Wednesday, August 15, 2007

How to increase office productivity and efficiently use office space – Shift to GLT 1.0

Last Monday we shifted to GLT 1.0. I knew I would be allocated a place in some passageway lined up with workstations given the crunch for space in this building. But to my pleasant surprise, not only was my place not in a passageway but my cubicle was one of the most spacious! Others in my team didn’t share the same good fortune as me. They were being put in a cubicle meant for 4. Nothing wrong with it until you add three more people to it. That makes 7 in cubicle meant for 4! How would they sit? I will tell you how. Put one person each in between two people and you get one of the most elegant looking combinations of people in one cubicle. There is a very small problem though – If someone has to get out, he/she will have to push the chair of the person on either side to get out. However, given the super advantages of such modern design, we can comfortably ignore this problem.

Super Advantage No 1: Looking from outside of the cubicle, it seems that the employees are sitting on the top of one another. That is just an illusion created by this fantastic arrangement of people. In reality, every person in these cubicles has his/her own computer and everyone has got a chair to sit! Isn’t that an efficient utilization of office space?

Super Advantage No 2: The arrangement of people is so very ergonomically brilliant. Employees can lean and place their elbows on their colleague’s chair, which is at a distance of about 2-3 inches or sometimes touching their chair. And employees are really loving this.

Super Advantage No 3: Two people share one phone. That means one person can’t keep talking for hours on the phone! How well thought of!!

Super Advantage No 4: This one is really good.These cubicles should be called Green Cubicles. Why? Coz they save energy and in turn reduce greenhouse emissions. Let me explain…. You see, the three squeezed… err…efficiently arranged people in between the normally comfortable four have got wonder monitors. Their monitors immediately turn OFF whenever there is a power outage. The monitors turn ON when the generator kicks in. Normally the time period is 3-4 secs. But as you know monitor consumes almost 80% of the energy. Multiply that with some 100 odd monitors like this in this building and imagine the energy saving! I think this ingenious idea should be incorporated in offices worldwide! This would really take care of Global Warming.

Super Advantage No 5: Apart from saving energy, the guys on the green machines can enjoy a break for 3-4 seconds. This way the guys can quickly take break from work and relax. I call it a quick refresh method. Much better than having a smoko/coffee break. No wonder the guys in these cubicles don’t get out much! Hmm that adds one more advantage – Productivity!!

Super Advantage No 6: Teams in such cubicles don’t face a problem of communication and their interpersonal skills are automatically improved. Employees are so close to each other that it naturally harbingers a feeling of unity and warmth (pun intended). Brilliant innit?

I never thought that so many advantages were hidden in these cubicles. Someday next week we will be shifted again to a different level in this building and I will be a part of such cubicles. Or I might be sitting in some passageway where I can meet lots of people on their way to the rest room or pantry. How exciting! I am feeling wonderful now at this opportunity of social networking!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Sinhgad – A trek on the weekend.

I hear the rain outside. It must be around 5 – 5:30ish in the morning. I start drifting off to sweeeet sleep when my mobile ring wakes me up. It is Kshitija calling. As decided the previous day, we were gonna depend on this foolproof method of waking each other up. That way we wouldn’t fall prey to the Snooze key and end up getting late or not going at all!!… I look at the mobile and it is nearly 6am. I wake up rather sleepy eyed thinking about how would I have loved to laze around in my bed for some 4- 5 hours more. That thought really holds on for a while and I start cursing myself for saying ‘Yes’ to Sinhgad trek this week. But just after a cup of hot tea I think I am ready to go. After a quick shower, I get down to the parking. Me mate, Hemant comes down and just as we sit in my car, it starts raining heavily. We proceed to pick up Rahul who is sheltering himself from the rain under a shop. After that we stop by a bar/cafĂ© in front the majestic gate of good ol’ Bharti Vidyapeeth where I did my Electrical Engineering some 5 years back.
The girls come and we decide to go in one car. We reach the base of Sinhgad in about 35 mins.

We start our uphill climb. I notice that the weather is perfect - drizzle and gentle breeze. We walk through a dense canopy of trees – lush green. The view is refreshing. We click a half a dozen snaps on our mobile handsets. Just then we realize that we had taken a wrong turn! We head back and see the familiar stony path leading up the way to historic fort.

As we climb to a higher point, we stop for a breather and look around. What a view! The mountains are all green. At a distance, we can see the Khadakwasla Lake. It is still drizzling. The fort is hardly visible with the clouds covering it. We resume and suddenly, Rahul and Kshitija notice a short but steep climb. They decide to go that way. Others, including me proceed by the normal way. After about 10 mins, we get to a point where we think, Rahul and Kshitija would emerge. We wait for 5 mins but no sign of them. We continue our climb. The only sounds we hear are of rain, waterfalls and the wind. On Sunday, this would have been impossible with hoards of people going up. Glad, we are trekking today.

On the next turn, I look up and see Rahul waving at us from the top. They had reached their some 10 mins earlier. There is makeshift shop selling snacks. We stop by under it. Kshitija meanwhile is busy in taking pictures on her mobile for the ‘Pattern’ theme photography contest. I am again amazed at the view…. it seems that view gets better the higher we get. I had never enjoyed Sinhgad trek so much!

There are rocky climbs all along the way now and though I would say the difficulty level is low on any other day, today it was a medium coz of the rain factor, which had made it more slippery.
As we near the top, I am thirsty, but others advise me against drinking water until we reach the top. We begin the last phase of the climb. Sinhgad is visible from here. This last part is steepest and there is another way to go past it…but we decide to take this one just for the fun of it. The path is so narrow and slippery that even if one of them slips, he/she would cascade the effect downstream. Not that we would end up in a gorge or something, but nevertheless, we would be hurt badly. Arite so we proceed to the top. Rahul then Hemant and then me followed by Kirti, Kshitija and Neha…As we climb through the narrow path surrounded with vegetation, I realize, it is time to close the umbrella and climb with two hands otherwise it would near impossible to get through it.

We stop once on the way to negotiate a slippery climb and that’s it, we reach the top! It is foggy up there but the view is so beautiful. It is almost mystical. There is another group at the top…about the same age as us. They are clicking pictures of a snail. Others get busy clicking it too. The snail is famous now. Some others are enjoying “Butta” which is baked corn.
We see a fort map by the side. It shows all the major points on the forts. As we enter the fort through the old and dilapidated remains of Kalyan gate, it gets even foggier. The visibility reduces to almost 5 feet. It is awesome.
There is sudden rush of people heading down. Some are regular trekkers and some are like us.

We get to first point and decide to go over the edge. It starts raining and gets windier…We get to the edge and see only clouds! The rain gets heavier and we disappear inside a small shack cum eating point. We are freezing cold now and decide for a cuppa hot tea and what else but hot Bhajis! Coming to Sinhgad and not eating Bhajis is a sin! It is so windy that we are worried that the roof of the shack might get blown off! But it doesn’t. As the steaming hot tea arrives with a plate of Bhajis, everyone digs in! Ummmm…delicious! You hafta come here to taste em! …We give our lunch orders Zunka Bhakar (Jowar Bread) and Pithala (thick paste of gram flour).

As the food is getting ready, we explore the fort and come to one point where we couldn’t help stopping. It is not specific point. But today, there was something about this particular place that we all decide to stop and enjoy. The wind is so strong that we can literally lean against the wind and not fall!!All of us become kids and jump around trying to click that one perfect snap where all of us would be in air. We managed to capture one after a dozen attempts but one of them is still on the ground.
As we proceed further, a small path would lead us to wind point. This path is foggy but beautiful all along the way. We come to the wind Point. There, apart from the wind, the view to be enjoyed is that of the deep valley. But today, we can see only clouds!
We come back to the shack cum restaurant and have a delicious Zunka Bhakar meal.
It is almost 1:30pm and we decide to head down. We take a decision to go down via jeep The downhill ride by the jeep is dangerous due to bad roads and our driver made it even more dangerous. All the way, he drove like he was playing a video game. As we reached the base, we had to walk back almost 3 kms to reach our car!!

Finally, all in the car and we reach Pune by 315pm. Never before had I thought that Sinhgad would be so beautiful. I had always imagined it being a sweaty climb sans fun. But today was just perfect thanks to the weather!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Review - MyN73 Music Edition!

Rewind: A month and half ago after countless taunts from my chums on my Nokia 6230, I finally decided that it’s time to go for a new phone. And yes, I had reasons to dispose my faithful Nokia 6230. Trying to switch Bluetooth ON would switch my phone OFF or it would just go into Freeze mode! The other one was very fricken irritating. I just couldn’t charge the phone! It was a matter of luck and not time to see the charger finally fit my phone right and start charging.
I love gadgets and so I wanted a mobile which could do more than just make and receive calls. Of course smart phone would be my choice. So when I started looking, it got confusing even though I am pro-Nokia. There were some super phones in Nokia N-series and E-series. Apple iPhone and iMate were appealing too…Specially iPhone was really tempting with its looks and features. But $ 565 USD was a bit too much now…Hence after a lot of thought, I finally zeroed in on Nokia N73 Music Edition. And after reading innumerable N73 reviews for 2 weeks, I decided to buy it…And I am so in love with it…Here is my review

Cost: 16450 INR
I will start off with the most impressive feature of N73.
The camera of course…3.2 Mega pixel Camera with Carl Zeiss Optics, Tessar lens!! Do I have to say anything about the picture quality now? Photos come out just superb. With 20 x Digital zoom for pics and 4x for Videos, the zoom does work well. Videos are good too at 15fps.There is Review button at the side of mobile. Quite handy that one. It gives a quick access to the images and videos in the Gallery.

N73 has to be the best camera smartphone of the N Series at least as of now.
Plus you have got options like -Adjusting the White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Color Tone, Light Sensitivity and the Scene modes like what you get in your digicam.

Although there is no difference in hardware in N73 and N73 Music edition, the latter comes with enhanced features for music. It ships in with 2GB Mini SD Card filled with some 100 songs out of which 95 are crap. Try deleting them on your phone and it won’t work! The way out is to connect the phone to the computer and simply CUT the 90+ rubbish songs and paste them on you computer. It frees up a lot memory on the card. N73 does support a lot of music formats (mp3, WMA, AAC, eAAC, eAAC+). I haven’t tried listening to all the formats on the phone but MP3, WMA and AAC sound very good indeed. The phone has got Integrated Stereo speakers and the Stereo does sound very well. The Music Edition comes in all black looks and it does look very sinister.

Smart phone that it is, it comes in loaded with all the applications like Office stuff – Word, Power Point, Spreadsheets, Viewing PDF files, Visual Radio, 3-D Tones, Movie Director, Real Player, Life Blog et al.
The 3-D Tones is nifty little utility to enhance your tones by adding effects like Circular, Fly By, Zig Zag, Meander, Doppler Effect etc.

Next thing to like about N73 is the large 2.4-inch QVGA screen of N73. It makes pictures and videos look clearer on them than other smart phones. The screen resolution as given by Nokia is 352X416 pixels makes the pics look excellent on the screen.

I have heard some people saying the saying the keypad is smaller and it makes texting harder. Yes, the keypad is smaller but for a person like me who texts a lot I got used to the keypad after just couple of days and I don’t find it a problem at all.
There is a dedicated music key on the right side of N73 ME for quick access to all the music on your phone. Music is neatly organized by Song Name, Playlists, Artists, Albums, Genres, Composers just like your iPod.

The light sensor at the top of the phone near the secondary camera adjusts the brightness of the screen with respect to the ambient lighting. And this light sensor also blinks (flashing blue light) when the Phone is in ‘Sleep’ mode. This flashing blue light is irritating at times and can be turned Off by going to Settings->Phone->Display->Sleep Mode-> On/Off. Mind you, switching this Off will eat into your phone battery.

Let’s now come to the GPRS part of it. Holding down the 0 key will get you connected to the World Wide Web. When I activated my GPRS connection from my service provider, I was unable to connect to the net for the first few days. I thought it was a problem with N73. But then after repeated calls to my service provider, I realized that that they had goofed up. They reset my connection and now GPRS works fine on N73. There is nothing to be done other than just saving the Configuration Settings sent by your service provider.

Net Applications: I have downloaded Google Maps and S60 Internet Radio. They work like charm. Especially Google Maps with its powerful Satellite imagery looks very good on the large screen of N73. Internet Radio is bit slow at times. But that is all dependent on data transmission rates. With a faster EDGE connection, it should work good.
There is an option to upload Images directly from your phone to the Web Album of your choice.

Games: My N73 came pre-installed with Sudoku and Snakes. The Snakes on my N73 is in 3D. I was amazed to see it. Nokia has come a long way from the Snakes that it had on one of the older phones. This 3D Snakes is not only good to watch but surely will help you kill time.

Battery: The battery is pretty powerful. With normal use (10-15 mins of calls a day, 15-20 mins of surfing, taking pictures and videos for 5-10 mins and playing music for 10 mins a day on the phone speakers) will make the phone go on for 2.5 to 3 days. But with heavy use of the screen (like seeing the images and videos on and on again) will suck your battery. My battery was out of charge in just 1.5 days when all I was doing for those 1.5 days was keeping the camera on and shooting pics and videos and playing them over and over again.

The only two things missing in this phone are – WiFi and GPS. I would have really really liked to have them on my phone. But I had to buy a phone within a certain budget and hence had to settle without these features. Although GPS was really tempting, I had to think my way out of it by asking myself – Do I really need GPS? The answer was ‘No’ coz I do not hike every other day and neither do I get lost everyday coz I know my way around the city.
For the Wi-Fi part, I had to be content with my GPRS connection. I know GPRS isn’t the solution to Wi-Fi but then again there are some compromises to be made when your budget is tight. So for me the only thing to be disappointed was no WiFi in this Phone.

Now comes the most important part – The bugs!
Ofcourse with a smartphone like this, there ought to be bugs and I had expected it. The question is how many bugs and do they really impact the way you use your phone. I do not think so. Here’s why
Bug 1: When a song is playing and I click ‘Next’ in the Track Menu, it doesn’t start playing the Next song. Instead the current song is stopped. I have to go back to the Song List and click the new song again. Maybe this is just with my handset. Does it bother me? Not at all…

Bug 2: Sometimes, when I open the Gallery to see the pic or a video or start a game, I get a message – Memory Full. Try closing some applications.
This is irritating. I have to either go back to the phone menu or switch the phone Off and start again. But this has just happened twice until now in 3 weeks. Hence, not much of a problem.

Bug 3: Sliding the backcover of the phone starts the phone camera. Once, I got a message – Hardware failed. Please restart the camera. I came back to the Phone menu and the phone just froze up. I couldn’t switch the phone off. I had to remove the battery and put it back again to restart the phone. Fortunately this has happened only once.

These are the only bugs I have come across until now in my Nokia N73 ME. Chances are these are specific to my handset only. But in no way do they lessen my pride and joy of owning N73 ME!

All in all, I am happy with my choice.