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SanDisk & Windows Media Center

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I recently got a Sansa e260 4 GB MP3 player just for kicks to check it out. Seems like the hardware runs a stripped down Windows install having FAT32 file system on it. What was interesting was, that somehow my files got corrupted and had to format the drive (My Computer -> eSansa(G:) -> Right click to “Format..”). All the folders disappeared and when I restarted they reappeared. What seemed to crash it was the presence of a few folders that I created not realizing that Sansa did not support folders as the HelpDesk person told me. Makes me wonder what kind of unstable condition would a folder creation have caused. I think I’ll need to further research this error.

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InfoSec Pals

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I recently started blogging for InfoSec Pals. It was started by Palan Annamalai who was my colleague at Ernst & Young’s Advanced Security Center where I worked for a year and a half. Other people who are active bloggers on the site apart from Palan and I are : Sri Vasudevan, Jay Kelath and Felipe Moreno. Let’s see if I can maintain the technical content of both the blogs and keep the goodies coming.

2

Beckon Air Deccan

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The introduction of low-cost flying alternatives in the Indian skies is a good thing for the Indian consumers as one would reckon. However, the consumers only stand to gain if they get a service which at least gets them their money worth.
Sadly though, the quality of service provided by these low-cost airlines is also “low-grade”. The business principle seems sound that people who want food/refreshments in flight buy it but that does not necessarily mean that one gets hard pressed to board the flight itself. The airline management needs to rethink that low-cost does not mean high tension. My flight experience was as follows:
I was to board the flight from Delhi – Mumbai at around 9:00 pm. However, until 10:30 pm there were no announcements which made me ponder about the very existence of the flight itself. At about 11:00 pm it was announced that the entry would be from Gate # 3. The people rushed in like a horde of animals trying to get into a DTC (Delhi Transport Corporation) bus. Then a technical snag – the key was unable to open the gate # 3 – occurred to make the matters worse. The gates were changed to Gate # 1 resulting into a new frenzy of people trying to reach gate # 1. In what ensued, there were a series of announcements for passengers to board the flight, however, there was a slight problem. The officials on Gate # 1 were not ready to let passengers through. The flights like “Air Deccan” have given a new meaning to the term “fight to the finish” as your fight to get a seat in the flight never ends!

Now I’ve no problems considering that the population of India is huge. However, I do have a problem when seemingly intelligent (?) people do not display basic intelligence. Air Deccan issues unique numbers on it’s boarding passes when people check-in. Why these numbers are not used for seat assignments is a question that only Air Deccan can answer. Apparently, they use these numbers to identify which passengers have / have not boarded the flight.

Unitl these companies realize that cheap tickets should not mean cheap quality the consumers will continue to remain at a loss in these airlines which are advertized as a “high value for money”.

3

West Coast to East Coast: antithetical US

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A moratorium for 3 months on the blogspot. The things have changed dramatically when it comes to the life. A lot has happened in my life since the time I left Los Angeles, CA to come to New York, NY. The two of the biggest cities of not only the USA but in the world as well.
First things first…got a job for Ernst & Young’s Advanced Security Center and so like most of the people who work in New York I live in Jersey City, NJ and travel to work. The travel is not too bad as it takes about 45 mins door-to-door. Also, by living in New Jersey instead of 5 boroughs (New Yorkers call the collection of 5 islands of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Statten Island as the 5 boroughs) one saves the 4% annual New York city tax.
Now for the topic of this blog which is “Moving”…which is probably the most troublesome experience that people have. It wasn’t too good for me either but it could have been worse if it were not for the help of some good friends. People say that you realize the truthfulness of your friends during the time of adversity. It was exactly what I found. Whereas some people came to the fore to help me in all the ways they could, some stayed at the bay (and in some cases … making sure that the buoy of my life was in doldrums). Well…having said that life is but a bunch of grapes … some sweet and some sour (this is something I heard in the Hindi Movie “Khatta Meetha”)!
Finding apartments in the New York area can be a harrowing experience, especially if you are hard strung on budget. That was exactly what I found. The best places to look for are New Jersey Craigslist and New York Craigslist. Other places are Rent.com and Apartments.com but I did not find them much useful. I found that New York had some really good places to rent even with a tight budget. All these places were in Queens (Rego Park, Forest Hills). The good part was one could get a 2BR for $1450+ in these places. These places were not too far from the Subway stations and had a travel of 40-45 mins to Manhattan and 1 hr to Long Island (using Long Island Rail Road aka LIRR).
Jersey City in NJ is also a very good bet. But there are some places in Jersey City that are posh as hell but you have to pay the price for the class. Exchange place and Pavonia/Newport are examples of these places (with prices around $1700 for 1 BR) . Grove street is also a place which is somewhere in between the posh and the not-at-all posh. Even though the prices in Exchange place and Newport are really high but the class is well worth the money. Especially when you consider that getting a similar type of apartment in Manhattan will cost at least twice or may be thrice as much. Another avenue for exploration is Hoboken, NJ. Hoboken was personally my favorite place to look for an apartment because it is a place with a vibrancy associated with it. Almost looks like a European city bustling with restaurants and youth on the streets! It is also not too far from New York. However just like Pavonia/Newport & Exchange Place this fun doesn’t come cheap! The apartment costs are similar. The difference between Newport – Exchange Place & Hoboken is that the construction in Hoboken is older and you need a realtor for getting an apartment more than you need in former. Realtors have standard 1 month rent as the fee as their service charges.
In case you are wondering what a realtor is – a realtor is a person who searches for an apartment for you that fits within your budget and choice. But when it comes to realtors one must be wary of them because they can sometimes be a dangerous bet to pick!
West coast was much easier to find apartments in from my experience but it could be because I was looking for apartments in a University area which is probably easier.

-Rajat
http://rajatswarup.blogspot.com/

5

The first interview of my life

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This is not a post but nostalgia. This post is actually a transcript of the first interview of my life. It was for a top Indian Software Consultancy Company (referred to as “XYZ” from now on). I remember that it was July 9th, 2001 and it was a really rainy day in Bombay. While coming to the college I was totally drenched and was looking rather distraught! I cleared the aptitude test and then came the Big One – The Interview!
I went to the interview thinking that i wanted to completely screw up the interview (coz I was interested in some other company) so i went there casually dressed with a demonic smile on my face >:-) . In hindsight, I think the way I appeared for this interview was really gutsy for me and I probably couldn’t have done that had I been craving to get a job in this company. Here is the transcript of the interview.

XYZ: So Mr Rajat … tell me about urself and ur family in *short*
Me : In the year 1980 i was born in allahabad and spent the initial yrs of mylife in blah blah blah ….and completed my schooling in Shree Ram Welfare Society’s High School, Andheri(W), Mumbai . therafter i went to Sathaye College….(blah blah blah) and i came to this college thinking that this college would be good.
XYZ: & how did u find this college?
Me : (thinkin for a while and then with a heavy heart ) ok !
XYZ: Rajat y did u chose our company (XYZ) instead of other companies.
Me : i did not choose XYZ i’ve just come for this interview ! In fact u guys have come to our college (for on-campus placements) i haven’t come for this interview.
XYZ: but would u like to join our co.?
Me: i’ve come for this interview ! what does this indicate to u?
XYZ: give me one reason why u want to join XYZ?
Me: i don’t want join XYZ… i’ll goto any other co. that comes next…as a matter of fact any other co. will take me!
XYZ: Mr Rajat in this form (these guys had given us a form to fill in whichwe were supposed to write the salary we desired which i forgot to fill… oops faux pas ? well not quite) which we have given to u , uhaven’t mentioned the salary u want…. what r ur expectations?
Me : I want more!
XYZ: MORE !%#$%$#$ y do u want more?
Me: because i know i’m worth it!
XYZ: u say so but it is for us to see whether u r worth it!
Me: put me to test and i’ll prove i’m worth it !
XYZ: but why do u want more ?
Me : everybody wants more so what is wrong if i want more!(the guy seems to be pissed off to my delight)
XYZ: but u must be having some expectations , don’t u?
Me : yes of course , i have . but u r not gonna live up to them. u had made it quite clear the salary u’ll be offering to us … so it doesn’t matter what my expectations are u r gonna give only what *you* want to give us , so there rests the matter.
XYZ: tell me about this person whom u know & works in XYZ.
Me : He is my cousin and he stays at andheri.
XYZ: so what have u heard from him about our co. ?
Me : NOTHING!
XYZ: but u might have heard something at least!!!!!
ME : we meet at social gatherings and the last thing we want to speak about is XYZ!!!
XYZ: ok tell me about ur project … this assembler
Me : blah blah blah
XYZ: ok … so in ur form u write u want “A GOOD NETWORKING PROJECT PREFERABLY BASED ON NETWORK SECURITY” . what do u know about networking?
Me : NOTHING!
XYZ: (a very surprised Mr. Sleepy said) NOTHING !?!? then how can u say u want a project in it?
Me: well , i’ve attended a few seminars @ IIT and it ensured me that that was the only field i’m interested in.
XYZ: then ur interest may change after studying the subject!
Me : No, it won’t change!!!!
XYZ: wat do u know bout networkin?
Me: latest happenings … blah blah blah
XYZ: suppose that we don’t have a project in network securities for you then what will u do?
Me: i have written that it is my ambition to work on a networking project…AMBITIONS ARE NOT ALWAYS FULFILLED.
XYZ: Rajat … there is a rule in ur college that if u get 1 co. u r noteligible for the rest.we offer u 16k .. so if tomorrow infosys comes and offers u 20k wat will u do?
Me : I WILL GO !!!!!
XYZ: u’ll go !?! that means you are after money ?
Me : who said that !? i never said that ! i want more money but more important than that is the work environment & the kind of projects i get. if i getbetter projects there i’ll go money is secondary but still important .
XYZ: (as if trying to juistify a lesser salary) u know rajat that on paper their (Infosys) salary may look large but 20% blah blah blah ….. 12.5 % blahblah blah …6% blah blah blah … (and lots more statistics which lasted foran eternity as far as my viewpoint goes)
XYZ: do u realise that XYZ has a 3yr. service agreement or u r chargedRs.50,000/- . what are your feelings about that?
Me : it is absolutely wrong.
XYZ: why?
Me: The word “bond” itself says that u r “bound” to the co. no matter what.
XYZ: that is why we don’t call it a “bond” we call it a “service agreement”.
Me: ok…that’s just another name for it. i personally think that instead of”binding” people to ur co. u should create such an environment that people like to stay in ur co. with their wishes and so the co. will benefit if peoplework with their wishes.
XYZ: do u havre any questions for us?
Me: yes , sir i do! in ur qns a few minutes back u mentioned infosys and in ur pre-placement talks u said u r no.1 software co. of india. how can u say thatwhen all that we see in the newspapers is infosys and with u comparing urself to infosys?
XYZ: infosys is 12% blah blah blah … 19% blah blah blah …(and lots morestatistics that made me feel as miserable as our indian cricket team witheverything out of control)does that answer ur qn?
Me: ya! sir may i ask another question ?
XYZ: ya sure! (with some uneasiness)
Me: sir, this yr. we have seen our seniors get whole lot of “back out” letters! what r ur feelings about that?
XYZ: OUR FEELINGS !!??!
Me: i mean r u people going to do the same with us?
XYZ: (i think this was it and he lost his complete cool and he pointed to me & said sternly) till this date our company has not given any “back-out” letters to anybody.
Me: Thank u .sir. it was a pleasure!

This was the first interview of my life and I ended up getting selected for this company. It was a great experience working there and I realized that money is not everything! At the end of it I think I was not rude but dangerously honest in giving my answers and this plan could have backfired on me but it didn’t … may be I was lucky or may be this was destiny!

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Joshua Tree National Park Trip

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Another trip to the wilderness…not really…but into a desert. This time to Joshua Tree National Park but this one was with a difference. In the past few weeks we have covered most of California and started with Arizona. I guess this was one of the last stops as far as camping trips were concerned. Come next week and I’ll be getting ready for a flight to New York!
Joshua Tree national park is a dry, arid land with loads of Joshua Trees all around the place. It is basically a stargazer’s paradise.
To get prepared for the trip we simply took out a car of one of my friends (Sudeep) and left. We required a pair of binoculars and the search began with gaining some know-how about binoculars. Found some really cool links thanks to google. I gained some really important tips about choosing binoculars. Then came the tough part…going and actually buying them. Well… this task for responsible for our delay in reaching the park. We got a really decent pair of binoculars (10×50 for $26.43 incl. tax from Walmart). All along we were wondering whether actually what we had heard (about Joshua being a stargazers paradise et. al) was true. As it turns out it really is a fantastic place but for a novice astronomer, he/she needs to carry a book that explains different constellations that you see. The most amazing part was we got to see a white band of light across the sky which people call as Milky Way!
In fact, we were so mesmerised by the view of the stars that we left the top of the tent open to sleep with the light of the stars creeping in through the top of the tent! Although I can honestly say that it was not the sole reason for leaving the roof open…we were really lazy people 😉
After sleeping for a few hours, we got up with the sun really beating down on our tent with gusto and left for Key View point. The nights are completely different from the days…at night the beauty of the sky and the cool breeze makes one feel really comfortable but in the morning it almost pains to see the desert…but I guess that’s what is the nature’s diversity! Then after visiting key view we made our way back to LA and on our way stopped by at Artesia for some good Indian Buffet Lunch!
All in all, a different but exciting trip into the desert!
-Rajat.