Into The Last Summer Break

The sun beats down like a hammer on this city, splintered into blades cutting through the gaps in the trees. I see the million moving stabs of light on the pavement, and my shadow moves through them bobbing and pinned to my feet, unaffected and living on a different realm. The afternoon traffic goes past me with its sounds and vapors. Today, I decided not to take the bus home and just walk the mile. Because, there was no other option. I spent all of my bus-money on the twenty rupee feast in the canteen – the worst burger, glass-bottle soda and a bag of chips. It was one last splurge with my friends before I would see them again after the summer.

The energy of the last day of school before the summer break is different from the one before the winter break, and far from the one before the final exams at the end of the academic year. The other days always came with some anxiety about what lay ahead, but the lack of worry today would reflect in everyone’s mood and actions. No amount of holiday homework could faze us, it would all be done the week before the school reopened anyway. I bet the teachers felt the same too, a break from this state-backed madness.

The kids got out of control when the last class of the day would end, and the teacher left hurriedly with the ring of the bell. Some students would just be out of the gates even before the buses started rolling in, the privilege of straight up bunking, or having physical education, or Work-Ex class towards the end of this day. But, the fun awaited those who lingered around the campus – a fight, a dramatic proposal, or some student getting into trouble; no matter how late you left, there would always be something you missed out on. Today, we just threw water on each other and then threw the half-full uncapped plastic coke-bottles at the running ceiling fan. The ceiling fan would shoot it in random directions and someone would score a hit – bonus, if it was an unsuspecting girl. Double bonus if the rickety fan finally gave up and stopped working. It did not make sense, it didn’t have to make sense. By the end of it, the hot and humid classroom would be a minimalist’s art piece on teen-chaos, and we would have to get away from it before the cleaners arrived.

My shirt is still wet from this game, mixed with sweat and sticky-sweet droplets of Coke drying on my skin, now making a shower an absolute necessity when I get home. I can smell my toasted scalp, with wafts of sweaty uniform in between. The nylon-socks are itching, but I would experience the bliss of scratching my calves and shins only after reaching home. Balls would be second in order. The backpack is light, thankfully, as I had planned to not take any books with me today – it was a low-risk gamble for the occasion, so I could afford the being sent out of the class. I would have preferred it, actually, but I guess the teachers too knew of my tricks. The only thing in this beaten up schoolbag, apart from a notebook and a few assignment handouts, is my lunchbox. The half-eaten parantha in it would, on some previous years, be untombed not until the very end of the summer break. I must not forget about it. I hear it interrupt and randomly dampen the rattle of the metal spoon – its coinhabitant in that lunchbox, which was dancing to my strides.

As the local market – too posh for me or my family, comes close, I am grasped by the desire to grab a McAloo Tikki from the McDonald’s there. Then I recall the very reason for which I am walking home. Maybe, some of my friends are already there, maybe she would be there. Not today, though, I just need to get home to a liter of lemonade, a cold shower and rajmah-chawal doused in dahi. I can also catch a glimpse of her (the other one) on one of the school buses now coming back around. There was always one on every bus. There was always one in every class.

I cross the road and I see the window of my home peek through the other houses and trees. The dog knows I am around, and I can hear him bark, the maniac’s voice comes from every window and end of the house, bouncing off walls, as he paces about frantically. In this familiarity, as the sound of cars also fades behind me, I start thinking of the evening. Today, my friends from the neighbourhood (who were also my schoolmates) would stay out till late in the evening. I wonder which computer game did they get, I wonder if my machine would run it, or if I will have to play it at their place in the evenings and skip football. I hope the two girls come out for their evening walk, I would skip football anyway. That reminds me, I need to harass my parents for football shoes, I still play with my old sneakers on and everyone else already has obtained their ‘kits’. My classmate had told me earlier at school that a celebrity was wearing nothing but cauliflower leaves for a PETA photoshoot, which was in the city edition of the papers today – I have to check that out right away, but maybe after my belly is full. Maybe, after I pass out on the couch, to the breezy sprays and hums of the cooler.

The mango tree which shades my house, rustles and welcomes me as I enter the stairwell. He is ready for the summer too – and there will be plenty of pickle for us and the neighbours. And some more for the relatives in Kanpur, Lucknow and Dehradun. Though this routine and this walk has happened before on several such days as today, this was the last one. I run right up the cool stairwell, mother would have already unlocked the door by now because of the dog. I do not think about the significance of the moment, but the last summer break has just begun.

Interaction: Single Tap Text Input Concept

This concept is to serve as text input method – with a single tap on a single button, while the button changes states of the character to be input, it is meant to be a part of a spelling game.

In the game, the entire alphabet cycles within that button, each getting displayed for a set amount of time but the ones in the string get displayed for a longer duration so that the user can tap on it. So, if the word to be spelled is PROGRESS, the letters displayed the longest in the button would be E, G, O, P, R and S.

As a keyboard, (which would definitely not be a great use for this), the cycle would start in the usual manner, but would allot the greatest time-duration to the letters which are the most used as first letters – as the taps occur, this would eventually do a lookup of dictionaries for that first letter and allot time weights to appropriate letters based on their positions and frequency. If not as a keyboard, this could be the easy or training mode for the tapping game.

A Simple Way To Create Complex Passwords

Passwords are a complexity we purposefully introduce into our lives while wishing at the same time for them to be easier to remember. The resulting trade-off is that the best ones are which you highly risk forgetting and the easy ones can be guessed by anyone who has known you long enough or has the skills with a computer along with the time and the wits to make you hand it out to them. In short, a great password, one which you recall only when asked for, is the one you do not recall otherwise – the statement in itself sounds weird.

With this, you might recall that alphanumeric password which makes use of your sibling’s birth date and your driver’s license with a few exotic symbols thrown in between for good, but will you be as sure of that one symbol you used once you return to re-type it in somewhere after, say, six months? What about images with sentences you came up with to have a string of random words birthed from your imagination? That too sounds like a good solution doesn’t it? Having a password which is quickly available to our memory yet hidden is such a huge problem that it has bothered security experts as well as the average user. To add to that, experts advise that you should keep each password different from the other so that a single event of compromise doesn’t open a gateway to rest of your accounts. With that, remembering these many new passwords becomes difficult and thus come handy the password lockers which require a password of their own. The question thus becomes – how does an average and a lazy user like me keep an easy yet a secure password? Before I continue I would like to clarify that this is just something already some of us have surely thought of before (the effectiveness of which has not been tested mathematically nor practically), it has its own drawbacks but it still is any day a better option than ‘password123’ or your birth date – it still needs to be mentioned here so that a refined discussion could be built upon it.

The limitless flexibility of human imagination along with the information already present on the human-computer interface are applied in this method to yield a difficult to guess password. In Norman’s words, we are using the knowledge in the world along with the knowledge in the head. The reason is that you (probably) have the entire grid spread out in front of you which everyone else can also see but only you have a special shape in there somewhere which you somehow remember. Since most passwords require the use of a keyboard, we have the keyboard itself as the available hint to your mind. The rest is done by how you view and put things over it spatially or as how your eye sees it. This method is partly dependent on how an individual recognizes a letter and writes it. Imagine it to be something like a cross of a handwriting recognition crossed with the pattern based lock on your smartphone.Keystrokes-01-Uniyal 

The above diagram shows three ways to map the letter B on a QWERTY keyboard. L to R – a. Segmented strokes – 345re3edcdfvc  b. Continuous stroke -5rdxcvgft65 c. Low-poly continuous – 4EdXvFrT5

The method can be demonstrated as follows – take for example the letter L.

Now, press the keys in accordance with how you would make the letter L with the keys as dots on the entire keyboard. For the sake of demonstration, consider that the L must pass through the ‘5’ on your keyboard. (And trace these letters as I have typed them so that the idea comes across at its clearest)

Did you type in – ‘5rdxcv’ or ‘5rdxcvb’?

Or do you prefer to begin with the bottom – bvcxdr5 or vcxdr5?

Or you like to take the lines of the L separately – 5rdxxcvb/5rdxbvcx/xcvbxdr5?

Or do you view the italicized L differently as –  5tgbnm?

Or is it crooked/cursive – 5tfcvbn?

This method is also inspired from how swipe text prediction for phone keyboards works. Rather than leaving the pattern to the machine to interpret, this method makes the human remember the pattern, a stroke or a sequence of strokes analogous to how the human writes that symbol in the real world. Strokes are difficult to forget.

All one needs to know is the letter, the starting key and how you write a letter (which you would anyway know). If you need more complexity and trust your memory, make the same with three lettered words or symbols. With each extra space/digit and each symbol, you add exponentially to the time and processing power it would take to break into your account. You can simply imprint this onto your memory by typing in the shape about 7 or 8 times.

The biggest drawback of this method is that someone can look at your personal computer’s keyboard and probably guess what keys you strike the most. The wearing out of the keys is dependent on how often you put in the password and how long have you worked on that single machine (and how much cheeto-dust it sees). Also, a software could check all the permutations and combinations possible with every letter and symbol around a select key and run through the entire keyboard but that would take much more time than running through a standard language dictionary for sure. But, in case someone is really hell-bent to break into your account, with time and enough computing power they absolutely will because no system should be assumed to be perfectly secure. Now until the tech community brings about a password revolution or a well tested easy to understand method, I think sticking to shapes on the keyboard can be any simpleton’s best bet.


Some work done on keyboard patterns and passwords: