Showing posts from 2017

Make My Trip Customer Service Sucks

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Make My Trip Customer Service Sucks! Period"

About ten days ago, I wanted to book a couple of rooms for my parents for a visit to Mangalore. As a regular user of online services like Make My Trip, Cleartrip and Go Ibibo, I decided to open three tabs in my browser and check prices across all three portals (Something that we all do). I was, obviously, signed in as I wanted to redeem my wallet points. After seeing that Make My Trip was the cheapest, I decided to go ahead with it.

I saw that the cost of the room in Make My Trip in the booking page was Rs 3162. The screenshot shows the price breakdown. As per this, the room originally costs Rs 4366. They then added their own charges, applied some coupon automatically and also reduced my wallet money. The final bill, inclusive of taxes, came up to Rs 3162.

I was happy as any regular customer would be when they see the original price struck off and a new price shown next to it. Rs 4662Rs 3162. Wow that is…

Of Selective Mutism and Double Standards

Swami Gulagulaananda quoted Animal Farm:
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others"

In the month of January, 2015, there was an attack on the offices of the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people died. This sparked an international outrage with people everywhere saying 'Je suis Charlie' (I am Charlie) to show solidarity with the families of the dead as well as the rattled survivors. The cowardly attack was executed by fanatics and is definitely condemnable and deplorable. People on Facebook protested by putting the French flag overlay on their profile pictures. I saw my Facebook feed filled with strong words against attacking freedom of expression, some sharing cartoons of how a pen is mightier and expressed outrage in the strongest of terms.

A couple of days ago, there was a deadly attack in Somalia in which 500 people died. There has been no outrage, nobody on Facebook putting up Somalian flag overlays and nobody sayi…

Micro-loans for funding small enterprises

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"It is amazing that a tiny seed can grow into an enormous tree"

India lives in its villages - We have heard this many times. And while steps are being taken to 'Make in India', India is not considered to be a manufacturing hub yet - especially when compared to her giant neighbour, China.

Manufacturing is a challenge, and for that matter, entrepreneurship is a challenge. While there are many challenges in starting and building your own enterprise, from hiring and retaining good people, purchasing raw materials and paying for other overheads, the challenges generally have one common denominator - Money.

You need money to hire people, money to purchase raw materials, money to pay bills etc. And getting money is the biggest challenge. Once you have a certain amount of money, that money can be put in to generate more money through the business - use a bit of it for operations, a bit of it for purchasing more equipment or hiring more people that …

Ethical Machines

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
Teaching ethics to a human being is hard. I wonder if machines are easier"
There is an old psychology question that we used to ask as kids:
There is a railway track on which trains typically pass on, and another track on the side that is not supposed to be used. There is a sign that indicates walking on the main track is dangerous. Walking on the side track is not a problem because trains are not expected to pass on it. A group of ten young boys are playing on the main track while a lone boy is playing on the side track. You notice the train approaching rapidly and are standing beside a lever that can be used to control whether the train continues on the main track, or switch it to the alternate track. Assuming that the side track is not risky for the train and that you cannot shout to shoo the kids off the tracks because they are too far away from you or do anything else - and given only the two following choices, which would you go for?
- Let the tra…

The Censorship Dilemma

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
(this quote has been censored)”A couple of days back, the chairman of Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Pahlaj Nihalani, was sacked and replaced by another person. It seems that a section of Indian film industry and media celebrated this fact. It turns out that Nihalani was branded ‘Sanskaari’, an of late derogatory word, often used to represent a person with a 'regressive mindset'. The reason? The official reason for his sacking was that he was muzzling the creative and artistic freedoms of cinema. Basically, he denied U/A certifications to movies that had scenes and language that was deemed inappropriate.The official reason mattered because the incumbent government formed by the BJP has been accused by leftist liberals and the so called intelligentia (I have lost respect for that word now because leftist liberals and intelligentia are associated together) of imposing Hindutva on ‘minorities’. While there is a lack of a shred of evidence o…

Ultimate Tic Tac Toe

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"You can always make a mundane problem interesting by thinking about scaling it"

Tic Tac Toe used to be one of the standard games played by us in school along with Dots and Bingo. The problem with Tic Tac Toe is the frequent draws you end up with once you are familiar with the game. Eventually, it gets really boring and you stop playing the game.

One day, I stumbled upon a blog post at Math With Bad Drawings, called Ultimate Tic Tac Toe. The post discusses this problem of Tic Tac Toe and comes up with a very interesting approach. In this post, I have provided an implementation of their idea for you guys to play.

While you can read the entire content in that post, I will summarise it here.

You are provided by a 3x3 board of Tic Tac Toe boards. That's 9 boards.The first player can make his move in any square.The next player has to make his move in the board depending on the square in which the previous player made his mark. For example, if t…

On Interfaces

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
Every person is the same from the outside, and the insides are merely implementation details"A long time ago, I was introduced to an interesting concept called The Black Box. A box that takes something in and gives something out - and what it did to convert the input to the output is not something that we are supposed to be concerned with… It is a black box, and its insides are opaque to us.The black box paradigm can be used in a multitude of places and is very useful to simplify flows of thought processes. You move away from the so called 'Implementation Details’, the nitty-gritty details, the brass tacks if you will and assume that whatever is inside performs its duty.
In our electronics course, a cell was often connected to a load. The cell didn’t really care about the load - it’s job was to supply voltage and current. The consumption was the load’s job and not the headache of the cell. The load itself could have been a bulb that could glow, a mot…

Spatial Memory Game

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Our short term memory is only as good as... uh oh, I think I lost my train of thought"

We have two types of memory - Long Term Memory, which like our hard disks allow us to remember things for a longer duration, like names, faces, places and other memories; and Short Term Memory, which is like cache, used to remember things for a brief moment, like the OTP that we get on our phones. We remember that OTP long enough to enter into our computers and then a minute later - *poof* it's gone!

This is a simple game that shows you a grid and highlights a bunch of squares randomly for a short period of time. You have to remember the highlighted squares and select them. See how far you can go! Click on Start Game below

You may also be interested in The Knight's Tour.

On Hindi-fication of India

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
I wonder how many things, among the ones that we say out loud vehemently, we truly believe in"A couple of days ago, a pro-Kannada activist group smeared paint over all Hindi sign-boards of all Bangalore Metro stations. They also insisted that Hindi messages should be eliminated from the Metro Trains. As of now, the announcements in Bangalore Metro trains are in three languages - Kannada, English and Hindi.Why do they have a problem with Hindi? The pro-Kannada supporters don’t hate Hindi - They oppose the choice of Hindi. They question “Why Hindi specifically? Why not Telugu or Tamil?” They feel that Hindi is being thrust on the locals. It would make sense, perhaps, if the Hindi population is large enough to warrant Hindi. However, it appears that the Telugu and Tamil populations outnumber the Hindi populace in Bangalore by a significant number.Ah, but isn’t Hindi the national language of India? It turns out that India has no official national language a…

Of Artificial Intelligence

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
Learning from experiences is supervised learning… Guessing by yourself and being right is pure bliss"In an eCommerce company, a digital marketer typically creates ads on social media websites such as Facebook. These ads are paid, and the charges are based on the number of times ads are displayed to visitors (called impressions) or by the number of times that a user clicked on these ads (called clicks). Eventually, if I have to understand the performance of an ad, I will measure it against the total sales and revenue generated by that ad. While the social media website gives me metrics such as impressions and clicks, it cannot give me the sales and revenues realised because that is happening outside their realm (in my realm, my website). So, if I have to measure the true efficacy of a campaign, I have to collate data such as number of impressions and clicks from the social media website with data that I collect on my eCommerce website such as views of ta…

Hardware OTP Tokens

Swami Gulagulaananda said:
"Security by obscurity is an interesting notion - for we all fear what we don't understand"

A long time ago, I saw a friend of mine holding a small hand-held device. It hand a single button and a small screen. I asked him what it was. "Oh, I have an account with HSBC Bank. This is an OTP generator, it is for additional security", he replied. "How does it work?", I asked him. "I don't know man, they ask me to enter it while signing in. I press the button, some number comes up and I enter it", he replied

I tried it. Each time I pressed the button, a seemingly random number appeared on the screen. However, once a number appeared, it didn't change and remained on the screen. It didn't change even if I pressed it. It would remain for some time, perhaps a minute and then disappear. I pressed the button again and another number would appear.

This was pretty interesting. But I soon forgot about it. A few years …