The troubles with the kali peeli experiment of #OlaCabs

I have been using the kali peeli service of Ola Cabs since it was launched last year, and the experience had been quite good leading up to January this year. However, the last few weeks have been pretty bad:

  • There have been instances where the booking gets accepted by a driver, only to be cancelled in a few seconds\minutes. This can be especially problematic if you’ve exited the application as there is no notification.
  • Many a times the drivers accept and even call up confirming they’ll arrive in a few minutes. However, on checking the app after those few minutes have elapsed show the trip completion page with the rating option. I promptly leave a 1 star rating of course.
  • I even found a guy with 2 mobiles, and he pretty much logged out of one and logged in through the other as I got into the cab.

I’ve been through up to 6 attempts at trying to book a kali peeli before giving up on some days. All this makes me wonder whether the kali peeli experiment is drawing to a close. Based on my conversations with the some of the drivers over the last few months (some of who wondered why Ola was paying them), the kali peeli option seems to have been a marketing and potentially recruitment exercise by Ola. It was good while it lasted I guess.

An observation on the non kali peeli side of things

I’ve also used the regular Ola service (mostly mini) over this period too, and discovered a loophole in the prepaid wallet which possibly applies to other services like Uber and Meru as well. The way I discovered it was also pretty interesting.

I had availed the 100% cashback wallet topup offer and booked an Ola mini for a return trip from an event in Vashi. I had spoken to the driver a couple of times to provide him with directions as usual, and he confirmed that he had reached. I got in the elevator with my family, and stopped at one of the floors on the way down where an elderly gentle man tried to get in with his suitcase, but the lift doors wouldn’t close. So he got off and set down the stairs. The doors didn’t close even then, and we ended up taking the stairs as well. As we made our way to the gate where the cab was waiting, I called him and as we exited the gate, we found the cab pushing off in the opposite direction though I had told him to come towards the gate.

I called the driver again and he told me that someone had already boarded the cab and told him that he was one of our friends who had to go to the airport and he’d also booked a cab for the airport. After a lot of heated arguments between the driver, the so called “friend” and me, it finally emerged that it was the same elderly gentleman who’d caused us to climb down the stairs, taken off with our cab and refused to get off. Luckily the driver managed to get him off before they went to a long way and returned to take us.

Since Ola is metered completely on the mobile with no intermediate readings, it was impossible to reset the meter (at least the driver and I didn’t know how), and the entire amount ended up getting deducted from my wallet. The saving grace was that it was possibly only a km or so extra, and I offset some of it from the toll payment made by the driver in cash.

Now, think of a situation where Ola recruits the unscrupulous kali peeli drivers who’ve been exploiting the system as I noted earlier, and they take joy rides with your Ola money. Not very pretty, is it? I’m sure they’ve built in some measures to guard against this kind of behaviour.

Microsoft one ups Google+ for photos

Just got the latest update for the OneDrive app and saw the new tags section that tries to classify photos automatically based on content. Tags range from #building to #group. It is reasonably accurate too, though I don’t take too kindly to baby photos being tagged #dog & #animal. Either ways, good to see a feature like this make it to an app rather than having a research lab project having its thunder stolen by a competitor’s published app (Hyperlapse from Instagram did pretty much this).

My Gadgets of 2014

A laundry list of all the gadgets I used last year:

  • iPod Touch: I’d got this 2nd gen device in early 2010, and it has been pretty much reduced to the role of a music player now. The battery does not hold up for very long, but otherwise it’s fine. It’s stuck on iOS 5, and it made for some stunning contrast when I got my iPhone later in the year.
  • Lumia 720: This was my primary phone for nearly half of the year before I dropped it and busted the screen. It was a pleasure to use and I captured lots of photos & videos using this. I continue to recommend Windows Phones to people switching to modern smartphones for the first time.
  • Galaxy S3: A phone I got way back in mid-2012, and it never became my primary phone. It did serve as my primary internet device on the go till I got my iPhone. The performance also degraded over time and with my version of the device being omitted by Samsung for the Kitkat upgrade, I flashed it with Cyanogenmod 11. This did give a much needed performance boost, but I lost most of my gaming progress and ended up installing a lot fewer apps than I had before.
  • iPad mini: I had got the 64 GB version on the day it launched in India in Dec 2012, and it has become my go to browser & gaming device at home. iOS 7 & 8 have performed pretty decently on this though some of the newer games have performance issues due to the old old hardware. Even though I got the highest capacity, I still run into storage issues due to my large collection of games, music & comics (tons of them through Humble Bundle). Apart from this, my iPhone and office MacBook Air have ensured that I have companion devices to exploit the continuity features introduced in iOS 8 & Yosemite.
  • Kindle Paperwhite: I had gotten impatient and bought the 1st gen device in Dec 2013, just a few months before the launch of the second gen in India. Haven’t regretted the purchase though as my Kindle library has a couple hundred books plus there’s a bunch of them from other sources. I have read quite a few books on it and it is definitely more convenient than the iPad mini in that regard.
  • Canon EOS 550D: My DSLR completed 4 years this August, and I do manage to shoot special occasions on it – mostly cultural shows & family trips. The Lumia 720 & iPhone pretty much took over the casual (and not so casual at times) shooting role. Plus the phones are a lot more convenient for shooting video. My 4 lens kit along with a flash didn’t see any addition this year which is probably a sign of things to come.
  • Acer laptop: This Windows 7 machine has been through a hard disk replacement due to failure but manages to trudge on. I had bought it with the intention of gaming, but it seems to be having heating issues of late when running heavier games. Its role has been pretty much reduced to that of a home server, handling the occasional download and streaming duties. Gaming & browsing have been pretty much shifted to the iPad & smartphones though it manages to hang on to the printing duties.
  • TP Link modem & wifi routers: I had started off with a 3G wifi router a couple of years back to make the most of my MTS connection. We eventually went for an MTNL connection and a DSL modem cum wifi router took over as the main connection, and I shifted the old router to the role of a range extender for my bedroom. They’ve been doing pretty well apart from the streaming issues with the Apple TV.
  • MacBook Air: Thanks to my role of managing the official mobile apps at work, I ended up replacing the work HP Windows laptop with a MacBook Air in April. It’s been a pleasure to use, and took me a few weeks to appreciate the difference between Windows & OS X. In terms of the OS both Windows & OS X have their strengths & weaknesses. The real difference in user experience comes from the hardware – the default SSD in particular. This makes a ton of difference to the responsiveness of the machine and guarantees a near tablet\smartphone like response. I’m sure Windows laptops can feel the same way, but you’d be hard pressed to find anything priced below a MacBook Air equipped with SSDs by default.
  • Google Glass: Another device that I got to use for a few weeks due to my work role. Definitely not a mainstream device, especially in its current form, but it will certainly have a major role to play in the enterprise. The hardware is almost certain to get an upgrade this year and things should be interesting once more.
  • iPhone 5s: Ended up replacing my broken Lumia 720 with a gold 16 GB iPhone 5s after lots of debates. Bought it just before the 6\6+ launch when the prices were on the way down to reduce the cognitive dissonance a bit. The storage is definitely a limiting factor and the screen a tad small now that we have the larger iPhones, but everything else is just the way I wanted. My photo shooting has increased even more after the purchase, and so has my video taking. I’ve also finally got all the apps I use on my primary phone – Windows Phone was limited that way. TouchID is of course what it promises to be and has made me quite lazy. I suspect I’m now firmly in the iPhone camp with a finger in the Android camp.
  • Apple TV: Yet another Apple device for home. AirPlay is certainly handy to have for uses ranging from photo slideshows to showing off online videos. Plus the home sharing feature allows me to stream content from my laptop a lot more reliably (my TV could play some stuff, but not all formats). The Youtube channel also got a much needed overhaul towards the end of the year and I have finally started catching up on my Watch Later list.
  • Apple Airport Express: With the Apple TV came the limitations of my routers streaming capabilities. I’d faced it before when I’d tried to stream to the iPad, but the Apple TV just highlighted the problem even more. Did some research and zeroed in on the Airport Express instead of some ac capable router since I don’t have any device with ac yet. Things have been pretty smooth since then, though the range of the router is not that different from the TP Link ones.
  • Honourable mentions: I’ve still got my Altec Lansing ATP3 speakers purchased way back in 2007 as my primary speakers. The Senheisser HD 239 headphones purchased in 2013 saw a lot more use last year, though the SoundMagic earphones have been sparingly used. I also got a JBL bluetooth speaker that’s come in handy on many occasions. My Plantronics Voyager Pro HD bluetooth headset from 2012 is also going pretty strong and sees almost daily use.

2015 is probably too early for getting anything VR related, but I have a very strong suspicion that I’m going to end up with a wearable this year.

My iPhone Home Screen for 2014

Home Screen

2014 was the year I finally switched to an iPhone all thanks to the broken screen on my much loved Lumia 720. I got an iPhone 5s in June and my iOS app collection from my iPod Touch (2nd gen), iPad 2 & iPad mini made the switch pretty much seamless. I’m making this post inspired by a similar annual exercise by M G Siegler, and hope to study my usage over time. I do still have my Galaxy S3, but that hasn’t managed to become my primary phone in 2.5 years

So, here goes my list of apps used on the iPhone (in the order featured in the screenshot):

  • The first party Apple icons are self explanatory as expected. That said, I also use Dropbox, Google+ and OneDrive for my photo backups in addition to iCloud.
  • Checkmark 2 is mainly for my location based reminders (Apple’s solution is pretty poor in this regard), and also for general lists
  • Alarmed (a free clone of Due) is one of my favourite reminder apps due to its extensive options for setting event repeats (x days from completion being the killer feature for me). Plus it also supports creation of timers and iCloud sync (hasn’t been updated for iOS 8 though).
  • Whatsapp is my preferred mode of exchanging online messages with my friends & family.
  • Mailbox is mainly for managing Gmail (and no, I don’t have an Inbox invite).
  • Paper for browsing facebook, though I still have the main app as lots of apps use it for login.
  • Wikipanion to look up stuff on wikipedia, an app I’ve carried over from my iPad. The history feature makes it more convenient than the integrated Spotlight search or using the browser.
  • Olacabs is pretty much the Indian take on Uber, and their recent support for the Mumbai Kaali Peeli taxis has made the app more useful than ever. Plus their mini AC cab service is a just hair costlier than the Kaali Peeli and they don’t have any premium for night time rides.
  • Google Maps is pretty much the defacto map app for India, and I use it to check traffic before leaving office every day to choose the route to take home.
  • Day One is my go to app for daily journal entries, and it is one of the reasons why my online posts (blog, facebook, twitter) has actually gone down. This is a paid app, but I picked it up during Apple’s app store celebration giveaway. That said, I did purchase the Mac version for my office MacBook, albeit at a discount.
  • Chrome pips Safari to the browser slot due to its cross platform capabilities since I do use the Galaxy S3 and a Windows laptop at home where its sync functionality comes in handy.
  • Argus is a decent fitness app, but I just use to track my daily step count against a goal of 5000 steps. I had also purchased MotionX 24/7 for this purpose and did find its idle reminder handy, but it turned out to be a bit of a drain on the battery in spite of the M7. I’ve also tried quite a few other similar apps like Move, Breeze, Human etc, and each has their strong points. With the Apple Watch coming out soon, I have a suspicion that this area is going to get an overhaul.
  • Camera+ is my secondary camera app after Apple’s, mainly for those backlighting situations, and when I want to get the horizon level.
  • Shazam has taken over from Soundhound for song identification due to its better record with Hindi songs. I still have Soundhound though, and its active lyrics can be pretty handy.
  • Accompli has taken over from Mail & Cloudmagic as my office mail client that’s based on Exchange. The integrated calendar feature is quite handy, and so is the attachment section. Microsoft’s purchase of the software only increases the likelihood that it’s going to become even more handy as an Exchange client.
  • MoneyBook is probably the oldest of the lot and one of the first apps that I purchased (for my iPod touch). It’s a pretty simple expense tracker with a nice interface and online backup capabilities.

This of course leaves out the tons of games that I’ve played on my iPad, but does overlap with some apps on my Galaxy S3. A shoutout to some of my other useful apps like Zomato, OneNote, Swarm, Numerous that I use on specific occasions. I’m sure this list will look somewhat different as more apps start leveraging the iOS 8 features and then there’s of course Apple Watch.

PK go home or ET meets Satyameva Jayate

ET

One of the main objectives behind watching PK for me was to make this post. So here goes:

  • If you thought the PK poster was controversial, just imagine what would’ve happened had he landed in an urban area and encountered an iPod Shuffle carrying thief.
  • I half expected to have an ET like cycle sequence given the carrier equipped cycle that Jaggu was riding in her intro sequence.
  • The initial Jaggu courtship track has got to be one of the shortest on record in Bollywood.
  • A 6 hour handholding session to just learn a language or two, and nothing else! The Hollywood aliens are much much faster at this kind of data transfer.
  • There are way too many dancing cars in Rajasthan & Delhi, given PK’s constantly changing wardrobe.
  • I seriously wonder what people in embassies do.
  • Then again, solving romantic issues with a call to an embassy is probably better than the use of vacuum cleaners to deliver babies.
  • If you do want to watch aliens listening to earth music, check out Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • If there’s a sequel, will it be called Prrish?
  • Parting thought – imagine PK & friends feeling depressed and doing the cheering up dance sequence on his home planet.

Forget Uber, here’s Ola kaali peeli

As an office goer in Mumbai, who commutes by taxis, I’ve had my fair share of trip refusals and ended waiting for upto am hour to get a willing cab. The recently launched Ola Cabs feature of hailing a good old kaali peeli in Mumbai has been a real time and hassle saver for me this past week. I’ve used it 3-4 times already & the experience has been quite smooth. Hope it flourishes from here as it solves problems for both the commuter and the taxi driver. Just hope that it doesn’t run afoul of regulators and unions.

One caveat of you’re using their windows phone app which doesn’t seem to have this feature yet.

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It is time to stop rewarding failure

Aditya:

Scathing for sure

Originally posted on Om Malik (WP.com):

Silicon Valley (the notion) has become very much like rest of corporate America — it has embraced the philosophy of failing upwards. I have seen many executives get bumped up the ranks, get fancier titles and bigger paychecks, even though they were disastrous at their job. Many have left destruction and dismay in their wake. And yet, there they are getting bumped up — again and again. I was reminded of this disease this morning when I read about Microsoft cutting 18,000 jobs of which 12,500 odd will be at the Nokia division. Microsoft’s board might have eased out Steve Ballmer, but man, why aren’t they thinking about Stephen Elop.

When I met him in his prior gig at Microsoft, Elop seemed to be a nice enough guy, not quite a visionary, but good enough for what was then essentially a monopoly.  The very fact that a middling executive could…

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With Big Data Comes Big Responsibility

Aditya:

Of course the smart governments can have a field day with all the data being collected, and would be more reluctant than ever that one of the essential services get blocked by other states…

Originally posted on Om Malik (WP.com):

“You should presume that someday, we will be able to make machines that can reason, think and do things better than we can,” Google co-founder Sergey Brin said in a conversation with Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla.  To someone as smart as Brin, that comment is as normal as sipping on his super-green juice, but to someone who is not from this landmass we call Silicon Valley or part of the tech-set, that comment is about the futility of their future.

And more often than not, the reality of Silicon Valley giants, who are really the gatekeepers of the future, is increasingly in conflict with the reality of the real world!  What heightens that conflict — the opaque and often tone-deaf responses from companies big and small!

Silicon Valley (both the idea and the landmass) means that we always try to live in the future. We imagine what the future…

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Healthcare links 07/10/2014

  • Lots of promise, but the hardware has some way to go before it can be used reliably

    tags: healthcare google-glass

    • Direct streaming worked about 30% of the time.  The majority of failures were due to inadequate wi-fi signal (60%), Glass overheating (20%), power failures (10%), or Glass’s OS freezing (10%).
    • Surgeons who wore Glass could either see the display OR capture the surgical field, but not both at the same time.
    • a >300Kbps stream generated a halfway-decent picture
    • 30 – 40-second delay in the stream

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Healthcare links 07/09/2014

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.