Monday, September 18, 2017

Receiving the Books that I Reviewed!

This year has become the year that I have traveled most. Probably this will remain to be the year with most number of travels for quite some time for me. Sometimes it gets a bit too much with too many flights. Not to mention how expensive a flight can get when it is a last minute flight. All my one-way flights cost me almost 200 Euro (FAO/Faro/Portugal -> CRL/Chareloi/Belgium and BRU/Brussels/Belgium -> LIS/Lisboa/Portugal). My favorites are border crossings by land. Had one more chance to cross into the south of the Netherlands from Belgium. It was amazing.

Finally, returned to Portugal once more from Belgium. By this time, I also received my reviewer copies for the 2 books that I reviewed recently. These books discuss OpenDaylight. The last year of my PhD is going so eventful.

Belgium Almost Autumn

I had to go to Belgium once more from Lisboa to sign the contracts, since my EMJD-DC funding comes to an end. It was already getting colder compared to Lisboa. Summer is officially over for Belgium!

I also received the hard-copies of my recently published book, "Python Network Programming Cookbook - Second Edition", during my short time in Lisboa.

Friday, September 1, 2017

On-Demand Service-Based Big Data Integration: Optimized for Research Collaboration

Today I presented my paper "Obidos" at the VLDB DMAH workshop in Munich. The abstract and the presentation of the paper are given below:

Abstract: Biomedical research requires distributed access, analysis, and sharing of data from various disperse sources in the Internet scale. Due to the volume and variety of big data, materialized data integration is often infeasible or too expensive including the costs of bandwidth, storage, maintenance, and management. Óbidos (On-demand Big Data Integration, Distribution, and Orchestration System) provides a novel on-demand integration approach for heterogeneous distributed data. Instead of integrating data from the data sources to build a complete data warehouse as the initial step, Óbidos employs a hybrid approach of virtual and materialized data integrations. By allocating unique identifiers as pointers to virtually integrated data sets, Óbidos supports efficient data sharing among data consumers. We design Óbidos as a generic service-based data integration system, and implement and evaluate a prototype for multimodal medical data.

Please find the full text of the paper here and the presentation below:
I mostly worked on this paper while I was doing my internship at Emory University. This is also my first paper to get accepted from UCLouvain/Belgium.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Tales of Currency Conversion - Czech Version

So I was in the Prague train station to get a ticket to Munich. I asked whether I can pay by Euro. The lady said, yes. Then she asked cash or card. I opted for card. Then it turned out, the card indeed asks to pay in the Czech Krones (CZK), where my bank will do the conversion. Of course, I am going to lose money in this. Euro is my currency. I have Euro in cash. Why would I need to do this double conversion - pay in CZK using my card where my bank will do the conversion? But the lady said, she has already input the card as the payment option and she was reluctant to change it now. I should have pretended that the card was not working. Then she would have no option other than accepting my Euro as cash.

Now, I have the total information from how much this cost me extra from the bank statements. Let's look into this:
I had the option to pay by 1495 CZK or 56.20 Euro by cash. Because of my stupidity to opt for card (and because of the lady's reluctance to change the payment mode - which should be just a "cancel"), I paid 1495 CZK by my bank card. My bank, as usual, gave a bad conversion rate and charged me 57.40 Euro for this. My bank charged me a conversion fee of total (0.02 + 0.57 + 0.04 + 0.98 =) 1.61 Euro. So in total, I lost (57.40 - 56.20) + 1.61 = 2.81 Euro. This is 2.81 / 56.20 = 0.05 = exactly 5% loss. That means, I lose 5 Euro per transaction of 100 Euro in CZK. Next time kids, pay more attention, and don't let a railway station counter clerk make decision for you just because she is too lazy to change the payment option! Better yet, choose the option wisely than complaining later. :P

Interestingly, the bus cost 50 Euro. So totally, the train cost 6.20 more (and counting my loss of 2.81 Euro, it cost me 9.01 Euro more).

In Romania, the situation was better. Their card readers had the option to choose Euro as the payment option at most of the places. Prague was a beautiful place though the people were not friendly at all.

Interestingly, in the train to Munich from Prague, I was able to pay in both CZK and Euro (for a cup of coffee on-board) as long as the train was in Czech. Once it crossed the border to Germany, CZK suddenly became unacceptable. :) Not complaining on this - I can actually understand that Euro is a preferred currency in foreign countries; but this is not something that works in a reciprocal manner. Economics 101. :) Eventually, I ended up with some CZK, which are going to be with me for a really really long time.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lisboa Taxi Scam - This time in MyTaxi

Usually, the taxi drivers we encountered with MyTaxi app are nicer and friendlier in Lisboa, compared to the ones we hail from the streets. This time was an exception. We got Joao Santana. He seemed to be a nice guy. He loved India and Asia in general. That's what he claimed, at least. He is in his late 50s, and he claimed he was a manager. He appeared to be a nice and knowledgeable. He mentioned how his company let him go as he was too old, over-qualified, and it was expensive to keep him. He mentioned, he used to think money is everything - he said, "I was a savage capitalist". He also said, his dad instructed him to take decisions soon. "Never stall. Take decisions. Bad decision is better than no decision"

We had 5 luggage, and we opted for his large taxi since we need space for the luggage. Being the multi-seater taxi, it is supposed to be a bit more expensive - that we are aware of. The Taxi Meter displayed 10.05 Euro by the end of the journey. Combining 1.6 Euro for the luggage, a flat fee, it should be 12 Euro, as reported by the MyTaxi app as what was paid. Please note this was not a trip to/from the airport.

He counted the luggage, and charged us 16 Euro. He asked us whether we need a receipt. I said, it is not necessary (I was blinded by the assumption that he is an educated gentleman who used to be a manager). However, only after a few minutes since I reached home, I realized he scammed us in a beautiful way. The app reported we paid only 12 Euro including tips by cash, where we indeed paid 16 Euro. In Lisboa, the luggage fee is 1.60 Euro flat, and does not change based on the number of passengers or number of bags.

Mr. Joao Santana, you have scammed us in a beautiful way, with nice talks and sharing your wisdom. It is sad that I encountered someone so nice as Joao Santana who also happens to be a scammer. But he also has taught us an important lesson - we should be careful with those who talk too nice. Specially the taxi drivers and vendors. If a taxi driver is too nice to you, of course, they are not going to give you a discount. They might just cheat you while you least expect it.

I have given this scammer a 1* rating, and have reported him to MyTaxi. Let's wait for their reply. 4 Euro is not a big loss considering the lesson learned. Still I am just a poor student to lose money to scammers. I am sure a taxi driver such as Joao Santana is richer than me.

Regardless of the scam, it is nice to be back in Lisboa in the summer! The 4th year - the final year -  of my PhD has just begun!


Update on the 30th August from MyTaxi:
Dear Pradeeban,
We appreciate your preference and your contact.
The baggage supplement of 1,60€, refers to the amount, established by the taxi sector, for baggage transport, that requires the use of the luggage compartment or the vehicle’s roof railing.
There are some exceptions: volumes that not exceeding 55×35×20, wheelchairs or other means of movement of persons with reduced mobility, as well as trolleys and accessories for transporting children, if they are passengers too.
The call supplement of 0,80€, refers to the amount, established by the taxi sector, for journeys to the customer’s location. So, when you call a taxi, the driver must charge this amount.
So the supplements were 2,40€. We had the opportunity to talk with your driver and he told us that the trip cost was actually 12€, but you gave him a good tip, that, when it’s paid with cash, doesn’t appear in the resume.
If you need any further assistance or clarification, please do not hesitate to contact us.
With our best regards,

 I have replied as below and waiting for their reply again now:
Thanks for getting to this.
The driver said, the taxi costs 16 Euro. I am a poor student living in a grant, and I have no way of giving him 4 Euros as a tip of 12 Euro. :)
I paid without double-checking the application amount. He deceived us, using this as an opportunity.

It is sad that such drivers exist in MyTaxi.



I am happy at least he acknowledged that we indeed paid him 4 Euros extra. However, it was not a tip. Tip is when we pay on our own. Not when a taxi driver randomly increases the fare and inform you the increased amount. I am sure Joao Santana is using his inter-personal skills in cheating people off in taxis.


Final Update: I have received 5 Euro worth of MyTaxi credits as a compensation for my loss (of 4 Euros to this cheater). I can use them for my next journey when I pay by app using card or paypal. I am happy that this issue is resolved well. Next time, I will be more careful when I pay the taxi driver by cash. I will make sure to pay only the money that is reported by the app. Not a random amount requested by the driver.