Monday, December 31, 2012

5 things to do before the new year

I bet all of you are now geared up for 2013. Your resolutions in place and party plans in order, you are just waiting for the the clock to strike 12 to take on 2013 with a bang. But as you wait for the new year to come there are still a few hours of 2012 that can be put to some productive use. So here is the list of 5 things that I am planning to do before 1.1.2013.

  1. Clean-up – Regular readers of my blog are aware of my obsession with frugal living. Today is a good time to go through your wardrobe and look at all the clothes that you have not used for the entire of 2012 (I bet you have some). Now take all these clothes and classify them into two groups – To donate or To Use. The ones marked “to donate” go drop off the clothes at your local charity today. And the ones marked “to use” line them up to be used in the first week of January. That way you have a pseudo-new wardrobe without buying new clothes!
  2. Donate – I know we all wish to donate. We are very charitable human beings at heart. But when it comes to going through the process of donation, it’s a hassle. So now that you have time, go donate to your favorite charity or open source project. If you need help, here is a short list of projects you may wish to help:
  3. Contact that person – Everyone of us has a long lost friend, colleague or relative who we have been wanting to call, email or drop a message for a long time now. Today is a good time to do that. Go pick up the call and wish that person a happy new year, you might just end up making someone’s day!
  4. Buy – Today is 31st December. For most businesses today is a Financial year end (or at least a quarter end). Everyone wants to close their books in the black and show profits. You may wanna try your luck at bargaining and get a good deal on the car, house, laptop, bed, wardrobe that you have been eyeing!
  5. Change your passwords – Finally, today is a good day to logout off all the websites that you are perennially logged in (yeah your Google, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Foursquare account). Clear all your internet history (yeah all the delicious cookies have been tracking every move of yours on the internet, good idea to get rid of them once a while!). Finally, set new passwords for all your frequently used accounts.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bye bye doomsday

Okay. Its past 12 and we are on the other side of the Mayan doomsday. Yeah some parts of the world are still not, but being self-centric, I will give that a go. I waited and waited and waited. But the world never ended. All the prophesies and Hollywood movies and tonnes of conspiracy theories passed by in a whimper.

Luckily, after the Y2K problem more than 12 years ago, I have learnt to ignore such prophesies. So I didn’t really prepare for this day to be any different. Imagine, had I taken the Mayan’s seriously, I would have partied like there was no tomorrow, spent all my money and had a gala time, only to realize that I have to live another day. My theory of living life like a project with a definite end-date and all scheduled backwards would have gone haywire.

Anyway, now we start living our mundane life till the next doomsday passes us by. NASA was so sure that nothing is gonna happen today that they made a video about it and released it on YouTube more than 2 weeks ago!

Why the world didn’t end yesterday?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pre-meet spying

My current job requires me to go meet strangers all the while. I end up collecting a lot of name cards and haven't yet figured out what to do with them. Whoever thought (including me) that plain old name-cards are dead trees and a relic of the past hasn't really done business in Asia. In this part of the world, we still completely rely on exchanging name cards to introduce ourselves.

Anyway, over the past several months I have figured out that it pays to do your homework on the person you are going to meet. Generally before a meeting, I have the name of the person and many times the company that he/she works for. There are two distinct aspects of research that "need" to be done before that meeting. (And I am not discounting the work that you need to put in for the content of the meeting (yeah - presentations, demos, proposals etc.)).

  1. Research the Organization
    Unfortunately for me, most organizations that I work with are small and medium businesses. So I got no access to quality annual reports. But still, most companies have trails of their digital footprints lying around all over the internet. Besides the company website (that you have to completely devour - yeah, search the sitemap and go through each and every link however mundane it looks!), I get valuable information about the company in the news, conference websites, software company success stories, vendor websites etc. Though it sounds lame - a quick and dirty 5 forces of the industry that the organization works in actually helps!
  2. Research the person
    Its amazing how much we share online these days. Most of the times, I have access to surprising amount of information about the person I am going to meet. Besides, if I engage in certain amount of tactical background searching it goes a long way in carrying out a meaningful conversation with the person. All of us have had our 15 seconds of fame in our past life and internet with its long memory, manages to really store it well. I have discovered people’s academic achievements, marathon timings, sports medals, their non-profit associations and on one occasion even a criminal record. And this is besides the tonnes of professional and personal information which is almost readily available on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I do not know if all this research really pays off. The only way it helps is - I have a fairly good understanding of the organization that I am working with and of the person that I am meeting.

If you are gregarious and friendly probably this entire piece of advice is useless for you. You can probably strike a conversation with a cow standing on the road. But for a person like me who all his life has only courted computers, knowing a person before meeting him/her really helps. Most of the times, I can at least try break the ice cause I already know a lot about the person I am speaking with. I just need to be careful not to freak the person out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Yeah. The next time we get that is 01.01.01. That is 01st January 2101. 88 years from now. This blog will not exist (Well, now that I think of it - data storage should be so cheap by then that we would have archived all the garbage we have ever generated on the internet!) I won't exist. Most of my current readers (you guys) would have got really busy with living your geriatric life to the fullest.

I thought it would be really cool to get a blog post up today to commemorate this occasion. I am sure its trite and meaningless, but well that's the way I am! Hope you guys try to make this day memorable.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Women’s KPI

Women in general and moms in particular are born with a KPI wired into them. The KPI simply put is – “Feed Men”. So sons, nephews, husbands, uncles and every other relation get fed till they burst at their seams. When we were poor and food was scarce, I am sure this was a nice survival strategy. So men were fed a lot when there was abundance of food so that they could go hunt and bring more food for the family. Or if the men were farmers they would go toil hard in the sun so that they had a good crop – to feed their families.

Nowadays with the abundance of food (at least in the supermarkets), this KPI no longer makes sense. However someone has to still rewire the women. Men no longer toil. I mean the last time a man like me toiled was when I changed my car tire! And that was like more than a year ago! The average guy who “toils” in front of his computer for like 10-12 hours a day should not only be starved, but women should make them run around at home so that they at least burn a few calories.

Feeding men with abundance of good food not only makes them fat, but also makes them unhealthy. I know this post sounds a bit like stereotyping women. Well, in my experience – I have never fed someone “a lot” however good food I made or bought. For men, its like – this is food – this is the plate – you want, you eat, else I put in my refrigerator and eat that same stuff for the next one week. No love KPI here.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Waste Size

I never bought a pair of Levi’s jeans. Not because they are expensive (yeah, by my standards they are!) but simply because the label above the back pocket prominently displays not only the length of my legs, but also the size of my waist.

Levi Strauss Label

No man my size in the right frame of his mind will ever want to show off his waist size! I mean 135 years ago may be, men thought discussing about their waist size was cool. I can imagine old saloons, in which a macho man would walk in and announce his waist size and the bartender would give him a seat and all. But these days, the only thing I might proudly announce is the memory size of my smartphone. And announcing that too wont get me anywhere.

Brad Pitt Levi’s Commercial - 1991

It’s one thing to be Brad Pitt and flaunting your well toned abs in a Levi’s 501. But its totally uncool to be Girish and showing off your waist size while you desperately try to suck your breathe in so that your stomach doesn’t rollover the top of the jeans and fold them awkwardly.

Anyway, I think I waited enough for Levi’s to change their labelling. They are sticking to their tradition. I got one today, and I am gonna strategically cover my butt with a t-shirt so that you can’t see my size. I might pretend to be cool and all, but now you know why I don't tuck in.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


If there is one life skill that I seriously lack is – bargaining. Well, not that I am very good at other skills, but I have always got the raw end of a price negotiation whether I am a buyer or a seller.

This one time, when I tried to get rid of my furniture while moving countries, I not only gave away my almost new and absolutely well maintained table for peanuts, but also the new owner made me ship (drive) it to his place. And then each time I try bargaining the only discount that I have ever gotten is – pennies. Its generally so  bad, that I might have as well not bargained to save face.

Anyway, over the years I have become increasingly weary of bargaining so much so that, I just plain avoid places where I might have to get into a verbal tussle and haggle on price. However yesterday I was caught in an unfortunate situation where the only option I had was to bargain and buy a product.

In my quest to live a healthier life, there is this vest that I have been eyeing for a while. Yesterday I happened to see it being sold at a Tradeshow. The difficult bit was – it was being sold by a Chinese lady.

Russell Peters–Indians vs Chinese

However hard I try, I can’t hide my looks and my accent. So boldly I approached her and asked for the price. Having had a very nice conversation with a Chinese lady before, I was sure I could pull this bargain off.

Now, I have heard from other seasoned shoppers that the trick to bargaining is to stick to your base and not be perturbed by any antics that the seller pulls off on you. To compensate for our ridiculous accents and our inability to understand each other, she pulled out a calculator and started typing numbers to indicate the offer price. Then I took over and I gave my number. This went on for a while and I could see that she was visually very upset. Finally after what seemed eternity, I successfully managed to get the price down by 10%. Imagine 10 whole percentage points! I was very happy and walked away grinning with my prized vest.

Today I wore it to the office. One of my colleagues asked me the price I got it for. Then he showed me a website which lists its original price. I am never ever gonna ever bargain again.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Drink Sweat

I have been fascinated by this isotonic drink Made in Japan. It is called Pocari Sweat. It was introduced in the 1980s. Enough internet-ink has already been spilled over having the rather odd “Sweat” in its name. I mean, people would generally not associate “Sweat” with a drink, but well, as I said before, enough people have already ridiculed the use of sweat. The counter argument is – in Japanese culture – sweat has a rather neutral connotation as it is associated with hard work. Well so be it.

Pocari Sweat

What I have been really interested in has been the first part of the name – Pocari. I always assumed that it had some meaning in Japanese and let it be. However last week curiosity killed the cat and I looked it up online. Apparently the company officials thought “Pocari” would sound cool with the sweat and so they named the drink Pocari Sweat. So its a coined word.

Now mind you. The company behind the drink – Otsuka is no mom and pop shop. Its 2012 revenue was freaking USD 14.05 Billion. That means the company is huge. So huge that they got Cindy Crawford to model for their commercial yeah with a black panther. I can’t figure out what she is trying to do there, but well that's the advertisement. Enjoy.

Cindy Crawford–Pocari Sweat

Anyway coming back to Pocari. Now Pocari suspiciously rhymes with Ocari (yeah just drop the P and say the word out loud – you got it). Ocari in the Marathi language stands for – vomit. Yeah you read it right – puke. And if you think Marathi is a relatively obscure language, well its the 19th most popular language in the world and close to 100 million people speak it. So statistically you ought to know at least one person in your life who knows someone who speaks Marathi (like me!).

I checked out Otsuka’s expansion plans and they seem close to entering into India anytime soon. I wonder how approximately 10% of our population is gonna react to this name.

Pocari Sweat Expansion Plans

Anyway, this obsession has actually made me a Pocari Sweat addict. These days the only isotonic drink that I have is, well, you guessed it right. And while writing this blog, I just popped one can down my throat. Burp. Silly consumer I am.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Having spent countless hours in front of the computer for well over a decade and damaging my eyesight in the process, I decided to get a bit more serious about my health. Yeah, and then age is fast catching up on me, and things that looked trivial a few years ago like waking up one morning and playing badminton like crazy for 2 hours – still to be very fine the next day – have now become impossible.

People who sit for long hours in front of the computer are susceptible to RSI (Repetitive Stress/Strain Injury). The key to prevent RSI is to have a nice posture while you sit in front of the computer and to take regular breaks. Now, sitting with a proper posture may or may not be in every office worker’s hand (at least in this part of the world where investing in ergonomic equipment is the last thing on an organization’s mind). However, if there is one thing that we all can religiously do – is take regular breaks.

What is RSI and what can you do to prevent it?

Though I know that taking breaks is good for my health, when it really comes to taking breaks, I tend to either be lazy or I just forget. So, in the last few months, I have disciplined myself by using an open source softwareWorkrave.

What Workrave essentially does is – at pre-configured intervals – it reminds me to take breaks. And if you configure it well, it can actually blank out your screen from doing something else. At present, I have configured Workrave to make me break for 15 seconds every 15 minutes and then make me take a 3 minute break at the end of the hour. I know these are lower than recommended break times, but better small breaks than no breaks.

After having used it for more than a month, I have realized that now I am regularly taking breaks and stretching, something which I never did that well before.

If you happen to download and use Workrave, two things that I would remind you to configure in Workrave are:

  1. Configure Workrave to “Block input and screen” during breaks so that you don't cheat and continue reading during your breaks!
    Workrave - User Interface Preferences
  2. If your work involves more of reading (or watching YouTube videos) remember to turn on the “Reading mode” (by right-clicking on the cute sheep icon in the notification area of your task bar). That way even if you are not typing or using the keyboard, Workrave will remind you to take breaks.
    Reading Mode

Happy healthy working!

Sunday, October 14, 2012


I have been having this one brand of breakfast Cereals on and off for more than 6 years now. Considering that I eat like 1 box a week and assuming I at least consume 30 boxes a year (costing approximately $7 a box) I have spent more than $1260 on this brand. So much for brand loyalty.

Anyway, last few years I have noticed that they have a white sticker posted on the front-bottom of the boxes and always wondered why they were. My investigative senses made me try to carefully peel the stickers off to have a peak inside (if you don’t want me to see, then I am really interested to see!) but the adhesive they use is so good, that it always managed to tear off the writing beneath it. After a while I gave up, and became a drone doing my morning routine without bothering what the sticker stood for.

Post Shredded Wheat

However, yesterday after so many years, I finally saw a box on my supermarket’s aisle without the sticker. I was exhilarated. I felt like a adolescent seeing porn for the first time. And what did I read? – “No high fructose corn syrup – unlike Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats Bite Size Cereal” on the box. I was mighty disappointed. I mean for last few years you have been hiding this meagre detail from me by putting that big bright white sticker? I mean, all this excitement for nothing?

Anyways, now that I managed to see it, I did my own little research on why it was covered. Apparently, the only place that Post manufactures this brand of Cereals is in the US. Their packaging is also done in the US and from there these boxes are shipped all over the world. Unlike some other brand of cereals (e.g. Quakers) who actually have a different Asia-specific packaging.

In the US – you are allowed to name your competitor in your advertising and most countries in this part of the world, don’t let you name them. So all this while, these white stripes were to comply with local advertising regulation. And – life will never be the same for me again! Anyway to curtail my disappointment (and yours), see the Coke vs Pepsi commercial which shows both brands!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Boxed men

Put a guy and a gal next to each other and it indicates a toilet. Put a bunch of guys standing next to each other inside a box and that indicates an elevator. Ridiculous symbols. Being the pro-feminist I am, I think these symbols are unfair to women. Does this mean women cannot take elevators? Huh? Or does it mean that only women in pants can go in?

Toilets or Elevators?

And why did I have to write a blog post about this? Well, today I was in a hurry to attend nature’s call. Subconsciously I followed the symbol of many men standing in a box as a crowded restroom. Only when I reached the destination I figured I was following directions to an elevator all the time. Not only was that embarrassing, but also it tested my limits of self-control.

I suggest we change the elevator symbols to have all women in a box (or, if we are in Scotland, its all men wearing kilts). That way silly men like me won't follow it and it will show how we respect women and let them take the lifts while we take the stairs.

I always felt that a better symbol for toilets would be showing a man sitting on a toilet (for added effect we could show a trouser crumpled around his ankles). Its unmistakable and no one can ever confuse it for an elevator.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lazy consumers

I have been on twitter since the time I heard about it (around 4 years ago?). But I never really tweeted. 140 characters to express myself is just too less for a talkative guy like me. Also I am not funny enough to sound witty in less words. However, the tweets I found interesting, I did re-tweet them. After a while, I thought I clean up my tweet history and so for major part of the 4 years, my tweeter timeline shows 0 tweets with occasional re-tweets popping up for sometime then going back to 0.

But does that mean I don’t use twitter? NOT at all. I love twitter, its my main source of information after my Google Reader. Everyday religiously, I login to twitter from my phone and read all the tweets, follow links and get my updates. My phone shows that after Facebook (the perennial time drain!) twitter is the app that consumes most of my bandwidth!

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is – not tweeting doesn’t mean that I don’t “use” twitter nor does it mean that my account is “fake” or “spam”. I am very much an active consumer. Twitter for me is like watching TV or YouTube – I don’t produce my own videos or programs but I actively consume it.

Now there are new websites in the wild that classify users into spam or real accounts depending on the following criteria:

“On a very basic level spam accounts tend to have few or no followers and few or no tweets. But in contrast they tend to follow a lot of other accounts”.

That’s unfair and wrong on many accounts and I wanted to protest, till I figured there are people similar to me. 40% of tweeter users actually just read tweets. We are an active part of the ecosystem and twitter happily acknowledges our existence and is trying hard to monetize us. Relieved I am. Now I can be peacefully shy on twitter and be completely worthless on blogger! Sigh the pressures of a social life!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Re-inventing your brand

I have been a Go daddy customer since the day I bought this domain. Not that I am particularly proud of. But at that point in time when I was searching for .in Domain Names, it seemed the easiest to setup, use, configure and pay. And then, not to relive the misery of paying up every year, I paid upfront for 4 years. So I am pretty much stuck with it. I know geeks amongst you would tell me that there is a way to transfer your domain, but well it was too much hassle for me (the “why fix it when its not broken” mentality).

So I silently lived through the ex-CEO Elephant killing saga, I have managed to ignore all the suggestive Go daddy advertisements that became so famous, and then finally I turned a blind-eye to their SOPA debacle followed by the mass exodus of people off Go daddy along with Wikipedia. Last week, they had a major outage in which all of their DNS went down for a couple of hours (which also means my blog URL was not accessible). Looking at the daily traffic that I get on this site, I am sure no-one really had any problem for my site.

Anyway, so today I was seriously considering that I should switch and then I had enough time to sit and figure out this domain transferring thing.

I visited the Go daddy website, and I was amazed to see that they are trying hard to reinvent themselves. The advertisements below sort of suggest that they wish to go away from their flamboyant image, and show their “serious” side. So rather than coming up with a serious campaign straight away, they have put up a bunch of “inside-outside” commercials that look pretty cool. I felt its a good way to show “change” without really ignoring what you earlier stood for.

Since I don’t intend to put the old Go daddy commercials on my blog, and I am sure you are curious what they were. Please go to YouTube and see them for your own pleasure.

I am always impressed by marketing and by companies that try to reinvent themselves (yeah and I am not that brand conscious). So I guess, I will be back to my lazy self, and give them at least few more months to bring about a change.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

F1 Mindmap

I have been using Mind maps to handle anything and everything from To-do lists, Projects, Meeting Agendas, Action Items and Brainstorming. I got introduced to Mind mapping during my MBA when one of my professors used it to arrange his lectures and distribute the topics in a visual cognitive way for us to track and understand new concepts as he introduced in the lecture. I feel Mind maps are super cool if you are able to recall things visually like me. Now, over the years, I tried out many mind mapping tools (like XMind, Freemind etc) and have now settled for an online utility called Mindmeister. Its web-based and you can share your maps, set alerts, take them offline, see them on your phone and do a whole lot of cool things that kinda satisfy all my requirements.

Now, with the F1 race coming to Singapore next week, followed by India in October end, I am sure we all are gonna be focused on F1 over the next few months. However, there have been a lot of driver changes, new teams and new venues in F1 in the last 2 years, and I am sure many of you have some problems in remembering all of them.

To introduce you (my dear readers) to Mind mapping, and help you track F1, I have put together a Mind map that lists drivers, their teams, their countries, helmets and their current standing. I will keep updating it as the season progresses. If you guys think you have stuff to contribute to the map, please feel free to edit or change it.



Welcome to the wonder world of Mind mapping.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Extending the battery life of HTC One XL

Disclaimer – This is a beginner’s guide. I am no Android Geek. The statements are based on the links I read on the internet. Please do not blame me for factual accuracy. I am just helping out people who, like me are struggling with this problem.

I bought amongst the latest Android Phones in the market that is 4G/ LTE compatible. HTC One XL. You can read the review here. I pretty much agree with what is written in the review, and I was mighty impressed with the phone, other than one thing – its battery life. Some mysterious force made its 1800 mAh battery drain in less than 10 hours. Now, I was expecting the battery life to be low, but less than 10 hours was unacceptable to me. Like all noobs out there, I did my research on the internet and here is what I concluded:

  1. LTE is not completely implemented everywhere in my area. Most providers are just starting so the signals for LTE are not strong. When the phone is chosen to run on LTE, the phone desperately latches on to a not-so-strong LTE signal and consumes more battery. The easiest way to recognize this is – most places your signal strength wont be great when your phone displays “4G”.  4G Signal Strength
  2. LTE is currently unable to handle calls and SMS and uses a battery intensive way to handle them (active dual-mode operation for CDMA and passive dual-mode operation or CSFB for GSM networks). This seems to be a temporary arrangement till they figure out a better way to do it (VoLTE?). But all this active switching between networks causes the battery to drain up to two times faster than it generally would.
  3. If you are not using LTE and do not need blazing fast speeds all the time (even while your phone is on stand-by and you are not surfing) its better to switch down to GSM/WCDMA than be at LTE/ 4G speeds. This makes the phone stop doing the dual-mode operation thing that keeps doing otherwise. Result – your battery lasts long, real long. I have been able to get my HTC One XL run for 2 days without a recharge by doing this.
  4. And here is a quick way of turning off your LTE. Go to your phone’s Settings > Mobile network > Network mode > Choose GSM/ WCDMA auto. That’s all that you need to do.

How to change your Network Mode

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Passwords in the Cloud

So I have been generally paranoid about keeping my passwords in the cloud. However, over the last few days I have figured a way to keep them in the cloud in a relatively safer way. Mind you, its relatively safe. Relative to what you ask? Well, relative to keeping them in clear text on an excel spread sheet on your computer, or better still, relatively safer to having the same password (or a slightly varied password) for all your accounts. If you haven’t been scared about how insecure your passwords really are, or have been lazy enough to commit the two cardinal sins of managing passwords – reusing them, storing them/ writing them; its high time you do something serious about it. How about, you take a 10 minute break from whatever you are doing now, and follow what I say in this blog post. For once? Please?

Why do I need passwords in the cloud?

For a very long time, the primary computer from where I accessed the internet was my home PC. So I have been using Keepass for more than 6 years now and it has been really good. My passwords were securely encrypted in Keepass on my computer and that's about it.

Then came a time that I had to have passwords to access multiple sites and servers in office. So it became imperative that I have Keepass in office to store my passwords. Now having two copies of anything leads to inconsistencies. So I devised a way to sync my passwords every week. The solution was deceptively simple but cumbersome. I setup SyncToy on my home PC and I carried Keepass on a SD card in my office Laptop. So each time that I had to sync, I removed the SD card from my office Laptop and plugged it into my Home PC and synced them together. Synctoy is a very nifty and free Windows utility to delta sync two hard drives. If you are not using it to backup your PC, may be you should.

Now I have reached a stage that I need my passwords on my Smartphone, my Office PC and my Home PC. Now I can no longer do the SD Card thingie. So the easiest solution was to go cloud.

Having a Cloud based pure play password manager would be too big a risk. For all hackers out there, it would be a treasure trove of information waiting to be hacked into. Maybe that's why a pure cloud based password manager never came into being (till now).

How do I cloud-enable my password manager?

These days there are a lot of cloud-based storage options available. There is the SkyDrive by Windows, Apple iCloud, Google Drive and of course Dropbox. All these solutions let you store files in the cloud. They have been relatively secure. Yeah I know Dropbox got breached last month, but well it was not really a breach on their servers. And the beauty of this solution is that – the vulnerability is not on the cloud, but its on your Keepass encryption (or its distributed across your device, the cloud, your passkey and your master password). Getting access to just one of the things mentioned will not compromise your password security.

Here is the solution step-by-step:

  1. Download Keepass on all your computers (I use the portable version, but that's just me)
  2. Signup for and download one of the cloud-storage options like Dropbox on all your computers
  3. Create a private folder on the cloud-storage provider
  4. Create a new password database (or copy your existing database) onto the private folder in the cloud
  5. Point Keepass to access that database on the cloud on all your computers(as long as your cloud-storage app is visible in Windows Explorer, Keepass can access it)
  6. Create a Key File in Keepass and physically copy it to all your computers (this is a one time activity). Mind you, do not keep your Key File on the cloud.
  7. Choose a strong password for Keepass (And here are tips for it)

And you are ready to rock!

How secure is the solution?

So the security of the solution really depends on how safe is Keepass and how complex is your master password. Keepass is relatively very safe. As of now, it has military grade encryption capabilities and its open source (so everyone can see vulnerabilities in its code). If you are worried, you should read this and this.

Breaches can occur at 2 places – in the cloud and on your computer.

A cloud breach occurs when someone gets access to your cloud-drive. Even if they get access to your password database on the cloud, it will be computationally impossible for them (as of 2012) to hack into it without your master password (which is in your brain) and the Key File (which is physically located on your computer).

A bigger breach is when someone accesses Keepass on your computer. In that case, they can theoretically access your cloud-drive and your Key File. But still the master password remains in your brain. It is computationally very difficult (provided you are not a spy or a government agent) for them to break your Keepass database as long as you had chosen a strong master password. Of course if they tie you to a pole and make you confess your password by unmentionable means then you are compromised. But I am sure if you reach that stage, you will have other things to worry about (like your life) than your passwords.

That's it from me. I would like you to comment on this one if – you have doubts or you feel there is a big gap in my logic.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Disclaimer: I am no nutritionist. Have had a weight problem all my life. This is not a post about losing weight!

“What gets measured gets done” – Peter Drucker

Time and again I am impressed by how many times Drucker’s philosophical statement actually comes true. Right from KPIs measured by businesses to improve their operational processes right up to tracking your personal spending to control those aimlessly bought items just because you were bored and had nothing to do; Drucker keeps reminding me that for absolutely anything that I wish to achieve in my life, I need to measure it first.

I have been struggling with my weight since, well my birth. So much so that being fat has been a part of my life (yeah and my blog). About 6 months ago I decided that I go from very fat to moderately fat, so that I have less trouble lunging my huge self around. Being a Drucker student, the first thing I did is – bought myself an expensive digital weighing scale. To achieve my goal, there could have been many KPIs that I could have chosen (e.g. – Body fat content, Waist to Hip ratio, Pedometer etc.) but I felt weighing everyday was like the easiest thing to do.

Weight Loss %

If you look at the graph, I have been fairly consistent. Ironically the first day I started measuring, I ended up gaining quite some weight (the peak at the beginning). On and off I indulged once in a while (which is indicated by all the peaks that you see in between). But if I take the trend, I was fairly consistent with my weight loss plan, till 2 weeks ago.

Last 2 weeks I have been not measuring and my weight loss has been turned into a weight gain. My trend indicates that if I continue at my current pace, I will be back on my path to become very fat. Well, I don’t know if I will be able to counter that, but if there is one thing that I learnt from the last 6 months is indeed – what gets measured really gets done!

So, whatever you wanna do in life, it is mandatory that you set a goal, and measure yourself against the goal everyday!

Friday, July 20, 2012

The contact distribution

So, I have been backing up my contact list since today morning. Something that I used to do every year before has not been done for a long time now (3 years+). Smartphones and Google has progressively made me dumb and lazy. I have been accumulating contacts without purging the list.

Lately, I have been obsessed with analysing all this data that I keep collecting. So I thought I bombard my readers with a simple frequency distribution of my contact list.

Contact distribution by their first names

So what do I get from this? 1 in 5 of my contacts had a name starting with S! 85% of my contacts have names starting with S, A, P, R, M, N, V, K, D, T, L, J. I am fairly confident that if you are reading this blog post your name starts with one of the 10 that I just mentioned.

Interestingly, since 2009 I made a new  contact starting with an “O” and dropped a contact starting with a “Q”.

Purging this list of 385 people was an administrative nightmare for me. I first started doing it alphabetically, and as you can see, going through the A list itself took me a while. Hence the distribution. Then I gave up and started walking from the tip of the long tail. So the last of the people who got purged were from “S”. I successfully got down my list by 26% to 283 people. Now people with names T and L are not in the top 10. I haven’t done any analysis about men vs women and Indians vs non-Indians, but I am sure that would be more insightful.

Now for people who are as frustrated as I am with all the contacts lying all around the place. Here is a simple tip – use Google Contacts. Then if you have an Android Phone, make sure that you save all your contacts by default to Google. Also make sure that you setup groups of contacts. Then religiously purge your list every year so that it remains manageable and you get rid of spurious contacts that you tend to accumulate. Enjoy.

How to setup your phone to save all your contacts to Google:

Go to Phone > Contacts > Settings > Save new contacts to > Google.

Google Contacts in Android

Monday, July 9, 2012

Boxer Invasion

Indian men (in my area) have taken a new affection towards boxers. Probably because they are ultra-comfortable, convenient and best suited for our climate. Or maybe because they are cheaper than buying shorts, and you can actually wear them around the house as opposed to running around in an underwear.

Boxer Shorts

What is weird though is – many men actually wear these boxers in public places. So I can see men walking around casually shopping, eating, chatting and sipping coffee out there in the open in their boxers!

Men wearing boxers in public can fall into 3 categories – either they are ignorant, or are underwear models or are super cool men who don’t care what the world thinks about them.

If you are a secret undercover underwear model strutting your stuff in a boxer in public places and if you happen to read this blog, I am sorry I blew your cover. I didn’t know that you were trying to spread awareness about boxers to Indian men. I apologize.

If you are a super cool man, who doesn’t care what people think while you go about doing your stuff; beware in Mumbai you can be arrested under Section 110 of the Bombay Police Act 1951 excerpt from the act goes here:

Behaving indecently in public - No person shall willfully and indecently expose his person ill [sic] any street or public place or within sight of, and in such manner as to be seen from any street or public place, whether from within any house or building or not, or use indecent language or behave indecently or riotously, or in a disorderly manner in a street or place of public resort or in any office station or station house

I am assuming that wearing underwear in public in Mumbai can be classified as indecent behaviour?

And finally if you fall in the ignorant category, please read, understand and assimilate this blog-post and go buy some good shorts for yourself to wear in public.


Friday, July 6, 2012


I believe, there can be only types of people in this world - People who believe in horoscopes and those who don’t.

Now the people who believe – believe that whatever is told to them to be written in their fate will come true. Such people, subconsciously affect their life to bring the horoscope true.

The people who don’t believe in horoscopes, essentially believe that whatever the horoscope says cannot be true. So they subconsciously work against what is told to them to be written in their fate.

Lets say that your horoscope says you are going to die young. If you are a believer your unconscious mind will start affecting your daily routine to make you sick or put you in harm’s way. And if you are a non-believer you would take extra steps to remain healthy and out of harm’s way. So, whatever you do, you will end up changing your normal routine because of that prediction.

Essentially, horoscope is just a tool to manipulate your thinking about your fate. It’s a tool to introduce a paradox. Depending on the group that you belong to (believer or non-believer) you end up changing your true fate to fit your belief in the science of the horoscope.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

De-clutter Now!

So our house is being painted for most of this month. Painting is a nightmare. The dust, the smell of primer and color coupled with the noise all day is tiring and stressful indeed. To add to all this trouble, my family has successfully managed to not throw away absolutely anything for at least 40 odd years. And I ain’t kidding or exaggerating.

So, we got tonnes and tonnes of things stacked, stuffed, neatly tucked and sometimes randomly thrown here and there all around the house. Every room has these special cabinets and wardrobes that are never opened but have things for a rainy day. Then of course there are all those trinkets that my parents and my sister collected over the years to sit and look at longingly someday (luckily, I have managed to get rid of all of mine recently). Each thing I plan to throw has a sweet memory attached to it (ignoring the fact that the memory was lying in a dark corner of the house for close to 30 years without anyone even noticing it). Things that were valuable 10 years ago, somehow never depreciate and they still hold the same value (yeah I am talking about the spider-web covered vase sitting on the top of the transom for so long!).

Finally after shouting, crying, pleading and brainwashing, my mom got ready to get rid of 2 or 3 small items in our house. But, she put a condition that I can’t throw them away, I need to donate them to poor people. Now, I know that India is a poor country and 37% of the people live below the poverty line. So, I had to somehow find these poor people and donate them stuff. Donating money is one thing, but imagine donating a vacuum cleaner to a poor person. In the last 2 weeks, I have visited NGOs, poor neighbourhoods (yeah the slum-dog millionaire style ones) and even asked random poor looking strangers to take away stuff for free. But as you guessed, I have been unsuccessful.

The moral of the stressful story? If you have not de-cluttered yet, go start doing it NOW. Stop accumulating stuff at home (just to throw it away later!). I found some excellent tips online to reduce your clutter. I stand by my earlier statement that every 6 months, vacate your house and move. Its the easiest way to frugal living!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mosquito Magnet

Continuing with my rant on my animal attractiveness, for years I have noticed that mosquitoes love biting me. So much so that, every time I went out with a group of friends, I would be the one who would complain about mosquitoes biting while others were leisurely enjoying the trip. I am like a mosquito magnet, and if someone wants to have a good time outdoors without the hassle of applying mosquito repellent cream, they just invite me along.

Most of my good intentioned friends advised me that mosquitoes target me because I am fat. Their logic was - fat people = big = more blood = feast for mosquitoes. So apparently mosquitoes look for fat people and then they party (Yeah, once I heard a mosquito sing – “I got a feeling, tonight's gonna be a good night” - when she was biting me).

Being the gullible being I am, I meekly submitted to my fate, till I actually bothered to look it up on the internet. Apparently mosquitoes have 3 types of sensors. One of the sensors that people like me stimulate is because we emit more of Carbon Dioxide and Octen. Finally, I have figured that its not my size that attracts them (Unless you argue that Carbon Dioxide emitted by a person depends on his size!). So I blame my Octen.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Crow dropping syndrome

These days, I have been blessed by a lot of crow excreta dropping on me at odd places. So a few times it happened while I was casually walking outside in the evening, and once it happened in office during my lunch break. And all this in the last few months. I looked up if crow droppings have any religious significance, and lo behold it actually does. Can you believe I am gonna be ridiculously rich real soon (or not!)?!!

I didn’t find any research on the internet about statistical probability of bird droppings on humans (PhD aspirants – nice topic for you to research!).  So for a while I thought I had a very active outdoor life and hence the probability of me being blessed by crows was high. But the reality remains that I am a lazy bum and I hardly bother to go out in the park.

I think I am the kind of target that crows like to drop on. My head from above looks like the fly in the loo that we have been trained to pee on. I guess while crows feel like attending nature’s call they patiently perch on trees awaiting potential targets (like my big head) to approach them. And then while we walk across, they compete to drop perfectly on our heads. Sometimes they succeed and sometimes they don’t. That explains the soiled shoulders and backs besides the heads. I have realized that I should never ever make the mistake of looking at the sky with my mouth wide open (yeah, star gazing not for me).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Tipping Tip

So this one is a quick tip and a social service message for all my friends in India (and in other countries where the labour laws are not that strongly implemented in the unorganized private services sector).

I belong to a generation of restaurant goers who use credit cards to pay bills when they cross a certain mental threshold of the bill. And then we generously tip the servers/waiters for the service that they provide (irrespective of whether it was good or bad). Such tips are typically paid by rounding of the amount on the bill.

The Tip Paid on a Credit Card

The message of this blog post is – it is bad to tip the waiter through your credit card. You should ideally just pay cash. Here is why -

Time value of money – Cash in hand for the waiter is better than cash written in the tip amount of your credit card payment. Not only is it a big administrative hassle for the waiter to track and get it back from the restaurant owner, but also the value of the money goes down as the waiter receives it only at the end of the month or quarter or when the owner things she should give it to the waiters.

Unfair distribution – Depending on what rule the restaurant has – the tip amount might equally get distributed across all waiters (or split based on seniority, number of hours worked etc.). But when I tip, I tip for the service that was provided by my server, not by the servers at other tables! Besides, if the restaurant has a policy of quarterly distribution of tips, and your waiter leaves the restaurant midway, she might not even get the tip that you gave her!

Credit Card Transaction Fees – Every credit card gateway charges a transaction fee. This fee is typically in the range of 1.5% to 2.5% of your total amount. So if you tipped the waiter 100 rupees, the poor person will only receive – 97.5 to 98.5 rupees. The rest of your tip goes to Visa, MasterCard or Amex.

Owners might get creative – I know of owners who charge administrative fees on tips, or just outright pocket the tip amount without giving it to the waiters. In poorly regulated labour markets (like in India) there are no strong labour laws for waiters.

So next time when you are tempted to round off your credit card bill and pay the waiter a tip, just put a “0.00” there. Then reach for your wallet and keep a few notes for the waiter to get instant gratification and continue to provide service with a smile and satisfaction!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Omniscient Bai

There is a phenomenon called “Bai” (or Kaamwali bai to be precise) in India. Technically she is just a maid. But calling her a maid is like calling a Ferrari a transportation vehicle. Every Indian household has one. And she is the one person that the entire household is dependent upon.

The bai that comes to our place is no different. She has been around since the time before I was born. She has her own set of client houses that she visits everyday.

Now, not only does she take care of the cleaning stuff, but also she is a free advisor, consultant, fortune teller and a gossipmonger amongst all the homes that she visits. She is the one person that has answers for everything under the sun (and beyond). So be it politics, inflation, health problems, property problems or just a bad hair day – she will necessarily have a remedy to fix everything (Mind you – it doesn’t necessarily work, but she would get offended if you argue or not listen to her). Kinda like the garbage-man from Dilbert.


Besides, she will make sure that she gossips about every other home that she visits. I practically know the nuances of each of her clients. Someone’s kids are dirty, some are lazy, while others are plain rude. Of course she takes care that she would never praise anyone. So everyone is bad, evil, ugly or dirty. Also she goes to great extend to graphically describe the bad physical attributes of everyone she knows.

I sometimes wonder what she must be saying about me to her other clients. My profile would probably something like – he is lazy (cause she always notices me sitting in front of the computer), healthy (Healthy is an Indian euphemism for – fat), dirty (yeah my room is not amongst the best places to visit in our house) etc.

And since she visits everyday, she practically knows what goes on in the house. Who comes, who goes, what gets bought and what gets disposed off. Sometimes I feel like she is a part of a government agency with the sole purpose of keeping a watchful eye on all citizens!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bad foods

So we got health warnings on Cigarette packets to deter people from smoking (I always thought that Singapore had the worst images, till I saw what Brazil shows!). The general intention is to warn people of the bad effects of smoking each time that they buy a packet and then psychologically induce them to reduce or quit smoking. Scientific evidence has indicated a higher probability of cancer with smoking.

There is substantial scientific evidence linking obesity to death. Also there is enough evidence linking sugar and (wrong type of) fats to higher incidence of obesity amongst individuals. Besides there is also enough evidence linking sodium in processed foods to cardiovascular diseases and kidney damage.

However it is interesting to note that none of our processed foods or fast food restaurants are mandated to carry any warning signs whatsoever (think Pizza and deep-fried patties in Burgers and those sugary colas that we drink to push them down our throat. And then don't forget the pastries and Indian sweets that we saviour). Ironically, though it is  mandatory to show nutrition facts labels on packaged foods in India not many manufacturers put them on their foods.

Considering that incidence of coronary heart disease in India is expected to increase many folds in the coming years and Indians too are progressively becoming obese, it is high time that we start warning people against consuming unhealthy foods. Foods high in bad fats, sugars and sodium should carry a health warning just like Cigarette packets do today.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Before the advent of online maps and smartphones we still could go to unknown places with ease thanks to good Samaritans sprinkled all over India. As long as we knew the general direction, the right city and some landmark we were good to go. You just hop into your car and then on your way stop and ask people.

Now, choosing the right person to ask for directions itself is an art. Without sounding biased, I generally keep away from well dressed people (yeah they are clueless), people who look like they don't belong to that area (for this, you have to remember Little Tiffany from Men-In-Black video provided below) and people too old to respond “ah?”. The best people to ask for directions are necessarily the roadside paan vendors and newspaper stalls. They generally not only know the area extremely well, but also they know the people (and their history as well). “Oh so you wanna meet the old uncle whose 3 daughters are in the States and his son is always in a state of intoxication?”, they ask. “I just saw him go home after running errands from the neighbouring shop. I think he bought some chips and a bottle of coke! At this age also he eats junk food!”, they provide additional information.

I once had a over zealous guy sit in my car and take me to a the place that I was looking for because he said “giving directions would be too complicated for you to understand!”. Learning from India, I once did the mistake of asking for directions in the US (yeah some 6 years ago). The guy was so rude that he asked me to strip naked and stand in the middle of the road so that the police pick me up and then they drop me at the right destination. it was a cultural learning for me to never ask for directions in that country again!

Now, I tend to walk a lot in the area where I live (not because I am health conscious, but because I have nothing much to do in the evenings and driving around in the traffic is not an option!). I get approached by a lot of clueless people looking for directions. Going by my explanation above that means – I am shabbily dressed and I look like a true native.

Now, most of the times I am pretty okay with my directions and I kinda guide people to the right place (or I think so). Today was one of those unlucky days when I actually guided a person to enter into a one-way lane and see him get stopped by a policeman. I am sure the guy must be very angry for me to have lead him there. So this is more of a guilt-laden blog post. Anyway, I have had my share of direction bloopers before in which I accidentally told people to take left when it was right etc. But I think today’s was the lamest.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Indian Swimming styles

I have been observing various types of swimmers in my community pool for well over a year now. That makes me our resident expert at “types of swimmers”. So, without further ado, I take this opportunity to present to you – swimming styles of India.

The splashing Sham – Splashing Shams think that swimming involves splashing water with their hands and feet. They try to emulate birds to generate lift on water. Such swimmers are entertaining to watch and they get exhausted before they reach the other end.

The whale breath Wasim – These swimmers take in the pool water along with air while they breathe. Then when they breathe out they spray water like whale blowholes. If you are around them, you shall be showered with it.

The blind Bhushan – These guys think that backstroke is the best form of swimming and that the community pool is their own (in Hindi – baap ka pool). So they casually perform backstroke and go anywhere they like without bothering about who is in which lane. If you bump into them they give the look – “Cant you see I own this pool? How dare you not meekly submit to my whims and fancies?”

The exercising Eknath – These kinds of swimmers think that the pool is meant for doing stretching exercises. You can see them right in the middle of the pool stretching their arms and legs and generally causing inconvenience to other swimmers who are trying to do laps. If you ask them to exercise at one end of the pool, be ready to get a piece of their mind about no peace left in this world.

The standing Santosh – This guy swims standing in water. He makes sure that his body is not at all streamlined so that he exerts maximum effort to propel ahead. Such people are seen doing a lap or two and then waiting for eternity at the corner to recover.

The wandering Wahab – This style consists of starting swimming in a lane and then traversing the entire pool like a snake and ending anywhere. Such kinds of swimmers make sure that no one swims near them. If you dare to – be ready to get hit hard by a hand or a leg and then be frowned upon for coming in their way.

And before girls get all offended because I didn’t use their names (or rather didn’t observe their swimming styles) here is my excuse – I have hardly seen any women swim in my pool. Maybe because there is a separate Woman’s timing in my pool and everyone goes at that time or maybe because even if someone turns up while I am there, if I “observe” her swimming, I will be labelled a creepy old uncle.

Before I end I know you wanna know which style I belong to. Well well, I have written about my style before; it’s the – desperate swimmer.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One Suit Wonders

Mumbai is generally a hot and humid place. That means our formal clothing doesn’t include a coat and a tie other than when the westerners come to meet us (and we have to pretend to be formal). Having had ourselves ruled by them for more than a century, we have adopted some of their lifestyle into ours. Now that includes – wearing suits for our wedding receptions.

So certain section of Mumbaikars I know (yeah statistically insignificant) buy suits only for 2 occasions in their lives – first if they do an MBA and later when they get married (Yes I come in the first category). What that generally means is – every time thereafter when we have an occasion to wear a suit, we just reuse the same one.

Now, I had been using my MBA suit every where till I realized that I have many occasions I need to wear one. Then, my count of suits went up to two. However I know of many people who continue using their one and only wedding suit everywhere they go. Every client visit and every formal meeting I see certain individuals in the same suit oblivious of the fact that everyone in the room knows that the suit that they are wearing was the one they bought for their wedding. For any normal human being, wedding is probably the most photographed event of their life (and probably the most sweaty – those videography lights are hot). So boost the economy. Get the money flowing. Expand your wardrobe, buy more suits. And please dry clean your wedding suit.

Issued in public interest by a hapless guy who had to sit through a meeting next to a smelly man in his 8 year old wedding suit.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Water Bottle Day

22nd March is World Water Day. Nice attempt at making us aware of the importance of water! Now, I decided to do my bit towards water, by doing a product review of my favorite water bottle of all times. Its called the Nalgene OTF.

I am very particular about my hydration gear. I don’t believe in reusing empty soda bottles to store water. Besides hygiene, those bottles are not meant to be reused. And I don’t like my water tasting like a cola. Considering that we are expected to drink close to 3 litres of water everyday, we better be serious about our hydration gear. Besides it also helps measure intake and that way meet daily water intake targets.


Nalgene OTF

So what's so special about the bottle you ask? Well, well, it is what I would like to call – a “perfect” and well designed water bottle.

To begin with – it is made of Eastman Tritan copolyster. That makes it – BPA Free (better than Polycarbonate bottles), absolutely clear, durable, microwaveable, odor resistant and impact resistant. To top it all – it is “Made in USA” (Okay – I know that the cap is made in China, but at least the bottom is American). In consumer durables only two things that I have ever discovered to be made in USA are – Nalgene bottles and Corelle dinnerware.

It also has a wide temperature range resistance ( – 40 F to 212 F). I like to take my water a little warm. I have damaged many of my earlier bottles by pouring hot water into them. Not this one. That makes it easier to wash with warm water as well.

The cap with its loop shape and a nice lock that can be opened on-the-fly (hence OTF) makes it easy to carry around and to drink water with only one hand (no need to wait and unscrew cap). It also has a nifty metallic lock at the top that makes it leak proof. So I can casually keep it in my bag knowing that the bottle wont open by itself and spill water.

Locking Leak-proof topLocked Leak-proof

Finally, the spout is big enough to fill water into it without unscrewing the top. It is also big enough to drink water in a hurry without pouring water all over yourselves. And it is contoured in such a way that water falls correctly off the bottle without sipping on it. That keeps it hygienic and multiple people can share the bottle!

I think I can go on and on and this is not a paid advertisement. So that's my advice for the World Water Day. Hydrate yourself through a well made bottle.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Indians are good at planning. Some great planner figured out that we are going to shit and pee a lot more in the coming decades (before your ideas run wild – its just because of population explosion) and its time that we put in bigger underground sewage pipes to handle the load! So far so good.

Though the work started a long while ago, it was progressing at snail’s pace. However, with the financial year end approaching, the work has been now sped up (to remain in this year’s budget). So now almost the entire area around where I stay is dug up. It is dug so bad that whenever a vehicle passes by there is actually a dust cloud and we got mountains of gravel everywhere.

The roadDeep trenches

Technically we now only drive through rubble. All we have is uneven surfaces that we are expected to drive our vehicles on. The fun part is, at places where they have already started resurfacing the road with tar, it has just become more uneven. We no longer have any thing called a “road” left. Combined with our insane driving skills all of us now go off-road adventure riding in our own backyard.

After resurfacingThe uneven Tar road

To capitalize on this state of affairs a daring Indian bike manufacturer also managed to introduce India’s first “trans-roader”. On road, off road bike. If we look through the marketing crap it is essentially a made for Indian roads bike!

Now, my dear rich kids, imagine riding your Ferrari and Lamborghini on these roads and cry!