Monday, December 26, 2005

Learned helplessness

There was a posting 'Perpetual' by Rakesh discussing about two articles published by New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that described how adolescence is increasingly being stretched into adulthood.

Link to posting 'Perpetual' by Rakesh Khurana


Few points to note from his posting talking about the articles mentioned:
1. A new generation of American parents are involving too much in the education of their children.
"A new generation of overinvolved parents [who] are flooding campus orientations, meddling in registration and interfering with students' dealings with professors, administrators and roommates".

2. Many parents are considering thier children's education as an investment, and expect to be treated as customer by universities.
3. Youngsters are depending on their parents for everything and expect parents to solve their problems.
A bottle-fed upbringing has created a dependent generation that expects their parents to solve all their problems. The children, in other words, have been socialized into stunted adulthood. Psychologists call this dependency phenomenon "learned helplessness.

4. Parents started considering thier kids as extension of their own identities and their success/failure as their own.
this new group sees their children as extensions of their own identity. Their childrens success or failure is seen as a marker of their own success or failure

5. Kids are lifting things from their parents
The New York Times article focuses on kids "lifting" things from their parents. Apparently, there is a significant enough group of thirty-somethings who visit with their parents and raid their underwear drawers, if not the drawers themselves, to merit an article


While this story may speak only for a part of the generation in US, as argued by Rakesh, the story holds good in entirety to almost all parents in India. In India, almost all decisions are taken by parents. Starting from what to wear, What to study, where to study.... and everything about their future. Fortunately or Unfortunately, for most, Parents also decide who to marry.

While some may argue that it is good for whatever reasons they deem fit, it is definitely not good for their kids. Once these kids become parents, what can you expect out of these stunned adults who can not decide their own lives, to teach their children. There may be few exceptions, but they are really really exceptions.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

4 Indians among world's top 50 business gurus

Four Indians figure amongst the world's top 50 management gurus, according to The Thinkers 50 2005 .

1. C K Prahalad (rank: 3)
2. Ram Charan (rank:24) ( Read Man of Mystery by Fast Company]
3. Vijay Govindarajan (rank:30)
4. Rakesh Khurana (rank:33)

Link to The Suntop Media Thinkers 50

Sunday, December 18, 2005

India vs China

Forbes announced 'India's Richest 40', the second annual list of 40 richest Indians. The list is nicely represented by IT, the industry that created all the buzz about India than any other industry. The next sector that created more buzz is telecom and is aswell represented nicely in the list, though IT and Telecom are still behind the tycoons from Steel and Petrochemicals overall.
Link to Forbes Story

There is something more interesting information in the list. There is a comparision between China's top 40 list and India's top 40 list. India has 27 billionaires with a collective worth of $106 billion compared to 10 from china with a collective worth of $26 billion. And there is little more for Indians to party. The minimum networth of the people in the list is $590million in India where as China's minimum net worth stands at $321 million.

But there is some thing interesting mentioned at the botton of the comparision, which brings a starking difference to light between China and India in wealth creation and distribution. China is far ahead in GDP with a $7.3 trillion while India is still pegging at $3.3trillion. Though GDP is much higher, China has fewer Billionaires. It means China's wealth might have been distributed across more people while India's wealth is concentrated across a few. There is another good news for China. China is growing at 9.5% compared to India at 7.3%. For a moment I thought India is almost catching up with china in growth. But I realised it immediately, that India is not catching up the growth in volume but just the growth rate. And it makes a big difference.
Here is little math., assuming that both countries maintain the same rate of growth.

Year -India -China
2005 -3.3 -7.3 - India GDP is around 45% of China GDP. Difference in GDP: $4.0 Trillion
2006 -3.54 -7.99
2007 -3.79 -8.75
2008 -4.07 -9.58
2009 -4.37 -10.49
2010 -4.69 -11.49
2011 -5.03 -12.58
2012 -5.40 -13.77
2013 -5.79 -15.08
2014 -6.22 -16.52
2015 -6.67 -18.09 India GDP is 36% of China. Difference in GDP is $11.4 Trillion

Can India really catchup with China?
Slow and steady wins the race ....................................................
only when the faster opponent is sleeping!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Humane Interfaces vs Minimal Interfaces

There is an interesting debate going on between proponents of Humane Interfaces and Minimal Interfaces. It looks like, Ruby camp is representing the Humane Interfaces while Java camp is representing the later. The debate started with a posting by Martin Fowler "HumaneInterface". And here is a summary of the debate., referred to as the Monkey knife fight.

I favor the Humane Interface camp. The interface should reflect all reasonably common scenarios it can be used. Not just the minimal building blocks. Let me explain by an example. Assume you have a Math class and a method add. As per mimimal interface camp, this is enough to carry out addition, subtraction and multiplication. It is true that you CAN do all those operations with add method. But not without user writing some code on top. Like if you want mulitplication, you would write a loop to add it as many times or some other smart logic. Imagine you have 1000 different users use your class. All 1000 users have to duplicate similar code in their product to do muliplication. All 1000 users have to test their code. All 1000 users have to maintain this code. But had this multiplication code be added to the class itself, the class would have been tested only once and need maintenance at one place. This would help developers focus more on the business logic, than writing utility functions all around. This might be translated in to hefty $$$ of savings for organizations too.

However, it is little hard to find out balance and identify only and all reasonably common scenarios and provide an interface equipped with all of them. But it pays off very soon, particularly if you are writing generic libraries, like the Java framework libraries. But there is a blessing in disguise in the minimal interfaces. Lot of work and more jobs for a whole lot of programmers.

30,000 Iraqi civilians killed. For what?

I can't comprehend the implications of removing Saddam and establishing Democracy in Iraq. But denying the chance to live to 30,000 innocent civilians, doesn't sound appropriate. I do not know whether the world or America is safer without Saddam. But America's safety certainly became a nightmare to Iraqi civilians. Why do 30,000 Iraqi people have to pay the price for the safety of America?

Bush replying to a question (why war on Iraq when there was no conclusive involvement of Iraq in 9/11 attacks), said
"knowing what I know today, I'd make the decision again. Removing Saddam Hussein makes this world a better place and America a safer country."

I really don't know if America is safer without Saddam. I seriously doubt that. As much as the America's success to catch the real men behind 9/11.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Kaizen is... Very Dangerous Stuff?

Tom Peters in his 'This I Believe' puts an intriguing and fascinating end to Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) belief in order to create some thing new... the next big thing.

Kaizen (Continuous Improvement) is...Very Dangerous Stuff.
Caught with our pants down by vigorous Japanese competitors, we Americans quickly copied their essential competitive ideas, such as Total Quality Management and Kaizen. Fair enough! Brilliant, in fact! Yet these important notions are in part cornerstones of an earlier, industrial age…when winning products stayed on the shelves in showroom floors for years, even decades. Now excellence has become transient (few teams win back-to-back championships in sports, the competition and rate of improvement have become so intense); and the fact is that the Pursuit of Perfection (at todayʼs “sport”) gets in the way of ferreting out the Next
Big Thing. My de facto mentors in all this are media guru Marshall McLuhan (“If it works, itʼs obsolete”) and IT guru Nicholas Negroponte (“Incrementalism is innovationʼs worst enemy”). Excellence has become transient… the Pursuit of Perfection (at today’s “sport”) gets in the way of ferreting out the Next Big Thing.

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Super Hero - Celebrating the Indian Developer rocks...

Microsoft Chairman and Chief Software Architect, Bill Gates, launches the next generation of integrated computing platform - Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005, and BizTalk Server 2006 in India on December 9, 2005. Joining in the celebration is the Indian Rock band – Parikrama with a rock song just for our Indian developers. Called `Superhero' the song is about the life of a programmer. http://www.microsoft.com/india/ready2005/song/default.aspx

Miracles

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is." -- Albert Einstein
What do you appreciate and what do you ignore? Is a sunrise any less special because its image wouldn't make it on a magazine cover? Is any day less precious because, in your mind, "nothing special happened?" For some reason, it's hard to be impressed with anything these days. Driving a car is a source of strain instead of wonder. The internet is already old news. Quick, when was the last time you paid attention to a space shuttle flight? Remember when that was all people could talk about? Once you take something for granted, you also take the life out of it. When nothing is "special", boredom and gloom aren't far behind. Look around where you're sitting right now, and try to see it for the first time, like a child would. Think about the human potential that created the stuff in the room. Think about the miracles of nature right outside your window.
Think about how amazing it is that you're even here to see it.

Start by ...

Start by doing what is NECESSARY, and then what is POSSIBLE.
Suddenly you are doing the IMPOSSIBLE - St. Francis

How does patent system work?

Here is a classic, "Create or Perish", by Dr. Robert Rines available at MIT open course ware explains how the patent system works. The patents surrounding telephone were used to illustrate various issues with the system.

Wrt to software products, whether you believe in the patent system or in open source, this is good read to understand how patents works.

Saturday, December 3, 2005

SUN's desperate attempts

Strategy is a long term plan that gives an edge. Suicide is a fool's strategy to get an edge over death.


SUN Microsystems announced in a Press Release recently that most of its Middleware and Development tools are now 'free' to use. Not long ago, SUN made its flagship OS, solaris unix free and open source.

Though the press release boasts of the move as
"landmark moves in the battle to create the software platform of choice for the next-generation of the Internet"
the desperation however shows up without notice. As per the recent reports, SUN has been failing for a long time to have sustainable revenue. SUN has been reported loosing its servers market to Linux. It created Java, but never made any considerable revenue on it. And adding to the insult last month 84% of Sun stockholders voted for the repeal of Posion Pill, and thus making it clear that it is desperate to survive at least by a take over.

Now sun made it flagship Solaris Unix open source and free. It made its middleware and development tools open source free. That means no body will pay for the OS or the tools. Organizations 'pay' a little to get the needed support. And sun is betting its survival on these subscriptions to survive. This strategy of giving the product free and living on support services is a suicide. They are good for most of the copy cat open source products. Not for most others. Particularly for organizations who spent billions of dollars in Research and development. No organization made sustainable revenue on those subscriptions. Its not like Printer business. Giving a printer free and living on the cartridges. It makes a real business sense to do so in the case of printers. But not in the case of OS and middleware. The cost of a cartridge and frequency of probable such cartridge purchases definitely outweight the cost of printer in a very very short time. Wireless companies throw out free cell phones to get a pipeline to extract monthly bills from customers. WIth their 2year contracts, they generate a lot more revenue than the cost of the cellphones they are giving away. If you haven't noticed, prices of cell phone rate plans and printer catridges have been increasing at a very fast pace. But the subscription costs of software takes decades to match the license fees of OS and middleware.

They why SUN is doing this? I am afraid, they seem to have no other choice. But this is like committing a suicide to avoid the death. I hope there will be some miracle that can save Sun.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Google's Click-To-Call feature under testing

Being a Software developer in Telecom, I have been hearing about 'Click-To-Call' feature for a long time. Many technologies promised click-to-fax, click-to-call and likes, and there were many implementations particularly in the SIP world as well. But I haven't seen any website either on internet or intranet using this feature. And I happen to read this blog this morning which mentions about such testing going on from Google. Yet another first from Google.

http://www.yardley.ca/blog/index.php/archives/2005/11/23/google-tests-out-click-to-call-adwords/


I tried different searches, but did not see it myself. There are snapshots in the above blog however. There is a FAQ (http://www.google.com/help/faq_clicktocall.htmlFAQ ) also available on the Google site confirming it. Google might be using VOIP behind the curtains to connect the call. Yet another revolutionary introduction from Google. No wonder, analysts are expecting google share prices to go up to $500.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Latency vs. Bandwidth Developers vs. Einstein by Ingo Rammer

Interesting blog posting from Ingo Rammer. http://www.thinktecture.com/staff/ingo/weblog/archives/001431.html

Different perspective about why chunky interface are recommended over chatty interfaces.

Paul English's IVR Cheat Sheet

Link to the Cheat sheet:http://www.paulenglish.com/ivr/

Normally it takes around 15 minutes on most customer care service phone numbers to reach the human agents. But the cheet sheet provided by Paul English might give you the customer care agent at an average of 56 seconds, as per the news story on NPR. What a great relief.

I don't know how long this will work out. And how does it work if everyone try the same option? It has been really frustrating to get in touch with customer care agents. However short time it may workout, it is still a great relief.

I wish, the companies get the message and make it simple and really mean serving customer in providing easily accessible agents. I had a very painful experience with the customer care with Vonage, Uhaul and Budget truck rental and I summarized some of the reasons why customer service sucks for most of the companies along with detailed account of what happened in previous posts on my blog here.
Customer Service Sucks! Everywhere?
Vonage - Expecting good customer service is stupid
Uhaul, they stink
Budget Truck Rental Very tight budget for customer experiences.

Update: I tried calling Sprint PCS customer care, and I got agent just in few moments.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Skype client may steal your bandwidth

I was surprised to know that Skype steals my bandwidth for other Skype users without my notice. Skype architecture is not truly (traditional) peer to peer network, but an overlay P2P network and may steal your cpu/bandwidth[3]. I am not sure whether this is ever conveyed to the end user in terms and conditions or in license. Anyway, it was very interesting to learn the underlying architecture of the one of the most used applications of the day. And, I don't mind sharing my cpu/bandwidth for other skype users. Skype is such an wonderful application, that I don't want to abandon for this reason.

I searched for articles on Skype Architecture on google. Here are some of the links that explain the Skype architecture. I found the links to the first two articles at Brad Neuberg's blog - Coding in Paradise


  1. An Analysis of the Skype Peer-to-Peer Internet Telephony Protocol by Salman A. Baset and Henning Schulzrinne

  2. An Analysis of the Skype Peer-to-Peer Internet Telephony Protocol

  3. Challenges And Opportunities in Deploying IPV6 Applications There is fair amount of discussion over Skype architecture in this presentation


Some important points to note about Skype from the above three references:
"Skype is the first VoIP client based on peer-to-peer technology. We think that three factors are responsible for its increasing popularity. First, it provides better voice quality than MSN and Yahoo IM clients; second, it can work almost seamlessly behind NATs and firewalls; and third, it is extremely easy to install anduse."[1]
"Skype architecture is based on stealing someone else bandwidth, without their consent, for other parties to use."[3]

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Friday, November 18, 2005

Freedom with a Contract

Free enterprise in America does not necessarily entitle the customers with same level of freedom to choose. It is certainly becoming evident with wireless companies. I have been looking for a while to buy a new cell phone for my wife. I looked at all major operators and there are very few or no plans without a contract. I have to sign atleast a 1year contract to get a postpaid plan. And prepaid plans are very expensive. I thought prices will go down as markets and technology improve. But comparing with prices/features to a year back, it is required to pay atleast $10 for the same features, even after signing a contract. This is not the case in the other part of the world. The prices are going down and feature set is on the rise in other markets, while in US prices are on a steep rise.

Wireless Number Portability has been mandated (which allows to change the wireless carrier while keeping your old number), to provide more choice and freedom to customers to chose from. While all carriers agreed and provided the facility, they found a new way to prevent it from happenning in reality. They introduced contracts system, so that a subscriber is stuck with the same carrier atleast for 1 year. Most carriers have 2 years contracts for most of the plans. In effect, Wireless number portability becomes useless. So far, this feature has only provided more money to equipment vendors to support the feature and cost the subscriber a little more in terms of a regulatory fee to provide the feature. This is ridiculous.

While most of these 2 year contracts offers a free phone, I am not sure if it is still worth of the freedom one looses. You can not change the carrier. Period. Technically, you can. But will be paying around $200 as early termination fee, which does not make sense to most subscribers. So, they will end up using the same service, however deeply they hate it.

High Speed Internet via DSL - 1 Year Contract
Apartment Lease - 1 Year Contract
Satelite Dish - 1 Year Contract
Job - oops, you can be fired before you finish reading this posting.

Migrated to Wordpress

Successfully imported all my posts on blogger to wordpress. Thanks to Andy Skelton's tool [ http://www.skeltoac.com/2005/03/12/from-blogger-to-wordpress-2/trackback/ ] and excellent tutorial at http://catsutorials.catsudon.org/?p=15. The tutorial has step by step instructions to import the content from blogger. Thank you very much Andy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

USPS is Spamming my mail box

I am not talking about emails sent by USPS to the online users, but the snail mails sent to every american resident and organization that have a postal address. Everyday I receive junk mail from USPS in my mail box. I have to search through the junk each and every day for the mail that I really needed.

Spamming is very well known word in the online world. Everybody in the world who has an email account suffered due to Email Spamming. Wikipedia describes spamming as "Spamming is the use of any electronic communications medium to send unsolicited messages to someone in bulk. While its definition is usually limited to indiscriminate bulk mailing and not any targeted marketing, the term "spam" can refer to any commercially oriented, unsolicited bulk mailing perceived as being excessive and undesired". And there are so many laws around it to protect innocent victims.

Well, in the plain old world, USPS, the United States Postal Service does a lot of this by dumping so many advertisements and booklets like Valpak coupon books each and everyday. Every day, every american served by USPS has to suffer because of this spamming. Why this spamming of your mail boxes is allowed?

Is there any way, I can prevent this from happenning? Any help?

India In News

"India in News" is a news feed digest that provides latest news about India, has been added to this blog. So whenever you visit this blog, you can also see latest news about India right on this page, after the blog items. Scroll down if you don't see news digest in your window. An rss feed is also available for the news digest in the blogrolls section.

The news search is provided by Google via RSS and multiple such searches are digested and made in to one RSS feed, thanks to http://www.feeddigest.com for such a handy feature.

Photos from Disney Magic Kingdom trip



Photos from my Orlando trip.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

History's Worst Software Bugs

An interesting collection of history’s worst software bugs. There are so many wonderful bugs that haven’t made this list….. like the bug that crashed a premier Wireless Service Provider’s Mobile switches in Dallas last tuesday. But a good historical tally of some of the worst by Simson Garfinkel.

“Last month automaker Toyota announced a recall of 160,000 of its Prius hybrid vehicles following reports of vehicle warning lights illuminating for no reason, and cars’ gasoline engines stalling unexpectedly. But unlike the large-scale auto recalls of years past, the root of the Prius issue wasn’t a hardware problem — it was a programming error in the smart car’s embedded code. The Prius had a software bug.

With that recall, the Prius joined the ranks of the buggy computer — a club that began in 1947 when engineers found a moth in Panel F, Relay #70 of the Harvard Mark 1 system. The computer was running a test of its multiplier and adder when the engineers noticed something was wrong. The moth was trapped, removed and taped into the computer’s logbook with the words: “first actual case of a bug being found.”

Read Article

Invaluable Essays by Scott

Invaluable Essays on Software Development/Project Management and every thing about software by Scott.
http://www.scottberkun.com/essays/

Smoking kills an estimated 400,000 Americans ??

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/sci_tech/features/health/tobaccotrial/usa.htm

Who is responsible for this?
Tobocco companies are talking about responsible marketing, advertising to quit smoking, opening new web sites to inform smokers about the risks of smoking. Come on, there is one big step that these tobocco companies can take to give those 400,000 lives back....(at least won't kill any more) by stopping production of cigarettes. If they think they are so socially responsible why do they abet the killing of so many people every year.

America is Spending billions of dollars on War On Terror to fight out the external militants. What about people who are killing 400,000 people every year in America??

"We are an international company, we operate in nearly 180 countries and territories. There is a health warning on every packet and every carton of our cigarettes, no matter where they are sold in the world - even where governments don't require it. We want to do the right thing." - Mr.Harris, Phillip Morris

I believe, the right thing is to stop producing cigarettes. Not producing them and then spending millions of dollars on advertisements to stop smoking.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Communism in Capitalism via Insurance

Capitalism : Compact Oxford English Dictionary defines Capitalism as "An economic and political system in which a countrys trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state."
Communism : Communism refers to a theoretical system of social organization and a political movement based on common ownership of the means of production. As a political movement, communism seeks to overthrow capitalism through a workers' revolution and establish a classless society. -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism

In simple words, Capitalism recognises classes like rich and poor in the society, while Communism removes classes from society. As per communism, everybody enjoys the benefits irrespective of whether everybody contributed to it. If you see how the insurance works, there is a striking shadow of communism in capitalism. Everybody pays the insurance. But only few will reap the benefits. In other words, if you are paying your medical insurance, you are paying up every one's medical bills. Believe it or not, it is true.

The whole insurance industry runs on the principle that only a few will need to use the insurance amount. If every body gets sick and need serious medical attention to the maximum limits possible, then insurance company will go bankrupt immediately. Health insurance companies use the term "adverse selection" to describe the tendency for sick people to be more likely to sign up for health insurance. Then who will pay for their medical bills? In most cases, you do. According to the latest United States Census Bureau figures, approximately 85% of Americans have health insurance. Approximately 60% obtain health insurance through their place of employment or as individuals, and various government agencies provide health insurance to 25% of Americans. In most cases, believe me it is true that these employees or individuals do not use any insurance benefits.

So everybody in America shares the burden of medical bills for a select few who suffer. Doesn't it charity in the guise. Doesn't it a true sense of communism in the guise of capitalism?
I believe so.

Thursday, November 3, 2005

Microsoft Live Ideas. Btw, what is an idea and What is New??

An idea (Greek: ιδέα) is a specific thought or concept that arises in the mind
of a person as a result of thinking. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idea

I am afraid, folks at Microsoft have a different meaning of what constitutes an idea. I have trouble understanding about this hyped strategy.

I read this news every where in the last couple of days about Microsoft opening up its services on the web. A fusion of Software and Services. "Live era" of software. Peeling off all the marketing hype and visionary overheads, it is a set of web based services like email, blogs, messaging, security, document sharing etc. These services will not be free, but will be based on advertisements and subscriptions. In simple words, application hosting service. Small businesses instead of buying the software may purchase a license to use them on the web, live. So whatz new? I am not sure what is so ground breaking strategy it is. So I visited the web site http://www.live.com/ to figure it out.

Here are the grand ideas on live.com.
Live.com : "Sign in, get the content you want—news, sports, search results, whatever—add columns, and move stuff around at will. It’s all you." Doesn't it look like a personal home page services offered by yahoo (myYahoo) and Google. Indeed, it is just the same. I don't understand, Why should one pay for this service?

LiveMail: "It’s all new web mail, built from the ground up. Preview your e-mail without loading a new page each time (like Outlook®) drag and drop messages into folders, and generally power through your e-mail in a flash. " This is an email service based on Ajax. Google gmail does all this stuff and give 2gig at no cost. Why should anybody pay for it? Yeah, few people who do not know about gmail.

Okay, enough. Some body dare to call them ideas? There is nothing new about these IDEAS, and I don't want to pay for nothing for any of these live services. Live Favourites, Live office, Live messenger, and Live Search......., give me a break. Are these the ideas that Bill gates want to show as an answer to the "Google Services" and/or Google Labs http://labs.google.com/?
Visit the Google Services page or Google labs and figure out yourself.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Yahoo and MSN Messenger Deal

Microsoft, Yahoo Reach IM Deal
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20051012/ap_on_hi_te/microsoft_yahoo

As per this news item, Microsoft and Yahoo will announce today about a deal that would allow users of Yahoo and MSN messengers to send messages to each other. What this would mean if true is that from my yahoo account I can directly send instant messages to my friends with MSN accounts and vice versa. Currently I need to have a MSN account to send a message to friends with MSN. Same with Yahoo accounts. This is a wonderful news, since most of my friends use MSN or Yahoo. I can send instant messages from just one messenger running on my laptop.

It is good to see Yahoo and Microsoft are opening up their Messenger services, though just to the other partner. I wish all messenger services would open up and allow to send messages seamlessly. All of them speak of interoperability and opening up but in action they are pretty closed. It is such a pain to maintain different messengers and accounts to be able to talk to all of your friends. See my previous blog item Open-Closed Messenger Services - Hyprocricy at its best, talking about this pain.

"A Yahoo-Microsoft partnership, allowing users of the competing services to exchange messages seamlessly, would give the two companies nearly as many users combined as AOL has in total"

This would certainly be a wish and Yahoo and Microsoft will surely be disappointed if that is what they are trying to achieve. The numbers do not add up, since most of the users that have an account with Yahoo will also have an account with MSN. So they are not two different users, but a single user with two accounts. So 27.3M MSN users + 21.9M Yahoo users will not give the merger 49.2 M users. My optimistic estimate would be at the most around 35M users.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Talking about Today's Web Service Stack: ASMX 2.0 + WSE 3.0

It goes without saying that most will start using the Indigo as the delivery platform once released due to its intensive focus on SOA, the question remains whether one should focus on Indigo or the ASMX/WSE3.0 at this point? (both are in beta releases). Aaron's blog item, Today's Web Service Stack: ASMX 2.0 + WSE 3.0 compares by listing out the comprehensive feature set supported by Indigo and ASMX/WSE3.0. My gut feeling is to shakeup a little and start concentrating on Indigo keeping in view the advantages Indigo brings in. Indigo offers most choices for the enterprise. But its a consolation for the others who decided to stick in at this point with WSE that they can flex whenever they decide to move to Indigo with ease, since the feature set more or less complements rather than competing.
Aaron Skonnard
Today's Web Service Stack: ASMX 2.0 + WSE 3.0

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

.NET and J2EE Interop resources by Ryan

.NET and J2EE Interop Resources list by Ryan Storgaard
Ryan Storgaard's Blog - Microsoft ISV Developer and Platform Evangelist : .NET and J2EE Interop reso

Gartner:Web Services Vendors: Who's Leading and Who's Innovating?

Discussion on Web Services vendors and their competitive strengths at Gartner website. A presentation and the audio recording of the teleconference are available for download from the website.

Web Services Vendors: Who's Leading and Who's Innovating?25-May-2005
http://www.gartner.com/teleconferences/asset_124171_75.jsp

Friday, September 16, 2005

MSDN Webcasts on Web Services

Here is a list of Webcasts available at MSDN. Most of the webcasts can be downloaded for off-line viewing.


Basics
Web Services (Level 300)
Web Services and Services Oriented Architecture (Level 200)
Web Services Update (Level 200)
Building and Consuming Web Services (Level 200)
Developing in the Web Service Playground (Level 300)
Using Asynchronous Patterns with Web Services (Level 300)
Application Decomposition for SOA Based Systems – Level 300
Service Patterns
Web Services Security Patterns (Level 300)
Web Service Standards Past, Present, and Future – Level 200
Defending Your Web Services—Level 200
Designing Services for the Long Term in Service-Oriented Systems (Level 300)
Patterns for Service Oriented Architecture—Level 200
Let's Learn About the WS Standards: Standards that Promote Interoperability between Web Service Implementations (Level 200)
WS-I Basic Profile
WS-I Base Profile (Level 200)
Web Services Interoperability Profile 1.0
WS-I Basic Profile Security Sample Application (Level 200)
WSE 2.0
Geek Speak: WSE 2.0 Introduction—Level 200
Implementing Routing and Attachments using WSE 2.0 (Level 400)
Securing Web Service Communications with WSE 2.0 (Level 400)
Web Service Message Transmission using WSE 2.0 (Level 400)
Managing Web Services Using WS-Policy in WSE 2.0 (Level 400)
Using Web Service Enhancements 2.0 for Messaging – Level 300
Integration & Interoperability
How to Design Your Web Services For Successful Interoperability (Level 200)
Interoperability and Integration Using Web Services– Level 300
Integration Patterns – Level 200
Microsoft .NET - J2EE Application Interoperability – Level 200
Microsoft Integration Technologies: When to Use What (Level 200)
Interoperability and Integration using Web Services - An Industry Perspective – Level 200
Governance and Compliance in Service-Oriented Solutions—Level 200
Security and Interoperability with WSE 2.0, WebLogic and Axis (Level 300)
Others
BizTalk Web Services and WSE (Level 200)
Programming with the MapPoint Web Service (Level 200)
Design and Architecture for .NET Applications - Level 300
Using Web Services To Connect to SQL Server 2005 from Your Smart Client Applications (Level 200)
Using Web Services with BizTalk Server 2004
Best Practices for Implementing Effective Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Governance - Level 200
Web Services Orchestration, Management, and Security - Can They Play Together?
Increased Agility with Web Services
WSI Migration to WSE 3.0 and .NET 2.0 (Level 300)

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Talking about Microsoft's Ballmer Threatened To 'Kill' Google? - Forbes.com

All the News Media houses started creating a BIG issue around the testimony by a former Microsoft employee who is currently working at Google. One of the issues is about Ballmer, who supposedly told that he would kill Google. I wonder why was it such a big surprise? Go to any Board Meetings or Open house meetings of any corporate, every body in the meeting say they would like(die) to see the end ofl their rivals. Why is it a surprise. They are rivals. And every corporate in America is trying to kill its rivals. And the entire Corporate America is trying to kill the Corporates across the world. That is what they call the Competition. I don't see any thing unusual in this. Google is trying to kill all other search engine companies. Skype is killing most of the telecom big heads. Bloggers are killing the hypocritic traditional media houses. So what? Anything unusual? Everybody is trying to kill somebody else, for that matter. Not all businesses complement each other. They compete with each other, and whether they say it or not they are trying to kill the other. They must have said it. They must have said it millions of times.
Microsoft's Ballmer Threatened To 'Kill' Google? - Forbes.com

Quality of American Cars - Inherently inferior?

By looking at the largest Auto recalls in America's history, I am wondering whether American made cars inherently of inferior quality? All top 5 Largest Auto Recalls are from either Ford or GM. The number of vehicles recalled is huge (around 28 million vehicles), indicating that the problems are found long after the the release or the companies ignored the results obtained during their internal tests assuming that the problems would not surface. Or the companies acknowledged the existence of a problem in thier vehicles after a long time the first incident is reported. Eitherway, recall of such a huge number of vehicles would cost them very dear. Would it have been prevented if they had spent some more money on the testing?
Quality is costly. But lacking it, always costs a lot more.

CNN.com - Ford recalling 3.8 million vehicles - Sep 7, 2005
"-- In 1996, Ford recalled 7.9 million vehicles for faulty ignitions
-- In 1971, GM recalled 6.7 million vehicles for engine failure
-- In 1981, GM recalled 5.8 million vehicles for a rear axle problem
-- In 1972, Ford recalled 4.1 million vehicles for a shoulder-belt problem"

Monday, August 29, 2005

Open-Closed Messenger Services - Hyprocricy at its best.

Most of my friends use Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, Gmail or rediffmail. What it takes to send an email to receive an email. Open an account with Yahoo or Hotmail or Gmail or as a matter of fact any email provider. Irrespective of what mail service each of us use, we can send mails to each other and receive from each other. Its cool.

But what it takes to send an instant message or chat with my friends? Unfortunately the answer is not as simple as with the email. I need an account with each of these, since the messengers from these companies will not work together. I can not talk from my Yahoo messenger to a buddy who uses MSN mesenger. I can not talk to a friend who is on AOL. Now the new entry in to the instant messenger, googleTalk, do not address this issue either. If you install googletalk you can only talk to buddies who use googletalk.

I ended up installing all kinds of messengers including the new actors on the scene, skype and google talk on my laptop, so that I can always stay in touch with my buddies. So does most of my buddies. The problem does not end there. It is almost impossible to keep the account name same across all these services. So I had to create a new unique id or send an email giving my account list to my buddies. Unfortunately, I may have to do this every time I get a new messenger.

Each of these companies are committed to be Open when they talk and yet they are Closed forever in their deeds. Why don't they make their messengers interact with each other and make life simpler. If they talk about user experience and convenience, come on. Forget it. They don't care. They have a different agenda.

Painful MS(D)N Search Vs. Elegant Google Search

There are some things Google Search engine does a lot better than all other search engines. The most important one is the relevance of search results to the query. Used google for some time, and I kinda fell in love with it. When MSN search is out, I tried it to see if it is better. I was very disappointed then, and the same to date.

Here is a latest example. I was trying to locate any web casts on webservices recently. I opened specifically the on-demand webcasts page, http://www.microsoft.com/events/webcasts/ondemand.mspx and gave a query in the search box "Web Service, webcast". There are 10 results on the first page with 3 results belong to 2005 and the rest to 2004. And nothing leads to a specific page with latest webcast on web services.

Here are the top 3 results. Month of August did not appear in the first page at all:
Webcast Archive: July 2005Search Microsoft.com for: Go Browse by Type Information For Resources Product Families Events Worldwide Webcast Archive: July 2005Published: August 5, 2005 The following webcasts from July 2005 are available for viewing anytime. This list automatically sorts webcasts in reverse chronological http://www.microsoft.com/events/webcasts/library/200507.mspx

Webcast Archive: May 2005 Search Microsoft.com for: Go Browse by Type Information For Resources Product Families Events Worldwide Webcast Archive: May 2005Published: May 31, 2005 The following webcasts from May 2005 are available for viewing anytime. This list automatically sorts webcasts in reverse chronological order http://www.microsoft.com/events/webcasts/library/200505.mspx

Webcast Archive: February 2005Search Microsoft.com for: Go Browse by Type Information For Resources Product Families Events Worldwide Webcast Archive: February 2005Published: February 28, 2005 The following webcasts from February 2005 are available for viewing anytime. This list automatically sorts webcasts in reverse http://www.microsoft.com/events/webcasts/library/200502.mspx

I tried the same on Google. Query=Web Service, webcast site:www.microsoft.com. And here is the first result:
Events and Webcasts: On-Demand Webcasts
Fri, 26 Aug 2005, MSDN Webcast: BizTalk Web Services and WSE (Level 200), On-Demand Webcast Customer Rating: *. Thu, 25 Aug 2005, MSDN Webcast: Essential ...www.microsoft.com/events/webcasts/ondemand.mspx - 69k - Aug 28, 2005 -

I went to the on-demand web casts website to verify whether this page has the latest web services webcast or link. And I found that link to be absolutely true. Now this is what I call, relevance to the context. Google is far better than MSN search when it comes to searchin the web, even on the microsoft web site.

When it comes to searching MSDN content, I do not know much about MSDN search. But here is an expression of pain from a microsoft blogger. It looks, Andy do not use Visual Studio online help system. Do not use MSDN search on the web either. He uses google to search MSDN content. Does it tell some thing?

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Excellent Java Web Services Programming Course

Found an excellent course outline to learn Web Services in Java. The outline is very detailed, precise and has links to valuable resources on the web.

Web Services Programming Course Root Page

ServiceOrientedAmbiguity

An interesting summary of thoughts on what Service Oriented Architecture mean to different people by Martin Fowler. Each camp says aloud one and just one aspect of it and calls it the SOA. But he summarized all of them and bunched them together to see the real picture. It proved to be very true to me, after being struggled to see through the marketing jargon and hyped up talks to comprehend what it really means. I am afraid, very few understood what really matters.

MF Bliki: ServiceOrientedAmbiguity

Monday, August 22, 2005

Buying guests for an occasion?

It is not uncommon in India to buy attendees for Political rallies to demonstrate strength of support in the public. And it is quite common to buy film stars to attend major functions to add some glamour to the evening. But have you ever heard of buying some guests to appear in a marriage?
 
I Came across a news story(Entrepreneur cashes in on rented revellers, http://www.freelanceuk.com/news/1311.shtml) talking about a booming business of "arranging" guests for marriages in India. The enterprise, called "The Best Guests Centre" in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India supply guests in the required traditional attire to the ocassion for a charge. The madeup guests do everything they can do to make sure that the ocassion is celebrated in the true(?) spirit.
 
What else you can buy for your marriage? Hell no. Don't say, bride.

 

Friday, August 19, 2005

Why does India still kneel before World Bank for loan?

India is seeking loan from World Bank for its “Bharat Nirman” program, aimed at developing rural infrastructure. Why the much hyped super power nation is kneeling before World Bank for a loan to build infrastructure  There are so many nations in the world that desperately need those funds from world bank.
 
The government impose surcharge on every conceivable thing to contribute to meaningless and truly political war against Pakistan. How can India afford so much on military while they invest so less on infrastructure. Why don't they impose surcharge towards building the much needed infrastructure?
 
Why doesnÂ’t the Indian government ask the IT corporate houses to contribute towards building infrastructure? Keep aside the social responsibility; IT big houses are the ones minting money on the existing infrastructure and hefty pro-business incentives (that are making an ordinary citizenÂ’s life much harder), and they should pay back.
 
The government has decided to break the backbone of the nation by cutting all the subsidies given to the agriculture sector, the largest sector in India, but increased hefty incentives to the corporates. Land is free, no tax, uninterrupted power..... list goes on, while 8 hours a day residential power supply became a precious gift to the rural areas.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Which is secure? Java or .NET?

The following posting at MSDN .NET security blog points to a comparison study, "Comparing Java and .NET Security: Lessons Learned and Missed" done by  Nathaneal Paul and David Evans from the University of Virginia Computer Science Department. The research was funded by National Science Foundation and DARPA.

Link to the Document : http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~nrp3d/papers/computers_and_security-net-java.pdf

Comparing Java and .NET Security
http://blogs.msdn.com/shawnfa/archive/2005/08/17/452760.aspx

It is very interesting and very informative to compare .NET and Java in depth on what matters for security. In summary, .NET has ZERO major security vulnerabilities reported while Java has its list growing.    


Update on 10th Feb 2005: 7 more vulnerabilities found in Java runtime. Read the sun's announcement.

Monday, August 8, 2005

Some things will never change in India..

Some things will never change in India like relying on Astrologers to do any thing
important.  Go and seek an astrolger to start some thing. Go and seek Astrologer if some thing does not workout.  Go and seek Astrologer if some thing works out well.
 
If it worksout well, then soon the astrolger would become a saint. He will be worshipped. If not, never mind, people will look for another. This goes on until they find one Astrologer where some thing will finally workout. And a few days later, they start searching again.
 
I recently came to know about an incident, where a girl who has been searching for a  job in Bangalore, was advised by an Astrologer to try in a different direction, as  in Bangalore nothing would workout for her. She also had to goto a famous temple to do special rituals. They decided to move from Bangalore to Hyderabad to look for a job.
 
I do not understand how it would help. And neither they do. This is what they believe in. This is quite common everywhere. Be a computer science engineer in Bangalore, doctor  in Delhi or
a farmer in the village. Astrologers have a special place in everybody's life in India. India's super Computer itself was inaugurated at a time set by an Astrologer. No wonder, any thing else is done without an Astrologer.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Slogging Epidemic?

A few years back, if you are spending around 55 hours a week on your computer, you better be a geek. You are working out of passion to create some breaking product or in a Silicon Valley startup company. But this is no longer true. These days, most of the Software Developers are 'spending' atleast 55 hours a week, ending up in a 11 hour day at office or work through the weekend. I wonder, why the life is becoming so hard for the software developers.

Here are some of the responses I came across:
--> Work load is too much. Organizations are cutting the costs by reducing the man power while the amount of work keeps going up.
--> Software development is becoming highly complex and to stay current, you have to spend lots of time in managing the new stuff.
--> If you are not slogging, you must have finished your assigned job and you may get new assignment. So to avoid new work, pretend slogging.
--> If you are not slogging, then you are looked as if you are not committed to the success of the project, so you will be in the next pink slip list. You just can't afford.

While I agree one need to spend extra hours to get things done ocassionally, particularly in software development where almost everything is uncertain, I do not believe in slogging every day. If you slog almost every day in 4 consecutive weeks, some thing is seriuosly wrong.

Whatever may be the reason, the slogging epidemic is unreasonable. And I do not believe that any of these slogging teams can ever produce a better quality product. I found that these slogging teams spend good chunk of their time in fire fighting and fixing the bugs they created while they were slogging.

I agree fully with the argument of Joel [Hitting the High Notes], that best programmers under best working conditions produce the best software. "The quality of the work and the amount of time spent are simply uncorrelated."

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Medication to treat anxiety and depression?

Can medication influence your dreams? Can medication help you alter your thoughts?

I believe medication can not cure anxiety and depression either. As per my understanding, anxiety and depression are related to and caused by our thought process. There is no individual that I know of who never felt anxious or felt depressed. Everybody feels the burst of anxiety when he/she is about to do some thing new or when some thing is uncertain. And everybody feels little depressed, when some thing does not work out the way we expect it. It is quite common behavior.

I strongly believe that anxiety and depression can be cured and is possible only by acting on the root cause, changing the thought process and behavior. There is nothing wrong with the people suffering from it. They just needed a break. Let them realize that. It is definitely possible by continuously nurturing positive thoughts and behavior by giving them support and incentives at every opportunity to indulge in an activity of their choice and help them succeed. Prescribing highly seductive drugs, which everybody knows work on sympoms for temporary relief but not on the root cause, to treat depression and anxiety is highly unethical and inhuman.

Six Sigma in software development

Six sigma methodologies help in achieving operational excellence in most of the transaction oriented business enviroments. However they are not as effective as the hype created in developing a new product and in building software.

Here is my posting in response to a query on “6S_SWSE · 6Sigma - Software & Systems Engineering” group on yahoo groups, about the effectiveness of Six Sigma methodologies in creating a new software product.

“Six Sigma processes like DMAIC can be used to achieve operational excellence; reduce waste, improve the existing process etc. If your organization is a traditional software services company or a BPO or pure transaction oriented, DMAIC would be of great benefit to the bottom line. All the projects that I could see and the initial literature on Six Sigma and Software development aimed at improving the organization’s software development process. Code review improvement, test coverage, effective testing etc. I would love to see some literature or projects which directly aimed at developing a new product in software development.

Let me put my inclination not to believe or failed to understand that six sigma as it is now would be of any benefit to design & develop a new software product in to the right context. As every one knows, Motorola stood out along with other majors like GE, Honeywell etc., to demonstrate ROI with six sigma. Being mybackground in Telecom, I am not aware of any better-in-the-stands application or cell phone from Motorola. Motorola was once on top in market share in producing cell phones. They have used Six sigma every where literally. Who can better vouch for it better than Motorola about the areas of application. May be it had a better ROI in quality of cell phones and operations. But it lost its market leadership, and it is now fighting to get back a decent 13% share in the market. Read the recent story in Business2.0 magazine about its fight back. Their focus has moved away from operational excellence, that six sigma brought them, and trying to design a better product. Razr and other new models from motorola that are helping in the fightback were completely conceived and produced under the new head and new facilities. They might have been manufactured in a six sigma manufacturing plant, but the design and development of the phone is not [as per the recent interview and magazine articles]. If I read between lines, it tells a different story about effectiveness of six sigma in developing a new product. Be it ROI or market share or a better product, I have not seen any convincing example of six sigma in NEW software PRODUCT development as such. I would love to see any example or literature in that area”

Alternate Transports for Web Services

It is interesting to know that web services can be supported on a variety of transports other than HTTP. Microsoft's Indigo support some of them ( HTTP, TCP and MSMQ) while other transports (SMTP, UDP, IBM MQ, In-process) can be integrated with the WSE framework. The important aspect of SOA, interoperability is however remain an issue as it takes time for all vendors to support any of these alternate transports.

In this excellent Article, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Choosing Alternate Transports for Web Services" by Simon Guest, Microsoft Corporation from The Architect Journal of July 2005, Simon Guest illustrates different scenarios that need an alternate transport to address the problem.

C++ in 2005 and The Design of C++0x

Recent articles by Bjarne Stroustrup

* C++ in 2005 by Bjarne Stroustrup, an extended Foreword added to the Japanese version of "Design and Evolution of C++". Here is peek in to the sections of the document:
The Design and Evolution of C++
Where we are – 2005
Where we were – 1995-2004
Where we might be going – 2005-2014

* The Design of C++0x by Bjarne Stroustrup, published in C/C++ Users Journal in May 2005

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Free online SS7 Parser

I found an excellent online SS7 Parser at http://www.ss7parser.com. The web site features sample messages for MTP3, ISUP and TCAP(AIN0.2 and SCCP Subsystem Mgmt). If you have binary dump of any message, you can parse that message too. The parser page also allows to edit the existing sample messages on the web page itself. The message editing page shows the byte number and current value and allows you edit the byte right next to it. It is a great aid to learn SS7 messages.

Only ANSI versions are supported at this point. “SS7parser.com supports most of Bellcore GR-246-CORE, GR-1299-CORE, and ANSI T1.113-1992″.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Alternate Transports for Web Services

It is interesting to know that web services can be supported on a variety of transports other than HTTP. Microsoft's Indigo support some of them ( HTTP, TCP and MSMQ) while other transports (SMTP, UDP, IBM MQ, In-process) can be integrated with the WSE framework. The important aspect of SOA, interoperability is however remain an issue as it takes time for all vendors to support any of these alternate transports.

In this excellent Article, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Choosing Alternate Transports for Web Services" by Simon Guest, Microsoft Corporation from The Architect Journal of July 2005, Simon Guest illustrates different scenarios that need an alternate transport to address the problem.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Why bad news always makes the front pages?



Wondering why always bad news makes to the top in all the traditional media. Be it the tv, news paper or magazines, it is always some bad news makes the front pages or the top news.

Posted here are the snap shots of BBC and CNN front pages, with full of items of killings, terror and such.

I do not understand how much all those news items matter to an individual. I understand that in many parts of the world, people are suffering due to few narrow minded individuals. I share their cocern in creating awareness. But too much focus on bad news alone make things worse. If your kid is not feeling well, what kind of stories you read him. Stories of suffering or stories of hope and healthly living? Some times it helps the greater cause, not to highlight the bad things.

Don't these media houses have any social responsibility?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Talking Phrasebooks bags International Award

"Talking Phrasebooks", a mobile application by GrapeCity India has won the prestigious US Handango Champion Award for best Industry Application for the Pocket PC for 2005.

News Posted at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1427484,0002.htm

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Give me an Idea

An interesting insight into efforts towards turning risk-averse traditional Indian minds into full blown global innovators. I believe it is quite possible, for I don't know why it is not possible. I see sparks here and there, but if it becomes an organizational effort and everybody in the community supports, as mentioned in the article, we are sure to make the I in India stand for Innovation.

Give Me An Idea
India needs to take risks and back innovation for scientific progress
opinion by Dr.R.A.Mashelkar
Read the Opion here

Saturday, July 9, 2005

Successes in rural inventions








Image Courtesy: Copyrights by Historylink101.com & found at India Picture Gallery.

BBC News Posting: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4650065.stm

Necessity is the mother of invention. This truth is quite evident from millions of every day innovations passed through generations in India. There are more so in the traditional scriptures. But there has been a focussed approach to collect and document all those grass root innovations in India by different organizations. Read this article to see some of those inventions and how the organisations started it all.

Here is another prominent web site, Good News India that showcases the grass root level innovation across India.

India wins landmark patent battle

Original BBC News Post: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4333627.stm

India wins a landmark patent battle at the European Patent Office on an neem based anti-fungal product, thus setting an example for other groups to follow in proving the vast knowledge hidden in the traditional communities and scriptures. A patent application must be rejected if there is prior existing knowledge about the product or process. But in the United States, "prior existing knowledge" means that the process or concept must be published in a document that is available to the public. It is not acceptable legally if this knowledge is passed through generations, exaclty traditional Indian knowledge has been disseminated. So, Invaluable knowledge the communities possess and available in scriptures need to be disseminated to the world before greedy corporates across the world obtain patents based on this knowledge. Indian tradition believes Knowledge is power and is free.


Sunday, July 3, 2005

Customer Service Sucks! Everywhere?

I heard great stories in books and magazines that enterprises go extra miles to make customers happy. Some even touted customer as a god or of that importance. I read lots of articles about how customers and their interests are driving the new economy and how all efforts becoming more customer-centered to do their best of service to meet the needs of the customer. But when it comes to experience, I realized that it is just another set of key words in their marketing pitch. End of the day, the customer service sucks at almost all major companies. They dont care what you go through as long as their bottom lines are secured. They never seemed to honor their own commitments, leave alone trying to help the customer.

When everything goes well, one may not realize what it means. But when a little adjustment is needed or facing a problem, one will realize how good are their intentions and what they really mean they are. I have not felt even for a second that they are trying to help me outin any of the recent incidents that happened just around the memorial weekend in 2005. This series of horrible experiences just told me a different story about customer service, what I can expect when I really need it and what it really means to them to help a customer.

Here are three different incidents occurred around the memorial weekend 2005, in which there was not event a hint of an intention to help the customer by none of the major household names: Uhaul, Budget and Vonage.
UHaul,Budget Truck rental, Vonage

Few common but seriously painful issues with most of the companies:

· They dont mean what they talk. One can sign up for a service online in minutes, but had to callup and wait till death on the phone to cancel the service. If the companies are really interested in customers comfort, ease of use and value their time, why shouldnt they put an option online itself to cancel the service. It normally takes 3-5 business days to credit/refund the amount or get the thing working , irrespective of how long they take to act on the problem. But your account gets deducted immediately if you owe them a penny.

· Hard-Wait to talk to customer care agent: Customer has to wait for an average of at least 10 minutes on the phone before they can talk to a live agent. I had even waited for 32 minutes to get to talk to the agent. This is another way of saying that We dont care and value your time, particularly when you need our service.

· Hard-core policies and Processes to act on customer grievances but no policy or process to prevent the problem in the first place: They consider it normal that you may receive faulty equipment or a not activated account. And they dont care whether they made everything on their part to ensure that customer uses the service. All they are interested in is whether they are able to charge the customer. Like Vonage charges you from the day you ordered, though the equipment arrives and you start using it almost a week later in many cases. Incase of problems, once they act on it, and if you are lucky they might think of resolving it. But the process will take 2-3 weeks time to completely resolve the problem as they have standardprocesses and policies.

· No customer history/transaction records exist or agents are reluctant to look at them: In each case, they seem to keep NO track of customer interactions. Every time I call up, it goes obviously to a different agent (thanks to call centers and outsourcing) and I had to explain the story from scratch as none of the agents could tell me the story from the records/information they have. On insisting, they may find some references or notes somewhere that say customer had called, but nothing in particular about the problem and obviously nothing about the resolution.

· Off-the shelf Agents: Most of the agents that I had talked to seem to have no clear understanding of the system. They take the call and are well prepared to give the most generic answers; they were taught, irrespective of the situation or the history of the problem. I was in Austin and wanted to pickup a truck in Austin to move to Dallas. The smart agent offered me to pick up the truck in Arlington or Fort Worth. I did not realize that the world was squeezed into such a small place that suddenly Arlington and Austin became so close winding the gap of around 200 miles in between them.

No problem reporting or escalation numbers: And unfortunately, it is so difficult to report a problem or escalate the issue to any of these enterprises. All we can get hold of is their 1800 customer care number or customer care email address. If you insist on talking a supervisor or a manager, the answer is always be the same, there is none available or we will call you back or no body can do anything.

Vonage - Expecting good customer service is stupid

First thing to say Vonage dont care about customers is evident from the fact that Vonage charges you from the moment you signed up, though the equipment to connect and use arrives almost a week later. So for the first week, you are paying for nothing.

I called Vonage a week before my moving and asked to cancel the service at the end of the month. I clearly mentioned to the agent two times that I needed the service to be cancelled at the end of the month, not the day I called for the cancellation. He said, that would not be a problem and he would take care of it. He told that there would be a cancellation fee around $40 that would be refunded once I return the equipment.

Foolish agent, cancelled the service almost immediately. I realized when I tried to call my friend a little later. I checked the vonage account on the net. It was terminated. I received a mail that the service was cancelled from the day I called it self. I told him two times that I need it to be cancelled from end of month not the day I called. But he didcancel my service.

I called the customer care on my mobile, and waited for around 10 minutes to get an agent. Explained all the history and what the agent had done. That was not what I asked them to do, and it was ridiculous that they disconnected my service. He told he would open a ticket and it will be taken care at the earliest, within a hour or so.

I called them later in the day. And then, they started talking differently. Since the account was terminated, they cannot reactivate it. They cant help it. I told I dont care what they do, I wanted my service for the next four days. Then they told me that they are going to open a new account and I would get a new number. I cannot take a new number and possibly inform everybody about my new number, which will be active only for the next few days. I told them that was not acceptable to me. I wanted the same number. Then they came back saying that they can attach my old number to the new account, but they are going to charge again around $69 setup fee for the new account. What the hell? This was not my mistake in the first place? Why I get charged? I told them that it was not my mistake and I cannot allow them to charge again another $69 on my account, though they would refund the amount on termination. Theytold they don not have option if they cant charge me. So in desperation, I agreed that they could charge my credit card and they should refund the amount immediately once I cancel the order at the end of the month.

When I cancelled the new account, they charged again $40, saying that the amount will be refunded once I return the equipment. What the hell, there was no new equipment sent to me for the new connection they crated. I really had no patience to go through all the history again over the phone with the dumb agents. I called them later and explained the entire story, and they told many reasons but finally refunded $40 (for the new equipment as they havent sent any new equipment), but refused to refund the $69 for the new account. $69 would be only refunded after they receive the equipment. They already had a $40 fee for that equipment.

I returned the equipment and received a mail saying that they received the equipment and refunded the amount. I finally got relieved that everything was at least settled now. Looked at the amount returned and to my surprise they have not yet returned the full amount. They should refund me $40 for my old account cancellation, $69 for the new account. They returned only $82 leaving around $28 unaccounted for.

Frustrated with waiting times to talk over phone, I sent them an email to customer care. After a couple of days, an auto response mail with all general instructions and customer care number and email address came instead of resolution. Oh man, it is so stupid. SoI called again, and every time we had to go through the entire story. They seem to have no history or trace of this entire story. First response would always be, they would return the amount once they receive the equipment. They just wanted to give us some answer and get rid of the call. I told them there was no new equipment sent, so there will no equipment that they should be waiting on. They they told that they had charged for the month fee for the service. You got to be kidding. Surprisingly a few moments later, the call was cut. I do not think it as an accident.

I called them again, and asked them why should they charge for the service. First of all, they created a new account because of their own mistake. Secondly, if you return/terminate the service within 14days, full amount shall be refunded. I dont understand why they should charge my account for the service fee for 4 days. Finally they agreed that they would credit that amount to my account within 2 to 3 business days.

I checked my bank account transactions a week later, and there was no transaction made. I checked my account online. How dumb they can be. They credited the amount to my Vonage account, which was terminated 2 weeks earlier. The account was showing a balance of $28, and was terminated. My goodness. Can they become any stupid than this? I called them again and asked they whey did they not credited to my credit card. Again the reply was that it would be done once equipment is returned. What the hell? Do they know what they are talking? You got to explain them all once again. Finally he told it would be done within 3 business days. Now I need to check once again after 3 days. It is like harassment for taking up service with Vonage. I told him twice to send me an email confirming the action as a record to me. He told he would but he did not send an email confirmation.

I called two days later to confirm that a ticket has been opened to credit to my account. It was not yet done and found that there was no ticket opened. I had to explain everything, yet again. This lady finally told that it would be credited to my account in 3 to 5 business days. I asked for a confirmation email saying the same. She refused to do the same, saying that they cannot send an email like that. But they can reply to emails so she asked me to send an email to the customer service. As I have already sent an email earlier, I gave the reference number quoted in auto reply. Surprisingly they could not find that email as well. I got really mad, and refused to send another email and insisted that I cannot accept 3 to 5 business days. They should have refunded 2 weeks earlier itself. Out of frustration, I asked her what kind of a customer service is this? For their fault, why should I call them and remind them every dayand wait for 5 days to get my money. They should have called me up to say what they could do, instead of me calling them all the time if they had any problems. When I asked her I couldnt accept 3/5 business days, she told she can not help it as they have process and they have to follow the process. How can these processes work for their benefit only? I asked her why all the processes work for their benefit to delay and frustrate the customer but not to serve the customer. If had been process whey did not they refund my money in the first place. By the end of the call, she did do the credit transaction immediately and also sent me a confirmation email, I dont know, as per process or against process.

· Agents and the call center system, though may save million to the company but is so dumb. They are not willing to see what the problem is and try to help. Instead they wanted to get rid of the call at the earliest.
· Either they do not keep track of the customer calls or the agents are not willing to go through the history to see if the customer is calling regarding a previously reported problem. You got to explain the story every time. Otherwise, all you get is a default answer irrespective what ever is your problem.
· When they do it, they do not do things right the first time. Everything you have to keep track of it yourself. Never rely that they would take care of it.
o Cancelled on the same day despite repeated mentioning of the cancellation date.
o Make you suffer even for their own mistakes, charged my credit card for the new account created.
o Cant be any foolish than this, Credited amount to my terminated account.
o Credited only part of the amount and bluffing that I had to pay monthly fee for the 4 days.
o They kept my setup fee for the 2nd account till I returned my original equipment thought there was no new equipment sent to me.

Uhaul, they stink

I was planning to move from Austin to Dallas over the memorial weekend. Once I decided my dates, on my friends advice I immediately dropped down to a near by U-haul dealer and did the booking to pickup the truck on the Friday. I was very happy when the dealer said; I was lucky to get the reservation confirmed during the memorial weekend. The contract paper printed to me said that, it confirmed the availability of the equipment for pickup on Friday, however some one from UHaul would call me one day before to give me the location of the dealer from where and when I can pick it up on Friday.

But no body called on Thursday, as they promised. On Friday morning around 11AM, I calledu-haul and told them that they were supposed to call me a day before. The agent sound polite and said that within in next 30 minutes some body would give me a call and give that information. I was very happy with the response and the 30 minutes target they set themselves to respond to a customer. I was busy for almost next 2 hours and there was no call. I called them again, I explained everything, and the agent repeated the same thing, as if the same message was played again. Some body would call me in within next 30 minutes. From that moment, we called U haul almost every 45 minutes or so till 5PM. Any one who ever called a customer service 1800 number would know that one had to wait painfully longer times to get to talk to the agents. It was really tedious and horrible. I had waited once for 32 minutes to get to the agent.

I got frustrated and when I called them next time around 5:30, I refused to accept that 30 minutes answer. I told them that I had been receiving the same response from 11 am that day and I wanted a definite time frame to get the truck. It was their responsibility in the first place to give me a call. She told me that she couldnt give me a time frame. Some body would call me when there is a truck available. What? I asked her if I could talk to her manager or someone who can really look in to my order and tell me why I had to wait any longer. She told me point blank, every body would tell the same answer, as they do not have trucks available that time. Oh my god! This was the least expected answer. I told her I made all my plans to move out next day morning and I could not afford to wait any longer. She offered me a nice choice a moment later. If I wanted that real bad at that time, I can pick up a truck in Fortworth or Arlington. I got really mad. I was planning to move from Austin to Dallas and she was offering me to pickup the truck in Fortworth or Arlington. She might be real poor kid in geography or she might be making fun out of my situation. She told me that she couldnt guarantee anything but some one would call once they had a truck available. I asked her then what does the contract mean to them. The contract says the truck availability is confirmed only the location and pickup time will be informed a day before. She told, she doesnt know what that mean and asked me when I did the reservation. I told her I did it on the Tuesday. She then revealed that they could not accommodate for customers who did the reservations two weeks before that Tuesday. And on insisting she told me that there were still 30 more customers in queue waiting for a similar truck in the neighborhood. I knew it by that time that I would not get a truck on Friday. And I had no choice but to wait till next morning to see if they can pull up some thing, as it was too late to book a truck from a different company. Next morning I called them up and there was no change in their story, within in next 30 minutes some body would call. I got fed up with this, and I cancelled the reservation.

U haul cheated me at point blank and never seemed to be aware of and honor their commitment, leave alone my interests and satisfaction.
· If they had so many people waiting when I did the reservation, U-Haul reservation system should have alerted me that there were already people on waiting list and I had to be on a waiting list. Instead, they cheated me by saying that the availability of equipment is confirmed for the given date to lock me in with U-haul. The reservation system and their management failed to estimate and honor the reservation they confirmed.
· They were supposed to call me a day before to inform me about the location of the dealer and time to pickup the truck. They should have called me a day before and should have explained the situation. They never seemed to care about their promise. No body had called even after I called 7/8 times the next day.
· At least, when I called on the day of pickup, they should have told me the situation and the waiting list. In stead they kept on bluffing me by saying that some one would call within next 30 minutes and give me the location, when they had clear idea that it was just not possible as there were 30 more in the waiting list at 5PM in the evening. There must be a larger number in the morning when I called first time.

And there seems to be a serious problem of coordination between U-haul and its local dealers. They could not honor my reservation done through a u-haul authorized agent, but my friend who went to the local dealer and did the booking, got a truck within an hour. The same worked for me later too. May be it will work for you too. Never go to U-haul web site or their 1800 number to reserve your truck but call directly a local dealer or go to the local dealer

NDTV.com : Fact or Allegation ? Just another twisted title for sensationalism

This is yet another example of NDTV.com’s sensationalism twisted titles. The title says, as if this was a fact, woman made to urinate in pub...