Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Xenos 8 inch subwoofer - Portable but Useful !!

Ever since I changed the head unit of Toyota Innova from Pioneer to "Flyaudio", the sound output was not to my liking. It lacked punch. (The reasons for changing the head unit is blogged here)

My Innova is still having the stock speakers. May be the amplified output of the "Flyaudio" does not have the same wattage of the previous Pioneer system.
Approached different car accessory shops in my home town - Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala, India).

Most of them suggested the following
- upgrade the stock speakers. Use Component speakers
- Buy an amplifier and connect and drive the speakers via this amplifier. Since the fly audio system is having preamplified output, use it to feed sound to the amplifier.
- Also invest for a subwoofer. Drive the subwoofer via another amplifier.
Projected total cost was Rs. 25,000
I did not go in for the above option because of the reasons stated below

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Villa Maya - A special dining experience - Heritage Style

Maya means illusion. Illusion is the heart of a magic performance. But if a man made thing is christened illusion, will it live up to its name?
The answer is yes. I found it out after my first visit to "Villa Maya". A new hotel in Thiruvananthapuram. Yes its a hotel. But the dining experience and ambience is worth enough for a detailed review.
Rather than a review I will narrate the events as it unfolded. See for yourself, whether the nametag-illusion is justified. Located in the vicinity of the erstwhile palaces, Padmanabhaswamy temple and signature ancient buildings of Thiruvananthapuram, this one also is a masterpiece of the bygone era of Kings.
Ten years ago, this building was bearing a haunted house look. Ignored, isolated, unoccupied, bruised and battered. Right in its proximity there was a workshop. Horror stories were doing the rounds. It had a majestic charm though. As I entered the property, for a dinner, I never expected

Saturday, October 26, 2013

KTM Duke 200 - Adrenalin rush guaranteed !!

Switch on the ignition. Watch the display console. Gear number display and tachometer display comes and goes, speed display starts to count 0,1,2,3,... all the way upto 199 and their it goes down to 0. Some more lights comes and goes off. Here it comes "READY TO RACE" .

But this ain't a race track, we are on Indian two lane roads. Sane speeds is utmost important for us to reach the intended destination else we will be history. The display changes to another mode. Look at that.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A low cost solution for Cabinets and Wardrobes

The requirement for wardrobes, cabinets and any closed enclosure will laterally grow up with time.
Thanks to our (Indians) habit of keeping everything we bought, even after their prime usage. Some of the materials which we store are the hardboard cover of our shoes, Television sets, grinder, mixers, damaged toys, damaged fans, old steel rims of cars, those big containers which we never take out for cooking etc thinking that we may find it useful at a later stage.
In our home we also grew shortage of closed cabinets and I began hunting around for material options to make one. The options I found, their pros and cons, our choice and its implementation is shared here.

This might be useful for those who are on the look out for the same.

Mind you the cost savings are huge, if you are concerned only with the usefulness. In my case it was around 300 %. Read on to know more.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Home Sweet Home - A House construction story (with a review of the builder - The Habitat Group) - Part 3

This is the story of my house construction with a review of the builder, building materials and the difficulties faced. The story so far Part 1, Part 2 

Part 3 - The Unwelcome guests

As I already mentioned, I had chosen interlocking bricks for my construction. (To know more about interlocking bricks read this post)

The interlocking bricks were being transported in a small truck and hence the vehicle could reach my site. I was relieved at this coz the manual ferrying of things were actually adding up the cost of construction.

As soon as the first load of interlocking bricks came I got a call from the driver. He wanted me to be present at the site as soon as possible since he was unable to unload the stuff. So it was time for another dash through the heavy traffic in the middle of the day which had become a regular affair for me ever since the work started.

At the site I saw the truck being surrounded by a gang of around 8 to 10 people who looked very much like seasoned goons.  Two among them had terrible scars on their face which I presume to be suffered from a sword. One of them was standing on an artificial limb. His face and look completely matched that of a rough guy albeit having a height of around 5 feet.

Another problem in the offing!!

I went near them. The driver tried to speak to me, but one of the gang members came forward and pushed the driver back.

Am I in the midst of a physical assault ?? The whole set up seemed precisely like that of a gangster attack.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Home Sweet Home - A House construction story (with a review of the builder - The Habitat Group) - Part 2

This is the story of my house construction with a review of the builder, building materials and the difficulties faced. To read Part 1 of the story Click here

Land preparation and leveling

Land preparation and leveling work has to be done before work can be started for basement excavation. After running around and with the help of father's friend found out some persons for cutting down the coconut trees in the plot. They did the job in a day.

Got a taste of the things to come on the first day of ground preparation work itself. I went to the site where labourers were already present. They asked for some tools, went with them and bought the tools, came back to office which was 8 kms away.

Once I was about to start my office work I got a call from the labourers that they are in need of more tools without which they cannot start the work. Went back to site, bought the tools and stood there only to find out that they did not use it for the entire day. The ordeal had started.

Each day there was a story, sometimes good, sometimes bad, sometimes worse.

Decided to proceed with the carpentry work. If we start now, we could get the completed doors and window frames by the time basement is ready.

The carpenter came along with me to buy wood. I followed his advice and shortlisted a shop.

Months later when I had to buy some extra wood did I realize that I was taken in for a ride by the carpenter and the shop I chose based on his advice was not the best in terms of price or quality. The carpenter took me there since they gave him good commission.

Earth excavation was over in around 20 days, but for me, it seemed that it took ages.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Home Sweet Home - A House construction story (with a review of the builder - The Habitat Group) - Part 1

This is a review embedded in a story, I started to write it as a review, but the experiences and the events which unfolded automatically came out and it began to look like a story, most of which contains the hardship experienced by a middle class man trying to build his house. this might be a two or three part saga

The land purchase

One of the major milestones in the life of every Indian middle class family is house construction. Now a days the ready to occupy villas, apartments, easy availability of loans and the money available with people has made this less cumbersome. In my belief, if one goes through the experience of building a home he or his family will have a greater connect with it and love it to the core.

Coming from a middle class family, I too grew up seeing my parents toil hard to construct a house. In those days, since my father and mother were working, my grandfather used to oversee the house construction and I used to accompany him during my vacations. The greatest thing which I enjoyed is the food which was brought from a local shop comprising of tea and parippu vada. In those days these were the only outside food which I got to eat.

After all the routine milestones in life viz study engineering, get job, be in love, get married, have kids, the next thing in line was building a home. My childhood experiences made me decide to have one constructed according to our needs rather than buying one. This happened in the first half of the previous decade. Cash at hand was extremely low, but thanks to banks offering loans we could buy a land in the location we indended. There were lots of negatives, viz the plot was rectangular with less width and more length, land was sloping, there was no road frontage, it was the last plot of a steeply inclined road, the approach road was enough to test the powers of an SUV. The advantages were, it was the maximum which we could afford and location was the midpoint of my wife's and my office.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hyundai Verna (Diesel) - A product of the Fluidic Revolution

Yes!! it was indeed a revolution of sorts. A revolution which has changed the company's fortunes. It was purely a shell design innovation aimed at increasing the aesthetic appeal. All the products which came out of Hyundai's stable after this fluidic design has been really standing out and could easily pass of as a premium segment vehicle. I wonder how the company has rewarded the persons behind this fluidic concept.

Thanks to this innovative design, the new Hyundai Verna seems to be ages ahead of the outgoing Verna. If the outgoing Verna looked "plain Jane", the new one is a "HOT Jane" a Ramp material. 

My cobrother booked one (diesel version) on March 2012 and eventhough the promised delivery date was September 2012, he got hands on the vehicle on April 2012 itself. Reason stated was that the color he booked (purple) was not of any demand. He was lucky Joe, forhe got it before the Tax rise proposed by the Government. Infact this is one of the colors, which in my opinion is best suited for Verna. But people of my State think otherwise.

Before I go into a detailed review the pros and cons

The pros 

- The most beautiful sedan inside 20 Lakh segment (She's a sexy lexy!!!!). 
- The softly tuned suspension and low Ground clearance results in a butter smooth drive (she guarantees comfort !!
- Seat cladding simply embraces you from the back. (She will hold you closer
- Power is more than sufficient, with minimal turbo lag. (Itz fun to take her for a spin !!
- Superb noise insulation, and you won't feel that it is a diesel. (She has a husky tone !!
- No diesel clatter and no vibration inside the cabin (She's elegance personified !!!
- Airbags and ABS in the middle variant itself (She guarantees safety !!
- Gizmos, gizmos and more gizmos. No need of any external add ons as the vehicle comes factory fitted with reverse cam, powerful stereo with USB input, bluetooth pairing, on board information system and a hell lot of others. (She's fully loaded !!!
- A veeeery big boot, something which the Indian's like (hmmmmm Now you know why shez a sexy lexyyyy!! )

The cons
- STRICLY a four seater !! Before leaving your company, put your boss in the middle seat of the back row and take him for a ride. There is nothing more you can do to him. 
- Bad underthigh support in the back seat. 
- Low GC and softly tuned suspension means scrapping of bumps in the great Indian roads, especially when the vehicle is fully loaded 
- Service cost seems to be on the higher side (Based on the input received from the service centre regarding the costs, Average cost of normal paid service comes to around Rs.6500/-). Free services with oil changes cost above 3500/-. 
- It is difficult to avoid a jerk during gear shift. (It seems to be a matter of getting used to driving this vehicle and as the vehicle gets older this problem slowly subsides) - It is really hard to find more cons !!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Mahindra XUV 5OO - Is it good to OWN or simply DROOL?

What a launch it was !!!

Bookings happening even before price is announced. Sneek peeks, spy shots, predict the price and all sorts of pre launch contests and discussions on almost all automotive discussion forums. People thronging in great numbers to the Mahindra Showrooms to take a glimpse of its new age avatar. Bookings getting closed since M&M did not support long waiting periods. The early birds who got hand on this vehicle were the most sought after feedback agents in traffic stops and on web forums who duly obliged and were enjoying their new found limelight. Further surprises related to this blockbuster came when Mahindra and Mahindra announced the reopening of the bookings along with a draw of lots. Again another surge of bookings and the lucky 10,000 ones got their hands on the vehicle.
By this time the first batch of owners had a reasonable amount of time with their vehicle and service experience. Niggles thread began to appear in web forums. Welcome to the reality of owning the first Blockbuster Indian SUV (I am calling it as an SUV, eventhough it is not a proper SUV).
Now the million rupee question in owning the million rupee Indian SUV - Should I buy it or not?
Should I answer it now or after the review. Well I will answer it now and then continue with the review on how I arrived at this answer.
My answer -
If you are on a 8 to 10 Lakh budget, but can stretch to 14 lakh by mobilizing all your savings to buy this butch looking SUV, I would recommend NO !! Since this SUV will give you lot of moments to think, oh why I put my money on this?

If you are on a 15 to 20 lakh budget, then this is a good buy, the Value for Money proposition suddenly comes to picture. The niggles, if appeared will then be written off with an attitude, "these ought to come as this is a cheap vehicle".

The above answer is based on the experience I had with this vehicle, thanks to my close relative who was one of the "lucky" ones in the draw of lots in the second booking phase.

The Looks
If curves are the sign of a perfect figure then watch this image.

Friday, July 13, 2012

DVD Player and Navigation System For Cars - The selection process and a review

Apart from the windscreen view of the beautiful roads through the woods ahead, do you notice anything in particular in the dash. 

I am talking about the in dash DVD Navigation system which looks like an OE fit. But it is an after market attachment. Want to know more about it. Continue reading. (In between, if you want to know more about the place through which I am driving just visit here - Duke's Forest Lodge

This post describes in detail 
 - The selection process of In car Entertainment system (DVD Player &  Navigation system with bluetooth and reverse cam) for Toyota Innova 
- A review of the selected product - Fly Audio 

This might help buyers of such a product in India as I am based at Kerala in India

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cham Cloth - Keeps your car scratch free

All those who love their cars truly-madly-deeply does the cleaning themselves. Anything if overdone can have negative effects. Cleaning can result in cloth marks all over your shining car which becomes more evident under the sun.

A little investment in the form of Cham Cloth will come handy in these cases.

It costs around Rs.250 and works wonders on the cleaning experience.

The absorption power of this cloth is truly marvellous.

How to clean your car ?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Toyota Innova Service Cost History

Toyota Innova, as every one knows is an excellent Multi Purpose Vehicle (MPV) selling around 4000 units per month in India. I too laid hands on one in 2008 December and has been using it ever since as a self driven vehicle.

There is no special need to review this vehicle as it can be summed up in just one statement.

"A no nonsense vehicle free of niggling issues and high uptime, which can transport 6 people in good comfort without fatigue for very very long distances"

More than 95% owners whom I have come across with are satisfied with their Innovas
Here I am sharing my service and repair history which will give prospective buyers an insight into what to expect. I bought my vehicle and is regularly servicing the vehicle at Nippon Toyota, Kazhakkoottam in Thiruvananthapuram (Capital of Kerala state).

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Car Seat Covers - A selection Guide

In the last ten years, I did seat cover shopping 5 times. Based on my experience I will share some lessons learned which might help in you in taking an informed decision. 

I will start with the lessons learned first. Each of the lessons has a story behind it which I have shared below in detail. 

Lessons learned on Car Seat Cover Purchase 
  1.  If the original fabric seats without seat covers is looking good, put off seat cover purchase. After 2 - 3 years you can put new ones and give a fresh look and a new smell to the car 
  2. The fabric in the seats under the seat cover also get worn out along with the seat cover. So never think of using the bare seat after using the seat with covers for some years. 
  3. Buying ready made seat covers from Delhi works out to be a lot cheaper than in other cities. 
  4. Try to get quote for similar seat covers from different accessory shops. You are sure to get the best price because of this 
  5. Ready made seat covers tend to get loose after some usage. 
  6. Leather seat covers are the best, but cost above 15k even for small cars 
  7. Fabric seat covers decreases the roominess in the car 
  8. Artificial leather (art leather) seat covers are preferred, but just ensure the thickness of the material by comparing the type of the material in different shops. Very thinner ones gets torned off easily, even by finger nails. 
  9. Stitched seat covers fits perfectly with the seat and the shape of the seat can be retained.Eventhough it is stitched to the seat, removing the stitch is easy and does not damage the seat.  
  10. Most accessory shops outsource the stitching job to small upholstery shops. So if one is willing to look around for an accessory shop an artificial leather seat can be stitched at a very lower price (atleast 50% saving is guaranteed than getting it done through a standard accessory shop) 
  11. I can vouch for Car Shoppe in Thiruvananthapuram for seat covers based on my experience (cost wise and quality wise) 

Now a detailed history of the lessons learned!! 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Applying for Indian Passport - Some helpful hints are here !!

My views on applying for a passport based on my experience at Trivandrum passport office. The system at passport office is not big enough to cater the enormous crowd coming to office daily. The officers are doing a stupendous work, but the applicants are guaranteed a horrid time.

The tips given here are aimed at reducing the amount of time one has to spend at the passport office.


1. Apply online at http://passport.gov.in/ 

2. Three different services are available -
    - Apply for fresh passport,
    - Renew passport after expiry,
    - Apply for reissue in lieu of lost / damaged passport

3. The rules for filling the application is given in the site itself.

4. After application filling is completed click "Save".
 IMPORTANT NOTE: Don't click "Reprint Application" after filling the online form. This button is present right next to the "Save" button. If clicked this will direct to another page and whatever entered in this page will be lost.
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