Private universities and Sri Lankan bloggers

There’s been some really heavy discussions happening in the blogosphere about the whole Private University debate for Sri Lanka. Indi and Morquendi are the two main contributors, Kavinda linked to these guys earlier this week and by god, these guys are still going at it today. Read the latest post from Indi titled Private University FAQs. Ivap posts a summary of the debate between these guys.

Boy, I for one am excited to see our very own Sri Lankan’s actively blogging and slogging things out. There’s even a cool hosting a whole heap of Sri Lankan bloggers. Way to go guys!

Private universities and Sri Lankan bloggers

Glass tombstones

I wonder if I’ll be able to get a tombstone like this when I die. (I need to add this to my TODO list!)
Mark Frauenfelder: Lundgren Monuments makes glass tombstones.

Radiant and incredibly tactile, Lundgren Monuments are designed for the individual who defies definition, and in the setting of a memorial park or cemetery they are glowing beacons that stand out amongst the traditional stone memorials.

Link (Thanks, Kirsten!)

Glass tombstones

Green-card regulations encourage offshoring

New rules make hiring foreign nationals more difficult than ever

By  Ephraim Schwartz

I recently spoke with Frida Glucoft, a leading immigration lawyer and a partner and chair of the immigration practice at law firm Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. She tells me that changes made by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) during the past three months will limit many companies’ ability to hire and retain new IT employees. If you typically hire recent computer science grads who are not U.S. citizens, you should listen up.

As of December, filing fees for H-1B visas have gone up more than 1,000 percent, from $185 to $2,185 per applicant. But you might as well add on another $1,000 for what’s called “premium processing” of the visa application. Premium processing guarantees 15-day turnaround; otherwise, processing can take between four and six months, according to Glucoft.

If you think your company can afford to wait six months for some hotshot software engineer, consider this. Last year, as they do each year, 65,000 H-1B visas became available on Oct. 1. When the 65,000 are gone, employers have to wait another 12 months for new visas to become available. All of last year’s visas were spoken for by Oct. 3.

Here’s another interesting glitch. The Department of Labor announced a new program on Dec. 27, 2004, which went into effect March 27, 2005. Called PERM (Program Electronic Review Management), it is the first step in applying for lawful permanent residence status — also known as a “green card” — as part of the greater Permanent Labor Certification program.

Case law suggests that non-U.S. citizens who want green cards need about two years of work experience even if they have a bachelor’s degree. Work experience with an applicant’s first employer, however, is considered on-the-job training and does not count.

So, if you have an employee working for you on an H-1B visa who has just graduated from a U.S. university and you want to get that employee a green card, you can’t. Employees who want to stay in the country on a more permanent basis have to start filing a contractor’s insurance claim dispute and have to change jobs; time served at their first employers counts only toward green-card status after they’ve taken a job with a second employer.

Finally, here’s another beaut. Also in December, Congress enacted and President Bush signed into law a bill allowing for 20,000 additional H-1B visas for those with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. This added 20,000 additional visas to the existing quota of 65,000.

The law was to take effect on March 7, 2005, Glucoft said; however, USCIS has issued a statement that it will not accept these cases until further notice, pending “publication in the Federal Register.” So, we have employers ready to hire workers, we have workers who may have given notice to their current employers, but now everything is on hold.

Policies such as these will certainly encourage offshoring. Why go through the expense — including not just the visa fees but also the legal fees needed to process the visas, the time it takes to get new employees trained and up and running, plus the uncertainty, delays, and lack of permanency of investments you may have made in hiring foreign workers — when you can just contract a company outside our borders and still get most of the benefits of having the best and the brightest working for you?

Green-card regulations encourage offshoring


Another very nice tool is DebugView. This is a tool from Sysinternals that enables you to monitor all debug messages on your system. This allows you to have the following in your code:


Debug.Write(“This is written trough System.Diagnostics.Debug.Write.”);

Trace.Write(“This is written trough System.Diagnostics.Trace.Write.”);


Debug.WriteIf(inDebug, “This is written because inDebug is true.”);      

Having this in your code is very handy for debugging in an early stage, where you haven’t added a logging component, such as Enterprise Library, yet. Or in a scenario where you don’t want to attach the Visual Studio Debugger, or can’t attach it, but still want to view some debug information from your program.

It’s also possible to connect to a remote computer, and intercept these debug messages remotely


After having added code like this, the only thing that has to be done is open DebugView and run the program. DebugView would then intercept the messages and display them as following:


This tool is only 240 KB in size, and completely free, which is really amazing for such a powerful and useful tool.



IE Search Prefixes

I use Maxthon as my default browser and it has this cool feature for using keywords. For example to search google I just type g and the search word in the address bar and hit enter. What I never released though was that you could do the same thing using IE until I read this post by Jamie Buckly a Program Manager on MSN Search. I tried it and it works!
We’re always looking for ways to give you search results faster.  The popular Desktop Search Shortcuts from MSN Desktop Search are good examples of this.  On a related note, Internet Explorer (5.0 and above) has a little known feature that lets you quickly search for something on any site: IE Search prefixes.

After the search prefixes are set up, you can type a single word identifier (prefix) and search query in the IE address bar to send the query to any website.  For example, the prefix “msn” can go to MSN Search and typing “msn chicken fried rice” in the IE address bar sends the query “chicken fried rice” to our web search.


05-03-29 extensions

This script installs the search prefixes below to your machine.  The “Alternate” column lists additional prefixes to launch the same query (e.g. “images corvette” and “image corvette” both do the same thing).

Prefix Alternate Query Target Example
define definition, dictionary MSN Search, web search with definition define alpaca
dencarta   MSN Search, Encarta search encarta history of china
images image MSN Search, image search images corvette
kb   Microsoft Knowledge Base kb microsoft word
ms site ms windows xp
movies movie MSN Movies movies the incredibles
msdn   Microsoft MSDN msdn cocreateguid
msn   MSN Search, web search msn chicken fried rice
music   MSN Music music peter gabriel
news   MSN Search, news search news iraq
shop shopping MSN Shopping shop digital camera
quote stockquote MSN Money, stock quote quote msft
syn thesaurus Encarta thesaurus syn vanguard

If you want to add prefixes for other websites, try the Microsoft Tweak UI utility for Windows XP.  There are also a few shareware tools compatible with older versions of Windows.  Enjoy!

Jamie Buckley
Program Manager, MSN Search

IE Search Prefixes

Installing Visual Studio .NET on a Domain Controller

As part of setting up the TDD environment for the next project that I’m going to be working on, I started by trying to setup CruiseControl.NET on my VSS server when I released that it didn’t have Visual Studio .NET.

But trying to install Visual Studio .NET over Terminal Services on a domain controller started throwing up a multitude of error messages and finally failed installing the FrontPage Web Extensions.

So what did I do? I figured it was something to do with Terminal Services, so instead I setup RealVNC (they’ve recently release Version 4) on the box and then ran the setup. Would you believe it, not a single error message.

Installing Visual Studio .NET on a Domain Controller

Ten Reasons Why Blogging is Good For Your Career

Tim Bray from Sun Microsystems posts ten reasons why blogging is good for your career.

  1. You have to get noticed to get promoted.
  2. You have to get noticed to get hired.
  3. It really impresses people when you say “Oh, I’ve written about that, just google for XXX and I’m on the top page” or “Oh, just google my name.”
  4. No matter how great you are, your career depends on communicating. The way to get better at anything, including communication, is by practicing. Blogging is good practice.
  5. Bloggers are better-informed than non-bloggers. Knowing more is a career advantage.
  6. Knowing more also means you’re more likely to hear about interesting jobs coming open.
  7. Networking is good for your career. Blogging is a good way to meet people.
  8. If you’re an engineer, blogging puts you in intimate contact with a worse-is-better 80/20 success story. Understanding this mode of technology adoption can only help you.
  9. If you’re in marketing, you’ll need to understand how its rules are changing as a result of the current whirlwind, which nobody does, but bloggers are at least somewhat less baffled.
  10. It’s a lot harder to fire someone who has a public voice, because it will be noticed.

So what are you waiting for? Head over to one of the many free bloggining sites and start a blog as soon as you can. Where can I go your asking? Try Google’s or MSN’s

UPDATE: For those of you who don’t know, Tim Bray is the father/co-inventor of XML.

Ten Reasons Why Blogging is Good For Your Career

Crisis and chaos

This is the editorial published by the Daily Mirror today.

Pala, one of my friends, was telling me about how the overhead for almost all donations went towards administration costs, but looking at it from their point of view, it is their money and they have every right to spend it whichever way they like. There are NGOs who are crooks and there will always be crooks, but do you make the ordinary man suffer for this?

Crisis and chaos over containers

About 250 containers loads with hundreds of millions of rupees worth of urgently needed relief items for tsunami victims have been lying at the Colombo port and airport for some six weeks — stuck in a bureaucratic muddle.

The government, early last month, clamped taxes and various regulations on these items including thousands of tents which could have provided shelter to the poor tsunami victims but instead lay packed up in a container load of regulations and red tape compounded by indifference, lethargy and, worst of all, bribery and corruption down the line.

The government had acted on protests by the JVP and other groups which allege that some NGOs were misusing or abusing the facility of bringing in tsunami relief items free of duty. Some NGOs are alleged to have brought in laptop computers and video phones for their personal use at a time when even JVP Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa is reported to be carrying a razzle dazzle mobile phone worth some 150,000 rupees. Anyway abuse is abuse, and extravagant privilege is extravagant privilege, whoever indulges in it. Some NGOs might have misused the duty free facility, but what happened over the past few weeks amounts to collective punishment of even the tsunami victims for the misdeeds of a few.

After protests here, some international groups and donor agencies even warned that they would send their aid to other countries like Indonesia if the relief sent to Sri Lanka was not cleared fast and sent to the tsunami victims who urgently needed them. Last week the government or the Finance Ministry in response to these protests issued a new circular regarding these container loads of tsunami aid — but it seems the treatment is turning out to be worse than the disease.
According to the new procedure the groups to whom these containers of relief items have been sent would have to get a letter from the Government Agent of the area in which they hope to distribute aid. The letter from the Government Agent, saying he or she will monitor the distribution, has to be sent to the Director of Social Services, who in turn will communicate it to the Customs Department. The containers will then be sent by the Customs to the Social Services Director who will send it to the Government Agent and so on.

The lethargy and the mediocrity in the bureaucratic procedure in government departments are as notorious and the calibre of todays party politicians. Add to that the cancer of bribery and corruption that has crept into almost every cell and vein of government departments and there will be a situation where the containers, like today’s government, would go here and there and might finally end up nowhere, if not in the hands of corrupt politicians, officials or businessmen. Some respected NGOs have expressed concern over the new procedure of handing over the containers to the Government Agents through the Social Services Director.

The NGOs say they have a responsibility to account to the donors for every item sent and to ensure they are given to the tsunami victims who need those items. They say that when the items go through bureaucratic agencies, there is no way of ensuring transparency or accountability. Therefore the NGOs say they will not clear the containers though the Finance Ministry at the same time has written to shipping companies and port authorities asking that the extra demurrage payments due to the delays in clearance be waived in view of the mitigating circumstances.

What has happened to the 250 containers is similar to the fate that has befallen billions of dollars in tsunami grants and aid from foreign governments and international agencies. Most of it appears to be still stuck in bureaucratic or political mud holes amidst the current party politics of conflict, confusion and contradictions. If Sri Lanka was not prepared for the catastrophe, it seems that Sri Lanka is equally unprepared for tsunami relief, rebuilding and rehabilitation. While a joint mechanism between the government and the LTTE is set up in the north and east, it seems Sri Lanka urgently needs an independent commission with wide powers to streamline the overall tsunami rebuilding operations.

What a pathetic country I’m living in.

Crisis and chaos