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2011 July 13 [Wednesday]

E-filing IncomeTax returns in india

The Indian government agency that runs the Income-Tax portal  "incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in" has very thoughtfully provided an electronic filing facility for its citizens which enables all tax-payers to file their Tax returns without a trip to the local Income Tax Office. However, their thoughtfulness only extends to Windows users as they have provided the e-forms only in the MSOffice .xls format which will not run any macros on a non-Windows platform. Now, I have not used Windows for many years now and having been forced to pay for a half-baked edition pre-installed on my laptop, I could not wait for my warranty to finish and free up that disk space.

Last week, I found two Open-Office hacks for the ITR forms 1 and 2 at:

However, the Open-Office  supported ITR-2 form from KSEB is borked -- has locked cells which will not work nor retrieve macros in Open-Office and many fields and cells are protected, making it impossible to enter data so that the Tax macros work properly. The ITR-2 form (available from the above link) has some errors in the conversion for Open Office --In Part B - TI in Computation of total income. It does not allow you to enter any figures in the following fields:

1. Salaries (6 of Schedule S)
2. Income from house property (C of Schedule-HP) (Enter nil if loss)
3. Capital gains
4. Income from other sources
This prevents the macro from tabulating the Total (Example: A + B +Total of (I) for all fields), due to which its not possible to tabulate the final tax payable.

Does anyone know how to get locked cell macros to work in Open-Office? All help and pointers to get these hacks working on Open-Office would be a big help. TIA.

PS: FWIW, I had asked this question on the local LUG list, which was a waste as one list member, who didnt read the question, chose to focus his undivided attention on the terrible mistake I made -- used the word  'company'. Thereafter, it was a fun exercise in "I-am-the-loudest-jerk-and-bully-here" ad hominem and logical fallacies. Yeah, total WIN on the technical help scale. The smartz knocked my socks off! 

2011 April 4 [Monday]

b0rked Broadcom bcm43xx drivers

Dear Broadcom, Despite your late gesture of opensourcing the bcm43xx wireless drivers, I continue to have issues -- Last week a kernel upgrade from lucid not only broke the driver but managed to kill the nvidia drivers for good measure -- it was easier to take a data backup and do a clean re-installation of Lucid than waste a lot of time figuring out how your bcm43xx driver broke the nvidia drivers killing my graphics display totally. 

However, I was mistaken about it being a kernel upgrade (to 2.6.35) issue as the peace lasted for hardly 3 days -- since I am blessed with having to start my monday morning troubleshooting your broken hardware drivers (on 2.6.32-21 generic kernel version) instead of getting actual work done.
lucid@ubuntu:~$ dpkg --list |grep b43
ii  b43-fwcutter             1:012-1build1          Utility for extracting Broadcom 43xx firmwar

lucid@ubuntu:~$ dpkg --list |grep bcmwl
ii  bcmwl-modaliases       Modaliases for the Broadcom 802.11 Linux STA

So the "b43-fwcutter" utility package exists on my system (as I had installed and activated the drivers) but something between each reboot was blocking the drivers as the link would suddenly be hard blocked. This despite me taking the trouble to NOT upgrade from the 2.6.32-21 generic kernel version.

Then, I checked the B43 blacklisted file:

lucid@ubuntu:~$ cat /etc/modprobe.d/* | egrep '8180|acx|at76|ath|b43|bcm|CX|eth|ipw|irmware|isl|lbtf|orinoco|ndiswrapper|NPE|p54|prism|rtl|rt2|rt3|rt6|rt7|witch|wl'
# which ath5k cannot recover. To prevent this condition, stop
blacklist ath_pci
blacklist eth1394
# replaced by p54pci
blacklist prism54
# replaced by b43 and ssb.
blacklist bcm43xx
blacklist uart6850
blacklist twl4030_wdt

and sure enough, "bcm43xx" was indeed on the blacklist.....nice, girdle up for more yakshaving!

Next, I paid a visit to the "blacklist.conf" file and commented out the line "blacklist bcm43xx".

Rebooted for it to take effect. Nada, Zilch, still no wifi.

lucid@ubuntu:/lib/firmware/b43$ ls
a0g0bsinitvals5.fw  a0g1bsinitvals13.fw  a0g1initvals5.fw     b0g0bsinitvals9.fw  lp0bsinitvals13.fw  lp0initvals14.fw    n0initvals11.fw  ucode14.fw
a0g0bsinitvals9.fw  a0g1bsinitvals5.fw   a0g1initvals9.fw     b0g0initvals13.fw   lp0bsinitvals14.fw  lp0initvals15.fw    pcm5.fw          ucode15.fw
a0g0initvals5.fw    a0g1bsinitvals9.fw   b0g0bsinitvals13.fw  b0g0initvals5.fw    lp0bsinitvals15.fw  n0absinitvals11.fw  ucode11.fw       ucode5.fw
a0g0initvals9.fw    a0g1initvals13.fw    b0g0bsinitvals5.fw   b0g0initvals9.fw    lp0initvals13.fw    n0bsinitvals11.fw   ucode13.fw       ucode9.fw

lucid@ubuntu:~$ cd /lib/firmware/brcm
bash: cd: /lib/firmware/brcm: No such file or directory

Then, a sudo ln -s bcm43xx-0-610-809-0.fw bcm43xx-0.fw and sudo ln -s bcm43xx_hdr-0-610-809-0.fw bcm43xx_hdr-0.fw should have loaded and activated the drivers after a reboot. It did not, forcing me to switch to a wired connection on a laptop. WTF!

Broadcom, fiddling with "bcm43xx" is a sure-fire way to kill time. Thankyou very much for the Yak-shaving experience --it serves as a constant reminder to me, why I will never (unknowingly) buy another Broadcom driven product in future, ever! KTHXBAI.

UPDATE:: Its a "networking disabled on boot" bug in Ubuntu-Lucid and Maverick that has a fix (but not yet committed for Maverick):
[0] http://ubuntuforums.org/showthread.php?t=1594577
[1] https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/network-manager/+bug/524454
[2] https://help.ubuntu.com/community/WifiDocs/Driver/bcm43xx#Installing%20b43%20drivers
[3] http://www.qc4blog.com/?p=857

I've tried everything mentioned in the above threads to no avail. Wifi is out cold!

2011 February 22 [Tuesday]

beware of spammers asking for your account password

If you've got a mail with the subject line "Account System Update", asking for your "Passvvord" (gee, atleast spell it right :/), because they are shutting down your account, .... Simply delete it.

Notice the headers, its not from Google or Gmail and you would be safer not responding to them. I'm not sure if google has a feedback system where I can submit this so I thought its better to blog and tell the whole world.

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2010 October 5 [Tuesday]

The Sparsh BPO's Intelenet way to defraud BSNL

20131012-Update: I changed the title of this blog post as I just came to know via Valorie that the term "gyp" has racist connotations.

I've been having DNS issues since last weekend and since my ISP has been happily outsourcing its customer service obligations to Sparsh India, so whenever the DNS conks off (which is once a month at the very least), I get to have interesting conversations very often.

[after our initial conversation when I've tried explaining the DNS problem, in vain.]

ME: I've tried changing the DNS to point to, saved and rebooted the router, etc... , can ping "random" server, can use IRC, etc...BUT cannot connect to some websites like "www.zareason.com", which gets redirected to "http://searchportal.information.com/?a_id=92438&domainname=www.zareason.com". Please reboot your DNS server as it does not resolve some domains properly.
CSR: Click on 'start button', click on 'internet explorer', ...
ME: Excuse me ...Sir/M'am, I told you I dont have windows on this machine. I use a Linux-based operating system so if you tell me what information you require to troubleshoot, I can check for it locally.

At this point I'm put on hold, ...CSR returns after a few minutes to ask if I can connect to 'google.com'. I answer in the affirmative and he/she proceeds to say the problem is because I use Linux and there is nothing they can do about it. Simply stunning.

Asking to speak to another person who knows "linux+networking" or a team leader results in them disconnecting your call. That isnt surprising. A Business line article says "Sparsh BPO, which is the domestic arm of Intelenet Global Services, put in a bid at Rs 1.15 a call for providing contact centre services...." -- The higher the number of calls to the BSNL toll-free numbers will result in more income for Sparsh. I'm not aware of the finer points in their SLA but the pattern I have observed is very very common. Calls are always dropped, sometimes mid-way, etc...

Sparshindia is a subsidiary of Intelenetglobal, meant to handle the pan-India BPO business. I am curious to know if Intelenet provides similar poor service to their US clients. Would a CSR disconnect an overseas call mid-way without solving the customers problem? Will they get to bill clients simply on the basis of number of calls handled without actually solving the problem.

http://www.sparshindia.com/opration_quality.html, states they monitor calls and have a good QA process. I beg to differ. If I call back and go through the whole discussion for the N'th time and insist on speaking to a TL, I'll be put on hold, and the same person pretends to be another person. Oh well, it takes more than changing voices and giving a fake name -- the 'trying too hard to fake it' bit that gives them away. Nine out of ten times the conversation has gone downhill when the CSR insists that you are having a DNS issue because you are using Linux.

https://www.zareason.com/  was also unable to connect and dig @ zareason.com returns the correct IP address. While I grok that every ISP out there uses a transparent proxy to save on bandwidth. Using an anonymous proxy gives me the zareason website but what if its a site you want to order something. How can the user know or trust the site if the ISP has borked DNS which just redirects you to a phishing site?

On multiple occasions I have requested to speak to any technical person who understands "linux + networking" as the DNS issue has a simple solution -- Probably the DNS server used by the proxy is broken and its is caching incorrect data. The backend technical team (whom i've spoken to just once in so many years) can reboot the server and clear the cache. This is all it takes, all of 5 minutes to reboot the appropriate server and solve the DNS issue. BUT its easier to do a shirsasana (head-stand) than get the sparshindia agents to reboot the darn dns server.

UPDATE: I called Sparsh India yet again. This time I refused all the request to give the mobile number so the outbound process would call me. Erm...I would hold on forever until the DNS problem was solved. As of writing this, its been 2 hours that i've been talking to a TL (he claimed so), who finally booked my complaint which I checked here: 'http://bangaloretelecom.com/' --it has no details of the problem. The excuse this guy gives me is 'BSNL must have blocked the site" ...hilarious, why would bsnl want to block one site peddling computers? If it were a p0rn site that argument might atleast make sense. We retraced the steps of changing the routers WAN settings and other tasks which didnt help.

Which part of the sentence "I can access websites and surf online, only some sites like zareason dont work, reboot your DNS server and solve the problem" does a person not grok?  He even pretended to not know how to spell "cache" and i could hear his co-worker giggle in the background. So I politely told him that while he was busy 'pretending to not understand basic tech terms', he was not harassing me, rather, he came across as a dumb person with zero technical knowledge. That got his attention real quick and he didnt seem to enjoy harassing me anymore. Oh, the joys of being a sexist troll !!

At the moment it seems that Sparsh India is only interested in increasing their revenue by billing BSNL INR1.15 for each call that customers make --Not solving the problem in one phone call definitely helps Sparsh and Intelenet gain more revenue. Rebooting the server means the problem gets solved, hence less revenue.

2010 July 17 [Saturday]

SoftwareHardware fails

Ever been in a situation where you are trying to solve one problem but have more hoops to jump than necessary!?
This rant has been building up this past week and it all started with bzr: ERROR: Unknown branch format: 'Bazaar Branch Format 7 (needs bzr 1.6)\n'

Seems that bzr has to be upgraded on hardy {--And now this? --after I had purged and re-installed bzr because the earlier installation was giving weird errors and I didnt want to waste time going off on a tangent. argh, I was wrong about wasting time with bugs!

I was suggested a PPA but for that was not an optimal path for me. Besides, here I was trying to pull a MM revision from LP, but instead have to build bzr and then work on MM..... ~fun.

Alan (thanks :)) suggested I edit the sources.list and add "deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/bzr/ppa/ubuntu hardy main" and then do an apt-get update, then apt-get upgrade which would upgrade bzr to the version in the ppa without all the compiling and building hoop jumping.

$ sudo apt-get upgrade
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
The following packages have been kept back:
0 upgraded, 0 newly installed, 0 to remove and 1 not upgraded.

What a killjoy !!

$ sudo apt-get dist-upgrade
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree
Reading state information... Done
Calculating upgrade... Done
The following NEW packages will be installed:
The following packages will be upgraded:
Setting up bzr (2.1.2-1~bazaar2~hardy1) ...
removing incorrectly installed bash example /etc/bash_completion.d/bzr

Finally.... I upgraded bzr which allowed me to pull the branch: $ sudo bzr branch lp:mailman/2.1. An hour later.......gee, where was I now? The download was still 'in progress' and was'nt all this supposed to be incidental to testing Mailman...!? That was the night before. The next morning after yet-another-regular-unscheduled-power-outage, it was LaunchPad going down for an hour or so --some twit was DDOSing their server. What an incredibly productive activity!

LP returns and the development machine decides to die with a "/dev/sda1 error : fsck died with exit status 4". Now I knew this was my lucky day!!

Dug out a liveCD and ran 'fsck -f /dev/sda1' manually, where:

-f = force fsck even if filesystem seems clean
-cc = run badblocks check with a non-destructive test
-k = write new list of badblocks to current list
-p = automatically repair errors if possible without requiring human input
-v = verbose output

It found 5 inodes containing multiply claimed blocks and repaired it but for a while everything was in slow-motion --  I panicked about it taking ages to check a mere 40 gb of inodes and blocks. Colourless did the math on why it will take ages "just consider the sustained transfer rate of the drive which will probably be in the low 10s of mb/s. lets say you are getting 20mb/s second transfer, that is still going to be 2000 seconds to scan the disk, or 33 minutes".

Ah, talk of collective agida!

Earlier today fsck.ext1: No such file or directory while trying to open /dev/hda1. The superblock could not be read or does not describe a correct ext2 filesystem -- the hdd would not be detected and system refused to boot, refused to detect partitions. I spoke too soon earlier. It was super lucky saturday, not lucky friday!! This time the LiveCD was an arm's length away after last night's use and I checked out "fsck", "e2fsck" ...zilch, No response.

There is a good utility called TestDisk, which is available as a package for both debian and ubuntu -- sudo apt-get install testdisk, and you can run it from liveCD if your disk ever fails. It goes without saying that TestDisk will be useful only if your disk is detected by BIOS and hence alive.

Now, the worst I could think was "bad sectors==dead disk" but before that I had to check for loose wiring and then see if the BIOS detected the drive. The disk was spinning as I could hear the 'whrr' sound. Unplugged and re-plugged the wires a few times ...Nada...Bios would not detect the hdd. Convinced that it was the worst "bad sectors==dead disk", I shut everything down. A few hours later I switch it it on and voila the disk was detected and grub was soon asking which OS I wanted to boot into. That means it was just a loose connection (HOPEFULLY :)).

A BIG 'thanks' to ALL the folks who helped out with suggestions and listened to my kvetch. Much appreciated :)  If I'd ever have to calculate "productive time" sans all the idiocy around then its scary to note the amount of time that is wasted scheduling my day around a power outage, hardware issues and software bugs, and then there is this mundane thing called 'life'. I wish I had 10-days of silence instead.

2010 May 17 [Monday]

zen of computerisation

Only we can introduce computers at banks and at the same time increase the paperwork by making the customer fill out one form to open an account, a second form to get a debit ATM card, a third form to get a cheque book and so on..... Sans pushing paper around it would seem the government babu's dont do any work...No can do, one has to look busy atleast!

Only we can create an online reservation system to book rail tickets whose website after 11:30 pm will show the following notice when you try to book tickets:

Booking (I-ticket and E-ticket ) is allowed from 5.00 to 23.30 Hours (Indian Standard Time) on all days including Sundays.
Greenwich Mean Time 23.30 and 18.00 Hours
Cancellation of E-ticket is allowed from 5.00 to 23.30 Hours (Indian Standard Time) on all days including Sundays (before chart preparation of the train).
Greenwich Mean Time 23.30 and 18.00 Hours

24x7? eh, what? do IT the Indian way!

2010 May 8 [Saturday]


Sexual assaults involving ministers mixed with never-ending power-cuts make a heady summer mix. Its not surprising that the frequency of water cuts and power cuts has spiked the moment local Municipal elections voting got over. People have filed PIL's but KPTC/BESCOM cant seem to curb the power theft that occurs right under its nose, which is self-evident when you take a walk around any main street with shops and direct your gaze skyward to see the criss-crossing wires from each electricity pole situated on the roadside--all illegal but under the benign gaze of the officials. The shopkeeper will tell you why you could not get away with it without the connivance of the employees of inefficient BESCOM whose palms they regularly grease, lest its converted into "commercial rates" which is four times higher than the residential rates....and thus residential power theft continues. The powers that be are aware of the irregularities and yet dont care. What would it take to turn things around?

If that is the local state of affairs, the national level is no better. Nope, Sonia Gandhi, a woman at the helm has not changed things for the better. Its not uncommon for women to bear the brunt and pay the price when it comes to law-making policies. India has always had women politicians and yet the scams continue to tumble out of the closet catching the players on a sticky wicket, and we continue to live with corruption, lobbying for power while the money-making games continue, resulting in tacit compromises instead of clean governance. If anything politicians lack the will to root out corruption and a citizen has no choice when it comes to choosing a clean political party to represent them. Today, corruption and crimes are committed by politicians from just about every party and ideological frame of mind --Quid pro quo.

2010 March 23 [Tuesday]


Last week, I had to urgently fly back to North America on a personal emergency and given the urgency of the situation, at around 08:10 hrs IST on Mar17, I logged onto flightnetwork.com to book two tickets, one departing from Chennai in the wee early hours of Mar18 and planned to do the BLR-MAA route by car. 

IME, the e-tickets are usually emailed within an hour but when both credit cards were debited multiple times, with no sign of the e-ticket until noon, I tweeted and dented and also filled out a customer service form with dimming hope on the Flightnetwork website.

The easier option was to call the airline before leaving Bangalore, so I called up JetAirways to confirm that I _was_ booked and confirmed to fly out within 12 hours. I didnt want to reach Chennai and learn that I didnt have a confirmed ticket.  But, as I suspected, Jet said that flightnetwork.com had not sent them the booking details --This despite my credit card being debited in Dollars by flightnetwork.com, within one hour after booking via their search engine/travel portal for both tickets actually.

The Jet Airways staff understood the emergency and were kind enough to issue me a PNR despite the flightnetwork.com not sending them the booking details on time. I explained that I could not call the portal office as it was outside of their office hours and left BLR for MAA hoping that it was just a software glitch and the email would arrive en-route.

Nothing of that sort happened.

We reached Chennai at 7:30pm, my flight a mere four hours away from departure and the portal had still not sent me the e-ticket. Jetair kept insisting that even though they had issued me a PNR, the portal had to send them the details.  In desperation, I called the Flightnetwork.com help desk from Chennai only to be connected to Ms.AM after 3-4 multiple attempts. I gave her the reservation code and when asked why my bookings were not confirmed after 12 hours had passed, she yells back "do you want to argue or let me book it now?".  Err...what was she and flightnetwork.com doing for 12+ hours then?

Ms.AM was rude, belligerent and argumentative, despite the emergency situation being explained to her, after much prodding gave me the wrong e-ticket booking number, blamed the delay on "quality checks", etc ... and disconnected the line when I asked to speak to the manager.

Pft$@^$... puhleze, a quality check when my flight was leaving in around 4 hours and I didnt have a ticket? Kidding me? Strangely, the flightnetwork.com software system was prompt enough to issue instructions to debited both credit cards as soon as the tickets were booked (more than 12 hours earlier) but failed to issue tickets--especially since their TOS clearly states 'no refunds' for missed flights. What a scam!

To cut a long story short, I managed to travel that day because the Jet Airways staff were polite, understood what customer service was about in an emergency, were prompt enough to issue my tickets (against just a PNR) after taking the portal name and booking reservation numbers.

Flightnetwork.com's CTO had seen my tweets, emailed me and apologised, I had replied, and that was that. I thought it sums up my stressful 12-hour experience with flightnetwork.com and I travelled on. Wrong....there was more ...read on.

However, later that day, an employee from the sales team sends me this email:

Thank you for sending us your email. In regards to your concern that you had not received your electronic tickets, kindly note our office hours are between 9:00am EST to 10:00pm EST, so we were unable to send you your electronic ticket until we were open. When emails are sent to sales there is also a message generated to advise we will answer within 24 to 48 business hours as they do take time to distribute.

Please note we have sent your ticket this morning however I have just resent it to you in case you did not receive it. The ticket was issued last night, which means if you were to cancel there would be a cancellation fee of $200.00 CAD and then you would receive a refund to your credit card.

If you would still like to cancel please call us at 1-800-671-5032 as our agents would be happy to assist you. We are open until 9:30pm EST tonight.

24 to 48 business hours? WTF? seriously, what if I am in an emergency and my flight leaves within 12 hours of booking? What is the traveller supposed to do? ... wait for your operational 24 to 48 business hours to travel? 

Its the "I dont care a damn about you" attitude reflecting in his email and scant regard for the paying traveller that prompted me to blog about my lousy experience doing business with flightnetwork.com.

I'd rather stick to cheaptickets.com or my local travel agent --the latter, besides getting me the same route for 100 dollars less, would never use weasel words like 'quality checks', non-office hours and TOS. He just delivers sans the marketing jargon and crappy excuses. Period.

2009 November 8 [Sunday]

Mining for money and power

This entry is an ode to our shining political servants (pun intended).

#0#. After 17 days of hardcore bargaining, Mumbai finally hosted the swearing-in of a government for Maharashtra state.

#0#.Down South, Karnataka's politicians are busy playing with the tax-payers money, while the US thinks its getting Bangalored with competition.

President Barack Obama has exhorted schools in the US to develop globally competitive standards to help students take on `folks in Beijing and Bangalore'..........engage in intrigues, mud-slinging, backstabbing and witch-hunting. They throw ideologies to the winds, ditch friends and join hands with foes. They use money and muscle power to bulldoze their way to the seat of power....

#0#. A Ranchi resident files a PIL on Koda and Co. who had de-frauded 3.6 crore rupees per day for 3 years to bid for South African mines while his wife sacrifices goats for his well-being as the ED is hot on his tail with an imminent arrest.

#0#. China sees RED when the Dalai Lama visits an Indian state while many Indian states have Naxals and Maoists on a killing spree and our national song, Vande Mataram, has been issued a fatwa by Muslim clerics.

Mera Bharat Mahan - Indians are ironically a blessed lot!

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