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Ambulance and Bangalore traffic.

Part of this was originally posted as a comment to Nithin‘s facebook post about today’s news article stating that Cops will send you legal notice if you block an Ambulance.

There’s a well known law called Parkinson’s Law which states

work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion

There are various corollaries on this – and the one which I resonate the most is

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

Now, if you drive on Indian roads you’ll pretty much agree with this version:

Vehicles will cram in to fill the space available on road.

I had a situation this morning where the ambulance was about 4-5 cars behind me on Old Airport Road. Right infront of HAL Police Station. The Ambulance’s sirens are blaring, the driver’s desperately trying to make way so that he can move on.  I have 2 BMTC volvo buses back to back on my left – first BMTC bus taken so much as of the road as to crumple me like I was nobody. An rickshaw was less an than inch infront of me(who poked in somehow from mid-lane bulldozing his way, eager to trade paint if necessary) and a biker trying to pass me from the right side with so little gap, his knee would scrape my car and he’d scream bloody murder if I just let the clutch go for a microsecond.  I wondered where and how am I supposed to give way to the Ambulance in this case. If I wait and let the Ambulance go, then I’d have heard more curses than a Bangalorean yelling at an Auto driver for demanding meter mele double at 8pm. Ultimately, I crawled on first gear till the Ambulance passed me, pretty much blocking the entire lane behind me.

Any curses were drowned by Foo Fighters’ My Hero coming through the Celerio’s music system. Also was good to see an auto rick behind me gesturing others to move so that the ambulance can pass. Good going man.

Short Review of the Vu 40″ – 40k16 LED TV

I was on the fence about buying a TV since I don’t watch it that much, but during their recent sale, I came across an offer from Snapdeal on Vu TVs that was too good a deal to pass by, so I grabbed the Vu 40″ TV(aka 40k16).

Delivery, Installation & Unboxing

Snapdeal shipped the TV next day, to be delivered by Bluedart – who took a good 10 days to deliver it. The day the TV was originally scheduled to be delivered, I got a call from Vu’s service rep asking me when would be a convenient time for him to come over and setup the TV and give a demo. I mentioned him that the TV isn’t here yet. He then told me to give him a call the TV arrived, and he’d try to come over and set it up.

The first thing you’ll notice about the TV is how light & thin the entire package is. With the whole box, including wall mounting kit and all, I’d estimate it weighed about 13 kilos.

The shipped TV box consisted of (obviously) the TV, table mounting bracket, wall mounting bracket, the remote, pair of AAA batteries for the remote, the usual manuals, cable ties, component and coaxial cables

 

Ports, connectors

Unlike other TVs in the the budget range, the Vu comes with a bevy of connectors. This includes not one, not 2 but 3 HDMI ports and 2 USB ports. In addition to these, the 40k16 also comes with VGA input, composite video input, component Video input, 1 RF input, 1 Headphone out, 1 RCA Video out and even an SPDIF out port.

The HDMI and one of the USB connectors are placed on the side panel; what I liked about the placement was that the ports weren’t on the edge of the panel, but slightly recessed in, so even if you have a fairly large USB stick connected to the ports, it really isn’t visible from the front, while being accessible enough to plug it in straightaway without have to boggle your mind too much.

Vu claims it’s TVs have inbuilt DMP(Digital media players), and test it out, I copied a mp4 video to a USB flash drive and plugged it into the USB port. The TV recognized the file and was able to play it. To make things even better, I was able to pause/rewind/fast forward the video right from the remote control, without having to fiddle into the menus.

Unfortunately, the supported file list is pretty limited – though most video/image/audio files should do file, if you copy a vob file(typically found on DVDs), the 40k16 refuses to even show the file & you can’t view it.

Now it’s important to note that this isn’t a “Smart” TV, which is fine by me because most Smart TVs that I’ve seen are either crippled by crappy UI or poor performance – I sorta made up for this by connecting a Chromecast to the TV.

Video quality

I don’t have a cable or a DTH connection, primarily because I use Chromecast to stream media from my Plex Media Server(on my desktop) over to the TV, and the quality has been pretty awesome. I did find the colours a bit over-saturated out-of-the-box, but toning it down from the menu helped that. Something I also noticed was visible backlight bleed, especially over the upper and lower left corners. Normally, it should be fine, but if you’re watching a media which emphasizes on dark backgrounds with the lights off, this might be annoying.

I’ve also been testing Ogle(which uses Plex for their video delivery) and been generally very happy with the quality of the video – both from Ogle as well as the delivery from the TV. I’ll write about Ogle some other day.

Sound Quality

The sounds quality is what I’d call just fine-mediocre. It’s loud enough to be heard, but just falls flat in terms of response – nonexistent bass, flat treble and mids. Vu recommends that you mount the TV on wall for better experience – I can’t help but think that will lead to muffled sounds.  Overall, it should be OK for normal viewing – just don’t expect Home Theater style effects.

Remote Control

The remote control is fairly well designed, fells solid to hold. The remote has also has some ‘extra’ buttons – when asked the Vu rep about them, he mentioned that the remote control unit is common to all Vu TVs, so some of the buttons are apparently useless to few models. Anyway, I found some of the buttons(especially those related to changing the video source) bit harder to press than others. The volume adjustment/menu navigation buttons were pretty fine.

As mentioned above, the remote also has a nifty feature being able to control the playback of files being played from the USB ports – this is really convenient and saves you a lot of hassle.

Service & Warranty

The 40k16 comes with a 1 year warranty. I asked the service rep as to what should be the steps in case something went wrong. The service rep pointed me to a toll-free number & an email account for support, apparently they will take your complaint via the toll free number/email & assign you a service id within one business day and a rep will come over to check.

I inquired about panel replacement for dead/light up pixels – the rep mentioned the panel will be replaced if there are at least 5 completely bright/dark pixels in alternative arrangement.

(must need to verify with manual)

Pricing and Verdict

The Vu 40″ 40k16 model is priced at a MRP of about  ₹35,000 – and you’ll find it on Flipkart or Snapdeal at about  ₹29000. During the Snapdeals savings day, the 40k16 was available for ₹24,990 and I bought it after doing some research and opinions from folks on twitter – and I should say it’s been a good purchase so far.

So overall: if you’re looking for a great budget TV, I’d definitely recommend the Vu 40k16.

Pros

  • Excellent pricing
  • Great form factor
  • Good video quality
  • Lot of connectors

Cons

  • Visible backlight bleed, especially with dark background
  • Meh sound quality

The farce that is online request forms present on Indian websites

Have you ever seen the “contact forms” that are present on a lot of companies offering services such as Broadband, Telephone Lines, cars, bikes et al?
I have and I’m sick of seeing them. Why do these dumbasses put these forms? They are of no utility except for the sole purpose of harvesting email address, phone numbers & other contact details so that they can shove their promotional material down your throat and spam you to eternity.  Over the past couple of years that I’ve seen and used them – with zero response, I wonder why in the hell do they keep it at all. Absolutely zero response.

The culprits so far:

  • Airtel (telephone, Broadband)
  • Reliance (telephone, Broadband)
  • Tata Teleservices (Broadband)
  • You Telecom(Broadband)
  • Maruti ( car)
  • Ford (car)
  • Hyundai (car)
  • Volkwagen (car)
  • Honda (car)
  • Fiat (cat)
Heck Volkswagen haven’t bothered getting back to me, yet have nicely subscribed me to their promotional crapware that gets deleted straightaway(oh thank thee, GMail filters). (Update: Volkswagen gave me a call today, nearly  a year after I had filled in their online inquiry form. Are they freaking insane? Call up after a whole freaking year?) 
To give Ford some credit, one of their dealers did call me and setup a test-drive & then conveniently forgot about arriving for the test drive. Way to go, Ford!
If you don’t have the basic decency to pay a little attention to your customer who’s investing truckloads of money in you, you should STFU and not talk about customer care. At all.
And for Christ’s sake, get rid of those useless request forms.
Update: Added Honda & Fiat, as mentioned to me by techrsr

Download Toad for Oracle for Free

Toad (acronym for Tool for Oracle Application Developers) is arguably one of the most popular and best known tools used by most people dabbling in Oracle databases ( or for that matter, most relational databases anyway). Toad’s reputation is so good, I’ve known few people swear by it and don’t even bother looking at other software, no matter how good.

Toad’s got more features than your average SQL/ PL/SQL developer would use,and hence got a bit of a steep learning curve. Not to mention an even steeper price tag ( the base edition starts at $957, and goes all the way upto $4709 if you include the Code Tester and DB Admin module). Given these prices, Toad is pretty heavily pirated.

However, most people are unaware that Toad also comes in a freeware edition, and until recently was severely crippled. Few days ago, there was an update to Toad freeware – and the updates are pretty good. The freeware edition is now based on 10.5 codebase, rather than previous 8.5 codebase. Now before you start jumping up and down, the restrictions on the freeware edition are still in place, but noticeably lesser than the previous update. Some of the restrictions include you being limited to only one concurrent database connection (which btw – would severely hamper me, I generally maintain 2-3 connections). Another major irritation is that the freeware edition will expire every 90 days, and you will need to uninstall, re-download and reinstall it. Ugh.

Here’s comparison chart between the commercial edition and freeware.

If you’re OK with the restrictions imposed by freeware edition or a Toad fan, then you can go ahead with getting it. If you ask me, Oracle’s SQL Developer is a perfectly acceptable alternative tool.

(In case you’re wondering my preferred tool, its Allround Automations’ PL/SQL Developer. Yes, yes, I know, the UI is butt ugly – I didn’t want to touch it at all just because of the UI – but believe me, once you get over the UI, you’ll love it – its fantastically fast, consumes very little memory and got boat load of features for the price its available at. I’ll probably do a review of the tool soon.)

Do let me know if you have a preferred /alternative tool that I could look at.

Download Links:

1. Toad Freeware edition

2. Oracle SQL Developer

3. Allround Automations PL/SQL Developer

Celebrating 2 years

Couple of days ago, I tweeted this little message. July 9, 2007 is a red letter day for me – for that was the day I started my career as a working professional. As I tweeted that, I was greeted over IM by few of my friends and colleagues. It didn’t strike me much as soon as I tweeted, but few hours later I was just amazed as to how fast time has gone by – and how far I’ve come. To think, I applied for this position as an afterthought (“should I really ? Well..”). That got me into nostalgia mode.

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A Visit to North By NorthWest

The day I landed in Austin, when I was being driven back, I’d seen this seemingly nice place – North by North West and my colleague told me its a beer brewery and restaurant, and I made a mental note to check it out. Somehow I never checked it out – till today. Yesterday while heading out to Bank of America to encash my Travellers’ Cheque I noticed that North by NorthWest is pretty close and walking distance from where I stay, so I decided to check this place out.

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