May 25, 2003

Matrices and mindsets

Sometimes I really wonder about how things turn out – I’d thought that I’d not get to see "Matrix Reloaded" for a while yet since the only way I’d see it would be as a pirated movie and that would probably be a bad camera copy. But guess what? Not only have I seen the movie within ten days of it’s release but I saw a copy that should be just as good as what’s shown at the theaters! But enough of the strange anomalies in life (or should I say the matrix? :p) and on to the movie itself … but don’t worry, I will try not to spoil it for anybody else who might not have seen it …

The first part of the movie was a bit of a disappointment to me – yes, it had all sorts of spectacular effects, more fights than before and so on but it seemed to drag a bit at points and to get a bit too philosophical at times. The philosophy in the first movie was a bit more subtle and didn’t get so wordy – or maybe this was just the mood I was in when I watched the movie (it was late at night and I was tired after a full day) and so I’ll probably have to judge based on a second viewing in a week or so – which I fully intend to do since I do need a second viewing to get all the finer points that I might have missed.

The philosophy? Oh there is a lot more philosophy believe you me – there is talk of causality, of freedom of choice, of the importance of hope and then there are the indirect references (like how the first movie set Neo up as a Christ figure with his death and resurrection and the promise that he will bring redemption/freedom to the people) to more eastern philosophies like reincarnation, the wheel of life etc. And of course, as always there are "explanations" of reality – they even do a bit where they explain unexplained phenomena :p Of course, the second viewing that I’ve promised myself might help me to get a better handle on all the different philosophy bits as well …

There was one scene where Neo gets attacked by hundreds and hundreds of agents that left me feeling a bit of deja vu (and you know that was a glitch in the matrix :p) because it looked so incredibly like a scene from Jet Li’s "The One" (and of course, Neo is *the one* :p) but be that as may be, the final portion of the movie fully justified it being the sequel in the matrix series since it had new revelations, surprises and conundrums. I am not too happy with the way they concluded the movie since unlike the first movie (which was self-contained) they left you with a slight cliff-hanger on this one and we’ve got to wait till November to find out what happens. I hate that! Ah well .. anyway, I did have some interesting thoughts on the movie and it’s connection to reality such as the fact what if we are really living in the matrix and the Wachowski brothers are simply making a movie about what they’ve come to realize as the "real" reality subconsciously? :p Of course, I’m sure somebody else has made this suggestion already but I was kind of interested in exploring the idea but time and space prevents me – time because I’ve got at least three more movies to watch today and space because this would become a very long entry if I tried to go into all the different ideas and suppositions I might come up with :p

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Posted by Fahim at 6:30 am  |  No Comments

May 24, 2003

This and that

This week has turned out to be fairly hectic and I suddenly find myself unable to write here even though I had quite a few thoughts swirling around in my head that needed to be written down. Of course, none of those will go into this post since each one of them were a long entry in their own right and this was simply to be an update of the events of the last few days in a few simple paragraphs (or so I hope :p) I’ve been coding again and that keeps me busy and at the same time, my workload at work has started to pick up too. I was hoping that my boss would ignore me and find somebody else to groom as his aide now that Robin is leaving but it looks as if I’m destined to get at least some of that work – even though I have a feeling that he’ll get somebody else to be his aide since I just don’t fit the profile and have too stiff a back to do much butt-kissing :p

In the mean time, a couple of my friends who used to work for the company that I work for now are down from Canada and so we had a sort of informal get together of old friends from the company and those who still work here who knew them. There were only like six or seven of us but it was a nice evening since we got to catch up and to talk about all the stuff that had happened in the past. While we might be glamorizing how much fun it used to be – it still was nice to go back down memory lane and remember all the people that we used to know and all the crazy stuff that we used to do. One outcome of the meeting was a suggestion that we should set up a site where all the people who worked for the company (as well as those who currently work there) could keep in touch. I volunteered to do that and yesterday morning got on the job as soon as I got to work. A couple of hours later, I had what is called The YA*TV Bunch (sorry, no link since the site is only for employees :p) and people started signing up almost immediately.

Robin was one of the first members to sign up since he works with me and sits right next to me. Now Robin and I come from the old BBS days in Sri Lanka when we used to have all these guys on a single electronic bulletin board system insulting each other, pretending to be girls, starting flame-wars and what not. We even used to have multiple logins so that we could start a fight with somebody and then both support them and oppose them :p Robin seemed to go right back into that mode since he started making posts right, left and centre and stirring things up :-) I think by the end of the day we had around 11 articles on the board and all had been made by Robin (or by somebody else on whose behalf Robin made the posts :p) or myself. Hopefully, that gets the others involved too but you never know – some people just don’t like to put anything down in righting where other people known to them might see it :p

I completed "The Way of the Pilgrim" yesterday evening and while the book as a whole made me think a lot, the ending seemed to be a bit too rushed and somewhat incomplete. And it was kind of irritating (though certainly true-to-life) to have all of humanity joining together against the aliens through most of the book and then find them all reverting old patterns of being at each other’s throats in the last chapter when the aliens are ready to withdraw – I would hope that they’d have learnt something from all that they went through but us being human, I’d guess that probably wouldn’t happen. The story does end with a bit of a question as to whether we lie to ourselves about who we are or whether it’s the aliens who will not face the truth about themselves. This does tie in with an earlier post where I mentioned how people don’t seem to realize who they are or what they want and I might want to go into that in more detail at another time but for the moment, I think I’ve written enough :-)

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Posted by Fahim at 6:27 am  |  No Comments

May 23, 2003

The PNG image addition has been coded as well for Blog and the image parsing at the time of publishing to set up the proper paths for the images. Of course, none of the above changes have been tested yet and so a new release will have to wait till the testing is complete. That and the fixing/looking at of a couple of bugs reported by different people. One has to do with images (or rather, I think it was entries) not being published the first time a post with images is published. This seems to happen only with an alternate image directory rather than when the images are on the same folder as the blog pages but I’ll have to look into this problem (which I thought I’d fixed with the help of Nigel) again once I get the current testing done.

The other problem is another one I thought I’d fixed – archives dropping off the archive table of contents if there is only one entry for a given month or – something along those lines. I’ve got the data from the user who had the problem but haven’t been able to test this till now due to the fact that the code was being worked on and there was no way to do any testing in the interim. So, hopefully I’ll be able to look at all this stuff over the weekend and perhaps even do the 7.2 release by Monday. A word of caution here though, even though I will be using full version numbers till we get to 8.0 and mixing in any bug fixes along the way, these releases are to be considered beta releases and so to be used only by those who’d want to mess with beta software :p The reason that these will be beta releases is the fact that I’m doing a lot of internal changes and might not have the time to test out all the different internal interactions and how they might (or might not) work. So I’m hoping that somebody brave enough to test the beta releases will find the problems and tell me while I work on adding the rest of the features :p Oh yes, some features are incomplete – like the 7.2 release will probably only have the WYSIWYG look on the main entry window – all others will have the old HTML edit look till I know for sure that the WYSIWYG component works fine.

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Posted by Fahim at 6:27 am  |  10 Comments

May 22, 2003

I turned my attention to image insertion and editing the attributes of an already entered image yesterday. I was trying to find out how to retrieve the attributes for an inserted image but was not getting anywhere and so I decided to stop and concentrate on a different problem – being able to use all formats of web-ready images. I’d been working so far only with BMP files and when I tried to insert a JPG or a GIF file, I discovered that they would not display properly. So I had to sit down and discover how to get JPG and GIF files to show up on the WPTools components and after some unnecessary code edits (which I had to revert), I finally figured out how to do it after taking a look at one of the WPTools demos. Of course, at that point I did not think of including PNG images (I remembered this only later in the evening) but it should be a simple matter to do the necessary changes now.

Once I had the images displaying properly, I went back to work on retrieving the image attributes but try as I might, I couldn’t seem to get this to work right. I finally decided to write to the WPTools usenet group for help but almost as soon as I’d done that, I figured out where I was going wrong :p I had had tunnel vision in that I’d been looking only at a particular property to find the image file location whereas the location was stored in a completely different property! So lesson learned – just because there is a property named FileName does not mean that the FileName will be stored there :p Anyway, once I got over that particular bit, the rest was pretty easy and I had the image attribute editing working by the time I concluded work for the day.

Now all that remains is for me to go back and modify the publishing and parsing routines so that the parsing routine looks for image and file links and converts them from local hard disk references to remote server references at the time of publishing. I also am considering adding a published flag to each entry so that I can automatically upload linked files to the server but under the current setup that would not work too well since the published property would be set for the very first publish and if you publish the same journal to multiple server, the files will not be uploaded to the rest of the servers. Granted that this might be a problem for only a few people, but it still would be a problem. So that will probably have to wait till I do the database restructuring …

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Posted by Fahim at 6:29 am  |  No Comments

May 21, 2003

Of rants and reasoning …

Yesterdays non-rant about people saying something and doing something else seems to have touched a few nerves since I received several responses to that in one form or another :p But it actually was that – a non-rant. I wasn’t going to let other people’s actions upset my equilibrium and I was simply stating something that was going through my mind at that particular time – so no reason for anybody to be alarmed, offended, irritated etc :p

However, reading Gordon R. Dickson’s "Way of the Pilgrim" later on during the evening, a paragraph from the book struck me as being relevant to this particular situation. In this particular situation, the earth has been conquered by aliens and the protagonist is trying to understand the alien mindset. In the process, he says that aliens and humans see each other as distorted reflections of themselves in a mirror. He goes on to explain that what he meant was that the aliens and humans can’t really understand each other since they think in totally different ways and yet, they can’t help trying to equate the other’s actions with the way they’d do something and so come up with a distorted picture of themselves to explain the actions of the other. I’m not sure that I explained that properly here but anyway, it made sense to me and what is more, I realized that this holds true even in human-human interactions.

We don’t really understand what drives other people and so we attribute certain things to them in order to understand their actions – only thing is, that is probably a distorted picture of that person since we can never be certain of correctly identifying what drives the other person. For example, there is the case of something that happened at my grandfather’s funeral – this incidentally, is one of the reasons I hate going for any family gathering :p I had bought a new cellular phone recently and by Sri Lankan standards it’s pretty expensive since it’s a Sony Ericsson P800 and it’s one of the latest in the market. My Dad had commented on this to one of my uncles and while my parents berated me for spending so much on the phone, I wouldn’t be surprised that when they spoke to my uncle about it if they hadn’t said it with a touch of pride – hinting that I could *afford* to spend so much money on a new phone … and of course, they would have mentioned the price of the phone.

Anyway, my uncle comes up to me later and asks me if I had my phone with me and I thought that he simply wanted to take a call and told him that I was out of range since I was. He says never mind and takes me over to his son-in-law and a few others and introduces me to them. Then he casually says that my father had told him that I bought a new phone and asks me if he can see it and then says that he doesn’t know much about this stuff and passes the phone on to his son-in-law. Naturally, the price of the phone gets discussed at this point too. I thought at that point that my uncle was simply trying to impress his son-in-law and his relatives with the fact that his nephew had such a good phone (or could afford one) – they do that kind of thing here in Sri Lanka :p But when I told my parents about the incident later, they said that it wasn’t so at all – that my uncle had simply doubted the price that my Dad had quoted (which was the price that I actually paid) and wanted to make sure that my Dad wasn’t lying by getting his son-in-law and the others to verify the price because my uncle trusted his son-in-law more than anybody else (my parents’ opinion, not mine).

My point here is that I thought of my uncle’s actions in one way and my parents looked at it a different way – each one of us basing our opinion of a person (my uncle in this instance) on how we’d interacted with him, how we thought of him and our own ways of looking at things. I really have no idea who is right about the real motives of my uncle – maybe none of us are. But I’d still prefer to think of my uncle the way I’d thought of him since to me that’s a less negative picture – there is this Disney TV movie which I forget where the central character says something along the lines of "if you look for the good in people you will find it" and I’d like to believe that. Maybe I wear rose-tinted glasses but heck, it’s better than looking at everybody and wondering what they might do to you … though sometimes it’s hard not to do that too :p

I spent most of yesterday’s coding time on the hyperlink modification problem with the new revision of Blog. Basically, when I right-clicked on an existing hyperlink and selected the option to insert/edit a hyperlink, the dialog box that popped up was supposed to be populated with the attributes of the hyperlink that I clicked on. I got this bit working without too much trouble but once the values on the dialog box were changed and you clicked OK, the hyperlink was supposed to be changed and this wasn’t happening. So I spent most of yesterday’s coding time trying to figure out what was going wrong.

As seems to happen to me a lot, I discovered later that the problem wasn’t where I thought it was :p I thought that the hyperlink modification function in WPTools wasn’t working properly since the changes weren’t being saved at all but after about two or three hours of wasted time, I happened to make a change in the Blog entry itself and then do the hyperlink modification and it worked fine! So I realized that hyperlink modifications weren’t somehow being caught by the WPTools component as a change to the content and then I realized that this was a documented case since I was supposed to call a specific function to notify WPTools that a change was being made – duh! Of course, even after that things wouldn’t work for some strange reason till I changed the Hperlink modification function I was using since there were several to choose from. But, I did finally get that bit working.

Then I moved onto image insertion but couldn’t proceed further than a simple bitmap insertion to test out that things actually did work before I had to stop coding for the day. I’ll have to figure out attribute changes and the ability to insert web images (JPG, GIF, PNG) today if I do get to do any coding and then go on to work on modifying the attributes for an already inserted image – as well as change the Blog parsing routines to compensate for the changes that will have to be made to the way the image location is stored in the database since WPTools needs the full path. There are several more problems there in working with images but once I get all that sorted out, I intend to do an interim 7.2 release so that people can test out the new stuff (if they want to work with beta software that is :p) while I move on to further changes.

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Posted by Fahim at 6:31 am  |  2 Comments

May 20, 2003

Of death and Dickson …

They have a saying here in Sri Lanka that death comes in threes and the funny things is that I was thinking about this last week when the husband of my mother’s cousin passed away just two days after my grandfather passed away. And guess what? The third death in the family has appeared as well – this time it’s a relative/contemporary of my Dad’s and my parents have gone to the funeral. Since I never knew the last two people, I didn’t go to either funeral but it does make me think as to whether there just might be some truth in all these old sayings – such as "death comes in threes" …

I’m reading Gordon R. Dickson’s "Way of the Pilgrim" at the moment. I feel as if Gordon R. Dickson really understands me from the way he writes about his protagonists – some of the things he comments on are so uncannily similar to the way I am or the way I think. I’ve noticed this with several of Dickson’s later novels including the later books of the Childe cycle. I’d probably try to contact Dickson himself since I wonder if he just writes his characters this way or if he actually thought this way but unfortunately, he passed away several years ago. It still is strange though – the way his protagonist looks at the world, the way he seems so separated from the rest of humanity and even some of his philosophies and actions just seem to strike a chord within me. Ah well .. maybe I’ve just been reading too much Dickson lately :p

Speaking of people and their actions, I’m tempted to launch into a rant about why people say something and do something else or berate you for doing something and then go ahead and do the same thing themselves with not a word or hint of apology but I guess that’s just another example of the irrationality of people. So I will save my breath and go do something constructive … like code :p

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Posted by Fahim at 2:43 pm  |  3 Comments

It’s been a very long time indeed :p However, the good news is that I’m actually back to working on Blog 8.0 again. I was stuck for a while on how to get hyperlink and image insertions working since the WPTools component only allows the insertion of the actual image or URL – there is no support for additional attributes like target, width, height, id, class etc. I wrote to the WPTools usenet group hoping somebody else might have come across the same problem and found a solution and I found somebody – Nick Crosby. Nick was kind enough to give me a few pointers on the direction that I should follow and after a day of stumbling around I was able to figure out how to insert a hyperlink with extra attributes. In the process, I also modified the hyperlink entry dialog box in Blog so that now you can select a set of default targets from a dropdown list or enter your own target – this should help people working with frames or IFRAMES. I also added a blank field where you can enter any other attributes of your choice as ‘=’ separated values pairs.

The only problem is, that I am not able to get the editing of an already entered URL working properly on the WYSIWYG view :-( I can retrieve the actual URL fine, but can’t retrieve the extra attributes since none of the WPTools functions for retrieving the URL support the extra attributes. Bummer! I’ve written back to Nick in the hope that he has encountered this problem too and has figured out a way around this and am waiting on him. In the meantime, I guess I’ll also try to find out how to add extra attributes to images. Of course, since Blog now also has a working HTML view, it is simple enough to edit a hyperlink in the HTML view but what if a user prefers to work in the WYSIWYG view? Shouldn’t they have the flexibility to enter a URL and to edit a URL? I think so. So I’ll try to get that working …

In the meantime, I’m also trying to figure out how to handle images and external file links in the new setup with Blog. Since images will be displayed in the editor only if I retain the external link to them specifying where they reside on the hard disk, I’ll have to retain that information when I save an entry. However, what I used to do with Blog was retain the file information only when the image was first added, automatically upload the image file but store only the file name as a remote reference on the Blog entry. Not sure if that even made sense to a lot of people but anyway, the problem is that the old approach will not work. I have to retain information as to where the image file is on the local hard disk in the database. This will probably mean that I have to parse an entry each time before a publish, find the image tags, convert them to server references and then publish. That’s going to be a bit of extra work and I hate approaches where you have to do repetitive work needlessly – but in this case, I think there is no getting around the need for the extra work. Ah well…

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Posted by Fahim at 6:28 am  |  4 Comments

May 18, 2003

Of floods and feelings …

We’ve been having heavy rains here in Sri Lanka recently and while Sri Lanka does not have snow, earthquakes, typhoon, cyclones, tidal waves or volcanoes, we do have one problem – floods. Certain areas in Sri Lanka are currently under heavy flooding and I hear that hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless. Pictures of houses totally covered by water, cats sitting on roofttops with water all around them, TV antennas sticking out of fast flowing water and buses stopped at the edge of water with no means of going forward are common sites on TV. My heart cries out for all the people affected by the floods and their families. I hope the rains stop soon and that these people are able to go back to their homes and that no more lives are lost due to the floods. But then again, we’ll probably go back to no rain and will have a whole new set of problems when the power cuts start …

The "Gilmore Girls" have always been a favourite topic of mine here :p If you’ve been following this blog, you’d remember my ranting about Rory and her relationship with Dean, how while claiming to love Dean, she also seems to be leading Jess on and hiding things from Dean. Yesterday’s episode of the "Gilmore Girls" actually showed me a new perspective on Rory’s actions and while I still don’t approve of her actions (to me, a relationship is about commitment – total and absolute. If you have a problem with the commitment, then you tell the other person and then you decide what to do next – a combined decision, not an arbitrary act by an individual …) I was able to understand why she did what she did and that insight has also helped me with the way I look at the world. In yesterday’s episode, Rory suddenly goes to New York to see Jess (he’s been sent away from Star’s Hollow where Rory lives … long story …) and on her return her mother tells her that she must face the facts – that she’s falling for Jess.

Rory vehemently denies this. She says that she loves Dean, that she is happy with Dean that she doesn’t want to hurt Dean and that she has no idea why she did what she did. I then realized that she can’t see the truth herself – that wittingly or unwittingly, she’s lying to herself. The thing is, that this is true of so many of us – we lie to ourselves when certain matters are concerned. We might say that we are totally not that kind of person about a certain way of behaviour and yet behave just the way that we said we didn’t like and yet deny to ourselves that we were doing it. This is something that I’ve never understood about other people – how they could do that and still think that they are being honest with themselves. But now I begin to ask myself whether I’m that way too? Maybe I do something which is totally against my *stated* principles and yet am justifying why I do that too by lying to myself? I hope not because I don’t like that type of behaviour in others and I’d think that other people feel the same way … All I can do is try to be true to myself and hope that I don’t fall into the same trap that Rory has fallen into …

May 17, 2003

Miscellanea

I was planning to do some work on the Blog code today but a friend of mine asked me to take a look at an HTML page she’d done since the page wasn’t working properly, and I got sidetracked. She was using a lot of layers and one layer was not aligning properly. Now a simple word of warning, if the following sounds condescending or patronizing, I can only say that it wasn’t meant to be – I hate people being oh-so-high-and-mighty-just-because-they-know-something-that-others-don’t and try not to be that way myself but sometimes I get the feeling that I come across as if I am what I hate most. Well, anyway, this was not meant to sound like that :p The problem she had (and the situation itself) was an interesting one and so I thought of writing about it. She had over 20 DIV layers each nested within the other and when she gave me the source code to look at, I didn’t realize this was the case. I however, am unable to take a look at code and then simply decide what was wrong – I always need to putter around a bit with the code before I get a "feel" for it. So I began reformatting the source so that the tags would be indented and so I would be able to figure out if there were any non-terminated tags. The end result? I ended up removing all the DIV tag nestings :p I realized my error only after about an hour of work and then had to go back and work from the original code but actually figured out the problem – it was indeed in the DIV tag nesting and the indenting did help – it’s just that I’d never seen like 20 levels of nested DIV tags :-)

My friend Robin, who’s probably my closest friend in real-life, is leaving the company for a different company. He joined about a year after I’d been with the current company (the first time I was with them) and stayed on when I left to go to the US and now he’s leaving. Since I hardly go out after work and don’t socialize much, he and I basically associate only at work. Wonder what’ll happen when he leaves? Of course, he and I are pretty similar in that we’ll both pick up a friendship after years but wouldn’t try to maintain the ties of friendship while we are in different places. So we’ll probably drop out of touch unless of course, he happens to be online from his next place of work :p Robin leaving is going to put me in an awkward situation in a way – it is possible that quite a bit of his work is going to come my way and I might not like doing that. I’m tempted to find a different job quickly so that I can leave at the same time as him (not that I’m not looking now mind you – but currently it’s kind of a laid back search … :p) but then again, I don’t know … I guess it’s best to wait and see in this case …

I’ve been playing "Rise of Nations" the last couple of days and if you are a "Civilization" and "Command and Conquer" fan, you’ll probably love the game since it seems to be a cross between the two :p In fact, I’ve only played the game only twice so far – once last night and once today but I’m hooked! The game play is interesting, fast and keeps you moving all over the place – and I’ve only played the tutorials so far :p In a way, the game seems to be what Microsoft tried to do with "Age of Mythologies" (incidentally, this is a Microsoft game too but developed by Big Huge Games whereas AoM was developed by Ensemble Studios) but I feel that this succeeds where AoM failed. I didn’t like the feel of AoM what with the full 3D engine and the kind of blocky looking graphics. While not 3D, "Rise of Nations" looks better and plays better – at least in my opinion. I’ll have to get in to a couple of actual games before I can tell for sure but considering that I started the first tutorial last night around 8 o’clock and didn’t even realize it was 10 o’clock till I started losing <g>, it seems to me as if I’ve found a new addiction :p

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Posted by Fahim at 5:33 pm  |  2 Comments

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