Monday, June 25, 2007

Trip Report Part2

Changi is a city that bustles to life as soon as the early morning arrivals start coming in, bringing in people for a transit. I got a coffee and a croissant for breakfast , got a nice foot massage in the electro-mechanical massagers that have been provided by OSIM in the transit lounge. SQ16 was deperating from was E4. I headed towards the gate to find quite a bit of a queue at the gate. The flight was full, not suprising for SQ16, which is one of the main links between India and SFO !

After a quick security check, I was waiting in the lounge trying to catch some photographs.

I could not help overhear a conversation between a lady and a co-passenger. It appeared that lady was an American citizen of Indian origin, and it appeared that she was returning back after letting out her property for an astronomical sum of Rs 1 lakh a month. I figured she must be one of the contributors to high rents in India, and the "poor" software engineers get blamed for it !

Now the 777-300ER with SQ is a new "product" as they call it ! The interiors were different and more brighter and with bigger PTVs ! You just got to travel in one of them to experience it !

The cabin !

The bigger PTVs ... check the resolution out !

Word processing program on the PTVs. Did you get the USB keyboard and USD pen drive today ?

Take off happened at 9:30 or so and we took off to the south, took a 180 degree turn and then flew over Changi !

Overflying Changi again !

The fight to Seoul ( Incheon ) was uneventful and we landed on time ...

The terminal at Incheon is one of the best that I have seen ! Its spacious and unlike HongKong , they have not crowded it till the ceiling !!

SQ16 at Incheon .. note the length of the 777-300


We took from Incheon at around 6:00 PM local time and the much publicized "mood-lighting" concept was in use ... It was evening !

After dinner I slept off and woke at about 3 hrs to go to SFO. After breakfast , I opened the window shades to see if it was clear outside. It was not ... which was not surprising. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Point Reyes and Golden Gate while we landed ! It cleared up right before we flew over land !

Golden Gate ! Wish I had a better angle...

SFO downtown

Landed at SFO !

I could have taken more photographs, but airhostess did not want a digital camera to interfere with the plane's electronics ! I paid heed to her advice :-)

We landed at 12:10 PM 30 mins ahead of schedule. Immigration was a breeze and I grabbed some lunch at the food court and headed off the rental car counter to get my car ...

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Been Away ... Trip report Part 1

I have been busy and away for a while now. But I got to do something that I like to do, fly ! And guess what , that too in a Boeing 777-300ER

WARNING : For those folks not interested in a trip report/planes/and what I did ... here is your chance to move away !

Trip details :
Dep 7May 23:15
Arr SIN 06:20+1

Dep SIN : 8May 09:15
Arr SFO : 8May 12:30

With a hectic weekend preceding my travel , I was a bit relieved as we travlled towards the airport in Bangalore wading through the traffic. Online check-in for international travel seems to have caught up and Singapore airlines too has a fairly good site to check you in. They do not let you print boarding passes yet, but you can at least get a seat allocated.

Now, most the "window" people like me ask for a window when we book tickets and that leaves very little room for seat change when you actually checkin. In addition, you can only checkin seats for the segment of flight which is less that 48 hrs away. So that means you need to start checkin in 48 hrs before your next flight. The website does not clearly indicate that ... A better user interface would be useful here ! I had checked in for my SQ529 and not Sq16 , because of a website glitch. Hence I wanted to be early so that there are no issues.

Now Bangalore International , is an apology for an airport. It has grown so much with little space at its disposal, that planning becomes very important ! That's something that the airport management missed out ! I arrived at 19:15 for a 23:15 flight and was asked to wait outside the airport till 20:15 ( when the counters opened ) . The waiting area between the parking lot and the airport doors was a no mans land , and , was not exactly upto international standards , actually was not even upto Indian standards !

Finally at 20:15 we were let in and I was one of the first people to check in ... As my luck would have it I walked upto a trainee. Checkin in BLR for Singapore airlines is handled by AAI-HAL-JWG ( Ya ! Airports Authority of India, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd Joint working group ). Most of the staff is quite effective, but this guy was quite at sea and was unable to find me a seat that I wanted for SQ16 and also took 25 mins to check me in. This inspite of the fact that I had entered my passport details.

Checking done, waved a bye to wife , went upstairs had my dinner , went through immigration which was a breeze and went through security to the departure lounge. BLR has two gates, and the holding area looks pretty much like the holding area in a "Tirupathi queue" holding area.
There is a Cafe Coffee Day that does good business and it exemplifies the phrase "captive customers" given that its the only coffee shop inside the security hold!

SQ530 arrived, and it was 22:45 - time to start boarding ! SQ tries to board passengers as per row numbers , but that does not help here... there were quite a few people crowding near the gates. Now that is something I find hard to understand ... you have allocated seats, you are asked top board in such a way that it causes minimum inconvenience to others and yet people feel a bit insecure about getting on the plane !

Time passed, people got in , I got in ,settled in my seat . I wanted to take photos , but was not allowed since BLR is a not a civil airport and besides the light was not great ! A Thai Airways A330 came in and parked next to us. Push back happened at 23:20 or so and we were off to the Marathahalli end for a take off roll. We took off over Challagatta took a U turn towards east and were headed off in the direction of Chennai ! Bangalore does look cool from the air !

I turned my attention at the inflight entertainment system and decided to listen to some music. Supper was served at around 00:45 , and I must say that I was a bit hungry. As I normally tend to do, I did not consume all that was served ... Supper past midnight with 24 hrs of travel ahead of you is not my cup of tea ( pun unintended ). I slept off for two hrs and was woken up with the announcement that we were descending into Singapore. We descended through some clouds and I could see the entire expanse of Singapore . We landed at around 06:10 local time and it was still dark and taxied to a gate (e20). I got out out and Changi was bustling pretty much like a town coming to life in the morning !

I took a stroll to excercise my feet and went for a coffee . The sun was rising

The sun rises at Changi. Photo taken from Terminal 2 Transit area.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What's next in Silicon valley ?

According to this post , there is not much to look forward to ! To me it looks like yet another doomsday prophet . The Valley IMHO is still the most potent meeting ground for techies and I have not heard any other place that seems to be rivalling it at least in terms of output .

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Friday, March 30, 2007

Uncle Sam wants you !

According to this article in Rediff , there has been an increase in the number of Indian immigrants, who want become American citizens once they are eligible for it. No surprises, given the increased rate of immigration since 1998 and the fact that a lot of people got Green Cards issued in 2000-2001 .

With the possibility of a dual citizenship becoming very real , getting a US citizenship is like opening up doors to the employment capitals of the world ( at least for Indians) . There are a lot of people in the queue for getting a GC and follow it up with a citizenship, with some of these people planning in the range of years 2012 -2015. Hmm... I am not if one can predict 8 years down the line...

All this is not easy and requires a lot of planning , luck and resilience ! As a side-note , this benefits all the airlines that fly from India to the US and back, with all these people , their parents / in-laws flying in and out till the time they get a citizenship or just decide to come back !

In my opinion, these are uncertain times. Why ?! Well, to start with the immigration bar has come down, the US needs people, but then there is a huge supply and a subsequent backlog of the people waiting to get naturalized. Two, the US is no longer a destination where the chances of getting a better job are definitely and markedly higher, at least when compared to the situation 10 years ago. Three, with outsourcing and cost cutting and the uncertainty in the US economy, foreign policy the predictability of the future has come down. One can always argue that the standard of life, transparency in public dealings, education system kind of negates this lack of certainity and predictability, but even then the choice between US and India is no longer as clear as it was some time ago !

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Cheap Airlines, lessons learnt and a dream lost !

Earlier this week CNN_IBN did another 'expose' about budget airlines 'cutting costs' and 'compromising passenger safety' . While I agree that low-cost or no-cost , one cannot compromise safety , but seriously with atrociously low prices as Rs. 1500 for Mumbai-Bangalore which comes to around $35, how can one expect the airline would make profits ? Well they would do what every business does to make profits when under pressure on margins, cut corners ! On that note I think its high time that we started believing in the dictum, "if its too good to be true, it probably isnt".

If one wants to fly to Mumbai at a price which is Rs 500 more than an AC 3 tier ticket, I would suggest one be prepared for some compromise in quality . We all accept the questionable quality of Chinese good and yet go ahead and buy it because the price is within "our-range". Ask any any dealer about guarantees and he would look at you and smirk "Saab Chinese hai !!" . Middle class India is learning its lesssons !

More on the lessons, I am thinking Sony Entertainment and Pepsi would have learnt some lessons with the Indian Tigers exiting out of the World Cup. The Indian Cricket team is not something that can be banked upon. Amitabh, Aamir,Shahrukh are more bankable anyday !

Its not about talent or potential, its the execution and delivery that finally matters. That's another lesson that the Blue Billion would learn I am hoping thanks to one Mr. Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar !

Thursday, March 8, 2007

International Women's Day

I have been away for a while living the "cushy-life" of a techie. I have been a night owl for the last one week and I realized that I am not too good at being one.

Today is a International Women's Day ! I have been seeing a bunch of articles around this and a couple of products empathizing with the Women of the times ! One of them was a prominent builder from Bangalore. I was not sure which "woman" they were empathizing with , the one that takes a hefty loan and pays for expensive apartments that they build or the ones who work on the construction sites . It would be great if these companies provide some extra benefit to these women who work at the sites. There are enough people to take "care" of the woman who takes those loans anyway !

Saturday, February 17, 2007

What have you learnt in the last 100 days ?

Last month a couple of us spent a good part of our working hours ( or waking hours in some cases ) trying to hire a few good software engineers who want to , and can work on a product. Incidentally this product is based a very famous industry standard for enterprise middleware, so much so , that there are walls in small towns in India plastered with advertisement for courses that claim to teach you that standard.

We could not hire all the engineers we wanted to hire.

I was speaking to a cousin of mine who works for one of "the-company-to-be-in" MNCs, and I started ranting about how difficult it is to hire. He simply cut me short with a "Tell me about it! , I know , we go through this process all the time" .

So what went wrong ? Nothing, we just did not find enough reasons to hire some of the people we interviewed, in fact , with most of the people we interviewed. Were we choosy ? Not, unless if you think expecting a person to answer questions based on what is in his/her resume , is being choosy.

A normal expectation is , that when you are scheduled for an interview, you would spend some time reading up on what you have been working on, what you have worked on and possibly something more. Most of the interviewers understand this and factor in some prepration time. I am not sure of all the people know this, but if you are well prepared , or at least appear well prepared the chances of you getting through are higher. Coming back to our experience , this was one major issues with most of the candidates that we interviewed. Most of them could not answer questions on areas which they had worked on more than a year ago, and some folks did not have the breadth that was expected of them in their area of work.

So that brings me to the title of this blog : What have you learnt in the last 100 days ? Did you get a chance to learn something beyond your area of work ? If you work on frameworks , did you attempt to learn the basis of the frameworks , like Java or C++.

I would have loved to ask these candidates that question. If the answer was a yes, I would have gone ahead ! Maybe that what I would do the next time over.Maybe, I should try and put this question to myself !

A lot of us spend so much money trying to buy mobiles, MP3 players and cameras, but how much of this money do we spend in buying books, that enhance our breadth or the depth in the area we work in ? We spend a lot of time on Orkut, Yahoo! and possibly other distractions on the internet, how much time do we spend to read up a book or write up a small program? Maybe we expect the IT boom to last forever, or expect the "Chinese are never going to be good in English" or we just do not care.

Would it help if Mr. Chidambaram gave a tax break on books and courses ?

Friday, February 9, 2007

Bangalore Express

No its not a new movie, but the name of the connecting flight offered by Lufthansa from SFO to Bangalore , as per this article in SJ Mercury News ! Nothing new, since SJ Mercury News always has a thing for glamorizing anything to with the Indian Tech community in the Valley !

Interesting stuff in this article , about finding jobs/clients on plane to Bangalore . The "cynical" me thinks , that its in line with the hype around the growth in Bangalore. The "hopeful" me thinks that I would offered a job someday on an airplane !

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Air India's new colours

Air India's new colours are on its latest Boeing 777-200/LR

I like it esp. with the cream and the Centaur pointing upwards. Now if only they follow it up with a new service "scheme" !

On a related note , some of the colour schemes of the private airlines is quite interesting . Here is my take on them

1. Indigo : Keeping in tune with the name , a Indigo base with blue wavy stripes. One of the best !
2. Air-India Express : Great combination of Red and orange/yellow with a Indian ethnic motif (typically a monument) on the tail ... very nice, at some time might get outdated
3. Spicejet : A mix of red and orange ... spice .. got that ! I like the bubbles on the tail .
4. Jet Airways : Blue tail, grey underbelly , ochre stripes looks very official. In some ways I like that since that conveys some seriousness about what they have to offer . I think they are probably one of the more serious players in the game !
5. Kingfisher : I like the red ! But there 's just too much of it in the interiors . There is the Kingfisher logo on the tail , nothing imaginative .
6. Air -Deccan : Minimalistic ! All white with the log on the tail, and a stripe over the windows . I do like the way the strip fades into a pattern. If there is any other colour on the plane , I guess that paid for by the advertisement sponsors.
7. Indian : Ok they came up with a wonderful log ( the Konark wheel ) , but they just went ahead and screwed it up with the colour scheme used ! A classic case of Shah Rukh Khan becoming a Govinda ( their respective sense of dressing being the metaphor)
8. Go-Air : They took a leaf out of TNSTC ( Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation) which paints each of its buses in a different colour. A simple "go" emblazoned in "PINK" , "GREEN","BLUE" and "ORANGE"
9. Paramount : All blue with a white underbelly , which is quite different from the rest of the lot. Gives you a kind of the old "US Airways livery " feel.
10. Air-Sahara : Well if you can't think of anything else ... there are the national colours ! Surely worst of the lot !

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Aero India 2007 : Update to the last Post !

So it looks like my wish #1 from the last post is coming true. Accoring to the The Hindu there is a bus service from MG Road to the AFB at Yelahanka run by CitySwaps . The CitySwaps site does not mention anything about this though ... My mind is changing !

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Aero India 2007 : Bangalore Traffic

I was planning to visit Aero India 2007 , but an article in The Hindu this morning made me think twice. Well , no prizes for guessing, the event being in Bangalore , the traffic is expected to be bad on the way to Yelahanka. The traffic police is expected to make some arrangements, but from my past experience that is like applying a pain-balm for fracture !

When is the traffic ever good in Bangalore one might ask, but that is another question for another day.

Right now I am re-evaluating my plan to visit Aero India ! Here is my wish-list for travel options to Aero-India

1. Run shuttles (BMTC trailer buses) from MG Road, Hebbal every half an hour
2. Run a small shuttle train twice a day from Bangalore City ! ( Naah ! too much read tape there ? )

Friday, February 2, 2007

The first words ...

I have been blogging for a while now. The challenge has not been in terms of what to blog, but more in terms of how-to-get-myself-to-blog . Sankar motivated me this morning by showing off his new blog and here I am ...