March 16, 2003

Emigrations part deux

Sometimes I think that there really must be somebody who’s monitoring my life and pulling the strings :p No sooner had I posted my entry yesterday about my thoughts of emigrating to Canada (incidentally, a great big thank you to all my Canadian friends who warmly welcomed even the idea of me coming over :p) than I received an e-mail from the consultancy firm which had originally got me started thinking about the whole Canadian thing … and they said that I wasn’t eligible to apply for permanent residency and that I could try for entry on a student visa if I wanted to. Bummer!

However, Kim was kind enough to point me in the direction of the Canadian immigration web site and I realized that the consultancy firm had simply taken my information to do the self-assessment test that the Canadian immigration site had to see if you qualified to enter the country under the skilled worker category. So, I did the test myself and found that I … failed :p I got 67 whereas you needed 75 to pass. I found out that my score would go up to 72 if I had family in Canada – I actually do in that there are some people related to my mother who are there but I’ve never even met them … The point at which I really failed was the employment part since if I had an offer of employment from a Canadian firm, I would have hit the 75 marks necessary to pass. Of course, this was just an online test and passing it would not guarantee that I’d really be allowed to enter Canada and I guess the converse is true too though I have a feeling that would be more unlikely :p

However, all of this has set me thinking and I am indeed considering Canada and thinking of looking at employment opportunities there too in the hope that I will actually find some employer who is willing to give me a chance if I am able to get to Canada. I’ve also decided to look at the immigration web sites for a few other countries that I’m interested in and see if they too have such self-assessment tests and stuff so that I can see if there is some other country which might be more amenable towards me being a permanent resident there. Guess it all helps to pass the time if nothing else :p

Tags: ,
Posted by Fahim at 5:35 pm  |  1 Comment

I got my hands on a beta build of LongHorn (the next desktop release of Windows – the one after XP, slated for a 2005/6 release) and as is usual for me, I was too impatient to wait till I had a test machine and went ahead and installed it on my production machine :p So guess what happens? I end up with this beta build of Windows that I didn’t like, was too slow and with no way to get back to my original Windows installation since the installation of LongHorn simply renamed the Windows directory for the original installation and put it aside – talk about stupid (I mean on my part … can’t blame MS on this one) <vbg> I spent most of yesterday trying different approaches with the system recovery console in Windows XP and trying to rename the existing LongHorn installation directory to something else and then rename my original Windows installation folder to what it used to be but I never got it working right.

I finally gave up today and reinstalled Windows XP as an upgrade installation into the backup location that the LongHorn installation created so that I wouldn’t have to reinstall my software. That worked as far as being able to get back into Windows XP was concerned but I had no dial-up connection now and no way to set up a new dial-up account since that was totally disabled :p So I decided to take this chance to do a fresh install of XP and wiped my C: drive, reinstalled XP and have just a little while got back to the stage where my computer is once again useable :p I will have to go through the whole installation cycle again to get all of my software in – not to mention all the online update stuff that I have to do to get all my software up-to-date but I’m just happy to be back in business for the moment.

So what are my impressions of LongHorn? I hate it at the moment – and not just because of all the hassles I had :p In fact, I would have kept it as my OS if I’d liked it in the first place and would not have needed to get back to XP. But I hated the UI enhancements, found it to be extremely slow and sluggish on my Pentium III 1GHz machine with 256MB of RAM and generally was very unsatisfied with it. Microsoft seems to be taking a leaf out of the IRIX UI manual for this particular release in that they have two features from IRIX that I’ve always liked but the way they’ve implemented it for LongHorn is atrocious. OK, the first one’s not atrocious – that’s being able to resize thumbnail views on the fly … In IRIX you can resize your desktop icons to suit your needs instead of thumbnails (a much more useful feature actually) and I would have liked the same in LongHorn but what you get instead is the dynamic resizing of thumbnails. The second feature from IRIX is the ability to navigate to any folder level from the current folder to the root in Explorer. In IRIX this is done via a simple and elegant set of buttons which closely mirror the folder levels on the IRIX equivalent of the address bar. In LongHorn, this is implemented via a series of dropdowns on a toolbar below the address bar but I just hated how it looked.

The same is true of the new filtering feature which allows you to filter a list of files in Explorer by simply typing in part of the file name or any other criteria that is displayed. Each attribute column also has a filter column but again I just hated the UI – it looks so clumsy. I guess all this filtering is made possible by the new SQL Server based filing system. I saw the SQL database which probably held the file system information but didn’t get a chance to delve into it due to all the other problems I had with just getting access to the system. I guess as usual MS is simply going to up the hardware requirements for the next release so that you have to have even more memory and a more powerful machine if you want to use it. As far as I’m concerned however, unless a lot of major changes are made and the UI is made a lot more attractive, I’ll stick with XP for the moment, thank you 🙂

Posted by Fahim at 5:10 pm  |  No Comments

March 15, 2003

Of emigrations and migrations …

I’ve been considering emigrating to Canada recently 🙂 Like all things that I do, it was based on a sudden impulse – I saw this advertisement in a Sunday paper by an organization in Canada which was supposed to assist you to emigrate to Canada and would even do a free assessment to see if you qualify for emigration. They had a Sri Lankan address as well but since I am not too happy with people helping you to emigrate in Sri Lanka (there are way too many scam artists here), I decided to try their web site and fill in their emigration assessment form.

I filled in the form and a few hours later received an automated response which was (surprise, surprise) from a Sri Lankan who seemed to be the president of this particularly consultancy service. I was told that I would hear from them in a couple of days but that was it – I’ve heard nothing since then but my interest in Canada as a possible destination for me to go to has been aroused. I’ve simply been toying with the idea till now but the resolve is beginning to solidify due to certain other incidents which have taken place around the same time. I guess I should really do some research on my own and see what is involved in emigrating to Canada, what needs to be done, what’s the process etc. and I eventually will do that since I’ve started thinking about it but for that I need to be online and I’m not online now. So I guess I’ll put it off till later and see how it goes.

I really am not sure what I’m going to do at the moment – I feel aimless. I don’t think I want to be in Sri Lanka since there just is too much social pressure here to conform. While I don’t particularly care about the social pressures (I’ve always lived by my own rules), the fact that I am a non-conformist seems to affect my parents since at least some seem to feel that my parents are responsible for me being who I am and so my parents start feeling guilty and then trying to change me. I hate all of that. I just like to live in peace and attend to my own stuff. Since I had a life where I was perfectly content in the US, I’ve been thinking about returning there but then again, there are several problems with that at the moment – the looming war (and the eventual conditions in the US if a war comes to pass) being one of them. Canada (and Canadians) seem to be much more reasonable in certain respects than Americans and so the idea has slowly been germinating in my mind that that is where I should go 🙂 Yes, there are downsides to Canada too – the cold for one (yes, I know there are areas which are extremely pleasant but where I want to be or have to be will be cold <g>) and the higher taxes but I guess there are disadvantages to living almost anywhere :p So we’ll see …

Tags: ,
Posted by Fahim at 7:56 am  |  2 Comments

March 14, 2003

I didn’t get home till late in the evening yesterday since I was out on a shoot most of the day. Still, I found some time to work on bits of the Blog code – I couldn’t get the Addict spell checking and thesaurus working with the WPTools component the day before but I fixed that problem yesterday – it was fairly simple actually and that’s why I got it fixed so quickly :p I also took a look at the internal format that WPTools was using to store the new entries (or changes to existing entries) into the database and found out that the entries were being saved as richtext. Now this wasn’t something I wanted since I normally store Blog entries as plain-text interspersed with HTML tags to implement the formatting, image embedding etc. So I took a further look at the WPTools options and discovered that I can specify the format that I wanted the entries to be saved in. I specified HTML and then found out that this saved the entry as a complete stand-alone web page replete with header and body sections. So I’ll have to go back and see what other formats exist and whether any of them can be used for Blog or if I have to be satisfied with the HTML format and then strip out the extra sections at the time of publishing.

Posted by Fahim at 6:55 am  |  1 Comment

March 13, 2003

Server trouble and other miscellanea

I’ve been unable to publish the entry I made on Monday for the last few days because my host has been in the process of upgrading their server. At first, it was CGI trouble in that I could not execute any CGI at all and then it was the inability to access mySQL from Perl. I did some investigating yesterday and discovered that they didn’t have the DBD::mysql module (which allows you to connect to mySQL databases via a Perl script) was not installed. So I let the people at the hosting company know and it turns out that they’d overlooked this particular module – so I guess it was a good thing that I mentioned it to them instead of waiting patiently for a few more days for the problem to go away by itself :p Anyway, it all got sorted out and I was able to finally publish my entry from Monday, yesterday.

However, since a few days ago, my e-mail volume has suddenly and strangely dropped. Granted, most of the e-mails I’d receive in the morning when I checked e-mail for the first time was spam, I still think that I’m suddenly receiving less e-mail. Maybe they set up a spam filter while they were at it – I hope not since I hate spam filters because they don’t let me decide what is spam and what is not and stops everything before it even gets to me. I guess I’ll need to look into that some time soon but not today since I’m going to be particularly busy (and out of office) today.

So where am I going? I’m going to do a story about what we in Sri Lanka call a “communal” incident – basically an incident involving two or more ethnic or religious groups. This particular incident is interesting in that it happened in a majority Muslim fishing village (Muslims are generally a minority in Sri Lanka since they constitute about 8% of the total population) where there was one lone Sinhala family (the Sinhalese are the majority in Sri Lanka since they constitute about 70+% of the population). There was a dispute about land which escalated to violence and the end result was that the Sinhala family was driven off from the village. They went to their relatives in a neighbouring Sinhala village and the people there got agitated at what happened and they came back to retaliate. There were clashes and the end result was that three Muslim youths were killed. This happened over a year ago but the anger and the hurt is still there under the surface.

I’ve talked to both sides and as is usual in such a situation, I get conflicting stories from each side which puts the blame on the other. However, both sides blame the police saying that the police was on the side of their enemies and that if the police had done their duty, the problem would not have happened in the first place. Reading between the lines, it seems to me that the whole thing is mostly political since the mayor of the city (as well as the MP – Member of Parliament – for the area) is a Muslim. The whole land problem seems to have started because he was being a typical politician and told both sides what they wanted to hear … plus, the man who seems to be mostly involved in this all from the Muslim side on the scene, seems to be a major supporter of the mayor. There is more to this and I’d like to write it all down at my leisure when (or should that be if?) I get back from the shoot.

Is there some doubt as to whether I will return from this shoot? Probably not but then again you never know since it is still kind of touchy situation and it is possible that something I say and do will set things off :p I do intend to push this as much as I can to do a story which shows the sheer stupidity of such a situation where people think it’s a religious or ethnic problem and blow things out of proportion when it actually is just an altercation between two individuals. But I guess we’ll see how it turns out …

Tags: , ,
Posted by Fahim at 6:56 am  |  No Comments

I actually managed to work on three different areas of Blog yesterday and so work on the 8.0 release has officially begun since I’ve archived off the 7.1 code :p I actually had time to check out the web-update component and it seems to be almost working <g> – almost in that it downloads the update information, detects the updates, downloads them and then has problems with copying the updates over from the temporary location for some reason or another. I was in the middle of figuring that last bit out when I started having Net access problems again and decided to shelve that for the moment.

I then began working on the Blog code and split off some of the utility routines into a different package. Delphi packages work like Dynamic Link Library (DLL) files in that you can create an application using the package, distribute the package along with the application (instead of having the code compiled into the final application itself) and have things work fine. This way, I can separate code functionally in to different packages so that updating Blog in the future will be as simple as updating a particular package or maybe just the main executable. If I finally make the decision to merge Blog and BlogMan (the jury is still out on that one …) I will put the metablog API into one package, the regular Blog functionality code into another and the individual blogging utility support code (for Blogger, MT, B2 etc.) into their own packages so that everything is separate and self-contained. Not sure if this is workable but the first step on that road has been taken.

Once the code separation compiled successfully, I replaced the main window’s editor component with WPTools instead of PlusMemo. I had to do some code changes to accommodate the component and had to do some further stuff to support HTML but it does work beautifully in that it loads existing Blog entries (don’t think images will work though – so I’ll need to do something about that) and shows the formatted text instead of the HTML code 🙂 I did realize that I was going to have a few problems though – the main one is going to be how to allow people to do their own HTML tweaks since you can’t type in HTML tags directly into the edit window – at least I don’t think so since it didn’t work when I tried. This also invalidates the existing custom snippet option … unless I provide a separate HTML edit tab and this should work since WPTools also has an HTML tag edit mode which is pretty nice. So I’ll have to look into how to get that going.

The other problem is that I will not be able to highlight the words from a Find operation as easily as I did with PlusMemo – though I might be wrong here since I haven’t looked at the WPTools help totally yet. In this case, I can keep PlusMemo to display results from a find operation but that would mean that you’d have to view those results in HTML mode instead of WYSIWYG mode. But the good news is that WPTools support find operations (as well as find and replace) within an entry and so I can add that support in to Blog. Images are going to be another sore point in that I’ll have to figure out how I’m going to handle them. The existing image directory tag will probably have to be done away with (actually not done away with totally since it can be useful for other things – but done away with as far as inline images go) and a new method to be figured out. Since WPTools retains links to images, I will also have to figure out how to do the whole image upload thing on subsequent uploads. Yes, I know of all the possibilities but each of those has problems but I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I actually get to it …

Posted by Fahim at 6:39 am  |  No Comments

March 12, 2003

I have been contemplating making the editor component in Blog WYSIWYG so that users have better control over what they type and to lessen the need for the preview window since some people feel that the preview tab is not as user-friendly as the older method where the preview window was below the text window. Of course, I’m also contemplating making the preview a true preview by incorporating the template into the preview but that’s besides the point :p Anyway, I wrote to the folks over at WPTools and asked them if they’d be interested in sponsoring a copy of their excellent editor component suite since that would allow me to embed truly WYSIWYG editing into Blog easily and yet retain existing features like the spell checker and thesaurus.

I got a response almost immediately from Julian Ziersch over at WPTools saying that they’d be glad to sponsor me provided I displayed the WPTools logo in my about dialog as I currently do for DBISAM. Since that was the least I could do for such a generous offer, I immediately agreed and Julian has already set me up with my own copy of WPTools though I haven’t had the time to download it and start integrating it into Blog. Since I’m still having access problems, slow down issues with my host’s server and a myriad of other web related problems, it might be that the first work-in-progress-towards 8.0 build of Blog might actually be for the WPTools enhancements instead of the web-update stuff :p Guess we’ll know when I finally do make a release instead of talk about it <vbg>

Posted by Fahim at 6:37 am  |  No Comments

March 11, 2003

My web host still seems to be having problems with their server – while web access, FTP and e-mail seems to be fine, I can’t seem to execute any CGI and so am not able to post to Solipsistic Meanderings 🙁 I had a long entry yesterday that I wanted to post but was unable to do so either from BlogMan or directly from the web interface either. I’m hoping that they have got everything sorted out today …

We seem to be having web trouble everywhere because we had problems accessing the Net from work too. We’d be online for a minute and then be offline and then online and so on and so forth. It tends to be pretty irritating plus, you can’t do anything online since you keep on getting knocked offline. Anyway, since I couldn’t get online, I didn’t have much of a chance to test the web-update component – plus, yesterday was an extremely busy day and I really didn’t have too much time for anything much. I won’t get to test the web-update component today either since I am going to be out of office most of the day on a recce for a human rights story that we are supposed to do.

My friend for whom I did the data-mining app, Harvester, was able to finally test it out after a lot of trouble – mostly because .NET apps don’t seem to be able to run if you simply plop the executable into a directory and run it. I’ve always done a setup for the apps I’ve written since they were internal and I could afford to have huge setup files but since Harvester was going via e-mail, I simply sent the exe and the other needed file – big mistake! It wouldn’t run at all on my friend’s machine till I got him a setup package. Maybe I am doing something wrong and I’ll have to read up a bit more on this but I’m beginning to dislike .NET – especially since I did the same app in Delphi later on in just a couple of hours … yes, I had the logic in place from the prior iteration but still it’s just plain silly how long it took to do the app in .NET given the fact that it finally wouldn’t work as well as I would like and ended up with a huge distribution – about 8MB compressed down to a 5MB setup as opposed to a single 700k executable which will compress down to perhaps 300k in Delphi. I think I’ll stick with Delphi from now on unless somebody asks specifically for .NET :p

I did the second iteration of Harvester in Delphi for a specific purpose – to test out a set of components which were supposed to help with parsing HTML. I’ve been looking at several such components since I have several apps which parse HTML and constantly find the need to do more parsing and a component which does the job well would be a boon. However, these components were not to be that boon :p Maybe I want too much since I want to be able to pass a full HTML file or a string containing just an HTML fragment and have either one parsed by the component. None of the tools I’ve found so far seem to deal with HTML fragments. I was thinking about this yesterday and it occurred to me that I could write my own component to do this! So I began planning out how to do this and then came up with a design which started taking shape in the form of code. I have a basic framework but haven’t written the actual parsing code yet to see if I can actually represent a full HTML document or a HTML fragment using my framework. But since the code just won’t leave me alone and keeps on going through my head, I’ll probably continue to work on it as soon as I can …

Posted by Fahim at 6:37 am  |  No Comments

March 10, 2003

Movies and more movies …

I spent the weekend watching an eclectic selection of movies – both old and so brand spanking new that I don’t think they’ve even hit the theaters yet :p I started the movie marathon off with a really old movie – a Steven Segal movie called “Hard to Kill”. Personally, I though it looked dated and that most of the acting was terrible and the action was only passable but it was watchable enough to be not a total waste of time :p I then went out on a DVD buying spree with my brother since I had a couple of DVD’s which weren’t working properly and so I actually needed to go return them and in the process I ended up with a few more DVD’s though fortunately it wasn’t as bad as the last time when I came home with 25 DVD’s <vbg>

Anyway, one of the DVD’s I wanted to exchange was “The Gangs of New York” since the disc wasn’t being recognized by my player. The new copy worked and that’s the first thing I watched. It was an OK film again but the characters just failed to capture my imagination or make me really interested in them. I could sort of empathize with Leo De Caprio’s character and see what Daniel Day Lewis’ “butcher” was about through all his racial bigotry but overall, the story just failed to hold me. While Martin Scorsese does succeed in showing these characters as not being black or white but in all their grimy shades of grey <g>, I just could not identify with any of the characters to feel much for the movie – probably it’s just me …

I then watched “DareDevil” – yes, the same “DareDevil” starring Matt Damon and Jennifer Garner which probably has not hit the theaters yet :p It was a really bad camera-copy but I wanted to see if it was worth watching since the trailers had looked promising. I usually make it a point not to see live-action movies starring any of my favorite comic-book characters since it almost inevitably spoils the magic for me – I have not seen any of the Superman movies and only one Batman movie (and even that was because they were playing it on the plane and there was nothing to watch :p) and certainly not any of the recent Marvel movies. But somehow, “DareDevil” was different. I have not read too many of the “DareDevil” comics since I never could lay my hands on them as a child – so I knew of DD only as a guest-star in the comics of other characters like Captain America. So, for whatever reason, I thought I’d watch the movie and while I don’t like some of the changes they’ve made in the movie (I’m a purist – give me the comic-book version, however implausible it may be – no biological webshooters for me thank you <vbg>), the jury is out on the final verdict still :p Again, there wasn’t enough meat to most of the characters for you to invest emotionally in them. I do like Jennier Garner though from her excellent TV series “Alias” and so loved her appearance as Elektra but even there, there were elements to the storyline that I just didn’t like. Just can’t comment on the action or the special effects since this was a camera copy and so I guess I’ll have to see the movie again in the finished form before I decide one way or another …

I can talk about the other movies that I watched “Shanghai Knights” with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, the sequel to “Shanghai Noon” – pretty funny and watchable; or the much talked about musical “Chicago” with Renee Zelweger – good music and watchable but I still haven’t seen the full movie; and go into long discussions about each, but instead, I’d like to take the time to briefly mention some movies worth watching which are coming up – mostly so that I’d remember to see them when they are released :p First, there is Ang Lee’s Marvel movie “The Hulk” – not sure I want to see this … and the CGI looks pretty bad on the trailers BTW … but it’s Ang Lee after all and so I probably will end up watching it. Was that Kris Kristofferson playing Bruce Banner’s dad? If so, he might end up in the unusual position of playing father figure to two of Marvel’s heroes – the Hulk and Blade :p Then there is “Basic” starring Samuel L. Jackson and Travolta – I’d just pay to see the movie just for the two actors but it looks to be an interesting thriller. Another movie with powerhouse talents is “The Hunted” with Tommy Lee Jones and Benecio Del Toro – I’m not missing that … or “The Recruit” with Al Pacino and Colin Farrel or for that matter, Farrel’s “Phone Booth”. Then there is Bruce Willis’ (why is Willis doing so many military movies recently – or for that matter, why do we have so many military movies generally recently – sign of the times?) “Tears of the Sun”. I usually stay away from military movies (unless it’s military courtroom drama or something) since I am just so tired of seeing people kill each other and people killing each other on a mass-scale is worse … but this again looks to be an interesting movie … plus I like Bruce Willis 🙂

Of course, there are the usual bunch of sequels that don’t even need to be mentioned – the two “Matrix” movies (I wouldn’t even dream of missing those two and will probably get the DVD as soon as it is out :p), “Legally Blonde 2”, “Bad Boys 2”, “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “The Return of the King” and I’m probably forgetting some others. I probably could go on and on and on with all the movies that look interesting and so I will stop for now … Oh, except for one last movie “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Jet Li and DMX :p I’ve loved Jet Li movies since “Romeo Must Die” but have yet to find a movie equal to that in where I liked the storyline. All of Jet Li’s later movies have failed to capture me as far as the characters and the storyline goes. I’m hoping that “Cradle 2 the Grave” will actually prove to be the exception and that it will turn out to be a great movie. I haven’t checked on this yet but it looks to me as if it could be another movie by “Romeo Must Die” director Andrezj Bartkowiak – I hope it is and I hope that it has as good a script …

Tags: , , ,
Posted by Fahim at 6:31 am  |  1 Comment

My e-mail (and probably access to this site too) has been mostly down over the weekend since my host has been reinstalling the OS on their server and doing some other maintenance type of work. When I received an e-mail from them saying that they were going to do maintenance over Saturday night and that it would only take two hours, I knew that it was probably going to end being longer than that :p But even I didn’t expect it to stretch out for as long as it did and I was beginning to get irritated since the address has become my main e-mail address and I was cut off from it due to the server outage. Anyway, things are back to normal again and the server (at least the POP access part of it) seems to be faster now and so I guess all’s well that ends well …

Nothing much at all in the way of coding since I needed to take a break from work (plus mostly what I needed to test was online stuff and so I couldn’t do it from home …) and so I spent the weekend watching movies and reading a bit …

Posted by Fahim at 6:23 am  |  No Comments

« Previous PageNext Page »