I have been thinking of upgrading my phone to iPhone 5S and decided to sell my 2 years old iPhone 4. Taking a cue from the TV ads of OLX and Quikr, I decided to test both these websites to sell my phone. I clicked few photos of the phone and accessories and posted the ad on both OLX and Quikr.
Within hours of posting the ad on Quikr, I received few responses on email and phone. Looking at the encouraging response, I took the Quikr upsell and converted my ad to “Premium Ad”. Quikr promises 10 times increase in the number of responses. The number of responses did increase a little but were no where close to the 10 times figure. Also majority of the email responses that I received on Quikr were scam. Someone located outside India wanting to buy my phone urgently using Paypal and ready to pay shipping cost as well…. sounds too good to be true!
In the meanwhile, received zero responses from OLX.
In terms of visibility, traffic and number of responses, Quikr performed way better than OLX. But most of the responses on Quikr ad were spam/scam.
I guess the old saying still holds true, you get what you pay for. If you need quality responses/buyers for your items, it makes sense to pay a little more and list your items on eBay rather than waste time and money dealing with these online classified websites.
I am a premium LinkedIn member for past few years. Recently my account came up for renewal. I noticed that the subscription was being billed to me in USD. This is probably because I had signed up for the premium account before LinkedIn started INR billing for Indian customers.
Given the current Rupee depreciation, the price different between USD and INR subscriptions at LinkedIn has shot up to more than 27%. I emailed LinkedIn about it and they were happy to change my billing currency from USD to INR. This requires canceling my existing subscription. When I try to sign up again, the only option I get is INR. Once you sign up for INR billing I guess there is no way to move to USD billing. However I am not complaining since I saved almost a third of my USD subscription charges.
Recently I went through the process of replacing the hard disk drive (HDD) with a Solid State Drive (SSD) in my laptop (MacBook Pro 2009). And to say that the laptop performance has increased will be an understatement. It has nitro boosted for a 5 year old laptop (which still runs on SATA II). Booting time has reduced from 120+ seconds to under 30 seconds. Applications such as iTunes, iPhoto, Eclipse open in less than 3 seconds. Check the read/write speed of the drive in the screenshot below (remember on SATA II, the maximum transfer cannot exceed 300MB/s).
Read and Write speed test for a Samsung 840 series SSD (250GB)
There is already enough literature about SSD vs HDD and why you should or shouldn’t upgrade. So I won’t go down that path. I will just document the steps that I followed for the upgrade process.
- Choose an SSD that fits your needs (size, cost etc). I went with Samsung 840 Series SSD 250GB SSD available at Flipkart. There is lot of debate about TLC vs MLC based SSD and how TLC SSDs have a shorter life span. However I figured that based on my usage (approximately 15-20GB read/writes per day), the SSD will still last at least 3-4 years.
- You will need a SATA to USB converter to copy data from your existing HDD to SSD. I already had one thanks to my Seagate FreeAgent GoFlex 1TB portable HDD.
- A copy of SuperDuper. The free version is good enough to mirror your existing disk to the new one.
- A T6 Torx Screwdriver. You can buy one from eBay or your local electronics store. I have a 31-in-1 pocket screwdriver set which had a T6 head as well.
Before you begin the process make sure to clean your existing HDD of all the files that you no longer need. SSD life increases significantly if it is used with 40-50% free space. I used two tools to clean unnecessary and duplicate files from my MacBook Pro. MonoLingual and CleanGenius. Both are either Free or offer a fully functional free trial.
Disable Time Machine Backup (if you have it enabled). This significantly reduces the disk usage because Mac keeps shadow copies of edited and deleted files. This is done to speed up the process during backup restore. In my case disabling Time Machine freed up almost 20GB space.
The actual process is fairly simple and it took me less than 4 hours (including data migration) to complete it.
- Connect the SSD to your computer via USB cable (SATA to USB adapter cable comes in handy).
- Format the SSD drive using Disk Utility and Mount it to the OS.
- Launch SuperDuper and mirror your existing HDD to SSD. This process can take few hours depending on the data size. SuperDuper will create a mirror image of the HDD on the SSD and even make it bootable.
- Eject the SSD and shutdown the computer.
- Replace the HDD with the SSD. It is similar to replacing the HDD with another HDD. For details check this iFixit article on Macbook Pro HDD replacement.
- Start the computer (you should see a noticeable difference in boot time).
- Enable Trim. For details check Trim Enabler.
That’s it! Feel free to leave a comment with your questions or feedback about the SSD upgrade process.
A lot of visitors to my passport application article have been asking me about the police verification process. Below are the steps that I took to complete my police verification. Some disclaimers:
- The verification was done in May 2013 and the process may change in future.
- The verification was conducted in Mumbai. Process for other police stations may be completely different. Even within Mumbai each local police station acts independent of the other.
- The verification was for a re-issue of passport. For fresh applications, the verification process may be different.
A police constable visited my house within 2 weeks of the receiving the passport. My application was put for post verification. Luckily, it being a Saturday, I was at home. Later I came to know that Mumbai police allows one to track the application status on their website. Police verification will not be initiated unless your file shows up on Mumbai police website. There is no point in visiting your local police station unless the details are updated on Mumbai police website. The local police station will not be of any help. Calling them is also of no use as generally the information that is provided over phone is to visit the local police station for further inquiry. The police will not entertain any documents from you unless a police constable has visited your house and verified the details.
The first step to police verification is a police constable visiting your residence. It is important that you are present personally to sign the verification documents. In case that is not possible, at least make sure that the residence is not locked and there is some family member available to provide all the details to the police constable. The police will also ask some neighbours to sign the verification form. So make sure the neighbours are available. They may or may not be the same references that you gave in the passport application form. No documents are collected by the police. They ask you to come with all documents along with 2 photocopies and 2 passport size photographs.
While the passport website says that you can submit the same set of documents to police that you submitted for your passport verification, it may not work all the time. The police constable who came to my residence wanted me to carry my Ration card, Electricity and Telephone bills (1 year old and current), Voters ID card and whole bunch of other documents even if these documents were not in my name. What he told me is that police verification (unlike passport application) is not a documentary process. What it means is that police should be satisfied about your identity as well as about your residence proof for past 1 year. The documents that you submit add weight to your cause but may not necessarily mean that police will approve your application. The police may make inquiry with your neighbours, building watchmen and others to ascertain whether you are living at the current residence for past 12+ months. Since it is easy to produce a 12 month bank statement with current address, the police does not give it much importance. Here are the list of documents that I submitted for my verification
- Old Passport copy
- Electricity and Telephone Bills (1 year old and current). Not in my name.
- A letter from my building society stating the period of stay in the building.
- Ration Card copy
- Aadhar Card copy
- Voter ID Card
- PAN Card
- 2 passport size photographs
Statements of Bank account downloaded from Net banking are not accepted by police. Also e-statements of utility bills are also not acceptable.
After a few weeks of submitting the documents, the status on the Mumbai police website will show an Outward Date, which means that the documents have been sent to central office of Mumbai police. If all documents are in order, the verification is updated with the passport office.
Recently I went through the whole process of reissuing my passport as it was about to expire. I just thought of documenting the whole process so that it could benefit others. The steps listed here may or may not be of help to you as every passport reissue case is different. Do note that renewal and reissue of passport are two different things. Passport is generally reissued. Renewal only happens in special cases where a short validity passport was issued which now has to be renewed for a full 10 year term.
Some points to note before you read further:
- I got my passport reissued in April 2013, chances are the process may change in few months.
- I got my passport reissued at Mumbai. Passport authorities at other locations may or may not adhere to the process followed at Mumbai.
- I had to change my address and add spouse name in the passport. For other changes, more documents/verifications may be required.
- My case was of passport reissue. For fresh passport, the documents required and your experience dealing with Passport authorities may vary.
- I applied under “Normal” application process. Tatkal applications may require more scrutiny and checks.
With above disclaimer, below are the steps that I followed to get my passport reissued in 10 days under normal application system.
- To begin, Since the entire process of application entry is now online, you have to create an account on Passport India website. You can create upto 3 applications from one account, so no need to create multiple accounts for family members in case you are applying for passport for the family members. If you have more than three applications, then you will have to create multiple accounts on passport website.
- As soon as you create your account, you will receive an email from Passport Website asking you to click on a link to activate your account. Simply click on the link and follow the process to activate your account. Once you activate your account, you will receive a welcome email from passport website.
- Visit the document advisor links on the home page to check the documents required for your application. The advisor opens a wizard and asks you questions related to your application to advise you the documents required. Fresh passport documents and Reissue passport documents are different and these links will advise you better about the documents required.
- Login into your passport website account and create an application for fresh/reissue of passport (depending on your case). You can either choose to fill the form online or download a PDF file to be filled offline. In case you choose the later, once you fill up the PDF, you have to generate an XML upload file. Login back into the passport account and upload the XML file to submit the application. If you have a broadband Internet connection, it is always recommended to choose the online option rather than the PDF option.
- While filling up the application form, make sure the details such as your Given Names, Surname, Father/Mother/Spouse name matches exactly as on your old passport (or in case of a fresh passport, as on your proof of identity/address documents). In case you are married, it is mandatory to add your spouse name in the application. Failure to do so would amount to concealment of information and could result in penalty and criminal prosecution. Similarly if your old passport contained spouse name and reissue application does not, necessary documents must be attached (divorce/death certificate).
- While giving references in the application, make sure to choose references who live in the same society/neighborhood as you. Although the passport website says you can give reference of anyone from the city, it doesn’t work at least in a big city such as Mumbai. The police will insist on references of the neighbors only.
- Make sure to mention the correct police station in the application as an error here will delay your police verification. Passport authorities will not be able to guide you on filling up such details.
- Once the application form is filled, you can click submit and the system will generate an application reference number. Once the application is submitted, no further changes are allowed in the application. In case you wish to make changes in an already submitted application, you have two choices. You can either create a new application or mention the changes to the Passport officer during the appointment.
- After submission of the application form, you will need to create an appointment to visit the nearest Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). Appointments are required only for applications under “Normal” process. Tatkal applicants can simply walk into the PSK with a submitted application form. Partially filled application forms which have not yet been submitted are not entertained at the PSK. So make sure you submit the form before visiting the PSK if you are applying under tatkal.
- You can follow the steps mentioned in the article “How to get passport appointment online” in order to get an appointment with nearest PSK.
- Once you get the appointment, print the appointment receipt (which has a barcode) and carry the documents suggested by Document Advisor. The documents must be carried in original along with 2 photocopies. The photocopies should be self attested (i.e. the applicant should sign each copy).
- You do not have to carry the application form or any photographs. Photographs and biometric details are captured at the PSK.
- Do note that unless you are a minor, senior citizen, illiterate or physically challenged, no one is allowed to accompany you to the PSK.
- Visit the PSK at the reporting time mentioned in your appointment. Do not panic if you reach late, most PSKs are sympathetic towards late comers and will most likely allow you inside. However, do note, that PSK security reserves the right to refuse entry if you report after your appointment time.
- Mobile phones are allowed inside PSK. However cameras and other electronic gadgets are not. Its best to just carry the documents and your cell phone since PSKs do not have a locker facility.
Once at the PSK,
- You will be cleared by the PSK security who will scrutinize your appointment letter and let you in.
- Once inside the PSK, you will have to stand in a queue to receive a token number. Ideally this should not take more than 5-10 minutes. However since most people are late, chances are that there is already a backlog and expect to stand in the queue for 30-45 minutes before you reach the token counter.
- Once at the token counter, the person will ask for your appointment receipt and all the original documents. He/She will take one copy of the documents and if everything is in order, will put them in a file and give the file number to the same. The originals are returned back to you.
- Once this is complete, you will just have to wait back until your name is called out and a token is issued to you. This can take anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes. Once you receive the token, you can allowed inside the application processing zone. You have to present your token at the security who will verify it before letting you in.
- Inside the processing zone, you will see three different types of counters viz A, B and C.
- Counter A are operated by TCS employees and are generally very professional and quick in their work.
- There are large LCD screens placed at various locations inside the processing zone that show the token number status. As soon as your token is called, visit the specific A counter.
- At counter A all your original documents will be scanned and uploaded in the system. You will also have the opportunity to verify your application details and confirm the same before they are submitted. Your photograph and biometric details (fingerprints) will be captured. Also you will have to pay the necessary application fees in cash at counter A. Once this is complete, you will receive your passport file and token number back. This usually takes 7-10 minutes.
- You will again have to wait until your token is called at one of the B counters. Here, a passport officer (Government servant) will verify your original documents, stamp your passport (in case of reissue) as canceled and stamp your document photocopies as verified. This usually takes 5-7 minutes. However it can take as long as 15-20 minutes as well. Once this step is complete, you will receive your token and file back from the counter B officer.
- You will have to now wait for your turn at Counter C. At counter C a senior passport officer will verify all your documents again. He/She may ask you few questions. If he/she is satisfied with the application process, he/she will grant you a passport and generate a receipt. The passport file will be kept with the officer at counter C. He/She will also tell you whether your passport application has been accepted under tatkal or not (if you applied under tatkal). Whether police verification is required or not. If police verification is required, whether it will happen before passport issue or after. All this usually takes 7-10 minutes.
- Once you finish counter C, you have to submit your token at the exit counter and get a passport application receipt which contains the passport file number. You can track your passport status online with the help of the passport file number.
While I am not an expert about what documents are required as every passport application case is unique. However, here are some recommendations that have worked in my case.
- Submit as many documents as possible. While the document advisor on the website will suggest you to submit one of the documents as address proof, it is recommended to submit as many documents as you have for identity/address proof.
- Aadhar card is accepted as a proof of address and identity. However make sure that the name and address matches exactly as on your passport application.
- Ration cards are also accepted as proof of address. However you should submit one more address proof if ration card is your primary address proof.
- Bank statements from any scheduled commercial bank (which includes private sector banks such as ICICI, HDFC, Kotak, Yes Bank) as well as photo/non-photo passbooks issued by public sector banks are accepted as proof of address.
- Bank statements should be printed on bank’s stationary, stamped and signed on every page. Make sure the signatory mentions his/her name, designation and employee number and places the bank’s round stamp on every page.
- Bank statements generated from netbanking are not accepted by Passport authorities.
- Utility bills are accepted as a proof of address provided they are in the name of the applicant and two bills are produced, one which is 12 months old and another which is current month.
- E-Bills from utility service providers are not accepted by passport authorities.
Since 2012, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has changed the process of passport application and reissue. The application for issuance of fresh passport or reissue of expired/expiring passport has been made online. This has been done to streamline the whole process. Also Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been roped in to manage the online application system as well as to manage the data entry process. MEA and TCS have launched many passport kiosks also known as Passport Seva Kendras (PSK) where an Indian citizen can visit to submit his or her passport application. This is certainly a good news for Indian Passport applicants as it removes all middlemen and agents in the process. However, in order to visit the PSK, one has to book an appointment online (unless your are filling up a tatkal application in which case you can simply walk into the nearest PSK without appointment). The number of slots at any given PSK are limited and hence they get filled up really quickly as soon as they are open. Here are some of the tips that will help you get your appointment faster.
- Make sure you have already created your account on the website http://passportindia.gov.in/
- Either fill the application online or download the PDF form to be filled offline. Once the offline form is filled, you need to generate the upload file and upload the same from your account at passportindia website.
- Verify all the details entered in the form and submit the form. Once submission is complete, you will now be able to create an appointment.
- Click on “View Saves/Submitted Applications” link and the system will list down all the applications that you have created. At most you can create only 3 applications per account.
- Select the appropriate application and below the application list, click “Manage Appointment” link. The link will only be enabled for forms that have been submitted. Partially filled forms will not have this link enabled.
- On the next screen, the system will ask you to choose PSK nearest to your location and click on “Create Appointment”.
- The system will ask you to fill in a CAPTCHA code to verify its a human being and not any automated bot trying to create appointments. The CAPTCHA code is alphanumeric and alphabets are also in capital.
- Once you enter the CAPTCHA, click on “Show Available Slots”. Most likely you will see the following message displayed “Currently no appointment slots are available for the selected Passport Seva Kendra (PSK). Please try scheduling an appointment from DD/MM/YYYY, 3:00 PM onwards. Total number of appointments booked today : XXX“. The appointment timings for various passport offices are also published on the passport website.
- Note down the date and time carefully. Also sync your computer/watch/mobile (whichever one you refer to) to the website’s clock. Website’s clock is displayed at top left corner of every page.
- Visit the website on specified date at least 10 minutes before the scheduled time.
- Follow steps 4 to 7 and reach the “Show Available Slots” page. Make sure to keep the CAPTCHA code filled in the form. Do not click on the link to see the slots yet. Wait until the time is exactly 3:00 PM (or whatever time was mentioned in the error message). Hit the “Show Available Slots” within seconds of clock hitting 3PM.
- You will now see many slots open for one or more days. Do not think twice and simply choose a slot immediately. It is advisable to choose afternoon slots as many people don’t prefer it or 3PM to 4PM slots.
- The system will ask you to enter another CAPTCHA and if the choosen slot is still available, you will receive an appointment confirmation number.
The system may become extremely slow during this period since there is heavy visitor traffic on the website. Make sure to access the website from a broadband or high speed Internet line (if possible, e.g. from office). Do not hit refresh/back buttons on the browser since you will only get one chance before slots get filled. If for some reason, your booking gets stuck on the final page, open another window without disturbing the stuck window and login into your account again and see if you have an appointment ID. Sometimes the system is too slow to respond and may have already booked your slot but unable to show you the appointment confirmation. In such cases opening the account in a new window can help verify if appointment went through.
If you are unsuccessful in your attempt, come back again at the date and time mentioned in the error message.
Do not try to make bookings for multiple accounts as only one account will be logged in from a single browser. If you have multiple bookings to be made, make sure to open them on different browsers (such as Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome etc) or use multiple computers.
Update (June 13, 2013): If media reports in TOI and other leading newspapers are to be believed then Passport authorities are rolling out two important changes in the application process.
- Now the system will automatically give an appointment from available slots instead of users logging in at a specific time to book an appointment. Users will be allowed to change their appointment twice in an year.
- Payment of Passport Fees will be made online and must be done along with the appointment in order to confirm the booking.
These changes will be rolled out slowly through the country.
Update (Aug 13, 2013): The new appointment system has been activated PAN India where the payment of the passport fees has to be made online before appointment is given. Also there is no way to choose the appointment slot and the same is allotted automatically by the system.
WordPress iOS app allows you to manage your WordPress blog from your iPad and iPhone devices. You can manage comments, reply to them, add/edit posts and publish them too. The app also allows you to tag your location and any photos/videos that your may want to publish along with your post. This is excellent for someone who is constantly traveling and wants to update his/her blog on the move.
Another cool plugin that I installed on the blog is JetPack which is cloud hosted WordPress.com engine. JetPack comes packed with host of features including Stats, social plugins, URL shortening service, Akismet powered contact forms and much more. It also connects with the WordPress iPad/iPhone app to send push notifications on your iOS device about new posts, comments and updates. The plugin also installs a Mobile theme for your blog making is ready for the small screen without any coding/installation.
After much delay, I finally moved the publishing platform from Movable type (installed in 2004) to WordPress 3.0 today. Ideally I would have preferred to move all my posts to the new system as well, but then I decided to leave them in the older format for SEO reasons. Now that I am on WordPress platform, hopefully I will be able to spend a little more time updating this blog and also create a mobile version of the website.