What to do – Flowcharts

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Foreigner’s Guide to Cell / Mobile phones in India

A Foreigner’s guide to getting a cell phone… err… mobile … in India



Rule 1: Forget everything you have learned in your country

Rule 2: Remember to forget everything you learn below when you leave



Guide

  1. Customer is the slave. Complaining won’t help much and once you have done something and it has passed 24 hrs, you cannot be helped.
  2. Lifetime validity – I am still not quite sure but I believe it means you can get free incoming calls for life provided you fulfill some conditions set by the provider (like recharging at least Rs 200 every 6 months) or so.
  3. A SIM card can be had for as little as Rs 20 – perhaps even lower + a xerox of your ID + a passport photo
  4. A franchise of a company (in my case – Reliance) is as useful as the guy who sells Paan and sells SIM cards. They don’t have much power or any of the latest info.
  5. Interstate calling is called STD (not that STD dummy!) and is more expensive than local calls (The way the old landline POTS system worked)
  6. Booster packs: These are usually unique and short-time offers that give you the ability to get a good deal by paying a small up-front cost. They usually try to deduct money from your existing balance so you will go and renew soon. But if used wisely, this can be quite helpful. If it is a good offer, other providers tend to copy the strategy and often with a better deal. It is not quite an apples-to-apples comparison but nevertheless this really is quite similar to the booster packs you win in video games.
  7. SMS – These are also usually charged and depending on your plan it may be costlier than your talk time. Be careful with any of the automated messages that you get signed up with as this will deplete your account sooner if you accidentally subscribed to a service. Interstingly, if you get one of the advertisement phone calls and say you accidentally press “5″ before you hang up – you might have accepted an offer to be charged Rs 30 monthly to receive Jokes on your phone. This happened to someone I know who cannot read English and was wondering why the Rs50 they recharged the phone with, came down to Rs 20 in a week (right after the month-end on her phone contract). I had to call the CSR and cancel the service and they were stone-deaf to my bitching about why the customer got signed up to this in first place. The CSR levels really vary between the international call center and the local call centers. But perhaps this does not hold true for all service providers.
  8. Activation order – Be careful with how you activate your phone and the offers. When I signed up using a promotion that I saw in a flyer, the girl entered it in the wrong order i.e. She put the booster pack code right before she entered something else and this caused a lot of confusion. She told me not to do anything for a few hours and I didn’t and my account still did not provide all the features I had been promised. I went back the next day, the day after that, the day after that and again the day after that and kept getting sent back saying it would be resolved by the next day. Finally, I gave up and tried asking for a refund and refused to leave until they solved the problem and they tried making calls and sort of fessed up that there was an issue. I had also called a CSR who told me that the local franchise had made a mistake and to take it with them. The local franchise said they can only give a refund if it is handled within 24 hrs and I was clearly outside of that period. If they had to give a refund, I am pretty sure it would have come out of the girl’s pocket and not wanting to waste any more time on my back-and-forth with them, I gave up and just paid for another plan.
  9. You will only learn through mistakes and there is no single person you can call and find out all the information you need. You will only get the run-around. Read previous point to learn more (if you didn’t already)
  10. Online billing… hah! Are you on crack?
  11. Now most providers have the per-second billing and I highly recommend that for any new subscriber. It works out to be most cost-effective in my opinion (even if a full minute call works out to be 60 paise vs 50 paise for a 1 min call with some other plans).
  12. Sadly, by the time you read this there is a good chance that a lot of things have changed since the time I wrote this (in late 2009). Hopefully, things have taken a turn for the better. We’ll see.
    India is also supposed to offer number portability at some point – we’ll see how that goes.

TIP: Getting Spam SMS?!!? Send an SMS with the message “DND” to 1090 but you still might get advertising offers from the provider but the number of messages goes down significantly.



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Why you need to get a NAS yesterday

I seriously regret not having got a NAS (Network Attached Storage) sooner.

I just got the DNS-321 NAS (made by D-Link) and throug h some links, I was able to install fun_plug which adds a lot of functionality to this box. It works as an iTunes device, FTP server, HTTP server (with fun_plug) and also allows you to install its custom Bittorrent software. However, with the fun_plug installed, you can install the popular (Mac) Transmission client which you manage with the web interface. There are several scripts and guides that help you through the process and I customized some of the scripts to meet my needs. It was fun to hack away via SSH (yes – geeks get excited by such simple or not-so-simple tasks) and I got to use the vi editor which I probably haven’t used since my Computer Science classes back at the University of Minnesota.

So here are the reasons you need to get a NAS:

  1. Space, Space and more space (I can pretty cheaply throw in 2 1TB drives or 2 1.5TB drives compared to the 800GB in my desktop)
  2. Low Power Consumption (all about going green and cutting down the electricity bill)
  3. No need to buy CD/DVDs to burn data onto
  4. Use for TimeMachine backups or other data backups
  5. Can set it up to use RAID for additional protection
  6. Uses ext2 or ext3 for the filesystem
  7. Looks neat and takes less space
  8. Hardwired to the network, thereby cutting down network interference (at least on one leg if you are viewing media wirelessly)
  9. Space – did I mention that already??

I currently have my PS3 and NAS both hooked up to the same router and don’t encounter any of the buffering issues I had earlier when I was streaming media off my desktop’s hard drive (The desktop connected wirelessly to my router). Coming to think of it, I got a wireless router mainly for my desktop to help reduce the network issues I was having and this could have saved me $60 back in the day.

Now, that you know this – what are you waiting for? Go get one if you don’t have one already. In the long-run, I am positive this will save me some money.

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