March 31, 2003

Somebody recently said that one of the foretold signs of the approach of the end of the world is that time seems to go by faster and faster – a day seems like a few hours, a week seems like a day and so on. If you take my case, then the end of the world must be right on top of us since that’s how things seem to be with me right at this moment. I find myself running hither and thither, always with things to do and when they are done, there’s more stuff to be done. It never seems as if I had any free time but if I look at it carefully, I discover that most of my time was spent doing stuff that would be considered leisure :p So where did the rest of the time go?

Be that as may be, I did manage to get the desktop working and it all seems to be running along smoothly – touch wood :-) The whole problem disk thing turned out to be a saga in it’s own right. I ran SpinRite on it but I’d forgotten (or had not known in the old days when everything was DOS based) that SpinRite actually went by file system information and not by raw disk access – at least, that seemed to be the case since it wouldn’t detect any of my hard drives which all had NTFS partitions. Fortunately, a guy at work had given me a Seagate utilities diskette since the failing drive was a Seagate and I next decided to use that diskette. Guess what? That diskette had problems and my machine wouldn’t boot up from it :p So, I used SpinRite on that diskette to get around the bad sectors and try to recover the data. It recovered enough but still wouldn’t boot up from it.

So I needed to create another boot disk and I found that I needed a Win9x machine and both my machines now ran Windows XP :p Fortunately, my brother’s notebook was there and that had Win95 on it and so I was able to create the boot disk but the OS took up too much space on the Win95 version of the boot disk and I couldn’t put all the Seagate utilities on it :-( So I had to do a selective copy and finally got the Seagate utilities to run after some mucking about and after all that trouble, they confirmed that the drive was damaged enough to be sent back to the manufacturer for replacement. Of course, this is Sri Lanka and you can’t do any such thing here :p

So I dumped that drive and put in another 4GB drive I had handy. So I’m running on a 5GB and a 4GB drive at the moment and have less space in total than the damaged 17GB drive but at least, I’m able to work with the machine without it locking up and so far have managed to fill the 4GB drive almost completely by installing just two games – “WarCraft III” and “Never Winter Nights” :p Incidentally, somebody asked me why I didn’t go with an ATI card (which is fairly cheap) rather than get a nVidia card. I can give two answers – the short one is as Confucius says, “good things no cheap, cheap things no good” :p But the longer answer is that this machine will be used a bit for gaming and I haven’t had too much success with ATI cards for gaming. My notebook uses an ATI based card and I can’t see in-game maps in “Dungeon Siege” at all and I’m told that this is a known issue. And that’s just the latest in a series of other game related problems with ATI cards. The only problems I’ve had with nVidia cards as far as games went is that I always had to have the latest drivers to make it work – that’s all … at least so far :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:25 am  |  No Comments

March 28, 2003

My new desktop, which had been working day before yesterday night when I went to bed, wouldn’t work yesterday morning :-( It would try to boot up but would get stuck after a bit. I tried in Safe mode and it would get as far as loading the AGP drivers and then get stuck. This made me think that this was a problem with the video card and so I got a GeForce 2 MX 400 card later on during the day since I could get one for pretty cheap. I also looked into brackets for the hard disk while I was at it and it turned out that they were pretty steep – Rs. 400 over here … not so much when you convert though since it only comes to like $4 :p – and so I bought one set instead of the three I’d originally planned on.

I had to wait till I got home in the evening to try out my new purchases though. When I got home, I opened up the machine once more, switched video cards, put the hard disk that I’d had hanging by a couple of screws on the bracket and then tried things out. The machine started to boot up, the hard disk gave out a couple of ominous clicks but it never completed booting :p It now looked as if that the problem had all along been the hard disk, which incidentally had travelled by mail to get here from Sri Lanka and so I’m not sure how much it got thrown around <g>, and having it hanging lopsidedly by a couple of screws had probably not helped matters either :p So I added another hard disk to the mix (again securing it by only a screw since I didn’t have any more brackets but this at least rested better on the lower part of the hard disk rack thingy since it was a thicker drive :p) and booted up again. It booted up this time but got stuck at the LILO prompt since I’d obviously had Linux dual booting or something on that drive originally :p

So I went back to installing Windows XP on the new drive (the older drive incidentally wasn’t even recognized as having a valid partition by the XP installer) and I was again impressed at the speed at which the installation went on the machine. It takes about two hours on my Pentium III 1GHz notebook but on this machine it took less than 40 minutes!! Once XP was installed, I could actually see the older drive and access most bits of it and things actually seemed to work fine again :-) So I decided to push things a bit and see how much punishment the machine could take <vbg> I installed WarCraft III and pushed the resolution up to 1024×768 at 32 bit colour and it seemed to work just fine. When I set the resolution higher than that though, it seemed to be slightly sluggish but I’m not so sure now if that was the machine or just the optical mouse acting up and so will have to try that again later since I didn’t try playing a game at that resolution. Anyway, I did play WarCraft III for a bit at 1024x768x32 and the response was very good indeed.

Then I installed Norton Anti-Virus 2003 and set up a full system scan and the system suddenly rebooted in the middle of the scan :p I think it might have been trying to access a portion of the other drive when this happened and so will have to look into what I can do about that particular drive. Maybe I should just boot up in DOS and run SpinRite on it … Hmm .. that’s a thought actually since I used to love SpinRite but haven’t had an occasion to use it in ages …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:36 am  |  1 Comment

March 27, 2003

It was a pretty busy day yesterday and no sign of it letting up even today :p I finally decided to go ahead and set up that desktop machine I’ve been talking about and put in an order for all the components I needed – Pentium IV 2.4 GHz processor, 512 MB DDR RAM, Intel D845PESV motherboard, floppy drive, keyboard, 17″ Viewsonic flat monitor, speakers and 400W case. I didn’t expect to get the stuff immediately since usually you run into delays when the stuff is to be delivered to you (normal Sri Lankan problem <g>) but this time, I got the stuff within a couple of hours!

I called my Mom to come with the van we use since I go to work by motorbike and couldn’t possibly take all the stuff home with me – oh yeah, they delivered to my workplace since this was a place from where we normally get all our computer stuff – translation: a better deal :p I left work a bit early and got home and then had to go out and buy a stabilizer since we have regular power fluctuations where we live and I didn’t want to risk any damage to the system once I put together. Once I got back, I set out to put everything together.

I already had several hard disks, a PCI ATI Radeon video card, LAN card and Modem at home and the motherboard had sound built-in. So I had everything needed to put together a system – all that needed was the actual work :p I spent most of the evening in assembling the system and while I left a few bits undone – such as the USB connection to the front panel since I wasn’t sure how the connectors plugged in and the documentation wasn’t very clear – I finally got the system running. Oh yeah, did I mention that this particular motherboard is one of the only ones that they have in Sri Lanka which supports USB 2.0? That’s why I got it but I currently don’t have any USB 2.0 devices :p

I discovered that I couldn’t put in all the hard disks since I didn’t have any brackets to put them into 5.25″ drive bays but it wouldn’t have mattered even if I did have the brackets since I ran out of power connectors – the case had three fans on it and only one would plug in to the motherboard even though the motherboard had provision for all three fans :p I also discovered that my ATI Radeon card wasn’t playing well with Windows XP and so I am kind of considering buying an nVidia TNT2 AGP card with 64MB RAM for the system. Not sure if I really want to go for the extra expense but it might be worth it in the end since the machine seems to be extremely fast other than for the graphical glitches …. touch wood :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:20 am  |  1 Comment

March 26, 2003

My “secret” project is ready to be unveiled :p Some of the pages aren’t complete yet but the basic stuff is in place and I’ll probably continue to work on the pages for the next few days (or at least today …) and since I don’t have anything further to write about, I thought I might as well reveal what the project was all about <g> If you are the impatient type, just go here and find out all about it but if not, let me tell you what it’s about right here :p

Basically, I’ve been thinking of starting a consultancy firm for a while – not a consultancy firm for the big corporations which can pay you big bucks but a consultancy firm for the man-on-the-streets, the average joe :-) I’ve had several friends who’ve wanted a small job done and have turned to me to code it for them and I’m sure that there are many more people like that out there, people who don’t want to go to a person to get the coding done because they think it’ll be too pricey. Well, it’ll still be too expensive for most people to get a coding job done from me since it’ll cost at least a couple of hundred bucks unless it’s something I can finish in a couple of hours but I’m hoping that I can show them how to do what they want to do using existing software – because that’s something else that I’m good at … finding solutions because I know a lot more about what’s out there than most people – at least, I think I do :p

So, this is supposed to be a sort of an all-purpose consultancy firm which will not only do custom coding jobs but will also provide information on how to get something done using what’s already there, or will tell you how to troubleshoot your hardware or help you with an existing coding job you are stuck with or … well, you get the picture :-) I originally wanted to call it rent-a-geek but the domain name was already taken and so were a few other alternatives I looked at and so, I decided to go with a sub-domain on farook.org itself for the moment and see if anybody is actually interested in this kind of service. If they are, then I might eventually move it out to its own domain I guess. We’ll see …

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Posted by Fahim at 5:55 am  |  4 Comments

March 25, 2003

Nothing much happening with the Blog recoding and restructuring because I’m caught up in the middle of another project :p It’s not a coding project this time though – however, it’s a sort of commercial one. Or rather, it’s the idea for a commercial venture that I want to put into action and see how it goes. Yes, I know I’m being mysterious :p But I had this idea on Sunday for which I wanted to get a new top-level domain but all the names I wanted were taken. So I decided yesterday that I’d go with a sub-domain on farook.org at least for the moment and so began working on a new site design. The actual design is more or less complete but now I have to do all the content which is like a page of write-ups, a page of existing information which has to be rearranged and a page with a form which still has to be coded since it’ll probably involve some PHP.

I’ve done the write-up page but it’ll probably need some revising and the information page is the one which has been taking so much time since there is a lot of information that needs to be rearranged in a better format. Once I get the page with the form (which I probably should start working on today and leave the information page till later), I’ll probably make the announcement as to the URL and what I’m actually hoping to do. Till then I’ll simply be mysterious and keep everybody guessing :p Oh yes, Blog 8.0 work will begin again as soon as I get done with putting this sub-domain up …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:32 am  |  3 Comments

March 24, 2003

Of edits, creativity and bosses …

Things were extremely hectic last week and while I thought of writing something here several times, I just didn’t seem to find the time to do so. So what was I so busy with? It was the edit for the shoot that I’d gone on the week before – the one about the Sinhalese family living in a Muslim village. Though I’d planned to do the story in a particular way – by exposing the inconsistencies in the stories of both sides and showing (or at least trying to …) that in a conflict like this, people lose their perspectives – the actualities of editing and time constraints forced me to do it as a straight story. Basically, the story that we’re supposed to broadcast is only five minutes long and I just couldn’t fit all that into five minutes and had to be content with just a retelling of the incidents that led up to the problem.

Even with all of that, I was happy with the final result but then my bosses decided to come in and rape it in their infinite wisdom :p One of my bosses is the managing director and the other is the editor-in-chief. Now the editor-in-chief (EC) has many years of experience and I can’t claim to be anywhere close to her as far as being a television producer/director goes but I do believe that each person has their own vision for a story and that you should be wise enough to let things be unless there is something so dramatically wrong that it cannot be broadcast at all. But not so with my boss the EC – she believes that all the shots should be the way that *she* thinks they should be and so she sits down after I’d done the edit and changed all the shots. Now I’d heard complaints from other people along this line saying that there was no need for creativity (and no room for it either) since the EC always changes your shots but this was the first time it happened to me.

Then the managing director (MD) comes in and he wants to change the wording of the narration since he thinks that Muslims are being portrayed badly. I had a big argument about what he wanted to do since he basically wanted to point fingers and say specific things about the Sinhalese and the Muslims in this incident. I didn’t think that was right, the incident was over and I didn’t want to stir up more trouble … plus, I was sure that the MD was being influenced by the fact that he himself is a Muslim – which is something a lot of Muslim’s in Sri Lanka (or for that matter anywhere else in the world …) can’t seem to get away from. They can’t seem to realize that first and foremost thing to being a Muslim is to realize that you are part of the human race – instead, they cling to this false identity of being a part of a subset of the race called "the Muslims" and seem to think that others don’t matter as much. To me, this automatically makes all these people non-Muslims.

Be that as may be, we argued back and forth and I finally agreed to change the narration slightly but still without going into specifics. I later understood what set the MD off but I still think that he really is not looking at this correctly. In my closing narration, I said something along the lines of "this kind of situation is going to continue to happen when a majority and a minority are involved. It can only be resolved when the majority realizes that they have certain responsibilities and the minority realizes that they have to make certain compromises in order to live in harmony". Now I was simply thinking in terms of majorities and minorities and in this specific case, the majority were actually the Muslims but my boss kept on saying that I was saying that the Muslims have to compromise and I kept on arguing that wasn’t what I said. I later realized that to him, the Muslims would always be the minority because he thinks in such terms, so to him what I said simply meant that the Muslims must compromise irrespective of the situation :p Ah well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to change his opinion but I told him that I’d put in some wording to show that what I said applied in general rather than specifically and he seemed to be mollified but I don’t think he’d still be happy if he saw how I changed the narration :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:15 am  |  2 Comments

March 21, 2003

I’ve been considering how best to re-implement the database structures so as to facilitate the new features I’m thinking of for Blog 8.0. I have decided that I definitely want to merge BlogMan and Blog since I want Blog to be a universal blogging tool instead of a one-trick pony :p In order to achieve this, I think I need to separate the actual entries from where they are published to so that I can switch journals from one publishing method, for instance built-in Blog publishing, to another – say, Movable Type – without too many hassles. The way I’ve currently envisioned things, the data will be stored as Journals, Servers, Blogs and Blog Info.

Here, Journals is the collection of actual entries compartmentalized into different … umm .. journals so that you can have a personal journal and say … a photo journal. The Journals are simply entries and things related to entries like categorizations and comments. They contain no publishing/formatting information or data about the eventual locations where the entries will be published.

Servers are all the possible types of locations where the blogs would be published such as local hard disk, FTP or even a third-party blogging server like Blogger, MT, B2 etc. The Servers set simply contains information about the actual server such as how to access it but there will be no publishing information at this level.

Blogs is the table/collection which contains the actual publishing information for each destination blog on each server. I know that the terminology gets a bit confusing what with journal and blog both being used to describe two different things but since I can’t think of a better term, I guess I’ll have to stick with what I’ve come up with so far :p I guess the difference here (for my purposes <g>) is that a journal is simply a collection of entries on your hard disk whereas a blog is actually the published version of that journal on a web site … Hope that doesn’t create any confusion since that’ll be the terminology I’ll be using from Blog 8.0 onwards :-) The Blogs collection holds information such as where on a particular server a given journal is to be published as well as default formatting information (such as date formats) for each blog. While it might seem as if that the Blogs collection links a server to a journal, this is not the case. A Blogs collection entry simply specifies an instance of a web log published to a particular server. However, you can for instance, publish your personal journal to a particular location on your server one day and later, publish your photo journal to the same location – not that I see why you’d want to do that but it’s possible to do that with the system I’ve got in mind … though I’m not sure if that’s how it will turn out practically :p

The Blog Info table simply holds publication information for each blog such as links to entry ID’s in a journal and the entry ID on the remote server (for implementations using a blogging server) or the last date of publication to handle archival tasks. Again this is just stuff off the top of my head and all I’m doing is thinking aloud and some of these things will probably change at the implementation stage. Plus, there are other entities that I’ve not mentioned – such as a templates collection which will contain system-wide templates even though some of the implementations (such as those using remote servers) will not actually make use of templates.

As things stand now, this looks to be a fairly ambitious project and one which will basically mean a complete overhaul of Blog code and possibly a lot of rewriting. I want to do this though since it is going to make certain tasks (such as switching from stand-alone Blog to remote server) so much easier and will also provide the ability to plug-in any future methods of publication that might come up with comparative ease …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:06 pm  |  4 Comments

March 20, 2003

I’ve always been partial to notebooks as my main machine – probably because I love the portability. So, I’ve been slobbering over the Fujitsu Celsius Mobile H workstation (sorry, no link since I’m at home and offline) as the next notebook I’d like to buy. I’ve even looked for a dealer in Sri Lanka who might be able to get the machine for me but it looks as if this particular model is available only in the US :-( Since, I can’t afford a trip to the US right now to buy the notebook, and since I do need to upgrade to a heftier machine if I really want to enjoy most of the games I’ve got and most of the newer games coming out, I’ve decided to go for a desktop for the moment.

Now I’ve got quite a bit of the parts from my old desktop from the days when I was in the US but just haven’t bothered to assemble a desktop till now since I really prefer working on a notebook. But it’ll all come in handy when I try to put together a new machine. All I really need is the case, motherboard, processor, RAM (since I’ve got SDR and the newer motherboards take DDR), monitor and keyboard. I’ve got the rest of the stuff right here. I’m currently looking at a Pentium IV 2.4GHz processor and an Intel motherboard (since that seems to be the only one which has USB 2.0 at the moment) and want to finally go up to a 17″ monitor as well :p I’m told that most motherboards these days have sound built-in (I haven’t checked the specs on the motherboard – was too busy yesterday and so was going based on what I was told by the company’s resident hardware guy <g>) and so probably am not going to go for a sound card but might decide to change my mind later on. It’s already adding up to a fairly hefty total (at least here in Sri Lanka :p) though it will only come to like $500 over in the US – or maybe even less since I’ll be able to find some of these components probably for much cheaper than what I’m getting here … or maybe not, I should check on that today if I have the time …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:07 am  |  No Comments

March 19, 2003

Well, I am almost up-to-speed on my home machine again after reinstalling Microsoft Office and Money, reinstalling all the Delphi components I use (twice, since I messed something up the first time and had to reinstall Delphi 7.0) and changing all the settings to the way I like them :-) I even made a few changes in the way I store certain things so as to make disaster recovery a bit easier – such as moving the custom components that I’ve coded from my applications drive (where Delphi is) to my data drive (where all my apps are) so that I don’t accidentally delete the latest source for any of those components when I next do a format of my application drive :p I’ve also installed Windows XP SP1, updated Norton Anti-virus and Norton Utilities and patched Delphi 7.0 as well. If I’ve forgotten anything else, I guess I’ll find out when I run right into it :p

It’s time to get back into coding now but it looks as if I won’t have the time to do so for a few days :-( They want me to finish an urgent edit at work this week and I worked on setting up the edit when I went in to work yesterday. I’ve completed the script and have selected the shots and sequences that I want to use but I’ll probably need to revise the script and so on today. I think I’m supposed to edit tomorrow and if so, then it’s going to be a hectic few days till that is done. Once that is over, I think I should have time to get back to working on the Blog changes – if we aren’t in the throes of war by then that is …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:51 am  |  No Comments

March 18, 2003

Since I am still in the process of installing software on my home machine, no coding at home I’m afraid and since things have been extremely busy at work, no coding there either :-( I spent a couple of hours yesterday after I got back from work in installing Visual Studio .NET and Delphi 7.0. Now all I need to install are all the components that I use for my usual projects and I should be back in action with Delphi. That probably would have been taken care of today since today is a holiday … if I didn’t have to go into work. So I’ll still try to get everything set up later on in the afternoon if I get away from work early but if not, I guess it’ll have to wait a few more days till I am finally able to get back into work completely …

In the meantime, does anybody remember “Master of Orion”, the game? It used to be one of the best strategy games out there in the old DOS days. It was a bit similar to SimCity in that it was all about resource management but this was on a galactic scale instead of on the city level since you had to advance your own race to dominance in the galaxy (or maybe it was the universe). I used to love that game but never did get to play “Master of Orion 2” when it came out. Now, seven years later, they’ve released “Master of Orion 3” and from all accounts, it’s supposed to be even better than the previous two games. And the best thing of all, unlike most of the new games which come out these days, it doesn’t seem to require a fairly hefty machine to run :p Of course, it’s again two whole CD’s full of gaming and so I’m not sure that I really want to try out another game and add to my growing CD collection which is going to be fairly unwieldy, but I guess I’ll just have to give the game a try for old times sakes :p Speaking of sequels, did you know that Lionhead Studios is now working on a sequel to “Black & White”?

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Posted by Fahim at 7:05 am  |  No Comments

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