Monday, November 30, 2015

Blast from the past

I have some strong view points on usage of WhatsApp today, which I will share in another blog shortly, but not all are against it. The one good thing that has happened is, it has helped bring back long lost friends back in contact (sounds almost like bhule bisare geet from Chitrahar). We recently created a group of our school time friends (kudos to the Admin of the group) and a realization hit me that I am getting in touch with many of them after about 27 years. There were mainly only two of them, which whom I had been in pretty regular touch, but others… time had forgotten, or rather mind had forgotten.
When I got an invite to join the group, I gladly accepted and soon the group was flooded with school time photos. Our memory is an interesting database. Items that are long archived and put away, are so easily and quickly fetched. Looking at those photos, memories flooded back of that time gone by, a time of daily studies, assignments, projects, exams and side by side total masti. I cannot claim that everything was refreshed. No, many things are still hazy and I don’t recall many names, but who cares. It is still wonderful to be back in touch.  

Needless to say that when someone gets back in touch with other someone, both someone soon feel the need to catch up and meet in person. While technology has connected us day and night, but still there is no parallel to meeting in person. So these, many someones, narrowed on a date and a place to meet up. The place was a dhaba someone in the group owned. 

That day happened to be this last weekend, when 12 of us (10 from Pune and 2 from Mumbai) finally managed to find time and get together at Sidhu’s Panjabi Dhaba on Mumbai Pune Highway, near Lonvala. Initial plan was to rent a bus and get there as a group, but we soon realized that it would be tough to coordinate across so many of us, given that we were spread out far and wide in the city.

Eventually people reached the dhaba (thoda bahut delay toh chalta hai) and soon we were laughing and cracking jokes the same way, we used to do 27 years back. There was absolutely no hesitation of having met after almost three decades. From school premise, to facilities, to play ground, to teachers, to who helped who for what homework, to pranks, to whereabouts of others in the group, we discussed it all. 

As Shekhar, later right said, the best part of the meeting was, we were just like kids. No judgments, no egos, no analysis of each other. Today when we meet someone, there is an immediate internal assessment that starts up that analyzes the person’s dressing, the way of talking, the looks, the knowledge, the job and even the salary. As a total contradiction, as kids, we little cared of who had their white shirts, washed in Ariel with some extra stain remover capability in a hot wash in washing machine vs who had it washed from some average soap bar by hand, maybe near a community well. Eventually all of us would look the same. Guess that’s why schools have uniform, so that all look uniform and you cannot judge anyone’s status from it. We did discuss about each other’s jobs and where they stayed, but purely out of curiosity of having met after so many years.  

Time flew. Sidhu had some wonderful platters from his dhaba constantly being refreshed and we cared less. From about 1.00 pm today 3.30 pm, we were just hogging on platters and cold drinks. Finally, we had some chapattis and tastiest yellow daal and some hot, not to miss, jalebies.

In about four hours we lived a life time again. We relived couple of years of our school time and also fast forward of everyone’s journey till date. It was a wonderful break from our daily chorus and we all laughed so much remembering various incidents, like this one where one day our teacher, in order to punish us, since we all used to make too much noise in the class, had made one boy and one girl sit together. The entire day, we hardly spoke. We laughed so much on this, realizing that what we felt as punishment that time, kids will probably enjoy in today’s world.

Finally we parted, with a promise to keep in regular touch (WhatsApp zindabad) and to have a much larger get together next year around June, where many more can join it. Am already eagerly looking forward to it. 


Monday, November 23, 2015

Travelogue: Silvassa

It has been a while since we went for a family trip and just after diwali seemed a good time to plan one as my daughter still had a week of holidays left. I prefer places where I can get to by road (driving) and wife prefers that we go out of Maharashtra, so this time around we narrowed onto Silvassa, capital of Dadra Nagar Haveli.

Getting to Silvassa is fairly straight forward. From my place, we had to get onto Pune Mumbai Expressway (current toll on this is Rs 195), then via Thane, crossed over to Mulund East via Mulund Airoli Road (before Airoli) and joined the eastern express highway (which is also NH 3 or Agra Mumbai highway) (two toll booths on the way both charged Rs 35), took Kapurwabadi flyover to get to Ghodbunder road, continued on this till we hit onto NH 8 Mumbai Delhi highway (at a T junction) and then continued on NH 8 all the way to Bhilad (for about 100 km). Here there are two options – if your hotel is near Naroli (like mine was), get off the highway at Bhilad and then go to the right side from under the flyover to get onto Silvassa Bhilad road. However, if your hotel is on Silvassa Vapi road, then you can continue on the highway till Vapi and then exit it. Most good hotels however are around Naroli or Khanvel. We took the first option.

The entire drive stretch is on excellent roads. On getting onto NH8 for some KMs the road was a bit patchy, but after we crossed the first toll naka (Rs 59), the road was in very good condition and surrounded with greenery. This 100 km stretch was a very pleasant drive. As soon you get onto this, you would notice that the hotels on this road, all have their display boards in Gujarati. There are many hotels on this road till the first toll naka. Thereafter for a long stretch, you won’t find any, till you are near Manor. Here again you will find many hotels on both sides and most are good to take a break and enjoy a meal. You can pretty much stop at any one of them (we usually decide based on number of cars parked). There is a CafĂ© Coffee Day as well. We did see Vithal Kamat, but on our way back when we went there, we found the place almost deserted and avoided it, and stopped at Aman hotel. There are two toll nakas on the road and unlike Mumbai Pune expressway the slip of the first one doesn’t works on the second one. You need to take one again, which was Rs 65. You also cross Maharashtra RTO border, which has a very big area marked for check post. We got past using side lanes for cars, but the bigger trucks were getting via toll lanes again on this one. Silvassa is about 30 km from this check post. We did see a pretty big temple coming up, right next to the highway, but this was still under construction.
Just like the entire stretch had greenery on both side, Silvassa is very rich in its forest heritage and we were really impressed to see that the forest department is very active here. There are many gardens, all beautifully maintained and very green. Even though it didn’t rain much this year and the big rivers have almost dried up, the gardens were still lush green. The other impressive and noticeable thing was the internal city roads. The roads are all in excellent condition.

We stayed at Lords resort, Naroli road. Silvassa isn’t a big town and most areas of see here are within 5 km. This includes Vangana garden, Hirwa Van, Balaji temple, Swami Narayan temple, Tribal Museum and Nakshatra park (still under construction when we saw it so we didn’t have to buy entry ticket). The other places to see are near Khanvel, which included Lion Safari, Dear Park and Safari, Butter fly garden, Forest department museum and Brindaban Mahadev temple. Driving further (about 40 km from Naroli) is Dudhani Lake. The lake is very big, as is evident from the map. The drive again is very pleasant. There is boating at the lake in Shikaras. You have option of taking a half an hour ride for Rs. 250 or a one hour ride for Rs. 300, which takes you to the garden on other side of the lake as well. There used to be other water sports facilities like jet skis etc. but all that has stopped now and it is only the boating. If you have time, you should surely visit this place, else you could do boating in Vanganga garden as well, which boasts of a musical fountain as well. The good part is you can enjoy the musical fountain while doing your boating. There are small eateries, so if you enjoy road side food, you will get something to eat at Dudhani, else you will have to drive back to Khanvel to have food. Butterfly garden is a slight detour, but good for us that we took it, since on this detour, another half a km further up from the butterfly garden, we found a good hotel for our lunch – Heritage hotel. Their service is a bit slow, but food was good and cheap. After ages, we got chappaties for just Rs 6 each. Entry fees to most gardens, museum and safari is in the range of Rs 20 - 25 per person. A few places charge extra for parking, like at Dudhani lake, Daman beach etc.

Daman is just about 30-35 kms from Silvassa and if you have time, you can visit the beach and see the Arabian sea. Devka beach is more known and more frequented by tourists, so is more crowded, but is also a bit unclean as well. Jampore beach is less frequented by travelers and is cleaner. As always, snacks, cold drinks will be costlier at the beach. We had to shell out Rs 50 for a Rs 35 bottle. A better choice will be to buy these on the way from a local shop. We bought many snack packets later like those of Lays and Haldirams and were surprised to find them to be priced at a very reasonable Rs 5 each (the ones that we get for Rs 10 typically).
Overall we really enjoyed the trip. The food was also good in most places, though the taste was a concern in one or two places. This, we figured, was mostly due to the water and possibly the cooking oil they use. Freshness of the food wasn’t a problem at all. Food prices were low, even for big resorts. Fairly extensive dinner buffet at Lords resort was Rs 400 per person.
The drive, as I have already shared, was wonderful. Though I did miss my XUV, but driving in my i10 grand was in no way an issue. The comfortable seats ensured that we felt relaxed during the entire stretch. The distance of Silvassa from my place is around 300 km. Including local commuting, we journeyed about 800 km over all, and none of us complained of any back pain or any such thing. My teenage daughter did have a bit of issue in sleeping on the back seat, but it was still tolerable.

For navigation, this time, we relied on ‘here maps’ on my Nokia Windows Phone. We found the map to be pretty accurate, as is google map and apart from prompting us even to the extent of which lane to take, it did prompt us on speed as well. It constantly kept beeping, when I would drive at over 60 km/hr on a road with speed limit at 40. For highway, where we had flyovers to continue going straight (and not take service road on the left to get off the highway), it would prompt – “After 1 km keep right”, then again a bit later “After 400 m keep right” and finally when we would each the flyover - “Now keep right”.

Some photos form our trip can be seen here. In conclusion I would say that Silvassa is a good place to visit. You can typically cover most points around Silvassa in a day and then do Daman and rest of the points on the second day. Any time more than this is as per your personal preference of how hectic you want to make your trip. For staying, I would recommend Silvassa, over Daman. Naroli is centrally located to cover all spots and has good resorts and hotels – Lords, Daman Ganga Resort, RAS Resorts, and Lotus Resort. These are all located fairly close to each other. That’s all for now. See ya!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two Decades

28th August 1995, a thin, tall, hesitant, individual had joined one of the upcoming IT companies in the Silicon Valley of India. Thin and tall, because that’s how the individual was built, as are most fresh graduates, stepping out of college. Hesitant, because he had no idea what to expect, this being the first job. At the back of the mind, first day of college was coming up again and again and that meant being scared of seniors and ragging. As he slowly ventured into the company premise, he was impressed with the office building, nice and clean, shining floors, security guards, immaculately dressed, standing at the gate etc.

The office bus had dropped bus full of employees, including this individual, at the company gate, ahead of time and hence there were not many people to be seen. The receptionist was also yet to arrive. Watching his each step, he slowly moved towards a room besides the reception, having seen some people inside. In a barely audible voice, he asked, “Excuse me Sir! I am a new joinee. Can you please guide me?”, almost certain that such a question will lead to getting ragged 100%. “Hi! Welcome to ... I am ... You need to go and sit in the room C1, where the new joinee induction will take place. The room is over there”. “Wow, this is some friendly person” is what the individual is thinking and after uttering thanks, he proceeded towards C1. During the day induction formalities happened along with 2-3 sessions from various people talking about the organization. The day went off smoothly.

The individual realized that there were many others in his batch, who didn’t know much about computers or programming and hence the organization had lined up a series of training sessions, covering aspects like hardware, software and even development processes. Well knowing the gaps in his skill set, the individual concentrated in all the sessions and ensured that he did all the practice sessions and reading properly. He wanted to ensure that he became a good programmer quickly.

In time he did achieve good success. His first project was in C language and he seemed to enjoy programming in C. Soon, the client asked for upgrade to C++, then visual C++ and so on. The individual was having a good time and he continued to do so in coming years. From project to project, he kept on adding deeper skills and progressed up the ladder as well. 

Starting as software engineer, he soon had become project lead and soon realized that his interests lay more towards being hands on on technology rather than managing the project. So he moved into the technical stream to progress as an Architect rather than project manager. He was fortunate to bag many awards and due recognition of his skills during the career. In time no one remembered that this individual had joined with no knowledge of programming.

Today, this individual, has completed a milestone in his career. He has completed 20 years in the industry. As he looks back, he has nothing to regret and if given a chance, he will probably want to relive his life as is.

That individual is, yours truly, me. I am still tall, but no longer thin, and definitely not hesitant anymore. I would like to take a moment and thank all my fellow colleagues (seniors, juniors, managers etc.), of all these years, that it was their support and belief in me that has kept me going strong. I wanted to take a few names, but then I run the risk of disappointing some, whose names I may miss out. Those people who have played significant role in my life, know about it anyway.

I cannot say that I look forward to the next 20 years in the industry. Who knows when I might decide to retire, but I surely do look forward to continuous learning and enhancing my skills, and my value to the organization I work for. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Microsoft Edge – living on the Edge

When I upgraded to Windows 10, I had in my mind to retry the Microsoft’s new explorer. I had long stopped using IE and shifted to Chrome as my default browser. MS had been claiming that Edge is a totally new browser, very fast performing etc. However a few days of use of Edge and I seem to be concluding that Microsoft should just stop making the browser and concentrate only on the OS and other applications.

On launching Edge, it opens up in a page called as Start Page, which has tried to do a Google like simple interface. So you get to see a search box titled “Where to Next?” (See image below).

There is a small circle towards the right of the page that seems to be my account picture. It took me a while to figure this out. This could have been a bit bigger to easily understand what this is. After a few seconds, the page loads MSN News and some other items like local Weather, Stocks (if configured in the Stocks app). The page uses the infinite scroll list concept, so as you scroll down, it keeps loading news from different channels and types.

Interestingly the page has no address bar visible by default where you can type a URL directly to visit a site. However you can still do that in the search box. Not highly intuitive, but works. The address bar, however is actually there, just not visible upfront. If you click close to the refresh icon on the top left, the address bar suddenly makes it appearance and now you can type a URL, if you wanted to.

I had a need to download some software from Microsoft site. MS recommends using MS Download manager for downloading the software. First time I tried, it didn’t seem to work. I didn’t see any popup that asked for installation of download manager as well. I then tried to directly visit the Download Manager site and install it. Later when I went back to download the software, I clicked on the download button, but nothing happened. I didn’t see any window popup, no status bar reflecting any downloads. So I ended up clicking the download button 2-3 times. Thinking that it still isn’t working, I then picked up the alternative option of download via browser. This time, I could see a file starting to download and the download tab opened up. Surprisingly, it showed me that 3 earlier downloads were already in progress. These were probably from the earlier clicks that I had done, but I had not seen anything happen. I stopped one of these and then accidentally cleared the list. Now unfortunately I had no way to stop the various downloads. So I ended up downloading the same 1.5 GB file 3 times L.

Another point I noted is that Edge seems to be a bit unresponsive to the click on the right top close button. I have to click multiple times before it responds to it. Even then the behavior seems unpredictable. At times it closes only the active tab and at times it closes all. I tried to search for a setting for this, but didn’t find it.

As for the display of pages, some sites that load and work fine across Chrome and Firefox, seem to have issues with Edge. Not sure what kind of CSS parsing engine MS is using, but this cross browser compatibility issue continues to exist. I didn’t notice anything significantly different in page load times. The gmail still seems to load faster than Hotmail, which is slowed down due to the various advertisements that Hotmail needs to display.

I guess, in short, I didn’t find anything of interest that will push me back to using Edge. So for now, Chrome, it is for me. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Don't ban a community, ban the acts

More than 2 years back I had written about the ever growing problem of banning bachelors from staying, in many of Pune Societies. The problem hasn't been resolved and I am definitely surprised how come those affected by this, the bachelor community, which is pretty sizable in number, hasn't acted on this yet, when we all know that this isn't legal. 

But the good thing is that Pune Police has finally decided to do something about this on their own and address this growing menace. The bachelors probably don't make as much nuisance as this self proclaimed ban by the societies has. 

I stay in a society that fortunately didn't fall pray to this rule. We had successfully counter argued against it and today we follow a simple rule. Anyone can stay, but any tenant (bachelor or family) if found creating nuisance, which is unacceptable behavior in a public place, will be asked to leave immediately. And we have been living happily with this rule for the last 10 years at least with hardly any incident. Yes, there have been one or two, but quick action against it and things are back to normal. 

Every society can make such rules. There should be an attempt to mingle with the bachelors and be friendly with them. I am sure they would be fine with it and would be more than willing, to then, listen to our concerns as well. When I was staying as a bachelor in Bangalore, we had such good relations with our neighbors that we would occasionally help their kids with the homework and they would invite us to tea/coffee. In our current society, at one of our annual events, we had allowed people to put up stalls. The stall that sold the most that day was one selling corn pakodas, and were prepared by 2-3 bachelor boys staying in a flat. They kept on running out of stock and would then run upstairs to prepare fresh lot. I between they had to even go to the market to get fresh stock of besan. 

Today for some reason, we tend to look at bachelor tenants as an outcast community. Why? They are staying away from their homes, for some reason. Surely creating nuisance isn't the top on that list. Once in while we all indulge and we should have an open mind towards it. But then there will be few bad elements everywhere. Many families would also fall in this category. But just because they come with a family label, they are better off than bachelors? We should definitely not ban an entire community but only those that are the ones causing the trouble. 

By forcing bachelors out for such reasons, and allowing families, what's stopping from an increase in a live-in kind of relation? Things that we see in movies! Need a place to stay, but need to be a family, so let's act as one. How convenient! But then, aren't we the reason for giving blessing to such an act by individuals? 

The Pune police is finally doing its bid to stop this malpractice on behave of societies. But I do also hope that bachelors will do their part by not misbehaving and making life difficult for their own colleagues and everyone else. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Twin Tragedy: Could at least one be averted?

When I heard the news yesterday morning about the twin train tragedy in MP, I could not help but wonder - Kamayani express was the first to derail and then later it was Janata Express. Lives were lost, which is terrible, but could at least the second derailment of Janata express be averted? 

In the era of GPS tracking and internet of things where we have billions of sensors helping collect and manage so much data, could proper user of these technologies help avert some of these disasters? The first train got derailed due to localized issue of flash floods and the land near the bridge giving way. This probably was difficult to predict and prevent against, but after the first train derailed, why wasn't the second train stopped before it too got derailed? If the time gap between the two was very small, then I guess nothing could be done. I tried to figure this out, but could not get much from the news, as most articles just mentioned about the two trains being derailed. 

Most vehicles today use GPS sensors to help track their movement. I think it would be fair to assume that our trains also use them. If that happens, then from the control room, was it not possible to figure out that Kamayani express had stopped moving at particular location and hence something is wrong. This could have been used to alert other trains in the area. But this means that someone was monitoring at control room. Given the time of accident, it wasn't too late in the night as well. 

But since round the clock physical monitoring isn't possible, internet of things can come to the rescue. What if the trains are fitted with sensors that immediately start sending alert signal the moment an accident happens? These signals could alert the station master and police in the near by area, maybe. The sensor could also broadcast to other trains about this, thus alerting the other drivers to drive cautiously? 

Manually alerting trains either via GPS tracking control room or due to sensor in the other train, may not be always possible. In this case we can also have a possible auto-breaking mechanism in all trains, to come to a halt automatically or at least slow down if an accident is broadcast in a near-by area. They can then proceed with caution and avert additional tragedies. Such automated assistance technologies can alert within seconds of a disaster and precious times and lives can be saved. 

One can even argue that why even have trains run on rail lines on the land and have the risk of them derailing, when their are options like magnetic levitation trains. 

Variety of technology solutions exist today and I am pretty sure funds will also be there to drive these changes, only if they are used in the right place and driven with passion to make a positive change. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Windows 10 Upgrade Experience

Microsoft’s Windows 10, last of the lot, upgrade started to roll out yesterday world-wide and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to be one of those who upgrade on the first day. While at my home laptop I had reserved the Windows 10 upgrade via the Windows icon in the task bar, I had not been able to do so for my work laptop. The Windows icon wasn’t appearing. KB 3035583 is required to be installed via Windows Update for the icon to appear, however my attempts to install this optional update failed continuously. When I tried various options like sfc /scannow or DSIM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth, I could not get past the failure. My system constantly showed that a system reboot was pending and however many times I rebooted, it kept showing the same message.

I wasn’t however going to miss the opportunity for the free upgrade, so I followed the steps mentioned in this article. Note that if you are upgrading the OS on the machine on which you access this link, then while you run the Media creation tool, you don’t actually have to copy it on any USB/DVD. It will run directly.

While I started my own upgrade process, I searched online to see if anyone has already done it and what’s the experience. I found this. Based on this, it seemed that it shouldn’t take much time and the upgrade should be a smooth sailing. While this person got his machine upgraded in 30 min or so, for me it took close to 3 hours and this wasn’t just the time to download the files. That happened in about 30-35 min, but the actual upgrade process took the rest of the time. I guess some of it was possibly due to the internet connection speed. So if you are working with a slow connection, make sure you have ample time at hand when you start the upgrade, as you cannot leave it midway.

I would rate the overall upgrade experience (downloading, installing and then logging into Windows 10 and get going) a 9.95 on 10. The 0.05 is that Windows 10 wasn’t able to get the correct resolution for my laptop and got it set to 1024 x 768. Right clicking on the desktop and trying to change the resolution didn’t help as it showed only this single option. I wondered if I will need to reinstall the display drivers. I clicked on Display Adapter Settings in Advanced Display Settings and then selected List All Modes option. Here I saw the option of 1366 by 768 and selected it and fortunately that worked. I got my display back to the needed resolution.

Advanced Display Settings

Here’s how the upgrade actually happened. From the link above I downloaded the media creation tool and ran it. It opened a dialog and prompted to download the required files. I could continue to work with my laptop during this time and for many of the next steps. With my network speed it took about 30-35 min to get the download done. Next step was to verify the downloaded files. The spinning cursor showed that something was happening, but the % remained at 0 for a min or so. It then suddenly jumped to 90% and got completed in about 1-2 min.

It then started creating the Windows 10 media for installation, which took about 2 min again. Here again the % got stuck at about 65% and then jumped to 99%. The main window disappeared and a toast like Window appeared, which read “Windows 10” and “Preparing…”. This continued for another min or two. The upgrade Window came up again and it showed “Getting Updates”. Since this was a new install, I wondered why it was doing this, but anyway in about a min, this got over and some message got displayed, which I didn’t get time to read, and immediately changed over to “We are getting a few things ready”. A license agreement came up, which I promptly agreed to and then it went back again to check for updates. I was surprised, as why it was doing this twice.

Unlike the first time, this second time, checking for updates took real long time. I guess this is where your internet connection speed will matter again. After about 7-8 min, it progressed to show “Making sure you are ready to install (please wait)”. As I was closing onto the actual upgrade process, this seemed like an eternity. The spinner seemed to just keep on spinning. There was unfortunately, no % indication. This went on for another 8-9 min and during this time the task manager showed 100% disk activity. Guess the tool was creating and writing the installation package in some temp folder to run it for the actual upgrade.

Finally it showed two options “Install” and “Keep personal files and apps”. Both were selected and I let them be as is and clicked Upgrade. For a second or two the window disappeared again and I was back to my Windows 8 desktop. As I was just about to wonder what happened, it went into the install screen. Finally, the Windows 10 installation, had begun. After a long wait of about 35-40 min, this part of the process got over and just as I was looking forward to seeing the Windows 10 login screen, I was surprised to see another “Upgrading Windows” screen appear. This showed three steps – Copying files, Installing features and drivers and Configuring settings. These 3 steps took another 35-40 min and finally I landed on the Windows 10 login screen.

The immediately noticeable aspect was that my profile picture appeared distorted (stretched) and I realized that the laptop wasn’t running on the optimum resolution. I already described this earlier. After the change, the screen looked proper and so did my profile picture. The other immediately noticeable improvement over Windows 8 is that the same screen allows one to change user and login as well. In Windows 8, one had to typically hit the back arrow to go to the list of all available users and then login.

Apart from the inclusion of Start menu, which now is a mix of listing of applications as in Windows 7 and the tiles from the start screen as in Windows 8, the other feature that comes to notice is the so called Metro apps or Windows 8 Store Apps or Surface apps (whatever you call them) now don’t run in full screen mode, but run like any other Windowed app. UI of the applications have undergone changes and do seem to have taken a more flattened look. The title bar doesn’t seems to have a color of its own. Besides the Start button, there is a search button and a new button that is the Task button. This can be used to lay out all the currently open windows as thumbnails side by side, giving me a view of what each windows has and I can pick a window by clicking on it. This is kind of similar to ALT + TAB list. I guess Task button is more useful for people running a touch screen. With a keyboard, doing ALT + TAB is equally easy to do. The icons on the taskbar have their lower edge colored when they are open on the desktop. It is kind of easy to immediately know which all windows are open.

Windows 10 Taskbar

I did try running Edge, the new version of Internet Explorer. On starting it seemed to take a long time to load the base page which seems like the MSN page. It has a box to type the search text and shows only that to start with. If you stay on the page for a while, other widgets start appearing. Each time you flip tabs, all these additional widgets disappear and then reload again.

There is lot more to try and explore in Windows 10, which I will do over the next few days and hopefully will get back with more things to share. Have you upgraded as yet? How was your upgrade experience? 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

QWERTY Keyboard

Close to 20 years back when I joined the IT Industry, I felt that I could increase my productivity many fold if I could learning typing. I had seen people struggle to type on the keyboards even after years of use, and it basically was due to the fact that they had never tried to really learn typing. A classic case was one of my colleagues who used to hold the keyboard with one hand and used his pointing figure of other hand to type. In time he did get good speed with it, but it was still not fast enough. 

With proper training, one can type almost at the speed with which one is thinking and that's when you get the true benefits. To put my plan into action I had downloaded a few free tools that taught typing and once I felt comfortable, I started getting my daily news paper to office. I would pick up any random article, open notepad and start typing it. My attempt was to type as much as I could without looking at the keyboard, but only at the news paper and then see how much mistakes I did. The reason to pick the news paper was to basically have new text every day, so I wasn't really typing from my memory. 

In time, I feel I became fairly fast. The net effect was that I could write code faster, I could reply to emails faster. While many people appreciated that I would always respond to their emails immediately, some actually made fun of it as well. They would say that I didn't had any work and hence could reply to emails quickly. While on the contrary, since I knew I could type the reply in maybe about a minute, why wait for later, was my motto. 

I can now say that I am very comfortable with the QWERTY keyboard and it was hence with some interest that I read about this new keyboard - BeeRaider. On first looks, the layout looks very amusing, but I guess it will be worth a try. I cannot say right now, how easy or difficult it would be learn or if using this keyboard will be any real benefit, but let's wait and watch. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Saturating IT Industry

The other day I was reading "India's IT Party is over. Reinvent yourself or suffer" by Ravi Venkatesan. He has touched upon some very interesting points.

The point on slower rise in incomes, slow hiring etc. I feel should also be looked at from another angle. Any new industry will typically have an initial high rise, high demand period and slowly in time it will saturate. About 40 years back, when the IT industry as an Industry started to pick up, it was like an ocean and anyone getting into it like a drop in the ocean. So there was plenty of demand but very less supply. Hence things moved fast for the initial players. They got good business, good rates, they rose very fast and expanded at a fast page. In nascent stage as the organization was growing, it needed more and more people, so ‘hiring’ was good. It needed more and more people to manage the growing work, so ‘promotions’ were good. Business was growing by leaps and bounds, so the ‘compensation hikes’ were great. It needed to put people onsite fast as there was demand and the laws weren’t that strict, so people got chance to go ‘onsite’ often and for long term. In time, the industry has got saturated and the law of diminishing returns applies.

With time, as the organizational seats get to fill up, and people don’t retire as fast, the hiring has to slow down. Many players have entered the space and hence the business has got divided. What seemed like an ocean earlier now seems like a small pond. With multiple worldwide slowdown years, every organization is tightening their spend and hence the prices are more controlled, even cut down in many instances and hence no way an organization can give hikes at the same rate.  

These are all signs of a mature industry. A century or so back when we had industrial revolution, many made their fortune in the initial years. In time however the industry saturated and the rates stabilized. The jobs were stable, pays were decent and while there were hikes, they weren’t double digit like the IT population got used, but would be typically hardly 4-5%. I recall when I had joined our IT industry about 20 years back, I had a small package, maybe about half what my father was earning in his Government job at that time. In just about 5 years, I was at par and in another 3-4 years I was earning almost double what he was earning. Those were the boom years. With saturation, things have slowed down and this is how the future is going to be. There will still be areas like possibly products where there is scope of non-linear revenue by way of licenses which may bring relatively faster growth, but then on the other side are mobile apps that bring bulk of the business today, but need to be offered for free for consumers to use it.

We often say for our IT industry that, change is the only constant. Today it is probably more relevant than ever. The technology landscape is changing so fast, that businesses are realizing that old strategies may not really work any longer, and we need to learn new skills to keep pace with changing world. Those who can do this will continue to remain relevant while others will fade out.

Ravi has also talked about different kinds of jobs people can look out for. This I feel is a very good point, but needs a basic change in mind set. Somehow for many of us Doctor, Engineer and now IT Professional are the jobs to crave for and anything else is looked down upon. If we start respecting every job and realize that job is finally at the heart of it, to make money to have a decent living, we probably will be able to leverage the many opportunities around us much better. At this time I cannot help but recollect a book I recently read "Screw It,Let's Do It" by Sir Richard Branson, where he talked about how he focused on having his goals and then work towards achieving them. It was never a debate on if this a good job or not. It was always how do I achieve it? 

Monday, May 25, 2015

CIO Tech 2015

I got a chance to attend a CIO Klub organized daylong conference called "CIO Tech 2015 - Leveraging Technology for Business Transformation" this last Friday. It was a good event with all topics of discussions very relevant to the very current issues that CIOs/CTOs face. 

As I reached the venue, I immediately felt out of place as I seemed to be the only one not in a business suit. I had thought about wearing one, but the May heat discouraged me. My mistake that I missed the point that the venue would be well air conditioned. 

The conference stared 10 min, but that's very reasonable given how such conferences are. By the time the initial key note was over, we were running 20 min behind schedule. But I must mention that during the course of the day, things got back on track and the last the session of the day finished right on target at 4.00 pm. I had to skip the final Mind Matters session as had some personal work to attend to. 

In the keynote address Mr. Manoj Barve, touched upon some very interesting facts of how things have changed over the last few decades where in from initial thought of why would anyone need a personal computer to today's world where individual mobiles are more powerful and useful than early computers. The immediate current trend is all towards cloud, big data, digitization, mobile applications, 3D printers, AR etc. Such and new technologies will keep coming and the CIOs and CTOs of the world will be busy always trying to make the right decisions for their organizations. 

Session 1 debated on the need and usage of big data. In some way it is a problem that we created. With things like Internet of things (IOT), whereby almost every other device is on the net and makings its presence felt by sending some data, causing an overall data explosion. So you need technologies like big data to make out some sense of this immensely large data set, which has all kinds of structured and unstructured data in it. 

Session 2 got into the hottest new trend, that being the mobile applications. More and more vendors are (mostly in retail space at this time) are pushing for their mobile applications. One of the only retailer recently even shut down its website, saying that they will focus only on the mobile application, as that's where they are getting maximum business from. For BYOD scenario there was a general sense of security issue, and consensus also was that one cannot secure everything one, but should focus on most critical data points. 

Session 3 discussed infrastructure and the penetration of cloud. There was still challenges like legal issues in case of where the data can reside. Once those are fixed, cloud will be a very favorable solution. Business critical applications may take time to move to cloud as their up time is a paramount factor. 

Finally Session 4 focused entirely on security. Organizations are seeing the perimeter security that they used to deal with, enlarge as we are living in perimeter-less world today. Need to put the best foot forward was the conclusion rather than try to secure everything. There was also suggestion to explore frameworks like COBIT 5 and in general be aware of the legal implications of issues in your area of operations. 

Overall, I would say it was a good session and it was interesting hearing the varied view points of the panel. Look forward to more such events. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Year gone by

19th May 2014 was a milestone date in my career and I had written all about it here. Today, a year later, I think it is but expected that I look back and think about this year gone by. 

I could not have imagined a life outside of Infosys for all the years I had been working there. A friend even had joked when he heard about my resignation, "How can you leave Infosys? I have been saving to come to your retirement party!". Afterwards, over the months I did think if I did miss Infosys and had shared my feelings here

A year later now, it is time to do my personal annual appraisal and share the results. The catch is that this is a self appraisal and hence the results may be biased :).

It has been an exciting 1 year outside the campus that's a dream come true for so many youngsters. While I am yet to complete 1 year at my new organization, Curologic, but I could not have asked for something better. Working in a start-up has its own challenges and you start living month to month, week to week and almost day to day and it really makes you a lot more humble. Being in top management of the organization, I am privy to the working of the organization and it is a significant learning. 

Being on the payroll, one takes so many things for granted, the simplest being the monthly salary. But now, being on the driving seat, along with Kiran and Shekhar, I get to know what it takes to run the show and ensure that your people continue to look up to you and keep doing interesting and challenging work. 

I think this year has been substantial in terms of my personal development in multiple areas. I already mentioned about knowing the intricacies of managing the organization. As the CTO of the company, the technology bottom line is with me. The buck stops here, as they say. While I had a rich almost 19 years of experience to boast off, there was a known issue with it. It was all limited to Microsoft Technology areas. Over the last year, I have got exposed to the other side of the world and some of the nomenclature I am now familiar with includes - java, jsp, hibernate, spring, struts, my sql, java script, html5, angular js, node js, liferay, drupal, php, apache, nginx, mongo db, android, ios, etc. and yes, I did work on a SharePoint 2013 project also during this time. This year has definitely helped me grow as an Architect. The various projects I have handled have also helped further fine tune my UX skills as well. 

While I had spent my last decade in Infosys Labs, the RnD unit, but I did have delivery experience from earlier days in Infosys. At Curologic, that experience became useful as I helped the project managers here run the show. Along with client based projects, I got involved in managing product development and it has been an experience of its own. The planning and execution is so very different from a regular project delivery. Having earlier worked on a versioned project, where we used to have new versions released every 6 months, it helped with the version planning for the product and its roll out.  

Not only has Curologic allowed me to put my technical expertise to its best use, but has also allowed me to get into another area close to my heart, i.e. people management. I used to have long debates over various policies at Infosys with my manager. Now at Curologic, I have the opportunity to put the various ideas to test. Being a small company, at this time, we are trying out different policies and ideas for employee satisfaction and motivation. At the core of our philosophy is the idea that people should have fun, they need to be happy and as Shekhar often says, failure is not a stigma for us. We accept failures, because it means that our people are taking risks. Without this, organizations tend to become complacent. 

As I look back, I see Infosys, as the one organization I worked with, for the last 18+ years and as I look forward, I want to see Curologic as the next one I will work with, for the rest of my career. 

We may be small today, but our aspirations aren't small by any chance. We are dreaming big and we know how to realize our dreams. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Node.js Event Model

Node.js has gained lot of traction in the last few years and many high performance sites are today using it. When we started with it, I wanted to understand what’s it that makes node.js so high performant, over and above the regular web servers, which were created with the purpose of being able to handle loads of incoming requests.

The answer lies in the core of node.js that uses a single thread for its main execution and passes on the work to asynchronous functions. In the world of multitasking and multi-core CPU machines, this come as a surprise, but then when you look at the cost of creating all these parallel threads vs handling all incoming requests in a single thread, you suddenly realize the benefits, and is very clearly visible also in the performance it delivers.

As I thought about this, I realized that this concept isn’t new but is something that is at the heart of windows programming, something I had learnt back in 1995. We had started programming on Windows for Workgroups. The OS was multi-tasking, but non-preemptive. What this means that while it was capable of running multiple tasks (by using time slicing algorithms), it wasn’t able to interrupt a running code on its own. The applications had to be good Windows citizens and had to be written in a manner that they would relinquish control themselves when idle and OS could then take over and run other code.

To manage this, the Windows program was mainly running using an event queue on a single thread, called its primary thread. If there was an event (call it task, if you may), it would get picked up and executed and if there was nothing in the queue, the code would continue to wait. It was at this wait time that the OS was able to take control and do other actions. The event that would get picked up would be passed to what was called as Windows Procedure and it would then do the necessary processing of the event. If required, the code here could spin off additional threads to do async operations or it could process it on the primary thread itself. The drawback of doing lot of work on primary thread what that the same thread was used to update the user interface and this would get stalled, giving a perception of hung application.

If you think about it, the processing that node.js is doing, isn’t different from this early programming concept. The event queue that Windows used, was a priority queue and messages would higher priority would get picked up first (PostMessage with priority). For some critical tasks, there was mechanism to by-pass this queue and directly get the tasks done as well (SendMessage).

It is interesting to see that the underlying core principals don’t often change. What changes is the outer shell, the technology layers on the top, to build on these core principals. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Windows 10: Last of the Lot

"Change is the only constant" is something that we in IT world strongly believe in and the technological evolution around us have been a constant reminder of the same. However the recent declaration by Microsoft that Windows 10 will be last in the series of Operating Systems (OS) seems to go against this well accepted norm. It is a significant milestone of sorts, this announcement. 

Microsoft so far had relied heavily on sales of OS, Microsoft Office and more recently SharePoint Server as their backbone. Newer versions every few years was the way things had been all these years. If I look back, I started my career with Windows for Workgroups 3.11 in the year 1995, which was a significant improvement towards graphical user interface based working experience. Then I worked on Windows 95, which added preemptive multitasking and then on Windows NT that introduced the UNICODE character set. Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Millennium edition (that actually disappeared in the millennium). 

Windows XP that had some changes done to the visual styles and then came Windows Vista, which got itself the most hated OS rating. It was a generally accepted trend that people would typically skip one version of OS in between, but with Windows Vista, Microsoft had brought too many radical changes. People migrated, but the OS failed to deliver and the performance turned out to very poor. Windows 7 helped salvage the lost grounds and regained the lost popularity. 

By this time, another trend in terms of tablets and mobiles was fast gaining traction and there came a tipping point when the sales of Windows OS/PC fell bellow that of mobile. For a while it seemed that Microsoft was in a state of denial and when they did wake up, they delivered Windows 8, an OS targeted towards the tablet world. Where they again did the mistake was to push the same OS on desktops and again their was a large scale public backlash. 

Windows 10 is expected to bring back some of the lost charm of Windows 7, while retaining some of the concepts like live tiles added for the tablet/mobile like interface. No more major OS updates after this version means that the idea of being able to push people to new OS every few years is not going to work anymore. 

This announcement also has some significant undertones. From a developers stand point, they no longer need to worry about frequent OS upgrades and code migrations. The incremental updates will happen, but will definitely go easy on the developers now. This also means that in time most people will end up using Windows 10, so no longer a worry of supporting a wide variety of OSs, when architecting a new application. 

However I doubt that Windows 10 will really be the last OS. It could possibly have a longer shelf life, but over the coming years, I am sure, technology will change further, making Windows 10 redundant and the need for a new OS will be felt. Till then, its wait and watch. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Down the memory lane

Come Summer and it used to be the time to get packing and make the month long trip to grand parents place. A tradition that kept on for many many years and then took a break in between as I graduated from school to engineering and then onto my job. These trips became far and wide. However for the last few years they are back on track, though the destination has changed, for now it is the grand parents for my daughter. 

Though climatically this isn't the ideal time to visit Delhi, but can't help it. Fortunately due to the changes in weather pattern, the summer heat has also got pushed along and the initial few days of the month of May aren't as hot as it used to be. Eventually the heat does catches on, but we do get some days of good weather. Interestingly this time, the electricity board was also a bit favorable and the power cuts were less and also not long lasting. 

After my typical week long break (that's all I manage these days), I boarded the Duronto Express from Nizamuddin to Pune. Getting a train ticket is an effort in itself, though at least the website is far better functioning now. I got myself side lower seat and on boarding the train I realized that this was right in the corner, i.e. I was the doorman to the boogie. The other person on the side seat was a teenager, who debated a bit initially on whose was the lower seat. Fortunately he realized that his was the upper berth, which he eventually mounted and didn't come down the entire journey. Good for me. 

The train kept good pace and during this trip is when I kind of became nostalgic and recalled those child hood journeys, the pushing of face against the window grill to try and see straight in the front and the blackening of faces due to the smoke in this attempt, the excitement every time the train would take a turn and we could see the boogies in the front, the comfort of the AC boogies later, but the lack of visibility outside evening on-wards, the constant movement of sellers of mostly food and magazines, the sound of "chaaaeeee chaaeeee", the liking for the oil soaked omelette, the craze to climb up to the upper berth and sleeping on it with a constant fear of falling down and so on and so forth. 

As I sat looking outside today morning, and the train neared Pune, I suddenly recalled that after the month long vacation, where we would have mostly seen the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) buses, I and my elder brother used to have a competition of who will spot a Pune Municipal Transport (PMT, now known as PMPML) bus, first. What a strange game, you may wonder, but it used to be so much fun, trying to get ourselves back in place in Pune city, after being away for a month. My brother wasn't there today in this journey to play the game again and I doubt we would have played it had he been around, but I suddenly had gone back 20-25 years and it felt wonderful... some nice memories of those yearly vacations. Wish I can go back for a day and relive all that fun :). 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Nokia Lumia 730 Review

I have been wanting to get back to write a more detailed review of how my Nokia Lumia 730 is fairing, but work pressure had been keeping me away. Finally found so time. So here’s the update from what I had shared earlier.

First to clear up what I had written earlier. In Whatsapp I could finally find a way to clear the chat conversations without having to exit the chat. For this, while in chat you can either tap on the header that displays the group name/person name or click on the 3 dots at the bottom and select “group info”/”info” from it. In the screen that loads, click the 3 dots at the bottom and you will option to “clear chat history”. So this issue is resolved. I can however still not find a way to add to list for twitter and the kid’s zone still doesn't works without having to unlock the phone with my password.

A very interesting feature while typing messages in a chat window or a message window or any place, you will see icons being suggested based on the words you type so for words like birthday a cake will appear, for book, a book icon will appear, and so on and so forth. And since they appear right in the panel where the keypad displays completed words, it is very handy to insert these icons in the message. Some of the icons can be tricky though in case they aren't available in the particular application and may end up looking a bit different to the receiver.

One of the distinct feature of Windows Phone (and desktop) is the ‘Live’ tiles. These appear in 3 sizes on the phone. In the smallest size, a maximum of 6 fit in a row on my phone. These are the conduit for the application to push the data to the home screen so that the user can decide if he/she needs to open the application or not. In the smallest size, most tiles show the application logo and then a count. So for WhatsApp this count means unread chats. For Facebook, this count is the notification count. For phone tile, this shows the # of missed calls and email tile will show the # messages not read so far. In medium size the applications have more space to display more information and in the widest setting, the application can really make maximum use of space. The tiles can designed to flip over as well, to show relevant content and then flip to show the application logo or something like that and then flip over again. Most store apps seem to make decent use of the tiles. I however see that some apps have not made use of these tiles at all.

Applications can be configured to push their data to the lock screen also, like right now I have set Facebook to control my phone’s lock screen image. Each time I enable the phone to unlock it, I see a different picture from my Facebook profile. Missed calls, # messages, # emails are some of the other information that is displayed on the lock screen. In all you can set 5 applications to display their data to the lock screen.

The camera on this phone is wonderful. Though a mere 6.7 MP (my earlier Samsung Galaxy S3 had an 8 MP camera), but the clarity of pictures (even from a laymen’s perspective) are too good. Even night shots taken without flash, do appear very natural. I am no camera or photo expert, but could easily make out that the pictures seemed crisper and better.
 You can launch the camera from the camera icon or from the setting screen that you can pull down from the top. While the camera icon appears a bit out of place in this setting screen, but it is an easy way to launch the camera even when the phone is locked. Given the popularity of selfies today, the phone actually comes with a tile on the start screen to launch the camera in selfie mode directly. Cool, indeed.

Enabling Wi-Fi settings is trivial. Pull down the menu from the top and enable Wi-Fi. If you have saved configurations and if one of those hotspots is in range, the phone will connect to it automatically. Switching off is a bit more involved? From the pull down menu, uncheck the Wi-Fi option and you will be taken to the Wi-Fi Settings page, from where you need to disable the Wi-Fi option. Wonder why this was required? Disabling could have also been done just like enabling was done.

The highlight of this review is the phone’s phenomenal battery power. The phone has a 2200mAh battery, which is a surprise power pack. At my regular usage, which is a few phone calls a day, surfing the net, WhatsApp chatting, checking my official email once in a while, the battery lasts for 2 days. My Samsung Galaxy S3 used to require daily recharge. The interesting part was that for the initial few weeks, while I was setting up my phone, I used to switch on the phone very frequently and played around a lot with tile sizes and positioning and also would keep checking messages on WhatsApp and on email. Even with the extra load, the battery easily lasted for 2 days.

When I had moved to this phone, I was very happy that I could easily reset my earlier phone and sell it off. All my contacts were saved in my google account. All I had to do was the map the google account on this new phone and all contacts would be available. So that’s what I did. I added my Gmail account to the phone and I immediately had my contacts downloaded. However over the next few days I realized that some of the contacts were missing. I suspected that some of the recent additions that I might have done from my earlier phone, I may have missed marking them as Gmail contacts and hence they were not appearing. But over the next few days I found that lot many more contacts were missing which I surely had added to my Gmail contact list. To solve this issue, I finally logged into my Gmail account and checked the contact list there. Surprisingly all contacts were there including the some I had suspected were missing and had added again. So why weren't all reflecting on my Windows Phone? What was the issue? I soon realized that the issue was in the groups I had created. Galaxy S3 being an Android phone, understood Gmail contact’s structure and the group, but for Windows Phone, it was concerned with only the primary “My Contacts” group. All other contacts that were in other groups had not been downloaded to the phone. So I modified my Gmail contact list and moved all contacts to “My Contacts” and with the next sync all the contacts finally appeared on my Windows phone.

Windows phone seems to have made some customization for India market. Apps for Flipkart and Myntra are available by default on the phone. I had to add apps like Amazon.

The one disappointing fact is that while the phone comes with 8 GB internal memory, almost 3.5 GB is used by the OS itself. Microsoft needs to do something to fix the OS size. Download a few applications and very soon you could be down to just 1-2 GB to store your music, videos, camera roll etc. Which means that if you are a heavy phone user you may want to purchase an extra SD memory card right away.

I had hoped to try Cortana, but could not spend time on it.

Nokia Lumia series along with Windows Phone 8.1 onward seems to have gained some market traction. The response to this phone OS is now better. Microsoft now seems to be inclined to make its phone as well, like it did for the Windows 8 Surface Tablets. Hope it will do a good job at it and not spoil the brand that Nokia was helping create.
Over the last 2 months, I have found this Nokia Lumia 730 very easy to use, very stable and deliver efficiently. The apps respond to the touch very fast and sometimes you even feel that you actually had even touched the display, but had just hovered very close to it.

Nokia Here Maps don’t seem as accurate and as updated as Google maps and I do miss an app for YouTube. It is sad that Microsoft has not allowed a YouTube app on the store.

[Edited: 19 March 2015] I missed mentioning about the audio. While I have not been able to find an equalizer on the phone, but the audio in general seems very good. The ability to reproduce a wide range of frequencies and with great clarity, is just amazing. I cannot give technical details, but based on what I can hear and make out, the quality of audio is awesome. 

Overall, I would say that this phone is definitely a good buy in the 15K price range. 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Travelogue: The Ark Wellness Retreat

If you are looking for a place to go and relax; kind of de-toxicate, then Ark Wellness Retreat, off Paud, on Paud Lonavala road, is the right place to be. 

Our daily chores keeps us busy all week long, so when we planned our vacation, we wanted to go to a place, where we will not have to get up and go visit echo point, or lovers point or suicide point etc. All we wanted was a nice and cozy place to go and relax. We would be fine to not go out of the resort at all and just stay put in the room or roam around the resort and literally do nothing.

Ark’s website looked promising and so did the rooms. The place is just about a year old and extremely well maintained, so looks the same as you would see in the pictures. I called the resort and the person on the other side was very patient to explain the various options and the facilities available. They have only 8 rooms of which 4 of Deluxe and 4 Standard. Both rooms are good, well maintained and with good interiors. The deluxe rooms are bigger in size and have a sitting area to sit and watch TV comfortably. Also the additional space allows any extra mattress to also be easily placed in the room. Since our plans were to spend most time in the room, we decided to go for the bigger one so that it would be more comfortable. The package includes room charges, breakfast, lunch, evening tea and snacks and dinner.

The place is about 30 km from my place (in Wakad). We took the road from Hinjewadi going to Pirangut via Maan village, past Kumar Megapolis and touches the Mulshi road in Pirangut, opposite the road leading to Lavasa. Need to take a right on Mulshi road and drive towards Paud. At Paud, just after the ST bus stand, take a right going towards Nanegaon, Kolvan etc. Girivan is a pretty well landmarked resort on this road and if you reach its diversion then you have gone a bit too far. Unfortunately there no sign boards for this resort on this road, all the way till when you need to actually take a right turn. The board is bang on the turn and if you are not cautious, you can miss it. If you reach Chinmaya Vibhooti then you have missed the turn. The turn is about 10 km from Paud and after you take the turn, you drive about 1 km on kaccha road.

Driving on this road, we were wondering if we were really going to right place and how the place really will be. Going past a few local villager’s homes, we finally saw a parking board and immediately next to it the resort gate. You can drive into the compound and get your things out at reception and then need to get your car back outside and park in this parking area. Don’t worry. The place is pretty safe and they lock the gate outside the parking at night (though it offers only a little protection). The first view of the resort and the reception area was pretty grand and immediately the fear of this place receded. As you enter the resort, the entire ground floor is all kinds of sitting area with reception in one corner, the kitchen and dining area in another and the tea lounge in another. In the center is the swimming pool. All the 8 rooms are on the first floor, but don’t worry, If you need, there is a small lift as well (mostly for use by those who cannot climb up to first floor).

I have never seen a resort structure like this one. Most places try to maximize the # rooms they can build apart from the open area outside of the resort building. But here apart from the entire ground floor, which was just open sitting area, even on the first floor, between the rooms there were places for sitting and maybe having a cup of tea. Tea maker and relevant material was placed in these areas as well. Our room, D1 overlooked their fish pond area, which is a big pond at the back. Didn't see too many fishes in in though. Both inside and outside of the first floor are big inclined iron rods, on which the roof rests and in between at regular intervals, there are seats built into the structure. So looks like the place has been designed to visitors to just go and sit anywhere and enjoy.

They have a big herbal garden right at the entrance, and this results in some really nice fragrance all around this place. We had a walk in their herbal garden and one of their staff members explained it all to us. They have over 20 different types of herbs and it was really amazing to get to know about them. We even tasted many of these, and probably that helped us disinfect ourselves in the process. At side is a big fish pond (that we could see from our room as well) and all around it is a walking/jogging path. There is good amount of plantation all around. Some is already grown well and some is in its early stages. They have a big kitchen garden as well which is used to get some of their daily needs, though they do purchase daily fresh vegetables from Pirangut.

So as you relax at this place, you can additionally explore the various spa options that they have. They have separate men and women sections and a good option of what you may want to get done. There is a small library, which is also the tea lounge. Near the dining area there is a typical Jhoola that you can sit on and just outside at the back is a small setup that has a TT table and a carom board and doubles up a conference room, if required.

The place is pretty laid back and all work gets done in a relaxed environment. The breakfast starts roughly by 9 am and apart from the servings for the day, there is always eggs to order. The lunch can start anytime between 1.30 pm to 2.00 pm. It has a dal, 2 veg sabzis, roti, rice option and 1 non-veg dish. So nothing like your regular lavish buffet, but very good taste (homelike) and at least we found this better than having some 50 option to try and eat from. Evening tea is from 5.30 pm and has some snacks like pakodas, finger chips etc. You can request for herbal tea, which mostly results in him serving you green tea, but that is still good. We had it mostly and enjoyed it. Even my kid loved it. Dinner is almost after 9 pm and is similar to lunch, but is usually a bit more interesting, with soup and multiple starters and whatever we had in our days there, we loved it all. All very different kind of starters and just awesome.

Though the place is pretty isolated and you would mostly spend your time at the resort itself, but still if you want to venture out, you can visit Hadshi temple, which is about 10 km from the resort or go to Pawna dam, which is 20 kms. The drive to Pawna is pretty straight (after coming back to the main road from the resort, go to your right and continue on the same road) and good in bits and places, especially when you are on the hill top and can see Pawna river on one side and the dam right in front. There isn't a place to really stop and look at the dam. From the hill top on the way, there is a diversion (towards left) which goes to Tung fort, in case you are the trekking kind. We had been to Hadshi in an earlier trip, so just drove to Pawna and took some pictures on the way and were back in time for lunch.

The hotel didn't seem to have any cold drinks to offer. The weather was still on the cooler side so this wasn't an issue and at night the temperature dipped further. I guess this place is easily 3-4 oC lower than Pune city's temperature. Some of the guests seemed to have brought their own helping of drinks that they put in the resorts fridge to chill them.

There are 1-2 issues also with this place. The first is that every deluxe room has an internal door sharing with the standard room. If it is the same family, it is good to have, but if different, while the lock the door, it still doesn't provide a sound proof separation. Unfortunately for us, we had a couple next to us, that strongly believed in their singing skills and I must credit them for their stamina for singing. The first day they started to sing sometime in the afternoon and kept on singing till 11.30 pm (with relevant breaks in between), when I had finally knock on the door and ask them to kindly reduce their volume. We might have better tolerated this had they shown some basic ability in singing. The next day, we were spared of their singing, but that was only because they were hooked onto the cricket match.

The other issue is that while the food is good and we liked the limited choice menu, but they don’t have hot plates. So if you get delayed a bit or if the weather is cold, as it was during out stay, the food also gets cold pretty fast.

Apart from these two small items, everything about this place is good and I will re-iterate that it is a prefect getaway for a pure leisure weekend trip. 

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