Thursday, June 29, 2006

The U.S. Rate Fate Today

Today's the day to watch out for the Fed's decision on interest rates. The final countdown has reached Day-0. We'll soon know whether the chicken comes first or the egg comes first. We'll find out if the Fed drives the market or the market(inflation) drives the Fed. This is of primary importance, at least to me, 'cos I'll get to know what interest rates or going to fall on my loans.

Analysts expect the Fed to raise the rates for the 17th time in a row. It is expected that Bernanke will raise the overnight federeal fund rates by a quarter percentage point to 5.25% , its highest level since March 2001, but there is also a lot of specuation about the potential for a half-point move.

Anyway, keep watch today. I'll update with the decision soon.

Updated: Analysts were bang on. As widely expected, central bank increased their short-term interest rates from 5% to 5.25%. "The extent and timing of any additional rate increases will depend on the evolution of the outlook for both inflation and economic growth - the Fed said in a statement earlier today.

It doesn't end there as feared, following the Fed decision, commercial banks raised their prime rates, a benchmark for many consumer and business loans, to 8.25% from 8%.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rajnikanth, a phenomenon ...

Last night, I was asked by someone how one could be a Rajnikanth fan or what is great about him. I still wonder where that came from, honestly. But, as many others reading this, I could not sleep well after hearing that. JK, Naveen Raj and other ardent fans like I, I'm sorry about that, I'll take care of that person. :)

But for the lesser mortals, a reminder - after his latest and greatest Chandramukhi, Rajnikanth is the highest paid actor in India. I don't want to fill up my blog talking about his statistics and skills on the silver screen. Instead, here is a well-written snippet (credit goes to the author) describing a typical opening day scene in TamilNadu - India, for one of his all time greatest hits. A sweet deja-vu friends, we've seen and done this all.

Diwali 1991: Albert Theatre/Udhayam theatre: The rain scene is shown. It is the Rajinikanth introduction scene in the movie. A phenomena never heard of in any other movie industry. This is when the excitement is at its peak. Manirathnam better than any other director knows how to whip up that frenzy. The evil police officer is being punched and he sways in the rain as a result of the impact of the punch. Then.. the puncher, Rajinikanth is revealed to the public. As he pauses in slow-motion in the rain to deliver another punch -- the noise of the theatre crowd is deafening. Currency notes are being thrown from the balcony seats, coins are being thrown. At least 300 people are whistling simultaneously. The atmosphere, to put it euphimistically, is electric. Nobody outside TamilNadu will experience the emotion and the charge that the opening day of a Rajinikanth movie generates.

Hail Shivaji!


Question on VOIP

Hey CEG guys and others, I'm not sure how familiar with VOIP are the readers here, but am just posting to see if anyone has some fundamental knowledge to help me out.

Have you seen or used one of Skype-In, Netzero Private Phone, AIM or the service from any other VOIP provider which gives its users a private phone number that the user can share with his world of friends. If I call my friend on his Skype-In number from say my landline phone or cell phone, the call will be first routed to the Skype servers and then be packet-switched to the user's IP address provided he is online. So, something at the Skype server side should do a PBX to IP translation. My question is, what is that? Is that like a PBX-IP gateway that supports SIP or H.323 ? Is that the only way it can be done, or does anyone know of any software alternatives? Or could it be something as simple like a normal phone system that records the incoming call and transfers it to the user's machine through a cable or something?

Also, when I call a Skype-In number, how does my telecom provider route it to the Skype's system? Does the PBX-IP translation happen before it reaches the Skype's system itslef or at the Skype's gateway? I'm clear with what happens after the voice is received at the Skype's system, but am a little confused on how exactly it gets there. Any insight is appreciated.


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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Comcast to follow AOL

Not in customer satisfaction, but rather customer dissatisfaction!

Recently, I posted about the customer dissatisfaction experienced by an AOL customer who was led through worries and miseries to just cancel his account. The sequel to that movie is here today in the form of Comcast, and guess what - this is worse.

A Comcast customer, Brian Finkelstein from D.C., has posted a video of a technician from his Internet service provider (Comcast) sleeping on his couch. Isin't that hilarious? Why would a technician who comes to your house to fix your technical problems have to sleep on your couch?
Apparently, Finkelstein's internet connection was working intermittently and he had called Comcast customer support to get his modem replaced. This lousy technician who visited him to replace his modem, called the company back for help and was put on hold for more than an hour.
And fed up with waiting, fell asleep right there probably listening to a lullaby over the phone.

My first question is, why is Comcast so behind that even their own technician cannot get through to them? One hour? I wonder what the customers are going through trying to get technical support. Next, how unprofessional is it to sleep on job and how preposterous is it to sleep on your customer's own couch? Hahaha! I can let a technician who visits my home use my phone, use my fridge, use my TV, use my restroom, but NO! NOT MY COUCH! Sorry, but I wonder what's next.

See it yourself, Finkelstein has been kind enough (:-)) to upload the video at YouTube.

Whatever be it, these people, Vincent Ferrari first (AOL customer) and now, Brian Finkelstein (Comcast counterpart) have caught the eyes of the journal, and are all over CNBC and other top business channels tearing apart the customer satisfaction component of business of these top Internet service providers today. More ways to become famous!


FTP: Fun with anagrams

Have fun solving the following anagrams. No, I have better work than scrabble, so I didn't create these. But I've given a few hints for fairly tough ones and will post the solutions soon.

(1) He Bugs Gore
(2) I'm a Dot in Place
(3) Twelve Plus One (terrific!)
(4) Is No Amity
(5) End is a car spin (Hint: Celebrity)
(6) A Rope Ends It
(7) Dirty Room
(8) Cash Lost in 'em
(9) Old West Action (Hint: Celebrity)
(10) Ten Elite Brains (Hint: The physicists say he is a mathematician, the mathematicians say he is a physicist)

Updated: You will find the answers in the comments as people solve, so be prepared to open 'em

Updated: Solutions posted in the Comments section


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

AOL customer support - exposed!

Vincent Ferrari, a "former" AOL customer records his painstaking conversation with an AOL customer support representative, in cancelling his account which he has not been using at all.
He says the annoying conversation lasted 45 minutes to just cancel the account.

Vincent says that he recorded the call, becuase a lot of people today face the same problem with AOL. So, if his cancellation went peaceful, he could disprove them all and if it were to go the way it actually did, he would prove all of them right. So, in any case, he has a good story for his blog.

And here it is:

And AOL has officially apologized and has fired "John", the customer support representative for his inexcusable behavior.


HOOK 'EM: At Charlie's party - Austin, TX

Charles, Alex, Amy and I


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

HOOK 'EM: Houston, we have a problem...

These are the famous words of Jim Lovell, the astronaut who spearheaded the Apollo-13 spacecraft mission to an exciting adventure to the moon. We know that it eventually ended in a 'successfull failure'. But Jim Lovell and Gene Kranz (who was controlling the re-entry of the Apollo 13 back to earth from the Houston Mission Control Center) are best known for their leadership qualities.

At the NASA entrance

-Mementos from the space missions
-Plaques erected by the astronauts after successful return from their missions
- Rohit and I, in front of the real mission control system!!
- A NASA representative, demonstrating a few launches

- people standing in line for the Tram Tour around the NASA center.