Saturday, June 25, 2016

Feed the Monster

Back in 2005 I bought my first car. Ford Ikon. At the time, it was one of the aspirational cars. It never however suited me. A month into the car, I had an accident. And after that I continued to bang it multiple times till 2006 when I moved to the US. I decided to send that car to Bhopal to my parents. There it stayed till May-16.
I have two parkings at my residence apt. One, I had bought, the other, I am alloted by my society. After my return from Abu Dhabi, I had no cars and someone from the committee suggested that I get the cars or my parking will be alloted to someone else.
I bought a Celerio for my wife and asked my parents to send over the old war horse to be parked here.
Ever since the Ikon returned, its been a bottomless pit. Its resale value is just about 35K. But so far I've already spent 45K on its upkeep. That's 1 month and 1K kilometres. Initially, I spent 26K for denting, painting and basic repairs. Within a couple of weeks its AC broke again and so did the locking system. Spent another 2K to fix these.
Another 2 weeks and its coolant pipe burst. The mechanic asked me to keep driving it slowly and stop when it got hot. I tried but the temperature gauge was also busted and thus the gasket blew up and the car stopped. Another 10K gone. Then the battery, another 4K. Overall, for a car worth 35K I've already spent 45K and I'm to change the tyres. Its just a bottomless pit and I'm fucked up!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


I've been a big fan. I have even posted some flattering content about IRCTC else where in my blog. 
But this is the third time they have blocked my account. 
They do it for no apparent reason. I've had no fraudulent transactions, no failed payments or agent like behavior. Yet they have blocked me, not once but thrice. 
When I re-registered I could not use my mobile or email. 
The last time I called them about it they actually blamed me of fruad. But largely were clueless about the actual reasons. 

Bad bad unacceptable behaviour. 

Monday, April 04, 2016

Uber Experience Mumbai

Its been a couple of weeks I've landed in Mumbai. I started work on the 28th March. Once I checked in the hotel with my family, I asked the reception if they could arrange a cab for me to travel to office? Please use Ola or Uber Sir, pat came the answer.
So I downloaded both Ola and Uber apps and tried my luck the next day. To my surprise, pleasantly, I got an Uber Cab the next day at 8:00 am. The guy was at the hotel gate based on my published location and he called me once he reached. I was impressed. I did not have PAYTM wallet and so decided to pay cash. It was fine. The car looked and smelled good. The ride was comfortable and it cost me some 380 bucks. Not Bad I thought.

Since then, I've made a habit of trying to ride for Uber Cabs everyday. An in about 15 rides or so, I've had quite an experience. Both good and bad. One car was smelly, so I rated him 3. Uber asked for feedback and I provided. Another one was when the driver got lost and could not find me even after my giving him explicit directions over phone. I was pissed when Uber dinged me 60 bucks for cancelling.

Last weekend I moved to my home in Mulund and suddenly all the Uber cabs vanished from the radar. Today morning I got a promotional code from Paytm saying I could save upto 25% of the ride cost if I paid through Paytm. I tried searching for Cabs in Mulund and WTF, Uber informed me that to ride the cab I need to pay 3 times the cost. Hell! I decided to take a rick than be held to ransom.

I was wondering if I can live without a car. Only on services like Uber and Ola, but given their whims, I think having a car is far more reliable than letting them screw you at will. So, I'm now scouting for a new car....

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Weird Phenomenon that explains Donald Trumps Popularity

Look at the alarming death rates amongst the white Americans compared with similar ethnic groups in other parts of the world. It explains the fact that the white American is despondent and angry at the establishment. His quality of life compared to his forefathers and his peer group across the pond has declined to a level where there is impact on his mortality despite improvements in the medical sciences. 

I think this graph succiently captures the essence of white mans anger, the hopelessness and the rise of Trash politics such as that of Trump. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

#36 New Mobile Features

I tried learning SWIFT, but it seems too ahead of me. Perhaps I'll try it again later sometime. Now that I am counting days for my return, I was thing what else could I do to fill time.

Since beginning, the mobile app served the purpose of recording the cash expenses and listed them down for reference. Every end of the month, I'd reconcile these against the cash withdrawals and start off again.

The user challenge was that I had to wait till the end of the month to know how I fared in terms of expenses. I was always one month behind. Though I have great data from all my banks, here in UAE and India and I have a broad understanding of how expenses stack up, I never knew how I was faring in the current month, till the month was over.

The way to fix was 2 fold.
1. I had to record all expenses and not just cash ones and compare them with the target limits I set out against all the budget groups.
2. When recording the expenses I however, had to be careful. I need to segregate the cash expenses as I still needed to reconcile these end of the month. The card expenses are actually throw away ones. They only help with the getting a handle on how I'm doing this month. End of the month the statement files would come out and they will be the single source of truth for posterity. Also, the kind to annotations I could do with these statements would be too much work to do for manual entry. Hence not worth it.

There were 2 other features I wanted.
1. Ability to view my current month expenses against all categories and also against the budget groups.
2. Ability to delete an expense on the mobile itself in case I entered it wrongly. A feature I did not have till now. Strange, coming to thing of it.

Took me 3 days. With my tech challenges sorted out back in dec, I was able to roll these out in just 3 days. Its incredible. If technology supports you, you can achieve incredible productivity.

Showed these to my wife. She likes them... Gratification received. 

#35 Getting Tech again.(Dated)

This post relates to the challenges I faced back in Dec-2015. It all seems like a blur now. It started with Android Lollipop upgrade in Jan-2015.

The app I built back in 2012, worked fine with its limited mobile capabilities for good 2 years. Then, I got my wife a Moto G and within weeks the OS upgrade to 5.0. I'm always trigger happy and I promptly upgraded the OS. Alas! it broke my Sencha app such that it stopped showing the screen. I tried searching the web for possible remedies, but there was hardly any chatter around it. No document or discussion threads. Well, it still worked on my iPhone iOS 8 and for the time being it was okay. I hobbled along with my iPhone.

Back in July I bought a cheap Android phone to host my India SIM. Around the same time the Moto G started acting strange. I think the moisture got to it and it started freezing up. M has little patience with technologies, so she promptly exchanged her Moto G with my Alcatel. Alcatel was still running Android 4.4 and the app sprang back to life. Life moved on.

Then in September, iOS came up with version 9. I promptly downloaded it and What The Heck, the App broke again. This time iOS.

After Nov incident, as I looked for ways to fill time, I decided to fix the issue. By the time Sencha had upgrade to version 2.4, I had moved on to Ubuntu and the world looked new and full of promise. But that enthusiasm didn't last long. I thought porting the application to Sencha should be a breeze as I was not using any of exotic plugins. When I tried building the application, it broke badly. I tried no end fixing it but to no avail. The application would not refresh and the older structures, Models and Stores that worked perfectly stopped working. I painstakingly almost completely rebuilt the application to find out just commenting out a few lines is all I needed.

Anyhow, I built the application for prod to first deploy the minimised version on test but it would not build. Struggle started all over again. The error messages did not help and the threads were all over the place. If I thought that was bad, when I tried deploying a new war on prod, it completely broke  down.

The AWS world had moved on since 2012. My platform with Tomcat 7 and Amazon Linux were an unsupported lot. There were no 32 bit versions available or supported. Meaning, I had to rebuild the entire infrastructure from grounds up. Once I had created a brand new infra, the application would not deploy on Tomcat 8. I then had to upgrade my development env with Tomcat 8 and fix all the libraries which was mostly 32 bit libraries. Well, I fixed the few logging jar conflicts and deployed it back. Fortunately the site came up. But the I had to upload the exploded version of the Sencha on prod. Terrible, Terrible. It took 45 seconds to load on a 12 mbps line and a minute on 3G. Atrocious.

I had to find a way to fix the build issue. And I did. It was weird. I thought the minified version kept everything including models, views and stores in app.js. Yet the app.js kept asking for store files from some location which did not exist. So, just to make it shut up, I created that folder structure and put raw store files there. And Viola, it worked. This was around week's worth of effort in Dec. Just for records...

The 10 year count down

By the time I turned 40, 3 years ago, I was  overcome with the hopelessness of my prospects. I was so beat, I found it tough to keep my head above water. Finally, I decided to carry on till I was 50 and then call it quits(work wise). I started the count down and recorded sporadically for 3 years about the journey. Well, it didn't work out too well. 

When I landed the job in Abu Dhabi, I thought of it as home run. If I could plough through another 8 years, I would not need to work another day. But it was not to be. With my layoff, that sprint was over. In the end it was not about fairness or politics. It was about survival. And in all this there was an important lesson for me. I may not want or even need to work beyond 50, but living without some form of work is equally if not more frustrating. For the last 4 months I've lived this thought every day. I've dissected it, turned it around, tumbled and rolled with it. I can't seem  to find an alternative to work. Work's part of keeping my sanity. 

And then there is my dad. At 74 with no liabilities and a pension beating a King's ransom, he does not need to work for money for even a minute. His work place is no picnic. With the age challenges and constant insinuations and daily indignities he still gets up every day, does everything from fetching water to cooking the meals and then gets dressed and shows up for work. It's one of the God's graces, that a man has work and he clocks in everyday, day after day. A Man's Dharma...

So, stop whining! Get out there and get the work done. It's one thing I do better than most. So do it and let age be just a number. Get up, get out there and keep moving forward... 

When it rains, it Pours

Having a wet week at Abu Dhabi. Its been raining incessantly for the last couple of days. I woke up at 4 am with hail pounding against my window pane. ADEC closed the schools for couple of days. Right in the middle of final exams for my daughter. The papers have been rescheduled, hope we get our logistics sorted out in time for our departure.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Diversity of Ubuntu 14.04, Win 10 and Mac OS

Last September when my VAIO Hard Drive gave up on me after 7 years of great service, I decided to replace it with an SDD. I then installed Ubuntu 14.04 on it and that aging Core 2 Duo turned into a blazing race horse. As my daughter needs a PC for her school work and Ubuntu is still a geeky platform, I got her a Lenovo i5, Win 10 laptop. Early last month when we decided to relocate to India, I gifted myself my first MacBook Pro.

So now I have a wide spectrum OS to choose from and I'm facing the challenges and conveniences of owning each. One thing I've learned is that while Ubuntu has come a long way in terms of catching up with the peers, the moment you stray from standard script, you need to roll up your sleeves and get into DIY mode.

The first challenge I faced was setting up my Canon Printer MX4240 on Ubuntu. Though drivers are there, the set up is far from straight forward. It took me a couple of days to get it hooked up to the printer with a lot of trial and error. Even after I was able to set it up, the print speeds were terrible.

The good part was I could install Skype, Chrome and Drop Box without any issues. The email client Thunderbird worked quite well. I occasionally miss MS word and Excel but mostly, I'm able to get by with Libre Office. I set up Eclipse and Filezilla and MySQL bench and I was mostly whole again  untill last week when I decided to configure MS OneDrive. Unlike DropBox, it does not have a release for Ubuntu for obvious reasons. So I again had to scout for external solutions. I downloaded a project called OneDrive-d from Github, built it and installed it only to figure out the  challenges. As this is an amateur offering, the sync is 2 way. Working with 120GB SDD I do not want a two way sync at all. I want to upload whatever is in my sync folder on Ubuntu to OneDrive and view all the uploaded files on Onedrive. But I do not want to download them, unless I need them. Such fine grained use cases are not available on OneDrive-d. Also, the sync program  fails too often. Finally I shut the door on it.

Couple of days back I got myself a Time Capsule. I tried setting it up on my Mac and it was such as breeze, I was surprised. It just worked.

But I wanted my Windows Laptop and Ubuntu to work as well. It seems Airport Utility for Windows is all but abandoned. I downloaded 5.6 version and used it to set up sync for my MS profile. But that needed restart of the Time Capsule. That wasn't so great. But still okay. Now that I want to set up Access for my wife and daughter, I will need to reboot the TC a couple of more times. On the other hand One Drive utility on Mac works just fine...

Configuring Ubuntu was a battle of completely different magnitude. The couple of options available on the net are helpful but incomplete. Mounting a drive using mount-cifs was a learning. The /etc/fstab file configuration and the challenges of using the right options made this a long and arduous journey. Finally when I could finally mount it, it would not let me write. It took me a lot of tinkering to finally get the combination right.

// /media/timecapsule  cifs    password=xxxx,sec=ntlm,user,rw,noperm,forceuid    0 0 

Later when I tried copying some of the photographs from Ubuntu to TC, I was shocked at the poor transfer rates of hardly 500kbps. Any how it was done and I heaved a sigh of relief.

I get it. I love the Vaio. Can't let go of it. Whatever it takes to keep it within the family. If it means I have to endure the lack of Ubuntu Ecosystem, so be it!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Consumer Pyramids

Came across this site Consumer-Pyramids. Very interesting findings. Not sure how genuine these are. I was positively impressed by this article on literacy rates in India. If the literacy rates for ages 10-20 are 95%, we as a nation have done well for ourselves.

Also, checked out the income data. Most Indians (educated ones) would not know that if their household incomes are >Rs 70,000 per month, they are the elite 1% of the Indian Households. The expenses for the top 1% of the households including rent education groceries etc. is just Rs 24,000.

Really? I paid my driver Rs 14,000 per month back in 2014. Does that really mean that he is top 25%? Wow! I think there should be different classification rural vs urban. I'm sure the statisticians did the analysis, just that its not been published.

Anyhow, a good treasure trove.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Back To Binging...

Every few years I get out there and buy hundreds or even thousands of dollars of stuff! Things I covet, things that make me feel pampered!

I've accepted an offer from a bank in Mumbai, and hence the celebrations.

The Wallet: For the last couple of years, every time I flew in and out of India, I'd stop over at the Mont Blanc shop at duty free and ogle at the items on display. This time around when flying from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi, they were some offers and I let my greedy goblin prevail. Got my self a nice little wallet. This set me thinking about how to organise the contents from keeping it in shape. Strange, eh! I want to hold less in a wallet that costs more...

iPhone 6: Well, my two year romance with my current phone 5s came to an end. Actually, I might have continued with it if I had the foresight and bought a 64GB version 2 years ago. With 16 GB, and growing OS and app sizes, what 16 GB can hold is shrunk. It does not even have my entire songs library and there is only 800MB left. Had to upgrade. Its cheaper here than in India. So...

Quiet Comfort 25: Back in 2009, I got Beats headphones by Dr. Dre. I loved them. Wore them everywhere, even to the gym (Something I regretted). Over the last 6 years, they survived but not without the wear and tear. Overall, I think their build quality was less than stellar. These were the first edition, much before Apple bought them. Over time, their ear pads came off and one of audio cables conked off. I continued using them till some time late last year, till one day my daughter decided to usurp them to listen to Celina Gomez. Well, she forgot to switch them off, the batteries leaked inside the headphone and that's that. Time to get a new one...

This time on, I decided to change to Bose as their noise cancellation was way better and they could play music even without the batteries. Besides, I think the bass is less boomy, the sound more real... I love them already.

Macbook Pro: This one is straight from the bucket list. I've always owned a PC and wondered why would people overpay for a Mac... Then over a period of time, I got initiated into the Apple ecosystem. I was still in the US when I bought my first ipod touch. And then I got hooked! Got an iPhone, then an iPad, Apple Tv. And finally now a Macbook Pro. I was torn between Surface Pro 4 and Mac. But the build quality issues with Surface and its limited availability in UAE tipped the scale in favour of the Mac. Again, the question of Air vs Pro played out. As I sometimes code, I settled for Pro.

The Camera: I have a Canon 40D. Its bulky and just 10MP. But I love the output. Incidentally, I bought it in 2008. It gave up on me late last year. But then, instead of selling / replacing it, I'm getting it repaired.

And that completes my toy shop. Boys, I tell you...   

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Hello Mumbai! My Beacon of Hope!

I first arrived in Mumbai in the summer of '97. I was carrying 2 large suitcases and a colossal bedding. I was told to get off Kalyan and take a local to Thane. The person forgot to inform me not to attempt boarding a local at 8 in the morning with such an entourage. Come Thane, there I was struggling to get out of the train, swimming against the current of hoards of humans trying to get in. Mercifully, a couple of co-passengers helped. They threw my suitcases off the train while I pulled at the bedding. There I was sprawled on the platform trying to extricate the bedding from the crowd by pulling it hard, holding on to it for my life. Someone passing by smacked my head, "Tapli" and called me "Yeda". Welcome to Mumbai!

Since then, I've moved in and out of Mumbai several times. Chandigarh, Japan, China, US and now UAE. And everytime, after a short stint I've returned to the mothership Mumbai.

After 2 eventful years at Abu Dhabi, come march, I once again move to Mumbai. It's been a disruptive and disturbing year. I lost my job here end of Nov, and despite my best efforts could not even find an opty. I reached out to my friends in Mumbai and within days, I landed 2 jobs. Of course it took a while to close these, but the response to SoS was swift and helpful.

For the first time I feel I have roots. In Mumbai. The city that has accepted time and me despite my frequent philandering.

My daughter's session ends in March and we all move together to Mumbai end of March. With a Job in Hand! and that's comforting...