Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thiruvilayadal - Nagesh Sivaji Comedy - Tamil mp3

Just like many others, I spend almost 70% of my time in front of my computer – coding. I got used with listening to music while I am at it. It helps me a lot by preventing any external distractions especially when I am doing tasks which are repetitive, not involving much of any thinking process.

A friend of mine once gave me a bunch of S.Ve Shekar and Crazy Mohan drama’s in mp3 format and I seriously got hooked to it. Having got used to listening to comedy, I wanted more and started ripping off some of my favorites from as many videos I could. Here is one of my all time favorite – Thiruvilayadal

Nagesh is Dharumi and Lord Siva aptly played by Sivaji, tries to help him. But eventually the Dharumi gets bullied by Chief Poet – Nakkeerar played by A.P.Nagarajan (who also happens to be the director of the movie). All of this because the King (Muthuraman) had a stupid doubt when he was fondling his wife:

Of course, the charm in “watching” would be missing, but having watched these scenes over a million times, they roll in my head as I listen to it. 

Nagesh - Great comedian with the veteran Sivaji Ganesan – some good humor and great Tamil dialogues.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What is Horrible? Huh?

I was googling about my previous company for hunting down an ex-colleague of mine. Though I could not actually find him on the results, I found the following within the first 50 results:

Job Seekers say:

Client’s say:

General US Public say:

You would love this!

I have not commented on any of these sites nor do I want to even in my very own blog. But as I read through the positive comments in the IndianJobReviews link, I know exactly who wrote it (and for some, who originally drafted it FOR them).

I leave it to the reader’s discretion on what to believe.

Somehow I got reminded of something one of my managers told me when I was with them – “you know...., where there is smoke, you know....., there is fire”. Well, I "know" he is correct at least for this one time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Stop staring at my desktop!!!

I don’t know if it is just me who feels this way, but I hate it when people at work peep into your monitor especially when you are reading your emails. I think it is unethical and just portrays a person’s ill manners.

It is fine if I invite someone to see something, but I just can’t stand people staring at my desktop, seeing what I am typing. It is each one’s private space. Please don’t freaking invade it!

Ah good, here is this person reading this already as I am typing it…and now he has turned his head away…as if he knew nothing… Great! Hope it stays that way forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Questions… Projects… - my two cents on it

A few years back, I happened to hear a glorified programmer advising his self-proclaimed sidekick how important it is to ask lesser questions to technical stakeholders/business users about the project or technology that they are working on.

I couldn’t disagree more! He was arguing that one should ask “smart” questions and should never let the other person think we do not know anything about the business.

There is nothing called as a stupid question. For the benefit of the developer and for the benefit of the project, one should ask as many questions as possible. I am sure that clients who want the project done successfully would love to give you the answers. Even if they don’t have it with them immediately, it kick starts the thinking process and will make them revisit the requirement.

It helps to clarify a lot of things and verifies your assumptions. I strongly believe in this – “Assumption is the mother of all mess-ups”. It is wise to put forward your assumptions and sort it out. Nothing wrong in asking something basic about the business, after all you are going to be held responsible for the project you are build, aren’t you? The client would also be expecting you to know what you are doing.

Asking a lot of questions make you smart.
Asking only smart questions could leave even you in a lot of doubt.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Release Process !?!

Two days back, my teammate had to release to production a minor code change he made to one of the web modules. Since we both were new to the release process followed by the client, we were given a small briefing about it.

We first have to release the change to a common dev environment, where it will reside till the peer review and internal testing is completed. Then we had 3 documents to be meticulously filled up for the UAT (User Acceptance Testing). One of the documents gives a clear step by step instruction on how to release to the QA environment, explaining like it is being told to a 4 year old. Once the UAT release is done, the development team we would get an email notification and after the user test it, there would be yet another email notification giving a sign-off for a production release.

We then have to prepare another bunch of documents, add with that the UAT sign-off email and the UAT release notification email and send it across to the deployment and maintenance team at the client side, who would take care of the release. They follow a semi-automated release process whereby the release manager would just specify the steps to be executed and the scheduled deployment runs once every 3 hours.

On the release date, if you never hear back from the release manager, things are good. But if you get an email with a high alert… you probably woke up on the wrong side of the bed that day.
Well, apparently that’s what my teammate would have possibly done, because he had just received such an email. He had a senior colleague to help him figure out the problem. So I decided to keep away from it, after just telling to compare the code changes in source control and holler if he needs any assistance. I decided to stay out of it partly because I did not want to jeopardize the senior colleague’s approach and also because I myself had a couple of burning issues, to attend to.

While I was keeping busy, later that evening I heard from this teammate that they had to rollback the changes after trying a couple of things and that this has been escalated and needs to be re-released the next day. They had identified that a few things were not matching up with the QA and Production environment. But they had figured out what the problem was and they were prepared for the next day’s release. While he was explaining I asked a few questions for which he either had no answers or was not confident of them, which made me a bit nervous for him.
Well, it was the next day - same time, and sadly the same story. It was a Friday and people were all the more frustrated and this colleague of mine was being made responsible and he had no clue what was going on. When things were going towards yet another rollback, I decided to jump in, invited or not.

They had this published website which was released to UAT – which worked fine, but when released to production, it failed to even load the default page and redirected to an authentication failed error page. The “fix” after the first rollback was this – they had compared the config file and found some application specific Role-id’s to be different and assumed that this must have been the issue and prepared themselves to give another shot, which eventually failed – miserably.

The code version in the source control looked intact, leaving me no other option but to decompile. Reflector, my favorite tool in many instances came to the rescue and I decompiled the app code binary of the current version in production with ours. When I saw the decompiled login related method, it seemed to contain quite a lot of additional changes – changes that were not present in source control!

We then figured out a way to get this work by making a few changes in the configuration file. Call it a tweak or a hack but it saved the day and the weekend, but I made it aware to all the people involved in this including the client who got an emergency regression test run and also promptly created another request to get this mess cleaned up.

I have worked quite a bit in this onsite/offshore setup and have my own experiences to recon. But almost no client I have worked with before had such an elaborate documentation process. So at first I appreciated this way of working, but this incident clearly proved that no system or process is invincible to errors, not when people have the audacity to bypass certain rules.
This whole thing was obviously caused due to someone who had been here long enough and knew how to sidestep a few landmines, but unfortunately did not know or care about the consequences and complications it would create to the next bunch of people who would work on it. The blame game had started, and something tells me that whoever did this must have been long gone.

Even though I come from a background where documentation was not so much patronized, I still could suggest on maintaining a “deviation log” which can be mainly used to record any such deviations, in any step of the development life cycle.

The bottom line is this - 
Even though there are a lot of steps to streamline any work process – nothing could change unless people learn to respect it and follow it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Songs from the Tamil Movie - Anne Anne

Quite often when I get bored with new music, I delve into my collection of old mp3 songs. Quite common for people to do so, nowadays, with almost all the mobiles coming with an mp3 player - you have complete access to any music you want.

Yet, there are times when you would want to hear a particualr song from a particular movie, which, unfortunately, not many would have even heard of. One such movie is Anne Anne - a real gem of a movie, extremely funny and some very good performance by all people involved.

It was a movie written and directed by Mouli, one really talented and unfortunately less seen on screen veteran. And it has some really good music composed by Maestro Ilayaraaja. The music right throughout adds up to the comical aura of the script and has this amazing number - "Uruginen" - beautifully rendered by SPB and S.Janaki.

Anyways, when I pounded the internet to see if I can get a copy of the songs from this movie, I could not find any except for a broken version of one song. I tried some other sources and some audio stores too, but got nothing more than some awkward stares.

But luckily I got the actual movie (in VCD format) from one of the video stores near my office. So, for people who wanted these songs, I have them uploaded at:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

iTunes Music Stuttering Issue

Very recently I encountered this problem with iTunes. I was running iTunes v I was syncing my iPod classic 80 Gig fine for almost 6 months, after which I connected my new iPod Shuffle – that is when I noticed the problem. All the songs in my iPod shuffle played like a bad CD with garbled noises and kept skipping all the songs after trying to play it for a couple of seconds.

I then realized that even while playing the songs right from iTunes had the same problem. ALL my songs, which were earlier working fine, now did not, EXCEPT one particular album, which I had ripped myself from the audio CD.

I tried to remember what could have possibly caused this to happen. Maybe it was connecting another iPod device? Maybe not, I have seen people do that before without a problem.

I then remembered that I had installed Winamp just a couple of days before, after which I opened iTunes only to connect my shuffle. Maybe that installation messed up things?

I was unsure. So here are the steps I took.

  1. Tried uninstalling Winamp, did not help.
  2. Pounded the internet for fixes, looked almost everywhere and every post spoke about changing the Quick Time Player properties – tried that but nothing worked. I desperately tried setting different combinations of output rate, sample rate etc. but nothing worked.
  3. People had suggested it could be because of insufficient RAM, since iTunes has a reputation for hogging CPU for its “CoverFlow” view – but that was impossible, Mine had 3 gigs of RAM, besides, the CPU usage when running iTunes was, on an average, only about 3-4%.
  4. I then resorted to System Restore as it was driving me crazy. I tried restoring my system to as early as 3 months back – still NO DIFFERENCE!
  5. Luckily it was a Friday and I had the weekend and I decided to devote as much time to it as it takes. I backed up my songs and fully formatted my disks and got my OS reinstalled.
  6. I then installed all my onboard device drivers and then iTunes and tried playing the songs – STILL DID NOT WORK. I was totally stumped!
  7. With absolutely no other ideas in hand, I aimlessly surfed the net for some clue and stumbled upon one link where the user mentioned that sound card drivers could be a possible issue.
  8. I then searched if any sound card upgrades were available for my Intel motherboard – there was one and I downloaded and upgraded to it.
  9. This time when I tested, I loaded music from a different collection as I childishly felt that the other songs were probably jinxed. But to my surprise it WORKED! All newly added songs played smooth! And when I tried to play the old files, they stuttered. So they were jinxed in some form indeed!
My conclusion was this – the music files that initially played bad in iTunes – is damaged forever. So if you are testing any of the fixes, remember to use new music files each time.

Also I noticed yet another thing – When I tried to play music in the default windows Media Player on my newly installed Windows XP system – almost all of them caused Media Player to raise this warning – The file you are attempting to play has an extension (.MP3) that does not match the file format. That explained a few things. Plenty of my files were badly encoded mp3 files, which regular players like Winamp plays without even a warning.

Some files played fine when I clicked Yes, but some played bad even in WMP! I then took aside the files that played fine in WMP and renamed the extension to .wma and tried playing it in WMP and this time the warning went off and it played fine. So a bunch of files I had were actually .wma files with just their extensions changed to .mp3. No wonder iTunes struggled.

I am glad it works for me now, but I am still inconclusive on what exactly could have caused this problem in the first place. Anyways, I am just posting this for people who might want some ideas to try out. Trust me, I know how frustrating the problem is!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Online Groups/Discussion board ethics

I recently joined this Google groups hoping to share my knowledge and also to get some of my own doubts clarified. I posted a technical question with my piece of code showing where I was badly stuck and I got a decent and exact answer from the moderator himself. I thanked him and posted the new code. FWIW, someone else following it up might find it useful. But then as I browsed through the questions posted and the replies made to them, I could glaringly notice the tone of the people who were replying. It clearly appeared to me as totally UNETHICAL and a lot of comments were inappropriate.

 Some of them were too demeaning that it made me think they were mere racial slurs camouflaged as outbursts of a bunch of impatient self-proclaimed “Tech Wizards”. There was one too many instances where these guys refer to its subscribers as “Silly”, “Stupid”, “Idiots”, “Incompetent” etc… This is certainly not the way to go. It makes me believe that it is run by a bunch of red necks! 

I do understand that it gets really frustrating when you see a question repeated or naïve questions asked; questions which have answers all over the internet. But then, no one is under any obligation to reply to those posts. If you think you have an answer – go ahead answer it or else JUST SHUT UP! Do not make sarcastic comments. Don’t make fun of some guy’s ignorance or idiocy for that matter. Or if you want to discuss about someone, do it personally within a private distribution list of people who would fall off their chair laughing at your stupid dirty jokes (maybe you could call it “RedNeckSuckers”? it would be a good name to start with!)

The more professional way of handling these things would be to put points like these on the rules and regulations, terms and conditions section of the group:

  1. Avoid posting questions which have already been asked. Please search the group for similar questions, before you post yours
  2. Post your questions with some example code wherever possible. Arbitrary questions will not be entertained.
  3. Users repeatedly violating these terms will be automatically unsubscribed from the list.

Unless something like this is done, it would be hard for me to believe the group is run by professionals.

Why I hate Sun T.V.

I have never been a fan of SUN network and if there is anything that they did – It was to start a television network at the right time and nothing more.

It was the time when Doordharshan was the only available mass television channel which was drowning in complacency. DD1 and DD2 had managed to earn so much hatred from the people that they were ready to strike anytime.

This is when locally formed groups of people started this Cable T.V connecting a few houses and played 3 movies a day from VHS tapes (VHS was very popular then). 

That is roughly the time when Sun T.V started its relay, and only in the evenings - (hence the name 'Thamizh Maalai'). The same year or probably the next, it clearly decimated the DD regime, but then, DD had killed itself with its reputation, didn't it? 

Then Sun T.V was ruling the roost showing new movies for each festival, a slew of viewer participating shows. Later when the Mega Serial wave settled in they went for the kill with stellar serials which kept men, women and even kids glued to their TV sets.

But all the while one important thing going on was the "Sun T.V News" which was as biased as western education. The main purpose was to merely read out shamelessly the DMK regime's statements and accusations. The channel was cleverly used to play all the dirty politics the party wanted to do. 

Sometime around then, they expanded to start Sun Movies and Sun Music, which bombed real bad. But later it got revived with Sun Music sustaining itself with some better anchors (FM style) and Sun Movies re-established as K.TV. Same time the Sun network expanded over to other southern India states in various names. Also in a move to suck up to the party full time – they had the Sun News channel rolling. 

Political influence strongly playing the upper hand and totally biased views, always made me hate the channel, but sadly the alternatives in Tamil channels then were Raj T.V (which was so pathetic) and an unstable J.J TV which was rocked along with the former CM's reputation.

Also there was this G.E.C - later Vijay and Now STAR Vijay.

Ever since STAR network took over Vijay, there was a 100% possibility that this whole dirty SUN business could be broken down. 

And it indeed went the same way as expected - STAR networks gave food for thought and brought up some really fresh ideas to the Indian television viewers. With a lot of dubbed English classics, Singing/Dancing Competitions, Stand up Comedy, Sensible and Professional Talk Shows and a totally unbiased approach made it a perfect entertainment package. 

NOW, to look at the once popular SUN - it could not handle the competition and they faltered. They could just keep looking in awe at the growing TRP of other channels. Viewership had granulated with a plethora of private channels. The market was not the same anymore and never ever before have they seen such a big competitor. 

The next set of steps that they took saw to it that they got even more unpopular and pulled their rankings further below. They “stole” artists and performers from STAR Vijay and simply copied all the shows. J.J TV which later returned as Jaya T.V added up to the list with a few attractive shows (but then this is another biased channel, so forget it) 

The shows they copied were such colossal failures, so much so that people clearly understood that they are only capable of stealing shows and spoiling it. SUN TV could never do anything with style, even from the beginning. Anything they did had a cheap look in it and would appear too unnatural and political. Even the Movie/Music ratings that they gave would vary based on SO MANY factors. 

The already plagued network, had earned a lot of animosity among a lot of people – people who were ridiculed and humiliated, were just waiting for an opportunity to vent their anger. 

The next big blow was the internal split up. The next biggest competition - this time from inside. Enter Kalaignar T.V.

Sun TV was ousted from the “Political” family and left stranded. No ideas, No power and left with just its glory of the past to survive.  Now there is the sudden turnover and change of approach. Suddenly a lot of devotional television shows are telecasted, News is against the DMK party (STILL BIASED). People never change! 

There are some who even claim that this whole thing is a well scripted drama! I think they should be too rich and too jobless to embark on such missions. (Hang on, actually, they are!)

Unless some great attitude change happens or probably a better bunch of people take over this channel, it is destined to go down, no matter in how many countries it is telecasted.