Monthly Archives: January 2009

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.

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.

Yes, Prime Minister

Yes, Prime Minister, is a British TV Serial by BBC which ran in late 80′s and was a sequel to Yes Minister. This was shown in Doordharshan during my school days and I have heard great comments about them. Though I watched few of the episodes I couldn’t appreciate it then. 

Yes Prime Minister

Few weeks back, while shopping in Landmark I saw the VCD version of Yes, Prime Minister Series 1 and 2 at Rs.350 per series. Over this weekend I watched the 8 episodes of Series 1. I had 4 hours of non-stop laugher and I had to marvel at the brilliance of the writers who have portrayed what life could be inside 10, Downing street in the most humorous way. This is a must see for anyone remotely interested with politics in general.

Yes, Prime Minister is now second in my list of favourite political satires of all time, First in the list is Cho’s Muhammad Bin Thuglak.

Maatu Pongal

Today is Maatu Pongal. The 3rd day of Pongal festival in Tamilnadu (India) is celebrated in honour of friends of the farmer – the cattle’s. In villages this is celebrated with much funfare, but in cities like in Chennai it is limited to visit of cows to your houses. The below picture shows a beautifully decorated cow visiting my house today. In Hindu religion cows are sacred and it is believed that the goddess of wealth “Lakshmi” resides in the back of cows and offerings given to cow brings you blessings. Like every year, my son was super excited to see this but was too scared to give “banana” to the cow :-)

மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்

Sixth Year Anniversary of this blog

Wish all of my readers in Tamilnadu a very happy “தை பொங்கல்”, for others a Happy New Year 2009. As everyone else is predicting and media shouting from the roof, this year is going to be a tough one “economically” world wide, all I pray is that the bottom is reached and it doesn’t go any worse than what is it now.

Tomorrow marks the sixth year anniversary of this blog.  Thank you all of my readers for your continued encouragement through emails and comments that you keep sending it my way. Though my blog was never intended to be a serious journalistic work of any kind or meant specially for anything other than being my scribbles and rattlings, I am gratified and humbled to see a good number of dedicated following. The page views have been growing Year-On-Year from last year to this year it has shown about 20% increase. Thank You all. image

Chennai Sangamam plays near my street corner

chennai sangamam busஇன்று ஞாயிற்றுக்கிழமை (விடுமுறை) என்பதால் நன்றாக மதிய உணவு அருந்திவிட்டு ஒரு குட்டித் தூக்கம் போடலாமா வேண்டாமா என்று சோம்பேறித்தனமாக இருந்தபோது தெரு முனையிலிருந்து சத்தம் கேட்டது.   ஜன்னல் வழியாக எட்டிப் பார்த்ததில் இரண்டு பேருந்துகளில் ”சென்னை சங்கமம்” கலைஞர்கள் எங்கள் (சென்னை மேற்கு மாம்பலம்) தெரு முனையில் சென்னை சங்கமம் தெருவிழா நடத்தவிருப்பது தெரிந்தது. அலறி அடித்துக்கொண்டு கேமராக்களும் கையுமாக தெரு முனைக்கு ஓடினேன்.

மதியம் ஒன்றரை மணியிலிருந்து இரண்டு மணிவரை அருமையான கிராமிய/பாரம்பரிய கலை நிகழ்ச்சிகளை வீட்டின் அருகையில் இலவசமாகக் கண்டுகளித்தோம். தப்பாட்டம், புலி ஆட்டம், கத்தி வித்தை மற்றும் சில கலைகளை அழகாகவும் சுருக்கமாகவும் செய்து காட்டினார்கள். சென்னை நகரத்திலேயே பிறந்து வளர்ந்த நான் இது போன்ற கிராமிய கலை நிகழ்ச்சிகளை இதற்கு முன்பு நேரில் பார்த்ததேயில்லை, சினிமாவில் பார்த்ததோடு சரி. என்னோடு என் மகனும் பார்த்து ரசித்ததைக் கண்டு நான் மகிழ்ந்தேன், என்னைப் போலவே அண்டையயலிலுள்ள மற்ற (அரைக்காற்சட்டை அணிந்த) அப்பாக்களும் தான். 

தெரு முனையில் ஓரிரு நிமிடத்தில் ஏற்பாடு செய்தாலும்,  ஏற்பாட்டின் எல்லா அம்சத்திலும் நேர்த்தி – பங்கு பெற்ற அனைத்து கலைஞர்களுக்கும் நல்ல வண்ணமயமான நேர்த்தியான புதிய உடைகள், சரியான வாத்தியங்கள் மற்றும் வந்திருந்த பேருந்திலிருந்த வண்ணமயமான பேனர் என சொல்லிக் கொண்டே போகலாம். அழிந்து வரும் இந்த கலைகளுக்கும் கலைஞர்களுக்கும் இந்த நிகழ்ச்சிகள் நிச்சயம் நல்ல ஒரு ஊக்கம். இதற்காகவே  ”சென்னை சங்கமம்” நிறுவனர்களுக்கும் அவர்களுக்குப் பொருளதவி செய்யும் தமிழக அரசையும் மற்றும் விளம்பரதாரர்களையும் பாராட்டவேண்டியது அவசியம். இவைத் தவிர நான் கவனித்த சில நல்ல அம்சங்கள் – மக்களை அழைக்க/கவர ஒலிப்பெருக்கி பயன்படுத்தாமல் விதூடகனை வைத்து சிறுவர்களைக் கவர்ந்தது, காவலர்கள் வராமலிருந்தது, மக்கள் ஒழுங்காகச் சத்தமிடாமல் நின்றது.

இப்போதுள்ள நிலையில் நகரங்களில் இது போல ஒரு நிகழ்ச்சி நடந்தால் தான் தெருவிற்கு வருகிறோம், இல்லை என்றால் நாம் எல்லோரும் கதவையடைத்து வீட்டினுள்ளேயே இருந்துவிடுகிறோம் – அண்டையயலில் யார் இருக்கிறார்கள் என்றோ அவர்கள் முகங்களைப் பார்க்கக்கூட வாய்ப்புகளில்லை. அப்படியே பார்த்தாலும் உதவி கேட்டுவிடுவார்களோன்று பார்த்தும் பார்க்காமல் சென்றுவிடுகிறோம்.  

சென்னை சங்கமம் தெருவிழா, சென்னை மேற்கு மாம்பலம். ஒளிப்பதிவு தி.ந.ச.வெங்கட ரங்கன்.

நிகழ்ச்சியில் நான் எடுத்த ஒளிப்பதிவை மேலேயும், எடுத்த எல்லாத் தெளிவான வண்ணப் படங்களை இங்கேயும் காணலாம்.

How to report SPAMs?

All of us get SPAMs all the time and most of us feel frustrated as there is little we can do to stop it other than marking the email as Junk/SPAM in your email reader (Outlook/Thunderbird/GMail/Hotmail). However, this doesn’t stop the source of SPAM but just moves the message to a Junk folder in your storage – basically you still get the SPAM message. If you are running your own mail server, you pay for the traffic consumed by SPAM which can as high as 70-80% in some cases. Adding to this, some SPAM sources manage to keep sending your Junk mails even if you block it, as they keep changing the source email IDs and servers.

The next step is to get into the hood of the email message and find the source ISP that is used for sending the SPAM and then complain directly to the ISP webmaster. Most of the ISPs take these seriously and shut down when they see number of complaints against a server(s). Doing this though requires good understanding of TCP/IP technologies (method to do this is outlined here) making it out of reach for most users. That’s where this website (SPAMCOP) comes in, SpamCop offers a service (accessible after free registration) to copy ‘n’ paste the SPAM email. Once this is done they analyse the email and deduct the source ISP and then send a complained message automatically to the ISP webmaster.

Recently I posted a complained for a newsletter that I kept getting from a Online Health magazine. The newsletter didn’t have an Unsubscribe link, so I had to send a request email to the sender. Even after a month I continued to get the newsletter. I posted a complained against them in SpamCop and then send them an email saying that I have done this and next step I will directly complain to their ISP. This worked, the next day I got an email from the Marketing Manager saying they have removed my email ID.