Monday, 30 April 2012

PES Ayana 12 [Experience]

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Hats off to the students of PESIT who organised the Ayana12 Event"

When I logged into Facebook the other day, I found an invitation to Ayana. Normally I get annoyed with invitations on Facebook (Who doesn't?) but I click on them normally to see what they are. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was an event that was being held in PESIT. I read on and saw that it was a Hackathon. My first experience with Hackathon was perhaps 8 months back when Yahoo had organised one at Bangalore. It was a very nice experience then and I was sure I wanted to participate. But a college fest? I thought let me first check if I was even eligible. I found that it was open to everyone.

What is a hackathon anyway? A hackathon is basically an event where people come from different places, and code (or do some electronics projects) continuously for 24 hours. A lot of exciting projects normally come out of these events. You can see a lot of different ideas from different people - some of these hacks go a great way in the long run.

It was being organised by students, so normally you expect glitches along the way. When I was at the Yahoo Hackathon, one major issue that was faced was that the internet was not continuous. They had provided a wi-fi connection which was really problematic in the beginning. They eventually gave us LAN cables. Ayana was modeled along the same lines as the Yahoo hackathon. Except, there were no internet problems! There were some minor issues in the beginning, but they resolved it immediately. This was one of the first things I liked about the way in which it was organised.

The crowd was mostly full of students. There were some professional developers too. Well as far as I was concerned, I was nostalgic about just being in college. There were some tech talks that were arranged, but we didn't attend them. Some people go to Hackathons with ideas in their minds, and use stuff they already know very well to build them. We had gone with no preparation and decided to build with entirely new technologies. So the 24 hours, a lot goes into studying and learning things from scratch. Frankly, that's where the thrill is - an engineering student knows the value of last minute preparation when you start getting highly efficient.

We decided to build quite a few things - like I said, unplanned. And then my friend and colleague Amod was busily reading Twitter API docs. I didn't understand why, he wasn't even responding when we called him. Subsequently we saw what he had done. He had written a small hack that would pick out a random statement from and  then hashtag Ayana12 with it and tweet it. This happened every 5 minutes. In the end, he won the prize for most number of tweets and got two pen drives :P Cool huh?

Meanwhile I was busily reading about jQuery mobile and Phone Gap, and ended up building an app called Vaat-o-meter, which is basically an app to complain against erring Auto Drivers. It also allows you to calculate the correct fares for a distance, and directly place a complaint to the authorities from a list of complaints. An email gets sent. This I did for Android.

Then I also worked a bit on some code that I had quite some time back - You can say it is a pet project for me. I added a new feature where data can easily be represented as graphs. I don't want to explain more here - It's been put up on Github. It's basically inspired by Oracle ADF, and will allow you to represent data as a table or form or chart very quickly. I call it JS_Grid

I got a 4 GB Pen Drive for getting a quiz question right. They had organised a nice quiz, a cool boy-band came and played some nice songs as they strummed away, there was a crossword with stick pages (Post It notes) and others. Delicious food as well, though I believe there was a bit of shortage there.

Two stalwarts also spoke - Richard Stallman and Yukihiro Matsumoto. It was fantastic what other people had done. What we ultimately presented was an app that was location aware, and would give you ads depending on your choices - a highly customisable app. But the judges said that it was the same as Foursquare (Which I have never seen) and didn't even see the app :P I guess they were running out of time since we were the last people to be seen. We don't know what the heck is Foursquare except that it was a location aware service. Well nothing to worry about - we thoroughly enjoyed tweeting and coding and learning. In fact I came out greatly empowered because of the aggressive learning that I went through.

But all in all, the event was a great success. Ayana was trending at number 1 in Bangalore and number 4 in India. Hats off to the students. At one point, we were hungry and we tweeted, and they actually brought fruits for us! Perfect hosts. And cleanly organised. I am really hoping that we have this event growing bigger and better as the years come by. PESIT has done a great job organising the event as well, and there is now a PES Open Source community as well. For those of you who missed out on the event, don't worry - be sure to attend it next year.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

VIM Editor [Some cool features]

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"There was a time when I thought Vim was just a bar of dish washing soap."

A text editor is one of the most important tools when writing code. There are tons of editors available. But from time immemorial two editors have always been very popular (and reasons for flame-wars) One is Emacs and the other is VI.

Most Linux distributions come pre-installed with a VI called VIM - Vi Improved. However, the editor that comes pre-installed is not the full version. So, first step, go ahead and get the full package so that you can unlock all features..

VIM is also available on Windows.

Download VIM here.

Why VIM?
Before I go to the cool features, I would like to clarify a couple of points. When there are so many awesome graphical editors out there, why should anyone even bother learning Vi? I had this exact question. I used to get annoyed with Vi in the beginning. The reason is simple. When you connect to other machines via ssh, you don't have a GUI. You HAVE to use a text based editor. And if you are not fully equipped, you will find editing in a console extremely hard, annoying and time consuming. However, even in a GUI based environment, Vim can give other editors a run for money.

Do you know Vim?
If you are a complete beginner who has never used Vi before, then this post is not for you.  Well, anyway, for you to learn, Vim has an awesome tutorial. Once you start Vi, just type :help and the help file will open with a cool tutorial. By the way, if you want to use your standard shortcuts with Vim, have a look here.

Ok, now for the cool stuff:

Did you know you can split windows!
-> Split Window
In the escape mode, type :split. This will split the window horizontally.

Switch between windows
You can press Ctrl + w Ctrl + w (that's twice) to switch between windows. You can split it several times. You can then operate on each window independently, like opening files, saving, etc.

Close window
You can window by typing :close in any window.

Vertical split window instead
Instead of :split, you can do :vsplit

Maximise a window
Ctrl + w Ctrl + _

Make windows equal again
Ctrl + w Ctrl + =

You have multiple clipboards!
You have several buffers. Ok, here's an example. Create a file which has three lines. In the escape mode, go to the first line. Then type the following.
" a yy
This like first tells which buffer we are using. Double quotes " says buffer, a is the name of the buffer, yy is the vi command to copy the entire line.

Similarly go to the second line and say
" b yy
here we have stored the second line in buffer b.

View the buffers by typing :reg in the escape mode.

To paste that, just go to a different place and in the escape mode type the following.
" b p
" a p
And you should see the contents of those buffers getting pasted. So essentially you choose a buffer before copying and again before pasting. This way you can have many buffers. Don't you think this is very useful?

Fold your code!
A feature that you have seen in several modern editors. Say you have a function that is completed. You want to minimise (or fold) that part of code so that you can free up some space and reduce clutter. Simple! Just select the code. For this, in the escape mode, type v (Visual mode) and then move your cursor around and select the code. Once done, type :fold.

This will fold the code up. If you want to expand the code, just go there and type zo. To fold again, type zc.

Align your code - no sweat!
Many times you have badly aligned code. If you want to align it, just type G=gg in the escape mode.

Tabbed interface
Did you know, apart from split windows, you also can have tabbed windows. In the escape mode, type :tabnew. You can open multiple tabs like this. To navigate between tabs, type tabn. This will move to the next tab. To move to a tabbed window, type :tabn2 to move the second tab and so on.

To close a tab, type :tabc or :tabclose or just :close.

If you are in a terminal emulator (basically terminal in GUI) then you can try doing :set mouse=a. Once that's done, you can click inside the editor with your mouse. And this will also help you navigate between  tabs by clicking, and also closing by clicking on the close button at the right side.

Macros to prevent repetition!
There are several times when you want to do repetitive tasks. Like perhaps creating a list of 100 numbers, or adding semi colons to the end of every line. You can record a macro and run it N times. Let's see an example.
Type in the number 1.
Press Esc => q => a => yy => p. Move cursor over 1 of new line. Ctrl + a => q => 98@a

What we did here was, record a macro. q indicates starting recording a macro, a is the name of the macro. yy is copying the line, p is pasting the line. Then, Ctrl + a is used to increment the value under the cursor. The next q stops recording macro. @a is used to execute the macro a. You can execute a macro N times by typing number and then running the macro. 98@a basically runs the macro 98 times. So you should have a list of numbers.

Trying creating a macro for putting semi colons at the end of every line or commenting a bunch of lines.

Bookmarks to move back and forth
Most modern editors have bookmarks. If you want to mark a particular line, then just type ma in that line. Here, m stands for marking, and a is the name of the mark. This can, of course be any name you choose, like b, 4, etc. Now that you have marked it, go to some other line. To move back to the bookmarked line, type 'a. Here, a was that bookmark

Navigate through folders with ease
If you open a directory in Vi, you will see it opening the files and folders in that directory as a list. To go into a folder or open a file, simply place cursor over it and type gf. Typing - will take you one step up.

Run shell commands without quitting the editor
In the escape mode, type :!pwd where pwd can be replaced by any command.
To open the shell however, you can do :shell. This will open the shell and you can run all your commands. Output of a command to the editor can be done like :r!ls where ls can be any command

You can quickly sort by running the :sort command. You can select a bunch of lines by using Shift + v and then do :sort for example. If you just run sort, entire file will be sorted.

That's all for now, but there are tons of features out there!
These are a bunch of awesome features I felt should be shared. I will keep updating with some more if I find them. In the beginning, it is hard - But once you get used to it, you will find it very simple to do hard things quickly.

=== Comments from Facebook ===

Aditya Kiran: 
Thanks! Was searching for some of those!
It has some fancy search and replace stuff that you can throw in there as well.
Liked the multipe buffer one. have been searching that one

You may also like to read
Comment and Uncomment Multiple Lines in Vim
Common Vim mappings to make your life easier (For Beginners)

Monday, 23 April 2012

Read Gmail Contacts Using PHP

Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"It is really good when you make things secure. But it is better when you make things secure without a hassle"

You may have seen various websites allowing you to send invitations to your friends. But surely you don't remember the email addresses of all your friends. And so, they give you a provision to connect that site with Gmail, Yahoo, Facebook etc. Once you click on the link, you will be redirected to an intermediate page of the service (Gmail, Yahoo, FB etc.) where they tell you that the website in question is attempting to retrieve your contacts or other details and if it is ok for the service to share these details (basically, if you trust the site or not).

If you click on Accept and say "Yeah, I know them, they're cool" then you are normally provided with a screen which shows all the email addresses with checkboxes against them so that you can check and send invitations to them.

The following is a quick way for you to do it. What we attempt to do here is - Have a page which has a link that says "Login using Google" (or you can have a big Gmail logo or whatever it is that you like) and another page which will print the email addresses on screen. Instead of printing, you can do fancy things like putting checkboxes next to them and process them subsequently. So, here we go

Note: We attempt to do this using PHP. Hope you have a running webserver.

STEP 1: Go the Google APIs Console

Start using the Google APIs console

  • with a big blue button in the centre that reads Create Project. Go ahead and click it
  • In the panel on the left side, click on API Access
  • You should see a button that reads "Create an OAuth 2.0 client ID..." Click that.
  • Fill out the fields in the dialog that opens. They are simple and self explanatory. Click Next
  • Choose Web Application (selected by default), enter your site details (or localhost). Done!
  • Now you should see a small table that has all the details that are needed. These include Client ID, Email Address, Client Secret, Redirect URIs, Javascript Origins.
STEP 2: Create the login page
This is the page where you have the big Gmail logo, or Click to login to Gmail link that I had told you about.

Create a page called login.php.

Replace the client id in the code with your client id - the one that you got in the previous step

Create another page called my_redirect.php

Replace the Client Id and the Client Secret with the ones that you got at the end of Step 2. Also, mention the name of the redirect uri with the name of the file - in this case, my_redirect.php. All these are used for validation.

That's about it. You should now be able to run this without any issues. I wrote this to enable developers to directly plug ready baked code and understand the underlying mechanisms later. Very useful when you are running short of time.

I had a requirement of some kind which involves this. So thought this should be shared. I did some searching and found the code and is not written by me. I found it somewhere and had made a copy, and I forgot the original source. In case you find it, please let me know. I thought the entire set of steps will make it easier for others to be able to duplicate this without any issues. In case you want the explanation for the code, please do leave a comment.

Coming soon - How to read Yahoo! contacts using PHP

I wrote this in a great hurry. If something is not working, please let me know ;-)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mebay Routes problem [Solved]

Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"When you don't find solutions, create one yourself"

Head First Series is a fun and quick way to learn stuff. It is not a reference book, but great for tyros, neophytes and rookies (That's right, I thought why call them beginners or newbies?)

This post is for those people who tried out the Mebay problem in Chapter 2 of Rails and couldn't go past because there was a routes problem. Just change the Routes file (config/routes.rb) to the following and it should start working. I didn't find a solution anywhere, and found that a lot of other people also were facing similar problems. I figured this one out myself (Pat on my back :P) Hope it helps others.

For further reference on Routing, read this document. It is apparently a highly recommended manual

Friday, 20 April 2012

Desperation drives people

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Desperation drives people to do things that can't be imagined"

"I can't imagine anyone actually buying that crap" said Raj with a look of disgust. "Do they actually believe that people will buy that sauna belt? Everyone knows these ads are bogus. Look at the way they picturise flab being reduced. They should really be kidding."

"You know, there are some things that will drive people to do things which they wouldn't have done if they were calm and normal. That's why not everyone can perform well under pressure. Why do you think some people, who ordinarily are jovial, commit suicide when there are problems? Even something as trivial as raised voices or admonishment from parents, and some times failure in love or exams?" reasoned his friend Anuj.

"Whatever dude! That still doesn't mean you fall for such things. I wonder what kind of people actually buy these products. I keep seeing these dumb ads at night. Well, anyway, I just think that they are fools - those who fall for these." Having said that he started running his fingers through his hair and said "I really need to get a hair cut. Too bad today's a Tuesday. I'll go tomorrow." Then looking at his watch continued "Alright I am off now buddy. See you later" and Raj went home.

The next evening, Raj went to his barber. "Ah Raj Sir, how are you doing?" asked the barber politely. Raj smiled "I am fine Kumar, give me the usual haircut. It's grown really long". Kumar made Raj sit comfortably and tuned to a Telugu channel on the TV and began trimming Raj's hair. The cool breeze from the fan made Raj drowsy. He wondered why every barber he knew was a Telugite, wondered why barbers have that plant outside their shop, wondered why barbers take an off on Tuesdays. And thus, listening to the tandem clipping sounds of the scissors, he dozed off. Gentle droplets on his face awakened Raj. He got up and realised that the barber was done and was cleaning up. He looked at his face in the mirror, cocked his head a couple of times, felt satisfied with his new shorter hair and paid the barber. Brushing off some hair off his shirt, he went home.

As he was filling his bucket with hot water for his bath, he decided to admire himself in the mirror once more. And then his eyes fell on that spot on his head. His scalp was visible through the hair! "Wait a minute, wait a minute" he uttered in a whisper. He went closer, and held his head at the right angle. That's right! He had a bald spot on his head. His long hair had covered it up all these days. He hadn't realised it. His classmates would make fun of him. "Oh God, I am growing bald and I am still in college" - He thought. The bucket was overflowing now, but conserving water wasn't his first priority. "That Livon ad, I should get some of that Livon stuff. Maybe after my bath." He didn't have any enthusiasm throughout his bath.

He came outside, dried himself and started browsing the net. There were several sites that spoke about various baldness problems, causes, solutions. He was rapidly poring through the articles, skimming through information, aggregating it mentally. There were a million products and a million home remedies. He didn't know what to do. The next day in college, Anuj came up to him and started talking about something when he suddenly exclaimed "Dude, there is a bald patch over your head, had you noticed?" That was it! Over the next few weeks, he started playing around with all the various "solutions". And that included various coloured solutions, some smelled funny, some looked funny, some sounded funny. Anuj had commented about a strange smell, Raj had quickly changed the topic. He kept checking his hair in the mirror over the next few days. He used some more shampoos. He had become desperate.

Eventually his hair had grown long enough and he had pulled his hair over the bald patch. Anuj came up to him and said "What's with that weird hair style? What happened to your old one?" Raj didn't want to explain. "Oh, so you are hiding that bald patch eh?" he said grinning. "You don't know how it feels man. I have never felt so depressed. I tried all the products I could lie my hands on, but in fact, I feel the hair loss has increased!" said Raj with a disappointed note in his voice.

Anuj smiled at him and said "You don't have to worry, you are not growing bald. I had asked Kumar to intentionally leave a bald patch on your head while he was cutting your hair." Raj couldn't believe his ears and turned to look at Anuj who was grinning widely. "I paid him quite a bit more, but man, I definitely managed to prove my point, didn't I? You used to pass remarks at those who fell for gimmicks. And look at all the things you have done in the past few weeks. It is easy to pass remarks when you are not the afflicted person. It is only when you are afflicted and continue to remain calm that you are truly great. But most people succumb. And you can't blame them. It's only human"Raj continued to stare at the ground. He was relieved that he wasn't going bald, but he was embarrassed.

"Why do you think so many fairness creams sell in India? We have created a perception, an environment that being dark is not good. And people who are darker feel that they are not natural, not normal. Same goes with the slightly plump, slightly shorter, slightly pimply and so on. We make them feel bad to the extent that they go to weird quacks and self claimed godmen and get into a lot of trouble. Or experiment with untested or poisonous drugs or spend a lot of money. We shouldn't make fun, we should not ridicule. We should all be happy. When those stupid products stop selling, they will start going out of the martket automatically. Get it?" said Anuj putting his hand around Raj's shoulder. "You suck" said Raj grinning. "But yeah, I see your point".

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Petrol Bank

Baba Gyani Triviani said:
"Coincidences can screw you sometimes... big time :P"

The reason I like the sitcom Seinfeld is because of the fantastic way in which coincidences screw their lives. And how the action of one greatly affects someone else in an unexpected manner.

Today I had one such experience. I was sitting in a bus going someplace when I saw a bunch of teenage boys, I guess around 16, standing next to me and talking amongst themselves. "Look, this petrol bank is always filled with vehicles" said one boy. "I thought it was called a petrol bunk" said another. "Dude, it's a petrol bank because they store petrol." replied the first boy. I was grinning to myself when the conductor shouted "Bank!"

Now interestingly when you look outside the window, the most prominent sight that catches your eyes is a petrol bunk on the main road, right opposite the bus stop. The "bank" actually refers to a small branch which is not on the main road but on a lane perpendicular to the main road. The stop is called "Bank stop" because the bank was there a long time before the petrol bunk was constructed.  "See! I told you... It's petrol bank" said the first boy.

The second one was still not convinced. "I still think it is bunk." he said. Now came the ultimate twist. The LED display inside the bus (which always has spelling errors) read "Petrol Bank" and the first guy quickly jumped and said "Look over there! I told you...". He was jubiliant for being proved correct repeatedly. The second guy laughed and said "I can't believe I thought it was bunk."

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Grasshopper vs Ant - the old version and the Indian version

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"When information is presented in a skewed manner, even the smartest minds cannot process it intelligently"

The problems with a dumbass hyperactive media coupled with a whole lot of dumbasses who come together is beautifully portrayed in the following. I had got this as a mail long back and also saw this on Facebook recently. So I thought I should make a post of this and share it.

The old, original story:

The Ant wrks hard in d withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter. The Grasshopper thinks the Ant is a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

Come winter, the Ant is warm and well fed. The Grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

The Indian Version:

The Ant works hard in the withering heat all summer building its house and laying up supplies for the winter.

The Grasshopper thinks the Ant's a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away.

Come winter, the shivering Grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the Ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering Grasshopper next to a video of the Ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.

The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor Grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the Ant's house.

Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other Grasshoppers demanding that Grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter .

Mayawati states this as `injustice' done on Minorities.

Amnesty International criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the Grasshopper.

The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the Grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance) .

Opposition MPs stage a walkout. Left parties call for 'Bengal Bandh' in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.

CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among Ants and Grasshoppers.

Lalu Prasad allocates one free coach to Grasshoppers on all Indian Railway Trains, aptly named as the 'Grasshopper Rath'.

Finally, the Judicial Committee drafts the ' Prevention of Terrorism Against Grasshoppers Act' [POTAGA], with effect from the beginning of the winter.

Arjun Singh makes 'Special Reservation ' for Grasshoppers in Educational Institutions & in Government Services.

The Ant is fined for failing to comply with POTAGA and having nothing left to pay his retroactive taxes,it's home is confiscated by the Government and handed over to the Grasshopper in a ceremony covered by NDTV.

Arundhati Roy calls it ' A Triumph of Justice'.

Lalu calls it 'Socialistic Justice '.

CPM calls it the ' Revolutionary Resurgence of the Downtrodden '

Govt invites the Grasshopper to address the UN General Assembly.

Many years later...

The Ant has since migrated to the US set up a multi-billion dollar company in Silicon Valley,

100s of Grasshoppers still die of starvation despite reservation somewhere in India,


As a result of loosing lot of hard working Ants and feeding the grasshoppers,


India is still a developing country !!!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Our perceptions screw us

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Caribbean coffee is supposed to be good. So I am going to force myself to enjoy it"

A long time back when we used to religiously watch the sitcom Friends, one of my friends refused to. I was so devoted to Friends, I knew an enormous amount of trivia and all the lines by heart and here was one of my best friends who simply adamantly refused to watch. When we asked him for the reason, he said "I don't want it to ruin my perception of friends" Naturally I chortled.

What is this perception thing he was talking about anyway? Knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or subconsciously, we create perceptions about a lot of things without effort. And because of this, we start picking up traits that make us to align to these perceptions. Think about it... I am sure you have at least one friend who likes to put "so" in all the wrong places, as in - "That is so wrong." or "That is so not true". This way of talking is picked up straight from Friends. It is a grammatically incorrect way of speaking, but people don't care because it has a "cool" ring to it. It makes you feel like characters from Friends (Most likely Rachel) and you don't give a damn about grammar if you can be Rachel.

Perception screws you in many ways. Take Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Maid's day and what no? A simple agenda by greeting card companies to maximise sales. Otherwise, think about it logically. What difference does it make about one random day in a year? I can understand if you want to celebrate your anniversary. But you should see the TV shows and how people mope about being "single, and that too on Valentine's Day" or pouting for not getting a gift on Valentine's Day. People break up for these silly reasons.

And because we have some perceptions, we also have some expectations. With the amount of propaganda on fairness creams and girls getting rejected and dejected for being dark (and now some guys have followed suit) it has set a perception and thereby an expectation that fair girls are awesome, dark girls are not. This naturally changes a whole lot of things.

And we have developed a whole lot of such ideas without knowing it. That pizza is fancy and pasta is awesome and Caribbean coffee is so aromatic simply because ads and movies made us feel so. We force ourselves to make it seem so, in order to ensure that we don't seem like misfits. What will others think about us is a very strong driving factor for many. Not just our perception, but others' perception of us makes a difference to us apparently

Perception can be good and bad. Perception can be good if you are trying to protect yourself - it is better to be safe than sorry. If you have a perception that someone is not a good person and that you should stay away from that person then follow your heart. But otherwise, perceptions tend to bias your mindset. And since it is not always a conscious decision, you will not even realise perceptions that you have had and you will tend to have expectations based on that - and since your perception itself was not justified in the first place, your wrong expectations may lead you to lose something valuable. Maybe a job, a friend or an opportunity of a life time.

To summarise, learn to enjoy things that you truly enjoy - don't make decisions in order to make yourself avoid seeming like a social misfit. Sometimes, having a devil may care attitude is going to make you feel a whole lot better. I still remember four of us ordering some fancy Caribbean coffee from a fancy cafe, shelling out a whole lot of money and then leaving half of it there. Our Rs. 5 filter kaapi is so much more better. I am not saying those who like Caribbean coffee lack taste. And with that I end my two paise (see what I did there?) worth of talk.

You may also like to read:

The Cool Factor

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Kabbaldurga - A trek

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"I am in shape... round is a shape"

Desperately wanting to break out of monotony and also the need to give exercise to other parts of the body since ordinarily we are commited to exercising only our fingers (and occasionally our brains) drove us to go out for some physical activities.

Kabbaldurga was a random choice. We picked it after doing a very brief search on the internet. But there are a couple of factors that we took into account. Since we were climbing in summer we thought it should be a night trek - Climbing in the heat is really tiresome for those who are not used to. And we found some other reviews that said that they had climbed this hill at night. The night was a full moon one and this is very favourable for night treks for obvious reasons.

The place is located around 80 kms from Bangalore. You can find it on the map here.
View Larger Map

We hired a cab to the place. The reviews said that the hill was relatively easy. But it is not as easy as you might think. On reaching the place, we decided to climb it. There is a village at the bottom of the hill, which is sleepy at night, but bustling with great activity in the morning. The drive to the place is not more than 2 hours, we reached there around one AM. We saw a small piece of tilled land and what seemed to be traces of a quarry closeby. We knew there was one direct way to reach the top which is taken by pilgrims who want to visit the Kabbalamma shrine at the top.

But half of us were an adventurous lot. We had read in the reviews that there are four paths to the top and one is the "easy-peasy" path. We thought, heck, easy-peasy equals stairs, and if one wants to climb stairs, one can do it at home. Why go through all this trouble? So half of us decided to go by one of the alternate route while the clever ones decided to follow the tried and tested path. (yes, clever... why? read on)

Oh, before I proceed you need to have a look at the hill. So here is a picture for you.
As you can see, most of the rock is vertical. I don't know what four paths they spoke of. Or maybe we didn't make out at night. So we decided to clamber over the brambles or whatever thorny plants normally like to grow in rocky places. We spent a lot of time climbing up and down, trying to figure out  the right path. Frankly, if you like to rough it out, trying this out is better than climbing conventional steps. You will end up with a lot of scratches all over your body if you are not careful. Also, be sure to protect your eyes. After several attempts of climbing and reaching vertical stone walls, and I mean repeatedly, we finally reached a place where our path converged with the conventional path. It was then that we found that the place is not as easy as we thought. We had already been spent thoroughly.

We eventually reached the top. Along the path, we also saw a medium sized scorpion. I was reminded of the Ballista from Age of Empires. One also has to be wary of snakes that apparently crawl out at nights, especially when the heat is quite high. Thus, one should carry a torch with sufficient brightness, preferably one that has a focused beam rather than a diverging one, since there is no point illuminating the bushes in general.

A couple of things to remember while climbing hills such as these:

  • Ensure that you have a torch (one with focused beam rather than a divergent type) with spare batteries. LED torches are really good these days.
  • Ensure that you carry an electrolyte solution along with water. When you get extremely dehydrated, water alone, apparently, is not good since it dilutes the electrolytes. Such over exertion coupled with water can lead to Exercise Induced Nausea.
  • The top may or may not be cold. Some times they say that it is cold but you will end up sweating. But it is better to have a nice jacket in your bag.
  • Carry some medicines and Moov (or your preferred pain relief balm)
  • Don't take two-wheelers. It will be troublesome to ride in case of injury, not to forget the higher chances of accidents. It is preferable to hire a cab.
Here is a nice little photo that makes it seem to us like the hills were swallowing the moon... Tilt your head to the right to see it. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Overall a great trek. One that I would really recommend to adventure lovers. Also, it seems that it was supposed to be a fort...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

e-Commerce - The future?

Swami Nikhilaananda said:
"In this e-commerce fight, the consumers seem to be gaining the most."

After Flipkart took the market by storm, numerous players have entered the field. Flipkart definitely revolutionised buying books. And why is e-Commerce relevant? Read on...

Low Prices
One of the top reasons for e-commerce companies to become successful is the low prices. If you go to buy something from a conventional shop, you have to pay an amount for the same product which is available on an e-commerce site at a cost far lesser. Why? A conventional shop has to pay rent for the store, and has to pay the salesboys and sales girls in his store. He has to pay for electricity, water etc. and for transportation and for the products themselves. And he is limited to a small area in which his shop is in. An e-commerce site is not limited by most of these. Since most the overheads are not relevant, these companies pass on the benefits to the consumers directly. This is a huge advantage!

Delivered to your house... For Free!
Do you really want to waste a lot of time stuck in traffic jams, burning fuel unnecessarily and then waste even more time looking for parking spaces? Shipping is free for most online stores - they will deliver it to your house. What more do you want?

Exchanges - No problems
Ever tried to exchange a product in a conventional store? You have to either coax, cajole and placate the owner or pick a fight. Then at most store credit will be given. E-commerce stores like will allow you to exchange, but in case you are not satisfied with the product and want your money back, they will refund the ENTIRE amount, no questions asked! This is really unique. Flipkart now gives  store credit, but advantage is that there is a lot more security and safety shopping online.

Greater choices
Many conventional stores have a limited stock since they can't hold everything under the sun in their small shop/godown. e-Commerce sites have huge warehouses and can hold practically everything. So, you have more choices.

Payment options - Same as conventional shop
And no extra 2% charged either. Cash on Delivery for those who feel their shipment will not be delivered.

No strings attached
Think about it. All of these are advantages. In case of any damaged item being received, all of these stores seem to readily accept them back. The only thing that I found some people were worried about while buying clothes online was "What if that size doesn't fit me?" and I told them "I don't know about other sites. But readily allows you to exchange in case of an incorrect size. And a full refund, no strings attached"

Fantastic discounts... are real!
Some of the discounts provided by e-commerce sites are so fantastic and spectacular that most of us tend to think there is a fine print that is not being put up, and that it is a waste of time to bother. Many of the great deals that come by emails are often discarded thinking it is a marketing gimmick. But the point to remember is that, as an end user, these sites are trying to get you to buy from them, and they definitely want to give you a genuine advantage (for now, at least) because they have to capture you. So, these discounts are really genuine and excellent most of the times. In this e-commerce fight, the consumers seem to be gaining the most.

Remember, e-commerce sites won't want to screw with you on anything, because they just can't afford to. So, go on now, start buying stuff you shopaholics!