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RIP, Airtel SmartBytes – No More SmartBytes for PostPaid plans in Karnataka Circle

Few months back, Anupam Saxena had reported that Airtel is killing off SmartBytes for mobile customers in Delhi. My first reaction to the story was hoping that they wouldn’t do this for Karnataka circle. SmartBytes was great for the rare occasion that you’d require burst data(for example: when travelling or when your home Internet is down) – if you run out of data cap(I detest the pittance of data cap we get, that’s another different story) head over to their SmartBytes website or use the Airtel app & do a top up for SmartBytes – and you get instant data cap upgrade for the billing cycle.

During our recent Leh trip, my wife Jo’s connection was close to hitting the data cap. Trying to top up using SmartBytes resulted in failure. I attributed this to us being on roaming and figure we could top up after being back in our home circle. Fast forward 12 days later, back in Bangalore, tried to top up and got the same message about SmartBytes not being available.

smartbytes-not-available

Called up Airtel customer care, and he confirmed that SmartBytes are indeed, no longer available for PostPaid customers and they’re only for Data card customers. When asked for alternatives, the Customer Care rep told me the alternatives are either to upgrade the data plan, or for ad-hoc purpose, opt for something called MBC – Mobile Broadband Charge. Essentially when you select this, you don’t pay to top up – rather the data limit for the billing cycle gets increased. And like SmartBytes, the unused data isn’t carried forward to the upcoming cycle. While this may seem similar to SmartBytes, the difference is that the MBC options are not as granular as SmartBytes and lot more expensive.

Anyway for now, I’ve put in a request for myPlan for Family plan. Seems to be exactly what I wanted. Word of advice: don’t go by the numbers mentioned on the demo link, they’re only indicative and not reflective of the actual numbers

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.

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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.

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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.

Configure Airtel GPRS / Mobile Office for Android

Short, quick post: I’d purchased a Nexus S recently, and once I got back to India, I had to re-activate my connection again.

Unlike the iPhone, however, my Android was unable to pick up the settings automatically & I had to enter them manually. To do this, head over to Settings -> Wireless & Networks -> Mobile Networks -> Access Point names. Tap on the options button -> New APN & enter the  settings as per your plan, as  mentioned in my previous post comparing various Airtel GPRS plans.

To recap:

Name: Enter a name to identify

APN/Address/Access point: airtelgprs.com for Airtel Mobile Office.

That’s it. Restart your phone(if required) and you should be able to start browsing.

Airtel Blocking Access To Unofficial BSNL EVDO site?

Ever since Santosh aka Gigacore started an unofficial site on BSNL EVDO device I’ve been following it closely, seeking for more information and reviews on the device. So it was no surprise that when he launched the BSNL EVDO forums I was the first to register at the forums. Now the userbase has increased and the site has definitely picked up popularity. Has it become so popular as to warrant Airtel from Blocking access to the site?
Since the past couple of days, I’ve been unable to access the forums. Initially I thought it was a problem over at Giga’s end, since he’s been continuously working on the forums, adding new features, I thought maybe something went wrong with the permissions. But earlier today I caught up with Giga and asked him if the site was down, he replied saying no, the regulars are still posting over there. It was like wha. 😮 He suggested I might be having problems at my end, so I tried disconnecting, flushing DNS cache, hell I even hit the IP address directly, and still the site was inaccessible. What’s worse, pointing my browser to the(not the forums) site ends up with a redirection to indiwo.com. I’ve tried IE6, FF2.0.0.12, FF3B2 it’s all the same. Giga suggested me to try access the site via proxy, and lo! The site opens! At the time of writing this, I have 2 tabs open, one with a direct access to the forums which states that site is down, and other via a proxy(boratproxy.com) which has absolutely no problems.
So is Airtel getting scared about BSNL’s EVDO device and trying to block the only one source of reliable information, with respect to the EVDO device(considering that BSNL has next to no information on their site)?

You can guess what my stance is on this.

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