Wednesday, March 31, 2010

About Facebook and Privacy

This post is a response to a ZDNet article on proposed changes in privacy settings on Facebook, which will basically allow Facebook to proactively share user data with 'pre-approved' third party websites. Put in plain English, this means that they could potentially share your user data without your explicit consent.

I wanted to share about the comments that I saw on ZDnet coming as a reaction to this post. Basically, an older generation of facebook users felt that they would deactivate their accounts, because they are sensitive about privacy in a way the newer generation is not. Others counter-argued saying that the younger generation is smarter and even more sensitive about privacy and security and user control.

Which perspective is true? If you are over 30, and gainfully employed, do you really want anyone (even an anonymous third party site) to know how many hours you spent playing Farmville,  that you believe in God and Fortune Cookies and various other sundry details? And if you are 21, is it OK to do these things anyway, 'cos at your age it's OK to do extreme things?

My take is that privacy and social networking are incompatible, even contradictory concepts; would you expect to be private at an office or college party? Then why expect privacy on a site which serves a similar purpose? Further, when you are using a 'free' service, you are fair game for them to make some money from you. How else would you expect sites like FB to monetize themselves, survive and grow?

So, the bottomline is - use social networking sites wisely, share as little or as much about yourself as you feel comfortable - and always expect that what you share is in the public domain. If you are responsible about your own privacy, no one else can abuse it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The best EBook Reader

Quite a few people I know (including my Dad) are interested in reading ebooks and are searching for a suitable device.

I googled a few reviews on PC World, CNet, and Top Ten Reviews and it appears that overall, the Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Nobles' Nook and Sony are rated as the top devices across most sites. The IPad joins this list now, but it will be interesting to see to what extent it can compete with the Kindle as a pure ebook reader; the IPad of course, is designed to do more than just read books.

You can always read ebooks on your mobile device, PDA or DAP, but in most cases the ebook support is not properly implemented.

I personally think that we don't yet have a perfect ebook reader in the market and I would pitch that people should wait till we see the following features implemented:
1) A true open-source ebook software (Epub is a start) that makes it easy to standardise and convert. Sort of an MP3 equivalent in the ebook world
2) A device which is NOT linked to one proprietary book store like Amazon or Apple's IBooks
3) A device using E Ink, which both conserves battery power, and makes reading easier on the eyes
4) A useable method to convert existing physical books into ebooks. Maybe a built in scanner? (I have to thank my dad for this suggestion!)
5) A price tag of not more than Rs. 20,000 ie. in the range of netbooks today.

If you feel more features are needed, do add to the list. Meanwhile, I think that if you want to read ebooks, don't invest in anything, read them on your laptop or netbook! We are still waiting for the best ebook reader...

Airtel Mobile Internet at Rs. 99

Airtel has recently launched an attractive offer of Mobile Internet at Rs. 99. Well worth it for non-Blackberry users like me (I use the Nokia E63) who do not have a standardised rate plan for mobile internet.

There is a 2 GB monthly cap, but given the slow speed of GPRS/ Edge connections, it is unlikely that you will ever download that much in a month :)

An interesting tidbit - when I called Airtel to activate this plan, I was told through the IVRS system that if I want to talk to a customer service representative, I would be charged at the rate of 50 paise per 3 minutes.

Of course, calls to customer service abroad are always metered and in India, many service providers like Tata Sky and Tata Indicom Broadband do not provide a toll free number. In principle, I am fine with paying for quick resolution through phone, but in that case, I do not want to hang on to the line and keep pressing buttons. Give me a dedicated  number and guarantee a resolution under 3 minutes and I will gladly pay.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lemon picking - Logitech 15.4 Kinetik Backpack

There is an inherent risk in loving and impulsively buying the latest and best tech products - the risk of lemon-picking. In other words, if you're the first to try something new, you could end up with buggy or flawed products and then you have to fight to get a refund or replacement.

This is what happened to me with the Logitech Kinetik Backpack released in 2007. Logitech no longer manufactures or lists these on its website, which is enough proof that I bought a lemon :)

Anyway, I sprung for this beautiful notebook bag to carry my very heavy 15.4" Lenovo laptop, seduced by the Mutant Ninja turtle looks of the bag, as well as positive reviews on CNet and notebook review.

The bag looked great and acted like armor at crowded airport terminal queues; anyone who pushed against me hard was liable to break a few bones if they came in contact with that hard shell on the back. I have heard a few very satisfying 'thunks' coming from persistent pushers in the rear, followed by a blissful absence of pushes. It really made my day. Almost made up for the 5 kg deadweight on my back too.

But the durability was a concern, as voiced in several of the reviews. And in fact, within 3 months of purchase, the condition of my bag was  like this (apologies for the grainy pictures)

Don't mistake me, I love a battered/ shabby look, but this bag made me look like I was returning from a war zone and I did not like the look of the moon craters that were developing on the surface.

Logitech support is both prompt and helpful. I contacted the Asia-Pac support through the website and was directed to a person in Logitech Mumbai who promptly issued me a replacement bag. Unfortunately in another 3 months with even lesser use, the bag looked exactly the same as the pictures posted above.

Now the replacement bag is lying in my cupboard, because I just can't bear to see it look more worn and torn than it does now. The Exo shell certainly does protect your notebook securely, but it is not self-protecting - a basic design flaw in my opinion. A laptop bag does have to go through a certain amount of rough use, even in an aircraft cabin and the soft/ hard casing of the Kinetik Backpack mercilessly showed all of it.

Now I have switched to a (non-laptop) Timberland rucksack and a lighter, smaller notebook. And I am happy again.

You can use a regular rucksack for your laptop, just make sure that you buy an aftermarket slipcover (eg.  Belkin) for your laptop and it will be reasonably protected from bumps and jerks.  Also do remember to turn off your laptop or hibernate it while in transit. The hard drive is better protected from shocks if the machine is off.

So yeah, lemon alert on this post :) Did I mention it's a Rs. 5000 lemon? Saving the best for the last I guess.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Ada Lovelace Day - celebrating women in technology

I am late to the party with this but Ada Lovelace Day was celebrated on 24 March 2010 to commemorate the achievements of women in the tech sector.  The website asks people to pledge to blog on this day about women in science or technology whom they admire.

Ada was apparently the world's first computer programmer, way back in 1844, and a computer language is also named after her. It amused me to learn that she was Lord Byron's daughter. For entirely personal reasons, I love the combination of poet and techie....

(Image Source : Wikipedia)

For more information on women techies check out The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Website.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I got a feeling somebody's watching me....

In March last year, I purchased two LG Air Conditioners for my home office set up. Till March this year, I got 3 free services from LG. Now that the warranty/ service contract is expiring, I am beginning to get calls on my mobile from various service providers, offering me an Annual Maintenance Contract at reduced rates.

It is of course good to have options, but I wonder, how do so many different people know that I have 2 airconditioners, that my contract with LG is expiring, and who gave them my mobile number?

My contact details as a customer are registered at just 2 places - Vijay Sales (from whom I bought the ACs) and LG Customer Care. Who is responsible for the leak? My number has been passed to so many field engineers, maybe one of them has forwarded this information to a service agency? Or has the information leaked directly from LG?

Database leaks are becoming more common in India. JustDial recently sued for content theft. And in the past, Travelocity had filed an FIR against Cleartrip for obtaining their proprietary information.

It just worries me a little when I think of how many people have my number and the snippets of information that each of them know - what car I drive, how many ACs and laptops I have, which brand of TV, which internet connection etc. etc. And then all the financial information (income, investments) which is out there with each of the banks I have applied to for car loans or home loans. If anyone puts all of this together, think of what a good profiling they could get of my spending power as a customer. Not a pleasant thought.

Java Geeks, this one's for you!

If you're like me and love your cup of coffee, coffeegeek is the place to hang out. The site features consumer/ prosumer reviews of  truly mouthwatering equipment - espresso machines, grinders, roasters and tampers. I regularly spend some time drooling around here, but unfortunately none of these machines are available in India except a few very high end ones for commercial use. And given weight and size, shipping cost from abroad would prove uneconomical.

So here is my equipment dream list:

1) The Rancilio Rocky Coffee Grinder featured on Wholelattelove which is another place where I spend a lot of time drooling. Coffee lovers will tell you that grinding your beans fresh is even more critical to a great cup than having an expensive machine, and the Rocky is a well respected semi-pro grinder. You can read the reviews here.

2) The Francis Francis! X5 Espresso machine (featured here from Wholelattelove). It is beautifully engineered and makes great espresso according to the reviews on Coffeegeek. And I love the funky way it looks.

3) Just for fun, the Expobar Athenea (featured here from Wholelattelove), for its retro looks.

and finally, the gorgeous Gaggia Achille, which is a manual espresso machine.

 How do I brew my coffee today? In a Madras  Style stainless steel coffee filter, and I buy my coffee powder from Mysore Concerns in Matunga. I never spend more than Rs. 200 per month and I still make one of the best coffees I know. But of course, give me some of the toys featured here and I could do even better.....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The danger of automatic updates

Today I read this post on ZDnet about a buggy update for BitDefender Anti Virus software, which deleted several vital Windows files by falsely identifying them as malware. Users of BitDefender were apparently unable to start their machines and had to re-install their OS to get up and running.

My first reaction when I heard the news, was to feel bad, because BitDefender is regularly rated as one of the best antivirus softwares on most sites. My next reaction was alarm. I use Kaspersky Internet Security, which has a good reputation, but I notice that every day, it downloads updates automatically. In fact, this is touted as one of its strengths, that everyday new virus definitions are added, so that you are always ahead of the latest virus.

The news about Bit Defender made me wonder about  the merits of automatic updates vs. manual updates. Half the time, Windows, Adobe, ITunes and dozens of softwares are updating automatically. If there are any faulty updates, I would not want to blindly install them and get hit by the aftermath. Some news would be up about any issues before I downloaded, and I would be able to get  a fix. Home users need not be paranoid about daily updates, the world will not come to an end if you don't update your anti-virus software daily.

BTW, it is totally worth it to invest in a good Anti Virus Software. If you are price sensitive, do as I do and get together a group of friends. Then invest in 5 licences or 3 depending on the number of people. This way, you will pay as little as Rs.500-600 per machine, and that's a small price to pay for securing your PC.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Home Audio solution for MP3 music - Audioengine A5 speakers

Today, by default, most of our music is in MP3 format, either high or low bitrate. The purists will flog formats like OGG and FLAC, and still greater purists will only listen to CDs, but the fact remains that most of us have ripped our music and transferred it to our MP3 players, cell phones, or PCs. And ideally, we would like to play it from our input source, for greatest convenience.

For people who love their music, I highly recommend the Audioengine A5 bookshelf speakers. I have owned a pair for 2 years and they take my MP3 music and totally rock it. Reviews like this one on on the Net justly praise these beautifully finished, beautiful sounding speakers. While they are designed to be attached to your PC, like me, you can place them as separate units, and directly plug in your MP3 player. Audioengine separately sells a Wi-Fi adaptor, which lets you stream your music wirelessly to the speakers.

The Audioengines pair beautifully with IPods, and with my Cowon D2. My love for them is because they deliver near-audiophile quality, even with basic MP3 music. And you don't have to spend a bomb and accumulate a pile of equipment (like an amp and receiver), which also occupy too much space in a small flat.

The Audioengine A5s are available in India on the Bajaao website and retail at Rs. 19,000 in India. The Bajaao website also separately lists the Audioengine AS8 subwoofer which you can pair with these speakers. Currently they are on sale at Rs.15000 which is a total steal for a sub, but unless you are a real basshead you can do without them, especially if you have a small room.

If you want a home solution for your MP3 music, look no further than these beauties.

Monday, March 22, 2010

buying audiophile headphones in India

Good sound depends on both the input source (MP3 Player) and the output source (Headphones or earbuds). Most audiophile sites will advise you to allocate a part of your budget to buy a good pair of earphones to replace the stock earbuds that come bundled free with an MP3 player. They even advise combinations that work depending on your input source.

I have found that this is true. Spending even a minimum amount on good earphones can truly deliver more listening pleasure. Unfortunately, we do not have too many options in India, even in a city like Mumbai, for buying audiophile quality headphones. Those who travel to Singapore, should visit Jaben Network at the Adelphi. This fascinating shop is tucked away in a corner of a mall devoted to music products and is worth a visit for the sheer joy of experiencing the best headphones and earphones in the world; you can try anything before you buy and the owners are happy to spend time helping you find what you want. I'm sure Jaben will also ship to India; they are a little too busy to respond to mails but you can make a phone call to place an order and transfer money through paypal to get your chosen headphones Fed-exed to your location.

So what are the options in India? I was pleasantly surprised to find a decent range of headphones at The IT Depot. They have a full range of Logitech Ultimate Ears headphones (I own the UE TripleFi 10, which are two years old but still the favorite of many audiophiles). Of course, not everyone would want to spend Rs. 20,000 + for earphones!

To get back to IT Depot, they also have a decent range of Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser and Audio Technica phones. I do hope that they are getting a good enough response and will continue to stock them.

Shure makes some fantastic earphones, especially the flagship SE530, which continues to get selective rave reviews, but it's hard to locate a seller. You can contact The Sun Goup, based in Delhi, who are listed on the Shure site as sole distributors in India, but they do not appear to sell online.

I will update this post as I find more stores, meanwhile, if anyone knows a few, please share!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

So many net connections, so little connectivity

I'm a bit ashamed to admit this but right now, I have three internet connections in my house. It seems to suggest a confused mind. Actually, it just happened.

OK, Internet is to my life, what the sea is to a fish; without constant connectivity at 2 mbps, I will asphyxiate. Since I work from a home office, I cannot afford down time. I first got my Tata Indicom Broadband connection three years ago. It came cheap and the service is respectful. But it goes down anytime, especially when its time to skype with a client. And recently, I figured that there is no way to wi-fi it.. That's because I have a ethernet connection with no modem, this cable comes from a switch installed on the terrace of my building and I just have to plug it into my computer. The good thing about this arrangement is that it cuts short troubleshooting by customer service at my expense. They cannot request me to plug and unplug the modem, wait till it restarts, re-check the flashing lights and other general inanities. Once they have asked me to plug and unplug the cable they have shot their bolt and they have to quietly issue a complaint number.

But anyway, this is a pre-paid time-based connection with unlimited night usage, so it works great for downloads. It connects to my desktop and works when it works.

When I became a victim of its unreliability, I looked for options and there was the Tikona executive hawking WiBro. This connection was too expensive to use for downloads, but seemed a great back up when the Tata connection went down. In my haste to avoid MTNL, I sprung for it. Then I figured that my apartment faced away from their wi-fi access point and I could not get a signal. They promised to install an access point in my building, but it was nearly three months before it became active.

So I had to fall back on MTNL. And surprisingly found that it was pretty easy to get, provided you are prepared to visit the office a few times. It is reliable and their new unlimited and pre-paid plans are pretty good value for money.

MTNL and Tikona WiBro connections arrived at roughly the same time. Now I can't decide which to discontinue and till I do, I will hang onto both. I worked so hard to get them, I am very reluctant to let either go.

Now the Tata connection works when it feels like it, MTNL connection is on a dud Linksys router  which I can connect to 50% of the time after exertion and I have to remember to use up the 1GB download I get on my Tikona plan of Rs. 199 pm.

Go ahead and laugh if you want. I said that I was ashamed to admit this!

Buying from Dell India

I'm a repeat customer of Dell India for a simple reason; I always get a higher configuration at a lower price than any other notebook or desktop manufacturer can offer. And I can customise the configuration to suit my need.

I have always advised my friends to visit a Dell reseller to gauge their comfort with the notebook (ergonomics, key and touchpad size, ease of typing) but to buy online to negotiate a better deal.

It pays to bargain hard for a good offer. I have gotten the octroi waived off twice (that's a big deal if you live in Mumbai, paying the highest octroi in the country; it translates to a discount of Rs. 4000-5000).

And you can put that money you've earned to a better use. A techie friend advised me to always ask for the extended warranty (they cap it at 3 years, but if you can get a longer one, go for it). It's frighteningly expensive at the rates listed on the website but the good news is that you can negotiate it down too. My friend got a 3 year comprehensive cover at roughly the same price as the limited hardware warranty, which was about Rs. 6000. This may bite a bit for people buying machines for personal use. But it makes great sense for small business/ SOHO users, as anyway, it's a tax deductible expense. And after that, no worries about service. If you're buying a high end machine, or one with a graphics card, take the extended warranty anyway. Dell has had some issues with GPUs in the past and you really don't need to take chances.

The only really weird thing about buying online from Dell India is that you have to read out your credit card number online and punch in the CCV while the sales rep is on the line. Surprising that they do not have an online payment option!

Oh and once the order is confirmed, the sales rep will vanish from your life forever, so be sure to take all relevant mail/phone contacts from him in case there are any glitches with your order. To be fair to Dell, it's been smooth for me 75% of the time, only once my order really got delayed and no one was answerable.

XPS buyers should totally demand the dedicated XPS number, which is the best kept secret on the website. The XPS lines are answered far more promptly than the aam janta ones. Classist, but XPS is..well, XPS.

Buy the MTNL Router, just buy it!

It's one of those rare cases where the advice on the Internet did not serve my best interest.

So, I took an MTNL connection in January and following general popular advice, I decided to 'invest' in my own router. I called my computer supplier and he recommended Linksys. Strongly. So strongly that I should have suspected something. I paid out Rs. 3500 for Linksys WAG54G2.

I soon realised my mistake. That damn router refuses to 'talk' to my Dell laptop. Depending on its mood, it has to be switched on and switched off repeatedly until it condescends to connect. I have checked every setting on the router home page, I have upgraded the firmware, I have read tonnes of stuff about routers and I am still stuck with no option but to bicker with my supplier in the hope that he will take it back.

The whole issue of routers is so complicated, it just bypasses my modest knowledge of technology. I mean, the Net is flooded with complaints by people who can't get their routers to work. It is across brands, models, service providers.

The ultimate indignity is that MTNL sells routers of unknown brands for just Rs. 1800 and they work perfectly well. In fact, there are days when I can connect to my neighbours MTNL routers through several walls but never to my own Linksys monster.

We had a DLink wi-fi router in office and it worked slightly better, except that it has a very short range, so you had to be in the same room to access it.

I am now considering swallowing my geek pride and begging MTNL to sell me a DNA-A212, which unfailingly connects with my laptop all the time. Even if it is in another apartment.

Moral of the story : Don't understand routers, then don't buy your own. Buy what the internet service provider offers. At least, it will work.

Got a burning complaint? Send an email.

This is something I have cracked after filing a series of complaints with various technology service providers and manufacturers. The quickest way to resolve a complaint is to send an e-mail.

For most of us, toll-free numbers and call centres have not really measured up to great customer service. Spending ten minutes navigating a remarkably dense caller menu or listening to brand advertisements at the expense of your own airtime, does not exactly elevate your mood. Then, once the cust. service representative finally comes on line, with tech issues, it's a hit or miss whether he/she can figure it out, resolve it or fix it. Mostly you end up with a complaint number and a vague promise that everything will be fixed 'on priority'

Here are some cases where sending an e-mail actually helped the issue to get sorted out ASAP. And, I spent no time and no money.

1) MTNL : I have a pre-paid broadband and I was trying to re-charge it online. During money transfer from my ICICI Bank Account, the transaction failed to go through. The money had been deducted from my account but not credited by MTNL. I immediately called the Triband helpline and spoke to a clueless woman who made me repeat everything and then asked me, "how can a payment fail if the money has gone through?" How indeed. I wish I knew. My MTNL account was inactive and at zero balance. So I wrote an email on Sunday evening to the MTNL Helpdesk ID providing the relevant account details and asking them to investigate. And then I prayed.

I was pleasantly surprised when Monday morning, I found that a person at MTNL had actually replied to my mail and marked it to the accounts team. Before I reached home from work, my MTNL account was active. Sweet.

2) Tikona : I was in a horrendous situation when I foolishly took a Tikona internet connection and then stewed for 3 months because my apartment did not get the wi-fi signal from their access point. I think that horror story should be the subject of a separate post. Anyway, after months of screaming at customer service and not getting answers, I checked the Tikona website and wrote to both customer service and HR email IDs displayed on the site, describing my problem. Sure enough, within a day, a senior person from Tikona called me and stayed in touch with me till my problem was resolved.

3) Tata Indicom Broadband : If you are a user of this remarkably down-time prone internet service, and want to complain about it, log into your account and search for the 'contact us' link. You should see this page;

The drop down box lets you select a nodal officer for your city. I recommend that you drop him an email and your problem will get attended to.

I suspect that email complaints are documented and therefore get taken more seriously by the team, as they have to show that they have resolved it.

This has worked for me in most cases, and especially with serious problems. True, I miss the pleasure of venting my frustration verbally. On the other hand, I am able to state my problem clearly and obviously its easier for customer service to grasp if it is in writing.

I'm interested in hearing if it has worked for others too.

Is it worth it to get a Netbook?

I've been lugging my laptop for all my business meetings and on flights, for the last few years of my life. First it was a very heavy and rugged IBM think pad, then a rather unfortunate Lenovo purchase that I would like to forget and now my one year old Dell XPS 1330, which is the lightest and most high-end laptop I have ever owned.

So you can't really blame me for salivating over the ultra portable netbooks that are now flooding the market. Most of them hit the sweet spot under Rs. 20,000; about the same price you would pay for a high end cellphone. Why not? Yet I have hesitated before springing for one of the HP, Dell or Asus models that are available.

This article that I read yesterday on ZDnet puts the issue into perspective. For most of us, laptops are used for business and we therefore need a certain level of computing power. Specs such as Atom Processor and Win XP Home leave me fairly cold. The slowness and clunkiness of my Vista OS has made me very scared about low end slow machines.

I recently advised a friend who is an art director and travels a lot, to get a desktop for her home use (large display, powerful ICore processor for her Corel and Photoshop) and a netbook which will let her blog and browse on the fly. Her Rs. 60,000 budget would have accomodated both at a pinch, but she chose the option of semi-portability with a 15 inch Dell Studio (ICore processor, 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB RAM). She gets blazing fast speeds on her image editing software, and a backache each time she travels, but she does not regret the Netbook that would have weighed next to nothing.

I cited this example to prove that for most of us, it is very hard to justify a netbook purchase, despite the ostensible practicality of it. On the one hand, hardware manufacturers and software providers keep pushing us to upgrade to higher performance equipment. On the other hand, ultra portables are not only convenient, but also premium and aspirational. Now portability comes cheap without the performance and people like me are unable to justify its utility.

I understand where netbooks are positioned in my mind, when I look at when I would recommend it to someone. If a friend had a tight budget and wanted a notebook, I would tell him to stretch as much as he could and get a mid-priced performance notebook from Dell or HP. I would want him to get the highest performance his money could buy, not the greatest portability. I would only ever recommend a netbook as an add-on purchase to a laptop or desktop. And anyway, how many of us really want the hassle of having two laptops and always having to transfer stuff to and fro?

Large capacity MP3 Players

Not so long ago, it was easy to find MP3 players with high capacity storage : Creative, IRiver and of course Apple, all offered options ranging from 20 GB to 110 GB. It was the era when hard drive storage was fairly cheap and accessible.

Now, as the world moves to flash drives and solid state storage, capacities of MP3 players have dropped sharply. There are enough people to point out very rationally that you should not need to carry your entire music collection around, but let's leave out that argument. Some of us just need to. Period.

My Beatles collection is 3 GB even when ripped to low bit-rate MP3 and I want it with me. What are my options?

Surprisingly few. There is the Ipod Touch 64 GB, but that is prohibitively priced at Rs. 20,000 or more through most reputable retailers. The IPod Classic 160 GB is a decently priced option at Rs. 11,000 but read this review on CNET , which basically warns of sub-optimal audio quality. If you are more interested in this subject, read these interesting test results

So what does that leave you with? There are very few MP3 players with expandable storage slots. One of the few (and good sounding) players with expandable storage is The Cowon D2+ which comes with 16 GB and a card slot supporting upto 16 GB SD card. Ok, so 32 GB may not be a lot, but at least it trumps 8 GB. And, it's a good sounding player as well. Currently, I have seen it on sale at Croma in Mumbai for Rs. 6999 and that, people, is simply a steal for a player of this calibre. If you're lucky enough to find this deal, pick it up without thinking twice.

For anything bigger, we will have to wait till flash storage gets cheaper and more accessible.

Warranty return for Seagate Drives in India

If you are a Seagate customer in India and want to make a return under warranty, you should read this post.

Recently, I had to return a Seagate External Hard Drive (500 GB) under warranty, purchased for office back up. The device broke down within 3 months of purchase, which was enough to annoy me. Plus, I had already dumped 40 GB of data onto the drive, which I would have to now transfer again.  You can guess that I was not a very happy camper at this point.

I set out to browse the Seagate website, figuring that warranty return information should be pretty easy to obtain. It was not. the India warranties page told me nothing.

Shouldn't the website mention somewhere that Accel Frontline services Seagate warranty claims? I knew this only because I had already visited one of their service centres in another city to get my Sony cellphone repaired, and seen the queues of customers with defective hard drives.

So I got the address, figured the working hours and went there to return the drive.

Only after I reached the office I figured that to return a Seagate product under warranty, you need to compulsorily first register on this site and obtain a complaint number before coming to the service centre

Nor was this information known to several unhappy customers who were turned away on the spot for not completing this step.

Because I am polite, persistent, or plain lucky, the front desk staff accepted my product and filled the online registration form themselves.

I think that Seagate should display this important piece of information prominently on their India warranty support page. This small improvement in their website, would be a giant step towards better customer service.