Amit's Blog

Recaptured: Photography, Travel, Design, Cinema, Business


Andaman Sea: November 2015


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Sunset Wings: October 2015


Birding in Jaipur. Shot in December 2013.
No calendar :)



Just last week 13 Llama Studio went on a team lunch to Jughead’s at Marol. Much eating, drinking, and merrymaking ensued. The team talked, bonded, took selfies, groups selfies, chugged whatever liquids each one pleased, and ravaged through plates and plates of delicious food. In short, we had fun.

But there had to be some serious discussions as well along with the fun.

I have been thinking for the past few days about how I would define success for 13 Llama Studio. And I have finally settled on five metrics that will define if we are doing well.

  1. Volumes: the most obvious metric. Quantum of business. Amount of sales. Top line. Revenues. How much money we were able to extract from all our clients combined within a said period of time.
  2. Community: being known and appreciated in a product/developer community. With Prasad and I speaking at the Mumbai WordCamp, 13 Llama hosting quite a few WordPress meetups at our office, and sponsoring the Pune WordCamp, I think we have made a good beginning here.
  3. Clientelle: by design or by happenstance, we are strong in three verticals: Education, Healthcare, and Media. In September, we were able to say that we are working for a marquee name in each of these three verticals. We’ll expose these relationships later on when the time is right. :)
  4. Product Success: our key point of introduction when meeting someone new is that we are a product development studio, or more accurately a product development team for hire. We have tried our hands at projects which had the potential to be great products. Some of these were launched, and some of these could not be, for various reasons. Right now the team is working on three new product ideas, and we are gung-ho about making each of these a success.
  5. A Kick-Ass Team: And finally, the key ingredient that will make each of the above four a possibility. A team which is competent, dedicated, dynamic, always learning, always improving, and always ready for a challenge. I can confidently say that each of our team members has the potential to be a superhero that such teams comprise of, but there is still a journey ahead of each one of us before we can with full honesty say that we are superheroes. Also, the team isn’t complete yet. We are looking for superheroes, or potential superheroes who can take 13 Llama Studio to the heights we have dreamt of. So if you think you are someone who fits the bill and would love to work with us, 13 Llama Studio’s Careers Page.

Here’s to a bright and exciting future!


Goa & Rains: September 2015


Sinquerim from Aguada. Shot in Goa, August 2015.


ads on MTNL broadband

Dear MTNL. Stop taking sips from my broadband coffee!

It’s a fine Sunday morning, and you go to a cafe with your friends, and order a nice cup of large cappuccino.

While you’re chatting with your friends, you notice out of the corner of your eye, the waiter bringing your cup of coffee. You feel relieved, and excited for your kick of caffeine. Just then, you see the waiter lift the cup to his lips and take a sip from your cup.

How do you feel?

Apart from the initial feelings of disgust, you calculate your losses. You’ve paid for a certain volume of coffee & foam, and the waiter is taking away part of it, without either paying for it himself or compensating you (since technically now you’re the owner of that cup of coffee). And all this without your permission!

Thejesh GN had written about how Airtel was injecting an iframe in the pages served on its 3G connection, though Airtel defended it saying that it’s to track our usage to help us better. How is monitoring which pages I go to going to help me better, and how the telecom company providing me the connection can’t track the amount of bandwidth I consume without injecting iframes into the source of pages I visit is beyond my understanding.

We could still say this is expected of a private company. They are, after all, after only one thing, profits. But if a PSU starts one-upping them, it’s worrying.

Not only has MTNL been injecting code into the source of pages we view on their broadband connection, they have been showing ads as well. Large ones. Sometimes larger ones.

Here’s a sample:
ads on MTNL broadband

It raises quite a few concerns in my mind, and here they are.

  1. Permission: MTNL is a service provider. And we pay them for the service. We expect a certain amount of data transfer at certain speeds, and nowhere while signing up were we informed or our permission sought that they will serve ads on the connection.
  2. Money: MTNL charges us the amount for the specific amount of bytes transferred per month, and if we exceed that limit, our connection is downgraded, which is equivalent to Shadowfax being chained to a snail. We as consumers keep monitoring our usage and reducing our superfluous consumption of bytes (stop reloading that often, watch lesser cat videos, download 720p versions of videos instead of 1080p and so on). And now we realise that a certain amount of our bandwidth will be consumed no matter what, because MTNL wants to run ads on the pages we see.
  3. As a producer of content/platforms: I run a business where we create web properties. Our clients are people who produce content or provide a service on these properties. In addition, I run this blog, and my firm has a website. It’s highly likely that when normal users (which includes me) using MTNL’s broadband connection accesses these properties, they would see these ugly ads on the pages. None of us agreed with MTNL to let them serve ads off our platforms and on our content. Some of us run ads on these properties which help us fund the operation of these properties. MTNL’s ads which ride on the connection are diluting the effect of the ads run by our paying sponsors, and are in effect robbing us of our ad revenues, in addition to spoiling the face of our properties and businesses. And there’s apparently nothing we as producers of content can do about it.
  4. Privacy: Of course the concern here is the same as in Airtel’s case. Today they’re injecting ads, tomorrow they could inject spyware (like some small-time private cable ISPs already do), or could inject ads in all corners of the page (like those same small-time private cable ISPs already do). And they have no business doing it.

On the money front, you might argue that it’s still a little bit of content trickling through and shouldn’t bother us. But I did some back-of-napkin calculations, and here are the approximate results.

Every page I visit consumes around 1 to 2mB of bandwidth. With modern browsers and content caching etc., every time a page is reloaded, the marginal consumption of bandwidth per repeat page would be in hundreds of kBs. On a page load, the amount of bandwidth MTNL’s ad consumes is around 30kB. Even if we calculate on the basis of absolute size of a page’s content instead of the marginal consumption, the noise-to-signal ratio here is 30kB/1.5mB = 2%

If I have a connection of 50gB FUP, this amounts to 1gB. I am being charged for a full HD movie download extra because MTNL wants to serve ads on their connection to us. And not even making a profit off it, because so far I’ve only seen ads of MTNL services in this fashion :)

How is this different from websites running ads?

Some might argue that YouTube also runs ads on the content they’re serving. कोई उनको कुछ नहीं कहता! Well, YouTube doesn’t charge me for viewing videos there. When a paid service provider runs ads blocking their own service, and consuming the service that I as a consumer am paying them for, it’s outrageous.

People my age might remember an ISP called Caltiger who started operating in the late 90s. When VSNL’s connections were expensive (Rs. 5,000 for 500 hours of browsing), Caltiger came up with an industry-changing idea – free internet. It was dial-up internet, which means that we still had to pay the per-minute rates for phone calls, but then again, even VSNL’s connection was dial-up, which meant that the total outflow from a subscriber’s pockets were around Rs. 35,000 per year including the phone bill, and not just Rs. 5,000 that we paid VSNL. But Caltiger used to run ads on our screens using its dialler software in exchange for the free internet. In effect we saved Rs. 5,000 in exchange for agreeing to have ads running on our screens. Ads served, but no money taken.

MTNL cannot do both: charge us for bandwidth, but still serve ads. And that too without our consent – both as consumers and as the real creators/providers of content.

The Tech

How do we get rid of this nuisance? Well, if you just see the source of their ads, you can see the following code that is responsible:

<div id="__BULLETIN__bdiv" style="position: absolute; z-index: 999999999; visibility: visible; top: 654px; right: 20px; display: block; transition: top 0s ease 0s;"><style> img.scalable { max-width : 100%; height: auto; }</style><a id="__BULLETIN__bdivButton" target="_blank" href=""> <img id="__BULLETIN__bdivImage" style="height: 300px;" src="" scrolling="no" frameborder="0"> </a> <div style="overflow:hidden; position:absolute; right:0; top:0; z-index:9999999999;"><a id="__BULLETIN__button0" href="#"><img id="__BULLETIN__button0i" name="button0" class="scalable" src="" border="0"></a>

Temporary solution: Blocking the IP address in your etc/hosts file or in your router’s firewall would provide temporary relief, but since I blocked a similar address last a few weeks ago, they’ve updated the IP address in the request.

Permanent solution? What remained common was the 203.94. part. As far as I know, blocking wildcard IP entries or IP clusters using etc/hosts isn’t possible. Can any of you nice people guide me on how to block this IP cluster either using etc/hosts or the router settings?


Let’s Fly, Pigeon in Jama Masjid: August 2015

Jama Masjid, Delhi, India.
Shot in February 2010.


Fresh Pink: July 2015

Since the Monsoons are on.


छपा: हिजरत से पहले

पढ़ने की आदत बचपन से ही लगी, थैंक्स टू हमारे दोनें चाचाजी, जिन्हें प्यार से हम मंझले और छोटे पापा कहते हैं.
और कलकत्ते में रहने वाला पढ़ाकू बालक जनवरी-फरवरी के पुस्तक मेले से अनभिज्ञ रह सकता है भला?

बरसों तक हर बरस कलकत्ते के प्रचण्ड पुस्तक मेला, उर्फ़ बोई मैला, उर्फ़ बुक फेयर में लिटरली खाक छानी, क्योंकि उन दिनों ये धूल से लबालब कलकत्ता मैदान में आयोजित हुआ करता था.

और इसी मेले में एस्ट्रिक्स, टिनटिन, आर्चीज़, और चमकीली विदेशी किताबों के साथ एक छोटे-से हिंदी कोने में पाँच-छ: दुकानों पर हिंदी की किताबें बाँचने और खरीदने की लत पड़ी. उन्हीं दुकानों में से एक था राजकमल प्रकाशन. किताबों और लेखकों की मेरी पसंद की गहराई नापी, तो पाया कि सारा मेला एक तरफ और राजकमल का स्टॉल एक तरफ. साल-दर-साल मेले से आने वाले झोलों में राजकमल की किताबें ही आधी जगह लेती रहीं.

आज भी, कलकत्ते वाले मकान में भी, और यहाँ बंबई में मेरे हर घर के बदलाव पर मेरे साथ फिरने वाली मेरी निजी लाइब्रेरी में भी अधिकतर किताबें राजकमल की ही होंगी.

खैर, लंबी रही भूमिका. तो आज की डाक से मुझे मिला एक प्यारा तोहफा, राजकमल के दफ्तर से, जो कि आज मेरे रोमांच का कारण बना हुआ है. तोहफे में है, उनके द्वारा प्रकाशित किताब, वंदना राग की हिजरत से पहले, क्योंकि उस के कवर पे जो गुलमोहर के फूल की तसवीर है, वह खाकसार की खींची हुई है, एक प्रति रवीश कुमार की लप्रेक किताब, इश्क़ में शहर होना, क्योंकि मानार्थ, और एक चेक, जो कि उस गुलमोहर के फूल के सदके है.



Hawa Mahal: June 2015



A little bit o’ Fortune

Good news folks! The photo of mine of Lohagad/Lonavala titled ‘Bliss’ has been published in Fortune India magazine’s May issue.

Here, pictures of the magazine’s pages:
Picture of Page 113, Fortune India May 2015 issueCredits

Go buy your copy today :)

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