nareshovの日記

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OpenVZ on a Softlayer managed server

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A post to record list of changes that were made to the configuration to get networking to work within the VZ containers on a managed hardware node.

Softlayer provisions CentOS machines with two bonded network interfaces: bond0 connected to their private network and bond1 to the public. We got a “portable” private network subnet and got them converted to “routed to subnet” so that all IPs in that subnet are usable (instead of 3 of them getting reserved into a broadcast IP, gateway IP and broadcast IP).

OpenVZ sends ARP requests when it’s trying to initialise a container and the interface to which the requests are to be sent has to be explicitly specified in this multi-network case. So, fix the NEIGHBOUR_DEVS variable in /etc/vz/vz.conf before you pick IPs from your portable subnet pool and start assigning it to your containers.

With that, you should be able to ping these containers from other nodes in your primary private subnet and vice versa. But you won’t be able to ping public IPs from within the containers yet. This doesn’t require you to assign public IPs to the containers too. A NAT rule on the host node should fix this: iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o bond1 -j MASQUERADE

Took me a while to recall/realise that the lack of ARP requests in SL’s network was necessary. The NAT rule was something I found later on on the internet.

Written by Naresh

April 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Posted in LAN, Software

On big-money acquisitions and ads

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In the past few months, we’ve heard of Zynga acquire DrawSomething, and more recently, Facebook acquiring Instagram for huge sums of money. Both Zynga and Facebook might be doing it for the user base acquisition. Or they might simply be doing it to "nip it in the bud."

What attracts these huge businesses to the userbase? Sales in terms of ads? Probably. It’s still mind-boggling to think that the circle of folks I’ve known over the past 6 years (who have all been using those ad-blocking plugins on browsers and have probably clicked ads only by accident) are the minority. Most people are constantly being lied to (through marketing) over radios, televisions, and billboards (Sao Paulo is an exception) out in the streets while they’re stuck in traffic.

What differentiates these from the internet is that they lack ad-filters. And yet, internet-based businesses that serve ads make it big.

Sidebar: It should be noticeable by now how tech stocks have been underwritten in the past few years (with entities like certain powerful investment banks out there).

So, what we have today is a huge internet userbase made by businesses that offer questionably silly services that are later turned into yet another ad market. Why? Because a lot of people still click ads.

The NYTimes maybe operating for over a 100 years and may be valued well under a billion. Many may not even know what the Tesla corp does. Big dreaming tech companies are getting rarer by the day.

Written by Naresh

April 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Posted in Worldly Matters

Customer Service in Bangalore

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I’ve had the privilege of experiencing customer service first-hand as a customer over the past year with multiple service providers — consumer banking, internet, mobile, and online/offline retail. In this post, I’ll describe my experiences and point some fingers.

Consumer banking.

Back in early 2011, ICICI’s netbanking barely worked during the day. One had to use it early morning or late at night. It’s come a long way now and the customer service has been quite satisfactory.

Since late 2011, I’ve had to deal with HDFC bank. Enabling a taken-for-granted service such as paying bills through its netbanking portal requires one to submit applications manually. Netbanking (third-party transfer, specifically) didn’t work for me on a couple of occasions and when I vented out on twitter (that’s normal right?) somebody from HDFC spotted that and got in touch from me.

That was a pleasant surprise. It appears there’s a dedicated department that proactively scours the internet and tries to mend the damage caused (if any) called "HDFC-talktous <talktous@hdfcbank.com>."

The second point of comparison is the over-the-phone customer service. While ICICI can be annoying with their long-winded IVR process, HDFC bank gets you in touch with a real person quite quickly. But the quality differs (that’s probably a tradeoff: automate and use few good people or don’t automate and use a lot of not-so-good people; perhaps different target audiences too). Couple of the HDFC folks I spoke to over the phone had trouble comprehending and were just too quick to a "I understand, sir." Fortunately, the talktous@hdfcbank.com folk are quite open to listening to you.

While on phone with the customer service, it takes a couple of hops with ICICI to reach a person who knows his stuff (example: 4-digit CVV codes of Amex vs. 3-digit Mastercard/VISA) whereas in the case of HDFC, the hop hasn’t happened the first time and always through the talktous@ folks.

Internet.

I’ve posted about this extensively in the past. To quickly summarise, Airtel has been a disappointment. Reliance has turned out to be quite reliable — in fact, so reliable that I haven’t had to call their customer service up since I got a connection from them back in September.

Mobile.

I’ve been with Vodafone for nearly 8 years now. They’re the ones who used a dog in their TV adverts while every other mobile service provider used some movie actor or a sports champ. Their ads were simple, modest, and most of all, not annoying.

After procuring an iPhone 4S, I had to get a micro-SIM. Walked into a Vodafone outlet at Koramangala on a Saturday evening. Got a queue-token from the token vending machine, gave a 5-second description of what I wanted, got a light-looking, large-fonted form with limited fields to enter details into that I managed to fill in under 20-seconds, went over to the other counter and got a micro-SIM right there (for free), submitted the stamped form back to the person who gave me the form and was told that my number would move onto the new in an hour’s time. And it did.

A friend’s friend had experienced weird issues with the 4S and other service providers’ networks, my experience with Vodafone’s so far has been smooth. (Too bad they tie up with Airtel for 3G in B’lore, but that’s another story.)

My respect for Vodafone has only increased with time.

Online retail.

Flipkart has been a growing name over the past few years and I’ve made several purchases. I’ve had no complains except for one case where the steam iron had a scratch on the ironing surface. Wasn’t so bad that it had to be replaced but I expected at least a QC pass. There are multiple online retailers cropping up now. Naturally, in the sea of mediocrity and poor service, I expect only the best to survive (is that too obvious?)

Offline retail.

Some of the household names such a BigBazaar when they first arrived stocked up all sorts of stuff. With time, the range has definitely come down. There are newer brands of supermarkets that crop up here and there, they all face a similar challenge. I don’t have much to say here.

Shoppers’ Stop provides these cards where whatever you shop – regardless of the branch – gets accounted into a central database. To relate an experience, I purchased a trackpant at the Koramangala branch, noticed a stitch-issue couple of days later, took it to the Bannerghatta road branch and produced my card so they could confirm that this was bought by me (I wasn’t carrying the bill with me) and got it mended there for no additional cost. Experiences like these are pleasant (and a new thing) to many in these parts of the world.

Conclude

Back at college, the prof. who spoke about competition in the organisational psychology class was right about many things. What we have here is a large population where providing good services makes it profitable only when there are multiple competitors. Had there been just One Internet Service Provider or One Big Bazaar this definitely wouldn’t have been the case.

Written by Naresh

February 27, 2012 at 11:21 am