Bengaloored!

Posted: September 10, 2010 in Movies

“You are Bangalored!” This has become a common phrase in America when someone’s job has been outsourced to……a Bangalorean! Amazingly, this word has entered the dictionaries around the world and it seems quite apt. Though this word is popular in the USA and UK, Bengaloored is something which a Bangalorean is actually facing! How you ask? You  have to see the movie to believe it ;)

This review is a long pending one and I’m pretty sure that my friend Naveen won’t spare me for this one. I had promised him that a review of the movie would come up soon on my blog and the movie is so long gone from the theaters(What else do you expect from an artsy movie? :) ) This time round, the joke is on us, since you would be Bengaloored!

The film starts off with a foot-tapping song “Ellhogali Shivane” by Vasu Dixit. It is a Kannada song and goes onto to tell how much life and the city has changed in the last few years. That one song is enough to remind you of the sweet memories of you and your friends playing the simple games during your holidays. Babruvahana, a.k.a, Babbu (Harish Raj) is back in his very own Bengaluru after working as an author abroad for few years. Like anyone else, he’s blown away by the changes in the city. He decides to catch up with his pals from school and begins to search for his childhood crush, Radha (Meghana Mudiyan). Since he cannot propose to her directly, he decides to buy time by playing “catch-up” since the time he left India. This is when he discovers that his best friend from school is a swami! The swami played by Swaroop Kanchi himself does a fair job. He makes life look too easy and sometimes feel that living the life of a saffroned saint in India helps you a great deal. Everything is free, you get to make connections with the real powers in the democracy and you don’t have to work for it! You just have to make sure that you stay away from (sex) scandals ;)

The initial conversation between Babbu and Radha in the coffee shop made me really nostalgic. Just the previous day, Naveen and me were discussing about our school life and it had continued into the night. I felt as though my school mates were right in front of me discussing the fun things which we used to do.

Babbu wants to write the concluding part for the novel which he is now writing and is on a search for  his inspiration. Ramana(Srinivasa Prabhu) plays the senile old man very well. He is at ease on the big screen as he is on the small screen. It maybe because of the role which he has been given and this movie more or less feels like an art movie. Babbu goes places meeting people and honestly each character has played a very well defined role and meaningful one too. While Babbu is thinking as to how he can propose to Radha, he is also battling his other emotions which is pent up inside him. He decides to vent out his anger on this father by calling him a bastard. As time passes, Babbu mellows down, probably because of the companionship which he gets from Radha, the anger which he sometimes vents on his dad or the other things which he does in life.

Just when he decides to propose to Radha, the bomb drops on him. Suddenly, his life careens out of control and he realizes that the brakes to his situations have failed. Everything happens too fast and before he can realize what is happening, he has crashed. How he picks himself up and moves on is up to you to watch.

All the actors are noted from the small screen and you can easily identify with them. Special mention needs to go to Harish and Meghana to keep the movie interesting and under control. Both of them have done  a brilliant job. The music, composed by Vasu Dixit is easy on the ears and if you pay attention to the lyrics, probably you can relate the scenes much more easily to your life.  My favorite continues to be “Ello Shivane” because it is in kannada and also makes you nostalgic.  The movie gives you a good touch of philosophy and realism.

The only turn off in this movie is the sound recording. It simply doesn’t have the real touch in it and though the actors do a great job, their dialogue delivery feels like a voice-over. The foley artists are even more pathetic. This is one area where Swaroop needs to work on.

If you are into contemporary cinema and a Bangalorean, this is one movie which you should not miss.

My experience with Shell

Posted: August 22, 2010 in Automobile
Tags: , ,

Back to blogging!! It’s been sometime since my last post and I had told all and sundry that a lot of posts will be coming up, but unfortunately did not. There are pending posts regarding Microsoft technologies, a movie review and also about an NGO. But, this post is taking priority as of now since it will simultaneously end up on different automotive forums.

Almost 6-7 months back, I was riding to office and had to urgently fill up my bike since it was out of fuel. Decided to ride into a Shell station beside Gopalan Mall on Mysore Road. This station had just come and decided to quickly fill in for 100 bucks. To my horror, I was short fueled. I know how much I get for Rs. 100. This became evident when I was riding back. The bike very quickly went into reserve and almost started choking and had to fill up again the next day!! Everyone swears by Shell and this was my first incident of getting short fueled. Though I wanted to bring this incident to the notice of the Shell officials, I kind of forgot and also decided not to go to that bunk.

Months flew and I more or less fill up at the twin Shell bunks on Mysore Road which is beside BHEL. Slowly becoming active on forums like Team-BHP and xBHP found how petrol pumps are rigged up and the tricks of the trade used by the attendants. This kept me alert all the time and even though I was in Shell pumps, I was very observant. I found that the attendants again used ploys like managing the trigger as to how much the fuel is dispensed. Sometimes there used to be coughing from the pump and the attendant used to say “Air saar, agotte” Air, my ass!! This was too much and I decided to write to Shell from their website.

What follows below is the mails which went back and forth between me and Shell representative. Notice the delay in replies to each mail. It was really frustrating and I had come to the conclusion that Shell was just like any other cheating station. I even had started to search for alternatives.

Read from bottom to top

Dear Shell Representative,It has been close to a month since my number was provided. Could you kindly tell me if there was any action taken against the pump operators? Even if you have, it doesn’t seem so since the pump operators continue to cheat. This was found again last week when the pumping gun trigger was purposely held by hand instead of locking it up. It is highly shameful to see this act continue. After charging a premium on the fuel, cheating this way is highly despicable. Unless the pump owners mend their ways, you will be losing plenty of customers.

Hope to hear from you soon.

Regards,
Sunil
__________________________________________________ __________

On Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 6:58 AM, Sunil <xxxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com> wrote:
Dear Shell Representative,

Please my number below as requested:

+91xxxxxxxxxxx

Regards,
Sunil
__________________________________________________ __________

On Thu, Jul 15, 2010 at 1:16 AM, <sipl-shell-reply@shell.com> wrote:

Dear Mr. Sunil,

Our Territory Manager Mr. Giriprasad Nair will contact you after we receive your contact information.

Best regards

Shell India

__________________________________________________ _________
From: Sunil [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, July 08, 2010 11:02 PM

To: SIPL Shell reply SIPL-ENQ
Subject: Re: Your query at http://www.shell.com/india

Dear Shell Representative,

Thank you for contacting back. Considering the delay in the reply, I thought that this issue was forgotten. I welcome the initiative taken to curb the inconsistency in the system and content in giving my number provided that, as a person, would like to know who I’m speaking to through email as well who would be calling me.

Hope to hear a response quicker than the previous two.

Regards,

Sunil

__________________________________________________ __________

On Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 3:43 AM, <sipl-shell-reply@shell.com> wrote:

Dear Mr. Sunil,

We wish to thank you for taking the time and effort to write to us. In your original mail you have made some complaints against some of our sites. It would be necessary for us to have a discussion on how you arrived at the conclusion and for us in turn to explain the systemic controls that are in place to ensure that such incidents do not occur. We would also be very happy to demonstrate the measures we take at any of our sites at a time convenient to you.

We would once again request for a telephone number where our company representative can call you and look forward to hearing from you at the earliest.

Best regards

Shell India

__________________________________________________ ___________

From: Sunil [mailto:xxxxxxxxxxx@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, June 18, 2010 8:03 PM
To: SIPL Shell reply SIPL-ENQ
Subject: Re: Your query at http://www.shell.com/india

Dear Shell Representative,

I have personally refrained from divulging my number in the form and would like to continue communications through email. I check my mail regularly and would be providing quick reply. Please do let me know if you would be needing any details and would be glad to provide them

Thank you.

Regards,

Sunil
__________________________________________________ _________

On Thu, Jun 17, 2010 at 11:36 PM, <sipl-shell-reply@shell.com> wrote:

Dear Mr. Sunil,

We shall be grateful if you could give us a number where our representative can get in touch with you to ascertain some additional information that would help us address the issues raised by you comprehensively.

Many thanks

Best regards

Shell India

I finally got a call from Giriprasad Nair asking me as to how I thought I had been cheated. He was very patient enough to listen to me and explain the details the working of the sites(the petrol pumps) and how they can assure the quality and quantity of the fuel. He even agreed to show me the quality implemented across their sites. An appointment was fixed, but unfortunately it was missed, thanks to my crazy schedules and the phone battery dying on me in the 11th hour. Rescheduled a meet and finally met him yesterday. Meeting Mr. Nair and Mr.Sabir(who is the retailer and manages the 3 bunks on Mysore Road) turned out to be a pleasant experience. As soon we introduced each other, I was asked if I would be needing water or juice, which I think is the most basic level of courtesy anyone can show :)

Mr. Nair went about explaining how each morning each fuel pump is tested for accuracy by pumping out 5L of fuel thrice. The measurement should be exact twice atleast. If it isn’t, that hose is not used for the day. I was also demonstrated of the quantity by dispensing 5L; once by manually pumping out the amount till the brim of the measuring can and next by entering the quantity in the petrol pump. I was also told that the pump delivers exactly the amount of fuel based on the amount or quantity specified and playing around with the trigger is not possible. Coming to the quality part, when I asked if there is a litmus paper test done to check, I was told that a density check is more accurate. Again, this density test was done and shown the accuracy.

One of the best things which I saw is, the ability to manage all the fuel pumps from a central location, i.e., usually within the Shell store. While you see 2 computers in there, one is for the general billing of the commodities bought in the store, while the other runs a proprietary software which shows the status of the fuel hoses. Starting from the time the hose is lifted, the amount/quantity dispensed and till it is put back, everything can be seen in real time!! There are few more things which I really liked. Shell takes care of its employees and safety is ALWAYS a standard. The truck drivers who deliver fuel to the stations are always expected to wear seat belts and they are subjected to random checks anywhere. All the trucks are fitted with GPS to track their movement. The employees are trained in various processes and making sure the customers are getting quality also ensures that the employees move up the ladder. There are a lot more things which can be written about the nearly 2 hours long meet, but that will be too painful for you all to read :P

Oil companies like HP offer petro cards and I wish Shell could come out with the same. Things like these have been thought about and it would work out once there are more sites coming up. After a quick discussion about traffic, fuel affecting the economy,etc., I took leave from the place.

Overall, I am satisified with Shell and will probably continue filling up there. However, I was not told exactly as to what would be done to check on the case I was ‘cheated’ the first time at that site. The only solace is, I have the contact details of Mr. Giriprasad and Mr. Sabir and would be able to check with them for any further details.

Here is a pic of Mr. Sabir(L) and Mr. Nair(R)

This post is to illustrate that having strong IT policies in any organization is important. This seemed to be a case of broken configuration on the Exchange Server and the users were flooded with Spam email. The server had begun to take it’s last breath and it was time for us to come to the rescue and resuscitate it back to life.

A system admin has to take great care while putting a network into place and just setting up the Exchange Server in a secure is a daunting task. Though there are anti-spam measures in place, users started getting tons and tons of Viagra and Cialis mails. No one likes such personal emails in their official inbox, right? ;) It all started when we used to notice a mild increase  in spam, but Postini used to take care of it to a good extent. The only problem was email delivery had become slow. If you have noticed, once there is an outbreak of a certain kind of spam mails, it takes sometime before authorities step in and put a plug on it. Slowly, a particular type of spam reduces while an improved one starts pouring in and it keeps the techies busy :( :P

In our case, the spam being generated was from within the company network, rather than outside. A system or group of systems had been compromised and spam-bot made itself cozy in the Windows machine and started it’s job. Unfortunately, we couldn’t completely figure out how the system got infected and the root cause of all this. The server needed CPR and if we didn’t work on it immediately, the users would strangle us to death. The malware had taken over disabled accounts and started sending mails to everyone and also to unknown recipients. This resulted in a huge queue of postmaster mails wanting to try again and choking the network. The legit mails were stuck in the queue and was sometimes completely lost.

We had to work with Microsoft to get this under control. So, it was time to roll-up the sleeves and get the hands dirty.

1. Time to clear up the postmaster NDRs

He suggested using a handy command line tool called “aqadmcli.exe” This is a separate download and is used to search mails and delete them. Firing up the command line, we enter :

setserver “Servername” delmsg flags=sender,sender=sender@domain_name.com

Searching the postmaster mails and deleting them used to still get back more spam. Delete 200 messages and we used to get a flood of 50. So, we immediately had to work on the firewall to get a breather.

2.  Repair the chinks in the armor

Though the firewall is well configured, we had to tighten the security. Configured a rule so that only port 25 was open and only for Exchange. Any other app. wanting to try to talk using this port, sorry baby, you need to try a different tongue(read port). This helped in controlling the flood to a big extent and it was time to dress up the wounds on the server

3.  Sender ID filtering

We had Sender ID filtering in place

In case you want to enable this on your Exchange, please note that you should make sure that you have applied the hotfix mentioned in MS KB article: 905214 – Windows Server 2003 may stop responding when you enable Sender ID filtering on an SMTP virtual server in Exchange Server 2003 SP2.

4. Intelligent Message Filtering

The Spam Confidence Filter was set to 7. We don’t want the filter to be too paranoid or too slack, so 7 fit the bill

5. Connection filtering-Using the good guys do the filtering for you

There are few sites out there that lists out domains, ISPs and spam mails which is blocked due to infection. Using Spamhaus Block List (SBL) on the Exchange helps to prevent spam at very early stages. Here is what Spamhaus has to say about SBL

“The SBL is queriable in realtime by mail systems thoughout the Internet, allowing mail server administrators to identify, tag or block incoming connections from IP addresses which Spamhaus deems to be involved in the sending, hosting or origination of Unsolicited Bulk Email (aka “Spam”). The SBL database is maintained by a dedicated team of investigators and forensics specialists located in 10 countries, working 24 hours a day to list new confirmed spam issues and – just as importantly – to delist resolved issues”

We configure the Block List Configuration to let Spamhaus do the work of filtering the messages.

Hit the Edit button and configure as below

Next, click on Return Status Code and choose the Match Filter Rule…….. and added few IPs from the 127.x.x.x range since few spam-bots are known to use these IPs to send out mails.

6. Recipient Filtering – The untapped power of Exchange in spam blocking

This is the primary setting which helped to cut-out on spam to a large extent. Remember I told that the bot was sending out mails from disabled accounts to few unknown accounts as well? After reading up a bit on Exchange, found that certain spammers send mail to users they hope exist in your domain, sometimes hoping to learn if they exist by reading NDRs generated by Exchange, and sometimes just sending to common names, or running through a dictionary of names. So, Johns, Bobs and Alices were hit with dirty emails real bad.

In Recipient Filtering, checking the “Filter recipients who are not in directory” This setting ensures that the bot which tries to send out mails to people who are not in the Directory is automatically deleted. Cool stuff, huh!? ;)

Bend the rules!

After making enough changes on how messages get delivered, it was time to let the server know how the SMTP protocol needs to be managed. Expand Servers–> Server Name –> SMTP –> Right click on Default SMTP Virtual Server and go to Properties. Next, went straight away to the Access tab

7. Authentication

In the Authentication, Anonymous access, Basic Authentication and Integrated Windows authentication are checked. Then going to the list of users from the Users button showed that there were few DLs and contacts part of this. Made sure that only Authenticated users and only Submit Permission was set to Allow

8. Connection control-You better know who talks to who

Back in the Access tab, hitting the Connection button takes you to another window. Here, we need to choose only which of the IPs will be able to communicate with each other. If you have different office sites setup, you can enter specific IP ranges from each site and also customer office IPs if required.

9. Relay-Kindly pass the message

Finally, we tell the server how to relay messages. Going to the Relay option in the Access tab, we again list specific IPs.

If by accident you choose the “All except the one below“, spammers can easily send mails through your server and flood to go to others. Your Internet connection might be severed until you set things right and that can mean a major unexpected downtime during business hours.

Disaster………..managed  :)

Time to wipe your hands clean and get to another pressing issue. Just another day at the office ;)

P.S-I’m still very new to Exchange and got to learn a bit working on this. In case anyone finds mistakes, kindly point it out to me and I’ll be more than happy to edit the post accordingly.

Credits to MSexchange.org, Petri, Exchange Ninjas and other numerous exclusive Exchange sites which made me understand concepts a tad bit better :)

A time comes in a server’s life where it will be either “retired from its job role” or “put to sleep”. This might sound very dramatic for the non-IT folks, but it’s not. Relax! Usually, “retiring a server from its job role” happens when the demand increases and one single server cannot take up the burden of doing it all alone. So, one or more roles are removed and the server acts like a storage dump. The “putting to sleep” phase comes when the server simply is too dated for the current technology and an option of installing a new application or server OS runs out.

Recently, I  had the opportunity of “putting a server to sleep”. The job was to decommission a domain controller and shut it down. All this sitting thousands of miles away. This was an unnerving experience because of the complex nature of the job. We all generally get a DC setup in a lab within minutes and if things go wrong, there is always an option of reinstalling the OS :D This is a bad practice which lot of institutes ask the students to do. There is no real troubleshooting in life and you are not geared up for disaster management. Setting up a DC at a particular sites with numerous servers which sync with each other is a tough job. However, I never realized that decommissioning would be tough as well.

The steps followed (to most extent) was from the official Microsoft site http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc755937(WS.10).aspx and this was to be done on a multi-site network. My job was made slightly easier since its role of acting as a RADIUS server was moved to another one by someone else.

Here are the steps which were followed :

1. Check the assigned FSMO roles

We need to make sure that the server is not playing the FSMO role.  The server which needed to be decommissioned was named contoso-dc5. To do that, fire up your command prompt and type :

netdom query fsmo

Here is the (modified) output of the command

C:\Users\iamadmin>netdom query fsmo
Schema master                                                      contoso-dc1.contoso.com

Domain naming master                                      contoso-DC6.contoso.com

PDC                                                                          contoso-DC6.contoso.com

RID pool manager                                                 contoso-DC6.contoso.com

Infrastructure master                                         contoso-dc1.contoso.com

The command completed successfully

We can see that contoso-DC5 is not playing any FSMO roles. Good. Next step.

2. Transfer the Naming Master FSMO role

3. Transfer other FSMO roles such as RID, PDC, or Infrastructure roles.

Points 2 and 3 will not be applicable in this case. So, we move to the next important step.

4. Remove the Global Catalog(GC)

This is the major step. You need to make sure that there are other GCs in the site. If it’s the last GC in the AD and you remove it, you’ll be unable to log on anymore. Do this carefully. Log into any other DC in the same site(I chose DC6) and make sure that there are other GCs by opening  Active Directory Sites and Services.

a) In the console tree, expand the Sites container, expand the site of the domain controller you want to check, expand the Servers container, and then expand the Server object.

b) Right-click the NTDS Settings object, and then click Properties.

c) On the General tab, if the Global Catalog box is selected, the domain controller is designated as a global catalog server.

This was indeed a GC and since I made sure that other servers were acting as GCs, went ahead and unchecked it on contoso-DC5.  Allow few  minutes for the settings to replicate. Log off from the server where you performed the other task(DC6 for me) and reboot the machine which needs to be decommissioned(contoso-DC5)

5. Verify DNS registration and functionality

Back in the DC which needs to be decommissioned, type netdiag /test:dns (I chose to do netdiag /test:dns /v) and the output should be successful. If it is not, do not go ahead with the other steps until you resolve the issue. Remember, the /v stands for the verbose and the output can spit out pages of data. In case you need to go through the output, make sure you redirect the output to a text file.

6. Verify communication with other domain controllers

During the removal of Active Directory, contact with other domain controllers is required to ensure:

a) Any unreplicated changes are replicated to another domain controller

b) Removal of the domain controller from the directory

c) Transfer of any remaining operations master roles

Type netdiag /test:dsgetdc in the command prompt. This is where I hit my first ‘roadblock’. The output showed that it failed. So, ran the command again in verbose mode to get an idea as to what exactly is happening. The summary kinda explains things.


Summary of DNS test results:

Auth Basc Forw Del Dyn RReg Ext

________________________________________________________________

Domain: contoso.com contoso-dc5 PASS PASS FAIL FAIL PASS PASS n/a ……………………. contoso .com failed test DNS

We can see that the DNS test result failed for Forwarding and Delegation (the output could not be formatted properly in this text area). A quick check to see if this server was also taking up the role of the DNS server made me heave a sigh of relief. Contoso-DC1 was acting as the primary DNS and a public DNS was acting as the secondary. This server was probably acting as a DNS, since I also so numerous host entries for the DNS role.  So, we can still go ahead with the next step. Yippee! :D

7. dcpromo

Run dcpromo in Run dialog box and get yourself a break for sometime and reboot when prompted to.

This computer was also to be removed from the domain and shutdown. So, before doing that, make sure you know the local admin password. Else, you will be locked out of the computer once you remove it from the domain. Time to power down the server. Sweet!

One last step is to check if the computer still shows up in Active Directory Users and Computers list after shutting down. When you demote a server, the AD should take it out, but in my case it hadn’t(probably because I didn’t give enough time to repliacte?). If it does, go ahead and delete the computer from the list.

That’s it! I hope this guide was helpful. In case someone finds out any mistake in this or know of a better solution, please do let me know.


What good is a blog if there is no mention about food if the blog itself is a meal in itself? :D So, here goes the first post about food! Yesterday I happened to go to McDonald’s at SRS(no one seems to know what exactly this stands for. That’s what my friend claims) near Peenya Industrial area. If you are surprised that a McD is open in such an area, so was I the first time I heard it. This branch seems to be far better w.r.t to the ambiance compared to the one in Gopalan mall.

While me and my friend were gulping down McChicken, a petite young lady comes up and asks, “Do you want to see the kitchen, sir?” We didn’t expect that one coming! This seems to be a new initiative by McD to help improve the customer relation and also a form of marketing. Good going! We agreed for this and the lady took us around explaining how the the great McD kitchen works. Lets begin the tour.

Before we enter the kitchen, we are given muslin caps to be worn. As soon as you enter, on the left you find the French fries being scooped and put into the cardboard containers.

Scoop in the golden food!

Immediately to the right, you find the potato fingers being fried. The oil is boiled only at a particular temperature and for a specific time which ensures that you don’t get fries which are over/undercooked.

Fresh potato fingers being fried

Right opposite to this is the counter where the veg burgers are prepared. McD ensures that the veg and non-veg sections are segregated. This ensures that the vegetarian guys don’t end up actually finding a chicken patty in their McAloo Tikki. Hehehe… We got to see how a McAloo Tikki is made. It’s a fairly simple process. I clicked the next 3 pics secretly since one of the staff mentioned that we are not supposed to shoot photos. When you can freely let in customers to the kitchen and show how things are done, why not allow pics. Heck! Are they scared that we might capturing a rat in a pic? :D

For all burgers, the buns go into a grill which flattens the bun to a large extent. It sits there for around a minute before it is pulled out.

Then comes the layers in your sandwich…. The guy at the very back was still doubtful if I had stopped clicking the pics…… or was he verifiying an order which had just come in? ;)

Tada! Your meal is served

The 2 steel contraptions which you see right above the ingredients containers are used to dispense mayonnaise. Pull the trigger and the goop falls right in the middle of your buns. The board which partially reads “shelf life” shows how long each ingredient can be used. The arrows are turned based on the number of minutes it has been out of the cold storage. The maximum time which was set was set for the onions of about 2 and half hours(if I remember right). If the ingredient is not used within that time, it goes straight to the bin. Wonder how many hotels follow this in India? I had heard about this kind of working abroad, but it is really wonderful to see in India as well.

The non-veg section is pretty much the same picture and we are taken to the storage section inside.

Packing storage(left) and the cold storage with vegetables(right) Digu is wondering what to do in case we get stuck inside :P

The freezer feels like we have just walked into a snowy region in our T-shirts and I want to be out of there within 20 seconds. The cold storage mainly houses stuff such as cheese and patties. Most of the food come from Pune.

Say cheese and cuckudoo! :D

Utensil cleaning area. Small, yet does the job

After all this, we are given a feedback form and we give a positive feedback (honest!) and for that, we are given ice-creams! Digu and me actually posed for this shot. Hehehe…. :P

That was  really wonderful experience and would like to know if other branches are doing the same. I’m pretty sure M.G. Road and branches in malls can’t afford for these kind of tours because of the crowd. It’s tough to handle kids and not a good idea to have them in either McD’s or our own kitchen at home. Wait for more foodie posts in the future :)

The One Week Bike Report

Posted: May 16, 2010 in Automobile
Tags: ,

One week, 150kms and I’m LOVING IT!! :D That’s how it is till now being a proud Apache RTR 160 owner. After going through hundreds of posts, losing hours of sleep wondering if I made the right choice of going for this bike. I can now say that YES! The RTR is a wonderful bike and I made a good decision by buying it.

On the very first day of the delivery, just before my registration number could arrive, I decided to take the bike on a spin. I decided to take the smaller roads in Rajajinagar considering “maamas” being all around and they would flag me down and fearing that they would end up fining me for riding a bike without the registration number. Here I am, enjoying the throaty note of the exhaust, the nimble handling and the sharp brakes of my bike and suddenly, there is a 2-wheeler asshole who hit my bike!!! Yes, an accident on the very first day!! I was riding at around 30kmh and was near a cross where a bus was turning towards my end and being an Indian, the HH rider overtakes the bus from the left and comes straight towards me. He brakes hard, skids and since I’m scared to rev the new bike, I end up stalling my bike when he comes close and ‘hits’ me. Having 2 small scratches on my baby is heart-rendering. I’m dazed and yell at him and he drives away. The mofo didn’t hit anywhere else.

I simply head back to the showroom, get my number. Get the initial checkup and instructions from the mechanic and go straight home and get the pooja done. Since then, I’ve been careful the way I ride around the city and the bike starts to speak to me.

People have written in lengths about how the Apache feels. The catapulting effect, the sweet throaty exhaust note, the ability of handling the curves with ease, the vibes, the nasty tires(time to improve the rubber TVS!!) and the notchy gearbox. It’s true. All true. However, like someone mentioned on the forum. Your bike behaves as well as you want it to make it to. Today being a Saturday, I take the bike for a long ride to get to know how it is to actually feel the bike without the stop-go traffic. Brilliant! Simply brilliant! All these days I was always maintaining a speed of just 40kmph, but today decided to take it a notch higher and absolutely within the safety speed of the run-in; 50kmph. Revving the bike a tad bit more, but slowly, I manage to keep the beautiful machine in the desired speed and it feels good. One thing which I observed about the gearbox is, (in my opinion) that it is designed to shift just as in a race. Quick successions. Not like your regular bike. Do this and you feel that your gearbox is a lot smoother and there are no false shifts. I told you my bike was talking to me! :)

For all the people who are complaining about the posture, COME ON! Didn’t you realize that this is supposed to have racing ergonomics and not as a commuter bike? Even the ad says so! Just make sure that you don’t keep your wrists completely straight, but lower it slightly and see that all your wrist pains will disappear.

Team-BHP, xBHP and other automobile forums have me hooked and I suggest that every automobile owner go through their posts. There is so much to learn about your machine! From the carburetor, to the fuel injection system to the type of oil to be used. It’s simply amazing! Following their advice will surely help your vehicle purring for years to come.

See you on the roads! Happy and safe riding :)

Racing DNA Unleashed

Posted: May 9, 2010 in Automobile
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It is well past 6 years since I stepped into my adulthood and only now I’ve had the privilege of having a bike of my own. Though I do use my dad’s Bajaj CT-100 to commute, it was high time that I bought my own bike and that is how my quest to own a 150cc bike began.

Initially I wasn’t really serious about  going into the 150cc segment for various reasons like mileage, cost, etc. Scouting through various automobile posts on forums and blogs helped me decide on few bikes (but I never knew that most of them would be so expensive!) Of course, few friends also pitched in with their thoughts. Finally, short listed on 4 bikes after getting to know that I could push my budget a bit more(Yay!) They were Honda Unicorn, Hero Honda Hunk, Suzuki GS-150R and TVS Apache.

Being more of a Honda fan, I checked out in-depth reviews about Unicorn. It is undoubtedly one of the best commuter bikes on Indian roads, but I decided to give this a miss. Read on to find out.

Going through the specifications of each bike (and reviews) of the afore mentioned bikes got me more confused! Each bike has its own strengths and weaknesses and there is no way to tell that one bike is THE bike to own in this segment. So, decided to go in for a test ride to check out the real deal.

On a bright Monday morning, I head off to Rajajinagar 4th block where there are showrooms for all the bikes on one stretch of the road. So, it is a one-stop-shop for test riding those 2 wheelers.

TVS Apache RTR-160 Refresh

First stop, Bridgestone Agencies, the official TVS dealer. I’m along with my colleague and he introduces me to the showroom executive who knows Mr. Manager, i.e., my colleague quite well :) We come straight to the point and I ask for a test ride. Since I was checking out the Apache Refresh with dual disc brakes, I turned down the offer of riding the one with single disc brake.  The showroom exec tried to convince me telling me that it is only a matter of disc brake and the rest of the specs are the same. Hey! If I don’t get to feel the disc brake, this just might be the deal breaker. He agreed at once to give me a TR of an Apache Refresh. The first thing which you notice about the bike when you start it, is the sweet mild rumble of the exhaust. It is definitely music to the ears. I hop on the bike and off I go!

First to second gear. Easy switch, but not a smooth one. The gearbox is notchy and the bike having a design of toe-shift gears, with the 1-down, 4-up pattern, it is a tad bit hard to shift. I’m riding in a narrow straight street which is crowded and being a typical Bangalore road is pock marked with potholes everywhere. I reach the end of the road a bit slowly than I would ride my bike and really need to feel what the bike has to give back. While riding back I decide to get a wee bit rough and use the horn liberally and manage to dodge people, 6-feet deep potholes and other motorists with ease with good speed! Managing to do this at 45-50kmph was something considering the condition which was given. The bike is like putty in your hands and gives you complete control. I’m really amazed by the handling, acceleration and the feel of the bike in general. The rear disc brake is not as responsive as I had imagined. I am later educated, that in case the rear brakes were set to be as sharp as the front, I would be tail sliding off the road, considering the pathetic TVS tires this machine has. One more ride please-that’s what my left brain says-but I my right brain says that there are other bikes to test ride too. We tell the showroom exec that we will be back in the afternoon to make the payment(lies!) and we hop into the Bajaj showroom.

Bajaj Pulsar 150cc (huh!?)

First of, I HATE Pulsars but decided to check out the new gen Pulsars for all the hype around it. After test riding this machine, I still hate the Pulsar. Acceleration-OK,  gear shift-smooth, braking-good, top speed-couldn’t reach and the annoying whining of the engine was a turn off. This is a very short test drive and I’m feeling wanting for more, but I hate Pulsars anyway and it is not on my list. So, what the heck! I give this a clean miss. Time to meet the Suzuki!

Suzuki GS-150R

The Suzuki showroom is very crowded, but we are made to feel important by the exec. He gave us the full specs of the GS-150R and immediately arranged for the test ride. Before I could head off to the bike, the exec offers a helmet to test ride. Suzuki, you earn brownie points here. It is always good to know that safety is considered first, though you manufacture the world’s fastest legal road bike. Hats off! The GS-150R is one of the best bikes available out there and can be easily compared with the Unicorn. Everything about this bike is butter smooth! Pick up, gear shift(really need to mention again that the gear shift is super smooth!) and the sound of the bike. It is also very comfortable and I’m able to zoom past traffic with ease. Then comes the curves. This is where the bike falls behind. Though the overall handling is good, it doesn’t fare too well on the curves.Mighty impressed with the bike, I consider this bike as a primary option and head of to the Honda showroom.

Honda Unicorn

Again, it’s the crowd, but what  a different feel you get here. No showroom exec is bothered to attend to you. Most are simply moving around like zombies. Since I’m pretty much covered with the specs of the Unicorn, I directly ask for the price, delivery date and test ride. A waiting period of one month was enough for me to turned off, as if the snob reply of the exec was not enough. Didn’t bother test riding this since I’ve had the opportunity to ride my friend’s Unicorn numerous times. You lost a customer here, Honda. Churning out great bikes off the assembly lines ain’t enough. Attend to your potential customers too! I later read on other forum(s) that Planet Honda has pathetic customer care. Sigh!

Somehow I didn’t feel like trying out the Hunk and had decided on Apache when we suddenly spot the  Yamaha showroom. W00t!

Yamaha FZ-16/S

Though I’m a Honda fan, I’ve also like Yamaha for their legendary RX series. Too bad I couldn’t own them when they were in production. Just for fun, decided to test ride the Fz-16. Man oh man!! What a WONDERFUL bike this is!! Killer macho look combined with the awesome technology and handling of the bike makes me wanna buy this right away! Oh wait. Look at the price! 78k on-road. Sorry baby, I again can’t own you :’(

So, I finally settle for the Apache RTR-160 Refresh. The main reason I went for this bike, though the Suzuki GS-150 is good is because of its handling, speed and the gizmos you get for the price you pay. Also, like the Tata Safari Dicor ad, I don’t want to regret later feeling “I always wanted to own a fast sporty bike”. Decided to go for the black color for 2 reasons. 1) Grey was not available immediately :p 2)My neighbour, cousin and almost everyone on the road either has a grey or a yellow RTR.

Payment done the next day, I”m waiting for the delivery tomorrow. Oh yeah!! Vrrooommm….!!!! :D