Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lisbon - Week5

Radha Krishna Temple, Lisboa
[30/09/2012] August 23rd, 2012 was a Thursday. So my weeks count at Lisboa ends at Wednesdays, and I am supposed to blog on the weekly posts on Thursday, for the past week of Thursday - Wednesday. Anyway, no one is going to assess these posts, and reward me for accuracy. Hence no worries. Here I am blogging for the last 10 days ending with yesterday!

Lectures!
Now the lab sessions have started, and we will get the project descriptions the week starting from tomorrow. We have already completed two weeks of lecture. I will blog about the lectures and how our 3 3-member teams are going ahead with the projects, separately! Ana Milosavljevic and Tamás Balogh are the other two members in my team, and we will surely have some nice projects by end of the semester.

Cats of Lisbon are awesome!
Autumn has begun
We are no more with summer, and it is getting too cold a few nights. Autumn has just arrived! A few of my friends living here didn't forget to scare that winter will be even colder and it will be cold more inside the apartment than outside, at the road!

Templo Radha Krishna
We had a nice time at Comunidade Hindu de Portugal. The temple (Photos) is located at Telheiras, the end of the green line. The temple also has a nice canteen that sells Indian sweets at a reasonable price. The canteen sells lunch too.

Llovizna
With these weekly posts, I can see that blog Llovizna is currently in its third generation. It started in 2008, under my own name ("Kathiravelu Pradeeban") with some random technical entries. By repositioning it under the title "Llovizna," I made my blog to move into its second generation, targeting to address the common reader base of my blog. Recently, with the move to Lisbon, my blog is shaping as more of a travel entries of an exchange student. I can see the difference in the Google advertisements posted on my blog too. Earlier they were almost always about some software. Now they are more about universities, travel and holidays at Europe, and localized content targeting Portuguese. This may be because I am connecting from Portugal, and hence the segmentation. However, I will also keep blogging on the technical aspects, and will maintain the Llovizna-quality in the upcoming posts, that will be useful for the readers.

2013
Just 3 more months for the coming year. 2012 is really going awesome. Vê-lo novamente em breve!

Virtual Credit and Debit Cards..

It was impossible to transfer money to a paypal account in Sri Lanka or India, or transfer money that already exists in the paypal account to a local bank in Sri Lanka or India. Since now I am in Europe, it should be possible. I decided to update the address, and see how it goes.

I learned that changing the country in the paypal account is impossible, and we just have to create a new account with the new address, new credit/debit card, and new phone number, dropping the old account. So now I need Portugal credit card. The debit card I got from BPI for my current account was a temporary card, and it doesn't hold those three digit security code. That simply means, I can't use it online.
Then my friend Dipesh introduced me to the Virtual Debit Card. I was able to buy it from the near by ATM and activate it from the MB web site. The card will have a valid period of either a year, or till your card expires, whichever that comes first. Now, I can buy stuff online using this virtual card, and I also linked it to my paypal account.

I find these virtual cards interesting, just like the VMWare that runs on top of the host operating system, and is capable of running multiple guest operating systems on top of it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lisbon - Week4

Instituto Superior Tecnico - Taguspark Campus
[21/09/2012] Yesterday, it was exactly one month since I left Sri Lanka. I flew to New Delhi on the 20th of August, with a transit of 3 days, and reached Lisbon the 23rd. That also means, I am marking my first month at Lisbon the day after tomorrow. The world is however highly connected. Thanks to the Internet, Skype, and Facebook, I am tightly connected to Sri Lanka.

Taguspark 
An IST shuttle service connects Taguspark - Oeiras campus with the Alameda - Lisbon campus, which is otherwise, poorly connected to Lisbon. Taguspark is a science and technology park, full of major companies and industries. It seems the easiest way to reach to Tagus Park through public transport is through the bus route 15, which is infrequent. Hence we have to be careful not to miss the shuttle. Taguspark area is closer to beach, where the shuttle often takes the route through the scenic road adjacent to the beach and the Tagus river.

Lectures!
Lectures are going pretty interesting. We have formed 3 groups of 3 consisting of the 9 EMDC students for the lab sessions and projects, for all 4 modules. Apart from the Erasmus Mundus students, some local masters students as well as the Erasmus Students too join our lectures. Lab sessions will commence starting from next week.

Integrity Aristotle
I recently joined Elance, and wanted to verify my profile. They scheduled a skype video for integrity verification with Integrity Aristotle, which is a global id, and age verification service provided by Aristotle. I was not aware of the existence of such service before, and it was a nice learning experience for me. The service called me on the scheduled interview time, just to take a quick photo through the video chat. Within a few minutes, my Elance profile got a "verified" badge. Sounds interesting. Isn't it?

Our lectures have begun, and chances are high that these weekly posts getting shrunk. Vamos esperar e ver. :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Lisbon - Week3

Delicious Octopus at Sintra-Pena!
[15/05/2012] we were able to meet each other following the same course, and break ice this week. We received our admission letter signed by the EMDC coordinators from KTH, along with the insurance for the year. We also had a welcome reception by NMCI, and received a welcome kit that included a local SIM, with the operator Moche. Our lectures begin the coming Monday, the 17th of September.

The time table is given!
The modules for the first semester will be, Peer-to-peer Systems and Overlay Networks (Codenamed "SERS"), Cloud Computing (CN), Network and Computer Security (SIRS), and Parallel and Distributed Computing (CPD). We will have the lectures and lab sessions of SERS and CN on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Tagus Park campus of Instituto Superior Tecnico, where the SIRS and CPD will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Alameda - Lisbon campus. Both campuses are connected by the IST shuttle service, for the students' transport.

Museu de Marinha
We paid a visit to Museu de Marinha (Photos). It is a wonderful place. It is free for entrance on Sundays, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Make sure to enter the ticket counter before 2 p.m., and get the ticket, free!

Cascais
Sunset at Cascais
Cascais and Estoril are two of the mostly praised beaches in Lisbon. We walked from Cascais to Estoril (Photos). Seagulls everywhere! The Sunset was scenic. The beach water was cold, probably because we are reaching the end of the summer, and autumn is coming to us! I was able to notice the oil wastes leaking from the sailing boats polluting the sea water.

Sintra
The train travel to Sintra (Photos) was remarkable. Our 35 Euro monthly charge of the travel card covers only the Lisbon area. Hence we had to buy the train tickets (one-day) for Cascais and Sintra, as they are not under Lisbon urban area that is covered, though they are still in Greater Lisbon. The forests and environment of Sintra reminded me Sri Lanka, and its forestation in the places like Ohiya. I had grilled octopus at the restaurant of Pena Castle - Sintra. It was delicious!

ESN Card
Students are really interested in getting the ESN (Erasmus Students Network) and Erasmus Lisboa cards. ESN card is 5 Euro/month, and Erasmus Lisboa is 10 Euro/month. Both come with exciting offers, free parties, and discounted trips. We joined ESN. It was a long queue with students from different countries!

Connecting with family
Museu de Marinha
Studying abroad teaches some life lessons, while also letting us learn to survive in a new environment, alone. Communication with friends and those with an access to the Internet is always easy for me, as I am online, almost always, when I am home. But calling my parents who do not appear online much was always a bit expensive. Skype came to help at this point. I credited my Skype account with 10 Euro. It also charged an additional 1.5 Euro, as a tax, which is applicable only to the countries of European Union. Since I am from Portugal, I had to pay the additional amount! It costs 0.121 Euro/minute to call Sri Lanka. I found the country-specific monthly skype credit option cheaper. You can buy 60 minutes of skype credits for Sri Lanka, for a month, for just 6.29 USD (4.79 Euro). This is just 0.08 Euro/minute. I will go for this option henceforth.

Our lectures start the day after tomorrow. I have stayed at Lisbon for almost a month, without any lectures. Now the real schedule begins! You can expect more blog posts on the course works in Llovizna very soon. :) Bom fim-de-semana!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why you should avoid traveler's cheques?

View from Oceanario de Lisboa
I was so much into traveler's cheques, as they are safe, and in addition, their advantages are preached a lot. However, after having difficulty in encashing them in Lisbon, and spending a lot of money for this, I realized, it is a good idea to avoid it, unless you are flying with a considerably high amount of money. Your passport and a return ticket are required to obtain a standard traveler's cheque from a bank. I learned from HSBC, Colombo-06 that the maximum I can take to New Delhi from Colombo was traveler's cheque worth of 1000 Euro, when I tried to purchase 2000 Euro of traveler's cheques. To purchase the traveler's cheque of 1000 Euro (168,280 LKR), I had to pay an additional amount of around 15 Euro (2524 LKR). Since even to change the currency, we need to pay almost the same amount. Hence I don't consider this an additional expense, as my alternative would be to take the cash with me, in Euro.

However, after having difficulty in encashing them in Lisbon, and spending a lot of money for this, I realized, it is a good idea to avoid it, unless you are flying with a considerably high amount of money. Your passport and a return ticket are required to obtain a standard traveler's cheque from a bank. I learned from HSBC, Colombo-06 that the maximum I can take to New Delhi from Colombo was traveler's cheque worth of 1000 Euro, when I tried to purchase 2000 Euro of traveler's cheques. To purchase the traveler's cheque of 1000 Euro (168,280 LKR), I had to pay an additional amount of around 15 Euro (2524 LKR). Since even to change the currency, we need to pay almost the same amount. Hence I don't consider this an additional expense, as my alternative would be to take the cash with me, in Euro.Now, I am with the traveler's cheques worth 1000 Euro (100Euro * 10), in Lisbon, trying to encash them.

Interestingly, among the branches of 3 banks in IST, BPI and Santander Totta clearly declined to encash. They mentioned that they had stopped using it! Thank God, Caixa Geral de Depositos, the third bank in the campus, agreed to encash. The bank officer noted that he hadn't seen a traveler's cheque for months! I have to pay a comissao of 33.65 Euro and Imposto s/commissao of 1.35 Euro, making it 35 Euro of total commission. Deducting this from the amount of 1000 Euro, I was paid 965 Euro. Please note that the traveler's cheques are already in Euro. So this 35 Euro was a waste of money that I had to spend just because of my unwanted attraction towards the traveler's cheques. To repeat what I mentioned before, avoid traveler's cheques, unless you are planning to travel to a city full of thieves!

Now, I am with the traveler's cheques worth 1000 Euro (100Euro * 10), in Lisbon, trying to encash them. Interestingly, among the branches of 3 banks in IST, BPI and Santander Totta clearly declined to encash. They mentioned that they had stopped using it! Thank God, Caixa Geral de Depositos, the third bank in the campus, agreed to encash. The bank officer noted that he hadn't seen a traveler's cheque for months! I had to pay a comissao of 33.65 Euro and Imposto s/commissao of 1.35 Euro, making it 35 Euro of total commission (3.5%). Deducting this from the amount of 1000 Euro, I was paid 965 Euro. Please note that the traveler's cheques are already in Euro. So this 35 Euro was a waste of money that I had to spend just because of my unwanted attraction towards the traveler's cheques. To repeat what I mentioned before, avoid traveler's cheques to save your time and money, unless you are planning to travel to a city full of thieves, or if you have already confirmed that the country/city you are visiting is traveler's-cheque-friendly, and they change them at the major banks or shopping centers for free or for a minimal charge.

An update on 30/12/2012: "With effect from 1 January 2013, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited "(Bank)" will discontinue the sale of Travellers' Cheques service, while the encashment / payment of Travellers' Cheques service will not be affected."
That is a message from my Sri Lankan bank. It seems that traveller's Cheques are becoming old-style.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Lisbon - Week2

25 de Abril Bridge
[07/09/2012] - I was saying to myself, that I won't be able to continue Llovizna as a travel blog, though I wanted to reposition it. Contrary to my own disbelief, I am here summarizing the week2.

Travel Card
Getting a travel card to travel across Lisbon was surely an important and urgent task for us to do. We took it in the "urgent" option, which is option C. We got the card the same day, after waiting for 3 hours in the queue. We just needed to take a photograph and passport with us. We had to pay 12 Euro for this. Under the normal service, it takes up to 10 days for the card to be released. We charged the card for one month (35 Euro), for the Lisbon urban area, so that we can move anywhere in Lisbon in Metro, bus, or any such public transport.

Metros
Castelo de S.Jorge
Metros are pretty frequent in Lisbon, and is the mostly recommended medium to travel - buses are not that frequent, compared to metro. Our station Arroios is located between Anjos and Alameda, on the way to Rossio from Alameda.

Bank Account
Next we had to open a bank account. IST has branches of three banks. We were encouraged to open an account at BPI, where we can open a current account free of charge.

NMCI │ Núcleo de Mobilidade e Cooperação Internacional
I submitted the filled admission form, photographs, and the passport scanned copy, by hand. Got some leaflets.

Yellow Bus
Yellow bus is the most convenient way to explore Lisbon. It is identical to the HoHo bus we saw in New Delhi in the way it operates. The only difference is, the Yellow bus provides 4 routes, where we can explore all 4 of them. There are alternate services similar to Yellow Bus too. One such service titled "Lisbon Sightseeing" offers this for 24 hours. But since we got 48 hours, we were able to travel 3 days! (Saturday evening, Sunday whole day, and Monday morning). The 4 routes are Tagus tour, Olisipo tour, Tram tour by the hills, and Belem tour. These tours start and end at Rossio. We took metro from our station Arroios to Rossio. Keep your yellow bus ticket safe forever, as if you produce the card when you want to buy them for the second time, you will get a 50% off, straightly. Isn't that just awesome? :)

Sightseeing in Lisbon
A crab in Oceanario Lisboa
The yellow bus Olisipo and Tagus tour are on a double decker bus, which has an open upper floor for us to sit and enjoy Lisbon. We visited Belem on the Tagus route. Belem is awesome, by the banks of Rio Tejo (Tagus River). It has a museum of weapons inside the riverside fort - Santa Maria de Belém (5 Euro) - (Photos). I loved the lemon tea by the river side. The "25th of April" bridge reminds San Fransisco.

Estrela
Basilica de Estrela and the park in Estrela are surely not-to-miss (Photos). A tram tour from there is a good option. Trams are pretty slow, and since they share the same route as the ground transport, they often have to wait till the traffic clears up.

Oceanario
Lisbon Aquarium (Oceanário de Lisboa) (16 Euro) (Photos) is a must-visit, on Olisipo tour (Photos). It provides a nice view of the longest bridge of Lisbon - The Vasco da Gama Bridge (Portuguese: Ponte Vasco da Gama)

Sao Jorge Castle
Sao Jorge castle (9 Euro) (Photos) is yet another interesting place, where one can geta bird's eye view of the entire Lisbon. As it is a hilly place connected by a narrow road, the mini bus connects it - but not the regular big buses.

IST
We have 9 students following EMDC at IST. Most of them have already arrived at Lisbon, and we are meeting each other, and breaking ice already. Seems the upcoming days will be more fun. Manter contato! ^ ^