Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ticketless travelling in Italy

Every network has its own rules - I mean the railway networks of course! In most places, you would buy a ticket from a ticket office and then use it either to enter the station or show it to a ticket collector or not have to use it at all!
The third category comes into play when you consider the volume of people using the Chennai/ Mumbai suburban system.

In Italy, we took a day trip to Pompeii. For our way back, we chose to use the suburban train to get to Naples. We bought our tickets, waited on the platform and got into the train. The train arrived at the station in Naples and we were off to transfer platforms and catch our outbound Eurostar to Rome.

Not so smooth...

Just as we came up the escalator, an officer asked for our tickets. I had thankfully not thrown away the tickets and showed it to him. He looked at me with a smile and said - these are not valid! With that and a deft show of his baton, he guided us to the side of the walkway. I explained that we had bought these tickets just before boarding the train. The officer noted that our tickets were not stamped by the clocking machine at the station. Since we did not have the necessary time stamp, we were essentially ticketless. He also summoned his senior officer in the meantime.

Within a minute, the senior guy came over, took one look at us, turned to the first officer and asked him to let us go. The officer then smiled and mentioned that we were lucky to have had that particular guy come over - he is the "nice" guy - he said.

So, with that, lesson learnt as to how to use the ticket in Italy, we were on our merry way...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The economy is so bad...

Most folks who know Jay Leno and his Tonight Show would have heard his opening remarks where he explains the effects of the economy.
I had an idea for a line which I thought was very funny and very relevant. Immediately, I jumped onto nbc.com to submit my idea so Jay Leno could use it for his show. But after searching around for a long time and finding ways to submit ideas for everything but this section, I gave up.
So as not to let the flash of genius be lost, here is the killer line I thought up.

The economy is so bad... that Al Qaeda is firing people!

Too many interpretations can be made out of this... so I request you to imagine Jay Leno say this on his show.

more later...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mere pass Ma hai....

watching the Oscars, with the British made film about India sweeping everything, I could not help but reflect on that one statement made by ARR.
... thankfully, all those years watching films paid off and I remembered the gist.

And, coming to think of it... it should have been the other folks who were nominated but did not win - that were entitled to that sentence.
Because, now ARR not only has ma... but his Oscar too!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Trunk organizer software

just yesterday, I had to solve a puzzle - fitting the necessary india luggage in the trunk of my car. I wish I could just input the dimensions and have someone promptly tell me.... use 2 cars; or at least figure out which went in where and in what order. That would be a nice add-on to the cars' technological prowess. after multiple iterations, I finally did figure out how to fit everything in 1 car.

This would be a good addition to the range of stuff going into cars these days. With the right stuff, the car's camera(s) would scan in the luggage, figure out dimensions (with some variables for the bulges), calculate volume requirements and then tell you the order and placement of the luggage. Wouldn't that be nice?

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Non-tech for the Tech

There is a rumor* doing the rounds that while the US space team spent millions to develop a pen that would work in space, the Russians chose to use a pencil! Though there is a space pen available now from Fisher, the story hints at the use of common sense instead of bravado. Engineers and technology folks spend too much time on an exciting new feature but sometimes fail to use a simple solution. After all, engineers should be "problem solvers".

So, I was surprised when I saw a new product from Logitech ** that had an "innovative" new feature. So innovative that there is a tutorial on how to use it. It is called a "Clip-and-go Dock". Essentially, it attaches your mouse securely to your laptop. This can be an immensely useful mechanism considering that the average office person going between meetings has to carry a laptop, the laptop power charger, a notebook and his mouse. So, with this, you carry one item less. This shows how a company analysed the way its product was being used and then added a feature helpful to the focus group. Instead of adding colors to its products or adding another laser tracker for "improved accuracy", they chose a non-tech way to improve their tech.

Similarly, I propose to the BT headset manufcaturers that they add a "pen clip" to their products so it can be safely secured to shirts/ coats. Most people who dont like to wear their "blinking blue" headsets on their ears all day long have a problem storing it on-person and this simple non-tech way will go a long way in helping this group.

any other suggestions in a similar vein?

* http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-nasa-spen
** http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/mice_pointers/mice/devices/4611&cl=us,en

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Srinivasan needs new ideas

This is a post about improving the GPS system - in particular My GPS system. So, what does it have to do with Srinivasan! Many people associate some form of personality with their close devices - be it their cell phone, laptop and now the GPS. The voice telling you which way to go makes it easy for you to identify the device. People take the easy route and assign a name to it based on the name given by the manufacturer. For instance, if the voice is named "Julia" - your device becomes Julia - She tells you where to go.
I decided to name my GPS voice - Srinivasan - with his own initials - GP. It also helps that "HE" ultimately shows you the way. (religious connotations here)

We recently took a road trip (inspite of gas prices) and extensively relied on Srinivasan's expertise to guide us to the right place. He has been with us for about 3+ years and served us well. In all this time, he has not yet acknowledged the fact that I know the roads around my HOME better that he does - in fact he has no memory of any road existing near my HOME.
1. If I tell him my HOME address, GPS should realize that I may have my reasons to go in certain ways and should stop saying "Turn BACK". Instead within 5+ miles, he should respond - you are the boss; let me know once you need me.
Once on the highway, he does indicate what speed I am going at and has some of the speed limit signs in memory. But things change (many states now let people go upto 70 mph).
2. He should learn new things (not AI) but at least give a way for me to educate him on the new stuff.

Update: Check this story out. Moral: Use your brains too!

He puts in the route and tells me how long it will take to get there. as soon as I take a detour towards a rest area or gas station, instead of re-routing:
3. He should ask me - "Brief stop?" Meaning - I hope you know what you are doing - tell me again if you need me. Away from home, the flexibility should be about .5 miles! (See Item 1)
How about showing the nearest coffee stop?
4. GPS looks at a circular view to identify the nearest coffee house (Starbucks/ McDonals etc.) - even if that is 2 miles out of my way. Why not search ALONG the highway with a .5 mile deviation only? I dont mind waiting another 10-15 mins if my detour is only a little bit off the highway. I do understand it will pose some extra effort on the processing - but here is a differentiator.
There are other devices which tellyou the traffic information -
5. How about adding weather information? there is a storm in another 15 minutes - get ready.
The POI database contains where the attractions are located - but trying to make me stop in the middle of Lake Shore Drive is stupid when trying to get me to the Shedd Aquarium. Instead,
6. Remember where the parking locations are for these POIs or at least the drive-in/ drop-off locations. That is what I want to do.

These will be real improvements - not adding a KnightRider skin to a GPS and marketing how you can change the voice or the color backgrounds/ play MP3 songs/ watch videos!
So, as soon as somebody makes these improvements and gives it to me at MY price-point, let me know.

Until then, I'll be getting to know Srinivasan better and learn to accept his flaws. I look at it as his way of telling me - well you are close enough - use your basic senses now.

I have a feeling that when it is only when I meet "HIM", "HE" will tell me

You have ARRIVED at your Destination.

Do you have improvement ideas? Let me know.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So long and thanks for the ____

Okay, folks. It has been good knowing y'all! thanks for everything....
IF there is such a thing as a second life (not this), we'll try to meet up!

because... the World may be ending.... sooner than you think...