Thursday, February 04, 2010

One important step in my Getting Things Done Weekly Review is backing up my computer. To ensure that I have a most recent copy of data, even if my computer's OS goes awry one bad day.

Initially I wrote a shell script to take backups. But since I was not following GTD, I was not quite regular at backups and so when my computer banged, I didn't have all recent data to work with. Even if I take regular backups, reconfiguring the backup script was quite difficult.

Recently, I discovered Back in Time, an amazing one click tool (on Linux) to do periodic file backups. The good thing about this tool: When only a few items change in your to-be-backed-up folders, then it copies only that stuff, but creates hard links for the existing folders.

My backups are never been better!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A trivial update of personal events

I haven't touched this site for ages. First, a few updates from my personal life:
- I have joined twitter. It is fun, but not yet convinced about the usecases people cite for this site.
- I have enrolled for an online DVD rental service in India called BigFlix. The site has pretty decent English movies collection for India, but not as much as the American biggie Netflix. Have enjoyed a dozen movies so far. Did not find delivery service very fast and the subscription is expensive for Indian standards (Rs. 299 or about USD 7 a month for renting one DVD at a time. A cable TV subscription costs about Rs. 250 or USD 6 a month in metros).
- I purchased a Sony Handycam, but no use for it so far, as there is not much travel.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

British Band sells its album directly to consumers

The Strait Times Digital Life carries a the story of a band that has managed to get fans pay for music, but without restricting them. Just opposite of what popular record label companies do. A noteworthy snippet from this article:

Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman told a conference...
"We expected our business will remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and filesharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong."

Let me diverge from Digital Rights Management to affordability. The above article makes me think of India, which is one of the countries where pirated music (and software) make a good business. Why is that? Despite the emergence of multiple means of accessing music, record labels are unwilling to reduce the price of their CDs, so clearly common man cannot afford them and goes for cheaper pirated copies. The same is true for software and printed books.

I understand that these companies are existing not for charity, but to make a profit. Only if they understand that making these goods more affordable increases volume and drives more business to them & reduces piracy...

(Note: using google cache as I could not link directly to the story. The Strait Times requires an online subscription for Digital Life. It is a wonderful weekly print edition though).

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Amazon can "Kindle" the Future of Reading: NewsWeek

A great weekend read from NewsWeek for people who are both book-lovers and Web 2.0 enthusiasts. This story talks about kindle, a new electronic appliance (& service) from Amazon, which is to reading as I-Pod is to music. Buying books for Kindle would be as easy as buying new songs from Itunes. So, Kindle is everything a normal book is (its shape, texture and size are that of a paperback) plus also the following additional features:

* A book that holds several hundreds of books in it
* A book that is connected in real-time to other books and the web. Making a book connected enables real-time updates/changes.

I'm going to grab a gadget as soon as I can afford it. My only worry is the Digital Rights Management around the service (which in case of music industry has led it to destruction instead of flourishing it).

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ranting after some break

I haven't touched this blog for months together. For one, I was travelling like crazy or busy with work or busy with chores. Now, in another country, but not yet settled, thought I would just rant something.

I want to write about the previous and current travel experiences, but it will take some time to consolidate, so let me talk about Ubuntu (my favourite OS) again.

I was running Ubuntu 6.06 without any issues, but one fine day I did stop the OS forcefully when I think it was doing something serious, then that's it, the kernel went panic.

Then I decided to try Kubuntu 7.10. While KDE is highly configurable, after sometime I decided that I should also have a GNOME. So I installed GNOME on top of Kubuntu. Then read about Xubuntu, also wanted to try it, so installed Xfce on the top of Kubuntu. So, now I had one OS with 3 desktop environments, bloating each other.

I found myself almost always booting to GNOME. It also turned out that GNOME and KDE were not that interoperable, with my favourite K programs (for eg., Korganizer & Konqueror) often hanging in GNOME. After some time, I ran out of space, so I uninstalled xfce.

One fine morning, all of my K programs stopped working under GNOME. And GNOME was an irresistible environment for me (I am aware of fiery KDE Vs. GNOME war and that KDE almost always wins).

So I had no choice but to uninstall KDE Desktop altogether. So, it was a kind of reverse migration (Start with a full blown Kubuntu desktop and end up in a Ubuntu desktop).

But till today I didn't regret my decision. I'm able to run the latest version of Lotus Notes on Ubuntu and new Lotus Symphony Editor from IBM. I'm able to access my encrypted Wi-Fi from Ubuntu currently sitting in my bedroom.

So the conclusion, Ubuntu Rocks!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Latest Kubuntu should be more usable

I haven't blogged for months: mostly because of two exams that I have taken, a project at office that was plagued by so many problems, which came to some shape only recently.

Got a few days to try out new things and this time it is the recently released version of Kubuntu (Feisty 7.04). I already have a dual boot on my computer (Windows XP and Ubuntu 6.06). With a 40 GB hard disk having 2 Operating systems, there is absolutely no space. So I decided to try out Kubuntu in a VMWare Virtual machine, with the VM sitting on an external hard disk.

Downloading Kubuntu 7.04 and burning a CD with the iso image are straightforward. You get a live CD along with the install image out of this. Live CD allows you to try out the OS without any changes to your existing system.

Install within a VM was a breeze too and you get a pretty KDE Desktop with all bells and whistles. But is that good enough? I found that it is not so. (K)Ubuntu claims to be the OS for human beings, not for geeks. So, this means there should be minimal configuration to get a workable system. Ubuntu 6.06 lacked a lot of stuff out-of-box for reasons beyond the scope of the normal users (playing windows codecs, java enabled browser, flash plugins). But, people have made it really easy to install them in one shot. Check out EasyUbuntu and Automatix. With a click of few buttons, you can download and install all these third party stuff.

However, there is no such facility for (K)Ubuntu 7.04 yet (perhaps because it is pretty new). As a result, I have to do a few tweaks to get my new Kubuntu to the same level of my original Ubuntu. And I'm not successful in all the steps.

For those people who try the latest version of Kubuntu, I'm listing what I tried out to make it more usable. This is not a complete list, but will get you going:

1. Install Kubuntu Feisty.
2. Adept Manager is the default software package manager for Kubuntu. It may have a problem opening, despite entering the right password. Do these steps to fix it:

Open file: /etc/sudoers
sudo cat /etc/sudoers
and check for your username. If it is not there, add an entry by running
sudo visudo. The entry should look like:

3. Install ntfs-3g (If you want NTFS read/write support)
4. Install libxine-extracodecs (if mp3 files won't play)
sudo apt-get install libxine-extracodec
5. Download flash from Adobe site:

6. To add Flash support to Konqueror
mkdir .mozilla/plugins
Install flash which should detect the above directory and add a few files to it.
Go to Konqueror Plugin Configuration Window and add the above folders in Netscape Plugins section and scan for plugins. It should find the flash plugin.
7. Install StreamTuner (for Internet Radio)
8. Install XMMS (This is used by StreamTuner by default)
9. A biggest drawback of default KDE menu is, it does not have recently/frequently used applications. Installing Kickoff will fix it. It is available for
download from here:
To install it use this command:
sudo dpkg -i kicker-kickoff_1_i386.deb
Kickoff is not that pretty, however it does the job.

End note: The above configuration apart, I have noticed a few more problems with KDE as such. My desktop freezed twice when I was creating some shortcut from the KDE menu. This never happened to me when I use Gnome. Not to say that you will have the same problem, just watch out.

Update: Oops!! I failed do a good research before claiming that Automatix is not available in Kubuntu Feisty 7.04. I just figured it out and I can now play mp3, avi, VCDs and DVDs without any problem. Detailed installation instructions are available.

However, my endnote still stays.

Monday, February 12, 2007

How IT enabling a business can make it worse

Banks have various types of accounts. In India, Recurring Deposit (aka, RD) is a popular means of saving every month. It's not as attractive as stocks, mutual funds or Systematic Investment Plans, but it is one of the safest and regular means of saving (as long as the credit rate of the bank is good).

Bank of Baroda, where I have an account has a special type of RD scheme. With an normal RD scheme, you can only save a fixed amount every month. For instance, if your installment is Rs. x at the time of opening an account, it should always be Rs. x, nothing more, nothing less. But the uniqueness of this special account is, you can deposit anything equal to or more than the minimum installment (of course, there is an upper limit, but that is very high).

I found this scheme very attractive, because my expenses vary every month and I can't really predict how much I can save. So, I jumped to the sky and opened a "special" RD account for the minimum installment of Rs. 6000.

For quite a few months, I was happily depositing Rs. 6000, Rs. 8000 and even Rs. 10000. So far, so good.

One fine day, when I attempted to pay Rs. 8000 as the installment, I was stopped by the teller. She told me that I would have to pay in multiples of Rs. 6000 only. I was surprised and showed her all my past receipts paying various amounts. Know what her response was?

It could have been like that in the past, but not any longer.

Me: But why wasn't there a notification to me, either through mail or phone?

She: I don't know about that, but that is the policy now.

Me: (wanted to probe a little) Can you tell me the real reason of why it changed now?

She: Sir, we have deployed a new Core Banking Solution called ******* and it does not allow paying different amounts. Even if we allowed it, we will end up doing a lot of calculations and that means a lot of trouble for us.
(Funny, I thought doing a lot of calculations was bankers' bread and better)

Me: Okay, please allow me to pay Rs. 8000 this time only. From next month you can enforce the new policy.

She: Sorry Sir, nothing can be done about that, you got to comply to what our IT system dictates (She started sounding very rude here and raised her voice), there is no way that our IT system can be modified.

I would not budge. I ran from pillar to post to prove my point (talked to her boss, talked to his boss). I explained to them how it will make things very difficult for me and I'll be forced to save either too less or too much every month. But instead of listening to me, everyone was trying to educate me on how to go with the bank's dramatic policy changes without complaints!

Finally I asked why the branch can't push the management to abolish this scheme as soon as they can (so the customers will not mistakenly believe that they still have a special RD account) or force the IT vendor to make provisions of the special scheme. Since they have implemented the IT solution in hundreds of branches and presumably paid a lot of money, I didn't think it is difficult for them to raise the red flag with the vendor. The response was simple: Sorry sir, we are powerless to even escalate this to our management. Already we have lost many customers, please don't publicize this.

Later, I was analyzing the key issues the bank has (discounting the rude behavior of the staff):

1. The bank may have posh interiors and state-of-the-art Core Banking Solution. However, there is no CRM or formal feedback system in place.

2. I'm not sure if the branch staff are taking the issues to upper management. Even if they do, I'm not too sure if they are taken seriously. In my case, the best response could be to ring up a higher official (maybe sitting in the head office), escalate this and ask how to handle this case. The next best response could be to just give me a piece of paper to vent off my anger and then promptly send it to the head office. While this may not have changed anything on their side, it would have at least pacified me that I'm heard.

Now you can guess if I'll ever do anymore business with this bank!