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March 18, 2013

Airtel wants to pick up cash payments from your house… Scam or Real?

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:31 PM

I got a call today from a guy claiming to be calling on behalf of Airtel, telling me that the payment for my Cellphone was due and that I needed to make the payment ASAP. So I told him that I would make the payment online later in the day once I got back to my desk (I was at work). Then this guy tells me that “that would take up to 2 days to process” (??) and that I needed to make the payment immediately so he would come over/send someone over to pick up a cash payment for the amount due.

My immediate reaction was “Are you serious???” Do you really think I would hand over cash to someone who just claims to be from Airtel instead of using the online payment which is faster, more convenient, trackable etc? Even if it takes up to 2 days for the payment to process (which is nonsense, as I have seen the amount reflected in my account in a few hours at the most) I would still make the payment online, or at a proper Airtel outlet.

When I talked to some co-workers about this, one of the counter-arguments I heard was that “they will be carrying a Airtel ID”. Yes, they will be carrying an ID. How do you know it’s a valid Airtel ID? It will take someone who knows what they are doing a couple of hours at most to create an ID that looks reasonably official and valid. How many times have you looked at someone’s ID really carefully?

Anyways, I told him to go away and that I would make the payment online. I wonder if other people have been receiving similar phone calls.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later.

– Suramya

March 12, 2013

Does your Handwriting suck? Now you can have a machine write for you.

Filed under: My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 1:20 AM

This is something I really need. :) Those of you who know me, know that my writing is horrible and most of the time only I can read it. Here’s an invention by students from Olin College that solves this problem. Meet Herald, a machine that can produce beautiful calligraphy.

The machine uses a gantry to move the writing tip along the X and Y axes. The flexible-nib calligraphy pen is mounted on a sprocket which rotates the tip onto the writing surface, taking care of the third axis. The rig was beautifully rendered from their CAD drawings, then tweaked to ensure the smoothest motion possible before the quintet of Sophomores began the physical build.

Check it out in action at Herald Calligraphy. Now if only someone makes a portable version of this, I will be all set :)

Thanks to Hackaday.com for the initial scoop.

– Suramya

March 6, 2013

DRM Chair only works 8 times

Filed under: Humor,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 4:30 AM

As if DRM (Digital Rights Management) wasn’t enough in the digital world, the boffins at the University of Art and Design in Lausanne, Switzerland have created a chair where you can only sit on it for a total of 8 times. After which the chair falls apart and you need to buy a new chair. Yes, you read that correctly, you can only sit on this chair 8 times. Although to be fair I can think of some really good practical jokes that can be played with this chair :)

The design of the chair is fairly simple; all the joints of the chair are cast in wax with a piece of nichrome wire embedded in the wax. An Arduino with a small switch keeps track of how many times the chair has been used, while a solenoid taps out how many uses are left in the chair every time the user gets up. When the internal counter reaches zero, a relay sends power through the nichrome wire, melting the wax, and returning the chair to its native dowel rod and wooden board form.

Hopefully folks will realize that this is not really practical and not decide to release it as an actual product.

Thanks to Hack a Day for the initial story.

– Suramya

March 5, 2013

Working from Home, some thoughts…

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:26 PM

Yahoo sent shock waves through the IT sector when they banned working from home. Following the by now infamous memo many articles/blog posts have been written. Initially I wasn’t planning on posting anything about it, however recently a friend asked me for my thoughts on this as I have worked from home quite often in the past in various roles. So here are some of my thoughts on the subject. Keep in mind that all this are my thoughts and not of any of my employers (past or present).

Working from home has its plus points and negative points so there is no easy answer to this question. In my personal experience I am a lot more productive when working from home if I need to focus on something and don’t want interruptions (e.g. if I need to code something). At work its easy for the person sitting next to you ask a question, or someone to walk up and interrupt you. When working from home this is not there and overall I think I get a lot more work done.

However there is a flip side, when at home you can’t participate in the on the spot spur of the moment conversations that might help you solve a particularly hard problem. Which is the point that Yahoo is making and the reason they banned working from home. A lot of times really amazing idea’s come out of water cooler talk and just overhearing the conversation next to you can point you in the right direction. The best way to innovate and come up with good idea’s is to discuss with people who can then build on top of your idea or point out issues that you might not have seen. (Which is why brainstorming is so important when you start solving a problem).

BTW, all this talk assumes that people working from home are actually working. A lot of the times a person will send out a WFH (Work From Home), send some emails in the morning; then disappear for a few hours and then come back and send a few more mails to appear like they have been working all day. These are the folks that give people who work from home a bad name. For the purpose of this post, I am excluding them from the discussion.

An advantage of working from home is that you can still work if you are unable to make it to work for some reason (could be sickness, need to stay for a delivery, to take care of a sick family member or whatever). Instead of taking a day off the person would still be productive and help you move towards your target. Plus if you need to work odd hours, working from home makes it more bearable. Basically if I have to work at 2 in the morning I would rather do it in my pajamas with music blaring than from the office where putting your feet up on the desk is frowned upon ;)

Overall I think that WFH is a great idea but should be used in moderation. Work from the office when you need to innovate and work from home if you need to focus on something without external distractions.

I am sure some (or maybe most) of you have thoughts on this so please feel free to discuss in the comments.

– Suramya

PS: I intentionally didn’t talk about the advantages of WFH for mom’s/elderly etc because enough people have posted about those aspects at other sites.

February 17, 2013

Sleep Texting is apparently on the Rise and is a ‘Crisis’

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 11:45 PM

Since my last post was about reading SMS messages while half asleep, I had to post about this article claiming sleep texting was on a rise (HuffingtonPost, CNet). Basically, teens are responding to Texts while half asleep and then not remembering doing this the next morning and this is apparently a crisis. I don’t agree that it is a crisis. It is the same thing as people picking up phone calls when half asleep and then not remembering it the next day (I used to be notorious for this in College). Or talking to someone in the room half asleep and not remembering it.

Earlier this week, a CBS affiliate in Philadelphia spoke with Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell, a professor of nursing at Villanova University, who believes that more and more teens may be texting in their sleep

“It’s something new. We’re just starting to get a handle on it,” Dowdell told The Huffington Post. “I think that we will start to see more of this as cell phones become much more accessible at all ages.”

With sleep texting, the beep of a cell phone lightly awakens a person, so he or she will reach over and respond to a message (sometimes with jibberish). However, the person has no memory of having done so in the morning.

The best part is that the Doctor who started all this drama (Dowdell) hasn’t even conducted proper research on this, it’s based on anecdotal evidence that is blown out of proportion by the media who wanted a headline and what better one than protecting the kids from themselves! Just because texting is a technology that mostly kids use and adults don’t like, doesn’t make this a crisis and to use it as an excuse to shove more pills down the poor kids throats is not right.

Well this is all for now. Will write more later (maybe in my sleep).

– Suramya

February 13, 2013

Lesson learnt: don’t read sms’s when half asleep

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 2:58 AM

So I learned an important lesson today: it’s a bad idea to read an incoming SMS
when I’m half asleep. I don’t remember reading the SMS or what it says and it’s marked as read so when I wake up I still don’t read it.

Ah well… Things you learn…

– Suramya

February 10, 2013

Why I don’t twitter and why people who Twitter should be careful.

Filed under: My Thoughts — Suramya @ 10:24 PM

For the longest time I thought Twitter was useless and had pretty much decided never to use it, but then I used it recently when my Airtel account was giving issues to reach out to their head office and had a good response. At that time I seriously considered starting to post stuff on Twitter but then changed my mind about it. By now you must be wondering (if you actually read the post till here) why am I talking about Twitter like its a new technology, its not. It was just something I was thinking about so decided to write it (plus I was getting tired of lying in bed sick). Basically I realized that if I started posting on Twitter then a lot of the stuff I write about can be taken in the wrong context and potentially get me in trouble.

When you are posting a blog posting or an article, it’s well over 255 characters long and it takes you time and effort to type it out, think through the point you are making etc (for example I will probably re-write this post a couple of times before I click publish). Twitter is meant to be quick, a note to self or random thought that you share with the world. This is both the beauty and danger of Twitter, it makes it so easy to post something in the spur of the moment that you might regret later when you think about it. A sarcastic comment in a three para blog post has a lot of context around it and is hard to misquote, but on twitter that’s all you see and since there is no context it can be taken any way and given whatever context people want.

For example, if I have a bad day in the train and post a blog post about it and then as part of the post/explanation say something about blowing it up to make something better then people wouldn’t have an issue. However if I made a post on Twitter saying something like “Train Commutes suck, all trains should be blown up to make room for something better” then it sends a completely different message and can potentially get folks arrested. In past comments made on Twitter have gotten people deported, arrested etc. Plus with my sense of humor, I need as much room as possible to explain the context without getting into trouble.

We this is all for now. Will post more later. (and yes hopefully the updates will be more frequent)

– Suramya

November 25, 2012

Social Media At Work

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 12:05 AM

There are plenty of companies in the world who have an open policy in regards to social media and a lot of companies which block these sites. Personally I don’t spend much time of Facebook, Google+ etc so for me it doesn’t matter if the sites are blocked or not. However other folks do spend a lot of time of FB and to these folks it does matter if the site is blocked or not. If you spend some time on the web you will see loads of posts for each position but more and more companies are slowly blocking these sites citing productivity losses and bandwidth hogging.

Learnstuff.com has an interesting info-graphic on the Social Media At Work that Kayla Evans shared with me and since the numbers looked impressive I decided to share them with my readers. According to the site the average college student spends three hours checking their various social media sites, but only two hours studying, which is scary. Workers aren’t faring much better, either. Every time someone at work gets an IM, a Facebook message or a tweet, it takes them a whopping 23 minutes to get back on task according to the research.

A little while ago I was part of a focus group for cell phones and we were discussing what do people need in a smartphone and one of the comments other folks in the study made that I found interesting/scary was that Facebook is a lifeline for them and if they can’t check it then they don’t know what they would do. Obviously I am paraphrasing but the sentiment is clear.

A lot of People are spending more time on FB ‘liking’ their friend’s posts instead of actually spending time with them. Go spend time with your friends, if you don’t want to end up like this guy:

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

October 26, 2012

Amazon delete’s a user’s entire Kindle library, restores it and then starts lending ebooks for free to Prime members

Filed under: Books Related,My Thoughts — Suramya @ 9:28 PM

A few days ago Amazon deleted the entire e-book library of a kindle user without explanation and the internet was in an uproar with multiple people including prominent author’s protesting against the move by Amazon; then a few days later the account was mysteriously re-enabled without any explanation. This is the *one* reason I don’t own a kindle even though its a fantastic device. I almost bought it last month during my US trip but ultimately decided not to because I don’t want the usability of my device to be on the whim & fancy of Amazon. They have deleted stuff from accounts in the past without notification and even after promising not to do it again they went ahead and wiped out this user’s kindle. I anyways don’t support DRM so that is another reason I don’t buy ebooks from Amazon (They are awesome for other stuff but not ebooks/mp3’s/online movies etc).

If you own a kindle I seriously suggest you keep a local copy of all the books you buy ’cause you never know when the book might disappear. There was an article on Lifehacker.com on how to remove the DRM that makes interesting reading as this article was prompted by the same news story as what I am talking about. Check it out, but remember only use it to break the DRM from stuff you own, don’t use it to pirate stuff ’cause that is not cool.

Today while surfing the web I saw an article on the Reg that Amazon UK will lend e-books for free to it’s Prime subscribers. I guess it could be a planned move that just coincidentally came at a time when Amazon was getting a lot of heat for their bonehead move earlier but the timing is suspicious….

Well this is all for now. Will post more later.

– Suramya

Additional articles on the Kindle Wipe: Gizmodo.

July 19, 2012

Sensordrone brings us one step closer to having a real life StarTrek Tricorder

Filed under: Interesting Sites,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 10:56 PM

Anyone who has watched Star Trek would love to get their hands on a Tricorder, but till recently Tricorders have been the stuff of Science Fiction. However slowly but steadily the technology to build them is getting there. We have the Tricorder Project which gave us the blue prints to create a basic version of the tricorder. It was cool and let you watch Magnetic field fluctuations etc (among other things) but still required you to build the thing yourself. Now comes Sensordrone, a project that pairs a sensor-heavy dongle with your smartphone and then opens them up for use using different apps. Me Want! :)

Its basically a sensor package that you pair with your phone and then run apps to visualize the various data, with no need to build the hardware yourself (I am more of the software building person.) Sensordrone is a Kickstarter project so its not really a real product yet but since people have pledged $153,655 for the project already (target was $25,000), it does seem like this is going to be an actual release pretty soon. They are aiming for an Oct 2012 release and it would cost about $200 or so. When it comes out I think I probably will end up buying it… Does that make me a Geek? Hell yeah… :)

Excerpt from their website:

If you have a Sensordrone, you can run apps on your tablet or smartphone to monitor carbon monoxide and air quality, find gas leaks, measure your child’s temperature, log the weather, and much more.

For example, apps using the capacitance sensor can work as a stud finder, a proximity monitor, or a liquid level monitor. Apps using the pressure sensor can work as a barometer, an altimeter, calculate elevation differences so you can measure the height of a building, be hooked up to a pressure cuff to work as a blood pressure monitor, and more. Humidity sensing is not just for weather, it determines comfort level for infants, finds the optimum conditions for storing foods, and could even help prevent mold from growing in your home

Sensordrone makes any sensor application as easy as running an app!

Thanks to Engadget: Sensordrone lets your smartphone monitor temperature, air quality, inebriation for the heads up.

– Suramya

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