Typing.lk beta released

The day before the christmas Thilanka said, ‘how about we build a Sinhala typing tutor?’. I said, ‘why not?’. We finally ended up building an English one. Its beta version is now live at http://typing.lk.

Typing.lk is basically a place to learn and practice touch typing. The site has three modes at the moment: Learn, Practice and Code. The first needs no explanation, it’s where you can learn to touch type. The Practice mode gives you stuff to practice typing with, like common English words, quotes from books, etc. The Code mode is for, well, coders. You can choose code snippets from you favorite programming language and practice typing them.

The three modes at typing.lk

The three modes at typing.lk

One thing we wanted to make sure was that the site should be hassle-free. You can start typing from the moment you visit typing.lk. No sign ups or any such crap. We _might_ bring an option to sign-up and keep track of your typing in the future, but that would be an _option_. And we tried to keep the design minimal.

And about the Code mode. Currently typing.lk has code from four major programming languages: C++, Java, PHP and Python. More languages will follow in the coming days. All the code snippets were extracted from popular repositories at github. Some snippets have been modified to suit the purpose and fit in the site.

Typing.lk is by no means perfect yet. The site may get effed up on some small screens. It’s recommended that you use Google Chrome. Works well in Firefox as well. Not on IE though. Who uses IE anyway?

It’s just a small start; we are hoping to keep adding cool features in the days to come. These include a better lesson structure, a more engaging experience, more languages for the Code mode and, of course, typing games. We might even implement a separate section to learn typing in Sinhala.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions of the app. Do mail us or send in a tweet. You can follow us on Twitter for updates and Like Typing.lk on Facebook. Happy typing! 🙂

So much for housing NDT inside UoM

I’m writing this with tears in my eyes. Just witnessed the damage the NDT has done to the University of Moratuwa premises yesternight. The rooms we used to stay in have been ruined. The doors axed and the windows shattered. They have raided the girls’ hostel as well. Several students from the Engineering Faculty are now being treated, and it’s said that the condition of one is critical.

This is history repeating. The damage NDT has done to the name of University of Moratuwa through the years is huge. In 1999, after considering the circumstances, the (then) vice chancellor had filed the Jayantha Wijesekare Report stressing that the resources allocated to the NDT and the head count of that institute should NEVER be increased. The NDT was not abolished to cater to the need of technical officers in the country. Despite this, the violence has continued.

In 2007 (as I remember), they were allocated a block of land in Diyagama to shift the institute from the UoM premises. The administration agreed that having them here at Moratuwa would cause only more trouble. The land thus allocated is lying without notice now. The last time we inquired, no money had been yet allocated from the budget to continue with the constructions.

As you may know, the NDT is not even a faculty of UoM, but just an institute offering a technical diploma. Their close connection with that notorious political party is well known. The infamous ‘NDT Api’ (we, the NDT) slogan is used to force-feed their power inside the university.

Someone who doesn’t really know the circumstances might not see the gravity of the situation. All they can see is one group of students firing petrol bombs at others. The only solution for this problem is banishing the NDT from UoM premises. Despite the being harsh, in reality, no other solution would work.

They have never worked.

(Pictures are from Dailymirror)

Spaced repetition like a boss

Derek Sivers has a post about spaced repetition. If you are new to Spaced Repetition or even if you are not, I highly recommend reading his article or googling about this cool technique a bit. Derek’s article is focused on memorizing a programming language, which is a cool use of SR. However, the way he does it has a weakness: he’s using Anki.

I came across SR while I was learning Spanish. This technique is widely used among language learners to remember new words and phrases they are learning. Most of them use Anki, which is an app built for remembering stuff using flash cards and spaced repetition. But unless you are the really persistent type, it’s not an easy task remembering to load up Anki every day and reviewing the day’s cards.

I used Revunote for some time. It’s an Android app that integrates with Evernote. It gets the notes that you tag as ‘Revunote’ from Evernote and shows them up in increasing intervals (1, 3, 7, 14, 30 and 60 days). Revunote is simple and does exactly what it says, and I still use it; but is there a better solution?

A possible candidate is email. We don’t ‘forget’ to check mail and we check them every day, no exceptions. If we could plug in SR to our email, that would be perfect. And how do we do that? FollowupThen.

Email followups

FollowupThen is a free email service (with optional premium service) that lets you make email reminders. For example, if you send an email to 3feb@followupthen.com, the mail will be sent back to you in the 3rd of February. If you send it to 10h@followupthen.com, it would bounce back in 10 hours. If you want to reply to an email and if you can’t do it till tomorrow, you can forward it to tomorrow@followupthen.com and you can guess the rest. Pretty cool, huh? It’s can be a life-savior to most of us. There’s a comprehensive how-to on using FollowupThen here.

Now think about this: what will happen if you send a mail to both tomorrow@followupthen.com and 3days@followupthen.com? You will get the mail both tomorrow and in three days. Can you see where I’m getting at? Spaced repetition coming into play!

So here you go:

  • Open up your email client and create a new contacts group.
  • Add the following contacts to that group (with each followed by @followupthen.com):
    3h, 24h, 3days, 7days, 2weeks, 1month, 3months, 6months.
  • Compose a mail with what you want to remember.
  • Send it to your new group of contacts.

Voila! FollowupThen will make sure you remember whatever crap you put into that mail! You can add/remove the times you’d like to review as you wish. YMMV. Just make sure you read each email that followupthen sends; no skipping, please. If you can stick to this simple rule, I’m telling you, this simple system can work miracles.

What do I want to remember?

Fair question. What, indeed? Here are some suggestions.

  • Some new words or phrases in a language you are learning
  • An interesting code snippet or a design pattern
  • Lyrics of a song or a poem
  • A Linux/Git/Vim/whatever command
  • Facts for general knowledge
  • Some telephone/credit card/whatever numbers
  • Anything that you wish you could remember

This is no rocket science. There’s little effort required to set it up. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t give spaced repetition a try. Go!

Kichibichiya

It’s been just a day since Kichibichiya was released. Here are some thoughts on the new app.

For those who heard the name for the first time, Kichibichiya is a Twitter client for Android written by the Sri Lankan developer Pahan. Kichi-bichi is Sinhala for the chirping of birds; hence the name. It has extracted all the goodness of the open-source client Twidere and added loads of useful features into it. The chief motivation for the app has been coming up with a Twiiter client with seamless Sinhala unicode support.

I was skeptic at first. Pahan was posting screenshots of his not-yet-released prototype since a few weeks and they mostly included tweets with Sinhala rendered beautifully. But would you use a Twitter app if all it did right was rendering a language properly? Well, I wouldn’t.

Timeline

Timeline

Sinhala tweets

Sinhala tweets

The first impression I got after installing Kichibichiya was, “Oh man, this is slick”. And it indeed is. Smooth scrolling between timelines, holo theme and less messy interface. Most common actions a regular tweep would need are easily accessible. Username auto-completion can improve, though. The customizability is impressive. Custom tabs, day and night themes, custom notifications, multiple accounts, ability to set DNS servers, host mapping, hardware acceleration are only a few of them. You can even set your own retweet format.

My favorite feature is the content filter. Kichibichiya lets you mute users (eg: @NisansaDdS), keywords (eg: changumee) and sources (eg: foursqure) hassle-free. Not every good client out there supports tweet filtering well, but Kichibichiya does it like a boss. It feels good when the timeline is not cluttered with foursquare and getglue tweets anymore.

Apparently there’s support for extensions as well. Not quite sure if it would allow third-party extensions or not, but it’s good to know that the app is extensible.

Composing tweets

Composing tweets

Some of the settings

Some of the settings

Kichibichiya is awesome. I say awesome and I mean it. Not saying that it’s the best Twitter client out there. It’s hard to beat powerful clients like Falcon Pro, but then, Kichibichiya boasts of several features the former doesn’t offer. Of course, it was just launched. You’d find an obscure bug now and then. Some setting might not work perfectly. But let’s hope the developer keeps up with the good work and continue to come up with updates. And more cool features. This is one app with great potential.