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Apr 01

The TimeTec RoadHawk DC-2 camera is a fairly high end camera for the dash-cam enthusiast in you. Whether you love to record long drives or are looking for a camera for insurance purposes, this can be your goto camera depending upon your budget. The camera’s standard price is around $179.99 which when compared to other options in the market is a bit steep, but is the price worth the quality ? Lets have a look.

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Specifications :

Real Full HD 1080p@30fps video latest A5s Processor (Ambarella).

  • High quality image sensor providing excellent video quality and tuned for low light sensitivity.
  • Gyro balanced image stabilisation
  • SD XC compatible up to 128GB (8GB included)
  • Built-in 1hz GPS Receiver
  • Built-in microphone
  • New vertical mount designed to have the lens of the camera sitting closer to the screen of the vehicle minimising reflection
  • Algorithm for detecting SD card errors.
  • Alarm input for remote triggering events and output for communicating with tracking devices.

 

Construction and Installation
The camera feels sturdy to hold and comes with some 3M stickers and a long winding cable. I have connected it to my cigarette lighter but some people may feel like attaching it to the battery directly. The mount that comes with the camera I feel is pretty useless as you cannot take off the camera in a market or a crowded area while parking the car. this is an open invitation for prowlers.

I ended up spending some more money to buy the suction mount which I believe should be standard on this. The camera also has no battery which is a big negative for me since I use it with the cigarette lighter. What that means is that if my car is parked and someone hits it, I wont be able to find out who hit my car.

Audio/Video Quality

One of the main features of this camera is its HD 1080p recording. The company takes great pride in the recording quality of the camera and to be honest it doesn’t disappoint. Here is a sample video where a jerk runs a red signal, as you can see the violation if any would have been recorded quite clearly. Regarding recording number plates, the camera cannot do much on moving cars. However if you stop behind a car you can be certain that its number plate is recorded.

Daytime Video

Nighttime Video

The internal Mic does work well, I cancelled some noise in the video but nothing that should be of concern.

GPS Logger and the G-Sensor

The GPS works great and so does the G sensor. GPS takes a minute or so to lock in at mornings and the G-sensor does go off on rough bumps so I believe if I were ever in an accident it would go off.

Offline software

The Road Hawk comes with a nice side software through which you can view videos with speed overlays and Google maps integration. The software also shows X and Y G-Force for those interested.

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Overall Impressions

Overall I am very happy with this camera. The battery is one thing I miss the most. Another thing is that the wire is so long it kind of coils near my cigarette lighter. But the joy of recording jerks driving like jerks is really priceless.


Mar 02

As digital payments grow in the US and India, it becomes important to protect your credit card from fraud. While many banks will take care of charges after you report your card lost or stolen, you may be taken for a ride if someone uses your card and the bank deems it to be your responsibility. There are some common sense tips you can use to ensure the security of your credit card. Some of these tips are common to the US and India, however most cards in US are much better protected against fraud even though they have much less security features.

1.  Get a CHIP and PIN card. This is easier said than done in the US. Most banks in US are sending these out in batches but give your bank a call and ask them to send over a chip card. CHIP cards are harder to skim. In India, do the same. Many banks will want to charge you extra for a replacement. Tell them to go and pound sand. I had an encounter with Kotak Mahindra bank who wanted to charge me Rs.100 to get a Chip card. After I invoked their social media team at Twitter, I was able to get the chip cards sent to me for free.

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2.   Scratch that CVV out. Another way to do fraud is to memorize your card number and write down the expiry and the CVV. An easy way to prevent this fraud is to scratch out the CVV from behind your card (after memorizing it ofcourse Smile ).

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3.   Swipe it in front of your eyes. Never let the waiter or the barista disappear with your card. Don’t get conscious or be embarrassed to ask the waiter to swipe the card in front of your eyes. A moment of inconvenience can prevent a large future loss. A lot of waiters would make a copy of your card using a skimmer while they take it to swipe it.

4.  Turn on mobile alerts. Most banks and credit card companies allow mobile alerts. These mobile alerts serve as an early warning system to you incase your card ever gets compromised and banks can immediately shut down fraudulent use of your card.

5. Never share your OTP. This is mostly with the Indian context. OTPs or one time passwords are issued by banks in India to authenticate card not present transactions. Never share those passwords with anyone including someone claiming to be from your bank. Also never share your card number, expiry or any other sensitive information with your bank either. They will never call asking for such information.

OTP


Dec 29

Lets start from the beginning of the timeline. Its October first week, I am in the US. Out of OCD and habit I check my Indian credit card by Standard Chartered. I see that there is a charge of almost 30000 rupees which I don’t recognize. I immediately call their call center and after going through a tedious IVRS system I finally get to talk to a real person. My call disconnects twice before I can complete the dispute. I send in a dispute declaration form to the bank for further processing the dispute. If I were in the US, this would be the end of it, the merchant would be penalized. That was not to be. Since we were in the beautiful land of India, everyone was just hoping to take customers for a ride. Standard Chartered and as I found Bank of Baroda later which was the payment processor for the merchant were pushing for the same.

After submitting the dispute form, I received a temporary credit and the online customer service advised me to pay the disputed money otherwise they would charge finance charges. I was shocked and flabbergasted at this. This is directly in contravention of any rule or guideline concerning the dispute process. I wrote off a letter to the RBI ombudsman after this highlighting that not only is Standard Chartered not assisting me properly, they are trying to arm twist me into payment. I also highlighted other procedural lapses by the bank. Here is a relevant portion of my letter to the RBI copied to standard chartered bank :

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I sent the letters and promptly got busy in worklife. Pretty soon the dispute was closed in the merchant’s favor. I got to know this in standard chartered bank’s response to the RBI. It was full of half truths, but the most fascinating thing was the proof the merchant had submitted.

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They claimed that a chargeslip was the proof of the transaction as submitted by the merchant. Its ridiculous that Indian banks think their customers are so dumb and illiterate. And this too in response to the RBI ombudsman. A chargeslip is generated in every transaction, it cannot be proof that someone committed the transaction. It’s common sense one would argue, however Standard Chartered bank had the audacity to attach the chargeslip as proof to the RBI. Thankfully, I still had my card and the signature on the chargeslip was just swiggly lines. They also claim this is industry standard, wow and yikes at the same time. If our CC industry believes that a chargeslip is proof enough for a transaction then I can safely say no fraud has even been committed using credit cards offline in India. Is this really the industry standard ?

Here is the fraudulent chageslip in all its glory, notice that the name looks like Waseem, maybe its fake or maybe the thief signed his real name :

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What was interesting in Standard Chartered’s response to the RBI was that they agreed to reopen the dispute after initially deciding against me only due to the fact that I was abroad. I cringe at what would happen if I was in India, then the chargeslip with fake signature would have ensured that Standard Chartered would hold me responsible for the charge ? They also cleverly asked the RBI to close the complaint. At this point, I asked dad to prepare filing a case in consumer court, there was no way I was going to pay the fraudulent charges.

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So post this drama, I shot off a response to RBI and Standard Chartered bank again questioning the shoddy proof and also asking the RBI to not close the complaint since the essence of the complaint was infact the charge itself and not whether they were allowing me to dispute it. Here is a copy of some of my points in the letter :

However to get to the pertinent points regarding the dispute:

1. I was not present in the country when the said transaction happened, and I have the card in my possession.

2. The signature shared by the merchant bank doesn’t even look like my name and just seems like scribbling. This is the signature on the back of my card for reference. As you can see as a security measure I had even scratched off the 3 digit CVV and always used the card carefully.

The merchant has obviously done a poor job of matching the signature for such a high value transaction or checking the identity.

3. I have also filed a case with the Navi Mumbai Police’s cyber cell

<complaint numbers here>

4. Given the facts of the case, I am able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the transaction is fraudulent and not committed by me and I have the card in my possession so there is no negligence on my part. I reported the fraud transaction as soon as I got to know about it.

Question to Bank:

I fail to understand how the charge slip is any kind of ‘proof’ that I had committed the transaction. It’s not evidence, it’s a fact that anytime a transaction happens, a chargeslip is generated. How is that even pertinent to the case at hand?

What is evidence is that the signature is a complete mismatch and scribble and since I did not sign that chargeslip, I am not the one who entered into the contract to pay for that charge.

Since the bank claims the dispute is currently in investigation, I accept their submission to wait for an outcome.

I would request RBI to keep the complaint open till a decision is reached by the bank in the matter. The crux of my complaint is that the transaction is obviously not done by me and I should not be responsible for the fraud and that matter is not yet resolved by the bank.

Thanks

Wisetechie

Copy to :

Nodal Officer, Standard Chartered Bank

After waiting for another month and a half, today I finally seem to have gotten confirmation that the disputed charge is finally reversed from my account. I hope this is the end of it. There is an important lesson in all of this especially if you use credit products in India. the protections to consumers seem to be very flimsy. If you use a credit product in India, insist on a chip card and if you use your card at restaurants, insist to go along with the waiter to swipe the card. Scratch off the CVV from the back of the card and most importantly flex your rights. My blood still boils thinking of how the chargeslip was meant to be proof of me committing the transaction. In my opinion it was only because I was in the US that the dispute was decided in my favor  (it still took 2.5 months).


Sep 21

I was reading through Reddit India today and it seemed like the topmost post was for a user who reported Airtel for showcasing false broadband plans from a different state. Well I too have a story to share about a false misleading advertisement. the ad was from Naaptol.com advertising their shitty ‘Aluminum’ wallet. It was told to have RFID blocking capabilities to protect your PAN card and your Aadhar card. Intelligent readers would have already thought of the fact that none of these have RFID chips. What irked me more was that my dad asked me to buy the wallet for him. I was not going to buy this shitty wallet and decided to ensure that the misleading ad is caught. I immediately filed a complaint, but to be honest I didn’t expect much.

A week after filing the complaint the ASCI had forwarded the complaint to Naaptol.com, and a month later (ish) they had a response for me where they had upheld my complaint.

Here is the response from ASCI in the matter :

 

Apr 7, 2015

Dear Mr. <name redacted>,

Re: Decision – Your complaint against the advertisement Naaptol Online Shopping P. Ltd(*)-(Aluminium Secure Wallet)

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
The complaint was considered by the Consumer Complaints Council (CCC) at their meeting.

As per their decision, the complaint was UPHELD. The CCC viewed the TVC and considered the Advertiser’s response. The CCC concluded that the claim in the TVC, “the product prevents theft of information from contact-less RFID cards”, was not substantiated and was considered to be misleading. The Advertiser has not provided data wherein their product did indeed thwart attempts at reading the RFID information from cards, nor if the wallet is indeed made out of aluminum, as claimed, and if so, to what extent. The depiction of a chip-based card as an RFID card is misleading. PAN and Aadhar cards issued by Indian Government agencies have no RFID features. Hence the claim of protection purportedly provided by the product in the context presented “PAN card and Aadhar card are also safe in this’, appears misleading as to information skimming.

The TVC shows tests against similar products but the tests are not of skimming of RFID information. The tests shown are like those of dropping wallets. The TVC contravened Chapters I.1 and I.4 of the Code.

We have requested the Advertiser to modify appropriately or to withdraw the said advertisement by April 16, 2015.

Thank you for having referred this complaint to us.

Assuring you of our services in the pursuit of Self-Regulation in Advertising.

Yours faithfully,

<name redacted>
Executive Assistant
The Advertising Standards Council Of India.

The purpose of this post is not to blow my own horn but to guide people around how to complain about misleading advertisement in India. Here is an infographic from their site.

 

How to lodge a complaint

 

If you spot a false or misleading advertisement, log onto ASCI’s website and file a complaint. That one complaint could save the hard earned money for millions of people. You will get a tracking number and will be sent regular updates on the progress. While self regulation sounds shady, the 2 successes I know of now give me more hope around there being a better future for advertisement in India. Here’s a tip of the hat to the The Advertising Standards Council Of India.


Sep 14

So I decided to take a vacation to Portland, OR. It would have required a night of overnight stay so I started looking for good hotels online. Since we were 4 people I wasn’t able to use a lot of websites. Sites like Hoteltonight.com don’t even have an option to configure the number of people in a room. Not wanting to argue with check-in staff later, I started to use Hotwire to book my hotel, I would like to point out that at this point Priceline was unable to find me a hotel for my price and Hotwire was in fact showing me such a hotel. Pricewire is also a much more shitty interface. Maybe all the money they pay Kaley Cuoco and William Shatner came from product development. For those uninitiated with Hotwire, here is how it works, you tell Hotwire your hotel location and check-in and checkout dates and Hotwire will show you hotels available with amenities and ratings from their customers. The actual hotel names and locations are only revealed post booking. Kind of like Name your price tool of Priceline except you don’t have to keep guessing a price.

Day 1

Anyway, so day 1, I search for hotels in Portland, OR. I got a nice 3 star hotel for $100. Remember the stars here are their own ratings and 3 star doesn’t really mean anything. It turned out to be Extended Stay America in Hillsboro, OR. The location was pretty premium and I was happy. We drive down to Crater Lake in the morning, calling at 11am to confirm our booking at Extended Stay. We checked in at 8pm and lo and behold, crap unfolds. I am told there are only smoking rooms available and there is ‘no wiggle room’ to fix it. Wait, didn’t I just pay you in advance and book my room. The hotel was sparsely staffed. At 9pm, I really was in no mood to fight with customer service and find another room. I did leave poor feedback after the stay to Hotwire, no followup from the company. Boo ! Also, the taxes and fee is a little shady at Hotwire :

This is what they claim :

The taxes are tax recovery charges Hotwire pays to its vendors (e.g. hotels); for details, please see our Terms of Use. We retain our service fees as compensation in servicing your travel reservation.

 

hotwire - extended stay america portland hillsboro

 

Day 2

Unhappy with our demotion to a smoking room and no remorse, I didn’t want to extend my stay at ironically named Extended Stay America. I was able to get a better deal near the Portland Airport area, less prime area, no breakfast but $20 cheaper. It turned out to be a Holiday Inn. The hotel was much nicer and cleaner. No free breakfast though. Again see the disproportionate tax and fee added.

 

hotwire - holiday inn portland airport

 

Verdict

Overall I think I did save some money thanks to Hotwire, however be careful about these loopholes like no smoking rooms. I also read online about some people landing at their hotels only to be told the hotel was overbooked and then hotwire making them do the turnaround. I would advise to use Amex cards in that case. Amex has very consumer friendly policies, I would just take it in written that the hotel room was not available, book another room and chargeback Hotwire and sure them. Even though they may have terms against this and USA’s most stupid arbitration laws are applicable here.

 

Would I use hotwire again, probably only if I save a lot, but I would be very aggressive about pushing and flexing my rights. So if you do book through them, call and confirm your booking even though hotwire tells you not to. You do end up saving some money. For some people $15 you save maybe an expense they are prepared to give for peace of mind.


Sep 13

clearance sale