Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is there a thing that doesn't exist?

"Is there a thing that doesn't exist?" was the question my son Krishna asked me last night. It has been his habit to listen to my ramblings before he goes to sleep. His point is - my voice gives him good sleep. And I see the reason on why I didn't become a teacher. Coming back to his question - it made me happy, for he asked a difficult question. It made me happier as I can answer this one to my satisfaction. So, I started.

"The answer in a single word is No. But let me explain. We perceive everything through our minds. Thousands of inputs from the sensory organs and a memory help our mind make sense out of what the eyes see, ears hear etc. So, to perceive something, the mind must be present. That is the basic premise.

To answer your question, we must first define what that "thing" is (that doesn't exist). You can define that thing as something not in your memory. For example, a creature with three legs, four arms, eight eyes and three ears is definitely that's not there in your mind until we defined. As we defined it, it started existing in your mind.

As per our basic premise, we perceive only those things that exist in our mind. After the above example, the strange creature started existing." He nodded and tapped his head and said - "here".

I was happy that he understood such an abstract piece of information at his age. I narrated this to my wife and asked, "Isn't he brilliant?"

For her part, she narrated an event that happened three hours before.

"I had just returned from the market, buying vegetables to last for 10 days. They were all unpacked and I was about to stock them up in the fridge, when you called. I was preparing dinner, was on a call with my aunt and there was someone at the door. So, I asked Krishna to take your call. He spoke to you and turned to me and asked - "Father asked if he needs to get vegetables or greens." There was 200 rupees worth vegetables and greens right in front of him at the table where he was sitting and still he didn't correlate it to your question. Now, tell me - is he brilliant or what?"

All I could say was - "He's like me!"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Movies Review: திரு திரு துரு துரு

உண்மையில் உன்னைப்போல் ஒருவன், திரு திரு துரு துருவின் கதாநாயகன் தான். நம்மைப்போல் கொஞ்சம் சோம்பேறி, கொஞ்சம் பொய்யன், ஓரளவு பிறருக்காக ஏதாவது செய்பவன்.

உருட்டுகட்டை, பட்டாபட்டி போட்ட குத்துப்பட்டு, அவனே இவனே என்று டைட்டில் பாட்டு எதுவும் இல்லாமல், இரண்டரை சொச்ச மணிநேரம் உட்கார்ந்து படம் பார்க்க வைத்திருக்கிறார்கள். யாரும் அரிவாளைத தூக்கிக்கொண்டு "வெட்டுங்கடா" என்று அலையவில்லை. ஜீப் வெடித்து பறக்கவில்லை. கதாநாயகி ஓரளவுக்கு மூடியபடி வருகிறாள். கதாநாயகன் ஒண்டியாக பத்துபேருடன் சண்டை போடவில்லை. சண்டை வரும் நேரம், பயந்து ஓடுகிறான்; போலீஸ் அவனை காப்பற்றுகிறது.

தமிழ் சினிமாவிற்கு இப்படி பல முதல்கள். இயக்குனர் ஒரு பெண். மௌலி முதலானவர்களை வைத்து இன்னும் கொஞ்சம் சிரிக்க வைத்திருக்கலாம். பரவாயில்லை.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Spotting a site designed for SEO

I wanted to run a comparison on an ISP with other options and googled about the ISP. The top results were very negative. At number 5, was this search result:

Clicking on the link, I got to a page that cried out loud that it is done purely for SEO. Some of the indicators are:
  1. Articles will not have date or place.
  2. Unnecessarily repeated words like web hosting, review etc and hyperlinked to equally useless content.
  3. Poor language ("Currently, over 50 web hosting company is being review, testing, comparing, and judging.")
  4. Disconnected title and content.
  5. Content by anonymous authors.
  6. Boasting of SEO achievements -
When would companies realize that bad news about them can't be fixed by just SEO!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

இரண்டு வகைத் தமிழ்படுத்துதல்

முதல் வகை நாம் ஏற்கனவே பார்த்த "மெய்ப்புல அறைகூவலர்" ரகம். இரண்டாவது வகை நாம் விஜய் டிவியில் பார்க்கும் "தமிழ்ப்பேச்சு எங்கள் மூச்சு" ரகம்.

கழகங்களின் தயவால் பல்லுடைக்கும் தமிழ்தான் நல்ல தமிழ் என்று ஒரு எண்ணம் இருந்து வருகிறது. அறிஞர் (?) அண்ணாவின் ஒரு சோறு பதம் - "...ஊட்டிய உணர்ச்சிகளை உயிர் உள்ளவையாக்கிட உறுதி பூணும் வகையில் கொண்டாட வேண்டும்...." எதற்கு என்ன அர்த்தம் என்று என் 12 வயது மகனுக்கு புரியவைக்க நான் பட்ட கஷ்டம் வேறு யாருக்கும் வர வேண்டாம். அவன் இந்த காலத்து மாணவன். "OK", "like" என்று இரண்டு வார்த்தைகளை வைத்து எல்லாவற்றையும் விளக்கும் ரகம். வைரமுத்துவை தரிசித்தால் தமிழ் வருமோ என்று அதற்கும் ஏற்பாடு செய்தோம். பெரிய பலன் ஏதும் இல்லை. அண்ணாவின் தமிழ் அவனைப்படுத்தியத்தில் ஏதும் வியப்பில்லை. அவன் வேலையை சுளுவாக்க நான் ஒரு வழி செய்தேன்.
  • எந்த வார்த்தைகள் புரியவில்லையோ அவற்றை விட்டு விடு.
  • தேவையில்லாத பெயரெச்சம், வினைஎச்சங்களை விட்டு விடு.
இதன் படி அவன் எழுதும் தமிழ் அவன் ஆசிரியைக்கு புரியும் என்றுதான் நினைக்கிறேன். அண்ணாவின் உரைநடையே புரிந்திருக்கிறதே! இது கேட்ச்-22வில் யோசரியன்னின் தணிக்கை மாதிரி இருக்கலாம். பரீட்சை முடிந்து பேப்பர் பார்க்கும் போதுதான் தெரியும்.

இந்த கடின மொழி தமிழில் மட்டுமல்ல - அனேகமாக எல்லா இந்திய மொழிகளிலும் இருக்கும் என்ற நம்பிக்கை எனக்கு இருக்கிறது. ஒரு முறை ஆல் இந்திய ரேடியோவின் ஹிந்தி பற்றி பால்ராஜ் சகானி சொன்னார் - "அப் சமாச்சார் மே ஹிந்தி சுனியே". குத்துமதிப்பாக மொழி மாற்றம் செய்தால் - "இப்போது செய்திகளில் ஹிந்தி கேளுங்கள்". இது சுமார் ஐம்பது வருடங்களுக்கு முந்தைய செய்தி. இருபது வருடங்களுக்கு முன் கேட்டது: "மந்திரி நே சம்வாத் தாதா சம்மேளன் மே சம்போதித் கியா". இதைக்கேட்டபின் மந்திரி மேலும், பத்திரிகைகாரர்கள் மேலும் இருந்த கொஞ்ச நஞ்ச மதிப்பும் போனது.

என்னுடைய ஹிந்தி ஞானமும் கொஞ்சம் குறைவு.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Applications with worst UI

After looking at some of the IBM products, I'm convinced that you can sell anything if you have the right connections. How else can an organization go for something like Lotus Notes!

IBM is not known for applications with good UI. I already blogged about DB2 installation a few weeks ago. When it comes to enterpricey software that runs on big servers with green monitors, nobody would care about a nice UI. But that was some 30 years ago, when most of the world hadn't heard of computers.

But Notes is an application for collaboration - that means real people will use it. Well, if the sales process is taken care of, real people will have to use it.

For those who do not know how Lotus Notes UI looks like, here are some low lights.
  • The Window style and font don't conform to the ones that you are used to with other Windows programs. (Note: I'm not using the term standard. Standards aren't important as long as you can find the information you need, who cares!)
  • To set an auto-forward, you have write some code. I'm not sure if that's VB Code. But if you have to write code to do something as simple as auto-forward, who cares if it is VB or Simula.
  • If there is an easier way to set auto-forward, I couldn't locate it in the past two months - weekends included.
  • The visual cue that you are used to in other email clients on whether it is an email or meeting invite are so poorly done that I end up missing some of the meetings.
  • It doesn't remember any of the addresses you had typed. You got to add them to the addressbook for it to search.
  • The default font is so clumsy that it feels like using a green console.
I might be looking at an older version of the application, but not earlier than 2005. The application UI is about 20 years behind the rest of the collaboration tools. Now for the web interface part.
  • The web interface for the app, called iNotes is a horror. The UI has the least useful default sort order. The earliest mail shows up first.
  • The navigation is undefined when you delete a message in the message view. It would show a page with no context and you have to navigate to Inbox by clicking on the link.
  • On deleting the message, the message would continue to show up in the Inbox with a trash can to the left. I don't understand the purpose as there is already a trash folder and why can't this mail be moved to that folder?
  • Even on IE, there are usability problems. Pressing the up arrow within the editor will change the font. I didn't bother to try it on Firefox or Chrome which is my default browser.
  • I didn't expect a Gmail like interface as the app might be a few years old, but Squirrel mail would beat iNotes hands down.
Overall, I'm glad that I didn't get to use it regularly so far and I don't have to use it in the long run.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Is there Dijkstra quote on Java programming?

After about seven years I got into some serious programming recently.  The last time I wrote programs that mattered, was in 2002 when I worked for a start-up in a Seattle suburb.  Considering that the start-up didn't really get started, I can't say my work  mattered much.  At that time, it was a lot of C++, ATL etc.  I was getting wide eyed on things like annotation based programming and continous integration when I heard about the work in progress at Microsoft. The source of information was my co-worker who had quit Microsoft to find his fortune in the start-up.

Fast forward to last month.  I landed in San Francisco as an "architect"  (implied meaning: architect who would give lectures and do diagrams and do nothing useful) to kickstart a project.  Circumstances forced me to get into programming in Java with Spring and all that good things Java world is proud of.

I usually abandon learning when I go through the environment setup pains.   It was different this time.  I got to a quick start thanks to Lenny and Denis who set up the basic things functioning.  With the support of a good framework, my code was reasonably bug free until a change request came, when I tried to patch up the code in the last minute introducing a few silly bugs.

The typical development time issues I faced were mainly due to my C++ experience and MS conventions.  I tend to not see the parenthesis at the end of an if statement.  The operator = has an altogether different meaning.  Little differences like these made the development interesting.

The boring challenge was to have all the spring configuration entries for prototypes and singletons defined properly.  You miss one or misspell one, the application fails to start.  From the time you complete typing the core code to the time you get it to run, there is a big lag - thanks to the spring configuration.

Though I wasn't hands on before this project, I was in touch with software development as a discipline and was glad to use tools like liquibase, splunk etc.  These standardized tools make a programmers life a lot easier as compared to our home-grown solution for DB script management and log analysis in 2002.  I should say life is good for Java developers.... but for one question.

Isn't the Java world taking MVC a bit too seriously?  In an interview, I got into an argument with the interviewer on this.  We both agreed on the need for separating out the data, business rule and presentation.  I was fine having a separate function to take care of presentation details.  The interviewer insisted on having a separate class for presentation.  To close the interview on a smooth note, I listed the options in separating out the business logic from presentation.

Looking at the way Java applications are being developed, I wonder what Dijkstra would have said.  Though we have crossed the LoC way of measuring  programmer productivity, to me Java community seems to love the complexity.  Look at the packages and their nestings; look at the number of classes and interfaces created even for a small problem. And mindless accessor methods - a syntactic nightmare that C# carefully avoided.

I see design patterns, most importantly MVC becoming a religion preventing any rational design decisions especially on smaller projects.  I used to deal with a lot of SMEs that had requirements for a few months of development efforts.  Java projects typically got issues arising out of the complexity where the developers placed logic and presentation at wrong places.  We could blame it on the lack of training for the developers.  As compared to that, PHP as a platform for small projects worked exceptionally well.  

Sometimes, it is hard to tell the customers that your religion won't work!

Monday, May 18, 2009

In response to Science & Religion

This blog is in response to Ram's blog on Science and Religion, a debate.

I see both science and religion as two tools that try to set aside the subjective experience with a more objective observation.

I choose to place my views with examples.  I like examples.

If a religion preaches that attending a worship session is good for you, (medical) science preaches that aspirin is good for your heart.  Both tend to apply an observed phenomenon on a small sample to the masses.  Just as aspirin may be good for your heart, attending a sunday mass could be good for your emotions.  In both the cases, there are side effects.  Not attending a mass can induce guilty conciousness; aspirin is known to have side effects.  Note that I'm not referring to the act of attending the mass or taking aspirin, but am just referring to the preaching's impact.

Rarely do we see priests paying true attention to the individual.  Doctors are slightly better.  But considering the healthcare in most populous countries, I doubt whether doctors take individuals seriously.  Instead they try to interpret the situation with what they have learnt, in a scripture or a book.

Science gets an approval from the rationalists because it clearly has its fine prints and disclaimers.   Unfortunately, the religions I know of do not have such caveats.  Instead they warn of terrible consequences if you don't follow.  

Religion during Galileo's period disapproved of science that wasn't in line with the scriptures.  In a way, we see the same tendency within the scientific community of today, towards religion and spirituality.

Is there a serious study on religion or spirituality and its impact in the human well being?  If there were any, I doubt whether those researchers are respected within the research community. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Installing DB2 Express on Windows

Software Quality is in short supply - even in big shops like IBM.  I can call today - a bad software day - struggled installing DB2 express on my laptop, struggled with entering timesheets in the homegrown time-tested (and patience testing) application.

Before starting, if you believe in a supreme power, pray to it.  If you do not, you will start believing in one when you go through the process.

Now, it is time to share my experience in installing DB2 Express.

When selecting user login for running the services, you have multiple choices - a system account, a local user and a domain user.  
  • Setting it up as system account will continue with obscure messages that it can't set the user's properties.  Once the installation ends, you will find all applications in your programs, but none of them will work.  All would show an error message with the code "DB2INSTANCE : -2029059916" and would ask you to investigate further.  It simply means that the installation wasn't complete though you get to see all the applications.  Fixing the installation won't work.  Uninstall, restart and try installing again.
  • You may be lucky when trying to set it up as domain user account, but I didn't have much luck - be it an active directory or a Samba based domain controller.  A coworker mentioned that it took about 4 hours to install it.  The error messages will keep you guessing on what is going wrong.  You need extensive experience to read the mind of the developer who created those messages.  To cut the story short - give it a try once.  If it fails, try the local user account.
  • If you had logged in as domain user, but if you try to set up the service in another local user's login, you will still get errors like that the user is not an administrator.  Best option would be, create a local user, login as local user, begin the installation, give the local user credentials for running the services and continue.
After installation, add all the users (including the domain user) who need to administer the instance to the DB2Admin group.  Add other users to DB2User group - using Administrative Tools -> Computer Management -> Local Users & Groups.

Then start FirstStep application.  This is supposed to help you in creating databases.  If the installation had gone fine, it might have created a sample DB in :\DB2\NODE000.  When you try to create a new DB, the wizard will prompt for the DB name, its path etc.  Though it refers the field as the default path, it means the drive.  So, if you had installed it in C drive, leave the value as C:\ - you may try giving other drives, but remember it is only drive and not the path.  If you had given a path, you will again get a confusing message that only IBM developers and testers understand.

Once the database is created, thank your personal deities.  Good Luck! - you'd need it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Review of A Wednesday & Expectation on the Tamil Version

A DVD for Rs 99 is a pretty good deal for a movie of this class.  As I sat to watch the movie with my son, we realized that the batteries in the DVD remote had drained out.  So, we couldn't switch on the sub-titles.  From time to time, I had to pause and intervene like the way Gemini Ganesh used to do during Hum Log days and interpret the dialogs to my son.

Overall a sleek movie.  It is good to see such a quality production in India.  Good casting for the main characters.  Both Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher are great. I liked the CM character -  a smart politician with a heavy Maharashtrian accent in Hindi and English.  The character of the  TV reporter and that of Jimmy Shergil were good too.

But, there is always scope for improvement.
  • The background score was too R D Burman style, could have been a lot better.
  • The movie continues with the character stereo types you get to see in Hindi movies - all honest cops are Rathods, Khannas or Singh.  Supporting good cops can be Muslims and all the low level (or corrupt or inefficient) ones are Maharashtrians.  Repulsive.
"Is violence the only solution for violence?" can be a reasonable question.  But in this movie, we are not looking at the political correctness, but that of the agony of a common man in Mumbai.

Now for the expectations on the Tamil part.

Is there a similar sentiment in the Tamil context?  May be - looking at the current law and order situation in the state, you may have a similarity.  But the common middle class man doesn't go through the kind of terror that Mumbaikars had gone through.  We have different problems altogether.  So, this is something to watch out for.

On the casting, I have serious doubts on Kamal's ability to play the role of a common man.  This character is supposed to exhibit vulnerability, helplessness and fear.  There was a big difference in the acting of Sanjay Dutt and Kamal Hassan in Munnabhai and the Tamil version.  Sanjay Dutt, in spite of having a hero like body looked so vulnerable - Kamal was nowhere near that expression.

When was the last time, Kamal played a role of a common man - Mahanadhi? After that, we saw Kamal hiding behind clumsy make-up in Indian, Avvai Shanmughi and Dasavatharam.  There were other characters marked heavily by a change in hair-style, moustache, scarred face etc - not in one of them, he appeared as a normal man.  He seems to be too dependant on the make-up than on the facial expression and body language.

'A Wednesday' left the religion of the protagonist outside the scope of the movie.  Naseeruddin Shah can pass as a Hindu, Muslim, Parsi or a Christian.  So, you really wouldn't question the religion of the character, but accept him as a common man in Mumbai.  Kamal would want to exhibit his secularism. The recent photos show him sporting a beard.  You can imagine the rest.

The title itself indicates that the movie would be heading in a different direction.  It is titled as "Thalaivan Irukkiraan" - "There is a leader"!  So, there could be scenes to establish Kamal as the Thalaivan, there could be a flash-back where he would fight the goons (stunts by Kanal Kannan), shake his hips in a flash-back to the choreography of Brinda.  

At least be thankful that Crazy Mohan is not writing the dialogs!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How do you feel?

When I was about 19-20, on the day of Vinayaka Chaturthi, my father was performing the pooja. My brother and I wanted to go to our uncle's place - some 15 kilometers from where we were, to watch a cricket match on TV.  We didn't have TV at that time.  We were rushing our father to finish the pooja fast so that we don't miss even a minute of the game.  My mom was quite upset that we preferred a game over God.  I asked my father - "What would you do when you were my age and got a chance to play/watch cricket?".  Sounded like a good question at that time.  My father didn't say anything, but finished the pooja quickly and we went off to watch the game.

Apart from this, I've asked my mom and other elders on a number of occasions on why should we do this or that - to justify my actions and inactions.  The responses can be broadly classified as follows:
  • Some science  (often supported by statistics) that no one understood were behind  the rituals.  An example would be scientific backing of (Hatha) Yoga.
  • Intangible benefits - like punya, better concentration etc.  Example: Benefits of meditation as told by practitioners.
  • Elders said so - I don't know and wouldn't question that.
But, never once I got that answer like - "Try it - you might feel good."   It is as if, no one wanted to talk about the subjective feeling, but always try to reason it.  The reasons, over a period of time, were misunderstood and had become foolish rituals.  

I'd attribute this is to a couple of things.
  • People didn't have any authentic experience in support of these theories.  Even if they had had, they don't value it and use as a supporting fact.
  • The Western mind and the education system insists too much on the objectives to a level that a subjective experience is distrusted and seen as a lie.
The rituals are not restricted to the religious practices.   There are jokes like processes designed for certifications like ISO, CMM and modern research on physiology and psychology that rely heavily on statistics.

In effect, we don't even trust how we feel fever, instead need a thermometer to prove that there is fever.

Let me see if I can play the "feel" factor with my developers - expect them to produce good quality software that they would be feel proud of.  There are a lot of steps involved, but I think it would definitely be a step forward in their quality of work.

A few years down the line, I foresee the situation narrated in the beginning happen again.  That time, I would find myself playing a different role - that of a father.  When that happens, I might tell my son, "Try staying in the pooja - you might feel good."  I'd still try to finish the pooja fast and would make my son feel happy - just as my father did!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The drama over IPL

I find myself aligned with the Commie view over the drama called IPL.  That's a bit embarrasing.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D.Raja said: "We are in the election process, the home ministry tried to explain to the organisers whether the IPL management was aware of the elections or not. I never knew that the IPL leadership would be so apolitical."

He added: "The IPL is doing this for profit and when you do something for profit, you cannot expect a country to change its elections. They cannot take the country for granted. People in India have feelings for cricket, but they (IPL managers) should not exploit these feelings for profit."

The election commission, being fully aware of the security requirements for election chose to conduct in multiple phases.  

It is obvious to the common man that it would be impossible for the government to provide security for the games when the elections are on.  It is pathetic to see the major political parties giving out stupid or non-commital comments about the security situation and IPL's decision to shift the venue.

"This will send a wrong signal to the outside world that India cannot handle the security of cricket matches, which are such a huge public draw," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar told IANS.

Another BJP guy said that India is not Pakistan.  I wonder where was he on 26th November or when Akshardam or the Parliament were attacked.  November 26th showed us that we are just as vulnerable as the Pakistanis.

Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said: "It is a private tournament organised by private organisers, it is their decision (to take out the tournament)."

"How can I comment on whether their decision is correct or not?" Mrs. Natarajan said to IANS.

Another weak comment that doesn't find anything wrong with the media or IPL's arm twisting the government.  And it also ignores the fact that the country doesn't have a better security with the UPA at the helm.

Overall the entire episode shows that:

  • Our election process can be free of violence only with large deployment of security forces.  This explains our democratic tradition.
  • The government - be it the UPA or NDA haven't figured out governance.
  • The corporate India is self-centered and cares a damn for anything other than their profits.
  • The media will play to the tune of the corporate India and cares little for ground realities.
  • People like me have blog as the only sane platform to vent out our frustration.

Nano, People, Economics and Tata's Vision

Yesterday Prakash blogged about sentiments on Nano. On the points that Prakash had mentioned:

1. Bridge the status for many people
Are we looking at a more or less equal status of people because all of them can have a car? Is this the end of all differences and do we start treating people equally? Nano is just a product that would attempt to cash in on the small segment of city people that can afford a bike but can't afford a Maruti 800 or such a car.  

Status differences are there and will be there. There will always be a comparison.

2. Allow people to convert their dreams in reality
The one who managed to buy a Nano would want to sell it the next year and move up to a bigger better car. So, if someone can dream of a Nano, the next dream would be an i10 or Getz or Maruti 800.

3. Ensure safe travel
Agreed. A car is safer than a bike just because you can't drive a bigger vehicle as crazily as you would drive a bike. But sir, what about the safety of the poor souls that happen to walk and cycle on the same road. Yesterday, I stopped for letting a pedestrian cross the road. She was shocked that someone could do that and stood like a moose in front of the headlights. In the meantime, I was honked and yelled for stopping!

BTW, I use my car as rarely as possible - maintaining a balance between social responsibility and need for luxury.

4. How a good segment of population will take a cautious approach before buying? They will wait and watch till the official verdict is on.
1 lakh (or advertised as Rs 99,999 + taxes) is just a marketing figure. I wonder what would be the cost of driving it that includes fuel, maintenance and insurance. Tata cars aren't known for their ease of maintenance and roads aren't designed for a maintenance free driving either. At this state of economy when the money flow is not guaranteed, people would obviously think a hundred times before committing on an ongoing spend.

My concern is, as the number of cars keep increasing, we have limited road-space in all the cities. We just can't afford to have more cars without causing major problems in environment, physical and mental health and lastly economy. In these conditions, it would be foolish to expect an expensive product to make life better for the masses.

Here are the specific comments about the timing of Nano.

Was it a good idea of Mohammed bin Thuglaq to shift the capital city? Was it a good idea to mint leather currency? Definitely yes! But every decision for a country or organization must be backed up by time.
  • To me, Tata's Nano and their acquiring of Jaguar, Land Rover or Corus lack the vision Tatas are known for.
  • If building a car from ground-up is an achievement, they have done it with Indica. 
  • Instead of improving its quality and being cost effective in the production, Tata chose the 1-lakh car. Though the idea sounds good, it seems to be driven by ego - that we can do it. 
  • That has an adverse impact in making fair judgment of the present conditions. I feel the opposition at Nandigram should have been seen as a bad omen for the 1-lakh car. We usually do not see resistance as a warning and Tatas are no exception.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Customer Support: Airtel, BSNL and Netgear

On the economic slowdown, we decided to cut back some of our expenses. BSNL offered a flat 20% discount for government employees. My wife, being a government employee chose to switch our land line and broadband from Airtel to BSNL.

She applied, got the connection in about a week. Then we went onto cancel the account with Airtel. The day after I submitted the request for cancellation, Airtel guys called up to make an offer - a cheaper deal so that we continue to keep their connection and not worry about change in the number. I politely declined saying that I'm fine with the small effort needed in keeping people informed of the new number.

A week after we got the BSNL line, the JTO from BSNL informed us that the broadband connection is through too. He offered to help setup the connection. He didn't care to understand our current configuration and insisted that we follow what said. I decided to give it a shot - reset the router-ADSL combo (Netgear DG834G-v3) and began doing the setup. As expected it didn't work. I searched for the installation CD and tried reinstalling the router software.

Now comes the pain point. The installer indicated that the line doesn't have ADSL signals. We called up BSNL for support; they came with their own modem, tested the line and said it is fine and concluded the problem is with the router. I struggled for a couple of days with the power-off-reset-change socket-change cable cycles and decided to go for a new router. Technical intuition told me that we might be missing something and shouldn't need to get a router. Luckily we decided to hold back on buying a new ADSL+router as the price quoted in open market was almost double that of what BSNL was quoting.

After so much efforts, the techie in me had given up and decided to cry for help. I called up NetGear support this morning. Surprisingly, there were support engineers available to help outside of the standard office hours of 9-5. The support person understood that I'm reasonably technical and didn't dumb me down like the BSNL JTO. She patiently walked me through the series of steps including resetting the modem, reconfiguring a few parameters to get it to working.