How easy is it to use Dialog easy cash?

Dialog eZ Cash Poster

Dialog eZ Cash Poster

I registered with Dialog easy cash the first time I heard of it. But I did not use it till the last month as there was no necessity. Now that I have used it once I think I should share the experience with you.

My niece sent me 1,500 LKR to my mobile to be given to her mother (my eldest sister) for an emergency. As it was already past 7 pm and most of the eZ cash shops were closed, I waited till next day to get the money through eZ cash and instead gave my sister money which I had with me.

Few days later I went to collect the money which came through eZ cash. I went to a phone shop which had the eZ cash logo in it and tried to get the money. But I found that my PIN was not matching with the PIN which was in the Dialog system. This surprised me as I put a PIN that I cannot forget. Then I asked the boy in the shop if I can get a new PIN by calling Dialog hotline. He answered in the negative and advised me to go to a Dialog Arcade and get a new PIN. So, I had to come back home as there was no Arcade close by.

But later I found that this was totally wrong information and I could easily get a new PIN by simply calling Dialog hotline. Having taken a new PIN I went to another shop with eZ cash logo and the boy there told me that I cannot take money and only send money since he doesn’t have money in the drawer. This was disappointing. I went to 4 other shops and all of them repeated the answer given by the first shop. Luckily, I was walking. Imagine the hardship if someone had to park a vehicle and walk into all 5 shops and get the negative answer!

I went to the 6th shop, the one I had the PIN problem in, and he told me that I could get money without a problem. I got 1,000 LKR and he deducted 20 rupees. That was not a big amount considering the relative ease compared to a bank that would ask for paperwork and confirming identity unless one has access to an ATM. There was no paperwork at any stage of the transaction from the registration. This was a big relief.

I think Dialog has to work on some scheme to solve the problem of eZ cash phone shops not having sufficient money with some kind of practical solution lest it would reduce the customers’ faith in the scheme.

There are a lot of plus sides with eZ cash such as sending and receiving money, buying stuff, paying Dialog bills and utility bills, etc. This works even during holidays.

Dialog eZ cash has to evolve further to bring the maximum benefits to the customer. Initiation is attractive and innovative. Hope this will branch out to more areas in transactions.

A Paternoster, an Old-fashioned Elevator in the Ceylon Electricity Board Headquarters

Paternoster at CEB Headquarters, Colombo

I visited the headquarters of the Ceylon Electricity Board at Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha to meet an official there. This was my first visit to the institution and after the affairs at the reception I was asked to go to the 6th floor.

I went searching for the elevator but I found a strange elevator-like thing there instead of an easy to use elevator. (Later I heard from Mr. K. K. S. Dasanayake, the Deputy General Manager of CEB that this thing is called a “paternoster.” The paternoster had two rooms – one going up and one going down. One has to get into it while it is still moving. I am a guy who is very reluctant to get into an escalator. So, imagine the excitement I had while getting into a moving paternoster. Before getting into this, I studied how few people managed to get into it and asked a person how to go about it. He made me relaxed and said even small kids get into this easily (though it is not advisable for kids to use this.)

Paternoster at CEB Headquarters, Colombo

I got into it and the next problem was getting off of it in the 6th floor. I was more excited and someone in the paternoster told me to hold the handle well while getting off. Only two people can go in one cubicle at once and the paternoster has a chain of about 20 cubicles travelling one after the other. The same cubicles return to the downward travel once they go above the top-most floor (7th). Similarly they return to the upward travel once the come below the first floor.

With all the excitement I managed to go to the desired floor and met Mr. Bandula S. Tilakasena, the Additional General Manager of the CEB and the first thing I asked him was not about what I visited him for. I asked about the paternoster and both he and Mr. Dasanayake gave me a lot of information about it. According to them this is the only paternoster available in Sri Lanka and there are a few left in the whole world. You can read more about them in the Wikipedia page about paternoster by clicking this link. According to Wikipedia, a few people have died while using paternosters. (Few people have died while using elevators too.)

Since my phone batter was almost dead I could not take few pictures of the paternoster and when I asked the polite telephone operator Ms. Dilini Kariyawasam to get me a photograph or two, she promised to send me some pictures. She had emailed me the pictures you see in this page within few minutes. (Who did ever say that government servants are not efficient?)

I could get down after the meeting with no limbs broken and my problem now is that I have to go there once again to collect some videos from Mr. Tilakasena. I keep postponing this due to fear on using the paternoster but I have to do it within next couple of days.

Windows, Apple, Linux and Me

I have been using Microsoft OS’s since 1999. First I worked with Microsoft Windows 95. Later I found a laptop with Microsoft Windows 3.1 and kind of enjoyed it. Next was Windows 98 which I used for quite some time even after the advent of Microsoft Millennium Edition. Then came the XP I revere most even today. My relationship with Microsoft Vista was too short and now I am using Windows 7 but don’t see much innovations there compared to Windows XP. Now I am waiting for Windows 8 to come. Hope at least that will bring some features that would take the world by storm.

I have used Apple Mac with Mr. Donald Gaminitillake in 2000. I learnt Photoshop and my first web designing lessons from Mr. Gaminitillake with his computer. He had a Japanese OS of Mac and I had to fight a hard battle to learn with it as I didn’t know any Japanese. But I was able to design the first version of Horizon website with a Mac with his support.

My love affair with Linux is with a lot of disturbances. I went to Ubuntu website and ordered free CDs and they reached me but I was scared to install it as I thought Windows would be affected. 3 CDs went into waste.

Next Revantha Udugampola gave me a used PC and a CD with Ubuntu OS while I was in Badulla in mid-2006. I ran it as a live CD and worked a little but not convinced to install it as the default OS. I was scared to install it with dual boot option as I thought Windows would be affected.

Anuruddha Rathnaweera and the company of FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) visited Horizon Lanka on October 21, 22, 2006 and did several lessons on Linux and related software but I was not convinced to go up to an extent of installing Linux at Horizon’s computers. But some students mastered the game and use FOSS even today.

Danishka Navin of Sinhala Firefox fame wanted to send me a Hanthana Linux version when I was in Anuradhapura but the CD never reached me as something happened when it went to a friend’s friend and got lost on the way. He again brought me a DVD after I came to Colombo and I tried to install it in a laptop with Windows Vista but it never permitted me to install it. I tried several times and gave it up.

I brought the laptop to Colombo and again tried to install it with a friend of mine who is a Linux user for some time but the DVD was missing this time and there was only the DVD case with me. I can’t remember where I left the DVD.

Yesterday, since there was a Refresh Colombo event in Colombo and I decided to attend, I left few messages in Twitter asking any attendee to bring me a Linux or Ubuntu DVD as that laptop was giving some problems. It would take a long time to boot up and will give funny responses to my commands. I wanted to reinstall the shift to another OS.

Gaveen Prabhasara ‏@gaveen had seen my tweet and promised to send me a copy of Linux with Jude Fernando @judesfernando. I collected the set of CDs from Jude at the Refresh Colombo event. Gaveen had sent me Linux Mint, Ubuntu and Fedora OS’s and I tried to install Mint but it stuck on the way. Then I tried Ubuntu and it worked perfectly well. But Alas! The keys in QWERTY line of the keyboard didn’t work this time. The problem persisted even before I installed Ubuntu but I though it will be solved with the new OS. Now I have to wait till the keyboard is repaired to use Ubuntu. I feel that though I like Linux, Linux doesn’t like me.

Refresh Colombo – June Meet Up

I was first introduced to Refresh Colombo meet up by Udara Dharmasena in 2010. RC invited me to do a presentation on Horizon Lanka. It was a good idea for the twitter community meet in person and share knowledge.

I attended yesterday’s RC meeting at Royal College Skills Center. There were around 100 people. Majority was the Muslim boys. There was a Muslim girl too. This is encouraging. Majority was young but there were few people in the mid-40s too. Venerable Mettavihari Thero of LEARN TV and Open Source fame also attended the event. I met some of the friends whom I befriended at the first meet up and they shook hands with me but I cannot remember who was who as all of them had beards.

The topics lined up for the meeting were interesting.

How the US Government use Social media in South Asia      region – by Mr. Jonathan Henick (Director,      Press and Public Diplomacy for South and Central Asia U.S. Department of State)

Mr. Jonathan explained how sensitive the US Government to the social media and how the US Government responds to them. The subsequent Q & A session was interesting as many questioned were raised on whether the US Government “spies on” social media. Mr. Jonathan said there is no CIA behind social media and asked to feel free to express over the social media.

SSL Strip (A live demo) & Internet Safety – by Azker & Irfad

I am not a technical person but Azker and Irfad were able to teach me how the hackers can sneak into insecure websites and hack the data. They demonstrated how vulnerable Sampath Bank’s e-banking website and according to them, Commercial Bank’s website is also no better.

Simplifying User Experience – how we approached ZoomBA – by Bud & Jude

Well, this was not my cup of tea as I am not a programmer. I didn’t understand most of the presentation except for the last few screenshots. Duo did a good job.

How to run a Television Channel using Open Source      Software – by Kosala      & Ruchika
This presentation was postponed to next month due to time constraints. In      fact, my main interest was this presentation. I will be there for the next meet up also.

Overall, the idea behind RC is very progressive and we can learn a lot from the topics discussed at these events. I think most of the people attended looked geeks with their queer beard styles. Presence of young ladies is a good sign and more women should take this up more seriously.


Sri Lankan Government Servants and Yahoo email IDs

Most of the government institutions today have their own websites and mail servers. They have heavily invested on this with ICTA funds. But most of the government servants I know use Yahoo email IDs for their official communications. This puzzles me. It would have been more respectable if they had email IDs with their domain names. Yahoo has a global identity and Sri Lankan governments should look for local identity. Their email IDs should and with a .lk domain. I cannot understand as to why the government doesn’t take actions to allocate a .lk email ID for the government servants with the institutions’ domain names. It was not very long ago that the then President’s official website used as the official email ID of the President!

Facebook Usage in Sri Lanka

FacebookShop in Colombo

The cutest girl at Horizon Lanka, Mahawilachchiya, now a young woman, married a guy whom she befriended through Facebook. Never knew that Facebook is this effective. I did not take Facebook seriously earlier. This is something to explore. At the right time, I received the book “The Facebook Effect” from a friend. I cannot comment about it till I finish reading it.

I too have an FB account. It was dormant till last year as I wasn’t interested in it. But with the loneliness I had without a job for more than a year, I started using my FB account quite often. I too started sharing photos, interesting news, informing my friends about my latest blog posts, finding my old friends, etc. on FB and now I am quite addicted to FB. But I keep my serious stuff limited to emails and Skype. I feel that opening up yourself in FB is like standing naked in a public park.

A friend of mine, Ranjith Gunarathne says that FB is just a gossip tool and not meant for decent people. It is an open space to share the very personal side of someone. So, a friend of Ranjith calls Facebook, ‘the Fartbook.’According to Ranjith the Facebook is ideal for Asian society who are not as direct as the Western world in telling what one feels openly. So, the Facebook is their choice of tool to tell everything one wants without control. It is also suitable for timewasters. He also has found out that the Facebook is a place for gays and lesbians to connect each other’s partners as they don’t have an open forum in Sri Lanka.

What I have understood now is that the Facebook is a good place to run political campaigns, hate and religious campaigns. We also saw instances that the FB users getting together for an annual party in a beach hotel in Colombo to see their online friends in real and have some fun.

The Facebook has become a good place for advertisers too. They promote their products and services to the target groups over Facebook. Once totally unknown became a famous website through Facebook. Today it is #1 in top five brands in Sri Lanka in the Facebook while Odel, Kapruka, Dialog and Mobitel are the next in line respectively.

Some of the newspapers, TV channels, radio stations also have their own Facebook pages. The number of their fans is encouraging.

The downside of the Facebook is that there is a crime trend related to FB of late. It was not a long ago that a schoolteacher  was lured by her FB boyfriend to a hotel in Colombo and ended up having sex with him and letting him take nude pictures of her. Later he started blackmailing her with the photos. But what I feel is that this is not the fault of FB. People should use their common sense. With the advent of any new technology there had been people who misused them but if one has common sense, one can avoid ended up being victims.

Famous people like actors, sportspersons, and artists are also hit by fake Facebook accounts created by unknown people under their names.

Currently, there are 1,214,420 Facebook users in the Sri Lanka, which makes it #74 in the ranking of all Facebook statistics by Country while the USA is number one and China, with the biggest population of the world is not even listed in the ranking as FB is banned in China.

Statistics show that Facebook penetration in Sri Lanka is 5.64% compared to the country’s population and 68.37% in relation to number of Internet users. The total number of FB users in Sri Lanka is reaching 1,214,420 and grew by more than 88,400 in the last 6 months.

Comparing these nearest countries by penetration of Facebook users shows that Sri Lanka has 0.05% higher FB penetration than Moldova and 0.12% lower FB penetration than Samoa.

The largest age group in FB in Sri Lanka is currently 18 – 24 with total of 497,912 users, followed by the users in the age of 25 – 34.

User age distribution on Facebook in Sri Lanka

Age Ratio

There are 67% male users and 33% female users in Sri Lanka, compared to 46% and 54% in Puerto Rico and 69% and 31% in Ghana .

Male/Female User Ratio on Facebook in Sri Lanka

Gender Ration

Statistics source

Khan Academy – A Virtual Academy for Online Video Tutorials

Khan Academy Logo

The Khan Academy was founded by Salman Khan (not the popular Bollywood actor fellow) in 2006. Khan is a Bangladeshi American, a graduate of Massachusetts Institution of Technology MIT and Harvard Business School. His mission is “providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.” The website supplies a free online collection of more than 3,200 micro lectures via video tutorials stored on YouTube teaching mathematics, history, healthcare and medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics, cosmology, organic chemistry, American civics, art history, microeconomics and computer science.

I took few lessons on astronomy, biology and astronomy and am very satisfied about the quality of the lessons. I kind of feel envy of the young generation because of the reason that we missed such innovative way of learning during our days and if we did have these things where would we have been today? But world is like that.

Bill Gates says he himself took few lessons. (See the video below.) He is right, even adults can learn from these video tutorials if they are interested in the subjects already provided by the academy. Why not try a few? Just look for “Khan Academy” in You Tube or directly go to their website.

I am happy that one individual has done a similar thing from Sri Lanka in Sinhala. He has uploaded many video tutorials about computer science to YouTube. Visit and spread the word to the right people.

Encyclopedia Britannica and Oxford Dictionary

Set of Encyclopedia Britannica

Oxford Dictionary

I thought of writing this after reading in some blogs that Encyclopedia Britannica has stopped publishing its printed version and will focus more on its digital version instead. Both Savvy365 and Aruni Shapiro had blogged about it. I too have read few pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica set at the Anuradhapura Public Library in 1990 when I was an Advanced Level student. I was fascinated by it and was worried that I couldn’t own a set!

Today I visited website and saw that it includes more facts on my search term (Ronald Reagan) than Wikipedia does. includes more pictures, video and audio clips than Wikipedia but I still prefer Wikipedia as it looks simple and easy to access and has no advertisements.

I think the publishers’ decision to do away with printed version makes sense. With people finding it easy to use online content and most of the online content being free and easy to access, we can understand the decline of demand for printed encyclopedias. People no longer want to spare a big space in their libraries for a set of encyclopedias at a time it could be accesses with a click of a mouse over the net.

I am in love with Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary from the day I used it in early 1990’s. Last November I bought a new copy for myself. But I now worry that this could end up with the same fate as Encyclopedia Britannica in a few more years. I accessed and feel like accessing it in future than opening the printed version. The same thing will happen to my thesaurus.

I thought I was the only one to use the dictionary for the first time I got it to look for the definitions of vulgar words and terms but understood that it is a universal thing after watching ‘Ink and Incapability’ episode of Blackadder series. There, the Prince Regent uses the world’s first dictionary complied by Dr Samuel Johnson to look for vulgar words. (Blackadder is a popular British comedy where Rowan Atkinson plays the lead role.)

Watch these if you have time. They are hilarious.

Bill Gates message to Sri Lanka

Many of you must have already watched the video by now. This is for those who missed with the transcription of the speech.

Hello. It’s a great privilege to join you by video to celebrate the “Year of English and IT Services” in Sri Lanka. I was very excited to learn about plans for the year which have a clear focus on IT, because this initiative demonstrates that His Excellency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his government recognize the extraordinary potential that information technology has to dramatically improve people’s lives in the country.

Some of you may know that I now focus my full time work on the foundation. But I’m still very connected and very excited about the work going on at Microsoft. As I reflect on these thirty-three years of great innovation since Microsoft was started, I am amazed at how far we’ve come and the many ways in which IT is transforming how people live and work all over the world and the pace of progress continues to increase. The personal computer we have today is already over a million times more powerful than the original PC that Microsoft wrote software for back in 1981. I’m confident that even more dramatic changes are yet to come and that the future of technology will be far more exciting than even the past.

At the same time, it’s also clear that large segments of the world’s population have not reaped the full benefits of technology. Only about a billion of the roughly six billion people in the world have regular access to sophisticated forms of Information Technology. IT skills lag far behind where they need to be in an increasingly competitive and globally interconnected economy.

Sri Lanka has an advantage though, with a government that’s committed to investing further in IT, as outlined in President Rajapaksa’s vision statement. Like President Rajapaksa, I am optimistic that the country is poised for greater economic growth and development, and much of that will be fueled by the use of software and the power of IT. Sri Lanka’s high literacy rate, at over 90%, and its high standards of education and healthcare give it a strong economic foundation. The country’s IT literacy rate is nearing 20%, which represents a significant jump from 8% only a few years ago. English language speaking skills are also a crucial part of the foundation for future growth. I am pleased to see that the government has identified the importance of English language skills by declaring 2009 the Year of English and IT Services.

So, let me take this opportunity to congratulate President Rajapaksa for his leadership in declaring 2009 the Year of English and IT Services in Sri Lanka, and to wish those involved in the implementation of this very important initiative every success moving forward.

For its part, Microsoft stands ready to fully support the initiative and Sri Lanka’s broader IT-objectives over the long term. The theme of the work we do in Sri Lanka is “Creating Employability.” Through our Partners in Learning and Community Technology Skills Programs and our other initiatives, Microsoft has partnered with educational and non-governmental organizations in Sri Lanka to bring IT skills and training to over a million people across the country. These efforts have reached students, teachers, academia, rural communities, IT professionals, and migrant workers. To date, Microsoft has invested over 450 million rupees in Sri Lanka towards these programs and plans similar investments over the coming years. We have already made Windows Vista Sinhala enabled, and we are currently localizing our Office Suite for Sri Lanka.

Microsoft’s presence in Sri Lanka continues to grow in many ways, and we are committed to deepening existing partnerships and building new ones. Working together, there is a lot we have already achieved, and much more that we’ll accomplish in the future. Thank you and good luck.