September 22, 2003

Life under a thumb …

I hate talking about people who can’t/won’t actually read this since then they don’t get a chance to defend themselves and it seems equivalent to talking behind somebody’s back. However, there are exceptions to every rule and this is one such :p I’ve talked about my boss and the sort of strained relationship that exists at work between him and I .. Well, things are getting even more .. umm .. interesting … It’s come to a point where I’m ready to say "You big baby, will you stop acting like a child and grow up?" but alas, I cannot say this to his face since I happen to like this job (it pays fairly well ..) and it’s not so easy to find a job at short notice in Sri Lanka – especially when you don’t know "people", which I don’t :p Or maybe, I just dislike people and associating with them after a few incidents such as the ones I’ve been going through with my boss.

The latest? Well we’ve been working on a cross-organization project which involved people from sister-organizations of the company as well as organizations from outside. My boss worked closely with another guy to set the project up and so we all assumed that he was aware of everything that’s going on. We are given contracts to sign for this new project and are told that we’ll be paid for the work we do – again, I assume my boss knows what’s going on. Then he comes back from a trip abroad, has a meeting with all of us involved in the project and suddenly says that he had no idea that we’d signed contracts and that it was illegal (at least as far as I was concerned) since I was already under contract to the company and so cannot sign any other contract! He goes on to say that I already get paid for my work and so will not be paid for work on the project since he can’t pay me double salary. Of course, it turns out that the contracts (which I honestly didn’t look at or even think of as being contrary to my current contract since I thought my boss already knew of it) were signed with the guy who set up the project *care of* my company and so it wasn’t actually with a different company and so probably does not create any legal hassles .. But that was after the fact.

Anyway, my boss seems to think that I am hell-bent on getting my share of the money and that I am inciting others to work on my behalf. He also seems to think a lot of other things about the others involved in the project and their motivations for working on things and I find myself wondering how somebody can think so ill of others when there is no grounds for it? Is it because that is how they’d behave themselves? Or is it just cynicism born through years of experience? I don’t know ….

However, I haven’t come to the most irritating fact yet. The project is centered around a collaboration tool and all of us are using it to keep in touch and to work on the project. My boss is supposed to use it too but he hadn’t logged on in ages and he suddenly mentioned at the meeting we had that he couldn’t get it to work since his machine crashed constantly when he tried to use it. That was the first I had heard of it – he’d had problems using it since it was a resource hog and so we’d disabled it from running at start up but as far as I knew, it worked. So I happened to mention to one of the others in the project that that was the first time I’d heard about any crash and in conversation with my boss, he happens to mention the fact that I’d said so. And what happens? I get called into office early on Monday morning and am interrogated as to what I’d said and what I’d not said. And suddenly history is revised and my boss says that he’d had problems for the longest time and that he’d told me before he went abroad to fix things and have the machine running and that he can’t even log into the collaboration tool. I told him that as far as I could recall no such thing had happened and that I’d mentioned to the other guy that I never knew about the crash before because I hadn’t! Then I’m told that my loyalty is to the company and to him and that I shouldn’t tell other people anything etc. and am told to contact this guy and tell him that I didn’t tell him what he thinks I said or something like that. I’m like, "What? If you are upset about things, you clarify with him .. why get me involved?" I even told him that I was sick and tired of all this bickering and finger pointing and what does he say? He says "You have to stop the crashes and clarify things with the other guy!" I tell you, I could strangle somebody by this time ….

I try to keep calm and ask him what exactly is wrong with his collaboration software. He says that it won’t even load. So I tell him that then we’ll have to uninstall everything and reinstall but that would mean he’d lose his old profile and all messages under it … then he says, "Oh wait, maybe it did start when it needed to be started but it wasn’t starting up on Windows start up .." Well, duh! We disabled that because he complained about the speed of the machine and told him so at the time … Anyway, I upgrade the product to the latest release and then start it up and it comes up just fine. So it looks as if he never bothered to start it up till now but decided to blame these mysterious crashes … Which his statements also seemed to indicate were just that the auto-update feature of the app was failing on downloading updates – not an actual crash of his machine itself. I find myself wondering at this point whether he’s delusional, or just clueless about computers or actually saying whatever comes to his mind so that he’s blameless and everybody else is totally to be blamed. I really don’t know but I had to sit down and type all this out at top speed since I was boiling over by this time and needed to vent … So there :p

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Posted by Fahim at 10:44 am  |  6 Comments

September 21, 2003

Lots of coding but not much time to update :p Unfortunately, the coding has mostly been for my consultancy stuff and so I’ve not been working on Blog as much as I would like. First, there was C# stuff to be done since one of my old clients had a problem with an ASP.NET component that I’d done for him to access CSV data as you would a database file – at least as far as reading the data went. Microsoft seems to have their own ideas about how to do CSV files and there is no standardization at all (go figure :p) and so files created in Excel would not work with my CSVReader component. So I had to go in and add a patch to make it get along with CSV files created from Excel.

Then there is the PHP project I’m doing for Martin. I’d already done phase one of the project which was a web interface to create a graphical representation of a sign on the fly using given text, fonts, colours etc. For phase two, Martin wanted to be able to allow the user to upload an image, specify the positioning and optionally, be even able to resize the image and then add the text on top of it. I’d done the original code a specific way since there was no file upload involved. However, when I got to phase two, I realized that I couldn’t do things the way I’d done originally – where I’d gotten all the form input and then used JavaScript to put it all together and call a PHP script to generate the image on the fly and display it on the same screen. For this, I couldn’t do it that way since there was the uploaded image file to consider. So I had to go back and rewrite things from scratch and I had to allow for temporary image files to be created on the server, saved and used between each reload of the interface. This took some doing and I don’t really like it that much since this creates a lot of files on the server. However, I’ve added a cleanup routine which clears up all these temporary files at a given time interval and so it’s not that bad either.

This particular project is keeping me fairly busy since in addition to all of the above, I also had to figure out how to create an e-mail in PHP with attachments. The way I normally work with a programming language is by picking up what I need as I go along. So I had never done e-mails with attachments in PHP before this and I discovered that the PHP documentation was kind of sketchy about how to do things since it simply pointed me to a different website which actually had lots of explanations about MIME types but the final example code was extremely convoluted and complicated and I didn’t want all of that :p So, I simply sat down and broke down the code and got only the bits I needed and came up with something which actually seems to work after some tweaking :p

Of course, there is another bit of PHP code that I’ve been working on in the midst of all of this – the comments system that my wife uses on one of her sites :) Yes, it looks like the same as the comments system which is used here .. but it’s not :p I used the original code but modified it so that the comments would be saved to a mySQL database instead of being saved into text files. In addition, I added the ability for multiple users to be hosted on the same comments system and the ability for each of those users to have multiple blogs with comments. In fact, a full blown, remote server commenting system :) The system itself is a bit buggy (as you’ll notice from all the test comments on my wife’s blog if you were to go there :p) but I’m slowly getting the kinks out of the system and getting it on the road to being a useable system.

So what of Blog you ask? Well, I’ve got the HTML editing stuff working and I need to find some time to sit down and test that the publishing of entries and uploading of images works fine too. Once I get that done, I can release the first beta. However, there is so much going on with other code (plus lots of shenanigans at work … about which I might rant one of these days on SM :p) that it might take a little while. So bear with me :)

Posted by Fahim at 11:28 am  |  1 Comment

September 18, 2003

Yes I’m not dead and I’m finally back – more info can be found at SM :p And no, Blog coding has not been suspended, shelved, dropped etc. either :) I did take a little hiatus from coding since I was hitting brickwalls at every turn with the WYSIWYG HTML editor component but that was because I was using WPTools. Julian was really kind in letting me use the component in Blog but the problem was that I was trying to use something which wasn’t really designed for what I had in mind. Plus, Julian already has a lot of established users and so I don’t think he has as much time to devote to somebody who wants features that most others would not need or want.

When I got back from my hiatus, I looked at the HTMLEditor component from PurposeSoft again. I’d been a beta tester for HTMLEditor 2.0 but had decided not to use it in Blog initially due to some considerations that I decided not to bother with this time around :p Fabian who develops the component has been truly responsive and has been kind enough to let me use the component in Blog and has even let me work with the upcoming HTMLEditor 3.0 component – which actually has all the features that I missed in HTMLEditor 2.0 in the first place :) He’s been fixing all the bugs in HTMLEditor 3.0 as soon as I find them and thanks to his diligence, I’m almost done with the WYSIWYG HTML editor component. Now I just need to fix various publishing related stuff and I should be ready to release the first public beta of Blog 8.0.

On other code related work, I’m working on a PHP project, have to go back to a Visual Studio .NET component that I did for a client and might also have to do some other Visual Studio .NET development work but am too rushed at the moment to do much updating :p Will try to get around to that sometime in the future – and I’ll keep on updating my rambles and rants etc. (and boy do I have some doozies :p) over at SM when I have some time …

Posted by Fahim at 5:07 pm  |  4 Comments

September 16, 2003

Back at last, back at last …

Yes, I’m finally back … actually, I’ve been back for a while but there have been problems but where to begin? :) Guess I’ll begin at the beginning itself and then go on till the end as I think the White King said to Alice :p I initially was away from SM, my other blog and general coding due to the fact that I’d met somebody online and I was spending every moment I was online with her :) Then she decided to move to Sri Lanka in August and we got married soon after she got here and then there was a whole heap of other things to do. My wife Laurie is not a Muslim nor is she a Sri Lankan and so, my parents were dead set against the marriage – but to be fair by them, I didn’t tell them of the marriage beforehand. I sprung it on them after the fact so that they wouldn’t be able to guilt trip me into reconsidering – cowardly? Probably :p Anyway, my parents wanted to have nothing to do with Laurie or I and so we had to find our own place.

I’d anticipated this and had already rented out a house and had also gotten time off for two weeks from work and so Laurie and I were able to spend the time setting up house and attending to the hundreds of little things that needed to be attended to. The daily nitty-gritties are probably going to be way too exhaustively detailed for me to go into right here but if you are interested, you could always take a look at Laurie’s Sri Lanka blog since she has detailed everything that happened every day since she got to Sri Lanka :) Anyway, since we were at a new house and had no telephone (except for my cellular) let alone dial-up access, I was again offline for several weeks except for the brief periods I had to come into work to attend to various things.

Then I finally got back to work around two weeks ago but still was not able to attend to my blogs since I had so much piled up work that needed to be attended to – among other things. In addition to that, I discovered that SM had a problem – I could not rebuild old entries and I wasn’t sure what was wrong. The network at work in the meantime had become extremely slow (I am still trying to figure out what the cause is – whether it’s a file sharer or one of those all too frequent worms) and so I was unable to do much online stuff such as trying to debug my Movable Type installation for SM. I tried replacing all the Movable Type files in case I’d made some sort of a mistake when I switched hosts (which I’d done just before Laurie came down BTW), I tried moving the Movable Type scripts to a different location on my server, I tried playing with different configuration options, I referred to the MT forums for days on end on an extremely slow connection – all to no avail.

I had installed Norton Personal Firewall just after I’d gotten back from vacation/marriage but I had not thought to test out rebuilding SM without the firewall. Or at least, I’d remember when I wasn’t at my computer that I should test without the firewall but never do it. Finally, I hit upon an MT forum entry which specifically mentioned that rebuilding and other activities on MT get affected when Norton Personal Firewall is on and how to get around it – disable the popup ad prevention feature in Norton Firewall. I did that and finally I was able to use my MT installation fully again – and this was on Sunday :) Incidentally, the reason that I needed to rebuild all my old entries was because somebody kept on leaving strange and apparently pointless comments on one of my entries. I still have no idea what that was about .. unless they wanted people to visit their URL and while the comments and the URL’s were usually the same, the IP the comments came from was always different. Anyway, I deleted all these comments but could not rebuild the old entries due to the problems I had but now all that is done.

And yes, I’m back and hopefully will be posting more and will also start working on all those coding projects too but since I will not have Net access except from work, things are still going to be a bit slow – I still need to find a way to update my main site since that’s updated via Blog – I guess I should move my Blog installation to my work machine … So many things to do .. so little time :p