Sep 1, 2018

Wireguard - the new VPN kid on the block

Having tried my hand with OpenVPN to provide a secure Internet connection for my gadgets while travelling, I was less than impressed by the throughput on the Raspberry Pi. At a measly 3 Mbps, it was simply not good enough.

I had heard about Wireguard almost a year back, but last week's ArsTechnica article rekindled my interest. Many others have also tried their hands, and looks like it's all set to take over the VPN landscape. Major benefits include a much simplified setup (compared to the maze that is OpenVPN), superior performance (throughput much greater than others), much smaller codebase (only 4,000 lines of code, compared to 600,000 for OpenVPN and 400,000 for IPSEC) which theoretically translates into a reduced attack surface and others.

Spun up a VPS instance and installed Wireguard. From install to setup on both server and client, it literally took less than 10 minutes and I had a working connection on my Android phone. A quick test indicates almost 4-5x times faster speeds than OpenVPN, and nearly instantaneous connection against the roughly 8-10 seconds for OpenVPN. Another major benefit seems to be that the protocol is not chatty, and packets need not be sent regularly to keep the connection alive - a major concern for mobile devices with batteries that drain quickly. It also promises full IP roaming on both peers (term to refer to both 'server' and 'client' on Wireguard), again significant when switching between WiFi and cellular connections where each transition would have otherwise initiated a full renegotiation of the session.

Still under heavy development, I couldn't find a package for the Raspberry Pi yet, although it can be compiled. The Android release is very basic and experimental. However, Wireguard could be soon integrated into the Linux kernel itself, giving it much needed code review and mainstream acceptance. Even Linus himself seems to be a fan.

Nov 8, 2017

Six second ads and consumers

Seems like the whole of advertising industry is moving towards shorter ad formats. Driven primarily by behemoths YouTube and Facebook, and taken up by other digital publishers, even TV is embracing six seconders as the next big thing. Is this just us admitting to the fact that consumer attention spans are rapidly shrinking or just that we can't be bothered to properly craft the story with the time and attention it deserves or maybe a combination of both?

There's definitely a strong case which can be made for the six-seconder. A brand which has already reached threshold levels in awareness may benefit by using it to amp up the frequency, and thereby, top-of-mind recall - major FMCG brands being an obvious example. There are also many brands with creatives which are worth watching over and over, in infinite loops of six seconds each. But when everyone jumps on the bandwagon, I'm not too hopeful the thinking will last, and we will end up being pummelled by them.

In a hyper-fragmented landscape of infinitely scrolling timelines and unlimited media choices, the primary benchmark by which creative and media efficacy should be measured is very simple - relevance. Are we reaching the right audience in the right context and telling her a story that she finds useful, and maybe even enjoys? Chances are, she will appreciate the effort and remember us for it. Or would we rather cop out and hope that she forgives us the six second intrusion, since there's so much less of it to hate?

Jul 15, 2017

Perspective is everything

The new job now takes me on a longer commute, through the insane Bangalore traffic at rush hours. Having avoided it for the last three years, thanks to Namma Metro, this was something I was dreading.

Podcasts to the rescue. There's nothing better than Radiolab and This American Life, with Snap Judgement and The Moth sprinkled in for good measure, to help endure the never-ending, bumper-to-bumper traffic and the ensuing road rage. I would strongly recommend these and a few others (refer sidebar for links) to make time on the road a little more bearable.

As Rory Sutherland so eloquently puts it in this video, perspective is everything.