Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

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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The trade unions of the country have decided to go ahead with a work to rule campaign demanding a salary hike. Their plan is to bring the country to a standstill and disrupt the whole economy. At a time when the world is going through an economic crisis and most people are clinging on to their jobs, these blokes are disrupting that as well, because they want a salary hike!

The private sector employees are not at all looking forward to a salary hike, simply because they are aware of the situations their companies are facing. They are just plain happy to just keep their jobs. But these blokes who either are plain stupid, to understand the economic situation, or are having vested interests, decide to hold the rest of the country to ransom.

I would just propose to fire all those who refuse to work and employ new employees or just to hand these over to the private sector who can run it. These idiots will learn a lesson then, like those idiots of the 83 July strike.

Sri Lanka Telecom has started to block web sites. I think the idea would have been to block out pornography related web sites as there was a new law which was passed in paliament which banned pornography from computers and mobile devices. But in the process SLT has blocked out access to all the domains I own.

I have a couple of domains of my own and another few I manage on behalf of my clients which are mapped to Google Apps for email hosting. These domains have sub domains mapped to enable web access. And now none of these domains can be accessed through their domain names. Luckily for me, as these are google hosted applications, there were alternate URL’s through which they can be accessed.

SLT’s official position has been that SLT IP range has been blocked out from google. This is a bit hard to believe since there are a lot of non google sites that are non accessible as well.

Whatever they were trying to do, SLT should hve done this move more carefully. If they block out a clients email acces in this manner the losses could mount to collossal amounts. In this day and age, cutting off access is the worst kind of outage that can happen to a business.

I recently upgraded my VS2008 to Service Pack 1 which was a combined update to .NET Framework 3.5 also to SP1. I did update to try my hand in ASP.NET MVC architecture.

I am working on a couple of projects that are using ASP.NET AJAX these days. And after doing this update I started noticing strange issues in pages using AJAX extenders.

First I noticed that the pages containing the AJAX extensions were throwing strange errors. They were usually in the form of “Cannot set value True for property enabled”. This caught me quite by surprise and made me review the HTML over and over.

Once I was sure that there was nothing wrong in the way that the properties were set, and these were pages that were working perfectly, I realized something would have happened after applying the service pack. But I could not find a lot of useful information directly documenting this issue. Most of the issues were reported on the user controls behaving in a similar manner.

After quite a bit of Googling and putting 2 and 2 together I managed to solve it by applying ANOTHER hotfix. This is where I found most of the info from: https://connect.microsoft.com/VisualStudio/feedback/Workaround.aspx?FeedbackID=361826

This is the hotfix that solved it for me: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/KB967535

Hope this helps someone out there to avoid the mess I was in which resulted in a few hours worth of work just before a major deadline!

I am getting the vibes that things are not in my favour. I have seen the things that happened and can spot a trend. I have seen how people were recruited and then shown the door once they were milked.

If you were looking to fill up short term positions with specific outcomes, then it would be really great of they were told that up front. That would have helped the persons concerned to make an informed decision. It would have set the expectations straight.

But when you get people in, promising them long term employment, and then getting your immediate pains solved through them, and then showing them the door is a pretty bad way of running a company. It should have opened my eyes then, but then I kept telling my self, “no it wont happen to me”. But now, it is happening to me.

When I took up this job I knew that the risks were higher. They were offering me an employment contract enforceable in the US. That meant I would have little or no legal protection in Sri Lanka. I also knew that since the company was not established in Sri Lanka, I had to shoulder a large responsibility of setting it up and stabilizing it. These were challenges I knowingly undertook.

I am a trusting person by nature. I don’t set out with a suspicion. So I believed i the rosy picture that my boss painted. What I did not count for was all the games and the politics that I would have had to put up with.

The first few months were great. I set up the operations, recruited the people, set up the infrastructure and did this all by my self. I went and paid the bills, ran the errands and had the work done. I never got any negative feedback regarding the work that I did. Then my probation period was over. I asked to be confirmed in my job. He said that he woudl issue a letter.

When I took up the job, I agreed to a lower salary than what I was asking for during the probation period. I was made to understand that my expected salary will be paid upon my confirmation. So I asked for the salary increment.

Then the flood gates got opened. I was told of a long list of areas that I needed to improve on. I took them positively. Then started the witch hunting. None of the good work I did were not appreciated. But even the smallest mistakes were taken to town! I kept putting up, all the times that I was being hunted.

Now it has come to the stage where I can hardly take it any longer. I know I am still not shown the door as there are still a few things the rest of them cannot handle. And I can see the pressure being put on others to learn those things from me. They are being pushed to learn the things that I am doing as part of my daily tasks. That’s fine. When a company is trying to make a person redundant, they need the remaining employees to pick up his work. I am asked to document all the work that I am doing, so another can do it in my absence (if I was sick, etc – yup that’s what they told me).

And the hunting for my head continued. I was held responsible for everything that went wrong. The funniest was then I was blamed for mistakes done by a person who was not even reporting to me. The respective manager was left scott free and I was the one blamed.

Enough was enough. I tendered my resignation. I was not ready to be made a scape goat. And I wanted to work, when there is professional freedom to perform out duties. So come end of March, I will be blissfully jobless.

Contrary to the official stance of the government recession is having great impact on Sri Lanka. One of the most obvious signs are the drying up of the job market. Take any weekend news paper and check the employment sections and you can see this for yourself.

A few more pointers, notice how many times properties and vehicles for sale ads are being repeated, and the going rate. Property prices are being slashed quite significantly. And how long rental properties have been vacant without new occupants. These are tell tale signs of cash drying up from the hands of the consumers.

And the stuff that usually do not hit the news stands. How many companies did away with their annual bonuses in December. How many did away or curtail the spending on Christmas and new year parties, calendars and diaries they were printing?

So what does it tell the average salary earning professionals? Hold on to your job like its dear life? Damn, I am praying for a speedy recovery from the recession.

Today a bus crashed in to the side of my car. It was no fault of mine. I followed all the traffic rules to the dot and then a bus comes along, unable to brake because it is overladed and travelling at a speed it cannot bear, brakes, brakes, but still keeps coming and BANG!

I was watching the bus coming towards the leftside of my car but I was helpless. I was hoping the bus would stop any minute, inches away from the car, but it didnt. It came and BANG!

Then came the war. People on the bus were trying to prove that it was my fault, which got my blood also heated up. Then the conductor of the bus was trying to teach me how to drive. That took the lid off my anger. Eventaully the driver came to me, obviously realizing that it was his fault and that he was in trouble if this ever went to a court of law, started to plead! A two sided attack on me. On one side total aggression and on the other they were playing the pity game.

But I got the Police to come, told them that I didnt want to press charges but only wanted them to advise the bus conductor on how to behave, gave him a piece of my mind and got my insurance to come and asses my damage!

I would have defintely wanted to go to courts, not to claim the damage, it was negligible, but to teach those b******s a lesson. But the driver seemed innocent and with his pleadings, my heart also melted a bit. So hopefully I will be able to get some of the existing scratches also painted with the insurance money 🙂

I was expecting glass shattering and major upheavals, but my car being the german tank that it is was just scraped with two minor dents on a door! Man both I and all the by standers

I discovered this morning that my mobile was disconnected due to my bill exceeding the credit limit. Since I had some things to be done in the office and had no time to go out to make a payment, I chose to pay online through www.dialog.lk web site.

So I made a payment that was adequatete and was waiting for my phone to be reconnected. Since it was taking way too long, I decided to check up with Dialog’s online customer support. (I had no way of calling the hotline as well).

To my horror they told me that they cannot see the payment I have made. It had been about two hours by then and I had recieved a payment confirmation from the dialog website. But unfortunately I had not written down the transaction id nor had I taken a printout.

But since getting my connection up was really critical for me, I made another payment online. Same story, they could not see it on their side. This time I had the transaction id, but still they could not trace it! And guess what, they told me it’ll take 24 hours for the line to get connected!!! 24 Hours??? C’mon, online payments are meant to be instantaneous.

But I guess in our part of the world, online means 24 hours! Man, was I disappointed to hear this from a company touting to be on the cutting edge of technology. But yet, their systems seem to be operating offline!

A word has to be said about the Sampath Bank Payment Gateway that they are using. It is too damn slow! And once after I paid the confirm button to make the payment, there was a time out on the server. So I was lost and had no idea whether my payment had gone through or not. But in any case I went back and made the payment again. Sampath Banks online banking solution is another story. It shows me credit card transactions as of last evening and even in that list, some transactions that I had made days ago are missing. At some point they will suddenly appear on it! You cannot really rely on it for an accuratete picture either!

So now I don’t know whether I have ended up making three payments instead of one. I guess these companies and banks that claim they are on the cutting edge and connected and online, need to look at their systems and their integrations to see whether they are as good as they claim.

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.

Here is something I just discovered on Vista. I find this pretty big brotherly type of an acting, for a change, from Google.

When you install Google Toolbar on IE on Vista, Google changes the default search provider from Live Search to Google. Now the funny part is I can’t recall the installation ever asking em whether I wanted to change this setting.

Upon noticing this, I wanted to change the default search setting on IE back to Live Search, as there is a search box on the Google toolbar itself, and I wanted to have the option to do searches on both search engines, without having to go to their sites. This is where the Google arrogance comes into play.

Although, I go to Change Search Defaults and set Live Search as my default, it does NOT get changed. Google tries to be a big brother and just loads a small icon to the notifications area on the task bar. This icon just gets loaded and never even bothers to give an indication / notification as to why it got loaded. When you click on it it gives a message like, ‘ somebody wants to change away from Google as your search provider blah blah’ So to change it you have to allow it do happen from within this option.

I am a great fan of Google’s products. But I really don’t like it when they think they know what is best for it. It was them who went to legislators complaining, that MS is making it difficult for users to switch Search Providers. But from this experience, I think they too are trying to make is as difficult as possible for users to switch away from Google.

Ironic!

I just notices that i have not made a posting since 1st of December. Well you can’t really blame me as this was one of the most hectic months of my life.

First, the baby kept me busy. She immediately had two impacts on my life. First, she made me impatient to run back home. I didn’t want to miss her growing up. And I was trying to compete for her attention with my wife, as she was practically spending the whole day with her. I was getting jealous!

Then I was down with Chikungunya. It was one heck of a sickness. I was feeling as if a train had run me down! Couldn’t eat, couldn’t do anything else except maybe sleep. And I was down mentally as well. I was messing with my mind too.

So with all these going on, I had a pile of work at work to finish. I still have the pile. Still trying to device a way to either do it, or run from it 🙂

Anyway, we have come to the end of one of the most eventful years of my life. A lot happened this year. Most of it good! (Material for another post around the 31st, hopefully)