Owen and Fiona's leaving China party

2007-12-21 13:35:01 +0000

Owen and Fiona have been here in China for the last 6 months, and have just headed back to Vancouver, Canada. I have worked with Owen in many countries around the world, and it is sad to see them leave so soon after I got here. A group of us from the office went to a local gyoza joint for dinner and to say farewell. There are a few babies around, and it made me realise how much ThoughtWorks can be a global family.

Photos here

China, and the Great Wall

2007-12-21 13:26:35 +0000

great Wall

I have been continuing the ThoughtWorks tour, and have finally made it to the China office, in Beijing. The office has just moved here from Xi'an, and so the Monday that I arrived was a busy one, with old friends re-connecting, and the office rapidly filling up. In fact, we have very little room left, and may have to start find new space pretty soon. Once I have a few more photos, I'll post a gallery of office photos. It is pretty much along the lines of other TW offices, a large open space with flat 'dining tables' and a very fun, collaborative feel.I was lucky enough to get here in time for the ThoughtWorks Away Day.

On the Sunday we went to the Great Wall near Beijing. The gallery is here (I haven't put these on flickr yet, since it s blocked by the great firewall. Sigh.).

Biking to Ooty

2007-11-27 12:58:53 +0000

I guess there are always a few things that we don't tell our parents until after the fact. No, get your minds out of the gutter, I don't mean that. I mean the sort of thing that mother's don't need to know. They would only worry for no reason, so let's spare them that and fill out the details later.

This was one of those. Recently the ThoughtWorks India office went to Ooty for an Away Day. The Away Day is a weekend technical and cultural fest (basically it involves geeking during the day and drinking and dancing at night) and in India we generally bus to somewhere within a few hours of Bangalore and spend the weekend there. This year was in Ooty, which is a hill station about 280km from Bangalore, past Mysore.

The route takes us to Mysore on one of the nicest South Indian roads (divided higway with 2 lanes each side), through Bandipur National Park (home of Project Tiger) and up a spectacular road to Ooty itself (36 hairpin bends).

A few of us felt that this was too good an opportunity to pass up, so with the help of Royal Enfield we got together some bikes, and the 14 of us took off at 7am to bike the 280km. For anyone who has not experienced the roads here, that may sound like a fairly quick jaunt. In fact, it took us about 12 hours each way. But the trip was awesome, and well worth it.

We were supposed to leave at 7am from the Bangalore office, but due to various issues, we were actually only able to leave by about 9:30. We drove for about an hour through Bangalore's insane traffic, and ended up stopping for chai on the outskirts, near Bangalore University.

Rest stop before Mysore. Sagar picked up the sugar cane from a load that had been left on the road after a truck tipped over. This is fairly common here, as many trucks are overloaded and top-heavy We saw 2 just on the way to Mysore.

Rest stop after Mysore.

Lunch outside Gudalpet. We were waiting for Dheeraj, who was involved in a minor accident in a small town near Mysore.

Chai on the edge of Bandipur National Park.

Waiting for us at the petrol bunk.

At the bottom of the hill, we thought "Maybe we should fill up?" but it was getting late, and we felt that we were OK. famous last words of course. As a result we had to wait around while Keshav went off to find us some petrol. Luckily we were at the top of the hill, quite near Ooty, and there was an excellent chai stall.

The view from the hotel in Ooty.

Playing cards, Sunday night in Ooty.

Ooty -- waiting for people to wake up

royal enfield enginerepairing the bike, OotyPlaying Uno, while waiting for the bike to be fixed

Ooty -- Mechanics shop - playing cards again.

Coming back on the Monday, we hoped to leave at 10am, but we needed to get one of the bikes seen to first. It had lost the top gear. Unfortunately the mechanic took a long time to arrive, and when he did there was little he could do, so we had to ride it back to Mysore without a fix anyway. So we ended up leaving quite late, about 3pm.

Hairpin bend, Ooty

One of the 36 hairpin bends on the Ooty road. Near here, a car had gone over the side earlier in the day, falling down a sheer 100m drop. On the way up, we had done this road in the dark, and the rain. I'm kind of glad we couldn't see the view, even though it was awesome coming down.

Bandipur national park.

This is the home of project Tiger, and one of our colleagues who drove back apparently saw one with cubs crossing the road, which is extremely rare, as they are quite shy. Deer and elephants are common though. We came upon a group as we rounded a corner, which was quite a shock at first, until we noticed that they were chained and domesticated. It is mating season right now, and wild male elephants (called 'tuskers' here in India) can be quite touchy.

Elephant with chain

Elephants in Bandipur

In Bandipur Keshav 'distinguished' himself by riding standing up and generally fooling around. It is relatively safe on the Thunderbirds since they are pretty stable at the low speeds we were doing, and there was not so much traffic in Bandipur.

Indian road near Mysore

Riding to Mysore In Mysore we stopped while the bike was seen to. It turned out to be a long job, so we ended up leaving the bike there. The dark green bike here is a very rare diesel model produced by Royal Enfield in the 70s. Yes, you did read that right, it is a diesel motorbike.

On the way back, in the early evening, I dropped the bike near a speed-breaker (aka speed bump, sleeping policeman). These are very common on Indian roads near cross roads and the entrance to towns, even on what you might consider a 'highway'. Sometimes, as in this case, they can be very poorly marked. None of us saw it in time, and the vehicles in front of us also braked very late. My front wheel locked, and as any motorcyclist would tell you, once that happens you are not going to stay upright. Fortunately I was going slowly, and suffered only bent pride and some scrapes on elbow and knee.

Sripad was shaken up a bit by seeing the accident, and he himself came of the bike a few 100m later, as a result of hitting a pig. These are the hazards of Indian roads. Both he and the pig were fine.

Recovering at Coffee Day, half an hour after dropping the bike.

Murphy's law hit later on I guess, when about 2 hours later the bike started acting very strangely - and handling like a sofa. I thought it was my imagination at first, then it was getting much worse. Naturally I assumed it was the after-effects of the accident. I swapped with another rider and when he rode off I noticed that the back tyre was going flat. This was at 10:30 at night on a Sunday, and when we stopped at a (closed) petrol bunk, I was pretty sure that it was a forlorn hope to find someone to fix it.

'Puncher' shop'Puncher' shop

Repairing punctures

Fortunately in India there is always hope. It turned out that there was a puncture shop a couple of kms back in the last town, and miracle of miracles, they were still sitting around drinking chai. A hundred rupees and we were back on our way. For me there were no more problems, although Keshav managed to have some fun when his muffler fell off. He carried it back to Bangalore, and eventually, after an event filled ride, we all made it back safely.

All in all it was an eventful, painful, wet and wonderful ride. It was a great way to travel, and hopefully it won't be the last time I ride a bike across India. I'll still wait till afterwards to tell my mother though.

Wix bug fix for importing InstallShield project with Dark

2007-11-22 09:07:41 +0000

I have been spiking migrating our project's InstallShield scripts to Wix. There are several good reasons to do this, which I will get to in another post.

But when trying to decompile the InstallShield msi using Dark I get the following error:

dark.exe : error DARK0001 : Cannot set column 'KeyColumn' with value 0 because it is less than the minimum allowed value for this column, 1.
Exception Type: System.InvalidOperationException
Stack Trace:
   at Microsoft.Tools.WindowsInstallerXml.ColumnDefinition.ValidateValue(Object value)
   at Microsoft.Tools.WindowsInstallerXml.Unbinder.UnbindDatabase(String databaseFile, Database database, OutputType outputType, String exportBasePath)
   at Microsoft.Tools.WindowsInstallerXml.Unbinder.UnbindDatabase(String databaseFile, OutputType outputType, String exportBasePath)
   at Microsoft.Tools.WindowsInstallerXml.Unbinder.Unbind(String file, OutputType outputType, String exportBasePath)

It turns out that InstallShield doesn't put the right values in the _Validation table (whatever that is). Some hints are in this bug. It is next to impossible to fix it from the InstallShield side, so I did it by fixing the Wix side.

Note: You need to check out the CVS version of Wix to build it - the source downloads from the website do not work. No documentation on this anywhere of course. Sigh.

When you have the code compiling, the hack is simple - modify the columnDefinition for KeyColumn in the file src/wix/Data/tables.xml to allow 0's in that column. Note that this is a hack not a solution. This may cause other problems and probably the Wix guys will need to fix this for real, maybe by supplying a default value. But it did allow me to export the MSI successfully.

Patch against the latest cvs:

Index: src/wix/Data/tables.xml
===================================================================
RCS file: /cvsroot/wix/wix/src/wix/Data/tables.xml,v
retrieving revision 1.49
diff -u -r1.49 tables.xml
--- src/wix/Data/tables.xml	21 Sep 2007 07:58:40 -0000	1.49
+++ src/wix/Data/tables.xml	21 Nov 2007 14:32:05 -0000
@@ -1482,7 +1482,7 @@
<columnDefinition name="KeyTable" type="string" length="255" nullable="yes"
                 category="identifier" description="For foreign key, Name of table to which data must link"/>
<columnDefinition name="KeyColumn" type="number" length="2" nullable="yes"
-                minValue="1" maxValue="32" description="Column to which foreign key connects"/>
+                minValue="0" maxValue="32" description="Column to which foreign key connects"/>
<columnDefinition name="Category" type="string" length="32" nullable="yes"
                 set="Text;Formatted;Template;Condition;Guid;Path;Version;Language;Identifier;Binary;UpperCase;LowerCase;Filename;Paths;AnyPath;WildCardFilename;RegPath;KeyFormatted;CustomSource;Property;Cabinet;Shortcut;URL" description="String category"/>
<columnDefinition name="Set" type="string" length="255" nullable="yes"

Pune - Singhad and Panshet Dam

2007-10-03 14:58:04 +0000

I am in Pune for a couple of weeks giving the ThoughtWorks Object Bootcamp training. It was a public holiday yesterday for Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, and some of us went out to Singhad and Panshet Dam for a mini trek.