Category Archives: The things I do for love….

If I’m researching e-governance applicability for

doconcall Does that make me an electronic health records system technologist? Or a medical records system researcher? I wonder.

Simply put, Doctor On Call is a blend between a electronic health records system and a e-Triage system. This is in fact the first of it’s kind in India that offers true niche benefits.

The service coverage is:

  1. Electronic medical records systems
  2. Emr systems (to help maintain the software medical records)
  3. Naturally free e-Triage would be included for all participants of the programme, which is one of the key benefits of ehr (and emr, but a little different for both).

Interestingly the organization does not offer electronic medical software, but instead focuses on ehealth services – what I would call a more ‘wholesome’ approach.

I will be posting updates on what happens with this over a period of time as my research unravels. Keep reading!

Training the trainers at NAB

So GiveIndia has this interesting policy of one grass-root NGO visit every quarter, which I feel has been of great value to me personally. The National Association for the Blind (NAB) is where I’ve visited most frequently.

NAB has a training programme for their blind students, where the visually impaired from all over India come to learn basic mobility and some vocational trades (like candle making, paper bag making, etc). Now I’ve been making soap and lip balm – and other homemade stuff – for a long time now, and NAB was very happy to invite me to train their trainers. I’ve visited twice before and covered basic soap making (bathing soap, and a detergent).

I had another visit to NAB on the 27th of Feb 2014, and this time our focus was Lip Balm making.

When I got in around 4 PM there was a kitchen utilization workshop just getting over, and the kitchen was cleared immediately thereafter. That’s Jyotsna madam (their head of vocational kitchen/utility training) you see there asking the students to leave. Notice the confidence in the blind students’ mobility – most of us would have had our arms flailing to make sure we don’t collide into something 🙂

We started with a review of what was done last time, just to ensure the trainers had the concept down pat. We looked over the soap made last time (pic attached) and listed out possible alternate oils / perfumes to use. They’ll be training students for soapmaking in the coming few months so should be interesting to see.

Then I listed out the ingredients and guidelines for making the lip balm, which the trainers recorded in their journals – they keep these A4 sized books in which they write all such non-food recipes.

We assembled the ingredients, the two cubes of beeswax you see there are my contribution to this bundle. And then started the process (melt, mix, pour). 20 minutes of waiting and it’s done!!

How do I know if a charger will work for me?

There are 3 key points you need to check before you start using that new charger. If any of these points mismatch, you could overheat the charger or laptop/mobile/battery or even blow the damn thing.


Refer to the image above for all of these points

1. INPUT Voltage – represented as “120 VAC” or “230V” or “220 Volts” – or any combination thereof. This MUST match with your mains voltage – if for example I try to use a 120V INPUT rated charger in India (where the mains voltage is 220V or 230V) I’m likely to blow the mains and have a very burned charger & laptop on my desk.

Often you’ll also have something like 60 Hz’ and/or a ‘6.5 W’ or ‘0.05 A’ or ‘5 mA’ – these are not very critical for our purpose today.

2. OUTPUT Voltage – represented as “6 VDC” or “6 V” (DC is assumed) or “6 Volts” (DC is assumed) – is the amount of power that’ll be pumped into the device itself. This must be a near-exact match with your earlier charger – so if I have a charger that used to supply 23 volts and a new one that is 22.5 volts – that’s probably acceptable, but the charger will heat up a bit more than usual.

The additional rating of ‘500mA’ or ‘0.5A’ here is extremely important – and must be close to the earlier rating. If I swap a 6VDC 500mA charger with a 6VDC 100mA charger – i.e. 1/5th the number of Amps – my device will charge at 1/5th the rate! Or otherwise if I double it and go for a 6VDC 1000mA charger – my battery may go kaput before I have a chance to react… So a risk either way. Though if the rating were closer, like 650mA and 500mA that could probably work without too much risk.

3. The little symbol you see above the Factory ID indicates the direction of electric current flow – this is absolutely critical, and must be exactly the same as the old charger. If in doubt, DON’T use the new charger. A change in this spec can result in the device burning immediately or could cause the battery or charger to explode.


You would not believe the number of times I’ve seen people use incompatible chargers and damage themselves or the device they were trying to charge. The best choice for a laptop or mobile charger is always an authentic distributor for the product line, and no one else.

Once you understand what degree of leeway you have for a particular device you may consider swapping chargers – so for example a Micro USB chargeable phone will likely power up pretty well if using another Micro USB charger – or via a data-cable plugged into a laptop (since it’s based on the same basic rating).

Be safe!

This CIO’s Future


What is your take on how this story is going to go? Please participate in writing in your feedback. Perhaps your views will help in shaping clarity for our protagonist CIO and / or his organization.

Simple answer: He transforms the sin into a blessing, divides the ocean and leads the flock to IT-Utopia.


  • The CIO gets in a technology ‘agent’ – be it internal or external – to form a crisp, thin ‘control’ layer between the external application and the internal application
  • The control layer is created to allow greater permeability and visibility into both the homegrown user-interface frontend and the application, and requirements not satisfied by the current application vendor can be easily ‘plugged’ in using other vendors
  • Meantime, the CIO removes bloatware (that exists in most organizations; if you don’t find it its likely you dont know what you’re looking for), which streamlines and trims the bulk of the ‘technology fat’ that would normally slow down tech operations at any level. This could be actual software or could simply be a process that has outlived its usefulness.
  • At the same time the CIO moves focus to the new information strategy and begins piecing together a 3 part action plan, while ensuring essential resources are available to the organization as the key pre-growth plans are pushed (maybe advertising campaigns that need extensive design and content development capacity, or bulk accounting processes that want to identify major expenses on marketing activity as Marketing attempts to identify key expansion points – could be many things)
  • Part 1 – Keeping in line with the strategy identifies the most critical pain points and generates a localized strategy to deal with each pain point
  • Part 2 – Identifies potential areas that could become pain points during the next growth phase and creates a best case & worst case treatment plan (worst case would apply if the growth starts before the cure has been applied)
  • Part 3 – Notes important support points that would need to be strengthened to allow smooth and effective growth (a great example would be the call centre in a radio taxi service)
  • Then comes the critical implementation phase – Parts 1, 2 and 3 are executed around the same time. By this time (6~8 months from the time this process was actioned) the bloatware removal has resulted in some minor improvements, and the technology ‘agent’ assigned with making the control layer has achieved the required element of success (so those points need even less attention)
  • As the implementation of Strategy Part 1 begins, a lot more ‘low-hanging fruit’ solutions would become visible and should be dealt with then and there (within reason; if it’s a particularly large ‘fruit’ it would be dealt with on a case-to-case basis)
  • Further to treat Part 2 & 3 (assuming major growth phase has not started yet) a support team is created and trained to deal with the expected, with clear escalation paths defined for the unexpected. Given there is a new system in place critical testing and pre-deployment preparations are done well in advance of the expected growth ‘wave’.

Further as the growth wave comes in

  • Some fixes applied in strategy Part 1 may break, and some known points of Part 2 end up in worst case – the support team would handle most of these issues within ~15-20% of them becoming important enough to escalate [i.e. they act as a filter]
  • Since the key support points have been dealt with in Part 3 (and there’s a support team to handle overages) there would possibly be some teething problems given the new software, which the original technology agent would offer support for.

End of the day, the growth expected comes though, the CIO isn’t ‘drowned’, and the system is brought up to a point where it’s now upgradable and to some extent scalable (in that it would handle the initial growth phase and scale ~2.5-3x without trouble).

Possibly in the meantime (specially needed if 10x and higher scaling needed) plans would be made to replace the problematic software vendor, and if need be even the user front-end – which would be made significantly easier with the modular ‘control’ layer now in place.

Re: Who’s Problem IS “IT” Anyway?

Thought provoking post by Mr Subbu Iyer – most CIOs think they’re supposed to simply manage IT, or only a bit of strategy, or drive one strong line of business (say websites either as development or as a platform like an ecommerce org), or something very ‘niche’ like that…

How unfortunate! They are the ones that truly hold the reigns of power within an organization and can give tremendous, effective direction and guidance to it’s future.

The CEO is almost always busy with growing the external capabilities/extent aspect of the organization. There may be other aspects to this – like laying a business directive, overseeing organizational health/culture, identifying the key areas of business and communicating that clearly to the organization, and so on – I wouldnt know – but simply put they’re not hands on with the information flow.

The COO is tasked with maintaining productivity and ensuring operational work gets done.

The CTO builds the technology base for the organization to operate from, and may also do the CIO’s job in a smaller organization.

The CIO needs to I = innovate, I = invent, I = INFORMATION!! This is the key to everything happening within the organization! Information and the flow of information are what gives a company the ability to be dynamic, proactive, know it’s place in the world and know where it can grow in that space. Without this key information an organization is paralyzed.

I was just discussing with someone about it this morning today – as a CIO, we need to know the organization inside-out, and just as a CEO (my take: E=external) focuses on the outside of the organization, the other C-level executives are tasked with looking ‘inwards’. Most importantly the CIO (my take: I=internal).

As the owner and key stakeholder of all information flow and technology linked to that information, the best person to transform and evolve the processes in an organization is the CIO!

Again in various organizations other positions may not exist – for example a CIO may be expected to fulfill the function of an IT director as well, or in a smaller organization it may just be a CTO (no CIO present). Unless an innovative and evolutionary insight is taken I fear most people in this CIO/CTO ambiguity may simply end up as IT managers, that cannot lead their organization anywhere.

Wine making – finishing

We learned how to make wine at – now let’s learn how to finish it!!

How to finish your wine

Ok we all know how to finish it by drinking it off; but I’m talking about a different kind of finishing here 🙂

Basically if you’ve tasted grape juice, you know how ‘rough’ it tastes – often there is a lot more fibre in it than we’d want, and wine would taste similar if it’s not ‘smoothed’. Also the yeast would add in a slight bread-y flavour which tastes most unacceptable.

There are a few natural processes that occur that help the finishing.

First is the settling phase, where the yeast has finished processing as much of the sugar as it can, and dies off – it then settles to the bottom of the fermenting can and we can decant the clarified wine off the top. Even after this the yeast continues to settle; so this is not the end of it – ideally we then want it to sit as long as humanly possible so we get a clearer wine.

Next, is the forced-clearing phase, where we change something to remove the residual floating debris as much as possible. This includes:

  1. Filtering (using a sieve or a fine filter) – I use a superfine kitchen sieve specially for this
  2. Additives – I’ve only ever used Bentonite (fuller’s earth or what we call ‘multani mitti’ in Hindi); mix this in some warm water and then add it into the wine barrel; shake well. This binds to the floating particles and weighs them down to the bottom.
  3. Temperature drop – this is best done after adding in bentonite as it’ll cause the settling to speed up, and the wine clears faster

And we’re done! Let it sit for 1-2 months (remember longer the better) undisturbed, and then we move on to really finishing it 😉


Wine making @ Home – the way I do it

I’ve been making wine at home for a while now, and have always declined to publicize it.

Recently my colleagues tried some and were very excited in that the flavour seems (in their words) ‘better than any market wine they’ve tasted’… I’m sure this includes some poetic license and of course doesn’t make my skills on par with commercial producers… However it did make me decide to do this write-up.

In India, December/January/February are the best times to get grapes. When you’re lucky you get an excellent crop of reds if you hunt in the right places, and then 1kg feels just too less even for a snack – those are the grapes I look for.

Wine making as you’re aware is a simple process. All you need is yeast, grapes, and time.

The Yeast

The yeast I’ve always used is a regular baker’s yeast – packaged by Bluebird. It doesn’t cost much, and gives an excellent result.

Steps I use to prepare the yeast:

  1. Start with a bowl of warm water – about 500ml is adequate
  2. Dissolve 500gm of sugar into the water, then stir in the entire packet-full of yeast granules and leave covered in a warm place
  3. The yeast should soften up and start ‘fluffing’ – which indicates it’s started doing its job
  4. Once the yeast mix becomes frothy (usually does in ~5 minutes)

The Wine Barrel

Yes we need something to ferment the wine in, and then to let the wine settle in for ~6 months – so pick something you don’t use too often. I prefer to get a 20-litre water can (a good brand with a tough shell is preferred), transfer out the water and use the can.

The Grapes

Steps I use to prepare the grapes – no I don’t lay them on the ground and dance on top of them 🙂

  1. Pick out the grapes from the stem and wash thoroughly – preferably with a light soap (I use my home-made soap for this – it’s light, hand-friendly, effective and simply awesome!)
  2. Mash the grapes using a potato masher, and pour the juice into my fermenting can
  3. If you want high quality wine at this time you need to discard the pulp (as it has very little juice and squeezing it hard will result in your wine looking a little foggy)
  4. I usually squeeze the pulp till I get the last drop out – and then add in about a quarter of the pulp to the fermenting can to get a better colour

The fermenting

Mix in the now-very-active-yeast into the can, ensure there’s at least a few inches of space above the mix. Remember this process will produce carbon-di-oxide (CO2) – which protects the fermenting wine from external agents. If you fill the barrel fully you lose out on this protection; and yet if you leave too much space you’re allowing in possible contaminants.

Seal off the barrel (I use a plastic bag – others recommend a balloon or an air-lock) – I wrap the bag tightly round the mouth of the barrel and then poke a very fine needle hole in the centre.

Let this sit for 3 weeks.

Next article – coming soon!!

I got a new car! Which is actually an old car… :)

So after much research and planning and thinking, wifey and me finally bought a car. A second-hand (4th hand if you count previous owners) model 1999 Santro. We had everything checked and were overall quite pleased with it.

I still need to put the pics up, but basically here’s the fun part:

We took this vehicle for a service to Hyundai’s authorized service station (hereafter referred to as ASS; no pun intended the abbreviation means a lot :). What we were told – they were clearly trying to fleece us – is “The car has a bad engine, bad suspension, bad wheels, damaged body – it will all need to be replaced”. DUH! We know for a fact that these things were in excellent shape before we bought it; but their quote of INR 3 lacs took the prize.

I mean we would have bought a NEW car if we wanted to spend 3 lacs…. so finally we decided to take our vehicle off their hands and to a reliable local mechanic (team-bhp highly recommends having a trusted local mechanic; now I know why!!) – and away from the ASS (the the money-sucking assholes therein).

It cost us just INR 2000. For a full tuneup, replacing some minor parts, patched up the crappy elements of the car and it’s goodish as newish.

My big plus point (I’m a fiddler) is that I get to fiddle with everything with no risk of voiding warranty. I tried out some accelerator tightening, and some clutch tightening, and stuff – with very good results!

Wifey (read: My Chauffeur) was so pleased with the mods! My next self-install upgrade will be HIDs (ordered and coming SOON!)

The FINAL fix for a Mac Repeat-email problem

In the interests of allowing the Mac Pro to be able to function adequately with a “normal” server, we’ve had to update the server – this was a final (and very effective) fix for the troublesome repeat-email download problem.

Basically, the primary email id forwards to a secondary id. Primary id is configured on all portable devices, as well as the Mac Pro’s OUTGOING settings. The INCOMING settings on the Mac Pro are set to the secondary email id – with “save on server” set to off.

Seems all Mac based email clients have trouble while saving email on the server – even if you’re using Gmail you are _forced_ to set it to “do not save on server” and then alter some of the Gmail account settings – it’s quite bothersome! Of course IT is expected to support the device so it’s natural that we need to fix any issues that happen. The source of the issue is not relevant.

Here’s a pic that explains what we did to fix it.

Email configuration - graphical

All else aside – this final solution worked brilliantly for our requirements. Very happy with what we’re able to do now – at the slight disadvantage of having to deal with 2 accounts – but with the major benefit of all email software on the Mac Pro functioning normally.  Wooot!!!