Saturday, September 17, 2016

Someone has finally confessed to the death of Google Reader


I miss Google Reader. It used to be the first place I used to go to, once I completed my day’s work. Now I have switched to some other services not nearly as impressive in terms of features and speed, but that is the price you pay when you are using something for free. I used to use it with FeedDemon, another awesome RSS offline reader for Windows, allowing me to read stuff on the go. Never understood why Google would turn evil, and turn off such an awesome service.

Well today I see someone has confessed to being the reason of that death.



I wonder how he is going to live with this for the rest of his life.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

An Unforgettable Onam….


…In which we travel via Banaswadi and on Kochuvelly during the Water wars.

Happy Onam. It is easy to wish somebody in two words, but no true Malayalee can explain what Onam really means to us. For many of us, we stay away from our native, only so that we can come back to celebrate Onam. Which is usually easy, travelling is becoming easier and affordable every day. But this year, we had to overcome a different kind of adversity. The violent self-destruction of a state during its water wars.


I will not explain what these water wars are, enough has been said of the matter by the media. We were supposed  to travel from Bangalore to Kerala on Monday, the 12th of September ,2016. The day started pretty well off in Bangalore city, with all its cheer and lovely climate. But shortly after noon, violent erupted when self-appointed 'protectors' of the state started putting public and private property on fire. A very ironical way to agitate against shortage of water. But that is what happened.

By evening, all public and private vehicles were being blocked from Karnataka to Tamil Nadu at their borders. And TN numbered vehicles were being targetted and burned in Bangalore. Our scheduled bus journey in the evening is cancelled by the operator. And we are stuck in the city. Section 144, and shorter version of  a curfew, is imposed very late in the day, after all the damage is already done.

It was safer to stay back home that day. The next day, there was still no decision if vehicle movement has been restored at the border. So we wait. It was the first day of Onam, when back home in Kerala, Malayalees would throng the markets for purchases. Last minute groceries to clothes, to shopping for Onam discounts. We were supposed to be there, but instead, were stuck 500 kilometers away.

That evening, I began to check travel sites. All private buses had stopped operations, there was no need to take such a huge risk and endanger the lifes of the crew and travellers as well. But it seemed, the trains were still on track. Pun intended. None of the trains bound to Kerala had been stopped. Instead, the railways had arranged for special extra trains to carry people stuck in the city back home. It was probably the only positive action taken by somebody in power that day. But these special trains were unreserved, and  undoubtedly crowded. So I decided not to opt for them.
So I checked the IRCTC site, and found that the last train to leave from Bangalore to Kerala was at 9pm. A non-daily , all AC reserved train called the Kochuvelly garibh-rath. It was scheduled to start from a station on the north side of the city (Yeshwantpur), which was faar away from where we were staying. And it had only one other stop in the city, at a small station called Banaswadi. Although I had heard of the name of the place many times before, I had never known it had its own railway station. That place was still far away, but still commutable. There were no direct buses from our location. We had to rely either on radio-cabs, or take three different buses to get there. BMTC public transport buses were still plying, but not to all places. All the major taxi operators had closed their offices, but some cab drivers , who were willing to take the risk, were still driving around.

And so the first miracle. The train was still accepting reservations, and there were berths available ! Unbelievable. I booked confirmed berths for our travel. Now all we needed was to get to the station on time. So we started attempting to book cabs on Ola. We tried other radio cabs as well,but they were not available.

Due to the curfew like situation in the city, lights had been turned off everywhere to prevent people from grouping together. Street-lights were off.  And the shops were still shut down, so no lighting from there either. It was an eery feeling walking through the city in pitch darkness. I have only seen a fully lit metro-city in Bangalore during nights. All the traffic lights had defaulted to yellow, so it was a free-for-anyone on the junctions. The lesser number of vehicles helped, but those vehicles were driving all over the place.

And then the second miracle. We had been trying to get a cab to Banaswadi. Finally, after more than an hour of pushing buttons on the app, a cab responded. There was a shared cab available to travel to Banaswadi.

Things were back on track now. It took some time to find the Ola-cab, then a one hour journey to the destination. This is the first time that Ola actually sent a cab when we really really needed one.


The Banaswadi station was shorter than the length of a train compartment. It was a small locality with secluded roads, and nicely tucked away. And it was crowded. The crowd was overflowing through the front steps into the yard. And I could hear a lot of Malayalam and Tamil being spoken. Clearly they were all from neighbouring states and were waiting to travel home. We had arrived an hour prior to the scheduled departure time of our train. So we waited, and watched, as trains chugged in and out and ferried off stranded passengers. More passengers arrived via autos and cabs, a family was dropped off by 5 youngsters on their bikes.

Our Kochuvelly express was the last train to Kerala that night. And we could see the whole train was booked and boarded by anxious Malayalees who were travelling home for their state's biggest festival.

Now after celebrating Onam, we still have not decided how we are going to get back. Its now TN's turn to agitate. A day-long bandh has been called in the state, and buses and trains will be stopped at the Karnataka-TN border.

I hope the journey back is less adventurous.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Online Shopping ? Stay smart.


Online shopping is a rage nowadays, I see people looking up prices of watches to motorcycles on computers and smartphones. Everyone is searching for that elusive deal. Its the online version of window shopping. You know, when you are just comparing prices, but not really buying anything.

Turns out , there are apps which will help you do this window shopping , compare prices, and even alert you to other price drops in the category. In India, the extension called Buyhatke is the leader and the best. They have chrome extensions, which will turn active if you are at a shopping site, and show you price trends from the past. It works on Flipkart, Amazon, eBay  and many other sites too.

The extension automatically adds a price trend graph in a simple line graph on the page. Also tries to predict if it is a good decision to buy the product today.


Its amazing being able to see how they fluctuate the price of the same product over time. Here is a graph alerting me that the product on sale is actually  priced higher today than yesterday.



Here is how crazily the price fluctuates on some products. Its almost as if there was an earthquake a few days ago.


Also works on Amazon.


But the best feature is that it alerts you if the same product is available at a lower price somewhere else.


Now thats cool. It only calculates base price, and there might be an additional shipping charge.

Another extension you can use the Flipkart Advantage detector.  Flipkart does not metion on the grid view if the product has express shipping. This extension detects that and puts an icon on the product page if it can be delivered on the same day or next day. Here is has placed a red star on the first product.



Things have not been good for shopping sites in India. With the festival season coming up, there will surely be many deals for the customers coming in.

Be smart. And happy shopping !

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Stranger Things renewed..for Season 2 !!



Yep. Its official.

And now, the wait begins. The director brother’s biggest worry seems to be the fact that the kids are growing up way too fast.

PS: I am hoping they don’t do a shoddy follow up like Mr Robot Season 2.