Effective Learning image

Thoughts on Effective Learning

Learning – Reality!

Whether it is today or in the past, learning is inevitable. If you want to grow in whatever work/business you are in, learning has to be your primary focus all the time. Whoever you are as a professional – Physician, Lawyer, CA, Architect, Engineer, IT professional….. people who excel in their field of work are the ones who constantly indulge in effective learning. They make themselves disciplined, focused, and build their learning habits over time.

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But what if one doesn’t have the urge to adapt to the changing needs and keep up the pace! Needless to say, more likely than not, they will have to deal with some harsh realities. But what is that reality in effective learning? It is this:

Development or Survival or Life for that matter will become more difficult for those:

Who stop growing and learning:

If you look around you will definitely see people who never make an effort to grow, at times they even think that they will grow automatically as time passes by. Such are the people for whom life is more difficult than it would have been if they were learning effectively and continuously. Imagine what would have happened if noble laureates had stopped learning and growing! And if famous scientists we know had done the same as well. I am sure you will agree this world would have been a very different place than what we are witnessing today. It just doesn’t matter how successful you are at the moment. If you stop effective learning, trust me, you are surely going down the road to failure.

Who don’t think effectively?

Have you ever wondered why one person succeeds more than the other, even if they had the same upbringing/schooling/academics/opportunities etc. The simple answer could be in the way a successful person thinks. It is really important how do we think – whether it is effective thinking or just some involuntary action. In learning, it is very important to think effectively. Your thoughts will determine whether you will be a successful person or just another guy. There is an age-old story, where 3 people were working at the construction site. When the supervisor came in and asked the first person about what he was doing, he said: “I am mixing material that is to be used by the other person”. The second guy responded saying “I am laying the bricks to create a wall”. The last person said, “ I am building a Mansion”. So although all 3 were doing something related to that construction, only one had a different perception. I am sure you must have read this story earlier as well. Your effective thoughts/vision holds true when it comes to succeeding or not succeeding. Learning also requires effective thinking. You should never think that only when a certain requirement or tech-stack is needed, that I will learn. That will never happen, my friend.

Remember this: it is always good to showcase what you know instead of “only saying” what you know 🙂

Who don’t face reality?

Facing and accepting reality is another crucial aspect of effective learning. People sound miserable when they keep saying that Someday I will do this or someday I will do that….and that day never arrives.

Author Alex Haley had remarked and I quote him here “Either you deal with what is reality, or you can be sure that reality is going to deal with you.”

In my opinion what a perfect quote. If you want to climb a mountain then it will never happen overnight or it will never happen without the proper training and conditioning that is needed to climb. But one has to be proactive in seeking them, and not postpone matters to a later time.

Isn’t it the same with learning? Learning MEAN or MERN or PWA or for that matter AI or Data Science or Blockchain all requires those steps and actions, otherwise it will always be a mountain that someday you will.

Who are slow to make proper adjustments?

This always reminds me of the stock market. How many times have we seen that people who don’t put stop-losses and make proper adjustments in their portfolio lose more consistently. Making proper adjustments with time always proves to be more effective. If you have accepted the reality and have begun taking the required action then the intent has to be to stay on the track and not let anything distract you. There might be situations that demand your attention. But those should only lead you to recalibrate your action plan. Your commitment to your goal should persist.

A perfect example would be – You are idle and you start learning how to climb a mountain in the form of Machine Learning (it could be anything though), but as you get more work, instead of adjusting to the same you get distracted and start telling yourself that when I get the time, I will resume… which may or may not happen. Overall a vicious loop to get into.

It doesn’t mean you focus on your learning only, client/works is always a priority, but adjusting your time to learn is equally important.

Who don’t respond correctly to challenges?

Challenges or adversities always provide an opportunity for growth. All great ideas emerge out of adverse situations or problems. People who ignore the problem don’t solve it, whereas those who face the problems by taking them head-on are the ones who more often than not come out of it successfully. How true with the context of learning. Isn’t it right that when you face a challenging /complex task you end up learning more from it than otherwise! What if you had never faced any complex or challenging situations ever? I am sure you would have been a rotten lemon, else you would have made lemonade out of the same already 🙂

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So, go out and learn more, think effectively, face reality, make the right adjustments, and face the challenges. You will see a different person sooner than later. Don’t be a victim of your own mindset.

Quote: Victim mindset causes people to focus on what they cannot do instead of what they can do, it is a recipe for continued failure.

Happy Effective Learning.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions.  For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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Leveraging Kubernetes for End-to-End Quality Assurance

Kubernetes is an all-in-one container orchestration tool that helps in the management, deployment, monitoring, and scaling of systems for containerized applications which are all packaged in one open-source system. If your organization works with containerized applications using Docker, then you would already know that things become tedious, and it becomes difficult to manage them when they scale up.

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Classic QA Process:

Here, the end-user only interacts with the front-end user interface in both monolithic and containerized applications. Similarly, the traditional QA process can be used for containerized applications but should be seen as a subset of the QA process in the Kubernetes world. UI or API testing using tools like selenium or Rest- assured can be used for automation testing for applications running on Kubernetes, but this is a costly process that requires high investment in terms of time, money & resources. To overcome this, it requires us to look outside the box to find better solutions that can be paired up with these and provide better coverage right from the beginning. This would result in the scope of the QA process getting increased when applied to Kubernetes applications.

Enhanced QA Process (hybrid):

Kubernetes applications are generally deployed using continuous integration and continuous delivery. To assist the developers in the release cycle, the traditional approach of creating end-to-end tests is not adequate and now requires QA to work very closely with developers on the tests so that it can be written quickly and executed swiftly.

Hybrid QA Process

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The following are the new technologies that help in accomplish the full potential of the QA process in Kubernetes world.

  1. AB Testing
  2. Chaos Engineering
  3. Consumer-Driven Contract Testing
  4. Helm Tests
AB Testing:

The complexity of applications has increased vastly, and business requires constant UI updates and feedback based on the frontend changes. The business stakeholders hire marketing and research teams to attract more customers and convert more leads from different marketing campaigns.

Here Kubernetes gives us the power to leverage continuous feedback by using the customers as testers and present real-time statistics for businesses to make the decisions in real-time

AB Testing

Chaos Engineering:

Chaos engineering is used to test the resilience and weakness of a system in production by creating expected chaos in the system to verify that none of the activities has affected the performance and stability of the system. This builds confidence that the system can handle unexpected situations and any failures that exist can be addressed before the customers face the brunt.  Since the get known to the QA team in advance, it gives them the opportunity to fix those unexpected outages before they actually affect large groups of users. Some examples can include scenarios like increasing load on a Microservice, introducing DNS failures, Mimicking hard drive failure etc.

This can be achieved by using Free and open-source tools available depending upon the cloud provider on which the system is hosted. For example, one of the better-known tools is Chaos Monkey used by Netflix for cloud-hosted Kubernetes clusters.

Chaos Engineering

Consumer-Driven Contract Testing:

Often times while working with microservices, creating full end-to-end integration tests are expensive and require high execution time. Even if you hit failures, it is hard to figure out which service is causing the failure if the complexity of the system is high. We can create Consumer-Driven Contract Testing using Pact which is available in almost all languages. It makes it easy to write the integration tests and helps us to test consumer-provider rules using JSON files.

So, what is a pact? Well, PACT is a binding contract between the consumer and the provider, which has to be always followed. In the world of microservices, the pact is based on the API call (consumer) and response (provider) and can be done using either a single isolated microservice (while mocking the other microservices) or on a real system with all microservices running.

Why use PACT when we can write end to end integration tests?  Well, it helps us create tests before we move to write expensive integration tests and can provide us general sanity of all the microservices running in our system.

Consumer Driven Contract Testing

Helm Tests:

Most of the organizations use Helm charts to deploy Kubernetes resources on Kubernetes clusters. These charts are really powerful and often contain tests written in the chart which can be used to test if all the resources got deployed successfully to our Kubernetes cluster.

Since Helm tests use a scripting language to perform basic sanity checks on the deployed resource, we should leverage the tests provided by popular charts over the internet. In case, you are making in house helm charts, then you might want to skip this for some better integration test since tests written in scripting language can be difficult to write and maintain.

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With the fast evolution of the application architecture and introduction of DevOps culture, the traditional QA process is not able to provide the same value for money and is often seen as one of the bottlenecks when it comes to the release cycle. Hence, QA must design and plan their framework to provide a blend of fast test results and improved end-to-end integration tests. The role of QA is now changing from Quality Assurance to Quality Assistance. Since the QA process has to be optimized as per the AUT, this article hopefully has helped you in identifying the process of robust end to end QA framework for applications running on the Kubernetes cluster.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions.  For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

 

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VoIP Call Image

CallKit integration for VoIP Apps

Most of us by now are accustomed to using the services of a third-party provider to make VoIP calls over desktops, laptops, and smartphones. But making VoIP over Native iOS apps was never a convenient task. In-fact Apple has completely restricted the use of VoIP push for any kind of background processing from iOS-13. Earlier developers were using VoIP push for making call (audio/video) notifications or some other processing in the background. Apple took this decision to avoid the overbearing process that was happening in the background. It was not only leading to disproportionately high consumption of resources but also a significant drain of battery capacity.

A typical VoIP call usually comes as a notification on one’s screen, and in order to receive it, the user needs to slide the notification and also type a passcode to receive, if locked. Burdensome! Isn’t it? Especially if compared to how a native app eases the same experience.

The solution to this comes with CallKit, which is a framework that is capable of elevating your third party VoIP app experience to a very intuitive one. You get the same rich, full- screen native call UI to accept and attend the calls. Once a call is accepted you also get a “Callback “option to initiate the same function (WebRTC) which you have used earlier. You can also set custom ringtones for your app that would be different from native calls ringtone.

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VoIP Image2

Besides, if you are on a call in your app and you start getting native calls, you will be able to hold and swap the calls. It could be an audio call, facetime call or even another VoIP call. Even your call history will be stored in the call directory (missed, received, dialed calls and add in favorites). You can also make the call from Siri, Bluetooth and access the “Do not disturb” functionality.

VoIP Artitecture

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions.  For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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Unsure if your Enterprise needs a Website or a Mobile App?

The remark “There is an app for that” is so common nowadays and underlines the deep influence of mobile apps in our lives. But, when Apple went on to register a trademark for it, you knew it was more than that. 

So, you have decided to go digital and create an online identity for your business. But, you are stuck with the difficulty of choosing between a mobile app and a website. Eager to get a quick solution? Turns out, in most of the cases, both mobile app and website are not mutually exclusive but are complementary, with each serving a different purpose and target segment. So, there isn’t an answer that is universally correct. It depends on various different things.

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App First

Some cases are better served with mobile apps, especially the ones that need frequent or repeated use. For instance, e-commerce, food ordering, social media, chat, news, travel, productivity-related applications, utility apps, real-time tracking like stock apps.

App Only

Then there are those which, because of their dependency on the underlying hardware, can only be served through mobile apps. For instance, home automation, alarm, games, navigation apps, mobile wallets, AR(Augmented Reality) & VR(Virtual Reality) apps and games.

Website or Mobile App?

For the sake of this article, the above two categories need not be considered, for the obvious reason that the mobile app seems to be the default choice for them. However, for categories that can be served equally well by both the mediums, there are certain inherent advantages of using either an app or a website. Let’s understand them from the perspectives of a user and a business.

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User’s point of view, what really matters.

1. Convenience

Websites are convenient for informative and non-frequent use like finding details about a business, exploring a place, looking for services, R&D for projects, and yes, deciding the best app to download for a particular need. Basically, all the Google searches we do can be better served by a website. Mobile apps seem to be more convenient for activities that are performed more frequently. The initial hurdles of downloading and setting things up might seem daunting. But things ease out subsequently, and users get pulled into a more convenient, personalized, and engaging experience.

2. Data Consumption and Offline Mode

To use a mobile app one needs to download it first, an act pulls into the mobile resources that the app will need to function -images, icons, layout inbuilt, etc. Once done, there isn’t much left to download during consumption, which results in quicker loading and sometimes offline access too. In contrary to this, you can’t even load the website without an internet connection.

For mobile apps, during the offline mode, tasks can be queued up in batches and then be pushed to the server when online. Such a sophisticated way of dealing with the offline mode isn’t just possible in case of a website.

3. Performance

For CPU intensive tasks such as games, heavy graphics layouts, complex lists, mobile app scores way higher than a website for its close proximity to the device hardware.

4. Updates

Whether it’s an app or a website, it gets developed alongside. Hence the user expects updates. Pushing an update to the website is easy, you do it on the server-side and users get a brand new look and feel next time they check you out. If you can strategically manage the downtime, there is not much that bothers the user. On the other hand, the whole app needs to be downloaded all over again to get the update. Not to mention, the review process apps go through to be live in the app store which takes time.

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Business’s point of view

1. Customer base – Existing & Potential

Initial acquisition cost is high for mobile apps. You need to get the user to download your app first, to be able to use it. In contrary to this, anyone can visit your website through any browser and from any device having a browser. People can even find your website through Google search. This opens up a lot of possibilities for your business. In short, you can serve both existing and potential customers through a website. Whereas, mobile apps can only serve the existing user base.

2. User Engagement

Re-engaging with users using rich and powerful notifications and getting meaningful insights through analytics is better done with mobile apps than websites.

3. Learning Curve and Cost of Deployment

Mobile apps are highly customizable. In terms of features and capabilities, they can do a whole lot of stuff that a website can’t do, thanks to the close hardware integration. This, combined with the tons of possible unique use cases, helps create an ever-increasing range of UI/UX and feature possibilities. Thus, you have a steep learning curve even if you need to build a basic app. In other words, there is no such thing called an ‘App builder’. Even if you can find one, chances are, it will let you create a basic HTML type webpage app or an app functioning as a container of your website. In that case, you are better off creating a responsive website instead. Not to mention the whole point of creating an app is to create a tool for your users and you want it to be fully customizable in the first place.

On the other hand, a single screen website with some basic viewable features can be made using website builders needing almost no technical skills. A few examples would include blogging sites, personal/resume type websites, a website showing just the details of your business. However, to create a customized and full-featured website, you need a lot of technical skills.

4. Multiple platform support

Because of the way they have been distributed around the globe, you can’t ignore any of the 2 major platforms of the mobile OS- iOS & Android. People in the US, Canada, Australia, and European nations prefer iOS, whereas, Android is the global leader in terms of market share. Apart from this, iOS users are generally high paying customers in any region. This essentially means, to get high ARPU(Average Revenue Per User) you need to support iOS and to get to the masses, you need to support Android.

Mobile OS preference across the world

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(credit: https://deviceatlas.com/blog/android-v-ios-market-share)

Supporting 2 completely independent OS will result in higher development and maintenance costs. On the other hand, a single set of code will result in a website which works universally for every device with a browser.

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Website vis-à-vis Mobile Apps! Can one replace the other?

No matter how tightly websites and apps are attached, they are uniquely placed with each serving a purpose different from the other. However, the matter of the fact is that they cannot replace each other. We might see things in the future that will bridge the gap between them both from the business and the user’s point of view. In fact, we already have things like Progressive Web Apps and tools like Flutter and React which are trying to bring websites and apps closer in terms of use and development.

Even Technologies like AR which is by far better served by mobile apps are finding their way to websites. By creating a new file type USDZ, Apple has made it possible for websites to enable users to try 3D virtual objects in their Physical space. This creates a compelling possibility for E-Commerce websites. Of course, for this to work, the website needs to be viewed on a mobile phone/iPad with a camera supporting AR.

To draw an analogy, mobile app and website are like parallel lines, they remain close to each other without overlapping in terms of their existence. We might speculate about their getting merged in the distant future but that distant future might just never come.

Final Thoughts?

Your website is your online identity. As businesses have an office address in the physical world, they have a website in the digital one. And, a mobile app is like a tool you provide to the user to get things done with ease, as well as engage. In most of the cases, you will need to have both.

Depending upon the nature and the stage a business is in, one medium might find itself positioned more favorably than the other. But, when the cost is not a deterrent, it has become customary to embrace both the website and the mobile app, almost as if they were an obligation. It gives a business the chance to meander seamlessly into the mental realms of its target customers, the users, and unleash many possibilities.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions.  For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

 

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Golang

Golang : A Hype or the Future?

Created by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike and Ken Thompson for Google, GoLang was reportedly built by developers when they were waiting for the code compilation to complete in a project. The three main capabilities they certainly sought-after were the ease of coding, efficient code-compilation and efficient execution. Bringing all these capabilities in one language is what made Go so special.

Go is an open-source, procedural, statically-typed, compiled, and general-purpose programming language. The compiler was originally written in C but is now written in Go as well, which keeps the language self-hosted. the language has seen a lot of success in the last couple of years. A large portion of the modern cloud, networking, and DevOps software is written in Go, eg. Docker, Kubernetes, Terraform. Go is also being used by many companies for general-purpose development.

As the requirement for performance keeps growing, hardware continues to get sophisticated over time, the manufacturers keep on adding cores to the system to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. To handle such an increasing number of cores the system needs to maintain database connections through microservices, manage the queues and maintain caches. This is why today’s hardware requires a programming language that can support concurrency better, and that can scale up performance with the increase of added cores over time.

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Golang versus Other Languages

Languages are compared predominantly on two factors 

  1. Ease of programming
  2. Efficiency

These factors are usually inversely proportional, meaning that any language that has high “ease of programming” usually has low “efficiency” and vice versa. Go holds the sweet spot with great efficiency and adequate “ease of programming”.

Why “Golang” and not “C++”

Go and C++ are both compiled languages and both have similar speed(In fact, C++ is a bit faster than Go). But the garbage collector in Go is what sets it apart from C and C++.

Any complex program makes use of dynamically allocated memory, and this allocated memory needs to be freed when it is not required. If that is not done, the program would eventually use up all the available memory and crash. In the case of servers, it is absolutely required to do that as it is expected to run indefinitely. In C and C++, the user is forced to deallocate all the memory that they have allocated themselves or use a third party garbage collector. In the case of Go, all the dynamically allocated memory with no reference is automatically garbage collected, making it a lot easier to work with.

Concurrency and “Golang”

Many programming languages weren’t natively designed for concurrent programming. They lack proper design for concurrent execution, and so, they often slow down the pace of programming, compiling and execution. This is where Go comes as the most viable option to support a multithreading environment and concurrency both.

Eg: Language like python only allows one thread to access the interpreter at a time and essentially never runs two threads in parallel. So running two processor-heavy tasks at a time in python in separate threads would have the same if not worse result than running them in the same thread.

The Go scheduler unlike schedulers in other languages manages the concurrency fully by itself. It doesn’t map Goroutines to OS-level threads directly. Instead, it re-uses a few OS-level threads. This reduces the context switching delay significantly as most of the context switching is done at application-level and not Kernel level.

What is the call stack and why is it important in threads?

In case of threads, stack is used to store function return pointers (where to return the result of a function call) and static variables. Goroutine has a dynamic growable call stack which starts from only 4KB and can go up to the total memory capacity. Other languages, in contrast, have static stack sizes, usually of 1MB (determined by the OS).

This growable stack in Go is one of the key things which makes Goroutines light-weight. Where other languages can only have a few concurrent blocks, Go can have a lot more because of its dynamic stack size.

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Conclusion

Taking into account all the offerings from Golang, we notice that it distinguishes considerably in terms of

  •  Faster compilation and execution
  •  Better code readability and documentation
  •  Offering a thoroughly consistent language
  •  Easy versioning
  •  Allowing development with multiple languages
  •  Allowing easier maintenance of dependencies

These features surely make Golang a contender for the next-generation programming language.

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If you have any queries in this field, talk to Mindfire Solutions. For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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Swift 5 Vs ObjC

Is Swift the Objective Choice now?

‘Swift Vs Objective-C’– It is one of the first Google searches every iOS developer does before beginning their journey into the world of app development. At a broader level, choosing between Objective-C and Swift is also one of the fundamental and crucial decisions every business makes before beginning any iOS app development work.

So if the question is Swift or Objective-C? The answer cannot be in binary. If you have an existing application already written in Objective-C, then you can weigh the benefits of switching over to Swift vs sticking to Objective-C. However, if you are planning a new app, then Swift should be your default choice.

Why so? Well, read on to know…

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The Story so far

Apple launched a new programming language called Swift in WWDC in October 2014. It came as a surprise to every developer as it was intended to replace Objective-C as the main programming language on Apple’s platforms, which by all means was stable, proven and had been around for more than two decades, powering millions of apps.

The goal was far-sighted. Swift was designed to be safer, faster, and easier to maintain. Though initially built for Apple platforms, it was aimed to be able to support all platforms. Before becoming Open Source, Swift was designed ground up by Apple using decades of Objective-C experience adding a modern touch derived from the latest programming trends and good practices. It was designed to have all the goodness of a modern-day programming language. Though a descendant of Objective-C, it is fundamentally different in terms of design, syntax, programming style and memory management.

But replacing a decades’ long programming language with a new one cannot be an overnight affair. There were thousands of libraries and hundreds of frameworks already written and working with Objective-C, as they were supposed to. Rewriting them using an infant language did not seem logical. Thus, Objective-C runtime continues to access Apple platform frameworks like UIKit, WatchKit, and AppKit. And Swift has the capability to interface seamlessly and work on top of it.

From the very beginning, Swift is fully compatible with Objective-C, as it should be. Both languages can still co-exist on all Apple platforms. And Apple isn’t likely to change this in the foreseeable future unless it has any strong reason to do that.

Support for interactive programming using Playground enables developers to test their idea live without building and running applications.

In terms of programming capabilities and flexibility, Swift has a lot to offer. Its functional programming style, and strongly typed language makes it impossible to have run time crashes resulting from out-of-bound or type-related issues. It has features like closures, tuples, generics, Structs and enums supporting methods, extensions and protocols, computed properties, powerful extensions, and the list just goes on…

Design-wise factors such as safety, readability, code size, less error-prone, efficient and fast iteration over collections, and other platform support make Swift fundamentally better than Objective-C.

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Why Objective-C then?

Despite being so much powerful, Swift lacked just one thing that triggered Swift vs Objective-C debate, and that is ‘Maturity’. In the earlier years, deciding between Swift and Objective-C was like choosing between a fledgling with a lot of promise and a veteran with proven credentials.

Those who had rushed to develop production apps using Swift version 1 & 2, had to refactor the whole codebase, or just rewrite it again. It wasn’t matured, evolving rapidly, and syntaxes were completely changing in the early iterations. Hence, it was difficult to maintain Swift Apps compared to Objective-C, which was matured, trusted and possessed a huge developer base.

However, after Swift3, syntaxes became relatively stable and some minor refactoring that was needed was taken care of by the Xcode itself. And then Swift4 seemed to be more stable in terms of design and syntaxes, but, it still lacked ABI stability. Then came Swift 5.

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What makes Swift 5 different?

So far, every version of Swift has been better than earlier. But what makes Swift5 so special is ABI stability.

Starting with version 4.2, Swift codes from one version have been compatible with another. However, the application binary, which can be considered as the machine level code for the sake of this argument, wasn’t compatible with that from a different version of Swift. That is, Swift wasn’t ABI stable until recently before version 5 was launched.

With Swift now being ABI stable for all Apple platforms like iOS, WatchOS, macOS and tvOS, all future versions of Swift including Swift5 will be compatible with each other at the binary level. True that Swift will continue to evolve in future releases, but the application written in the current version of Swift will no longer need to be refactored or rewritten to be able to support future versions of OS. In fact, libraries written now will seamlessly coexist and communicate at the binary level with code written in future versions of Swift and vice versa. And the reduction in app size is the immediate benefit it provides to the users now.

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Conclusion

True Objective-C is here to stay. There are millions of applications already running using this. But, it isn’t getting any major updates, most of the updates are just to make it compatible with Swift. As a language, Swift is way superior. And above all, developers with expertise in Objective-C and practicing it will dwindle in years to come.

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If you have any queries in this field, talk to Mindfire Solutions. For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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The Impact of AR on Retail

The Impact of Augmented Reality on Retail

Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that allows overlaying digital content like images, videos and 3D objects onto the real world, thereby give the illusion of being a part of it. One of the most famous examples of AR is Pokémon Go, which overlays a virtual Pokémon (a 3D cartoon character) onto the real world. AR also offers tremendous possibilities outside of the Gaming Industry, especially in Retail.

The adage “Customer Is God” is a golden rule. It isn’t surprising, therefore, that any business that solves its customer’s problems effectively, gets rewarded with the customer’s loyalty, money, and trust. AR is fast becoming an invaluable tool in the hands of Retail businesses that aim to constantly impress their customer base and stay ahead of the competition.

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Let’s look at some of the issues that concern the customers of this industry.

Customer Problems

With Online Retail:

  • High Time Consumption – Let’s say you order cloth from an e-commerce website. Typically it will take a few days for the product to reach you. You then gauge it on all the parameters that matter – size, color, texture, etc. If the product does not meet your expectations, you are likely to exchange the item, triggering the cycle to repeat.
  • Return Costs – If the business doesn’t bear the shipment cost of returns, customers are likely to pay for it.
  • Problems with large items – It requires a very vivid imagination to see how a new couch would look in a room. Will it look good with the rest of the furniture? Or will it even fit in the first place?

With Offline Retail:

  • Too much work – It takes a lot of time and energy going around dozens of stores and looking for the right items and then trying various permutations and combinations to check if they look well together.

With both Online and Offline Retail:

  • Un-try-able Products – Some products can’t be tried on. For example, It’s hard to imagine how a particular hair color would look on you, or if that dragon tattoo would be too much for you to carry.
  • Un-personalized Shopping Experience – Currently the preferences of a customer are unknown to the business. Consequently, the suggestions given to the customers are un-personalized and work on a hit-and-trial basis.
  • Hygiene Issues – Whether you have germophobia or otherwise, there is always a risk of contracting a disease owing to the dress being tried on earlier by an infected person.
  • It ain’t fun – Going from store to store, from one website and mobile app to another and trying on or imagining how every product would look like on you is an exhausting experience and is not fun for most. And in online retail, even after so much effort, one can never know if the product will turn out to be expected.

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Let’s look at some of the issues that concern the businesses of this industry.

Business Problems

With Online Retail:

  • Shipment Costs – The trade-off between bearing the shipment costs of product-returns vis-a-vis making the customers pay for it is a tough choice for any business.

Doing Offline Retail:

  • Compensation for salespeople – Since the whole process is very manual, from the salesperson showing the items to the customer to making the sale, a constant involvement is needed.

Problems common to Online and Offline Retail:

  • Conversion Rates – Due to a lack of personalized suggestions and ads, and a tiring shopping experience, conversion rates of businesses are lower than they can be.
  • Brand Awareness – Extensive marketing is needed for businesses to create awareness of their brands, and it is invariably a very expensive matter.
  • Customer Acquisition – Customer Acquisition costs eat up a big portion of a business’s profits. These are mainly un-targeted advertisements having low conversion rates.

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How AR helps solve these problems

Try And Buy Functionality:  AR can overlay any item onto the real world to make it seem like it is a part of it. Powerful Machine Learning (ML) algorithms can detect the face and body of a person in an image or even in real-time. An application using a combination of AR and ML can allow its users to try on a virtual version of any item they would like to buy, from the comfort of their houses. Another possible feature is the placement of virtual 3D models of furniture inside a user’s house. Such features will reduce the number of returns the buyer makes which helps save time and reduce the return.

Saves User’s Time and Energy:  as now they have the whole inventory of products available to them and they can try anything on with a click rather than manually trying every item on.

Eliminate Hygiene-related Problems: Trying items in this new way is much efficient and can be made as aesthetically appealing as needed, making the whole process a joyous experience for the user.

Increase Brand Awareness: Users can click a picture of them trying on an item and can share it on social media. This will lead to free marketing and increased brand awareness.

Automated Processes: For offline retail, the need for a salesperson is heavily reduced. A user will enter a fitting room with a screen instead of a mirror and a camera attached to the screen. Users can touch and select their choice of clothing from the screen and can try a virtual version of it instantly. If they like the item they can ask to try the real item on. Hence the need for a salesperson is reduced considerably.

Attracting Customers and Increasing Conversion Rates: A screen mounted with a camera-enabled with AR can show how someone standing in front of the mirror would look like wearing a certain item. Such a setup outside a retail store will attract flocks of customers who after seeing them trying on a virtual item would want to buy it if it looked good.

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Things To Know Before Introducing AR Into A Business

Accuracy: An AR experience that isn’t accurate will not be useful for the customers or the business. For example, a user won’t like if the sunglasses they’re trying on, fits on their forehead instead of eyes, or if the virtual couch they are trying to place doesn’t rest on the ground properly.

Speed: An AR experience must be fast and lag-free. Long loading time and high latency always drive the user away.

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If you have any queries in this field, talk to Mindfire Solutions. For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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DevOps

The Impact of DevOps Adoption on Teams

Companies operating in the field of software development have ushered into an era of stiff challenges and expectations, unprecedented till now. Possessing the qualities of agility, accuracy and speed simultaneously are becoming imperative for survival rather than a means of maintaining a competitive edge. Under the circumstances, a DevOps culture provides a flexible, efficient approach of standing up to the demands. It does so by following a model that delivers results leveraging the dependencies that exist between the software development and operations aspects of software delivery. It balances responsibilities more evenly than in a traditional waterfall model, where developers simply turn completed code over to those in charge of operations. DevOps also establishes procedures to ensure that all team members have insights into application performance, which provides benefits such as greater collaboration and engagement between team members.

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Improved Collaboration

Traditional software development happens in phases. There are teams mapped to each phase and each team is entrusted with the responsibility of playing its part in the successful completion of the phase it is involved in or responsible for.  The result of this approach is that the ownership of a team gets too confined only to the successful execution of the part it deals with. Thus, each team tends to be most concerned with achieving its own objectives instead of meeting the organization’s ultimate business goals. As long as projects get executed successfully, the fissures that exist beneath do not come to the forefront. It is only in the moments of crisis that the lack of synergy becomes apparent and sometimes takes gigantic proportions resulting in the partial or complete derailment of projects.

DevOps neutralizes this possibility completely. The approach requires all team members to be equally dedicated in meeting the broad goals while also focussing on their individual ones. This leads to improving collaboration between people across the development and operations teams. This model eliminates the possibility of working in silos. Members across teams remain fully committed to the software throughout its development life cycle to ensure that their project’s overall goals are met. Accountability for successful delivery lies with all. This compels employees to get more involved in working together.

More Engagement

One of the primary goals of DevOps is to shorten the development life cycle while still delivering software that meets business objectives. The shorter development cycle essentially means a higher frequency of code releases followed by exposing these releases to scrutiny for the detection of bugs within the code, infrastructure and configuration. The pace at which things get done is brisk. There are no slack periods for teams anymore waiting for their phases to begin. All this brings about a high degree of engagement for all the members involved in a project. And it can be intense at times. The results are equally impressive. Industry reports have indicated that the failure rate of organizations with a DevOps culture is 60 times lower than those that don’t.

Higher Efficiency

DevOps uses a workflow that emphasizes on continuous delivery (CD) and continuous integration (CI). The efficiency that gets infused results in software getting delivered faster and with a higher frequency. Automated testing and integration tools are also key elements in DevOps practices. It makes the IT staff more efficient by eliminating the need for them to perform repetitive tasks. Developers no longer need to wait for code integration processes to complete, which can otherwise get quite time-consuming.

DevOps platforms offer opportunities for improving efficiency and increasing the predictability of cloud-based solutions like Azure and Amazon Web Services (AWS). These platforms use a scalable infrastructure to reduce testing and deployment times by increasing available hardware resources during this period. They also provide DevOps as a service, such as Azure DevOps. AWS also provides a set of services specifically intended to help organizations implement DevOps practices.

Exposure & Learning

Employees are generally happier and more productive under the DevOps model, largely because it focuses more on performance than anything else. There are fewer administrative obstacles and greater sharing of risk, which allows individuals to blossom. Members in both development and operations teams prefer DevOps because they get exposed to multiple roles, resulting in their getting a better understanding of project execution and the business as a whole. This experience is more rounded, fulfilling and increases job satisfaction considerably.

Better Results

The improved collaboration between teams and the ensuing efficiency has a direct impact on reducing the time needed to build software. Collaboration encourages a proactive approach amongst team members in putting their act together. All this eventually reduces the time needed to bring a product to market. This benefit is particularly important in competitive markets where the ability to deliver software on time has a direct impact on the revenue and market share. With the DevOps approach not only is the speed looked after but also the quality of the outcome. It also increases customer satisfaction when they receive a comprehensive product sooner than expected, with all the promised benefits delivered quality-wise. To achieve this end goal can be a highly fulfilling experience for all the members involved in giving shape to the software.

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A DevOps culture improves the collaboration between groups with historically distinct roles, especially people in software development and operations. This practice provides many other benefits that generally result in the faster delivery of software. DevOps practices also improve the engagement of team members by making them responsible for projects throughout their entire life cycle, rather than a specific phase of the project. The increasing availability of tools is making it easier for organizations to implement DevOps practices, allowing team members to automate many of the tasks needed to develop, test and maintain code.

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If you have any queries in this field, talk to Mindfire Solutions. For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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NLP Image

Impact of NLP on Healthcare Industry

Natural language processing (NLP), along with machine learning, deep learning, computer vision, and image recognition, are all branches of artificial intelligence (AI). The goal of NLP software is to build computer systems that will accept input in the form of spoken or written language and will provide spoken or written output i.e. communicate as if the computer system were a human.

Thanks to devices and applications like Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana, much of the world’s population has at least a passing familiarity with NLP. It is being used today to perform a wide range of tasks across many industries. Until recently though, healthcare organizations have lagged behind others in capturing the benefits NLP delivers. However, it’s beginning to catch up.

Here are several use cases for NLP in healthcare that are already enhancing the field. Each of these will contribute to the larger digital transformation of healthcare as technology continues to advance.

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Medical Coding and Billing

NLP streamlines the way medical coders extract diagnostic, procedural and other clinical information. Rather than a coder reading documents and converting them to alphanumeric codes, NLP reads them and submits the codes to the coder for verification. This allows the human coder to work on documents that NLP cannot process accurately, and reduces the overall expense of coding medical information. In the end, more accurate and thorough coding results in more accurate and timely billing.

Virtual Nursing Assistants

The rise of virtual nursing assistants capable of communicating with patients using NLP is underway. Regular communication between patients and the nursing bot extends care beyond the walls of the clinic room without burdening existing resources. Adherence to the patient’s care plan can be monitored, and triggers can notify providers of issues that need human attention. Patients can receive round-the-clock access to support and answers, including help with medication. Researchers in this field estimate virtual nursing assistants will reduce U.S. healthcare costs $20 billion by 2026.

Robot-Assisted Surgery

Some surgical robots use AI to apply information obtained from prior surgeries to the current case, leading to progressively better outcomes. Beyond the many well-known advantages, robotic surgery delivers, adding an NLP component allows surgeons to query the system and to direct its actions verbally.

Reducing “EHR Burnout”

Recent studies have indicated that healthcare providers spend nearly half of each day updating electronic health records and doing other administrative work, which is a matter of concern. It leaves them with very less time to perform their core functions of examining and discussing clinical, diagnostic and treatment information with patients in a face-to-face environment.

Entering and managing patient information is a major contributor to physician burnout. More than half of physicians surveyed in a Physician’s Foundation 2018 study, reported entering data into the EHR reduces their efficiency and detracts them from their interaction with patients. Systems that use NLP allow physicians to enter notes into the EHR by speaking to it. This saves time versus having to type. Besides, it also allows patients to amend or correct what the doctor is entering into the EHR.

Other Important Use Cases

While improving the clinical value of EHRs and reducing physician burnout is one of the most pressing challenges among healthcare organizations, NLP is contributing to the digital transformation of healthcare in several other ways. For example, NLP is helpful in

While improving the clinical value of EHRs and reducing physician burnout is one of the most pressing challenges among healthcare organizations, NLP is contributing to the digital transformation of healthcare in several other ways. For example, NLP is helpful in

  • Comforting patients who become confused and anxious because they do not understand the data being presented to them through a portal website. For instance, NLP can explain the meaning of abbreviations and medical terminology. Rather than leaving the patient to worry or call the physician to explain the report, NLP can educate and possibly also calm the patient.
  • Offering summarized updates of key ideas, concepts, and conclusions contained in large volumes of clinical notes, journal articles and other narrative texts gives practitioners quick access to volumes of information that would otherwise require a lot of time to read through.
  • Easy extraction of data from free-form text and insertion into fixed-field data files, such as the structured fields in an EHR.
  • Handling a physician’s free-form spoken or text query, which is especially useful for queries that require gathering and organizing data from multiple sources.
  • NLP and other AI components can also accelerate the movement away from fee-for-service models and toward value-based healthcare by organizing unstructured health data derived from EHRs and other sources. Much of that “hidden” big data can shed light on health outcomes for entire populations of patients, which has been impractical until recently.

 

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If you have any queries in this field, talk to Mindfire Solutions. For over 20+ years now, we have been the preferred Software Development Partner of over 1000+ Small and Medium-sized enterprises across the globe.

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Web Accessibility

Overlooking Web Accessibility

The Internet is an ever-increasing storehouse of knowledge. The web and the internet as a whole serve as an important resource in many aspects of our lives: education, employment, recreation, commerce and more. Web Accessibility simply means that the web is to be made accessible to everyone. And that includes people with special abilities too – an aspect generally overlooked in haste. 

The concept of Web Accessibility has been around for a decade, but it is unfortunate that true meaning in its entirety has been lost on many of us, the web developers. It’s time that we built ramps to our sites so that it benefits not only people with disabilities but also enhances the experience of all types of users as a whole.

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Let’s see some examples:  When you are watching a video in a noisy environment and cannot perceive the audio correctly. Without being able to hear the audio, you have to guess what the whole video is about. It can be frustrating, right?


Let’s take another one:  If you have broken your arm in an accident and can’t use the mouse to explore the web. You have to remain cut off from the internet until you recover. Or find ways to manage to access it with difficulty, mostly through pain, or be at the mercy of people who would spare some time to assist you.

There are people out there who face these challenges at every instance of their attempts to access the Web. The true essence of Web Accessibility lies in addressing such concerns and ensuring that the Web is accessible by all, without any discretion. 

The World Wide Web Consortium(W3C) published a set of guidelines, Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG 1.0 in 1999, as an initiative to the Web Accessibility Initiative(WAI) project. The revised version, WCAG 2.0 was published in 2008, which is more technology-neutral, and therefore, is widely accepted by the developers to make their site more accessible.

It may seem like a huge task to accomplish at first, but in reality, it takes only small steps to make your website accessible to all. Steps that should be undertaken are 

  • Using alternative texts, and descriptions for the images.
  • Adding subtitles and transcripts for videos.
  • Ensuring that your site is fully and equally accessible by the keyboard.
    Making use of the Accessible Rich Internet Tags (ARIA) tags.
  • Having a good color contrast.

These are some tools which can help to make your website more accessible:

So, let’s look at the bigger picture and start taking the necessary steps towards building a platform that is more accessible and more usable, and fulfill our responsibilities as web developers. It’s high time we focused on the masses who might be unable to access the internet just like normal people can. The onus lies with us to take individual responsibility of the same and spread the awareness to others. The realization that mere oversight or negligence on our part can be the source of much trouble for others should guard us against it. 

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. To know more about our company, please click on Mindfire Solutions. 

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