December 13, 2002

I did manage to get Schemer out the door yesterday – no page up for Schemer yet I’m afraid (but then again, there are no pages up for Snipper or MailCoder either …) but you can download it from the sidebar. Incidentally, Duane noted yesterday that the Download page is woefully behind on the latest downloads and that’s true I’m afraid 🙁 I have to add at least three or four releases (if not more) to the Downloads page before I am caught up. I will eventually do that but for the moment, the best place to get the latest software release from, is the sidebar.

I’ve been receiving lots of fixes, suggestions etc. for Blog and a fair number of requests for a new release of Scope as well. In the mean time, I continue to work away slowly at BlogMan but I’m also working on a few other projects. Things are a bit chaotic at the moment and I really have no idea which will see release first but I suspect that it will be either Scope or BlogMan. Then there is the eternally neglected PostMan which needs to be worked on too but I have a feeling that the Blog crowd will get impatient by that time :p I wish I could work on one thing without getting distracted and starting work on a completely new project but that’s the way I work and in the end I think I do come up with some useful stuff so I guess it evens out. Oh BTW, if you’ve thought I gave up on Solipsistic Meandering – you are mistaken :p I’ve started writing there again and actually made two entries on the same day yesterday :p

Posted by Fahim at 5:37 am  |  2 Comments

December 12, 2002

Beauty seen through a lens …

OK, I never ever make a second post on the same day (make that “usually” :p) – I am compulsive about things like that but bad habits should be broken <g> Plus, I just saw something which evoked so much feeling in me that I *had to* write about it here. Somebody left a comment on one of my posts just now and I went over to their blog to see what kind of stuff they wrote – it was a photoblog called Days Come and Days Go and I was just browsing through when the photo accompanying one particular entry struck me. I still can’t define what particular thing about this photograph appeals to me but all I can say is that it evokes such a strong emotion in me that I could stare it for hours. It is lovely and it must be such a great talent to be able to see the beauty of nature through a camera’s eye and to present it to the rest of the world. I hope somebody else enjoys this “find” as much as I did 🙂

Posted by Fahim at 7:13 am  |  2 Comments

Books and bindings …

I’ve returned to my original love in reading – science fiction 🙂 I’ve been reading mainly fantasy for a while and the last series I read – the DarkSword trilogy – was excellent because it evoked so much feeling in me. I could identify with the main character, his life and his love and I also could understand the world they lived in. However, once I finished the series, I felt that I needed a change and so I switched back to science fiction and the very first thing I picked up was Murray Leinster’s "Doctor to the Stars".

Now Murray Leinster is (actually it’s probably "was" since I have a feeling that he probably is no longer among the living) one of the older generation science fiction writers – those who had great ideas and simply wanted to tell a story instead of worrying about style and inane amounts of character development :p In fact, he is one of the writers – among whom I number Isaac Asimov, Robert Sheckly, Clifford D. Simak, Theodore Sturgeon, Damon Knight, A. E. Van Vogt and Jack Williams – that I like to pick up any time and read. I probably should include Robert Heinlein in the list too since he’s always been one of my favourites – an author who can come up with a great idea and make you go "wow" .. his "By His Bootstraps" immediately comes to mind by the way – but the last book by him that I read – "Glory Road" – just didn’t work for me. Maybe it was a bit too cynical, maybe I wanted the love story to end happily instead of finding that the woman had just been using the protagonist for her own ends instead of truly loving him – yes, I still believe in love, maybe I’m naive … – but it just didn’t work for me.

But to get back to what I was saying about my current reading, I have found "Doctor to the Stars" to be a great read. It’s a collection of three novellas and has some extremely interesting ideas/plots. One in particular deals with a war between the older generation and the younger generation and it is quite clever how the whole situation was brought about – we always know that is a difference of opinion between generations but this particular story brings it to the level of a war between fathers and sons and I found the whole concept and the psychology behind it interesting. Unfortunately, I finished "Doctor to the Stars" yesterday though I wish there was more to read there – so, it’s on to my next science fiction book …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:48 am  |  No Comments

The next member in the RookSoft suite of software is here 🙂 It’s called Schmer and it basically allows you to design the color scheme for a web page by dragging and dropping colors on a form which displays the various elements of the web page. You can select the body background color, the text color, the link color, the link hover color, the visited link color as well as certain colors for the scrollbar and some form elements as well. You can also define colors for various elements of a table. Once you have got a page looking the way you want, you can simply click a button which creates the CSS for the colors for all the elements on the page. It’s as simple as that! Of course, you can also save the current color scheme or to load an existing color scheme and the color grid from which you drag and drop colors is customizable and is saved upon exit.

This is not a major application – I wrote it in the course of about one day. Schemer, like MailCoder, is what I would call a proglet – a little program which does one thing and one thing only but can be handy at times. Incidentally, don’t look for it on the sidebar yet :p I still have to write some form of documentation for it and then I will list it on the sidebar for download during the course of the day. Hope somebody finds it useful and if you do, let me know – or if you have any suggestions/enhancements in mind, let me know about that too 🙂

I heard from one of my users yesterday that Blog is listed at NoNags and that it had received six ducks – their highest ranking 🙂 Edward had asked me some time back to list Blog at NoNags and I had done so but had forgotten all about it since then. Now I guess I’ll have to add a NoNags awards button to the Blog page – ah I hate all this work :p It’s a funny thing but I have not listed any of my applications with any of the major sites – I think I did submit Blog to but I have no idea what happened there. BetaNews is the only place that lists my apps regularly and that’s mostly due to the diligence of Eddie who reminds me when I forget to tell him about a new release 🙂

Incidentally, Scope has been receiving some publicity recently too – even though I haven’t worked on it in a while. ShellCity, which had listed it a long while back when I first released it, had featured Scope again this week and that had been picked up by a few other sites including MajorGeeks. So I’ve been getting a few bug reports, suggestions about Scope again and will probably go back to that somewhere along the way and do a proper 2.1 release of Scope while I am at it. But I do have to finish up BlogMan too – I do get sidetracked don’t I? :p I think I’ve done at least two new apps (Nailer and Schemer – hmmm, sounds like a pair of gangsters :p) while working on BlogMan …

Posted by Fahim at 5:00 am  |  3 Comments

December 11, 2002

Of faith and hope …

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for several days now but never got around to it since I’ve been too busy (in fact, I seem to be sadly neglecting this journal altogether and that is bad – I will try to rectify the situation). I should start off by saying that I believe in "each to his own" and am not trying to refute anybody else (especially since this whole entry is based on something somebody said :p) but just trying to write about how *I* feel about certain things.

In response to my last entry, Mike remarked that he’d had a good life and that he’d never prayed in his life and that prayer simply made you feel good. To me, that sounds very similar to a man who has never been sick in his life saying that medicine is just coloured water 🙂 To me prayer is about faith – faith that God exists, that he’s listening to us and that even though we might be unworthy of his attention, that he is most gracious and all merciful and will grant us what we pray for – especially if we pray for others. Of course, I also believe that prayer alone will not suffice – that if we can do something to make our prayers come true, we should do it – that God helps those who help themselves.

To me faith and hope are twin sisters and mankind needs both to get through life. I often remember the story about Pandora’s box and how after she opened the box and let all the evil loose on the world, she closed the box quickly and heard a little voice saying "let me out, let me out". She asked "Who are you?" and the voice replied "I am hope. You’ve let sickness, aging, death, plague, poverty and so many other evils loose in the world and I am the only thing that can let mankind get through it all. So let me out!" Pandora opened the box once more and let hope go free and so there was hope in the world, even through the greatest suffering, we have hope. To have faith in the face of adversity – faith in God and know that things will be OK as long as you live a good life – and to have hope for a better day is probably the main reason that I get through life day to day. Faith and hope – hope and faith …
Just an addendum posted later :p I started out wanting to basically write about the fact that faith and hope are two things intrinsic to the human condition – whether it be faith in God or faith in yourself or faith in something and we *do* always hope, whether we acknowledge it or not. But I got sidetracked talking about how *I* look at things and so it became another one of my personal meanders. Sorry about that :p

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Posted by Fahim at 5:02 am  |  1 Comment

December 10, 2002

Not much in the way of coding again – Jen was interested in finding a pink Trillian Pro skin and there didn’t seem to be any good ones around. So I told her that the easiest thing would be to take the graphics for the default blue Whistler skin and change their color to pink :p Seemed like a good idea at the time but once she’d done it we discovered that while the skin did look good, it didn’t change all the UI elements to pink – there were still annoyingly blue bits around. So I decided to take a look at the skin and see what I could come up with. Now I’d done some messing around with the original Trillian skins and so delved into the XML files to see what I could do with the skin but what not many people seem to mention is that Trillian Pro does not use the XML file format – at least, I don’t think so. It seems to have all the skin settings in one INI file! It took me about half a day to figure this one out and once I did actually find where the settings were it was a much easier task to do the basic changes necessary to get a pink skin 🙂

Jen was pretty happy with the pink skin at this point but I wasn’t :p I wanted an all pink skin since the original Whistler skin was actually a combination of blue, the normal windows/buttons grey and white for the background of certain elements – but I wanted an all pink skin with different shades of pink. Yeah, I am a sucker of punishment. So I went about delving more into the skin structure and the graphics. I managed to get the other UI elements like the statusbar and the toolbar pinkified but then discovered that all icons still had a grey background. So I opened up the bitmaps containing the icons to discover that that was because they had a grey background in the bitmap! So I changed the background color for all the icons too. I finally have a respectable, all pink, dancing, prancing, eye catching pink Trillian skin … but there are a few anomalies – mostly because I suck at changing colors and being consistent :p Ah well, I guess I’ll get those sooner or later too …

Posted by Fahim at 5:01 am  |  1 Comment

December 9, 2002

Not much at all in the way of updates, coding etc. I’m afraid 🙁 I almost feel guilty about not doing much these days but there are periods when either personal life takes a hand in things or I just don’t feel the urge to work on something – this seems to be a combination of both those things and I hope that everybody who relies on me for the next version of an app or the completion of an existing app forgives me for my tardiness. Hopefully, I’ll get things sorted out and get back on track soon and we can all go back to enjoying the shiny software :p (OK that was to be a Kiki reference but then again you might not read Sluggy Freelance :p)

I have finally updated the list of sites using Blog (I had two lists as long as my arm to be included in there from about a month back) but it is possible that some of the sites I added are either no longer in operation or have shifted to some other software from Blog :p I also need to go through the list of sites and weed out the ones that are no longer there or no longer use Blog – ah, to have a dial-up connection which does not charge you by the minute or to have broadband at home! Oh well, no use thinking of what cannot be now, is there? I will eventually get around to cleaning up the list of sites using Blog but at least for the moment, it does include all the sites that *I* know of. If your site is not there (and you do have a Powered by Blog link on your blog) – do let me know and I will add it to the list.

Duane pointed out that some of the styles on the forum do not have the RookSoft logo – that is true. Only two of the styles contain the RookSoft logo and the others have their own individual logos. I need to sit down and change those and add some mods which would make life easier for everybody. Of course the problem with adding mods is that they have to be done individually for each style and some of the mods are customized for the default style and then you have to sit down and figure out how to change it to suit the style that you are applying it to. So it’s a lot of fun and a lot of time consuming work. Ah well, that too will get done eventually. In the meantime, I am (finally) considering paying for my own hosting solution due to the fact that it will allows me to have everything in one location without needing to bother anybody or to abuse their kindness. Of course, since I’ll have to do all the payments online, I’ll need to get myself a credit card and this will of course mean a delay of about a month while I get all that done :p But the good thing about having my own hosting solution would be that I can install myPHPChat and we can finally have that chat forum that people have been asking for and who knows, maybe we can even build a community around the whole RookSoft thing :p

Posted by Fahim at 5:11 am  |  No Comments

December 7, 2002

Meeting of minds and clashing of souls

Yes, I know it’s been a while since I’ve updated this page but my only excuse is that I’ve been fairly busy with so many other things – but that really is no excuse since this is supposed to be a reflection of my thoughts and I shouldn’t put my thoughts on hold <g> Anyway, I’ve been busy and then I was in Kurunegala and now I am finally back. Even though it’s a Saturday, I went to work since dial-up costs are prohibitive here (you have to pay for even local calls) and Net access is cheap at work since it’s free and I was missing Jen since I’d been at home for the last couple of days with very brief forays online to talk to her. So I rushed to work so that I could talk to Jen and catch up on all that had been happening in her life.

While I was talking to her however, I heard some great news from another friend of mine. Since it is something personal about somebody else, I will not go into details here but suffice it to say that I have been vouchsafed the power of prayer once again 🙂 I have always known that God is listening if you pray to him but sometimes it is nevertheless surprising when you receive a response so quickly – does that mean you have no faith or just that you don’t expect God to respond quickly? I don’t know … But I just know that God is listening.

Jen and I talked through the day while I worked on a variety of things – including installing SP1 on my notebook machine which I took to work with me. How well do we know anybody around us? Sometimes we think we know everything about somebody and then a casual remark opens up a whole new area of their lives that we never knew about and we find ourselves pleasantly surprised (or shocked/horrified etc. but this particular instance was a pleasant surprise – nothing negative at all :p) to find that there is a meeting of minds between yourself and the other person on a subject that you thought they wouldn’t be interested in at all. I treasure such moments of discovery about any of my friends. Maybe it’s because it’s just another cementing of the bond between them and me or maybe because it reaffirms that I am not alone in this world in the way I think or look at things – then again, it might simply be because I’ve found something else to talk about with them. Whatever the case maybe, I do cherish such moments and now that I look back at this entry, I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this :p

Yes, I didn’t update in the morning :p We left Kurunegala in the wee hours of the morning to come back to Colombo and I went straight to work as soon as I got to Colombo. But that is another story and probably something that I would better leave for my entry on Solipsistic Meanderings (how’s that for a plug? :p) and instead talk about what I did yesterday in the way of coding – or at least site updates. Since I have not updated the individual application pages in ages, I decided to spend yesterday doing just that and even create a few new pages for apps that I’d released a while back but had not bothered to create application pages for.

Since I use DreamWeaver, I thought it would be a good idea to use a template for all the application pages since that would allow me to change the look of all the pages in one go without affecting the content. Of course, I had figured on this without taking my basic knowledge of DreamWeaver, bad documentation, being on dial-up and a few other factors into consideration :p I realized that when I used a template, that I couldn’t have a title of my choice for the page. I thought it would be as simple as changing the page properties after the page was created but it turned out to be not so simple. So I referred to the DreamWeaver help and while it had a lot of stuff on what to do in similar situations – it just didn’t have anything to do for this particular situation. Or it might just be that I wasn’t looking in the correct place due to preconceived notions as to what had to be done. Either way, several hours later and half the day wasted, I still hadn’t found a solution :p So I finally did what I should have done in the first place but was reluctant to do because I was on dial-up, I went online and searched for a solution.

I found a solution almost immediately (I think the second search result on Google if I recall correctly) and was finally able to change page titles. So then I set to work and either modified the existing pages for certain apps or created brand new pages for apps that did not have a page at all. The afternoon passed in creating screenshots, thumbnails and writing up descriptions of applications. I finally had a full list of applications except for Snipper – I actually created the app page for Snipper but couldn’t get any screenshots since I couldn’t compile it to run it :p I had left out one vital source file and so had to wait till I had access to that file before I could do anything. Oh well, at least I had everything else done and I uploaded it all today when I got to work. So enjoy all the brand new application pages on the sidebar :p

Posted by Fahim at 5:59 pm  |  No Comments

December 6, 2002

Yesterday I wasn’t at work since my parents decided to go to the house in Kurunegala since today is going to be the Ramadan festival and they didnt’ want to leave early at dawn today – there just was too much to do. Since I don’t much like traveling by bus (and the buses are going to be jam-packed with long queues since everybody would be going home for the festival), I went with them (plus they sorta asked me to do so :p) I had brought my computer and my source code for a few of my apps with me because I knew I was going to be bored silly and missing Jen to boot.

I started on the Nailer source hoping to fix a couple of minor bugs that Duane had mentioned – one was that the local copy path *had to* have a trailing backslash or the files went to the wrong location and the other was that the wizard acted up sometimes on the second run and the Next and Previous buttons weren’t enabled properly. He had also mentioned that clicking on the Add dialog did not bring up the file selection dialog even under NT4 and not just Win9x. So I wanted to fix these things but I ran into a few problems as soon as I started on the source. I had worked on Nailer till then on my work machine and it turns out that I didn’t have some of the components that I used there, on my home machine. The most important was a folder browser dialog which had been supplied as part of some component set or other. Since I didn’t have that component set on my home machine, I wrote a routine to call the Windows API SHBrowseForFolder call. This is what I should have done in the first place since this would have been less resource intensive than using a component (at least I think so) but I’d been too lazy at the time :p

I then turned my attention to the truant file selection dialog. I could have added a simple file open dialog and solved the problem but I wanted a real picture open dialog which allows you to preview the images before you select them. The solution? I wrote my own custom picture open dialog derived from the file open dialog. This took almost the whole day since I ran into some problems with the image management library that I use but I finally had it working the way I wanted. Implementing the other two fixes for the bugs that Duane mentioned were pretty trivial indeed by comparison :p Of course, it’ll take till tomorrow for this build of Nailer to be actually uploaded since I am on dial-up here in Kurunegala and can only connect at 16.8 – ugh 🙁 So give me till I can get back to Colombo and the new build will be up!

Posted by Fahim at 6:25 am  |  No Comments

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