Scribd is often referred to as the YouTube for documents. But unlike YouTube, Scribd does usually offer a direct option for users to download files.
But in case you aren't registered with Scribd or the uploader has disabled the download options you might not be able to download the file for offline purposes.
I came across one such file (Best Magazine Covers of 2008) and tried to figure out how to download the PDF file from Scribd. Tried the tried and tested browser cache trick, but it gave me only a .scb file - which I think contains all the relevant data - but was unable to convert it to a friendlier format.
So what do you do? Google. I did but that didn't help. Thought for a while and then Eureka!
You will only need to install and extra bit of software, that is if you don't already have it (any way such software are usually handy to have on your PC) - a PDF creator. There are quite a number of free PDF creators available online that do a decent job. Two of my preferred choices are: PDFCreator (Open Source) and PrimoPDF (it needs .Net Framework 2.0 to work).
Once you have downloaded and installed a PDF creator, click on the dropdown arrow besides the iPaper text on the Flash Player, and click on the Print option. On the Print dialog box choose the PDF creator software instead of your default printer (in case you have one). Then click the Print button and your file in a PDF form will be ready in a while (depending on the size of the document).
This trick should always work for downloading PDF files from Scribd because there doesn't seem to be an option availabe to an uploaders to disable the print functionality. And this way you can also download files without registering with Scribd.
An anonymous reader suggests:
For those receiving blank pages when PDFing:
Try changing the view mode to 'Book Mode' instead of 'List Mode'. I did that and it finally worked!
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Scribd is often referred to as the YouTube for documents. But unlike YouTube, Scribd does usually offer a direct option for users to download files.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Every year, just before and during the 10-day Durga Puja festivities, there is increased activity on this blog thanks to two posts releated to Mahalaya related downloads (there are direct MP3 download links).
Nowadays, I don't seem to put in as much emotion into my writing as I used too. Therefore some posts from the past to welcome this festive season.
2006: Advent of Autumn
2005: Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu...
In this somewhat related post you can find a Durga Puja dhak beat ringtone for download.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
USA - love it, hate it, but it always interests you and so does its politics. And therefore would Michael Moore's new film - Slacker Uprising - that "traces Michael Moore's 62-city tour of the swing states during the 2004 Presidential election and records the thrilling - and frightening - response he received across the country," would have a potential worldwide audience.
The film is perhaps the first major feature film to be released for free on the internet. But unfortunately the official download is available only to people residing in the United States or Canada.
This is what the message says when someone from outside the two countries try to download the film:
Unfortunately, the lawyers tell us we are only allowed to offer the film to people residing in the United States or Canada. The computers think you are someplace else right now, and that's why you are seeing this page. If you really are in the US or Canada and our computers are confused, you may try accessing the website from a different network, at a friends house, etc. We're very sorry for the inconvenience, and really want as many people to see the film as possible.
But you here in India (or for that matter in any country outside the US and Canada) wish to download Slacker Uprising.
It's easy. You don't even need to bypass the geographical restrictions. Someone would have already posted the video (expecially since that it is free) at a place online from where you can easlily download it.
The obvious suspect is torrent. And it is available there (obviously unrestricted). But many people are not that comfortable with torrents and prefer direct downloads from the internet.
If you are one of the torrent wary types (there are many reasons to be) you can watch online or download Michael Moore's Slacker Uprising even from outside US and Canda here (someone has already done the good work for us). To download scroll to the bottom of the page and look for the 'Download playing' link.
Alternatively you can also directly download Slacker Uprising (obviously for free) from the link below. It doesn't matter if your are a non-US downloader:
[MP4 648 MB 01:39:23]
Blip.tv is a partner in the distribution of the film, and there is a possibility that they might take it off.
The T-Mobile G1 mobile phone manufactured by HTC is the first phone to be built using Google's Android platform.
I was getting irrititaed with all that overhype around the Apple iPhone. Thank god for competition. Now we have a G1 to hit Apple where it hurts the most.
The G1, as you would already know by now, is the first phone to be built using Google's Android platform. The manufacturer is HTC (who also have other cool phones on their portfolio) and it will be released in the US by T-Mobile on October 23.
The official press release doesn't mention any dates for an Asia release but it'll "be available in the United Kingdom beginning in November, and across Europe in the first quarter of 2009. Countries include Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and the Netherlands."
The US price for the phone is a cool $179, that translates to Rs 8,264 (as per today's conversion rate). But when a $199 iPhone costs Rs 31,000 intead of Rs 9,187 (via direct currency convertion), you don't know by how much the G1 would make an Indian consumer poorer.
Here are a couple of G1 videos. One from T-Mobile and the other from HTC.
Download video [00:01:08 FLV 1.33 MB]
Download hi-res video [00:01:08 MPG 9.4 MB]
Download video [00:00:45 FLV 13.5 MB]
Download hi-res video [00:00:45 MPG 9.4 MB]
Saturday, September 20, 2008
(This is not to be confused with Google Adsense for Search) Google seems to have launched this new feature in their Adsense ad units. I didn't notice it earlier.
On this blog, between the search box and the first displayed post I have a line of Google Link Ads. A little while ago I noticed a small search box there (am not sure whether it would be there when you visit this page). It said, "View ads about". Your query would take you to a listing page of ads that match the keyword you have entered.
But I'm not impressed. First it looks bad. The arrows in the submit button are improperly aligned and it spoils the look of my blog. Having one search box below another is not my idea of monetisation.
This might be a part of the new Google endeavour to improve their ads.
Moreover, I don't expect people to actually search for ads. Yes, I know that they do, but that is in sites and blogs like Cutting the Chai and the purpose is entirely different.
Initially people would give it a try out of curiosity, but it would fade away as thhe novelty value wanes.
Me and so many like me learnt their history, mythology and biographies with quite an avidness, thanks to a publication called Amar Chitra Katha.
Now that venerable institution has relaunched the comic magazine in an online avatar. Though the people at ACK-Media are terming it as a 'launch', the domain amarchitrakatha.com existed for quite a while. It is only that the place has been refurbished.
Amar Chitra Katha used be be a property of India Book House but late last year ACK Media acquired it (alongwith another landmark publication - Tinkle). Anant Pai (better known as Uncle Pai) is the Editor Emeritus and Chief Story Teller in the new entity.
The website is being positioned as a "hub for everything related to Indian culture and story-telling."
The site allows users to create stories and art, lists cultural events (powered by Asklaila), and the ambitious ACK Pedia that seeks to be a combo of Wikipedia, Google Knol and Citizendium but limited to India and its culture.
But I am more interested in the comics. There's one story of the week that is available for free (but not for the readers of Cutting the Chai), to access the rest you need to pay $0.99 (Rs 40) per issue. I find the pricing a bit too high to be able generate widespread interest. In this digital age premium pricing often backfires.
It will indeed be a 'pleasure' to see characters (read nubile nymphets) that we grew up with in a digital avatar.
Though the site highlights only one story a week and the others are supposedly inaccesible to the general readers, you can find them here (I just dug out the appropriate links):
* Who is the Greater Devotee?
* The Most Beautiful Child in Agra
* Bhagat Singh
* The Ascetic and His Loin-Cloth
* Gopal Measures the Earth
* Shiva the Fisherman
* Hira the Milkmaid
* The Tiger and the Traveller
* Rama Earns a Title
* The Man Who Brought Ill Luck
* The Day the Earth Broke into Two
might take off has taken off the content if they realise realised that I'm giving people a sneek free preview of Amar Chitra Katha comics here.
In this online world, you either show all or know how to hide it proper. There's always someone lurking around the corner.
By the logic that if it is viewable it is downloadable, you can download for free Amar Chitra Katha.
But then I wouldn't like to delve into that. Free online reading is fine for now.
But ACK Media should lower the prices, else people would do just that.
The music industry hasn't yet learnt its lesson, the comics industry should.
* The Tinkle of Silver
* The Umbilici in Amar Chitra Katha
* The Original Superhero - Supremo
Friday, September 19, 2008
The mobile phone is both a boon and a bane. While it allows you to be in touch all the time, it also keeps you within the reach of people that you wouldn't like to talk to - telecallers, irritiating relatives or friends, nagging wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend, the boss or other colleagues (while you are busy with your wife/husband or girlfriend/boyfriend), crank callers, persistent wrong numbers... you can keep on adding to the list.
Some mobile operators provide a service to block unwanted callers, but many users prefer not do so because you can't block your boss' number. It's just that there are times you wish he/she hadn't called (because you have already overshot the deadline and are still thinking of a good enough excuse). Or that you cannot afford to offend some people even if you didn't want to talk to them. And the National Do Not Call Registry cannot rescue you from your angry girlfriend's phone call (NDNCR is not much effective anyways)
This simple trick might not actually prevent unwanted callers from calling you, but would irritate them (without offending) to stop calling for a while.
This is somewhat similar to the old ploy where you yell from one end, "I can't hear you...". But you tend to exert some energy in the lying effort. Here they cannot hear you and would do all the yelling, while you relax and continue to do whatever you were doing.
1. Receive the call. If you can avoid not answering the call this trick isn't for you.
2. Converse for a few seconds (this is optional) to show that you aren't avoiding them.
3. Press the mute option, your end will go silent while the caller would believe this as a network problem (as it often happens in normal circumstances), will yell for a while and then hang up.
4. Follow the same steps if the caller calls again. He/she will get frustrated soon and would stop bothering you for a while.
In case your phone doesn't have the mute option, use your thumb to muffle the microphone.
And don't hold me responsible if anything goes wrong.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Many of you would have seen photos of upturned dustbins in the newspapers and websites following the serial bomb blasts in Delhi on September 13. Why? Because a couple of bombs had been placed inside dustbins.
The Economic Times reports that The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is contemplating new norms for WiFi security. Why? Because the terrorists claimed responsibility for the blasts via emails sent through unsecured WiFi networks.
It's a different tale that our media has been reporting that the WiFi networks were 'hacked' into. Why? Because 'hacking' sounds more sinister or they don't understand technology (many in the television industry and some in the print definitely don't but just simply claim to). Going by the dictionary they might not be wrong, as hacking does imply unauthorised access. But real-life meanings of terms differ more than a little from what the lexicons state. Hacking would atleast involve a bit of more effort than just connecting to an available open WiFi network (That makes me a hacker too)
Coming back to where I began.Terrorists might not be able to plant bombs in upturned dustbins (though it doesn't take much effort to make one upright again), they will simply keep them elsewhere. But then how do I, in the meanwhile, keep Delhi clean? Dump the banaana peel on the foothpath so that a disgruntled mass murderer, looking for an alternative place to hide the bomb, because someone turned his favourite dustbin upside down, would slip and deservedly break a few bones?
By the way, terrorists had also entered the Parliament. It should have been a good idea to keep the place sealed, so that that they cannot ever think of even entering it in the future.
If terrorists have amongst them the 'hackers' that the media and the police claim, it shouldn't be too much of a worry for them to gain access to some 'secured' connections. Else they can simply drop a letter. Or mask their IPs. Too much effort has already been wasted in tracing the source of the emails, nothing much will come out of that. I believe the men, who seem to play their dirty game according to their own rules at a time they wish to, wouldn't be as stupid as our investigating agencies hope they would be.
We have developed an expertise for knee-jerk reactions that border on stupidity. Why? Because we don't seem to have the most potent weapon to disarm such acts of terror - intelligence.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
The Indian Express is one of the newspapers that land on my doorstep every morning. I find it to be one of the better dailies around. Like other media outlets the Express also publishes, from time to time, self-promotional ads.
I find the ongoing campaign appealing, because of its simplicity and the strong conect with the brand value. Here are they:
Not politically correct.
But political and correct.
The Influential Express
Not the average paper.
Because you're not the average reader.
The Intelligent Express
Grey matter in black and white.
The Investigative Express
Where opinion leaders get their opinion from.
The Incisive Express
We put the ink in think.
The Impartial Express
The Left thinks we are Right
The Right thinks we are Left
The Impartial Express
The first thing on the agenda
For those who set one
The Influential Express
That's why we dare
The Investigative Express
Agency: Vyas Giannetti Creative
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Was watching last week's release A Wednesday this morning. Though I didn't find the movie as great as people claimed it to be, but on hearing the news of the serial blasts in Delhi today, I started thinking again. How are we - the common people - supposed to react to such acts?
In the movie Naseeruddin Shah plays the role of a common man who uses his own methods to deal with the perpetrators of such acts of terrorism.
A few weeks ago, I watched Mumbai Meri Jaan, that also revolves around the lives of people who were touched directly or indirectly by the serial blasts on Mumbai trains on July 11, 2006.
Films may be fiction, but they draw a lot from what is happening around us. Our desires and our fears and how we react to such situations.
Now I'm trying to draw some parallels between the characters and me, but am unable to find a match.
I know that I cannot be staying indoors because of the blasts, I have to go out and do the things that I need to. There might be more, it has become a way of life. And it doesn't seem that we have been able to do much about it.
What is worrying me now is that I don't understand the emotions that I'm feeling while watching the visuals on live television and reporters and anchors repeating the same thing over and over again.
Perhaps I've become comfortably numb. And that's a dangerous thing.
* Serial Blasts in Delhi, Yet Again
* We Are Not Afraid
* From Darkness unto Light
A friend called to say that there have been serial blasts in Delhi. Yet again. I logged on to the internet to check what has happened and then switched on the TV.
Today being my day off, I was lazing around at home, instead of loitering around at Connaught Place where I often head to weekends.
Four Five blasts in 45 minutes.
The blasts happened at Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh, Connaught Place and the M Block Market in Greater Kailash I.
According the Delhi Police
seven 18 20 people have died in the explosions.
The phone lines seem jammed, but managed to call home to say that I'm safe.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Small is beautiful. The Nano might presently be in some land-related trouble, but owning another small wonder - the Asus Eee PC 1000H from AsusTek - is quite hassle free. And I got one for myself last week and had been playing around with it too much to be able to put some stuff up on this blog.
I was for so long more of a desktop person and not quite at ease with the bulky laptops. The size and weight of made them defeated the purpose for me. And the existing lightweight versions were out of my limited reach. Then I heard of Asus' Eee PC range (there are quite a number of them in the seemingly unplanned family). But the initial ones didn't again meet my requirements - that go beyond just internet surfing and text processing.
What I needed was a small and light laptop with decent memory, storage and processing capabilities. Then came the Asus Eee PC 1000H and I thought that I found what I actually needed. But then there were some serious competiton to the product and few more were in the pipeline.
A bit of online research made me zero in back on Asus' baby. This is what it takes and gives:
The Price: The printed price on the box says Rs 33,000. The guy from Asus, Mumbai, told me (over the phone) that it would cost Rs 31,000. After a few enquiries at a number of dealers at New Delhi's Nehru Place I got the Asus Eee PC 1000H for Rs 25,500 (inclusive of taxes). Different dealers quoted different prices that varied by a couple of thousand. I expect it to fall further, with new competition entering the market.
Genuine Windows XP Home
10" (1024x600 pixels)
Intel CPU and Chipset
Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz)
Wireless Data Network
WLAN: 802.11 n
HDD 80GB (their website also lists a 160GB model) partitioned into two
Dolby Sound Room Certified
Digital Array Mic
7 hrs (but the actual backup might differ based on settings and usage)
10.47" x 7.53" x 1.12-1.50" (it is actually smaller by quite a few centimetres than Outlook magazine)
Red, Green, Pearl White, Fine Ebony (though only black seemed to be available at Nehru Place)
And after a few days of use, this is my take on the netbook (aka ultra-portable laptop)
But first let me put forward where the Eee PC 1000H scores over the competition (the so called "Eee PC Killers") in the budget notebook category (or why I chose Asus):
Versus MSI Wind: Asus has a better build quality and battery backup.
Versus Acer Aspire One: Linux OS (many like me are more comfortable with Windows - though unwillingly - for a variety of reasons). Smaller by 1.1". Lesser RAM.
Versus HP 2133 Mini-Note PC: Smaller screen; Windows version costlier (and has Vista not XP). Has a lower powered processor.
Versus Dell Inspiron Mini 9: Smaller screen (and glossy too), small hard drive (only 16GB), single external speaker.
Versus HCL Ultra Portable Tablet: Costlier by a big margin (Rs 34,990 is the official advertised price). Lower powered processor. Smaller screen. Less battery backup. Only two USB ports.
Enough of making myself gain some confidence in the purchase that I made; now on to the review.
Netbooks or ultra-portable laptops (as you like it) are the next big thing in personal computers and things can only get better for the consumer (Even Apple might just soon launch one as these little devils better the MacBook Air in quite a few categories). And AsusTek is definitely the initiator of this revolution and it shows in the 1000H. Already at least half-a-dozen people at my workplace have expressed the desire of getting an Eee PC for themselves.
The keyboard is almost standard sized with easy utility buttons/access keys atop it (two of them can perform user-defined functions). The keys feel good to the fingers, but people with thick digits might experience a few typos. The touch pad is responsive but the accompanying buttons demand a little more physical energy to perform the desired tasks.
Bluetooth and wireless network connectivity is good.
The 10" screen is matte and therefore doesn't reflect light and is easy on the eyes under bright in bright surroundings. And regarding the size, it actually doesn't that small. Though the smaller height (600px) might take a while for some people to get used to but the width is perfect for me.
Though you can change the resolution to the standard 1024x768 at a click of a button, I wouldn't suggest that. The 1024x768 compress gives a distorted appearance, while the other option makes your screen scrollable. People who like things to look big on their tiny screens might opt for 800x600 but then that too gives a distorted appearance.
But some software that have a user interface in the 1024x768 mode might require you make changes to the screen size.
Many people were doubting whether it would be able to run demanding applications like certain image editing software. I installed one, and it works smooth. But since this doesn't house a dual core processor, don't get tempted to go overboard with multi-tasking. (Intel though has announced dual core versions of the Atom processor and even AMD has similar intentions. But they might be seen only in the higher-end models).
I happen to have a liking for matte stuff and a dislike (to some degree) towards things that shine and this Eee PC is almost a mirror and therefore very prone to smudges and fingerprints. Asus thoughtfully equips you with a small piece of cloth that does a fine job of what it is supposed to do. Though the matte finish would have been preferable, but I'm not too unhappy with my little toy's glossy feel.
The promised battery backup is 7 hours, but that is subject to certain conditions such as the display brightness and the performance settings. But under standard usage conditions it should comfortably run for 4 hours and 30 minutes without being connected to the mains. The six-cell battery might have added a little weight but then it is worth it.
The 1.3 megapixel camera and built-in array microphone would come handy in a number of ways. It can also be used to snoop on people as a spy camera (just adding some thrill). Turn on the camera, start capturing video using the ECap utility, turn off the monitor and go away. Come back to see what has happened behind your back. But then the little yellow light adjacent to the webcam might be a giveaway.
It also comes equipped with Dolby Sound Room, that enables users to experience surround sound with normal twin speakers. But the built in speakers aren't that effective to give you the feel. For a more wholesome experience you might need to invest in a pair of external speakers (preferably with built-in amplifiers) or headphones/earphones (by the way earphones give you the best sound at the most economical price)
Such portable devices are a great way to watch movies. And with time you will realise that screen size doesn't really matter that much.
But in the absence of any internal optical drive, watching movies (unless you are the download type) might be a bit of a pain. The compact size doesn't allow much space to squeeze in a DVD drive, but in case you really need one, getting an external USB DVD drive is an option. They are priced somewhere in the range of Rs 3,000-3,500.
The Asus Eee PC 1000H also comes loaded with pre-installed software. Apart from the OS, it has Star Office 8, a good alternative to Microsoft Office and has a very similar interface; InterVideo WinDVD, Microsoft Works, Windows Live and Skype.
One big disadvantage is that dealers do not let you unbox it unless you have made the payment. So you cannot exactly verify before purchasing that the product is functioning properly. Mine came with a small glitch - a single dead pixel. But that unfortunately isn't covered by the warranty. I have to wait for a few more pixels to die before AsusTek would entertain my claim.
All ASUS Eee PCs do not provide dot-free panel replacement warranty. Panel replacement warranty will only be effective when there are more than 3 bright dots (excl. 3) or 5 dark dots (excl. 5). Extended warranty is also not applied on this product.
This tiny laptop is best as a secondary PC, when you already own a desktop (or a laptop), it is a convenient thing to carry around. But for users with limited computing needs, it might just be an ideal option (the absence of an optical drive being the only notable hindrance).
More size comparisons:
Compared to a Dell desktop
Compared to an Apple MacBook
Compared to an Apple MacBook
As I had already mentioned, I did quite a bit if research and with so many similar products it was a close decision. What clinched the deal in Asus' favour was a review that Google led me to - "The Asus EEE PC line is like buying a Toyota."
As a parting thought, I am reminded of the options available when I was buying a 3rd vehicle to serve as a daily driver. I wanted something that I can use anywhere, is easy to maintain, yet still offers a positive image. If I wanted to take more risk and become a maverick (buying something not tested) I would have bought a Hyundai (similar to brands new to UMPC). I felt I already had enough risk with our existing German cars and their high maintenance cost. I decided to get a Toyota Fortuner, that was three years ago and that vehicle has not broken down a single time. The Asus EEE PC line is like buying a Toyota, it does not matter if you like the small Vios(701), the Altis(900/901) or the mid sized Camry(1000H), all are Toyota, and you know you are buying reliability and smart engineering.
Since the Asus Eee PC is not complete in itself (most products aren't) I invested in some accessories (the portable DVD drive will have to wait for a while).
1. Altec Lansing inEar Earclips (CHP227): It cost much more that I would have ever paid for a pair of earphones - Rs 730.
But when I plugged it in and listened to the sound, I knew what they were charging for.
It also comes with a small pouch where the earphones with gold-plated plug can go to sleep.
2. iBall Mouse Laser Precise Speedster Mini (Black): A laser mouse is said to be 30 times more responsive than an optical mouse (and it obviously costs more. Rs 590 in this case) and can operate comfortably on most surfaces.
I tested it on everything from a mirror to a coarse carpet and the results were smooth.
An ideal accompaniment for a laptop/netbook as you can comfortably move your mouse around sitting on the bed without the aid of the accessory called the mouse pad or twiddle with the touch pad.
3. Netgear Wireless G54 Router WGR614: Since at home I would like to access the internet from different floors, this proved to be a good choice.
I had initially thought of getting a simple switcher to share my broadband internet connection between the desktop and the netbook.
But the idea of having a Wi-Fi enabled home was too much of a temptation.
Since the dealer wasn't confident that the range could cover multiple floors, he advised me to go for more expensive options, but I refused. To be on the safe side I purchased 30 metres of LAN cable, just in case I am not lucky with wirelessness. The wireless router cost Rs 1700 (anyone needing LAN cable can contact me).
The router is located on the second floor and I get good to very good connectivity on the first floor and poor to very poor on the ground floor (but didn't notice much of a difference in the internet speed). The big flaw is the mammoth sized AC to DC adapter - it is so heavy that I found it difficult to plug into vertical sockets, there is always the risk of gravity pulling it down.
Kenneth Haywood's experiences made me play safe and ensured that I secure my connection. Its easy to do so.
And yes, I'm posting this post via the Asus Eee PC 1000H.
Since I'm getting quite a few enquiries about Asus Eee PC dealers in New Delhi. Here's the contact details of the dealer I purchased mine from (do give him my reference, I might get some credits during future purchases):
Spiral Systems & Networks
90 Nehru Place
New Delhi 110019
Phone: +91 11 2629 2660
Fax: +91 11 2629 2661
Mobile: +91 11 1126 6280
Email: info [at] spiralnetworks.biz
Website: www.iware.in, www.spiralnetworks.biz
Saturday, September 06, 2008
IndianRail.gov.in is one of the more popular websites in India (though very ill-designed and un-userfriendly). According to Alexa it is ranked no. 30 in India and has a worldwide traffic rank of 721. Given the place that the Indian Railways has in the country's transportation system railway-related sites would continue getting the visitors. And this is what makes the Indian Railways' websites (indianrail.gov.in and trainenquiry.com) a very lucrative target for parasitic websites.
I believe that the Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS), that owns and maintains the official Railways websites also realises that and therefore has put up this warning on the indianrail.gov.in site:
Warning: No one is authorised to make any type of commercial usage like putting web advertisements or SMS service and Reproducing/Transmitting/Storing in its database, any content of www.indianrail.gov.in website, without prior written permission from Indian Railways. Violators will be severely prosecuted.
But violators don't seem to care much. There are quite a number of Indian Railways related websites out there, but most of them just provide basic information, but there are quite a number who offer services similar to that of the official sites.
Now a question might arise - What's wrong with that? The problem here is that the information related to train timings, seat availability, PNR status, train arrivals and departures is exclusively generated by the Indian Railways and others can have access to it only via the official websites (or with agencies that the organisation might have an agreement with).
What these sites do is that they provide the user an interface that looks their own (with some ads plastered around, though not in all cases) and when the user requests any information, the data is pulled from the Indian Railways servers. A practice also termed as leeching.
Someone might ask - Maybe they actually have a tie up with the Railways? I don't think so. Let us sample a few:
eRail.in: The site explicitly states that it "does not have any official connection or affiliation whatsoever to Indian Railways and related organisations." When you submit a query it displays the results within an iframe enclosing the official website.
The site doesn't have any contact info and a whois search reveals the domain registrant as the System Administrator of 5Force, Dublin, Ohio, USA. Nothing very precise. But the man behind the site has been discussed about on the WWW.
IndianTrains.org: Follows a similar method as that of eRail.in. The domain name has been registered via DomainsByProxy.com, who are in the business of hiding the real identities of website owners. Obviously no contact info.
IndiaRailInfo.com: Similar. Registered via myprivateregistration.com - another whois anonymising service.
BharatRail.net: Atleast the registrant seemingly used a genuine address.
Now let us also look at a few bigger sites offering railway enquiry services:
Rediff Trains FareSearch: It seems quite unlikely that a reputed website like Rediff would indulge in exploitative practices. But I tried searching online for information related to Indian Railways-Rediff tie up, but didn't seem to find any. Even the story on Rediff.com on the launch of the service doesn't mention any official agreement.
Other sites that also offer rail-related services (I didn't look into the details):
From a user's perspective, this is a welcome trend. With the bad usability of the official sites such alternatives make lives a little easier. The interface is so much better. Many of them also provide additional services like maps and weather forecasts that the official sites obviously don't have.
Now what should the Indian Railways or rather Times Internet Limited - that has won the tender for web advertisement rights on indianrail.gov.in and trainenquiry.com for two years - do?
Alexa shows a dip of 16% in indianrail.gov.in's reach over the last three months, while eRail.in registers an increase of 28% for the same period.
At a time when rising airfares is compelling people to opt for trains, this dip in the traffic for the official railway sites point toward the alternative service providers.
Unlike airlines, railways is a monopoly and the railways wouldn't like to loose it grip on that even online. But instead of expending resources over the 'violators,' CRIS should rather focus on improving the websites so that people would prefer the original source over the borrowed and bettered websites. And as payback they could borrow some ideas.
* Greasy Tracks: The Truth behind the Indian Railways Success Story
* Railway Regulations
* Chugging Along
* TOI Story on e-Ticketing: A Distorted Perspective
* Tracks to Nowhere
* Crossing the Brahmaputra
Thursday, September 04, 2008
There has been a lot of excitement around Google Chrome (this is the third Chrome related post on this blog). I've been using it since yesterday, but it still has a long way to go before it can displace Firefox as my default browser.
Last night at it just hanged and I had to manually end the process and today I got my first Google Chrome crash message.
Whoa! Google Chrome has crashed. Restart now?
Akshay Kumar is one movie star who is getting better with age (I didn't like his latest hit Singh is Kinng though) and this is on display in the new ad for Levis 501 jeans. And muscles look good on him (unlike Shah Rukh Khan displaying his overhyped 'six-pack').
The girl in the ad whose unbuttoning endeavour is cut short by the director's shout, comes back and seductively tells Akki, "See you next time, unbuttoned all the way."
There have been quite a lot of women in the Sexy Indian Ads section of this blog. Time to take care of the needs of the straight female readership.
The video (I've for the time being abandoned the old video player, it was too much of a pain for a little style):
Download video [00:00:45 FLV 973 KB]
Download hi-res video [00:00:45 AVI 2.05 MB]
Download for mobile [00:00:45 879 KB]
Original image slideshow
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Government of Bihar
Appeal for contribution to
CHIEF MINISTER RELIEF FUND
The flood water of river Kosi has inundated vast areas of Supaul, Madhepura & Araria districts of Bihar and is spreading into adjoining districts of Purnea and Saharsa.
It has created unprecedented havoc in the lives of people and destroyed vast property. Please contribute generously towards the Chief Minister Relief Fund, Bihar.
Contributions received will be used to carry out relief operations and rehabilitation of those affected by the floods.
Contributions made to CHIEF MINISTER RELIEF FUND shall qualify for 100% exemption from income-tax under section 80G(2) (iii)(hf) of the Income-Tax Act.
Contributions can be sent by Cheque or Bank Draft in the name of CHIEF MINISTER RELIEF FUND payable at Patna.
Funds can also be sent by electronic transfer into the account of
CHIEF MINISTER RELIEF FUND,
State Bank of India,
Account Number: 10839124928
Branch: Patna Secretariat, Bihar.
The cheques/bank drafts may be sent to the following address:
CHIEF MINISTER RELIEF FUND
Chief Minister Secretariat
4, Deshratna Marg,
Telephone no: 0612-2222430, 2217793
Chief Minister Relief Fund
Pass on the message.
Copy the code above and post on your blog/website.
You can also send in your contributions, material or financial, for Bihar flood relief through the following:
2. Indian Red Cross Society
5. Prime Minister's National Relief Fund [e-Deposit | Form]
I was just curious of how the traffic analysis tools identify the new web browser - Google Chrome - and how many visitors of this blog are using it.
But couldn't get the answers as it seems that both StatCounter and Google Analytics (they should have) recognise Google Chrome as Safari.
Though the browser detect utility gives a positive match.
I believe this will be fixed soon.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
I have a thing for comics and also for new web utilities.
Google mixes both to announce the of launch its new web browser Chrome. The beta version is expected to be released today.
On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn't the browser that matters. It's only a tool to run the important stuff - the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.
Meanwhile take a look at the comic book that Scott McCloud has inked for the publicity campaign.
I've converted it into pdf and put it up on Scribd for a better reading experience.
(Alternatively you can download it from here)