Monday, December 27, 2004

Farewell Phil :'(

Farewell Phill

Today I got to learn that Philip Nicholas too was an unfortunate casualty of the tsunami title wave that hit Sri Lanka yesterday. At the time of his death, he was holidaying in Arugambay (located in Pottuville) spending Christmas at the Star Dust Beach Hotel. The wave that struck the area had completely destroyed the hotel.

Phil was the founder and lead developer for Hibyte Co., a UK based web development company. He came to Sri Lanka in 1999, to work on the Star Dust hotel's web site, and directly gone there at a time when going to Pottuville was unthinkable do to terrorist activities. Ever since then he had fallen in love with Sri Lanka and had worked and lived here since then.

I met Phil towards the end of 2002, when my former company ITABS formed a partnership with Hibyte LK. I worked with him a little over an year on a few projects. He was a perl and DHTML genius. I would say most of my current perl writing styles and even some PHP generic functions were greatly influenced by him. One thing I really admired in him was his appreciation for Sri Lanka and its people. He would often talk of how lucky we are in certain things compared to western countries and showed us things that we took for granted. He had many stories to tell.

You were a great inspiration and we shall miss you dearly. To all the thousands of people who their lives, let us pray that they find true happiness in what ever form it may be.

Lets all unite and help those in need so that they may have a better tomorrow and live to tell of this tragic incident.

For more info

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Ooooouch!

It started just like any other day.. I got up in the morning, burned a few calories on the road (road rage!) and made it to office. Fast forward roughly 8 hours -- it was time to go home, or was it! (This is where your supposed to hear the siren like sound from horror movies)

I was never scared of the dentist. The sound of the drill nor the injection, which I now refer as to “Lethal Injection!”, didn't bother me. But my ignorance towards the dentist, has finally caught up with me! I finally share the sympathy, and plead forgiveness for I have laughed at you, while you were rightfully frightened to go to THE DENTIST!

Removing my wisdom, took a little over an hour and a half, which is a bit longer
than usual. Except for the pain of having to tilt my head slightly back for the whole period, the operation didn't really hurt much. There were some complications, as expected, since it is said that wisdom is difficult to obtain as well as remove :) My tooth was surgically removed, after cutting up into several pieces, and the remaining gum sawed together.

The numb was still there, as I left the clinic, in a jolly good mood. This was the first time, I had gotten a tooth removed, so I really didn't know what to expect. I couldn't go too far as to get my medicine. The pain started creeping up. I was supposed to keep my mouth shut for an hour, but that wasn't going to work. After about forty five minutes had passed, I took the medicine, but it was already late! The next couple of hours was just pure pain! After taking another supplementary and extremely powerful pain killer, I was finally able to fall asleep.

Monday, December 20, 2004

A new day has come!

Welcome to virtusa is a phrase I kept hearing all day from many who gave me a warm welcome. Today was my first day at the new office. A new machine was already allocated with a sticker containing my login details. The machine boasted a 2.8GHz processor and 1GB RAM which made me quite content. It was as if they had been waiting for me.

I spent the rest of the day remove that other OS, and reinstalling Debian Sarge Linux. The new Sarge installer, which is still beta, turns out to be very user-friendly when comparing with the previous Woody installer. Within a couple of hours I got a very good desktop linux running on KDE 3.2.3. There was a problem with Xfree86 probing the correct monitor frequency for the Samsung SyncMaster 753DF, so I was stuck with 60Hz at 1024x768. Now I must admit a secret. I have super powers which enable me to view 60Hz flicker. This also makes give me a headache so I decided to get the proper frequency values for the monitor. I was too lazy to go around and see try reading the values, which should normally be printed in the back of the monitor. Luckly I found a tool.


# get-edid | parse-edid


I could generate the necessary stuff to put into the Xfree86 configuration file.

The rest of the day was spent reading a lot of manuals and documentation as well as emails. So begins a new journey, one I hope will last a long time :)

Sunday, December 19, 2004

A Christmas LAN party...

xmaslanparty Couple of us were invited for a warm Christmas lunch at the Hiran's residence. Myself, Asanga along with Kanchana had decided to meet up early to get a card and a gift since that's usually the hard part. But when I saw the Lava Lamp staring at me, I thought this is all that's missing from Hiran's high tech home! I mean after all how can a solar/wind powered, wireless, broadband home with a sound space system not have a Lava Lamp? Everyone else agreed so we got that and rushed off.

When we got to Hiran's, Marlon and Andre had already arrived with a can of beer in their hands. Surprisingly we weren't that late as thought since these guys had also arrived few minutes earlier. I got myself into a cozy beer, while Kanchana sipped on a delicious home made Anoda drink by Maneesha, of which I too was lucky to have a sip. More guests soon arrived which, included Hirans beautiful sister, who'd come down from UK and Thilani who is sometimes called a crazy girl, if not for Kaushi who unfortunately wasn't to be seen.

The atmosphere was filled with cool gadgets. Hirans sister (by now you would have noticed I forgot her name), had a funky Nokia 6230 that comes with a built in mp3/mpeg4 video player among other things. Marlon had brought a cool HP PDA, that had a color display and ran Pocket PC. He was showing some cool pictures he had drawn using Maya as well as how he could play Doom on his PDA.

The real fun began with NFS underground, as I hooked up my barebone computer to the matching monitor, along with my Logitec Rumble Pad which gave force feedback as you drove the funkiest cars dangerously! Asanga and Andre had a ball playing with the Nvdia 5700 LE, 256MB, AGP 8X card, not to mention the 64bit processor, AMD64. As for me, I had fun watching :)

Now a lunch wouldn't be complete without food! and it was delicious indeed. The highlight for me would be the desert :) Manisha makes killer ice creams, in this occasion out of Anooda, which I just cant get enough of. You'd be happy to know that there are future plans to introduce this product to supermarkets WORLD wide by the brand name of Karolis Ice Cream tm. The bownese, too were really good, especially with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup.

So that's how it went. Its been a couple of days now but I can still taste it!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Last Day...

Today is the last day I'm officially spending at ITABS, but I'm not feeling nostalgic nor sad today. After all this is the end of the week and the weekend is coming up right! But more than that, it's because I was feeling sad and nostalgic yesterday ;) Yesterday was my unofficial last day at ITABS, only because today some guys were supposed to be somewhere else and so they decided to do something yesterday instead.

Yesterday, I was busy the whole day at a client's location and was hoping to come back to office in the evening for a Linux class. I've got a call around 3:00pm, as I was entering the network server room at the client, from Lakmal asking an odd question "which type of DVDs my writer supports?". Without thinking twice I answered "any type, plus or minus". He then immediately kept the phone. For a second I thought it was odd, but then thought may be he is researching again on the net for a good DVD writer to buy, and got back to work.

As I got to office later in the evening at about 6:10, I was in a rush to get to class. To my surprise, the guys had brought me a gift and a card. Channa started making a very touching "thank you" speech, remembering a bit of the past, which made be feel just a bit shy. This was followed by a delicious chocolate cake and good bye wishes. I didn't have much time to drool over any of this, as I was extremely late to start the class. The only thing running on my mind was "I got to finish this today! Some How!". Though a bit late, I did manage to do so.

Once I got home, a bit late than usual, I opened up the gift. A pack of rewritable DVD was like Dejavu! I opened up the card. It had a nice cartoon teddy bear, who had packed up his stuff and while leaving looks behind and says "Good Bye". There were some touching stuff written, and I thought "my GOD! these people are going to miss me".

Finally it hit me! just like in the card I was leaving too, and I was going to miss them too :(

itabscard

Friday, December 10, 2004

Need a 5,000 rupee ticket to use the Toilet!

That seemed to be the tone coming out of some of the security guards patrolling the "takaran" gates of CR&FC. Though I would have much liked to use different title for this post, considering the vibrant concert that followed, I can't help myself!

If you weren't living under a rock, you would know that Air Supply is in town. I some how managed to squeeze a few minutes to go out and buy two 1,000/= tickets. Like most sensible people I couldn't afford paying 5,000/= a ticket even though Air Supply is such a wonderful band.

Apparently the organizers hadn't anticipated that people who bought the 1,000/= rupee tickets just might need to use the restroom. When this scenario cropped up it was just sheer panic! The guard said "You have to go out of the gate and get in from the 5,000/= gate but once you come back we can't guarantee that we'll let you in. You might have to buy another 1,000 ticket". One of the organizers with a tag hanging from his neck also said you can't go out (outside or the toilet). He seems to suggest we just do-it on the ground Sri Lankan style! The guard by the other gate (which is on the other side separated by an iron fence) was understanding, with a slight political tone. "This is your fundamental human right! Tell them to let you out and in when you come back'. This way a couple of us (guys and girls) ping-ponged between the two gates until finally I said "Take us to your leader (organizer)". He was much apologetic and understanding and went as far as chaperoning us through the 5,000/= gate all the way close to the restroom.

Now you would have thought this toilet story is finally over and I'd start talking about the concert, but it's not over. While the organizing guy stayed behind, myself and g/f along with another guy and his g/f walked along the pavilion looking for the restroom only to find there is only a male toilet. When we inquired, "Where is the girls toilet, one of the guys said there isn't a separate one and this is for both". Talk about things that make you go Hmmmmm... As we walked in slowly, not knowing what we'd see! a guy walked out with his g/f saying there are separate toilet rooms (which I later found to be separate by a wall ¾ high). Now there was a small queue building up inside the bathroom (consisting of two toilets), with boys and girls waiting in line. When I got my chance I found that the guys toilet door couldn't be closed and worse yet the door wanted to open it self. Free shows for the girls! No fair!

Its really inexcusable for the organizers to be this blunt to such basic needs, considering this show isn't charity and they make a thumping profit even after paying Air Supply. It only requires spending a small fraction, call it an investment that will pay off in future concerts as well.

So now what about the concert? I'm sorry girls and boys but we are out of time. Stay tuned for the next concert hoping the situation is better by that time or that I don't find it necessary to use the toilet.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Handover..

By now most of you reading this blog already know that I will be exiting my current work place to join Virtusa at the R&D dept. If you didn't know, well now you know why I was making various hints on previous posts! My appointment date at the new place is from the 20th of this month so there really isn't much time left.

Today began the handover of things to friends who worked with me. I spent the whole morning with Janaka explaining him the firewall config tool that I was building over the last couple of weeks and getting him up to speed with it. I'm also working on setting up some infrastructure to streamline some of the redundant operations we currently have. Last week I setup a CVS server and today I started to install RoundUp an issue tracking system. I'm still going through the feature list and leaning to use it, but I'm hopeful we can track software bugs as well as customer issues with this. That way I wont have to install a separate bugzilla which in our case is just an over kill!

Few more things to wrap up including classes I'm currently conducting on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Exhibition Ends we Get-2-Gether...

asocio_last

Today was a busy day for myself and the other guys. I was busy at the UCSC, preparing few lecture notes that I didn't have time to do over the week, as well as conducting lectures and instructing the practical. The other guys were busy at BMICH explaining and demonstrating to the large crowd that turned up for the last day of the ASCIO exhibition.

I got a call from Nadeeka around 6:00p asking me when I'd come over there. We had planned to meet up after the exhibition to go out and eat, drink and chit chat. "I'll be there soon" was all I could tell him. The class had just finished, but my good friend Vinesh had come over to UCSC and was trying to setup MRTG , a network monitoring tool for his new office. He had gotten some weird error on Redhat when he had tried it and now I was getting a similar error on a freshly installed Mepis (Debian like). Ah! it suddenly hit me... the FIREWALL, stupid dog! Turning off the the Guard Dog firewall rules seemed to fix it. Wonderful! I can make it on time before the exhibition ends.

I got there around 7:00 o' clock and since there wasn't much time decided to check out the Epsi stall again. They had some pretty cool stuff like a slim barebone, Gaming machines, color PDA's with Wi-Fi etc. Met a couple old friends/clients I used to work with so it was all good :) My only regret was not having time to walk in to the Microsoft stall with my RedHat cap on (for the record I almost was going to do that but my friends stopped me).

Everything came to a standstill at 8 o'clock sharp as air conditioning was turned off and people started packing. Soon we got to know that we had to leave SBMICH premises and leave behind the stuff to be collected tomorrow.

We headed straight to this small Chinese restaurant in Narahenpita, adjoining the highway (you know the really slow highway with lots of traffic lights :P) I thought the place to be quite crowded for a Sunday evening with a lot of chatter boxes spread out across the room. We managed to find a corner table that was big enough for the 7 of us. Some nice, constructive and hopefully productive conversations came out as we drank away a couple of Beer bottles, while chewing away plates and plates of friend rice.

Dining time was over at about 11 O' clock and we headed home, hoping to meet again soon. Considering some recent developments ;), I have a feeling we'll be able to keep to this promise.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Its Exhibition time again

asocio

I've really been busy the last couple of days and didn't have any time to write my blog. But in any case except for a few developments, nothing exciting did happen.. that is until now!

Asian-Oceanian Computing Industry Organization or in short ASOCIO is an exhibition that is usually held else where, and its the first time they are holding it in Sri Lanka. There was a BIG marketing campaign on the media announcing it as the BIGGEST exhibition in South East Asia, with big names like Intel, PC House, Suntel and oh.. almost forgot that company from Redmond sponsoring it.

Yesterday I was running around to help setup the LKLUG stall, at SLECC (Sri Lanka Exhibition and Convention Center). I lent them my Wi-Fi USB gadget, a wireless Keyboard and Mouse, Sound Blaster Live 5.1 card and a power extension cord.

Today was my day at the ITABS stall, which is located at the BMICH. Yes you heard me right! Its same exhibition, but held in two places. We've got a small corner stall under Suntel, of whom we are the software solutions provider. We are demonstrating .... well come and see for your self :)

So how was the first day which was supposed to be open to Business invitees only? My feeling was that it was just a BIG noise and nothing more. If the organizers goals were to promote networking and business opportunities for the attendees, I think today it failed miserably. Despite having BIG structures, and holding it in two locations which are miles apart, I didn't see much business delegates as planned. Instead there were more ordinary, inquisitive people who had paid 100/- (instead of the regular 60/- for public, but available only from tomorrow). Most people I spoke to from other stalls also felt it didn't really meet their objectives.

From tomorrow the exhibition is open to the public so we are expecting a larger crowd. Likely I wont be going to BMICH or SLECC since I am supposed to finish up some other office work.

I'll be on duty on Friday again at BMICH and if I get some time over the weekend need to drop in to the LKLUG stall at SLECC. Anyway don't be discouraged by my comments. Its still a very good exhibition with a few things like plasmas, Barebones/Gaming systems,Wifi etc. to see. One thing I learned today was that next year by this time WiFi wont be as hot of a technology as a new upcoming technology called Wi-Max. Mithila who works for AirSpan was explaining to me about the technology and it seems very cool. Oh well seems like I'll have to save up to buy a Wi-Max router next year :)

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Walking down memory lane with Keith

1999 was the year! I was only 22 and boy did I party like "It was 1999!" One boat, Forty Sri Lankans, One Sri Lankan band, Three good friends, Two crazy girls, One hot mother and unlimited liquor, December 31, 1999, Long Beach California, somewhere in the middle of the lake where you'd least expect to be hit by Y2K.

Ahh the good old days! When we working our butts off, sometimes 48hrs+ straight, on a novel project called Menus.com. Those were exciting times, when an idea can easily end up being turned into a dot com site, billboard everywhere displaying some new dot com name, which ultimately ended with the dot com crash back in 2000.

keithlane

Keith is in town and I was invited with a couple of other old friends to Hilton Colombo for lunch. I got a bit late getting there after the Python group presentation, but made it just in time to start lunch. It was nice seeing Keith, who I thought had got slightly thinner, and Manik (daughter) who looked pretty much the same except for the height and Migari (wife) who was busy attending a cookery demonstration and just popped in for a minute or two. Indika, Aruna and Bartee were the old friends I worked with then (well actually Indika I worked with again recently) and Buddhike (yes similar to my name but ends with an e) and another guy(sorry I forgot) are new to me and are still working for Paragon, Keith's company.

We talked about the good (and bad) times ... well actually it was mostly good :) How we worked very hard long hours thanks to coffee and showers, how we managed to recover from the rare screwup(s), the crazy things we did with "silly slammers", vagas!, barbecues, Migari's Margaritas... the list goes on. After a couple of hours of feeling nostalgic and seduced by a wonderful lunch followed by desert, it was time to "say good bye" again :(

Hopefully Keith will do another visit sometime next year and we can do this all over again, but differently :)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Working from home...

My office is a MESS! There I said it! With the amount of people we now have, being packed in to a small lecture room, means I usually have to get up from my seat when who ever is next to me has to go out. To make things worse finding a network cable that works, power source or a decent place to keep my notebook is sometimes very difficult. I've really found it very hard to concentrate on work, especially programming every since we moved in here. The only success I had was while wearing the ear phone and listening to some personal music :)

The solution... welcome to "Work from home". Ok this isn't really a solution that I've even mentioned to my boss, but its something I've been doing the last 2 days. I went to office late while I worked on the project from home. I found that I was really able to do a lot of work, since I was planning to go and show some progress in the evening. I got up at around 7AM and first started working on my openOffice presentation (notice I didn't use the word powerpoint!) on "Python vs Other Programming languages" taking Java as an example. This a group presentation due some time tomorrow. I worked on that till about 9:30 and then after having breakfast got down to some office work. These days I'm working on a perl based front-end for configuring a linux firewall. I managed to get a fair amount of work done till about 1:30PM.

After having lunch, I headed to office and managed to get there by about 3. Since I was back at "ITS TOO DISTRACTING TO CODE!" place, I decided to read some mail and then set to install CVS. CVS is used for maintaining software versions so multiple people can work on a project without stepping over another one's code. I checked in a couple of projects to CVS and also installed viewcvs, which is a web based front end to CVS written in Python (what a coincidence!)

So overall its been a satisfying day except for may be one or two small incidents ;) Hopefully things will get better when our development room is built. Anyway no time to think about that since tomorrow my presentation is due and I still have a few things more to prepare. I'm also hoping to meet Keith tomorrow for lunch so more on that tomorrow.

Signing off!

Monday, November 15, 2004

Gray Monday ...

Such a boring and wasteful day it was! I got up late at 9AM and was slightly
late to go for a meeting with our marketing guy, but luckily he had managed to
set the meeting at 11:00, we made it just in time.

After getting back and having a boring lunch, I decided to go for a small walk
down to Tasty's and had a caramel. The walk wasn't much fun since it was
drizzling through out and the sky was all gray. The rest of the day of the day
sort of flew of the day sort of flue by till about 6PM. It was only after
about 6 that I really got around to doing something for one of the projects
that I am working on with another guy. So eventually we ended up working late
till about 10:00. It really shouldn't have taken so long for the stuff I was
working on but hey what can I say.. my brain was way underclocked!

One thing I did managed to start on was dowelled a lot of gentoo sources. After
failing to compile a kernel (that booted) with the genkernel utility, I opted
to build one the _old_fashion way!, which worked gr8. I then emerged
--fetchonly fluxbox and kde which took a couple of hours. Once I got home, I
first started to compile fluxbox, which also compiled X windows in about 45
min. I was impressed! Then I set kde to compile at about 1AM after I was tired
of playing with fluxbox. What can I say, KDE is a HUGE package, after 6 hours,
its still compiling :-)

Oh! its Tuesday already.. time to shut up!

Friday, November 12, 2004

Sri Lanka to flirt with Desktop Linux - Part2

After typing the previous blog, and having failed to fall asleep, I got up and ended installing some goodies on my Mandrake box. By about 3AM I managed to get a beta version of Suns Looking Glasses 3D desktop, DVD watching, CD burning and a 3D demo of UT2004 working.

The next day (or shall we say after a couple of hours of sleep), I went over to the Narada center, where I heard Anuradha's and ven. Mettavihari's voice. Ven. Mettavihari suggested I bring the barebone and show it to Anuradha just before we left, and a good thing I did! It didn't boot. The most peculiar error was reported by LILO about some date problem. Oh well tried using the Mandrake CDs to recover the automatic method but that didn't seem to work either. Now time was running out, so Anurdha just opened a shell and installed the boot loader the old fashion way :) - using the Command line!

Unlike the previous day,we did managed to get to ICTA on time. When we got to the conference room, there awaited an HP machine waiting to have Mandrake Linux installed on it. We took the bold move of asking them "Who is your least computer literate user? We would try that user to install Mandrake". Though this may seem like shooting your self in the head.. it has been done before, one guy did put his wife on the line and proved she had an overall better experience installing Mandrake Linux than she ever did with Windows! So a young lady at ICTA took up the challenge, as everyone watched with eager (horror?)! There was also a sense of excitement in the room and Riza and Anuradha took some pictures just to document this (perhaps to be historic) event. There was a sense of humor when the installer came to a screen, where it detected that windows had already been installed and offered to remove it. Unfortunately the answer was a NO! so we told her to go ahead with custom disk portioning where she learned how to resize the existing NTFS partition. It seemed like the hard disk had a lot of data, and hadn't been defragmented for some time, so the resize process took about 15 minutes to complete. But that time was used wisely to demonstrate Sinhala Linux, which resulted in a lot of wows!, geee cant we have that on windows? and a lot of other sounds made when one is really amazed! Oh but wait!

The rest of the installation went quite smoothly and took roughly another 15 minutes. Once everything had installed, the installer politely rebooted the machine into a shiny new Mandrake Linux. We then demonstrated OpenOffice office suite, Evolution Email/Groupware app, Mozilla browser and a host of other applications that really seemed to convince them that Linux was ready. By the end of the demonstration, they were said they were quite impressed (this was without seeing any 3D games/dvd playing etc.) and wanted to try installing it some of other machines. Things are looking quite good, and the next step is to work on a proposal that would list the applications as well as other enhancements we can make so that the new user does not need to install any software and everything just works out of the box.

We left the 3 Mandrake CDs for them to try out and came back with sense of happiness and accomplishment. I hope, looking back, this day would been a signinficant step in the right direction.

Sri Lanka to flirt with Desktop Linux

Today was an interesting day for me, as I was very much looking forward to joining with the LKLUG crew, to go and convince ICTA effort headed by Riza, that Linux was the way to go for their 100,000 Home PC initiative. Though nothing is official at this point, ICTA is planning to offer 100,000 personal desktops at a very reasonable price to Sri Lankan families in an effort to increase computer literacy among the population. It is rumored that after approaching Microsoft , and seeing their lack of enthusiasm to provide a cost effective and attractive price solution for Windows/MS Office suite, ICTA had decided to go with OpenOffice as the Office Suite and possibly Linux as the Operating System (OS). It is also rumored that once news got out of the possibility of going with OpenSource, Microsoft had decided to cut prices and reapproach ICTA. If these rumors are true, then it is really a good fortune that ICTA, despite the influence from one of THE biggest software giants (a.k.a monopolist) , is going ahead and giving OpenSource a fair try.

The meeting was scheduled at 4:00 but for some reason some of us got the feeling it was at 4:30, probably due to an earlier post on the LKLUG mailing list that other LKLUgers were planning to meet at the Narada Center at 4:00 and leave from there. Channa (CEO of itabs or should I say my BOSS) had also been invited, so I was planning to tag along with him. Anuradha , said he would also like to tag along with us and would come to our office by 4:00. Anyway although Anuradha managed to find our new office and get their at about 4:10, Channa had got a call from ICTA asking why we were not there! Oh well! due to the misunderstanding now we are late as usual :) It was good that ICTA was close by (Kirimandala Mawatha) and so we managed to get there before 4:30.

The discussion was quite positive, and I suppose an eye opener for them as well. The biggest question on their minds was the support issue. If something goes wrong, how can the average home user get support to solve the problem. What they initially failed to realize, but ultimately came around to, was the fact that even with Windows support wasn't all that great. For one thing even if you legally bought windows, currently Mirosoft in Sri Lanka, doesn't provide good support and calling Singapore (for some support) is expensive. Then the unofficial support you tend to get from your local computer dealer or your smart friend, usually involves reinstalling software, cleaning viruses or in most cases reinstalling the whole Windows OS. Nevertheless due to the amount of Windows penetration, currently the chances of finding someone with some knowledge to help is better than that for Linux. On the otherhand you wont have a good linux support from the general public without a good linux penetration, which requires an acceptable level of support to begin with - this is a vicious cycle that we must really break out of! ITABS and a couple of other companies are interested in the possibility of providing some sort of Linux Support to Home users by extending their current Corporate Support. But the exact nature of support (phone, email, on site) is yet to be decided.

Another pressing question that kept cropping up during past discussions on the list, which eventually leads to a lot of debate is "What Linux distro should we go with?". This is a question that leads to a common argument among linux enthusiasts and is often labeled - "Distro WARS". Its a fact that most of us in the opensource community has learned to live/avoid with since unlike in the proprietary world where there are only one or two choices, with opensource there are a lot of choices. Like there are a lot of political parties, religions, or ethic groups which we generally consider a_good_thing, sometimes they also cause tension when it comes to the discussion which is better - since better is just a relative term.

Anyway it was really good that all of us at LKLUG had met prior to the meeting and had decided to support Mandrake Linux for its easy of installation, configuration and use. After describing the advantages of Mandrake Linux over Windows and then over Redhat/Fedora (other popular versions of Linux) and why its a good option to start with, most of the ICTA people were very curious to learn more and for a demonstration.

So that's where we strand at the end of the today. We have a demonstration scheduled for tomorrow morning at ICTA, where we will show that installing Mandrake Linux is faster and easier than installing Windows XP! Things are looking good at the moment. We are positive if things pick up, then we can even work on a sinhala version of Mandrake Linux in a very short period, as most of the work has already been done (sinhala.linux.lk).

Anyway I was too excited about tomorrow's demonstration that I ended up going to Narada Center and installing Mandrake 10.1 Community edition on my Bare Bone System :D Actually I took it to office today, hoping to install gentoo, but have a bit more work to do on that since its a stage2 installation that I am performing, which requires most of the packages to be compiled from source code.

The Mandrake installation was smooth (as opposed to installing Windows on a SATA hard drive -- a pain!), and everything pretty much worked out of the box. I did run in to small configuration issue after upgrading to the proprietary NVdia drivers, but managed to get that sorted out under half an hour.

Things are looking good for tomorrow and I am hoping to also take my Bare Bone System, just to show off :P Check back tomorrow to see what happened!

To be Continued...

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Fun @ millennium Park

Today was one of those 24 (TV series) days -- started out one way, ended in a totally different way. To begin with, today was my last MSc first semester paper on cryptography. This was a paper I was more confident of, and was hoping to bump up my overall averages. So I guess you'd understand why I didn't feel like driving back home from the junction after discovering I had left my cell phone behind. Now don't call me superstitious , but I just didn't want to take the chance of having to go back! .. Its BAD LUCK! But not having the cell, did bother me through out the day, specially when trying to communicate with my better half.

As expected the exam was quite easy and most of us couldn't complain. After the exam Deep had organized to take a few of us out to celebrate his new found fortune (aka new job), so we headed over to millennium Park to find a couple of more MSc Friends had also independently shown up. NO problem, deep was paying, so the more the merrier! We were pleasantly supprised to find Mill Park happening, with a big young crowd promoting AIDS (prevention of it I think ;P) We got a table and some drinks (soft :), when I got an SMS (to a friends phone) from my g/f saying she was on the way to Campus with lunch. So I rush over back to Uni, and had lunch with her and headed back to Mill Park to find everyone missing from their seats! For a second I thought that they were playing some sort of prank, since I saw Lakmal's car parked, so I know no one left.

Thats when the fun really began! I found the guys getting ready to go to a laser Tag like shooting game (not a video game, the real thing..except no one gets hurt). We put on these cool jackets that came with a laser gun attached to it. The arena had several walls to hide and shoot your opponent. The whole exercise was fun and tiring at the same time with all the running around. But I was disappointed when I found at the end I hadn't shot anyone!... Not a single soul! I was hit about 5 times of which I think the last 3 happened when I gave up -- was too tired. Its only later when I got home I noticed that the gun hadn't fired at all, and when I come to think of it my gun didn't emit any laser beam. Damn! I had been cheated! But everyone was a bit suppressed when the winner of our tournament turned out to be Lochana.

After having desert (I already had had lunch), I had to rush back to Uni to take a Linux class at UCSC. That was also quite interesting since it was a new batch and they were quite interactive. With a few foreign students, who weren't really shy to ask questions, it really paved the way for everyone to start talking. Most were Windows administrators/users and some developers looking to learn this new wonderful OS. The rest of the evening was filled very intellectual conversation with my better half.

So there you have it! A very rare and diverse day of my humble life (most of the time).

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A walking day it was ...

It's been a while since I started walking a bit more than usual. Back in the days before I had a car, walking was something I did more often since I hated going riding buses (specially when they are full).

Anyway today I decided to service my car after a really long time. May be it was that last washout incident with the whole rain thing (see my previous post), that strengthened my bonding with the car, for I had neglected it far too long. Even cars need love :) Specially when they've gotten you home safely under tough conditions!

So I went early as possible to the service station, hoping to catch an early time slot, but I guess people had already booked so I was either going to have to wait hours and hours or be more productive.

My plan was to study anyway for the next exam (Cryptography) on Sunday, but I also had few things to do. So I set on my journey by foot.

I walked from Pagoda to Nugegoda, then took a bus (walked inside the bus :P) to Thumulla. Then walked to Bambalapitiya and went to HSBC ATM, got some money and walked down duplication to Standard Charted and payed my credit card bill. Then walked to Unity Plaza and bought a 25cd pack. Walked back to Campus and did some studying. Now planning to walk back to pick up my car :)

isn't all this walk talk so nice.. - just hopes it doesn't rain on my way back

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know,

His house is in the village though.
He will not see me stopping here,
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer,
To stop without a farmhouse near,
Between the woods and frozen lake,
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake,
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep,
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.


-- Robert Frost


Tuesday, November 02, 2004

RAIN, RAIN go away!

Last night on my way home after a long idle day (office is still under construction), I experienced one of the worst rain storms in a long time. With my car wiper working at full capacity, I could barely see the tail light of the immediate vehicle in front of me. Roads were quite dark and the rain was just punching straight and hard to the ground (good thing there wasn't any major wind to go with that :^)

If things couldn't get any worse, while driving I noticed a small trail of vehicles slowly moving with plenty of room for overtaking. So I slowly passed them and moved a couple of meters, to discover to my horror that most of the road had flooded upto knee length! I had gone too far ahead to turn back -- a couple of vehicles had decided to follow me :O So I slowly marched forward as I felt the water splash against the bottom of my car.

SPHhhhhhhhhh! and there it was! a lot of while, grayish smoke escaping out of the hood of my car. There was also another diesel van in front of me, also smoking out some heavy fumes, which just made my view all smoky. The engine seemed to give a tad of a miss, so I moved a couple of meters forward and pulled over, then turned on my hazard lights. For a minute, my kernel had just packed up, as I watched in horror at the sheer number of people who were lifting up their sarong or rolling up their pants and one or two tree-wheelers being pushed by their driver and a couple of more vehicles with their hazard lights on.

Next I popped opened the hood, and went out into the cruel rain to inspect my engine. The engine seemed fine, except for being extremely hot since it was evaporating just about every rain drop that touched it. I hadn't brought an umbrella (hence it rained ; Murphy's law :)), so was socking wet as I got back in.The engine temperature also looked fine so I thought I'd start and slowly move forward. Slowly I managed to get to relatively dry ground and was soon home.

That was a close call! and though this incident may seem isolated, its really not. Every time it rains hard for a couple of hours straight, the streets of Colombo and its suburbs are designed to flood! From time to time you hear politicians/authorities promising to fix the problem, to introduce proper drainages, places to dump garbage etc., but I guess those promises also get washed away during the flood. That's "Tax Payer's money at work" for you! Throwing away plastic and polythine wrappers, without thinking twice by pedestrians and driving vehicles, also aggregate the problem. So we are all to blame!

With that sour note, I end my humble blog today :)

Sunday, October 31, 2004

A calm & lazy Sunday was what I had in mind...but

After going through a pretty much useless exam, my plan was to go home and get some much needed sleep and may be watch a movie....but I suddenly got a call. It was my BOSS Channa! All the guys are here when are you coming? And then it hit me... we were moving offices and today was the auspicious if not symbolic day. Since I was busy the last couple of days on study leave, I didn't really feel the whole moving process till now!

I took my time and drove over to the new office, hoping things would be all setup, with a red-carpet awaiting to welcome me. Instead what I saw was a shocking place still pretty much under construction, where the walls were still wet with paint and the floors needed cleaning as well as setting up of the place in time for the evening event. But nothing is impossible when you have a dedicated (aka crazy, playful) team like ours and we managed to get the place ready within a matter of hours.

The pirith chanting occation took place as planned followed by delicious vegetarian short-eats and ice coffee. Things were looking quite bright (except for the dull weather) and it was a happy day @ ITABS. If anyone feels like dropping in to say hi.. we are now located just before the Fife Road, when coming from Havelock junction, on top of the Kalale building.

Struggling to find the M in Msc

Today was as expected a bad exam day. It was data structures and algorithms.. Considering I hadn't studies anything yesterday soon after the exam I knew what I was getting into today.

So while I struggled to fit in with the crowd and pretend I understand what Red-Black Trees and the intricasy of dynamic programming, it soon became evident that the only thing I could do was to go home and sleep. So that is exactly what I did!

When I woke up at around 5pm it was pleasantly raining and all I could think was sleeping just a tad bit longer :) Finally around 6p, I managed to get up and was ready do some studying. The bad feeling had died down and I knew one way or the other it wasn't going to be easy. That's when my g/f calls up and says ..What? Algorithms paper difficult? Why you been coding for 7 years! If only she understood that nowa days you don't go around implementing the algorithms found in Carmons book.

But that did get me thinking... hmmm.. Since I am going to flunk tomorrow anyways why not do it in style. So I opened up my notebook and loaded up Kdevelop and started to actually implement a few string searching algorithms. It was actually fun! Then I started using wikopedia to study about FSA(finite state automaton), Red Black trees etc. When looking for info on the Knuth Morris Pratt algorithm, I ended up learning al lot about Prof. Knuth which was very fascinating.

So how did I do today at the exam? Not good :) I am certain to repeat it next year but that seems to be the feeling for those who _ACTUALLY_ studied! They thought I did the correct thing going home early since it really didn't make much of a difference. But for me it DID! I had fun! Studying