my friends?