Saturday, July 05, 2008

Bengaluru International Airport

After a rather long hiatus, I'm back. For good.

Over the last two months, I've been a mute spectator to the criticism and brickbats thrown at the spanking new Bengaluru International Airport (BIA). Newspaper dailies in Bangalore would carry comments from readers, sometimes applauding BIA, and most of the time criticizing several aspects of it. And as I have learned over the last two weeks, believe not what you are told, but only what you see for yourself.

I made two trips to BIA over the last two weeks, one for an international departure in the middle of the night, and another for a domestic flight early in the evening. I shall recount my experience travelling to and at the airport.

Towards the end of June, my mother left to London, and being the prodigal son I am, I went to drop her. As we drove towards the airport from Indiranagar at 2AM, I was overcome by the peaceful air that envelops the city at night. The roads were empty but for the occasional BMTC Vayu Vajras brilliantly lit up, moving like the Knight Bus from the Harry Potter series. As soon as we hit the Outer Ring Road, we were met with a dozen Meru Taxis headed to and from the airport. We had company!!

We soon crossed the Hebbal Flyover and were on our way towards Devanahalli. And this is where reality struck. The roads were simply wonderful. 3 Lanes on each side, with brilliant reflectors embedded in the road surface. The streetlights decided they'd rather not travel the 30Km distance to the airport, and stopped a short while after the Hebbal flyover. While the road was dark, the reflectors did an excellent job. There was light traffic on the road and it was simply a pleasure driving to the airport. As we pulled closer to the airport, the Trumpet interchange appeared. The interchange is simply marvellous and the road from the interchange to the airport is simply heavenly. With excellent lighting and road markings, you lose all memories of the otherwise horrid Bangalore roads.

In the distance, the ATC could be seen looming over the lit up horizon. As we approached the ATC, we were greeted by the BIA Fuel Farm, Cargo complex and a dozen other brilliantly lit buildings.

Directions are displayed on large boards, in clearly printed text. We drove through the Terminal and dropped my Mum off at the curbside. I then drove around the airport, a little disoriented, looking for the entrance to the parking.. What I later found out is that you can park your vehicle for upto 15 minutes at a drop-off zone. You're given a ticket when you enter the zone, and you return it when you're leaving. If you were parked for more than 15 minutes, you are charged appropriately. The airport has 2 general parking lots, 1 long term parking lot and a premium lot. Valet parking is available, however, since I'm the valet in my family, I did this myself. I parked my car at the P3 parking lot and walked towards the terminal. It wasn't a huge terminal, but looked beautiful. I live 5 minutes from the old HAL airport, and after driving for 45 minutes to get to BIA, I felt as proud as ever looking at Bangalore's latest.

As I walked closer, some planning errors became evident. For instance ramps to the sidewalks in the parking areas are far apart. Unless you know the parking lot very well, you will surely miss the ramps and will most definitely have a tough time with your baggage trolley. In addition to this, there are several obstructions in what could otherwise have been good sidewalks. I'm sure issues such as these will be ironed out over time.

The terminal building was simply amazing. The glass fascade looked superb and I was taken aback for a few minutes. Mum soon passed through the security at the Departure terminal and went into the terminal building. It was a smooth process, however in my opinion additional gates at the departure terminal entrance would have increased efficiency.

Soon it became evident that the seating outside the terminal was simply insufficient. The heavy winds blowing through the Terminal were unsettling at times. My roving eye also noticed the absence of CCTV cameras in sufficient numbers. There wasn't a significant security presence at the terminal either, which simply led me to wonder how BIAL plans to monitor the crowds outside the airport and what security measures are in place to avoid an ugly incident.

Check-in took 15minutes and the mandatory User Development Fee for International travellers flying out of BIA before 1st July 2008 was paid at a small non-descript counter at one corner of the terminal. The seating inside the terminal building on the ground floor did not seem sufficient. There were 4 rows of seats at either end of the check-in hall, each of which could seat a maximum of a 100 people at most.

We soon left the Terminal building as Mum made her way through Security check. The walkways are well lit, however, in-order to get from the drop-off zone, or the parking lot, one must cross the road in front of the terminal. I overheard a BIAL official saying that the pedestrian crossing on the road was the cause of traffic jams each day. Not a good thing I thought. We were out of the airport after a little disorientation at the parking lot due to a missing sign which is at a crucial point in the exit from lot P3.

2 days later I had to take a flight to Bombay. I decided to take the bus this time. I logged onto and booked myself onto a BMTC Vayu Vajra (Volvo) headed to the airport. I also learned that conductors on the Non-AC airport buses often told passengers that the Vayu Vajra is running half an hour late in order to capture passengers waiting for the higher fare Volvos. I had a reservation, and had selected my seats as well so I waited. The bus arrived 5 minutes early and quickly departed. The buses are nicely done up with luggage racks, AC vents and music too :) The bus driver, a cousin of Williams F1 driver Montoya (I presume) got us to the airport in exactly an hour.

As I had over two hours to spare, I decided to walk all around the airport. Bored, I decided to check in. I walked into the Departure terminal and walked around checking out the self-checkin kiosks. There was a serious shortage of seating in the Check-in hall and this needs an immediate remedy. After a coffee at the CCD there, I checked in, and with my boarding pass moved to the first floor towards security check.

A minute later, my check was done. The CISF officer suspected that my innocent Nokia E61i was a bomb. After a little poking and prodding, he realized it was a phone. I was on my way :) There are lots of retail outlets in the departure hall. The Crossword book store is an excuse of a bookstore with just a few shelves. Just not enough for an airport bookstore! The Domestic and International departures are split into different halls. The international departure hall has an Illy coffee bar and other nice things. I, being a domestic flier, settled in at a nice little cafe. A coffee, a sandwich and a fruit salad later I was full and found myself a nice comfy seat.

Over the next 1 hour, I was kept entertained by this wonderful comedian that BIAL hired to keep passenger morale high. No, not Russell Peters but some unknown woman with the most brilliant English and pronunciation I had ever heard. Yes, she was the announcer and while she requested "Customers travelling with childrens and infents...." I rolled on the floor laughing my proper Indian butt off.

Soon it was time to board, and this took place quite rapidly. As our aircraft was parked away from the terminal, we were ferried to it in a (you guessed it), Volvo bus. We boarded and were off to Bombay soon after.

When I landed back at BIA a few days later, I was in for a surprise. I had been told that baggage takes ages to arrive and that I should expect to wait for a good amount of time. I was surprised to enter the arrival hall and see 3 baggage claim belts in front of me. Another three in a central, partitioned area, and several others in the International baggage claim. My suitcase arrived a few minutes later and I was out of the terminal less than 15 minutes after we had landed. I quickly boarded a Volvo, handling the conductors hounding me with fluent Kannada. I was at Indiranagar about an hour later.

The absence of police on Bangalore's roads is conspicuous. Patrolling must be increased else international passengers can easily be victimized at drop off points. Police take note!

There were plenty of things that need to be done to improve the airport. For example,

  1. Sidewalks must be redesigned for the convenience of passengers with trolleys
  2. Seating outside and inside the terminal must be increased drastically
  3. Greater security presence and monitoring equipment must be put in place
  4. A helpdesk must be set up near the Airport Bus Depot. I saw BMTC conductors harassing passengers to board their buses. For a Bangalorean who knows the bus routes, this isn't an issue but for a first timer in the city, this can be a harrowing experience. Conductors must be instructed and warned against standing away from their buses. A well staffed helpdesk near the bus depot must be set up to assist passengers travelling on the BMTC buses. A prominently displayed route map for each bus at the entrance of the bus depot would help as well. The maps inside the depot are not clearly visible and by the time passengers see them, conductors have already hounded them.
  5. Better trained announcers would add to the professionalism that is expected of an international airport.

On the whole, however, BIA is an excellent addition to the city of Bangalore. I live 5 minutes away from the old HAL airport, and am proud everytime I arrive at BIA even though it means an hour long commute from home. Its simply because one look at BIA and you're convinced that it is for the future. Regardless of how many comparisons are made to airports at Hyderabad, or Singapore, nothing can compare to the pride that fills my heart when i look at BIA. The future of our city lies here, in this glass structure built from the hopes and dreams of millions of Bangaloreans. Like me.

Some might argue that the airport is simply too small for current traffic volumes. However, the full potential of this airport will only be unleashed once the second runway and terminal become operational in a few years. Bangalore and its new airport have a long way to go, and BIA has just checked in.


Friday, August 03, 2007


(Pictures available at

On the 20th of May 2007, Manju, Kushal, Rohit, Sujay and I set out on a 3 day weekend trip to Kodaikanal. The trip was supposed to be typical boys roadtrip. It turned out to be more than that. Hollywood flicks are often about city dwellers like myself, heading out into the country to have a weekend of fun, instead returning completely reformed. This story, is not so different.

The 5 of us had initially decided to drive down to Kodai. However, at the last minute, these plans fell through, and we took the night bus from Bangalore instead. The bus ride was fun, with Baazigar playing on the "In-Flight Entertainment System" of our "Airbus" (read TV in aisle of bus). The bus halted thrice during the journey. Once just outside Bangalore, once at Salem. These were just 5 minute stops for Tea, and cigarettes. The third stop was just before the bus climbed up the hill to Kodaikanal. Here, we stopped for breakfast. We arrived at Kodaikanal at 10 in the morning. And even though we had been in the bus the whole night, the air simply recharged all of us. It's amazing, how we just stop noticing the amount of pollution in the air in our cities. It's only when we get away from it, do we realize the crap we breathe.

Our travel agent from Bangalore had his brother, Mr.Abu Backer (+91 98429 66718), contact us in Kodaikanal. We initially had reservations at a budget hotel called the JC Woodville Manor. But one look at the place, and we'd decided against it. Abu took us around Kodaikanal and showed us some cottages that aren't usually listed online. And these places looked absolutely lovely. Other alternative cottages which are listed online are

  • The Villa Retreat
  • Dalethorpe
  • Cinnabar Farm

Since we were visiting off season, the rates were on the lower side. We settled for a cottage called the May villa, run by a Mr.Fernando (+91 94865 04076). The cottages were on a lovely slope, with greenery all around. The place also had arrangements for bon fires each night (at an extra cost). The guys and I made friends with Mr.Fernando's son, Sharath, who turned out to be a really cool guy. He's promised to get in touch with us when he's in Bangalore. We took a large family room at the May Villa, for around Rs.800 a night. The rooms are adequately furnished, however, you might wanna consider carrying blankets with you, as the blankets supplied are really thin. I almost froze thanks to the cold weather at night.

On the first day, we decided to walk around town. As soon as we were done with lunch at the Meenaxi Bhavan, it started raining. and we were forced to head back to the cottage. Later in the evening, we set out once again, and this time, went cycling around the Kodaikanal Lake. That was a tiring experience, as the lake is much bigger than what it seems. As the guys headed back to the cottage after this little exercise, i decided to head into the town, to get a feel of what it was like to live there. Kushal joined me, and as we walked, we came across students of the Kodaikanal International School. I was later told by my sisters, that i was supposed to join this school as a kid, however, as my parents refused to let me be shipped off to such a distant place, i was kept at home. The school is a lovely place, and one look at it would remind you of Hogwarts. Nestled among the tall trees are the old stone buildings of the school, with a tall imposing church in the middle of it all. I could only wonder what it would feel like to study in a place like this.

As we headed into town, we saw several chocolate shops. We decided to buy some for later. The chocolates are wonderful, and we picked up these large chocolate rocks with almonds in them. They cost around 300 a KG, but are available for a lot less outside town. Our next objective was to hunt for alcohol. Up in Kodaikanal, you'll never be able to find any known brands of alcohol. We came across MGM Vodka and Rum, Madras Rani beer, and a lot worse... We finally picked up bottles of Mcdowell's whiskey, and a few beers and headed back towards the cottage. We saw pastry stores, bakeries, restaurants, craft shops. But what caught my eye, was a church, nestled among the KIS Boy's dorms. In the evening, we headed to a Tibetian restaurant, Tibetian Brothers, which we soon found to be the dirtiest place around. With something like mucus in the glasses, and cockroach dung on the forks, we survived the horrid food, and had a couple of pastries and headed home. However, the restaurant was filled with Free Tibet signs, and foreigners too. I wonder why ;) That evening we met friends from Bangalore. Interesting :)

That night, we all sat by the bon fire, and got drunk. In the ensuing madness, we broke a chair. And during transport of the chairs back into the cottage, we broke a pot (all paid for later) :)
The next morning, we all woke up with a terrible hangover. I was sicker than the others, thanks to the cold i came with. My condition aggravated, and i ended up with a congested chest. As a result, i couldn't walk long distances. We were to go on a sightseeing tour that morning, and even though no one was in a mood to go, we had to as we'd paid up for it. The bus arrived, thrice, and finally we all awoke, and headed out to see the sights.

Travel Tip : When on a sight seeing bus, forget all physics. Driving the minibus at a speed of 70Km/h isn't considered an offense. Maneuvering through narrow gaps between vehicles is normal, and turning the bus at a speed of 70Km/h on a hillside road imitating the antics of Montoya on the Monaco circuit, isn't considered hazardous.

The rollercoaster of a bus ride took us to Upper Lake View for a view of the lake, and part of the town from a cliff a little above. From there, we went on to the Hanuman temple, which was a distant observation point of the Mannavanur Lake. The lake is now closed to visitors, thanks to animals choking on plastic trash which once dotted the hill sides. However, a legislation now bans the use of plastic bags in the Kodaikanal area, and a heavy fine is imposed on anyone who litters.

Our minibus (whose driver soon earned the nickname Alonso), took us to a place called the "Round Waterfalls". In the off season, these are just little pools of water. Not too much to see. Heavy rains make these falls spectacular, i'm told. We trekked back to our minibus, through leech infested forests, and settled in for a winding drive to the Poomparai Village View. The village view is a panoramic view of a little village nestled in the hills. My flickr album shows this panorama.

After a ten minute stop here, our little rocket headed back towards town. But first, we would stop at the Pillar Rocks. The Pillar rocks are giant 500 feet tall rocks that stick out from the ground, like pillars :) To reach these rocks, we walked through pine forests, which our guide Peter, claimed produced trees used to make currency notes. The fog really played spoil sport that day, as we didn't see a single rock. Nonetheless, we walked down to the Guna Caves. These caves are a very interesting spot. The entrance to the cave is protected with a chain-linked fence. Only a little entrance can be seen in the distance. Why? For good reason. Several years ago, 14 boys ventured into the caves, 12 of whom never returned. They fell into a 500 feet deep crevice. Their bodies could never be recovered. In the 1950s, a trader from Madurai fell into the cave. His body was the only one to have ever been recovered from the 500 feet depth. A stone plaque recounts this story, at the spot. Legend has it that the valley the cave exists in, is bottomless, i.e it's depth is unknown. Locals say it is infact bottomless. The area is also called the Devil's Kitchen. The reason ? Well what may seem like innocent depressions in the ground of the cave are actually pits that go down hundreds of feet. Thanks to my stupid cold and associated ailments, i was kept from trying any stunts here. Anyhow, we headed back to the minibus, and Alonso took us to Suicide Point. Suicide point is a cliff. One can actually sit on the protrusion from where many, are said to have jumped to their deaths. The fog kept such temptations away. The spot is now called Green Valley View. We're told that the name Suicide Point was motivation for people to actually commit.

Alonso then drove us back to the town, past the Golf Course which is a large 18 hole course. He dropped us near the international school. We strolled around a bit, and then decided to get something to eat. Someone soon decided that we should be heading to the Astoria. So we did. On the way, we came across the Church i wanted to visit, and since everyone was willing, we went in. The place was simply mystical. Its one of those places that makes you feel great. It had this calming air, and was absolutely quiet. Everyone prayed, and left. Only Manju, Kushal and i decided we'd stay around for a little longer. As we sat, we were simply amazed at this picture perfect church up in the hills. We then took a few pictures, and ventured outside. Adventurous as i am, i went down the road, through the KIS Dorms. And that, dear patron, is one place you must see. The area is prohibited. Not knowing this, we walked through the dorms, and came across some of the prettiest buildings we'd ever seen. Little English cottages, with large wooden doors with huge iron hinges, with the signature chimney at the top. And around the cottage, colourful plants and flowers. And the icing to this little perfect cake, were the two small stone shacks outside the dorms, with a little fireplace, a few chairs and a blackboard. We soon realized that these were in fact classrooms where music,... was taught.

We ran into a caretaker of the place who was touched by the fact that we liked the place and were taking pictures. Soon after, a guard saw us, and promptly chased us away. We were left feeling very different, and we ended up with some great pictures too :) We then headed to the Astoria where we had a nice lunch. We decided to head to the Carlton Hotel to check if they had a large television where we could watch the race. And to our luck, they had a large LCD TV in their watering hole, The End of the Road. We settled in for a nice race, in this cozy little pub, managed by a nice gentleman Robin. After a couple of rounds of Chivas Regal and beer, we decided to head home. But not before a game of pool. We indulged in two frames of pool, while party planners who were throwing a party right next to the game room watched us from the window. And as we basked in this limelight, we concluded our two frames, and returned to the cottage feeling very satisfied at the proceedings of our day.

The next morning, we checked out of the cottage, and the boys headed off for their last sight seeing tour, while i stayed back in town as i couldn't take another trek. I'd simply drop dead. I had my own plans though. I decided to head to the Cloud Cafe for a morning of coffee, good food, books and music. The place looked nice the previous night. However, Kodai is a town that closes by 8.30. And we arrived at the cafe at 9. Bad luck. That morning however, i found the Cafe closed. MONDAY HOLIDAY, said the sign on the door. :( So off i went, looking for another place to eat. What i enjoyed the most was the walk. Strolling down unknown roads is an experience that i cannot recount. You have to do it to see how it feels. I walked into several shops, like the Potters Shed, where you can have a go at the potters wheel for Rs.200. I then went into a Tibetian store, where i picked up a few Tib mugs, bowls and incense sticks. I had walked enough, and i decided that i needed something warm. So i headed off to the Carlton again, and spent the morning with a Pizza, a martini and a few pegs of Teachers whisky. I had a lovely conversation with Robin, and the manager about Kodaikanal. I was told that a legislation was passed prohibiting any change in the area 200m around the Kodai lake. This, i'm told, goes a long way in ensuring that the charm of Kodaikanal is never lost. Our conversation went from admissions at the Kodaikanal International School to the IT industry.

It was a lovely morning. And as i looked out the window over the lake, a heavy rain started. Robin turned the heater on as the room was quite cold. Our bus would leave at 5, and it was 2 then. I decided to pay, and leave. I left my number with Robin. I promised that next time i was in Kodai, i'd visit his little tavern again, and he promised that next time i came, he'd keep the Magic Mushrooms i'd asked for ready :)

Even before i arrived at Kodai, i knew that i wanted to visit the Manna bakery, famed for it's apple pies and ginger biscuits, and the Cheese Factory. The manna bakery however, i'm told, was closed that day. And i simply forgot about the cheese factory till a few minutes before i left. I headed off to a chocolate shop, to buy some lovely chocolates and tea. Chocolates are cheaper outside the town, so on the village tours, if you see any chocolate shops, be sure to buy your stash from there. I then headed to a store called the Danish Display. It's a large handicraft store, filled with everything from Jute shoes, earrings, to cigarette holders, and antique brass locks. I picked up a few gifts from here, and left. It was getting late, and i still wanted to visit the church. As i walked back into the church alone, i felt completely different. I was at ease, and felt no hurry whatsoever. I walked in, set my bags down, and prayed. I closed my eyes, and in that silence, it was surreal. I lost control of my mind, and whatever i'd held bottled in my heart came right out. I didn't wanna leave, but i knew i would have to eventually. So i prayed, for Him to bring me back once again. To direct my life in a way that i'd have a reason to come here often. That He'd bring me back again soon. And as i prayed and walked towards the cross, tears rolled down my cheeks. And i didn't know why. I said my goodbye, and knowing somewhere deep down that my prayer had been heard, i walked towards the door. And as i did, a thick mist rolled in, and covered the door of the church. Something i had never seen before. And i couldn't leave the church. A heavy downpour started again, and i just looked out the door in amazement.

In all our lives, we always look for signs that our prayers have been heard. Sometimes, we just need to recognize those signs. For every other person in Kodaikanal, the mist would have been just another normal occurrence. But it was my sign. A sign whose meaning only i would understand. Feeling very very satisfied, i walked out of the church, knowing for sure that i would never be alone. He's always with you, in one way, or another. I walked through the mist, and collected my shopping bag from the tibetian lady at the Shangri-La store. The lady went on to tell me that her son studies in Bangalore, and had just got a job. And a few minutes later, i realized that i know her son. As i walked out of the store, i realized that the world is indeed a small place. I then went into the Kopedeg Crafts store. 10 years earlier, my sister had visited this store and bought me a little green alligator whom i named Wally. I picked up the same gator for her son Rishi, who just turned 1. It's an interesting life, full of unexpected turns, that take you to interesting places, and situations.

My trip was complete, and i met the guys at the bus stand. Our bus pulled out of Kodai at 6pm, and as it did, for some strange reason, i felt content with myself. I realized what it feels like to return completely satisfied, and happy with yourself. I was happy not because i had seen a new town. I was happy, because i realized a lot of things about life, and myself. I realized that God doesn't leave you. And that you're never alone. As the bus took the winding road down from Kodai, i once again had tears in my eyes. And i wrote something on that journey down.

Something moved me very deeply today. I realized that being alone in a place like this isn't all that bad.. I was alone from the morning and i spoke to so many people today and experienced what it's like to walk into an unknown town and speak to complete strangers. It makes you feel and know that you're a normal human being, and does away with all inhibitions about speaking to unknown people. I fell in love with this place. I fell in love with life. And i fell in love with god. And i realized that he's everywhere. I sat in the church at the school before i met the guys. I sat alone with my eyes closed, in total silence. And i prayed, for him to call me back to kodai, To give me a reason to keep visiting. And my eyes filled up with tears and it moved me very deeply. I realize now what i was born to be. I realize that i'm not like regular guys. I was not made to have mindless fun. I was destined for another kind of fun. Of meeting people. Of exploring unknown places. Of learning. The joy in a conversation with a stranger is one of the greatest joys one can experience. And as the fog rolled in just after my prayer, accompanied by a heavy rain, i realized that god was telling me that he was granting my wish. It was a sign. One that only i, in this small town, could understand. It was a sign, that i would come back. That destiny would bring me back. Kodai would call me. And as the fog envelopes these hills, i begin to understand, that this little town high up in the clouds stole my heart. And with that, i bid this town farewell. But not for long, as this story will never end.
and with that hope, i end this little account of my trip to Kodaikanal, the town that stole my heart.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Sending colour pictures over SMS

Ever tried sending a photograph using your cellphone ? I'm sure your answer to that is "Yeah, MMS !". But thats not what i'm talking about.

Not too long ago, i tried sending an Address Book contact from my Nokia 6630, and noticed that the contact details would be sent in a message 15 pages long. Puzzled, i tried to figure out the reason for this. And a few seconds later, i realized that the contact, had a thumbnail attached to it.

Shortly thereafter, i sent a friend a business card with a thumbnail attached, by SMS. He received the business card alright. And the thumbnail too ! What i'm trying to figure out now, is how to send just the picture over SMS. The pitfall here is that as the image size increases, so will the message size. And it wouldn't be too surprising to see a tiny thumbnail requiring 30 texts to be transferred.

The procedure -
On your Series60 phone
Create a new contact
Attach a thumbnail
Send Contact by text message, with All Details

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Time capsule missing?

Tragic. But hehahahahahaha !

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - A time capsule buried in Singapore's main sports stadium in 1970 and containing coins, newspapers and sports memorabilia has gone missing, the Today newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing local officials.

The Singapore Sports Council has hired contractors to scour the stadium, including the VIP car park, for the missing metal capsule, which is about the size of a suitcase and was buried under the National Stadium's foundations, Today said.

Singapore's National Stadium -- the venue for sporting events as well as the annual national day parade -- is due to be torn down later this year to make way for a new sports complex. "The Singapore Sports Council is now in the process of locating the capsule," Patrick Lee, a Singapore Sports Council official was quoted as saying in Today.

Maybe it was just a placebo :P

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sandisk Sansa e250 Review

Hello there,
I recently picked up a Sandisk Sansa e250 i.e 2GB MP3 player for around $100. Well it wasn't recent, it was over 5 months ago. Anyhow, i needed a player that could play videos, and let me listen to music. and it had to be a sub $100 player. One of the many players that fit the bill was the Sansa. And what made me partial towards it, was the fact that it had just been released. So, i had the player bought, and shipped into India.


The Opinion
The sansa is a great player to look at as is evident from the pictures above. It is on the thicker side, however, it feels great in the hand. The body is glossy, and as a result, fingerprints settle on it pretty easily. However, the body is supposedly scratch resistant with the toughened alloy (Liquidmetal) back plate. The back panel is pretty damn strong, but not resistant to finger prints :)

In the pictures above, you might be able to see a screen protector applied on the screen.. This is not a standard accessory however. The buttons do lack a tactile feedback. The jog dial wheel however feels great. The buttons are just about average. The Sansa comes with an exclusive record button to record voice. Recording time depends on free space on the player. The sansa also sports a neat Record from Radio feature, which lets you record directly from the radio. The Sansa can function in MTP mode, where it would be detected as a Portable Music Device, or in MSC mode, where it would be detected as a Mass Storage Device.

On one of the side profiles of the player, you'll notice a little slot. This is a microSD card slot, which allows memory expansion. Sandisk also markets Gruvi content cards. the cards fit into this slot too. Apart from these, the player has the regular Hold button.

The screen on the Sansa is bright and clear, although it is a little on the smaller side. However, this won't matter much unless you plan on using the player for watching movies alone. The display, a 1.8" TFT is sufficient, however.

The menu is driven by the jog dial and is pretty intuitive. One gets the feel of an iPod's user interface for a moment, with the menus... However, that feeling is done away with pretty quickly, as one notices the lack of an alphabetical search feature. Only one playlist can be created in the player, and that too by selecting songs manually from the list. Dividing up tracks into folders doesn't help, as the Sansa doesn't show you a Tree view, or even folders for that matter. All tracks are just dumped into one big list. However, with a capacity of 2GB, it shouldn't be hard to go through the list to find what you're looking for.

Tracks can be played by hitting the centre button. On playing a song, the jog dial turns into the volume control. The volume setting in the Settings menu allows you to switch between a Normal mode, and a Loud mode. The normal mode is suitable for users who prefer music at a moderate volume. Loud, is suitable for users who prefer listening close to the envelope of deafness. Audio quality is good at moderate volumes, however distortion is audible at higher volumes. Even without a track playing, a faint hiss is audible in the earphones.

The player has a Video feature which lets you play converted videos. Conversion is done by the Sansa Media Converter which is shipped on a disc with the package. Conversion quality is decent, however, converted file are bloated.

The Sansa also features a Photo gallery, which lets users transfer photographs onto the player, through the Sansa Media Converter. All photographs are downsized, and rotated to suit the orientation of the screen, by the converter. Photographs may be viewed as slideshows, with music playing in the background, and even arranged into albums. A good feature, i must add :)

The FM Radio feature lets you digitally scan for radio stations. The Sansa will also let you auto scan the frequency band, and create presets for radio stations picked up. As i mentioned earlier, you can record radio transmissions too :)

And the last feature, and certainly one of the best, is the track rating feature. Every track you listen to, can be rated on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being the highest. When you set the player to "Shuffle", songs with the highest rating are played more often, than songs with a lower rating or no rating. In effect, you hear the songs you like, more often :) While songs play, track information is displayed on the screen. Hitting the center button scrolls through this information, and displays a full size image of the album cover, if available. An equalizer with several presets such as Rock, Pop, Full Bass,... lets you tweak your music for the best hearing experience. A Custom preset, lets you set the equalizer manually. The player is compatible with Microsoft PlaysForSure services like Rhapsody and Napster.

The Sansa comes with a Lithium Ion Rechargable battery pack. Recharging the device is as simple as plugging it into a USB port. A full charge will last you for around 12 hours. Sandisk advertises a 20hour battery life, playing 128kbps tracks. However, higher the bitrate, higher the discharge of the batteries.

The Sansa is shipped with a pair of earphones, which aren't too good. They sound like a cheap pair. Also in the package, is a lanyard loop, carrying pouch, USB cable, and a manual along with the CD.

  • Sleek, thin design with large 1.8” TFT color screen for easy viewing
  • Strong alloy metal casing provides excellent durability and scratch resistance
  • Simple to use, backlit controls for fast device interface navigation
  • User replaceable and rechargeable Lithium Ion battery for up to 20 hours of battery life (Based on continuous playback at 128 kbps MP3; rechargeable batteries may eventually need to be replaced as they have limited charge cycles (which vary with use and settings)
  • Features microSD™ expansion slot for additional memory capacity
  • Supports SanDisk TrustedFlash and Gruvi content cards
  • Digital FM tuner*, on-the-fly FM recording*, and voice recording
  • No FM-tuner (and no FM-recording) is available in Europe
  • Supports Subscription Music Stores
  • One year warranty
    * not available in Europe

Minimum System Requirements

  • Windows XP
  • Windows Media Player 10+
  • Intel Pentium class PC or higher
  • CD-ROM drive
  • USB 2.0 port required for hi-speed transfer

Package Contents

  • Sansa e200 Series Player
  • Travel pouch and lanyard
  • Stereo headphones
  • Lithium Ion rechargeable battery
  • USB cable
  • Quick Start Guide, CD with User Guide, & additional flyer inserts

  • Looks great
  • Not too expensive
  • Amazing feature set (read above)
  • Compatible with Microsoft PlaysForSure services like Rhapsody and Napster.
  • Strong Liquidmetal backplate is scratch resitant.
  • Below average firmware. However, this should be fixed in a few months as bugs are stamped out. Sandisk does provide an updater for Firmware updates. This is available for download on their site, and upon installing, automatically checks for updates whenever your player is plugged in. *ALSO CHECK END OF THIS POST*
  • Glossy body is prone to finger prints and scratches
  • Playlists not supported, no search feature
  • Audio quality suffers at high volume.
The Sansa e250 is a great buy if you're on a tight budget and looking for an MP3 and video player. Firmware might seem like an issue right now, but fixes are under way, including a Rockbox mod which is under development. A great buy on the whole.

EDIT (17th Oct 2007): Though i haven't used it, the new iPod Nano looks great. I would rate the iPod's audio quality several notches above the Sansa's. Comparing a Sansa to an iPod would be foolish, and given a choice between the two, i'd choose an iPod.

The Story:

2 months after i received the player, the horrid firmware borked out my player. After repeated attempts to resuscitate the device failed since the device was in the MTP mode and couldn't be formatted, Sandisk asked me to ship the Sansa to Bombay for an RMA. Sandisk shipped me a brand new Sansa e250 at no cost. The e250 i received was a newer version, and is the one in the pictures above. The new e250 hasn't given me any problems so far. I guess Sandisk stamped out the bugs that existed on the previous version of the Sansa.

There were hassles with Indian Customs Officials when the package arrived, but Sandisk handled the complete situation. Three cheers for their professionalism.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Photography ? Me?

greetings :)
i'm bored now, and as i couldn't do much other than this, heres what i did. :)

thinking "Ghetto" ? not quite..

its a wired world...

the storm's coming...


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Money, Markets & Reverse Offshoring

Well hello..
The monsoons have just started and i'm freezing. Thats a good feeling. It's been a few months since the last round of recruitments at the IIMs and other top business schools here in India. And the media, are doing their bit.

Lets start from the beginning. In the early 90's India, especially Bangalore, saw a large number of software and technology firms set up shop. And as the years went by, this trend turned into boom. It would be interesting to note the reasons for this sudden mushrooming of these firms in the country. Could one attribute this to a sudden spurt in entrepreneurs in the country? Perhaps, but the strongest reason for companies to have set shop here would be costs. Back in the 90s, Bangalore was a small city, with empty roads, abundant green cover and clean air. But most importantly, it was an economical place to live in. Cost of living was much lower than the metros, and the government back then was supposedly in favour of tech industries coming into the state. As i'm told, the Govt. of Karnataka offered incentives for companies setting up campuses in the city. Ranging from tax holidays to land and throw away prices, companies had every reason to step into Bangalore. And one of the best reasons, was talent. Bangalore had and still has, a large skilled talent pool, and 10 years ago, putting this talent to good use wouldn't cost firms as much as it would abroad. Thus, it was a wise idea to set up large work teams in the city, and have them work on projects for various international clients. And so was born the concept of Offshoring..

Starry eyed kids would often be overheard saying how they wanted to become "Computer Engineers" when they became "big", even though they hadn't a clue as to what they'd be doing as computer engineers. Coding was what people did, and it was what they were paid for. And in the mid 90s, taking home 8k a month was considered a big deal. Thats how much was paid back then. Compare that to now.

An Infosys fresher would receive compensation to the tune of 3.2lac p.a.. And increments every 6 months to a year would send that figure skyrocketing in no time. And Infosys is just the start. Google, pays 12lac p.a., according to a leading fresher's portal. And it isn't surprising why.

Every year, when a new batch of the IIMs is done with it's campus recruitments, the newspapers carry overly enthusiastic stories on the fat pay packets of these infant future-CEOs.
And though these stories leave all us innocent blog-folk amazed at how intelligent these young guys are, they also tend to have a darker side. Now consider everything i said earlier about tech firms setting up in Bangalore, or even the country. As i had mentioned, costs were low. Skilled people weren't as "expensive" as they'd be anywhere else in the world. And now look at the situation. Poof! The little dream cloud just vanished. The reason these companies came into the country, no longer exists. Costs have taken the upward spiral here too. And paying 2.5crore p.a for an IIM grad is a big deal. Not that i'm trying to question the quality of an IIM graduate, nor do i seek justification from someone who hires an IIM grad for 2.5crore p.a. :)

What i'm trying to imply, however, is that the market tends to follow what is put before them. Graduates look at the packages these business school blokes are offered, and suddenly feel the itch. "3.2lac just ain't enough for me to code. i must be paid more.." And as a result, costs go up again.

The national media makes such a big fuss out of these recruitments, that it simply screws up the markets, in short. Suddenly employees feel the need to be compensated more for the work they're doing. And employers are forced to oblige, given the fact that the quality of skilled labour available has gone down several notches.

There are over a 100 engineering colleges in Karnataka. However, the best companies recruit engineers only from the top 5 odd colleges in the state. That too, just a handful. Consider this wild calculation

If every college in the state produces atleast 50 Computer Science Engineers every year, it would translate to 5000 graduates every year.

However, product companies such as SunGard, Google, Huawei pick up less than 10 graduates each when visiting a campus for recruitments. And remember, these companies visit only the top 5 colleges. What happens to the remaining grads? Is there a reason why most of them don't have jobs? The shocking answer, which industry experts now dole out to everyone who asks, with a certain amount of self satisfaction, is that these engineers are not QUALITY engineers. One would wonder what a "quality" engineer is. As it turns out, the system for engineering education is founded on scoring marks, and not on innovation or any other school of thought you may have associated engineering with. And as a result, you're left with a breed of robots, who derive when shown how, and calculate when given formulae and relevant data. This, is a result of the earlier dream cloud (the one which vanished). Everyone wants to get an engineering degree, and work for an IT firm, in their own town, with a dream pay packet. Thats it. Thats the dream. And as hordes of people push forward to realize this dream, what gets lost is the passion to learn, to discover, and to invent. And this has been going on for so long, that the system just adapted to the needs of the masses, and stopped catering for the ones who joined an engineering programme, for the engineering part of it.

Wheres this headed? Recently, TATA Consultancy Services said in a press release, that it was cheaper for them to hire an American to work in the US for an American client, than send an Indian to the US to do the same work. What does this imply? What happened in the 90's in India, has just taken a U-turn. Jobs which earlier poured into India, now seem to be trickling back into the International markets. It may not be noticeable at this stage, but it will be evident in the future. It doesn't go to say that it would be the death of Offshoring. Offshoring would be alive well past you and i, however, the magnitude at which it took place in the past, will be hard to replicate in the future. Atleast for us.

Universities are waking up to this rude fact. Changes are being made in the system. Syllabi are being made advanced in order for the next line of engineers to be armed with cutting edge knowledge.

The good news is that it won't leave anyone discontent. Jobs will require more commitment, and getting them will require even more of it. The distinction between innovators and workers will become evident. The hierarchy of the creators, implementors and users will show itself in the near future.

The trend will shift from localization of corporate resources, to spreading out over multiple locations in order to absorb the best from every environment. This hopefully, will be successful in creating a healthier global work environment, with better productivity and efficiency. In all probability, we should all get to see it within our lifetimes.

Unless some newspaper carries another "Highest Salary" story again. :)