Category Archives: General

Tata Photon+

I got Tata Photon+ mobile broadband connection during 2010, it worked well initially for a month or two.I can notice, their services have been degrading since then (late 2010).

Connectivity is not an issue, but download speed and latency.

A recent test results done on June 6, 2011
Tata Photon+ Speed Test 1 against Delhi Server Tata Photon+ Speed Test Results - Mumbai Server

We all know, most of marketing/advertisements campaigns are big lies.  There is big disconnect between the idea/dream they show and the reality.

In the case of Tata Photon+, they advertise about giving ‘up to 3.1 mbps’ download speed BUT I am yet to get 1 mbps consistently for an hour, leave alone days.

I guess, this is location specific. Places like Kanpur and other cities in UPE are not given enough of importance (network infrastructure and attention)?

Whenever I complain to Tata Photon Customer Support, someone visits, tests using speedtest.net against Delhi/Mumbai servers, and shows me test results (skewed?) which is generally in range of 600 kbps to 1.2 mbps.

When I show him results of tests done against servers in USA and Europe, they would argue  – which reflects their ignorance about technology and terminology (ping, latency, etc.)

Yesterday, I filed another complaint over phone. I got a call asking if I was in front of computer, I said “No, but I would be in couple of hours and tomorrow”. After couple of hours, I got a SMS suggesting my complaint-ticket had been resolved and marked as closed. Really? No one visited me.

I filed another complaint using web-site, got around 10+ calls within 12 hours. All of them asking same question “What’s problem sir”. I don’t understand, why didn’t these guys look at their CRM and read the details (which included the speedtest.net test results)?

Anyway, one of those guys (from some Tata hired agency) visited me today. He repeated the same process of testing against two Indian servers using speedtest.net. This time, he got lucky speed results showed around 1 mbps agaisnt Delhi/Mumbai server. I requested him to visit again tomorrow in afternoon and perhaps at different location.

During middle of meeting, this fellow stood up and walked out. I followed him to ask what happened?

He misbehaved by saying “I heard enough, I am going. That’s all we can do”.

I felt offended, I asked about his details, he denied giving by saying “Do whatever you can”. He left ignoring me.

I feel bad as customer, and also because I have been a Tata employee. I had never expected, one of Tata companies would do such things i.e. poor service and worst customer support (not at phone, but at ground level – those visiting agents).

I feel, I have wasted so many hours talking, thinking and complaining. No one wants to listen and do anything.

Updates:

  • June 24, 2011: I found Tata Photon very slow at my residence, hence filed a fresh complaint (requested that someone should visit me on Sunday at my residence to test speed in that area) via phone. CSR said, they don’t work on Sunday, I said – I can be available on weekdays provided an appointment is taken.
  • June 25, 2011: I received two calls from Tata Photon support team. In both calls, I was asked same question “what is problem, sir?” with one difference, in latter call I was told that they can visit me on Sunday
  • June 26, 2011: I got a call, where I was asked same  and some more questions:
    • What is problem, Sir?
    • Did you buy device with warranty?
    • What speed do you get?

    I told them, “I am happy with the device but not with the signal and speed in this area (my residence), hence needed someone to visit me and test speed here”. They asked me to go to Tata Photon centre, around 8 kms from my place. I asked, “how can they test issues of this area in different area?”.

    They threw another bomb by saying, a fee( INR 75) needs to be paid by customer, if he/she wants technical-support-engineer to visit customer’s place?

    I got upset and reminded that this is mobile-broadband. Isn’t it their responsibility to make sure connection signal and quality is good in all areas?

    Anyway, that was new, I had not paid such fee earlier.

    I asked, when did they start charging? She said, “Yesterday”. I reminded her, I filed complaint day before yesterday. She said, it has been started on June 20, 2011.

    I asked her to pass the call to her senior, who ended up saying the same thing. I told them, the policy is ridiculous.

Why a customer has to pay extra to get service related issues checked/fixed? Isn’t customer already paying every month? Isn’t it Tata’s responsibility to provide services as they promise?

I have invested some money and time to get the device and connection; I can switch to different provider, but device might not be reusable unless someone buys it from me.

Once again, I am disappointed by Tata Tele’s services. I am going to move away from them and would not recommend Tata Tele’s services to my family and friends.

More Updates:

  • June 28, 2011: As an last attempt, I wrote an email to Tata Tele Services contact and also copied the same to UP East Nodal Officer.
  • June 29, 2011: I got a call from a senior Engineer, who visited me on the same day. During 3-4 hours long troubleshooting, he figured out the reason behind slow speed, which is, HSIA signals was not as strong as CDMA 1X, and some tower issues.He got an antenna installed, on the roof-top, and connected to my USB device. He promised to get a repeater installed during weekend, so that all devices at our place can get better quality signals.
    Once antenna was installed, and some augmentation was done in one of the towers, things improved a bit.

    He seemed a good professional and knew the stuff. He earned my respect. I learnt, good guys are very overloaded because someo of their peers don’t do their work properly :-)

  • July 2, 2011: Two Tata Photon smart junior-engineers visited and installed a repeater at our house. The senior engineer kept his word, he earned more respect.I can feel the difference now; Two different tests during last 5 hours have given very positive results, as shown below:

    Tata Photon Speed Test Tata Photon+ Speed Test Result

    Tata Photon+ Speed Test using 2Wire.com

    Once again, I gave my feedback about service and the misbehaviour by one of their peers. I am sure, the good-guys would fix things by putting peer pressure and leading by examples.

    As far as fee for visit is concerned, I was told by one of the engineers, it is for the cases where customer’s device or computer is found to be faulty, not the service. I wonder, why I was not told the same earlier during the call, which made me upset?

    I am going to wait for couple of days. If I get consistently better quality speed, I would strike out the line (about not recommending) above. Anyways, there are some issues with Tata Photon+ customer support and service, which would need to fix, so that all issues can be resolved without any escalation.

    Tip: Choose HSIA from network-settings of Tata Photon+ dialer, this would force modem to use to HSIA enabled towers/frequencies and would avoid using CDMA 1X.

A Developer’s Open Letter to RIM

Jamie Murai has written an open letter to RIM, the company behind Blackberry and Playbook. Jamie talks about his experience of setting up development environment for Playbook application development.

It seems, RIM has failed to attract developers, the credit goes to broken development process and tool-chain. One has to spend good amount of time (and money?) setting up development environment, building application and deploying the same to marketplaces.

Why would developers bother looking at Playbook development, when they have better options (iOS and Google Android), where  development, deployment and monetization is relatively very-very simpler.

Developer usability is very important. Any company that relies on developer community/ecosystem for their growth, should take some lessons from Jamie Murai’s open-letter, which enlists some important points/issues.

Read Jamie Murai’s Open Letter To RIM’s Developer Relations.

Professional Responsibility and Ethics

I would have spent hundreds of hours talking, about professional responsibility, craftsmanship and ethics, to my team. What you would read below, is a summarised version of the same.

If I sign up for something (a job, a project or something else), I am going to do it with responsibility. If I develop disliking for job/project at any point of time, I am going to:

  • reflect (validate, find causes/solutions)
  • communicate promptly and proactively all the times
  • challenge myself to keep myself motivated
  • try changing things around for better
  • find responsible exit strategy, if there is no hope

We live in free country, there is no reason to do wrong, like:

  • being dishonest with myself and others
  • doing anything (moonlighting, sharing confidential information, etc.)
  • being irresponsible towards my work, hence often repeat mistakes which cause loss to my employer/customer
  • being irresponsible towards, in general

Let me give some examples of wrong-doings, based on my experiences:

  • I lie (wrong reasons) while quitting the job
  • I do something, which I agreed not to do, for the sake of extra money
  • I don't spend enough time figuring out solutions of problem, instead I start running away from problems.
  • I don't communicate properly
  • I assume and judge based on rumours/gossips/assumptions
  • I quit without giving any notice and expect my employer to give me all certificates and positive reference
  • I request to be relieved from my duties without serving a required notice period. I promise buy out (i.e. pay money back to company/customer), which I never do
  • I take some days off from work but I never return back to work; I don't communicate and keep my employer posted on status
  • Above all, my actions are irresponsible, unprofessional and unethical

We all make mistakes. If I made one (wrong-doing) intentionally, it's not good. If I made one unintentionally, later realized it as a mistake, however, I keep repeating, what could be worse than this?

No one is perfect in this world, neither is the company/customer I work with nor I am. However, we can work together despite all these imperfections without doing anything wrong (ethically, professionally). There is always a right option, thankfully.

Good communication, at all the times, always help us doing things right and avoiding wrong ones.

I am not sure, if I could express what I want to say; I hope you can understand what I mean.

Please leave your comment and feel free to correct me, if I am wrong somewhere. I am always open to learn about different perspectives and improve myself.

List of Indian Online Shopping Websites (Stores)

Everyday I come to know about a new online shopping website (store) from/for India. I have been using some sites from following list:

  • Infibeam

    book store, electronic, toys, computers, lcd monitors (benq, acer), mobile phones, music, movies and gifts.

  • FlipKart

    book store, mobile phones, music, movies and gift vouchers.

  • ITDepot

    computers, laptops, electronic, accessories, computer hardware, laptop bags, etc. It also hosts stores for Belkin, Logitech, etc.

  • Gadgets.in

    computer, electronic, laptop, wires, connectors, cables, laptop accessories, etc.

  • Pringoo

    t-shirts, mugs, stickers, custom printing and corporate gifts.

  • InkFruit

    t-shirts and mugs.

  • 20North

    imported consumer items. This site would calculate custom duty and shipping cost. If you want convenience of getting things (electronic, computer and other things) from USA and don't want to deal with custom and shipping.

  • Rediff

    One of the oldest online stores in India, it hosts stores for different brands. You can pretty much get most of things (books, electronics, movies, computer hardware and accessories) here.

I would keep updating this post to include more stores, as and when I use or get to know any. BTW! Infibeam accepts Paypal, so that's one of the reasons, it's at top of my list .

Disclaimer: I have only used Infibeam, FlipKart, Pringoo, Gadgets.in and Rediff (long time back). Please understand things before you use any of these sites and please don't blame me, if something goes wrong :-)

Eclipse Plugins

Some Eclipse plugins, I use (with Eclipse Classic SDK), are:

There are bunch of plugins for network monitoring and debugging, don’t remember their names. BTW! I have got two separate installations (32bit Carbon and 64bit Cocoa) of Eclipse. I hope, Adobe would port Flex/Flash Builder to work with 64bit and Cocoa.

Reliable and Fast VPS Hosting in India

Web Hosting in India (with VSNL, Tata, etc) has not been affordable for most of us (startups, bloggers, small-medium-enterprises).  Hence, for years, we have been hosting our data and application on shared and dedicated servers outside of India for different reasons (cost, availability, uptime, etc), but at the cost of higher latency (slow speed/performance).

Fortunately, E2E Networks, a startup by Tarun Dua provides very reliable, fast and less expensive hosting (VPS and Dedicated Servers) services in India. All your data/applications is hosted securely in India and you get unbelievable low latency.

Check out some of the sites, which are running on E2ENetworks:

Check out various plans/packages and you would be impressed with the pricing, it’s really affordable.

Disclaimer: Tarun Dua is a friend of mine and ex-colleague (Mixercast and Yahoo!). He is known for his knowledge and experience in data-centre, bandwidth, performance, scalability and servers. Whatever, I have written above is completely my own view based on my experience with E2E Networks. My company is planning to use E2E Networks’ services for our Indian customers.

Happy New Year (2010)

Happy New Year to everyone, hope this year would bring more happiness and success in your personal and professional life. I also hope, a lot of problems in this world would be solved and make everyone (including animals, humans, trees, et al.) life easier and better.

New year (2010) started some ten days back, I am writing this post now? I can say, I have got lazy when it comes to blogging. It’s not that I don’t want to write, perhaps, I think too much before posting anything. There would be at least ten different posts in draft mode, I never posted those because I am not sure, those make any sense.

Anyway, many good things happened last year (2009) including my marriage. I am very hopeful that more good thing would happen in this new year (2010).

Last two years, I have been most inactive in Adobe Flash Platform community and social-media (blogging, etc).  I know, I would bounce back because I love to work on Adobe Flash Platform (specially actionscript), share what I do and help others. We all go through different phases in our life, for me it’s entrepreneurship where I am spending more time on things which would enable us to do great things in future.

Our company is doing very well, we have been focused on many things, specially a different culture, that would enable us to do great things in future, hopefully starting this year. We are happy that we have got very smart and nice individuals in our team, which makes us a great team.

As usual, I am always looking for smart developers (web and flash-platform), who can join us and be part of our journey. We are working on some nice projects and have plans for interesting products, I would surely need more passionate and smart people in my team.

For last many years, I have had new-year resolutions but this year my resolution is to get better at everything I do, that includes my health.

Once again, happy new year to everyone.

BSNL 3G configuration – new access point name

It seems BSNL secretly changed the 3G access-point details around couple of weeks back, so my 3g connection stopped working. I looked over internet to figure out the latest configuration details, I couldn’t locate one.

I talked to BSNL 3G technical guys in Kanpur and to my surprise, most of them were also not aware of the change. Thankfully, one of the guys from BSNL Bangalore office, confirmed the latest access-point details, as shown below:

Access point name: gprsnorth.cellone.in bsnlnet

In case you are wondering, what all other changed, that’s it. JFYI! Old access-point name was gprsnorth3g.bsnlmobile.in, which doesn’t work anymore.

So if you have been unable to use BSNL 3G during last couple of weeks, perhaps new access-point name can work for you.

I am not sure, if there are different access-point name for different parts of country (north, south, east, west)?

TVersity: Media Server

I am sharing my experience while finding a good media-server (software that can store, transcode and serves various media formats to devices – computers, mobile, apple-tv, etc).

We all (parents, brother, sister-in-law, sister and myself) stay together, which means we have got more than one TV, various devices (mobile, computers, laptops, etc). We realized, it’s useful to host the media at one central computer.

  • Storage
  • Wiki – to jot down the links and ideas
  • Development and Testing – when we work at/from home
  • Media Server (software that serves media to various devices in home)

Most of the requirements (above) are sorted out except the last one “Media Server”. I looked at various options, some of these are listed below:

I found myself more comfortable with TVersity, though it’s not opensource and only runs on Windows, for following reasons

  • Ease in administration:
    • anyone in my family can add/remove media using it’s easy to use administration interface.
    • admin tool runs using Adobe Flash Player, has been built using OpenLaszlo framework and executable has been created using Zinc like tool.
  • Ease while using:
    • Web based interface for administration – runs on Adobe Flash Player
    • Web based interface for media library
      • Simple HTML
      • Flash based (built using OpenLaszlo) – where media is transcoded and played using Flash Player, awesome, isn’t it?
      • iPhone friendly interface
  • Support for Open DLNA and UPNP
  • Automatically detects (most of) devices, transcodes and serves media, if required
    • That means, ffdshow and other tools can be used to add subtitle and apply various filters before serving the videos.
  • XBMC/Boxee that runs on my macbook and apple-tv worked really well with TVersity

You can find the complete list of features on TVersity website.

So now life is simpler and easier, we all store our media at one place and can see it anytime and on most of our devices. Having web-based access to media makes life easier. I also feel, it’s lot easier to extend web-interface, which I plan to do in sometime.

I would love to post about detailed comparison between various options (media-servers and tools) mentioned above, perhaps in another post, sometime in future. Another post would be there to share how our home network looks like. Hope, I can spend sometime drawing diagrams which would be lot easier to understand.

HR and Payroll for small companies in India

Running a company in India is not an easy task, not because you don’t know what you are good at. One has to know a lot more to do things – laws, acts and statutory requirements. It’s easy for anyone with just technical background to make mistakes (i.e. unintentionally not being able to follow things) unless one is surrounded by people who are either domain-experts or professionals.

For last one year, I have been spending a lot of time reading about basics of accounting, acts, laws and such things. Thankfully, there are some good resources (listed below) which proved super useful to anyone like me (technical guys with hardly any background in accounting, laws, etc). I am listing some websites (forums) below, which really helped me a lot.

Though I missed doing things (programming, development, flash/flex, etc), I love to do, during last one year. But I realize, as an entrepreneur, I would have to learn things sooner or later. I hope, in long term I would feel it was worth spending time (almost an year).

(If you are interested in more resource, keep looking at my delicious bookmarks.)

Anyway, let’s talk about things which are related to the subject of this post.

Towards an attempt to be more organized and productive, we started looking at various software/SaaS options for accounting, HR and Payroll. In a small company like ours, which is located in a city where it’s hard to find many good consultants and professionals in these domains, SaaS might be super useful.

At first, we thought of using and customizing some opensource software like openerp for our requirements. But we know, we don’t have domain experts in these areas (accounting, hr, payroll, etc), hence can not keep changing the software the various compliance and statutory requirements by law/government. On the other hand, the total cost (time, money, etc) of ownership for such things is lot more. We find there is more value to use professional services offered in the form of SaaS . That would allow us to focus on things, we should be i.e. innovating, doing great work, building great team and providing great services to our clients.

We are trying to move to a smart SaaS that helps with our HR and Payroll stuff. I have been playing with following websites that offer SaaS for Indian companies.

There are other companies but they don’t allow you to quickly signup and check out their services, before you can make a decision.

I also found one interesting software (windows desktop application), it’s not expensive and actually allows most of things for small companies like ours. The only issue I see, it’s desktop based  and requires windows.

I was expecting Zoho might have payroll solution, it seems they are still working on it (I got a confirmation via email). Zoho seems to have HR (HRM, HRIS) stuff:

After spending a lot of time during last week checking out and playing with various services/software (some listed above). I realize,  greytip is the most mature, flexible and smart solution but user-interface in greytip can be improved a lot.

On the other hand, evetan (thanks to Swaroop for pointing me to it) seems to have a simple user-interface and workflow. It can be improved a lot too while keeping the simplicity.

Hopefully, I would choose one very soon and start using it for our company. If I get some time, I would love to post a detailed comparison of these SaaS/Software (listed above).

Job Opening: Flash Platform Developer

We are looking for some smart Flash Platform Developers who can be part of our team in Allies Interactive Services Pvt. Ltd., Kanpur, U.P.

We are a design and development company in Kanpur, though we are small but we are ambitious and have a great vision.

I posted the details on Flex-India sometimes back, pasting the same (edited the typos and formatted) over here:-

I have been meaning to post this for sometime but thought would it be appropriate to do that here?

I am part of a small design and development shop in Kanpur, U.P. Where, we mostly do web development using FOSS, mainly LAMP.

I moved to kanpur around 10 months back with a desire to build a great Flash Platform Team that would work on non-trivial type service projects and some great product ideas.

I could now start doing it, after we have managed to fix a lot of issues mostly a nice office, a good culture and some projects and a product in pipeline.

I need an experienced Flash Platform developer in my team, who can help us to make our vision, desire and dreams a reality.

Since Kanpur is not a metro or fancy place to live, it takes more than just technical aptitude to be here. That is some more strong reason f.ex. A desire to be part of a growing team, desire to be close to family, desire to contribute in the development of IT ecosystem in North and/or a desire to prove, hell yeah we can do great stuff from anywhere, even cities like Kanpur :-)

If you think, you want to help me by being part of my team and understand what I meant above, please don’t hesitate to contact me on [abdul dot qabiz at gmail dot com] off-list i.e. Direct email to me, please don’t reply here on this list.

As far as job description goes, I have already given an idea. However, we are looking for someone who understands web very well that is HTTP and other standards. Fundamentally good at problem solving, the real world ones, ActionScript, Flex Framework, Adobe Flash Player and AIR fundamentals and APIs.

Of course, good experience that says about in your behalf. We would also talk to you so things would get clear, i.e. If we are match for each other.

If you want to know more about company, please check out http://www.alliesinteractive.com

MovableType to WordPress – Migration

Yesterday, this blog successfully moved to WordPress from MovableType 3.2. I have been procrastinating this entire migration work for quite long time, I tried many times but left half way.

Existing posts and comments were easily migrated i.e. export from MovableType and import in WordPress, that’s all. The challenging part was retaining permalinks of posts published using MovableType. I didn’t have to do anything for monthly-archives beacuse the url-format being used in MovableType was exactly same I chose for WordPress so I just removed old directories  (created by MovableType).

Category and individual archives’ permalinks were taken care by putting some code on top of MovableType templates for those archives. So request still goes to old archive pages, where code on top constructs the new wordpress page URLs and redirects there. Which means I am going to maintain old MovableType installation (at least php pages) until I figure out other way. This bit is tricky because MovableType generated filenames (permalinks) in very inconsistent manner, perhaps due to configuration issues back then.

Feed permalinks were taken care by simple rewrite rules in .htacces. Over the time, I would be fixing the look and feel of the blog and other minor issues (line-breaks and all that). Please let me know, if you find any broken links (from your bookmarks) on this blog or any other things. I would appreciate that.

I could share the code and .htaccess stuff here, but it’s not really very clean. I would do it once I am done figuring out a better of doing category and individual archives’ permalinks handling. However, if you really want to see the stuff, please leave a comment and I would send you whatever I have :-)

InfiBeam – Online Store for India

Infibeam is like Amazon for India, I am mostly interested in books and could find most of the books on Infibeam. There are some, which I believe they would import and ship to you.

Infibeam is shipping free anywhere in India, that’s another good thing.

I have been buying books from Infibeam for sometime, so far experience has been good except one particular instance.

I ordered a book, everything went well and I was told within one or two week, book would be shipped. After waiting for a week or so, I get an email from Infibeam that since book is out of stock, they would not be able to ship it. I exchanged couple of emails with their staff, asking the reasons and how it should be – if you confirmed the order, you should deliver the book, otherwise you might loose some customers.

BTW! It has been more than a month, I believe, they are yet to refund the money for the order they could not complete :-)

Having said all (positive and negative experience), I feel, overall, it looks good to me. That one instance is out of 10, so I am going to continue trying them

What I am up to?

I feel like posting, what I have been doing, actually a lots of things on business side – hiring, finance, business-development, etc.

We are doing good in business, I believe, it’s because of our diversified service offerings and our team of talented designers and developers, who are agile, quick and fast learner.

A great culture is an important thing, in fact, it’s very important. That’s why, we have been very focused on building the same in our office here. When I look back, I see we have achieved things but there is a long way to go.

We are not perfect, for that matter, no one is. The good thing, we are aware of our limitations and strengths, hence, we are constantly working on it. I hope, a constant effort would improve things day by day.

We are planning to have some more people in our team, so I have been interviewing developers from different parts of country. We acknowledge, it’s hard to get smart guys stay in Kanpur or get developers from outside of city. But we think, if we share our vision and what we want to do and have been doing, a lot of developers do see things differently, then location becomes secondary thing.

BTW! Kanpur is not as great place to live as Bangalore, Pune, Mumbai, etc are. But it does have good things – less hectic life, earning/expenses ratio is higher here, etc.

According to Paul Graham’s essay, bad-location is/could-be one of reasons for startups’ failure. It is true, location does matter for many things (not just hiring), but we have chosen to be where we are now, and I think, we have figured out how to achieve things here, we are just getting better at it day by day. But yeah, we do miss things – events, barcamps, apple-store, crowd, talent, etc. Who knows, someday Kanpur would have all that and who knows, we might have played a good role in that process :-)

A lot of people have asked me, why I am not active lately in Adobe Flash Platform (i.e. Flash/Flex/AIR) stuff? Well, it’s different phase of life, where I am focusing on other things that would enable us to do a lot of great things that include stuff for Adobe Flash Platform.

I am also busy doing a good project, which does have some challenging work (web dev + flash platform). Also busy doing some hacking once in a while, which is trying to use technology to improve my productivity – like home media/filer server, vpn at office, boxee, etc.

We are looking for some smart guys – interaction-designers, flash-platform-developer and web-developer. If you know someone, who doesn’t not mind working from Kanpur, want to work on cool stuff, want to part of our team and help us achieving the visions/goals we have. Please let us know (abdul dot qabiz at gmail dot com). Thanks.