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!

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I haven’t actively developed moBlog for sometime now. I think it has been about two years since I did anything on it.

But according to my box.net statistics, it is still being downloaded. At least once a day. And occasionally I get requests for features and asking me if I am planning on a new release.

I have been toying with the idea of open sourcing it for sometime now. I am not sure why I didn’t consider it from the beginning. I think it could have gained a lot of momentum had I done it before.

But as the saying goes, better late than never, today I am making moBlog open source. I am uploading the source to codeplex as I write this.

The codeplex url for moblog is: http://moblog.codeplex.com/

If anyone needs any help in setting it up just shoot me a line and I will walk you though it. I will add the instructions needed to get it working on to the codeplex site eventually, as soon as I get some time to write it.  I would also do a roadmap if there is still interest for new features.

If someone wants to join the team and develop the app I welcome you! It would also inspire me to contribute more.

The reason for moBlog becoming inactive was due to my shift from a WM device to an iPhone. That left me without a real device to test the application. When I did the shift I searched for a similar app for iPhone but found none that supported all the platforms that moBlog supported. There is an official WP app for WP blogs, but I couldn’t find a good free app that supported blogger and live spaces on iPhone. If anyone can direct me to one I would appreciate it.

Also, if there is a free version of an app that converts the .NETCF app to iPhone compliant code, I think moBlog will be quite popular among iPhone users as well. I was thinking about porting moBlog to iPhone but I don’t have a MAC to do the coding. So that idea never saw the light of the day.

 

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!

I recently attended seminar series about investing in Unit Trusts. The whole idea of a unit trust is it allows lay investors like me, who are clueless about the stock market and all the acronyms that are associated with equity investments to put their money in a Unit Trust, so a fund manager can invest in the investment instruments available in the market and get me a return on my investment.

The last presenter, who is the CEO of one of the fund management companies touched upon planning your financial goals and wealth creation. This was an eye opener for me.

Personally, for me, investing in the stock market has been like a game for me. I did it because the general perception was that it was a place where you can make money. Also my interest in the stock market was kindled because in one of my previous jobs I managed a project that attempted to build a back office application for stock brokers. And they also had an online trading solution which caught my interest.

But this seminar, opened my eyes to the more important aspect of planning your investment and to treat it as a mechanism to create wealth. The aspect of growing your investment at a rate greater than the rate of inflation so your money retains its value down the line. And also choosing your investment instruments that match your financial goals.

Upto now I have never thought of planning for retirement. I have also never planned to save for my kids future, or higher education. I live with the thought that when the need comes I will be in a position to meet the needs. So far, I have managed to do that, upgrading my income as my expenses grow. I would worry about them when they become the necessity, but not prior.

But this seminar opened my eyes to the fact that these are things that are better addressed through planning and smart investing. Of course, they positioned the Unit Trusts as the smart investment in this case, but nevertheless the point about the need to plan is very valid. If planned and executed gradually, myself and my family will not feel the pressure when the need arises.

There are a few things that I need to plan for, and start investing and growing the money for:

  1. Retirement
  2. Children’s education
  3. Holidays/vacations
  4. Life-style upgrades

Out of those the first two are paramount. But thankfully, those are things that can be done at a slower pace.

Retirement

I haven’t foreseen myself in retirement. I would like to be actively engaged in some sort of gainful activity till my death. I always thought that I would have some kind of a business, that I can hand over to my children or to an able management but would still keep me occupied. I don’t think I would want to go into a full retirement and end up doing nothing. I would find that to be too boring.

But in any event, it would be a good idea to invest for retirement. So that there would be money, for expenses and to indulge in whatever activities, be it charity or social service or travelling or having fun, that would take our fancy, without having to depend on others.

As we grow old, our battles with health can also become more intense. In other words the health care expenses can go up. So an income stream that can foot these expenses would be welcome.

 

Saving for children’s education

This is probably the expense that would occur first and the most pressing and necessary requirement. I want my kids to follow their dreams and desires when it comes to what they want to do with their lives. I will give them only one piece of advice. ‘Be the best you can be!’.

So in order to fulfill their dreams I want them to be able to get the best (higher) education or training that they can get. Cost of which should not be a worry on them and definitely not hinder their dreams.

 

In any case, the one general lesson is that investments should be made in instruments that give a real return, a return greater than that of inflation. And the value of money should be greater than the value of the amount now. Considering that our needs are going to grow as we age as a family, this is a basic need. And these investments should be done regularly and be made to become a habit, much like the habit of saving, but instead of saving, it should be investing. As things stand now, the simple savings schemes do not cut it anymore.

Back in December last year I wrote about upgrading my old laptop to Windows 7. It originally had Vista home premium on a AMD 64 bit processor. Then I upgraded to Vista 64 bit and my experience was somewhat limited as I could not get all the drivers working on it. My decision to upgrade to Win7 was mainly to overcome the bad Vista64 experience. Somehow with Vista64 bit I always felt as if I was on a test PC.

My initial experience with Win7 was fantastic. It almost found all the drivers. I managed to get the wifi and Internet working. And I set up VS2010 also on it and started coding up a my latest side project on it.

Alas, contrary to all the goo rjinhs I have been hearing about Win7, my laptop developed a random hang syndrome. I would work perfectly for a while and suddenly when I was using the scratch pad the cursor would stop responding. Then to see the whole computer has hung. Also, if the computer has gone in to power saving mode and the attempt to wake up, would also result in an unreponsive computer.

The problem became aggrevated when I installed InputDirector in slave mode to control the computer with my keyboard and mouse attached to my daily use laptop. Thinking it was InputDirector I got rid if the program on both my laptops (what’s the point of running the maste when there is no slave?). But the problem still persisted. I tried the route of elimination to try to figutlre out what is causing the problem, by uninstalling one program after another but so far I have had no luck. The random hang syndrome is still there. I have hardly had a full days use on it without it hanging on me.

The write part is the windows event logs also have nothing logged to point me towards what the issue could be. I ran memory diagnostics tools from Microsoft website thinking it is my memory, but the tests came out all right.

Now I moved my personal project also to my main laptop as I have lost quite a bit of work due to this problem.

The reliability of Windows 7 on my Acer has been pretty bad. I sincerely hope te issue is some hardware issue with my laptop. I am disspointed that I have not been experiencing the rave reviews that I have been reading up about Win7.

Closing a fancybox

Scenario:

We are using a fancy box to present a form to the user to enter some data. Once this data is entered and the user submits the form, if the processing was successful, we want to show a message to the user and then close the fancybox (which is the form).

Code:

HTML

<a href="<%= ResolveUrl("~") %>RegForm" class="iFrameRegister" title="">Register</a>

Open the form:

$("a.iFrameRegister").fancybox({
        ‘frameWidth’: 400,
        ‘frameHeight’: 400
    });

Close the form:

parent.$.fn.fancybox.close();

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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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Finally moved.

We finally moved. After a lot if coaxing and pressurizing we managed to get the house into a movable state. But the work was not complete and even to this date there are small finishing up tasks being done.

The move was hectic and was done in stages. First night it was just me and Lushi. Then a day later the kids came over. Stilk some kf out stuff are at Wattala. We will be getting them over the next couple of months. There are a still some more work that needs to be done, like getting the closets built in some rooms before we bring the stuff. But it was a good feeling to be here finally. The little bit of finishing touches are being done now and being here helps to get them done exactly the way we want with constant supervision.

The major thing that they have not done so far is my office room. Since there are people still working, they have been using it as their quarters. I am hoping to get them off of the place within the week and tart setting up my homebase there soon. I will be writing a seperate post on setting up a home office. I went through a lot of blogs about setting up offices and want to record my own experience.

It is a major convinience living here. Dinara’s school is just ten minutes away. Lushi’s office is also ten minutes away. All the malls and the offices that matter are also within ten or fifteen minutes away. Once this convinience sinks in, it will be very difficult to move back anywhere else.

Finally a big thank you to Lushi’s parents for all the trouble they went through in getting this place ready for the move.

Whoa 2010!!!

Man I feel old. 2010 is already here and I can’t imagine a decade has gone by since the dawn of the millennium, which I remember pretty well.

One thing that doesn’t wait for you is time. And we need to make the time spent count. I am hoping to spend a couple of days in retrospect and figure out just that.

There are things that I know that would count. Mainly the family. During this decade I lost my father, got married and raised a family. And a lot of things are falling into place right now.

2010 would see if the new directions in my life would actually going to go somewhere. I think this is going to be a decade that would count a lot more! If last decade was about finding direction, this decade will be about reaching a destination.

Whoa 2010! I am looking forward to you!

I upgraded my old Acer Aspire laptop to Windows 7. This is the second upgrade it went through in probably a space of three months. Earlier I upgraded it from Vista 32-bit Home Premium to Vista 64-bit Ultimate.

So far this has done gone through any serious performance tests. I am still setting it up. Installing software and tools that I need to out it to any kind of effective use.

But I am going to put it through some tests pretty soon. I have hooked up my normal use lap top to a LCD monitor so it is currently acting more like a desktop now. So maybe it is time for me to start using this (I am blogging from the Win7 machine) more as the mobile computer. Only thing that prevents that is the pretty bad battery life this machine has got.

I always wanted to put this machine to effective use rather than just keeping it collecting dust as a backup machine. I think this still has a good two to three years of life left in this.

When I setup Vista 64-bit on this earlier I was going to use it to sharpen my RoR skills on it. I wanted to do something effective with RoR and was planning on using this as my non-MS development tools machine. But with me getting swamped with work, RoR was a non starter.

But with Min7, I also installed VS2010 Beta 2. So at least this time I will use this to test drive VS2010 and to start migrating some of the projects to VS2010. So hopefully, this time this machine will be used more frequently and will see me reaping performance out of it.

I need to vent some seriously annoyed steam off my head. I am as p***** as I can be with the people who are doing up our house. No wonder they never seem to be improving their quality of life. Those buggers cant figure out sh** if their lives depended on it!

They have no sense of time and no sense of a deadline what so ever. If I had a signed contract with a project timeline I would have sued them to their last penny. In the absence of such a legal document the best I can do is to beat the crap out of them. Wait, I don’t think I can do that, there are too many of them.

This is the third deadline they missed. What was initially estimated to take a month to do, now has spilled over to over two months and they are still not done. Damn!

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.

 

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.

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.

This post is made from a hospital bed from Asiri Surgical Hospital. Written with a IV fluid attached to my right hand, I will keep this short and sweet.

I ended up in a ‘luxury’ room out of no choice, as all the low priced rooms were full, and thanks to my wife’s insurance policy which covers me as well.

It is a great room with a cable channels on a LCD TV. They have a DVD player and there is a DVD collection as well. The other features in the room are state of the art as well.

The best thing I like about this place is the free WIFI. Helped me be in touch throughout my stay and now it is even helping me blog on my laptop. I wish all hospitals in Sri Lanka could be as well equipped as this one! It would make hospital stays memorable.

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.

Damn it was heart breaking. All that looking forward, watching matches at the expense dog my productive work hours, and the anticipation down the drain. Our guys did not comeout at the most crucial match.

Congradulations to Paks for their fantastic performance. I wish your team were playing for Us!

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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 am not a hacker. It is not something that appeals to me. I do not think I have got the patience or the motivation to keep hacking on something. I dont attempt to hack anything unless it is the last resource. And usually, I attempt to hack if the price for the original is way beyond my budget or if it is not available in its original form in Sri Lanka. Usually when you are trying to work with limited resources you are forced to hack out a few things. In the past few months I had to resort to hacking as I decided to work my hacking skills rather than spending money. And both these times I was hacking to use Apple tools.

The first instance was when I created a Hackintosh using my old desktop computer. I wanted to try out my hand at iPhone apps and was disspointed to learn that you can develop iPhone apps only on a Mac. Therefore I went on to create a hackintosh. But since then, I have been too busy with other projects and never got around to developing that iPhone app.

This  time around it was the iPhone. There are iPhone that are being sold in Sri Lanka but they are rather expensive. Actually I have a price range that I am comfortable paying for a phone. But the price for an iPhone in Sri Lanka is way above that price range. Therefore I resorted to buy a used iPhone from eBay through my SIL in UK. The phone I bought came with a Turbo SIM but unfortunately it had been upgraded to the latest iPhone OS version 2.2.1 with a baseband of 2.30, which made the turbo SIM useless. This basically made the iPhone to become an iPod which was not something I was ready to accept.

But with the help of excellent technical resources available on the Internet I managed to hack the phone; jailbreak it and also unlock it using software. It is currently running the latest iPhone OS with a baseband (modem software) version which is one version older than the latest. This shows the the power of the Internet. A complete non Apple Nerd, can basically jailbreak an iPhone on his own by Googling!

Oh and I found Bing (the latest search engine by MS) to be better in giving relevant results for search terms than Google. More on that later.

If anyone wants to know the exact steps on hacking the iPhone, let me know. I will write a post with what I did exactly. The simple reason for me not listing them here is because none of them are my original discoveries. I was just following instructions available on various discussion groups, blogs and forums. It should not be an issue for any one to find this information and at the same time they tend to slightly differ based on the phone model and the current software version you are running.

Today is a significant day for Sri Lanka. Our gallant security foces have defeated the terrosirt forces that had plagues this country for over 25 years and finally united all parts of the country. We will no longer have a civial war in our land. At most it will be a sporadic gurilla war. But that should be a walk in the park for our forces.

The western world has had a different take on what is going on here. They referred to the terrorists as equals to the legitimate army of our country. But these same terrorists were a banned terrorist organization in their countries. When the US forces killed hundreds of civilians in Afganisthan in air attacks they were termed mistakes that they will TRY to avoid in the future and wer justified saying they were being used as human shields by Taliban. But when the terrorists were keeping civilians as a human shields in Sri Lanka, our army was asked to cease fighting. They gave credibility to news reports orgonTed by the terrorists and acted upon them while ignoring official statements from our government. All in all they actwd quite funny as if they did not want the terrorists to be defeated. When the western world led by the USA is fighting a war on terror in places like Iraq and Afganisthan because of the threat of terrorism to their countries and were not considering negotiations even as an option, they were telling us to not to fight the terrorists. It is as if there are good terrorists and bad terrorists. Maybe there are terrorists that are useful to them and those who are fighting them. But a terrorist is a terrorist.

Maybe it is because they do not want any other nation in the world to win a war on terror because they, with all their guns and fire power had not been able to win their war! Maybe that is the reason.

would the the same people who were preaching us on how to deal with our internal terrorist issue listen to the same advice when it was given to them when they were waging war in Iraq and Afganisthan or when Israel was waging war in the Gaza strip? As the saying goes “those who preach without following what they preach are similar to the sinners who preach”. Dear preachers, hands off Sri Lank. Let us savour our victory over terrorism.

Powercuts have been a common occurance the past few days. Everynight ther seems to be a powercut of at least half an hour. And to add pain to the misery there was a full day powercut yesterday. Not only did it make getting through the day extremely uncomfortable with the prevailing heat and humidity, it alo made me miss my work.

Since excuses such as those are not acceptable to people in the USA, I ended up working till 4 AM. And now I am trying to get through today like a zombie. I can tell you this, neither my kids nor my wife are impressed. No who said life was all rosy?

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!

Reflections on life

I can vividly remember my teens and my twenties. I’m glad that I lived up the years, experienced life to the full. Now that I am turning 33 today, life is taking a different path.

Those were the years that you could eat anything you want, play as much and party all night long and still make it to classes or work the next morning. Had no care for cholesterol or BMI or blood sugar! We played cricket, almost every day and cycled a few kilometers daily.

Now when I cannot play badminton for an hour at a stretch and when you do, the next day you feel as if a truck has run you over! Now the concerns are on losing weight and getting the waist line to a respectable figure, to a figure that you can tell a shop assistant without feeling shy! Typical life story of a Sri Lankan professional male?

But I am not lamenting in any way about how my life turned out to be. I am glad and proud of it in fact. True, I may be a little over weight and a few muscles that needs shedding, which I am working on by the way, but what i have, I truly cherish!

So on this birthday I like to thank all those people and circumstances that I am grateful about!

Thaththa – It’s been a while since you bid adieu. But you have been the biggest influence in my life, my mentor and my role model! Need I say more? Except, I miss you and there isn’t a single day gone by without me wishing that you were around!

Amma – Thank you for putting up with me for all this time. For bringing us up in one piece. You have been the strength of our lives! All relations tell me that I was a brat and now I know what it must have been like, because I have two of my own!

Lush – You are the best a wife can get! I thank my destiny every day for bringing us together. You love me and support me unconditionally and that is all a man can ask for. And you put up with all my sillinesses. I love you and promise to love you till my last breath!

Dinara and Dineth – You are the apple of my eyes. Thank you for bringing a joy into our lives which we did not know that existed before. You two are a handful (and more), but the joy of seeing you two blossom is the greatest joy in the world and brings a new dimension to our lives!

Malli – Thank you for being my brother, friend and advisor. Above all thanks for putting up with me. You give all you have and never expect anything in return. You have always been there for me and I truly value our friendship.

Siri/Diana – Thanks for trusting your daughter with me and also accepting me for what I am. You give me the space and the freedom to lead my life but yet silently support me. You’re the best in-laws anyone can ask for!

Rukshan – I had a brother and then I found another! You are a brother to me and there is no in-law part in it!

All my friends – You know who you are! Far too many to name individually. I treasure every memory with you all and though we don’t get to meet as often as we used to, I know our friendships will stand the test of time and distances. The great thing about the friendships that I have with you all is we can always pick up where things were left off! I have learned from all of you and all of you have been there whenever I needed you all! Remember the good times mates!

Relations – Thank you for being my relations! I do not regret anyone one of you being my relation. Some of us we meet only occasionally and some more often, but what ever the time and distances between us, our relationships will remain!

I have also to thank my past colleagues and bosses who shared the fun times with me, and from those of whom I learned quite a bit. Thank you for sharing those moments with me.

It is a great time to be alive. And a lot is going on in my life right now. So a few years from now, it should be interesting to see how my decisions have played out.

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