Shoshana Hebshi’s 9/11 ordeal – Over zealous security or a fragile ego?

Came across this post today of what was apparently one of many cases of false alarms received on Sep 11, 2011. Shoshana Hebshi writes in her blog about her shock and awe experience of being racially profiled and detained in Detroit after landing from Denver.
I have to admit, that while I can empathise with Ms Hebshi’s predicament, I find this as yet another example of the ideas of Civil Liberties and Individual Freedom inadvertently becoming excuses for fragile egos and lack of tolerance for individual discomfort.

Cause, while that would certainly have been a distressing experience, there are 2 sides to every story, and here are some possible sides:
What Shoshana went through, and all the attendant “ills” like the racial profiling, are an unfortunate outcome of the times we live in. And as soon as we recognise that it is only an attempt to secure ourselves against acts like the ones in Delhi and Mumbai, and Karachi, and Bali, and Kabul…we will develop a greater acceptance of the circumstances. Are these attempts perfect? No, not at all. But its funny, sitting here in India, we always quote the US example, that at least they responded with an iron fist and there has not been a single attack on the US since 9/11.

Would I like to go through such an experience? No. But is it better than being blown into smithereens, because we were not paranoid? Is it better than a child, spouse, parent, sibling, friend meeting an untimely and horrifying end, or worse still being crippled for life? Umm, let me think about that!

And so I would like to raise another question. How much of our discomfort, outrage and anger against such situations is a result of our own fragile egos? I mean, what is this American obsession with Civil Liberties, and Rights, and Freedom? All noble constructs, but are they higher than the Greater Good? Have we distorted the meaning of all these to imply a lack of tolerance of individual inconvenience? From Shoshana’s account, while it must certainly have been a very unexpected, harrowing and uncomfortable experience, and the initial anger is absolutely justified, it does not seem like there was any intentional discomfort or pain caused, or even any rudeness or aggression on the part of the staff. They seemed to be professionals doing their job.

And what is so humiliating about a strip search as long as it is conducted professionally and is deemed necessary? Don’t we comply with medical procedures requiring the same? Even if after the procedure we find it was not necessary but just a precaution? Isn’t it the same case here? Just because WE know we are not guilty, we feel outraged and violated? Wouldn’t a realisation of the reason for the same, and a tolerance for the cause of the greater good, change one’s view about this?

To summarise, all I am saying is, while we must definitely be vigilant to ensure that the precautionary/preventive measures are not being taken too far, we also have to apply a similar vigilance to ensure that our fierce protection of our individual rights are not an outcome of bloated egos and self-importance, such that they become bigger than the Greater Good.

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Posted in Life

Cheated by Copper Project

So for our digital marketing agency, Indigo Consulting, we were looking for a SAAS-based Project Management System that would help us manage large and small digital marketing projects, and track time sheets. Copper Project was referred to us by a friend in the US office of a large advertising network, so we did our evaluation and invested significant time in setting up the system for our needs, training our staff etc. While the product seemed to have most of the features we needed, some basic things like reports, ability to view your own time sheets etc were missing which they kept saying they would consider for a future release.

However 2-3 months into usage, we found the the performance of the site had dropped considerably. With barely 110-115 users, the site would often time-out, or worse, just would not record an entry. When we raised this issue, they said they would try and work on it. In the meantime, we had to suspend use of the PMS.

Eventually, they admitted they will NOT be able to resolve the problem (which in itself was surprising considering it is a cloud-based project management system and availability is a prerequisite), and themselves offered to provide a refund.

Copper Project offer for Refund

We even suggested that we could then perhaps opt for upgrading to the next version where we can get the source code and install it in our own network. The fees already paid could be adjusted against the same.

However, after that we NEVER heard from them. There was no response to any of our emails or phone calls. It was then that we realised we are dealing with more of a shell than a company. There are NO proper contact details on the website – the link just leads to some anonymous info@ email ID. There is no background on the company, the owners, management etc. During the course of our interactions on support, we only had the contact of one Ben Prendergast, who refused to respond to emails or phone calls.

After 3 months of futile attempts, I finally sent a DM to their Twitter Account ( to which I finally got a response. Shockingly, they FLATLY REFUSED to offer a refund and claimed they had “retracted” the refund offer and that we were harassing them by continuing to follow-up!!! We had, of course, received no such email, so we asked them to forward the email. Which was again met with silence. Cos obviously the cheats never sent the email and were now hiding behind lies.

The failure of the Copper Project PMS can be understood – not all products are killers. But the attitude of the company, the anonymity of the management, and most of all their string of lies and lack of accessibility, were shocking to say the least. Trust and confidence is the bedrock of any successful relationship, and Copper Project clearly does not care for these values.

Besides the fees paid for a product that does not work, we also lost considerable time and effort, and of course all the data.

We have since started using Zoho Projects and are so far quite happy with the product and the support response times, although its only been about a couple of months.

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Posted in Business & Economy, Web 2.0

iOS 5 Beta – first impressions

I have installed the iOS 5 beta on my iPhone 4 and here are initial impressions. Remember, you need iTunes 5 Beta to install iOS5.


  1. New notification format is nice – certainly not new and does not change my life, but far better than existing formats, and very nicely executed.
  2. Reminders app is cool – again, should’ve been there from the start, but better late than never.
  3. iMessaging – not had a chance to use yet cos I guess it needs the other iThing to also be ios5.
  4. Twitter integration – definitely handy. Beats having to open another app to tweet a page/photo etc.
  5. Wireless Sync – not operational yet, but look forward to it, I suspect it will be much slower if there are apps/music to sync.
  6. iCloud backup – works seamlessly in the background but haven’t really tested across devices yet.
  7. Access Camera through DoubleClick – still on the old habit of launching the Camera app, but I’m sure this is handy once I remember to use it.
  1. It has definitely affected performance. The phone is slower by at least 10% when accessing multiple functions, “stutters” when handling transitions, and sometimes even shows, for a fraction of a second, a screen which has since been closed. And I am not a heavy multi-tasked either, and make it a point to kill apps not required. Hopefully they will fix this in the final release.
  2. Camera: Now that I can use the Volume button to click, it would have been nice if that bar on the screen with the click button and still-video switch could be “hidden” so I get the whole screen as my viewfinder. Common in most other large screen phones.
  3. Camera: When you use the Volume button to click, the Camera lens (and Flash) is positioned on the lower side. A camera lens and flash should under most circumstances “look down” on the subject from the upper end of the device.
  4. There’s an irritating message that pops up on every phone call about this being an “unsecure call” and would I like to continue! And the only way to get rid of it is to click on Ignore. There seems to be no way to de-activate that.
  5. Mail: Text formatting controls (Bold, Underline etc) are handy but unwieldy.
  6. There are also reports of Battery life being hit, but between 3G and a nearly one-year old device, not sure how much is the exact impact of iOS5.
All in all, iOS5 does not change in life in a very big way, but is more of a good to have, provided of course, they sort out the impact on performance for iPhone4. I would have been much happier seeing what in my opinion would have been really handy features, that again should have been there from the start:
  1. Ability to create shortcuts to frequently accessed settings, songs, pictures, phone numbers – anything.
  2. Widgets – nice to have.
  3. Ability to invite attendees to meetings in iCal WITHOUT the need for an Exchange account. Can’t see why I can’t do the same with a POP3/IMAP account.
  4. Some visual notification when the phone is asleep – LED around home button?
Look forward to iOS 6 🙂
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Posted in Gadgets & Tech

Ajmal Kasab: The Pride of India?

The more I think about it, the prouder I feel that India has chosen not to take the Rambo route to punish the perpetrator of what is undoubtedly one of the most cold-blooded acts of murder in history.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to see Ajmal Kasab get the severest punishment for his crime, as much as any other Indian. And of course, there have been many times when I have wondered why we are wasting emotional energy, time and money and not just getting on with killing him.

But when viewed from the eyes of the very “civilised way of life” the West has always preached, I think we have demonstrated the epitome of that very way of life. Sure, we may be bungling the execution as usual, in that we could expedite the whole process, make it more efficient, and so mete out punishment as early as possible. But the intent and principle, to my mind, is sound.

I refuse to believe that the US of A has the clout and balls to go into Pakistani territory and conduct a commando operation of this nature, but cannot use the same clout to just give Osama up or force them to cooperate in finding and apprehending him? The episode reeks of a clear intent to find an eliminate Osama with an eye on pandering to popular emotion, especially at a time when the Obama administration is up s**t creek. Not to mention all the obvious questions around what exactly happened that night? How did FOUR choppers come near the home and no one even HEARD them and sounded an alarm for Osama? One of them even crashed in the compound, for chris’ sake! Have the Americans developed stealth technology such that aircraft self-destruct in silence? And no guards, no security, no other casualties????

Shouldn’t the country that preaches civilisation and fundamental rights etc give an account of how they ensured that they made every possible attempt to capture him and bring him to justice?

Sure, we have a lot to learn from the West in terms of national security administration and justice, but it surely doesn’t seem like a one-way street.

What do you think?

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Posted in India, Life

Dumbest Scam Email?

This has got to be the dumbest attempt at getting money through scam email!!

How you doing ? I’m stuck in London with my family, We got mugged at
gun point last night, all cash,credit card and cell phone were stolen
off us, Thank God we have our life and passport saved…We are having
problem in settling the hotel bills i need you to loan me 1,200 USD
to sort out the hotel bills and also take a cab to the airport, You
can wire the money to me through western union all you need is Name on
my passport and location below i will appreciate any amount you can
wire to my info below.
Name: Jason Tyson
Location: 30 Leicester Square, WC2H 7LA, London United Kingdom
Amount: 1,200 USD
I will definitely refund your cash as soon as i get home.As soon as it
is done, kindly get back to me with the western union transfer
With regards,

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Posted in Life

iPhone 4 – Initial Impressions

Just received my new iPhone 4 yesterday. Cutting to the chase, I had to workhard at not adding a whoop of joy in the title of this post.

First things: I live in Mumbai and pre-ordered a SIM-Free 32GB Black iPhone 4 from London (GBP599 less VAT of GBP60 ~ Rs37500). Just the day after I received it, it was launched in Singapore and Hong Kong at a much more attractive Rs 35,000 or so (SIM-free 32GB).

I can safely say that so far, this is among the best phones I have owned. It carry’s over most some of my known grouses with the iPhonec(written about here and here) – a huge irritant being inability to invite attendees for a meeting or accepting invites, simply because it should be so easy to do – but now that I have accepted them (and some of them have been resolved), this phone is great.

1. Immediately upon holding it, it felt a bit heavier than the 3G, but also much sleeker. It is much more comfortable to hold, since most of the “bulge” of the 3G/S has been cut out. Overall form factor – 4.5/5 (the Nexus 1 did feel better in the hand).

2. Absolutely NO antenna/reception issues – so far!! In spite of simulating death grip etc.

3. The biggest joy factor for me is the speed. This phone is FAST and how – this has been a pet peeve with most smartphones I have used. This feels faster than the Google Nexus 1 too, which I believe had a 1Ghz processor. Even browsing seems faster, which I guess is because my older phone (3G 16GB) was simply not parsing the data fast enough.

4. The display is everything its been made out to be – sharp, crystal clear, and as a result also unforgiving on lower res stuff. Its apleasure just looking at the phone. I usually like to keep brightness low to conserve battery, but it feels like a shame to do that on this phone.

5. Multitasking is great, though yet to fully explore it. Although I sorely miss the ability to customise a double-click on the Home button. I had set it as a short-cut to Search which was really convenient when looking for a contact to send an SMS to or call. Now double-click by default pulls up the open applications task bar so I have to go to home screen and then slide right!!

Also yet to explore Camera (still and video) which I am really looking forward to. Will try and post some pictures/videos.

Verdict: If you were considering the iPhone even ever so slightly, go out and take the plunge. As a friend put it “Its great, don’t believe the negative publicity.”

Update 05 Aug: Made my first Facetime call. Very brief one since the cellular line/network was bad but overall worked just fine and very easy.

1. Make sure Wi-fi is on and connected.

2. Call another iPhone 4 from your iPhone 4 as you normally would. The “calling” screen will show up with all the options – mute, speaker, add call etc. The only difference is, in place of “hold” is an option called “facetime”.

3. Once connected, the Facetime option becomes active (clickable). Click it and your camera turns on, and depending upon who’son the other end, so could you :-). Injoy!!

UPDATE: Day4 and the dreaded yellow spots have appeared on my screen (pretty sure they weren’t there when I got the phone). Its quite severe a yellow band running vertically towards the right of the screen, and another faint one in the center :-(. Forums say its a bonding agent and the spots disappear. Fingers crossed else its warranty cashing time.

iPhone 4 yellow spots

UPDATE 8th August

Did notice an instance of the antenna problem where 5 bars came down to 3 in death grip. No impact on performance but could be if there were fewer bars to start with. However the problem IS there. Yellow band seems to be getting worse, or maybe I’m just noticing it more!! 😦

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Posted in mobile telephony

Consolidating your iTunes Library across Mac and Windows

Just finished consolidating music in my iTunes library on my Macbook, with my home Windows PC using Homeshare. It works like a cinch. Not only that, on my Windows PC, also consolidated the library for all users (self, wife, son) using Junction, so everyone sees the same library, each other’s playlists etc.

Homeshare on iTunes is amazing. So from the Windows PC iTunes, I can see the music Library on my Mac (which is sort of the computer where ALL music resides, so acts like a Server), and can play, and even import the music on to the Windows PC. And because all users on the Windows PC are sharing the same iTunes Library using Junction, they can each do the same without duplicating each other’s efforts.

Worth the 1 hour it took to figure out, configure and debug.

Posted in Gadgets & Tech, Music