Archive for September, 2007

Goodbye Dominos! You just lost my orders!

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

I live about 1 min of driving distance from Ruby General Hospital, on the EM Bypass, Rashbehari and Garia Connector Crossing. I’ve earlier ordered a few times from the Domino’s Jodhpur Park outlet, which is approximately 6 - 7 km from my residence.

Today I was planning to order for 2 large pizzas as a treat for a family lunch. I was told by the customer care person - Dibyendu (i called at the # 24837471), that this was outside the service area.

This was rather surprising as the same outlet has earlier serviced my orders. Dibyendu being “ever helpful” offered me the number of the Lake Town outlet, saying that it would be closer to my place. Well, the Lake Town is like 16 - 18 KMs from my home. I’m sure that it will be closer!!!
Naturally pissed off more with the “helpful advice” as well as the new definition of the “service area”, I decided to send in a feedback through their website. Wonder of wonders, after typing in the text and on hitting the submit button I faced this:


This is clearly a company that doesn’t care whether they retain their customers. Neither could I find any other email address to send in a regular email. Earlier I had signed up for their “WoW! Club” membership, although I doubt if I’ll be using that anymore.I intend to do no future dealings with Dominos, where the customer service is manned by such people without a sense of direction or distance, or websites that are supposed to interface with customers with a screen full of errors.

Goodbye Dominos!

It’s getting better…

Monday, September 10th, 2007

Exactly two weeks after 25th of August, yesterday was the occasion of the next installfest @ WBUT, organised by the WBUT-LUG in association with ILUG-CAL.ORG. Due to some classes being held, it started off about an hour later. Also, I was a little late in reaching the venue and hence Rabi and Ankur got a bit jittery and there were a few frantic phone calls :P

The number of participants this time was larger, around 27. The number of volunteers from ILUG-CAL was less this time, those present included Susmit Shannigrahi, Abhisek Datta, Debarshi Ray, Soumyadip Modak and Arindam Ghosh (travelling down all the way from Durgapur, once again). However,  about four of the first installfest participants volunteered as instructors in this second edition. This included Abhishek Pandey, Sanjeev Kumar, Shibabrata Basak and Shreya Roy Chowdhury. Adding to this list was Anurag Khan from BE IT 3rd Yr. Eight personal systems (including 3 laptops) were present at the Installfest, and for the first time, it included an external participant - Smita Bhadra, a GLT-Madyamgram member.

It started off with me giving a little “speech” about the history of GNU/Linux, the FSF and the basics of GNU GPL, the stage where FOSS is poised at the moment, ending it with a show to the “Truth Happens” video from Red Hat. The atmosphere in the room was rather charged up and some actually clapped when the short film ended. Susmit and the other ILUG-CAL volunteers took over from there on and got down to the business of installing Linux.
This time, as the 64-bit repos were also up, there were few problems unlike the last time. Since we managed to clear the installfest agenda - installation, basic configuration, adding additional repos, user management, playing mp3, DVDs, games, configuring the
internet etc, we decided to carry on for some more time.

Just to give the participants a taste of GUI programming in Linux, Susmit fired up Glade and quickly demo-ed Rapid Application Development in Gnome / Linux style :) The participants also played around with changing locales and setting up SCIM. For most, it was a rather surprising experience to see the desktop change into their own native language, while some got tickled by some of the translations of english strings. I sent a BN_IN UTF-8 encoded email to the WBUT-LUG mailing list  (incidentally, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Thakur was the first to reply to that mail :) . Quite a few of the participants also wanted to join in the Freedom Toaster-alike project that Susmit has taken up recently. 

We wrapped it up and called it a day around 8:30 PM. Among other things, Prof. Debesh Chowdhury, Head of the Department, ECE at the JIS College of Engineering came down to pick up a copy of Debian 4.0 R1 DVDs and the latest version of Knoppix. Since, it took some time to burn the DVDs, he ended up sitting through a part of the Installfest. He was enthused enough by what he saw there, and has promised to try and organise a similar program at his college.
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Getting ready to roll

Thursday, September 6th, 2007

For quite some time now, we have been working on a project called “Nije Shikhi” (নিজে শিখি. It has been something very close to our heart, not just because we developed the concept, worked on bringing different technology and content together on one platform, but rather for the potential we see in it in terms of helping to bridge the digital chasm.

The project targets 6 - 15 year old youth, including both in-school as well as those outside the school system, by creating edutainment kiosks using local language desktops based on open source and utilizing open-access / commons content. A critical factor in the project involves placement of the kiosks in an openly accessible place in the local community when the target group can access the units without requiring adult supervision.

The project envisions being a key enabler in terms of the e-governance readiness among the masses, specially the youth. To empower them to become early adoptors towards the goal of creating an inclusive, knowledge driven society.

We wanted something low-power (as in energy efficient), mobile, dust-resistant, low heat-generation/thermal profile. At the time when we started, the AMD Geode was the platform readily available to us. It ran off 12V DC, was fan-less in design (this dust-retardant), and ran with minimal heating. Thanks to AMD Far East Ltd (India) for loaning us one of their initial test units in India for our work. Thanks to Jayarama Kasargod of AMD, who helped with detailed hardware specs and assurance to undertake even drop tests if our work warranted one :)

The hardware assembly based on the AMD UVC (now available under the Wipro brand name of Protos PC) and a localized (BN_IN / HI_IN) open source OS and apps stack placed on the HDD or booted and run via an USB stick. The solar panels came from West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA), with a lot help from the director, Mr. S. P. Gonchowdhury
The project has been taken up for deployment by the West Bengal University of Technology, which plans to set up ~ 500 - 600 units of Nije Shikhi kiosks, with the option of using solar-generated power, in collaboration with West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA).

The initial pilot phase goes into putting 22 of these boxes out into the open. One of these pilot deployments is happening in collaboration with UNESCO and an NGO in West Bengal. This involves a solar-powered, mobile tele-centre using the AMD UVC platform and our Nije Shikhi software stack. The tricycle van with the solar panel is now ready. The journey of the UVC is just about to begin.

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More pictures from our experimentation are here. So, buckle up, the journey is about to begin. :)