Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Creative Customer Care Centre - As good as a Chinese imitation product

I wanted to get a good value headset for VoIP/Skype communications without breaking my wallet. So after some recommendations I purchased Creative HN-900.

I've used it mainly for VoIp/Voice calls and the product is good value for money. However less than an year of spare usage, the product started to give problems.

It's a classic issue - i.e. only one side of the headset is working and it's randomly disconnecting voice. So I reach out to Creative support. By the way did I mention that you need to work hard to find the actual creative 'contact us' or feedback form in their website?

Anyway the e-mail support is quite fast and normally I managed to get same day reply. However after 10 days of e-mail communication where they tried to "solve" the problem, they finally advised to visit the support centre and also told that I need to pay SGD 40 for 'repair' even it is under warranty period. I am fine with that as this is supposed to be 'international warranty' which creative doesnt provide. (?)

I am angry but as I've no choice, I decided to lose 40 bucks to get it repaired or replaced. After a tedious 1 hour journey to the remote place, I managed to find the physical room with the name "creative customer care centre". But I didn't realized that this is the beginning of the problem.

First of all I got a shock when the place is unmanned. Then I managed to find from a security guard that the support person went out for lunch (it's 3 PM by the way). After an hour of waiting I saw the person sitting at the desk. Then the person repeatedly said 'sorry lah' for over a dozen times and go through all the story.

Another 30 min wasted. Finally he went inside to the store to check the stock and returned with a sheepish smile. Guess what. Sorry lah, no stock of this model. Come again next week or some other time.

What the hell.. There is no assurance at all that and worse, the person is not even trying to make an effort to find the stock arrival date and asking me to visit or send the item to me via post.

What a shame Creative. For a company who claims to be Worldwide leader in entertainment products. Atleast there should be some effort to improve the support.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Air Quality in India

Here is a screenshot captured. Actually if you ever been to India & China one could easily see the horrible air quality in Indian cities. Be it the Metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi or 2nd tier cities like Hyderabad or Pune or Towns far from any industries - the air quality in India is so horrible, it's hard to feel that India can solve this problem any time soon.

Even in highly advanced places like Gurgaon (kind of all MNC's setup their offices here near New Delhi) or Bangalore where the crowd is supposed to be highly educated and IT folks - the problem is the same. I can see smog filled skies, dusty roads, and horrible vehicular pollution.
Why is it so?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The case of Devyani Khobragade - Many unanswered questions, but the way India handled need tons of improvement

I am not sure what happened behind the scenes or the 'political' motives or 'religion motives' or 'national motives' or 'racial motives' but I can say the way this case has been handled by India - The image of India & it's citizen dropped to a new low.

The views of many Indians and my Ex-Indian (Indian origin, PIO, etc) friends are that India over-reacted and tried hard to protect a criminal with fake news, emotionally driven news articles in media, and unnecessary hype.

The claims of the accused is not proven and for the details Wiki got an updated article here.

After reading through the document and going through Indian and American news papers, I can only deduce that both are at fault
- USA, for going 'extra-mile' to prove one as a criminal. I won't agree that it's the fault of USA for keeping the diplomat in prison with other criminals or hand-cuffing, or physical checkup as faults here. This is a standard process and the hue & cry is due to "indian VIP culture".
- India, for everything else. Be it the fake documents, false claims and most importantly the loose attitude when it comes to signatures, and taking oath, lying, false documentation, mis-representation of news and emotional reporting.

Shame on the Bureaucrats and Media for giving a different picture to the nation. Trying to protect a criminal with massive resources and money. It's all tax-payers money and shows if you are a well connected person, the nation can save you. But the poor people, workers in Middle East, Asean countries - they are left to suffer. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Bing Rewards - My first Amazon gift card redemption

For the people staying in USA, Bing has been offering an 'incentive' to jump ship :)


The program is quite reasonable and within two months I became a gold member (where you can get bragging rights, and 15% discount for gift redemption) and also withdrawn USD 10 Amazon gift cards (2x5).

This is something with minimal effort. I've changed the default search engine to Google in my firefox and that's all I did. For every 2 searches, the user gets 1x point. Also, time to time BING creates some offers where users can get more points. Or referring friends, and get 200 points when they reach silver status.

Not a bad idea to use BING too. Especially I like their homepage pictures and it is kind of refreshing at times.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A week of holidays in Singapore with two young kids...

Ok, perhaps this is the first time we stayed back in Town over X-mas & NY period. Thanks to the mandatory shutdown of my company, I've no choice but to take a forcible holiday. I still hate this "forced holiday" which is a terrible idea from some western folks sitting in their offices.

Anyway, this holiday period gave us a challenge to keep the kids occupied. So this is what we did. Felt it's good to share with my friends and for my own future reff . Especially with my 5 year old & 2 year old kids, we are not able to go to many so called "family places" which are typically for young kids or kids older than 6 years. So I'll share the details and most importantly some of the experiences/lessons learned, and some tips. You can find the good stuff from their web sites anyway :)

Day-1: Visit to Singapore Zoo.

The crowd was amazing, and we tried to beat the crowd by going early. Buying online tickets helped a lot as we avoided standing in queue. Also the tickets comes with a validity of a month so you don't have to plan it perfectly. Just buy and you can visit whenever the weather is good and you've the mood to spend four-five hours showing yourself to animals :)

It's a great place for kids & toddlers. Avoid going on a hot day and even on a cloudy day bring plenty of water. Let me repeat.. Plenty of water.. for kids and yourself. You may not able to buy water at dispensers, as they tend to run out very fast and most of the dispensers only accept coins. Also the rates are exorbitant at $3/bottle. These Dasani bottle can be bought at 40-50c at NTUC or super markets.

Second, pack some food. May be some rolls or some snacks. You can eat at the Zoo, by paying double the price but the horrible part is waiting period and crowd. With young kids this is not going to be a good idea to sit at the table or wait for the table as there is a mad rush to food between 12 noon to 2 PM. Also the quality of food is mediocre.

Now about the Zoo - Follow a path and try to avoid going to the 'middle areas' i.e. primate kingdom, komodo dragon etc. Elephants, Tiger, Giraffe, Horse, Kangaroo & Monkeys are great hits.Then keep the "kids play area" for the last. One idea is once you finish the rest of Zoo, go to Kids area then take the Boat and let the wind makes you feel fresh.

Lastly bring an umbrella or poncho. This is assuming you are going on a cloudy day and it tends to drizzle or pour all of a sudden.

Overall 5 hours at Zoo; Using public transport and there is a direct bus to Ang Mo Kio Interchange which is quite fast.

Day-2: S.E.A Aquarium/Resort World Sentosa

Most important thing here is "crowd'. Avoid weekends, public holidays as this place tends to be a huge headache. Horrible crowd management worsens the situation and camera flashes irritates not only the fish but rest of the masses.

Buy the tickets online and you can save few min to hours waiting at the queue. But my recommendation is to do it on the same day and not to buy the express ticket. We did the mistake of buying Express tickets by paying 15 per person but the "express queue" is not even opened as there are too few people. Also the express card allows to enter the place a little bit early but that's where it ends. But one can buy the pass even when you are inside if there is huge crowd. IMHO, not worth.

Then, the place is horribly crowded and you should try to make your own way with young kids. Be careful as the lighting is dim, and watch out for 'stroller warriors' pushing their way, while trying to take photographs.

Dolphins are not visible that easily as the priority is given to the guests who pay to spend time with them out side. So tough luck..

Coming to the journey plan/trip - Easy way is to take public transport and reach Harbour Frong; Then take the board walk to stroll for 10-15 min to reach the place. I found this is much more easier than taking the mono-rail; Or taxi will bring you right at the casino basement.

Try to be earlier as the crowd tends to be very little and you can have some good experience. You may not buy any food there as the food offered in side the aquarium is horrible with 3x-4x the price.

Once again - Bring water.. Lots of water as there are no stalls selling water and no taps to fill up. I hate to see public places not offering water to the guests in Singapore. You can buy water from Cold Storage @ Harbour Frong/Vivo City.

Total time spent - 3 hours at aquarium; Public transport to Harbour Front MRT. Then you have Circle line, North East line.

Day-3: SingKids PlaySystem

I have seen one SingKids at Changi but never visited the town versions. So finally we made a trip almost after ~ two years of its opening at United Square. It's wonderful place for toddlers and the best part to visit this place is we managed to create some good occupation for our kids during a heavy rainy period. December in Singapore is pretty predictable in terms that it's going to rain almost every day :)

Nice place but I'd suggest to buy membership (16 visits @ SGD 198) which is shareable. Means you can share this with your friends and doesn't have to be for your own. So this puts the price at each trip ~ 13 vs a regular trip of SGD 18. I am sure you will do visit few times. The big hit(s) with my kids are,

  • Ball pit
  • Slide with flowing water inside (not wet one but transparent one with water flow)

Crowd is average but one minor challenge for us is to pass time roaming outside. They only allow one adult at a time so we have no choice to walk around till the kids are tired.

Secondly, watch out your kids and they may hit to something (it's a safe place but we need to be cautious) or hit some other kids or get hit by some excited kids.

Day-4: Gardens by the Bay

This is the most recent and there is lot of buzz about the Far East organization Children Playground too. So we thought this could be a great place to go with kids to show them the gardens and let them spend some time at the play ground. But I am disappointed with the FEO Playground. It's not for toddlers but for kids older than 6 years. They do have some for toddlers, but not really need a trip to visit the place.

Rest of the trip is a hit with my kids loving the gardens, and especially the Flower Dome.

Tips - Again, bring lots and lots of water and keep an umbrella.

That's all for now folks. I think I am going to spend another 15 days in Singapore over Chinese New Year and got to plan few more trips. Will update then.