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Showing posts from 2014

Cleartrip spicejet and refunds

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It was the marriage of my wife's cousin in Mumbai and a reason to do a long overdue Mumbai trip.  That it coincided with Republic Day meant, we could also use the occasion to catch-up with the several relatives we have there.

We were intimated as early as September first week for the marriage, happening  on Jan 22nd.  This meant, we could get a good flight deal by booking early.  We did get a good deal - round-trip of Rs.3,500/- per head by Spicejet, which I booked through Cleartrip on 15th September.

And then the news started coming in - of SpiceJet going through a crisis and flights getting cancelled.  But there were also news of things getting sorted out and Spicejet even recommencing bookings, including flights in March 2015.   It looked like we would be unaffected by the problems.

Then disaster stuck in the form of an SMS at 5.54 PM 23rd December - your flight from Bengaluru to Mumbai is cancelled.  It was followed by another SMS at 9.37 PM on the same day - cancellation of …

Opening a Kannada Word document

My colleague calls me this morning.  "Hey, I have a couple of Word documents in Kannada.  When I open it, it shows gibberish.  I tried installing Kannada fonts but may have messed it up.  Can you try?"

I had Microsoft World 2013.  I opened the doc and not surprisingly, saw gibberish.  Now the question was what font to install.  A search for kannada fonts gave a large number of results.  There were several kannada fonts available.

I tried with Baraha font from this site.  No luck.
Then I moved on to this one. Same issue.

It didn't take much time for me to figure out that I needed the same font that had been used in creating the doc.  Now how does that one get that info?

I got to the page - how to get a list of fonts used in a particular document.

The answer there led to a stackoverflow question, which was related to programmatically getting the list of fonts. But the answer to that was what helped.

Open the Word document as a zip file - essentially extract that file using…

Heroku php laravel postgres

We have done several projects using LAMP stack.  Most of the time, we end up using a framework like codeigniter or yii to ease development. The deployment typically happens in a shared hosting environment like godaddy or bigrock by manually copying over files.

In a recent project, we had an opportunity to use heroku for production deployment.  The first question was if heroku supported php.  It is more popular as a platform to deploy ruby applications.  But of late, they have been increasing php support, including facebook's hiphop runtime.
The second question was if we should use a framework and if so, what?  The requirement was only for a set of web services to feed an iOS app.  There were no web UI requirements.  Well! to put it differently - we were constrained to develop a web site using squarespace template. Relevant data for the site needed to be pulled using web services.
yii seemed an overkill, but developing web services by hand would not be trivial either.  A search fo…

Another SBI rant

I was impressed when onlineSBI allowed me to do a recurring deposit, including specifying standing instructions to debit saving account each month - without needing to visit the Bank.

The recurring deposit was due to mature on 9th Sep 2014.  I checked online a couple of days later and found that the deposit amount had not been transferred to Savings.  Nor was it renewed as an FD. It was just showing "0%" interest with a maturity date for 9th Sep 2015.
I clearly remember having had to choose one of two options when I opened the RD for maturity instructions - "credit principal and interest to savings" or "place a term deposit with the maturity amount".  I had chosen the former. 
The RD was in my wife's name and she had to go to the Bank and ask the staff about this.  They were unperturbed - "Write a letter requesting closure of the RD and transferring the proceeds to Savings".  
"But why was it not done automatically?"  No answer.  …

The Chickmagalur trip

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"Why only chick, appa?  What about dog, hen?", asked my curious little one on being told we were going to Chickmagalur for the Ganesh chathurthi long weekend.

The idea behind a family trip originated during the first birthday party of a relative.  A Whatsapp group was hastily setup and after a series of messages, and places varying from Pondicherry to Coorg, the destination was agreed upon.  The choice of accommodation was limited, considering the last-minute planning.  We finally managed to get four rooms with twin-sharing for fourteen of us - eleven adults and three kids - with age ranging from 1 to 71.
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A Tempo was hired and the morning of Ganesh chathurthi found us waking up the Lord at an unearthly hour of 6 AM and offering the traditional kozhukkattai.  The plan was to leave at 6 AM, but thanks to the proverbial Muphy's law, it was 7.30 AM when the last pickup was done and we were off.

The driver chose the Outer Ring Road, past Hebbal and Yeshwantpur to get into…

School admission experiences - Part 2

In the first part of this narrative, I had mentioned the revelations in the twenty first century school eduction in India.  I had also mentioned about the criteria that we felt made sense, when considering a school for our kid.

Here I detail the experiences that we had with the admissions processes in the various schools that we considered.  We stay at Chitrakut Environs and the schools that I list are relevant to those who stay in or nearabouts the area.

Sishu Griha

Reputation:  Excellent
Promixity:  (about 5 km) Excellent

The admission window of this school was open for 4 days when people could drop in applications in free-format plain-text.  It was around the 3rd week of September 2013, if I recall correctly. The application also needed to include a paragraph (or was it an essay) on why we felt the child should be admitted there.

The school had no application fee (the only school not to have any).

The admission was for Mont 1 (since this school follows Montessori system of primary …

School admission experiences

With the school admissions for academic year 2015-2016 around the corner, I thought it may be good to share our experiences of last year.   We live in Bangalore so mostly this applies to those in Bangalore, but others will find similarities elsewhere.

In my generation (yeah, that is the right thing to say), all I knew about classes in schools were LKG, UKG, 1 to 10 standard (I had Pre Degree Course in college - equivalent to Std 11 and 12). Typically the minimum age to admit to LKG was 3 years and 1st standard was 5 years.

Things are different now.  So, first

Types of Primary Education

Today, in most Bangalore schools, you are eligible for LKG only if you are 3 years 8 months old.  By extension, the eligibility for 1st standard is 5 years 8 months. Perhaps the academic pressures have forced this.

Now there is also the Montessori system of education, where you have 3 years of Montessori classes before you go to 1st standard.  Here you end up going to school (or start Mont 1) when you a…

Courier credit card delivery experiences

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I stay in an apartment. So pretty much every delivery is picked up by the Apartment Security.  This works well since I am not available at home most of the day.

But there are exceptions and credit card is one of them.  They are expected to delivered to the addressee.

For some reason, HDFC Bank decided to "upgrade" my credit card.  I thought I had nothing to lose and agreed to it.  Actually, I ended up losing 60% of the reward points and gained pretty much nothing (since most of the "upgrade" features are for frequent air travellers).

Anyway, I got an SMS indicating my credit card had been shipped, along with the shipping details.   That was on last Saturday.   I expected the card to reach me on Monday.

I checked the tracking details on the web on Monday evening and saw "Shipment out for delivery" and "Delivery attempted - Premise closed". Looking at the time, delivery was attempted in the morning when no one is there at home.

I did not see any …

Ordering pizza - flop show

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It was a rainy Sunday evening.  Still a few hours to go for the World Cup football finals.  "Why not order a pizza?", we thought.  We usually prefer dining over home delivery - so it had been quite a while since we had ordered one home.  Recently I had done one at office and the experience had been good.

The office experience in mind, I thought,  "why not do an online booking".  I could pay by credit card as well and not worry about change.

The choice was between Pizza Hut and Dominos.  We had seen delivery boys of both come to our apartment.  We knew both had outlets within 5 km radius of our apartment.  So far so good.

I chose Pizza Hut and visited their website.  They had a link to order online with a bunch of offers advertised.  In fact, they even have a mobile app!

The screen first asked you to choose the city and then the locality.

I did that and next was to specify the apartment.  I was pleasantly surprised to see our apartment listed, but wait - what was…

World Cup Cricket and Football - viewing experience compared

Having burnt midnight oil the last couple of days watching the World Cup Football semi-finals, I could not help doing some comparisons between India's National Sport (I don't mean the "official" one, but the popular one), and World's National Sport with respect to television viewing.
Cricket World Cup:  Hmm!  which World Cup are talking about - the one-day World Cup or T20 World Cup?  Is there a World Cup for test matches?  In terms of time-frame comparisons, the T20 format comes closest to football (assuming the latter has extra-time and penalties).
No World Cup cricket match can happen outside India's waking hours.  After all, the bulk of the revenues, which accrue from advertising needs Indian viewership.   In contrast, the best of the football matches happen when India sleeps.  (Yeah, if it is organized in Asian countries, we may be lucky to watch them before our midnight).
Cricket is a sport with breaks - break between overs, break when wicket falls, br…

Unlucky 13 - indeed

In one of my inspired moments, I looked at the New York Times Best Sellers list and decided to read the first Fiction book that it listed.  As it turned out, the time I looked at it,Unlucky 13 was the book which was #1 in Combined Print & E-Book fiction.

Having looked at the synopsis, which seemed to indicate a detective novel, I got a copy of the book.

The book is part of the Women's Murder Club series of books by the author.  The Club is essentially four friends - Lindsay Boxer, a detective in San Franciso police, Cindy, a journalist,  Claire, a medical practitioner and Yuki, Assistant District Attorney.

The book begins with a car accident.  The bodies of the two victims indicate some kind of a bomb.  Investigations reveal the bomb could have been small enough to have been in the victim's stomach as part of the food that was consumed.  As Lindsay investigates this, the FBI is also called in.  A photo of Mackie Morales, a serial killer also comes up indicating that she …

Book review: The Silkworm

When I wrote about The Cuckoo's Calling, the first detective novel by J K Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, I mentioned how it felt in some ways similar to reading Agatha Christie.

The Silkworm re-enforces that, in no uncertain measure.

Cormoran Strike, the one-legged retired army-man is doing well - digging dirt about infidel men and women.  He has profited by his success in solving the Lula Landry murder case.  Robin continues to work for him, despite her fiancee's misgivings.

In comes Leonora Quine to Strike's office, asking him to investigate the mystery of her missing husband, a writer.  It appears to be a simple case of a runaway writer, but it is not.

Quine has written a book Bombyx Mori, which no one wants to publish.  Bombyx Mari is Latin for Silkworm which explains the book title.  In the novel, he has made veiled references to many of his peers, which have antagonized them.

As usual there are a number of suspects, who may have a hand in what is going wrong …

Setting up and running php unit tests from Eclipse - 3 / 3

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In Part 1, we saw how to set up your Windows system to run phpunit.
In Part 2, we saw how we can set up Eclipse to run phpunit

Here, I want to show how we set this up to run on jenkins, our continuous integration server and use the data for sonarreport.

I decided to go with a simple antbuild script.  There were two requirements
since vendor folder was not checked in, ant should run composer install to create the vendor folder and install/update the dependenciesit should then run phpunit with the relevant parameters to generate a test report as well as a coverage report The previous version of sonar php plugin ran phpunit as part of its run.  The current version requires you to have run the tests and generated the report.  It takes the test report and coverage report as properties.

Here are the relevant snippets of the build script.
Run composer install     <target name="run-composer">
        <exec executable="composer">
            <arg value="i…

Setting up and running php unit tests from Eclipse - 2 / 3

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In Part I, we saw how to set up phpunit on your Windows system and run php unit tests from command line.  Let us now look at how to configure Eclipse to run phpunit.  The existing documentations are either obsolete (referring to pear-based phpunit configuration) or incomplete.

We will use Eclipse Kepler SR2 (4.3.2) as reference.  (I am unable to get it working in Eclipse Luna that released yesterday (26 June 2014) and have logged a bug).  [Updated: 7 July 2014]. It works with Eclipse Luna (4.4) as well with MakeGood 3.1.0.

Install Eclipse Kepler SR 2 (I use Eclipse JEE for Windows 64-bit)Install PHP Development Tools (PDT)



Install MakeGood from Eclipse Marketplace: This is the plugin which will help us run phpunit from Eclipse.


Choose Windows : Preferences : PHP : PHP Executables


Add the php we had installed earlier.Make sure you have PHP debuger enabled.  If you have the wamp-installed php, it comes with XDebug.  Choose XDebug.


Verify PHP : Debug settings to ensure it has taken the value…

Setting up and running php unit tests from Eclipse - 1 / 3

We had been make attempts to write automated unit tests in php for some of the business modules.   yii provides a test framework which makes it easy to start writing unit tests.  This uses phpunit.  We had set up phpunit using pear on our systems and could run the tests on our systems from command line.

We had also got the unit tests to run as part of continuous integration and used the test reports and coverage report in sonar.

Recently, we started a new php project and our new developer attempted to set up his sytem to run phpunit.  That was when we discovered a few things.

pear was no longer the popular method to install required php libraries.  It was now composer. phpunit was stopping support for pear and there was no official documentation to install it using pear.

This is the background of this three-part write-up.

In Part I (this write-up), I attempt to detail out how we set up our project for phpunit using composer.
In Part II, I show we set up Eclipse to run the unit tests

Why desktop client for IT returns

Having written about filing IT returns for FY 2014-2015, I could not help wondering why IT department went for a java-based desktop utility, replacing the excel utility that existed earlier.

I can see the primary issue with the excel utility - that it needs Microsoft excel, which is a licensed software and does not run on linux.

I can also understand that a java utility is (hopefully) platform independent and can be run without additional license cost (Java being free to download and use).

But what I can't understand is, why not a web-based utility to do this?  The income tax return utility is not very complex.  I don't see why it cannot be implemented as a web-based application.

A web based application can also

pre-fetch data do any kind of validationcreate an xml output and upload to the IT server
In addition, a web application

can run without additional softwarerun on any operating system/browser (if coded properly)can even run on mobile browers (if coded properly - using re…

Filing income tax returns - FY2013-2014

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It is that time of the year when the annual income returns have to be filed.   It is still early (the last date is 31st July 2014), but yesterday I got a call from a relative of mine, saying he needed help filing tax returns online.

I pride myself on filing tax returns on my own.  In fact, I have written about the first time I filed returns online,   how quickly I got a refund once,  some tools I issues that I got last year, as well as the rectification proposal that I got.  So, I gave detailed instructions over phone on logging into the e-filing website, downloading the excel sheet, enabling macros and so on...

Then, for good measure, I decided to check it out myself, though I didn't expect it to be different.  But what do you know?

For assessment year 2014-2015 (i.e. financial year 2013-2014), there is no longer the Excel utility for filling income tax returns.  It has now been replaced with a java utility.  (Updated 26 July 2014.  Both excel and java utilities are now available…