the big bang geek : Soham Mondal, a Droid dude.

As part of the big bang geek series, we showcase a lot of doers – right from hard core geeks to people who understand technology in a beautiful way. Today, we have Soham Mondal as part of the series. Soham is a die-hard Android developer and shares his journey from Symbian to Droid.

1. When did you start coding? What were the initial days like/ Basic? Fortran? Pascal? CPP? 

I ‘officially’ started coding when I was in the 6th standard and it all began with logo, a very simple visual programming language for kids. I then started programming with Basic but my love affair with coding and computers in general started a bit before that.soham_mondal

In high school, I remember attempting to make visually appealing web pages in HTML for imaginary companies. We barely had internet connectivity back then, so most of the learning was instinctive, I spent hours finding and studying good looking websites to understand the HTML tags used by them and then trying to use them in my projects. In other words, while the other kids were out playing cricket, I was busy finding the right tags to animate images on web pages 🙂

These days it is so difficult to imagine learning anything without using the Internet, but as children in the 90s, we didn’t have frequent access to the internet, proper books or even knowledgable people but I think that made us try harder and keep at it. Ironically enough, that drive to find better and more accessible ways of learning and doing things is the main reason I write apps today, its all about sharing things and connecting people.

It all got serious in 11th standard when I learnt C++ from a very inspiring teacher and Computer Science as a whole, started making sense. It helped me discover my knack for logic and passion for the field and I owe it all to the class teacher who made us understand the prominence of ‘logic’ over ‘theory’ or ‘syntax’ or even technology.

 2. You have been an Android guy. Tell us about the droid part.

This is an interesting story. Truth is that I’ve not always been an android guy, in fact, in all honesty, I was once a Symbian guy 🙂

I’ve always thought that mobile phones have great reach and power, I’ve also thought that Symbian customers had been consistently underserved in the industry and there was an obvious dearth of good apps in the market. One fine day, I started looking for a todo-list manager and I soon realised that there were no such apps on the market. Being a quintessential geek, I took up the challenge and started working of an app myself.

After a couple of weeks of struggling with Symbian, trying to surpass insurmountable odds with little or no documentation, I soon realised the reason why people made less apps on the platform. After discussing the sad plight of things with a friend who was one of the organisers of the Bangalore Android User Group, I was convinced by her optimism and decided to shift camps. So, almost overnight, I went from being a Symbian developer and just a member of the BAUG to an android enthusiast and a co-organiser of the group.

After that, thanks to the amazing members and organisers of the group, there has been no looking back, we’ve hosted numerous meetups, organised a lot of hackathons and conferences, partnered with a lot of ecosystem members, showcased a ton of great indian apps and even represented India at Google IO.

Looking back, I’ve always really loved the ‘open’ philosophy of android, it has really given us the freedom to completely customise the look n feel of our applications, there are almost no boundaries. In fact I’ve spend days designing the UI of an application and then I’ve spend weeks seeing how I could bring it into reality even though there were no items in stock android that looked anything like what we built. It is that freedom and that level of customisation that helps shape and build our dreams.

On Sky Recorder, our first app, we’ve spent almost every weekend since February designing everything from the visual feedback processes to the recording algorithms and its been an absolute pleasure doing it, so much so that we work full time on android now. The philosophy of being able to harness technology to create completely new experiences for users across countries, languages, devices or form-factors, like what we’ve done at Sky Recorder, continues to be the corner stone of our faith in Android and we believe that will continue to power many more applications in the future.

3. What’s your fav IDE? Give a glimpse of your dev environment?

The standard Eclipse setup, yup. Although I love the IntelliJ IDEA environment in terms of speed and ease of use, I frequently keep coming back to Eclipse for some of the latest features. Moreover, the newer SDK bundle for android makes setup a breeze on any platform across multiple teams.

So right now, I run the Eclipse IDE on a 13″ 2011 macbook pro with 8Gb RAM on Mac OS X Mountain Lion on a 23″ external monitor. I frequently run Ubuntu and Windows 8 Virtual machines on the Parallels VM platform on the mac to run various linux and windows specific tests.

We use Github for version control and a combination of Asana and Trello for project management.

4. You have been involved with Android community for a pretty long time. Where do you see is the Indian app development community headed?

What’s the NextBigWhat for them!

Traditionally, Indian companies have always done a good job at doing services for other companies but recently I’ve seen a shift towards smaller independent teams/startups and more products. Every passing week I find new independent app developers with great ideas and amazing products. We’ve showcased such indie apps from Bangalore in our meetups and I think there are many more to come in the coming years.

So I see more Indian apps (and products in general) being used across the world and at the same time I see many Indian apps being created to solve many of India’s problems. I am particularly excited by the recent use of mobile technology in the retail and healthcare sector here in India. For example, I’ve recently talked to some startups here in Bangalore and I believe they’re bringing a slew of health monitoring and testing features to multiple platforms on the mobile phone. I’m excited by the impact this might have on the people that have little or no access to modern medical resources.

Along the same lines, I think, small/independent teams harnessing mobile technologies to build small apps that have a big impact on large groups of people in India or across the world is the NextBigWhat for the android developer/startup ecosystem in India. I also see unconventional uses of mobile technology increasing, just like the use of mobile phones in the field of healthcare.

5. Fav Apps, the ones you can’t live without?

– Echofon Pro: i love twitter and this gives me all the power and functionality of twitter in a good looking package. Push notifications are also a huge plus.

– Flipboard: I really like the way news and social networks are aggregated on Flipboard and it makes for good, productive reading at any time in the day.

– Trello: We use trello both as a project management and todo-list app and this is an essential tool for managing and analysing our progress at any given time.

– TuneIn Radio pro and Pocketcasts: I listen to a lot of audio on the go and TuneInRadio and Pocketcasts helps me listen to the latest news, weather, podcasts and all kinds of content.

– Sky Recorder: We made this app to solve our problems. We attend a lot of meetings, we frequently brainstorm on ideas and make audio notes. This helps us record, track and share those ideas very easily.

6. What’s in store for the android developer community in the coming year?

Like always we’re looking at organising a lot of meetups but this time we’re focusing on advanced developer session with more participations from app developers and oem partners. Along with that, we’re partnering with Google Developer Group Bangalore to organise an app expo for developers so which aims to showcase homegrown Indian apps to people from across the world and this happens in the first week of January, imagine the best apps of India along with android robots and other goodies under the same roof.

We’re also expanding our blrdroid-teach program to teach android basics in more colleges in Karnataka and across India and we’re also hosting the first android hackathon of the year this coming March and we’re doing it on a much bigger scale.

From the bigbanggeek series: