Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leaving Kharagpur with the biggest uncertainty of my life

Dear readers,

Tomorrow I will be leaving KGP with one of the biggest uncertainties of my life. While I pack my belongings that I have accumulate over the last 9 years, I feel marginally sad. I realise that I have become institutionalised.

Right now, I am no more a student. On 28th evening, I ceased to be so. I am still a doctoral candidate. This will remain so until I defend my thesis and get my doctorate.

Right now, I am jobless. I will have to find a suitable job that will give me a decent work-life balance.

Right now, I am waiting.

Right now, I am excited to meet my future self.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The bad policies of Cafe Coffee Day

Dear readers,

It so happens that there exists a CCD in the campus of IIT Kharagpur and I have been regularly visiting there since April 2010. Over a period of one year I have observed their customer policies and realised that CCD still banks on cookie cutter management strategies that fail to engage the majority of the crowds over here. For a coffee shop / brand, this is the perfect breeding ground for loyal customers who will graduate and spend their time (and money) on the more expensive retail outlets outside the confinements of this campus. This is not the case.

An important thing to understand is that CCD doesn't operate as a franchise. Instead the outlets are company owned, company operated businesses on leased / rented grounds. This also means that the management and customer relationship decisions are fairly universal and are at the very least under the same larger umbrella of policies.

1. Pushing of unnecessary food items - While this is effective for first time customers, people who have been regular at any food joint have usually very specific demands. For examples if you take object X from the  menu for a continuous span of days, they'll blatantly tell it on your face that the stock of X is over. This is to push you into buying object Y or Z. You may argue if such a statement is genuine or not. Let me cite a specific thing to strengthen my case.
Sometimes we used to ask when will object X be in stock. One of the employees says, Wednesday. Sure enough, you get it on Wednesday. On Thursday the same employee says that the object X is no more in stock. On Friday some other employee comes along and gives X. Stock of CCD, IIT Kharagpur usually arrives fortnightly. Hence an object cannot magically disappear or reappear in this fashion. Such instances have occurred multiple times in the last one year.

2. Loud unnecessary music - This prohibits conversation. Period. CCD (or at least the one in the campus) is not a place where you can have a decent conversation without increasing the average decibel of your vocal throw. This is exactly opposite to their motto "a lot can happen over coffee". The choice of songs is questionable.

3. CCD has a tie up with 9XM (some stupid channel) - Either the top management has thought that such brainless programming will be the new taste of the youth or the fellows at 9XM thinks that they are hip and cool. Well they are also dumb. You can judge it yourself by staring at that channel for an hour. But I doubt if your instantaneous intelligence level after an hour long exposure to 9XM will allow to to judge anything.

4. They push the customers away - This scenario occurs in two cases. The first is when there is a huge rush. Instead of customer satisfaction, they focus more on serving as many people as possible. Hence, a decent length conversation is virtually impossible. This can still be excused as they are trying to do business. However the worse is when there is a change in shift. They have a sales entry log or something. A person P at the counter registers some order and say the customer places more order after the person P's shift is over. They ask you to clear the bills stating unless this is done, person Q cannot take in the newer order. This usually happens during afternoon times.


Disclaimer : This is a third party observation and the report is based on my sole judgement. If you have any objections, please contact me. This is not a legal grievance. As such this is not a defamation of a person living or dead. I have been granted the right by the Constitution of India to express my opinion on a corporate entity.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thesis update: Gearing up for submission

Dear readers,

As pressure mounds up and I am left in a crunch of deadlines, things have started falling into place like a jigsaw puzzle. As you might have noticed that the thesis update section that used to gobble up 60% op the header space has been reduced. The thesis (document) is ready for submission. However, before submission, there are a lot of protocols I have to adhere to and a lot of paperwork I have to take care of.

Here is a list of what I'll have to do. There may be more I am unaware of. I will update this list as and when information is available to me.

15: Meet the DSC members with the notice and a draft copy of synopsis.
18: Submit a copy of the notice in the office so that an office order can be issued. (Might have to shift this to 18th. Edit: it has been shifted)
18: Get the clearance form. Submit in the Hall Office for clearance.
19: Collect from hall office. Submit in the Dept. Office for clearance.
19: Give a mock presentation to my guide. Deferred.
20: Take printout of evaluation sheet.
20: Call the off-dept DSC member and intimidate him about the synopsis. My guide will take care of this.
20: Fill all necessary details in Research Scholar Information System* (RIS).
20: Give presentation and note all comments.
21: Fill all details of evaluation and prospective examiners (to be filled by the guide) into RIS.
21: Take a printout and submit in office along with a printed and CD copy of synopsis.
21: Get certificates from guide for inclusion in the thesis.
21: Give it for paperback binding.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stay secured

Dear <a particular person>,

Here is a list of things you might consider doing to stay onto secured systems and protect your data.

0. Shrink the Win 7 partition by at least 20 GB
Open Control Panel-> Administrative Tools-> Computer Management-> Disk Management. Right-click on the Win 7 partition and select Shrink Volume.

1. Switch over to some Linux system
I would suggest Kubuntu. Download the ISO, burn it (or alternately create a bootable USB) and install it in the HDD by choosing the empty space you generated from Step 0.

You will be on a malware free system at this point without loosing any data. Also, you can access the Win 7 NTFS partition natively from Kubuntu.

Also learn how to install packages from terminal. It is easy and fast.

2. Start by cleaning up Gmail account
2.a. In FWD/POP settings, see if there is a forwarding address defined. If there is one, remove it. I would even suggest that you enable IMAP and POP and use a client like Thunderbird (since you are on an open network unlike me) but this is optional. The detail instructions to configure Thunderbird can be found here.
2.b. Go to Chat settings and select "Never save chat history" and "Only allow people that I've explicitly approved to chat with me and see when I'm online."
2.c. Double check the filter page to ensure that there is no auto forwarding of mails going on.
2.d. Check the Accounts preference and ensure "Grant access to your account" is turned off. And now change your password. Use a scheme like [base pass + first 3 letters of the site] or a variant so that you never forget your password and password on each site stays unique. Make the base password as complex as possible with Caps, Numbers, Special chars, etc. Check the password recovery options and make sure that no unwarranted email-ids and phone numbers exist. Since your other email accounts are not secured yet, remove the email-id. This is temporary. Once you have cleaned your other mail account, reset this.
2.e. Finally go to the general tab and set "Always use https" in Browser connection settings.

3. Clean your FB account
3.a. Go to Privacy settings-> Custom-> Customize settings and make the section "Things others share" and contact info as restrictive as possible.
3.b. Go to Application list and remove all the bogus apps. There will be a button Back to App privacy on top. Go there and Edit settings on "Info accessible through your friends". Uncheck all options.
3.b. Go to Account settings-> Cross check the Mobile and Notifications tab to ensure that all mails are routed to the secured Gmail id created in step 2 and no other mobile is mapped to the account. Now click on the settings tab and set the primary email to the secured mail id. Cross check so that there are no linked accounts and finally when you are sure, change the password using the scheme described above. Click on Account security and enable Secure Browsing (https) and Notifications.

A note of caution: FB chat is very insecure as they have a lot of public handles in the javascript code. [javascript:Chat.openTab(uid);] is one of them. You're better off with mail, Gtalk (Install Pidgin on Kubuntu to use Gtalk).

I guess this will occupy you for the night. I will expand the list a bit more when you are done with this.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

DP Listener Demographics

Dear readers,

Not so surprisingly
Mostly office going males and some office going females, young public. Strangely, some tween girls, too.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Issues with Go Daddy

Dear readers,

Last few days have been really tough on me. While I have to take care of the technicalities and back-ends of the band, my PhD synopsis is getting closer with not much progress there. On 30th we geared up and ironed out all technicalities to promote our singles. And just in the nick of time, on 1st July, Go Daddy, our host provider for the last three years screws us up. The site goes unresponsive.

On 30th, while we were preparing a mailer, Ghoshal-da, our manager found out that he was not able to access the website. There were trailing folder names that did not existed. e.g., that was automatically put in by the host (load balancing? - someone knowledgeable may help me out). The issue was not that big since throughout my debugging session I did not see any of this.

I started noticing significant problems on 1st. The FTP connection kept dropping off every now and then. And I kept seeing first hand of what Ghoshal-da had reported earlier. I start reducing the load from the website - as much as possible. Our website is heavy on PHP and fetches content from other places like blogger, twitter, soundcloud, etc. We still pushed through with the plans and made the songs public.

I also wrote this to Sudipto and Ghoshal-da -

Our hosting space on Go Daddy expires in October. Personally, I have started to dislike Go Daddy for many reasons.

Even mild traffic on our website screws up the load times as we have seen in the last few days. In the last one day we have seen 150 page hits. I have written about this to Go Daddy customer care.

The FTP connection of late falls off due to no reason when I use a third-party (reliable) FTP clients. In the last two days I was forced to use their own FTP interface.

While there is still time till October, I want us to shift to some other reputable server after that.

Now, I must mention that the maximum traffic we get may be of the order of 300 people on such days. Usually its not more than 3-5 visits per day. Paltry, huh! Not for Go Daddy. Their rattling grandfather's clock era hardware cannot even support such small spikes. So, they punish us (not the human, intentional one) which may be described better by the mail I wrote to their customer support.

My site is hosted on your servers (Linux, Economy). Even with very less traffic like that of occasional 150 (peak) people visiting our site, our site is terribly, terribly slow. The server response time is really horrible. It often results in 502 and once or twice has even resulted in 404!

Please look into the matter and fix this issue.

They were taking too long to reply. So I tried using an intermediate cache from CloudFlare. Of course this meant that I configure my domain to point at their nameservers - which I did. I tried switching to their 4GH plan, too, but sadly they don't support auto-migration from legacy systems to new system. Around 6.30 PM IST, when we had almost decided to shift our host, Go Daddy support team writes me back

It appears that at this time, your domain is pointed to another hosting provider. (Of course, I had it set to a cloud based cache, which at least let the visitor look at a broken site rather than blank screen). If you are having issues with your hosting account, you will want to contact your hosting provider. (That was you, but you you would of course not know)

However, if you would like to use your GoDaddy hosting account, you will need to update your nameservers. As your domain is not registered through us (Thankfully, that's why it was still working), you will need to contact your registrar for directions on how to modify your nameservers. Please point your domain to the following nameservers so that it resolves to the hosting that you have with us.

At this point I was so frustrated that I started taking backups of everything that was on the server. So I posted this on our twitter :!/darkprojectband/status/87137689903697920

Our hosting provider is not supporting us! While we migrate, for listening and for HQ copy.

I called up Sudipto and we made all the arrangements to migrate to a new hosting provider. The only problem was that I did not have an alternate in my mind. So, I sought for help on Facebook. Here's the conversation I had with my friends.

We decided to go with HostGator. Provisionally, for a month. By midnight we had completely migrated.

Go Daddy must go. Their shared hosting is not recommended. Not by me, not by any of my friends, not by the experts.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Things to do, PhD.

I have quite a few things to do.
a) Proofread the thesis. Everyday, I see a new error.
b) Slash the size of the synopsis in half. DONE.
c) Start with the presentation.