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take a tip, skip the queue

Have you ever found yourself waiting in the queue at the bank or post office, twiddling your thumbs, desperately wishing that you could be using the time to pick up some groceries, the dry cleaning or to simply grab a coffee instead?

Now you can, with qtip.me! Use your mobile phone to secure your place in the queue. Utilize your waiting time exactly as you want to and show up right when it’s your turn to be served.

Check out our first video, hand-made at Codemenders Oy.

In the summers of 2012, many of us at Nokia were asked to leave because of huge changes in the organization and company focus (yes, one of the polite ways to tell this).

That’s when we decided to do something of our own. I am very proud to announce that our work, which started in the fall of 2012 has now hit a new milestone.

qtip.me has kept me busy most of the time outside of my office hours and now it is available for public. It is an honest bid to save a little amount of our time, which we spend doing nothing at the queues.

Extend your support to qtip.me by following us on twitter and liking us on facebook. And yes, do refer it to an office near you, where you think we need to take away your queueing worries!

Hearty thanks to the team behind qtip.me, Nimika for the Windows phone application, Alexey for Android phone application, Dmitry for the iPhone application, Chandra for guiding us in lows, highs.

Once upon a time, to Frankfurt

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This happened on 7th of June, 2013.

I and my wife Nimika were travelling to India for a one week trip on June 7. Our flight (Indian Airlines, Dreamliner) was scheduled from Frankfurt at 21:30. I wasn’t aware that most of airlines offer a discounted ticket for a journey from Berlin to Frankfurt in case of an outbound journey from Frankfurt. We had hired a car to travel from Berlin to Frankfurt and considering two people travelling, the car came really cheap (55 € rental + fuel costs) as compared to train tickets which were 125€ per person.

What happened before this day:

Everything for this trip happened at sudden blink. Almost!

During the first week of June, it so happened that we had to travel suddenly. Maa and Papa were in New Delhi for a 30 year celebration of their marriage anniversary with Bua and Phupha. In a blink, we suddenly decided that we had to also visit Vaishno Devi during this trip. In another blink, I took a week off from work.

And then, getting tickets to India for both of us, took hours.

First of all, I had to take separate tickets for me and Nimika since we both had different return dates. So, I purchased my tickets first from Air India’s website. Next, when I started to purchase Nimika’s ticket from the same credit card, the transaction was reported to be successful but still the ticket was not reserved (and I was advised to call their call-centre with a reference number). Considering a glitch, I tried it 2 more times, only to get a message: “this credit card has been used for 3 failed attempts recently and hence, we have blocked it”.

WTF!! I called Deutsche bank immediately and they found the problem being “insufficient credit limit” on my card. Considering that I was having my much needed and urgent holiday, they raised my credit limit by huge 400%.

I tried purchasing tickets, again. No luck. So, I decided to call Air India’s call centre with the reference number provided. To my amusement, the guy who picked up the phone, did not know anything about the reference number system. He kept on insisting that the ticket PNR are not generated like the number I gave them. A****e!

I was getting on my nerves since the website showed: “Only one seat left”. I had already booked my tickets to India, our (me, nimi, maa, papa) tickets from New Delhi to Jammu. But wasn’t sure if Nimika would be able to join us!

After a two hour ordeal on most of the travel websites, I gave a try to “travelstart.fi” for Air India tickets for Nimika and was finally successful.

Finally, the day:

My initial calculations were:

  • Berlin to Frankfurt ~ 550 KMs
  • Average speed limit on the way ~ 130 kmph (+ travelling on autobahn)
  • With two stops in between, total driving time should be MAX 5 hours
  • I should leave Berlin by 1PM.
  • I will reach Frankfurt by MAX 7PM, with 2.5 hours in hand.

I left office at 12:00 to pick the car from Tegel Airport. It was a Peugeot (with French number plate). I started driving to my apartment when I suddenly noticed that one of the side mirrors was not working properly (some loose screws). Considering a long journey, I decided to change the car. I was still calm. Went back to airport and asked them to change the car. It took some time, but then, they changed it to Opel Astra.

It was 1pm already now. Quick calculations said that a 30 minute delay would cause the whole journey to delay by max 30 minutes. Moreover, its autobahn! I reached home by 1.30pm, had lunch and then, we left for Frankfurt.

Damn the city traffic, we were still at Messe Nord (ICC) in Berlin at 15:30. Now were getting nervous. My navigator said that expected time of arrival would be 20.45. We had already lost 2 hours of our travel time and we were still not even 20KMs away from our start point.

Waiting on the red light near ICC, I just prayed, if Vaishno Devi mata has called, we will reach for sure. The road ahead looked empty. As soon as the traffic light was green, I gave a full throttle driving at the max speed of 130kmph and in sometime, we were crossing Potsdam.

Navigator: expected time of arrival – 20:30 hrs.

And then, the maximum speed limit was over. We were on autobahn. Full throttle, close to 170kmph, I hoped that there would be no more delay delays.

Navigator: expected time of arrival – 20:15 hrs

We were about to reach Leipzig when the 2 lanes were cut to 1 lane. I started to notice some cars, driving slow ahead of me. And suddenly, I noticed a trail of cars at least a kilometre long ahead of me. Shit! Not again!!

Navigator: the route is being re-calculated because of a traffic information update!

I immediately took an exit that the navigator pointed me to, only to be greeted by army personnel that you are not allowed to take this road. I told them that needed to reach Frankfurt by 20:00 and possibly this is the only fastest way. They smiled and said that going back was the only way, unless I wanted to swim across. It was the floods. I called up my parents, told them that there are traffic jams and we were not sure if we would be able to make it to Frankfurt. We then called up the Air India help line again. This time, they seemed a little friendly.

Air India guy: This is the number of the check-in desk please inform them. 

Check-in desk lady: If you reach here by 20:30, we will take you onboard. We cant wait for more.

At this moment, I decided that in the some case, I will try to delay the flight myself. HOW? I will call up Phupha ji and ask him if he could help get this plane remain grounded until we reached Frankfurt.

Navigator: expected time of arrival 21:25

Travelling at a speed lower than 20kmph, all hopes shattered. We are not going to make it. After about 30 minutes of ordeal, the traffic started to move a bit faster and then, we started driving down a hill. Cars ahead of us started to disappear faster. I gave the same taste to the car behind us. We were approaching Jena now. About 300 KMs more to go and it was already 17:45.

Speeding up to around 190kmph, I gave it one last try. Much thanks to god, we did not face any obstacle until I noticed the fuel meter showing that I could drive about 150 km more, with 250 more to go still for the airport. I just kept pushing the accelerator as much I could, also looking for any possibly empty gas stations. Time was a legacy, we did not have.

Navigator: expected time of arrival 20:45

Near to Fulda, we stopped at a gas station. Thankfully, there were no queues. Filled the gas tank and pushed the gas peddle as hard as I could. When the airport was about 50Kms away, traffic kept increasing. We saw a lane which was closed from both the sides and had almost no traffic. We could take this for airport too and so, we just took over that lane. The lane had no exit to what ever end we saw.

Navigator: expected time of arrival 20:20

Now I feared, what if this lane had no exit. But thankfully, we easily entered the airport area from this lane. We now had to find the car return place. We entered the wrong parking area. Asked one of the guards where was the return place and he said, GO OUT and take a 1 KM detour and then you will find the right place.

Getting out was another ordeal. We reached the exit point and the door of parking would not open now. It was like water – water everywhere, not a single drop to drink. We pressed the help line of the door and the guy only spoke German. Thankfully, he opened the door for us. We found the return place right there. The car-guy was kind of like waiting for us to leave the car to him. We took all our luggage out and started the home run.

Current status: 20:25, reached airport. Finding check-in counter.

All counters were empty. We kept running from one place to another trying to find the Air India counter. A typical movie like scenario. We ran to the info desk and asked them to call the Air India service desk. Instead of calling, they pointed us to where it was. We ran again. There was a lady closing the counter. We explained the the situation and that we had given a phone call earlier.

Our boarding passes were ready and she allowed boarding. We had to almost run for the immigration counter. Once we boarded the flight, we called home.

Mission accomplished!

(I could not take more than a week off from work because of some deliverables planned in the coming two weeks, but I think that for a trip like this, it was completely worth it.)

void, main!

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Last few days, weeks and months have been very crucial for a lot of reasons.

Being an Indian, Cricket has always been in my veins. India has painfully let go some of the stars of Indian cricket in the past. But none have matched the splendour of Master Blaster. This farewell and retirement is going to create a void in the hearts of all the cricket fans from India and across the world.end

Being a Software Engineer for mobile platforms, Nokia has always had my trust. Not only as a consumer but also as an employee. I have always cherished the nokia ways of working things and am really happy to be part of some of the teams which delivered products very fast, for example, the qt team for SuSe based embedded linux, the here maps team. I am also very, very proud to be a part of some of the product programs like Nokia N800, N900, N9. I have also had a pleasure to work with great managers and great minds at Nokia.

On Oct 31st, 2013, this wonderful ride with Nokia came to an end. I beleive, everything that has a start, has an end. And so is my journey with Nokia, as an employee. I also beleive that its a small world. I will surely come across Nokia in future, may be when they start making phones again.. 😉

At work, I have a special respect for a few fellow workers like Raine, Alexey, Kristoffer, Lörre, Lauri, Sebastian, Frank G, Frank V, Stephan B. and a few managers like Venkat, Devesh, Sami and Jens.

I think that a void has definitely been created with these changes but that is the charming part in itself. We will see more and more Sachins coming forward now. Nevertheless, it has been a great journey so far and now, I look forward to complete my masters course and new job at rightware.

Valentines Day

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Valentines day never ever meant the traditional valentines day to me. During my early schooling days or lets say, until 2000, it was more like an event for friends. We used to wish our friends good wishes for the day. Nothing related to the typical romantic day that the world celebrates today.

Later, I moved to Ranchi for my higher studies and lived with bua – phupha for two wonderful years. Here, valentines day was something special. It was phupha ji’s birthday. I always greeted him with “happy valentines day phupha ji.. and happy birthday”. Its like one of those special things you share in any relationship.

Phupha ji is a person who has inspired me in a lot of things. He left us for his heavenly abode in 2011.

We miss him a lot. I do.

Today, I and Nimika also don’t really celebrate valentines day in its traditional meaning. We rather celebrate Jan 18, the day we confessed our love for each other.

For me, feb 14 still starts with my phone alarm ringing: “phupha ji’s birthday” and it always will.

Posted from WordPress client for my mobile phone.

I can drive my car

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The title of the post might  sound stupid to many people, but it means a lot to me.

It was sometime in October 2010 that Aseem bought our first car, Nissan Almera. Whenever  we both used to go on a long drive, I would imagine myself driving the car on my own. But this was yet a dream to me, as I had no knowledge of how a car works. In India, one can easily get some driving lessons from a friend or a family member and get the drivers licence after clearing the tests. But this was not the case in Finland. One has to take up driving lessons from a diving school which was mostly held in Finnish and the course was quite expensive.

Whenever I went to inquire about the English courses in the driving school, they said they might start one, if there are many candidates for it.  Well, I never managed to learn Finnish as it seems to me like a tongue twister, nor did I get any calls from a driving school about the English courses.

After a year, Aseem sold our old car and got a new one. This time it was a Nissan Primera. During the winter 2011, I once again went to the driving school to inquire if they have any English courses. This time they said that probably during spring they might start one. I thought, may be during the next summer, I have my drivers licence.

The future store was not as bright as it looked. It was March 26 2012, someone stole our car and burnt it down to ashes. Until now we are unaware of the culprit and even police were unable to find the person.

Now I had no car, so no excitement to go for a driving lessons now. Both of us were mentally so disturbed that we did not feel safe staying in our own apartment. After a few weeks I got to know from one of my colleague that she has started taking driving lessons in English in one of the driving schools nearby. Now the question in front of me was, should I go for a driving lesson now?

But it was Aseem, who managed to convince me to take the course. He had more confidence on me than I had. He said, we can have a new car in future, this is the time for you to take the course. So there I was, started my driving lessons after I lost my car.

But I would admit that this course helped me to get my mind diverted from the incident that happened in the past.  The theory lessons seemed quite interesting to me and after every lecture, I used to tell Aseem about the new rules I learned about the traffic.

Then came the day, when I had my first practical driving lesson. I barely managed to move the car for few meters. I was wondering, how can one do so many things at the same time while driving. It was then when I realized, how much pain did Aseem took, while I was happily sitting in the next seat enjoying the long drive.  That day, while returning back from the class, I took the bus back home and now I could understand what the driver might be doing while taking a brake, or slowing down, or moving the bus. Driving looked so difficult to me now that I thought I would never be able to learn how to drive.

Well in the next 2 lessons, I somehow managed to drive. This time it was much easier that it looked in the first class. At least now I was able to move the car and stop it. But then still there were lot many things which I thought was difficult to do at the same time. Pressing clutch pedal while changing gears, no gas while changing gears and many such rules looked so confusing, that I could hardly follow all the instructions given by the instructor. The instructor in the first three classes was friendly but was strict too. He said, if I leave you to do mistakes, you will never learn. May be he was right but I got scared of him. Then I got to know from my colleague that the other instructor is quite friendly  and understanding. So I booked the rest of my lessons with him.

Driving with the other instructor was much more easier. With him I never felt that I did a blunder. He used to appreciate whenever I did something good and he said that mistakes are the way to learn. Slowly with his help and support and Aseem’s encouragement I managed to do good in my driving lessons. Now even I was able to do multiple things simultaneously while driving.  In the meantime, I cleared my theory test as well.

Now we planned to move out of our old apartment to a new one and take a new car as well. This time we again went for a Nissan Primera.  Now I was happy that in a few weeks I would be able to drive my own car. Then came the day for the test. I did quite well in the driving lessons, but somehow could not managed to clear the test mostly because of parking. I had to take few more extra lessons before taking the test again.

Lucky enough to have cleared the test this time, finally I got my drivers licence on July 26th 2012. So my journey of getting my drivers licence was now over. Now I was able to drive my own car.  Now driving did not looked so difficult and my dream had come true.

Yesterday, on 29th July 2012, we again went for a long drive, but this time I was driving and Aseem was sitting next to me. The drive was 150 kms long and was quite satisfying.  I still make some mistakes, which I think would go away only by experience. But the only satisfaction now is that “I can drive my car”.


Loss, shock, happiness

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Holi, the festival of colors, also marks the start of new year in the hindu calendar. The start of this new year wasn’t good at all. Baba left us for his heavenly abode. Brain haemorrhage. Collapsed while being taken to give him the best treatment at Kolkata.

His death marked an end to an era in life of so many people and not just us. Having served the post of a state cabinet minister, M.L.A, bar association chairman, public prosecutor, he was cremated with state honors.

“wo sher ki tarah jiye aur sher ki tarag chale gaye”

I travelled to India for Baba’s funeral on Mar 10 and came back on Mar 26. On return, had a very tiring journey. Nimi wasn’t feeling good because of a dizzy feeling in her head due to the bus travel from Helsinki to tampere. When I opened the door, I assisted her to the washroom. Then, cleaned all the pile of papers, mail etc from the door. Had an excitement to see my payslip, my credit card bill, closed the door, checked them all, had dinner, slept.

Morning, around 5′o clock, police called me informing that my car was stolen and burnt. Oh my, where were my keys? Did I accidentally leave them outside? Probably yes. And someone with an ill intention stole the key from there, then my car. But then, why did he burn it? Was it due to some personal grudge or a grudge against a community? I dont know. I just want the police to investigate it and catch the culprit.

I later went to take a look at the car. It was completely destroyed.

Binti gave birth to a cute little daughter on her birthday, mar 16. Both the ladies now share the same birthday. Both the ladies are fine.

I will probably write more about the events, hopefully, soon!

Why Finland

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I read a column today in Helsinki Times by Gareth Rice, a freelancer writer, titled ‘Why am I still in Helsinki’. After having read it, I decided to give the same thing a thought, from my perspective.

Why, in all the other countries in the world, I am in Finland? Why not some other place? Why did I choose a place that is so cold in winter, that even to go out and throw some garbage in the garbage can just 5 meters away from my apartment, I have to dress as if I am going on a North Pole expedition! Why did I choose a place, where there is daylight for more than 22 hrs in summer? WHY?

Well, a simple answer is that in the first place, I did not choose Finland at all. May be it was destiny and may be some coincidence too.

Some coincidence that I liked linux, some coincidence that at my work, I was allotted project that used linux and may be just a coincidence that for this project, I had to travel to Helsinki, on Sep 1, 2007, though for a short duration.

I came back soon for a longer visit and since then, I have been liking this place.

Why Finland?

Well, here are some good reasons for me:

  1. I work here
  2. My wife works here
  3. I and my wife both study here too.
  4. I feel a sense of social security in Finland.
  5. Despite of some racist allegations lately on some political parties in Finland, I still did not encounter any thing like that and I seriously think that finns are very generous people at heart. In the start they might not mix with you easily, but then they can be really good friends.
  6. There is a mutual trust in people here, which I did not find at any places I have been until today.
  7. People are very honest, 99% of them.
  8. They are very eager to help.
  9. It is a calm country with very less crime rate.
  10. Santa claus.
  11. Nokia.
  12. Very genuine sale.

What more does one want?

Apart from all this, I also like a poem about Finland (not the exact words), remember to sing it in Nokia tune..

Hello Finland, crazy Finland, Finland is my soul.
We drink Vodka, like its coffee and we fish in holes..

Ice fishing, in holes.. :

Ice fishing, Finland

Ice fishing, Finland

image copied from here

Poem courtesy: Conan O’Brien, video about the poem: here

osso, maemo, meego, tizen

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Open Source Software Organization

Are these just good pieces of innovation or blunders on the wheel of software engineering?

I have been associated with maemo / osso since 2006. I find it an OS with great potential. How, otherwise would Nokia be able to put products like an Internet Tablet (4 different flavours), linux based phone (N900) with its work and innovations in and around the OS?

Recently, Nokia announced N9, the MeeGo phone, called as MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan. Technically, N9 is still maemo, which has API compatibility to MeeGo, which means that all the meego applications will run on Nokia N9.

Nokia N9 was supposed to hit the markets in 2010. But then, it was merged with Moblin to for MeeGo and then, most of the innovation power and resources of Nokia just plundered around settings things up around Meego. This delayed N9 for more than a year. For good, or for bad? Well, in my opinion, both. Good, because we also innovated many new things. Bad because it delayed a good product so much, that the OS it boosts to support is going to “Rest in Piece” now!

My question is, why Tizen? Everything started with osso, which was branded as maemo, then maemo to meego and now tizen! Was this really required? If we need a linux mobile platform, why not evolve meego? Or the least, evolve maemo?

So, far, I have been a part of this rat-race for 5 years. And what I understand is, that MeeGo was the worst delay that could happen to Maemo. If we see at the success graph (or say, how many devices it made), as a mobile OS, I see maemo as the clear winner. Starting with Nokia N700, N770, N800, N900 and now, N9. Yes, N9 is not “MeeGo”, it is MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan, which technically, is Maemo, Maemo6, a debian based system. It has an awesome API compatibility to MeeGo apis, so developers can write apps only for MeeGo and make them run on Nokia N9 (or the current, maemo).

And now, when the success lies within Maemo, Nokia is abandoning it. Such a dumb move! A work, an innovation and a manpower, so much, going down the drain!

So, coming back to the topic, first maemo, then meego and now, tizen.. with html5.. are we not doing things similar to webOS? Which is a known failure already! So, what I see is that down the lane, in a few months, Tizen will be dumped as well. Then there will be something new.. which will have the same [sarcasm] fortune as MeeGo [/sarcasm].

IMHO, Nokia should forget MeeGo, keep maemo6, keep its innovations and keep delivering it to the open source enthusiasts. As for Windows phone, being an open source advocate, I do not have any special feelings about it! I rather pity!

A new phase of life

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So, yesterday marked a start of a new phase in our life. While we have been students earlier, a software engineer too, in this phase we would be both, a student and a software engineer. I am sure many people have been into similar situations before but I guess we (me & nimika) are a bit special.

We will study together again, after five years of studying together at IIIT, but this time, we will know each other.. While the introductions to teachers already started the last week, yesterday was the official beginning of classes.

Both of us are pursuing Masters in IT, with major in Software Systems. The study-system here is very different from what we face in India, well, it is not a forced model of studying. Any sincere student would be able to get good marks here.. 🙂

Hope we would be one of those!

The environment and mental setup was a complete change. Every one was so enthusiastic and asked so many questions and initially, I was of the opinion, hey just share the presentation after the class. Things change so much from the perspective of a working professional and a student. Hope that we can keep a track of what we do and maintain a proper balance.

I am sure things will go good, especially because “the date” classes started is special.

Nokia N9

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Finally, after months of hard work, Nokia N9 is out to public. Very soon, it will be available in the stores.

Nokia N9, an excellent piece of innovation as it is, has brought in focus a completely new way of user interaction: “the swipe”. Of course, all you need is a swipe!

Powered by MeeGo, N9 is a phone anyone would like to poses. With superb features like:

  • excellent social network integration (it comes with dedicated apps for facebook, twitter pre-installed and many more in the ovi store)
  • mail for exchange, pop/imap email, cal dev calendar support, skype, google talk, sip calling, voip support
  • extremely catchy ui (yes, nokia has outdone iPhone/apple in just one shot)
  • innovative gestures
  • a very good camera (8mp, carl zeiss); shoot, capture, share (over sms/email/social networks like fb, twitter)
  • good battery life
  • sleek hardware, sexy display
  • nfc
  • excellent and responsive browser, html 5 support
  • free maps (both offline and online) + navigation
  • angry birds (my personal favourite)
  • internal memory (16 to 64 gb)
  • and what not!! Visit nokia.com/n9 for details

What a general, active on social network user would want in their phone…

  1. a good camera to take pictures/videos
  2. one single ui to share the picture/video to social sites
  3. keep self updated with whats happening around (weather, social network etc) without much fuzz
  4. an email client (i personally would have more than one accounts configured into one)
  5. good integration with online services where one can keep a backup of contacts, communications
  6. personally, i would also prefer to have a good rss feed reader, also integrated with social networking features so that i can share what i read and liked

and yes, all of these features are pre-installed on this small genius. You dont really need any separate app or purchase a separate app for all this..

I have been using nokia n900 since long time. I am addicted to it. There is not any phone till now that has proved itself to be as useful as N900. N900 has been an important part of my day-to-day life. Right from checking my office/personal emails to making sip/voip calls to being in touch with friends/family using skype/google and not loosing my mobility to even writing blog posts using a dedicated application for that (wordpress for nokia)… etcetera

But now, after having used N9 for a while, I am proud to say that I have found an excellent, smarter, sexy and appealing replacement for my N900.

Nokia N9, powered by meego, rocks!

(As this is a personal blog, if you want to comment/ask something about N9, please leave it on twitter @aseemshakuntal)

http://swipe.nokia.com can be watched for more details on this excellent piece of technology.