Monthly Archive: March 2006

PC Quest Linux, 10th Anniversary

Atul Chitnis remembers the 10th Anniversary of PCQ Linux. No doubt PCQ was “the” reason for Linux awareness in India. Kudos to Atul and the great team @ PCQ!

I still have all the PCQ CDs with me back at home. Offcourse, during those days (1995/96), a CD was something great, and getting a CD for ‘free’ with a magazine was pretty cool (even though you had to spend around Rs. 100 for the Mag!)

Initially, I used to religiously buy the magazine from the newsstands, but it was always tough to get the issue with the CD. But I think I never missed a issue for a couple of years. I finally subscribed to the magazine after sometime. Was subscribed for nearly 3 years I guess.

But after that, somehow, I felt that the quality of the magazine was degrading, and I missed a couple of issues too. The customer service was bad too. So, finally stopped my subscription.

But then, the Internet revolution had gained momentum, and internet became my main source of Info to the world of IT and downloads.

Talking about Linux, I did try installing Linux couple of times from the PCQ CDs (and direct downloads), but never fully adapted it for some reason or the other!

Holston Lake, Tilapia and Cricket!

One more weekend got past…. Weekdays get over fast, but weekends get over twice the speed. My weekdays are pretty hectic. Specially the past couple of weeks. We have a major milestone ahead of us. So, it would continue to be hectic for the next couple of weeks.

This weekend was fun. On Saturday afternoon, we had been to a near by lake. The South Holston lake is around 1 hour drive from our place. Its close to the city of Bristol, Virginia. The drive was beautiful and quite scenic. The lake itself is very vast and beautiful. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me. But my friends have clicked a lot of snaps. Will post them once I get my hands on them.

In US, lot of people in this area (i.e., the area close to a lake) own their own boats (speed boats/small boats etc). They tow it to their cars and come over to the lake to have a boat ride! So, its pretty common to see boats on the roads here! (off-course towed!)

After spending sometime at the lake, we then went to the city of Bristol. Is a small town, but much bigger compared to Kingsport. We went to the Bristol Mall, spend some time there doing some window shopping. Some of my friends did some shopping too. We reached back home at around 8.30 PM. After reaching home, we went to a nearby restaurant called “Riverfront” for dinner. They specialize in sea food. I had a fish called Tilapia. I don’t know what its called in India, but it was good and tasted more or less like the fish we get back home in India.

Sunday was fun.. played cricket for nearly 2 hours. I guess, the last time I played cricket was some 3-4 years back!. I don’t even remember!! So, it was fun. Played four 5 over matches. Fun! And..Since I am not used to these sports activities, i can feel the body pain already :) Specially my shoulders. But that’s fine. Should be back to normal in the next couple of days.

So.. that’s the update. Back to office/work tomorrow!

Cellphones in US – Sucks

Cell Phones. One area where India rocks. No questions.

Ok, lets see the differences :

  • In US, first of all, its very difficult to get a cell phone connection!. You need to have a good “credit history” to get a cellphone. If you don’t have a credit history, you need to pay some deposits. And guess what? I was told that I need to deposit $750 to get a cell phone connection since I did not have any credit history!!! In India, almost everyone can manage to get a cell phone service. No major deposits etc!
  • In US, almost all the providers ask you to sign a 1 year or 2 year contract. In India … “What contract?? Are you kidding?”
  • In US, you get a mobile phone with your plan. This is good one way, but then you will have to sign a one year contract for sure (and pay some money for the handset…offcourse less than the market price – but this depends on the plan and the phone in question)!. In India, you have the freedom and flexibility to select your phone, based on your budget, from Rs 500 to 25,000! And you can change your handset anytime (except CDMA providers)
  • In US, the airtime charges (or the call charges) are way too high!! There is air-time charge for incoming calls too!. In India, incoming is *free*, and the outgoing calls tooo are hell lot cheaper compared to US. Infact, I had almost forgot the term “air time charges” !
  • In US, some plans charge you for receiving SMS !.. Nice way to get screwed!. In India, I don’t know of any plans where you get charged for receiving SMSes.
  • In US, sending out SMS is pretty expensive (from 4 cents to 40 cents!!!). In India…….its 1/10th the price!
  • In US, prepaid SIMS are contract free, but are way too expensive. i.e., the postpaid plans them self are expensive, but prepaid is more expensive. In India, the call charges on pre-paid and post-paid are almost comparable.
  • One more point is, in US, with most of the plans, you get some free minutes. If you are within the limit, then you are safe. But if you exceed, then you will be charged like crazy. And the minutes are used even if you call a Toll Free number! Most plans count the minutes for incoming call too!

I also noticed that in US, Nokia handsets are not that popular. I haven’t seen many people use Nokia handsets. I found more people using Motorola handsets.

Clearly, India is far ahead! Hope to see similar progress in other areas too!

The Houston Trip

The weekend passed by with a blink of an eye. This was by far the most memorable weekend in US. This was my second visit to a big city in US. The first one was Charlotte (around 2 weeks back). But the city of Houston is much bigger then Charlotte.

Almost everything went on as planned and I am writing this on an Airplane heading back to Kingsport. I started off on Friday evening from Kingsport at around 5 PM, and since there are no direct flights from Kingsport to Houston, I had to take a flight via Atlanta. The flight was pretty much on time, and I didn’t have too much of time with me to explore the Atlanta airport. Reached Houston at around 8.15 PM CST, pretty much on time.

We had made an online reservation couple of days back for a rental car for the weekend from National car rental. We had actually booked for a Compact car to go around. But when we went to pick up the car from National on Saturday, they told us that they did not have a compact car with them to offer us …. and guess what? … they upgraded it to a SUV  for free. Jeep – Grand Cherokee. Wow… Both of us (me and Chitra) were thrilled!! Well … this was my first (major) driving, and what a vehicle to drive. It was almost brand new, with just 1750 Miles on it, and it rocked.

Rental Jeep
The rental Jeep that we got! – (Click to Zoom)

So, at around 9 AM on Saturday morning, we started our journey to the NASA Space center. Driving through the big city traffic thought a maze of flyovers and exits was a good experience and was much easier that I had actually thought. My wife had done all the homework of getting routes and maps to reach NASA. We reached NASA space center at around 9.40 AM. We had to wait for a couple of mins for the Space Center to open up, but that was not a problem.

Space center entrance – (Click to Zoom)

The NASA space center is a must see if you are to Houston, especially if you are interested in space, science and technology.

Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit
Controls Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit – (Click to Zoom)

Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit - Top
Controls Inside the Space Shuttle Cockpit – Top – (Click to Zoom)

Some Capsule – (Click to Zoom)

Lunar Vehicle
Lunar Vehicle – (Click to Zoom)

Skylab mockup
Skylab mockup – (Click to Zoom)

They showed us a couple of movies and then there was a Tram tour of the NASA facility at Houston. They showed us the Historic Mission control center, from where more then 100 space missions were controlled. They have preserved it with all the original equipments. i.e., we are talking about the equipments that were present in the 1960s and 70s timeframe.

The Historic Mission Control Center
The Historic Mission Control Center – (Click to Zoom)

After that, they took us to the current Mission control center. Actually there are two; one is for the space shuttle program, and the other one for the International space station program. And, since there is no Shuttle in orbit as of now, there were no people at the Shuttle mission control center. But we did see people working at the International space station Mission control center. Live. Real people. Real stuff! And everything is just state of the art!

Space Shuttle Mission Control Center
Space Shuttle Mission Control Center – (Click to Zoom)

ISS Mission Control Center
International Space Station Mission Control Center – (Click to Zoom)

From NASA space center we travel to a place near by called Kemah Board Walk. It’s a recreation center in the Galveston bay area. And that was too good. This place has a mini amusement park, and lot of fun. Both of us enjoyed it thoroughly.

Kemah Tower
Kemah Tower – (Click to Zoom)

From the top of the tower
From the top of the tower – (Click to Zoom)

Kemah Area
Kemah Area – (Click to Zoom)

Kemah Parking
Kemah Parking – (Click to Zoom)

We specially enjoyed the “Beast” speed boat ride. It’s a super speed boat which can carry around 60 people, and it cruises at full speeds splashing water all over. In fact, many of the passengers sitting at the rear end of the boat get fully wet!

Boat Ride
Boat Ride (not the one we rode on… this one is a slow moving boat)- (Click to Zoom)

Sunset – (Click to Zoom)

It was 6.30 PM by now, and we were already late. Actually, we had decided to have a dinner/get together with Chitra’s lovely & very helpful friends at a restaurant called London Sizzler on Hilcroft Ave. And we had a map with us showing how to go from our house to this place. But we did not know exactly where this place was. The map showed us the end point, but it wasn’t detailed enough. And the end result was, we were going round and round the same area to find the restaurant. And to make it worse, we did not have any contact numbers with us. (I know its stupid… but that’s precisely what Murphy’s Law states!) After around 45 mins of searching, going round and round, we managed to find the place. It was like so close but still far. We knew it was just somewhere round the corner, but just could not locate it.…. and by this time, all the people had already come and were waiting for us, and were worried too!

It was a major relief for us as well as all others to see each other 

The food at the restaurant was good, but the company was better. We had a nice time chatting. The best part was the surprise at the end………:) A birthday cake! Yes… my birthday is just around the corner… March 7th.

My Birthday Cake
My Birthday Cake – (Click to Zoom)

Was a wonderful evening! On the way back home from the restaurant to home, we made sure that we had numbers of all the people with us, and that we knew the route properly. Reached home safely at around 11.45 PMish.

Today morning we went out again, but this time to a shopping mall called “Galleria“. It’s a pretty big mall. We spend some 2 hours in the mall, had some food, went around etc. There is a huge Ice skating ring in the mall, but we weren’t adventurous enough to try it out (also, the timings for public staking did not fit our schedule).

We started back home at around 11: 30 AM. Returned our rental SUV back to Nationals at around 1 PM. Athul & Saki (Chitra’s friends) were kind enough to drop me back to the IAH airport. And that too on a Merc!! Wow!…

My return flight to Kingsport is via Cincinnati and it started of a bit late. I.e., by around 30 mins. But I have a 1.5 hr stop over at Cincinnati, which should take care of the delay!

All in all, a great weekend!

Update : Also I would say I am lucky to have some great friends at Kingsport!. Sugatha dropped me all the way to the Airport on Friday, and Andy picked me up on the way back!.. Had dinner at Andy’s house on saturday night. Thank you guys!

Houston, can you hear me?

“Houston, can you hear me?
Ground control, can you feel me?
Need permission to land”

– from Robbie Williams › Rock Dj

I would be off to Houston this weekend to meet my Wife who has been there for nearly 3 months now. Would be flying today evening i.e, Friday evening, and would be back Sunday night at Kingsport.

We plan to visit the NASA space center at Houston and some other places around…. …again, its just a plan. Lets see how it goes. Will try to get some snaps and post it here in the next couple of days! :)

And..Because there is no direct flight between Kingsport and Houston, its going to be a long journey!