Sunday, December 27, 2009

T400 - First Impressions

So finally got my hands on the T400 I'd ordered for my significant other (every gadget I order is generally for her ;-). I had debated and researched (meaning browsed the net a lot) on whether to go in for the 13 inch Macbook Pro or a T400. The primary driving factor turned out to be the end use of the laptop (development machine - .NET to be precise). Got a good deal through (with a 128GB SSD to boot!).

Here are the specs for the T400:
 - 2.26 GHz Intel Core2Duo  (P8400)
 - 3GB RAM
 - 128 GB Solid State Drive (Samsung)
 - 14.1 LED Backlit - WXGA+ TFT, W/ CAMERA
  - Windows Vista Home Premium (yeah I know)

The only reason I got Vista Home premium was that Windows 7 had not been released when I ordered. Though I now have the option of ordering that online (some free Lenovo upgrade program - free as in beer + shipment). Haven't got around to doing that yet.

So - first impressions: The machine feel light, in fact feels lighter than the 13" macbook that we've got. 
The display is really good - had a direct head to head comparison with the macbook and the Dell Latitude 620 (my office notebook) and it is bright!. The machine is also fast! Owing to the fact that I haven't loaded anything on it yet, I guess. Not too impressed with Vista though - can't wait to get my hands on Win 7. The plan is to then load all the development software after that. Battery life seems to be pretty decent (on a 4 pack li - it now shows 3:57 mins left, after 20 odd minutes of typing).

The machine is really quiet! In fact it is more quite than the macbook. The keyboard is great (tactile feedback is really good). I had read about flex issues with T400 keyboards  - don't find any flexing here. The only thing I don't like is the noise the keyboard makes. I would be ok with it - can't say the same about someone sitting next to me though. The keyboard light (a nifty little feature that I haven't seen on other laptops yet) is also pretty decent - it casts enought light to be able to type in darkness.

All in all - I think it has been a good buy (spent around $1200)- but time will tell. Next step is to load it up for the better half to get cracking on - and then I'll get my (ahem) macbook back!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Finally getting Cable

Or rather DTH - Tata Sky.

We've been cable (and dish free) for the past 6 years or so, ever since we moved to our (then) new house.  The reason for getting cable is simple - I have my grandmother visiting us - and she definitely needs good old TV to keep herself occupied.  I had actually contemplated getting BSNL's IPTV (and may still do that sometime down the road if they ever improve on their customer service - but that's another rant), but since we had installed Tata Sky for our tenants (when the house was on rent) - I just decided to enable that.

I was pretty pleased with the way Tata Sky is setup. Within the space of half an hour, I was able to
- connect the set top box to the TV  (including crimping the required cable)
- get the subscriber ID from the Digicomp set top box.
- login to, recover the password,
- recharge my account online (payment using credit card)
- watch TV!

The whole experience with Tata Sky was pretty positive!  Although I have mixed feelings about going back to the world of TV. We did enjoy the hiatus though - always had more time to read books, play board games with the kids, watch movies uninterrupted, go out shopping (oh wait.. :-)...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Free ebook - What matters now

Free ebook

To quote Seth Godin (from his blog)

"Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around. I hope a new ebook I've organized will get you started on that path. It took months, but I think you'll find it worth the effort."

Download here.

FSJ and Digital Flash mobs..

This is interesting. FSJ (aka Fake Steve) is proposing some sort of digital flash mob -

The target is, apparently, AT&T's network, and the statement made by AT&T regarding bandwidth usage (see Om's coverage of that here -

Will this work? Coverage for that seems to be increasing. (Click here to check the latest Google search results).

Friday, December 04, 2009

Google Launches Public DNS

I've been using OpenDNS for the past 6-8 months - works great, although I have not had good success in blocking dodgy sites. And 2 days ago OpenDNS would not resolved for around 5 minutes.

So, should I be considering trying out Google's public DNS service ( and

Some links for further reading...,2817,2356618,00.asp

and OpenDNS' reply to Google DNS

Comments ? Thoughts?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Customer Service Rant #1 - Signature Kitchens

This is what I hope will be a series of rants (?) on the whole Customer Service Experience in India or put more specifically - Why Customer Service in India sucks! It's been three odd months after my move back to India, so I'm sure there will be many posts on this topic - here is the first in the series...

Will start with the most freshest in mind:

Signature Kitchens India Pvt. Ltd:

My wife has been wanting to redo our kitchen for quite some time now - and we finally decided to bite the bullet and go ahead. Our visit to a mall, a few weeks ago, was fresh in our mind - and we remembered Signature Kitchens as an option. So my wife called them up - they said that they charge Rs.500/- as designing charges where in they would give us two design "options". Fair enough - this guy comes over, takes a few measurements and we give him our requirements (as in what all we need in the kitchen). Among other things - he hasn't heard of a Sink Garbage disposal unit, he makes a few suggestions that seem quite green (as in green behind the ears and not eco-friendly) and says that two design options will be emailed to us.

So we get two designs - which have the following glaring lacunae:
  • Dishwasher seemed missing (we found it under the sink apparently they had raised the height of the counter - in spite of us giving specific instructions on the height)
  • No space for the Indian style mini-temple
  • We had asked for a kitchen table - that was completely missing
  • The Color scheme was good - but for a different house - it completely clashed with the tiles we have (The designer at SK had conveniently changed the flooring in the design to white from orange-brown).

So my wife sends them a polite email saying that you've basically forgotten stuff- can you take care of these points. Then comes an email from their manager saying that we need to come down (their office is essentially at the other end of town - and those driving in Pune's sucky traffic have a pretty fair idea of the painful journey to go across). So we send her an email saying sure we can come down - but we want to see the proper designs first.

Then, after a week of silence - we call up again. And the reply we get is that the "Company Policy" has now changed and we cannot send designs on email! Duh! After a week of silence - after calling them up - i.e. no proactive emails from them - we're pretty cheesed off! Here is a perfect case of a customer wanting a service - the SALE is NEARLY ALREADY MADE! All you have to do is not screw up!!

Wanting to escalate - I call up the manager and basically she tells me that I can go do what I want. She refuses to even give me a number of anyone higher up to escalate. Final stinker that I send to them is reproduced below...


Your service levels are pathetic!!!!

I have not experienced such rude and incompetent service (from ). Looks like you people do not want any business.

Your designs have not met even the BASIC REQUIREMENTS stated by us. And in spite of that you have the audacity to say that we cannot escalate this up! You people (especially ) don't know the basic meaning of customer service. I hope your Bangalore and Chennai service centers have some competent people at least!

Please refund the design amount immediately. If we have to come in to get the refund - we will be taking travel charges from you.

This will be escalated and I can assure you that there will be negative publicity on this."

Three days later - get a call from an "Accounts Officer" quietly asking us how we would like to be refunded. Last update - he would be sending a guy with the money to me.

Classic case on driving business away. No way in hell am I going to recommend Signature Kitchens India to any one!

People just do not get what Customer Service is about!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Upgrading my broadband connection...

Upgrading my Broadband...

Finally managed to upgrade my BSNL broadband from an unlimited 256Kbps to an unlimited 512Kbps (still dialup speed compared to the 6Mbps I had in the US)

Before I left (for the US in 2007) I was paying the equivalent of $10 for an "up to" 2 Mbps connection (limited, of course, to some GB). My tenant "upgraded" it to an
unlimited plan after getting one shocker of a bill (around 20,000 Rs ~ $400) one fine month. Guess that comes with having teenage children..
That plan, unfortunately had a speed cap of 256 Kbps.

Once in the US I was a little disappointed at the relatively high rates for broadband, not to mention that taking only Broadband was more expensive than taking a phoneline + broadband. So imaging my surprise (shock) when I get back 2 years later - Broadband has not gotten any cheaper - I cannot get a 2 Mbps connection (unlimited) without giving the proverbial arm and leg (or in this case at least the finger).

After a few days of "research" - which mostly constituted visiting broadband forum sites - came to the conclusion that Airtel could be a good choice. But I did want to give BSNL a fair chance before that.

Apparently you cannot submit a request online (the concept of doing anything online seems to be alien to BSNL), so after one false start on a Saturday that turned out to be the 2nd Saturday of the month (the BSNL office was closed) - went in and submitted an application (which was basically on a small slip of paper not even big enough to wipe your rear cleanly).
I was highly skeptical that the slip would make its way to the right place - so lo and behold my surprise when, on the following Wednesday, the net started feeling a little faster!
I found that it had been upgraded to 512 kbps. Miracles still happen! (I guess it is all about expectations!).

One problem I did face though - and this was on Friday evening and Saturday morning, some websites were not accessible (I could access google, linkedin, and other popular sites - but some sites just wouldn't open). A quick net search followed with all suggestions pointing to try and change the MTU size to a lower value.

After a couple of hours spent Saturday morning, which included changing the MTU on the macbook and the Dlink modem, I just gave up - but, lady luck was still smiling on me half an hour later everything was back online! I guess someone somewhere in BSNL must have reset some routers (I use opendns - so I don't think it was a DNS issue).

Next stop - deciding if I want one more "backup" connection or maybe a data card connection...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Replacing my Broadband ADSL modem

The last week has been interesting. My ever so reliable BSNL broadband connection gave way. I guess I must have bragged about its stability one too many times :-( .

The problem turned out to be in the modem (to be specific the power supply to the Modem). Didn't find this out easily though - after being shunted between the BSNL "Lineman" and the Broadband support guy (from a company called Syscon). After two days (and about 20 calls) the Broadband support guy finally shows up and confirms that the modem is out and I need to "come down to the BSNL office and get a new one". I tell him that if he can get me a modem - I'll compensate him for his efforts, as I really didn't have the time to go and buy a modem.

So he does that - ever so diligently. He installs the modem when I'm not at home - so I tell him that I will need to observe the connection for 24 hours before I can pay him.

I reach home after a hard day's work and find that the modem installed looks to be a used one (it even has a neat cut across the "Warranty void if seal broken" sticker).

I get livid and the guy from Syscon keeps changing his story from "It's a rental modem" to "You can buy the modem". He has a fishy "friend" with him who has supplied him with the modem. Long story short I tell him to take the modem and put it in a suitable place. I then order a D-Link GLB 802C ADSL2+ modem (I already have WRT54GL - flashed with dd-wrt, a Belkin N1 and a Belkin 4-port Gateway router - so I really needed something basic).

But the modem configuration turned out to be more than the plug and pray I hoped it would be.

Here's what I ended up doing (after connecting it to the Belkin WAN port failed to get me on the net) - and after 3 hours of futzing around with Dynamic IP mode and PPPoE mode on the Belkin router.

Connected directly to the modem through the Ethernet port with my macbook.

  1. Access the Web admin GUI (through
  2. Disable the DHCP Server (set the DHCP mode to none)
  3. Enable the BSNL connection (by default MTNL was enabled). Access this through the Quick Configuration link.
  4. Put the modem in a "Bridge mode" - the Belkin gateway would take care of setting up the PPPoE connection (basically user authentication).
  5. Pray

and it worked - I have my reliable net connection back!

Next challenge - figure out if the ~100 ms roundtrip to is ok.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Google's April 1st Joke - CADIE

"For several years now a small research group has been working on some challenging problems in the areas of neural networking, natural language and autonomous problem-solving. Last fall this group achieved a significant breakthrough: a powerful new technique for solving reinforcement learning problems, resulting in the first functional global-scale neuro-evolutionary learning cluster...."

Yawn.... nuff said