How to write MCollective Agents to run actions in background

The Marionette Collective, or MCollective in short, is a cutting-edge tech for running system administration tasks and jobs in parallel against a cluster of servers. When the number of servers you have to manage grows, the task of managing them, including keeping the OS and packages installed on them updated, becomes without a doubt a nightmare. MCollective helps you drag yourself out of that nightmare and into a jolly dream, where you are the king, and at your disposal is a powerful tool, by merely wielding which you can control all of your servers in one go. I’ll probably do a bad job of painting MCollective in good light, so I’d recommend you read all about it on MCollective’s main website.

Like every good tool worth its while, MCollective gives you the power to extend it by writing what it calls agents to run custom code on your servers to perform any kind of job. You can read about agents here. MCollective is all in Ruby, so if you know Ruby, which is a pretty little programming language by the way, you can take full advantage of MCollective. Incidentally, a part of my day job revolves around writing MCollective agents to automate all sorts of jobs you can think of performing on a server.

For a while I have been perplexed at the lack of support for being able to run agents in the background. Not every job takes milliseconds to finish itself. Most average-level jobs, in terms of what they have to do, take anywhere from seconds to, even longer, minutes. And since I write an API which uses MCollective agents to execute jobs, I often run into the problem of having the API block while the agent is taking its sweet time to run. As far as I’ve looked, I haven’t found support within MCollective for asynchronously running actions.

So, I got down to thinking, and came up with a solution, which you could call a bit of a hack. But insofar as my experience testing it has been, I’ve yet to face any issues with it.

I’ve an example hosted on GitHub. It’s very straightforward, even if crude. The code is self explanatory. At the heart of it is creating your actions in agents to fork and run as childs, without having the parent wait for the childs to reap, and having one extra action for each agent to fetch the status of the other actions. So, essentially, the approach has to be taken for every agent you have, but only for those actions which you wish to run asynchronously. With agents in place, all you’ll need to do is call the agents thus:

$ mco rpc bg run_bg -I node -j
{"status": 0, "result": "2434"}

and repeatedly fetch the status of the async action thus:

$ mco rpc bg status pid=2434 operation=run_bug -I node -j
{"status": 0, "result": ""}

It’s a solution that works. I’ve tested it over a month and a half now over many servers without any issues. I would like to see people play with it. The code is full of comments which explain how to do what. But if you have any questions, I’d love to entertain them

Fastly’s CDN accessible once again from Pakistan.

Three days ago I wrote about a particular subnet of’s CDN network becoming null-routed in Pakistan. Since the affected subnet was from which Fastly served content to users from Pakistan, websites, such as GitHub, Foursquare, The Guardian, Apache Maven, The Verge, Gawker, Wikia, even Urban Dictionary and many others, which off-load their content to Fastly’s CDN networks stopped opening for users inside Pakistan.

However, as of today, I can see that the null-route previously in place has been lifted as mysteriously as it was placed. The subnet in question,, is once again accessible. I have tested from behind both TransWorld and PTCL. While I don’t know why it was blocked in the first place and why it has been made accessible again, whether it was due to an ignorant glitch on someone’s part, or whether it was intentional, I am glad that the CDN is visible again.

If you are observing evidence otherwise, please feel free to let me know. subnet of Fastly’s CDN null-routed in Pakistan?

I rely heavily on GitHub and Foursquare every day, the former for work and pleasure, and the latter for keeping a track of where I go through the course of a day. Since yesterday, though, I have been noticing that pages on GitHub have been taking close to an eternity to open, if not completely failing. Even when the page loads, all of the static content is missing, and many other things aren’t working. With FourSquare, I haven’t been able to get a list of places to check in to. Yesterday, I wrote them off as glitches on both Foursquare and GitHub’s network.
It was only today that I realized what’s going on. GitHub and Foursquare both rely on Fastly’s CDN services. And, for some reason, Fastly’s CDN services have not been working within Pakistan.
The first thing I did was look up Fastly’s website and found that it didn’t open for me. Whoa! GitHub’s not working, Foursquare’s not loading, and now, I can’t get to Fastly.
I ran a traceroute to Fastly, and to my utter surprise, the trace ended up with a !X (comms administratively prohibited) response from one of the routers.
$ traceroute
traceroute: Warning: has multiple addresses; using
traceroute to (, 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
 6 ( 157.577 ms 158.102 ms 166.088 ms
 7 ( 236.032 ms ( 236.247 ms 236.731 ms
 8 ( 236.029 ms 236.606 ms ( 236.804 ms
 9 ( 236.159 ms ( 236.017 ms ( 236.115 ms
10 ( 235.838 ms ( 236.237 ms ( 235.998 ms
11 ( 235.980 ms ( 236.211 ms 235.548 ms
12 ( 236.151 ms 235.730 ms ( 235.768 ms
13 ( 236.116 ms 236.453 ms 236.565 ms
14 ( 237.399 ms !X 236.225 ms !X 235.870 ms !X

Now, that, I thought, was most odd. Why was level3 prohibiting the trace?

I went looking for a support contact at Fastly to try and get anything that could explain what was going on. I found their IRC chat room on FreeNode (I spend a lot of time on FreeNode), and didn’t waste time dropping into it. The kind folks there told me that they’d had reports of one of their IP ranges being null-blocked in Pakistan. It was the range. I did some network prodding about, and confirmed that that indeed was the subnet I couldn’t get to from within Pakistan.

$ ping -c 1
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=55 time=145.194 ms
--- ping statistics ---
1 packets transmitted, 1 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 145.194/145.194/145.194/0.000 ms

$ ping -c 1
PING ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=51 time=188.872 ms
--- ping statistics ---
1 packets transmitted, 1 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 188.872/188.872/188.872/0.000 ms

$ ping -c 1
PING ( 56 data bytes
--- ping statistics ---
1 packets transmitted, 0 packets received, 100.0% packet loss

They also told me they’d had reports of both PTCL and TWA where the range in question was null-routed. They said they didn’t know why it had been null-routed but would appreciate any info the locals could provide.

This is ludicrous. After Wi-Tribe filtering UDP DNS packets to Google’s DNS and OpenDNS servers (which they still do), this is the second absolutely preposterous thing that has pissed me off.


Docker is almost the rage these days. If you don’t know what Docker is, you should head on over It’s a container engine, designed to run on Virtual Machines, on bare-metal physical servers, on OpenStack clusters, on AWS instances, or pretty much any other form of machine incarnation you could think of. With Docker, you can easily create very lightweight containers that run your applications. What’s really stunning about Docker is that you can create a lightweight container for your application in your development environment once, and have the same container run at scale in a production environment.

The best way to appreciate the power Docker puts at your fingertips is to try it out for yourself. If you wish to do it, I would recommend the browser-based interactive tutorial on Docker’s website.

While it is easy to build Docker containers manually, the real power of Docker comes from what is known as a Dockerfile. A Dockerfile, using a very simple syntax that can be learnt quickly, makes possible automating the process of setting up and configuring the container’s environment to run your application.

On a weekend I finally took out time for myself and sat down to embrace Docker, not only through the interactive tutorial on Docker’s website, but also on my server. I was half lucky in that I didn’t need to have to set Docker up on my local system or VM, because Linode just happened to very recently introduce support for Docker. I started playing around with Docker commands on the shell manually, and slowly transitioned to writing my own Dockerfile. The result: I wrote a Dockerfile to run a small container to run “irssi” inside it. Go ahead and check it out, please. If you have a system with Docker running on it (and I really think you should have one), you can follow the two or three commands listed on the README file to build and run my container. It is that easy!

iPad mini retina image retention

I first read about image retention on iPad mini retina on Marco Arment’s blog. His iPad mini retina had a slight case of image retention which he discovered by [creating and] running an image retention test on his iPad. I used the word slight to describe Marco’s case because his was a minor problem, something had he not run the test explicitly would not have noticed during normal use. Because it didn’t seem something that would get in the way of enjoying the beautiful screen of the new iPad mini, I didn’t give it much thought.

The very first thing, after hooking it up online, I did on my new iPad mini retina was run Marco’s image retention test. It passed, which elated me and squashed what little fears I had. In hindsight I forgot to run the test for ten minutes, hastily choosing a minute instead. I basked in the magnificence of the retina screen and the weightlessness of the device for two whole weeks. It was the perfect tablet: light-weight, just the right size, with a beautifully sharp and crisp screen, a lot of computing power packed inside a small form factor, and a lovely OS to make it all work seamlessly. Then, one unfortunate night after work when I pulled out the iPad from inside the drawer I keep it in when away, I was dreadfully shocked to look at the mess the screen had become. The image retention clearly visible on the screen was horrible. There were crooked lines everywhere, and swiping on the screen caused them to flicker grotesquely. If Marco saw it, he would jump up his chair.

Home screen on my iPad mini with severe image retention.

Home screen on my iPad mini with severe image retention.

I managed to get the iPad returned to Apple. To my surprise, and a little disappointment, Apple outright refunded me the device.

Macro in his post explained why he thought the issue was there. Apple buys retina panels from a couple of manufacturers. Panels from at least one manufacturer exhibit image retention. I think Apple is fully aware of it, and it’s the reason why iPad mini with retina displays are in short supply.

I loved that thing. I cannot emphasise that enough. I will buy it again, when the next batch from manufacturing hits the market.

→ Don’t ask a non-drinker why they don’t drink

storm_cloaks, commenting on a Reddit thread:

As a non-drinker, answering the “why don’t you drink?” question is always annoying. Generally speaking, I think it’s poor etiquette to ask someone why they don’t drink, and it saddens me that most people don’t feel the same. First, its really none of their business. Second, asking someone to justify a personal choice at a party is a total killjoy, and it clearly creates a separation between the non-drinker and the drinker that’s asking. Going out of your way to point out the fact that someone’s different from you, *especially in a situation that’s supposed to be festive is totally ridiculous, if not offensive. I understand the curiosity, but it would be rude and odd if I asked people at a party “why do you drink?”

I love that explanation. I couldn’t have put it any better myself. On several occasions I have been asked by friends and acquaintances why I don’t drink. 90% of the those times, I have been made fun of and called a pussy for not drinking. I have never understood why people who drink or want to drink feel compelled to ask why the people around them don’t. It’s OK to offer somebody a drink, but not at all OK to ask them why they don’t. It is OK if you are truly curious why somebody doesn’t drink, but I feel that people who drink don’t honestly care about the reason why somebody doesn’t drink. I mean, are they looking for reasons to justify quitting? Or looking for lack of justifiable reasons to justify their drinking?

Change, and adversity, and a goodbye to 2013!

Early morning WordPress sent me that email they send once every year underlining all the special stats about your blog from the year that is about to pass. I didn’t open the email until very late in the day. I was shocked to see that I had written and published only two posts the entire year. I thought that was a rather sad and unfortunate state of affairs. I love writing. I wrote a lot what would be safe to call once upon a time. To think, no, to know for a fact that things had gone this bad, shook me.

That in part explains why I felt compelled at the very last minutes before the year rolled over to write this. I am going to try and see this till the finish.

If I were to describe this year in two words, I would carefully choose those words to be: “change” and “adversity”. I think those two words are not only powerful, but also the kind that exude meaning. They describe the kind of experiences you read about in books or in people’s anecdotes or watch in movies, and feel a special force moving you from within. You feel compelled to take in the moment, and while you are reading or watching those experiences, you play them in your head around you, if only to know how it would feel to live those experiences.

Someone once said I’m risk-averse. It’s economic lingo. But it is also true. I don’t take risks unnecessarily, and I prefer to not take risks at all. It’s nothing wrong. A lot of people are risk-averse. A lot of people detest change. I think it is largely due to our personal inertia that we exert on life as we live through life. It takes a great amount of force to get oneself to embrace change. For most people, it is easier to just resist change.

Uncharacteristically, I embraced several changes this year. Some were huge changes for me. Some, not so. But none were any less meaningful than the rest.

After working four and a half years from home, I decided, I don’t know how, to quit. Quitting from anything is a monstrous challenge for me. It always has been for as long as I have remembered to notice it. Sure, I feel the urge to run away from things from time to time, but quitting comes hard to me.

Not only did I quit, but I also got myself a job at a place where I had to go every day to an office and work from there. I hadn’t worked in an office in under five years. I didn’t know whether I could do it — if I’d be able to do it. I didn’t know whether I could survive it long enough. Unless you have experienced both, you cannot know how entirely different working from home is from working from an office. You have to get up on time in the morning, dress up semi-properly (if you want, you could just as well work in your underpants from home, you know), and commute to work. Oh yes, there’s always the long commute in rush hour to dread every day. You have to spend eight to nine hours straight in the office where you can’t take a nap or watch TV to take a long break away from everything. All in all, you lose a great deal of freedoms that you enjoy working from home. And who wants to give up their freedoms. The majority of people who found out that I worked from home thought it was a luxury I was lucky enough to afford. And I agree. Not everyone can afford to work from home. You are really lucky if you can. Despite all that, I decided to quit. In spite of all that, I quit. I quit because over four years is a long time. I wanted change. I wanted change in my routine, the kind of change I couldn’t bring about by altering anything else in my life without giving up working from home. I felt my life had become stagnant and that I wasn’t moving ahead at all. In fact, to the contrary, I felt I was being sucked into a dark, depressing place, and it frustrated me and caused me uncontrollable anxiety. I had to change things. I had to quit. And so, just like that, I did.

It has been seven months since quitting home job. I’m still working from the same office I get up every morning to drive to.

I changed tennis clubs. If you know me personally or semi-personally, you’ll know that I am crazy about playing tennis. I would go as far as to say that tennis is the love of my life. I started playing tennis four years ago at a country club which housed two shabbily built hard courts in the open. There was a rather dejected and disgruntled squash-cum-tennis coach in the club who helped me get on my feet. As I transitioned past the amateur level, I signed up in the local tennis circuits and started playing tennis tournaments. I earned a worthwhile ranking for a player like myself. However, the only place I could practice was the country club. And that club had major issues that got in the way of my practising and improving my game. I will keep myself from going into those, but I will say that they boiled up to a point where they started to really frustrate me and hamper my ability to excel. On top of that, there were hardly any players to play against at the club, much less good players. You cannot improve until you can hit with a better player.

I had been eyeing a professional tennis club for a while, but several fears that I molded  as convenient excuses kept me from making the jump. That club was far away. I didn’t think I could take a break that long to drive all the way and back. I was afraid of all the new people there. I was afraid whether I’d be able to find anyone to play with. In hindsight, it was mostly only fear of taking on a big change. It would’ve been big for me.

We always need that impetus, that push, to jump off the plank and see what’s out there. My changing jobs was that push. Incidentally, the office I was going to join was closer to that professional tennis club. I quit my previous club the very first day I joined the new office. I am glad I did.

I sold my car and bought a new one. For a lot of people, selling and buying cars is trivial. But normal people buy and sell cars once in a while. After all, my dad still owns and drives his two really old cars. I bought my very own car four years ago, brand new. I loved it. I love and treasure all of my possessions. However, three years later I felt I needed to upgrade it, and get something more comfortable. But selling a car felt so much of a nuisance. There was inertia kicking in all over again. Even if I did sell it, I thought, looking for another car to buy would be another troublesome affair I didn’t want to go through. I needed another push. And it came a year and a half later.

My changing jobs and my changing tennis clubs became that impetus. When I look closely at how things often unfold, it amuses me. I wonder whether there really is a time and place for everything. And for change. But that is a topic for philosophical musings, and I shouldn’t get sucked into that since I’ve promised myself to see this piece through to the end.

Adversity tests you and the people around you in ways you cannot consciously imagine otherwise. It shows you how weak and frail you are, and it shows you how strong and resilient you can be. It shows you who you thought didn’t love you really loves you, and it shows you who you thought didn’t care much about you actually cares for you more than others. Adversity is like that pair of glasses which when you wear them strips everybody including yourself off of their layers and facades, and lays them bare, in their true forms, for you to see.

My father fell acutely ill several times in succession later this year. He’s a diabetic of thirty long years, a heart patient with several allergies and a heart doctor himself. We had to rush him into emergency twice. He had to stay in critical care units for a total of twenty or so days, at the end of which he was diagnosed with two main blocked arteries, with his heart unable to pump blood into half of his body. He nearly kissed death, and survived. It was the toughest time of my life, and the hardest thing I had to deal with. I wrote a painful account of it but only got myself to publish it anonymously. I’m sorry but I couldn’t share it here.

I am thankful deeply to the few people who were around when I needed help and support the most. And I am thankful to God for being able to withstand and overcome adversity. It wasn’t easy.

When the year started, I set myself up for a 2013 reading challenge on Goodreads. I set myself an achievable goal of ten books. To my utter surprise, I crossed that goal in the next three months. I had to re-arrange the goal to 30 books instead. However, as I close off the year, it is only with sadness that I try to reconcile the fact that I only managed to read a total of fifteen books over the year. That is fifty percent of the goal. I finished the fifteenth book a night before new year’s eve. It was Mark Haddon’s incredibly cute and creative “The curious incident of the dog in the night-time.” It of course comes highly recommended. If you’d like to read about the other fourteen books I read, you could look them up here: My Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge.

One of my gripes with the passing year is that I couldn’t play much tennis, despite switching tennis clubs. I also couldn’t play any tournaments. Owing to the office job, I cannot take out time during the afternoon and day to play tournaments. And because I don’t have so much freedom now as I did when I worked from home, I can’t take a break from work and drive by the courts to play, which is the reason I couldn’t play a lot of tennis this year. It is something I dearly wish to change in the coming year. Because, after all, not being able to play tennis is a cause of much panic and frustration for me.

I have dispensed with the little things while writing this account of the year. I only focused on what I felt were big things for me that shaped my life in 2013. And, also, I had to finish this, and I couldn’t allow it to stretch any longer, because that would risk giving me an excuse to not see it through the end.

My best wishes for 2014!

Django Login Session ID Extractor Script

In the not too distant past, I worked on an interesting web project in which my participation lasted a brief period. I enjoyed the time I spent working on it. It was a project based on Django and Python, two technologies that I simply love working with. The last tasks I worked on had to do with benchmarking the performance of the Django web application, as well as the webserver it was powered on, which was Apache.

I had to use the excellent and extensive Apache Benchmark utility, also commonly known as simply ab. If you’re not familiar with ab, I recommend you check it out. The problem I faced was not being able to benchmark views that required an authenticated web session. Simply put, I wasn’t able to use ab against views that were login protected. In order to solve this limitation and also to automate the process, I threw together a BASH shell script which I called The Django Login Session ID Extractor. It used a combination of Linux tools to log into the Django application via the login view, and extract out the SESSION ID thus created. This SESSION ID, then, could be passed to the ab command in order for it to hit login protected views.

This script proved really useful during testing, and would’ve even more had I continued to work on it. However, I decided to make the script available on GitHub for the world to use. I am hoping someone might make use of it.

Sleep bug on iOS 6.1.2 on iPhone 4S

I have been using an iPhone 4S for the most part of last year. I make it a point to keep iOS, which is the OS running on it, on it updated to the latest stable version. I am only a little hesitant about upgrading the OS as soon as there’s a newer version available. I used to be more suspicious of applying updates, say, a year ago, where I would wait it out, lurking on forums and Internet looking for people complaining about unsavoury experiences with the update or critical and/or annoying bugs that might stop me dead in my tracks from doing anything I wanted to do on my phone. However, now, I mostly just dive headlong into the update (and break all hell loose if anything untoward takes place, which I must add thankfully has yet to happen).


I’m running iOS 6.1.2 which at the time of writing is the latest iOS release, with iOS 6.1.3 doing the rounds in beta. However, of late, I have been noticing, rather infrequently, that my iPhone 4S stops waking up from sleep. The first time that happened I immediately thought the phone had frozen up and required a cold reboot (this hard and cold reboot terminologies continue to confound me to this day). Pressing the home button or the sleep button, or holding down either of them does nothing. The phone appears dead.


Luckily, right the first time it bumped its ugly head and gave me a scare, I accidentally managed to find a workaround to it. While pressing the two hardware buttons on the phone in the desperate hopes of waking up or rebooting the phone, I found out that simply pressing the Home and Sleep buttons together, as when taking a picture of the screen, brings the phone back from sleep, with that familiar click sound that comes from having taken a snapshot. And in fact, it does take a snapshot. Only, it also triggers the phone to wake from the sleep from which it appears to not wake up any other way.


I don’t know whether this bug has to do with iOS 6.1.2, iPhone 4S, iOS 6.1.2 on iPhone 4S, or something else entirely on my phone (say any app or a corrupt setting, though I have tried rebooting the phone and still found the problem to occur). It doesn’t occur all the time, or even from time to time: it’s quite infrequent. In fact, I’ve only had it bother me twice or thrice. But it did happen. And pressing Sleep and Home together helped pull me out.


I hope it helps you too if the Apple gods forbid you run into this issue on your iOS device.

Disabling auto-correct on TweetBot for Mac

My favourite Twitter client on iOS is TweetBot. It is there on both my iPhone and my iPad. I simply love it. There can probably be no comparison between the Twitter for iPhone/iPad (or any other third-party Twitter app) and TweetBot. The only little downside is that it is not free. It has to be bought separately on both the iPhone and iPad. But, it is a small price for an awesome piece of app.

Naturally, I wanted something as good as TweetBot on Mac. TweetBot wasn’t for Mac, and Twitter for Mac became a pain to use. I tried TweetDeck but couldn’t stand the sight of it. And then, TweetBot for Mac came along. It came as Alpha first, and remained Alpha for a while and was free to download and use. It then turned to Beta, and finally, it was released. There was a price tag on the final version, and I happily bought it off the Mac App Store. There were bugs here and there, but overall, it worked solidly. It was every bit as good as its iOS counterparts.

iOS has an “Auto Correct” functionality–which can be turned off from the settings, but which you shouldn’t do if you want to be able to type/tap text at ease on your device–which is smart enough to automatically detect what you’re typing that isn’t correct, suggest a correction, and then correct it. It is so unbelievably good that once you get used to, which takes very little time, you cannot simply live without it. At all. The same auto-correct feature is available on the latest OS X versions on the Mac as well. However, unlike the auto-correct on iOS which pops up a visible suggestion giving you an option to select or discard it, the auto-correct on Mac isn’t so effective because when you are typing fast on a keyboard, and as you type away, the auto-correct applies the suggested corrections without your really noticing them. The end result is that you end up with text with certain words that you did not remember typing at all and which, while are correct, don’t really make sense in the context. This becomes really very annoying.

While it is possible to globally disable “auto-correct” on OS X via settings, a lot of the apps unfortunately still override the setting. For those apps, the setting can be manually disabled from the “Edit > Spelling and Grammar” menu.

The same is the case with TweetBot for Mac. With one catch: you can manually disable the auto-correct from the menu bar, but not permamently. Every time you open a new compose tweet window, the setting is overriden once again. That’s annoying as hell.

Not having found any solution, I wrote to Tapbots (the authors of TweetBot) about it. They confirmed that indeed it was a bug in the current version and that it would be fixed in the new release. However, for the meantime, they suggested a temporary fix for the auto-correct that requires running a command on the Terminal. It’s pretty easy. All you have to do is open up Terminal, and run the following command:

defaults write com.tapbots.TweetbotMac TextAutoCorrect -bool NO

That’s it! Auto-correct will be permanently disabled for TweetBot for Mac. Bliss!

I would like to thank the Tapbots guys for kindly providing the fix and acknowledging the problem.

Mobile Safari Web Inspector on Safari on Mac.

If you tweak HTML and CSS and JavaScript on webpages, then you may appreciate how simple and convenient the plugin that goes by the name of Firebug for Firefox has made your life. I know it has for me. It is simply an indispensable piece of technology that I use every time I have to debug a CSS or HTML or JS issue on a webpage. Other browsers, notably Chrome and Safari, have built-in web inspectors which allow similar features.

I have of late been working on a lot of Mobile versions of websites, particularly those optimized for Mobile Safari and iOS devices using the fascinating jQuery Mobile framework. One of my biggest pet peeves while debugging issues on Mobile websites was not being able to debug the sites live on a mobile browser. More times than I’d care to acknowledge a particular mobile site, when viewed on a normal browser would look fine, but would have slight aberrations when viewed on a mobile browser. Those kind of issues are a real pain in the neck, because you are, more often than not, left to get sucked in an annoying cycle of wildly making changes in the HTML/CSS and refreshing the page on the mobile browser continuously in the hopes that the problem would fix itself.

However, today I bumped into a way to inspect and debug a mobile site on Mobile Safari by using Safari on a Mac computer (I am sure that it may work equally well for Safari on Windows, but I have not had reason nor occasion to try to find out). It not only works so well, but is also very straightforward to set up.

My testing environment includes an iPhone 4S running iOS 6 and a MacBook Pro running OS X Lion 10.7.5. Here are the steps you must follow in order to be able to inspect mobile web pages live via Safari on your Mac:

  • On your iOS device, turn on “Web Inspector” inside the Advanced settings for Safari. You’ll find these under the Settings app.
  • On the Advanced tab under Preferences for Safari on your Mac, you must check the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” setting.
  • Connect your iOS device to your Mac via the data cable.
  • You may now load on Mobile Safari the mobile webpage you want to inspect.
  • On Safari on Mac, open the Develop menu in the menu bar, select the name of your iOS device that will appear in the list, and click on the webpage shown on the pop-up that slides to the right.

The web inspector in Safari will kick in. You may explore the different tabs and functionality available there. The only downside is that no preview of the page is available on the inspector. Instead, the live page open on your Mobile Safari is the preview. You may go through the HTML source displayed inside the inspector, selecting the elements you want to inspect and notice that the corresponding elements are highlighted on the device. What’s more, you can also live edit the source as well as CSS, and they take effect almost immediately. How awesome is that!

iPad 2 WiFi greyed-out (N/A)

I purchased an Apple iPad 2 over half an year ago. I bought a Rilakkuma smart cover with it. The iPad was tugged inside the cover in the shop, and I never felt the need to take it out since. However yesterday the iPad gave me a scare.

It had been rather hot and humid the past couple of days, more humid than hot. Despite the temperature being around the 35-36C bracket, it felt as though it was actually over 40C. I had been using the iPad as a content consumption device heavily, but of late, I had only been reading books on it, thus keeping the WiFi disabled. Yesterday, however, I had issues with the WiFi scanning for networks. It couldn’t find any. I had given the problem to some rogue setting on the WiFi router (the WiFi, alledgedly, on iPad is sensitive to WiFi routers). But today, to my utter shock, I found the WiFi option under Settings disabled (greyed-out). What shocked me more was finding “N/A” listed next to WiFi under Settings > About, which meant that the OS didn’t find any WiFi chip/interface on the iPad.

That freaked me out. My first assumption was the WiFi chip had died. Reading a couple of posts on forums about the issue (there weren’t many covering the issue) confirmed that. However, someone suggested cooling down the iPad before powering it on again. Since I had already assumed the worst, I thought it wouldn’t hurt if I tried that suggestion.

I took the iPad out of its cover for the first time since purchasing it. I turned on the airco, powered off the iPad, and left it directly under the airco to let it cool off. After around twenty minutes, when the Aluminium backside of the iPad felt chilled to the touch, I crossed my fingers, and powered it on. Voila! The WiFi option was no longer greyed-out, and the Settings > About no longer showed a frightening N/A.

I heaved a deep sigh of relief.

I am lost as to the exact cause of the problem. I do know that high humidity (coupled with heat) plays havoc with electronics. And the iPad had been left around in closed, hot rooms every now and then (with other electronics, I must point out). Nevertheless, I’m glad it is working now.


I own a Nokia E72 mobile phone. While I have not owned mobile phones longer than five years, I have in that time span been through two mobile brands. My very first mobile phone, gifted to me by father when I was early on in the University, properly convinced that I didn’t need a mobile phone, was a Sony Ericsson. It was a small mobile phone, the name of which escapes me now. I may still have it, somewhere, in some drawers, lost but not forgotten. I used it until it nearly died out. The engravings on the buttons grew muddled, colour on the handset faded out, the battery dead, replaced and dead again, etc. It would be safe to say, in hindsight, that I used it heavily.

My second mobile phone was another Sony Ericsson. It was the first mobile phone I bought. I was immensely excited the night I bought it, on way from work. The excitement of buying a new gadget is one that doesn’t ever diminish in its intensity, never goes away, no matter how many gadgets you buy. It is there right around the time you decide to buy a new gadget, and lasts well until after you’ve bought it. That was my second Sony Ericsson phone, and would be my last.

After I had made heavy use of it, I slowly moved away from it over to Nokia. I had a mammoth but reliable Nokia E61 lying around, which I was using for testing Symbian applications. Yes, this was roughly the time when I worked on Symbian application development. And that is all I am going to say of it.

My fourth and current mobile phone is a successor to E61: Nokia E72. I loved that phone when I bought it. I still love it in some ways. While E61 could be said to be too, E72 is what you would call a proper smart-phone. It features a lot of things that could help you do all sorts of things on the Internet, besides the usual functions of phone. It also has a full QWERTY keyboard. While I had owned an iPod Touch, I’d not been a big fan of touch screen and touch phones. I strongly believed that I could never be able to reliably use a phone with touch screen as the only form of input. This bias was in part due to my reliance on and affinity for physical QWERTY keyboards on phones.

Over the past couple of months, I was growing a little frustrated with my E72. While it worked as anyone would expect of it, I found that as far as applications that let me run wild on the Internet were concerned, it was severely limited. Sure, there were applications to do anything from using Facebook to Twitter to Foursquare. But I felt stifled. There were browsers but I didn’t feel the urge to browse anything on my mobile, unless it was an absolute emergency. I could post tweets on Twitter, but I didn’t enjoy interacting with others’ tweets. The same could be said of my experiences with Facebook (as far as I can tell, there is no native, official application for Facebook from Facebook for Symbian S60) or Foursquare applications. It just wasn’t fun, or even comfortable.

So for the past couple of months, I had been strictly debating getting an iPhone. iPhone 4S was out by then and it made no sense to get anything below that model. Some friends suggested time and again to go for the iPad instead. Where I was almost convinced that iPhone 4S would be my fifth phone, the recommendations for iPad threw my mind back in a state of confusion. Naturally, I compared the pros and contrasted the cons of both devices. Of course, one is a phone, the other a tablet, but when I compared the iPhone to the iPad, I actually compared it with iPad and my E72. That is, if I were to get an iPad, I would continue to use my E72 for the phone needs. There was a big difference in price as well, with a factory unlocked iPhone 4S coming at an exorbitant 67k PKR locally, while an iPad2 with WiFi cost only 48k PKR.

I still remember clearly the night I was at the club on the courts, playing tennis with my partner. He had finally bought the iPhone 4 a day before, after having looked for the white one for under a week. That night, I came home, and finally made up my mind.

The next afternoon, I was at the Apple Store I regularly buy from, purchasing an iPad2 WiFi with 16GB disk space. I had decided it. As I would find out, it was one of the best decisions I had made in my life in a while.

Those familiar with the different iPad2 models available will know that there’s a WiFi + 3G one available. Apart from having to pay under 10k PKR more, the main reason why I decided against getting the 3G model was the unavailability of 3G in the country. I know that you don’t necessarily have to have 3G to be able to use the connection, because any type of data-plan from your provider, such as GPRS or EDGE, will work. However, as I will explain, iPad is a content consumption device. When I say that it is a content consumption device, I mean it in a massive way. It has been designed for consuming a lot of content, including in the form of video, audio, and text. When I decided to buy it, I imagined myself using the iPad like I do my laptop. And I can’t ever imagine using my laptop over EDGE/GPRS in a way that satisfies me. Similarly, I didn’t think the iPad would shine on an EDGE/GPRS connection.

In the next post, I will explain exactly how the arrival of iPad has changed my life, how it has affected it, how I use it, where and when I use it. I will also list down the wonderful apps I use frequently, and make an argument for iPad being an awesome device for reading books/content in particular.

A look at the year that went by!

There is little at least, if not a lot, to be gained from having an optimistic outlook towards life. I’ll be honest when I say I haven’t ever believed that entirely in my life. But from being pessimistic and negative for the most part, I’ve come to realise painfully the absence of optimism and how much it has the potential to scar you emotionally. It would also be wrong to say that it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic. Disappointment from something you had strong hopes for, can hurt you in a very real way. But, that is a price you can usually afford to pay.

Lying in bed, trying to think of what if anything phenomenal I accomplished throughout the year that is no more I am forced to draw nothing. I can’t remember anything significant I did. That doesn’t mean I didn’t do anything worthwhile or significant to any extent. I just can’t remember. It’s probably due to the cracking headache I’m having. I don’t know.

The year passed by so quick, it’s hard to say where it went. I’m not the kind of person, as much as I try to be otherwise, who makes clear, real goals and lives by them. That doesn’t mean I’ve no goals. I do. I’m just not obsessed with the whole goal-setting thing. Although a lot of times I think that things around me simply unfold themselves, and I naturally flow through them.

Work wise, this was the year where I tackled many different projects, of varying complexities and sizes. I learned a lot of new things. Of import were my exercises in finding ways to deploy both Django and Python frameworks on IIS on Windows. I went on to write a guide to deploying on IIS which got accepted into the official cookbook documentation for the project.

Insofar as tech gadgets are concerned, I was lucky enough to upgrade to the high-end Apple’s MacBook Pros, especially since my previous MacBook had developed several faults. Very late in the year I made what was perhaps the best decision in terms of buying anything when I bought the iPad2. It would be an understatement to say that it has had an impact on my life. The iPad has had a phenomenal impact on my life. If it is any testament to that statement, I’m writing this post on the Elements app on the iPad and will publish it using the WordPress app. I’m so glad I made the decision to buy it after much deliberation.

This year saw a lot by way of reading. I bought more books in paperback and committed myself to reading more. Not only that, I also forced myself to reading, daily, two dozen different interesting feeds. With the coming of the iPad, my reading saw an exponential increase, not only in the form of ebooks but many online feeds and content sources. A man must read, in order to survive. I believe strongly in that.

On the personal side, there were certain events that shook my life. It didn’t affect anyone’s but my own life, but they had a huge impact on me, and not sadly in positive ways. My emotional self took a battering. I also played a small part in helping save a friend’s life from half way across the globe. Thankfully, this year saw family bonds getting a little stronger, which I am very grateful for.

With regards to tennis, this was a great year for me. My game improved by leaps and bounds and I played some of the best tennis of my life. I have been more and more in love with tennis every passing day. Sometimes I think that that is the only true love left in my life.

All in all, I can’t say that the year was bad for me, nor would I want to say it was great. It was a balanced mix of both good and bad. Regardless, I’m thankful for everything and everything. I’ve been blessed beyond what I care to realise. You only need look at someone less fortunate than yourself to realise what you have been given. I do that almost everyday. And I feel bad about those severely less fortunate in particular. Yet I’m also guilty of forcing myself in a bubble at times that hides away the outside from me. I should always realise. I should always be grateful.

My best wishes to each and everyone of you. Please stay safe and be well! A very happy new year to you.

Thank you!

Batman Arkham City on XBox 360

I’m what you can safely call a hardcore gamer. My stretch with gaming goes a long way, starting from a measly Atari computer dad bought me from abroad, migrating to PC gaming, and eventually shifting to the world of consoles leaving behind PC gaming forever. I have owned a little less than half a dozen gaming consoles, played on others at friends’ places. The most games I’ve ever played on a single console would have to be Sony’s PlayStation. It was the first PlayStation that came out. The sheer amount of games I played on it and clocked is just sheer. I couldn’t remember how many even if I forced myself to.

When younger brother sold our PlayStation 2 to buy an acoustic guitar to further his interest in music, my gaming world came to an abrupt halt. For a while after that, I didn’t really play games. It was well after I had started earning that I finally decided to revive my former, dormant self, and went out to buy the XBOX 360. To date, it is the console I have been happily playing games away. And I love it.

A week or so ago, I updated the firmware on the XBOX to the latest one available and got my hands to half a dozen games. Some that I’d care to name are: Batman Arkham City, Gears Of Wars 3, Skyrim, and Fifa 2012. Of particular interest to me was Batman Arkham City. It was one game I had been eagerly anticipating and looking forward to playing.

Half an hour into the game, I instantly fell in love with it. Everything about it. The gameplay in particular reminded me that of Assassin’s Creed 2, another game I thoroughly enjoyed playing. I was also very happy to learn that the game featured a very long story line. I saw myself having fun for a while with this game.

Until something hideous happened. It went on like this. I had the game installed on the hard-disk, so as to be able to preserve the lens on the XBOX. When I first ran the game, I decided to store saved game progress on the hard-disk as well. It all went fine. Until I had to take my XBOX over to a friend’s house for a game night. There we had to remove Batman from the hard-disk to make room for another game. I suspected deleting the game might also remove the saved progress on the disk, but on the assurances of friends, I took the bullet. The next day when I sat about playing Batman at home, I was taken aback to find that my saved progress on the game was gone. Zilch. Poof. There was nothing, as though there had never been anything. I felt incredibly sad. I blamed losing saved progress on the process on the deletion of the game from the disk–though, logically such a blame didn’t make sense.

Dejectedly, I sat about playing the game from the start, this time making sure to save progress on the memory card. I played over a couple of days, reached where I had left off, and moved ahed, happy with my progress.

This morning when I ran the game, I felt the exact same horror I did last week. The saved progress was gone again. It was nowhere to be found on the memory card. I searched everywhere, to no avail. I didn’t know what happened that could have caused it this time around. I yanked out the memory card and slid it into the second memory bay. Nothing. It was gone, without a trace. I felt betrayed. I let the game linger on the start screen, contemplating whether I should start over again. I couldn’t make up my mind.

And then on a whim, I ran a search on google to see if I could find any information on this erratic behaviour. Voila, I did. Many others on XBOX had reported similar issues as well as their resentment over them. This is the search I ran.

As far as I bothered to sift through piles of posts on forums and articles over the web, I couldn’t find any resolution for the problem. If anything it helped me come to a temporary decision: to hold off on playing the game again until a workable solution is found. Holding off isn’t something easy to do. It is such an awesome game, and I so much want to play it through the end. Oh well, off to play Skyrim!