Common Cold and Steam Inhaler

Last two months climate in Chennai  has been comparatively (for Chennai) cooler and there is common cold in the air – with every other person I see being affected for few days one time or other this season. I find that I am more prone for picking up common pollution caused allergy, which in turn triggers common cold and sore-throat in me. Though the running nose gets cured in few days, the side-effects of cold & dry-cough stays for a longer time – usually for 1 or 2 weeks, affecting my work and productivity. This time I have been suffering with this for more than 2 weeks – with me deciding not to take any drugs, which I got sick of taking every time this happens and as I said I am very prone for this. I asked my Homeopathy doctor and she advised I take Steam Inhalation few times every day with the water mixed with Tulasi leaves (Ocimum tenuiflorum). I have been trying this for last few days and it has been effective, especially clearing the nasal blockage and allowing me to sleep better in the night without breathing through my mouth (and aggravating the sore throat). 

I used the below Facial Steamer that I got few years back from a Utensil shop in Pondy Bazaar, Chennai for Rs.200 (US$4) – for curiosity when I checked in Amazon today similar facial steamers sells for an average $25 in USA.

Facial Steamer

Tulasi leaves are commonly seen in Vaishnavaite temples in India and they are given as the first offering to the lord, households in south india normally have this plant in a specially built structure in the back of the house. If you are in India, the easiest place to buy Tulasi leaves is in front of "Vishnu" temples – you can get a handful for just few rupees. 

Thulasi Leaves

References I found while doing a web search on the above:

  1. Definition of Common Cold
  2. How to inhale steam vapour?
  3. Tulasi as a nose-care agent
  4. Tulasi as a Siddha cure for cold, asthma and cough


I have been looking for a good colouring and painting programme that my 5 year old son can use easily. Windows Paint is Okay for beginning, but beyond a point it is very limiting for their creativity. I have tried many of the commercial one’s that you get in CD and DVDs in Bookstores but most of them are little more than being useless. Today I came across a free and Open-Source drawing program for children ages 3 to 12 called TuxPaint. It combines an easy-to-use interface, fun sound effects, and an encouraging cartoon mascot who guides children as they use the program. Last one hour my son is playing with it and seems to like it a lot.



My woes with Sun Direct DTH

Fedup with the local cable TV operator (which is a Monopoly in my area just like everywhere else in Chennai) few months back I switched the remaining 3 Television connections in my house to Sun Direct DTH. In my working den I have been having Tata Sky for more than a year as I like to watch STAR World and other English channels, and Tata Sky at time had good packages for that.

The offer of Rs.2999 for Set Top Box and One Year Free Tamil Channels from Sun Direct was ideal for the two televisions in the living room and my parents room – as they watch mostly Tamil Channels and some English News channels, that’s all. Since I have a 5 year old son, for my bedroom I opted for the add-on package of "Pluto" that includes Pogo and Cartoon Network for Rs.27 per month. All was well for sometime. Recently one day, Pogo and CN stopped working and son started screaming. I called Sun Direct customer care after few minutes of verifications the person insisted I say whether I am a customer or a dealer  – though I introduced myself as "Venkatarangan" husband of "Lakshmi Venkatarangan" in whose name the connection is.  He explained that I have to renew my package (Pluto) to get this and to do this I have to disconnect, call again and this time get connected to their "Recharge" department. After doing that, it turned out to be that I have to renew the "Pluto" every month. Can you believe it?. I can’t give a standing instruction that I need these channels/packages for every month. Even though I have balance of over Rs.200 in my account, Sun Direct would like you to speak to them every month and renew it. The customer care representative said please make a note that your package expires on 24th Feb 2009, so remember to call us near that time and renew again. As a customer it is our job to remember and call them – what a great service in this digital age.

Sun Direct DTH - Packages

After doing that I thought it will be easier doing this through their web site. It turns out this is the same way in the web site as well, and the web site works only with Internet Explorer. I learned this when I used Firefox to login and change the default password, it kept saying the password I gave didn’t meet minimum length – it turns out their JavaScript/DOM access is scripted only with IE in mind.

So if you decide to purchase Sun Direct DTH, though there are no issues on the Broadcast quality, you will find their customer care and web site will test your patience from time to time – be prepared for that!. In Customer care, online and mobile access – Tata Sky is superior and miles ahead.

Gadgets, Microsoft

Windows 7.0 Beta-Looking good

Little more than a year back I got my 64-bit desktop with Vista x64 and TV Tuner card connected to Tata Sky DTH in my office. Since the support for Pinnacle was not complete in Vista x64 I couldn’t get it working with Windows Media Center and had to resort to Nero Home for watching TV programs. About a week back I downloaded the latest beta bits of Windows 7.0 and the installation went very well. Almost all the drivers installed correctly and the few that had problems could be corrected easily (details after few paragraphs below).

Windows 7 - All Drivers working fine in x64

The Pinnacle USB PCTV 330e had an inbuilt driver in Windows 7 for x64 and Windows Media Center recognized it easily. After few trials of positioning the Infrared transmitter in front of Tata Sky set top box and few rounds of learnings of the Infrared code of Tata Sky remote control by Windows Media Center, everything was working fine. I was able to change channels from Keyboard/Mouse/Media Center remote and Tata Sky set top box responded correspondingly (there was a trick to set the remote code transmission speed to Medium, Tata Sky uses 3 digits numbers for Channels). You can see the successful recordings I made below. The Microsoft PlayReady Runtime and Electronic Program Guide (EPG) didn’t work (may be because I was in India) and you need to skip them.

Windows 7 Media Center working with Tata Sky DTH

My machine is built on top of Asus Motherboard P5W64 WS Professional.  You get many of the latest drivers for x64 for this motherboard (P5W64 WS professional – Socket 775) from their support website itself. Few items in general I had problem:

  1. HP Photosmart 6188 – The default HP driver refused to install in Windows 7. I right-clicked on the setup file and selected compatibility and set it to Windows Vista. Then it installed properly – seemed to be a simple bug in HP program for Windows OS version detection.
  2. Marvell 88SE6145 SATA RAID Driver – The latest driver from Asus for Windows Vista x64 / Windows Server 2003 x64 solved this problem
  3. PDF Conversion: I have been a long time user of CutePDF to convert documents to PDF effortlessly. How much ever I tried I couldn’t get it installed in Windows 7.0, so I moved to Primo PDF – which was recommended by my IT Pro team, which got installed perfectly in Windows 7.
  4. Antivirus – Our office uses Symantec Antivirus Corporate Edition which didn’t get deployed in Windows 7, so I tried my good friend’s K7 Antivirus 7.0 from K7 Computing. This got installed and is working fine in Windows 7.

Re(a)el Estate

Early this month as part of Chennai Music Season, in Nungambakkam Cultural Academy I saw this new Tamil Theatre Play (Drama). It was "Re(a)el Estate" by T.V.Varadarajan – written and directed by ‘Vedham Puthithu’ Kannan. The story deals with the aspirations of the middle class people to own a house and how the couple in the play – Boomi (Husband name) and Patta (Wife’s name) gets cheated by a Real Estate agent. The play starts with good enjoyable jokes, progress to explain the nuances of the words commonly used in real estate transaction (sq.ft., patta, layout, plans, approved and unapproved) and then ends with the difficulties of owning/building a house. The scenes before the climax are quite emotional and acted very well by both the lead artists.

I remember to have seen the earlier version of this storyline in the troupe’s previous play ‘Ilavasa Enaippu’ staged in late 1990s.