Friday, November 27, 2009

Google wave and other Random topics

1 Google Wave

I was not part of the September 2009 craze for Google wave invites and stood blissfully ignorant of it for over a month. Better late than never, got an invite sometime mid October, courtesy Prashanth. Here’s one paragraph review of it, to the extent I’ve seen and explored:

I feel it was a mistake to make Googlewave an invite only platform. Success of any collaborative tool lies in its ability to be accessible to everyone who wishes to collaborate through it. While wave appears like a good platform for multiple people to work on single subject simultaneously, the single most limiting factor I find is that most of the people with whom I’d have collaborated something are not on wave. For example, I need to plan an alumni meet using wave, I’d need all my ex-classmates on Wave. Similarly if you were to use wave for an office project you’ll need most of your colleagues on wave. With majority of potential collaborative partners missing from wave it is current state, I believe full potential of Wave will be known only when it opens up for all. Also I feel Wave should integrate with Gmail seamlessly, just like gtalk (how much you’d have used gtalk if it had different login, very few people on it and not supported in certain browsers?)

Not supporting IE is another negative aspect. Overall, Google wave is good and potential, but not worth the hype.

2 Mylapore Civic Issues

Sundar has started a photo blog for civic issues in his locality. (Mylapore is Chennai’s popular residential area, similar to Bangalore’s Malleshwaram) Good idea. Area newspapers might be interested in such photos. Hope such initiatives get attention of concerned people and make some impact

3 Dayanayak is back?

Looks like encounter specialist Dayanayak is acquitted of all the charges against him and he is learnt to have returned to work. Didn’t read anything about this in media, but his blog (probably maintained by a close aid/fan) was updated recently with more details.

4 Airtel’s expensive pay per second plan

Thanks to Tata Docomo, other mobile operators are forced to launch pay per second tariff plans. However airtel prepaid has decided to take hike SMS rates to Re 1 per SMS for pay per second plans, taking away any cost advantage this plan might have had. With actual sms delivery cost being less than a paisa, this is unfair. Anyway we’ve way2sms, 160by2 and other such services at our disposal to send free SMS. Wondering what will be next battleground for mobile operators: pay per character SMS charges?


Several years ago, I’d registered for NASSCOM’s skill registry paying some 300+ Rs and got my TPIN (Technology Professional Identification Number). It looked like an ambitious initiative that time but there was hardly any use/application of this service and now they need me to keep paying a few hundred rupees every year just to keep my account active. Unfair again and have decided not to renew.

6 Adwords Promo

Google adwords sent me a Rs 2500 coupon, to be used for advertising my product/services (I hardly have any). but to use this coupon looks like I need to spend my money first. Something I’m not keen. Would have appreciated if I was allowed to run the campaign first using the coupon and then think of payment options. Else this is looking like Spam Today Group’s (aka India Today group) free gifts (The free gift is that they’re willing to sell me a wrist watch for Rs 3000 only claiming it is worth more than 7000 Rs)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Review: 2 States by Chetan Bhagat

April 2014 Update: A movie has been made based on this Novel. I watched the movie and is a fairly good visualization of the novel. Except that Santro was replaced with i10 and few songs thrown in, rest of the content is used as is without modification.

----------Original post ----------------------------------------

I'd somewhat criticized Chetan's earlier book (The 3 mistakes of my life) due to certain factual conflicts, but have no complaints on the latest one. It made an interesting read through out.

By now you must be knowing the story line. Its about 2 IIM-A students meeting at the beginning of the course, falling in love, deciding to get married, trying to convince and win approval of their parents and in-laws. Gives an excellent insight of cultural differences between two states (Punjab and TamilNadu) and parental mindsets and considerations while considering a bride/groom. Let me not reveal more as the story is best enjoyed by reading the book.

Sharing a few observations about the book:
Chetan has taken lots of liberty to reveal inside secrets of his former employer, Citibank. The details as to how badly he wanted the citibank job (as it paid the highest), how he carefully lied in his selection interview, his first day at work when he recommended a customer to invest in internet stocks, blindly trusting research reports published by another equally incompetent fresher and other matters internal to office.

Its a open secret how people go after highest paying jobs and how companies treat fresh recruits. Nothing official about it, but when putting the same in something as official as a book, authors usually use pseudo names to hide real identity of a company/person.(or at least add a disclaimer) But Chetan has mentioned Citibank’s name directly, without any hesitation. We can brush it aside as a fiction, but incidents mentioned are very close to reality and if a potential HNI reads this book and finds out how fresh out of college students with half baked knowledge mismanage his/her money, he/she is sure to think twice next time. May be Chetan has taken necessary permission, or may be no one felt such disclosures could be bad for Citi’s image. Fortunately for Citibank, I’m sure most of its priority banking customers will be too busy to read “2 States” to get an idea who is managing their money and how. (John Grisham's "The Associate" explains how lawfirms exploit lawschool graduates)

Chetan also mentioned how his job was misused-to get Ananya’s mom on stage, to get free stay at Goa hotel, promising that he’ll get Citibank to do its annual conference there and so on. All these might be purely imaginary, but since such things happen in real life every day and since Chetan was working with Citibank till 2009 (he quit to become full time writer, just as Krish in his book wanted to) these things appear more as a confession than fiction

There's also no mention of any induction program or training-he was asked to supervise a team right on his day 1. Sounds a little odd

That apart, Chetan’s books also give a feeling that there’s nothing great about IITs and IIMs. The blind faith most of us have about IIT and IIMs are likely to be shaken a little, if we take Chetan’s description of IIT/IIM life in his books for real.

Will it be a safe bet to guess that his next book will have number 4 in it? He’s already done with 1 (1 night @ call centre), 2 (2-states), 3 (The 3 mistakes of my life) and 5 (5 point someone)

I liked this particular line, which gives a clear illustration of cultural shock and differences-When Krish visits Ananya’s house in Mylapore Chennai, a banana leaf was laid in front of them, to be served food on. “For a moment I wondered if I should eat it or wipe my hands with it-then Ananya said that this is the plate”
Krish’s Dad stepping in last moment (more details removed from this review) was a surprise element for me in the book, else the story took the normal expected course.

Rest of the aspects are best enjoyed by reading the book itself. In brief its all about Krish and Ananya’s attempts to open up the closed mindset their parents had- that a bride/groom of a different community/state is not even worth considering.

If you’ve read it share your thoughts please.

More book reviews: It happened in India * Raga Chintamani * Zero Percentile * Not a penny more, not a penny less

Friday, November 20, 2009

Singapore flyer images, Singapore

Again from Partho’s collection, a few photos of Singapore flyer, the giant wheel. Riding in the Singapore flyer gives excellent view of Singapore city-mainly the sea and the port.
The cubicles (what do we call those drum like structures in which people sit?) were highly spacious so that people could stand and shoot, or even have family dinner. Maximum height is 165 meters (that’s world’s biggest, London eye is the second one with a height of 135 meters) and ticket fare is about 30 Singapore dollars.(There’re multiple schemes and offers to choose from)

More about Singapore flyer on its official website

Photo courtesy Partho, published with permission. Also checkout: Jurong bird park, Malaysia Twin towers * An earlier guest post on Singapore lifestyle *

Note: This post had display issues with the pic. Republished with freshly uploaded pics

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Bengaluru visit- random notes

Few quick observations/notes from my recent Bengaluru visit:

  • Missing trees on Sheshadri road: Dozens of beautiful trees that formed a nice canopy on Sheshadri road are now completely gone. Drive from Anandrao Circle to KR Circle will never be the same. Not sure who achieved what by uprooting those century old trees.
  • Underpass in-front of Basavanagudi police station: Another unnecessary venture which would consume a few parks and several trees.
  • Good to find that tender coconut still costs Rs 12 in Bengaluru. In Chennai prices have soared to Rs 18-Rs 20
  • Lots of new blue BMTC buses were flaunting Jn NURM on them and I’d no clue what that meant. Ravi told me that JN stands for Jawaharlal Nehru and NURM is a world bank aided initiative.
  • 4 years ago ISRO layout was a developing place almost considered outside city, now it is a fully developed locality with nice roads.
  • Kadirenahalli cross underpass appears to be left incomplete since several years now.
  • Good to know about Bengaluru-Mangaluru day train. Need to check it out someday.
  • Another soon to be implemented major change will be closing down KSRTC bus terminus in Majestic.

Other updates:

I’ve enabled comment moderation for posts older than 30 days. This was necessary due to increasing number of spam comments. Regrets for the inconvenience.One often repeated anonymous comment reads: I found this site using [url=][/url] And i want to thank you for your work. You have done really very good site. Great work, great site! Thank you! Sorry for offtopic Not sure whose purpose this comment aims to serve.

Vizag: Will I be 3rd time lucky?

Vishakapattanam or Vizag is on my hit-list since several years, but a visit hasn’t materialized yet. On two earlier occasions I had to cancel the booked train tickets, due to various reasons. Have booked one more time now, lots of dependencies still. let me see if I get third time lucky.

Next post is likely to be a review of Chetan Bhagat's 2 States

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bengaluru Automall 2009 feedback

Hadn’t visited an exhibition/fair since quite sometime and when Santosh suggested we checkout Automall 2009 at Palace ground, I readily agreed. (he actually referred to it as AutoExpo). Sandesh and Ravi also gave me company. I’d thought it might take about half a day, but after an hour or so there wasn’t much to see inside. The event is a disappointment if one goes with certain expectations and OK-Ok if you visit without any expectation. Organizers did mislead with a yellow Lamborghini in the banner knowing fully well that there’re hardly any international models inside.Now that the show has ended my feedback is immaterial, still sharing a few observations made at Automall, for those of you who might be interested.

Several major automobile makers viz Maruti Suzuki, Toyota Kirloskar Motors, Daimler Chrysler (Mercedes Benz), Audi, Nissan, HM and Volvo were missing. Rest who showcased their cars did more so like a ritual than with any enthusiasm to connect their brand with prospective customers and fans.

Got to about 6 vintage cars, of various makes. It was nice. Most of them had excessively powerful engines (about 3000cc and more, compared to 1 to 2 litre ones in present cars), but may be their efficiencies were lower. Also, anyone knows how can we know in advance if there’s a vintage car ralley scheduled to happen in our cities? I always read about them in newspaper next day and feel I could have gone there if I knew in advance.

Most of the expensive cars (BMWs, Honda Accord, Ford Endeavour, Skoda Superb) were kept properly locked and guarded by security and barricades, so there wasn’t a point in going to the fair to see them.

Only Chevrolet stall had some contests on (to write a slogan for Chevy Cruz). All other stalls were almost inactive, with visitors checking the cars on their own, while staff sitting comfortably in a corner. I asked a guy manning Honda stall how much it costs to replace an airbag, he was clueless.

Saw Suzuki Hayabusa, the 14 lakh+ two wheeler. Thought of buying it but decided against, after I realized that it can carry only one rider.

Bangalore Beetles club had several old Beetles on display. Volkswagen Beetle is a dream small car for many and it will be available in India from next month. A shiny yellow new age Beetle was also drawing attentions, but other Volkswagen cars were missing.

Off road ATVs (all terrain vehicles) were looking impressive and affordable (costing in the range of 1 lakh rupees). Though they are the best vehicles for Bangalore’s roads, unfortunately we’re not allowed to drive them on road (or on the potholed tracks referred to as Road)

Didn’t see people crowding around Tata Nano. Assume by now everyone have read enough about nano and also have seen a few of them around, so it no more turns heads.

Tata Xenon, powered by Safari engine was looking majestic, but not sure if it can grab Bolero’s market share in Utility vehicles segment.

Hyundai’s planned electric/hybrid variant of i10 was not on display

There weren’t any stalls for auto accessories. SatNav was the only exception.

Display area was very small-may be just as big as a medium size marriage hall. The crowd was busy clicking photos of themselves standing next to their favourite car, but somehow I didn’t feel like taking any photos.

The stunt show, done as a part of Automall, deserves a special mention for its bad organization

First, it was a bad idea not to have proper seating arrangements, while other blunders were inability to control the crowd and clubbing a dance show with stunt show. The unruly crowd never cared to obey any instructions and sat so close to the track,blissfully ignoring the impending dangers for the lives of riders and their own, if something were to go wrong. None of the riders had adequate safety gears other than helmet. A few rode in chappals. With everyone getting up from their seats to get better view, it was pointless to stay there after sometime. I could have written more, but since that is not going to serve anyone’s purpose, let me stop here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Photos from Jurong bird park, Singapore

Sharing a few best picks from Partho’s clicks at Jurong bird park, Singapore.

Jurong bird park is a custom build and landscaped wildlife reserve in Jurong district of Singapore. The park hosts a wide range of birds, all accommodated in their natural environments. Flamingos, Pelicans, Owls, Roadrunners, Macaws, Parrots, Peacocks, Sun Conures, Mandarin Ducks are few of them. The facility is vast enough to have a train running inside it. Night safaris, flame shows, bird information centre are just a few from the list of activities and happenings. Since I do not have first hand information on all these you may check wikipedia or Jurong birdpark official site for more info

All images copyrighted to Partho, published with permission. Click to enlarge.
Also read: Lifestyle in singapore * Singapore Flyer images*

Posts from my July 2012 Singapore visit: Gardens by the Bay * Marina Bay Sands * Singapore newspapers * Labrador Nature Reserve * National Gardens * Kinetic Rain at Changi Airport *

Friday, November 13, 2009

Malaysia Petronas twin-tower photos

Roommate Partho has returned from a week long Singapore-Malaysia trip and has brought back his memories captured in multiple memory cards all totalling to about 14GB. With his permission I will be publishing a few selected photos from his collection. The first one in the series is the famous Petronas Twin towers located at in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Malaysia-petronas-twin-towerThe twin tower was once world's tallest building and hosts Petroleum major Petronas's headquarters in one of the towers, while the other one is rented to other companies. Visitors are allowed till middle of the building where a 2 story bridge interconnecting two towers exists. Express elevators take just a few seconds to reach top.
twin-t Twin-tower-walkway Twin-tower-top-view Malaysia-twintower-night
Move cursor on image for description and click on the photo for bigger image.

All images photographed and Copyrighted to Partho, published with permission. I’ve also requested him to take out some time and pen down his experiences on the trip. Expect some more posts on Singapore and Malaysia.

Related: Air Asia cheap tickets to Malaysia *  Srilankan Trip: PurposeFAQDigest * Chile Posts digest *  2011 post on petronas twin towers

Monday, November 02, 2009

Gingee Krishnagiri Fort photos

Gingee-fort Recently myself and Partho checked out Gingee fort. How we decided to go there deserves a quick mention.

Sunday early morning we left for Pondy in a rented (self drive) ford Fiesta. I had a meeting at 4pm and we we’d planned to return by 2.30-3pm. We explored Paradise island and were having breakfast back in Pondy city. Next on agenda was Alamparai fort. I got an SMS indicating that my meeting is postponed. This meant I needn’t return to Chennai by afternoon and we’ll have about half a day extra. Initially we proceeded with the plan, gingee-fort-sitemapbut suddenly the name Gingee fort, about which I’d read earlier and had thought of visiting, came to my mind. I told Partho-अरे ऑ पार्तॉ, पता लगाओ, ए गिन्जी किला कहा पे आता है। (Find out where is Gingee fort). I’d a feeling that it is somewhere south of Chennai but had no further details.

Partho took out his GPS mobile phone (HTC touch), first googled for exact name of the place, then found it on Google maps. He told me its about 65 kms from our current location (ECR, Pondy). Next I asked him to find temples-kalyan-mantap-gingeeout which will be shorter from where we are: Option 1: Go to Alamparai fort, then go to Gingee and then return to Chennai or Option 2: Go to Gingee first, then go to Alamparai and return to Chennai. His assessment revealed that option 2 is better. Additional find out that Gingee fort closes by 5pm while Alamparai has no such limits made us head towards Gingee. He locked the destination and found shortest route, including a turn that will connect us to NH 66 from ECR. We took a small detour to visit Auroville and another one for fuel and headed straight towards Gingee. Road was fairly good. At places 4 lane construction was going on. Traffic was negligible and we cruised easily. granaries

We reached Tindivanam and with another 30 minutes drive reached Gingee. History about Gingee. History of Gingee is readily available at Wikipedia, so let me skip it. Gingee is a complex of forts, but major ones are Rajagiri and Krishnagiri and minor ones are Chakkiliya Durg and Chandrayan Durg.

We checked out only Krishnagiri and Chakkiliya durg and had to miss Rajagiri due to multiple reasons. view-from-topClimbing on top of Krishnagiri was a good exercise-I didn’t count the steps, but my rough estimate is that they are between 200-300 in number. Entree fee is Rs 5. You’ll find multiple mini entrances (where one can rest for a while) and watch towers (or places where there was a watchtower) on the way. View from top was nice. This fort has a Krishna temple, a Kalyana Mantapa, a Ranganatha temple (refer second image for these 3), a darbar hall, a well and 2 warehouses (granaries). There’s no idol in temples and a good number of goats were gazing around.Buildings that have braved nature for centuries are struggling to cope up with human graffiti.

Gingee town, bus depot and Rajagiri inside-granaryare visible from top of Krishagiri. There were no cannons on top and nor did I see provisions in the walls to pour boiling oil on invading soldiers.

We came down, drove to nearby Chakkiliya Durg and then decided to return. This unplanned visit was a good exploration, but I feel Gingee deserves another detailed visit.

Gingee site is covered by ASI, but appears to be managed by an old man and his family.

How to go there? from Chennai: Chennai-Tindivanam (NH45)-Gingee (some 150kms) or take NH66 from Pondy (65kms). While returning we took SH134 to connect to ECR. All roads are good.

How much time to spend there? We took about 1.5-2 hours (I'd earlier mentioned it wrongly as 3 as I missed to account the time spent at Auroville) for a casual climb up, exploration and return. Rajagiri would take another 2 hours. So half a day to full day depending on your convenience. Gingee could be added to your itinerary if you're planning a Chennai-Pondy trip.

Also see: Bekal Fort (Kerala) photos * Keladi Nagara Fort * Alamparai Fort & backwaters * Yercaud travelogue * Madhugiri Fort, Tumkur *Kodachadri *

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Interview: Andy Okoroafor Clam mag and studio

Presenting interview of yet another TED India fellow, Andy Okoroafor of France. Andy runs CLAM Studio and a creative magazine called CLAM. He is currently working on a new movie called Relentless. Questions to Andy were framed around the CLAM Magazine, studio and entertainment industry. Thanks to him for taking time to respond.

1. What was your motivation to start CLAM? Tell us something about your initial days setting up CLAM-of converting your dream, vision and concept into a reality.

Andy Okoroafor: The fashion and visual creative worlds are very closed, our vision was to make them open and bring more interesting views out to the fore… Also we wanted to create a global platform for creative people to discover each other...then finally we wanted the create a place for information on creativity in an honest non elitist fashion ..while using the same elitist tool, very tricky!!

2. March 2010 would be Clam’s 10th anniversary issue. What’s one thing that readers can look forward to in this special edition?

Andy Okoroafor: I don't think there will be any celebrating or something like that...I might do something with TED...but it will be like any other clam...I might mention it in my editorial but its not going to guide the issue ...the issue’s theme is “ Ailleurs” don't know if that would fit with celebrations..we will see how creatives will subvert that.;

3. Need a clarification: Your policy is that a given company or product will not be featured in CLAM EYE more than twice a year. With only 2 editions per year, what is the significance of this claim?

//Answer not received

4. A few words on how you’re using/planning to use new media (blogs, twitter, face book and so on) for better reach and interaction with CLAM?

Andy Okoroafor: We are working on the new clam site which will be great it will have videos, info and blogs from creatives and people of interest and old issue of clam. We wanted to launch this December but realistically, all the tests will take us to January but its still going to be

5. I went through the story, trailer and visuals of Relentless. Most of it seems to be shot in darkness/night time. Any significance of this? Tell us little more about Relentless

Andy Okoroafor: Its about loneliness...I travel a lot all over the world there is something about big cities...that kind of makes everyone fragile... I am always thinking where are those people going ,are they happy, what are their dreams etc ... So I wanted to make a film about that. However , I did not want to make it in Paris , where I live or New York where I know very well... I wanted to make it in Africa, in Nigeria and Lagos, one of the biggest cities in the world.. So it became fascinating on that level....other issues started cropping up some people who have seen , don't even believe there are cities like that in Africa..well they still think Africans live in trees I am glad for that.. Shot in the night time because that when you can visually explore loneliness...after work what do you do , if you have no where or no one to go to? gets interesting on a dramatic level too

6. Other than magazines and movies, what other hobbies and activities do you pursue? What is your stress buster?

Andy Okoroafor: I like people my life evolves around that ,I need people to talk about in the magazine and I need people to tell stories in the movies..
hobbies ..just living life, learning and appreciating other people

7. Since you’re into entertainment industry, what do you think is a practical solution to piracy?

Andy Okoroafor: I have no idea.....really I don't

8. While acting and movie making would be a dream career for many, just a few manage to succeed in this industry. What according to you is the differentiator?

Andy Okoroafor: Well if moving making for you is bollywood, Hollywood and nollywood etc...timing is makes it possible to make movies without going through these channels..if your creative life depends on it, you will make your have the technology now not to depend on any industry entry points,... will you find or reach your market ..that's a whole different question...

9. Any message to media students and enthusiasts in India? How can one get associated with/contribute to CLAM? What’s your plan for Asia?

Andy Okoroafor: I would like to get creative partners and contributors from India like we have in Korea / Japan and Hong Kong they just have to send me their works if we like it we will contact them...

10. Anything else you’d like to share about TED, Relentless and CLAM?

Andy Okoroafor: Would not be going to India if it was not for ted .i should be in Barcelona editing and producers don't find it funny

Relentless Trailor:

Related: Sandhya Ravishankar's workshop on broadcast journalism * Nishindra Verma on future of print media * My early journalism experiences * me on ETV Kannada *

Other TED interviews: Kamal Quadir, CEO, * Enda N, father of Indonesian blogosphere *