Who’s the VIP?

Us or Them?

I think India needs to seriously reexamine the concept of VIPs. Currently, a politician, a government official or a Bollywood celebrity are the VIPs. They get away with murder, they get away with scams, they make obscene amounts of money and yet want all the freebies and priveleges. On the toll roads they want an exemption, at the airport they want the parking closest to the terminal and of course they don’t want to pay!

The weird part is they make their pots of money from the tax that you and I pay. Yet when it comes to the priveleges, all we get is barked at by the police, the security forces and the rest of them, all of whom are paid only because we paid tax!

You tell me who’s the VIP?


News gone wrong

News in the post-PC era.

For a while now many of us read our news on a tablet of some sort. The apps available for news reading are many and varied as well. From the publishers of print papers to a totally customised and personalised news magazine lots of choice exists.

But there are times when I find that these news apps, get things wrong. It might be because the content is still formatted for a PC but displayed on a tablet or might be something else all-together. The biggest of these issues seems to be inappropriate images with the headlines.

Here are a few examples:

In the image above, the headline, the story and the image had very little to do with each other.

Another common issue is the overuse of TLAs:

At first glance, this seemed like a news item about a leading Indian political party, in which case the news is hilarious, it turned out to be a photography journal instead so all is well:

At times, it can also be really sad and insensitive. India for some reason is always shown with a sense of mysticism but in this case a little sensitivity was needed:

Have you come across such items while reading news on your tablets?






Raj Mathur

What a very very sad day. I lost a dear friend, Raj Mathur.

People who knew and have met Raj will always remember him as a lively and humourous person – brutally honest and a man of principles.

Raj was a founder member of the Indian Linux Users Group and a very active member of the Free and Open Source community. Well respected and extremely knowledgable, he was often sought after for advice which he readily dispersed.

Raj loved to have fun and encouraged everyone around him to do the same. He loved his food, his movies, his music and being with friends and family.

A brilliant hacker and much respected for his pioneering work, he will be missed by one and all.

Raj’s IM status always stated “Permanently out to lunch”, this is one time he will not return 🙁

Rest in peace, Raj “Oldmonk” Mathur.

Content is King…

…and it is not confined to the corridor!

Ever wondered what happens at FOSS.IN? Well wonder no more, just head out the official website and take a look at this post.

Conferences happen all the time, but few provide the excitement and more importantly the quality of content that FOSS.IN provides.

Come be a part of it. See you in Bangalore.

Date: November 29 – December 1, 2012
Venue: NIMHANS Convention Centre, Bangalore


The Connectivity Conundrum

Kkkkconnectivity…I feel almost like whathisname in that movie. My connectivity certainly seems to have a pronounced stammer. I’ve had many an argument with @jyotibhargava about how connectivity has improved in general in the country and while I do believe it has, we have our blind spots for sure. One large blind spot is Goa. In general Goa seems to be a state of extremes. You can come here to party hard or you could be here to relax and chill. Either way time stands still and sadly so does your Internet connection. Not just the Internet but communication connectivity of all forms. We’ve been in and out of Goa for many years now and for the last four we have a small flat that we tend to use during the school vacations as a quick getaway from the city. The biggest challenge I have faced here is getting either phones or data cards to work. I have tried pretty much every provider but the story is the same. Arpora is in a valley and surrounded by trees and hills, add to that the small villages around have not permitted the cellphone companies to put up any towers, the result is really poor signal quality and even when you do see a few bars of glimmer and hope, the make/break provides for some hilarious conversations.

Last year, I came to Goa armed with wanting to solve this issue. I was carrying a Tata Photon+ data card which was highly recommended by many users in this region along with a BSNL 3G SIM, an Airtel 3G Sim, a Vodafone 3G SIM and a Reliance Netconnect+ which seems to be sitting in my bag at all times. None of them worked. Well at least not enough or in a sustained manner for me to even collect my email, forget about doing anything else on the Net!

I even rigged up an external antenna for the data card which I had heard was working rather well for someone not far from where we are. I guess my little antenna actually needed to be on the roof at the end of a six foot bamboo pole cause the little one I made did not seem to help much.

This time round I am in Goa for a little longer than I usually am and I very definitely needed to solve the issue. On one of my visits I noticed a restaurant close by was offering free WiFi, I soon became a patron and chatted the owner up to figure out where the connectivity was coming from. It turned out to be from a cable provider who extends his network via WiMax. I promptly called the provider and hoped that he would be able to give me a connection too. Turns out our building did not have line-of-sight to his network so that was a bit of a fizzle.

After several phone calls and follow-ups, he seemed to agree to provide me fibre-to-the-home. The problem was I would have to bear the costs of the one-time installation and then of course, a monthly rental for usage. All this assuming the local TV cable mafia would actually allow him to pull a new cable in the area. A long and agonising week later, we finally had a cable coming into the house and thought the problem would finally get resolved. It did to some extent but with it comes a whole host of other problems. The provider insists on using 24Online as his billing and bandwidth management solution and that has issues. The biggest being the requirement of a client to be used to login, which rules out using a router. Fortunately the provider was aware of the situation and agreed to let me use my router and used the routers MAC address for access controls.

After two days of usage, I found that once again I was totally “disconnected”! Apparently, the “fibre has been cut” and it would take fifteen minutes to rectify. That sure was the longest fifteen minutes I had experienced. Funny it seemed almost like 13 hours. While, the fibre break had been rectified, the SysAd at the providers had not removed my IP address from the DHCP pool and lo and behold my IP address was assigned to somebody and else and nothing worked. I fought long and hard and finally had the issue sorted out. Maybe, just maybe this will be the end of the issue.

In the meantime, I do require a new WiFi router, my trusty little Hame is just not strong enough even to provide a signal within such a small apartment. Well, it does provide enough of a signal but it is accompanied by an equal amount of noise. I do have connectivity, though a very limited amount of it and am restricted to being in the same room as the router but I guess that will have to do for now.


Honey, there’s a bug in the system

Have a problem? Need it fixed? Learn to report it the right way!

Do you ever get calls telling you “It’s not working” leaving you totally perplexed about what exactly is not working. If it’s not a call it could be a cryptic SMSspeak message “Sir, its nt wrkg” or even worse an email with the entire message in the subject line and only the company disclaimer in the actual body! Part of my job does get me several of these calls, SMSs and emails and I have a really tough time keeping my cool in such situations. Biggest reason for my irritation is that the calls and messages are coming from the on-site engineer. These guys are trained in problem solving, one would expect at least reporting the problem accurately, but no it does not happen. Not only is the problem not reported accurately, absolutely no research is done. God forbid if they came on to a mailing list and asked a question in this manner, they would be electronically whacked till they went home crying to their mommies! We do have Google, Bing and a host of resources to check on before giving up, or taking the lazy way out. When I am in a somewhat kind mood I would just send the complainer to this most wonderful site – http://lmgtfy.com/

Coming back to the real issue, to illustrate let me walk you through a very simple problem. Let us assume for a moment that your Internet connection has gone down. How would you go about checking? I would start at the most obvious of places and first go and check if the router or incoming device is actually plugged in and has power. It really does work better when it’s plugged in. Often over the weekend an over enthusiastic housekeeping staff will come around and clean the rooms and sometimes even the server rooms and in the bargain a few cables may just get pulled a little more than they should and will be dislodged. Monday’s are bad days for SysAds primarily for this reason. Docking stations with no power cables or no network cables, monitors which are disconnected etc.

Good,so now that we have determined that we have power, the next thing to check would be the network cable. Is the network cable plugged in and more importantly if it is plugged in are there any activity and link lights are that glowing? If you cross this point successfully, you would like to do some basic network checks, can I PING my gateway, can I PING my ISP’s DNS, along with PING you may also want to do a TRACEROUTE, sometimes the issue is still within your network and these commands are essential in tracking down where the problem actually lies.

Now while you are doing all of this, please instead of calling me, call the ISPs help-desk and log a complaint. I already know you have a problem because my monitoring system tells me that. Your call of “It’s not working” is totally redundant for me.

Once you have logged a complaint with the service provider, do remember to ask how long it will take for resolution of the problem. Many times I get “Sir the net was not working and I called ‘put the name of your favourite isp here’ and logged a complaint”. Very good is my reply, however, my next question will always be, “How long will they take to fix it?” at which I normally get complete silence, a blank look or a sheepish “I did not ask…”. Not only is it important to get a fix on how long it will take to resolve the issue, but also a good idea to pull out that contract and check the terms on the SLA. And of course the escalation matrix, cause if you don’t get an answer or fix in the committed time, the next step would be to start climbing the complaint ladder.

Great, now that we have the Internet connection restored and the problem successfully resolved, what should we do next? NO you can’t sit easy it is time to document the issue so that if it ever occurs again you have a good starting point. Build a collection of problems into a little knowledge base. If possible run an internal wiki and maintain the issues there. It is of great value when you need to share with your colleagues or handover to another SysAd. While you are at it, write a blog post, tweet about or share on some of the social Q&A sites and earn some serious brownie points.

Seasons Greetings and all the best for the coming year!


…And Justice For All

Well, there was no justice tonight.

Here’s what I saw at the Metallica concert which was to happen in Gurgaon. I reached the venue around 15:30 hrs. There were huge queues lined up to get tickets. These were apparently people who had booked tickets well in advance but for some reason never got them via the post. My tickets had arrived in time via courier and I was thankful for that. The gates had not been opened and the people queued up for tickets were actually blocking the paths to the gates. Twenty minutes of hanging around, we heard a euphoric roar and assumed the gates had been opened. I am told now by some who were right in front that the rush actually caused the gates to break down. Puts a whole new meaning to “gate-crashed”.

By the time I got to the gates, the crowds were definitely dense but moving along slowly and orderly. Most seemed in a great mood and I did chat with a bunch of kids who were simply ecstatic and excited at being there. No chaos at all, huge crowds, broken gates (which were made of cloth and a tiny wooden frame) minimal security and checking, and we were all in.

About ten minutes later came the first announcement. A polite “we are having technical difficulties” and a request for the crowd to step back. Then some minor confusion started, announcements to sit down, stand up, move back, almost seemed like a PT class.

When the request to step back did not receive the expected results, the announcements got nastier, “Step back or we’ll call security”. And then some poor bloke came in and made a humble request in Hindi which received a thunderous roar but apparently still no result.

One totally obnoxious announcement from possibly a band member, cursing and promising to NOT play if the crowds did not move back. Finally, we were told that the front barrier was broken and that unless people step back Metallica would not perform.

Almost two hours later with nothing else being communicated other than the same message of “technical snag” and “step back” we were told that the show was cancelled. Oh! wait, not cancelled just postponed to tomorrow 16:00 hrs.

This is the only point at which there was some mild chaos, plastic bottles were flung on stage and irate fans did scream, shout and curse but it was no more than that. As the crowds started exiting, about 10-15 guys managed to get on stage and smash things around. One can only hope the damage was not too much and that we do actually get to see Metallica perform.

If not it, would be a real pity.

IMHO, the organisation was the pits. Arrangements were totally miserable for the size of crowd that was there. I also believe the crowd was extremely well behaved. The largest collection of black t-shirts and blue jeans I have seen at one time. Age group ranging from 4 yrs to 60 yrs. Patiently waiting to listen to music. Like a large family picnic.

My feeling is that something else was wrong and they tried blaming this on the crowd. I wish DNA would come clean and tell us the truth…for Nothing Else Matters!


Celebrate the Genius

Photograph: Wired Magazine

What does one say at a time like this that has not already been said. Between the social media networks and the conventional media a lot has been stated. What comes out strongly is the great respect that everyone had for the man. You may love or hate Apple as a company, but nobody has anything to say against Steve Jobs. Not his arch rivals, competitors nor those who disagreed with his methods. Respect for his genius is universal.

He is right up there with all other geniuses past, present and future. Be it Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Alva Edison or Albert Einstein and everyone in between. Not to mention those who will soon join the fray in the future. While he is considered an icon of the technology industry, touched the music and movie industries in ways that few had imagined, the true genius is the magical effect that his work brings. People laughed when he called the iPad a magical device, yet it transformed the life of a 3 year old autistic boy who uses it to communicate with his world. The 10 year old girl who was at the bottom of her class due to impaired vision, now has a new lease of life because of her iPad. Old age homes where senior citizens are now using several of these devices to keep themselves entertained, communicative and back on the path to recovery are not aspects of the technology that people had even imagined. They mocked it, and yet it is doing just what Steve Jobs had intended it to do. It is being magical and transforming lives. Only a genius would have realised that this could happen.

It is impossible to pay a fitting tribute to such a great man. The Apple website put it so elegantly and simply just like his designs and philosophy. People would have expected Google to make a doodle for the man, yet their tribute was subtle. Amazon was discrete in their tribute. Wired magazine in their tradition of design and excellence has one of the best tribute pages out there. I do believe that the best homage would be subtle and sombre. Steve Jobs was a very private family man and despite being remembered for his achievements and genius, he will always be remembered as a great human being.

The one quote that sums it all up brilliantly —

Steve was among the greatest of American innovators – brave enough to think differently, bold enough to believe he could change the world, and talented enough to do it — President Barack Obama.

May God bless his soul and give his family, friends and the millions of fans, the strength to bear this great loss.

R.I.P. Steve Jobs

Raves, Rants & Rambles