Nisadas

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Archive for the ‘Geek’ Category

Setting up AWStats with GeoIP

with one comment

The first thing anyone who’s set up a blog would want to know… well, generally it would be something like “How many people actually check this out?”. This is where web statistics come into play.

Previously I used Tracewatch, which was quite a handy piece of work. Now I use the WordPress Stats plugin, as well as an account at Statcounter. However, apart from Twatch (which I dropped since it doesn’t seem to have been updated in some time) the other two have been a little vague for my tastes.

Therefore, I looked around and found a free stat counter – AWStats. A little searching on the net led me to the easiest method to install AWStats on the Dreamhost wiki and also the method to install the GeoIP plugin for AWStats to figure out from where my visitors are coming from.

The only additional piece of work I did was setting up a .htaccess file to the otherwise cumbersome link to view the stats. By setting the DirectoryIndex to a PHP file, I then added the header(Location: “URL”) line to direct to the stats link.

Voila! I now have a working set of stats with the GeoIP plugin working… :)

Written by Dulan

January 13th, 2009 at 10:41 pm

Posted in Geek,Sri Lanka

Tagged with , ,

Sri Lankan PC info

without comments

It doesn’t help very much when the monitor needs constant gamma correction to work. When the RAM just dies and I’m left with half of the full complement (another good reason to have two DIMMS) things just get ornery.

Then there’s the constant trouble with the network adapter, generally fixed with a reboot. Ditto for the newly fixed SATA HDD (connected via the chinese-made PCI card) suddenly vanishing trick.

By all indications, it looks like I need to upgrade my PC. The dust factor hasn’t helped either, so probably a good dusting is in order before that. But definitely, I need a new power supply, motherboard, processor, monitor and RAM.

Back in my school days, when I was a lot more techno savvy the method of finding out about the costs of putting a PC together meant trawling the shops at Unity Plaza and dealing with people who had no idea about the specs of what they were selling. The vendors in general were pretty clueless about anything that wasn’t in their shops; often they were clueless about what they were selling in the first place. Heaven forbid you even asked them about future-proofing.

But now that we’re pretty firmly in the 21st century and capable of putting world class websites online, I expected a plethora of hits when I searched for sri lankan computer retailers. Alas, I was mistaken.

It seems the same indifference that you can find meted out at so many of the general PC shops in Sri Lanka is now extended to the web. I’m pretty sure this has got to do with the fact that Sri Lankan domestic users don’t present themselves as much of a market. Even better, I’m sure the average retailer must be thinking “well, if they haven’t got a computer already, then they won’t be surfing the net looking for one” and follow that up with “now that they have a computer, they know where to find us”.

Well, it seems that the high-end consumer will always have someone willing to fawn over them for their rupees. But for the average guy like myself who’s rather annoyed at having to part with his money in this age of high inflation and what-not, it looks like the place to go is still Unity Plaza.

I tried out the websites of some of Sri Lanka’s better known retailers. Some of those links can be found at OnlineLanka, but I’ve no idea how updated those links are. As a matter of fact, the only site I found interesting (apart from the ones selling second-hand computers) was ABC Computers. That too, because I was solely interested in prices. My email enquiry from the people at ABC elicited the response that their site was not very up-to-date, but in the process of being updated. Not bad – certainly a step in the right direction

Some of the bigger names have sites with a lot of heavy wording and fancy flash graphics, but little substance. One of the better known companies has only a prototype site up which showcases PC equipment and the descriptions of jewellery.

Perhaps I’m missing something here, but it looks like I’ll have to slip back into my school-day approach of trawling Unity Plaza again… What a waste of time and energy…

Written by Dulan

September 4th, 2007 at 12:11 am

Posted in Geek,Life,Sri Lanka

Bad habits…that help you get ahead

with 3 comments

With a title like that and the words “Learn how your character flaws could give you some real advantages in the workplace.” right below, how could I possibly resist clicking on the link that would help me “Get the full 2006 Careers Guide, free?

I was then met with the usual marketing tool of signing up before I actually get my hands on the goods.

Screenshot of the details required

While filling in my details, I noticed something strange at the bottom: I had been presented with what could be called a Hobson’s choice – I could either get the guide and then receive email from the publishers, or nothing at all.

strange choice highlighted

Being the sort who generally tries to get only that which I want, I de-selected the check box and clicked “submit”.

error message

Oh. That’s very interesting. It reads (click on the image for larger version):

The form was not submitted because of the following error(s).
Please correct these error(s) and resubmit.

- The following required field(s) are empty :
I wish to receive relevant information from New Scientist and Reed Elsevier in the future:

To cut a long story short, I was interested in the guide so I went ahead and clicked “yes” and submitted these details.

After that I was redirected to an online copy of the guide. I would’ve preferred a downloadable pdf that I could read whenever I wanted, but hey, that’s not the point.

The point is, was this permission marketing? If we check with the wikipedia, we find that

Permission marketing is a term used in e-marketing. Marketers will ask permission before they send advertisements to prospective customers. It is used by some Internet marketers, email marketers, and telephone marketers. It requires that people first “opt-in”, rather than allowing people to “opt-out” only after the advertisements have been sent.

Why would people offering me a “free” guide want to know my email address and then send me “relevant information”? I think it’d have something to do with marketing their products at a later date. If so, why wasn’t I given the opportunity to opt-out at the very beginning?

I mean, what would Seth say?

Written by Dulan

March 26th, 2006 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Business,Geek,Thoughts

No longer in the dark

without comments

My initial days at Vesess, were just a little traumatic for me, due to the fact that all the monitors were so good with their colours. Compared with my own monitor at home…

I didn’t really notice it earlier. Perhaps games were meant to be played that way – where the road was more a matter of faith than anything else. Or perhaps the photos I got actually were dark and it wasn’t just my imagination.
Incredibly, that’s not the case. Gamers around the world have had problems with either their monitors or their graphics cards or even the games themselves. So much so that there are gamma adjustment software.

Having found one such software, I thought I’d share it with you. Who knows, you might discover some good use for it.

Just check out the IPGamma software from IPlay. It’s a handy little software that sits in your (Windows) system tray and allows a little Ctrl+Alt manipulation of your monitor’s gamma settings.

So if you’ll excuse me – there are colours and details I shall be seeing for the first time…

update – September 3, 2007: It seems the IPGamma software is no longer available at the location mentioned. Even worse, I’ve lost the only copy of the file that I had. Another option available is Powerstrip, available from En Tech Taiwan

Written by Dulan

February 5th, 2006 at 11:36 pm

Posted in Geek

On the way up

with one comment

Since it’s Poya holiday today, I’m home and able to do some much needed upgrades that I had meant to do for some time.

First of all, I decided to upgrade to the latest version of WordPress – version 2.0 to be exact. The new version didn’t give too much trouble, except for when I didn’t really follow instruction about overwriting the old files. But now things are done and I’m running WordPress 2.0. Quite a lot of new functions, most of which would be familiar to anyone who’s got a blog at WordPress.com.

Also, I’ve been meaning to upgrade my exsting version of Firefox on Breezy. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be a package available in the repositories. After some searches and abortive attempts at installing the latest version (including losing my existing copy), I found that the best thing to do was Installing Firefox from mozilla.com which worked fine for me.

Now things seem ok, but there is some occasional bugginess. Ah well, more likely my own meddling under the hood than anything else.

So that’s it for now. Both new versions seem to be running fine (aforementioned bugginess aside). Nevertheless, I kinda liked the old WordPress interface – but perhaps I’ll get to like the new one with time…

Written by Dulan

January 13th, 2006 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Geek

HSBC (SL) doesn’t want me to use Linux

with 7 comments

It’s weird. I like the service I get from HSBC. I don’t bother them very much. I have friends who work there.

So why should they (the local branch) have a problem with me switching to a more secure and less crash-prone operating system/web browser?

When I took up my first intern/trainee job, one of the things I did was get an HSBC card. Not only did it look good, but it also meant that come payday, I would be one of the lucky people to get my hands on the cash first. The others would have to wait a day or two longer before their allowance was in their accounts. So I’m happy.

But I stopped using Internet Explorer and switched to Opera. Bad move. The Internet Banking facility doesn’t work for me. But thankfully Firefox came along and things were ok.

Fast forward to 2005: I’ve switched completely to Linux when it comes to surfing the net. This is because I’m paranoid about spyware/adware/zombie networks and frankly I haven’t the faintest of confidence in Internet Explorer’s security.

And then I try to access MY account via Internet Banking. No dice. Opera (even with “Identify as Internet Explorer” enabled) doesn’t work. Neither does Firefox.
I’m told that

To access internet banking, please use

  • Internet Explorer version 5.0 or above; or
  • Netscape Communicator version 4.72 or above (version 6.x currently not supported)

What gives?

So I inform the bank of the issue. This I do on September 12, 2005.
I get the following reply on September 15, 2005:

We refer to your mail of 12 September 2005.

Please be informed that we have taken your request to consideration and are looking at the possibilty of enabling Linux Users to login to our Internet Banking Service.

However we wish to inform you that we are not preventing any users of Linux from accessing the Internet Banking Facility.

Right.

It’s become common knowledge that Microsoft’s Windows OS and Internet Explorer browser aren’t exactly the most secure software in the world. Even if the developers manage to patch the security holes, the very fact that Windows/IE are so popular the world over make them ideal targets for hackers. This was common knowledge ages ago – that’s why alternate browsers have been able to make such an impact in the global internet community.

While I agree that there is no silver bullet for surfing on the web, I feel that institutions shouldn’t place restrictions on how people access the information they put on the web.

A little searching led me to this email at the Lanka Linux User Group(LKLUG) that seems to discuss the problems in the JavaScript code at the site that seems to restrict users. Note the date: July 19, 2005.

I’m not a coder, but according to the email, it seems that the web site doesn’t consider Linux as an operating system that the potential visitor might be using.

It’s been more than three months since the LKLUG have figured out what’s wrong with the web site’s code. So how come the problem hasn’t been fixed yet?

Ah well.

For anyone interested, there’s a workaround (thanks to Chamindra) . The simplest method (which I’m using now) is to download the User Agent Switcher and install it on Firefox.

UPDATE: As of late 2007, the HSBC site got revamped and now supports internet banking with many different browsers. I have so far had success with Firefox, Opera and Safari (on Windows).

Written by Dulan

November 3rd, 2005 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Business,Geek,Sri Lanka

HSBC (SL) doesn't want me to use Linux

with 7 comments

It’s weird. I like the service I get from HSBC. I don’t bother them very much. I have friends who work there.

So why should they (the local branch) have a problem with me switching to a more secure and less crash-prone operating system/web browser?

When I took up my first intern/trainee job, one of the things I did was get an HSBC card. Not only did it look good, but it also meant that come payday, I would be one of the lucky people to get my hands on the cash first. The others would have to wait a day or two longer before their allowance was in their accounts. So I’m happy.

But I stopped using Internet Explorer and switched to Opera. Bad move. The Internet Banking facility doesn’t work for me. But thankfully Firefox came along and things were ok.

Fast forward to 2005: I’ve switched completely to Linux when it comes to surfing the net. This is because I’m paranoid about spyware/adware/zombie networks and frankly I haven’t the faintest of confidence in Internet Explorer’s security.

And then I try to access MY account via Internet Banking. No dice. Opera (even with “Identify as Internet Explorer” enabled) doesn’t work. Neither does Firefox.
I’m told that

To access internet banking, please use

  • Internet Explorer version 5.0 or above; or
  • Netscape Communicator version 4.72 or above (version 6.x currently not supported)

What gives?

So I inform the bank of the issue. This I do on September 12, 2005.
I get the following reply on September 15, 2005:

We refer to your mail of 12 September 2005.

Please be informed that we have taken your request to consideration and are looking at the possibilty of enabling Linux Users to login to our Internet Banking Service.

However we wish to inform you that we are not preventing any users of Linux from accessing the Internet Banking Facility.

Right.

It’s become common knowledge that Microsoft’s Windows OS and Internet Explorer browser aren’t exactly the most secure software in the world. Even if the developers manage to patch the security holes, the very fact that Windows/IE are so popular the world over make them ideal targets for hackers. This was common knowledge ages ago – that’s why alternate browsers have been able to make such an impact in the global internet community.

While I agree that there is no silver bullet for surfing on the web, I feel that institutions shouldn’t place restrictions on how people access the information they put on the web.

A little searching led me to this email at the Lanka Linux User Group(LKLUG) that seems to discuss the problems in the JavaScript code at the site that seems to restrict users. Note the date: July 19, 2005.

I’m not a coder, but according to the email, it seems that the web site doesn’t consider Linux as an operating system that the potential visitor might be using.

It’s been more than three months since the LKLUG have figured out what’s wrong with the web site’s code. So how come the problem hasn’t been fixed yet?

Ah well.

For anyone interested, there’s a workaround (thanks to Chamindra) . The simplest method (which I’m using now) is to download the User Agent Switcher and install it on Firefox.

UPDATE: As of late 2007, the HSBC site got revamped and now supports internet banking with many different browsers. I have so far had success with Firefox, Opera and Safari (on Windows).

Written by Dulan

November 3rd, 2005 at 11:38 pm

Posted in Business,Geek,Sri Lanka

Tagged with ,

Rescued

with 4 comments

Monday night:

Brilliant. My PC crashed again. GRUB stops working and there’s no way to access anything. Or is there?

Something’s wrong with my hard disk. I’m not very sure what exactly. But that’s besides the point – I want it working again. Soon. Please.

BeatrIX to the rescue. Yes, I have MEPIS and the Ubuntu LiveCD with me as well – which I’ll use for the actual recovery work – but when it comes to a speedy bootup with a no-frills approach to getting back to work, I prefer the small and simple BeatrIX.

Some meddling around with the command line and I’ve gotten root access and the access to all my data. Phew. It’s all there. Maybe I’ll get it backed up at office and format the HDD.

Wednesday night:
Everything’s back to normal. Or, as normal as a fresh installation of my operating system can be.

Due to its simplicity and elegance, not to mention the fact that it kept me online during a Hard-disk-less time, my copy of BeatrIX gets its place amongst my most favourite CDs.

Written by Dulan

September 22nd, 2005 at 10:20 am

Posted in Geek,Thoughts

An update

without comments

Sometime back, I wrote on obscurity. While doing so, I also mentioned something which sittingnut later explained was known as the GoogleBomb effect.

Via Digg, I found a response from Google on this matter at the Google Blog, which I thought is worth reading.

While you’re at it, there’s another interesting link to an AJAX powered dictionary here (Also via Digg).

Written by Dulan

September 17th, 2005 at 8:45 am

Posted in Geek,Thoughts

Tears and Fears

with 5 comments

Knowledge is Power. A little knowledge is dangerous thing.

So it goes that people with a lot of knowledge on a subject are powerful, whereas those with a little knowledge on a subject are walking time bombs.

Guess which category I belong to?

I started off with computers at the British Council, playing around on a BBC Micro and playing Sherlock Holmes on what was an IBM PC.

I later would have my own BBC Micro, being totally awestruck at the incredible 32 Kilobytes of RAM and running at a staggering 2MHz.

The things it could do with those resources?
Elite. ’nuff said.

I’ve assembled most of the PCs that I’ve owned since then, been responsible for a lot crashes, but also a wealth of knowledge (or so I tell myself).

So surely my decision to move to a more Business-oriented education and career path couldn’t have diminished my geek-factor? I stay in touch with what’s going on – I read ZDNet.

Ah, I am mistaken.

Fiddling around with things, where possible taking them apart to see how they work, has been something ingrained into my very being. So when I install Ubuntu, have everything running smoothly, trust me to go dabble.

Dabble, I do. As a result, gnome-panel goes berserk and I’m now running a fresh install of Ubuntu. The people at #Ubuntu on freenode have also come across the problem, but I wasn’t able to glean enough to be able to fix things.

This has been a truly humbling experience. I shall now go off to sleep while Synaptic updates everything.

There is a book in my future. Very possibly it’s called “Linux for Dummies”.

Written by Dulan

August 29th, 2005 at 11:59 pm

Posted in Geek,Thoughts