January 21, 2009

Tweets for 2009-01-21

  • OK, went through applying for a bunch of possible programming gigs. That part of the daily ritual is done. Now on to the daily sites list 🙂 #
  • A quick day out shopping and dining 🙂 Got a few more DVDs of TV series to watch but didn’t get the two I wanted msot – “Dexter” & “Heroes” in reply to theretrometro #
  • If you as a client are very vague and say something like “I want MySpace duplicated”, I as developer will quote something like 30-40K 😀 #
  • “City of Ember” was very highly recommended by a friend. We’re about to watch it and see if the recommendation holds true 🙂 #
  • “City of Ember” wasn’t bad but not as good as I thought it would be either. Massive reality holes regarding building stuff to last 🙂 #
  • Website design where you just create a single image, slice it up, and then put the slices up as the entire page is the stupidest thing ever. #

January 19, 2009

Tweets for 2009-01-19

  • Must find and fix a bug I introduced into the Twitter Tools plugin when I made some modifications to support XMLRPC posting … #
  • My current set of projects are coming to an end. I need to start looking for new clients today, as well 🙂 #
  • RSSBandit is still my favourite RSS reader 🙂 Can’t beat the price (unless somebody’s paying people to use their app :p) and great features! #
  • How come everybody wants to pay developers in equity? You can’t buy groceries or pay bills with equity 😀 #
  • Somebody contacted me just now asking me to create a program which allows him to bet on a horse after the race ended 😀 #
  • “Seven Pounds” was a good movie. A bit slow perhaps but still, a good movie overall. You take something away from it … #
  • We’re watching “Revolver”. A bit old but that’s the only Statham movie we’ve missed so far. And he looks good with hair. Hard to recognize. #

January 13, 2009

Tweets for 2009-01-13

  • Reading about Lasantha’s funeral … everybody has something to say but will anybody act? I doubt it. This too will be old news in a week. #
  • Those on the Muslim side of the fence who call for the blood of all Jews would be wise to read a few articles like this: http://is.gd/fDLX #
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Posted by Fahim at 11:59 pm  |  No Comments

November 27, 2008

HP Reveals All

HP certainly revealed a lot of things (but not their pricing) at yesterday’s press conference to launch their new range of business notebooks and desktops for Sri Lanka. The press conference was held at the Trans Asia and surprisingly enough for Sri Lanka, it started only about 15 minutes late 🙂

The first thing to be revealed was of course, the new notebooks. In the process, HP also revealed their lack of taste, decorum, or any indication that they knew which country they were in. Why? Because they had models in skimpy outfits strutting around showing off the notebooks as if they were having some sort of catwalk fashion show. Sure, HP calls itself a "green" company and sells a lot of PCs, but they certainly showed the fact that they are not PC at all and that they are very green when it comes to doing tasteful marketing 😀

The ladies doing the modeling, no offence to them, were terribly over-made-up and under-clothed. They had this horrible blue eye-shadow which made them look like zombies and these skimpy skirts which would hike up when they got on the stage and if you were half a foot shorter than me, you probably could see their underwear as they got on stage. Yes, it was that short! And the showcasing of the notebooks? They simply walked around in front of the seated audience, giving them a glimpse of the notebook, which was totally useless because you didn’t get any of the details. But then again, this was all for effect and not really to let the participants get any useful info, right? And not once did any of the models smile, look pleasant or in any other way try to make the audience feel like taking a second look at the computers.

But then again, most of the guys there were probably busy looking a little bit below the computers, which were at eye level, to notice if the models were smiling or if any of the computers were even powered on :p

Given that this was a gathering of journalistic types and the abundance of pocket-feminists and armchair-nationalists who normally rise up to talk about "objectification of women" and "2500 years of cultural history", I was surprised that nobody pointed out the fact that apart from being utterly tasteless and tacky, this was also something which went against the culture of Sri Lanka and was degrading towards women. I’ve never understood why you needed a scantily clad woman to sell a car or a computer – you’re not buying the woman, you’re buying the item. Do we really need this kind of senseless, appealing-to-the-gonads type of advertising here in Sri Lanka as well? (Or did I lose the one single reader I have at "scantily clad"? :p)

Of course, that was just the beginning of things. HP talked up their products but gave no concrete answers to questions about how much these new products would sell for or even how much their current products sell for. They also kept harping on the fact that they weren’t a price-based organization because their products came with value-additions that others didn’t have. When asked what these value-additions were though, they were again rather vague – talking about doorstep service to customers. But then they went on to say that they don’t sell any HP products directly but do so through their network of authorized dealers and that all value-additions are provided by the dealers. So how do they even know that this mythical doorstep service exists? I’ve certainly never heard of it.

As the title says, HP certainly revealed a lot of things at this press conference, but not many of the things revealed were complimentary to the organization. The products showcased were good but given the lack of pricing information and HP’s insistence that they are not price-based because in the total cost of ownership, the price of the machine is a mere fraction, I certainly wouldn’t be dreaming HP anytime soon 🙂

November 3, 2008

Sri Lanka vs. Qatar – the Differences and the Tragedy

I love my country. In fact, I came back to Sri Lanka at a time when I had the opportunity to stay permanently in the US because I loved my country (and my family, of course :p). And since coming back, I have not taken up several opportunities to go elsewhere again because I enjoy being in Sri Lanka and have had hopes for its future. But no more 🙁

I’ve always said that the only thing wrong about Sri Lanka is it’s politicians. Doesn’t matter which party they are from, what doctrine they profess to espouse, the only thing they really are here for is their own enrichment at the expense of the nation and its citizens. Sure, we had politicians who left power with only the same amount they had in their bank balance that they had when they came to power. But all of them are dead now. What we now have are the rapacious bandits who want to make as much money as they are in power and damn the country and the people who elected them!

In fact, the country has been impoverished so much by these robbers that they’ve turned to finding new ways to fatten their own coffers. The latest such attempt is detailed in this story. Now I must say that I don’t know if what is mentioned in the story is true – watching the news or reading the newspapers over here just makes me so mad that I’ve stopped doing that. However, the story is in line with all the other stuff which has gone before. They will enact some sort of draconian law which gives the media ministry (and hence, the minister) the power to decide who can broadcast in the country. Then he will levy fat fees to "facilitate" the process for anybody who approaches him. In the mean time, any international corporation interested in doing any media work in the country will (if they have the least bit of integrity) will run far away from such corruption. Typical, just typical.

On the other hand, take Qatar. I had been aware of Qatar only peripherally for most of my life. I knew that it was one of the Middle Eastern countries where a lot of Sri Lankans went to work but that was about it. I didn’t know anything about the nation’s history or politics or government. Till recently that is ..

I came to learn about Qatar, quite by accident, on reading the above Wikipedia article that I’ve linked to. What I learnt was that in Qatar, the current Emir came to power after a bloodless coup where he deposed his father, the previous Emir. He didn’t do it because he wanted the wealth or the power. He did it because he wanted to see his country flourish and he knew that he could do the job.

Apparently, the previous Emir was not interested in the country. He was content to amass wealth, enjoy the privileges of royalty, and make frequent foreign trips (much like our Sri Lankan politicians, in fact). The current Emir took on the reigns of the country after consulting all the members of his family (who constituted the powers that be) and since then, has done away with the pomp and ceremony of a royal court and instituted a government that works like a business – a government that gets things done.

In fact, under the new Emir, enormous changes have taken place in the country. I believe Qatar is the only Middle Eastern country where women can vote. But that’s not all, they’ve done a lot of work in creating a nation that its citizens can be proud of and where everybody benefits, not just the ruling class. In fact, it’s said that the Emir will personally call up a minister if he sees something wrong while travelling through the city. Contrast that with here where the rulers don’t want to see anything while they are travelling through the city and are only worried about whether somebody will attack them.

When I read about Qatar, all that was wrong about Sri Lanka and the political blight slowly draining the lifeblood out of the nation was brought home to me all the more clearly. No, I’m not a revolutionary calling for the blood of the politicians :p In fact, I don’t see a solution for Sri Lanka because it isn’t one political party – it’s all of them and the people keep electing one party or the other in the hope that things will improve. But will they? I’m not so sure …

October 11, 2008

Customer Service – Sri Lankan Style

Sri Lanka, unfortunately, hasn’t yet caught up to the concept of customer service. Most businesses in Sri Lanka operate under something along the lines of "this is my/our business. You can purchase our service from us if you want and if you don’t go somewhere else. We don’t really care!" The customer certainly is not king over here 😀

Of course, things have started to change and in my opinion (which is somewhat limited), one of the best such examples is Sri Lanka Telecom. This is rather surprising given their government organization antecedents (it used to be a government operated body originally) and the fact that some people in Colombo had to wait years to get a telephone connection as short a time as about 10 years ago 🙂

On the other hand, there are organizations such as Dialog which proudly proclaims that their customer service is second to none and that they have won awards for customer service. But when you actually try to get anything done, you find that their customer service reps are untrained, clueless, and are usually afraid to go ahead and make a decision because: a) they are afraid to do so b) they have their boss looking over their shoulder and will censure them if they did actually take initiative.

I have had numerous dealings with Dialog and came away with each and every one of them vaguely unsatisfied. The best I got out of any such encounter was that they would "forward my feedback to management". However, I am not even sure that this feedback was actually sent anywhere (except to the wastepaper bin) because of something else that happened to me recently.

I finally got tired of the inefficiency and money grabbing practices of Dialog that I decided to disconnect my mobile connection with them. I’d had the connection for about six years and had not switched till then because everybody I knew had that mobile number. But enough was enough and I finally decided to switch. When I went to the Dialog arcade to get my connection terminated, the CSR (Customer Support Representative) who was assisting me asked me why I wanted to disconnect. I said, "I am not satisfied with your customer service" and I could see that he was put out by his expression 🙂

Before he could mark that on the disconnection form though (and there was a specific box was "Poor customer service" or something equivalent), he got called in by his boss who was sitting in a cubicle behind him. He is in there for a bit and then comes back out and I notice that the form does not have the "Poor customer service" box checked but instead says that I don’t use the connection anymore. I decided not to make a fuss because I knew that the CSR was simply following the orders of his boss.

Now I don’t know if this is standard Dialog policy or if the managers get reprimanded somehow if a customer disconnects due to dissatisfaction with the service they receive. If the latter is the case, I can understand why they don’t want to put that down. On the other hand, this particular manager might have been acting on his own believing that he was somehow acting in the best interests of the company by not sending negative comments on to the higher management.

Whatever the case maybe, I think that is a very shortsighted policy. If you don’t pass on what is wrong, it will never get rectified and you will continue to live on in your false glow of pride about everything being hunky dory. Of course, given that nobody in Dialog management reads my blog, I don’t think they’ll know about this in any case, or take any action to rectify such shortcomings. But I can at least write about this, especially since something else came up yesterday which made me want to say this 🙂 But this other "something else" will have to wait for another day since this entry is already way too long ….

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Posted by Fahim at 9:12 am  |  No Comments

May 9, 2008

Fever Dreams

Apparently, dengue and Chikungunya are sweeping through Colombo these days. Being the reclusive people we are, we haven’t been out much nor do we read newspapers or watch/listen to the news. So we really wouldn’t have known about any of this unless both of us hadn’t been struck down by what seems to have the symptoms of one or the other. But then again, Chikungunya has symptoms similar to dengue, so it’s all the same boat anyway 🙂

Anyway, the fever’s still around, nipping at us from time to time like a guerilla force 🙂 Nothing much we can do except to hope we can last out the attack. But one of the more … umm … interesting is not the right word here but I guess it will have to suffice, aspects of the whole experience was the dreams.

The first day of fever, the dream was line of HTML. Yes, I’m not kidding. I would have this one single line of HTML code (or text on a web page, I’m not sure now …) and it would keep repeating and looping through my mind over, and over and over and over, like a hamster at its wheel. I would have thoughts flashing through my mind at the same time in a sequence similar to this:
It’s coming off the default web page!
All I need to do is change the default web page and the text will change!
But where is the web server in my mind?

And that of course, was the real question. Where is the web server of your mind? 🙂

The second day, it got a little more complex. From one line of text, we moved on to a whole book. I had been reading Neil Gaiman‘s Stardust during the hours when I was awake and when I slept, the novel transformed in my mind. The protagonist somehow received the ability to create illustrations which were alive and he in turn illustrated the scenes in the book so that the words were replaced by living, moving images. The dreams this time were of the text turning to images over and over and over and if that wasn’t torture enough, even in my dream, I was questioning the logic of the dream 🙂

I was wondering how the story could stay true to how it was written if the illustrations were alive. What if a character stepped out of the scene – how could the story be told properly? And if all the characters were fixed in space, but are alive, would they grow old? And if they did, would that not ruin the story for later readers who would find an older man carrying out the actions of a teenage boy? And if the images were fixed both in space and time, then was there justification for calling them "alive"? As you can see, I create most of my own trouble 🙂

The third day of dreams was more scattered. It wasn’t as repetitive though it still involved quite a bit of computers, blogging, and so on. So it might simply be that whatever I did during the day has a direct bearing on the dreams that I had. I just wish that I didn’t have to have the same dream endlessly repeated. That’s no fun and I tell ya, it’s exhausting!

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Posted by Fahim at 7:03 am  |  3 Comments

May 6, 2008

Sick!

Yes, I’m sick. Not the sick in the head kind but the joint-aching, head-achy, whiny, complainy kind of sick. So I probably won’t get back to the blog (or to the All Things Art and Good series) for a while. Unless I buy the big one, in which case, you’ll just have to be left in suspense :p

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Posted by Fahim at 4:54 pm  |  No Comments

March 27, 2008

Sri Lankan Spam

As if all those spam mails about penis enlargement; herbal supplements; deposed dictators, their wives, grandchildren, personal secretaries and grandmothers wanting to give you millions of dollars; and free software downloads weren’t enough, the spamming has started in my own backyard. And that somehow seems to be worse than all those spammy mails from people on the other side of the world 🙂

What’s worse is that the Sri Lankan spammers are so inept that they openly copy the e-mail addresses of all the people they spam. This way, not only do I get spammed, I also know who else got spammed along with me. Yeah, maybe you’ll say "misery loves company" and move on :p But think a moment, if my e-mail address and all those other e-mail addresses are visible to all those who got spammed, what’s to prevent another enterprising person to copy those addresses and spam us all over again? Nothing.

Yeah. Neverending Sri Lankan spam because some idiot, who might be living next door, gathered up all the addresses of people s/he figured out were Sri Lankans. The though of it somehow makes my blood boil even worse than the foreign spam!

So I decided to do something about it – I spammed them all back 😀 OK, that’s not quite right. I wrote to all of those people (taking care not to reveal the addresses again, of course) and told them what the situation was. That our e-mail addresses were exposed to every Tom, Dick, Harry, Jinadasa, Mohideen, or whoever to copy and spam again. I asked that everybody who was spammed contact the spammer and ask him not to spam us again and also wrote to the spammer and asked him to let me know if he got the list from somebody else so that that person can be notified that I really don’t want anymore unsolicited e-mail.

Will anything come out of it? I have no idea. Knowing how things work in Sri Lanka, I might even have retaliation directed at me 🙂 Ah well, you’ve gotta take a stand sometimes, right?

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Posted by Fahim at 9:25 am  |  1 Comment

January 20, 2007

The racial race

I met a Sinhalese nationalist yesterday. He was a new trishaw driver that I got to come back home from a meeting. He started talking to me about the state of the country and I joined in. As the conversation progressed though, it became apparent that he was a nationalist – basically a person who believes that the country belongs to the majority community :p

Now I’ve never understood that mentality or why people believe that a nation cannot be composed of people from different ethnic and racial backgrounds. I consider myself a Sri Lankan at worst and a citizen of the world at best but most people can’t seem to get beyond their own race/caste when considering their nationality. I consider Sri Lanka to be particularly bad in this respect. There are very few Sri Lankans – everybody is a Sinhalese, a Tamil or a Muslim. When a nation is fractured and pulls in so many different directions, how can the country expect to progress?

In the course of my conversation with the trishaw driver, he made a comment about the public transportation system. He said "oh the minister is a Muslim" as if that explained all that was wrong with the system. Perhaps to him, it did. When I was growing up, the awareness of the racial barriers were much stronger. If you were a Muslim, you got called names, had to listen to crude jokes about the fact that Muslims were circumcised while others here are not and so on. It has changed a lot (or at least appeared to) in recent years but I was suddenly brought face to face with the fact that old prejudices die hard 🙂

Then, in the evening, I ran across this article. It appears to have been written by somebody in/from the US, who has no clue about the actual situation here in Sri Lanka. He goes on to paint a picture where he makes no difference between the LTTE and the rest of the Tamil population. Everybody is a Tamil and they are all being discriminated against. Sure, on the other side of the fence, there is the same mentality but in this case, they think most Tamils are terrorists. Neither one is correct. The LTTE is not totally blameless nor is the Sri Lankan government composed of saints. But what I do find interesting about that particular article is the fact that every single one of the people who commented on the article are Tamils and a lot of them are claiming genocide and how the Sinhalese government is driving Tamils out of Tamil occupied areas. Of course, they forget to mention the fact that the LTTE has a similar program where they are driving the Muslims out of the same areas :p

In the end, whether Sinhalese, Tamil or Muslim, each side has their own grievances and their own injustices that they feel need to be righted. But as the old saying goes, if you all took an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we’d all be blind and toothless :p What Sri Lanka (and the rest of the world) needs is to set aside our racial and ethnic differences and realize that we are all one race, that we all bleed the same, that we all have the same hopes and aspirations. But will we do that before the world implodes? I doubt it …

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Posted by Fahim at 8:03 am  |  No Comments

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