Firefox Sucks

Mozilla Firefox, while being a better browser than Internet Explorer, has a big problem. It hogs memory. It takes over all available memory and doesn’t return it to the OS until you close Firefox.

You heard me right: Mozilla Firefox sucks. I do understand that it is a better browser than Internet Explorer and has much better support of the W3C standards. But it has the fatal Windows flaw: Like Microsoft Windows, Firefox has to be shut down at least once a day.

I am using Firefox 1.0.2 on my Windows XP Professional laptop. I surf the net by opening lots of tabs in Firefox and then closing them one by one as I finish reading a tab. This almost always results in Firefox eating up most of my computer’s 512MB of RAM. As Windows starts paging everything to disk, the computer starts getting slower and slower. The only solution then is to close Firefox and start it again.

The reason for this problem seems to be memory leaks. What sort of software has memory leaks? Unfortunately, it seems the answer is most software, though Firefox is the biggest memory hog I have seen. This is like Toyota or General Motors making cars whose gas tanks leaked all the time.

کچھ عشق کیا، کچھ کام کیا

کچھ عرصہ پہلے ہارورڈ کے صدر لیری سمرز نے خواتین کی پروفیسروں میں کمی پر اپنے خیالات کا اظہار کیا۔ جو وجوہات لیری نے بیان کیں ان میں سے ایک ہی تھی کہ یونیورسٹیوں میں لوگوں کو ۸۰ یا زیادہ گھنٹے کام کرنا پڑتا ہے اور خواتین اس پر راضی نہیں ہوتیں۔

کچھ عرصہ پہلے ہارورڈ کے صدر لیری سمرز نے خواتین کی پروفیسروں میں کمی پر اپنے خیالات کا اظہار کیا۔ ان کی باتوں پر بہت لوگوں نے اعتراض کیا کیونکہ لیری کے خیال میں خواتین کے خلاف سلوک ان کی کم تعداد کی وجہ نہیں ہے۔ جو وجوہات لیری نے بیان کیں ان میں سے ایک ہی تھی کہ یونیورسٹیوں میں لوگوں کو ۸۰ یا زیادہ گھنٹے کام کرنا پڑتا ہے اور خواتین اس پر راضی نہیں ہوتیں۔

اس موضوع پر بریڈ ڈلونگ اور این ایپلبام کی تحریریں مجھے اچھی لگیں۔

میری سمجھ میں نہیں آتا کہ امریکہ جیسے ترقی یافتہ اور امیر ملک میں لوگ اتنے زیادہ گھنٹے کیوں کام کرتے ہیں۔ آخر زندگی میں روزی کمانے کے علاوہ اور بھی بہت اہم چیزیں ہیں۔ کروکڈ ٹمبر پر کمبرلی مارگن اس ہفتے کام اور فیملی کے مسائل پر لکھ رہی ہیں۔

جانے کیوں مجھے ان سوچوں سے فیض کی یہ نظم یاد آئی۔

وہ لوگ بہت خوش قسمت تھے
جو عشق کو کام سمجھتے تھے
یا کام سے عاشقی کرتے تھے
ہم جیتے جی مصروف رہے
کچھ عشق کیا، کچھ کام کیا
کام عشق کے آڑے آتا رہا
اور عشق سے کام الجھتا رہا
پھر آخر تنگ آ کر ہم نے
دونوں کو ادھورا چھوڑ دیا

Happy Easter

Happy Easter, everyone.

Webhost Recommendations

Urdu and Unicode require better support than Perl 5.6.1 can manage. Since my web host can’t install Perl 5.8.x any time soon, I can either install it in my user account or switch web hosts. Help and suggestions needed.

Since I having been trying to use more Urdu on this weblog, I have run up against a number of issues related to Perl 5.6.1’s support for Unicode, which is the version installed on my web host’s servers. I asked them if they had any plans of upgrading Perl to a more recent version (5.8.x) but Dreamhost has no such plans in the near future since the current stable release of Debian Linux includes Perl 5.6.1. Until Debian 3.1 is released and installed on Dreamhost’s servers, I am out of luck.

Therefore, I have two options:

  1. Install Perl 5.8.6 in my user account (without root access). I have heard that this is a hassle and I am not sure what sort of problems I could run into. Plus would I have to maintain all Perl modules that I need by myself as well? If you have any thoughts on the matter or can point to an installation guide for non-root users, please let me know.
  2. Change web hosts to one which has Perl 5.8.1 or later installed. Please suggest reasonable web hosts.

Currently, I am on the Dreamhost Crazy Domain Insane plan which costs about $120 per year. It includes 2.4GB disk space, 120 GB/month bandwidth, 1 free domain registration, 3 domains and 15 subdomains hosting, unlimited MySQL databases, video streaming, lots of email accounts, etc. I am currently using about 415 MB of disk space and 3 GB/month bandwidth.

My requirements would include at least 1 GB of disk space and 20 GB/month bandwidth. I have 4 subdomains right now, so at least that number should be available. I would need at least 3 MySQL databases as well.

Currently, the major use of my web hosting is with Movable Type and WordPress. I am also posting lots of photographs and some videos (streaming) online. So obviously a new web host would need to support these.

What do you think are the pros and cons of the two options I have listed? Which do you think would be better? Please note that other than the Perl Unicode support issue, I am satisfied with Dreamhost.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Ottawa Travelogue

Continuing on with the Ottawa impressions, it was quite cold there all week. This caused a problem as Michelle refused to wear a coat, hat, or mittens. Because of Michelle, we were only able to go sightseeing on Friday.
We walked around in downtown and toured the Parliament …

Continuing on with the Ottawa impressions, it was quite cold there all week. This caused a problem as Michelle refused to wear a coat, hat, or mittens. In addition, Michelle’s gums were hurting and she was missing Amber who had to work long hours there. So Michelle went on a bottle strike. Because of this, we were only able to go sightseeing on Friday.

We walked around in downtown and wandered about the Byward Market, Rideau canal (which works as a skating rink in the winter), National war memorial etc. We also took a tour of the Parliament. We were the only non-Canadians in our tour group.

One thing we noticed in Ottawa was that there were lot of French Canadians there. When we had been to Canada last time, we didn’t meet any, but that was in Toronto.

Here are a few photographs.

Canadian Parliament
Roof of Senate Chamber
View of the river
From the Peace tower
Another view of Ottawa
Chateau Laurier and East Wing
East Wing of Parliament
A Parliament wing
End of Rideau Canal
I in front of War memorial
War memorial and Chateau Laurier
All dressed up

More Interviews

Continuing with the interview meme, here are the questions for the two remaining interviewees, Fazia and Renee. That completes my part of the meme since I have now interviewed 5 people.

Continuing with the interview meme, here are the questions for the two remaining interviewees.

For Fazia:

  1. How can you be both a cat and dog person? Doesn’t it have to be one or the other but not both?
  2. What is your favorite cookbook? Science fiction book?
  3. Tell us one good and one bad thing about Texas.
  4. Do you think blogging is an extrovert activity or are most bloggers introverts?
  5. Since Reid mentioned disco music, let’s hear your thoughts on disco.

For Renee:

  1. How did you and M meet?
  2. Give us a tour (in words or images) of the house you are getting.
  3. What is the best thing you like about Atlanta?
  4. What sort of books do you like to read? What are the best fiction and non-fiction books you like?
  5. How did you survive Colorado winters?

That completes my part of the meme since I have now interviewed 5 people.

UPDATE: Replies from Renee and Fazia.

Interview Questions

Three people asked to be interviewed in the blog interview chain, so here are the questions for them.

For Asif:

  1. How many languages do you know? How did you learn so many languages?
  2. Tell us an amusing incident from your time in UET, Lahore.
  3. How and why did you decide to go to Germany? How do you like the country?
  4. Why did you start blogging? Why in Urdu? Were you familiar with any other Urdu blogs when you started?
  5. What are your plans after you are done with your PhD?

For Munira:

  1. Which brother do you like better, me or him? Just kidding! How do you like Karachi? Compared to other places you have lived like Islamabad, Wah Cantt, Tripoli, Rawalpindi and Lahore?
  2. How does living by yourself feel?
  3. Name one quality or action of Musharraf that you think will be good for Pakistan.
  4. What are your thoughts on women leading prayers?
  5. What do you think is the biggest problem facing Pakistani women?

For Reid:

  1. How did you start professional photography?
  2. Has the web helped with your work in photography?
  3. Looking at your old photos, I was amused at the 1970s fashion. I am too young to have been a fashion culprit then, but everybody seems to have gone crazy in those times. What are your thoughts about 1970s fashion looking back after 3 decades?
  4. How would you describe your political philosophy? What are the overarching themes and principles shaping your political beliefs? Are you a pragmatist or idealist?
  5. Why haven’t we met when our public addresses are less than 2 miles apart?

There you go, guys.

UPDATE: Replies from Asif, Munira and Reid.

Blog Interview Meme

This is a chain interviewing game for blogs. Here are its rules:

  1. Leave me a comment saying “interview me.” The first five commenters will be the participants.
  2. I will respond by asking you five questions.
  3. You will update your blog/site with the answers to the questions.
  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions. (Write your own questions or borrow some.)

Wayfarer has asked me the following questions.

1. How does it feel to be a dad?

It feels great. It is amazing. Very different from how I imagined it. I am not a baby/kid person. My ideal number of children have always hovered between zero and one. So my reaction to Michelle was a surprise. I would say I started feeling love for her around the time we saw her heartbeat on the ultrasound. I am very protective of her and extremely defensive about anyone disparaging my role as a dad. Say anything about boys being better or girls having it difficult in life or girls being closer to their moms and I come out swinging.

2. What do you like and dislike about Atlanta?

Dislike is easy. I hate Atlanta summers. They are hot and humid. Not the kind of weather I like. I also don’t like the somewhat suburban feel of the city of Atlanta. My feelings about the laid back attitude of people here vary. At times, I get frustrated with it and want Atlanta to become a more fast-paced city like New York, but at other times I like the slow pace of life here.

Another thing about Atlanta is the lack of things like museums, theater, etc. as compared to New York, Chicago or San Francisco.

Among likes, there is the fact that one can drive to the mountains (even if they are not exactly tall peaks) in the North whenever one wants to. There are lots of hiking, backpacking and camping opportunities there. There are also lakes and rivers for a weekend of paddling fun in the summer (but please don’t go into the Chattahoochee river in the metro Atlanta area, it is extremely polluted.)

3. Do you ever miss Pakistan? If so, what about it?

I could take the easy way out and say that I miss my parents and siblings. However, I would focus on the place, rather than people. Having moved a few times in my life, I don’t have any sentimental attachments to any place. Whenever we are moving, I am excited and looking forward to a new place while Amber is starting to miss the old one.

4. How did you and Amber meet?

During our high school and college years, we used to live in the same town. Amber was a classmate of my sister. I knew about her when she started going to the same college in which I was studying. We took the same college bus and there were only about 5-6 girls from our town in our college (the female population among the students at the college was 5-10%.) We first met when Amber visited our home some time in spring of her freshman year. She was a bookworm and wanted to study even though the university was closed for a couple of months due to 3 students being murdered in a student “political” clash. So we talked about the university and freshman Math. It was definitely not love at first sight. But it grew over time.

5. Describe the perfect meal.

That is a difficult one. But here are some great meals I have had. Stuffed lamb roast the Baloch way is great. So was the rabbit stuffed with peach I ate in a restaurant in Blois, France. For breakfast, nothing could beat the patisseries in France. For a regular meal, I would say I like an Italian main course followed by a French dessert. That reminds me of the dessert sample platter I ordered in a Loire valley restaurant. It had more than a dozen varieties and full though I was, I couldn’t stop eating the dessert.

While generally the food at our university cafe wasn’t good, once a week they had lentils and roast chicken which was quite good. I think those tuesdays were the only time I used to eat there.

Now it is your turn. If you would like to be interviewed, please leave a comment asking for an interview.

Islamabad and Atlanta from Above

Asif brought Keyhole to my attention which lets you look at images of a lots of places in the world looking down from different elevations. The image resolutions vary, with the best resolution for Cambridge, MA (3 inches). A lot of countries do not have any real images at all. But it is still fascinating for the photos of countries other than the US and western European countries.

I tried looking at every place I have lived. Here is an image of Islamabad, Pakistan showing where I lived from 1994-97 as viewed from 18,000 feet.

Islamabad from above

The big empty space in the lower left is the Capital Park (now know as Fatima Jinnah Park, I believe). We lived just east of that. I think you can see Faisal mosque at the top middle.

And now where I live nowadays in Atlanta, GA.

Atlanta from Above via Keyhole

This view is from the same 18,000 feet viewpoint even though in this case Keyhole can do much better.

Airport Security and Ottawa First Impressions

At the Atlanta airport, we tried to checkin on the e-ticket kiosk, but it demanded to scan our passports since we were going out of country. Our passports are not machine-readable, so we had to go to the airline counter. Strangely, the agent did not even look at our passports. Now this might not be as bad as this sounds as our IDs were checked by security in Atlanta (more on that later) and passports at the gate when we boarded the plane in Detroit later.

Also, our daughter’s passport was never checked in the US. The only time it was checked was by the Canadian immigration/Customs. With all the hoopla in the US about one parent abducting the child from the other and leaving the country, this was a bit strange.

Another useless security requirement is that after you check in, you have to take your luggage to be scanned. But there is no point to it since you give your checked-in baggage to the TSA and leave. So why can’t the airlines do it themselves? All this useless effort on the part of the passenger reminds me of Pakistani airports where one has to get everything checked three times.

When we went through security, the security officer had trouble finding our boarding passes. She finally found one inside the airline flap jacket and so let us through. However, I got suspicious since we were supposed to have 4—6 boarding passes (1 each for the 2 legs of our journey and I wasn’t sure if Michelle needed a boarding pass or not). So we checked and we only had boarding passes for me. We doubled back to the airline counter and got boarding passes for Amber and Michelle. However, this shows the effort the security people are putting into their work.

When we landed in Ottawa and got out of the small plane (which had really cramped leg space), we realized we had to get out into the open and walk to the terminal gate which was close by. The weather was cold and we weren’t carrying Michelle’s jacket, so we covered her in her blanket and ran inside.

The immigration/Customs officer reminded me that all over the world immigration personnel have one major job requirement: they must not have a pleasant personality. If a smile escapes someone interviewing for such a position, he is immediately rejected. I haven’t had any real bad experiences with immigration anywhere, but the immigration officer is always very serious and too business-like.

Snow falling: View from hotel room

That was yesterday. Today, I am sititing in my hotel room looking at the snow falling outside. We are expecting 15—25 cm (6—10 in) of snow today. Since Michelle is still recovering from the travel yesterday and the weather is not good, I might stay in today. May be I’ll go for a swim in the heated indoor pool or go do my regular Tuesday run in the fitness center. On the other hand, a massage at the hotel spa sounds enticing. The hotel is “very very nice” as a local put it.