Knowledge in the cloud, a digital learning experiment

Its been a darn long time since I wrote anything here. It might be because of the fact that I fire up most of my emotions on facebook, and that I've had my hands full with all the MBA work hitting me like waves.

But, I never forgot what I like most, tech stuff, and this is one story which combines the MBA with some of it.

Back when I started the course, I had to print all the notes given by lecturers and take them to the lecture. That is the custom at UoM, opposed to other institutions like PIM who give out a huge book at the beginning of the semester for the students to start cramming at the inception of the subject. I guess as engineers, we are supposed to find knowledge, rather than getting it bestowed upon us. (and since we know better, we never go out looking for it, and start reverse-engineering the knowledge when it comes to the exams)

So, after a couple of semesters, I realized that there are difficulties printing these notes. One, is that I dont have a printer, and the only places that I can print them at the time of arrival is either the office, or the Salaka building in front, which is a utterly inefficient place which I despise beyond anything. So semester 2 and 3 ended up having no in class notes or very little of it. I had to recollect what I heard and reverse engineer the papers when it came to the exam.

Then, the gadget showed up. Up until now, I didn't want a 7" form factor android. I didn't have a need for it. The very reason I didn't have a laptop, applied there, what do you want to do with a tab? but when I saw a discounted price for office staff, I jumped in.

picture from gsmarena.com


So I got a Huawei Mediapad. It ran 4.0.3 ICS, and no, I did NOT root it or install JB. This gadget had far more different uses. I used this as my notebook. In Semester 3, I started taking notes with it. I could take the very PDF I got emailed from the lecturer. When others asked "oops, did you get a copy of today's lecture", I already had it when the lecturer emailed it.


dropbox to the rescue to store the files

It wasn't without risk. The worst of them being losing files by saving them here and there. The answer, Dropbox.! So when it came to doing past papers, google came to the rescue. Drive was a absolute wonder this time. And, in addition to editing files online, I shared the resources with my reverse engineer buddies, the loss group. For the first time in my life, I actually used google docs for a real purpose.


drive to store the answers

In Semester 4, all my notes are in digital format. I finished one subject this time and the resultant number of papers for that is 3 A4 sheets, the booklet I wrote answers in, and the spare paper I proved the volume of a cone using integration in my spare time (yes, that habit of finishing early is still there. But, I'm now more humane and I don't leave the hall at 1.5hrs for a 3hrs exam, freaking the dudes out)

Is this method working? i still dont actually know. I could write exams with it. But results are still to come for my all digital work. But I don't think they're going to be that bad.

Is this a green method? Of course not. I do this because I hate to collect papers and throw them out at the end of a course, and I'm a techie by all means, and I can handle an eBook as good as anyone can handle a real book. In contrast, this adds more carbon to the atmosphere than using real paper. The charging of my gadgets was done using either diesel power, coal or hydro power. And the last time I heard, even hydro is not a 100% good method for power because of the methanes emitted by reservoirs.

So why do such a thing? heck, if you read this blog long enough, you would know I do things like this to experiment with the technology. An additional goal was there. I hated management subjects. So I used them as Guinea-pigs for my next tech experiment.

So i invite you to test it out if possible and if you're brave enough to change. If you've actually done this, and doing it, leave a comment, or some tips or tricks for the others.

Cheers.


Cry of agony for a payment by blood

I agreed with myself around a year ago that I will not write this post because of the positive side I see in my MBBS colleagues in my parallel batch at school. But, it seems I need to write this after seeing the news of a child's death because of an ignorant doctor.

Around a year ago, when my daughter was 2 weeks old, she had a surgery for an infectious wound which was possibly the cause of an ant bite or a bee sting (or similar flying insect). As a two week old infant, she went through an ordeal that I cannot muster the words in my entire vocabulary to write.

I'm not going to elaborate on the treatment. It had a lot of cloxacilline and augmentin, and those who know medicine know what augmentine does to a two week old. My focus here is the doctor.

When we found out that the growth in her arm was too big to be cured by medicine obtained by a local doc, we went to show her to a specialist doctor, and he immediately told us to admit her in Lady Ridgeway hospital. And I still thank him for the strict nature he told that to me which I could go forward for better treatment.

I don't think I need to tell you how government hospitals are like. It was a total upside down environment for me and my wife. The staff was never focused onto any single patient. Instead, they seemed to act like they've seen worse patients and this is just "another case".

The consultant doc there is my main character. He visits the ward once a day, and goes into a ward round. I was never allowed to stay when this happened since the patient visiting time was way over by this happened. As per my wife, all he did was to nod and note something after looking at the child's wound and utter some medical jargon to the students and the ward officers. Nadeera not being familiar and uninterested in medical stuff, never understood a word he told the other docs. He never spoke with her. Never told her how the child was and when we could take her home.

We could not bear the case. We weren't experienced parents. We damn well knew that the hospital we were in, is the best place for the child. That single point, kept us there despite all the issues. Still, to know the status of my child, I had to ask my friends using back-channels and my wife had to beg the nurses. After about a week, we managed to get off the hospital and take Thenu home.

Still, I had to visit a nearby hospital everyday to re-dress her wound and check progress. Progress was slow. And we had to make a move. Either go back, or find another method to speed the process up. We managed to channel the same consultant doc in a private hospital. He checked the wound again there.

To my utter surprise, he gave us ample description, with instruction to attend her to a hospital for further treatment to speed the healing up.

So we checked her in to a private hospital, and informed him. Voila! the gold started to speak.!

He came every day to see my daughter, dressed the wound himself which at LRH, the nurses asked us to do, and gave us updates about the progress. No question, he was good at his profession. But in my head, I remember arguing, what if this happened to a child who could not attend to a private hospital?

All he had to do at the LRH, was to tell my wife for 10 seconds, how the child was doing. Assume he has 100 patients to attend to and this will take him 1000s which is 17 minutes of his precious schedule.

There is no use trying to find out what the name of the doc is, or what hospital I went to. The message I convey to all my medicine-related friends is this;
Speak to your patients. Tell them how they do. Take 10 seconds off your ward rounds to tell them they're doing great. Motivate them to heal, to survive.

 Remember, you were taught by free education. Those patients who visit national hospitals paid taxes for your lectures! They missed meals for your lab equipment. They cut sweets off their child's menu to grant you that vehicle permit.
They have already paid for the treatment.! No one walks into the hospital to get free medicine!

If you can't afford to show love, do your job you were paid well in advance to do.
Cheers!

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Surprise Visitor

I was doing some editing work in the PC and suddenly this guy flew onto the monitor. Good thing I wasn’t doing any edge erasing while it flew in. I was just surfing for some images I could use.

I usually grab them by hand and let them go out of a window or shoo them away through the door. But, I just had to use a paper after I saw this close-up Open-mouthed smile

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GPS Assisted Cornering

Disclaimer: if you crash, its on your own cash. No responsibilities taken for following guidelines here!

indexOkay, you might think this is some sort of AGPS crap, but no. This is how I’d describe driving with a GPS device hooked onto your car.

This applies to Sri Lanka, and I’m pretty sure it would for most Asian and other developing countries as well.

The fact that there aren’t many GPS providers with accurate data makes navigation; hell, to guys like me. I usually can’t memorize any road. The only roads I have in my head are the ones I travel or drive very frequently. Unlike my father and some other people like several cousins I have, I neither can tell a guy how to reach Kandy with n-turns and m-roads in the description nor can I listen to that description and figure the road out.!

That’s where GPS comes in. I’m not the kind of guy who buy expensive hardware off the market if there’s a free alternative. So my alternative is Google Navigation powered by Android. I’m not here to talk about Navigation and directions. I’m here to talk about Navigation and cornering.

The level of detail Gmaps gives in cornering was tested by myself on two trips now. The first was the family trip we had to Katharagama. It proved vital in the Horana-Rathnapura road. The second was the more recent trip to Badulla. In addition to the Horana-Rathnapura road, I used it for the entire trip.

Before I elaborate, take a good look at these

This is Racedriver GRID.

GRID 2009-09-21 20-57-03-37

and Need for Speed Underground (Sorry for the view, but this is the best I have in my collection)

ug1

and this is my setup;

DSC00928

Yes, it’s the lower left that makes them similar.

I know exactly what comes to your head. So let me explain.

The phone shows me the Google map in navigation mode (if you think navigation is disabled outside the USA, you need to grow up and root your phone) In the map is the latest and up to date version of the map. I say this because before these ‘trips’ I check the Google map myself and correct the road alignment to the map myself.

So before I reach any part of the road, I know how its going to lay out. The only thing I need to figure out is the placement of the vehicles in front of me.

I know, you still look a bit astonished. You have the issue; of the need to ‘look’ at the map to do that. This is where the pictures I showed you come in. If you have played NFS, GRID and most other racing games, you need to know when to keep the eye on the road and when to peek at the map. This needs intense practice.

If you keep your eyes in the map too long, you will crash for sure. and you need to keep in mind not to peek at every corner. Keep a small cache memory of the bends, and never peek while taking the curve.

If you’ve driven your car long enough and know what you’re doing with the map, this will be the coolest way to drive.

What I have seen is that most drivers calculate the speed of approach for a curve after they have reached the apex of the curve. In places where multiple curved exist, this is troublesome. And then they brake at the apex, resulting in a jerky ride, a gear shift and wasted fuel.

DSC00921

With this method, you know what the bend looks like. This is the sort of knowledge which daily drivers have on these roads. then you can brake, shift or even accelerate accordingly to the bend ahead.

screenshot-1328636357483

Take a look at this bend-set. would you know that U shape before you take the first one to the right and then passing the smaller ones? If I was going in this spot, I’d stop overtaking others altogether, and start slowing down. Take the map off and visualize the bend. All you see is a left trun! And imagine this in the night.!

Hope you guys got my point. But remember, you need to

1. Keep you eyes on the road. NOT on the map. Just peek on it for several milliseconds.

2. Keep the device level with your vision. Never keep it anywhere you need to turn or lower your head to look at it.

3. Setup the system BEFORE you go.

4. Always keep in mind that the map might be wrong. use it to take a hint. Don’t try to drive the shown path

5. Use common sense (yeah right!)

Note: if you see the blue navigation path off from the yellow/white road, the road is probably right. Gmaps updates itself in stages, and when someone corrects the road, the navigation takes time to update. So the navigation layer might show old data.

If you see that some of the parts you drove was drawn wrong, go to mapmaker.google.com and correct it!

Cheers!

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The Little green bot

After a long long time, something came up to post. :D

I was able to publish my first android application yesterday. It isn't an advanced app. And in fact, it was the very first app that I used to learn android programming. When I purchased the market publisher account, I didn't have any app to publish.
So what I did was, I re-did the whole thing at home since my original program was in the office laptop. The older version I did just had text boxes so that users need to enter text.

But after several office Java projects and Android learning of my own helped to revamp the UI a bit and I got it compiled.

You can check it out at
https://market.android.com/details?id=com.tharu.subnet

laters...

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Windows 8, Developer Preview, my way

props

I downloaded the Windows 8 developer preview yesterday and got a test disk and installed it today to check out the all new OS in town. I got to say, the smartphone and the tablet has taken their toll on the PC. Now, the PC’s OS has a tablet interface in it! damn! the world has changed.

As you might usually think, I am not writing this off in Win 8. The reason? well, I tried to install the Windows live writer to it and it started downloading .NET framework 3.5.1 or something from Windows update and I saw my Win 8 BSOD’s twice in an hour. Those are the BSOD’s I saw for a long time in any PC. (Are we missing them? Confused smile) So I put the screenies I took to a flash drive and started writing off in Win 7 instead.

metro

This is it. The all new Metro style interface for Windows 8. It has most of the apps that we use day-to-day I guess. IE, a twitter app, and a Social Network app to connect Facebook to, RSS reader and some other stuff.

tweeet tile

The tiles update themselves after configuring accounts on them. I could not try adding/removing tiles coz I forgot to try that.

The metro UI has the search feature that comes with Windows 8. It is the only way we can open an application, even Paint. The start menu is now a thing of the past.! When we open the metro mode (or whatever its called) and start typing, the search bar comes alive from the side and starts searching through apps, settings and other stuff.

appsearch

The spotlight of discussion that was on the Building Windows Blog was the existence of two Internet Explorers. The PC type one and the tablet type one. Although both share the settings, history and all, the experiences are quite different.

desk

This is IE 10, on the desktop. You might notice that the desktop is pretty much the same thing except for the Windows Logo. When you click that, the screen goes straight back to the tiles. (Ah, NOW you miss the start menu?)

metroIE

This is the metro style tablet friendly IE. Notice the entire thing is full-screen and when I right-click, the top and bottom bars appear with tabs and the address bar shown here as well. It’s a real pain in the back to right click every time you need to switch tabs. But in a touch environment, that would make some sense. Even though the Windows team expects a lot of bad comments about dual-IE, I think it’s a good thing to keep both in line to cater the PC and tablet users. (Or in tablets’ case, when using the keyboard or the touchscreen)

download

Given below is a snap of the downloads progress bar.

The release is full of bugs. apart from the BSOD, I experienced that sometimes the app tiles don’t work when clicked. And there was a time that things wouldn’t just show up in the screen after login. And this social network app crashed saying I need to login.

errors

errors

and the Store was not available Open-mouthed smile (well its not a bug anyway Winking smile)

store

But the twitter app worked fine

tweet@Rama

 

The animations in the system are also revamped. Take a look at this waiting animation at installation.

Windows 8 setup animation

The lock-screen is real eye candy. Take a look at this;

Lockscreen animation

The desktop environment has also gone through some changes as well.

First, these are the properties.

props

props

And some eye watering reality

index

Most of the changes are to good old Explorer. The ribbon is now official for explorer.

ribbon

ribbon_video

I know for sure this will make things really easy to work with and will take some considerable amount of time getting used to.

The title bars have gone through some design change.

These are the new buttons

close button

As opposed to the old ones in Win 7.

image

They look somewhat square I guess.

copy

I tried to mimic that multiple copy case, but ended up in an error saying the desktop was in use.! So we cant put two files from two sources to the same destination at once? That’s peculiar.

copy

That’s about it.

At the end of it all, I have to sum up. 2 great working apps, @ BSODs, 0 shutdowns (yes, it was a restart and a reset!) and some time later, I think I still like the new OS. We have to keep in mind, this is pre-beta (in mozilla terms, aurora channel)

I’ve got a feeling we will get one heck of an OS with this Windows release. I wish the Windows team all the best, and I will keep track of the changes when they happen.

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The Great Virtual Wall

Just read some news regarding Chinese search engine Baidu doing some development copying the Google's OS Android to make a mobile OS called yi.

When seeing the website, I realized how lame China has become. And this came in to my head. The great firewall in place in China. I wanted to do a comparison of a controversial search term.

Enough words, see the pics. This is what internet censorship means. Lets hope our government don't implement something like this.!

The search term was "Tianamen Massacre"
This is the bing results set:


Google's hits:

 What our old friend Yahoo! had to say:


And finally, this is the Baidu result set! According to them, I've searched for a myth! XD









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