January 27, 2005

Magellan, Vasco Da Gama and Dr. Livingston

A long, long time ago (but not very far away ….) – almost at the dawn of time in fact – when Windows ’95 first came out, I hated it! I wouldn’t install it on any machines at work and if a machine came pre-installed with Windows ’95, I would format the hard drive, installd DOS and Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and I’d be as happy as can be afterwards :p One of the reasons that I didn’t like Windows ’95 was the fact that I could do things via the command line much faster – I had everything in three-letter-named directories and everything was off the root, this was of course before we all became slaves of folders within folders within folders :p The other reason was that I hated Windows Explorer.

Eventually I came to at least tolerate Windows ’95 and even allow it to be installed on machines at work but I still hated Windows Explorer. It was at this time that I learnt of an application named PowerDesk ExplorerPlus from a company named Mijenix. It gave you a split window view so that you could have two explorer instances side by side and move and copy stuff to your heart’s content from one pane to the other. I loved the app and continued to use it through various iterations. I remember PowerDesk Utilities 98 – that was probably the first time I used the app. Then I remember PowerDesk 3.0 – so I don’t know if there was ever a PowerDesk 2.0 or not and if there was, I probably used it. The thing is, the feature set didn’t seem to change much even when it hit PowerDesk 4.0. I think somewhere along the way they added FTP support but that was about it.

Then came PowerDesk 5.0 and the app actually seemed to take a step backwards because it lost long filename support for a bit – not really lost it but it wouldn’t show the full long filename in list view – and that’s my favourite view 😛 But they got that sorted out. In the meantime, Mijenix had disappeared and the application suite bought over by a variety of different companies. I think 5.0 was with Ontrack and when it came time for 6.0, the new owners were VCOM. I didn’t much like PowerDesk 6.0 since it had these really ugly, huge toolbar buttons and didn’t seem to have much more in the way of added features than that. However, me being the software junkie that I am, I continued to use it. That is, I did till I learnt of Novatix.

It turns out that the original developer of PowerDesk ExplorerPlus had either joined a new company or set up a new company (not sure which) called Novatix and he had wanted to continue development on his creation – PowerDesk. So he’d bought the rights to the source code to the original app to start development on a new app which was named ExplorerPlus 🙂 So now you have PowerDesk and ExplorerPlus developed by two different companies. When I heard all this, I just had to try ExplorerPlus and unlike the stagnating PowerDesk, it turns out that they’d actually done work on ExplorerPlus! There was a tabbed browser interface so that you could have multiple Explorer sessions going on from the same interface, various UI changes and enhancements. I didn’t initially like the feel of the app much but I still gave it a try and it has won me over since then. So, I’m going with ExplorerPlus for the time being … let’s see how it goes …

Oh yeah, the title? They were all explorers (in case you didn’t get the reference :p) There is even a file manager named Magellan – I’ve given that a try too but didn’t really like it :p

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Posted by Fahim at 3:35 pm  |  3 Comments

January 25, 2005

Entries, Comments and Connections

It’s weird how these things go … Well, not really weird if you stop to think about it for a second but I just like to be amazed … or was that amused? :p I hadn’t received any comments or spam on this site for the longest time and I was beginning to think that my anti-spam measures were finally paying off. Then I made an entry a couple of days ago and then I heard from my friend Edward today – he said that he couldn’t post comments since they don’t appear and that he can’t leave a tag since the tag board tagged anything he posted as spam :p I checked on it and found that there had been a reason for the absence of comments …

Both the comments system and the tagboard have a spam blacklisting feature. Basically, I adapted the WPBlacklist plugin code to work for the tagboard as well. So, they both run off fairly similar blacklists and for some inexplicable reason, the letter "b" had gotten in to the blacklist :p And that meant that you couldn’t post anything with the letter "b" in it without it getting tagged as spam. I fix the problem and what do you know? Barely an hour later, I get my first tagboard spam in ages and I get two comments posted on various entries over the course of the day! I am not even certain if one of the comments is spam or not but the other is not spam. However, it is intriguing that all this happened on the same day because there really were no comments till now for a while – even if the comments had been deleted because they were mis-identified as spam, I would have received a notification, so I know that there were no spam comments 🙂 Anyway, that’s my little bit of wonderment and mystery for the day … Now I’m going back to doing other stuff – like watching the really gory and fairly pointless "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" :p

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Posted by Fahim at 7:22 pm  |  2 Comments

January 23, 2005

Back again …

I’ve finally decided to come back to blogland :p When I started to write this entry, I thought I’d never been away from blogging for this long since I started blogging way back in ’99 or so (or was it earlier? :p) But then I took a look at the archives for this site and realized that at least here, I seem to have had a habit of cyclically going offline for long periods. The last time was in October of 2003 and and I didn’t come back till April 2004! So I guess this time is a much faster recovery … that is, if I keep on writing after this and not stop again after this entry or a couple of more entries.

So what has been happening? A lot actually. Around the end of October both my sister and sister-in-law (Laurie’s sister) paid us visits. While my sister’s visit was brief, Laurie’s sister and her family stayed with us for a while and we really enjoyed the visit. Of course, having guests in the house meant going sightseeing, going shopping and so on and time really passed by in a blur.

Then in November, I got a new job through the help of my friend Tracie (thanks Tracie :)) and finally left my previous employer – I’d been with them for close to five years (the longest I’d been with any one employer) over two different periods. I always will remember them with warmth because I truly felt at home there but I was going nowhere there since they really didn’t have anything to keep me occupied full time. My new job on the other hand, keeps me so occupied that I am exhausted at the end of the day :p I work for a hosting company as a remote systems admin now and since I’m administering servers, I am on alert most of my working hours in case one of the servers decides to act up. While it’s not very physical work (I sit on the couch staring at my computer screen the whole day :p), it’s mentally exhausting because you can never really relax. But I’m getting better at it and learning to relax a bit more than I did at the beginning, when I was too scared to look away from the monitoring screen for even one second lest something go wrong with the servers and I might miss an alert :p

The new job, the new schedule, the changes in work habits etc. have kept me busy and away from blogging (or even doing any other stuff like coding …) for the last couple of months. I now seem to be finally getting into a new groove (which I hope does not become a rut :p) and so am able to think about blogging again. Plus, I started blogging as an outlet for all the thoughts crowding in my head and also because I needed to, was compelled to write. But since I’m so busy now, the compulsion to write is gone. Indeed, I found that the couple of articles a month I was doing for two different magazines was getting to be draining because of all the research that I had to do. So I gave up most of my writing too (I still write for one magazine – but that’s on an occasional basis) and become a gentlemen of leisure … albeit without too much leisure time :p

That brings us to about yesterday 🙂 I spent most of my spare time yesterday cataloguing my DVD collection. I’d been keeping tabs on my DVD’s using an application that I’d found online (what geek doesn’t? :p) but had stopped updating it like three years ago. And since we’d been buying a lot of DVD’s recently, I found that we had a lot of DVD’s not in the system and worst still, that we were buying duplicates at times because I didn’t have an updated system! So I finally decided to bite the bullet and update the system. I started with around 220 DVD’s in the system and now have 456 after I’d entered almost all of the new ones :p I still have about 10 more to go which are mostly Tamil or Hindi movies which aren’t in the database of selectable movies of the application that I use – DVD Profiler. So I’ll have to entere those manaually – I’ve become really anal about making sure that the cast and crew information is as correct as possible so that I can do an offline cross-reference of any actor, director, writer etc. based on the movies I own. So, I guess I’ll just have to do a lot of IMDB refrencing to update the last 10 or so movies – yes, that’s something I found out yesterday … even Tamil and Hindi movies are in IMDB! Granted, they don’t have as much information as the Hollywood movies, but they are still there and that’s probably one of the easiest references for referencing Bollywood or Mollywood movies too 🙂

Later in the evening we watched "Ocean’s Twelve" on DVD. Yeah, I hear you going, "What? It’s not out on DVD yet!" :p These were pirated copies of the movie – and bad pirated copies at that since somebody had shot it in a theater (probably) and the camera was slightly slanted and so the whole movie was slightly askew :p Then there were all the French titles, place names etc. which made the story a bit difficult to follow since I like to know all the details :p The movie was good but the ending wasn’t breathtaking – in fact, I could see it coming a mile away. I don’t know whether Hollywood writers are becoming more predictable each year or if I’m just beginning to see the patterns better but I can predict what’s going to happen in a movie more and more easily as time passes. The last movie that I can remember surprising me was "The Sixth Sense" and even that I was able to figure out what was happening before the movie ended.

Speaking of "The Sixth Sense", is M. Night Shyamalan’s career going in reverse or what? He came out with his best movie as his maiden offering and it has been steadily going downhill since then. "Unbreakable" was good but left me feeling as if there was something more – as if I’d seen only half a movie and there was an untold story I was missing. "Signs" was just a bad movie – no two words about it. The story was atrocious, so lame that it probably wouldn’t have floated even in the beginning days of science fiction. Come on, aliens who are afraid of water? I read something very similar in one of my first Sinhalese science fiction novels when I was like thirteen and even then, I was sceptical of that whole idea :p I haven’t even bothered to see "The Village" since the guy at the video store was like "This is the same guy who did ‘Sixth Sense’? But this is such an awful load of crap!" ‘Nuff said 🙂