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Yesterday, Sri Lankan bowler Muttiah Muralitharan playing his last Test Cricket match became the first ever to reach 800 Test Wickets, a record that other greats hailed as unmatchable . Murali, as he’s fondly known, is widely considered to be a true gentleman both on and off the field, and that’s almost certainly a big part of the big online support he had going yesterday. I’m guilty too – I made 15 tweets with the #murali hashtag (partly to help make it a trending topic!). He became twitter’s leading trend topic at one point, and even had both “Murali” and “Muttiah” as trending topics together at one point.

The internet response was definitely very interesting, but I think it also highlights an aspect about Sri Lanka that seems to be frequently overlooked. Recall that Sri Lanka recently defeated LTTE terrorists fighting for a separate state for the 15% Tamils of Sri Lanka. This does not, of course, mean that the majority Sinhalese were out patrolling the streets hunting down ordinary Tamil people. Yes, the underlying issues will take time to sort out (the US still has race issues,  and my birth country Belgium’s Dutch vs. French issues have resulted in them not having a stable goverment since 2007 with speculation of partition) but most folks see us all as Sri Lankans and want to live and let live as Sri Lankans.

Coming back to the topic at hand, Murali is Sri Lanka’s first Tamil international cricketer. But Murali’s ethnicity as a Tamil is not something most Sri Lankans care about. Sinhalese, Tamil or otherwise, we consider each other Sri Lankan, and this was all the more apparent in the internet response yesterday. In the middle of that a hate-spewer from India finds it ironic that the man who led the military victory over the LTTE terrorists awarded a special prize to Murali. Dear Mr. Sardesai and others like you, there’s nothing ironic there – Mahinda Rajapakse and Muttiah Muralitharan are both SRI LANKAN first and foremost, and fighters and beacons of our nation. Thank you very much for trying to ruin Murali’s great achievement with your petty attempt at igniting hatred; too bad you couldn’t pull it off though.

All that we Sri Lankans care about is that Murali is a Sri Lankan and that Murali, gentleman and legend made us proud and we all got to share his joy.

My grad school lets me access ACM publications whenever I access them from an internal lab computer. When I’m home and I want to read something though, I had two options so far: hope that they had copies on public home pages and search via Google Scholar, or get the link and use wget to fetch the PDF’s over an SSH terminal and then SCP it across. Both were no fun, and the solution turned out to be simpler than I thought.

The easiest approach I could think of is to tunnel HTTP requests over SSH so that the other party (ACM etc.) sees the requests as coming from a lab computer and gives me access. On PuTTY this was pretty straightforward: we just need to add a forwarded port from a local port (I picked 3129) with a blank destination and “dynamic” for the connection type.

Configuring PuTTY to proxy web traffic

The only gotcha I noted in configuring Firefox was that I had to give (localhost, 3129) as the SOCKS host, and not the HTTP proxy, and had to ensure that the SOCKS version was 5 (default choice).

Proxy configuration in Firefox

Speaking of tunnels, I also used Stunnel recently for a project and found it to be quite nice as well – giving some features PuTTY doesn’t give like logging the individual connections. Firefox remembers the last proxy settings, so enabling and disabling the proxy is not difficult. For those not so fortunate, there are numerous proxy manager plugins for Firefox like SwitchProxy and FoxyProxy. Can’t vouch for either, but I think I used SwitchProxy some time back and thought it was neat.

I found this article to be very helpful in figuring things out. Another article shows a slightly more complicated approach with proxy auto configuration scripts and using Netscape Navigator’s profiles for managing proxies.

It would have been quite difficult to not know about the Cricket World Cup that just finished at Barbados.

Sure, we Sri Lankans were not the only ones looking forward to the Lions crushing the Aussies, but the Australian line-up was, without a doubt, strong and near-flawless. But one thing that I am confident about, is that the Sri Lankan Cricketers will receive a hero’s welcome – reaching the finals was no piece of cake, and they fought all the way even when the odds were stacked against them.

Which brings me to another point. The commentators, both on the live telecast and elsewhere, were so worried about how the Sri Lankans did not simply concede the game when the umpires offered the chance to stop the game due to bad light (which also implied that theoretically, the match should have been continued the next day). While it is true that there was no chance to win, and I do realize that playing was near impossible, it is preposterous to expect a team to just give up a game on the finals of the biggest event of the Cricketing calendar. Three hearty cheers to the team (and also to the Aussies, who did in the end oblige to play along) and the umpires for holding up the sport – not the victory celebration.

On a related note, and touching a topic I usually prefer to avoid, the LTTE terrorists chipped in with an aerial attack on the city, attempting to bomb the main oil refinery and a private LPG storage facility. The terrorist’s web site incidentally reported these as “oil storages that supply fuel to Sri Lanka Air Force” even though they supply for the whole of Sri Lanka (which is where they too steal from). By attacking civilian targets on a day when all of Sri Lanka, regardless of ethnicity and other shallow bounds, were united in wishing the team well, the terrorists once again proved that they are not ready for any compromise. It’s time the world takes note that the LTTE are terrorists; nothing more and certainly nothing less.

Debugging is itself not too bad, but when you have to attach your debugger to a running task, it can become a pain. Faced with this problem, I found a neat little macro (probably from here, but I can’t be sure) that could attach the debugger to a known process. I managed to add that to my custom toolbar along with another custom toolbar action that launched my application’s EXE (I work on the DLL’s, not the app itself). Now, launch and debug are right there in VS.

A workplace colleague also pointed out how to search for any bit of text (i.e. Code, error message etc.) on Google from within VS.Net. The comments there had a few other nifty ideas too.

Looking to send a Audio clip to a friend, and not having a decent MP3 encoder around, I came across Media-Convert which promises to covert files between various types of audio, video, mobile phone ringtone formats, image, document, archive and some more that I’m sure I missed.

Instead of downloading the Wav file in question (who keeps around uncompressed audio, anyway?) Media-Convert let me simply point to the URL of the source file, specify my output format and presented me a link for the MP3 file, active for 24 hours.

I personally found the MP3 file size (at 44KHz / 128kbps / CBR) to be too big, but I didn’t really get much of a chance to test out the encoder. It did seem to work though, and I’ll probably get the need to test it out again some day in the future. More details will have to wait till then.

Engadget ran an article on Hitachi’s new 1TB Hard Disk drive. According to the comments, in spite of its supposed 400$ price tag, it’s still the same price per byte as any other drive out there, but in a single unit. For those who are wondering what they can do with 1TB, the CEO of Seagate has some ideas.

Yahoo Mail presented me with this

Chat inside Yahoo! Mail - Thumb

when I logged in today. Not too suprising too, but Yahoo!, once a leader in web applications seems to have ended up playing second fiddle to Google.

I was one of the first to get the 100MB upgrade (in 2003 if I remember right), and then the 1GB upgrade, and the upgrade to the new Beta interface, and looks like my early-preview luck still holds. Came across some reviews too.

My WordPress Blog appears as the 2nd result in a Google search for “rukmal”. Woo hoo!

<sinister_plan>Next taget: getting #1</sinister_plan>

Searches for “rukmal fernando” or “rukmal blog” or “rukmal fernando blog” all point back to me on the first few links, so that’s not too bad. The last one incidentally has only a couple of links to me, probably because I haven’t used my full name (i.e.: “Rukmal Fernando”) in my blog.

Ah.. the joys of shameless self-exaltation!

p.s.: Ok, I admit it… while I’m not going overboard to fool PageRank (1|2) those links were placed there in the vain hope that it will bump up my rank just a tad little bit… now that’s not evil, is it? 🙂