Archive for the ‘Ramblings’ Category

Switching seems to be a recurring topic on my blog these days. Hopefully this will be the last one in this series.

I switched ISP’s last month. As much as I was happy with the consistent service provided by my previous ISP, LankaBell, they were expensive. I was signed up for a 2Mbps connection and I was getting more than 1 Mbps consistently. Consistency is the key here, as my 4Mpbs line at work, doesn’t seem that fast, the speed is volatile and it does have a great impact on the actual throughput when you are using it.

Anyway, I was happy with the service but not with the price I was paying for it. And since SLT came up with their new broadband packages, promising minimum of 2 Mbps and maximum 8Mpbs speeds with a capped monthly usage quota, I was itching to switch. Only thing I wasn’t sure about was whether I would exceed the quota of 20 Gb per month, and whether the stated speeds would be practically available given the fact that this is shared bandwidth.

However, I faced a third dilemma. When I applied for a connection, I was told that the area I was living in was running at full capacity and that I would have to wait, indefinitely until they can activate my connection.

After about a month they did, and I managed to set up my home network using some old equipment that were in possession. Immediately, I faced some volatility issues. My connection kept dropping and it was hard to get anything done. I often kept switching back to my old LankaBell connection, in order to complete my work (I ran both connections in parallel for about a month, until I got the bill from LankaBell for another month!)

Then one day, I just turned off my LankaBell connection, and used the Wireless N router I was using with it as a Wireless N access point, and all my network stability issues vanished).

Now I am completely on the SLT broadband connection. I disconnected my Lankabell connection and they even removed their equipment. Personally for me, my Internet connection is second only to the power connection in terms of need! So far SLT had not let me down. And I am keeping a mobile broadband connection as back  up in case if something goes wrong. I am happiest when I get the bills. This connection costs me only 1/3 of what I was paying before!

I was never a gym person. I’ve never been to a gym in my life, ever!

My attempts at working out at home had been sporadic. I own three exercise machines, but they lie around, unused. I’ve attempted to walk, which kind of worked while I was working from home, alone, but after I moved to an office, it fell by the wayside. I’ve attempted to go for a walk during the weekends and that too was never regular. One thing, which I have picked up is cycling on Sundays with the Pedal Pushers, which has been somewhat regular.

With my weekly cycle rides one thing I came to realize was how unfit I was! All this time my fitness was not an issue as I hardly engaged in any physically demanding activities. But cycling 25-30km’s just showed me how unfit I was. And secondly, my wife become pretty interested in staying fit. She took up a Zumba class twice a week. I joined her once a week and and it was an eye opener to my fitness level.

With all this when my wife wanted to join a neighborhood gym, I tagged along and joined too. So now, I’ve committed myself to working out three times a week.

I was asked to define my goals of joining a gym and here’s what I came up with:

  • Lose 10 kgs of weight
  • Lose 2″ on my waist line
  • Generally improve my fitness and stamina
Losing weight and waistline has remained a goal of mine for quite sometime. But this is the first time that I am going to be doing something specifically targeted towards achieving it. So let’s see how well I keep to my commitments. Hopefully I will be posting periodic updates about progress here. And if nothing is posted, over time, it would probably mean I would have not achieved my goals or have not kept my commitment. This post is an attempt of a public declaration, so that I will hold myself accountable.

I don’t know whether it is a rediscovery of the love for writing or the love for fountain pens. But I tend to put pen on paper every day these days to record my thoughts!

I used to like writing when I was younger. During my school days I was pretty good at essay writing and always scored well, be it in Sinhalese or English. I stopped learning languages and literature around the age of 16, and from that point onwards it has been all technical subjects for me. Then, I had to master scientific writing. I learned to keep things concise and to the fact. I lost the art of writing.

Soon after I left school I did a short stint as a journalist. It was for a weekly paper and as a cub reporter. I did it purely because I liked to write. Of course that was also the time I was going through university and after a while I decided to give up my journalistic career and concentrate on my university life including the fun side.

Then onwards it was purely scientific writing., I studied mathematics and physics and I ever considered myself a master of any of those subjects to write about them.

And after I started working, being into IT, I spent all my time with a keyboard. Hence my writing became typing on the keyboard.

Until recently I could hardly write for five minutes with a pen and paper without feeling an uncomforting feeling around the wrists.

But throughout I carried forward my passion for fountain pens. I always carried a fountain pen if I ever carried a pen. I lost a few along the way, most notably though my university career. I remember once while running in the rain, the pen I carried got thrown out of my pocket and fell into a ditch full of water.  I searched for it ended up being wet but didn’t find the pen. I remember how I sad I felt at that loss.

I have also had several occasions where the fountain pens leaked in my pockets. I remember once it leaked on my way to a job interview. Luckily I had some time so I went into a shop, and bought a new shirt and ended up walking out of the shop clad in new shirt and headed straight to the interview. (I landed the job and signed the documents using the pen that leaked!)

Back to the topic, I plan on using all my fountain pens now. I had them packed and nicely packed away in a drawer. But now that I want to write with them, it is time to make use of my collection. After all, what’s the point of a collection if they cannot be used.

Earlier, a refill used to last for a month or so. But at my current rate, I think a refill will only last a week or even less. Therefore all my pens will have an opportunity to scribe on paper in my hands.

But one thing I am in need is a good notebook with fountain pen friendly paper. Most of the notebooks in the market tend to have very thin paper which, when written on with a fountain pen, the ink blots through the page. I would also like something which has a nice bound cover.

I am now finding more ideas for my blogging also through writing. I tend to write my thoughts on the paper and then convert them to blog posts if I feel if there is some significance in them. This post in itself is one such incident.

Enough typing, off to more conventional writing!

It has been raining since this morning. It has now healed a bit but still the drizzle is on. I am forced to write blog posts in offline mode as my broadband is also not working.

I made use of this offline time to rearrange my desk. I raised both my LCD and my laptop using two plastic low-stools. Now the monitors of them both are slightly above my eye level. I am going to give this arrangement a try for a little while. At least it will make me lean back on my chair rather than an leaned forward hunched position that I am usually in all the time.

I have been looking at some lifehacker posts of featured workspaces with raised monitors. Some of them have the monitors raised even more. But I am not entirely convinced of the ergonomics of those arrangements. But in the process of typing this what I realized is that with my current raised monitors I can easily lean back on my chair and rest my head against the head rest and type. Which is something that I was unable to do with the level the monitors were in earlier.

My workspace is my never ending project. I get inspired to do something with it every once in a while. But with the absence of an Ikea or a Staples in Sri Lanka, most of the tweaks are out of reach unless I attempt to do them DIY. I have been thinking about investing in some power tools for me to attempt the DIY. But have been putting it off as I can think of better uses for money. Therefore I am making to do with what I have.

The other reason that prevents me from spending a lot on my workspace is a conversation that I had with my client. When I told him that I finally got a U shaped work area he congratulated me and then said that he is working with two small desks one enough to fit his laptop and another for the mouse. That point made me wonder whether I was on an overkill!

But I want to create a workspace that is both practical as well as inspiring. I want to have a workspace that makes me want to spend time in it rather than something that would make me want to get out of it every few minutes.

A few things that are pending: need to fix the speakers on the walls. And I need to hang some fun/inspirational artwork on the walls!

This seems to be a topic which has been floating around for a while.  The main argument for this seems to be the plethora of smart phones and cheaper laptops.  It seems, that the phones are getting smarter and more like computers. In fact today’s phones pack as much computing power as earlier generation computers which occupied large rooms.

Then there are the laptops and the new kid on the block ‘netbooks’. While a decade ago a laptop was an expensive piece of equipment that was the forte of CEO’s and travelling executives, nowadays they have become essential tools of almost all business executives and even high school students.

The most notable a difference between laptops and desktops, apart from the foam factor, was the price. Or more significantly the high price tag associated with laptop computers.  But lately the prices of notebooks have become more closer to the prices of desktop computers of yesteryears. I remember, when I first bought my (desktop) computer, I paid around Rs. 80,000/-. But when I bought my first laptop, I paid less than that.

And compared with the hip-ness and the mobility of a laptop, coupled with free WiFi that seems to be available everywhere, or a 3G broadband connection, the desktop seems to be fast becoming extinct.. or is it?

On a recent poll over at LifeHacker.com, where they asked their readers to name their primary computer, desktops slightly edged out laptops. Personally, I too, after working for years exclusively on laptops, am now currently inclining more towards a desktop. So the desktops are going to be around for a while, it seems, or am I from an older generation?

Compared to the price of a laptop, a desktop is still pretty much cheaper. I think nowadays there is still a price difference of about 25%. But it is not what is pushing me towards the desktop. The flexibility of upgrading, that is driving me more towards the desktop.

For me, personally, it is a project to build myself the ultimate developer rig. I want to be able to tinker and milk the computer to my needs, add more hardware progressively and bring it to the level I want over time without making a significant improvement. It is a accepted norm that desktops can be made to perform better when compared to laptops.

Then the flexibility of upgrades is what is appealing to me. I have a pretty high spec in mind for my ultimate rig. But I don’t have the cash to invest in to it once. So I want a setup where I can build it over time, while still using the rig from the first build. I cant do that with a laptop, unless I have a lot of cash.

Thirdly, I got fed up of laptop keyboards, scratch pads and small screens. I found the solution for all three, by hooking a wireless keyboard and a mouse and a LCD display as the primary display and the laptop screen as the secondary screen. But after experiencing a dual monitor setup, I want to try out a triple monitor setup. And I would like all three monitors to be the same size. I know that I can probably achieve this with the help of some third party hardware device that can be hooked to the laptop, but I’d rather try that with a desktop and use my laptop for ‘mobile’ computing, when I need it out of the house or when I want to escape the environs of my home office and feel like working near the fountain, watching the fish!

That’s from a personal front. Another possible scenario that can emerge, by playing the same factors that were thought to cause the demise of the desktop could also be its savior. The ever powerful smart phones are increasingly reducing the need of lugging around a laptop. For example, I rarely carry my laptop around nowadays for meetings unless I have to do a presentation. Most things I would need to do on a laptop at a meeting, like retrieving an email or a document can be done on my iPhone. So the scenario that can evolve is that, smart phones may replace the laptops. And for homes, with the advent of media center PC’s, desktops may be the ideal devices sitting there with your movies and music and photos, serving them to different playback devices and constantly downloading new content from the Internet.

Well, as you can see from what I have been rambling all this time, I don’t think desktops are going to be gone anytime soon.

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Wow! Another year has gone by. Whatever happened to time? Doesn’t it always make us wonder.

But for me, I felt the year going by. The year 2009 had been a year of major changes. My life has taken a new path!

The year started a bit rocky for me. I was not seeing eye-to-eye with the owners of the company that I was working for. So the year started with me contemplating my future. It was clear that I was not going to have any future working there.

The good thing that came out of it was instead of looking for another job, me going into business for myself. I turned into a freelancer. While I was transitioning from being a monthly paid normal office worker to a uncertain and new territory of freelancing, my wife was expecting our son.

While all of this was going on, our son came into this world. That made us forget all our woes and enjoy his arrival. I think he truly brought in a new dimension to out lives. I stepped into the unchartered waters without much excitement or nervousness, initially. And I have to thank wifee for standing by me through all of that. She was brave to accept that I might have to go for sometime without a proper income or any income at all.

For me, things didn’t turn out that bad. First of all, a friend of mine came into my rescue by giving me a project. That kept me busy initially. And during the first month itself, I landed a gig with a LA web development company. And I am happy to say, 8 months and few projects later, I am still working for them. And we are exploring the possibilities of taking business to the next level.

Freelancing turned out to be better than I bargained for. Of course the initial couple of months, though I had an income, it wasn’t what I used to get in the job. That was mainly due to my erratic schedules and getting used to being my own boss slippages. But once I came to terms with my new life and the fact that no ones going to look over my shoulder to make me work, but it is the paycheck at the end of the month that will suffer, if I don’t out in solid work, I turned out pretty well.

Actually from about the third month of being a freelancer, I caught up with my salary and from the month after started to exceed it. That was the best thing and also took away my worries of financial stability. I have been earning much more than what I had earned in any job, for the past four months as a freelancer. The beauty of this is, if you have the capacity freelancing gives you the option to earn more. But if I was in a job, I would have had to wait for the annual reviews and all the other bullshit to get a raise. Even then, with the current economic condition,that was a far cry. With my last boss, it was definitely a non-starter.

And the other major thing is that we are going to be moving houses. We are moving to our own place and we are currently in the process of doing it up to our tastes and needs. And that gives me an opportunity to setup my ideal working environment. I have already designed the furniture and setup. Now it is just a matter of getting them done.

All in all, 2009 has been a good year. An year of changes, but looking back, it is an year that I am happy about. It has been an year of achievements. Looking forward to the house move and starting 2010 in a new house with a new lease of life!

We planned to move closer to the city when our daughter starts schooling, which is January 2010. We evaluated several plans and finally decided to move into our own home in Colombo 5. That house was given on rent, but we decided the benefits of living in the city will out weigh the rent income benefit.

We decided to do a few renovations and to give the house a bit of a face-lift before we moved there. We decided it would be easier to do the modifications before we moved so we don’t have to go through the hassle of living in a construction site.

We gave our tenant notice to leave but he overstayed by a month until he found a suitable home for himself. Then we started the renovations, with the initial plan of moving there by the beginning of December. And I was determined to put the project management best practices that I apply daily in my work to the construction and keep it within the plan and the budget.

The first thing that went off the window was the budget. When you start building, you cant always keep to the original budget. While some of the estimates given to us were way inaccurate, we also overspent on some things. It just happens that when you shop for stuff, you always end up seeing things that are far more expensive and you end up buying them.

For example, we are adding a new room to the house. First we weren’t sure if we were going to go ahead with this plan. Then our architect convinced us that it was a good plan. Building the walls of the room was the easiest thing. But getting finishes for it, was another story all together. Our bathroom is going to end up costing three times the initial estimate. Then again, we are going to build only once and we want to build it up to the standard we want.

Then came the time lines. As it turned out, the contractors estimates were etched in rubber. They kept stretching. First he would tell us that he’s finish something in three days. Then on the end of the second day he’s tell us that he needs another three days. Then at the middle of those second three days, he says he lost two days of work due to rain. Man, software is far more easy to manage.

To be fair by him, the weather didn’t exactly go our way either. We had some of the highest rainfalls to hit Colombo during this time. So he and his crew actually did lost a few days of work (about 20 man-days all in all so far).

The third issue was coordinating the different contractors. We were working with separate contractors for the masonry, carpentry, electrical wiring and aluminum excursions.  As all of them were independent contractors, coordinating their schedules were a bit of a nightmare. Made me realize how better I am in committing and keeping my commitments to my clients as a freelancer.

So on the brink of the month of December, I am there at the site trying to supervise the work. But our chances of moving during the first week of December are pretty bleak. Now I would be happy if we can move within the month of December.

So the lessons learned:

  • When building a house, either go with an open but realistic budget or be ready to not to have the dream home. The dream home, costs money, lots of it. I am somewhere in between. My theory was things that are hard to change/remodel, go with the stuff that your heart tells you to get. For things that can be changed without a fuss later, go with the stuff that suits your budget.
  • Get professional advice on estimates. Our contractors are trades people, not engineers. So their estimates change, and they don’t feel bad about it. They are used to that. They don’t feel bad when they cant meet a deadline. On the other hand for me, as an IT contractor, that is one of the hardest things to do.
  • Have some buffer. We lost our buffer time when we allowed our tenant to over-stay.

Finally, wish for loads of luck. So that you’d find the things fast. We scouted for days sometimes to get the things we wanted. Some examples were bathroom fittings,tiles and light fixtures. After weeks of scouting we still didn’t get the things we had in our minds. We settled for the next best things, at a higher cost than anticipated.

 

Ever since I started working from home, one of my biggest challenges had been being productive. When you are working from another room in the house, the opportunities for distractions have been far greater. Whether it is to satisfy an urge to get something to munch from the refridgerator, or to go play with the kids, or to get a quick update on match on TV, etc, the list can be endless.

Over the past few months I have found a few things that worked for me and I thought of sharing them. The motivation for sharing is partly because some of these tips I picked up from a variety of blogs on freelancing and work@home.

I had to adopt some strategies as some attributes that help successful freelancing do not come naturally for me. One of the worst being I used to be a champion on procastinating.

Practice some sort of GTD:
You don’t have to be a champion on GTD. But it helps to have some sort o a workflow that you follow. GTD proposes a great workflow and I use a slimmed down version of that.

One of my main challenges has been in finding the tools. I am yet to find my ideal tool. But between a notebook (the paper type, not a computer), my iPhone with a few free task applications, Google tasks, I make an attempt to record all the stuff that needs to get done.

I also a great fan of unfuddle for managing software projects. It provides a tool that is more geared toward software projects without the overkill or the complications of major project management tools, which is ideal for small projects with small teams and short timelines.

Find the times that work for you best:
All of us have times that we are more productive than the other times. These are the times when our energy levels are highest and our concentration is sharpest.

For me these times are the morning and the night. So I have planned my work day in such a way that I can make use of these times.

I schedule other activities such as meetings that requires me to go out and meet clients to those times that my energy I low. Having to go out and meet people is better option when you’re energy is low rather than trying to work on your own.

But I am not always able to dedicate these times for doing paid work. Go instance some mornings I have to drop and pick my daughter to school. An sometimes there are other errands or family matters that need to be done at those times. If that happens I shift my work hours to other time slots.

Stick to a schedule as much as possible:
One of the first things I tried to do when I started out was to get rid of all schedules. And that was the biggest mistake I made. Nothing hardly got done without crunching everything at deadlines.

Set targets:
This is something that helped me to get things done and also to keep my income in check. I target to do a cetain amount of work everyday. There is a monthly target and a weekly target and a daily target. Sometimes I may exceed the daily target but sometimes due to other tasks that I have to attend to, the weekly paid time target may go off target. I try todo my best to cover the weekly target. If I fail to meet my weekly targets, I know that it will result in a dent in my monthly income.

Time box:
This is something that has worked out for me really well and help me deal with procastinating and meeting targets as well. When I work I try to work in a chunk. Spend a chunk of time like 2 hours on a task. I reward myself with a small break after the specified time was spent on the task.

This also helps me meet my targets without getting burned out. This also helpse pace out my day.

Be flexible:
The greatest of plans go off th track. So the key is being flexible and having th ability to adopt the changes and disruptions. I still get irritate when my work plan gets disrupted. But I am trying my best efforts to be flexible. One of the advantages of freelancing is it gives greater freedom to become flexible.

These techniques and this work flow has helped me keep my productivity at a higher level. This also helped me to keep my income in check. One of the great worries of freelancing is the fluctuating income. While getting work is the primary fact in meeting this, once you land work, getting things done will ensure that you deliver on the work that you have taken up.

Watching cricket after quite a long time. I was not following this tournament until that last crucial match between Sri Lanka and New Zealand. I wouldn’t have watched it either if it wasn’t for my friend Chandi. But that ignited my interest in this tournament.

 

So here I am watching the final. The early wickets of Lankan team made me realize why I was not so keen on watching cricket. It is great to watch cricket when our team is going great guns. But not so great when they are not doing so great. As a spectator you feel very powerless as all you can do is to watch and keep your faith in your team. That is maybe the great thing about team sports. And particularly cricket. You cannot really place bets based on odds. On any given day any team can be on top. And that is particularly true for teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

 

I am going to keep watching. Hopefully I can watch through to the end, even if we win or lose. But it will be very heart breaking to see another team win.

Damn, Mahela also got out! I think now we are really in a bad spot!

I have taken the plunge. And this post comes one month late. Since the start of April 2009, I am a full time freelancer and an entrepreneur. I made the decision and moved ahead with it. Severed all my strings with the cubicle nation and started in the environments of home sweet home. I felt the fear, but did it anyways (that phrase sounds strangely familiar)

And I have been feeling better than I felt for a long time. I felt peacefulness that i had not felt for a long time. All the stress I had boiling inside me just vanished. I had to drag myself to work some times during the past few months and all that pressure evaporated.

Now I work the hours that I am comfortable (honestly I work far more hours, but I do it joyously), I spend quite a bit more time with my family (my daughter is thrilled that both her parents are at home), cut down time spent in commute, am doing projects that I want to do, learning new technologies every day and actually enjoying the work the that I am doing.

And there is no chance of this work getting bored as the projects that you do as a freelancer tend to be more short term and you are constantly working on new projects. This is a major departure from my last gig, where I was maintaining and developing an old system built on deprecated technology.

The transition had its own set of complications. I was moving from a salaried position to becoming a freelancer which meant that my income was going to vary from being the fixed income to a variable income. This was a major decision to make as I have fixed expenses due to debts apart from day to today expenses. But I had this major confidence that I would be able to earn the minimum that was needed to sustain our family and the first month has been successful in that regard.

Secondly, I was looking at the upside more. As a salaried employee my income was more or less FIXED. But as a freelancer and an entrepreneur the upside is unlimited! I read somewhere that a risk assessment should concentrate more on the potential upside and not the potential downside! And if you see your cup as half full, you know what I mean.

Thirdly, I wanted to always try my hand at starting a business. I have attempted this as a side project a few times, but the conflict of interests and work commitments kept me giving such a project the true effort needed in one. Being a freelancer is in a way, you doing your own business. And it gives me the opportunity to build a company around the services that I offer, do it in a more expanded manner that goes beyond a

single person. So I am finally giving wings to my dreams!

Hopefully, this will enable me to blog more often, do things that I truly enjoy doing, work the hours that I want, spend more time with my family, reduce my carbon footprint (no daily commute for me), exercise more, create more value and earn far more than I DID!

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Had a peaceful weekend. This was one of the weekends recently where I spent the least amount of time in front of my Laptop. I spent quite a lot of time with Dinara, playing with her, talking with her (she in her own language and me in my language), watched some TV and read papers. This weekend being the 4th of July weekend also helped a great deal as my headoffice in US was closed for business and everyone over there was enjoying their holidays. It was also the last weekend without Lushi’s parents. They are returning to the country from their European vacation early tomorrow morning. As I write this post they must be on a flight back home.

Talking about them being away, everyone seems to be missing them a lot more than anyone expected. They are also missing home and specially our little baby. They are so used tobeing around her, and she is more used to being with them than with us. She also has been missing them quite a bit. There were instances where she kept walking all around the house, looking in every nook and corner, calling out for them. I guess she’ll be one of the happiest people to see her grandparents back at home.

So with everyone returning to work tomorrow, after a vacation in US, and a peaceful weekend over here I have a feeling this coming week is going to be pretty hectic for me. I have two new recruits starting off tomorrow. So from tomorrow onwards I will have two direct reports to manage. Since I am the person who recruited them as well, I am directly responsible for their performance. I am quite confident about them. Just need to wait and see how fast they are going to pick up the work.

So with new recruits starting off at office my work from home days will come to a standstill as now I will have to be at work, setting a good example for them. Eventually I hope to get all the people to work from home sometime, with the rising fuel costs, I think that will be one of the best ways to be productive and to cut down the costs as well. The good news is my boss is all for telecommuting. So as long as my two new employees are still being productive from home, I will have no problem to allow them to work from their homes. I am in the process of setting up the necessary infrastructure to allow people to work from home. Once the VPN is setup, everyone can log into the VPN, download the source codes, access the required systems and securely work from virtually anywhere from the world.

So let me take that task to my weekly task list: ‘Complete the setting up of the VPN’.

The government did the inevitable last night. They raised petrol and diesel prices with effect from this morning. Petrol has gone up by Rs. 30 a litre! Quite a large price increase by any means.

I am not naive enough to blame it on the government alone. I know the price of crude oil has been rising sharply in the wold market and this move was inevitable. But for the average Sri Lankan this is a huge blow. The cascading effect of these fuel price increases will result in everything going up in price.

Private bus owners are already hinting that they need to increase the bus fares or they’ll go on strike. The prices of the essential items (depending on what your needs are) will go up as there is not much of a control on those.

I for one will have to take on several cut backs. First will be on my travelling and travelling patterns. I will have to start hitching more rides with my wife. My recently acquired VW Bora will spend more time in the Garage at home rather than on the road! And depending on what prices other commodities reach on the open markets, other creature comforts will also be cut back.

I am determined to stick in this country. I am not about to run away from here in search of greener pastures overseas.  So in that respect, I am ready to let go of some of my comforts in that endeavor. Let’s see where we are going to end up in. In that sense, where the whole world will end up in.

Happy Wesak everyone. At least those of you who are in Sri Lanka are enjoying an extended weekend of 4 days this weekend. Some of you have been lucky enough to go out of Colombo. But I am in Colombo for several reasons as there were a few things we had to attend over the weekend.

To start off with there was a ‘bana’ and an alms giving on Friday and Saturday. Then there was Vidara and Thedara’s birthday party. Then there is the fact that my parent company being in the US, requiring me to be in Colombo with broadband connectivity in order to support thier operations. This is one of the things that I will have to do, working on US calendar as my head office. Something I figured would nt be much of a hassle. But in the long run I will have to get some Sri Lankan holidays, at least ones like the Sinhala New Year.

Coming back to Wesak, the recent bomb blast and the security situation in the country will put in a lot of restrictions on the Wesak celebrations. At least people will be a bit reluctant to travel to see the wesak celebrations due to security fears. Even my mother did not go to the usual temple that she goes to obtain SIL as today there is some big program with a lot of big shots in attendance and hence she was scared about being at a locations which is a prime target.

So on this noble day my wish is for peace in this paradise island. May we be allowed to celebrate wesak in  peace and harmony next year wihout the fear of bombs and loss of life!

Lately, all my blogging had been related to moBlog. This blog was supposed to be my personal blog, but for the past month or so, it was more like the official blog of moBlog. It’s time to re-claim my blog! I am thinking about getting moBlog its own blog!

Anyways, on the personal side, the past few weeks been a bit hectic with work. Been spending quite a lot of time at client sites. A lot of my projects have come to the implementation stages, so there’s a bit of running around to do.

Lushi has been having a hectic time too. She seems to be getting landed with a lot of work, some of which I feel are outside her scope of work. But then, that’s what you get when you prove your capability! So goes the saying, if you want something done, give it to the busiest person! That’s exactly what’s been happening on her work front.

Little Dinara is amazing. She has started to walk and she just can’t seem to get enough of it. As much as it is an exercise to all the rest of us, she doesn’t seem to be getting fed up of walking and running about. The thing is, she is so fast and agile, it is very difficult to keep up with her.

My week days has been a bit hectic and that has resulted in the time spent with Lushi and Dinara coming to a minimum. I am trying to carve out some time exclusively for them, and more than that, to spend the little time spent with them, completely on them. I know I still have not perfected this art, but that’s what I am trying to get to. Quality over Quantity!

Other than that, I have had this craze to buy a Ford Capri MK1. Went and saw one, seems to be in a pretty good condition but the price is absurd. Then there is one which seems to be of a reasonable price, but it is minus its wheels. Now I know I wont find a Capri for the price I have in mind which is in perfect condition. I am still trying to make up my mind whether I want to wrestle with an old car. I like the idea of getting an old car. I just dont like the idea of spending my tille free time in garages!

It’s been a while

It’s been a while since I posted last on this blog. Ever since I returned from my last overseas assignment things have been a bit of a mad rush. There were so many things that I had to play catch up on, I spent a few weeks just getting my life back in order. I think my work life still has not returned to normalcy.

Well, out of the significant events that happened since then the most significant has to be Dinara’s first birthday. We couldn’t just let the day pass by, though she did not understand a thing that was going on around her. We had a alms giving to a children’s home which had some 40 odd girls. We did not make a scene out of the fact that it was due to a birthday celebration because we thought that would make those kids sad!

Then we had a small party at our place. We knew that some people were going to turn up anyway, so we invited a few more. Then it turned out to be a bigger crowd than we expected! You know when you invite some, there are still some others that you have to invite. If you don’t you end up hurting their feelings and probably them holding a grudge against you for the rest of their lives!

Well, Dinara didn’t know what to make out of the fuss that everybody was making of her. She was feeling very sleepy and fell asleep just as the party was kicking off. We had to wake her up for the birthday cake. And as soon as the cake was cut, she went back to sleep and slept throughout the whole duration of the party! It was good in a way as she was kind of left alone because of the fact that she was asleep. Also, it gave us a bit of a breather to socialize with the guests.

I think Lushi was more exited about the party than anybody else. If it wasn’t for her, it wouldn’t have been much of a party. If it was any success, the credit should go to Lushi, the two amma’s and thaththa. Also for Sujee and everybody else who helped.

As for the rest of the things, well work is kind of getting hectic. My plans have gone a haywire a bit and am trying to get things on track.

Lushi is a bit stressed out as well. She is buried with work and whole lot of changes that are taking place at her workplace. Hey darling, take things lightly! And remember I am there for you, always!

Yesterday was a heart-breaking day. Some junkies had broken into our ancestral home which had been closed down for some time. They had broken down a door and entered the house. As the house was empty, they have removed all the brass fittings from the windows.

It was heart-breaking to see the house being violated like that. That house has a lot of memories of us growing up and going through the ups and downs and of our younger days, when my father was around. It was specially hard for my mother. She always wanted to go back to live in that house. It broke her heart to see the house vacant and in a neglected state, and now seeing it being broken into was even harder.

You feel violated when you are robbed. Part of it stems from the fact that you are helpless. The Police was not much of a help either. Their main question was why we kept the house closed. And their advice was to give it out on rent fast. They were clearly not interested in finding the culprits. Maybe this was a too small for them to spend their time on.

When such an incident occurs you tend to questions your Karma. When you live your life without causing harm to others, why are others causing harm to you? It is because of something that you have done in one of your previous births. That maybe the easiest explanation to give, but it doesn’t cut out for me. It has to be some in-congruence on in the way you live.

Got myself a new notebook. Actually, I wasn’t in the market for a new notebook computer untill Rukshan suggested that he get one for me from US. And it was him who suggested a few models to me as well.

After browsing the net for a while, I set my sights on a Acer Aspire 5100-5840, which is an AMD Turion 64 X 2 with 2 Gigs of RAM. The price seemed pretty much reasonable for a machine with these specs.

I got my hands on it today. It is a pretty sleek machine, well not as sleek as Rukshan’s tablet PC, but I made a concious decision to not to go for a Tablet PC as I felt a normal notebook PC was better suited for my needs. I am still playing around with the PC. I want to check its performance for my hobby activities (I know its more than enough for my work activities, as all I need is email, MS Project and MS Office). So I am in the process of insalling all the tools I need to do .NET coding.

I have already got the first warning when installing Visual Stdio 2005 and SQL Server 2005 Express. Hope it won’t be a nagging issue for me to continue. I will keep the progress posted on this blog.

PS: One small snag with the notebook though. Acer ships this notebook PC range with Vista Home Premium. But they give the 32 bit edition. I think it is a bit stupid as the whole point of getting a 64 bit processor is because you need the 64 bit performance. Putting a 32 bit OS version on it defies this purpose all togerther. I have complained to Acer and waiting for thier feedback.

I assumed they were shipping it with 64 bit OS edition. But seems I have assumed it wrong!

This is a very timely campaign that all pedestrians should be taking part as today, pavements or sidewalks are being used for everything else other than by the pedestrians.

the sidewalks around my office are being used as garbage dumps, as loading bays, as extended gardens and as a flee market. With the available space in a sidewalk being used for these purposes, the pedestrians are forced to take to the roads (I mean walk on the road itself) putting their selves directly in the line of collision with oncoming traffic!

So what do the pedestrians have to do. Form an organization (or an NGO) and launch a campaign to take back the side walks for the original purpose that it was build for! For walking!

Since the Police is not stepping up to the task, ( I think the law allows them to fine and take action against all those who encroach the sidewalks), as they have bigger and better things to do, such as investigate all those abductions, it is time for the pedestrians to step up to the task.

So if you see some people holding placards that read ‘Give us our sidewalks’ around the Lipton Circus or in front of the Fort Railway Station, and if you happen to also pass by, on foot mind you, please join in. They are fighting for all of us!

This I saw on a Micro Trend Car. For those of who don’t know Micro Trend it is a locally assembled Chinese car. It is the second car to be put on Sale by Micro, the first company to produce a fully indigenous car.

When I saw this only it struck to me that I have seen only a very few Micro Trends on the road. You can’t complain much about the looks of it, if I remember correctly it was designed by an Italian design firm. Since it is Chinese, it must be as good as any Chinese made car. But for whatever reason, you see more Cherry QQ’s than Micro Trends on the road. And personally speaking I think the QQ is a bit hideous looking to start with.

Maybe it’s the price factor. The QQ is a few lakh rupees cheaper. So is the Maruthy 800. But what about the cars that are in the same price range. The Maruthy Zen and the Maruthy Alto. I think they are in the same price range. But they seem to be more popular than the local make.

Maybe the deep down reason is that we do not trust our local makes. This lack of trust is keeping us away from the Trend. When I saw the Trend for the first time, I thought it was a pretty good looking car. There were two things that kept me away from it, it’s size (I need a bigger car due to my long limbs) and the lack of automatic transmission (it’s a luxury that I have come to enjoy too much with the bumper to bumper traffic on Colombo roads).

So why do people choose the Indian or the Chinese varieties over the Sri Lankan assembled Chinese car? Maybe the price? So if the government gives the company enough subsidies to help them bring the price down, then they may have a pretty good market.

But the good news is the two Korean SUV’s assembled by Micro in Sri Lanka seems to be having a good response from the market. The secret there maybe because they enjoy a price advantage. So why not do that for the cars and create a Sri Lankan automotive industry?

 

We are having Internet connectivity problems at work these days. Due to lightning, our network equipment has got damaged and hence we are on a very slow Internet connection.

This slow connection made me realize how dependant I have become on the Internet. Without a speedy Internet connection, I am seriously handicapped. Come to think of it, it is not just Internet that I have come to be dependent on. It is overall connectivity that I have come to depend upon.

I feel seriously lost if I step out of the house without my cell phone. It has become a part of my lifestyle so much I feel insecure without it. More than the incoming calls, I need it in case of an emergency. Not that I have managed to come out of many emergencies thanks to my cell phone. I wonder how my mother does without one.

The Internet too is becoming second nature. If I don’t check my mail for a day, I feel as if something is a miss. It is not that I am expecting anything on the mail. Just that I need to be on top of my mails. I hate to come to my mail box with mails that are several days old and the total running into a few hundred.

There’s another side to emails. You feel a strange loneliness when you haven’t got any mail for a day. But thanks my clients there’s hardly a day that goes without me getting a mail with some lame and sometimes stupid complaint.

What would it be like to spend a week without emails and your cell phone. Unfortunately, I cannot afford to do that while I’m on the job. I am obliged to answer my cell phone as it is a company phone and if I don’t answer my mail within the day I am bound to end up with a few more complaining about the lack of a response.

So has technology made our lives easier or has it made us more connected and tied down and made us slaves to the technology? Can we go home after work and just forget about work? We can’t. If something comes up, we are bound to get contacted over our cell phones. We will have to answer our urgent emails from home. I even work from home over the week ends, responding to client queries and resolving issues.

I think technology has blurred the line between work and private time. We can no longer have a truly private time away from work. If something comes up, by the mere fact that we are connected we will have to respond. So who gets affected? It is our families and the relationships that get affected.

I think we lack a certain level of discipline. Just because we are connected we should not jump to work while you are at home. I had a client once in Singapore who had clearly drawn a line between work time and private time. If you contacted him during off office time even for a small clarification, he would politely tell you that he would answer the query when he gets to work. I think it is a worthwhile discipline or a practice that you should develop, unless of course you are a workaholic.

The ideal Scenario

The ideal scenario out of this connectedness would be an ability to work from home. To have the ability to spend more time at home but still get work done. To be able to remotely work from home. But our mind set and the culture has not come to that stage where our physical presence is not required at work. I think we have not got used to working in that fashion.

But the good news is we are getting there fast. I have seen geographically dispersed project teams working on projects using collaboration tools and thier productivity is no less than them being on the same room.

Taking time off 

I want to take my annual leave for at least 10 days at a stretch and be away from my emails and cell phone during that time. I will dedicate all my time to spend with my family and maybe do some reading. That will be some holiday.

Now if I can sort things that are pending so I can actually go on that holiday…

 

I’m glad they make the laptops the way they do. They in that earlier sentence was Dell and I am referring to the fact that they make their laptops to endure a full cup of tea all over it!

Yes, it happened. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I spilled a cup of tea all over my laptop yesterday and I thought that would have been the end of it. I promptly switched it off, dried it as much as I can using tissues and let it dry for only about 5 minutes. I had to switch it on, as I had an urgent email to send. At that point of time, sending the email was more urgent than drying the laptop.

It booted up, but the scratch pad was not working. I used a USB mouse and finished my tasks for the day and packed it brought it home. I switched it on again today, praying to god that it will boot up. Not only did it boot up, even the scratch pad seems to be working.

Better be careful now. I am not sure whether it will take on a another beating with another cup of tea!

Seagull Softwares was a company that was prmoting a work at home data entry job system in Sri Lanka. They charged a registration fee upfront which was 1.5 times the monthly pay, which meant you become profitable only after you complete two months with them.

But apparently teh work was pretty easy. You could buy work slots and for a computer savvy persona slot was only about 10 minutes of work per day. So this would have become a method of easy money in most people’s eyes.

It also offered a convinience like no otehr earning opportunity. It was flexible and it required not special training. Also, it allowed a lot of those who were unable to work an opportunity to earn. Specially given the fact that part-time work is virtually non-existant in Sri Lanka.

So they had a great demand. I heard that people stood in queues to register themselves in this scheme. There had been people who had bought hundreds of slots and was employing others to do the work.

Guess what, about a three days ago the Police has busted the place. The scammers have jumped the country. Apprently it was a racket which was run by a couple of Indians. The web site is registered under the name of Raj Sekr in Chennai. They have not made payments to people for the last month or so for the work performed. And there ahd been a lot of people who have registered but who had not completed one mon ths work to become eligible to pay.

Somehow another smart fellow has managed to scam a lot of people and vanish with thier money.

Who said there is free lunch? Or rather easy lunch…

I am back! Back here in Sri Lanka, back amongst the loved ones.

I was looking forward to coming back home. I wanted to come back to my wife, parents and family. I missed being around them, specially my wife. And I know she missed me like hell. So it is good to be back finally.

We had a rather long and tiring journey back home. There were two transits and plenty of drama. The best and the worst being at Dubai being told that we do not have a seat to come back to Colombo, after a 20 hour transit. We were told that our tickets were cancelled, despite us having the printout which said our tickets were re-confirmed. This delayed us by another 5 hours as we only managed to find a seat on the second plane.

That I think is the worst that you can face. That disrupted our plans and out our schedules off by hours. We were lucky to be able to find a flight within 5 hours. There were some people who had been waiting for two days without being able to find a seat.

I assume for the airline staff these occurrences might be normal and routine, but for the traveller, it is completely upsetting. It makes you feel completely lost and helpless. You are being put in the mercy of others. Basically you have to either make a big scene or beg! So much so for service standards!

I was not at all happy at the way the whole situation was handled by the SriLankan Airlines staff in Dubai. The only helpful people who helped us genuinely were the Emirates staff. They were more considerate and seemed genuinely willing to help. SriLankan was trying to get away!

In any case, I am happy to be back. I am not thrilled as I thought I would be about travelling. I guess I would  like travelling as long as I travel with my family. But travelling on business and being away from family doesn’t seem to be fun for me. But then again, there are things that are beyond your control.

Here's a funny story. Adobe has pushed MS to drop PDF support form Office 2007. Apparently Adobe wanted MS to charge the customers extra for incorporating PDF functionality into Office and now MS has instead decided to drop the PDF support and instead offer it as a download. You can get the story here>>

The irony of this is that though Adobe touts PDF as an open standard, when they saw the mass potential that MS office has, they either got scared or got greedy. Either way they wanted to make a ton of money by piggy backing on MS Office.

The part that I don't get is, if it is supposed to be an open standard, then what's the problem of allowing MS to offer it free with Office? Other office suites as Open Office does it an Adobe has had no issues with that. But why the double standards when it comes to MS.

I defend MS because it is MS that made computing easier for the masses. If computers were running on something like Unix, I personally would'nt have adopted to computers. C'mon, it is MS who made it easy for the masses. And I personally don't see an issue with them adding more features for money. The arguments against it are becoming really ridiculous. The way those arguments are going, if applied to automobiles, the car makers would not be able to offer any type of enhancements in their models. Even offering air conditioning will be seen as anti-competitive for the small time air conditioning vendors!

I hope the rest of the world starts to look at all these from the point of view of the customers. The more the customers get, the better they are. But as it seems now, the regulators are looking at the point of view of the businesses. 

News has been traveling around saying that Google is worried about a new feature on IE7, which has a Search Box built in which, by default, passes the search query to MSN search. And quite rightly Google must be worried that this will take away a significant percentage of their search traffic.

But to me, this sounds a bit hypocritic because FireFox has a search box built in which by default searches in Google. Also Google is promoting and offering a Firefox download which has a Google Toolbar built in.

It is funny how differently things are perceived when similar tactics are being adopted by the likes of Microsoft and Google. When Google and the company does it, it is perceived as user friendly innovations. And when MS attempts a similar tactic, it is perceived as an anti-competitive practice.

Now dont get me wrong, I am a big fan of Google. I use their services for the most part and I almost exclusively search using Google. I use GMail and a lot of other services. But I use them not because I have been forced or tricked into using it. I trust my intelligence to choose what is better for me. And if some default option that is provided is not good enough I will seek out and get something that is more appropriate for me.

So why does everyone love to take a shot at whatever MS offers? Is everyone scared? Is it because of their size and their financial capabilities? Or is it because they fear that they are not consistent enough? Or is it because they are so worried about losing their advantages in the market?

The next thing they will go into is to sue web sites that give the option of setting it’s homepages as default pages in the browser!