Random mixed feelings about Indian Railways

This past weekend, my wife, my kid, duly accompanied by yours truly, went to Chennai by train. This was the kid’s first train journey after he has turned two (ie, after he has started really assimilating the world!). We took the Shatabdi for the onward journey. We were blown away by the new coaches. My opinion/observations below:

  • Superior quality coaches – almost felt like European style train compartments – never been on one, but drooled over plenty on Travel and Living.
  • Good leg space. Ergonomic seats.
  • Long span windows. My kid loved these. He could look out the window and take in the scenery (wherever applicable :))
  • Very less rattling. Unfortunately I wanted my kid to experience the ta-tak-ta-tak. (He got plenty of this in the return journey, but I digress here.)
  • Translucent plastic/glass overhead luggage trays – so you could keep an ‘eye’ on your luggage literally 🙂
  • The restrooms were actually clean. And wow, Jaguar fittings. And no one had flicked them (yet!). Bidet style ‘bum wash’. No mug chained to the pipe 🙂
  • Three pin plug in every seating bay. One of our co-passengers was working on an excel sheet the entire way to Chennai.

So we thought, all was fine and dandy. Landed in Chennai without a tired muscle. We could not get tickets for the Shatabdi for the return journey. In fact we could not get an AC ticket at all. So we had settled for the Non-AC 2S seating in Lal Bagh. We had chosen the Lal Bagh for its convenient time – it reaches Bangalore at a comfortable 9PM. Observations (and mostly dissatistified comments below):

  • Ultra crowded compartment.
  • Old rickety coach.
  • The seating itself is not planned well. It is very cramped, but then on hindsight, it is probably the same as an economy ticket on a budget airline. Except, the seats are much harder in the railway compartment. I wanted to say the timings are longer, but then some of the legs in the long-haul flights I have made to the US have been longer.
  • Now comes the worst part. Along with the 104 passengers who had been issued reserved seats, there are about 50 other people standing and sitting in the aisle through-out the journey. These are folks who have just taken the ‘General ticket’ and are ‘supposed’ to be in the Unreserved compartment. Wow. The Ticket-Inspector tried his best for an hour or so (until Ambur to be precise), and then gave-up. Shame on you Indian Railways – for letting this lawless-ness go by. Cant you attach another Unreserved coach !! Or do something ?? You spend Lakhs every year on a Railway Budget and the state from which the Railway Minister hails from, gets a few additional trains, but cant you help the common man get a decent seat ?

The only good thing common about both  the journeys was the dashing Lallaguda WAP7 locomotive – which did more than justice to the journey. Pure power. The locomotives just gobbled up the distance like noboby’s business. My thanks to the loco-pilots. An aside point is that – it was the last day for the locopilot on the return journey,  Mr. S.C.Dass, before he retired. There was a banner on the WAP7 announcing this. Mr. Dass, you did your bit, and made yours, and ours journey memorable. We screamed through the Whitefield station so fast that I could barely read the black-on-yellow lettering. Probably was making the top speed of 110 kmph at that time. Kudos.

Update: Some pictures of the Shatabdi. Did not take pictures on the Lalbagh. Was too busy to retain my calm 🙂

View of the coach. Note the wide aisle. You can also see the much needed legroom.

The area between two coaches. What used to be the rickety vestibule is now this.
Transparent over-head luggage space. (Also note the reading lights)
Nice long windows so you can take panaromic Indian Country side shots like these.

How to stop Youtube from tracking your viewing history

Youtube keeps track of all the videos that you have seen in recent past (if you are signed on to your google account). Until now you had the ability to erase this cache. More recently, you now have the ability to stop youtube from tracking. Well, you theoretically ‘pause it’, but then you can pause it forever, and never unpause it. Here is how you do it – in screen shots. Thanks lifehacker for this.

Step 1: Log into your google account and go to youtube.com. Click on your google userid on the top right side of the screen.

Step 2: Click on Video Manager

Step 3: Click on Search History

Step 4: Click on “Clear All Search History” to clear your cache. And then click on “Pause search history” to pause track.

You are done.

(via lifehacker.com)

Little things make a #fail

It can take years to build a reputation, but a little thing can break everything. The wife and me ordered salads from Papa Johns (Koramangala, Bangalore, INDIA). They have two different types of salads – the traditional veg salad and the slightly more fancier island fresh salad (with pineapples and a little bit of paneer cubes). We had ordered 0delivery. The food arrived on time. Excellent packaging. Cheerful delivery person. We dived in. The shocker — the cucumber was bitter. And by bitter, I mean, ultra-bitter, so bitter that the humble bitter-gourd would be put to shame !!

Every other ingredient was perfect. But just the fact that cucumber (the description said luscious de-cored cucumbers) was so bitter put us off sad. Even so, because, it is so easy to have been avoided. A small taste of the cucumber (one small bit) could have eliminated this mishap (Usually if a small bit is bad, the entire cucumber is bad).

What is worse is, it brought back my two bad memories with Papa Johns – one where the store tried conning us (thinking we were the usual gullible Indian customer – this was about 5 years back) that a tomato based pizza was Spinach Alfredo ; and one where the waiter had argued that the watery garlic sauce was the same sauce served all over the word (the manager later apologized for this, and admitted that the sauce in India was different from the creamy yellow sauce in the US).

I had really forgotten the two older incidents, and started enjoying Papa Johns in India. But this small mistake kindled all those memories. Maybe its just me, that makes this such a big deal. But I really think, if you are paying premium, you deserve premium.

Papa Johns – are you reading this??

Pure Loyalty – Mobile Cloak Room

Where there is a need, there will be a service-based-startup. That seems to be the motto these days. Wow. After a recent ruling that Cellphones, PDAs, Tablets etc would not be allowed inside public schools, a company named Pure Loyalty LLC is making news by filling a gap. These guys come and park a van outside the school, and provide a mobile cloak room. With more and more students having access to tablets and smart phones, a place to reliably deposit these ‘expensive’ electronic gadgets is a great idea. Pure Loyalty keeps track by using smart ID cards.

Call me a bad guy, but I am waiting for the acid test. I am waiting for the couple of incidents, where the smart cards are stolen, and some thing bad happens. If the company has ways to handle such an incident, they will definitely survive. Even if they dont, if they quickly get their heads together and create one, they still stand a chance (like airbnb did). If not, we will have to wait and see.

(image source by Dean Terry)

Oracle gobbles up Taleo

Oracle buys Taleo for $1.9 billion. Wow. I have seen Taleo been used by quite a few Blue Chip companies for their resume/candidate management needs. Consolidation seems to be in-thing now. SAP just bought SuccessFactors. I see this inline with a couple of strong beliefs of mine —

  • The world is moving from ‘Generalized software frameworks’ to a ‘solution based system’. From configurable SAP based ERP systems to a tailormade (customizable) employee management system. From a generalized Oracle database hosting your jobs and resume data to a more-rounded Recruitment system.
  • The generalized software frameworks would not go away, but would become more  B2B (Business2Business). Startups would consume these to build powerful user-oriented systems
  • Innovation would be driven by novel use of these user-oriented systems and mash-ups rather than fundamental shifts in technology. The latter would exist, but would not be the news-breakers of tomorrow. They would just bring cheer to the innovators, and make them innovate more.

Restaurant review: El Tablao, Koramangala, Bangalore


On the road connecting Sony World Signal to Jakkasandra (Koramangala I Block). When you come from Sony World signal, it is within the first few buildings on the right hand side. The restaurant is above Reliance Jewels. There are three restaurants on the same building (Great Indian Thali, El Tablao, and Barbercue Factory).

The Good:

  • Good authentic Mexican food
  • Fairly extensive wine menu (though we didn’t order any)
  • Menu is found here -> [link]
  • Good service
  • Food arrived super quick from the kitchen
  • Reasonably priced
  • Awesome location

The Bad:

  • The ambience could be much better. It is exotic  cuisine, and good food at that. It would heighten the experience so much more, if the ambience is spruced up.
  • Not too well lit. Seems to be forcibly pushed into the fine-dining-ambience-template !
  • Most Mexican restaurants that I have eaten (in the US) are loud and raucous and bright.


Worst Tech Presentation Ever ?

And yes, it was by Apple. Wow. Gil Amelio at his worst.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhhFQ-3w5tE&w=420&h=315]

I am still sniggering at

  • “It had an 128K OS!”.
  • “It needs the internet, so lets throw some Java in there”.

Yes. Actual quotes. Look at the full video.

  • Wow. Steve Jobs comes in for a ‘cameo’ appearance for a crisp preso and walks away. This is the event where Apple announced that it was acquiring NeXt.
  • Notice the great applause when Steve walks in (awful suit and pants, but whatever!).  Also notice the change in style of slides and the presentation style.
  • Jobs blinks at the number of photo flashes and says – “you guys need to stop flashing, or I will go blind and fall off the stage.”
  • Notice the dead-pan bored look on Amelio, while Jobs is talking.
  • Jobs goes over the over-arching plan. And then says – “At this moment, I would like to descend into some details, <pause> at the risk of boring you”. Notice the fake-warning. He knows super-well that the audience is just hungry for more details. Amelio had not given any details until then.
  • The OS is called MACH OS. And he says – “It runs on Intel Processors today.”
  • Jobs shows 5 quicktime videos running seamlessly together. Wow. And he just pauses a scene from one of them (Space Jam), drags and drops into Mail, and the clip (screenshot) is pasted as an attachment picture. Beautiful.
  • What we found out a long time ago was, the line of code that a developer can write the fastest, a line of code a developer can maintain the easiest, and a line of code that never breaks is <pause> a line of code that he never had to write.


Path stealing your iPhone addressbook?

Path.com (according to reports) are sending up your entire iPhone Address book to their servers. Daring Fireball’s take on it:

Arunan Thampi, after examining the network traffic between Path’s iPhone app and their servers:

Upon inspecting closer, I noticed that my entire address book (including full names, emails and phone numbers) was being sent as a plist to Path. Now I don’t remember having given permission to Path to access my address book and send its contents to its servers, so I created a completely new “Path” and repeated the experiment and I got the same result — my address book was in Path’s hands.

Path’s reaction, paraphrased: Hey, no big deal. We’re only using the data to help you find your friends.

Everyone else in the world’s reaction: Dude, that’s fucked up.

Humerous, yet making its point. This is a super serious issue.

Update: Path CEO responds. Perfect response. Path has deleted all the data that has been uploaded so far. A new version has been made available in the app store, which asks the user whether or not he/she wants to share his/her data.[link]

Nanban (Tamil) Review – 2012

  • Overall good remake of 3 Idiots
  • Nothing to comment on the story or picturization – exact ditto.
  • Casting comments:
    • Not a big Vijay fan. He did a decent job, but the role of Aamir, needed some one more bubbly. Not thoongu moonji (sleepy) type like Vijay. Someone like Arya, or Karthi, or even (God Forbid – why am I saying this!) Dhanush.
    • I personally did not like Satyaraj as the principal. It needed someone more commanding, not vazha-vazha-kozha-kozha (no translation for this – closest approximation is wishy-washy). Or maybe it was Boman Irani who makes me biased.
    • I am going to write this one in BOLD. Intentionally. Who, in Gods Name, chose Ileana for the Karisma’s role. Could you not find anyone who knew tamil ? Could you not have atleast done a better dub.  All over the film, the locations are in Tamil Nadu. The professor (Sathyaraj) Is Tamil, yet he has a daughter who speaks in Seth-Tamil ? Really ? Shankar ? Why ?
    • Sathyan – beautiful choice for the ‘padips’ role.
    • Loved Srikanth and Jeeva. Beautiful picks. And beautiful execution. Totally loved the scene where Jeeva wakes up drunk in the middle of a lecture. And Srikanth’s look, when Vijay messes up the answer scripts order after they turn in their papers late. I loved this scene in the original 3 Idiots. It was Madhavan who had that look – quizzical look turning to amazement to overjoyed.