June 28, 2002

I released Blog 6.0 yesterday :-) Of course, I just updated the sidebar and the download page and didn’t make an announcement here since I was just saving it for today. So here’s the announcement though I believe BetaNews beat me to it at their site :p One thing I realized later though was that the build I uploaded still has the version number as 5.93 – I guess I will have to re-upload a corrected build today but a few early birds might be left with a wrong versioned build … but don’t worry, other than for the version number, everything will be the same between both builds :-)

I went back to Amazon.com UK yesterday and realized that they now do indeed have a wish list option. So I started a new wish list on their site just for books. I was initially going to move over all the stuff from my Amazon US wish list and simply take that one out of the side bar but then I realized that I’d have to get UK DVD’s then and UK DVD’s always don’t have the same features as the US ones :p So I decided to keep two wish lists on the sidebar – not that anybody (except of course for Nigel <g>) – has sent me anything from the wish lists but still, I like to have them there :-) Incidentally, I had thought I was missing only a couple of Feist’s books but when I did a search on Amazon, I discovered that he’s been creating a whole cottage industry around the land of Midkemia by collaborating with different authors! There are so many books which are slated to be published soon about Midkemia that it seemed impossible for one man to do all of that. Unfortunately, the bulk of the stuff is in hard cover and so my wish list stayed as brief as it currently is :p

Speaking of Nigel, he made the world’s first (that we know of …) phlog entry over at his site – I’d give the URL to the actual entry but I’m offline at the moment and so can’t get to his site .. plus, it’s an interesting site and it would do nobody any harm to browse through <vbg> In case you are wondering, a phlog is a phone blog – a blog maintained via an e-mail capable phone like the Ericsson T68. Since Blog in Server mode simply checks an e-mail account for e-mails with the proper subject line, you can basically send entries for your Blog from anywhere – as long as you know the proper format (and don’t send any formatted e-mails or HTML e-mails …) I really like the concept since that gives you a whole lot of freedom …

I began reading Robert Heinlein’s “Glory Road” yesterday. As some of you long-time readers may remember (are there any such? :p) I mentioned a while back that I got about forty odd Heinlein books in an eBay auction. I hadn’t had the time to start reading those but I decided I might as well start now and see if I still had a taste for Heinlein. I’m into chapter two at the moment and I’m already beginning to see why they labeled a lot of his novels as “adolescent novels” <g> I’ve read more references to breasts, nipples etc. than I did in the whole Serpentwar saga from Feist! Yes, Feist mentions sex and relations between men and women but in a very discreet, subdued manner whereas Heinlein is very open and blatant about it all … I’m not sure whether all the other books that I’ve read by Heinlein were the same since I don’t recall anything like that but then again, the only books I can actually recall as far as actual content goes, are “Starship Troopers” and “Have Spacesuit, Will Travel”.

On the subject of relations between men and women, why is it that most authors can’t do a romantic relationship properly? I like a well done romantic relationship – probably because I’m a sap :p – but other than for authors who write purely romance (both Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer were my favorites at one time …) the only authors I’ve seen who even manage it passably well (and that I liked – I mean the author) are probably Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. It’s interesting that they are both western authors, incidentally. Or maybe I thought they did it well at the time I was really into them – during my western period. I don’t know … But I do know that there is something really lacking in Feist’s handling of romance but then again you could argue that he does it to fit the characters since the only major romance that I remember from Feist’s work is Jimmy and Gamina’s meeting but since Gamina is a mind reader, they meet, fall in love and it’s all over in about five minutes :p I can’t even remember the other major romance of Feist’s – the love affair of Arutha and Anita – since it has been a long time since I read it …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:32 am  |  No Comments

June 27, 2002

I got an e-mail from Eddie over at BetaNews asking me whether I got hacked and pointing me to the Nortiq mirror – various scenarios flashed through my mind and I thought of all possible ways that the security on the site could have been compromised and somebody could have got in and defaced the site. But then I went over there and realized that I’d done the hacking myself :p I’d been testing changes to the sub-folder code that I’d made to Blog yesterday since the ability to specify relative paths didn’t help those who had a different FTP root than a WWW root. This was because I’d assumed that though they had a different FTP root, they’d still be in the WWW root when they logged on via FTP and had done my code that way … Turns out that was wrong and so I took out the relative path code and went back to using absolute paths but added code to give the image path as a relative path if it was a sub-folder of the journal directory.

Anyway, I did some testing of that code and the early attempts failed a couple of times to change directories properly. My testing was being done on the Nortiq server in a test folder but during one of the instances where the folder changing didn’t work, I guess the root directory’s default file got overwritten and had the test posts I’d made – which included a cartoon :p Hopefully, things should go back to normal when I upload this entry …

I completed the last Raymond E. Feist book in my collection yesterday. I’d first started reading Feist in 1990 with his “Magician” and then had read “Silverthorn” in the same year or soon after. I had to wait a while to get my hands on “Darkness at Sethanon” but I believe I’d read his “Faerie Tale” in the meantime. I’d collected quite a few of his books over the years but hadn’t read any more till this year. Since I came back, I’ve read his post-Riftwar books, his Serpentwar Saga as well as the Riftwar Legacy series. Most of the books are about the magical world of Midkemia and one thing to be said about Feist is that he writes extremely interesting characters and that he knows how to keep your attention (yes, I know, that’s two things <g>) I’ve seen the world of Midkemia and its characters evolve and change through the books and do actually agree with how the conDoin family sort of degenerates through the generations to the level they are represented in the Serpentwar Saga (the Riftwar Legacy is set before even though it was published later …) The conDoin family starts of as heroes, they become kings and the first generations we meet are extremely able, intelligent and heroic. The next generation (Arutha’s sons Borric, Earland, Nicholoas etc.) are still responsible and heroic but not as capable as their fathers and the generation after (Patrick, Borric’s son) is so used to the fact that he’s royalty that he behaves like a perfect git and is usually prone to temper tantrums. I think that’s a very realistic portrayal of the evolution of the conDoin family and now probably should talking about them since probably not more than one or two people realize what the heck I’m talking about :p

Anyway, now that I’ve finished the last Feist in my collection, I want to read more and to complete my Feist collection at the same time since I still don’t have a copy of “Magician”. So I’ll probably update my wishlist sometime today to include the latest Feist paperbacks (I really don’t like hardcover …) as well as the older ones that I don’t own. The wishlist is on the sidebar and if some kind individual would like to get me a couple of those books, that’d make me very happy :-) It’s a pity that Amazon UK doesn’t have a wishlist (at least they didn’t the last time I checked …) I like the UK edition covers much better than the US editions – I don’t know what’s up with the marketers in the US but they seem to think that good looking covers equate to books that people won’t buy. Wonder how they came up with that daft idea?

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Posted by Fahim at 6:20 am  |  2 Comments

June 26, 2002

I’ve fixed both the bugs I talked about yesterday but the ability to use relative paths for the Full Path and Image Directory settings needs to be tested further since I don’t have access to a machine where the FTP root is different from the WWW root. I just heard from David who had problems with Blog under a Spanish version of XP as well and it turns out the localization issue actually might have been a conversion/upgrade issue between Blog 6.0 Beta 2 which did not account for localization and Blog 6.0 Beta 3 which does. Hopefully, once I get all these things sorted out, I should be able to release Blog 6.0 final and then move on to other things … Such as PostMan which has been neglected for a time due to work, gaming and coding on Blog :p

Talking of gaming, I got a new set of drivers for my ATI Rage Mobility P card yesterday by scouring the Net and after installing those, I seem to have got rid of the problem of the graphics suddenly going south in the game. It’s still fairly slow on my machine but I was able to play for about half an hour without the reappearance of the particular problem of everything going white and blocky. I guess if everything works fine for sure over the weekend when I’ll get a little more time to play games :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 6:25 am  |  1 Comment

June 25, 2002

I watched “The Last Castle” yesterday. I’ve been meaning to watch the movie for a very long time – ever since I saw the previews and thought that Robert Redford and James Gandolfini looked excellent in it. But I couldn’t find a DVD copy till yesterday and since I knew that I wanted to own the movie, I didn’t want to compromise and rent it :p Anyway, the movie proved to be all that I’d hoped it would be – great acting, great story and lots of action! I guess the movie was about leadership and what makes a good leader but it was also about us, humans, and the choices that we make – and don’t make. I especially loved the scenes where they take over the prison using basically ancient military techniques such as the shield wall and the catapult :p A good movie to watch for certain …

Of course, besides watching movies and playing games, I haven’t really done much this long weekend but I guess I’ll have to get out of that rut today and get back to coding since Blog 6.0 needs to be released soon :-) There are two major problems – both of which I was aware of but was too lazy to fix <g> – that need to be attended to before the next release – as well as the continuing localization problems that seem to plague a Spanish user. The two problems? Well … 1) Blog needs to be connected to the Net even to only publish to a local site 2) the image linking referral address is not correct when the FTP root is not the same as the WWW root for that particular site. I didn’t correct the first since I thought I was the only user who used Blog strictly in local mode – and even then, I only use it in that mode for testing. The second was the main reason that I hadn’t implemented the new image linking tag in the first place but then I thought not many people would run into this problem either. Guess I was wrong on both counts :p

I don’t like to dismiss a problem saying that it’s only an exception and that I shouldn’t code for the exceptions – I like all my users to have a uniformly pleasant experience with my apps and so I guess I’ll try to fix these two problems and the localization issues before the next release. I know the first bug is easy enough to fix – I should have done that in the first place but didn’t want to add the extra bloat that a few lines of code would have added :p Not so sure about the second bug since I’ll basically have to re-do parts of the FTP connection code to allow both relative and absolute paths and while I have an idea as to how I want to go about it, I’m not sure that it’s doable. As for the localization problems, there’s only one person with the problems and even he hasn’t contacted me via e-mail as I asked him to and so I don’t know how much I can do there …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:18 am  |  No Comments

June 23, 2002

I’ve been extremely busy the last couple of days but not coding :p I installed “Civilization III” on my computer a few days ago and since then have been bitten badly by the Civ bug! I don’t know what it is about the game but once I sit down in front of the computer to play it, I just don’t feel like getting up and going off – I just want to keep on playing, just one more turn, till the next invention, till the next wonder is made and so on and before I know it, I find that I’ve spent hours on it! Day before yesterday, I played till 2:30 am in the morning (of yesterday) since I wanted to build the flight to Alpha Centauri :p Of course, that meant that I was walking around like a zombie yesterday but hey, what’s that compared to trying to get to Alpha Centauri? <vbg>

Of course, Civ III is not the only game that I’ve been playing recently. I also got “Warcraft III” a couple of days ago but couldn’t get it to work on my machine since according to the game, my graphics card did not support DirectX! Turns out that the video drivers weren’t right even though I was using the latest drivers – according to Microsoft. Got some drivers off the Net that was meant for a different notebook computer though the chipset was the same and suddenly the game started working! “Warcraft III” look gorgeous and the in-game movies are extremely well-done but I couldn’t enjoy the game properly since even with a 1GHz Pentium III processor, 256 MB RAM and 8MB of video RAM, my machine was basically crawling when running the game :-( I believe that the problem might be at the video end of things – might be the drivers I have (it’s an ATI Rage chipset based card …) or I just might need more video memory. But the upshot is that I can somewhat play the game but even then the whole game will go crazy and the graphics become blocky, whitish things after about an hour of play – and that means I have to save frequently just in case that happens at an awkward moment. Not very enjoyable at all :-( I guess I should build my desktop (I need a motherboard, processor, case, keyboard and monitor – I’ve got the rest cannibalized from my computer from the US :p) but since that’s going to cost about Rs. 20,000 I’m not sure that I’m ready to do that just to play Warcraft :p

One good thing about getting the newer video drivers is that I am now able to play another game that used to complain about my system not supporting DirectX. Not many people probably have heard of this one – it’s called “Dark Orbit”. It’s developed using the WildTangent game SDK, which incidentally, is an amazing game development platform since it allows you to code a game using a variety of programming languages including VBScript or JavaScript! I had tried the demo of “Dark Orbit” a long time ago and liked it so much that I bought the full game either just before I left the US or just after. However, I’ve never been able to play the full game since it has always complained about DirectX on both my notebook and a couple of machines at work using Riva TNT cards. I thought there was a problem with the game itself but it works now after the video driver changes I made for Warcraft! So I’ve also been playing “Dark Orbit”.

So what with Civilization, Warcraft and Dark Orbit, I’m basically not going to find much time this weekend for coding – and it’s a long weekend too! I did have a few things to change in Blog again since several users have pointed out various things that I was aware of but didn’t think was that serious. But if it causes problems for even one user (besides me since I don’t mind work arounds <g>), I think it’s better to fix the problem. But that probably won’t be till Tuesday :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:06 am  |  No Comments

June 20, 2002

Well … Blog 6.0 Beta 3 is out :-) I actually uploaded the build to the server a couple of days ago but didn’t have the time to do an update to the site to let everybody know about it. This is basically a build to add image support in Client mode and to handle those attached images in Server mode as well as a few other fixes. I also added a fix for the decimal point problem with floating point numbers when using the version number that one of the Spanish users found – they use a comma instead of a decimal point and so that creates problems in international versions of Windows. This should hopefully be the final release of 6.0 but I wanted to make certain before declaring it so since I’ve made a few changes that need to be proven in action :p

I’m probably going to be a bit late for work today since I need to go get some stuff cleared from customs. The “stuff” I’m talking about is basically some beta software from Microsoft – one of their SDK’s for mobile solution developers. They sent it to me for free since I signed up for one of their beta programs but guess what? Sri Lankan customs want to charge me Rs. 8000+ since they claim that the stated value is lower than it should be! I inquired around and was told that a lot of people are bringing software into the country with very low stated values and hence this tightening down on all and sundry. Unfortunately, since these people seem to know nothing at all about the contents except the word software, I guess I might be in for a tough time. I was told to write a letter to the director of customs explaining the situation and I hope to go there and get it sorted out but if it turns out that I need to pay, I’m going to tell them to keep the software!

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Posted by Fahim at 6:34 am  |  No Comments

June 18, 2002

Well … we went to Kurunegala and had to wait around pretty much the whole day for the finger printing team to arrive. The police had already been there once but they’d said that they’d come back with the fingerprinting team to take a statement. Turns out that there is only one fingerprint team for 30 police stations and that team consists of only two people! So they didn’t get there till we were almost ready to leave and of course, once they’d dusted for prints it turned out that the thieves had worn gloves :p I guess while the police are less-than-efficient over here, the thieves are becoming extra-efficient since the lot who robbed our Colombo house wore gloves too. Anyway, the upshot was that the police will not have any way to catch the criminals … not that they would have with fingerprints but at least then they could have fingered – pun intended <g> – anybody who was brought in on suspicion. Now the only thing that can happen is if they catch them with the goods and that’s really a long shot …

Obviously I didn’t get any coding done yesterday since we didn’t get back till past 8 o’clock at night. Maybe today I could do the release of Blog 6.0 Beta 3 and get on with PostMan but then again, maybe not :p I still am not in the mood for that discussion of Raymond E. Feist’s writing that I was going to get into – not that I’m really sure that anybody is that interested in it anyway :p – but probably some time soon since I’ve been reading a lot of his works in succession and I like to discuss things when they are fresh in my mind …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:10 am  |  No Comments

June 17, 2002

The Farook family saga continues – there was a call from my brother who was staying at our other house in Kurunegala saying that the house had been robbed while he slept :-( That house is kind of sparsely furnished since we are still in the process of building it and my parents had just come back from Kurunegala yesterday and my brother was supposed to leave in the morning for work. He’d woken up, got dressed and had seen that his shoes were missing and so gone looking and had realized that the whole house, except for the room that he’d been in, had been cleaned out! Well, not totally cleaned out since they left the heavy stuff like furniture but took almost everything else of value that could be carried. I don’t know whether it is some sort of a jinx following our family (since this is the second robbery in less than six months …) or just plain coincidence. Anyway, I’ll probably not go to work today since I’ll have to accompany my mother to Kurunegala to see what’s up …

I didn’t do much coding over the weekend since I was too busy reading. I was going to write a bit about what I was reading (Raymond E. Feist – but that’s rather who …) but won’t have the time now because of the robbery and stuff. Maybe tomorrow … I was also going to do a release of Blog 6.0 Beta 3 today since I’ve finished doing all the bug fixes that I was told of as well as completing the feature set that I wanted for this release but even that will have to wait now … Of course, the good thing is that I’m already eager to get to work on Blog 7.0 – the major feature? Built-in comments along the same lines as Blog Client mode – to be e-mailed in and collated into Blog :-) Of course, I really need to finish work on PostMan before I start work on that but you never know with me …

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Posted by Fahim at 7:13 am  |  No Comments

June 15, 2002

I fixed the dialing issues and tested things to make sure that they work properly. I also added the linked image and file handling for Blog in Client and Server modes – in Client mode to send them out as attachments and in Server mode to decode the attachments and upload them to the web server. On the subject of attachments, Greg suggested in a comment that I should simply figure out which are image files and which are not by their extension – while I’d thought of that, that doesn’t seem like a really foolproof way to do things … at least to me, since fools can be really ingenious :p For instance, JPG sometimes also has the JPEG extension and if I am not mistaken, even an image which might have a mistaken extension of JP will display fine on a browser if linked with the right name. Trying to cater to all these different scenarios can get to be a bit tricky. Of course, as one of my former bosses used to say, I could simply code for the rules rather than for the exceptions but I don’t like that approach – I’d like to cover all possibilities if possible :p

Nigel was preparing for a trip abroad and he wanted to set Blog Server up to auto-publish the entries he sent while he was away. While setting it up, he wanted to know if Blog would re-upload the old entries to his server even if there were no e-mails and I said yes it would since that’s the way it had been coded. Then I realized that this might prove to be a problem for people who want Blog to check often but don’t want any unnecessary publishing – so I added a new option under the Server tab where you can tell Blog not to publish unless there were new e-mails. I’ve done a few other fixes along the way as well and hopefully, I’ve remembered all of them and documented them in the readme file.

Of course, what with all this work on Blog, PostMan has been neglected for the last few days. I still feel the need for a good e-mail client since I’ve upgraded to the latest Eudora (5.1.1) and it still has that annoying problem of inserting =20 in to e-mails (I think this happens only with messages sent from Outlook but I’m not sure – hmm … maybe it’s some sort of a subversive tactic against Microsoft? :p) I already know that PostMan does not have this problem but there is still a lot of stuff missing from PostMan and I don’t want to switch over before I’m halfway sure that I can achieve all that I want with it. But with Qualcomm’s latest tactic of asking users to pay to upgrade to what essentially is a bug-fix release (the last release was 5.1), I’m beginning to think they’re getting greedy and it’s time that somebody did a good, free e-mail client. I’ll see what I can do :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 6:37 am  |  2 Comments

June 13, 2002

I dreamt of two friends who’d figured prominently in my life a while back. I had considered their family to be a second family since I’d stayed with them a lot as a child. But some friendships fall by the side of the way of life when they are one sided – I’ve been back for a while in Sri Lanka and these friends of mine have no effort to contact me and then I realized that it had been always so … I’d gone to them instead of them coming to me ever. Is that true friendship? I don’t know … I used to think dreaming of somebody might mean that they were thinking of you or needed you but now I guess I’m more realistic since I think it just means that you are hoping for something that might be or could have been – nothing less and nothing more :p Of course, I guess a tiny part of me still hopes that the more mystical interpretation is true, but then again, that’s the beauty of life, isn’t it? The fact that we can never be certain of anything …

But enough of these introspections! I worked on the problem of why Blog doesn’t dial out properly and was able to figure out the cause and a solution. I will need to do some modifications to the component that I use (which I intend to do before I leave for work today …) and then a little bit more testing and I should be almost set for the final release of Blog 6.0 :-)

But why *almost*? Because Nigel came up with a twist to something that I’d already noticed while updating the Blog documentation. If anybody had bothered to read it <g>, you’d notice that the Blog.txt file now has a new section about the Client and Server modes of Blog. In this section I mentioned that the Client can do almost anything that you can do with the Standard mode except for a few things like linking to older entries (it’s not blocked but will have unpredictable results – maybe I should block it …) and linking to images and expecting the images to be uploaded as well. When I wrote that, I thought “why shouldn’t I simply attach the images to the e-mail that I’m sending out and let the Server handle the uploading when it retrieves teh e-mail and attachments?” Now Nigel suggested the same thing but he also pointed out that this would work really well with the latest cellular phones which can send e-mail and have cameras (like the Nokia 7650 which has it built-in or the Ericsson T68 for which it comes as an accessory) and that might result in a new phenomena – Phlogs or Phone blogs :p

I really like the concept and since I’d already been considering the whole attachment business, I decided to sit down and think things through as to how best to implement it. Blog currently supports two modes of file uploads: one as images in case you have a separate folder for images and the rest as simple files which go in the same location as your journal. I really wanted to make the distinction in e-mail attachments as well and while I could have done that easily enough by utilizing the extra-headers or by adding some sort of a special footer to the message sent by Blog, it would mean that you have to always use the Blog Client for it to work. This would certainly rule out Phlogs :-( So I decided that I’d handle attachments but they’d always be treated as images and if you have a special images folder defined, they’d go there. You’ll just have to be careful about how you do the linking … Hopefully, this should work – let’s see if it does once I get the functionality working …

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Posted by Fahim at 5:30 am  |  3 Comments

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