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Sat, Dec 01 2001

My post today would have been kind of harsh and extremely negative (it probably still will be to a great extent ...) but then I received a nice comment from Ice Kyoob which kind of ameliorated how I was feeling till then. Since I put up the new build of Scope (which I think I mentioned was not even a beta ...) what I've received have been mostly what I'd term complaints. Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against bug reports or even suggestions for improvements but when I get feature requests with not a hint of a request - they sound more like demands as if I owed something to them because they used my software - in them, I do find myself getting grumpier by the minute. Maybe I'm taking this the wrong way, maybe the writers did intend their comments to be requests and not demands, but from where I'm sitting, they sure don't sound like requests.

The other day I noticed that NetCaptor (an app a lot of users compare against Scope - and you can't blame them since I started work on Scope because I wanted a free alternative to NetCaptor) is now shareware instead of Adware. While I've always been for free software, I find myself agreeing with their decision - who wants to put up with this kind of aggravation for doing something for free? Now this does not mean that I intend to make my apps shareware because I still believe in free software for people but before I recieved Ice Kyoob's nice comments, I was thinking seriously of shutting down the public distribution of my apps - I wanted to let my friends, the ones who do contribute in some way or another to the apps that I create, have access to my apps but not to the general (generally ungrateful and critical) public. Now I think that might have been a bit of a drastic measure but I still feel that people on the Internet seem to take, take and take even more wherever they can instead of giving a little bit back as well ... You know, it doesn't have to be money or things - a word of appreciation or even a bit of consideration in how you word things might be enough ...

But enough of that - I did have a kind of nice (or rather funny) experience today ... I went to the local KMart early in the morning since I was out of milk and while there, I decided to browse through the games section. There was this lady who was trying to buy a gaming console for her children and the store clerk seemed either not to know too much about the subject or deliberately misleading her (or not telling her the entire truth ...) so that she would buy a PlayStation2 (which they had a few in stock ...). I don't normally like intruding on other people's conversations but when I heard him telling her something or other about the PlayStation2's built-in modem and about how the PlayStation2 was actually as good as the XBox or the GameCube (they were just "udpated" according to him :p), I couldn't stand it any longer and jumped into the conversation <vbg> I guess my pitch was a bit slanted towards the XBox but I do honestly believe that out of the current crop of consoles, the XBox stands above the rest - except for the dearth of games for it (but then again, the GameCube suffers from the same phenomenon ...) The upshot of it was that the lady walked out of the KMart saying that she wanted to get an XBox for her kids and the store clerk went off giving me a dirty look <vbg>
posted at 10:17:11 AM  link  comment

Fri, Nov 30 2001

Got quite a bit of coding done yesterday. First, I worked on the address bar problem in Scope again and came to the conclusion that the IEAddress component that I was using was the culprit for the erratic behaviour that I was seeing. I even wrote a testbed application that simply had just that one component on it and it was still behaving the same way that it did in Scope. I took a look at the source and found at least a couple of places which contributed to the problem but wasn't sure that removing those lines of code was the best option ... so, I decided to write a component of my own :p The IEAddress component was based on the Delphi ComboBox component and so was doing a lot of work to support the inclusion of icons in the combobox - I decided to go with the ComboBoxEx component (which is there in Delphi 6.0 but I'm not sure whether it was there from 5.0 downwards ...) and save myself the trouble of handling the icon drawing and stuff. In the end, I ended up with a component which did what I wanted and had a few customized features just for Scope. If you are interested to see the current progress (or are really not happy with the address bar <g>), you can find a build here - but be warned, this is very early code still and while I am using the same build, I can fix problems if I see them - you can't :p

jugg checked out the new build and pointed out the fact that you couldn't use TAB while in the auto-suggest dropdown for the address bar. I'd noticed the option in the SHAutocomplete API call and had been intending to add it myself but had forgotten ... I did try it now but found that it didn't seem to work under Delphi - bummer :-( I want to do some further investigating to make sure that it doesn't work under Delphi and it is not something that I'm missing. Plus, I want to look into the problems that the latest build seems to have with the latest release of Mozilla - that should keep me busy :-)

My coding efforts were not over yesterday though :p I had noticed that typing in Blog seemed to be getting a bit slower - at least for me. I wasn't sure whether this was the live-spellchecking in the later versions of Blog or the fact that I had so many entries in Blog that it was slowing down (since I've been posting since around March 2001, mine has to be the biggest blog around that uses Blog :p) I went on the latter hypothesis and did some code to improve the way records are selected in Blog in case it was the filtering that was at fault but today I see that Blog still seems to be sluggish. I need to look into this a bit further as well - probably the easiest thing would be to simply turn off live-spellchecking and see if that helps. The problem is that the performance difference is not always noticeable and so it might all be just subjective opinion ...
posted at 06:07:18 AM  link  comment

Thu, Nov 29 2001

Ugh .. it's raining outside and I hate driving on days like this - it looks like something out of a horror movie at times :p Anyway, I got quite a bit done on Scope yesterday. I did figure out how to get through all the pre-compilation problems I had with Scope and got it to a state where I could begin work on it again. I had tried my existing version of Scope with Mozilla 0.9.6 and it seemed to work fine but once I recompiled Scope with the new type library for Mozilla 0.9.6, it began crashing consistently :p I still haven't looked into the cause of the crashes though since I will need to do some extensive debugging and I don't have the time to do so during the week - probably this weekend.

Instead, I started working on the annoying problem with the auto-completion on the address bar. While working on that, I figured out how to turn on a feature that I really like about IE (though a lot of people do seem to hate it <g>) - forms auto-completion :-) That was one of the few things I missed from IE though I've been using Scope as my default browser for ages - now even that is there :p The address bar problem didn't turn out to be that simple however. I was able to figure out a way to modify the source for the IEAddress component that I was using so that I could toggle auto-suggest and auto-complete for the address bar on the fly but the results didn't seem to be consistent all the time. I began to wonder whether the problem lay with the MS autocomplete API call or with the IEAddress component and so began working on a test application which would use the MS autocomplete API without using the IEAddress component - still working on it ... Hopefully, that should provide some answers.

Incidentally, sinesolis did some great new icons for both Scope and Blog while I was away on vacation - thanks again for the great icons, sinesolis! So I included the new icons in Scope and since they are slightly smaller than the once that were there before (16x16 instead of 20x20), the toolbar is smaller and (at least to me ..) looks much better :-) I just need to get a few more things working and hopefully before the end of the year there will be a new version of Scope out - and about time too since I notice that the last release was sometime in July :p
posted at 07:01:22 AM  link  comment

Wed, Nov 28 2001

I finally managed to get Mozilla to compile yesterday after some digging around as to what might be the problem this time around - turned out that the path to the Cygwin tools had somehow mysteriously disappeared from my system environment since I last compiled Mozilla :p Of course, it took about the better part of a day to get Mozilla to compile at all because I ran into further problems - turns out that you can't now compile just the Mozilla client since all build options try to build all the units for Mozilla embedding as well and one of the units is built around the MFC framework - and guess what? I don't have MFC installed on my machine because I hate MFC! I had to dig through the make files and figure out what to modify so that I could build Mozilla without needing to install MFC on my machine.

You would think that I could get to work on Scope once I got through all that, right? Wrong! I had not installed all the extra Delphi components that I use for Scope since I installed XP on my machine and reinstalled everything and it turns out that I can't get the embedded browser code to compile on my machine now - would things ever work around me? <g> I have a feeling that the problem lies with IE 6 since I can't seem to import the type library for the MS HTML Object Library on my machine at all - or rather, the type library imports fine but I can't compile the resultant Delphi code because there are a lot of errors in the code - hundreds of errors in fact and since the code is over hundred thousand lines long, the performance when trying to edit it with Delphi is abysmal. I finally gave up and was getting ready to go home when I realized that I could simply import the type library on another machine that doesn't have IE 6 and use that but since I was already ready to go home, I decided to leave that for today :p

I watched "Roswell" on UPN and it just made me depressed ... When the show began three seasons ago, I really loved it because it was a light story with a lot of excitement and very, very interesting characters. The story was about a group of teens - three of whom happen to be aliens in the town of Roswell, New Mexico and the others are their friends who learn that the three are aliens. The three aliens - Max, Isabel and Michael - had been stranded on Earth when their ship crahsed on Earth or something in the 50's and they'd somehow come out of their ship in the 80's as young kids and been adopted by people in the area (at least Max and Isabel were adopted - Michael somehow ended up with an abusive foster Dad ...) I loved the first season because it was hopeful, about young love and had a lot of thrills and edge of the seat excitement. In the second season the characters began to change, they became more ... adult, cynical, selfish and the series itself turned into something like a teen version of a soap opera.

The show was on WB at that time but WB was going to cancel it at the end of the second season but UPN bought it. The creators said at the time that now they'd be able to take the show in the direction they really wanted to but hadn't been allowed to by WB and I had great hopes for the third season. But the third season has turned out to be even more adult and depressing. The hopeful young lovers from the first season (Max and Liz) have become a hopeless relationship and Max has turned from an idealistic, caring person to somebody who is utterly selfish at times. The only ray of brightness in the increasingly gloomy story lines had been Michael and Maria - their relationship had turned from a taunting, antagonistic one to a strong love and I enjoyed seeing how Michael changed.

Michael had originally been brash, uncaring and somewhat of a loner. He still is to a great extent but it was great to see him try to break out of his shell, become caring - if somewhat bumbling in his efforts to understand relationships - and strong. I guess I identify with Michael because he is somebody who is alone in a world full of strangers and he desperately wants to hold on to something that he can call his own - and up till yesterday that something was Maria. Yesterday they broke up ...

Yes, here I am writing about a TV series as if it was something real :p But in a sense, it is real ... Maybe a TV series (or anything created by any of us ...) reflects the times and the conditions that it is created in and when everything around us is so bleak, I would at least hope for some brightness from the entertainment industry - but at least in the case of "Roswell" it is not to be ... That is depressing ...
posted at 07:13:38 AM  link  comment

Tue, Nov 27 2001

Wow! The hints guide I did for "Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee" is climbing rapidly up my site access log charts :p For some strange reason (maybe because somebody submitted the page? <vbg>) my main page appears on Google searches a day or two after I make a post and let me tell ya, a lot of people seem to be searching for hints for Munch's Oddysee. I am kinda happy that I can provide some sort of a service to these people - though I'm not that sure that I am indeed helping <g> since the hints for most of the first levels were written from memory and are kind of sketchy :p In fact, I had somebody write to me asking me for help with one of the earliest levels - the Mudokon Pens - and I realized that I had no information at all in my initial set of hints. And of course, by that time I couldn't even remember what the level was about :p Fortunately, I have saved games for each level in the game and so I went back and played that level all over again and beefed up the hints for that level :-)

I did finally get back to doing some coding yesterday ... A few days back Von had described the steps she'd taken before a data corruption occurred in Blog - I've had complaints of data corruption in Blog by several users but none of them could remember the steps that led to the problem. Thanks to Von, I was able to figure out where the problem was - it happened when you started a new entry (or even modified an existing one) and tried to delete it without saving the changes ... I put in some code to prompt to save (which is rather superfluous actually :p) and if the user doesn't want to save, the changes will be canceled. This should hopefully take care for the final point in Blog (I hope ...) where data corruption can occur.

I was wondering whether to continue work on Blog but decided instead that I should actually go back to Scope - both because jugg has been hinting at the fact that a new version is long overdue :p and because I really do need to fix some of the most irritating things about the current implementation of Scope and get it working with the latest versions of Mozilla. In order to do that, I had to download the Mozilla 0.9.6 source (why do they keep on coming out with new builds instead of letting it stagnate for ages like me? <vbg>) since I had last downloaded the 0.9.4 source. I went through the usual hassles of extracting the tarball since some of the Windows archiving tools which supposedly support the TAR.GZ format still seem to have weird problems extracting it and then tried to compile it ... Nothing! Or rather, the usual error message that I seem to get every time I try to compile Mozilla the very first time :p It never seems to fail! Even though I did get Mozilla 0.9.4 to compile fine and I have not made any changes to the system since then (not that I remember at least ...), it just wouldn't compile! I got tired of the hassles at that point and decided to put it off till another day :p
posted at 07:56:29 AM  link  comment

Mon, Nov 26 2001

They mentioned Icarus on the radio today while discussing something else and my thoughts went off on a tangential direction - I was trying to remember who Icarus' father was because their story was one of the "myffic" stories (as one of Terry Pratchett's characters calls it - he meant mythic BTW ...) that I remember from my earliest childhood. It was in comic format and I can still recall the expression on Icarus' father's face as he held his son in his arms and wept after he flew too close to the sun and fell. I can still feel the pain in that look and perhaps that was one of the earliest moments in my life when I hated to see pain in others and wanted to do something about it ...

Anyway, I thought for about ten minutes before I finally remembered his name - Daedulus! That whole trip down memory lane brought back all sorts of memories about King Minos, Theseus, the minotaur ... all the old stories. Ah, there is nothing like a good myth, I tell ya :-)

I finished "Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee" early on Saturday morning and was really bummed because the XBox seems to have spoilt me for gaming on any other console :p And there isn't any other game on the XBox that I really want to try out till "Azurik: Rise of Perathia" and that won't be released till the end of this week. I do want to try out "Halo" (especially since sinesolis recommends it highly ...) but I have a feeling that I will find it too tough for me - I never did too well at first-person shooters unless I had the cheat codes :p Speaking of Azurik, the name of the game always makes me grin because Perathia (pronounced with a long middle "a" as in cane) sounds a lot like a Sinhalese word "peraythaya" which means either a demon - rather, more like an imp ... - or a very greedy person (a glutton). Hmm ... written down that doesn't look too funny but it does if you think of it in Sinhalese :p Wonder whether a Sri Lankan was involved in the game ....?

The e-mail worms seem to be back since I got a weird message today with an attached e-mail (but no warning from NAV mind you ...) plus another e-mail from somebody or other in Thailand (I think....) - from a server that I never recall sending mail to - saying that a message I sent had a virus attached. I am not sure whether somebody is using my address or whether my machine is sending out messages due to a virus or trojan ... there has been a lot of hard disk activity on my machine recently even when it was idling and I've been wondering about that ... The way things are going, I'd be scared even to get online soon ...
posted at 07:49:49 AM  link  comment

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