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

Budget Truck Rental Very tight budget for customer experiences.

Having a terrifying and frustrating experience with U-Haul, I started searching for other options and I found Penske and Budget Truck rental. I had no luck with Penske, it was fully booked until next Wednesday. I went to Budget truck rental web site, and tried to make the reservation. To my surprise, trucks were available to be picked up on the Memorial Day itself. I booked a truck to pick up at 4PM on the Memorial Day.

On that day, I called up the dealer location. No body picked up the phone and it was automatically transferred to Budget Truck national service number. So I tried to go to the actual location to find whether the location would open on that day. I spent almost half an hour at the street address, but could not find the location. I called the customer service and explained the situation and asked for any alternate phone number. She gave me a number, but the same story with the new number. After a few rings, it would automatically transfer to national service number.

I called up the customer service number and explained the situation and asked them to ask the dealer give me a call so that I can locate the dealer in that area. They refused to do so. They kept on insisting that I had to go to the location to check. I told them I could not locate the store even after spending half an hour and I need help in locating it. She kept me on hold almost for half an hour and came back saying that I had to go to the dealer and check whether the store is open on Memorial Day. I asked her why the hell I had to do that. Why should I go and check. I made the reservation on their website. It gave me the hours of operation but never indicated that the dealer location might be closed on that day. It confirmed my reservation to pick up the truck at 4PM at that location. She then told me that their web site couldnt track the working hours and holiday schedules of individual dealers so I had to check all that stuff on my own. Then why I should book at all on the web? The web site does not know whether a truckis available, does not know the dealers holiday schedule. Then how can it say that is confirms my reservation for a truck to be picked up at a certain hour at a location? On the reservation confirmation at least it should have mentioned that they do not know the actual working hours and dealers holiday schedule so I need to check with the dealer. They failed to mention that and they were reluctant to accept that. They kept on telling me that I had to manually go there and check it myself. The dealer might be closed on Memorial Day.

When I later called to cancel the reservation, it went to an agent who books new reservations. The agent there told me that the dealer was closed on Memorial Day and they had that information available with them. Then the previous agent I talked in the customer care department was bluffing me that they had no idea about dealers holiday schedule.

They did not honor the reservation at first place. And when I tried to cancel the reservation they told me that they could not do it too. I had to call the dealer to do that. If I cannot reach them on phone, I had to go to the dealer location and cancel it. If I could not talk to the dealer on phone, how can I find the location and how can I go and cancel it. Trash people!

Next morning I called up the dealer and told the entire story. He told me that he had no trucks available at that time so he would give me a call once he gets a truck. Seems like, they never reserved any truck for me. They take orders and when the customer goes to the dealer he would give the truck if available at that time. Otherwise he would have to wait till one is available. Truly a horrible system. I waited till afternoon and cancelled it.

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...