Archive for the ‘India’ Category

* People generalize!

Posted on January 4th, 2015 by Alex. Filed under India.

People generalize!

Although this statement is a generalization by itself, I would say that for most of us, it is true. How many times did we say “Politicians are corrupt”, if another case of money-in-offshore-accounts incident is driven through the media, indirectly accusing politicians who do their work honestly? Or lamenting about lazy students insulting all those, who are not. It easies the conversation, reduces the use of subjunctives and is accepted and widely understood that exceptions to these generalizations exist. However this is only true, if the conversational partners have knowledge about the generalized topic.

If the topic is unfamiliar, then the generalization might become a true statement. For instance: “While the female of the carnivorous species ‘Pagodroma nivea‘ is taking care of the young and does all the hunting, the males are lazy sitting all day near the cave.” So, is this statement even remotely true or completely false or true for most of the times and hence the generalization is justified/accepted?

While I am sure, that the males of pagodroma nivea do not care at all, what we say about them, a generalization might have an effect on a part of the human population. Recently I traveled for several hours in a plane from New Delhi (India) to Manama (Bahrain), Bahrain to Frankfurt (Germany), Frankfurt to Cancun (Mexico) and back.

The trip took 6 flights in total out of which 2 of them originated or landed in India. Those 2 flights were special due to the behavior that I observed during the flights:

  1. On both journeys as soon as the jolt went through the plane signaling a touch down back on Earth, many flipping sounds could be heard of people unfasten their seatbelts. That made me wonder, where do they want to go? Those people were too impatient to get down from the plane, even before it starts taxiing to its gate.
  2. A large number of passengers (especially on the journey Bahrain to India), had huge suitcases with them as their cabin luggage. It is known that the space in the overhead lockers is limited physically and that it is calculated by the size passengers are allowed to carry. Since luggage pieces must be placed in those lockers, there is a resource conflict. Hence the ground crew checked the luggage before the passengers entered the plane, fishing out those big suitcases and placing them on a trolley readily waiting next to the stair case. That trolley was full to the brim by the end of the boarding process.
  3. Quite some needed repeated reminders to turn of their electronic devices when required. In fact one guy had a loudly phone call during that time. When he was reminded, his reply was “later”.
  4. The polite and calm atmosphere usually emitted by flight attendants, was negligible. For instance the seat belt signes were turned on and the flight attendant went through the aisle shouting “seatbelts, seatbelts, seatbelts”. Never heard that before.
  5. The gate was packed and full of people. Many passengers consumed 3 or 4 seats to take their nap and other passengers had to stand.
  6. I was in the last group boarding the train (that’s why I know that the luggage trolley was full). The gate area looked like a garbage dump after all the passengers boarded. Many people from India simply do not care what they throw where.

While these observations could have caused by many factors, I am wondering that one of the factor was that the flight started or ended in India. Assuming that on these flights the majority were Indians, it becomes a very awkward situation. For an outsider who does not know Indians (and who can know everybody?), it is very easy and lazy to say: “Indian passengers are very impatient (seatbelts) and egoistic (not leaving locker room for others, disturbing others). Flying with them is very unpleasant.” Hence a whole population and even those who never lifted off the ground, are collectively judged for something they have no clue about.

My experience is, if an distinctive individual misbehaves, a larger group is condemmed. This opinion spreads and sticks. Primarily not because someone generalized and broadcast his/her opinion. Probably more because of self experience and the attitude to generalize. Not much can change this attitude. Hence people should be more considering, how their behavior affects the opinions of others about themselves. The world would be a better place, if more people live by the golden rule: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.

Disclaimer: All generalizations in this post are unintentional and I apologize for them.


* the dumping lane for snow

Posted on January 21st, 2013 by Alex. Filed under Cycle Tours.

Finally: Last week it started snowing. By the 15th of January a layer of around 5cm (2 inches) covered the country side. I always looked forward to ride in snow and to slide around. Especially I have not seen any snow in the last years while staying in India. Cycling on snow or ice covered roads is very interesting. Nothing will happen as long as nobody jumps just in front of you and you can go straight all the time.

Grandma's Cycle in the snow

I took my grandma’s cycle into the fields surrounding the village.

The snow came right at a time, when my new job started to which I cycle around 22km (one way) every day. The snow plows with attached salt dispensers were out all night to remove at least a little bit of the cold cotton from the roads for the rush hours every morning. I have to admit that I thought about the danger coming from slippery roads, but not about the one coming from the traffic. Most of the drivers believe that they are running on railway tracks. In addition the snow plow removes the ice and snow from the road and dumps all of it on the right side of the road and sidewalk. Local residents are obligated to keep the side walk clean. In case of an accident, it is their fault and they can be sued otherwise. So they throw the ice and snow back onto the road. After some time the whole dump piles up between the side walk and the road where the cyclists usually go. Since this forces the cyclists to ride closer towards the middle of the road, dangerous situation occur quite often. All concentration is required by the cyclists to observe the road and its condition. They do not even have the time to take a sip from the already frozen water in the bottle.

Ice water in the bottle after the ride

The water is freezing in the bottle.


* bangalore, yelagiri, bangalore

Posted on September 24th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under Cycle Tours.

Abhijit, Mustafa, Nirmal and I started the Yelagiri tour on Friday night at around 11PM. The aim was to beat the heat during the day while riding on the highways. Since it is mostly downhill, Bangalore, Hosur and Krishnagiri were left behind within the first few hours. In between we had the time for a little bit of star gazing till the view was denied by upcoming clouds. In the early morning hours we reached Krishnagiri. Since we also wanted to do a recce for the upcoming 400km Brevet, we headed south till Karimangalam to find a suitable spot for a control. After having breakfast we started back to Krishnagiri. In the meantime the sun came up and gave us a taste what to expect during the day.

In Krishnagiri we took NH-48 towards the east while the sun was preparing to turn the highway into an well preheated oven. The next 45km were hot, bright, and kind of boring. At the turn off towards Yelagiri we found shade and took some rest at a coconut tender supplying us with one of the best coconuts I have had so far. After an hour of dozing in the shade, we turned towards the village roads leading to the base of Yelagiri. These roads are excellent, in a very good condition and covered by trees. At the base of Yelagiri we split. Two of us wanted to have lunch before starting the climb, whereas I still had the experience from one of the last rides in mind. We went to Anchetti and had lunch there. Unfortunately this town is located in a valley and the way back to Bangalore is obstructed with a long climb towards Denkanikottai. Full stomach and climb do not always go hand in hand. So Nirmal and I started towards the challenge of the day: 14km from base to Yelagiri on top. 12km climb from an elevation from around 350 to 1017 meters above mean sea level. Each of the hairpins is marked with a number. In total there are 14 of them and most of them are 50m apart in height and 1km in length. In the beginning this numbering is very demotivating. In addition youngsters coming down on their bikes, teased us and wished us good luck. But during the climb and with it the increasing number of conquered hairpins, the teasing is slowly turned into awe and respect. After around one hour we reached the top and dropped ourselves in the first chairs of a restaurant that we found. After we finished our belated lunch, we went to a ice cream stall and enjoyed several rounds of ice cream. While the second part of the group reached and we took rooms in a nearby hotel. Without the luggage and an hour of daylight left, there is not much that could be done. So we decided to visit the lake.

After the sun set, we took dinner, went back to the rooms, took a bath and called it a day. The idea was to get up early next morning, which obviously was foiled. So we woke up at around 8AM and started our journey back. Yesterdays climb turned into joyful and long descent which was over in a fraction of a few minutes. We again went back through shady village roads until we hit NH-48. Again the sun was merciless and did its best. Here Mustafa had his flat and we stopped Vaniyambadi. Form there we took village roads towards Kuppam. Although the roads were in an excellent condition and the traffic was very less, the sun scorched us. Mostly the only traffic that we encountered were tractors transporting Ganesha idols followed by villagers who dance to the drums played loudly.

From Kuppam we continued towards Bethamangala. After reaching Bethamangala we had some masala cucumber/pine apple and a friendly guy sponsored us even more. Shortly after the refreshment we continued towards Kolar while the sun set. Somewhere in between, in the middle of nowhere and in the pitch black darkness, Abhijit had a flat. A thorn of around 1.5cm in length went vertically through tire and tube. The tube was deflated so fast that the stuck thorn also pierced through the other side of the tube. Around half an hour later everything was fixed and inflated again and we continued to Kolar. Near Kolar we found a bottling plant in which drinking water was processed. With unlimited water supply at hand, we filled our bottles up to the brim.

An uneventful ride back to Bangalore on a highway was ahead of us. We reached Pavillion (an eatery in IISc) after a total of 407km (210.72km Bangalore -> Yelagiri, 196.27km return) at around 1AM on Monday morning where we ordered the first 5 items on the menu card and simply doubled the quantity.

Distance of the tour: around 211km + 196km = 407km total

GPX files



* solar panel for galaxy s (i9000)

Posted on May 13th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under Android, Cycle Tours.

For extended cycle trips I am using my Samsung Galaxy S for GPS tracking. However prolonged trips cause a serious power drain on the battery and an external power source is required. Hence I bought a small solar panel (Specs: Rated peak power (Pmax): 3Wp, rated voltage (Vpm): 8.5V) for Rs.450 (approx USD10) and some electronic components to get a constant voltage of 5V corresponding to the output voltage of a USB port.

While testing under several different conditions, if the phone charges, it turned out that the phone discharges at a fast rate, if the solar panel is covered by shade (even slightly) or the sun does not shine orthogonal onto the panel. The reason is that while charging, the CPU of the phone does not enter a deep sleep state in which it is partly switched off reducing the power consumption. If the panel is partly covered, the CPU draws more power than the panel can provide. In addition, it seems that the minimum frequency is set to 200MHz while charging. Hence the CPU runs constantly at 200MHz even if it does not have anything to do causing the power drain. As soon as the power is disconnected, 100MHz and Deep Sleep are added to the available frequencies (1000MHz, 800MHz, 400MHz, 200Mhz). CPU Spy is a small application allowing to check the history of used frequencies.

I did not find any solution to force the Deep Sleep state while the phone is connected to the solar panel (or any other power source). However a developer called existz published TalonDEV, a kernel that allows the CPU to be clocked at 100MHz even while charging. As a nice side effect after installing the kernel is the reduction of the screen brightness whose setting was too high in the Gingerbread-Samsung edition as compared to Froyo.

After installing the TalonDEV kernel, the charging ratings are much better. I still have to do further tests, but if the solar panel is shaded partly, it still charges the phone, which was not achieved before.

[Update 14/05/2012] After some testing with the TalonDEV kernel, I ran into stability problems. Random screen freezes occurred even with the unclocked and the most current version. In addition the back key stopped working and the gallery could not find any images anymore. So I installed another kernel called Semaphore. However only the Semaphore kernel for Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) supports the 100MHz frequency while charging.

After some further testing, I figured out that the Semaphore kernel clocks the CPU at 100MHz, if the phone is charging through the wall charger and not via USB. So the statement above is not entirely correct. I do not know about the behavior of the kernel that is shipped originally with DarkyROM, since I did not test it. Comments are welcome.

So the trick is to convince the phone that it gets charged by the wall charger. You can check the state, if it charges via USB or AC in Settings -> About phone -> Status -> Battery status. Digging around in the Internet and the disassembly of an emergency charger running on 2 AA batteries which put the charging state into the AC mode, revealed that the +5V USB line needs to be connected to both data lines (D- and D+) through a 470kOhm resistor. I updated the diagram below accordingly. Now whenever I connect the solar panel, the charging state is in AC mode and the CPU is clock at 100MHz at minimum.

Installation – TalonDEV

This section gives a brief guide, how to install the kernel. My Galaxy S is running on Darky’s ROM v10.4.2 [XWJW1] for quite some time now. I am not describing how I installed that one, since the are plenty of videos and installation guides in the forum which are easy to follow. Through DarkyOTA I installed the XXJVU modem, because I experienced some problems with my provider using the modem firmware of the original DarkyROM.

To install the TalonDEV kernel, download the zip file mentioned in the thread. I took, which over clocks the CPU to 1200MHz (as compared to 1000MHz). If you experience problems regarding stability, I suggest taking instead. I have not tried the BIGMEM version yet, since I am happy with the way it is at the moment.

Copy the zip file to your phone (internal SD Card), reboot into recovery (by installing DarkyROM you already know, how to do that) and install the zip file. After the installation is successful, reboot the phone which will take around 5 minutes. So have patience watching the original Samsung S symbol changing its color.

To further tweak the power consumption, I will start playing around with the voltages supplied to the CPU. The application Control Freak allows it easily through a GUI (There are several apps with the same name in Google Play. They are not the right ones.). I will start the testing as soon as I am convinced that the kernel is stable with the current configuration.

Installation – Semaphore

There is a nice installation guide on how to flash the Semaphore kernel in Linux as well as Windows.

The Circuitry

Thanks for planing of that circuit has to go to Abhijit of CEDT (now DESE) of IISc, who is the brain behind that circuit. I am somewhat illiterated, if it comes to electronics.

To get the maximum power out of the solar panel, I am using an LM1086-5V which constantly gives 5V at its output port. A 7805 will also serve the purpose. However the efficiency of that component is not as high as the LM1086. Although there is an LM1086-ADJ which is able to give a range of different output voltages, it will complicate the whole circuit due to the necessity of additional resistors. One aim was to keep the circuit as simple and small as possible. The less components the circuitry has, the lesser is the probability that something breaks midway through an extended cycle tour. And usually I do not carry soldering irons with me while cycling. 😉

The following diagram gives the required specs of the capacitors smoothening the constantly fluctuating output of the solar panel while riding, and the resistor avoiding spikes, if a device is connected to the USB port. I apologize for the somewhat crude diagram, but as I mentioned, I am not a electronics guy.

Version 1 of the converter. The phone charges in USB mode forcing the CPU to run at 200MHz continously.

Version 2 of the converter. THe phone charges in AC mode allowing the CPU to be clocked at 100MHz at minimum.

The whole circuit is integrated in a somewhat water resistant box which is attached below the panel keeping it away from rain.

[Update 22/07/2012]
For the Samsung Galaxy S III (or SGS3, I9300) the 470kOhm resistor connecting the D+ and D- lines (pin 2 and 3 representing the data lines) to the 5V supply is not required. In fact, the phone does not detect any charging, if the version 2 of the solar charger is used. In this case, some modifications are required: If D+ and D- are shorted the charging is done in AC mode with a higher current of up to 900mA whereas in USB the maximum drawable current is 500mA. If D+ and D- are left open and floating (like in version 1 of the charger), the phone is charged in USB mode. Similar to the S1, the charging mode determines the CPU clocks: While in AC mode the CPU can go into a deep sleep and consume very little power, the minimum frequency in USB mode is 200MHz.


* eega, the fly

Posted on April 15th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under India.

Another incredible idea. It seems that the script editors, screen writers and whoever is involved in writing stories for movies, became insane. The Telugu movie “eega” meaning nothing else than housefly, will hit the theaters soon. Have a look at the official trailer.

Let me recap the story: There is guy, who obviously likes a girl like in the other 99.9% of all Telugu movies. Then there is a bad guy (also obvious) and he also falls in love with the same girl (again obvious). Later in the movie the good guy fights against the bad guy and looses the first round as usual. But here is something new: The good guy dies and this could be a nice uncommon end of a movie.

However in no movie the good guy is allowed to die, hence the writers had the idea to transfer the good guy’s soul into a normal housefly. Perhaps in that particular moment a fly was buzzing around in the writer’s office. Otherwise I cannot find another explanation, how someone can have this idea. So our hero is a fly now fighting with the bad guy and obviously wins in the end.

Immediately two questions pop up into my mind:
1) Why did they not use any bug spray, but trying to hit the annoying fly with all kind of swatter or even better with guns? How high is the probability to hit a fly with a bullet? Especially the compressed air in front of the bullet most probably pushes the fly aside.
2) What happens after the good guy (read fly) wins? How will the girl still love him? Will they go out together, have some nice dinner, watch TV together and have some kids? But I am pretty sure: If the writers are already in that drugged state, something intellectually insulting will come out. I mean, it cannot get worse, can it?


* the search for the sign

Posted on February 8th, 2012 by Alex. Filed under Cycle Tours.

After a long time, I went to Germany for a visit. It was out of question that I am going to cycle in Germany as well. First I like it very much and second I ate all the tasty food that I do not get in India resulting in a increase in weight.

I had to go from my hometown Eschweiler to the finance office in the next bigger town called Aachen. Since they open early, I started at 6:30 in the morning. The weather was bad, gale-forced rain from the west was hitting me in the face like a thousand needles at temperatures of around 10 degrees. The open and hilly area tried its best to convince my body to turn back and take the car instead. However I managed in 62km on that day which took me almost 4hrs. Fortunately I had many breaks in between such as the already mentioned tax office, Lindt’s factory outlet where I filled my brother’s waterproof Ortlieb panniers with chocolate till the top, and my old university.

So what is the difference between cycling in India and Germany? In Germany you will notice that they simply love signals. It did not take me even 10 minutes to wait in front of the first one, followed by 10 more. So even before I could leave the town, it took me around 30 minutes just to cross the first 6km. In fact I saw a signal for a construction side. The side itself was not more than 3m long and blocked half the road like a bigger car or truck. On both ends of the construction, portable signals have been put up, just to control the non-existent traffic. It seems in one point in time, the Germans even put signals around parked cars to prevent any accident. Decision making by a driver on his or her own? Too dangerous, many things can happen.

In India the signals are a lot sparser and even not operational during the early morning hours. Apart from that the whole road is used by any type of vehicle. In India marking a lane just for cycles would be an impossible thing to do. The extra lane will be overcrowded by parked cars, auto-rickshaws, shops and pedestrians. In Germany however, many times a designated foot and cycle path exists next to the road such as the one in this photo.

Dedicated path for pedestrians and cyclists

Dedicated path. To Left of the sign for pedestrians, to the right for cyclists.Since no car is allowed there and Germans usually follow all the rules, it is very safe for cyclists and pedestrians to use it. In fact they have to use it. Using the road and ignoring the cycle path will result in a fine of EUR10 (some years back, probably more now). The same happens if there are cycle paths on both sides of the road and the cyclists goes on the left one (the traffic goes on the right in Germany).

This results that an rule obeying cyclist has to crane the neck searching for the next cycle sign in case the path ends. Overall the Germans seem to be more enthusiastic, if it come to putting up traffic signs. Observe the next photo. It has been taken on a deserted road in the fields where only a few people enjoy the fresh air mostly walking with their dog. Once every day a car or better a tractor might come by. Is there any chance that someone oversees a railway crossing with barriers? Probably not, if it is already announced like that well in advance (starting at a distance of 150m). I am just missing the flashing lights…. 🙂

Wondering what will come next on the deserted road? Railway crossing maybe?


* innovative designs in newer hostel block in iisc

Posted on December 4th, 2011 by Alex. Filed under IISc.

The scarcity of hostel rooms in IISc seems to be over. Slowly the “newer hostel complex” whose name is not yet known, is becoming operational and the first students moved into it. That gave me a chance to wander around in the block and to find some interesting and innovative designs.

For instance the latch which is suppose to lock the cabinet doors.

Key lost? No problem, screwdriver will help and even without damaging the lock.

In case you loose your keys, any screwdriver will do without damaging the lock. The latch is mounted in a way that if it is latched, it does not cover the plate with the screws. That would usually not be a problem since I do not know anybody using that latch anyway. However students are asked not to look the doors, since the furniture such as cots and desks, are not built up yet. So all personal belongings are in the cabinet and the room door is left open. On the contrary the security asks students to lock the doors even in case of a mother nature calls due to thefts. 1000 rooms and 1000 times the latch wrongly mounted. Dear carpenter, is it so difficult to use the brain to think for a second?

Have a look at the two images below. Find the 10 mistakes. 🙂

These rooms are just opposite. However you might have noticed that the space above the cabinet in the second room is just a rock solid wall. The problem is here that the room is something like 30 to 40 cm to long. Means the wall with the room door does not fall in line with the girder supporting the structure. Instead the space between girder and door is used to built in a larger window towards the hallway. But due to the girder no additional light nor fresh air will find their way into the room.

Since the gap above the cabinet and the girder would be very small (around 15 to 20cm in height), the additional space that is in the first room has been conveniently walled sealing something like 1 cubic meter of air behind the wall. Was this the intention of the architect (then why differently designed rooms and not all the same?) or did the planner wrongly estimated the lengths? That brings me to another thought: For the structural integrity of the building, should not girders always fall in line with walls for support? Maybe someone who is familiar with the subject, can shed some light on it?

But in the end, no one will care as usual. At least a major issue that was bothering people for years, has been solved and students finally get rooms on campus.


* bangalore east

Posted on October 23rd, 2011 by Alex. Filed under Cycle Tours.

After a long time I went on a cycle tour again. This time the east of Bangalore was explored for the first and definitely not for the last time. We started at around 5:30AM in the morning. It was just about to dawn with very less traffic on the roads. An hour later we reached the outskirts of Bangalore east wondering how easy that went. Memories came up about tours towards the south of Bangalore involving the crossing of Sultanpet which is already very busy at that time with lots of traffic and pollution.

Smooth roads led to Devangonthi from which we went north. The roads are excellent. However nearby to that stretch are some terminals for gas and petrol, hence many tank lorries speed on the roads even in the morning. We had a little break at a shrine on top of a lonely hill. Based on chicken feathers that were lying around, a bloody stone and a cooking place, it seemed the shrine also functioned as a kitchen for some non-veg food many times in the past.

We had breakfast in a shack next to SH-17. The food was good and we watched the cow in front of the shack being cleaned with brush and even soap. We met with NH-4 in Hoskote to go back to Bangalore through the northern villages. On NH-4 we met a motorbike rider asking why we cycle. We explained that we do it just for fun causing him to shake his head in disbelieve. He wondered why we cycle without having a motto or a theme.

Recently many people ride through India (even from Kashmiri to Kanyakumari) having some motto in mind. Some want to create awareness for eye donations, some for the medical situation in some rural villages. Although I really appreciate the initiatives, too many and not related to cycling will cause more good than harm in the end. If everybody goes cycling to create awareness, the real cases drown in the sheer amount of cycling awareness programs.

Although most of the roads were in excellent condition there were a few bumpy stretches, but nothing spectacular nor impossible to go with a road bike.

The route can be easily altered regarding the personal fitness. For instance, if you go north on SH 35 towards Kadugodi instead all the way east to Devangonthi, the trip is cut short by about 20km totaling in 65km (from IISc). If you want to go a little bit further, the next option is going north in NH207, adding another 10km. But also extensions to more than the 85km that are described here are possible. However that will be reported another time.

Distance of the tour: 85km

GPX files



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