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Boredom, Books & Bugs - A tale of my COVID-19 experience

·685 words·4 mins·

With millions of people stuck at home during the COVID-19 crisis, many explored various new hobbies to keep themselves occupied and ensure that they are not unduly stressed. According to a survey by The Healthy Work Company, a workplace mental health consultancy, 22% of respondents had taken up a new pastime in lockdown, while 35% had rediscovered an old one. In this article, I wanted to share my experiences on how I spent the past year locked inside four walls.

When everyone was obsessed with the Dalgona coffee, I spent my free time exploring finance and investing. Often I have been clueless when elders used to talk about sharemarkets when I was young, and I used to get overwhelmed whenever I tried to perceive how the market functioned. It was long due, but I’m glad I finally got the opportunity to get an overall idea of how stocks work, their nomenclature for various actions, and of course, the risks associated with it. I did learn quite a bit and experimented by investing in a handful of stocks. The Varsity app by Zerodha, the largest brokerage firm in India, has an extensive curated collection of stock-market lectures and was indeed helpful in providing me with a kickstart into the monetary universe.

I have always been a technology addict, spending most of my time with the screen. But sometimes, it takes a toll on your mental health when you are endlessly scrolling the infinite feed & swiping the distracting stories on the artificially intelligent social media. I experienced this when using Instagram for hours & hours, ending up with no constructive information but a burnout of my strength. By then, the Signal revolution had started, and I realised it was the right time for me to reduce my Instagram usage.

Subsequently, I started reading books and the inspiration comes from Rahul, who is building Bimape that aims to make insurance effortless. My first book during the lockdown was Digital Minimalism, where Cal Newport talks about how engineers have designed the technological systems to be addictive, and not the other way around. He also emphasises the importance of spending time alone and reclaiming leisure. However, I continue to use Twitter because I do not want to be blind to the media. Instead, I wish to leverage the power of technology by following only the list of accounts that I wish to get inspiration and insights from.

I always have loved Apple’s design aesthetic and was curious to understand the thoughts of the human behind. Hence, the next book I started reading was the biography of ex-Chief Design Officer of Apple Inc., Sir Jonathan Ive. He has played a vital role in the designs of the iMac, Power Mac G4 Cube, iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and parts of the user interface of iOS, among other products. I’m currently reading the famous book titled “Thinking Fast & Slow” by Daniel Kahneman. I am also maintaining my digital bookshelf here to keep track of all the books I have read, currently reading and want to read.

Lately, I have been catering to my long procrastinated interest in hacking systems. I have always had a fantasy for exploiting software as much as I love developing them, and I look forward to learning more about it, especially on web security. By learning & experimenting with the thinking process of an attacker, I am now more informed of the ways with which I can defend from vulnerabilies when building applications. Until now, I have reported more than a couple of bugs ranging from XSS to leaking of personally identifiable information and have received bounties worth about $400 in total from various organisations. All of the reports I submitted were to private vulnerability disclosure programs, which restricts me from writing about the exploits. However, I hope that I will soon find a vulnerability on a public bug bounty program and write a detailed article on it.

These hobbies have instilled a lot of confidence in me to try out new things, and I wish to explore further while reading more books and hacking more software.