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Hacking Financial Times

I was browsing today, and was pretty annoyed with the subscription blockUIs that appeared in all the articles. After some tweaks, I was able to access content for free. Though I discovered multiple ways to fetch, this hack is the most elegant and robust -

  1. Install User Agent Switcher (for firefox).
  2. Change the user agent to Googlebot 2.1 (or any other search bot-yahoo/MSN). User agent configuration is available in Tools.
  3. Enjoy!
Don’t forget to change the user agent back to “Default User Agent” once you are done (though there will be little to no harm in browsing sites with User Agent as “Googlebot 2.1″).

Let me know in the comments if it works for you :)

The Secret Of Two Air Conditioners

Air Conditioners aren’t allowed in students’ hostel rooms at IIT Kharagpur. But, I had it in my room for 2 years, and no one in the authority was aware of it. Though there were a few people who knew I had an AC in my room, there were very few close friends who knew that I had not one, but two ACs in my room. Now that I have left Kharagpur for good, let me share with you the secret of two air conditioners.

It was in summers 2009 that I went to Canada for the first time on an internship, my third year in college. What a weather that was, when it rained in Halifax, you seem to touch clouds. But, then I had to return to India, I was mentally prepared to face the heat. I came back home, stayed there for a few days, partly enjoying the AC in my room, and partly figuring out what had gone wrong for India that its so much behind the developed countries like Canada (was it because of the great Indian summer and global warming?). And then I had to return to Kharagpur (Kgp). Kgp welcomed us with its showers, and the weather could be tolerated, but then again, no one can stop the inevitable – the temperature rose to 48 degrees, and the weather in Canada 10 days ago seemed like a fairytale. One fine morning, I woke up and decided, that’s it, I have to look for alternatives – “spend most of the time in labs / library? Then who will leave the room for the lectures?”; “Get an AC installed in my room? But, I haven’t heard of any student daring to enjoy the luxury of an Air Conditioner in the premises of his own room”.

For some reason, I favored the second option, and started looking for all sorts of Air Conditioners (what if there is some small device, like a table fan / heater that could cool my room and would be easy to conceal, but unfortunately, laws of thermodynamics don’t allow any such device). The closest I could find were portable Air Conditioners, yes, there are ACs that you can carry and conceal. At that time in 2009 there were only a few companies like LG who would manufacture portable ACs worldwide, but unfortunately not in India. At that time there was only one company that I knew of had portable ACs in India – Seagull, and they had two varities – 0.8 ton, and 1.0 ton with a price diff of ~2k. Fortunately, they had a retail shop in Kolkata, not too far away from Kharagpur, and they had only 0.8 ton portable AC in stock. The 1.0 ton option was to arrive in a week’s time, I thought why not wait for another week and have more cooling.

A week passed, and my phone balance was exhausted. There are times when you take impulsive decisions, this was one of them. I woke up at 9 and was all set to leave for Kolkata by 9:30. While I was on rickshaw I thought why not call Seagull and get their status  of 1.0 ton AC stock. I didn’t have any balance on my phone, I was reluctant to call, but still stopped at a nearby booth and called Seagull. “Unfortunately, the 1.0 ton AC stock is not yet replenished, and the 0.8 ton AC is also out of stock”. I thanked god for saving me from harassment and disappointment. I came back to the rickshaw and said “dada, ye 10 rupaye rakh lo, ab aur nahi jaana (please take this 10 rupee note, I am not going any further)”. I walked my way to my AC less hostel room.

So, portable AC option gone, can’t wait for another month for replenishment, summers will be tolerable by then. Breaking my window seemed to be a much harsher option than having a 10cm diameter hole on my wall to my balcony, so I preferred a split type AC over a window type AC. At that time in 2009, Big Bazaar (BigB) was newly established in Kgp, and that was the only place expected to sell ACs. I skimmed the web to get a contact number of Kgp BigB, and in the end managed to find a working number. It was a wednesday, and the HR at BigB said “yes, we do sell split ACs and it will be best if you purchase it in Wednesday Bazaar, you will get the best deal”. Nice idea, better than travelling to Kolkata, and carrying the portable AC all the way to my room.

What a pleasant surprise that was, the only brands offered at BigB were Koryo and Sensei (later I came to know that these brands are developed by Big Bazaar itself). Of the two brands, Sensei had a better reputation, so I went with the great Sensei 1.0 ton – the worst AC of all times. Paid the money, returned to IIT in BigB delivery van (what a wonderful experience that was) and with a bit of luck, got the AC installed in my hostel room (that would be a completely different story to manage the two huge inner and outer units into my room and get them installed when no one, even my wingies could notice). At the end of the day, when the cool air blew over my face, I realized, all this hassle was well deserved.

A few days later, I surprised one of my friends with my AC, then a few more, but still majority of the hostel was unaware of the presence of my AC (atleast that was what I believed). I was very happy and satisfied. I used to wear blankets at night, and it felt like returning to Canada again. Everything was perfect as planned, until 10 days later, I woke up sweating.

“What has gone wrong? AC is still running. But, its not cooling. It cools for 10 seconds, and then cuts out for 2 minutes, and the cycle continues”. I tried everything I found as a remedy for this situation on web, ranging from cleaning the filters to combing the fins. It didn’t work however hard I tried, something had gone terribly wrong, I could no more enjoy Canada in the comfort of my room. No wonder Sensei was the worst AC in the world. I called up Sensei customer care and a technician came, who said there is a problem with the compressor. He said it should be repaired in a week’s time, and at most by 10 days from today. I called on the 10th day to ask what happened. He said they were unable to find the exact compressor for my outer unit. The excuses changed over time, while talking to various Sensei customer representatives in Kharagpur and Kolkata. They had a horrible after-sale service, and there didn’t seem any possibility to get the AC repaired in finite time period. Whatever we do, there are times when things go out of our hands, and it seemed I had lost a part of my Canadian internship stipend, and more importantly the Canadian weather.

It was exactly after 31 days, when my impatience grew out of bounds, I took another impulsive decision in the middle of night (yes, I was losing sleep becaue of bad AC). I wrote this letter to a very senior Big Bazaar executive in Mumbai, full of vengeance.

Dear Sir,

I don’t have any idea about your designation. I found your email on Future Bazar’s website, and I would like to give you feedback on your outstanding product – Sensei 1.0 ton split Air Conditioner.

I bought your wonderful AC from Big Bazar (Puja Mall), Kharagpur, West Bengal. It ran satisfactorily for about 10 days until one day it stopped cooling. What a cool product, stops cooling after 10 days. I called sensei service care, and they sent a guy to my place the same day (awesome service man). The service center guy said the compressor needs to be replaced. I asked how much time would it take, he said it won’t take more than 10 days. Imagine yourself in office without AC for 10 days (do you accept the challenge?). That’s the service level you have.

I called the service center after 12 days, he said he hasn’t got the compressor yet, so its not possible to repair the air conditioner now. Fine, I asked how many days will it take? He said, he doesn’t have any idea about that. 3 weeks passing by, I called the guy again, again he had the same reason, no compressor to repair. I asked what’s the problem, from where do you get the compressor, he said he gets it from Kolkata. I took Kolkata’s service center’s phone no. and called the service center guy there.

This guy at Kolkata said, they don’t have stock for AC compressors from a long time. It will take another 7 days to get it from Mumbai. What the crap your company is? You flood the whole market with Air Conditioners, but you don’t have a single compressor in service centers to repair ACs. Very poor supply chain and inventory management Sir, your company won’t survive for long.

Now its been more than a month (31 days), and still no replacement. I am sure my email to you won’t do anything other than landing into your spam box. But I wanted to tell, you can’t compete in the market fooling your customers. No one will buy your product in the long run. I am a fourth year Industrial Engineering student at IIT Kharagpur, I can guarantee you, with this attitude you will have the same fate as Satyam’s. Sir, please don’t worry about my AC getting fixed or not, enjoy your own non-Sensei AC in your cozy office. I will fight with these people to get my compressor fixed (that’s what your customers are for, fighting to get the least service level expected). By the way, you just lost a future customer of any of your related products.

Your “Well” Wisher,

Ujjwal Kumar (my contact is available here if you give it a damn)

Honestly speaking I didn’t expect anything out of that letter, I just needed something to vent my anger. I had a nice sleep after mailing this letter. A pleasant surprise was waiting for me when I woke up – I had a reply from the executive in Mumbai.

Dear Customer,

At the outset, we wish to thank you for patronizing Big Bazaar.

We would like to assure you that the Customer Service Manager will contact you personally for your feedback.

Kindly provide us with your phone contact details for the same.

Assuring you the best of our services at all times.

Best Regards

Team Share With Us.

Now, I was given mobile numbers of the store manager, and electronics department executive at Big Bazaar, Kharagpur. Initially, they tried to repair my old AC, but later they realized they really didn’t have a spare compressor in their service centers. “Why not replace the old AC with a new one if the old one is beyond repair?” – the store manager asked the executives in Mumbai. After a few days of discussion and debate, the executives at Mumbai agreed to replace the Air Conditioner with a new one. But, not Sensei anymore, please. I discussed with the store manager if I could get an LG 1.0 ton AC as the new one, and surprisingly he agreed (and there was a smile on an irate customer). There were a few more problems like uninstalling my old AC, getting it out of IIT without a gate pass (another story), and getting the new AC installed in my room (I had mastered that art by then). In the next meeting with store manager, he said “it was first time in the history of Big Bazaar that an old AC is replaced with a new, better AC” (not too sure to believe him or not, but yes, it was a great achievement for both of us). And then myself and my AC lived happily ever after (for two years, escaping the electricity bill).

In the end I would like to thank all of my fellow RPians for keeping this secret, and congratulate you for finishing this micro novel.

PS: In the next semester, I took a difficult course in “Introduction to Refrigeration and Air Conditioning” in the Cryogenics department to understand why a compressor fails.


I am about to launch a new feature on the Training & Placements website that I created at IIT Kharagpur. The feature is called Resumes. Here you can view your friends’, seniors’ and juniors’ resumes, all at one place. Best thing about this feature is, the resumes are sorted; categorized according to different industries, different companies (shortlisted resumes, and placed resumes) as well as different schools/departments; and most importantly, they are searchable internally.

Why would this be helpful?

The entire idea to create TNP site was to assist a seamless sharing of information related to Training & Placement. The site currently shows information on which companies came when, recruited/shortlisted how many students, and what were their packages. The site also shows semester-wise SGPAs/CGPAs of students who got placed/shortlisted. But, it misses out the fact that while recruiting students, CGPA is just one of the criteria, not everything. The best way to summarize a person’s achievements is his/her resume. This motivated me to write additional lines of code, so that students can learn from their peers.

Why should you upload your resume?

There are many reasons why you should upload your resume, including:

  1. Others get benefited. No matter what you have in your resume, its gonna inspire someone or the other in the campus.
  2. Placement season is (almost) over. So, no more competition among ourselves. Our (passing out students) tech career/higher studies will begin after we leave Kgp this summer. There is always a scope of learning from how other people managed their lives at Kgp. These resumes might inspire us to have a fresh beginning after we leave Kgp.
  3. There is also a provision for adding internship resumes, so that students in their pre-placement years are also benefited. The database will be maintained for future generations.
  4. Some of us will find this as a new forum to show-off our talents.
  5. You can’t view any resume until you have uploaded atleast one of your own resumes.

Its a common consensus among recruiters, that Kgpians are not as aware as Bombay/Delhi/Kanpur/Madras students and Kgpians don’t prepare well before interviews/GDs. This website, in a way, is an attempt to increase that awareness among Kgpians. I wish that all of you reading this will upload your resume, and contribute towards increasing awareness among your peers, and thereby help in the growth of the majestic alumni network that Kgp enjoys (and other IITs envy).

Link to TNP revisited website: (kgp only, disable proxies)
Link to TNP support page:

Thanks for reading till the last line!

Update iPad to iOS 4.2 (8C134b build) for Free

Its not November yet for Apple? Can’t wait anymore to try iOS 4.2 on your iPad hands on? Missing multi-tasking, AirPlay, AirPrint, folders, etc for a long time? There you go!

I discovered these steps myself, and it works. Here are the steps:

  1. Install latest iTunes (10.1) from . It doesn’t work with earlier version of iTunes (10.0), iTunes 10.1 is necessary to carry out the update.
  2. Download the .ipsw software update files from either of these sources: (this one allowed me to download at 4mbps on a free a/c) (this one was rather slow, and the max speed on free a/c was 32kbps)
  3. Plug in and connect your iPad to computer.
  4. Run iTunes 10.1 or higher.
  5. Select the iPad from Devices list.
  6. Optional but recommended, take a backup of the iPad in case of accidental file lost.
  7. Click on Restore while holding Shift (for PC) and Option (for Mac).
  8. Browse to the Firmware 4.2 that you downloaded in step 2 and select it.

While installing the iOS 4.2 firmware, iTunes tries to connect to Apple server to verify the update, but that doesn’t stop the update. After the update, your iPad is installed with iOS 4.2 factory settings. The next thing to be done is to restore all your applications, settings, music and videos from your last backup.

Hope it helps your anxiety, thanks for reading. Comments appreciated, cheers!

The Carribean Call or The West Indian Welcome

30th June
Left for the airport in the morning, actually late night I could say. The cab driver was in a hurry. We left quickly for the airport, and talked on the way regarding server, and other things. The queen was then at Halifax (yeah, there is just one queen). Was quiet happy for the visit to Grenada. Came to the airport, and realized I have been lucky enough for a special security check. Yeah, I went with them and got scanned, can’t help it. Though I found a lady resisting the scan, and it worked for her. Guess what how much the cab driver charged for the ride to airport, 90 dollars. My prof said, yes, thats the usual fare.

As usual, Halifax airport has free WiFi, but didn’t have enough time to enough connect on my iPad, and inform friends and family that I am departing. We got into the plane, though myself and my prof didn’t have adjacent seats. I was quite worried about the project installation. Infact I was worried about it weeks earlier. I didn’t experience anything like this earlier, going on a business trip, to present our software and training people. It was indeed a very pleasing experience, tensed too.

We arrived at Toronto airport, I think I would memorize the names of everything… shops, gates, one more time I visit there. My baggage was checked in for Barbados, and didn’t have to check it again. The cutoff time for international flights is 1 hour, and I think we just made it. We had to take some breakfast. Went to starbucks, and shedded 25 dollars for just 2 pitas and 2 colddrinks. My prof didn’t even eat the pita completely as he didn’t like it, it went to the bin. I preserved it for emergency situations. Barbados was calling. I didn’t know what to expect from the place, the only thing I knew, we had a 5 star beach resort booked for us (just for a transit night stay).

It was 2 in the afternoon, and we arrived at Barbados. Landing on the airport, coming out of the plane, I felt the heat. Oh! is it India? Not exactly, the wind speed is quite high here, unlike India, and temperature is ~30 degrees. We went to the arrivals/immigration. The maintenance wasn’t good at the arrivals, and I can definitely say Patna arrivals is much more well maintained than Barbados. Now, the next thing was immigrations. I had some idea that Indians need a visa to travel to Barbados, but didn’t realize a visa is required even for a day’s stay in transit. The next thing was getting a single day’s visa at the airport itself. The queue was very long, even if you compare it with Indian standards, it took around an hour to reach at the visa office.

The visa officer then started asking all sorts of question, that partially I answered, and partially my prof answered. My prof is a dual citizen, Canadian as well as Grenadian, so he didn’t need any visa. We had to pay 50USD as visa fee. But, who carries USD while travelling from Canada? My prof went to the bank at airport, and got the money, and I had a single day visa issued. Left the airport, took a cab and left for the beach resort. The cab driver, was driver cum guide, and was very talkative. He had that typical West Indian accent, that Indians would recognize as Jamaican. He told us interesting things like the whole land was for sugar canes, but now they are available for anyone in the world to purchase except Russians (sounds strange) and there is no property tax! The place is almost crime free, as there hasn’t been an incident of burgulary, murder, rape in the last 80 years.

Before coming to Barbados, I had a different picture of the in mind. I thought the place will be small, which can be covered on foot, with just a few gorgeous beaches and cricket stadiums. I was wrong, the place isn’t that much small, its quite big rather. I would say if you have NCR combined into and island, Barbados wil be one of them. Though there a few islands nearby that can be traversed completely on foot.

We arrived at the beach resort. While on the car, I could see the beaches. They were gorgeous, I was correct in this regard. They were long, wide, and a lot of them. An island beach is definitely a different experience than an inland beach, you get a much wider view. The beaches were just walking distance away. Or rather saying the resort was at the beach itself would be more appropriate. We had doors in our rooms that would directly lead to the beach, thats the minimum you would expect, they charged 300USD per night.

I realized I didn’t bring my laptop converter with me (remember there are different pins across the world, why don’t they just standardize it?). We came back, I connected to the internet, called my family and chatted with friends (thats one good thing that my laptop offers, besides others, a very good battery backup). My prof was working on the instruction manual in the meanwhile. We were a bit tired for the day (had just 90 minutes sleep last night, both of us, because of an early morning flight). We went for dinner, and guess what, candle lit dinner, for the first time!! It was beautiful, having a candle lit dinner, almost at the beach, at night. The sound of water gushing, the cool air flowing, everything was just mesmerizing. The food was good, we talked about different things during dinner. I have never spent so much time with my prof, considering the fact that I have been working with him since last summers. He is the Associate-Dean of Dalhousie University, Halifax. He is just too busy with all his meetings, appointments, etc. People have to book appointments a week in advance to see him. I just feel privileged to spend a complete week with him.

The dinner was great, and the bill too. Had a 133 dollars bill, and my prof added 15 dollars to it as tip. We came back to our respective rooms and had a good cozy sleep.

1st July
We had to wake up early in the morning, though we didn’t have an early morning flight. Here is a flight called Liat airlines operating in the Carribeans, that has very bad reputation. There is a story why we chose this airlines. I am an Indian, visiting Canada as shorttime worker. All the routes to Grenada had US cities in transit, and Indians need a transit visa to transit any of US airports. We were thinking of applying for a visa, but at the last moment figured out all the visa appointments for the next 6 weeks are full. So, we had just one option left, go to Barbados via Toronto, and then take this silly Liat airlines to reach Grenada.

Liat airlines has a baggage allowance of just 1 checked in baggage, and a single hand baggage not to exceed 7kgs (they are very strict about it, will charge you if you exceed). It is always possible with Liat airlines that you may not get a seat even after a confirmed booking and inside the plane, its like a bus, where you can claim any of the seats as your own (no seating arrangement). It is also possible that you may not see your checked in baggage again (well they actually said it bluntly, “you are aware, the baggage may be lost”). I have never heard of such an airline, and didn’t believed it until I actually faced it. So, we decided to leave early for the airport, to maximize our chances of getting a seat, and get our baggages checked in properly, because, its Liat.

I rushed into the aircraft to claim a window seat, as I was very anxious of recording the islands from above on my camcorder. The islands looked extemely beautiful, rather saying they were beautiful will be a gross understatement. I took my camcorder out, and started shooting, and enjoyed the beauty of the moment. I didn’t feel how 50 mins passed by, and we started descending at the Maurice Bishop International Airport, Grenada. Guess what, I forgot I was travelling on Liat.

I just forgot to tell you that only the arrivals at Grantley Adams Airport, Barbados are rugged, and the departures are as good as any other world class international airport.

Thanks for reading, I didn’t find time to write more, it has been extremely busy here. I hope you liked it. Please leave feedback, if you like it, it will encourage me to write about the next 5 days at West Indies, and the next 5 days at Toronto/Niagara Falls. Or just say, “no more emosanal atyachar” :D

Update iPod touch 3.1 genuine firmware for free

Apple has released its latest firmware for iPod & iPhone and is priced at $4.95 for poor iPod touch users and free of cost for iPhone users. I have always hated apple’s bias for iPhone, so here comes a post to update iPod touch to genuine 3.1 firmware for free. I have discovered the steps myself, and it works perfectly well!

  1. Update your iPod to a pirated copy of 3.0 software update as shown here.
  2. Once updated, connect your iPod to PC and open iTunes. There it will prompt that a new firmware update is available. If it doesn’t prompt, click on, “Check for Update”.
  3. Once prompted, update it to the latest version. Since you were having 3.0 as the last firmware, it won’t ask for any money. So, it will start downloading the new update and will eventually update your iPod with genuine 3.1 firmware for free.

And Mr. Jobs thought only he is smart (by charging iPod users for genuine firmware).

Cheers, comments invited.

Canadian Tour – I

Right now I am in bus from Quebec (city) to Montreal, so I have a lot of time to compose.

Let me start from beginning. I woke up early in the morning yesterday, and in a few minutes after I was ready, Lylia came. She is a Russian and was very nice to talk to. She is doing chemical engg at dalhusie (2nd year). It took 45 minutes to reach airport. At airport they confiscated my deodrant. :(

On reaching Montreal, I wasn’t sure which way to go. I took a bus for the downtown. There were very few people in the bus. Suddenly, a lady on right window seat asked me, is it ur first time? This is how our conversation started, and we chatted for the rest of the journey. She had that definite french accent and gesture, with s pronounced as z. I was taken back when she said on 4th July fireworks, “ya, americans r crazy about it, my Girlfriend in Seattle is so much excited to see it today”. She was born and brought up in montreal, and came to see an old friend after 5 years.

I took a metro to Mont Royal and arrived at my hostel easily. The guy at hostel is very cool. The first thing he asked me was, “u found this door open?”, “yes” I replied. “Funny?! Eh!”, he said. I took a short nap coz I slept for just 2 hours the last night. I woke up, and left for Biodome.

I walked for around 40 mins to reach Biodome. Its a very huge thing. I took a pic of it from aeroplane and thought my cam zoom is so awesome. But, when I reached here, I realised, no the place is tooooo huge. In the periphery, there is insectarium, observatory and olympic stadium (where I clicked a swimmer practising). The most interesting thing in biodome were penguins. They are just too much agile. They would plung into water, go deep, swim fast and come out of water like dolphins. They will keep repeating this process very quickly. And they r smaller than I thought. There I clicked some beautiful pics of flora and fauna. I also took ticket for observatory, which takes u to the montreal tower. It was a good experience. And my Dalhousie student card helped me save a few dollars on tickets.

I went to downtown on metro. Montreal is hosting the International Jazz Festival this year. In my 9 weeks I didn’t see so many people as I saw here. It was very crowded, and the performances were cool. It was not just Jazz. Somewhere body art was done, a few dancers were there, and I was lucky to find a female acrobat performIng on a high rope. I bought a pen there for raju mama, which I later realized had a childish led lit feature. I literally lost sense of directions after exiting jazz festival, and chanced upon an Indian restaurant.

There was a female Indian waiter in the restaurant (who seemed to have a get up of an Indian sex worker). She came and started speaking french to me. Its incredible, u go to an Indian restaurant, and u r greeted in french. She also said, “should I help u with the menu?” I said no, I know what these things mean. I ordered just a chicken biryani, to which she said, “only a chicken biryani?!!!”. The prices were out of the world. Its not a bad idea to start a chain of Indian restaurants in Canada, the demand is good here.

I came back to the hostel and slept early. These days I am leading a life of a true musafir, with limited iPod charge, limited cam memory and limited information. Everything but money is limited :D . iPod touch is a perfect travel companion with music, movies, games and wifi features.

Today I woke up at 8 and left hostel at around 9:30. I knew the location of bus stop on map, but the map doesn’t have info on a lot of smaller streets. I was again lost, and went to St Lawrent street. There were loads of XXX shops, brothels and strip clubs. I thought of taking pics of the shops. I took the camera out, and was focusing on the shops. I took 3 pics and suddenly found a girl in front of me. She didn’t say me anything, just gave gestures to come with her. I didn’t say anything. She again said in gestures/indications, “ok, u wil miss great thing, come with me!!”. I immediately turned and left for another street. I couldn’t believe, it was 10 in the morning, most of the people wouldn’t even were awake. I was alone in the street. Let me tell u frankly, for one moment I thought of checking out what happens inside, no one would ever know about that, but in the next moment I came back to senses.

I asked a person for the bus terminal and reached there at 10:10. I bought the ticket, and packed my lunch. The bus was at 11. There were a lot of people going to Quebec, one bus wasn’t enough to carry all. So, another bus came. I was one of the first ones to enter the second bus, so got a window seat. In a few minutes a girl came and asked, “can I sit here?” I said, sure. Her name was Christina, and was a native of Canada. She had a book in her hand named “Life of Pi” which is a book on an Indian boy. What can be more exciting to her, she is reading a booker winning novel on an Indian boy, and an Indian is sitting just besides her. She knew a lot about India (Canadians r rarely good at this) and she was eager to know more. She said she will visit India once. I played good Indian classical music on my iPod, and she enjoyed a lot (when I played Ravi Shankar, I was amazed when she asked, “is this sitar?”)

Quebec city is 3 hours from Montreal on bus. We arrived at downtown Quebec. Christina had to catch another bus. I left for my expedition to the Royal Quebec City. Quebec city is one of the oldest cities in Canada. Here in Canada the cities are quite young, like Dartmouth, just besides Halifax is just 2 years old. I have been there, and was amazed to see so much development in just 2 years. Quebec city is the capital of Quebec, but its not the biggest city in Quebec (montreal is the biggest one). Its an extremely beautiful city. Its like the city of Jaipur with royal architectures, Chateau and Gothic structures in this case. Lots of people come to visit it, that too in summers. The place is full of street performers and a lot many appreciators. I saw performances, which I earlier used to watch on youtube. They were just incredible, but unfortunately in french. I took a lot of pics, but very few pics of myself. Quebec’s beauty can’t be described in words. Just come here someday and appreciate it.

After arriving Montreal, I shall take my dinner, most likely pizza, which is readily available, revise my schedule for tomorrow and go to sleep.

“You are a life saviour”

Yesterday night was a different experience. The chief protagonist of the incident is the typical door locking mechanism in Eliza Ritchie Hall at the Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada. The mechanism is, if you want to lock your room from outside, you have to rotate a knob while you are in, & if you want to keep it open, you have to rotate it further and eject the knob. In this mechanism, there is no possibility that you can lock yourself inside the room. Once the door is locked, it can be opened from outside using keys, if the door was in the locked position & can be opened without keys if the door was in open position. Now, if you miss your keys inside, and forgot to switch the knob to open position, a great trouble awaits you.

A similar trouble awaited one of the girls in Eliza Ritchie Hall. It was 12:15 in the night. I went to kitchen to see if there is anything left in the fridge. When I came out, I saw an anxious girl moving in the corridoor. She was wearing a funny dress. I can’t explain it, but trust me, it was funny. She came to me and said, “I have locked myself out of my room”. I knew exactly what could have happened, but remained quite to hear her, as it reduced some stress from her helpless face. I said, “What are you going to do now?” She didn’t know what she would do. Even if I put myself at that place, I could do nothing. It was raining outside, and she was wearing a funny dress. I didn’t know anyone else in the hall, because its almost vacant as summer school haven’t started yet. Neither she knew anyone. On the top of it, we didn’t have any communication device like phone or internet (my user ID is to be issued in a few days). What can she possibly do? I suggested her to pass time in the lounge watching TV. But that was a silly idea, I knew before I uttered that. Then she said, “Ok, you can have your sleep. I don’t know what to do. Good Night.”

Now, this is really painful, to pass the whole night in lounge wondering what to do once the sun rises. I couldn’t wish back a good night, as by no means she would have a good sleep (with a funny dress) in the lounge. Instead, I asked her name. She said Ora (or Oro) & she is doing a Bachelor of arts at Dalhousie University. I introduced myself & said, I am from India. She was the first person in Canada who didn’t ask to repeat my first name. She was in deep trouble & didn’t care what my name was, but she must have heard India properly.

I suggested to search the notice board, maybe we could find some useful information. We went there and found it well decorated with scraps like, “Rights and duties of Eliza Ritchies”, “Welcome to Eliza Ritchie”. At one random location, there was a scrap which had emergency contacts written on it. What do we do even if we have the contacts, we don’t have any communication device. “Wait a minute”, Ora said, “There is a coin operated phone here”. Obviously, she didn’t come out to the kitchen with coins in her hand (I doubt she haad pockets in her dress).

*The damn phone is not going to work. But, there were no alternatives. I went to my room and checked if I had sufficient coins. I came back, we found out that there was just one combination to make 25cents (2X10 + 1X5), which meant she can call just one number. There were five categories on the scrap, Tiger Patrol, Emergency, Casino Taxi, Yellow Cab and Distress Line. Which number was the best bet? There was one number common in Tiger Patrol and Emergency. I said, “This is the safest bet, try this”.

She was pretty scared to use the machine as she may loose my money for nothing. I went to the machine, followed the instructions, inserted the coins and dialled 902-494-6400. Damn, the machine didn’t work. We didn’t have anything left to try once again. I was left with no option other than shaking and pressing some random keys on the device till I pressed a big cylindrical key marked with a dollar sign. We heard coins dropping into something. I searched for an outlet and found one. There weren’t 3 coins, instead there were 4. Two 10 cents, one 5 cent and one 25 cent. This 25 cent coin was not mine and must have come out due to someone else’s unsuccessful attempt.

“Lets try one more time”. I inserted the 25 cent coin and followed the instructions again. It worked! It worked this time!! I said, “You have just one minute to explain. Go ahead.” She explained the incident to the Tiger Patrol/Emergency. They told that they will be arriving in a few minutes. She gave me a lot of thanks and started waiting for the rescue people to arrive. I went to my room thinking they may take a lot of time to arrive.

It was hardly a minute, I heard footsteps of two people walking across the corridoor. I don’t know how they travel, but that was really quick. This made me realize, even on an alien land, somebody is there to rescue when you are in deep shit.

They had a master key. They opened Ora’s room and returned. I went to Ora’s room to double check if her room was successfully opened. Yes, it was. And her room was much more arranged and neat & clean than mine. Also, her internet user ID was created. While I was leaving, she summarized the whole event into just one sentence. “You are a life saviour.” It felt great to be a messiah to some one. :P

This incident had two good things for me. Firstly, she will talk to everyone and say, “An Indian helped me out”. And secondly, till my internet user ID is issued, I shall use her to get access. :)

* This reminded me of toronto airport, where I missed my flight. I had to tell this to my professor, else he would return from the Halifax airport after searching me in the previous flight. I didn’t have coins, I didn’t know how to go about the telephone machine. I collected some coins by buying the cheapest stuff in a nearby shop. And the damn thing didn’t work. I don’t know how to time the coins, but I didn’t wish to waste some more dollars into the device. Then I went to a coin operated internet kiosk which ate two dollars for 10 minutes. That was enough time. I chatted with my friends, wrote the email to professor that I shall be arriving late, and when it was about one minute remaining, I thought why don’t I make copies and send it home and my friends as well, to remain updated. So, I pressed CTRL-C. The whole email was erased, and was replaced with just a “C”. The control key wasn’t working. The content couldn’t be undo-ed (CTRL-Z) as the control key didn’t work. The machine wished to eat more money. I poured two more dollars and things went well after that.

First normal day in Halifax

It’s my first normal day in Canada (~24hours). Yesterday was of 33.5 hours. It’s a different place. A different weather, different people & different language (color of buildings, color of sky and color of people).

I started configuring my laptop for internet at almost 6:30AM. Later in the afternoon, I came to know that my laptop’s mac ID was not registered. The earliest it can be registered by tomorrow morning.

The room is very quiet. I think its even quieter than the inside of lotus temple in India. I don’t know how they do it. I guess, in process of making the room thermally insulated, eventually sound insulation also happens. There is a sleek Honeywell temperature regulator in the room. The room is quite spacious with a large computer desk & chair, a sofa, a wooden almirah with sliding doors, a window and a movable bed (on wheels). But, the best thing is, it has got a mirror & a wash basin, which can give various hot & cold combinations. The water in the hottest combination is hot enough to make Horlicks. Things like a telephone and a smoke detector (for fire alarm) are also present. The room doesn’t have tubelights (and fans, obviously). Instead, it has one big lamp on the ceiling above the computer chair, four small lamps just above the mirror and one lamp in front of almirah on the ceiling.

People are very humble and helpful here. And they speak a lot. They speak the obvious. At Sheriff Hall, I checked in for my stay & I was recommended to visit Risley Hall which was unfortunately closed. Then I headed towards sexton campus. On the way, I took lunch at the Papa Mario’s. When I went there, I wondered what I should order. On the menu, I found an item, Lunch Combo 1 (Big Pizza and POP) for $5.75. Guess whats POP. POP is pepsi. Here the standard size of Pepsi bottle is 591ml. I wonder whats so special about the number 591.

I somehow found the Dean’s office but it was closed till 2PM. While waiting, I chanced upon a fortnight journal of the University, named dal rouse. There were funny news like daughter of a millionaire protesting, “Tuition fees is very low here. It should be at least twice. That way we will be the best in the country in terms of fees”, “I was in air for some time while the tornado hit. At the same time I got a message which was a facebook scrap, from my friend, saying, ‘how are you?’”, and “a turtle winning the VP elections (Turtle is a name of student party I guess)”.

While I was on the way, I saw a man in a telephone booth shouting like hell. He was saying things like “Please come home”. You could hear him even from a distance of 100 meters. I wonder how the booth withstood so many powerful blows from that fellow.

Dean’s reception was awesome. He introduced me to everybody in the office and told me, you will get a priority here. Most of them couldn’t pronounce my first name. Then we headed towards my office for the briefing of the project.

My prof (Dean) is very courteous. He opens the doors for me. He shows me the way. He opens self locking doors and waits till I get through. I don’t know how I should react to that. Sometimes I feel like holding the door and letting him pass through.

He introduced me to more faculty members. While introducing to the HOD of Industrial Engineering, at one instance he stammered saying, “He is from… ”. “India”, I completed. But, then he said, “IIT Kharagpur”. I should tell you, it felt awesome. People here know my college. HOD then replied, “We had an intern from Kanpur last year & he was brilliant”.

While moving towards my office, we passed a lot of electronically locked doors. My Prof showed his ID and they opened up. He said, “The only manual thing you will have to do is to get this card issued. Everything else is electronic”.

We arrived at my office. I remember it when he said yesterday, “I am arranging a new office for you. The current one is good, but it’s not great”. For me, even the current office was great, with a server computer and an ergonomically sound environment. Dean’s office is very spacious. The first thing you will notice there will be his two big 21” monitors sharing the same CPU. The second monitor was an extension to the first one to have an even larger desktop space.

He started briefing the project. The project was started by a Chinese girl, Xia Zhang (I guess I spell it right). She speaks less and speaks a Chinese accent. She had a strange password for the server, which unfortunately she had to share with me. There were some obvious bugs with her code. I needed to fix them apart from adding some new features. I say it obvious, because I found some common mistakes in the code as I glanced upon the project. Then my prof told me frankly, “I know it can’t keep you busy for 10 weeks. It can be completed in a month or so. Then we will work on a new project.” Let me tell you honestly, on my best days, it won’t take me more than a day to complete the job. *

After the project briefing, I needed an ID to be issued. For that various things like bank a/c & a Social Insurance Number (SIN) were required. We went straight to the Halifax Shopping Complex, the largest mall at Halifax. I remember yesterday, when I first met my prof at the airport, we went to his car. I stood besides the left seat while he came to open the door. He came, but didn’t open the lock, and just smiled. Oops! I was standing besides the driver’s seat. I forgot people here drive on the right side of the road.

We went to get the SIN. I must tell you again that people are very humble and talkative here. They greet you every time you meet them and don’t hesitate to say, “You’re welcome”, once you thank them.

My prof is very courteous and caring. Yesterday, after we left the airport at 10PM, he almost drove the whole city to find a good restaurant (open at 10:30PM). He also took me to a mall to get some food items for the rest of the week. The good thing is, he had investigated on Indian foods and bought me a lot of them. He gave me 200 dollars and said, this is for you to get started.

After my SIN was issued, we went to get an adapter to convert Indian pin design to the Canadian pin design. Once that was done, we went to a bank where we took an appointment for tomorrow. After that, we came back to the Sexton campus. My prof took her daughter, Achille (or maybe Akille) from her office and dropped me to my residence, that is, Eliza Ritchie Hall.

Halifax summer is quite different from Patna’s winter. The humidity is quite low here, and you don’t sweat here even in the air-conditioned rooms. Here the wind speed is quite high at any time of the day. A few months back, the place was hit with a tornado, and the officials alarmed the students with SMS meassages ahead of the event took place (nice use of technology). While I was moving to Sexton campus, I had to regularly wipe off my eyes, as it was constantly flooded with tears due to high wind speed. Even when you have the sunshine, you can’t feel a lot of heat due to the high speed winds.

Halifax is a home away from home. It’s a beautiful place. It’s not a place as big as Delhi, but here every square meter is planned. You get a very sound sleep, maybe because of the pin drop silence & the perfect room temperature (thanks to Honeywell). Jean Merritt, my prof’s secretary speaks very fast. She is a natural citizen & was happy to share her childhood experience in Canada. The thrilling sight of a person riding a steamer into the Atlantic, while I was moving towards the Sexton campus, gave me a good rush of adrenaline. People speak differently, but are helpful. The temperature is low (10-15 C), but the room, as well as the hall is centrally air conditioned. The bad thing here is you have to use napkins. But, the good thing is, you have a wash basin in your room. :P


* That was an exaggeration when I wrote the blog. The project couldn’t be completed in so less time.