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Sony Elm quick review

This is a quick review of the Sony Elm mobile cellphone.

Motivation and Decision!

The reason for the purchase was that I was looking for a cellphone within Rs. 8,000-10,000, with reasonable camera performance. I was tempted by LG and especially Samsung offerings. Since I have a very positive experience with Samsung E2232, I had decided upon Samsung Galaxy Y, which is a cheaper version of the more pricey ones of the same name. I was not specifically looking for Android phones or touchscreen phones. I am slightly wary of the touchscreen technology coming at too low a price; I guess that any company has to maintain its margin and will cut down on quality if pushed too hard. Now, all the reviews for Samsung were great except for a few which said that the camera was barely passable. I was also not looking for high megapixel, 3 would be more than enough. Sadly, moronic customers push the companies toward megapixel wars leading to degradation of images, or maybe the companies attract morons by such number games. However, I hesitated after reading the poor quality images. Then, I chanced upon the Sony Ericsson Elm. On  paper it seemed great; a Sony Ericsson product with decent reviews. I also saw some sample images at a website. Seemed reasonable to me for a phone costing 8000 or so. So I bought it.

General Comments

As far as looks go, this is fairly good. It is very conventional, no scratching or touching anywhere. The keypads are good, I played some games(pre-loaded) without worrying about damaging the pad. I would say that, this is about the only thing which I have positive to say about this overpriced brick. The phone itself is very slow. I never thought I would pay much attention to the themes, but the utter dullness and the available themes is galling. The sound quality is miserable, or to be honest maybe i expected better, since i was not paying for touchscreen and Android, I thought that I was getting better hardware.


Ah, this is what I bought the phone for?!

No, certainly not! This is bright sunshine! The hopeless quality is immediately apparent. Based on this short experience of 1 week, I think that I made a wrong choice. My general suggestion is that if you want a camera, buy one and if you want a phone, buy one with such features as you wish. Do not mix and match both, at least not for anything costing less than 25,000. At that price or a bit more, you may get an entry level DSLR nowadays. However, if you do feel like donating money by spending it on such a combo, while I do not know which to recommend, I most certainly which NOT to go for: Sony Ericsson Elm!


C++ koenig lookup problem

Why does not the following code compile?

 #include <iostream>
// Does Koenig lookup work only for derived datatypes?
namespace FBB
  float y;
  class T
  T a;
  void classTest(T arg)
    std::cout<<"Inside class test"<<std::endl;

  void fun(float x)
    std::cout << "fun called for " << x << std::endl;

int main()
  // this line does not compile
  //  fun(FBB::y);
  FBB::fun(FBB::y); // works
  // for fun()

This is an absolutely fantastic distribution, based on Slackware. The installation is just 1CD. It has a music player, mplayer, OpenOffice all in. To run mplayer, however i think one needs to install liblame. I installed in on my home desktop which is being used by non-experts. It comes with Google Chrome browser, there might be other options.

If one gets past the installtion, this is a fantastic distribution, especially for old hardware. There is a small problem with dhcp setting. The dhcpc daemon keeps on overwriting the DNS in /etc/resolv.conf. I looked up a solution and someone(sorry do not remember the link) has posted a work-around which was to simply add one line in /etc/rc.d/rc.local “echo > /etc/resolv.conf”. I tried other stuff like giving some parameters to the dhcpcd daemon but that did not work,

The distribution is available here.

The Statesman editorial: Lankan navy and Tamil fishermen incidents

The link is here.


21 February 2011

Lanka can’t get away with it
KILLINGS, assaults, abductions and arrests. Such has been the high-handed and hardly civilised manner in which the Sri Lankan authorities, its Navy in particular, have been dealing with long-standing disputes over fishing rights that Tamil Nadu is approaching foment and even the insular Bharatiya Janata Party has spoken in condemnatory tones. Yet New Delhi appears unable to come up with a more credible response than statements and telephonic talks at the ministerial level ~ after a “failed” visit of the Foreign Secretary to Colombo ought to have indicated that words would not suffice to remedy the situation. The release of the 136 fishermen from Tamil Nadu who had been arrested  and taken to Jaffna ~ many said to have been surrounded by their Sri Lanka counterparts and transferred to their Navy that was conveniently standing-by ~ does not  close the chapter. The situation is much too serious for UPA-II to ignore: even if circumstances have forced it into fire-fighting on several fronts. Whether increased diplomatic pressure or threats of economic-related measures is the best route forward is for the government to decide. But act it must if the spilling of blood in the Palk Straits is to be averted ~ what is to prevent Tamil Nadu fishermen from sailing in strength to assert what they believe are their traditional rights?
Though Indian defence personnel generally steer clear of politically roiling waters, resentment is building up: did they train Sri Lankan naval personnel so that they used their muscle on Indian fishermen? There is a genuine threat to peace in the Straits, definitive action is needed. It is the absence of such action that has caused a sore to fester. Action was required on two fronts: determination, if not some sort of demarcation, of the “dividing line”; measures to avert Indian fishermen from straying across, perhaps fitting a few boats from each harbour with GPS devices or other hi-tech systems. But since the somewhat trigger-happy Sri Lankan navy has been active in those waters, there ought to be a strong Indian naval/coastguard presence too, if only to get a message across. That is an immediate requirement. In the longer term a joint Centre-State fisheries protection force could be raised. India must deem itself duty-bound to prevent its fishing communities from being bullied. Sri Lanka cannot be allowed to get away with such belligerence. This is no David-Goliath situation: just exploiting India’s diffidence in dealing with a smaller neighbour that is asking to be put in its place.


Apropos tamil fishermen killings by Sri Lankan navy

Here is an interesting article or rather an editorial from the well respected newspaper based in Calcutta, The Statesman.
Unfortunately, the e-version of the newspaper does not redirect well to its archives.
The URL is here and part of the editorial below. Maybe it is time to invoke the “son of the soil” theory in TN to regain its past(500+ years) back glory! SL was part of Chola empire and it was sacked once just because the Chola representative was humiliated by the king there!


Barbaric act of Sri Lankan Navy
YET another killing of a Tamil Nadu fisherman within 10 days, that too in a barbaric way by the Sri Lankan Navy, is a reflection of the extent to which President Mahinda Rajapaksa allowed his armed forces to be brutalised in its fight against the LTTE and his firm belief that India will not go beyond issuing statements condemning the killings. After all it was India that bailed out Sri Lanka, in association with China and Pakistan, when it was arraigned by the international community for gross violation of human rights, particularly of its Tamil citizens, two years ago. Unlike the 500-odd Tamil Nadu fishermen shot dead by the Sri Lankan Navy in the last three decades, N Jayakumar, 28, the latest victim, was asked to jump into the sea from his boat. As he hesitated, the naval officers boarded his boat, tied a rope around his neck, pushed him into the sea and dragged him by their vessel until he died. M Karunanidhi, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, wrote his customary protest letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who in turn promised to take up the issue with the Sri Lankan President. SM Krishna, External Affairs Minister, repeated parrot fashion “this is not acceptable.” That ended his responsibility. The fishermen are no longer content with the charade our political class has been playing out. Tens of thousands of fishermen have not ventured into the sea since last Sunday when Jayakumar’s body was brought ashore. K Bharathi, president of South Indian Fishermen’s Welfare Association, wanted the government to issue the fishermen gun licences and train them in handling arms for self-defence. M Kathirvel, president of the Pushpavanam fishing hamlet from where Jayakumar ventured into sea last Saturday only to be brought back in a coffin, said the entire population has decided to set sail in their boats to seek asylum in Sri Lanka as they did not want to lead a life in constant fear of being brutally killed by the Sri Lankan Navy. These are ominous signs for New Delhi; it must go beyond issuing statements and sending demarches to the Sri Lankan envoy.
The crux of the fishermen problem could be traced to the government of Indira Gandhi, ably assisted by Sardar Swaran Singh, then External Affairs Minister, gifting Kachchativu, a tiny islet in the Palk Bay which had been an integral part of Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu, to Sri Lanka in 1974, without even consulting the State government. Under Article 3 (c) of the Constitution, before ceding any territory of any State, a Bill should be introduced in Parliament and the President should refer it to the State legislature “for expressing its views thereon.” No such procedure was followed in the case of ceding Kachchativu to Sri Lanka. The unconstitutional cession had drastically reduced the area of fishing for Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay. On 4 July, 1974, K Krishnamoorthy, secretary of the Tamil Nadu unit of the erstwhile Jana Sangh, filed a petition for the issue of a writ of mandamus or any other appropriate writ to restrain the Union government from ceding Kachchativu to Sri Lanka as no cession of Indian territory can take place without a constitutional amendment. It was the heyday of Indira Gandhi’s ‘committed judiciary’ and keeping with the spirit of the times Justice P N Bhagavati of the Supreme Court dismissed the petition without any hearing. Unless the Sri Lankan government means business and restrains its Navy from wanton killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen, a new state government in which the Congress is not an ally, could still challenge the gifting of Kachchtivu.


I heard a curious comment regarding NREGA from s friend. His uncles are big farmers. The uncle was cribbing that NREGA enourages idleness amongst the less motivated people in the villages. The hardworking and more motivated people have already left villages to cities in search of better life. This has led to a labour problem. The ones who have not gone to cities and towns are mostly the less ambitious and that taking-it-easy types. It was difficult enough to coax them to work, even with money. It has now become impossible or very very difficult to get them as they are guaranteed some money. This is apparently enough to see them through tobacco and liquor for most part of the year! So, expect more increase in basic agriculture production and multiply this by some largish positive number to satiate the middlemen before it comes to the market. One wonders, were the hardworking people underpaid which made them leave their home to go to city? Or is the hardwork just too much? Who knows, and sadly not many care.

India passport portal fiasco

I recently applied for the renewal of my passport. The application process has been considerably revamped but there still exist some hiccups. Still considering the sorry state of affairs which existed as recent as 5 years ago, this is heaven sent. One must pay obeisance to the “babus” and ministers who could agree to the change. Considering the state of affairs in India, this seems like divine intervention.
However, all is NOT well. For online application of passport, the link is in this page for applicants living within Bangalore and Chandigarh. One clicks on the “How to Apply” link in the left side of the above page and it takes us to a page which has more information on the application process. All this is fine. There is also a “Login/Register” link for new users. For a number of days, I have been seeing that after entering the username, password and the “captcha”, the site seems to have “lost” the security certificate. This, in Firefox, results in a security warning. I have to add an exception to reach the page. Most of the time the page does not load. The page is maintained by none other than India’s premier software merchant Tata Consultancy Services. I feel no need to say more. If a maintainer cannot maintain a security certificate for such an important portal in order, I shudder to think of the security of the database. Such a shoddy maintenance of an essential portal is only possible in the IT “superpower” that is India. Let us not lose hope though. Some countries are worse. Let us sing “jai Ho” and “all is well”.
Also, one can apparently check the status of one’s passport application here. The file number which we are supposed to enter is a letter followed by 6 digits. Somehow, mine is much bigger. Of course, who cares.

India and the UN security seat

Here is an interview posted on rediff where a correspondent interviews India’s Permanent representative to the UN.  The person mentions that the other candidates which were in the fray were Kazaksthan and Thailand. I can imagine the amount of hard work needed to put in by the lobbyists to convince the other countries to vote for India against Thailand and Kazakhsthan, those two regional powerhouses.

I had a dream

This sounds corny and too imitative. Still, I am a human being and I cannot help dreaming especially when the sleep was induced by that peculiar limb-stiffening tiredness due to sitting in a stationary office bus in traffic. What I could have avoided is writing down what I dreamt but I hope someone can interpret my dreams for me. I have read that Gods have sometimes appear in the dreams of the fortunate and reveal some major mystery of the world. This is my secret reason for publishing my dream; perhaps someone may discover a divine message and I might be hailed as the next messenger of god. It might not be a bad life if it involves travelling in jets to convey God’s own words to the faithful millions of miles away. Let me now get into the details of the dream. Coming back to the situation, I did not fall asleep in the office bus but in my own bed. The office bus was stuck in a traffic jam for a longer time than usual. This was probably because of the fact that most of the offices had declared a “half-day” holiday anticipating possible violence in the wake of the Ayodhya judgment which was due to be delivered at 3 PM. It later got postponed to 4PM but that is entirely irrelevant to my dream. However, we spent a good amount of time getting gently warmed up in the bus as the afternoon sun poured its rays into the bus. It was not that suprising that the topic of the dream was somehow related to the whole issue.

In the dreamworld, I saw or read that the wise judges presiding over the case had examined the dispute from all angles. They pondered over the philosophical, physical, metaphysical, archaeological and emotional aspects of the case. They reached the conclusion that as the site was considered to be holy by all it could not be simply handed over to any one of the parties. Also, they could not just hand it over to any of them just like that. All of them wanted to build something on it. After all, divinity is something which cannot be handed over to one particular party which would then ensure its safety. Therefore, the judges were considering a solution which would give rise to feelings of extreme happiness, promote communal harmony and unity without making any of the parties feel bad. The crux of the issue was that nobody should feel “bad”’ it does not matter if nobody felt “good”. There had already been suggestions from people regarding building a mosque as well as temple at the disputed place. While noteworthy, clearly this would mean a posting a permanent battalion at the site in practical terms. Some others proposed a hospital for the poor. This would clearly be another nightmare. It would involve legal wrangles about ownership, definition of who was really poor and needy and so on. The judges then came up with a brilliant solution, at least they thought that it was so. One can only speculate if it was divine inspiration which struck them. The simplicity of the solution was breathtaking. The judges decided that the one thing which aroused divine feelings, removed all anger, put the mind into the most peaceful state devoid of anger and hatred was the presence of a toilet at hand when the need becomes extremely urgent. To appreciate this fully, one must recall situations while either travelling in a train or getting stuck in a presentation or in a traffic jam when the call of nature has become a demand; an urgent pulsating cramp inducing scream for attention. Then, when one is finally able to reach that blissful abode when one can unleash the furies of nature, the first feelings of relief are unspeakably peaceful. One feels like thanking all the gods, deities for the magical presence of a comfortable and clean place for relieving oneself. Therefore, what more could be more useful and amicable to all parties than an order to build a mega toilet complex with neat facilities. To accommodate errr.. “faith” of all sizes and kinds, it was decided to have a full variety of the “closets”: Western, Indian. There was to be even a section which would have privys similar to the ones found at Mohenjodaro and Harappa. Best of all, the entire structure was to be free for public use; what joy! On hearing the verdict, the populace was stunned by the sublime intelligence of the judges; after all which party would riot over the ownership of a toilet collection, even if it was superbly maintained. The media went overboard in celebrating the peaceful solution offered.

I wish the dream had ended at this point. I really do. I did not wish for the rest of the dream. I should have woken up. However, what we wish and what we get are generally entirely different things. So we continue with my dream.

The judgment was accepted by all the parties. The complex was coming up fast with the same management team which had brilliantly handled the Commonwealth Games “Village” construction being once again roped in to build this mega project. After all, it would mean making a tour of the world, studying commodes, water closets privys, examining their usage, their life, longevity, maintenance and so on. It was done in a remarkable short amount of time. This was probably because 10 planes were pressed into service which carried the member of the building committee and their families. How else to decide what to plan unless one samples the product oneself? The government even initiated a “Shauchalaya Tax” on the salaried class, who though complained bitterly and impotently, were secretly relieved that at least riots have been avoided. Finally, it was decided that a common man would inaugurate the mega complex. There was great excitement amongst the populace as to who would get to touch the “Golden Bowl” first, would the worthies from political parties be chosen, would it be religious heads who would “do it” first, would it be the dynastic leaders from the different regions who would honour the occasion and declare the complex open? Would the Communists and atheists join in the solemn occasion? Granted they had severe doubts, no doubt valid, if Lord Shri Ramachandra was a trained engineer or not, but would they deny the human need for relief? Would they then refuse to join in? Suddenly and inexplicably, the enthusiasm for the inauguration waned amongst the leaders. Possibly they were infected by the contagious feeling of harmony and goodwill pervading throughout the country. The uncharitable ones suggested that somehow the idea of being the first to inaugurate a toilet complex did not seem too attractive. After all, this was the age of sting operations. What if they went inside the complex and did not actually do the full steps? Therefore, someone came up with the clever idea of choosing a “common man” for doing the deed. The beauty of the plan was that this special person would be chosen by the special UUID scheme which had been implemented by the government. This would be the triumph of the entire UUID scheme. After all, there had been naysayers who had ridiculed the entire scheme as yet another money “sink”. For a country like India, where many people are surviving on a day to day basis, what was the point of giving him or her a number? Furthermore, there was the ration card, passport, PAN card and so on, what was the point of having another card? How to deal with the migrant population in metro cities? It was only a face for another scam where the beneficiaries might be “IT” companies. However, the government felt that the selection of the lucky person for the Shauchalaya Complex inaugural programme would vindicate the entire existence of the scheme. Furthermore, as the first person who got the UUID was a person from a remote village in Maharashtra, who was no doubt honoured by it but was at a loss what to do with it. Similarly, a person would be chosen from the billion who would most need the comfort the Complex would have to offer.

Now comes the worst part of the dream. It so turned out that it was me who was “found” to be the most suitable to act as the chief guest for the grand occasion. I was thunderstruck when I found a media circus outside the house just after I woke up. In fact, in the dream, I was sleeping when I was woken up by the hullabullo. I do not recall if I was dreaming inside the dream though. That is not the topic of this meandering essay. When the members of the media informed me of the glad tidings, I am afraid that I nearly relieved myself then and there. Then came the official phone call and officials from various departments giving me the official invite. In vain did I try to protest that I did not need this honour. In the previous days when excitement had been building up, the media had been growing crazy. There were rumours that the media had intensely lobbied the government to allow a live telecast of the entire event. Worthies like Barkha Dutt, Prannoy Roy, Rajdeep Sardesai were literally straining at the leash to offer analysis of the event, analyse the character of the guest and predict about the “outcome” of the event. Given all this, I naturally wanted to turn down this particular honour. Initially, the officials tried to convince me by sweet words, pointing out the importance and honour of the occasion. They explained that my name would be eternally known in history. They even assured me of erecting a pedestal or at least a photo of the event. In case technology progressed, they even assured me of a 3D holographic video of the event which would be replayed till the end of “Bharatvarsha”. Somehow, this refused to console me; I refused to budge. Then there came the subtle hints from the IT office. Now, I have nothing to hide from the tax authorities and I was so reluctant to take the honour that I considered taking on the I-T department. However, I recalled the movie “The Untouchables” and gave in. The day came. For the previous few days, I had teams of doctors monitoring my vital signs to ensure that I proved to be satisfactory chief guest. I had teams of Black Cat, Geyhound, ATS, COBRA, CID, Special Branch, IB and encounter specialists around me all the time. My phone was tapped and my email read before me. The apparent reason was to prevent terrorist strikes, assassination or kidnapping attempts on the honoured chief guests. Being of a cynical nature, I suspected that it was more to prevent me from going underground. So finally the day arrived and I was “ushered” sweating and squirming to the complex.

At this point, I am afraid that my sleep broke. I had been squirming and sweating in the bed. The power had gone off. I decided immediately to put the entire dream in writing without further delay and ask for expert advice. Any comments welcome.

Online book purchase sites review

I have been purchasing a fair amount of books online. This is not a comprehensive review of online sellers in India. Till now, I have tried 4: flipkart, infibeam, bookadda and nbcindia. Of these, Flipkart is undoubtedly best; it beats others hands down on terms of service. If they show that a book is available, you can be pretty much sure that it indeed is.  Their price is generally below the marked price or equal. They deliver for free anywhere in India for orders above Rs. 100/-. This last bit is true for all the others. Their customer support is very good and answer queries about pricing promptly. I have made purchases more than or close to Rs. 3000/- in the last few months. I have also bought some cheap VCDs. Full marks to the team.

Next, I would rate Infibeam. The price of books is generally lesser than that of Flipkart. Their service is also pretty good. I suspect that their inventory management can do with some improvement because it has happened that the book is shown as available but after the order has been placed, I get an email from the customer support saying that they could not complete the order. Refunding has been generally prompt. Customer service is not terrific but adequate. Sometimes, one has to act as the “annoyed customer” to get  response. They sell both old as well as new books. I wish it were clearer if the book being purchased is old or new! This is well worth a wait if one is not in a terrible hurry to get books. They send books in inventory but take some time to acquire books and pass it on to you.

While looking for cheaper and cheaper deals online, i came across Bookadda. It has a user interface very similar to that of Flipkart. It looks so similar that I thought that Flipkart was operating a sister site. Also, the registered office is in Bangalore. The similarity with flipkart ends there. I put an order for a book which was not available with flipkart and infibeam. The book is “introduction to calculus and analysis: volume 1” by Courant. Incidentally, flipkart showed the book as not available and infibeam does not show the indian edition to be available. However, bookadda shows this to be available. As nothing was moving after placing the order for a few days, I emailed customer support and got no response. I called up the local contact number and was told that I would be contacted in half an hour. My cell as well as landline numbers were taken. I often wonder what kind of miserable slugs become these call centre agents who promise all the time but deliver not a whit. Anyway, there was no call in half one or two hours. Generally, I do not like to pursue and pain people but this was annoying me. So I called up again and was told that the book was not available and I would get a refund. No refund status was forthcoming and I called up again to find out how long it would take. I have been promised a refund by today, I do not of course believe it. The amount is not high but nobody like the feeling of being hoodwinked.

UPDATE (20/09/2010)

I got an email about 2 days from the customer care of bookadda expressing regret for being unable to complete their order and have also given a gift voucher worth 50/-. Not a tremendous amouunt but the gesture is appreciated. I could not update this earlier as I was travelling. Will give these guys another shot.


I placed an order with nbcindia last week. It is too early to say but I fear that it is headed the bookadda way. I hope not because there are some hindi books available there.

Update 25/09/2010

After calling nbcindia’s customer service, they informed me that of the two books I ordered, only one was available immediately. They were waiting for the other book. I do not know how long they would have waited if I had ot called them up. They gave their word to dispatch the available book and refund the amount for the other if the publisher did not get back to them that very day. Apparently, the publisher did not get back and they sent it by Aramex Courier that day. I got it in two days flat.  The book which did not make it: “Manto ki Chuninda Kahaniyan”.

UPDATE (20/09/2010)

I got an email about 2 days from the customer care of bookadda expressing regret for being unable to complete their order and have also given a gift voucher worth 50/-. Not a tremendous amouunt but the gesture is appreciated. I could not update this earlier as I was travelling. Will give these guys another shot.