Jun 22, 2011

A help that didn't really help!

That about 80% of the students have gone home on vacation was evident when I stepped into the campus restaurant today to have my regular cup of filter coffee. When IIT Madras is in session, the restaurant would be buzzing with activities serving food, beverages, soft drinks, hosting birthday parties, having group studies/discussion, planning events, or just chilling out.

I ordered my coffee, grabbed it from the counter, took up a seat at an unoccupied table and started sipping it when I saw him. He is working as a coffee master in the restaurant, and, thanks to my love of coffee, is my friend too.

"We are having a problem. I have bought a DVD version of a Tamil movie, but we do not know how to play it on the computer", he said with his computer illiterate accent.

"I will finish my coffee and will take a look at it" I replied to him.

The restaurant had undergone a change recently with the installation of a new computer to print bills using an accounting software. Earlier, they were using the obsolete coded machine for this job. It was on this computer that they were trying to watch the film.

"The shift ends at 1 AM and the next shift starts only at 7 in the morning. The servers who worked in the night shift will come to work only at 4 PM the next day. They want to stay awake until morning so that they can have their breakfast before they go to sleep", explained the cashier to me. "Now that we have a computer", he continued, "we thought of watching a film to spend the night".

After inspection, I found that the movie is stored in VOB format which the default movie player, Windows media player, could not understand. I downloaded the VLC player, installed it and gave a short lecture on how to run the movie using the new player.

"Open 'My computer', right click on the DVD icon, and hit on 'Open with VLC media player' to watch the movie", I explained to him. Previously, he was trained only to run the software for producing cash bills.

He closed all the windows and started from the desktop to make sure he had learned it properly. Satisfied with the result, I wished them a good night and left for my lab to continue with my work.

The next evening, I went to the restaurant to have my regular cup of coffee. When I stepped inside, I noticed that they were all in smiles, making it obvious to me that they had a good time. Those smiles made me feel very happy.

"So, how was the movie last night?", I asked the cashier while he was billing my coffee.

"Very good I must say! By the way, thank you so much for your help. We did not know to whom we should ask for, and we are happy that you came last night and helped us with this", he said that in a tone filled with gratitude.

I smiled at him, collected my coffee at the counter and found a seat again at an unoccupied table. When I was sipping my cup of coffee, he came again. "Thanks for your help yesterday. If you don't mind, could you please help us with the audio too?"

It took some time for me to realize that there were no speakers yesterday!