Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Customer Service...can blogs make a difference?

Maybe it can, specially if you take the case of Jeff Jarvis who has launched an attack against Dell regarding their poor customer service from his blog after he got a 'lemon'! Read more about this here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Google Talk...all talk?

I downloaded Google Talk the first day it came out and was quite surprised with what i found. When you have been using msn/yahoo for ages and now skype for a year, you are literally taken aback with a ripped-down version of a IM/VoIP software.

Lets see what it lets you do:
1. Like msn (earlier) and yahoo the users need to have an email (gmail) to chat. But while gmail is on invite it lets you invite the person you wanna chat with. So that takes care of that.
2. Voice is pretty good. I chatted on it with people in US/Canada and it was as good or better than skype at times.
3. No advertisements or tabs unlike msn and yahoo
4. Customised messages for online/busy like yahoo (msn does not have it unless you install messenger plus)

And it does not have:
1. Emoticons
2. No conferencing facilities unlike skype (now 4 people at one go)
3. No search facility (i use that seldom though)
4. No call-in facility from normal phones (unlike Skype-In)
5. Font changes
6. Webcam integration
7. File transfer facility
and more...

so basically why...
1. Is there such a hype about this software?
2. Is there a genuine threat to msn/yahoo/skype and other IM/VoIP players?

1. Have you wondered why you sometimes stick to a brand even though sometimes you are not sure what you are buying? Its a question of brand trust. I first bought a iRiver mp3-cd player and was very impressed with it. So when the ipod hit the market i decided to wait and then buy the iRiver version (which is far better as far as functionality is concerned...might not be as cool to look at a la ipod). Google has become a noun and a verb in the last few years like Xerox. You don't say 'search', you say 'do a google on it' like we still say 'could i get a xerox done please?'. So customers stay with a brand which has been hugely popular across the masses, ages, genders. Everyone is thinking that like google, google talk is the next thing. We would have to wait and watch.

2. I believe this is good for us consumers. On the day google talk was launched, msn came out with its 7.5 version, skype said it would make its software easily available and skype-in methods more viable. All of this to take some hype away from google talk. For google it couldn't have it better. If they are the Japanese, they would love to tear down the IMs and VoIP applications and do a FMEA (Failure Mode & Effect Analysis) - and in course of time give us the best of both worlds (the msns and the skypes). If you look at the list above (the first few things that struck me) of what it does not have, do you truly believe that they can't incorporate the same??? I would be a total jackass if i thought so. So there must be a method to this madness of minimalism. We would again have to wait and watch. Btw both gmail and google talk are Betas...lets see what's the first non-beta version they come out with.

If you would like to read more on google talk:
Wired Review
Techwhack Review
ZDNet Review
Some tips (some of them are quite lame though)

And yes, if would like to use google talk and don't have gmail, leave me your email on the comment and I'll send you an invite.

10 most expensive music videos!!!

I was surfing through the net and guess what I found...videos which take more than $1.5 million to make (thats the lowest of the top 10 btw). Thats almost like the budget for some movies in India!!! Go figure.

When MTV launched on August 1, 1981, the first music video it played was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. What an awful video. In those days, all a music video needed was jiggly girls in bikinis, big hair, fast cars, and if you were lucky, jiggly girls with big hair driving fast cars. No huge costs, just a little something to complement the listening experience.
Then came along Michael Jackson's "Thriller" in 1983. "Thriller" wasn't a music video, it was a full-fledged crotch-grabbing experience. At 14 minutes long, "Thriller" suddenly opened the doors of creativity, proving that a music video could be more about the video and less about the music. Today, companies will spend millions of dollars to make a 3-minute video (most of it spent on computer animation and huge sets).
Anyways here is the link.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Backup your Firefox settings

Its happened to me and happened to my bro a few days back. Firefox started and there were no bookmarks, no nothing. Sometimes it happens with an upgrade. So this a good tool to backup your Firefox settings. So next time something happens, run this and restore it!

Gavaskar as super-sub?

What the fuck were they thinking???? I just had to get away from the TV and come here; just cant see the self-destruction any more! The Indian team's score-card looks like a phone number:

Maybe they should send Gavaskar as a super-sub even at his age; am sure he would have more sense in seeing out the new ball and not playing like they needed 8 runs of the last 3 balls or something. We were in the hunt of the first team to be bowled out within the first 15 overs....that would have been absolutely neat...we can't even last 20 overs...maybe they should invent 15/15 for India (instead of 20/20). Last I checked they had somehow reached 100 thanks to Pathan and JP Yadav. And we pay money to watch this kinda games??!!! Maybe we should start boycotting Indian games...unfortunately I'm the eternal optimist hoping that India would do the impossible...but even I'm thinking I should stick to football...ManUtd wasn't that great last year but they fight...can the Indian team say the same thing??? You decide.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Champions League Draw 2005-06

The draw just got over at Monaco and the biggest news out of it is Liverpool's bunched with Chelsea as a lot of people had feared. Not too much of a surprise otherwise. ManUtd is drawn with Villareal which means a return to Old Trafford for Diego Forlan. Should be an exciting league yet again this year. Matches start 13/14th September. Here are the fixtures.

The Season Begins...

Its a couple of weeks into the new season (EPL) and there are some early indications.

Chelsea has started off slowly, scraping up two 1-0 wins before demolishing West Brom yesterday. But that was quite expected. The thing is if they play as badly as they did against Arsenal, the title looks like a longshot. But with the money that they have spent their options have increased. They can play the usual 4-4-2 or play a 4-1-3-1-1 formation with Makelele doing the defensive midfielder's role. Duff/Robben/Shaun-Wright/Joe Cole gives Mourinho a lot of options behind Drogba/Crespo/Gudjohnsen. Their forwards are the weakest link I think. Horno is a good buy at left back.

Arsenal has also had a quiet start other the Fulham match last night. But all said and done, sans Viera the midfield looks a bit suspect with Flamini as a second half option for Fabregas. Henry and Pires are still holding up the team; if they have a bad day, so does Arsenal. The good signs are that in form of Van Persie (who is proving to be quite a volatile player) and Hleb (who has fitted in immediately).

ManUtd is actually looking good after the league and UEFA qualifiers. Rooney and Nistelrooy looks to be a good pair up front with the former just playing behind the latter. Park has been quite energetic and gives Fergie more options along the flank. Ronaldo's looking sharp as well. The defense looks more settled with the other Van in goal. Silvestre is still the weakest link i feel.
Last night's qualifier was quite well played, given the state of the pitch. Was quite a professional display and Smithie has shown signs of playing the midfield role pretty well. Richardson sent a scorcher to the back of the net...I feel he is gonna be a regular on the left wing in a couple of seasons. Needs to add a lil' more muscle and get more first team chances, which is why i felt another West Brom stint wouldn't have done any harm this season (even for half a season).

Liverpool's looking a ghost of the side that won the UEFA champions league last time around. Its become a Gerrard show...remember it was an Owen show before that...they rely too heavily on one player; though Alonso and Garcia are doing the part to shine as well. Forwards are a problem here too with Baros leaving, Cisse being a disappointment so far, Owen not looking likely to come back on a loan. Defense reserves is pretty thin too, a long season with injuries can end their hopes.

Newcastle is just rubbish right now...whome did they sell off?? Lets see...Lauren Robert, Bellamy, Viana...and no one seems to be excited to join them. What was Souness thinking????

The team to look out for this season would be West Ham. They have done well so far, beating the Pompies by 2 goals.

My prediction for relegation this season would be: Portsmouth, Wigan, Sunderland (they look a mess, and they were the champions last season!)

But again, its too early...we will look at this post around Christmas and figure out the realistic chances of the above three.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Customer companies really mean it???

I don't know about others but for me customer service is as essential as buying the product itself. And unfortunately its all a big joke to most of the companies. Most of the time I'm yelling at mobile service providers and banks; most of the agents at their end are quite in-adept at handling any queries or helping in solving the problem. Their usual rant is 'I'm sorry, I understand but I can't help you.' Go figure that one!!! On one hand we stand on roof tops and shout about us being the best service providers and all business should come to India and we have these cases where we Indians are harassed more than often. Its a question of do you wanna take it lying down or you wanna make some noise. Everytime I have adopted the latter, things do get done that something about our not quite sure!!!

One of the cases was with Airtel (one of the favourite companies to be bashed about as regards to their service). It had been a problem with their DSL connection which I got a raw deal in. First they sent the cheque back with the wrong name. So i went personally. They said they would send it to my office (left a business card so that name and address couldn't be misplaced). Then when I call back they say, 'Oh weren't you coming to pick it up?!' I got pissed and went there again only to be told that one of the signatories was out for the i raised hell and told them point blank I wasn't leaving till I got my cheque back or I spoke to the Customer Services Head. In exactly half and hour the cheque appeared out of thin air. So i told the lady whether things don't happen unless the customer screams at them, to which she gave me her biggest smile! I was astounded at their attitude. Since then I have totally disassociated myself with anything that has to do with Airtel.

There would be atleast one person in our work area per week who would be screaming at them over the phone, then swearing to change to Hutch/Reliance but what about the change in number??? Thats the biggest worry. I think that its a myth. I have changed numbers when I was absolutely pissed off with Airtel. In a week's time everyone had my new number and it was business as usual. And touchwood, no problems with Hutch so far.

The next was the problem with my DVD writer. Though I had bought it only in May of this year, I was suprised that even after 12 days it wasn't fixed. So i was back to giving hell. I mailed the head of the country for the product division and the problem was solved in a couple of days! Makes me wonder if they take all their customers so lightly; that unless you create a noise they really do not have to care!!!

But on the other hand there have been exceptions to this rule. Contary to feedback, Dell has been at its best with its customer service. The service has been prompt and if there had been any mistake on their part they have either apologised or not charged for the same. Same goes for HSBC, which I feel has the best customer service in India. You do not have to guess which is the worst one...Citibank of course!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Blu-Ray or HD-DVD???

The future of DVD has been in question. The industry debate has been goin on for sometime and talks were headed towards adopting one of them (Blu-Ray or HD-DVD format) for the road ahead. But now it looks like its back to square one. Melissa J. Perenson has this informative article on Digit as regards to the progress so far and the future ahead.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

RIP: Hand-pulled rickshaws?

The news is that the hand-pulled rickshaws are to be banned in Kolkata. Hindustan Times carried this report.

Timesonline writes more:

Authorities in West Bengal state, ruled by Communists since 1977, say that they want to stop the “human indignity” of this form of transport. They have been trying to phase out the hand-pulled rickshaws over the past decade. They banned them from the city’s main streets three years ago but many residents consider them to be cheap and convenient for short journeys in a crowded city that floods frequently.

They were introduced for carrying goods to Calcutta in the late 19th century by Chinese traders. The British administration allowed them to flourish and, in 1919, permitted them to carry passengers. The announcement of the ban came as India celebrated 58 years of independence.

While they get banned from Kolkata, they have started plying in New York of all places! These are made in China and being used as part of the city tour. You can find more here.

Lunch for two? That'll be £324

The Guardian reports that a meal for 2 at the Umu restaurant in Mayfair, London could set you back 324 quid. This could be the most expensive meal!!! How much did you shell out? Read more here.

Monday, August 15, 2005

me, the beanbag and 3 remotes!

this weekend turned out to be just what i needed. i was actually supposed to be in mumbai for this weekend with handa, aloke and kan but with the backlog of passengers i wasn't able to get a seat. so wat was the alternative? doin nuthin...and thats exactly wat i did...did go out on sat for lunch (shewetha's bday) but then came home and parked my ass on my fave beanbag in front of the TV for the start of the football season. ManUtd won and I was happy that the weekend was turnin out to be good so far. Sunday and Monday i was home with the beanbag and the 3 remotes (tv, dvd, music system)...and kept alternating between the matches and the seasons of 24. Last night i finished watching the first 2 seasons and i was damn kicked!!! While watching it, Sid and Belf became addicted to it as well...hahaha...its quite well made and is worse watchin on dvd...u can't stop for a week then...u keep playing the next one! In between all this we ordered pizza, i helped myself to some baileys...was a shame that i couldn't drink any beer due to my sore throat! So all in all a damn good weekend with my remotes and my beanbag!!

Friday, August 12, 2005

What am i listening to this week?

1. Coldplay - Talk
2. Alphaville - Big in Japan
3. John Farnham - You're the voice
4. Massive Attack - Teardrop
5. Chris Rea - Road to hell

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Colombo Experience

As promised am back to blog my fantastic weekend away at Colombo.

I left on Friday taking the 5pm Shatabdi Express to Chennai. I think others would agree this is the best way to get to Chennai (if you have 4-5 hours to spare). Got in around 10pm and proceeded to the guest house where i crashed as soon as my uncle turned up (he was flying in from Delhi). We were up and about early the next morning, reaching the airport around 8ish. The Cox and Kings agent met us and handed over the tickets. So we got our money changed and got into the A340 that was gonna fly us to Colombo. The funniest part is that Sri Lankan Airlines has the worst in-flight cooling system...maybe they were preparing us for the heat that awaited us in Colombo. And their personal TV didn't show any programs which the in-flight magazine suggested it should (for the trip from Chennai to Colombo). Anyways, we reached Colombo and had a Lancer waiting for us which took us to the Beach hotel (distance from airport was 40km!).

We had made up our minds to feast on some prawns so we pleaded with the hotel guys to arrange the curry (they initially said that they were well past closing time for lunch as we got there around 3-3:30pm. The waiter chit-chatted with us for sometime...the discussion was about cricket and he said 'I don't support any particular Sri Lankan cricketer...we support the team as a whole'. Maybe he was a misnomer, but that would be totally opposite of what we do in India...we love to support a Yuvi, a Kaif, a Dravid...bring out the fangs for a Ganguly, a Laxman.
But what i noticed is that Sri Lankans enjoy their cricket a lot but there is less of the fanaticism which you see in India and Pakistan.

The lunch and beer ensured that the afternoon siesta continued late in the evening...when we finally decided to hit Colombo town. Took the AC bus which has an interesting sitting arrangement. There are folding seats next to the aisle. They can be turned into regular seats...the problem is that everytime someone behind wanted to get out, everyone sitting on these would have to get up! Quite interesting nonetheless. Fare was pretty cheap too. It dropped us off in front of the Hilton and we went in. We had got there to check out the Blue Elephant. We then found out that they have a members only plus house-guests entry policy. So we met the Manager (Mr. Neelanta) who was kind enough to let us in. Not only did he waive off the entry charges (SL Rs.500 per head) he joined us for a drink and bought us 2 rounds of beer. We tried Lion beer...which is quite light and nice. I have had a chance to taste quite a few beers around the world and other than a few Belgian beers, Guiness and our fave Kingfisher...very few measure up. I hate scoring but here's something you might wanna check out. Anyways we had a good time at the club and got back pretty late but not before stopping for some parathas and meat! nothing like an early morning snack eh?

The morning i just got stuck into my sausages, baked beans, scrambled eggs with hot croissants...and soon John came calling from Indian Oil. He handles branding and came across as a very nice and articulate man. We got into the car and pushed off to the stadium where we were taken to lunch...we happened to bump into Ian Bishop and Ian Chappell...we said our hi and hellos and then I made my way to the Grand Stand while my uncle went to the pitch for the toss with the 2 captains. And he rubbed his luck onto Dravid who won the toss!!!

Was quite a good match (if you take out the fact that Sehwag and Laxman disappointed again and Saurav had to go off)...Kaif and Yuvi played great knocks with a lil' help from Dhoni at the end to take us to 262. I kept telling my uncle we would win...but he was quite unsure and frankly we made a meal to win the match...but a win was a win and we got to the final. The best part was to sit out there...drink away the beers...and finally see India win. My last 2 experiences at Bangalore ended up with India losing to Australia (one-day and test match).

Funnily enough we had almost run out of SL Rupees so we really had to check out all our pockets to come out with enough money for KFC biriyani ( sure you also didn't know they served that eh?)!!!

Next morning we were off shopping...we went to House of Fashion - which is a good place to pick up clothes on the cheap...shorts (very good quality) come for as less as SL Rs. 195...Provogue shirts come for SL Rs. 650...all brands like Diesel, Lacoste, Hilfiger, Boss etc etc...I guess tey could be seconds but is quite a deal when you convert back to INR. Few stops later we ended up at Odel which again houses all brands. You might also find some made in india tags! While shopping we bumped into Kaif, Srinath and Saurav...we were carrying the Indian Team t-shirt and they obliged with autographs and also a few pics...unfortunately could not get a pic with dada as he was almost mobbed and had to get a pic of him with my uncle though. Next stop was Majestic City where i just splurged on DVDs...picked up all seasons of CSI, 24, The Shield...came to around INR 90 per thats even cheaper than National Market in Bangalore. So you know where to head out next time you are in Colombo!!!

So after all the shopping we got dropped off at the airport where my uncle had to buy an extra bag to put his stuff thanks to the shopping! We had quite a whirlwind trip....but i did tell myself that i would get back there...its quite a nice country and we didn't even see Kandy and one more trip coming up soon in the future i hope!!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Chilled out Colombo

a few comin up soon!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Adidas buying Reebok

Thats what Reuters says.
So all's set for a shakeup in this market with Nike being the only other big competitor. This could be fun!

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

when it pours eh?

no i'm not talking abt mumbai rains...talkin abt what's happenin at my end.
first the free colombo weekend getaway happened out of nowhere, and now my super-boss has agreed on me working abroad for a longish time things are looking up...maybe for a change i've been patient and let things happen around me and not gone chasing after them (they didn't work out last time and ended being an extended exchange trip!). This time, this could very well work out and with my parents and bro gonna be in toronto for sometime, this couldn't have happened at an opportune moment. So here goes...touch wood! Maybe I should try buying a lottery ticket this week eh?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Owen to Manutd?

Well that could be good news for ManUtd fans because the ball has not been seeing the back of the net like previous seasons and Rudd really struggling. And stories suggest that money is on the table for Fergie to spend.

But I'm wondering if we need a striker or some one like Essien to fill up Keano's shoes. Or maybe Fergie's gonna make Smithie do that job. Coz that guy does remind everyone of Keano (and he's young as well and i just love when he tackles the defenders!). The talk also doing the rounds is that Ballack could be another prospective target but if I was Fergie I would go pick Essien as he is younger while Ballack is close to his peak now. You wouldn't get any money back from a Ballack sale later while Essien (if he walks out later) could be give a greater return on the investment.

I would even stick my neck out to ask for a good defender because I don't give too many points to Silvestre...Brown's better. Neville's struggles to run back and he's not getting any younger. Two young kids have gone on season long loans who I would assume I would see a lot of in the first team in the next year or two. Spector has the speed and toughness for a full back (needs to get more first team exposure and gain some muscle..which he would get in his loan term). Chris Eagles would also benefit in his role as a winger from his loan. He could then be made to use as a backup to Ronaldo/Park in the years to come and he could surprise us all by pushing for a first team place himself. But all said and done, the defense was not a problem (we let in a few more than Chelski) scoring goals was. So I would not be suprised if Fergie gets Owen instead of Essien/Ballack. Lets see....season starts in less than a fortnight...Aug 13 is near!