Friday, February 29, 2008

Daughter's Passport : Submitting the form

Having got the form and completing it with the necessary documentation I visited the passport office in Secunderabad. A visit to the passport office website gives you other places where the passport can be submitted but having already been to this office I was more comfortable going here. Its not on the website but the passport application can also be submitted at some of the e-seva counters. Although on casual enquiry (not official) at the passport office they told me that at times there might be a delay in the forms reaching the passport office from the e-seva counter.


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Phase 1 : Getting a token
The first thing you need to do is to get a token. This token will have a time slot during which you have to submit your application. This token consists of a sticker that is stuck to your application form and is signed by you. You have to go to the front of the passport office and get a token. Tokens are issued till they are completed for the day so if there is a rush which is usually on Mondays or days after holidays the tokens get over very quickly otherwise you can get one till about 11:00 AM in the morning. There are 2 types of tokens one for regular and the other for tatkal. Tatkal tokens are for passports that are required urgently and they cost more. You can even get a token online by applying for it on the passport site.

Phase 2 : Submitting the application
You have to arrive at the passport office 10 minutes before the time slot given on the token. You are sent to a waiting room from where you are taken into the passport office at the allotted time. The token will have the counter number and a token number. You will have to go to the corresponding counter number and wait for your token number to be flashed on the display at which point of time you have to go to the counter. You will be asked for the originals of all the documents that you have submitted as part of the application form. Once the documents are verified it is put in a file and given back to you. You have to then proceed to the cash counter to submit the file and pay the fee.

Phase 3 : Paying the fee
This counter has no token system you have to just wait in a queue. You can pay the fee in cash. You will be given a receipt which will have the day on which the passport will be dispatched or needs to be collected. You have to tell them at this counter if you want to collect the passport from the passport office otherwise they will assume that you want it dispatched to your house by speed post.

Checking the status
The status of the passport application can be checked online.

The process has been made a lot simpler and a lot less burdensome from what it used to be. The only thing is that the security outside the passport office act like they own the place. There are still a lot of touts but just ignore them and walk right into the passport office and deal with your stuff.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Problogger guest post

Today my guest post appeared on problogger.net. I wrote about 9 Tips to Start Blogging Successfully.


Let me give you a bit of a background about where this article originated from. I have been blogging for close to 3 years now but I have been doing it seriously only for the last 2 months. I then analysed what were the things that I should have done in order to have become a successful blogger based on what I have noticed on the ones that have become successful. The final analysis of my study is what I put into that article and it is what I am trying to implement since the last 2 months.


Reading the comments it was exhilarating to notice that some of the readers actually thought Darren was writing the post :-). It was also nice to notice that many readers agreed with my analysis and that strengthened my belief that what I have written if followed will work.


How did I get to do a guest post on problogger.net ? A little more than a week ago Darren invited bloggers to do guest posts. I was quick to jump at the opportunity and I asked for the chance to submit a guest post. When I was given one of the 100 logins (luckily I managed to get in early thanks to the time difference between Australia and India) I was all pumped up. I then put down some of my ideas and thoughts about blogging and was able to come up with the post which I submitted and voila it appeared on problogger today.


I thank Darren for the opportunity to do my first guest post. I really enjoyed it and would like to do many more for anyone else as long as it is something I can talk about. If you are interested contact me about the topic to blog about and I will let you know if I can contribute.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Daughter's Passport : Documents

After getting the documents from the e-seva counter for Rs. 10, I had to put together the following documents to complete the application
  • An affidavit that needs to be signed by the mother and father - the proforma of this affidavit is present in the application form.
  • Birth certificate of the child. Please make sure the name of the mother and father on the birth certificate is the same as what is on their passports. If it is not you will have to go through the process described here to get it changed on the birth certificate.
  • Photo copy of the passport of the father and mother.
  • If the address on the father's passport is not the same as the address requested on the child's passport then an address proof is required. For details of the address proof refer to the back of the passport application.

Fill up the application and submit it in the passport office.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tata sky fixes at a cost

After my earlier rant about Tata Sky which I forwarded to their customer care and publicity email ids that I got from the Internet I got a call from their customer care telling me that they can fix my problem at a cost. I was told that I would be refunded all my money but I had to pay the refund charges which worked out to about 2.5% of the refunded amount and then I can buy the new package by paying once again. Having no energy to argue with them anymore and the fact that I still save money at the end of the transaction I agreed to it. The fact that I have to pay money for no mistake of mine but a lack of a process capability on their side is something that still leaves a distaste in my mouth.

Anyway for all those planning on getting Tata Sky - their service is good compared to a lot of other service providers that I have used in India. They are professional and prompt. This is the first time I have something to complain about them.

Cookbook for the novice

Cooking can be hard to learn if you do not have the right tools and guidance. Many of us miss out on learning how to cook when we are at home due to a zillion reasons that each one of us can quickly come up with from just laziness to "I will never have to cook". All of this changes when we have to travel abroad or have to live on our own and have no option but to cook. At that point of time the phone calls home and the lack of information in the cookbooks in the market to address the novice cook just don't seem to alleviate our suffering.

Many years ago my parents came out with a cookbook that addressed this need. This cookbook teaches you to make some of my favourite and simple dishes such as plain rice, tomato rasam, chocolate cake, Lemon Souffle and many many more recipes.

You can catch all the other recipes from the book The Amateur Cooks Companion on DSouza Web.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Offshore Development Challenges : Requirements

Anyone who has done a reasonable amount of development will tell you that in order for a project to succeed getting the requirements right is the most important ingredient of the success. Communicating a requirement is another challenge due to the fact that along with the idea the intent should also be conveyed and doing this over a non visual communication medium over thousands of miles can be a challenge.

Good requirements development is even more crucial in an off-shore project due to the following reasons
  1. When the requirement is not clear valuable time can be lost as the clarifications can take time due to the time difference.
  2. Subject matter experts may not be available in the offshore team so the SMEs in the on site team have to explicitly explain each and everything - otherwise the development may not be done keeping the context of usage in mind.
  3. The on site team will not be able to see anything till the development is complete or at least a fair bit is done and this may be too costly a time to suggest changes. So if the requirements are explicit and clear then these changes can be minimized.
  4. The people developing the project may not be on the same wavelength as the ones that have conceived the project and this may not become apparent till quite late in the project.

In order to minimize the risk of the project failing due to bad requirements development the following details and actions need to be part of requirements development process

Understand the business and application being built
- Ask a lot of questions. Do not be afraid of asking questions.
- Clarify any ambiguity in the answers given. The ambiguity of the answer many a time arises from the on site SME assuming certain level of knowledge. So the clarity of what needs to be done needs to be achieved.
- Assumptions to be documented
- Do not assume things about the business when in doubt ask.
- Do not assume things about what the client may want. The client knows what they want so ask them about it.
- Do not try to think for the client unless explicitly asked to do so. And if you are suggesting something make sure the client is aware that it is only a suggestion.
- Do not try to think for the client unless the client wants it.

Do not assume any technical details
At this point get the development team involved in some questions. The reason you need to ask these questions is because the way the design has to be may put restrictions on how the User Interface can be designed. You do not want to design a User Interface that cannot be implemented.
- Clarify about windows based or web based
- Preferred programming language to be used
- Is there any design that the client already has in mind or is defined
- Existing systems in use and how the application being built interacts with these systems
- Preferred Database
- Requirements pertaining to the response time of the application, number of potential users of the application, acceptable downtime and so on
- Clarify the number of languages that the tool will need to work in
- Clarify on the date and time format that is to be used
- Understand the customizable portions of the data and the values that can be hard coded into the code

Define a scope for the application and stick to it
Defining a boundary for what one is building is the best way to ensure success and this is called the scope of the project. The scope of the project should be logical and building something tangible out of it should be possible.
- Do not put anything more than what is needed for the application to work
- Make the client aware of when the scope is changing
- Do not try to impress the client by adding something that is out of the scope of the project

Do not try to build what is not asked
- Stick to the specification and any clarifications got from the specifications

Ensure a clean flow of the application
- Create scenarios where you put yourself in the shoes of the client and use the prototype

A process that works very well is
  • Detailed discussions of what needs to be built. Also ask for any documentation or reference material.
  • Build a prototype using a tool such as Axure and ensure that you put all the information that you have into the specification in the tool either at the page level or at the field level.
  • Use online collaboration tools such as Webex to demo the prototype to the client/on site team to ensure the understanding is correct.
  • Refine and repeat demonstrations of the prototype till the clarity is achieved.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Handling spam : Blocking users in Orkut

Does the image above look like your scrap book each morning you open it. Do these messages irratate you and only waste your time as you have to patiently delete each one and every time you delete one there just seem to be more that come.

Ever thought of blocking the user that is sending the spam. After a little bit of digging around this is how Orkut expects you to do it. Below is a descriptive screen shot of how to block and unblock users. First you have to go to the profile of the user that you wish to ignore and then move your mouse over the more>> link and thats when you are presented the option.Let us say that you have accidently ignored a user (would be so hard to do given how complex the task is) then the screen shot below shows how you can un-ignore that user.


Blocking users is so badly implemented.
First of all the help link is hard to find. In case you'll have not noticed it - the help link is present at the bottom right in the middle of the screen. Once you go into the help there is no link on the main help page giving you ideas about what to do with spam and junk messages. Being in the age of spam I would have expected this to be a topic of interest for Orkut.

On searching for spam I am presented with this long winded article about how Orkut is commited to fighting spam and right at the bottom of it you find the following "You can also report individual spammy scraps by checking the box next to the unwanted scrap and clicking the report spam button. The scrap will be immediately removed from your scrapbook and the orkut team will investigate the report. " Notice that it does not say anything about adding the user to the ignore list and I checked that it does not. Even if you do report someone for abusing the form that you have to fill up is like filling up a complete legal document.

Coming to the actual process of blocking a user I am not sure why Orkut has made it so hard to do especially when there are easier ways to do it like adding a button under delete called spam. The funny thing is that they have a delete button at the side of each message and a Delete Selected Scraps at the top of the table containing the scraps. But they don't have a spam button at the side of each message but they have a Report Spam on top.

All of this clearly shows that orkut has not put thought into how they want to handle spam and I think this is a serious problem as the number of spammers has grown considerably.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Microsoft is changing with the times

I was using Office 2003 to write a post and I noticed that all the words starting with blog were marked as spelling mistakes. This kind of irratated me as my post was about blogging and my whole article was painted in red.
I was curious why I had not noticed this before and when I opened the same article in Office 2007 it was all fine. This shows how the Microsoft dictionary is changing with the times. You can also publish to your blog directly from Office 2007. The only issue is that you will need to use an image provider such as Flickr, Picassa, etc to hold your pictures. Office 2007 currently does not upload pictures into blogger as you do when you publish from www.blogger.com.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Cricket Ground : Lahari Resorts

Given below are the details of renting the ground at Lahari Resorts
From9:00am2:00pm7:00pm
To0:00pm6:00pm00:00hrs
RATES WEEKDAYSRs. 5000/-Rs. 5000/-Rs.10000/-
RATES WEEKENDSRs. 7000/-Rs. 7000/-Rs.12000/-

PROVIDED BY THE RESORTS:
Ø WICKETS
Ø SCORE BOARD
Ø MARKING OF CREASE

NOT PROVIDED BY THE RESORTS:
Ø BALLS
Ø BATS
Ø PADS AND KITS

NOT PERMITTED:
Ø CORK BALL
Ø SYNTHETIC BALL

PERMITTED:
Ø GLACE BALL
Ø RUBBER BALL
Ø SOFT TENNIS BALL
Ø HARD TENNIS BALL
Here are some pictures of the match we played on this ground

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Free Microsoft Software for students - But Not To Indian Students

Looking at this headline "Microsoft Giving Away Free Developer Software To Students" in this article got me quite excited. I thought it is an excellent opportunity for all the college students in India especially in this day and age when we are lamenting that they are not good enough when they join the industry and how the industry has to spend a lot of money in training them.
So I continued reading the article and I read this line "Microsoft is announcing right now DreamSpark, a new program that gives free developer, designer and related software to college students in 11 countries. DreamSpark goes live today in Belgium, China, Finland, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States..." If you noticed there is no mention of India in this list of countries which made me wonder, "Why is there no India?" If you notice there is even China in the list.

I was wondering why and I then read the following line "Students will go to Microsoft’s Channel 8 site to download any of the software, following a third-party authentication process to verify they are a current student." Maybe in India we do not have a reliable third-party authentication process. But then with a bit of money I am sure there will be enough agencies that will set this up for Microsoft especially if they consider India to be an IT hub producing the world class talent they keep talking about.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Environment determines persistence to succeed

Sitting in my daughter's school the other day I was watching a game that the teacher was playing with the kids. The game consisted of a block of wood with some sockets in it and it had long cylindrical pegs that needed to be put in the sockets. The pegs were all of different sizes and the aim of the game was to put the right sized peg in the correct socket. At first the kids looked at it kind of indifferently but on a bit of encouragement and excitement they were all very interested in it.

What I noticed was that most of them were persistent till they completed it or thought they had completed it. I have found that with kids - once something catches their attention they are very persistent to do it. They have an unclouded mind and they attack the problem with a goal in mind (the goal may not be the right one). As we grow older we start to use our own judgment or the judgment of the people around us and we stop becoming as persistent in completing our goals if the right environment does not exist.

The environment around us is a very key ingredient in how we approach problems that we face. If the environment is very non-rewarding where no encouragement is given then one will not be persistent to solve the problems. On the other hand if there is a positive environment around with a go-getter attitude then things will be very different.

Daughter's passport : Getting the application form

Initially I wanted to add my daughter's name to my passport since I did not want to get her a passport so early as she would have 3 passports by the time she is in her 20's. But a visit to the Regional Passport Office website told me that we can no longer add a name to the parent's passport and that we have to get a fresh passport.
I went to the local e-seva counter at S.R. Nagar and bought the application form for Rs. 10. Filling up the application was fairly straightforward following the instructions at the back of the form. It is also clearly mentioned what needs to be submitted along with the form.
After getting the form you need to complete the form and submit it at the passport office.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Cricket Grounds in Hyderabad

This is a repost of the article I published on the 10th of Jan, 2008 as I have added a new ground - Lahari Resorts.

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In this post I will try and update the list of cricket grounds that i know in Hyderabad.

The grounds that I have listed till now are

  • MCH Play ground, Ameerpet
    Francis (Do not have the contact number but go to the ground and ask for him). The charges are Rs. 1100 for the ground. They do not charge for anything more. You get the ground from 9:00 AM to 4:00PM. The ground is small.
  • Welfare Center, Sanath Nagar
    Dhanraj Babu (+91 9394556356). The charges are Rs. 1100 for the ground. They charge you an additional Rs. 500 for the mat and Rs. 100 for cleaning and drawing lines and stuff. They are supposed to give you the ground from 9:00 AM to 4:00PM but what they do is that they pocket extra money from another team wanting to play and give the ground out to them for the remainder of the day assuming that you won't play for the whole day. So what happened the other day was that we started late so we were hurried into finishing the match. So start early and finish early is my advise. The ground is nice and big and you can have a proper match. For more information and pictures please read the following post Cricket Ground : Welfare Center, Sanath Nagar.
  • NFC Ground, ECIL
  • Air Force Ground 1, Begumpet
  • Air Force Ground 2, Begumpet
  • Lahari Resorts, Serilingampally
    Excellent cricket turf wicket with a lush green outfield. You can play either during the day or under lights. We played during the day from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM and it costed us Rs. 5000 for the ground. The price for the ground is steep but it is nice to play here once in a while since you have sight screens and a nice lush green outfield where you can dive. It has a nice pavillion from where you can watch the match. Photos will be available soon in another post. For more information and pictures please read the following post Cricket Ground : Lahari Resorts.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Changes in Birth Certificate - Finally got it

For the first three parts of this series please read
Changes in Birth Certificate
Changes in Birth Certificate - Day 2
Changes in Birth Certificate - Day 3
Finally after 10 days of constant follow up I managed to pick up the birth certificate from the Ward office where I had submitted the completed checked application form. The process in the office is as follows - the birth certificate gets printed here and then goes back to the HUDA building at Tank Bund to get some signatures and then it comes back to the ward office and that is the reason why it gets delayed. Constant follow up is needed. The good part of the whole process was that I did not have to bribe anyone. That's a big step in the right direction. I just hope they make all these processes a lot easier and sleeker. I am sure we can develop as a country much faster if the government got more efficiency into their processes.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cricket Ground : Welfare Center, Sanath Nagar

Here are some pictures from the cricket ground that is present at the Welfare Center, Sanath Nagar. Here are some points to note.

  • The ground as you can see has absolutely no grass but the good thing is that is quite level and there are hardly any pot holes.
  • They put a half mat but you have to make sure that it is nailed properly. So it is good for some of the players to reach earlier and make sure that the mat is nailed properly.
  • You are not given any equipment including wickets so you have to carry your own.
  • The boundaries are fuzzy which the caretaker of the ground will show you before the start of the match but you need to have a discussion between the captains and decide on the boundaries before the start of play since there is a stage and some walls that are quite close to the wicket.
  • You will get no water on the ground so carry your own. We usually buy a 25 lt water can and take to the ground.
  • Tell the caretaker to lock the gate and not to allow anyone onto the ground during the match. He will do that.

A view of the half mat

Our match in action - Pic 1 Our match in action - Pic 2

Importance of engagement

I had the opportunity to sit in my daughter's playgroup class and it was interesting watching how the children behaved when the teacher gave them her complete attention and when the teacher was distracted by something. For example let us say one of the kids started to cry, this distracted the teacher just briefly but that was enough for a couple of kids to go to the toy chest and throw all the toys around, another couple of kids to start a fight, one started to scream and this triggered off a few more screaming kids and it then took about 15 min to again put order in the room.

Another thing I noticed in the class was that if the teacher did something that did not engage all the children then the others that were not attended to started to do their own thing.

I realised that this is not very different to how it is in the workplace. If you do not engage all the employees they all tend to drift away into their own worlds. It is very important as a manager to understand the wavelength of the team and to keep them engaged and interested. At the same time it is important to give each and every member of the team attention - if there are employees that feel that they are not getting enough attention they tend to drift away. So it is important at every level of hierarchy in the organization that the manager keeps the level under him focused, motivated and engaged. And this starts from the top - if the top of the organization is focused, motivated and engaged all the other levels will follow suit.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Learn to have fun

Life is fair and unfair at the same time. There are things that we like doing and then there are an equal number of things that we do not like doing that crop up at the same time. Does that mean that we only do the things we like and ignore the things that we do not like doing? Unfortunately it does not work that way.

So how does one get through this? What I have realised is that we have to enjoy what we are doing and accept the rest of it however unpleasant it may be. There is no point fighting or ignoring the stuff you do not like doing since it will always be there to bring you down. It is better to look at the brighter side of it. We would not be doing it if there was an alternative.

I was watching my 2 year old daughter make a big mess on the ground. She was on her hands and knees really messing up the place and enjoying it. I let her do this for a while and then when she got bored of it I told her that she has to clean it up. There were 2 ways I could have gone about it - been stern with her and in an angry voice scream at her and forced her to clean it up or I could have made a fun game out of cleaning it up. I chose the later - it takes a bit more effort to do but she did it.

But she was happy and I got what I wanted at the end of it. The important thing here is that she had fun while doing something that she did not like doing and that is why she did it. In the same way if we can make it fun to do something however boring or tough it may seem things will get done at the end of the day.

When you have fun you enjoy what you are doing. When you enjoy what you are doing you are motivated to do it. So look for that ray of light at the end of the tunnel in everything that you are doing however dark and gloomy it may seem for it is just not worth it to stay in the darkness all the time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Importance of the 5 W's

I was spending time with my 2 year old daughter today and she kept asking me what, why, when, where and who for the entire time I was with her. She asked the same question a million times even though I gave her the same answer all the million times.

The key is she never was shy to ask any question and she never got bored of asking a question. Which made me start to wonder - Do kids learn so fast because they are uninhibited in asking questions - they ask them with no fear. They have parents/grandparents/guardians that would answer the questions with patience till the answer is well engraved in their minds.

Learning is the key to growth. And learning happens only when you have questions and I feel that as we grow older we have so many hang-ups in asking the questions. When we stop asking the questions we inhibit learning. On the other hand as we grow up the number of people that will willingly give you answers all the time just like a parent/grandparent/guardian gives answers expecting nothing in return is also limited.

I feel this is the reason that as we grow older the speed at which we learn things also slows down.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Tata Sky disappoints

After forwarding this rant to the customer care and the publicity email ids of Tata Sky they fixed my problem at a cost.

I have been using Tata Sky for close to a year now and have been extremely happy with their service. But then since you are paying a premium for the service when compared to cable TV operator you expect that from them. They have managed to disappoint me today.

While recharging my Tata Sky account I noticed on their website the following offer "Pay for 10 months and enjoy 12 months of TV viewing ". Well this got me quite excited as it is quite a bit of saving. So I chose the option to do this and was directed to the screen like the one below that said "Note: The annual package is available only on recharging your account on My Tata Sky for a single transaction amount of Rs. 3000 for Annual Super Saver Pack ...". Based on the above statement I topped up my Tata Sky account with Rs. 3000 to buy this package.


Once I recharged my account I came back to this option to do the rest of the steps and it takes me back to the payment gateway screen with no option to deduct the money from my Tata Sky account that I just updated with Rs. 3000.

So I call up the call center to ask them about this and they tell me that I have to pay again and that I cannot use the money in my account. What the call center executive told me is that I have to keep this Rs. 3000 in my tata sky account and pay an additional Rs. 3000 if I want to avail of this offer. This I think is highly ridiculous.

For those of you that do not use Tata Sky this is how it works - you basically have to recharge your account either through vouchers that you buy in stores or online or through direct debit from a bank account using the http://www.tatasky.com/ website. You then use their various services and they deduct money from your account.

My question to Tata Sky is why is subscribing to this annual package different from everything else that they charge for. One of the key ingredients of a quality service is being consistent with the customer and here clearly they are not consistent.

Having pride is key to quality

What is it that brings about quality programming? Is it just having great processes? Lots of people have the ability and the knowledge. So what stops them from doing something great? There are a lot of good developers but the good developers become great developers when they start taking pride in what they do. If a developer writes a piece of code and he has the courage to display it to everyone else and say "I did that" then I can assure you that it will be something of quality. If the work is not one of quality then the person will not have the courage to put it out there and stand up to the scrutiny and criticism.

I think it is for this same reason the quality of code that is in open source is a lot better than the quality of code that comes out of institutionalized development. The reason is because the developers write the code and put it out there for use and scrutiny and they have nothing to earn from it other than pride and popularity.

So the question is - if you have a group of developers and you have great processes then are you guaranteed quality output. Well based on the maturity of the process you will be guaranteed some level of quality but it will come to you at a price. If you can get the developers to take pride in what they are doing to the extent that they are open to have their work scrutinized and challenge others to find fault with what they are doing you will achieve quality output at a much cheaper cost.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Identifying a great programmer

Over the last few years I have taken quite a few interviews and have been challenged with the task of identifying great programmers. The surprising thing that I have learnt is that the ones that have turned out to be great programmers very rarely impressed me with the quantity of knowledge about the technology that they were being interviewed on. So what is it that made me say yes to the candidate if it was not based on the knowledge? The following list of items is what I go through in each interview and if I am not satisfied after any step I stop the interview.

Same wavelength The candidate should be very down-to-earth when he introduces himself and presents his capabilities. You should be comfortable with him from the time the interview starts. If you are not comfortable there is no point carrying on the interview however great his credentials may be. Remember the person that you are going to be hiring has to gel into the organization. Another thing to look for here is if the person is a team player and will be able to compliment the team that is already present.

About the experience the candidate has The candidate should be comfortable talking about the experience that he has. He has to be able to tell you exactly what he did and how he did it like how many tables, screens, logic and so on. I also like asking questions such as what is the hardest thing they have ever coded and why did they think it was hard and how did they overcome it. Or was there anything they got appreciation for and why was the appreciation given and so on. Anyone who has coded will always have these stories at their fingertips. If the person stammers and stutters here you know they have never done serious programming.

Know the basics It is important that the person know the basics. To check for this there are two parts. In the first part we usually give the candidate a program to write in a language of his choice. The person should be comfortable in writing code. At this point if the person is unsure or not comfortable no point continuing. Writing code is what we do and whether it is on paper or the computer terminal should not make a difference. In the second part we ask questions in the technology that we are hiring for to see how much the person knows. So we start at the basics and then keep increasing the level of difficulty to give us a good idea of how much the person knows. So if it is for a fresher we remain at the A, B, C... of the technology but if it is an experienced candidate we go all the way based on the experience.

Ability to think logically It is very important to have logical and analytical ability. For this I usually give some problems that bring out the analytical thinking of the candidate. For example the problem may be giving me the algorithm to find the two highest numbers in a set of numbers without sorting the list of numbers. Give me the highest and lowest without sorting the numbers and so on.

Ability to learn Some questions that help in identifying this is what is the last thing you learnt and how did you learn it. What are the websites you visit to learn new stuff? How many hours a week do you spend reading on new technology? What was the last thing you read about new technology? What is it about new technology that excites you? You need to get answers to all these questions so that you are convinced that the candidate does not depend on the organization to keep him up to date about the things that are happening around in the technology world. When it comes to on the job learning, doctors and IT professionals are the same as they need to keep doing it all the time or they will become obsolete very soon. Just like you never want an obsolete doctor no one will want an obsolete programmer.

If one has reached so far and is very comfortable with the answers given then you have identified a great programmer. At least that is what my experience has been. Let me know what your experiences have been and is there anything else that you'll look for when identifying a great programmer.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Reproducing hard to find errors

The key to resolving any error is to be able to reproduce the error. Ever had a situation where a client reports an error and there are no reproducible steps and the client is not able to recollect the reproducible steps or there has been an error reported and you are just not able to reproduce that error in the development environment because there are so many permutations and combinations.

We have been in this situation a few times and the following method has helped us resolve these issues.
  • Create an excel sheet with all the permutations and combinations possible in other words a list of all the test cases possible.
  • Install snagit on your machine.
  • Get someone to execute all the test cases in the excel sheet and capture the screen as video. Choose the options as shown in the screen shot below.
  • Once you reproduce the error playback the video file and check the actions that were done to get the error and there you have your reproducible steps.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Online Encumbrance Certificate in Andhra Pradesh

You can get an encumbrance certificate online in AP now. In order to get it you have to perform the following steps.
  1. Go to the website http://igrs.ap.gov.in/
  2. Click on Citizen Services -> encumbrance -> Search
  3. Click on Yes in the screen that appears
  4. Fill in the entries that appear in the search screen. You will have to get quite a few details in so it will help to have a copy of the registration document available with you.
  5. Once you finish entering all the details click on Submit. It will then go to a new page with the list of items that matched the search displayed.
  6. Click on the check box of the list of encumbrance certificates that are needed and click on submit. This will open a new popup window with the encumbrance certificate. You can then print this certificate.

What is this useful for

  • Anyone buying new property can go and verify the current owners of the property that is shown on this certificate in the column Name of PartiesExecutant(EX)&Claimants(CL) with the copy of the registration documents given for verification. That way you can make sure that you are buying the property from someone who is genuine.
  • For those that already own property you can make sure that the right people are appearing in the column Name of PartiesExecutant(EX)&Claimants(CL) as the current owners of the property.

Tips on finding your certificate

  • Give as few details as possible and click on search. It will then display a whole set of certiticates. Select all and submit and see all the certificates. Once you get all of them search for the one you want and then in the column "Vol/Pg NoCD No Doct No/Year[ScheduleNo]" search for the Doct No/Year. Go back to your original list of encumbrance certificates where you selected all earlier and only select this one doct No/Year and voila you will get the certificate you want.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An apeal to my readers

I have had close to a 1000 unique visitors on my blog in the last 3 months but I have had less than 10 comments being put on the blog. It would be really nice to get some comments on the blog so that I can
  • Improve their experience on the blog
  • Write content that they would like to read
  • Answer any questions that they might have
  • Elaborate on parts of the topic that are vague
On the other hand it would be nice if the readers can
  • Point to additional content that may supplement the information that is already in a post
  • Give their point of view on the topic they are reading
  • Add information that they may have about the topic they are reading
I would love to hear from all of you so this is an appeal to all my readers to help make this blog more interactive, fun and informative.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Going WiMax

After 4 years of struggling with wired broadband connections and 2 providers later we have decided to try out a wimax connection. The wimax provider is Reliance. To read more about how we came about this decision you can read more about it on my wife's blog My tryst with ISPs in Hyderabad.

Wimax as defined by wikipedia is "...a standards-based technology enabling the delivery of last mile wireless broadband access as an alternative to cable and DSL." So essentially they are going to put a receiver on top of my house which will help me connect onto the Internet by connecting wirelessly to the Reliance tower. Sounds like a dream in our wire infested cities. This is a rather new technology but it is said to provide high bandwidth at a lower cost in the long run. Currently Reliance is offering it but soon Tata Indicom (first quarter of 2009) and BSNL are also going to offer it.

Given below is the chronological account of my Going wiMax experience

Day 1 (Jan 28, 2008)

The sales guy came and collected the filled application form, Rs. 500 installation fees, copy of my PAN card and my latest telephone bill. He said that I would have the connection in 1 week - guess that is a standard line all of them are told to tell you.

Day 2 (Jan 29, 2008)

Had a call today and confirmed all the details in my filled in application form. They said that the connection will be done in a week.

Day 8 (Feb 4, 2008)

It has been more than a week and we have still not got the internet working in our house. When we called them up they said that they will come after 4. Well at 6:00 PM we gave up and they said they will come first thing in the morning.

Day 9 (Feb 5, 2008)

They came in the morning with all their equipment and started to walk around my house looking for a connection and "Alas!!!" they could not find one after trying for close to 2 hours. We were told that they have put up 47 towers in Hyderabad and that they are putting up 92 more towers and that we have to call up every month and find out if there is a tower that has come up in my area. We were also told that we will get back the Rs. 500 that we paid as installation fees only after a month.

So we are back at square one with no internet connection.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Changes in Birth Certificate - Day 3

For the first two parts of this series please read
On Friday, 5 days after I submitted all the papers at the GHMC office in Tank Bund I had to go back and collect all the papers. I then had to take the collected papers to the ward office based on where my daughter was born and that happened to be at Khairatabad. This is the same place from where you collect the birth certificate. I was then told that the person in-charge of doing the birth certificates is on vacation and that it will take me 10-12 days to get the new birth certificate. I had to pay Rs. 100 as charges for the birth certificate (Rs. 60 for the correction and Rs. 40 for the new birth certificate).
To read the final article in this series
Changes in Birth Certificate - Finally got it

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Not going to be cheap flying out of Shamshabad

When the new airport opens in Shamshabad, Hyderabad in March it is going to become very expensive to fly out. First of all it is going to take about an hour providing traffic is reasonable (which is a tough ask) from Punjagutta to reach the airport and over and above that there is going to be a Rs. 750 (approx charge) development fee that is going to be charged for each ticket that is departing from the airport.

There was a point where air fare was compared to train fare and the railways were losing passengers to air travel. Not any more with Kingfisher buying up Deccan and Jet buying up Sahara the price of air fare has gone up significantly. Add to this the long commute, the exorbidant parking charges (costs Rs. 120 to park your car for 2 hours in Begumpet airport) and the development fee and it is no more a simple choice between air and rail.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Does adversity make us better ?

I have been wondering if "Adversity forces us to become better". About a couple of days ago I had a late night at work trying to fix some stuff that should have never reached that stage. Having fixed it I started wondering why we got here and started to brainstorm about it and started putting processes in place so that we do not have such a situation again. Which made me wonder why did we not do all this brainstorming earlier and this is not the first time this is happening.

I find this true not only in my life but in general too. We start questioning the government administration only when there is a calamity. They start putting in processes or special measures only when there is some threat. This is the same in other organizations that I worked for too.

Another thing that I have noticed is that early in ones career if you have faced adversity at work then you come out of it stronger as against those that have had a pretty easy time when they joined a job. I feel the reason is because they were in a situation that demanded a higher level of concentration and faster learning so they were forced to pick up things at a faster rate thus making them better in a shorter period of time.

So now if we say that adversity makes us better then why don't we be in adverse situations all the time so that we become better faster? The answer to this is no. The reason is when an individual faces an adverse situation his body reacts to it by pumping more adrenalin and heightening the senses. When you come out of a very adverse situation you feel euphoric and light headed but as soon as you feel the situation has passed you start to feel very tired and drowsy. If there is too much adversity and tension people suffer from burnouts after which you feel like doing nothing.

So its good to have a balance of adverse situations and calm peaceful situations so that in these situations each time you jump up a notch and improve and you use the peaceful situations to reflect and recover and improve even more.

Friday, February 01, 2008

How call center executives can aggravate you ?

A few days ago I was in a wonderful mood to blog and my internet connection went down - so I called up the call center. After all the introductions where I gave them my subscriber Id and told them the status of all the lights on my router and unplugging and replugging and twisting and turning that they demanded I do and the thing still didn't work I was told that an executive will visit my house. So I asked them when the executive would come and they tell me in 3 days. That had my blood boiling. A great deal of screaming and shouting had no effect - they told me point blank that their process will take 3 days and just as i was about to slam the phone down they say "Thank you for calling. Have a nice day" and that had me furious. How can they expect me to have a nice day - they just messed it up for me even more by telling me I won't have an internet connection for 3 days.

The question I have is, do these guys thing ? Why do they not put themselves in the shoes of the customer and wonder - is that what the customer will like to hear at this point of time. Instead of saying that why can't they say something like "Sorry for inconveniencing you. We will try to resolve it as soon as possible" and say bye. It's nice to say the chirpy line when the customer is happy but not when the customer is unhappy and the executives should differentiate this when they talk to a customer instead of belting canned lines that will only make the situation worse.