debugging proxy.pac and adapter issues

Remember some time ago when I talked about the virtues of using a PAC file to configure proxy settings? It’s especially handy when you are moving between multiple networks. Well it suddenly stopped working for me!

At first, I wondered if something had changed on my institution’s network. So, I removed the proxy.pac file and tired accessing the web. Worked smoothly, so that couldn’t have been the issue. Which meant that my PAC file was misbehaving. But, it was working perfectly fine until yesterday, so … what gives?
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Searching for a good iTunes alternative with android

My quest started with a simple desire – to find some easy way to keep the music on my PC in sync with my Xperia Arc. Considering how many years it’s been since Android and iPhone have been out, surely someone has done something about the issue? Here are my opinions on what I found.
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Playing Civilization 5 via dropbox

This is actually a variant of the “Play by Email” feature indirectly supported in Civilization 5. For more details on how it works please see this answer on arQUade.

As helpful as that answer is, it’s also cumbersome to just email a save back and forth between players. It gets especially messy when you have more than two players. A bunch of nice people have built Giant Multiplayer Robot as a way to solve the issue. Frankly, I think it’s a wonderful service and plan to try it out soon.

However, there might a situation when you just want to play a long Civilization game with just a single friend or family. If you both use Dropbox, the following would easy the bother of manually transferring the save file back and forth. Please backup any hotseat save files before you try this out! And have a shared dropbox folder with your play-partner.

Step 1:

Start up the command line in “Administrator” mode. Go to Start and do a search for the program “cmd”. Right click it and have it “Run as Administrator”. Refer the following screenshot.

Step 2:

From the command line, navigate to the Civilization 5 save game directory. On Windows 7 you can do it with the following command,
cd "C:\Users\AbrahamV\Documents\My Games\Sid Meier's Civilization 5\Saves"
Obviously, you need to change the username to how it is on your system.

Step 3:

Now you need to delete the existing hotseat savegame folder. Please backup any save games you have in there before you continue. To delete from command line, use the following command,
rmdir /s hotseat
The above will delete the ‘hotseat’ folder and any sub-folders in it. Don’t worry, we’ll re-create it.

Step 4:

Now we need to create a symbolic link to the shared folder in dropbox. Use the following command, but change it for your respective folder structure.
mklink /D hotseat "C:\Users\AbrahamV\Dropbox\For Bro\Civ5_saves"
You can close the command line window after this.

A symbolic link is a special kind of shortcut. What it does is create a shortcut to the desired folder, but other programs will see it as an actual sub-directory instead of a shortcut. This way, we can use Dropbox to synchronize our savegames but as far as the Civilization-5 game is concerned, things are normal.

Have fun playing with dropbox !!

Proxy Auto Configuration scripts

I use my laptop for browsing the internet. It’s handy and is customized for my needs. These days, I find myself going online from 2 places – my college computer lab and my hostel room (home). At home, I have my own infrastructure to get online and it’s a direct process. But in the college, I need to configure my system to use the institute proxy. This would mean going to this window,

Selecting the “Internet Options” as shown above then selecting the “Connections” tab and pressing the “LAN settings” button,

Finally configuring the proxy settings in there. Honestly, it was a bother to keep doing it EACH time I came into the lab. And to revert things back when I returned home. There had to be an easier way, right? Well, after a bit of searching around I found this wonderful stackoverflow question which answered everything for me!

It didn’t work perfectly with firefox though. Some more Google-fu later I came across this suggestion in a comment on a forum,

Try network.dns.disableIPv6 = True in Firefox config (about:config in URL)

Which solved this admirably for me! Now I can use both chrome and firefox without any issues or manual configurations. Obviously, I needed to edit the original pac configuration script. I don’t know javascript but it was well commented enough that I could get on by. 🙂

Other than wikipedia another good source of information for the PAC file seems to be this,

Ah, the wonders of automation. One of the reasons why I like computers. 🙂 Now, if ONLY we could figure out a way to simplify all this for the end user!

CS students – what happened to them?

I was just enlightened to a very sad experience within the last hour. A final year undergraduate Computer Science (CS) student was preparing for his final project presentation. For those who are not familiar, at the end of the 4-year course the undergraduates are supposed to give a technical presentation on their project. The idea, I suppose is that after about 2 or 3+ years of education, they are given a ‘real world’ project and evaluated on how they accomplished it.

Sounds beneficial – in theory.

The student in question did his work in Java. Nothing wrong there. I find it a worthwhile language, especially when you want to debug the program. His development workflow consisted of editing a few text files and running a batch file. The contents of said file are as follows,

javac *.java MainProgram
java MainProgram

I could be mistaken on the last line. But the point I want to make is how the batch file is structured. Basically, you just call the java compiler and ask it to make the java binary. (Or is it called Java IL?) Then, pass the same file to the Java Runtime Environment to run the code. Simple right?

Well, what I found appalling is that the student had no idea how all this worked. He was sitting on another computer and was having trouble running his program. I just passed by and he asked for my help. You know what he was doing? Attempting to run the batch file!

Why the heck to do even want to recompile the program again?

I took pity on him and told him to stop what he was doing. Then, I went to the Java mainpage and downloaded the needed JVM for the system. After that, I showed him how to execute his application from the command line without doing a recompile.

He was grateful for the help.

I found the whole situation to be just SAD. This is the state of a CS degree student these days?

Oh dear. Now he’s come by again to ask some help with networking. I asked if he tried disabling the firewalls on both systems. Nope.


Forget it. I’m not getting anymore involved in this. If anyone has any bright ideas on how we could reform our education system to address these kind of issues, please contact me. I could use some inspiration.

Improving performance on my Xperia Arc

Recently, an upgrade came for my phone which allowed me to finally enjoy Ice Cream Sandwich. It was a refreshing UI change and the phone generally feels a bit better. But it had problems in one critical area – the phone. The dialer is too slow. There are plenty of links like that of people complaining about it.

At first, I put up with it. More because I liked the rest of the phone and I seemed to “get on by” with the 4 second delay. But after nearly a month, I’m getting tired of it. One option is to revert back to the older firmware, but it’s a bit drastic step. Besides, I’m enjoying Ice Cream Sandwich too much.

Then I came across a new feature in Android 4. When you press and hold the home button, you can see a list of running applications. Well, there were a lot of them running and I just used my finger to swipe them all out.

Surprisingly enough, my dialer became more responsive after that. Not as ‘instant’ as I would like, but a whole lot better. Now, it takes about a second or two to come up. Plenty more tolerable than before. 🙂


Real Time Editing in Google Docs

For the past few weeks I’ve been using Google Docs as my primary editor for writing fanfiction. And as with any editing worth it’s salt, a good measure of how well I’m doing depends on what others say of my work. Most importantly, what corrections they may want me to make in my documents.

This is where the comment system of Google Docs really came through for me. After I finished writing a chapter, I changed the share permissions on the document to “public” and enabled “comments”. The result? My beta-readers could easily select which sections of the document they felt had problems and comment on them! I didn’t even need to send them any files. Just a link which they opened in their web-browser.

The best part were the corrections. After one of my beta’s listed their comments and I made the needed corrections, there was no need to change the original link. Thus, when another beta came in, they could see the latest copy of the document and add in any further comments that might have been missed before. I don’t think I could have even considered such a smooth editing for my work in MS-word before.

Google, I thank you!

If any of you are curious, have a peek at this video. It lists some of the highlights that I just mentioned,