A look back at 2012

Last year, I’d written a 2011 year in review, thought that was a nice way to recap the year. Continuing the same trend, here’s how 2012 went by

Gadgets /Software bought/acquired/reviewed

So, that’s about it for 2012, I guess. Happy New Year all & here’s wishing the upcoming year is as awesome as it was last year.

 

Contacting Bank of America from India via phone without International outgoing using Collect Call

If you’re ever stuck in a situation where you need to contact Bank of America from here in India, but don’t have International outgoing available, here’s a quick tip:

  • Check out AT&T’s Direct Access Dialing Code for India(at the time of writing this, it’s 000117)
  • You’ll reach an Operator. Tell him/her the number you want to Dial. This should be 602.597.2395 for Bank of America. Will be different for others.
  • You’ll be prompted to Enter Calling Card number. Skip entering anything
  • You’ll be asked if you want to initiate a Collect Call. Say yes.
  • Done.

This should work with any organization which uses AT&T and accepts Collect Call, but I haven’t tried with others. I’m writing here because I want to document this for my future use.

This will come in real handy especially in situations where BoA detects Irregular/Fraudulent card activity and wants you to verify the transaction by dialling in – but you have no way of reaching out to an International number. Have your card number & other details ready

The case of the expanding, exploding iPhone 3GS battery

Way back in March, I got a bit tired of iOS and jumped the ship back to Android, purchased a Samsung LOLSUNG Galaxy S2 as my main phone. I won’t get into iOS v/s Android debate now, suffice to say I prefer Android to what it lets me do with the device. Anyhow, I didn’t want to give up on the 3GS – it’s a nice device and always a good idea to have a backup handset. As days passed by however, I more or less stopped using the 3GS.

Till couple of days ago – I wanted to try out of iOS 6 and some iOS apps to review. I had removed the abomination that is iTunes long ago and had no intention to install it again to do the iOS 5 -> 6 upgrade. Since Apple now offers an OTA upgrade, I went by that, taking well over 12 hours to complete the OTA download (the first OTA download failed after God knows when, second attempt was successful).

With iOS 6 on, I tried out some of the “improvements” that is iOS 6 maps.

I decided to carry out my iOS 6 experiments later on. That’s when the initial set of problems seemed to appear. In the evening, I noticed that the battery had completely drained out. That was quite surprising, since

  1. It was running only on WiFi, there was no SIM card in the phone
  2. From my previous experience, I’ve known the 3GS to last at least 2 days on standby on WiFi, if not more.

I connected the 3GS to the USB cable connected to my laptop, and then observed that the device was stuck on the Apple logo screen.

This morning, I got a whole bunch of responses on twitter, telling me what next to do, and following them I go the familiar “Connect to iTunes” logo. Since I didn’t have iTunes installed, I was pretty much SOL. As much as I didn’t want to install iTunes, I had no option and decided to download iTunes anyway. While iTunes download was under progress, I noticed that the battery had died out again. *Sigh*Proceeded to connect the iPhone to the USB cable and I waited for iTunes download to complete.

About 10 minutes later, the download was completed and I was about to start the install when I heard a loud bang very close to me. Moments later, I realize that the bang came from my iPhone – the battery had swelled to such an extent that the iPhone’s LCD had popped out of it’s casing.

Ok iPhone battery swelled up to such an extent that LCD popped out of the case

My immediate reaction was to disconnect the iPhone from the USB cable, to prevent further charging / damage to the battery. Having done so, the expansion and the accompanying bangs continued to happen

Ok iPhone battery swelled up to such an extent that LCD popped out of the case

Ok iPhone battery swelled up to such an extent that LCD popped out of the case

By now, an hour had passed by since the initial big bang(!) and I decided to go have some breakfast. I moved the iPhone away from my computer, to my hall and kept it in the corner and went for breakfast. Fast forward about half hour later, I see that the battery’s swelled to such an extent that the LCD’s at nearly a 30-35 degree angle to the iPhone base. And the mini bangs were still continuing.

iPhone 3GS after it's battery expansion

Couple of hours later, the situation had stabilized and this is how the phone ended up looking like

iPhone 3GS after it's battery expansion

iPhone 3GS after it's battery expansion

Taking a cursory look at the iPhone, I see that the metallic backplate holding the PCB is bent pretty badly. Not quite sure what to do with this – the phone’s about 2 years old and I doubt Apple India will acknowledge this.

Reddit’s secret santa and Guinness World Record for most email addresses in To: List

Way back in late November/December last year, I took part in reddit’s /r/secretsanta. I found it was pretty cool, to (hopefully) get a random gift based on my barren, lurking reddit account, though a small search would reveal a lot more about me.

Anyway, after Ashwin’s feedback(“my santa didn’t send anything. I was reassigned. second santa also nothing. #foreveralone”) I didn’t expect anything. A month or so later, however, my secret santa confirmed shipment of the gift. And I received it couple of days later.

Sweet! What I didn’t realize, till couple of weeks ago, was that the folks at /r/secretsanta were trying set a Guinness World Record for “the largest online secret santa game” and were successful at that! So that made me a Guinness World Record holder too! Woohoo!

Achievement Unlocked

Soon enough, I put forward an order for my Guinness World Record certificate and things were all set. Or so I thought. Couple of days ago, I received an email from Guinness stating that due to high volume of orders, the shipment would be delayed by another couple of weeks. That was fine, but then the person who sent the email did the biggest goof up ever. The person put the email address of about 1,072 people in the “To” field. Not even the cc, the frigging “To” field.

Epic Facepalm

Image courtesy http://www.comicvine.com/

  Here’s how it looked like

Naturally, I wasn’t too pleased

and neither were the reddit folks. Kicker was the contents of the email, with a disclaimer stating:

The contents of this e-mail from Guinness World Records Limited are confidential and intended for the addressee only.

If you are not the intended recipient you must not copy or further distribute this e-mail, and delete this message from your computer system.

Riiight.

Marco Frugatti, SVP Records, however did send an email apologizing the data breach

I am writing to you from the Guinness World Records Management Team regarding our company’s recent breach in relation to email data for a group of our record-holders for Largest online secret Santa game.

I can confirm that this breach was a human error by one of our own staff. Naturally, we take this matter extremely seriously and are conducting a formal investigation to ensure an event like this never happens again. I would like to offer you our unreserved apologies for this situation and any inconvenience it has caused.

However, I fear that this breach will have even more serious repercussions, given how lax people are with passwords. Good thing is that Guinness owned up to the mistake and have confirmed that they have initiated refunds for the payment of certificates. Time will tell who’ll be hit more – Guinness or the individuals in the email. My bet is on the latter.

Being on the other side of the Interview table

Attending an interview tends to be a scary, nerve-wracking event for most, me included. It’s like college exam 2.0 – you don’t do anything building up to the event, panic & do a splash and dash the previous night(though in my case, it’s more like “ah, fahgettaboutit”), start wondering and worrying what’s about to be asked prior to the event, with your mind racing about – “what if x comes, oh shit I forgot about y”, the big moment where you stammer, blabber and spit out something and then keep worrying till the results are out.

Last week, I got a call from the HR team asking if I’d be available and willing to come to office on Saturday. The reason? We had a weekend hiring drive and they wanted me(among others) to be an interviewer. My first reaction was – “mm okaaay but I’ve never done this before”(though never is not true, I did take up an interview, but that was for my team & was more of accompany-the-project-leads-and-ask-a-few-questions). This case, however, was different. It’d be a face-to-face interview. With people willing to join the organization. I decided to say Ok. Hey, it’d be a different experience.
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On Contact Lenses and Bausch & Lomb’s Pure View “HD” lenses

I’ve been wearing contact lenses for more than 10 years now. Switched to contacts from my clunky spectacles when I started my PU(aka 11th).

Guess who I am & win!

Guess who I am & win!

When you use something for 16x7x365 (I won’t say 24×7, since the lenses are off when I’m sleeping), you tend to know it inside out. And especially when it’s something like contact lenses, which sit on your eyeballs, every little change will result in instantaneous result. For instance, if you put on your lenses with an every-so-tiny speck of dirt that it’s bloody invisible, trust me, you will know about it & you eyes will water like there’s a big pump pushing out all the tears.

Anyways, all these years I’ve been using Bausch & Lomb’s SofLens monthly disposable lenses. They’re great. Actually, scratch the great part. They’re fantastic. Fits perfectly, no shifting, no dryness nothing. If coloured lenses are your fancy, they come in various colours, but I’ve been on the stock ones, which have a light-blue visibility tint which is awesome if you ever do the scary part of dropping your lenses on the ground or in the kitchen sink.

I’ve tried some other lenses, mainly B&L’s “permanent” ones(in reality, they’re supposed to be changed every year or so), but these didn’t suit my eyes & would go bad in less than 3-4 months. Also tried Johnson & Johnson’s contact lenses, they were fine, but not as comfortable as SofLens.

Over the past few years, we’ve had HD shoved down our throats – everywhere from video to audio. Heck even FM stations started touting “HD quality radio” crap. And joining this “we have HD” queue is… *drumroll* B&L.  Yes. Bausch & Lomb claim their lenses have “HD” optics.

Whatever the heck that means. And on their webpage they have pretty, pretty pictures(albeit served as Flash, so if you’re on a laptop, move it away from your thighs else you’ll have a Seekh Kebab down there) showing what happens when you wear their “HD” lenses. Apparently “blurred” images become crispy, squeaky clean & sharp. No more halos. Excuse me you brilliant folks at B&L PR and marketing, all those (blurred images, halos) are signs of a person wearing lenses NOT suited to them.

Curious to see how they actually work – I took the bait & bought them. For a pretty steep price. Lenskart took about 10 days to deliver them. They forgot to ship the free lens solution & case which was to be included as part of the offer, but after a support ticket, they sent them to me via courier.

Been wearing these for about 2 months now. And as expected, the HD’s just marketing gimmick. Everything looks the same. And to answer those who asked me on twitter, wearing “HD” lens and viewing a “HD” movie on “HD” monitor doesn’t give you a 2160p display. Har, Har.

It’s not just the ludicrous steep price that bothers me. These lenses don’t have any visibility tints. Trying to find where the lenses are in the case itself is like fishing in the deep sea with your eyes blindfolded. Don’t bother searching if you’ve dropped them. While there has been no “shifting”, the lens tends to get dry a wee bit faster. And not to forget, the lens is a dirt magnet. Picks up dirt way faster than anything else that I’ve tried.

So to sum up: Don’t buy ’em. HD or no HD, you won’t find any difference. And you’ll save some cash to buy another pair of lenses. Or for some shopping. Or beer. Whatever you prefer.

Redbus.in’s long weekend reminder mail

I’ve been a huge fan of redbus.in ever since I first used their site back in 2007. For someone as lazy as me, the idea that I could sit on my ass, check for all available tickets & book them at the comfort of my air-conditioned room was pretty awesome.

Didn’t hurt that they had a very nice, clutter free UI. Off late, they have been sending these long-weekend emails.

 

We usually write to you about happy things in life – upcoming holidays – and here we are once again, informing you about some festivals and long vacations in March.

Holidays in March

Holi March 8 (Thursday) Book now
Ugadi / Gudi Padwa March 23 (Friday) Book now

Tip for hard-working employees (employers, please ignore): Take an off on March 9 (Friday) and get a 4-days long week-end. After all, playing Holi can get stressful.

Perfect to remind you well-in-advance and get those tickets booked ahead of the rush! Another thing to notice: the cheeky sense of humour contained in the emails.

Well done, redbus! Thank you very much for the lovely service that you guys are providing!

Capping off a roller coaster year

2011 was a roller coaster year. Here’s the year in review, in bullet points

  • Sold off my iPhone 3G and purchased a Nexus S
  • Supposed long term US stay gets cut short.
  • 3+ years of work on project gone down the drain. On the upside, learnt quite a lot.
  • Met Manaa in person, after being a very close friend for 6+ years
  • Was elected as Community Moderator for one of the Stack Exchange sites, Super User
  • Wrote my first Chrome Extension to get around WebNonsense crap
  • Bad security practice from the past comes to haunt me.
  • Quit 3i and joined Logica at the middle of the year – after almost having joined TCS, rejected in final round of interview at Oracle & a bungled interview at Société Générale.
  • Did a short term stint in Bangalore for training at Logica
  • My beloved Nexus S got stolen, purchased a iPhone 3GS from Shivaranjan as it’s replacement
  • Went on a road trip to Goa with Appy, AshwinSid and SwaroopH during the middle of the rainy season.
  • Test drove the Swift & Figo. Waited for the new Swift to arrive in market and then went and booked the Ford Figo. Swift’s price put it out of my budget & couldn’t wait 6+ months for the Swift
  • Met Harshad Sharma & Malcolm after having known them for *years* on twitter.
  • Gatecrashed Ravi’s wedding.
  • Ran all over Chennai in trying to get the paperwork & formalities done for the car loan
  • Car loan got disbursed, did the payment, only to be told, couple days before taking delivery that I will be relocated to Bangalore
  • Cancelled car booking, return loan since re-registration of TN car in KA === heavy losses. Total damages: 2.3k(loan processing fees) + 4k (first month interest)
  • Got a permanent transfer to Bangalore! (woohoo!) Ashwinsid & 9_6 welcome me in style.
  • Moved to a 1BHK house on rent. Much thanks to Dkris for allowing me to stay at his house and give expert tips on house hunting.
  • Watched Poets of the Fall perform with front row, centre stage view at The Great Indian Octoberfest
  • Got clicked for #TAD365, thanks Roycin!
  • Met GeekGod & Waste-u Photographer, Waste-u Photographer’s bitch and Frequent Flyer Manish
  • Finally, welcomed the New Year at a far-away coffee estate in Chikmagalur.

Gadgets bought/acquired/reviewed

Overall, a fab year. Happy New Year – and best wishes for the year ahead.

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
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