Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Free Windows Vista Business & Office Professional 2007

Update: The offer has since expired.(12/1/06)
Awesome offer from Microsoft, check it out
Free Licensed versions of Windows Vista Business and Office Professional 2007!All you have to do is watch webcasts extolling the virtues of Micorsoft's products: http://www.powertogether.com/
From arstechnica.com:In case you can't seem to find an affordable way to obtain a copy of Windows Vista or Office 2007, Microsoft has started a website that will help you get both pieces of software for free. The new site, called The Power of Together, contains webcasts and vLabs (virtual labs) which must be completed in order to receive free copies of the software. According to the offering details, a user wishing to receive a free copy of Windows Vista Business must complete three qualifying webcasts or virtual lab sessions within 30 days of registering on the site (Vista's vLabs are not mentioned on the homepage). The same goes for people wishing to receive a copy of Office Professional 2007. The offer expires on February 28, 2007, or while supplies last. After completing the sessions, your copy of Vista and/or Office will arrive by mail in six to eight weeks. One final thing to note: if you or your employer is a participant in the Microsoft Partner Program or the MSDN, you are not eligible for this offer.

My take on this offer:-
  • The website is getting slammed right now, so be very patient and you will get it.
  • A thing to remember the market value of both these products are north of $600. So if you get both these S/Ws Microsoft will send you a 1099 showing that they have made a payment to you for more than $600. So if I were you I would do both the offers separately, one for your spouse and the other for yourself. This way the value will be less than $600 and you will not get a 1099 from Microsoft and you don't have to show this as an earnings in your tax filings.
  • One's patience will be severely tested in your endevor to register and subsequently watch the videos. The best time to do it is late in the night. For me I need both these S/W badly and I am not willing to spend close to $800 in the retail market to buy this.
  • Also this offer is open to US and canadian residents only so your relatives outside this country cannot do it
Best of Luck

purano sei diner kotha

Like music, certain words have this magical ability to waft you off to the deepest recesses of your mind and make you relive memories long lost in the unrelenting march of time. I had one such 'Deja Vu" experience as I was browsing through an usually lacklustre CricInfo interview - this time featuring Monty Panesar. Panesar was talking about his experience/struggles with the australian Kookaboora balls and how he has grown up on a diet of Duke's ball. The word Duke's ball immediately took me to my childhood and early youth in Kolkata where we played with the "Deuce" ball - obviously a Bong twist to this venerable British manufacturer. As I looked out wistfully thru the window at my work and peered into the dark gloomy late fall sky of Omaha I was transported to the pleasant sunny winter mornings at Deshapriya Park in KOlkata and my tryst with the Duke's ball. This was the late 80s when India was still the socialist state with limited opportunities, two govt run television channels and hours and hours of power cut. Young teenagers still went out to play in whatever little patch of grass they could lay their hands on and computers and internet were still science fiction stuff. My life used to revolve around going to school and get lost in the hundreds and thousands of students (yes the school I went to, was at one time, the school with the highest number of students in the world) and then come back and rule my para (neighborhood) in whatever sport we played. I was really good in cricket and I would be hired by different teams from surrounding paras to play for them in important matches. In Kolkata parlance it was called "khep khela". However this was all in tennis ball cricket - I ruled the tennis ball cricket in my area like a king. But Duece ball was another story. As we started to get some money to buy cricket kits and could afford to buy a decent set for the entire team we started graduating to leather ball cricket. One of our friends' dad who was someway connected to the club that played at Deshapriya Park gave us a box of balls and we were all set. There was one problem though. Unlike tennis ball cricket which u can play anywhere, leather ball cricket needed a prepared piece of grass called the pitch. And whoever who has grown up in big cities in India know how difficult to find such an empty pitch in public playgrounds. And being a younger group just graduating to the big league we were the one who were always pushed around by the seniors. Our only solution :- to go play at 5:30 in the morning. We would take turns in waking up at 5:00 and go and occupy the pitch. And unlike today's kids in Kolkata our final exams would be in December and then we would have a long winter vacation, so we used to maintain this ritual for two long months.
But I digress...The switch to Duke's ball was a deathknell to my numero uno position in my team. Within the first week I sustained a nasty blow on my knuckles from a ball that reared from the good length as our left hand quickie Bhanti (like most guys in KOl this was his nickname, I do not even know his real name) exploited the underprepared pitch. The next week I almost did a Saba Karim. I used to keep wickets and a two bouncer reared its ugly head as it came into my gloves and almost knocked my left eye off. Already smarting from a confidence zapping blow to the finger this disaster left me a nervous wreck. I never kept wickets after that and always batted at number 4 when my usual position was to open the innings. I was scared to go onto the front foot, the red blood clot on the knuckles not too distant a memory. I was a shadow of the player who would majestically plant his front foot forward in tennis ball cricket and whip the ball around. I would potter around in a no-man's land in the leather ball version and the result was unfailingly bad. So you will never see me criticise a Yuvi or a Dhoni or a Veeru on their footwork(or lack of it), who knows even they might have had a bloddy knuckle in their first games. I understand them better than most cricket fans as these mental scars are so hard to heal. The upgrade to the Duke's ball had nipped a great talent in the bud because I was sure that if there was an Indian tennis ball team I would have surely played for it, just that the powers that be conspired to make me a rotound S/W worker and not a crisp, thoroughbred cricketer.
Ok back to Ms Project....

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Vonage/Sunrocket Killer

Yesterday I was talking to couple of people at a party and like most desis they were going gaga over the prospect of saving money. The long and short of this story is that they were planning to use Vonage/Sunrocket to make calls to India and saving a lot of money. This is something I have been working on for sometime now and wanted to share with these friends and others who are reading these blog some ideas where you can avoid the Vonage/Sunrocket route and still save even more money. However like any other open-source, new technology you have to try it urself to realise its value

Having said that lets discuss why does somebody use VOnage/Sunrocket....
1. Obviously to save some hard earned dough and the opportunity for u to talk to ur parents and loved ones for hours together and giving ur mom the chance to check on her beloved at ungodly hours
2 It is a quick and easy solution , where you do not require a computer and a tech savvy indivudual to run it and also u do not have to schedule ur phone rituals around the whims of the Indian power gods
However for all these ease of use , the price is not exactly pocket change - from most research that I have done on the Indian broadband (dis)service u have to have the unlimited plan to make the phone calls make sense - any lesser plans and ur moms secret dosa recipe will sound like the Korean version of Oldboy. So lets jot down the cost involved for a Vonage service :-
  • unlimited data plan, price is Rs 900 per month ~ $20/month
  • Cost of Vonage: The cheapest plan comes to $15 + tax ~ $20 per month.
Total cost with Vonage : $40 per month.
This is an ongoing expense - when u are visiting India or when ur parents/in-laws/loved ones are skiing the Swiss Alps u have to pay the same $40 fee.

However the biggest problem with Vonage is ur tied to one phone number. If you call four numbers regularly u have to replicate the same system 4 times - ur cost $40*4 = $160/mo. This the main reason why I chose to debunk the Vonage/Sunrocket model and started tweaking with other VOIP options

There are 3 distinct options which I am going to enumerate, each being a little more difficult to set up than the one following it
1. The AU600 option.
In this option u do the following set up

- Your make a call from ur home phone - call intercepted by AU600 - routed to Skype on your computer(in US) ---> Calls Skype on destination computer (in India) ---> Call intercepted by AU600 ---> Forwards call to any telephone number

- Similarly friends in India call the telephone number that is tied to the AU600 in India ---> Call intercepted by AU600 ---> Connects to Skype on local computer ----> Forwards the call to any Skype account.- intercepted by AU600 - routed to your designated phone number in the US

- Of course, when AU600 intercepts a call, it prompts for a passcode. No passcode, no forwarding of calls.
The steps involved for this setup
1. You will need 2 AU600 box, one for India and one for US.
2. The PC @ both the side should be running Skype all the time.
3. You can configure US Skype to transfer the calls thru AU600 to any number in the US
4. You can configure India Skype to transfer the call to any landline number in India
Costs involved - the AU600 costs $40 so one time investment of $80.
YOu can buy the AU600 here - Buy AU600 here
The set up is also very nicely explained in the attached manual.
Because this set up is thru SKYPE u have to have the computer on all the time but because it is thru SKYPE this set up's voice quality is superb even in cheaper broadband plans. But I am still assuming you will be using the unlimited plan which is $20. So for a $20 expense you will get a skype getaway using which you can call any number. If its within your local area the additional expense will Re1/min.

2. The second option is using SPA3000 in India. This is a little more complicated in setting up but for this u do not require a computer so this way the Power gods are left to their own devices
For this setup u do the following
You need to set up an SPA3000 in India configured with a free incoming US phone number( read notes below) . YOu will also need to configure a Pap2 here in the US with the same service. When you will call India just dial the US number from anywhere, the SPA3000 will forward the call to the landline number attached to it and one will and get a dial-tone to that number in India and then you can dial any number.You can also setup the SPA3000 in a way that if anyone calls a landline number tied to the SPA3000 it forwards the call to another FWD number which is configured on the PAP2 tied to your home computer here in the US. All this is seamless. No intervention , no PC needed.
Options for services which have free incoming US number
1. Stanaphone
2. Voicestick
3. FWD( Free World Dialup) + some other service which provides a free DID and SIP forwarding.
The best place to get an SPA3000 or SPA3102 is www.voxilla.com.....but you can pick and choose...I also saw the 3102 on Compuplus.com.
Once u have a Pap2 configured with the same service as this SPA3000 in India, there are no other expenses besides the montly broadband expenses. Plus u do not need a computer for all this

3. The most robust way to do this is using Asterix server and SPA3000. But thats a little complicated and need good Linux experience. I will keep that information for later days so that one can digest this information

And if you guys do not want to go thru any of these options and want to stick to something like relianceindiacall.com please try stanacard. The rates are very good and the call quality exceptional and if you follow this link they will double your credit upto $20. So if you buy credits worth $20 you will be credited another $20 in your account. Here's the link
Free $20 bonus at Stanacard

More in my next post

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

my first blog post

Been thinking about having a blog of my own for a long long time, finally got around to work on it. Was feeling particularly blue on a cold, dampy night here in Omaha and what better way to vent your pent up grief/frustration than to put it in ink (digital of course) and share with the rest of the world .
This blog thing has always intrigued me. Now come on, a blog is nothing but a glorified diary (unless ofcourse you are super talented, like the greatbong who writes better than most contemporary fiction writers I have read) and its popularity is some kind of a surprise to me. I find it interesting how people (including myself) are ready to open up their lives and their views for public consumption and introspection. I have been living here in the Omaha for eons now (actually almost 10 years) but grew up in Kolkata. I am a Bong to the core, so love good music and food, in love with Dada, am very well informed about things around me and very opinionated. But unlike , Bongs of yore, I try to juggle my life as a fulltime consultant with running couple of businesses, a music forum and investing in the Indian stock and realty market. I have been researching VOIP and streaming media for sometime now and would be posting about them also in this forum so people can gain something from reading my inane posts Would also post about the Indian stock and realty market so that others can make the same mistake I am making and if I have enough following, play the PUMP and DUMP game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pump_and_dump). So here's my first blog post