vacations

Leh-Ladak Trip

I am not an Avid traveler ,  but have been to places within India and many countries like USA, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, HK etc, these have been either business trips or  vacations. But the trip to Leh Ladakh comes foremost as one of the most adventurous trips ever, thanks to Crimson Holidays

I am going to start off with Key Learning/Takeaway from this trip, as below

      1.  The first and foremost being, many of us felt that India Defence forces, in particular the India Army needs to be given a huge huge applause, they help build roads, they maintain roads under extreme conditions (clearing snow clad mountain roads), help people on despair. Such is the extreme conditions and such is the sacrifice.  I had this text in Army Hall of Fame…
      2. During Uncertainty Co-Existence Helps – Now coming to the surprise, we observed while traveling at 18,000 plus feet high on some of the difficult terrain, the vehicle drivers stayed together and ensured they helped each other. They had to even put steel chains to the Vehicle Tyre as the vehicles were slipping while going through the snow. We need learn how to coexist and not follow rat race from these folks.
      3. Fitness Matters but have Medication as well– If you are traveling during Mar-Apr when the winter is not yet over, ensure enough physical activities before travel. Diamox is a recommended medicine for High Altitude travel (when Oxygen supply is limited) starting 2 days before travel and through your journey. Even if you are fitness freak please ensure Diamox is taken and not neglected.
      4. For such trips, it is recommended to travel in groups, we were 32 people with 8 families, we were sharing and caring with each other on every bit of fun/problems, making sure everyone stays healthy and survive the adventure.

Next covering what to watch out for / what to expect for

  • The weather when we went in April mid was not predictable, it would rain all of a sudden, snow and turn cold quickly.. true to this one of our vehicle driver who is a local mentioned

    “Weather in Leh and fashion in Mumbai changes frequently”

  • While traveling within Leh like to Nubra, Pangong etc we need to expect some issues in using restrooms as it is scarce(our observation). Men folks can manage but little hard for Women so needs to be planned a bit.
  • Expect Delay on your journey whether it is Khardungla Pass or Changla Pass, during April or earlier there could be snow falls and the roads need to be cleared, carry enough food supplements or snacks while on travel.
  • While traveling or resting keep checking on small children how they are doing, a lot of times they cannot express the issue they are facing(in case they are low on Oxygen), we had children from 5 Years to teens, they didnt have any big problems.
  • Expect minor hitches/issues for all age groups like vomiting, stomach upsets , headaches etc, these are common and not a worry at all. Note : This happens while going in higher altitudes and extreme weather in April.
  • Food Intake – Since we traveled during April never felt much hungry, our intake on food was much less than normal.
  • Mobile and Internet Connectivity – We didn’t have internet connectivity throughout (April 2017, it could change later). We can receive and make calls only in LEH, and no mobile network in Nubra or Pangong. Even though we had post paid, only BSNL works. But the good part was all of us had time for everyone else.

Now lets go to places one by one, I will Rely on the pictures and videos do much of the talking 🙂

BIAL :- Bangalore Airport all set to leave, with a few families having left to Delhi already.

Leh:- Elevation 11,500 Feet, Medium Size town, Places to see, good shopping areas, nuts are available, the market is spic and clean (a lot of waste bins) , well maintained place.

View from KAAL INN where we stayed

Shanti Stupa Monastery.

What a Gang?

A 360 Degree view of the mountains from the monastery as in the Youtube URL

Alchi Monastery (Roughly 1100 Years OLD) with Sindhu River


Bike Ride – The weather is good why not venture out on Bike

Indus , Zanskar River – Sangam


Likir Monastery

Magnetic Hill

Khardung La Pass:- Elevation 18,406 Feet, one of the Highest Motorable Roads in the World. Check these video’s. One and Two

We were prepared for a travel from Leh to Nubra on 22nd morning by 8:00 AM, and the weather turned bad and we were told we cant travel to Khardung La as it is not cleared , we were disappointed, no issues if we need to wait lets have some fun

But we heard the news that the Army has given the green signal at 10:00 AM and we set out at 10:30 AM. A journey which normally takes 4 Hours we took around 10 Hours

We enjoyed every bit of it, we had 3 hours break in South Pass , everyone played with Snow and we had fantastic time.

Ultimate the journey via Khardungla

On the way

At the end of journey we were tired, obviously we didnt come back to Leh the next day and decided to stay back in Nubra Valley for one more day.

Nubra Valley:- Elevation around 10,000 Feet, little bit greenery , this is a very beautiful valley, very scenic. 

Karma Inn – Nubra Valley – Hotel Views

Bonn Fire in the Evening

Sand Dunes in Nubra Valley

Camel Rides

Ready to Capture Mayusmathi?.

What are they trying to do in sand?…

Maitreya – Symbol of Peace

On the way Drive to Pangong Lake

What a ride this turned out to be, we went in a non insured route from Nubra to Pangong through Agyam, Drubuk, Tangse along the riverbed of Shyok.

What a fantastic journey this was in the midst of the valley, mind blowing.

Our driver mentioned the roads are good and in between we will get double roads, I waited enough for double road, and it turned out that double road is nothing but the two wheel marks on a road with mud and stones … what an adventurous ride this was, worth every penny.

Pangong TSo Lake:- Elevation around 14,270 Feet, Lake is 134 KMS, 40% of lake is in India.  What a beautiful spot, nature at its best here.

ChangLa Pass:- Elevation 17,585 Feet, one of the Highest Motorable Roads in the World.

Bharath Mata Ki Jai

Leh:- Hall of Fame

Where do you want to go ?

Trip Preparation

  • As for any Trip , plan ahead, check with family doctors for any issues with travel, especially if you have children. Generally its fine.
  • Start Diamox atleast 2 days before travel and throughout travel, this is mandatory for high altitude travel (also note that this has some side effects , but that is fine)
  • Start with basic exercises, recommend deep breathing exercises.
  • Plan to stay relaxed, believe me out of internet and phone is a blessing.
  • If you go through road from Srinagar or Manali, then by the time you reach Leh you will be acclimatized, but if you fly directly then plan for a day or two with relaxed schedules.

Finally concluding with Things to Take/Buy/Make (Some of the things considering April Travel)

  1. Basic Medicines, First Aid Kit, Wipes, Balm (for headache, Lip, Pain)
  2. Any specific medicines suggested by your family doctor
  3. Goggles as Sun rays are strong with UV Protection
  4. UV Creams for Face +50
  5. A lot of snacks for eating especially if you have children(as during journeys there could be delays)
  6. Glucose Biscuits will be very useful in case people feel tired. ORS or Electrol Powder will be helpful just in case.
  7. Ready to EAT stuff could be useful
  8. Shoes (if playing in Snow carry appropriate shoes)
  9. Thermosflask for carrying Water (We need to drink a lot of water during travel to high altitudes, keeps hydrated)
  10. Peppermint, Candies, Doublemint and Chewing Gums.
  11. Chargers and Power Banks
  12. Warm clothing
    • Thermals both
    • Woolen Gloves
    • Woolen Socks
    • Woolen Caps, Scarfs
    • Jackets

I would highly recommend CRIMSON Holidays, they had organized our trip to near perfection, travel, food, accommodation were at par with the best, we were 32 of us and all of us felt it addressed our needs clearly you can reach then here if you are from Bangalore, India Crimson Holidays

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Product Development

Evaluating a Software Product Development

You have seen my earlier post on Product Development and Chess and now we will see how to evaluate a Software Product.

These are broadly classified into 6 areas,

1. Fundamentals

Product Vision : Is Product Vision articulated clearly?

Breadth and Depth of Features : Are these relevant and important
Focus : Is the Product Focus maintained across different features
Product Roadmap: Is the Product Roadmap Articulated and Clearly understood
Presentation : If the Product is already live, is it Presented to users in
clean and uncluttered way
Ease of Use : Does it support all types of users including novice users
Technology Stack : Is Technology Stack easy and clean

  • Does the framework support easy Integration
  • Does the framework support for Web Services
  • Does the framework support configurability
  • Framework can be easily followed and adhered to by teams like 3 tier  Architecture

Product Enhancements : Does the stack support features that can be built easily
Deployment : How is the deployment environment, is it easy to maintain,
Does deployment platform cover how it can scale and address fail-overs.

2. Implementation

Development Designs: Product Designs are Articulated, Clearly identifying Design Considerations and Limitations.
Development Coding Practices : Follows Coding Practices, Strictly follows Framework, Is Code Base Organized, Development of Features follows guidelines.
Unit Tests : Does the Product Teams follow Test Driven Development and cover basic unit tests to check sanity of changes.
Development Tools : Basic Tools for Versioning is strictly followed
Developer Productivity : Does the team follow advanced tools like Automated Build Management.
Developer Productivity : Many a times the developers needs to understand what and how certain thing happened, so are there clear logging mechanism, are there notifications sent out on failures.
Product Testing : Are the standard testing practices followed with dedicated product testing teams. Do the testing team understand the product and its Domain well?.
Testing Regression Automation : Are there Automation Roadmap laid out for Product, does it cover all regression tests using automated tools.

3. Monitoring

Clear Requirements :
How are the requirements mapped to product roadmap.
How are the product Requirements tracked, is it done using effective tools.
Requirements Prioritization : Are the requirements prioritized from roadmap into different releases, are there any tools used for creating funnel of all critical features to be developed.
Product Release Process : Are there standard processes followed to track releases, how is this managed, does it follow any methodology like AGILE, SCRUM.
Product Release Tracking : How is the Progress Monitored, Tracked and Reported, effective use of tools will help the teams.
Bug Tracking : Are the product teams using tools and clear procedures for tracking bugs.
Deployment Environment : Are there clear deployment process, does the product team have different environments like Development, Staging , Production Environment.
Deployment Monitoring : Are monitoring tools setup, including fail-overs, are there fail-over notifications sent out to team from the deployment platforms.
Deployment Periodic Maintenance : Are there clear procedures on periodic maintenance like Backups, cleanups, storage and utilization.
Product Defects and Issues : Are there processes defined to log, track, monitor production defects using tools.

4. Non Functional Requirements

Reliable and Fault Tolerant : How are the features implemented, does the system function as designed.
Scalable : Is the product scalable, in case many users access system suddenly how does it scale and support.
Modular : Is the code modular , are the common functions re-used.
Maintainable : How easy is it to maintain code, do they code follow best practices like comments in code.
Security Implementation : Are security addressed in designs and implementations, does it handle SQL Injections, Script Injections, URL inserts?.
Security in Deployed Environment : How is security addressed in deployed environments, are there proper folder access setup, have you setup security groups for restricted access to servers, are there proper encryption/tokens followed in areas like Password, Web Services?.
Performance : Is the product rendering basic functions within acceptable limits, are there mechanisms to check if queries used are optimized.
Multi Lingual Support: Is the product envisioned for various Geographies/ Languages, does it support multi lingual functions by design.

5. Implementation Team

Team Goals : Does the Team understand the goals, what they are working on, do they understands what are the priorities with respect to roadmap?.
Team Roles : Are the team roles clearly defined and followed, remember in startup or small teams, every role is important, sometimes in smaller teams multiple roles could be played by same team member.
Team Cohesion : Is Team working as a single unit and works together to achieve the goals, are there discrete teams working on the product which functions in independent mode and not look at overall product goal and roadmap?.
Team Communications : Does the Team follow open communication channels, does it use any tools for communications, do the team share required information across different functions like Sales, Marketing, Customers
Team Progress : Does team understand the progress and have scheduled checkpoints and obtain feedback from the stakeholders and customers periodically?.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein

6. Drivers and Dependencies

Non- IT : Are there mechanisms to track non-IT requirements on product like How to Video / Product Guides / Product Training
Compliance : Is the product catching up with Compliance related changes, these could be compliance related to government regulations, How are these managed in prioritizations?.
Standards : Is the Product part of pre-defined standards in the industry, how is the change prioritized within product roadmap, these could be ANSI , Global Industry related specifications.
Customer Relationship: Are there mechanisms to get customer inputs and feedbacks, how are these plugged into the product roadmap and prioritized, what are the tools used to manage these.

In case you are interested to get the product evaluation spreadsheet which I prepared for these purposes, please leave a comment with your ID or message me, I will be happy to share the same.

Product Development

Product Development and Chess

Wonder how it is related, basically we can learn a lot of things from the Game of Chess.

  • This was in my high school and we had to play chess which was in the final round. I was thinking it would be a easy game,but my opponent turned out to be very difficult, we played 3 games all drawn in 2 days, I finally won the 4th game, I still remember how I was waiting for one wrong move to draw the game as I was in a very bad shape.

    We learn to stay focused, have patience, endurance and never give up, these characteristics are very important in a startup product development.

    Just like we prepare before every match on who is our opponent, how are we going to play what will be our likely moves, we have to pretty much begin Product Development only after knowing the problem we are solving, understand what we need to do and break down the problem into achievable goals.

    There is a saying “Customer is King” , in chess once you capture the opponent King you win, but we have to navigate through all the opponent pawn(Queen, Rook, Knight..) win over them before we reach the King, much the same way for a product team knowing a customer alone is not enough, but also know the factors that influences the customer, the entire eco-system has to be understood, all the customer stakeholders however big or small matter to the success of the product.

    Getting to the opponent King can be done in multiple ways, but we have to plan how we get there. Similarly when we are solving a particular problem in the product development there will be multiple solutions on our way, we need to evaluate each of these options and identify the right one. This can be the one which is easy or it can be one which can be solved quickly or something designed to never fail. We need to pick the right one and track it through every step.

    Chess has many pawns which make a team, these are of different types, each play different roles in achieving goals and have their own capabilities, also limitations. The same can be said of product teams, each team member have different skill sets, each team player do different roles and all of them work to a common goal

    In a chess game we try to protect each pawn and this is not based on importance or on their strengths (like Queen, Rook, Knight),drawing a parallel in a product team it is imperative to retain all product team members, this should be done irrespective of the role played by team member, the more people we loose the bigger the impact.

    While playing chess we would have got OMG situations, it could happen when we commit mistake and hoping opponent will overlook the same or the opponent has done a mind blowing move. This can put you off gear but never too late, what you do is to re-strategies, in product development also we get into OMG moments it is very important for us to re-prioritize and re-plan during such moments.

    Finally chess or any other game will always give you opportunities to bounce back just wait for such moments and grab them, same hold good for Products also

    I will be putting a few more thoughts on what are the important parameters for a successful product and how we can evaluate product development with scorecard very soon…

  • Agile Projects

    Top Ten misnomers on AGILE projects

    1. Give the Project and forget it – Its a Agile project it will be successful so customer can feel that they dont need to involve anymore,

    • Actually the fact remains that the customer (business user and stakeholder) involvement is more, this has to be costed and planned on Agile projects.

    2. It is not for large scale project – Large project can be structured and split in such a way that multiple agile micro teams work together ,

    • Care should be taken so that each micro team have least dependency with other teams.

    3.  Change is constant and always embrace them – Agile projects enables customer to make changes to the system as it is developed,

    • A lot of times the changes comes with associated cost, this has to be clearly understood before embracing change, changes should go through cost benefit analysis to get greater ROI.

    4. Have no documentation – Agile Project should have basic documentations whether it is on requirements or relating to design and implementations.

    5. No processes – For a successful project, you need to define and follow the important processes, some things below,

    • Defining quality standards,
    • Estimating effort,
    • Check points or validation points including feedbacks from customers
    • Setup communication plan with customer,
    • Identify roles and responsibilities
    • Regular retrospectives with team and customers,
    • Program/Project tracking including budget tracking with key stakeholders,
    • Regular demos to customer,
    • End user documentation

    6. No design needed – Agile project should have just in time design,

    • The design should always look forward to the overall goals(including any technology goals) and build them into the plans,
    • Initial design should cover non-functional goals which otherwise could prove to be very costly later.
    • Usability and User Interface goals should be defined clearly before beginning projects,

    7. Automation not possible due to frequent changes – Automation is critical on agile projects as this will help making core changes to product without significantly impacting quality of existing features.

    • Use of automated tools for development(automated builds, unit tests) and functional testing should be encouraged

    8. Communication only happens face to face – Face to face communication is critical for success however for distributed agile it is essential to use tools like

    • Virtual meeting,
    • Distributed project tracking tool,
    • Chats,
    • Conference (Audio and Video)

    9. No need for Business Analyst – Though Businesses (Customers) can interact with team directly, someone within team should be play a Business Analyst role to gather requirements,

    • An Analyst can translate requirements into a form which implementation can understand and also manage the changes effectively.

    10. Teams are self organized no need to monitor project – The project teams have to be given support and guidance during the project

    • Encourage them to give enough visibility on progress,
    • They need to be given motivated individuals,
    • Provide adequate tools (hardware & software) to take it forward.