So Talwar’s e-mail account hacked?

So Talwar’s e-mail account hacked?

Well, yahoo fears so and there are a lot of people who do not have any idea on it commented there too! I am not sure whether his email account has been really hacked or not. But it is surprising nobody including the author didn’t mention it is nothing but the same old Stranded Traveler Appeal Scam. Even internet-savvy people get confused on receiving such emails. So what is the best way to find out whether it is a scam or not? First and foremost – Google is your friend. Copy paste a part of the email content to google search box and chances are very high that you will get more info on that particular scam. Do not trust the email content just because it may appear to be sent from a friend or relative, you may find even the name and email address of the sender is correct and known to you. There are so many crooks in the cyberspace who want your money, so be very careful. Now, how do they send email that has your friends name and email address? Your friend’s email account has been hacked? Not necessarily, and less chance for that.

Stranded Traveler Email Scam

There are many ways to get the names and email addresses. Those chain letters and forwarders which looks like not harmful, those online petitions you sign, those forums and discussions groups where you didn’t set the privacy settings properly so that the email address is visible to all, the hundreds of ‘unsubscribe’ links you clicked when you were tired of spam emails, the angry emails you sent as replies to the viagra ads thinking they will read those and apologize for sending the same – the list goes on. OK, now we know how they get names and email address, but how do they send emails? Is that too complicated or technical? No, pretty easy actually. Anybody know the very basics of any internet programming language (PHP for example) can write an email triggering script in minutes. And for those smart kids, there are thousands of example scripts (piece of software code) available in internet itself. Just copy it, make necessary changes for name, email address, content and you are done. That sounds pretty scary, so no way to detect or prevent it? There are ways and most of the email providers warn the user or block such emails. But then technology has gone much fast that the bad guys always find ways to tackle it all.

So what to do when I receive such an email? First, never send them any money, and second, never send any reply to the email. Confirm the email is authentic by calling the sender, or calling his family members. Check for the typos and way of writing, it will be easy for you that way. And what if my friends call me to tell they received such an email (in some cases – even porno materials!)? Tell them it is an email scam and ask them to delete the email immediately. Try to login to your email account, if you can, change your passwords. And finally do not forget the good email habits.

Oh well, I really hope I do not get stranded in any foreign country :)

When Everyone’s a Journalist

When the Indian portal decided to give a chance to all its visitors to ask questions to Resul Pookutty, the Oscar Award Winner, I thought they will do it a nice manner. But everything went wrong from the first moment itself. The chat was dead slow, Rasul could answer a very limited number of questions. But the worst part was rediff never tried to censor the questions ! I will call it as a terrible mistake from their side. Everyone’s NOT a journalist. And some do not know what to ask or how to ask questions in a civilized manner. I was shocked to see some very offending and irritating questions and Resul could see all that. I am pretty sure he was hurt after the chat session, even though he didn’t talk much on that. He ignored most of such questions, but sometimes he had to answer.

Chat with Resul Pookutty

Chat with Resul Pookutty

Blame the people ? Wait, It was rediff’s responsibility to censor / filter out the questions. The people who ask questions were not journalists by profession and the age group varies from a school student to veteran. And it was possible technically to do the filtering. Above all such an action was never expected from a company like rediff who are in the news business for long.

Chat with Resul Pookutty

Chat with Resul Pookutty

I can’t post the most irritating / offending ones as it will not be nice, but posting some screen shots so that for those who missed it can see how it went.

Asking questions is ok, but insulting an Oscar Winner (ok, forget the Oscar part, lets say insulting a Gentle Man) in the name of chat or interview can’t be justified.

Where is ‘New Cochin’ ?

I was sleeping blissfully as it was Sunday but the phone call woke me up. A friend who was my juinor in school was on the other end.

Din, important question – where is New Cochin ?

Now I am confused. I was in half sleep plus I never heard of a place New Cochin. I am just 18kms away from Cochin city, and familiar with most of the place names in and around Cochin. I told him I do not know and went back to sleep. No, it didn’t end there.

On Monday morning, another friend buzzed me in Yahoo messenger. The same question

Din, where is New Cochin ?

I asked him what is the matter. So here is the story. As many IT ventures are coming up in Cochin including Smart City the land price went too high. Flats, Villas and even small houses cost a lot in Cochin now. And the real estate guys are taking maximum advantage of the name – Cochin. Classifieds ads here in Cochin reads – Plot for sale, only 40kms away from Smart City ! House for sale, near Smart City. The Smart City is a venture that yet to become a reality, but what is wrong in giving the name in advertisement and lure more and more people ?

Going a step further, the builders Apple A Day Properties is planning to build villas and apartments in Alappuzha district where cost of land is less compared to that in Cochin. But how to attract the people ? Simple, make a new place name – New Cochin – and put that name in all advertisement. And if people want to see a demo flat ? Set up a single demo flat in Cochin and show that !

In Kerala (may be in other parts of India too?) there is a trend. Someone working in a hotel quit one day and starts a new hotel opposite to the one or near to the one with the same name, but a New added to it. Hotel kairali  turns to Hotel New Kairali. But using the same thing in real estate field ..

What an idea sirjeee !!!

So all those who were wondering where is New Cochin – it is not in Cochin and not even in Ernakulam District. It is in Alappuzha.

What next ? New Smart City may be ?

Arranging big concrete blocks at midnight is not fun

Yes, arranging big concrete blocks at midnight is not fun ! That also when you are under the pile of blocks. Things we have to take care of – move slowly, take the blocks one by one from the body, arrange it properly, check which is next block. It may not be concrete blocks always, it is a mix. Concrete, stone, wooden and some other material which we never seen before. And remember, it is not a game, and no one to help us. After all who will come to help you arranging the blocks at midnight !

Didn’t get the head or tail out of it ? OK, ever seen dreams when you are having high temperature ? sometimes it is really scary. When I was a kid, it was different. Instead of the blocks, it will be huge gumballs. Sometimes rubber balls, sometimes glass and sometimes ice, but really huge. I had a tough time trying to escape from these balls. They used to come towards me at a faster pace, and somehow I managed them every time. After the childhood days I didn’t see such dreams, might be the effect of strong antibiotics. Things went smooth until last week when I had fever again. I decided to have homoeopathic medicine this time. And the dream came back, with the huge blocks. I was half conscious and was sure it is a dream, but I couldn’t wake up fully and I couldn’t sleep too. I tried to throw away the blocks, but it was not easy this time. I swirled, I moved sideways, I tried to re-arrange the blocks, and slowly, very slowly they started getting arranged ! I heard my Mom asking me what is going on. Wife came and asked me the same thing two times. And then I came back to my senses, I replied properly, I told them I am having headache and can’t sleep. When they went back, I restarted on the job. I thought why asking for help when I can arrange all blocks myself !

At around 4.00 am, most of the work was done. All the blocks were well arranged. I felt happy and was quite satisfied. I was sweating, but no headache this time. I decided to sleep, reminded me Amitabh Bachan’s dialogue – Ma, mein bahut thak gaya hoom !

I slept peacefully till 9.00 in the morning. When I woke up, only two blankets were on top of me, no, no blocks at all.

Happy new year and welcome back !

Happy New Year - Fresh Leaves, New Beginning.

Happy New Year - Fresh Leaves, New Beginning.

First – Wish you all a very happy, fresh and joyful new year.

It has been quite sometime since I wrote something in my blog. Goobi threatened me and told me either restart it or close down. As he is from Goa, I am not taking any chances and here I am, back again !

You can expect regular updates in the blog this year. At least I hope so.

Have fun and check back soon.

Federal Bank – From new generation to pen and paper

Federal  Bank Online Screenshot

ATM and Online Banking makes the life easy for customers. At the same time it saves a lot of time and resources of bank. It is like mutually benefited. Federal Bank was one of the few private sector banks which made the move long back itself – with a large number of ATMs and also by bringing up online banking. Things were all nice till last month when they decided to charge for the convenience ! Now when a user make an online payment (just money transfer, both the receiver and the sender need to pay INR 28.00 to the bank as transaction fee). That is a total of INR 56.00 (USD 1.3). Yes, it is not a big deal, but think about the other side. When a bank introduce more ATMs or online banking, it help them keep a lot of customers away from the bank. I mean customers need not come to the bank to withdraw money and they need not come to the bank for fund transfer. Bank saves a lot in resources. I do not know what made Federal Bank to take this wrong decision of charging customers for online transactions.Federal Bank Passbook

Not all customers will be happy with this change. Result ? More and more people will re-think on online banking, and people may go back to bank for transactions. Who will lose ? Federal Bank – no doubt in that.Forcing people to pay extra for online transactions is like taking them back to the pen and paper era. (This is not same as charging for services like online train ticket booking, which is a totally different matter). I use online banking service of HDFC Bank, SBI and Corporation Bank. And I have friends who use online banking of Axis (UTI) Bank, ICICI Bank and many other banks. None of these charge extra for fund transfer, then why my dear Federal Bank ?

The made in china tag – I am worried

Bought any electronic items recently ? Any computer parts ? Car accessories ? Toys ? Mobile phone accessories ? And found that is NOT manufactured in China ? Consider yourself as lucky. These days it is quite difficult to find a product that is NOT from China.

Made in china tag

I think it started from just 1-2 years back. Its not like I am against China or people out there. But almost everything we buy form the market is from China does not sound as a good thing. I was just making a list of things with the Made in China or Made in PRC. Starting with computer peripherals. About 30 items has been bought in the last 12 months. Only one item says Made in India (very happy to see that these days) and that is blank CD / DVD. The guy who is selling it told me it is not an easy process to make blank media and to maintain the quality and that is the reason Chinese are not into that. Well, do not know whether it is true. Just checked with my brother in law who bought lot of electrical and electronics products recently for his new house. Again, majority has the Made in China tag on them. Even USHA fan !! Next thing was toys that we buy for my niece. China again.

I am pretty sure manufacturing cost is the main thing. And all claim that they maintain quality irrespective of the country where it is manufactured. I am not fully convinced on that. Just as an example, I can see the difference in two computer monitors I bought. Both are of the brand – Viewsonic. First one was bought three years back, not having the tag and last one 11 months back or so with that tag. We can see the difference just by touching the panels, buttons and the body. And I already having some small problem with the display with the second (newer) monitor. The last computer related product I bought was a cartridge. Just by the weight itself I knew it is Chinese (now do not attack me telling weight is not a factor for the quality of printer cartridge, I agree on that). I see the quality of plastic and overall I am not very happy about it.

Two things make me worried. One – Quality is deteriorating – no doubt in that. Second thing is, as everything is from China, if something goes wrong in the relation between the countries (China is always having an unpredictable nature) and if they stop exporting items(yes I know I am paranoid and this is like worrying too much on something), what will happen ? Sure we may not be in trouble as many things can be manufactured here or can be imported form other countries. But that will not be very easy and sure it will take some time.

Why just me ? Or all are worried but do not have more time to think on it ?

Footnote : Wanted to clarify it again. The Author is no way against the country China or its citizens. He is just worried as a nation depend on another one too much, like for every item.

Leaning tower of Cochin, Kerala

And you thought the only leaning building is the Leaning Tower of Pisa ? No, you are wrong. Here is another !

Leaning tower of cochin

Most of those who have passed through the National Highway 47 towards Cochin might have noticed the multi storeyed building which is very near to Hotel Le Meridien. The main structure of the building and most of its work were completed in the 90s itself. But even after 18 years, it hasn’t got any occupants. Reason ? Its a leaning building !!! Yes, Cochin where the land price is too high these days, people are ready to spend more than one Crore ( about 232,000 USD) for a house / flat, this building is all vacant.

Rest of the story. This was built even before they started work of the Le Meridien Hotel. The location is really good, very near to the National Highway. The work was finished and the owner approached the Government for final approval. They had a detailed analysis and found that the building is leaning and not suitable for living. I have heard that the Owner committed suicide, not sure whether it is true though.

The question is – The Civil Engineers, Overseers, who are all worked in this project, never knew the building is not vertical ? Everything was perfect in all phases ? All started going wrong only after finishing it ? No testes or analysis were conducted ? Unbelievable. I think the problem started from the foundation itself. Either it was not designed properly or work was not supervised properly. Only thing which can be done is demolishing the building. But even after that, it is not sure whether they can make new as the building laws became more strict now.

Keep it simple, but make things perfect too. People of Cochin do not need lot of world wonders !

Photo of Hotel Le Meridien – Which is very near to this building

Hotel Le Meridien Cochin
Photo Courtesy – Din the amature photographer.

Happy news – I am blessed with a baby boy

04/06/08 Magic numbers ? Might be !! This is how Indians represent the date 04th June 2008. So whats so special about it ? Joined the Parents club on that day. I feel so happy and proud. New phase in life, more duties, more responsibilities.

Junior Din - Photo Two Junior Din - Photo One Junior Din - Photo One

The baby boy came bit early. Exactly one month early! No surprise, hes is just impatient as his Dad. Everything was normal except the pale yellow color which is not uncommon for premature babies. The Doc put him under the light for a week ! They call it Phototherapy. Anyway, back home after that and hes healthy and active now.

Junior Din - Photo One[Photo 1]Didn’t name him officially yet, but niece gave him a funny name on the first day itself – Aamakkunju – meaning : baby tortoise! When the nurse brought him to the room, he was well covered with soft white cloth, only head was visible, might be the reason behind the name.

Junior Din - Photo Two

[Photo 2] He prefer sleeping all day and wake up all night. Quite normal I know. Waking up after 2 hrs, drinking milk, back to sleep, life is sure fun for him. I noticed babies smile and cry when they sleep ! (Yes, learning new things) There is a beautiful myth behind this (courtesy : my aunt ! Blame her if this sounds funny). When the babies sleep, God appear in their dreams and tell them ‘Hey look, your mom has gone somewhere’ Poor babies, they believe it and start crying. God feel sorry and will tell them ‘Oh no, I was just joking, look, shes near you’ and next moment they start smiling. Everything in sleep !

Junior Din - Photo Three

[Photo 3] My wife was telling me (before delivery) if its a baby girl, she will buy skirts for the baby. I used to tell her if it is a baby boy, I will have to wear the skirt to make her happy. Seems she forgot it, lucky me. Now I can buy him big cargo shorts with twenty five pockets. That will be pretty cool. Can’t wait, grow up fast baby !

Meantime, I shared my happiness with my friends in ThinkDigit forum. The posts are here.

Thank you for taking us back to the stone age

Many of my clients and friends abroad do not know much about Hartals and they do not belive that we (Indians and especially the people in Kerala) have so many Hartals every month. This post is mainly for them, to let them understand how important Hartal is – for us and why it is an inevitable part of our life.

Hartals - Political parties taking us back to the stone age

What is Hartal ?

Hartal (also hartaal) is a term in many Indian languages for strike action, used often during the Indian Independence Movement. It is mass protest often involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, courts of law as a form of civil disobedience. In addition to being a general strike, it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business. It is a mode of appealing to the sympathies of a government to change an unpopular or unacceptable decision. [Wikipedia Link]

What is Bandh ?

Bandh, originally a Hindi word meaning ‘closed’, is a form of protest used by political activists in some countries in South Asia like India and Nepal. During a Bandh, a large chunk of a community declares a general strike, usually lasting one day.[Wikipedia Link]

Wikipedia is 100% correct ?

No, there is a mistake in the Wikipedia page which says – it involves the voluntary closing of schools and places of business – In real, there is nothing like a voluntary closing but people are terrorized and any business activity including traffic will be forcibly prevented by the strikers.

Which state is in the top position (prestigious) with maximum number of Hartals / Bandhs ?

The state with the maximum Bandhs in India is West Bengal where the average number of bandhs per year is 40-50 (ranging from a couple of hours to a maximum of 2 days per bandh). To make it clear, Hartal and Bandh are same these days.

Whatabout Kerala, the 100% literate state ?

Kerala (state that is located at the south end of India) is competing with West Bengal (with 28 Hartals in 2007) and we are pretty sure one day we will be in the first position with maximum number of hartals and bandhs. We are expecting at least 200 Hartals / Bandhs per year in the near future, if all political parties agrees (all are already united in this matter) we will see meeting the target in the very near future itself. Hartals for 365 days is the long term goal, considering the increasing number of hartals every year, we can say – nothing is impossible. Keep your fingers crossed.

Who can declare a Hartal ?

Any political party (need not be National, need not be even state level), religious party, or non political party can declare a Hartal. Basically a group of people (preferably more than 5 in numbers but even that is not necessary) is quite adequate and they can always declare a Hartal.

Do we need a valid reason to declare a Hartal ?

Absolutely not. Even though it is pretty easy to get very good reasons. The reasons does not matter at all. Declaring the Hartal and making it a huge success is the important part. Reason can be anything.

What happens after the Hartal ? Does it make any difference ?

Again – Absolutely no difference.

Eample 1. when petroleum price is increased, political parties declare Hartal for protesting. The petroleum price NEVER come down because of the Hartal – it remains the same after days, months and years (it may go up anytime though – may be you can call it after-effect of Hartal !)

Example 2. When political parties get into fight, (note : in almost all case, the leaders remains un-touched, only the so-called supporters or the common man get injured or even lose his life in these fights) after 5 or 10 people die, the parties will declare a Hartal to condemn the attack and fight (couldn’t find out the logic yet). Next month or next year, same thing happens and it goes on.

What is the advantage of Hartal ? Who are all benefited ?

People who get benefited by Hartal – Beverages Corporation, CD shops, Hotels, Meat shops etc. These shops will be flooded by people on the eve of a Hartal.

Who are all affected by the Hartal ?

In malayalam language there is a saying – Pothu janam kazhutha (common men are donkeys). That is very correct and only these people get affected (who cares !! Hartals – Long Live). Businesses will be closed down causing loss of millions of Rupees (Rupee is the Indian Currency. 1 USD = 42 Rupees approx – as on May 21 2008). People will not get vehicles to go to hospital even if it is emergency. People die, people starve, people can’t travel, marriages get postponed, all other functions get postponed, exams get postponed, offices will not work (who cares !! Hartals – Long Live). Every Hartal takes us back to the stone age.

Is there any alternative to Hartal ? Anything that can be beneficial for the common man ? Any messages to the people who declare it ?

Yes, but nobody is going to try those (who cares !! Hartals – Long Live). Anyway some suggestions are

1. Political leaders who declare the Hartal, their (blind) supporters, and all other people interested to join, take a day off (no casual leaves, take a leave with loss of pay from offices). Go to any village (ever seen one ? know how it looks like ?), try to repair some road there, try to help the villagers for making some open wells, buy the poor kids some food, donate them some dress. If you can’t do anything like that, just sit at home but do not disturb others.

2. Same people mentioned above – Cultivate rice and wheat on Hartal days (as there will be a lot of Hartals, you will get plenty of time to look into this!) Cultivate vegetables. We can even market them under the name – Hartal India Product (wow I am a genius – what an Idea Sir !)

3. Those who support the Hartal, feel free to close down your business for a day. But for God’s sake, do not force any one to close their business or shops. You do NOT have the right to do so. If you do not like to work a day and prefer to relax and enjoy, take a day off. Do not force all others to do the same. Do not interrupt the traffic. You can never give the life back to the patients – who die on the way to the hospital because of not having proper medium of transportation on the Hartal day.

4. Please understand that Hartal is a totally useless and barbarian method to protest against something. It is very simple logic. (no idea why the political leaders never understand this !!). This is the most cruel method and causes only trouble for the common man. There are people in India who get less than 20 Rupees (that is 0.5 USD) for working the whole day. You are responsible for people losing even that. Please try to open up your eyes and stop this crap for ever.

5. We will NEVER become a developed country if there are Hartals. Every Hartal will show us bad in front of the world. Every tourist who spend a day during the Hartal in India will curse us. They will tell their friends how terrible it is. The foolish act of some political leaders will make India’s image really bad. Do not allow it. Do not make the life miserable for Indians and those who come to India. Every Hartal will take the nation back to 5 or 10 years.

Now I feel better !

Foot note : I apologize for using the term ‘Stone Age’. Comparing these incidents with the ‘Stone age’ is like insulting the people who lived in that Era. They were so good, they never made our life miserable by declaring Hartals every now and then.