Last Friday (24.Sep.2010) I made a presentation on “Windows Azure & MS Online Services” for a program titled “Benefits of using Cloud Computing for your Business Growth” at Andhra Chamber of Commerce, Chennai organized by Cluster Pulse and Sponsored by Microsoft India. The audience were mostly of CXO & CEO level and members of the Chamber, so I wanted to cut all the marketing fluff & technical jargons. I covered the need for a Cloud OS and how Windows Azure meets this need perfectly along with some demos of Microsoft BPOS.
Just like many of you I make international purchases online using my credit cards. Most of the time this is the easiest, hassle free when compared to wire transfers and some times this is the only option to pay. I have read in magazine articles that using Credit Card is recommended and can be cheaper than Traveller’s cheque or Currency conversion while travelling as well.
Many of the international transactions are in US Dollars and it will be converted to local currency (Indian Rupees) by your credit card issuing bank to prepare your statement. I never thought there will be differences in the conversion rates charged by them. Out of curiosity I decided to check this out today between the two credit cards I have from two different banks (Corporate Card & Personal) and below are my findings.
I am not a banking expert, so I will not risk into giving any explanation for the above. What I learned from doing this exercise is that before you do a large international transaction with your (Indian Rupee) Credit Card it is better to do a small transaction and check the rates that your bank is charging you. I se e no use in complaining to your bank after the transaction is done as I am sure your bank would have covered all this in the big booklet of ‘terms & rates’ they send to all of us (on RBI instructions) which I am sure none of us bother to read and even if we read are able to understand the jargons.
This weekend I travelled with family to Cochin mainly for having Darshan at the Guruvayoor Krishnan temple, I come here every few years once at no particular regularity. Considering Kerala’s narrow roads I have found it convenient to stay in a Hotel in Guruvayoor itself called “Krishna Inn”, which has decent well furnished rooms and excellent food. This time around we stayed in Cochin for the night and we just hired a taxi to drive down to Guruvayoor and return on the same day. We reached Cochin in the morning, had lunch and immediately started from Hotel Trident (Cochin) to Guruvayoor around 2PM and reached at 5:30PM – covering just about 95-100KMS. We had a good Darshan in the evening, had dinner at Krishna Inn and returned around 11PM to the Trident, Cochin.
In earlier trips to Cochin I have stayed at Avenue Regency at M.G.Road – a nice Hotel in Ernakulam. This time I wanted to try a different place, seeing online a good deal from their website I booked at The Trident, Cochin. When I actually reached the place I realized how far the Hotel is from the City Centre or any other place. It is nested somewhere deep inside Cochin Harbour and you go through Navy security toll booth and so on. In terms of Distance the Hotel (The Trident, Bristow Road, Cochin) is something like 55KMS from Cochin International Airport. The Hotel itself was nice, small, nothing worth mentioning of a Trident and the food was decent. My son got a little disappointed in discovering the Swimming Pool was just 5 Feet deep, having practising in a 12 Feet pool in Hotel Savera (Chennai) this was feeling like shallow water for both of us.
The above photo shows an eco-friendly lid made from a wasted Naan (Indian Bread) used for covering a pot of Veg. Briyani served in The Trident – I found it to be a nice idea by the chef!
This week for a marriage of a co-worker, I went by car to Trichy with my good friend E.Ravi. Trichy holds a special place in my life, not only as my mother’s native place but also that’s where I went for many of the years for my (school time) summer holidays. So I look forward each time I get to go to Trichy and to Srirangam temple, to which I have fond memories of going with my (late) maternal grandfather.
We went from Chennai by NH45 (the same road that leads to Chennai Airport, Chengalpattu and so on) in my Honda City (I love this car, but that’s for a different post). The national highway is one of the best I have seen in this part of India. The only irritant is that you have to stop and pay (about Rs.196 in total) at 6 different toll booths. Why don’t they collect the amount together at the first tollbooth itself, which I was told the higher ups in Government are contemplating. Each way it takes about 4:30 to 5:00 hours depending on the city traffic and how fast you drive. I was able to do in many places over 120KM (I admit the official limit was only 80KM/HR).
We left on Wed (15 Sep) afternoon around 12PM and reached Trichy by 4:30PM. On the way we stopped in Villupuram for Lunch at a local vegetarian restaurant called Vasantha Bhavan which is opposite to New Bus Stand, its not great place but you get decent food and an affordable price. To get inside the city (Villupuram) remember to get out of NH45 By-Pass. While you are near Trichy just after Samayapuram, remember to get out of the By-Pass by turning right towards Salem road and then at the Thiruvanaikaval junction turn right to reach Srirangam. After reaching Srirangam, we went straight to the temple and had a good darshan at all the Deities (சந்நிதிகள்) and visited LIFCO’s Showroom at Nandhi Koil Street.
We stayed for the night in Hotel Femina (decent star class hotel) as the marriage was on a marriage hall just opposite the hotel. Next day morning (Thursday) we got up early and went to Rock Fort (மலைக்கோட்டை) by Autorickshaw (no Fare-meter in Trichy as well, just like Chennai). It was about 150 steps and was not difficult, we went up and came in less than an hour. While on top you get a fabulous view of the whole city (Trichy). Then we went to the marriage and had a great wedding lunch. Then we left around 2PM from Srirangam and luckily reached Chennai by 6:30PM (you know I can be a good driver), we didn’t stop in between anywhere.
In my house I have a Sony 26” LCD TV in the bedroom (connected to Sun Direct DTH) and an old CRT 29” Sony TV (connected to Tata Sky DTH) in the guest room. Sun DTH is giving lot of trouble in the last few weeks, first due satellite issue for two days it didn’t work, then few channels showed up, then their engineer came and re-aligned the Dish on rooftop, after which the signal was breaking many a times. Sun DTH customer service is pathetic, their voice agents are wanting lot of training, they allow a complaint for only one set-top box (I have three in my house, the other two in ground floor) in one call, they promised to fix the issue in 48 hours but it didn’t get fixed for over two weeks now. So I switched two of my TVs in Ground Floor back to local Cable connection (at Rs.110 per month per TV). So for my Bedroom TV I decided not to renew the cartoon package with Sun DTH, instead I enabled it in the Tata Sky connection in Guest Room. Now my son is glued to the 29” CRT TV, I sold that TV off and replaced it with the 26” LCD TV from my bedroom. That left me needing to buy a new TV for my bedroom.
I looked in Internet and selected on few Samsung LCD models, I didn’t want any Internet & PC Sharing features as we have two desktop PCs, two XBOX 360s and one laptop in the house. I went to Samsung showroom in G.N.Chetty Road, T.Nagar to buy one of them, to my surprise found the showroom vacated; went to Radhakrishnan Salai showroom, that too was vacated. Finally went to Viveks’ Mylapore, the helpful salesmen showed & explained various models from Samsung, LG & Sony. I was looking only for 26 or 32 inches. Finally I selected the Sony 32” LED TV EX600 Series (compares to Samsung series 5 I think) model: KLV-32EX600, it was available at a special price Rs.49,900 (inclusive of 12.5% Tamil Nadu VAT, a discount of Rs.3000 or so from MRP).
In the late evening today got the TV delivered. To my surprise I found in the carton that it was named as SONY 32” LCD Television. After some web searching, I realized that Sony calls all their TVs LCD, this one was called as LCD with EDGE LED, they are technically right 100%. I installed it myself in next 20 minutes, everything worked fine. Only disappointment was that it didn’t have dedicated Audio out (L-R) to connect to my Home theatre system (EDIFIER DA5000), so I had to manage with the Headphone output for this. The TV has only 2 Video/Audio (RCA jack), 1 Composite, about 4 HDMI, 1 USB ports, 1 RF (Antenna) ports. Now I need to figure out HD content to enjoy this TV to the fullest, may not go for a Blue-Ray (as their is no Tamil content in Blue-Ray yet, Hollywood discs are too expensive in India) but may opt for Airtel HD Recorder service.
All this reminds me of the Camel in the Tent Arabian Night story