Sunday, October 31, 2010


So a colleague of mine from China came for a business trip to Singapore. Being a gracious host, I volunteered to show him around Singapore. Like every tourist that visits a new place, he wanted to go shopping and he wanted to buy the HTC Desire.

Being the law abiding citizens that we generally are, I took him to the known and trusted electronics mall in Singapore. The prices there, were obviously high and he wanted to look for something cheap. So we went to another mall. And that is where our ordeal started.

Don’t wanna narrate the entire incident. But it sure was nasty. I have never in my life heard racial slurs (on my face!) about me and my country. I have been mistaken to be a Mexican and an Iranian before. This time I got cursed for being a Bangladeshi (yeah so I didn’t feel that bad). The shop keepers were two heavily built tattooed men with tattoos all over their body including their face. After having treating me that way and intimidating me, I walked out of the shop. But my colleague persisted. While waiting for him outside, I casually typed the shop’s name on Google, in my phone. To my horror, I read this, this and this.

Not only have they been treating their customers very very bad, but they also have been conning them for more than a year. The oldest complaint about them being in May 2009. Its ironic that they still follow the exact same tactic to fool their customers.

After reading the three stories, I decided to brave it out and join my colleague inside. I had to get him outta there. I could read the shop attendants like a movie script now. They did exactly the same set of things that other people on those forums have mentioned. To explain a story in short, my colleague was being “forced” to buy a phone that they earlier quoted $650 for $1265. And they held on to his passport which my trusting colleague had handed over to them for “unlocking” the phone!

The funny part is, a casual phone call by me to another of my friend to come and help us out kinda scared them (he was supposed to meet us at some other place, but we got stuck here so I had to call him up!). I got further cursed and was taunted that they weren’t afraid of anyone. To show how important they are, the guy just threw my colleagues’ passport and credit card on the floor.

If there is one thing I have learnt after seeing numerous martial arts films over my childhood is – when in fear – run. You can caress your ego later. The moment he threw the card and passport, I dived for it on the floor, picked it up and ran away as if I was being chased by a lion. Luckily my colleague (who was reasonably scared now!) followed me as well.

That was the end of a very horrific experience in one of the safest countries in the world. I am truly appalled that they can do the same thing for more than a year and still get away with it. Being threatened by a monkey is one thing, but being threatened to buy a product that you don’t want is completely nerve-wracking.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Smell like a man!

So what do you do on a sleepless Thursday night? Yeah, browse around YouTube seeing useless videos. Now that I have had my share of videos tonight, I thought I write a blog post about two of them before I go to my bed to toss and turn.

For me, Old Spice reminds me of old people. Its got to do with the fact that it has been around for as long as I have known the concept of an “After Shave”. So if I want to pretend to be young and macho, I shy away from Old Spice. Then, if you are the Sales and Marketing guy for Old Spice what do you do? You come up with an amazingly stupid advertisement that uses Twitter and YouTube, and you got sleepless people sit the entire weekday night going through the videos. I loved the advertisements. They are funny, and they make you wanna go buy the brand again (kudos Old Spice!) . If you have all the time in the world then you should go to this YouTube Channel and watch the rest of them. Else just be happy with this one…

And then imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And if Sesame street does it, it just gets better. So here is Grover from Sesame Street teaching us the word “on” by mimicking the Old Spice man.

And why did I put the Sesame street video here? Well because, I am still a great fan of Elmo and his friends (if you are patient enough, please sit and listen to Elmo’s interview below!) and in the video, Grover is sitting on a cow in the end. And long time readers should always remember my respect for cows here and here :) !! So if I spot a cow, you can rest assured that she is gonna appear on my blog!

And finally if you are too old to remember your muppets its time to go to this webpage and revise them all. I am gonna ask you questions next time when we meet!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Beginner’s guide to a BarCamp

I thoroughly enjoyed leeching at the third BarCamp of my life for the last 2 days, and it kinda made me feel guilty. Everyone who attends a BarCamp more than once is expected to contribute (be a speaker/ presenter or volunteer), but I have practically done nothing. So I thought I write a small 101 post about what a BarCamp is all about.

Each time that I tell some of you that I am going for a BarCamp, I get only 2 types of funny questions:

  1. Is it like a drinking (alcohol) camp?
  2. Is it a camp where lawyers meet? (Apparently the word Bar can only remind us of 2 things – a shady place where we all drink, or uptight lawyers!)

So what exactly is a BarCamp? The official definition says “A BarCamp is an informal gathering of people interested in startups, technology, education, media, travel and popular culture. We talk about the projects we are working on and try to learn from each other”. Its what the geeks call an “unconference”.

For me BarCamp is a place where there is no agenda, nothing planned other than the venue. Then on the day of the BarCamp excellent orators, thinkers, geeks, motivators arrive from all over the world and magically let lesser mortals like me explore other things in life than the ordinary. Every thing about the camp is amazing and captivating. Frankly speaking, its not really a technology-only conference. And best of all its free!

So how does a BarCamp start? Typically the organizers (group of motivated individuals like him) put up a blog post or tweet about the event. Then everyone signs up (the last 3 BarCamps I attended have had close to 500 sign-ups each). On the day of the BarCamp, everyone reaches the place. People who want to talk or share put up their topics on a board or post it notes. Everyone else votes for their favourite topics. The topics with most votes are then allocated rooms and people interested in listening/discussing about those topics go to the designated rooms. The entire day is organized this way. Its an excellent example of how people with diverse backgrounds can come together and have a very lively discussion about topics of their interest.

And what if you voted for an idea that you thought was good, but when you actually went to the discussion you found it boring? Well, there kicks in the “two-feet” rule. If you don’t like something, you are allowed to walk out on your two feet in the middle of the discussion with no social-stigma attached to it. How cool is that?

Here is a photo summary of the event:

The BarCamp Venue

The BarCamp was held in the National Art Gallery in Singapore this time.

The topics for the morning session The topics for the afternoon session

The list of topics that were selected along with the timeslots allotted to them. We had 4 rooms titled A, B, C, D this time. Each talk was scheduled for half an hour.

The Voting stickers 

Our voting stickers. If you like a topic on the Post-It then put your sticker. These stickers were then counted to select the topics.

Interesting non-tech topic How to be a kick-ass lover!

For people who think that BarCamp is all tech, here are excellent examples of the interesting topics that people present on. The guy who founded the “Standing Sushi Bar” in Singapore told us about his experiences in operating a profitable restaurant part-time while doing his full-time job in Microsoft!

And then this guy talked about how to be a good lover :) !! He actually had researched on the types of emotions that go into love and gave an interesting scientific perspective on love!

There were other interesting talks on education, food, fun, OLPC, travelling etc etc.

And while the entire thing is going on, super lively conversations are going on on Twitter as people blog, post pictures and tweet about the event. You can still read what all was tweeted during my last BarCamp over here.

This is a short introduction to BarCamp. I hope you guys attend the next one coming near where you live! And if there isn't any, then its high-time you volunteer to start one. I can’t imagine any other place where you can get so much information on so many varied topics from so many interesting people!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

How to make your mom use Ubuntu?

I keep talking about open source and free software all the while. And I always felt guilty that my own computer at home had Windows XP installed on it. The problem with switching to another OS was – there are other people at home (read my mom!) that use my computer and they are not really comfortable doing the switch. But these days Ubuntu is so easy to use that I finally gathered the guts and did it. So here is a step-by-step method to do it:

  1. Sneakily download Ubuntu. If you have a slow internet connection, download it overnight. Then create a USB Installer.
  2. Tip-toe into the room where your computer is kept. Ninja costumes recommended for added stealth. Make sure that you hide the USB stick from plain sight.
  3. Boot through the USB disk. Preview. Install. If someone comes into the room, switch off screen and go “La-la-lala-la” as if you are enjoying your day.
  4. After installation is done, go back to your normal clothes, do your normal stuff and pretend that everything is normal.
  5. When your mom finally boots the computer and calls you because the computer looks “different” – feign ignorance. (I still haven’t figured why I am blamed for every little thing that goes wrong or stops working in my house!).
  6. Casually look at the computer screen and say “Oh! Hmm, I upgraded the computer today". “The new version of Windows is titled Ubuntu”. Show her how things have been moved around and some things have been “changed”.
  7. Show her the “latest” game – Mahjong. Guide her through the first game to make sure that she gets addicted to it.
  8. Done. Welcome to Linux nirvana.

Jokes apart  the moment my mom boot into Ubuntu, the first question she asked was “Is this the OS sponsored by that South African guy you keep talking about?”

Now she happily plays Mahjong along with her usual favorites – Free Cell, Hearts and Solitaire. She also browses the internet, checks email and listens to music without any issues whatsoever. Thank you Ubuntu.

Ubuntu - Linux for Human Beings!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

More learning

I am back to blogging. And before I start with my usual yapping, I kinda felt I should pen a summary of some “new” things I learnt in the last couple of months.

  1. You have absolutely NO control over anything. Whatever you think you are “planning” is just an illusion of control. It’s more like you are “hoping”.
  2. You are good to someone because you cannot be bad. There is no such thing as Karma. So if you are being good because you believe in “cause & effect” then stop.
  3. In the bigger order of things your existence or the absence of it doesn’t matter.
  4. Love is an extremely irrational emotion that makes you do absolutely illogical things.

Probably most of whatever I wrote here wont make sense to you. And frankly speaking I hope it doesn’t.