Sunday, July 5, 2020

Work From Home

This article is for all the Work from Home professionals and home based online Tutors. It is Monsoon time - the season of breakdowns.and disruptions Most of the reasons for disruption due to Monsoon – power cut, loss of Net connectivity, laptop / PC down etc. are beyond our control, but we can certainly prepare for these contingencies and ensure that we continue to work uninterrupted.

The most crucial component for any work from home professional is Electricity. Though metro cities do not suffer much, the same can’t be said for the rest of the country.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to have redundancy in this matter as there can be only 1 supplier per household. As a basic precaution, ensure that your laptop is fully charged and the battery capacity is sufficient to give you a couple of hours of work time.

 People having standalone homes can install generators as a backup, but multi-apartment resident s can’t enjoy that luxury due space constrains and noise pollution. An alternative is to have an inverter as a backup power source. While selecting the inverter, ensure that the capacity is sufficient to power a couple of appliances like tube light, fan, and router along with laptop / PC. After all what is the point of having a working laptop without net connection or working in the dark in sweltering heat.

The next vital component for Work from Home is the Internet connection. The Net is no longer a luxury to while away our time It times of physical isolation, it has become our source of communication, helps in our financial transactions, shopping, paying our bills and  of course, our source of livelihood. It has become a must have but now we need to give it a higher priority. Firstly ensure that if possible you subscribe to a big name brand rather than the cheaper local cable Wala. The local guy usually cuts corners in his back-end infrastructure and passes on the savings to you in the form of lower charges.  For instance, they usually sling their cables across poles and trees and are prone to frequent breakdowns due to cable damage, whereas providers like Airtel and Tata have underground cables. Moreover, the bigger providers also try to have redundant data paths for a locality, ensuring that even if 1 cable is damaged, the service is uninterrupted by routing data through alternate paths. Another differentiation between the local provider and a professional provider is the performance I have observed that a lower speed connection from Tata or Airtel is much better and consistent than a higher speed connection from a local provider. The third difference is in the level of service and problem resolution.  All in all, it is better to invest the extra amount in a good internet connection rather than be let down at a crucial time. As a backup, you can also consider using Mobile hot spot. This works if you have good network signal. You can always switch over to provider who has better signal strength at your location, not that you have much choice nowadays.

The next crucial component is your own IT infrastructure – router, Laptop, Printer etc. These are very much in our control and we shall discuss how we can take care of these.

Router – This is the link between us and the outside world and it has a very important role to play in performance of our Net connection. Routers with 802.11 ac Wi-Fi and dual band – 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz will give you better performance. Routers with these features are typically available for around Rs 2,000- 3,000. You may also consider investing in a repeater or a signal booster if you are getting weak Wi-Fi signals at your work desk and can’t relocate the router to a nearby spot.

Laptop/ PC – Ensure that you have the latest updates and security patch. Keep your anti-virus up to date and scan your system regularly. A virus attack would be the last thing you would want. Backup your data to the cloud. All the main folders on my Laptop are mapped to Google drive and get updated in real time. Ensure that your laptop battery is in good condition. A weak battery can get completely discharged in as less as 15 minutes, leaving you high and dry in the middle of an important session. I have a habit of having spare accessories like mouse and writing tab, headphones etc. I think it is a worthwhile investment. Off course, as an extreme case, I also have a spare laptop and this has paid off since my laptop broke down recently but I could continue with my daily routine without any disruption. I just logged in to by Google account hand had all the data synced to the spare laptop.

If you have a printer, ensure that you use it regularly to prevent ink from drying up. A frequent problem in monsoons is paper jam. This can be prevented by shuffling the papers regularly and specially before printing.

I have kept the most important part of Work from Home for the last – You. Please do take care of yourself. Eat healthy, home cooked food, do regular light exercises, consume immunity boosting food and stay healthy.

I have been working from home for the past 8 months and have not had a single disruption. You too can stay safe and productive if you follow the above tips. As a thumb rule, you should invest about 5%-10% of your earnings to upgrade your infrastructure and for self-development.


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Happy Birthday Beta

Today (28th April 2018) my son turned 20 and what a despicable start to his adventurous 20s!! He was brutally attacked by a stray dog right outside our home - the very building where he has spent more than half his life.

His fault? He was walking towards the wicket gate where his friends were waiting to wish him. He was bitten twice from behind without any provocation. He has identified the culprit as a black dog (the guardians of these strays would be knowing its name). We spent the opening hours of his new decade at hospital, getting him treated for the dog bites (we got back around 1:30 am). All his friends who called to wish him, were shocked to learn that he was at hospital, getting treated for dog bites! Understand the young man's plight - he has his final degree exams commencing from Wednesday and at this last and crucial stage of his education, he has been traumatized by this attack.

As everyone is aware, this is not the first time that such an incident has taken place within R2 sector, and many of the victims have been attacked in or around the front of Frangipani entrance. Most of the times, the victims have shied from taking any action, may be out of fear of the so-called guardians of these strays who terrorize law abiding citizens with threatening letters from outsiders.

It is disgraceful that we are not safe within our own complex. We have a right to live with dignity and without fear, not having to look over our shoulder every time we step out. I have an obligation to protect my family, more so my aged parents. And I would be failing in my duty if I kept quiet over this issue and did nothing.  I am not content by just posting this information and waiting for someone else to address this burning issue - I intent to initiate necessary action to enforce my right to a peaceful life. It will help if past victims and others joined the cause, but even if they don't, it will not deter me. I know I may not succeed immediately and it could be a long-drawn battle, but I am prepared for the struggle to find a solution to the vexing problem of these savage stray dogs.

Ravinder Singh
Ph: 7666631115
Check out my blog at

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Security Begins at Home

In today’s world, it is imperative that we secure our homes and work places from various type of threats. As we all know, security guards are not very reliable. With nuclear families the norm, career women are in dilemma regarding safety of children, specially toddlers and infants. Even in joint families, senior citizens need to be monitored for health and safety.
There are many electronic security gadgets and devices for home users. Let us discuss a few of these:
For Home Owners:
Video Door Phones – These let you see who it is at the door, even talk to the visitor. Most of the models can be connected to an electric lock to open the door remotely and they also take a snapshot of the visitor.  A few of them are net-enabled and coupled with a smartphone app, allow you to monitor your visitors from anywhere in the world. Price ranges from Rs 9,000 to Rs 30,000 depending upon brand, features, etc.

IP Cameras- These cameras are very convenient to install, specially the Wi-Fi models and they offer a host of sophisticated features like ability to remotely rotate and zoom the cameras, in-built recorder, in-built web server, 2 way communication etc. at a very affordable price. Most of them come bundled with apps for smartphones. Very useful to keep an eye on toddlers and senior citizens. Cost RS 5,000 to Rs 9,000.

Electronic Door Locks – These come in many flavours and are aesthetically designed to blend with your d├ęcor. The really good ones come with Fingerprint access, password option and mechanical key backup. They usually have bolts made of high tensile  steel or alloy and are not easy to break. The password option helps you to give access to people in your absence. Do remember to change the password later. Cost varies from Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000. Installation charges are typically around Rs 2,000 additional.

Burglar Alarm Systems- Available in Wired and Wireless versions, they support a host of different sensors like motion detect, door sensor, glass break sensor etc. and are easy to set-up. They have the ability to alert you on your mobile about any break-ins and also sound a hooter to deter  intruders. They are surprisingly inexpensive (Rs 10,000 to 15,000) and a must for serious security.

Electronic safes- While not exactly a security gadget, an electronic safe can help protect your valuable from casual thieves. Cost Rs 8,000 to Rs 25,000.

A word of caution – Technology is just a tool and like any other tool, it is effective only if implemented and used properly. Avoid low cost implementations by fly-by-night operators. As a thumb rule, the cost difference between a good and a mediocre system is usually not more than 20-25% and that’s a small difference to pay for the safety and security of your near and dear ones. And do remember to monitor your IP camera periodically and test the burglar alarm system for proper functioning.

About the author:
The author is a reputed security consultant with over a decade of experience in the electronics security industry. He has designed and implemented security solutions for many premium residences, bungalows and second homes and day care centres.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

What are we doing about it?

Day in and day out we read about devastating fires - not only in old buildings but also in modern, high-tech, new buildings. One fire at Elphinstone Road took place in a new building occupied just 6 months back. The building was new, but it was the same old story - the fire fighting equipment was non-functional.

Just last week I had visited the building in Andheri West which has grabbed  everyone's  attention because of its Star occupants. But the cause of all the media attention was a very huge fire. During my visit I was very impressed with the building's facade and the 5 Star ambiance , the excellent lobby , an excellent conference room etc. But the fire exposed the ugly under-belly - the fire fighting equipment was not working !

The cost of these disasters is huge in terms of lives lost, families devastated, businesses disrupted, livelihoods affected, valuables and documents destroyed, furniture and fixtures burnt to ash.

After every disaster, the blame game goes on till we get tired reading about it. Today's newspaper proclaims that the committee formed to suggest remedies has submitted its report 5 years back, but predictably it has not been acted upon and is gathering dust.

The BMC has made it compulsory to have a fire audit every 6 months, but there is no provision in the law to prosecute defaulters ! And since no action can be taken, most complex managements do not bother about it.

My question  to you - should we do the audit because it is required by law or should we do it for the safety of our near & dear ones?

After every disaster, BMC takes a tough posture and proclaims that people responsible will be prosecuted. Never mind that it never happens. But should we wait for BMC to prosecute people responsible for maintaining the mandatory fire fighting equipment? What can we, as residents do to prevent such calamities from happening in our own premises?

For starters, we can use our upcoming AGMs to ask some probing questions:
Does the Society have a disaster management plan?
Have the mandatory fire audit and structural audit (if applicable) been carried out?
Is the fire fighting equipment in working order?
Are the security personnel trained in handling the equipment?
Have any mock safety drills been conducted?
Have radiant signages been put marking fire exits?

On their part, Managing Committees can ensure that appropriate fire fighting equipment is installed and more importantly, tested regularly. They can conduct mock drills, appoint floor marshals from amongst the members, train some volunteers to handle the fire fighting equipment. Remember, any fire can be contained if prompt action is taken. Conversely, as the Lotus Business Park tragedy has shown, even a small fire can flare up if timely action is not taken. The quickest to reach and respond are the occupants - you and we. We should equip ourselves to handle such situations. A small fire extinguisher in the house can be a very big advantage. At the same time, we must work with our building managements to ensure that if things go out of hand, our fire fighting equipment is in working order. After all it is in our own interest

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Have you faced this problem?

Last week I recruited 3 "technicians" for my CCTV installation business. During the interview and selection process, all 3 of them gave very glowing accounts of their "achievements". I was elated that my dream team was taking shape. Given the acute shortage of trained manpower, I did not waste time in recruiting them.

Soon I realised that most of the advanced skills professed by them were tall claims. The statement "I have setup DVRs" actually meant he had observed closely (and many times) how a DVR is setup. It is different matter that when asked to do so, he failed miserably.

Coming back to the question in the title - has this happened to me only? Or have others also faced a similar predictment?  I have heard many friends share similiar stories of not getting trained manpower or people with inadequate skills. Most of the time we enterpreneurs end up training the recuits- if for nothing else then to maintain our reputation as quality service providers. This in itself is not so bad. But the sad part is that just as we get someone to do things right, he decides since he has upgrade his skill sets , he deserves a better organization and a bigger pay cheque - never mind that  these very skills very taught by us.

How I wish I could get some really well trained people who could be sent out to clients from day 1 ! 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Technoloy as an enabler of Better Human Interaction

Most of us blame technology for our decrease in interaction with other people. We claim that Social Media has made phone calls passe. I am a user of Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, WAYN and what have you. However, I am uncomfortable in wishing someone by writing on their wall or through status updates. I prefer to personally call up friends and relatives on special occasions. But I have seen people post very personal communication on open forums, probably forgetting that many others would also have access to the message.  In fact I use social media and its features to enhance my interaction and relationship with people.

Let me illustrate this with an example. I have configured my Facebook account such that it reminds me at the beginning of very week about all the special events in my friends' lives in the coming week. This makes it very easy for me to call them up. Many a times my friends are not expecting any wishes from me and are pleasantly surprised to receive my call. You can even set up facebook to automatically post a standard greeting message on your behalf, but I personally feel that is too mechanical and impersonal.

You can use Outlook calendar to setup reminders about event. In fact, a good use of calendar is to set up recurring events - once a year, every year on fixed date. I get reminders every year about friends birthdays and anniversaries - sometimes about friend with whom I have lost touch. When I can them up and wish them, thanks to the reminders, they are surprised that I still remember their birthdays and anniversaries.

Instead of blaming technology for loss of personal touch, we can use it to help us improve our relationships. .

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What are our priorities?

 Past couple of weeks I have come across a very disturbing observation - organizations are spending more on irrelevant and sometimes unnecessary renovations running into lakhs, but are reluctant to spend a few thousand Rupees on Security issues.

In the first instance, a trust running a hostel for men has deferred their plans for CCTV system as they have spend over 20 Lakhs on renovating the bathrooms. Cost of CCTV system - 2 lakhs - just 10% of the amount spend on bathrooms.

In the second incident, a huge residential complex which is again spending lakhs on beautification has approved a meager 3 lakhs for CCTV vis-a-vis lowest quotation of 3.5 lakhs. This has effectively killed the project as no vendor wants to work at that price and once the beautification is done, they would not want to re dig the road.

In spite of heightened awareness about the importance of CCTV system and the constant pressure from Police to install CCTV systems., there is a reluctance to spend money. This mind set has to change. In one Society, they are saving about Rs 40,000 per month by using Biometric access control on basement doors and removing a total of 8 guards. Cost of setup - Rs 60,000. So the investment has paid for itself within 2 months! with an additional bonus of enhanced bonus.