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

Of Dead Hard Drives, Stolen Phones & ICICI Bank Dumbassery

It’s been a bad, bad week for couple of my gadgets. First, my 500GB internal laptop drive, which I had swapped out for a Kingston 128GB SSD and converted into an external drive, crashed. It is my fault, tbh – I had disconnected it before sleeping the previous night and next day morning, after waking up, breakfast et al decided to listen to some music & plugged in the drive to the USB port.

Unfortunately, I was standing up and the moment I plugged the drive in, the USB drive slipped from my hands and fell on the ground, just as the drive had spun up to it’s maximum speed of 7200 rpm, instantly killing it. I plugged it back in, with little hopes of it being alright, but listening to the sounds confirmed what I had feared – the drive was dead, making the click of death. The data loss was minimal – most important documents were on Dropbox, Pictures on flickr, Picasa, Posterous & Dropbox. Bulk of the hard drive was populated with data from my previous install of Windows, which I meant to clear up but never bothered. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any backup of my Music – so I’ll have to redownload them again. I’ve been using last.fm, Grooveshark or Spotify (depending on my mood |) pretty extensively, so I’m not too heavily hit by the loss of my music collection. And with me using last.fm to scrobble all of my listened music, my entire music library is available online.

Another data which comprised the bulk of the data on the hard drive were the installed games that I had purchased via Steam – I’ll have to redownload these again but I’ll do them as and they’re needed.

****

That was on the start of the week. This Thursday, however I faced the most significant loss – my beloved Nexus S – was stolen while boarding the bus. Anyone who’s known me or met me knows how possessive I am about my phone – don’t let it go out of my hand. I was heading back home from work, waiting for the bus to come. The bus was crowded, more than usual. I hesitated at first on whether or not to take the bus, bus considering that I had been waiting for half hour, decided to board the bus. While climbing, some dude bumped into me. Once in the bus, after I paid for the bus ticket, I decided to listen to some music and *wham*. That sickening feeling of knowing that your phone’s no longer there hit me. I asked a lady standing next to me to give a call – but it was coming as switched off. And bear in mind all this happened within a span of 10-15 minutes.

The thief flicked my phone, switched it off, tossed out the SIM within that period. *sigh*. I didn’t have any tracking apps installed either to make things worse. My first concern was that the thief would try to delete my contacts, and since contacts are sync’d to my Google account, they would be deleted from there as well, so I rushed over and changed my password. Since I use LastPass premium, I also revoked access to the app.

For now, I purchased a second hand iPhone 3GS from Shivaranjan – ideally I would have gone for the Nexus S again(yes, I love that phone!) but it was out of stock on Flipkart. Knowing Shiva would have a phone or two as backup(!) I DM’d him if he was willing to sell any of his Android phones, he said negative but offered me the 3GS.

****

If these 2 incidents weren’t enough, ICICI was there to fuck up things even further. I had opted for an upgrade to my debit & credit cards(both were due to expire soon) about 2-3 weeks ago. This week, I finally got my debit card. ICICI nicely informed me that they would send over the PIN for the debit card in another postal mail for “security reasons” – this would take another 7 or so days. While that was fine, these dumbasses also deactivated my existing debit card, which meant I couldn’t withdraw from the ATM, all this while I’m due to pay rent for my room. And with my phone stolen, I couldn’t even get the phone banking to work – it would reject my account number and report that the debit card entry was invalid.

Finally after a lot of head banging, I managed to get the debit card activated.

To top it off, Airtel decided to take their own sweet time in reactivating my replacement SIM request. Yeesh. Hope at least the next week turns out to be a little bit better.

Mugen Extended Battery for the Nexus S Review

It’s been about 7 months now since I purchased the Nexus S, and overall I’ve been very pleased about the phone (yeah, yeah detailed review soon. Promise!). However a point of bother has been the battery life- or the lack of it. While it’s better than my better than previous iPhone 3G, the stock Nexus S battery lasts just about a business day. By business day I mean about ~ 12-14hours (though I I do use it heavily – on an average ~3hours of music, about hour and half or so of browsing on 3G, checking mail, facebook, twitter every half hour or so).  And my addiction to the phone means that the low battery life generally becomes a problem when I’m travelling.

Mugen Power Batteries, one of the most popular aftermarket battery manufacturers have brought out some high capacity batteries for quite a few mobile devices, including the Nexus S. Mugen were kind enough to send me a review sample of the Mugen Power Nexus S Extended Capacity 3300mAH Batteries, and I’ve been testing them for the past 3 weeks and have been quite pleased.

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Bangalored…

… for a fortnight, that is.

Although, I was not  strictly Bangalored, barely a week after joining Logica I was asked to come over for Bangalore for 2 weeks for some training sessions. Now since this was a company sponsored training, my travel and accommodation was handled by them.

Reached Bangalore on Sunday, May 1st morning via the Jan Shatabdi Chennai-Mysore train at 10:45am. Ashwin was kind enough to come over to the railway station to pick me up. Headed over to At-home Guest House at Koramangala, which was to be my place of stay for the duration of the visit. With no agenda being set, Ashwin & Me were wondering what be the next thing to do. Ashwin & Me remembered Ashwin Murali ( “Cruise” to avoid any confusions” Smile with tongue out ) tweeting about TGIF having reopened in Royal Meenakshi Mall, and that’s where we decided to move next.

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My unmonitored Gmail account gets compromised

Today seemed like just another day. Little did I know, in a span of about 20 minutes, the resulting set of events would be hugely embarrassing for me. I had barely woken up, when my phone started going bonkers with notifications coming from emails, chats & twitter replies. A glance at the notifications indicated that my email account had been compromised and phishing emails had been sent to every one in my contacts list.

[…]

So, what went wrong? It all boils down to a culmination of the PlayStation Network hacking, some bad habits from my yesteryear and some nice features from Gmail which resulted in the phishing email to look like it came from my current domain account instead of the old Gmail account. Let’s have a look at each vector:

  • PlayStation Network break-in
  • Not monitoring my email account
  • Password Reuse
  • Send mail as and Reply-to set to my domain address

Read a complete account of what happened over at techie-buzz

Goodbye, 3i

I had tweeted these 2 simple sentences, the former about 3 months ago, the latter yesterday. Yep, after nearly 4 years, I’m moving away from 3i. It’s been an interesting experience – I’ve ranted and raved about my journeys on twitter, and often blogged about my experiences and misadventures in 3i ( if you have same free time, go read through the archives – good stories there). In these past (almost-)4 years, I started out as a trainee, creating patches & shipments, moved onto to GUI development using Oracle forms, switched over to backend stored procedures development using PL/SQL. Then came the big challenges – client interaction & data migration. Moving data from a 30-year old legacy system is no easy task, and with the constraints & adherence to business logic to be followed – was no doubt, the most challenging task that I had undertaken. Big props to all my colleagues, team mates, peers who helped me along and encouraged and motivated me. Also, a special Thank You to the Ruby gang.

So what’s next? I will be moving over to Logica, starting Monday. I’ll still be in Chennai, though.  Here’s for the new challenge ahead.

Installing the Kingston v100 SSDNow 128GB SSD on a HP Envy 14

Quite some time back Kingston was kind enough to send me their v100 128GB SSD for review. Due to my travel back to India, I had to stall the SSD shipment since I wouldn’t in the US by the time I would have received it. Once back here, I had to further delay since I had planned to take a short week-long vacation to Mangalore.

While the SSD was in transit, I started researching on how would I be able to fit the SSD into my laptop, with the SSD as the primary drive and the existing Seagate Momentus 7200rpm hard drive as the secondary drive. Digging up the Envy 14 manual, I was under the impression that having both drives would be possible.

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