Recently in techtalk Category

in techtalk |

When apple announced the features of iOS9 attention immediately went to how safari will be able to block ads. Joyous response from users and tales of doom from publishers.

I’ve blocked ads for a long long time on the web. My browsers are locked down with ABP and ghostery. Publishers who whine and cry about lost revenue have no sympathy from me, because they only have themselves to blame. Pop-ups, pop-overs, flashing banners, autoplay videos, lightboxes, the list goes on. The system is broken. Everyone is trying to pass the buck. And they wonder why users are so put off by advertising they take a sledgehammer approach and refuse to engage at all.



Here’s an example, a video capture of a user trying to read a NYT article, ironically on reactions to ad blocking in iOS9, and not able to because a huge banner ad at the top of the page refuses to move and refuses to let him scroll down to read the article.

Someone else did a very comprehensive and technical study that shows that video ads and large jpg files were called but not served to the mobile browser. In other words, the publisher was charged for the advertising, the user’s phone data was used and yet nothing happened beyond an enormous delay on pageload. So who is the victim here?

Publishers must know what is going on on their website. I found 3 trackers on my own website, when I don’t even have advertising. I got rid of the sitemeter tracker but the other two—yahoo and doubleclick—come from youtube and flickr links so I can’t get rid of them. For my readers, please install Ghostery to block these trackers.

Because trackers are the worst offenders. As Ben Brooks pointed out in his meticulous series on mobile adblocking,

While advertising is visually ugly, it is rather harmless. Trackers on the other hand are invisible and are privacy nightmares.

His analogy for trackers throw all those whining of publishers and advertisers out of the window,

I’ll look at a shitty, innocent, picture of a product on your site, but in no universe does me reading your story give you the right to follow me around for the rest of the day.

Put another way: just because I showed up for your free book reading, doesn’t mean you get to come to dinner with me to tell me more about your awesome book. I came, I saw your book, it sucked, I left, our interaction is over.


As soon as iOS9 was available, ad blocker apps came online. I was too late to download Peace so I’ve been looking at Crystal and Purify. The problem is that none of the blockers work all the time, and news is emerging that crystal is allowing in advertisers who paid a whitelist fee. This is simply not acceptable. There are other options and perhaps 1Blocker is worth considering.

abpbrowser

In the absence of anything better, I’ve now switched to ABP browser instead of safari. Sledgehammer approach? Absolutely. Until and unless publishers and advertisers start listening to users and consumers, I have no choice if I want to protect my browsing experience.

in techtalk |

I’m by no means a Luddite, nor do I buy the newest gadgets as soon as they come out. Of course there are gadgets I covet, and who won’t want a new iphone, ipad, macbook pro, apple watch, go pro, fitbit, pebble, xbox, camera, printer…the list goes on. Some gadgets are simply ridiculous for the price they are sold for. Remember the $999 I am Rich app that did nothing but put an icon that said “I am rich” on the loser user’s iphone?

casios100

One that has me scratching my head lately is the newest casio calculator. I remember the first calculator I had at school was a casio scientific calculator, I still have it. But this luxury S100 costs $220. For a calculator. It has no wifi, no apps, no camera, not even the more advanced scientific functions. Only 5000 will be released to mark the 50th anniversary of casio’s first calculator with memory. I’m guessing the limited edition aspect will appeal to

consumers who seek the highest quality in the daily products they use

In other words, people who don’t need a calculator to, like, calculate anything. Just as a piece of expensive sculpture to show off on their pristine, mahogany desk.

punktphone

Another piece of pretty but expensive technology is the punkt mp01 smartphone. Swiss designed, so we know it’s made from the highest quality materials using the highest quality craftsmanship. It follows the footsteps of the vertu in style over substance. What are its functionalities?

  • make and receive phone calls
  • make and receive texts
  • calendar
  • alarm clock
  • store 3000 contacts
  • write reminder notes
  • change ringtone
  • switch bluetooth on and off

That’s it. I wonder about the $329 price tag. I still use my nokia 6300, from 2007, which has a pre-paid number I give out to the public (utility companies, bank, cable, maintenance people). The phone probably has depreciated to zero value now, and the pre-paid sim card costs me $12 a year. It has all the functions of the punkt, and more. I have a few mp3s there, and don’t forget snake the game!

The one function the punkt has is that the sim card can be twinned with an existing number, making it a second phone for use when we want to switch off from our iphone and android obsessed smartphone world and just have a device someone can call us in an emergency. Um, I can forward calls on the iphone to the nokia. And just because someone sends me a text or fb message or whatsapp or email doesn’t mean I need to read and respond to it right now.

I can see the reason behind why they made this phone. It’s for people who can’t switch off from their smartphones. The idea is to physically disable the smartphone (eg by not bringing it with you on holiday) so you’re forced to switch off. If you need to make a call or a text, there are none of the usual notifications distraction you. Pfffft I don’t need an expensive device to force me to switch off, I have enough discipline to do it myself.

in techtalk |

macbookproair

I bought the mba in 2010, just before I left Chicago. By the time I fully switched over, the previous mbp was 4 years old. So the mba is 5 years old and I use it nearly every day. The apps are getting long in the tooth now, people send me xlsx, docx, pptx and I have to use openoffice to convert before I can use my office 2003. I use photoshop cs2, and other old software. I’m still on snow leopard.

Recently I’ve noticed it to be struggling in some tasks. Firefox gobbles huge amount of memory and the fan goes crazy. If I have to temporarily reinstall flash for whatever reasons the fan goes supercrazy. Things came to a head over the weekend when I had to run a webex meeting. It’s another service, not webex, but similar. I simply could not get the meeting controls to work, it kept teling me I had to pick an application to open the controls, then it crashes. Digging through the help documentation, I found out that the minimum requirement is 10.7, although to use all functionalities I need 10.8 or newer.

So annoyed. I had to borrow mm’s mbp, albeit at 10.7 it’s only marginally newer. She was working in the uni library and wasn’t getting home till 8pm and I had to get home by 9pm. It was a rush, to meet up with her, test the mbp briefly and I had to get a taxi home. Expensive way of running that meeting.

The seeds of thought are germinating. Sooner or later all computers become obsolete. Possibly time to start thinking about replacing the mba. Another mba or the macbook. I’d love to get the mbp, it’ll be great for speed and power but too heavy. May be by next summer, see what 2016 refreshes are like.

in techtalk |

hok722takuflowers

Testing more IFTTT stuff. This is the body of the post. Changed atom feed to show only excerpt so this should not show up. The pretty flowers from Hokkaido should still show though.


in techtalk |

brus174delacre

Test extended post. This is the main post.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Integer nec odio. Praesent libero. Sed cursus ante dapibus diam. Sed nisi. Nulla quis sem at nibh elementum imperdiet. Duis sagittis ipsum. Praesent mauris. Fusce nec tellus sed augue semper porta. Mauris massa. Vestibulum lacinia arcu eget nulla. Class aptent taciti sociosqu ad litora torquent per conubia nostra, per inceptos himenaeos. Curabitur sodales ligula in libero.


in techtalk |

nz0387wakatipu

Testing new recipe to include entry content.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Donec a diam lectus. Sed sit amet ipsum mauris. Maecenas congue ligula ac quam viverra nec consectetur ante hendrerit. Donec et mollis dolor. Praesent et diam eget libero egestas mattis sit amet vitae augue. Nam tincidunt congue enim, ut porta lorem lacinia consectetur. Donec ut libero sed arcu vehicula ultricies a non tortor. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aenean ut gravida lorem. Ut turpis felis, pulvinar a semper sed, adipiscing id dolor. Pellentesque auctor nisi id magna consequat sagittis. Curabitur dapibus enim sit amet elit pharetra tincidunt feugiat nisl imperdiet. Ut convallis libero in urna ultrices accumsan. Donec sed odio eros. Donec viverra mi quis quam pulvinar at malesuada arcu rhoncus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. In rutrum accumsan ultricies. Mauris vitae nisi at sem facilisis semper ac in est.

Vivamus fermentum semper porta. Nunc diam velit, adipiscing ut tristique vitae, sagittis vel odio. Maecenas convallis ullamcorper ultricies. Curabitur ornare, ligula semper consectetur sagittis, nisi diam iaculis velit, id fringilla sem nunc vel mi. Nam dictum, odio nec pretium volutpat, arcu ante placerat erat, non tristique elit urna et turpis. Quisque mi metus, ornare sit amet fermentum et, tincidunt et orci. Fusce eget orci a orci congue vestibulum. Ut dolor diam, elementum et vestibulum eu, porttitor vel elit. Curabitur venenatis pulvinar tellus gravida ornare. Sed et erat faucibus nunc euismod ultricies ut id justo. Nullam cursus suscipit nisi, et ultrices justo sodales nec. Fusce venenatis facilisis lectus ac semper. Aliquam at massa ipsum. Quisque bibendum purus convallis nulla ultrices ultricies. Nullam aliquam, mi eu aliquam tincidunt, purus velit laoreet tortor, viverra pretium nisi quam vitae mi. Fusce vel volutpat elit. Nam sagittis nisi dui.


in techtalk |

newyorkerplaydate

I’ve been known to text or IM people sitting a few feet away from me, so I understand the idea behind the recent New Yorker cover. I showed it to my niece and she nodded in agreement. I’m afraid to show it to my sis though, I don’t think she’ll get it.

At first glance, it’s about 2 kids each engrossed on their own computers and seemingly ignoring each other. The article title is Playdate, so it stands to reason that these 2 kids are supposed to be playing together. Parents may be worried about the lack of f2f interaction, the addiction to computer games.

But as the article explained, the kids are actually playing Minecraft. And for this generation of kids, Minecraft is their way of playing together. I must admit I tried playing, and I got hopelessly lost and my interest waned. It’s definitely a generational thing. The BBC asked should parents be worried about Minecraft? I think the danger of addiction is very real, but there are definitely lots of benefits to Minecraft. It encourages creativity and fosters community, my niece told me they have Minecraft parties and they even created a birthday cake in Minecraft for one of their friends. Seems to me that in moderation, there are more benefits than harm.


in techtalk |

Super Low-Tech Apple Watches
super low-tech apple watches by flickr user hiné

I haven’t really paid a lot of attention to tha apple watch, apart from acknowledging that it’s out and people are wearing it. I’m still testing out the mi band that we wore to Europe and I’m waiting for my atlas which is a year late (long story).

I do wonder what it’s like to actually wear the apple watch. If I were to get one, I’d most likely get the sports version. There’s some good reviews from people who are serious about exercise on how it stacks up as a fitness tracker:

Part of the allure here is owning a single device that tells time, alerts you of notifications and triples as a fitness tracker.

It’s probably not advanced in its current form to use as anything other than a tracker of casual cardio exercise. If Six-to-Start get their act together and fix zombies, run it’ll be a great integration with the Watch.

Will I get it? No, not now. I’m not obsessed enough about the minute details of my exercising and I don’t care about notifications. Battery life isn’t good. There are a ton of competitors (like the aforementioned late Atlas and the really good Pebble time). I just can’t see the purpose of smartwatches.


in techtalk |

indesign2015sample

Desktop publishing was why I got into macs so much earlier than the rest of the world. I did a sort-of monthly newsletter for our student group for a couple of years when I was in college. Back then, we used Pagemaker and the then industry standard, QuarkXPress. (I personally was better at Pagemaker, that’s just me.) The software came from, ahem, dubious sources, those were the days.

I hadn’t used DTP since then, and my skills are sadly long forgotten. I idly noted Adobe bought Pagemaker and brought out InDesign. I read articles about the demise of QuarkXPress. When CS2 became free, I grabbed Photoshop straightaway. As an afterthought, I got Illustrator and InDesign too.

I still don’t know how to use Illustrator very well and until this week InDesign was a bit of a black hole too. What prompted me to sit down and focus on getting basic proficiency: a) I need to design and prepare a large number of graphical…stuff that are text- and layout-heavy; b) the professional designer who helps us with our graphics uses InDesign and c) I thought it’d be a good skill to re-learn. I was asked to help design a few small pamphlets a year or so ago. I used Photoshop because I was most comfortable with it, but it would have been more appropriate to use a DTP software.

My first reaction in opening InDesign was, ooops, how to I start. I figured out how to create a new document and set parameters such as margins and number of columns. I clicked on the text tool and tried to type, but I wasn’t seeing anything on screen and the cursor kept jumping to other selections on the menu. Something was wrong. Luckily there are plenty of guides and videos online. I realised that I had skipped the step of defining the text box before I started typing. Schoolboy error.

indesign2015poster

Took me the better part of 2 days to do this very simple layout. There are around 20 to do. I’m a bit petrified, but I think it will get easier once I get familiar with the controls: I know what I want to do, I just need to know the workflow and learn some tricks. The first page took the longest, getting the shaded highlights took a while and then the second page was simply copy and paste. It’s nice to get back into this, I look at the sample files that came with the software and I think to myself, something that looks similar is within my ability.


in being healthy , techtalk |



Let’s get the disclaimers out of the way first. I love the zombies, run app; I paid for the all access pass, it’s my most expensive purchase in the app store; if Six to Start claims there are 1 million users then I’m one of a million.

So I should be all over the new version, right? Existing players instantly get seasons 1-3 plus interval training plus race missions. Prettier interface, recaps of prior missions, autoplay next mission, spotify support, adjustable chases, integration with healthkit. All sounds fabulous.

zombiesrun401 zombiesrun402 zombiesrun403

I expected great things when I opened the updated app, and it did look pretty. But I was quickly disappointed. Many many issues, and from fb / twitter it seems like I’m not alone (phew, I guess). Here’s a quick summary:

the good

  • brilliant graphics — the old app was pretty, the graphics on v4.0 really popped
  • time based missions — big improvement on before when the duration of a mission was a) based on the normal or long setting; b) a guessing game on exactly how long. Now I can see that a mission is 40mins, and I can set the intervals of the clips (announcements) to fit a mission into my run
  • most of the other functionalities seem to be there, plus some new ones
  • my township hasn’t changed, although the old-styled graphics aren’t up to par with the new design


zombiesruncompare201505

the bad
  • space hog — its easily the app that uses up the most storage on my iphone, aside from music and photos. I remember i had to delete apps and mp3s from my old iphone 4 because I was running out of storage space
  • pay-to-play — a legacy runner would have paid around US$25 if they’d purchased each module at full price; an all access pass up to season 3 was $18 full price or $10 if we were lucky enough to get it during one of the sales. The new pay-to-play costs $20 a year (or $8 for legacy runners) and includes all modules up to season 4. This means a dedicated user, having spent $25 already, will need to pay an extra $8 a year. A new player only needs to spend $20 this year. Doesn’t seem very fair to legacy users. That said, the other option is to not get sucked into the subscription model and wait for each mission to be rolled out. I’m only at season 2, so I’m perfectly happy to wait it out, by the time I reach season 4, most if not all the missions would have been rolled out
  • missions reset — this was the biggest shock and frustration in the new version, to see that I’ve been reset to s1m01. The odd thing is, my run log shows my runs so it means the data is there somewhere and they haven’t ported it to the new version. Why they would do that, it’s puzzling
  • all settings lost — had to redo settings like units, not unusual when there are new features but not good from a customer experience point of view
  • had to redownload all missions — I think it’s related to the data migration, I have to download all missions from scratch, it’s very annoying
  • missions after May missing — more data migration issues, the zombielink webpage is down, and they say it’ll be back soon. Again, it means the upgrade to v4.0 was not seamless and actually was a backwards step
  • many report of crashes — the first few days over the weekend the fb page was full of reports of the app not opening or crashing. Fingers crossed I don’t have that issue, I feel sorry for the people experiencing the problems
  • music cut off for mission clips — this is supposed to be an improvement, but it’s proving to be a bad user experience. There I was, happily listening to music while running when it suddenly stops and I hear silence for 5 seconds, then the story clip plays. At the end of the clip, there’s again silence before music plays again. In prior versions, clips played after a song finishes, not in the middle of a song, it’s jarring and very annoying, especially the silence. Music fades when we pick up a supply or material, why can’t clips play with the music faded in the background?
  • story clips not audible — the volume is set too low or something, I can’t hear the clip properly, I want to listen to Sam and Janine and everyone
  • radio abel — doesn’t play after mission is completed
  • new players get 3 materials per mission vs 1 for legacy players — small gripe, typical of new versions of games, new players always have it easy
  • fewer chases — in prior versions, there were about 2-3 chases every 30mins, now there’s a good 30-45min gap between each one. I don’t always use chases, because I may be stuck at a traffic light when a chase is on, but it can be an issue
  • automatically continues to next mission, no radio abel — this is what I read on fb, I don’t know if turning off automatic continuation will solve this

the ugly

  • lack of response on issues, FAQ not updated — aside from a few lame “sorry about that, please log in again” replies, the devs have not responded to the majority of fb and twitter comments, the FAQ has a known issues section, which hasn’t been updated. Most of us are used to updates and glitches in software, where a company succeeds is when they are upfront about the glitches and at the very least acknowledge that there are issues and they are working on it
  • product rolled out without proper testing — seems to be a classic case of a product rolled out without adequate testing. Whether or not it’s due to commercial pressure or what, we don’t know. I’ve been involved in implementing new software, upgrading software or introducing new features into software, and the number one most important thing before approving a rollout is that the product has been tested to death. Rolling out a snazzy looking new version that forgets a user’s progress, especially in something like running training, is a fatal error. Are the devs runners themselves? Do they use the app? Did they take it out for a run during UAT? The issues like crashes and progress reset would have been blindingly obvious if they’d beta tested properly. Remember all these bad software updates? Yep, people still remember them


It’s the worst thing, when data is migrated properly everybody starts where they left off and all is good. If they are still working on data migration now, what will happen to runs and missions while the migration is taking place? Will new missions be merged or overwritten? I didn’t want to randomly select a mission, or even pick up where I left off in season 2, so I did a supply run. Worst case scenario, I lose the supplies I picked up. Again, it’s okay for a running app, imagine it’s people’s finances or a company’s HR roster. If a bank rolled out a new version where people’s bank accounts are reset to zero balance, they would be out of business by the end of the week.

If all this sounds negative, it’s not really. It’s one person’s account of experiencing an update. My app works, I have a workaround and it’s not the end of the world if I have to restart from s1 or hold off building my township for a while. I’m okay about waiting till data is ported over. Like one fb poster who put it succinctly:

just embracing the chaos



in eating and drinking , family first , techtalk |

icecream5scoops

Spent most of the day setting up mum’s new ipad. Her old ipad (my original gen 1 ipad) didn’t have that many apps on it, so I thought it’s simpler to download new apps fresh from the app store. Ended up getting her new apps like bbc news, travel, tv guide, games, dictionary and the new flickr app. Since she uses yahoo, I got her the yahoo mail app instead of the native mail app. And since she thinks the google.com page is a browser (and I’ve given up trying to explain the difference between browser and webpage) I replaced safari with google app.

After setup, we went to the computer place to get a cover and screen protector. She took a liking to the girl who sold us the screen protector and after browsing around other stores, went back to the girl’s shop to get a cover.

While we were at it, I got her a mifit step/sleep tracker, it’s now even cheaper, more like USD15. I set up the mifit app for her on her phone, and told her to wear the band to bed. Let’s see how it tracks her sleep.

One good thing about all this setting up, I’m a little bit more familiar with android than before.

We met up with my dad at the food court near the computer place for dinner. For all my efforts today, I thought I deserved a little reward. There’s this ice cream stall that sells 5 scoops of ice cream for USD1.50, so the 3 of us got 5 scoops to share. Chocolate, chocolate banana, mint choc chip, tofu, sesame. The scoops are small, which we liked. In terms of taste not stunning but not bad either. Definitely good value and worth trying again.


in photography is life , techtalk |

flickr401photostream

As I was uploading trip pics I noticed yahoo rolled out yet another new look for flickr. The main photostream page still isn’t as good as the original layout, but better than the horrible 3.0. Less cluttered with sharper, cleaner lines. Can sort by date taken or different permission views. The set (sigh, album) page looks cleaner too, although I’m still not a big fan of infinite scrolling.

The two major new features are auto uploading and auto-tagging for a more powerful search.

At 1TB, flickr offers more storage than dropbox, icloud and many other storage sites. Free. I’m not even at 10% of my capacity with 27k images so there’s no danger of running out (nor any desire to renew my pro account). The new uploadr, plus the 1TB storage, lets people dump all their images into flickr automatically from computer and smartphone. No need for there to be pics stored here, there and everywhere. We can still use instagram or vine or fb, but now flickr can act as central repository for all our image files.

Will I use uploadr like that? Yes on mobile, no for computer. I already use flickr as my image repository, but I go through the process of sorting and organising before uploading. Imagine uploadr taking all 3267 trip pics and uploading into one album for me to organise—no, no, no. I want to control how and where my pics are uploaded, even though it takes me longer.

It’s a different picture for mobile. I’m pretty good at sorting my iphone camera roll, I review and delete pics that are duplicate, poor quality or temporary. Currently, I use dropbox to transfer to the mba (yes, I know I should be using pushbullet) then manually upload to flickr. If I can skip the dropbox step it will be a time-saver. It took the app a few hours to process my iphone camera roll, but going forward it will be quicker. Liking the app too, used to be clunky and non-user friendly, now I may start using it more.

asi778chimney

The other major new feature is a powerful search engine using image recognition algorithms that sees the content of an image. As an example, I had basic tags to this pic of an Assisi chimney, the flickrbots are smart enough to add building, architecture, roof and outdoor tags:

flickr402tags

Some users are up in arms about this, because they want control over their tags. I’m fine with the concept.

flickr404search

Another example: this week’s photofriday challenge is “detail” and when I plug that in as a search term, I get fairly interesting results, and advanced options to drill down into colours, dates etc. Before the update, I’d get an error or a no result page because I haven’t tagged any pic using the term detail. This is an improvement.

flickr405magic

Where all the new features come together is the camera roll. I can set it to display by the traditional, boring method of date taken. Or I can use the new magic view which sorts my pics into, well, tags. Magic view shows my pics under common criteria, when I select pattern from the sidebar, it shows patterned pics (although I wouldn’t necessarily include the pic of the space needle). I can’t stop playing around in magic view, it really is magical.

Another new feature is bulk processing: bulk download, bulk sharing, bulk editing, bulk delete. The downloading feature is one that has been requested for a long time, it’s not relevant to me but may be for people who use flickr as triage.

Not everything is positive in the update. Thumbnails are too large. For a time all my pics defaulted to family & friends instead of public. All my sets in organizr are called auto upload. My biggest complaint is that getting the html link involves a popup lightbox as opposed to a simple hover menu before. I can’t get the html code for videos. Notes have been discontinued. They are moving in the right direction for a change. The Verge has a good summary of the new design:

What’s impressive is what it’s doing for free: backing up a terabyte of photos from your main computer and your mobile devices, then making them easily searchable in the cloud. The rest of Flickr is still there: you can still follow great photographers, browse beautiful photos, and showcase your own. But among the solutions for backing up your photos online, Flickr has moved from the back of the pack to the front.


in techtalk |

iphone4and6

It finally happened. The touchscreen on the iphone, or rather the left hand corner of the touchscreen, stopped working. I can’t type the letters e, s and merely touching a gives me a bunch of letters in the vicinity. Apps kept opening by themselves. The keypad doesn’t register, so at times I can’t unlock the phone. I left it overnight and it worked for about 1 minute before going haywire again.

It’s time to get a new iphone. I wasn’t planning on getting it this cycle, was hoping for another year or two. C’est la vie. I guess 4 years of constant use, being dropped multiple times and exposure to the elements are factors that led to the failure.

Debated between 6 or 6 plus. The 6 plus was too big to fit comfortably in pockets so 6 it is. I’m struck by the comparison in size between the 4 and 6.

Went to the messy computer mall to get screen protector and case. App and data transfer was easy, just restored from icloud. For some reason the camera roll didn’t transfer so I took the opportunity to clean it up by selectively restoring from dropbox. Spent 3 hours on software update though, a combination of slow internet and slow itunes.


in techtalk |

iphone4power

Excuse me while I have a fit. I was getting my haircut and happily exchanging stickers with mm when the iphone started acting stupid. Apps kept opening, I couldn’t bring up the keyboard and when I did, I couldn’t type. At one point, the keypad wasn’t working so I wasn’t even able to unlock the phone. I’d press one number but it either didn’t register or it’d register as 1. All in all, a complete mess.

I do not need this just a few days before the trip. I went to the phone shop and was this close to getting a new phone. The customer service person said may be it’s the screen protector. I took it off and it seemed to behave for a little bit. Will test for a couple of days.


in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |

Task #3 of 101.1001 is to become proficient in evernote.

As a nano winner, I got 3 months of evernote premium, which just ended. I’ve been using EN for a while, and now have over 250 notes. I know, I know, proficiency isn’t measured by quantity. However I think that I can claim to have at least basic proficiency. Like many tech services, I signed up for an account ages ago but never got round to using it until later. When I did get started it was just playing around with to-do lists. I read up on how other people use it and I really appreciated its power and functionality when i started using it to organise travel. And then I started using it more. The rest of this post is how I currently use EN. Warning: may be boring for some, not everyone is into organising their lives in such detail.

in techtalk |

twitterfollowers

Two of my newest twitter followers are from strange accounts, but they haven’t interacted with me or spammed me so I’ll keep them for the time being.

One is probably a spoof / fake Bieber-like account, with a username like @justinbiber with a Bieber avatar. This one has 17k followers and says the goal is 10million followers. Almost all links to some sort of funny pic site that I won’t click on.

The most recent one is @epicmantips. Most tweets are some inspirational quotes but the account description is scary:

Epic tips for the modern male. We’re here to help you become a legend. Download our ‘69 Epic Sex Tips’ guide for FREE: [redacted]

WTF did I do to deserve this one?

p.s. the other new one is a verified Guardian journalist, not surprising since I follow the Guardian and a few Guardian and Indy journos.


in techtalk |

Software update told me that it’s my turn to update to firefox 34. I read earlier that yahoo will replace google as the default search engine on firefox 34 and I was curious to see if that was the case for me.

Surprisingly, no. That’s because I have the always google.com in english plug-in and I use searchbar autosizer to customise other aspects of the search bar.

If firefox had forced me to default to yahoo, I would have changed it. If it wouldn’t let me change, I would have switched to chrome immediately. I remember using yahoo when I first started on the internet, that was before google existed. I haven’t used it for a long time, only when there’s a problem with google. And lately I’ve positively hated yahoo, it never respects my location preference: even if I type yahoo.com manually it forces me to go to the local site, in a language I can’t stand to read and displaying stuff I’m not interested in. Even if I type yahoo.com/ncr, the preference disappears after I click around and go back to the homepage. Ridiculous.

I’ve noticed google doing the same. Even with the add-on that’s supposed to force google.com, it brings me search results on the local site. And changes the url of sites like blogger and youtube to force me to the localised version. It is not an enhanced experience. It is lack of respect of people’s preference.

And makes it so obvious that I’m being tracked, and my data used for marketing. Targeted ads don’t work on me though, I’m very tightly defended by adblock plus.

I switched search engines. I’ve been using duckduckgo for a couple of weeks and I’m pretty happy with the switch. There are many good things about duckduckgo, primarily it’s about privacy, as fastcompany pointed out:

When you do a search from DuckDuckGo’s website or one of its mobile apps, it doesn’t know who you are. There are no user accounts. Your IP address isn’t logged by default. The site doesn’t use search cookies to keep track of what you do over time or where else you go online. It doesn’t save your search history. When you click on a link in DuckDuckGo’s results, those websites won’t see which search terms you used.

No wonder its usage has skyrocketed after the Snowden affair. Although my searches aren’t confidental or sensitive, I’m still happy that I have privacy. That little toggle button on the right that enables me to turn off region, that’s what I like. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.



It looks simple and the results are straightforward. When I searched for gameboy, it brings me first to the official site (something that sometimes ad-driven google doesn’t do) then it’s wikipedia, amazon and ebay—pretty much the expected results. For specific results on a specific site, I just have to add !site in front of my search. So

!amazon gameboy

brings me directly to the amazon search results for gameboy, saving one click. This is only one of a bunch of cool features available.

Of course, it’s not perfect. Search results tend to deteriorate after half a page to weird sites. For more complicated searches I’ve had to go back to google. There is no image search, news article search, map or other google features. Recipe searches bring me to US sites rather than my preferred bbc and UK sites (one advantage of google’s tracking I suppose). These are minor inconvenience, I can live with using duckduckgo for the majority and reverted to google when necessary.

Plus, it’s been blocked behind the great firewall of China, there’s no better endorsement than that.



in techtalk |

gameboyfixed01

When my niece learned that I have still have my old gameboy (pocket, I must have given the original one to the charity shop ages ago), she asked if she could have it. When we tried to turn it on, we could hear the sound, but the screen only showed one horizontal line.

me: you can definitely have it, but it doesn’t work
niece: it doesn’t matter, it’s a gameboy
me: you sure? it doesn’t work
niece: it’s a gameboy

I could hear her emphasis and I guess I can see her fascination with something that is older than her. I know she’d be happy with the non-working gameboy, but what if I can get it working again? Gameboys are still available on ebay, and there are videos and instructions on how to fix them. One option is to mod it using a raspberry pi.

I don’t have the skills or confidence for that sort of repair, so I took a chance and went to one of those messy computer malls and found a hole-in-the-wall stall amongst the computer and video game repairs section. After taking it in for inspection, the young man called me back after a few days and said it’d been repaired. Yay!! For the equivalent of USD20-ish, they replaced the circuit board and I have again a working gameboy.



I remember bubble bobble being one of my favourites. I can play it, but I can’t for the life of me get beyond the first level. Argh! May be my niece will teach me.



in random words , techtalk |

scrivenerpp01

This is the first year I’ve used scrivener for nano. They’ve offered nano winners 50% off for a few years now, and I took advantage a few years ago. I ported LL over to scrivener, and that’s where I’ve been editing since. It was just a matter of switching from google docs, which I now use for backup.

Scrivener is a fantastic app, some say it’s the best dedicated writing tool on the market.

scrivenerpp02

Lots to like:

  • clean interface — I can even hide the file structure on the left and have a full page view, even with the navigation, i have most of my screen to type in
  • hierarchichal container structure — instead of one flat file or multiple files like in traditional word processors, the scrivener file structure is a dream to work with and navigate, it’s easy to go to any chapter and any section, and to move sections too
  • character and place profiles — brilliant to create backstory and to remember features
  • research — write notes, clip webpages, import diagrams
  • word count at a glance — the entire manuscript, selected chapters and sections
  • name generator — this is fun, and is particularly great during nano, to take the headache out of thinking of names
  • compile — no need to worry about formatting and front matter like table of content
  • export — exports to all sorts of formats like rtf, doc, pdf, epub

And all this in one global file and one workspace. No need to toggle between tabs and apps. There are features I don’t use, like the corkboard view, colour scheme or split screen. I hide the inspector and don’t use it to its full advantage. I don’t use project targets. I’m sure there are features I’m not even aware of.

scrivenerpp03

The biggest complaint is that it’s not mobile. The app is still stuck in the web 1.0 era: it sits on the mba and the global file is only saved on the mba. Although I can install the app on different computers, I can’t just open it wherever I like and be synced to where I was. I have to backup to dropbox and remember to save back to dropbox when I finish. It can import webpages, but pales in comparison to Evernote in terms of clipping and ability to store and organise research articles.

Since the promised iOS version has been delayed and delayed and delayed, other apps have come to the market. The most prominent is storyist, which is 50% off for nano winners and is similar in look-and-feel to scrivener. Another one I recently came across is novlr, which is web-based, like google docs. Then of course it’s possible to use evernote as a writing tool, even though its text editing feature isn’t very good.

I may give storyist a try, if the 50% discount extends to the ios version. The fact is, scrivener is too good at its job for me to jump ship, I’ll live with using it on the mba and wait patiently for the ios app.

note: I came across an interesting article from a scrivener user that makes a point I hadn’t realised. It’s great for writing, but if you’re lucky enough to find a publisher, edits are done in Word, using the awful, awful track changes tool. Hmm. My copy of Word is 2003 (yes, really) although I suppose I can use Open/LibreOffice. We’re back to web 1.0 flat file eras. Ah well, moot point.



in techtalk |

Things have been happening in the science & technology world lately that make me feel uncomfortable and sad.

#gamergate

I’m at best a very casual gamer. I don’t have the patience or interest to spend more than a few minutes playing a game, however much I’ve tried since I was young. So I peripherically follow games news without paying much attention.

Twitter exploded with something called #gamergate during the summer. A simple summary:

  • a nasty breakup led to one of the party writing terrible, bitter blog posts about his ex, accusing her of a) sleeping around and b) sleeping around with a games journalist
  • he implied that games journalists are not objective since they are in bed with devs
  • somehow the posts went viral in certain quarters
  • trolls attacked the dev, including doxxing her (releasing her personal information such as address and phone number) and sending her death and rape threats
  • other women who came to the dev’s defence were also horribly harrassed using the same methods
  • a female journalist who wrote about the death of the identity of ‘gamer’ (because of popularisation of gaming) was also horribly harrassed
  • more women who spoke up were equally horribly harrassed
  • interestingly, a male gamer who called #gamergaters every name under the sun was not harrassed

Ostensibly #gamergaters are up in arms about ethics in games journalism, but they have never been able to articulate exactly what they were after. The turning point for me, was when well-respected, well-loved gamer who wasn’t a dev or a journo got doxxed within an hour of her writing a personal post on the subject. Which part of ethics in games journalism was that attack?



It’s a no-brainer, really. They have been exposed as a emotionally retarded boys who don’t want girls to play video games.

Makes me sad, reading all the threats against the women, and it’s all been against women.


#shirtstorm

On 12-nov-2014, the European Space Agency (ESA) landed a small space probe on a comet, after a mission spanning more than 10 years. It was an incredible moment in human scientific achievement.

One of the scientists, while on a global livestream broadcast, wore a colourful shirt with cartoon naked / semi-naked women. In one stroke, he spoiled the vast achievement of the ESA by his stupidity and insensitivity. The STEM industries have had trouble recruiting and retaining women, and this was symptomatic of the reasons why. Lots of negative comments on the topic of #shirtstorm.



Then, guess what? Women scientists who spoke out got horribly harrassed with death and rape threats.

The scientist has since made an apology, but I feel it’s a hollow one. I’d like to see what he, and the ESA, do to recruit and retain women into the industry. My fear is, nothing.


#ubergate

This week, something else blew up. It’s all about ride-sharing service, uber. This storify gives a good summary. Basically, a senior uber executive suggested at an official dinner that the company could hire a team to dig up dirt on journalists who write critical articles about them. He threatened the family of a particular journalist and said they could expose her personal life.



The uber exec in question half-heartedly apologised to the journo (by creepily calling her, when she had never given him her phone number), and the CEO of uber issued an apology that was more like an internal memo, while not firing the exec.

Other journos revealed that uber was not careful with confidential data, accessing and showing ride history and location without the permission of the customers involved.

There are 2 stories here that dovetail into each other. One is the threat against the family of a woman journalist who wrote critical things about a company. However much someone disagrees with any person or company on a professional level, to bring the fight to a personal and family level is unacceptable. It’s sad and scary that a company such as uber would even think of such action.

The second is the seemingly casual attitude the company has when dealing with their customers’ data. They have personal info like credit card, phone number and home address. Furthermore they can deduce where the customers work, what they do on a Friday night and where their kids go to school.

No wonder the journo who was threatened has now hired security for her kids.

uberdelete

I’ve never used uber. Taxis and public transportation are readily available and cheap where I am, and the couple of times I looked into uber, it’s been more expensive than a taxi. I get that ride sharing services are useful in cities where there’s poor public transportation and/or insufficient taxis. I downloaded the app for a) emergency and b) when I’m in another city and may need a ride. In any case, after #ubergate, I’m heeding the call of many techies to delete the app. It doesn’t matter to me, I hope that people who have loyally used it can find another, more ethical and more trustworthy, service for their needs.


in techtalk |

I joined twitter in 2007 so a bit earlier than many people I know. I don’t post a lot though, for the longest time I used it only to keep track of #running and #weights workouts. Been including tweetdeck as one of my startup tabs recently, where else but at twitter can I keep track of important news and movements like #occupyhk and the fight against #gamergate.

I have around 200 followers, most of whom are inactive. I mentioned before that I get some @mentions in Indonesian or Malay:



Some are wrong tweets, probably for @wattpad:



I decided to have some fun with the most recent wrong number tweet:



Why? Because I couldn’t make any sense of the post. Was it suggestive? Sarcastic? Derogatory? I know the wearing of Birkenstocks equates to being nerds or hippies. I was tempted to reply with an image of crocs. Even better, I found a pic of Buzz Lightyear crocs:

crocsbuzz

The problem was, humour never comes across well on the internet, especially with people you don’t know and a conversation thread you’re clueless about. So I kept it simple:


> p.s. @macy_merritt and I now follow each other.

in techtalk |

notebook02

Culture, fashion, trends. They all seem to go through cycles, don’t they. People left right and centre are declaring that they are getting back to blogging. Matt Haughey (mefi founder), Andy Baio (XOXO co-founder), Gina Trapani (lifehacker founder) are all doing it. I feel like it’s like something that was old-fashioned one minute is suddenly the cool thing to do again.

Except I never stopped. And neither did a bunch of others like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and all the people I follow on feedly, so back is neither here nor there, really.

People abandoned blogging for twitter, facebook, tumblr, youtube, instagram, snapchat and all that. Then came medium and everyone was excited again. Yet medium is considered longer, more journalistic writing. (Or so I wanted to believe, until it slammed its doors in my face.)

A lot of emphasis on simplicity lately. With so many outlets, it does become a personal choice on which platform(s) to use and what to write about. Most of my posts fall under the definition of short- or mid-length. Taking a note of Gina Trapani’s new rules for blogging, with one or two exceptions:

  • if it’s a paragraph, it’s a post — thank you, thank you, thank you. Sometimes I find it hard to write more than a few sentences, so it’s validation of sorts. I’ll even go as far as saying, if it’s just one photograph, it’s a post
  • negotiate a comfort zone on two axes — tech/personal, travel/running something like that. I really have to tighten up my topics
  • traffic is irrelevant, don’t even measure it — my traffic has always been depressing, so let’s give up on monitoring it
  • simplify, simplify — she suggested no comments (yep), no categories, tags, footnotes, special post styles, pages (categories and tags are habit I’ll keep though), default wordpress template (does it mean I don’t need to redesign the site? that’s good news)
  • ask for trusted collaborator feedback — I dunno, I never had collaborators or guest bloggers, I can’t see it happening
  • have fun — I like this one


In sort of related news, I see someone I follow on social media referring to updated posts on livejournal. I’m trying not to roll my eyes here. I think that’s taking simplify and back-to-basics a bit too far. Then again, George R.R. Martin still updates his livejournal. I don’t know what to say.


in photography is life , techtalk |

praha122charlesriver

Another #randomflickr, this one was taken in Prague oct-2011. Pretty autumn colours along the river vitava from the end of charles bridge.

An article on quartz talked about twitter bots. An interesting one is pixelsorter which

sorts the rows (or optionally columns) of an image according to a specific method like hue, red, brightness, luma, etc




Just tweet @pixelsorter and attach an image. It’s a bit like playing with the multitude of filters on photoshop.



There are also a few preset commands which give other results. This is the effect using preset[triphop]. Pretty cool. I love discovering quirky pointless stuff like this.


in being healthy , sports active , techtalk |

chimarathon013state

Four years ago today on 10-10-10, I ran my first marathon, Chicago, in 5:38. This coming Sunday, 45,000 people will race the course over 19 neighbourhoods. Next year, I hope to join them. I deferred my 2014 place so I basically have a guaranteed entry for 2015.

I’m both scared and excited. I have not been running as much for the past year or so. I found a 52 week training plan which includes runwalking and allows short breaks during longer runs. Towards the last 18 weeks, it puts in more mileage than the Higdon novice 2 plan and gets up to 24miles (vs 20 for Higdon). Sounds good.

Technology and theories have changed since 2010, the market is flooded with wearables and fitness trackers. I retired my garmin, because it’s too bulky, too limited, and takes too long to find a satellite signal. Saw a new sock sensor that does real-time analysis of foot-striking position and stride and gives feedback via an app. Not sure I want a voice shouting “you’re heel striking!” in my ears when I’m struggling in the middle of a run though.

chimarathonbbheel

Ah, heel striking. That’s me, 2011 chimarathon. Note the knee brace, the KT tape, the orange sauconys and the heel striking. I have repeatedly been told that heel striking is bad, it increases the chances of injury and all that. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to change to fore- or mid-foot striking, and whenever I manage it, I feel quicker. When I’m tired, I lapse back to my natural heel striking form.

Turns out, heel striking isn’t the enemy of good running form. Changing footstrike may reduce knee injuries, but it may also lead to other types of injuries. My takeaway from the article is, it’s okay to heel strike at slower paces, it seems that both stride and strike will change with faster speeds. Since I’m aiming for a 12:00/mile, it probably doesn’t matter that much.


in techtalk |

port129rose

Testing the IFTTT twitter to fb feed. This is #74 in the interestingness set, of a pretty rose at the portland experimental rose garden.

in techtalk |

happynoodles01

Testing iFTTT again. A random number generator gave me #17 from my flickr interestingness set. A simple noodle dish with egg, sausages, chicken wings and pork chop at a local family place called happy diner, hence the dish’s name of happy noodles. High rent and poor economy means the place has been replaced by expensive faux hipster joints.


in challenges , techtalk |

offline

Task #10 of 30in30 is to turn off electronics 1hr before bed.

Everyone will agree that we are too dependent on being connected. Our blackberrys chime and we are compelled to look at it, even though we know it’s work and we hate it. We can’t help but check fb or twitter constantly, in case we are missing out on…something. There’s a lot of advantages for unplugging occasionally, and the national day of unplugging is in March.

Anyway, I’m coming down with something. Cold, cough, flu, whatever. Tired all day. So I shut everything down at 8.45pm. It’s fine to turn off electronics, the only difficulty was I couldn’t use the ipad to read, so I had to find a paperback. I think next time I’ll unplug from internet but I can use electronics for standalone tasks like read books or use the calculator.


in about me , techtalk |

A few years ago, I thought about moving to tumblr, because it was it for a while and I was at a low point, trying to find a purpose:

What is the No. 1 reason that people quit blogging? Because they can’t find and develop an audience

At the end it was login problems that prevented the move so I’m still stuck on ancient MT4 on my own website. I know I have a few readers (*waves* thanks!!!) but mostly I think it has become an internal process. It’s almost like a daily task, and I admit sometimes I write a post for the sake of checking the one-post-a-day task on my invisible to-do list. May be that’s why I don’t have six million views a year, because who wants to read about something that occupies the same level of priority as brushing my teeth or mindful meditation.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh. Most days I try to think of something worthwhile or interesting to write. It’s still primarily writing for myself rather than readers (*waves some more*). I should pat myself on the back for maintaining a website for 10 years and almost 7 years of one-post-a-day.

That’s why I was quite excited when I discovered medium. For me, it fills a space somewhere in between my website and tumblr. It’s more public (at least before the recent collection changes, more in a bit) and for some reason I feel obliged to take more care about the craft of writing on medium. I had in mind that I’d crosspost more thoughtful and serious posts to medium, almost like writing for a magazine. When I post on medium, I imagine that I’m writing for my readers.

I was quite sad when I posted my most recent medium article and found that I could no longer submit to collections. Instead of posters being able to freely submit to any number of collections, they have changed it to only one collection and only if you are already the owner or a writer of that collection. Sigh. This is so disappointing. What I liked about medium was that all members were treated equally, that anyone can write anything and submit to any collection. The chance being discovered was equal. With this new change, it’s getting back to the age-old clique. The most popular collections will be of named and featured writers, while us peons will continue to languish at the bottom of the pit. As one prominent user lamented:

It turned a system that was beautifully democratic and turned it into a system of clique based collections that are closed off to the average creator. It’s like content communism.

My cynical view is that the ultimate end game is monetisation. They can charge to feature certain collections belonging to coporates and writers will clamour to be included in that group in order to get exposure. Imagine a Huffpo or Upworthy collection with millions of followers, who wouldn’t want their article to be a part of that?

Will I continue to post to medium? Perhaps. I’ve had to create my own collection. I’m the only writer, and I’m back to writing for no one / myself. It’s a copy and paste job, and my posts look pretty on their clean interface.

What then becomes of tumblr? My login problem has resolved, so it’s active again. I’ve noticed that I’m using it not as a blogging platorm, but to curate content.

iftttflow

Like many people, I have far too many social media accounts (am I spread too thin? That’s another question for another time). When I signed up for IFTTT i had to figure out how my online presence flows. Where are my active vs passive presences. How I use each site:

  • website: traditional blogging — personal thoughts, experiences, longer posts
  • medium: public writing — more “interesting” posts
  • twitter: random observation, log exercise, feeds to google doc for record keeping
  • instagram: started off as food pics, trying to expand and be more interesting, a little more social, keep an eye on niece
  • flickr: photo repository, not using for social purposes
  • facebook: community, sharing, keeping in touch
  • tumblr: curation for my own and other people’s content

Originally I wanted to curate everything to tumblr, then to facebook. I decided against it and made both tumblr and fb end points to the flow. There are certain things I prefer to curate rather than share openly. There are people on my fb friends list that constantly share cat (and worst, dogs, yuck) pictures, inspirational quotes and minute details of their lives. I don’t want to be the tool who does that. I may experiment a little though, not post for a while, over post for a while, crosspost. I doubt anyone will notice, it’s all an empty vacuum anyway.

in techtalk |

Published another article at medium.






The humans need not apply video has been doing the rounds lately. An apt summary:

“Technology gets better, cheaper, and faster at a rate biology can’t match” + “Economics always wins” = “Automation is inevitable.”

So the message is, humankind should look forward to being treated like horses in the early 20th century and become obsolete as robots take over jobs previously performed by humans. And it’s presented like it’s a bad thing.

Here’s what I think. I think that automating tasks currently performed by humans is awesome. The cost of “running” a human is so astronomical compared with running a robot, and it includes errors and inconsistencies made by humans. Am I the only person who has been following news about driverless cars with enthusiasm and happiness? Driverless cars (and buses and trains and other modes of transport) will probably be much safer because robots don’t get tired, fall asleep, text, or get distracted while they are driving. The current difficulty of integrating driverless cars isn’t just the technology, it’s that these cars need to negotiate roads occupied by unpredictable human drivers. There’s not been any difficulty in using driverless trains or trams that use fixed tracks. I’m sure that the map of roads in a few hundred years will be vastly different from our network of highways, but it’s progress.

ky322bartonbottle

There’s always been resistance to change over the course of history. People used to manually write out copies of books by hand, their jobs were eliminated when printing was invented. The Industrial Revolution replaced manual labour with machinery. The digital revolution had similar impact on jobs.

But every time there was a new invention or progress, as dust settled, people went on to do something else — trading, finance, services industry. Going back to the printing example, yes there was no longer any need for meticulous book calligraphers, so did humankind grind to a stop? History tells us otherwise. The widespread availability of books meant improved literacy and education. Humans who used to copy book contents went on to create content for more and more books. When robots assume the more mundane tier 0 or tier 1 tasks, a human brain is freed to take care of the more complex, emotionally driven, critical thinking tasks that robots can’t do yet. Robots can cook burgers, pizza, sushi, but they can’t create sublime dishes that are more art than mere food. I can live with robots at Mcdonald’s, but there will still be a place in the world for the Fat Duck or Noma.

mel174horse

Leisure, that’s our lot in future.

Our ability to consume leisure nowadays is astounding and something that our parents’ generation would never imagine. When I think of horses, who, as the video told us have been deemed unemployable, I see them grazing in meadows. The ones who are working are mainly “employed” in the services industry — touristy horse-drawn carriages, horse racing or in the services of police forces or farms. Just as horses’ lives have changed, it is up to us, humankind, to find a new place in the brave new world of robots. As wired said (emphasis mine),

We’d still have to find our place among the robots, except this time without work as a guidepost for defining a sense of purpose. By eliminating the need for people to work, robots would free us up to focus on what really makes us human.


I admit, I’ve presented an overly simple and westernised view. How the next generation will work is unclear. May be we will see the end of robot-like commuting and fixed hour (9-5) work as people gain more flexibility not only in hours they work but where and how. The world is going through a prolonged recession, if I knew how the next generation of jobs will evolve, I’d be a famous economist.


in random words , techtalk |

doodle20080214

Yet more people on my twitter and facebook feeds telling the world about their new blog. SMH. And most of them are WRITERS. I wish they’d learn the difference between blog and blog post. grrrrr.

Stop. Take a deep breath. Remember what SB&T has been teaching.

Let it be.

Alright. Do something else. What shall I blog about today? How about using random topic generator. As one blogger described it,

a tool for bloggers utterly devoid of inspiration and internal thought process

Good one. Sometimes though, I do find myself utterly devoid of inspiration and internal thought process. The most exciting I did in the last 24hrs was I cooked pork chops and okra for dinner. I could write about that, I suppose. How to pan-fry okra without them going slimey. Except I’ve done that already. Or that I made a packet of instant grits, added too much water and had to use up another packet. Note to self: add instant grits to US shopping list.

So, back to random topic generator. Not sure how random it is, or how many topics it has in its database. It splits topics into 12 categories, so let’s try a few of them.


in eating and drinking , techtalk |

Downloaded a few wine apps for fun.

First, a couple of wine scanner apps. Both vivino and delectable recognise wines from a picture of the bottle’s label. They then give information about the wine, region, vintage, pairing and ratings from other users.

vivinoapp

I grabbed a random bottle, a fuzion tempranillo 2012, and both apps got the brand and country right. Vivino got the vintage exactly right, but it’s pretty subjective. Both offer additional features, users can buy directly through delectable and vivino gives a list of places where the wine can be purchased. That said, when the correspondent at the washington post tried to find stores near to him, vivino told him to go to mcdonald’s.

delectableapp

Both apps encourage users to connect via social media, in fact delectable won’t let me proceed without signing up with facebook or my email address. I can use vivino as a guest, and this is the big reason why I’m keeping this app and I’ll probably delete delectable. I don’t want to be tracked or receive notifications thank you.


wine4meprofile

From wine scanners to a new app wine4me, yet another wine discovery app. This one creates a wine profile based on my preference of type, region, country. I entered a few like rioja, oregon, alsace and it gave me a profile and a list of wines it thinks I may like. As I add more wines that I have tasted, the app is trained to fine tune more choices. It’s good for casual wine drinkers but I find that it skews towards new world wine and doesn’t have my all-time favourite chateauneuf-du-pape (buried in southern france) or current favourite cabernet franc.


wsetgameapp

Finally, one that is a bit different and sort of fun. The WSET wine game is offered by the wine & spirit education trust who provides education and qualifications on wine. The aim is to place 10 bottles correctly in their country of origin. Level 1 even gives the region (eg central otago) and the challenge is to click on the map fast enough. It’s pretty much a simple game to market the WSET school and qualifications. Quite fun for a few minutes.


in arts and media , being healthy , sports active , techtalk |



via giz

Imogen Heap is awesome. Not only is she a great musician, she is also working on an app called Run Time that customises a run. It takes ambient sounds like breathing, footsteps, traffic and even birds and layers them with a pre-recorded electronic track. The best thing is that the runner can adjust the tempo of the music according to stages of a run: slow warm up, walking, running, acceleration and deceleration. She demonstrates this perfectly in her video.

Run-time, the song is based on the app. The album Sparks will be released on 19 August.

The app is still in development. Depending on how much it is, I will likely get it. Although, I won’t lope around NYC like a crazy person the way she did.

in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |

udemy01design

Task #4 of 101 in 1001 is to complete an online course.

I was working on a javascript coding course on codecademy but have sort of given up because I got stuck and the instructions weren’t clear. So for just for the hell of it I started browsing around other online education places and came across some simple short courses on graphic design at udemy.

The free courses are all very basic. The one on introduction to graphic design took less than 30mins to finish and I took away some theory:

6 elements in design = line, form, colour, texture, mass space
5 principles of design: alignment, balance, contrast, proximity, repetition

I also took one called real life graphic design: photoshop and illustrator. I learned how to darken a blue sky using gradient, add a sunset, use curves in photoshop — all of which I know. The course also touched on Illustrator, which I don’t have much experience or confidence in using. I learned basic manipulation. There was one comment in the course, that the instructor went too fast. I totally agree. I know what he was doing in photoshop because I’m really not a beginner, he was clicking and telling us what he is doing without explaining where the controls are or what settings. That said, I think I can start practicing using Illustrator for simple graphics.

It’s a good way to spend a couple of hours, better than playing a game. I get nifty completion certificates too. I’ll definitely go through some more free courses on the site, not ready to pay for anything yet.

in easily amused , techtalk |

gameipadslay01 gameipadhampstead01

Playing a couple of old games that have resurfaced in the app store. Slay was a game I used to play on mum’s PC in the 1990s, I think I have the 3.5” disk somewhere. It’s a simple strategy game where the aim is to move soldiers and occupy as many hexagons as possible. No bells-and-whistles graphics, just pixelated men with moving arms and hexagons in different shades of green. The trick is to link patches, put down towers, stop trees from spreading and make sure you have enough land to maintain different levels of soldiers. Oh, and attack other hexagons.

The graphics have stayed decidedly 1990s in the iphone/ipad version, which makes it kinda cute. The soldiers still yell “oh” when they are attacked, the attackers still have this evil laugh and dying soldiers scream as they turn into graves. I think I paid for the windows version, and I paid again for the app store version. It’s addictive nostalgia.

A game that predates Slay was Hampstead, a text game for the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64. I read that it’s been revived and available on the app store, free. So I downloaded it pronto. The idea is to move out of a filthy council house and get loadsamoney eventually moving into a mansion in Hampstead. Pure satire.

Love that these older games are coming back. Next on my list are the Sierra games like Police Quest, King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry, all have been ported to sarien’s mobile site. There’s a strategy game similar to Slay I used to play on my old macs, I can’t remember the name so I can’t search for it, sigh.


in arts and media , going places , techtalk |



I’m working on sorting the cruise/Seattle/Vancouver trip pictures. From almost 3000 photos and videos I’m down to around 1600. Seattle set is uploaded and part of Juneau is uploaded. I have to wait till I get home to upload the rest because mum’s internet is too slow.

I made a few panoramas, not having the latest camera or iphone means I have to do it the old fashioned way in photoshop. I also wanted to make something interesting of margerie glacier calving. We were lucky the break was right in front of us when we were on deck, and with the camera in sports mode I was able to capture the action.

It’s easy enough to make an animated gif in imageready, although it’s been so long since I did it, I had to google the steps. With modern technology, everything that can be done with expensive software can be done with an app, usually free. So I made another one using gifmaker, the only downside is that gifmaker couldn’t handle large file sizes and I had to resize the images to 600x450. Otherwise, no difference.

But wait, there’s more. How about turning the animated gif into a video? This is what gfycat does. They converted my 11M gif to a 2M html5 video, or gfy (“jiffy”) and I can embed it.

Okay, this post has turned technical. Turning back to the glacier. We were on deck 14, port side, and everyone on the ship had their eyes and ears out for possible calving events. We were expecting a boom, but it was more like a crack followed by scratchy noises, we knew a calving was imminent. A cheer went up when it finally happened. So pleased we were there to see it.

in techtalk |

webad

A couple of random thoughts about web ads. This year marks the 20th anniversary of banner ads. If ever there was an invention that would generate so much discord, banner ads would be amongst the most reviled. Re/code asked a good question: has anyone said:

“Hey, did you see that awesome banner ad yesterday?”

The answer of course is a big no. People may remember good TV ads or print ads but most people’s reaction to banner ads, and most form of web ads, is ignore. No surprise, the more glaring and intrusive they are, the more people are turned off by them.


badwebad

Whenever I use a public computer or one I haven’t set up I’m often flabbergasted at the amount of screen real estate that has been hijacked by ads. I googled a bit and found this example of that someone gave, of a page that has ads, ads, ads and a total of 8 words of actual content. I don’t know how old this screenshot is, and I have no intention of finding out.

Various forms of ad blockers are the most popular brower extensions. And even though they say it’s a must-have, lifehacker reported that ABP dramatically increases memory usage in firefox. What was surprising (actually not, considering lifehacker’s audience) were the commenters who said they’d tolerate slow loading times and even buy additional RAM rather than disable ABP. Fervent ABP users take the attitude of “allow ads over my dead body.”

The purveyers of ads always come out with the argument that without ad revenues they can’t continue to maintain their free sites. This argument never works. People who studiously block ads and nuisances will never click on an ad anyway; and nowadays with so many choices if one site shuts down a dozen will spring up in its place. Besides, whitelisting doesn’t really work because sooner or later the whitelisted sites will start serving annoying ads because sites that have ads are more concerned about selling things than providing a good user experience.

In any case, yes I’ve noticed firefox page loads are a little slower since the upgrade, may be it’s mum’s internet connection too. Doesn’t decrease my user experience, not compared with the alternative ad-filled scenario.

in techtalk |

nointernet

Trying to look for a way to stay connected whilst I’m in the US, both for the cruise and for the con later. There will be voice roaming on the ship but I’m not paying $69 for 100mins internet, especially since shipboard internet is notorious for being slow. It’s mainly for when we’re ashore, driving and at Seattle and Vancouver but mostly it’s for the trip to Chicago and Portland.

I’m not worried about voice, roaming isn’t expensive, calls are short and people will only call in an emergency. It’s getting wifi while on the go. In almost any major city in the world, it should be possible to walk into a telco store and buy a iphone-ready sim and a pre-paid data plan of some sort. The one potentially problematic country, Japan which isn’t on the GSM network, proved to be no problem at all because of the widespread usage of pocket wifi.

Oh, the biggest exception to this case is the US. I’ve come to the conclusion, as several have commented, that there is no such thing as a cheap, prepaid SIM in the US. There are 2 HUGE stumbling blocks: a) half the country isn’t compatible with the rest of the world, with Verizon and Spring on the CDMA network; b) AT&T, which is on GSM and the primary network provider as far as iphones are concerned, doesn’t like prepaid plans and, like most things US, doesn’t care about non-locals.

A bit of digging around shows that AT&T has a prepaid service called GoPhone that works out to be around $50-60 per month for 1GB data. The setup sounds very complicated and there are reports that they may refuse to sell the SIM for iphones, partly because of legacy monopoly issues and partly because they really want you to buy one of their phones.
There are AT&T powered companies like H2O, black, readysim, straighttalk that sell SIMs online, sometimes at stores like Best Buy, Walmart and supposedly can deliver to hotels. Cost is the same as official AT&T so I’m not sure what the difference is. The other GSM carrier is T-mobile, which also has a prepaid data plan costing around the same.

So $50-60 a month average. That’s steep. They are all phone oriented and not really user friendly. One other option is mobile broadband. There’s some good comparisons. After the initial cost of the hotspot, usage is generally cheaper. And several devices can be used. Seems like a lot of people use Virgin’s plan currently at $25 a month for 1.5GB. The device runs from $70 to $99.

The conclusion is, I’m still undecided. For the cruise I’ll probably just rely on whatever wifi I can catch and for the con, there’s time to research further.


in 101.1001 , challenges , techtalk |

ipadmini2

Task #2 in 101 in 1001 is to get a new idevice. Originally I thought it’d be an iphone 6 or later, seeing that my iphone is 3 years old. Then my kindle stopped charging. Nothing wrong with the battery, I just wasn’t able to get the pin to connect to the jack, something inside seems to have shifted and no amount of wriggling or even turning the device upside down could get the parts to click together. It seems to be a common problem with many complaints and a repair that involves taking it apart and soldering the jack to the motherboard.

I could claim that the kindle problem is an excuse, but it isn’t really. I was always going to get an ipad mini, it was just a matter of time and which generation. I was gonna get it at Christmas but never got round to it. Now this is supposed to be an early birthday present from parents and sis. I paid for it myself, I’m sure they will reimburse me.

First order of business, make sure I have epub versions of my ebooks. I usually buy in epub format, even when I only had the kindle — I would just convert to azw in calibre. But it wasn’t as easy as just uploading the epubs into ibooks. I have to complain to publishers one of these days, there are 2 things I really hate that they do: a) what possess them to add tags to their books? If I want tags, I’ll add them myself. Plus having tags for “science fiction,” “sci-fi,” “sci fi,” “science fiction fantasy” and all the different permutations by different publishers is NOT helpful; and b) do they think I am stupid when they automatically give their books 5 stars?

The least said about the DRM on kindle books, the better. Hate. That’s why unfortunately I don’t have books by authors who are primarily only available at amazon.

The most time consuming part of setting up is to get the apps in. To stay consistent, the ipad has the same apps and the same layout as the iphone. There are a couple of apps that are iphone only, and of course there is no phone on the ipad. If there is an ipad version, I went through the trouble of downloading it.

So far, works like a dream. Reading is just as good, and it’s a lighter and thinner device so a plus. I have to start games from the beginning, which is a good thing, I like going back to level 1 on angry birds and making my way through the series.

in techtalk |

twop

Terrible news. televisionwithoutpity is closing. No more recaps, forums will close on 31 May. And, something fishy is going on, because the entire site will be going offline. It’s not enough that there won’t be any new recaps, we can’t even go back to read old ones. There’s closing, and then there’s completely closing. It’s very distressing.

Many TWOPers have been there since MightyBigTV days, I joined a little later but when it was still an independent site. Like many, it was Buffy recaps and forums, which had one of the most active participation. Buffy ended with the explosive growth of reality tv, and those provided even more snark opportunity. Every week after an episode of TAR or Survivor (when I was able to get Survivor), I’d read the recap and go to the forum to see what everybody thought of the ep. I just spent one evening last week going through all the posts for Gold Rush.

I guess it’s a stretch to ask a big corporation like NBC to get TWOP. It has been a surprise that it’s lasted this long. People don’t watch tv like they used to, in the days of instant gratification, on-demand and social media, reading a long recap about an episode on tv seems almost quaint.



Thankfully, God got out of the bathtub this time. Sars, Wing Chun and Glark are now at previously.tv, together with a slew of TWOP writers and hopefully they will ensure the spirit of MBTV and TWOP continues.

in techtalk |



Prompted by a picture of an old AOL free trial disk, gizmodo asked, how were you using the internet in 1999. Their comments are filled with tech types who were already coding or building websites or chatting in chatrooms but mostly playing games.

In 1999 I had dial-up at home and a performa 6200 which stumped the techs at the ISP because they had zero experience in dealing with macs. All they knew was how to rebuild the desktop, hahaha. Actually even now, some techs are still stumped by macs, but they have been rendered irrelevant since we can google most problems.

How was I using the internet in 1999? Definitely not spending a lot of time online. Browsing experience was frustrating because almost all the population used PCs, Windows and IE. Optimising for Netscape (no firefox yet then) wasn’t something webmasters did then. I wasn’t, and am still not, a gamer. I played a few simple games, that was it. Other than that, I was on ICQ. Yeah, ICQ. Mainly just with mm, although we spent most of our chats arguing, we weren’t in a very good space then.

montereyliving3

I moved in New York in the summer. Didn’t take the performa with me, bought the then spanking new iMac SE as soon as I got settled into my apartment. This is the iMac that people use as fish bowls nowadays. I had a one bedroom apartment with an enormous open living room that could be divided up and one corner became the study.

I did pick up one of those free trial disks to get online initially. AOL or Earthlink or Mindspring. I didn’t want to continue using them though, so I searched for other ISPs, trying to find a free one. I was still using yahoo search (google just starte), buried a few pages deep into the search was metconnect, who provided free ISP service for New York. All I had to do was sign up and dial a 212 number. Amazingly, they are still around.

in in the news , techtalk |

screenshot20140211

Visitors to the website today 11-feb-2014 may get a black overlay banner that asks them to join a virtual movement to fight back against mass surveillance. Reddit and tumblr and upworthy and many other sites are also part of today’s movement. In the US the purpose is to ask people to ask their legislators to support the USA Freedom Act; in other parts of the world it’s to raise awareness and to ask them to sign a petition in support of the principles against mass surveillance.

I know i’ve said before that I don’t like overlays but THIS IS IMPORTANT. There is such a massive amount of stalking and surveillance by governments that is becoming creepy and intrusive. I’ve also said that I accept that my online activity is being tracked, but I’m angry at the denial and the seemingly ineffectiveness of said surveillance.

Will this protest work? It’ll probably make only the tiniest of dents, as the guardian (always good for an NSA surveillance story) points out,

the relentlessness of the surveillance forces and their enablers in the technology industry, and the fecklessness of the politicians who are supposed to honor their oaths of office, make it hard to be optimistic

For me, the recent Edward Snowden and NSA revelations have made me realise much more about what is going on behind our backs. Is it all in the name of “it’s for your protection and your own good” as governments claim? I think it started there, but has become more of a desire to control and exert power over people rather than to protect them. Governments, corporations and individuals all need to abide by a set of moral code, and although morals have grey areas, respect for human right is so basic that it cannot be disputed.

And privacy is a human right so it’s up to all of us to respect and be aware of it.

in techtalk |

Introducing Paper from Facebook on Vimeo.



With some fanfare, facebook launched a new app, paper. US app store only, but for the impatient there is a simple workaround. My itunes account has always been in the US so I was able to download the app without problem on Monday.

Positive reviews all around. The best facebook app, the future for facebook and facebook replacement are some of the accolades being thrown all around.

First impressions, clean interface and yes, very flipboard-like. It’s obvious they built the app from scratch rather than use the existing problematic facebook app. There are 2 sections, the top is the cover of different categories (or papers) I set up; the bottom shows the individual posts from that category.

paperapp"

I don’t mind that I must have my fb newsfeed as a category, it looks way better than both the webpage and the old app. Here the top is a pic recently posted by my friend Rachel, and the bottom shows recent timeline posts by other friends. For a start, no game posts, yay. I tap on the pic and it expands to full page so I can view, like or comment on it. Same with the timeline posts, I swipe up and then sideways to navigate through the posts. No refresh needed, new posts populate live.

The other categories I can choose include the usual broad categories such as news, tech, sports, food, home and design. One complaint is that there is a limit to the number of categrories (I have to start getting used to using the term paper). The good thing is, fb hasn’t limited my subscription to only the pages I liked—tech has posts from ars, cnet, sfgate etc and news has articles from BBC, NYT etc.

The most direct comparison is with flipboard. Even the use of gestures is similar. I haven’t been using flipboard long, and I’m still getting to grips with the concept of magazines. There are more options with flipboard—I can see what’s going on in my twitter feed, tumblr follows and google+ universe—these competitors will probably never show up on paper.

There are some negatives. It loads slowly, I guess it’s because many people are playing with it. What’s available in each category are the usual big name sites that dominate everywhere; it would be nice to discover smaller, individual pages the way tumblr radar works. I’m subjected to the same stupid pictures of people’s dogs that I am on the regular site, and I can’t immediately find a way to get rid of them the way I can hide or report that post on the web app. Only the main timeline is shown and there doesn’t seem to be a way to read by custom list so I have to see posts by people I have no interest in reading (but don’t have the heart to unfriend). And I’m just waiting for the inevitable intrusion into my privacy, forcing me to read what they think I should read, and the ads, oh the ads are definitely coming.

All in all, it satisfies my need to find things to read as well as keeping up with what is happening with my online friends. I’ve already replaced the traditional fb app with paper on my iphone. Why it works for me is that although it is an app by facebook, it’s not a facebook app—if that makes sense. I can see that I’ll use it as a fb replacement at the same time as complementing flipboard, feedly and the occasion foray into digg reader to find new things.

in techtalk |

nointernet

Home, after a long travelling day. We got woken up by the tv guy calling to tell us he was arriving, which to his credit, he was on time and fixed the cable box quickly. We did all the check out stuff — turned off water, electricity, made sure everything was locked — then headed out for brunch. Couldn’t find the place we wanted so ended up at the same dim sum restaurant as yesterday. Ate just as much.

Stopped off at the gas office for more errands, then walked to get snacks and biscuits. Note that we were both carrying pretty heavy bags filled with sweet potatoes, sweetcorn and fruit alreadyy. Lots of weight-lifting exercise.

The return coach was at 3.30pm and we got back in town around 7pm. Quick dinner then we each got a taxi home. Normally I would just take the bus, but my bag was getting heavy and I was tired.

Showered, unpacked, packed up for going back to parents’ tomorrow, did laundry. Watched tv, yay Nigella and Nigel Slater and Ramsay and Grand Designs. Then, and only then, did I turn the laptop on.

I just spent 36hrs with no internet and, actually, it was okay. I’m not obsessed with checking email, and people don’t email as much nowadays. The few games I’m playing, I’m not at the addicted stage where I have to login and declare war, or proceed to the next stage of candy crush, or build the museum in pokopang, or train up my ninja. I had my kindle, and I was happy to limit my activity to reading.

People talk about disconnecting from technology, from social media. I didn’t have internet on the cruises last year, and I did miss it a little. I’m okay with a day or even a weekend. The hour or so when the ship was docked next to a hop-on-hop-off bus that gave me free wifi was like a godsend because that was day 9 on the trip already. Total disconnection with technology, that’s difficult because it means no ebooks, no games, no evernote, no a lot of things. It’s amazing how much I, like so many others, have become completely attached to my idevice.


in techtalk |

iphone4power

The iphone battery has been acting up lately. Either it doesn’t charge or it never reaches 100%. I don’t know if it’s the age of the iphone (3 years), the charger, the usb wire, the power strip, the socket, the electrical circuit, or some other reason. I bought an external power supply for travel, but what has actually worked is this power pack that slips over the iphone just like a regular case. Charge up the pack, put the iphone inside and I’m good to go for the whole day. Probably a little thick to slip into my jeans pocket but better than the external power pack. And best of all, it came free when mm bought a couple of bulk packs of batteries.


in techtalk |

Our online lives has gotten really busy. Status update on facebook, witty observations on twitter, ideas on tumblr, food porn on instagram, funny videos on youtube, deep thoughts on wordpress (or MT like me), other people’s deep thoughts to read on feedly, organising our lives on evernote, and not forgetting calendar and email. So if I took a pic of my lunch with instagram, I might want to crosspost to flickr, facebook, twitter and my blog, then back it up to dropbox, send the links to evernote, and send my family an email so they can check it out. I don’t want to physically do all that, I need automation.

Happy to come across IFTTT, which stands for if this then that, and does the automation between web services via what they call recipes. Services like facebook and twitter are called channels and the recipes link 2 channels together. One of the most popular recipes links twitter with facebook:

ifttt-twfb

I’m working through the 101 best recipes, that’s a nice weekend project.

The motivation for this interest in IFTTT came from a problem with my feed. Whenever I add a new post, I had set up networked blogs to create a corresponding post in fb. It’s not the most reliable or prompt service — I never know if a post will show up and when. Things got worse ever since flickr changed their embed method:

ifttt-rssfb1

The link and titles are still there, but the thumbnail didn’t get pulled, even though there is an image associated with the post. A screenshot of the website shows up instead. This is not the first time it happened with flickr images, so time to ditch networked blogs. The IFTTT recipe goes:

ifttt-rssfb

Took a few tries to get the recipe right, detailed process and analysis in a separate technical section post.

ifttt-rssfb4

The only slight complaint was the excerpt wasn’t included as an ingredient in the IFTTT recipe. May be an improvement for future.


in techtalk |

Resurrecting tumblr, see how the blog feeds to it now. I stopped using tumblr when they stopped taking full post rss feeds, but I can probably live with truncated post or a link now. I changed the website landing page back to tumblr. This post will feed to both fb and tumblr via ifttt. I have to figure out whether I want tumblr or twitter or facebook at the beginning or the end of the process.

Here’s a picture:

emptypianostage

a bunch of blockquote text


A random link: 10 rules of surveillance dystopia stories on io9.

in techtalk |

places086matterhorn

Sidebar widgets removed, flickr embed this time. Please show up, Matterhorn.

in techtalk |

places086matterhorn

so if I remove the bottom sidebar widgets, including the powered by MT button, will the matterhorn show up as a thumbnail on fb?

in techtalk |



Test post for IFTTT. Created a recipe that takes the RSS feed and posts to fb. Hopefully the pic is included. Matterhorn 2002, flickr embed.

in photography is life , techtalk |

It’s fairly widely reported today that yahoo changed the way flickr embeds work. At first glance there is no difference, but hover on the pic and the enhancements become visible. The small difference is the username, filename and flickr logo are prominently displayed at the bottom when hovering. There is no way of deleting the text, it’s part of the iframe. I’m not altogethr happy about this, but it will make embedding from other users easier, that I don’t have to separately add text to attribute the pic to them. And if anyone has access to my embed codes, I get the attribution credit.

The bigger change is the ability to scroll from the pic itself. Hover on the pic and two scroll arrows appear. Try it.



This was a rare snow scene at my local park in London, taken early in the morning on the way to the tube station. Scroll through to see the adjacent pics in my photostream. Apparently there is a way to enable scrolling through the set the pic is in, which I haven’t figured out how to do yet. This I like, very much.

For the moment, the old style embed is still available, so here’s the same pic again.

ldnsnow2012021001

in techtalk |

locationpin

Been ranting about lightboxes and blog terminology, so in the spirit of keeping good things in threes, here’s a post on how I feel about location tracking.

It wasn’t until this time round living in Asia that I realised how bad online personalisation and tracking has become. When the likes of amazon started addressing me by name and suggesting stuff I’d like to buy, I hated it but I can ignore the one line at the top of the page. But tracking is no longer as simple as that nowadays. It’s big business. Most websites are less interested in delivering content or providing services, users are little more than monkeys to display advertising to and the most important department is the marketing department. The marketing department tells web designers to write algorithms to target the monkeys’ activity with “appropriate” ads.

On the one hand, we have Forbes’ four lessons for internet marketers, which talks about transparency and the need for explicit approval; on the other hand we have spurious data supporting personalized marketing. Clearly, marketing departments are drinking their own kool-aid.

My view of this type of intrusion into my privacy has always been that I tolerate it being collected but I abhor it being used in a way that only benefits the collector. It cannot be a one-way street. So if I googled “how to make a bomb and destroy government buildings” I expect government agencies to pick it up and monitor my activities, and as a member of public I want government agencies to stop people who intend to do such terrible acts. But I do not want to have ads by fertiliser companies or gun clubs in my local area to start populating my facebook wall and following me around for a month. There is a difference between tracking for national security and tracking for my “enjoyment.”

I can use ABP and ghostery (and NoScript occasionally) to block trackers, and I delete cookies and LSOs regularly. What I’m struggling to do, is to stop being recognised and tracked because of my geographic location through my IP address and whatever else data is mined on my iphone. Of course I’ve checked-in on facebook and I also have an account at foursquare, but in those instances I’m broadcasting my location willingly.

yahoohk

It was fine living in the US and UK, but here, every time I clean up my history and cache and then go to yahoo or blogger, I have to navigate through another language. It is becoming more and more annoying to go back to the English version. I hate it. I have to be careful and paranoid, to avoid something like what happened to this guy when he went to another country and lost all his e-books. As Wil Wheaton commented,

meanwhile, someone who got those books some other way, perhaps from a certain Bay, for example, would be able to read them anywhere on the planet, as long as that hypothetical person had electricity


My itunes account is US-based, I have both amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, I make sure I buy only DRM-free e-books and I keep backup copies on my mba and in dropbox. I do not want my activity checked, controlled or manipulated because of my location. Leave me alone, don’t call me by my name because I’m not your friend; don’t show me something in a language I barely read; don’t try to determine my likes or try to predict my behaviour.

Be it geo-restriction or DRM, or both, I’m on the side that believes that DRM is a bad thing, and there’s recent evidence that removing DRM improves sales. As the WSJ said,

The line between personalization and manipulation is a fuzzy one, but one thing is certain: We can never know if the line has been crossed if we’re unaware of what companies know about us.


in techtalk |

On my twitter feed and my facebook wall are occasional status updates to the tune of “check out my newest blog!” I do a double-take every time because that particular social media friend already has a website and did it mean that in addition to blahblah01.wordpress.com and the blahblah02.wordpress.com newest blog she announced last week, she now has blahblah03.wordpress.com?

By saying “check out my newest blog!” she was actually trying to alert us that she has a new blog post up as opposed to a spanking new blog site. There is a subtle difference. And this casual interchangeability of two related but different terms kinda bothers me a wee bit.

I searched “new blog” on twitter, and it was about 80:20 split between new blog posts vs new blog when they mean new blog post. PwC Australia does it the correct way:

blogpostright

whereas the Arsenal fans’ tweet was misleading:

blogpostwrong

Of course there were people who genuinely did start a new blog:

blognewright

or people who have new things happening at their blog (typos not withstanding):

blogright

Apparently it is a very common mistake. I thought it’s a rookie mistake, but according to Slate, people like the late great Roger Ebert, geek royalty Amanda Palmer and…gasp…Arianna Huffington also do it.

Sigh.

Let’s go back to the very beginning. The term blog is an abbreviation of web log, or in its early incarnation, a web diary. Blogs are made up of posts. You tend to only have a new diary every year, although you will have scores of entries inside. Another good analogy:

  • blog = newspaper
  • blog post = newspaper article

Try this: The journalist wrote a newspaper about last month’s unemployment figures. See what I mean?

So my social media friend who has just added content to her blog, would have been more correct in telling us to “check out the newest post on my blog!” I’m guessing the additional words make it more clunky and is potentially less impactful? IDK. People have the tendency to squish words together, so may be in the future it’ll be “check out my newest blost!” Snerk.

Why am I getting worked up about it? Aside from it sounds weird? I’ll categorise it as a pet peeve, like your vs you’re and their vs there. If someone is making a living writing for a blog, they should know the basic terminology of their job, right? Even if it’s just a personal blog, good spelling, grammar and proper word usage make a good impression. Slate was harsh, but take away the snarkiness and they have a point,

I’m not going to sugarcoat this—is that calling a post a blog makes you sound stupid. That may seem harsh, but I’m doing you a favor. Every time you make this mistake, it sounds like you don’t understand this newfangled thing, the World Wide Web.

I know I’m right about this. I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging blogs and posting posts for over 10 years.

in techtalk |

In the early days of internet, everything was free. Then it got commercial and ads started appearing on webpages. At first the ads were at the side of the page, then they got large and loud and obtrusive with huge flashing banner ads and popups that can’t be closed. Nowadays it’s even worse — users’ online activity and geographic location are collected and ads are targeted. All very annoying and intrusive and creepy.

Thank goodness for plug-ins like adblock plus and ghostery.

But we have a new threat.

in techtalk |



Last week we went to the apple store and got mm upgraded to the iphone 5s, from her iphone 3g. It’s really light and very sharp with the new case we found. My target upgrade is the iphone 6 or 6s, perhaps even 7 if my iphone lasts that long. The reason for waiting is I want to get an ipad mini first, and I’m not one of those recent apple converts who need to own every idevice.

That is, until I start spotting cool things and apps that are only compatible with iphone 5 or 5s.

This lightstrap cover is a new kickstarter project, and is basically a flash built into the case. A bit expensive though, and I don’t understand why the lower donation amount gives earlier access to the product.


nikeplusmoves

Like many people this Christmas, I’m on the hunt for an activity tracker, and was thinking of getting either a fitbit or a fuelband. The fitbits and newest fuelband sync through bluetooth, which requires iphone 4s, sigh. And the nike+ moves app, which doesn’t even need a band, needs the iphone 5s’ M7 processor.

Argh! May be I’ll just go to the sports store and get an old fashioned pedometer for the time being and stop thinking about iphone 5s stuff.

in challenges , random words , techtalk |

hp5520

3549 words | 16409 words total

Most of the afternoon was spent looking for and buying a printer. After speaking with the salesperson and getting information about how much ink cartridges cost, eventually I got an HP 5520 over an HP Envy 4500. Seems that over time the running costs are lower, we’ll see. Around US$110, but with credit card points and a supermarket voucher gift, the actual amount spent was around $85. I did have to spend over 2 hrs setting it up. Had to download the drivers and work with Mum’s slow internet. Repeat for her laptop. Stupid HP, installation was easier on Mum’s windows machine and there are still glitches when scanning to my mba.

What with Monday night being a busy TV night (Deadliest Catch, TAR and there used to be MKR), I tried to fit in nano whenever I can. Happy with the wordcount today.

I should add titles to my chapters, corresponding to where they are in terms of house building. If chapter 3 was the first meeting between the MCs, then chapter 4 is tearing out the defective floor frame and starting fresh. Things are going pretty well with the house, but the MCs haven’t moved beyond the sort of awkward formality of people who have just met.


in techtalk |

abpfb

Adblock Plus is the most popular firefox add-on, by a long way. And now they’re even better! They just introduced a means to filter out facebook annoyances. In addition to blocking all ads, sponsored stories, and promoted posts, which it already does, we can now block stuff like:

  • music / entertainment / games you may like
  • add to tv shows / music
  • rate books / movies / tv shows / music / places
  • recommended pages
  • suggested groups / friends / find more friends

With the recent troubles that social fixer ran into and had to make changes to, it’s great that ABP has stepped in and delivered where Matt Krause had to compromise. Just my conjecture but I think the difference is that ABP is a German corporation, rather than Mr Krause, who falls under US law. Also ABP is a browser extension, as opposed to, until now, targeting specific websites.

ABP has its attention on twitter, with an open letter that asked twitter to join its Acceptable Ads campaign. Hopefully they will keep an eye on the instagram ad situation too.

Online advertisers hate ABP, because it takes away their access to their potential audiences. But as one of its 50 million users, I can categorically say that the presence of an ad, or any attempt at personalisation, tracking or data mining, instantly turns me off and I’m more likely to not use a particular advertiser if I see their ad. To me, online ads mean giant flashing banners, multiple popups, pages that hijack and won’t close, autoplaying videos and generally poor quality and taste. Plus the idea of personalised ads because a website has tracked my activity is very, very scary. I will continue to use ABP, ghostery and some form of noscript to protect my online activity.

And now if someone please write a customisation or extension so I can block all pics of dogs, mentions of dogs or anything about dogs on my fb wall. That will make for a more pleasant fb experience for me.


in techtalk |

homepage201310


One of the tasks I set for the october tdp challenge was to decide on what to do with the homepage. One of the problems with a website like this which is neatly organised into sections — blog, writing, pictures, travel, food — is that the landing page, ie invisiblecompany.com itself, is redundant. If I were a real writer I’d have images of my books on the landing page; if I were a restaurant it’d inevitably be a fancy flash page with mood music designed to annoy customers; if I were a business I’d have huge banners advertising my products with links to prices, company information etc. But I’m a person, and not a very interesting one at that.

For the longest time the landing page redirected (automatically through htaccess) to tumblr which I had intended to be a catch-all for my website, tweets, flickr, facebook posts, interesting links and random stuff. But when they took away full post importing from MT blogs, I stopped using tumblr. Don’t have time to maintain multiple presences.

So I just did the most simplest and laziest thing, to redirect invisiblecompany.com to invisiblecompany.com/quiet. Again, a one line htaccess statement.

What I’d like to have as a landing page is a welcome statement, some words and/or images of what I’ve done, and recent posts from around the website. But I’ve yet to a) achieve anything worth putting on a homepage and b) figure out how to bring in posts from another blogid. So I just did something temporary:

  • wrote some welcome blurb and saved as a static page, called it using a template module, or what MT calls a widget
  • created a new index template that outputs a file called home.php, using the main index template as base — the index uses mt:include to call the welcome module and the last post on the blog
  • redirected in htaccess to home.php



A bit boring, but a start. Not sure whether I should include just the most recent post or, say, the most recent 3 or 5 posts. Ah well, I’m sure no one cares.

in arts and media , techtalk |



One thing about not living in the US or UK is missing the new season programs. Some we get on local cable…eventually. They tend to get scattered on various channels, which means subscribing to each one. This can get pricey. The one must for me is TAR, which thankfully I get to watch 12hrs after it airs.

Mum found a way to catch new programs. Not going into details but so far I’m at ep 2 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which makes me very happy. I’m not big on comics, I watch the films whenever I can. Great to see Joss back, it warms my heart to see the “Grr-Argh” logo at the end.

Next up, Downton Abbey, Blacklist, Orange is the New Black and the required viewing of Breaking Bad.

in techtalk |

siteplan2003

With all my focus on the Japan trip, I almost missed that this webite turned 10 years old last week. The whole invisiblecompany.com dates back longer than that, I first registered it in 1997, early versions of the very basic website was hosted at xoom, which doesn’t exist anymore (xoom.com is now some sort of money transfer site so don’t click on it). Transferred over to tripod, anyone remember that? As Steve Jobs said,

wow


Got my own host and started designing Sept 2003. With a basic siteplan. And those first posts seem so lame now.

Who knows what will bring in the next 10 years? Who will still have blogs? Or self-hosted sites. It’ll all be mobile and instant gratification. The whole concept of websites will probably be something kids scoff as being so old fashioned.

in techtalk |

icdsoftprices

Hosting on the website will expire at the end of September. I’ve been with icdsoft for 10 years, and although they are not the cheapest, it’s worked for me so far—barely any outages and prompt response whenever I had to contact support. When I clicked on the link to renew, I was a little bit shocked that I’m being quoted $296 to renew for 2 years, I can’t remember it being this expensive. Looking at their price comparison chart gave me a clue—I’m on the iAdvantage server, which is the most expensive. I’m sure there wasn’t any price difference when I started.

websitemoved

So what did I do? I got Support to move the website to Savvis. They were fine about it, and it took them about an hour. Now I’m on server 327 instead of 212. When I first clicked to check, I saw a “website has been moved” notice, and it told me to reset my DNS server. There are a few methods: for PCs it involves cmd/ipconfig and for macs it’s a Terminal command. I’ll leave google to provide the answers for anyone needing it.

I’m not seeing any difference in terms of…anything, so it’s all good. The renewal price for housing the website at Savvis is now $200 for 2 years. May be one of these days, I’ll look at alternatives.

in easily amused , techtalk |

cuteusb choccollon01

No chocolate shoe for this year’s gclscon, instead I have probably 3 lots for the silent auction. I’m sure about #1 and 2, not sure about #3, whether there will be any interest:

  1. cute flash drives I saw at the outdoor market. I have: yoda, piglet, spiderman, psy and bart simpson as well as a chocolate ice lolly and a fake mercedes key fob. I kept the angry bird for myself
  2. whatever strange Japanese chocolate/candy I can lay my hands on. I think at the very least: collon, melty kiss, pocky
  3. some running swag like the Polar F6 that has been sitting in my drawer for a while, a fake spibelt, may be one of my running books. I wish I hadn’t given away so many race shirts to charity, that would make a good set

If I have time and can find it during my layover at Narita, may be a Japanese whisky. I like nikka straight from barrel because the bottle looks like a perfume bottle. I have a bottle myself and Mr Murray gives it 91 points.

in techtalk |

candycrushcake

So randomly, I decided to go home to see my parents. Seems Mum’s yahoo mail is causing her problems, and she can’t describe it to me over the phone. The login page for her mail, and the mail page itself aren’t loading properly, with absolutely no css, no wonder she was freaked out. Having identified the problem, I couldn’t find an answer no matter how much I googled. Finally, I installed noscript, converted her account to classic and it worked somewhat. Still didn’t solve all the issues but at least she can read emails now.

Yay! And to celebrate, here’s a candy crush cake I saw on facebook. Everyone, and I mean everyone, seems to be playing candy crush. My niece and I played this game on the train, to spot the people playing it on their smartphones.


in techtalk |

feedly

I was horrified when I read that google reader will close in July. My first rss reader was bloglines and by the time it closed in 2010 (I think), I’d migrated to greader, which was part of the reason bloglines got left behind. Thing is, there’s no better reader than greader, so that’s not the reason it’s being chucked. Actually, as one of the few who used the service day in day out, I still can’t get my head round to why.

The Indy article suggested that perhaps it’s the rise of twitter. Most newspapers and big sites have twitter feeds of their articles, so perhaps. But twitter can never replace greader. One of the best descriptions of how most greader users use the service is that they

curate

web content in a highly personalised manner. For instance, my subscriptions include big names like boingboing, gizmodo, lifehacker, kottke and simply recipes; I also follow my own friends as well as smaller sites dedicated to food, gardening, design or writing—sites that don’t necessarily have a twitter feed to announce new content. Besides, I can read the full article on greader and not have to click on a tweet.

Which brings me to a thought—rss full feed may also be a factor. Full feeds are great user experiences—no need to get distracted by advertising or other stuff on the main website. You’re not even going to the main site, meaning no trace or cookies left behind. But lots of site owners don’t like it for the exact reason—every view on an rss reader is a click, aka advertising opportunity, lost. It’s moot in this age of ABP or ghostery, and besides rss is old tech, but the suspicion runs deep. I’ve noticed more and more sites switching to excerpt or truncated feeds whilst closing down their full feeds. If it’s a site I normally just skim, I’ll unsubscribe. Their loss.

No matter what google’s reason is, the fact is that greader is going away. And since I don’t want to rely on just twitter, time to find alternatives. My criteria: web-based, can show full feed, uncluttered. One of the most written about is feedly. What sold me was that all I needed to do was to sign in using my google account, and that was it. I’m guessing this is a temporary feature, to capture ex-greader users. Once the greader API goes away, feedly will run their own and hopefully the transition for users will be smooth.

So far, I like it. I can toggle between a compact headline view, the traditional full feed view and a flipboard-like magazine view. Simple UI, clean lines, and I can use it anywhere. This is the great thing about the internet; if a popular service shuts down there will be others willing and able to step into their shoes. We saw it happen with picnik, and now with greader.

in techtalk |



I’ve been doing a spot of photoshop designing lately as a favour; it’s been a while but thankfully I hadn’t forgotten everything I used to know. I had problems porting the program to the mba so whenever I had to photoshop my pictures I had to switch back to the mbp. Then in January, adobe opened up cs2 for free download, since it’s an old product they no longer support. I don’t mind, I’m not a professional designer and for the sort of basic photoshopping I do, cs2 is good enough. So now I have PS and Illustrator on both machines. The advantage of having cs2 is that it came with ImageReady, which I thought was a neat little tool.

I also learned a new trick, from someone who is a professional. How to remove backgrounds using the Multiply layer tool. Very nice.

in techtalk |

wifi

Finally, the technician came again and I’m all connected. It goes to show Apple’s advancement, when I first got broadband and cable, in the late 1990s, they were the only company I could use to connect my mac (an ancient Performa relic, wow!) and their customer support hotline only knew to tell me to force quit and rebuild desktop if I had problems. I learned to troubleshoot and fix problems myself. Today, the technician had no problem setting up the wifi network on my second machine (a less ancient first gen mbp). I’m connected.

Also opted for a few tv channels — discovery pack, BBC pack, AXN (for TAR) and WarnerTV. There’s Fox, Universal, Sony and Warner channels, all separate.

in techtalk |

line

So, sms turns 20. Lots of OMG being sent in celebration. I much prefer texts than calls, much less intrusive, gets to the point quickly, no need for greetings or small talk. Arranging a dinner with someone over the phone:

me: hello
them: hello
.
.
[small talk]
.
.
me: so how about dinner?
them: okay.
me: when?
them: oh, let me see, I can’t do Wednesday. Thursday I have piano lessons, Friday I have a conference call. Saturday?
me: no, Saturday I have lunch with my sis
.
.
[another 3 minutes discussing when both are available]
.
.
me: so, where?
them: I dunno, where do you want to go?
.
.
[another 5 minutes deciding on where to go]
.
.

Texting goes:

me: dinner, fri or sun? you say where
them: sun better, Jap place
me: ok cu

On the phone, there is the temptation and tendency to talk more, discuss, argue. With texting, speed is the driver. Decisions are made faster, even taking into account time needed to think of a response. It’s more immediate and more convenient. Problem is, it’s being taken over by spammers and trigger-happy vendors like banks.

I only text people who are, um, less progressed on the tech adoption curve. The others have all migrated to whatsapp, I got a quote from a contractor via whatsapp, and the van guy I hired to move the fridge asked me to whatsapp him my address. Agreeing and arranging dinners with friends are done through group chat. Mainstream media finally caught up, the guardian had an article about whatsapp as if it were the newest thing, hahaha.

Increasingly, I’m using line with mm, basically because she likes the cute stickers. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a sticker is worth a whole line of text. Line is free, they make money through in-app purchases — additional stickers, games, other novelty stuff one would expect from a Japanese product. It has VOIP too, we’ll try it out one of these days.


in techtalk |

ipadmini

Will I buy the ipad mini?

Please rephrase.

When will I buy the ipad mini?

Thought so.

Unless someone offers it to me for Christmas, I’ll save it for a special occasion. What special occasion? Not sure yet, I’ll leave it open for my own discretion.

I’ve had the kindle for a while now, and it’s been completely indispensable. I take it everywhere, but I don’t use it except for reading and games as I haven’t put many apps on it. Paid for angry birds (for the 3rd time, that’s an issue) but all other apps are free. An ipad mini will be even more perfect, if apple gets the multiple device app purchase issue sorted out.

in techtalk |

movabletype2admin

Movable Type turns 12, which surely is fit for celebration. In this day and age of twitter, tumblr and mobile computing, it’s probably old-fashioned to be blogging, let alone blogging on a self-hosted CMS platform. From its early life as Ben and Mena Trott’s baby, to the glorious early SixApart days, to the disasters that were livejournal purchase, vox and to a certain extent, typepad, it’s been interesting to watch and experience.

I started with version 2 before quickly migrating to version 3. Stayed with version 3 for ages. Now still on version 4. More than 8 years with them.

movabletype5admin

Since the Japanese took over development at version 5, there have been lots more improvements. I’ll get round to upgrading one day. Will I ever switch to wordpress or tumblr? Every so often I think about it, and then I procrastinate.

in random words , techtalk |

sweettoothuksweettoothus

I’m thinking of buying Ian McEwan’s latest book, Sweet Tooth, a layered intrigue set in 1972 during the cold war.

I do a little comparison, amazon uk £8.09 ($12.99) and amazon us $13.99. Even without the small price difference, I want the UK edition because I prefer the cover and I’d like to read it in the English it was written (I’m assuming it gets “translated” to US English). There’s just a couple of tiny problems:

  • my kindle is registered to my US account, so it will automatically go to amazon.com
  • amazon.co.uk won’t let me buy kindle books if I’m outside the UK

It’s not just amazon, WH Smith, kobo and ebook all sell a DRM epub version (just ignore the dirty word DRM), all impose geo restrictions, I guess by IP address. What if I were travelling, does it mean I have to wait till I get home to buy? What a ridiculous concept.

The twist is that amazon lets me buy the paper book from anywhere in the world but not the ebook. Apparently it’s due to contractual agreements. This post talks about Australia but is a good illustration. It’s also from 2010 and hints that things are changing. Riiiiight. It’s now 2012, isn’t it time for country boundaries in the electronic world to go away?

I’ve spent enough time on this today, there are other things vying for my attention. I’ll read another book (from an international-reader-friendly publisher/seller — thanks Bella!) or I’ll play bad piggies or whatsapp mm. It’s likely that Mr McEwan will never get my sale, the US book comes out in November and I doubt I’ll remember. Fine. I’m just one insignificant person, Random House doesn’t care about me. The problem is that Random House and the other Big Publishers insist on putting obstacle after obstacle in the way of legitimate book buyers, who then get frustrated and what will they do? They’ll give up and not buy the book. If the book is that good, it’s not like the buyer roll over and wait like a meek little sheep to buy at the store and price that Big Pub dictated, right? The best case scenario is to use a proxy, then at least there is a sale. Nowadays, unfortunately, the more likely outcome is a torrent, and that’s an ugly unending downward spiral.

in techtalk |

nokia6300

Mum uses a basic Nokia, and I keep my old 6300 around for disposable numbers. For some reason she decided she needed a few songs on her phone. It has a USB port, but I couldn’t get it to mount to the mba. Well, there’s the old fashioned way — I bluetoothed the mp3s one by one to her phone. Actualy didn’t take very long, about 10 seconds each file. Heh. Remember when every pretentious git had a bluetooth earphone glued to their ear? I remember standing around in a circle of friends sending files to each other. Like I said, old-fashioned.

in techtalk |



About a month ago I saw that amazon was selling refurbished kindle fires for $139. I was slightly tempted when the fire first came out, but decided to wait for a new ipad instead. But lately I’ve been wanting to replace my very old (in tech terms) Sony ereader and was thinking of getting a kindle. The fire isn’t available in the UK, and the $139 price tag finally did me in.

Okay, okay. I just wanted another new toy.

It’s been sitting in Car’s house for a month, and I took it out to charge and play today. It’s a refurbished model, but it came in a box and everything was nicely packaged. To be honest, it felt brand new. Probably someone bought it and returned it. It was pre-registered to my account, and to all intents and purposes is new.

It’s heavier than the regular kindle and the ereader, which kind of defeats the purpose. But it doubles up as a tablet with basic apps, so it bridges the gap between the iphone and the mba, that should eventually be plugged by the ipad, may be. In the meantime I moved all my ebooks over via calibre and downloaded the music I bought on amazon. Nothing too fancy yet. Only bought one app, an office app that was reduced to 99c from $14.99 — may be a new version is coming out, but I don’t mind an older version. It would have been great to get existing iphone apps free, I really don’t want to pay for angry birds all over again.

First impression? Pretty cool. Scrolling is quite a bit slower than the iphone or ipad. A HUGE improvement in reading experience compared with the Sony — it’s not e-ink but I’m not bothered by the screen display. Initial complaints — I hate the carousel, that it saves everything I open; I’m the sort of person who doesn’t save browsing history and is very tight on controlling cookies. The second complaint is that sideloading from calibre loads into the documents folder and have to be moved to the books folder manually. There is also no ability to create sub-folders for different types of books, sorting alphabetically is not practical for a large library.

I’m pleased with it despite the initial reservations. it’ll be great for the trip.

in photography is life , techtalk |

picmonkey

A sad day indeed, when picnik closed. I’m not going to want to go into the trouble of logging into google+ to use it, I want a browser based editing tool that is easy to use. A couple of ex-picnik engineers did and for similar user experience, it’s great. I’m temporarily using it as my picnik alternative. Another one that will hopefully launch shortly is ribbet, which has been touting itself on a picnik alternative facebook page for a while. A quick google gave me mashable’s 7 alternative. Looks like we won’t be left out in the cold, lots of people are racing in with their own product.


in techtalk |

fbdownerror

fbdowntwitter

So this morning first thing, I logged in, as usual. Every tab loaded except facebook, which gave me a server error. Oh horrors! Immediately I checked on downrightnow which reported likely service disruption. Okay, so no mafia wars. I can live with it.

The most hilarious thing was, downrightnow then got very slow. Someone on twitter remarked that it was slow because everyone was checking on facebook status. What I get out of this is that it’s so easy to check on anything. In the past if a website is down, we’re never sure if it is them or our own connection. That scenario doesn’t apply anymore. One of another of the social sites will have something reported. That’s the power of social media.

in techtalk |

accessdenied

Bandwidth is getting used up faster than I liked, even though I disabled comments sitewide and added the offending IP & domains to the protection control panel. Looking at the stats last night, that did nothing to keep the spammers out, so I emailed my ISP support. Ack, how could I forget? Using the control panel doesn’t work, it has to be done using the .htaccess file. Suresupport kindly added the few IPs I mentioned as well as the awful 163data domain.

It looks like all of this spam is from China, one of the worst spam producing countries. (I was surprised the US is #1 and twice as bad as China, I guess it’s email spam and not this dreadul comment spam.) A little research told me that I could block entire countries by IP. This is exactly what I’m looking for. I copied the entire IP block allocated to China into my .htaccess and denied them all. Yes, it means my website cannot be accessed from anywhere in China, ie if mm and I go to her flat for holiday (moot point, she has no internet there). But it can’t be helped. I’ve been monitoring the stats all day and it seems to have stopped the spam attack.

in techtalk |

trafficover

An unexpected consequence of the comment spam attack was that the website exceeded the 20GB monthly bandwidth limit. A normal month, I’m probably at 2GB, and the whole of 2011 totalled 30GB, so this was a big spike. I didn’t even realise it until when I logged in a couple of days ago and saw the error message. Ouch. I had to wait till today to get access back and the first thing I did was to disable comments sitewide. Then it was a matter of going through the stats, picking out the offending domains and IPs and adding them to the blocked list. There are honestly too many, and I’m not sure blocking will do the trick. I’ll have to be extra vigilant. And make time to upgrade to MT5.

in techtalk |

spam

I struggle to get readers on my website. Well, that’s not entirely true because I don’t do any marketing or self-promotion or anything like that. I’m not famous or good looking or have books published or say anything remotely interesting, all I do is post about running and food and stuff I do so who the hell do I think I am?

So far, I’ve escaped the dreaded spam infection that seems to hit hosted websites like wordpress or blogger. MT used to be the market leader (within the tech geek community anyway) but it has been overtaken by the aforementioned wordpress, blogger and even tumblr.

Which is why it amused me to no end when I did routine maintenance and found that I had over 50 spam comments. They don’t show up because I set it so that I need to approve comments. These comments are twisted! For example,

The man underwear hiding more than 10 live hummingbirds were attempting to smuggle, customs and the hummingbird is wrapped body hidden in the men’s underwear, still survive in the new network on 28 September, the smugglers to steal the motion through the customs practices can change rapidly, according to Hongkong “astral island daily” reported on 28, the near future, a Holland tourists have more than 10 hummingbird living hidden in the special underwear, attempting to smuggle clearance, but ultimately not long.It is reported, the capital airport in French Guiana Cayenne, the Holland man put a dozen live hummingbirds with independent wrapped up, to prevent their wings flew, and put them away in only a slit in the underwear special packaging bag.The customs officers noticed the man “suspicious appearance and movements”, in the inspection requirements of he untied the briefs, they found about 12 live hummingbirds, subsequently, authorities seized.Reported that, the man in possession of a hummingbird, no birds anesthesia.It is reported, this man had a criminal record, has since tried to smuggle hummingbird convicted.According to introduction, the hummingbird is the world’s smallest known birds, by flapping wings hovering in the air, about 15 to 80 times per second, the speed of the body depends on the size of.

Seriously!!???!! I guess it’s just random words, they just want the link. But it’s a long way from the makfncilgoiereunarqf from the olden days. Another hilarious example, this is a comment so bot attempted to post on my sparkling cranberries post at Christmas,

I truly wanted to write down a quick remark to thank you for these pleasant secrets you are showing at this website. My time-consuming internet lookup has at the end been rewarded with really good know-how to go over with my contacts. I ‘d express that we readers actually are undoubtedly blessed to dwell in a fantastic community with many outstanding individuals with insightful concepts. I feel rather grateful to have used the web site and look forward to tons of more cool times reading here. Thank you once more for all the details.

snerk.

in photography is life , techtalk |

flickrdown

flickr was down for almost 2 hours on Thursday. They tried to be humorous and posted on their blog something about the servers being uncomfortable and then later

our chiropractors have found the spot and are applying gentle [massage] pressure right now

Thank goodness for twitter. As soon as I got the connection refused message, I went to check #flickr and lo and behold a lot of people were reporting the same problem. I appreciate them trying to lightened up the situation, but a major site like flickr going down has dire consequences, however much they apologise. I have 11,488 pictures and videos stored there. True, they are backed up on iphoto, but imagine if I had to reload them if something goes wrong. That’s inconceivable.

That the internet and the cloud has become so integral to our lives is no surprise to anyone. IMHO, it is a utility, just like electricity or gas or water. Prolonged outage will cause major stress.


in techtalk |



Yes, it’s 45mins long. Yes, Gil Amerio drones on for the first part. Be patient. Wait till 6:55, when Steve comes out on his return to Apple. The contents of his speech may be outdated (NT, Director, LaserWriter) and who remembers NeXT computers anymore but he was already talking about apps running on cross platforms. The conviction and charisma is there. Still compelling. I watched all the Steve bits and fast forwarded the Gil bits.

in techtalk |


video link: http://youtu.be/IcKTJvzwhZc

Apple stores closed yesterday for a few hours in honour of Steve Jobs. Around the world there were countless tribute to Mr Jobs. This is what I saw in Chicago.


in techtalk |

chi034apple

I’m still quietly sad at Steve Jobs death. Can’t wait for the biography to come out. It’s being released early on 24 October.


in techtalk |

stevejobsboingboing

The first mac I used was a mac plus; the first one I owned was an LCIII; the first ipod I owned was the cigarette case model (pre-windows). I got news of his passing on whatsapp on my iphone. I’m typing this on my macbook air. Without Mr Jobs, the world would not be what it is today. Thank you.

(This is the bb tribute theme. What power CSS.)

in techtalk |

I don’t think it’s BT. I tried to switch over to chrome this past week and it’s slow slow slow. I want to use it, but it’s back to firefox and safari for me.

in techtalk , workstuff |

autvscmt

An interesting, and true, graphic at smarterware that shows the difference between design by a visionary (Steve Jobs) vs by committee (google). Substitute “design” with “work” and google with every other company and the picture is still correct.

More and more I’m seeing the lack of vision and ownership at work, even for the simplest thing. Very frustrating.

in techtalk |

searchbarautosizer

A software update took me painlessly to firefox 5. Happy with the speed. Very happy with the no tracking option. Now for the wait for searchbar autosizer to be updated. Sheesh, they only recently caught up to firefox 4.

in techtalk |

ccleaner

Alright, Windows users, stop with the smugness. Yes, it’s finally happened, a significant breach into OSX, with news of the mac defender malware. A software update fixed it, but the lesson learned is between that and rampant facebook scams everyone has to be vigilant.

Good timing, piriform just released ccleaner for mac beta. It’s one of my all time favourite PC utilities although it’s not really an AV program. It does a great job in cleaning crap (the “c” in ccleaner) off the computer. All mac users go download it now.


in techtalk |

storegps

Tesco is testing out in-store sat nav system at one of its stores near London. Shoppers enter their shopping list items and the app gives a map of where the items are within the store. They’re only testing the android app at the moment, and from what I read, it’s a unit attached to the trolley. (Above image only an illustration.)

The aim is to reduce walking? Like those game show where you grab the most within 1 minute and you keep the stuff. It’ll be useful for Top Chef contestants. I’m not sure if this is coming from Tesco’s marketing department, won’t they want shoppers to wander around the aisles and see stuff that they impulse buy? Plus, isn’t the GPS supposed to be extinct in 5 years?

in techtalk |

ipadmba

I’m probably getting an ipad 2 next time I’m in the US. I gave my ipad to my niece and sometimes I miss it. I use the mba mostly at home but I think that it will more likely bridge the gap between the mba and the iphone. There’s a really interesting article from Business Insider on The Atlantic about how people really use the ipad. Usage has increased; almost 40% of respondents use it as their primary computer and over 70% use it to read books. Perhaps the one chart that I will use as justification is that over 70% of people think that ipads and macbook airs are not mutually exclusive.

in techtalk |

devolo

The useless virgin superhub wifi signal barely reaches the kitchen and not at all in the small bedroom, so I’ve been doing research on wireless extenders. The obvious candidate is a time capsule + airport express combo, but I thought I’d expand my horizons to beyond Apple. A little more digging led me to devolo, who makes products that sets up a home network using the electrical wiring system. I’d never heard of this method, and was skeptical until I read all the reviews on amazon.

I walked over to PCWorld after work, because they were selling the wireless starter kit for £89.99, even cheaper than amazon. My thinking is that if it doesn’t work, I can always return it.

Setting up was incredibly easy, took all of 5mins:

  1. connect the extender (smaller unit) via an ethernet cable to the modem and plug it into a wall socket
  2. note down the security ID at the back of the adaptor (larger unit)
  3. plug the adaptor to the wall in the remote room
  4. search for the “devolo” network and enter the security ID

That was it. Basically attach a cable and plug 2 things into the wall. The adaptor also has 3 ethernet ports to connect non-wireless devices like printers or tv and there is dashboard software that gives more functionality like configuring the network. The only minor disadvantage I can see is that both units have to be plugged directly to the wall — using an extension cord will degrade the signal. May be a problem for houses with insufficient wall outlets.

Overall, both thumbs up. Not particularly cheap but worth the money. I’m blown away by the simplicity of setup and the strength of the signal. I’m getting full bars in every room and no drop in signal. This means I can start using the small bedroom as a study and switch between the mbp there and the mba in the kitchen. I was able to make a little progress in the LL rewrite over the Easter weekend, which can only be a great thing.

in techtalk |

speedtestlondon speedtestchicago

I’m finding my internet slow, but according to speedtest it’s considerably faster than my Chicago connection. I’m not getting the 30Mb/s that I’m paying for so that’s probably why it feels so slow. Speedtest varies though, I have gotten 30Mb/s, but I’ve also gotten 6Mb/s in the space of 20mins.

in techtalk |

firefox4

I finally upgraded to firefox 4. It’s fast, I was about to defect to chrome with the slow and clunky 3.xx versions. I’m still going to use chrome a little bit more, but for the time being I’m staying with ff as my main browser. I have to get used to the tabs at the top of the window, and the open new window / open new tab sequence swap, I’m positive they do that to test us. In the meantime, I’m waiting for some of the add-ons (coughsearchbarautosizercough) to catch up to 4.


in techtalk |

worldbackupday

It’s world backup day. Here’s what I do, and I know I can probably use dropbox or time capsule to consolidate, I’ll get there.

  • financial stuff are all hardcopy, filed neatly in my filing cabinet
  • itunes library are on 2 external HDs
  • both iphones are synced with itunes and on the ext HDs
  • photos are in the iphoto library and on flickr, family pics are on 2 flickr accounts
  • writing stuff are on a flashdrive, on the website and both the mbp and mba
  • website is backed up to the mba, and my isp has a good backup policy
  • I should have a scanned copy of my passport and driving licences on my flashdrive, I need to check that


in techtalk |

whatsapp

It doesn’t matter since we both have iphones, but mm and I have been using whatsapp to chat. It’s like voip sms. It’s cool, and it’s available on multiple devices too, so in theory we can use our blackberries. Nah, not gonna install any apps on the BB.

in techtalk |

iphone4mba

Some people have way too much time on their hands. Swedish designer Mattias Östergren noticed that the iphone 4 fits perfectly into the notch of the macbook air. I took my iphone out of its media hipster wannabe cover just to test this. May be a manufacturing efficiency, or magnetic displacement, or something cooler, or just a coincidence. It’s a trivial observation anyway.


in techtalk |

timecapsule

I kinda want to start writing a little again, but need to get one of these first. Alright, I don’t need a time capsule to write, it’s just that I’ve set up the mba in the kitchen and the mbp stays on my desk and I thought I can make the study (ie use the mbp) as a writing area. The wifi isn’t that strong in the study so a time capsule as router plus an airport express as repeater will expand the network to the back of the apartment.

Did that sound like a lame babbly excuse to buy even more apple products?

in techtalk |

All is good, the clickety-clack keyboard still need some practice. Connection remains slow. Downloaded a bunch of apps. A normal mac evening.

in techtalk |

macbookproair

I spent the weekend setting up the macbook air, which I bought in Chicago and only unboxed this week. Unfortunately migration assistant didn’t work, and after spending hours and hours trying to fix it, I had to go with the more traditional manual method of backing up and restoring from an external hard disk. The one advantage here is that I can pick and choose which application to transfer over, so it’s like starting over again.

The painful part out of the way, I set about downloading firefox, adium and the rest. For the most part I could copy the existing setups and bookmarks from the library. Documents were straightforward to copy across, including Calibre e-books and the iphoto library; my itunes library is always on the external disk. Updating software took forever, not because of the machines but because of the pitiful virgin wifi speed.

The most obvious difference between the 2 macbooks is size. Compared with the thin, thin Air, the Pro looks like a Biggest Loser contestant. The 13” screen is smaller, but at the same resolution and way sharper so it doesn’t take me long to adapt. Do I want a bigger screen? Sure, but not at the expense of size. If I wanted a bigger screen, I would have stuck with the Pro. The keyboard will take some getting used to, it takes more energy to type, and each keystroke is accompanied by a click that isn’t so easy for touchtyping. This is my biggest complaint, plus that it isn’t a backlit keyboard.

It’s fast. Booted up by the time the apple logo came on at the Pro. Applications opened quickly, the finder navigation is an improvement.

Overall, I’m really liking it. It feels great and outperforms the Pro. It was time to get a new mac, and I think going with the Air was a good decision. For good measure, I updated both iphones so the new iphone4 is now fully functional.

in easily amused , techtalk |

serveradhd

xkcd pokes fun at the “newly” designed gawker mobile site, or well, other mobile sites. How very true. The same goes for sites that try to be location specific, like google that directs you to its Thai site when you’re in Thailand but can’t read Thai, and gawker sites are one of the worst, I can’t get into the general US site without clicking over and over again. No, I don’t want uk.lifehacker.com, I want lifehacker.com. I and I alone am the judge of which site I visit.


in techtalk |

wifi

I don’t want to think about, or go into, the whole frustrating palaver. Suffice it to say that the virgin technician came this afternoon and finally I have internet.

in objects of desire , techtalk |


video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b661ovU1rPU

I’m so glad I didn’t buy any ipad cases, I’d just have to buy newer ones for the ipad 2.

in techtalk |

iphone4

I blame the American practice of locking phones. It’s so alien and moronic and all the other words for stupid. My iphone has been stuck in airplane mode since December, and I’ve been using my blackberry. I worked out the costs. If I get an iphone 4 in HK, even with a plan that I’ll only use once or twice a year, it’s still cheaper to get it and then get a SIM only plan in the UK.

So that’s my new toy. Not synced yet cos I didn’t bring my external drive. Not bothered, I downloaded cover orange, it’ll tide me over till next week.

in techtalk |

bluedot

I find that if I move the mbp to the living room, in certain spots near the window I get the blue dot on the stupid dongle, meaning I get a 3g connection that resembles what I’m used to. It has a tendency to drop and go back to useless green 2g, but I can hopefully get an hour or so connection and I don’t feel like I’m completely cut off.

in techtalk |

o2dongle

So that I’m not completely cut off from the world, I got a mobile broadband dongle from O2. ¥30-ish for a month, including ¥20 for the device itself. Absolutely useless. Speed is slower than dial-up just for gmail, facebook and mafia wars. I would click, then go do something else like clear the bathroom or bedroom. Another 2.5 weeks of this, it might drive me crazy.

in techtalk |

qrcode

Two dimensional codes have started to appear, on websites, on ads, all over the place. These are easy to scan using an app onto mobile phones, and hey presto, information such as phone number, address, url are uploaded. So I finally got round to creating my own code for the website. Later on, I’ll do ones for my address and phone number.

in easily amused , techtalk |

bademailfwd

I unsubscribed to a mailing list recently. One of the reasons was members forwarding jokes and SLYT to the entire group. I didn’t think people that clueless are still allowed to roam the internets. Saw this today, and thought “yep.” There’s more at the oatmeal. Seriously funny stuff.


in techtalk |

Yep. I’ve been doing this for 7 years.


in being healthy , techtalk |

nikegpsapp

My nike+ sensor conked out, which is very annoying cos it’s less than a year old and already the battery is gone? So instead of getting a new $20 sensor, I spent $1.99 on the new nike+ gps app. I’m going for a 20-miler tomorrow, so I took it out for a test run today.

It doesn’t need the sensor, and set up was a breeze. The gps signal picked up quickly and I was on my way. At the end of the run, it synced to my nike+ account automatically without needing to go through itunes. The stats were all there, as well as my route. It’s well worth the price, and then some.

Apparently the gps is quite a drain on the battery so I’m worried about the iphone lasting the whole marathon. Let’s see how it shapes up on the 20-miler tomorrow.

in techtalk |

vox

So vox is closing down as of 30 September 2010. I’m sad but sadly indifferent. I can’t remember the last time I logged into my account. Oh, it’s a nice idea and elegantly designed as usual by six apart, but as Sarah Lacey pointed out, they are too diverse without one strong brand image:

They were essentially a software-as-a-service company for media with MovableType, a Web publishing tool with TypePad and a consumer Web 2.0 play for teens with LiveJournal and for adults with Vox.


I hope it’s just grammar to use past tense because I still think SA is a good company. Not great, and certainly hasn’t lived up to its potential. I’m not just saying it because I have a certain dependency on them — the entire website is built on MT. I stayed with them even though they were being overtaken by Wordpress, and to use a cliché, je ne regrette rien.


in techtalk |

tweetbutton

So I added a tweet button to the website, at the bottom of individual posts, right after Evan Williams tweeted about it. I’m probably too optimistic to think that my posts will ever get tweeted by the handful people who are kind enough to follow me. If this post gets read, chances are that it’ll be on fb anyway, and how many people actually know about the website or figured out that hitting “View Original Post” will bring them over here. Heh.

p.s. I just realised it tweets the website, not individual posts. Or does it? I’ll have to test.


in techtalk |

gwave

So I thought I should take a screenshot of google wave before it goes away. From the amount of white space it’s pretty obvious that I don’t use it. Aside from a small handful of waves when I first got my account, I haven’t gone back at all. It certainly is before its time and I’ll join the many who didn’t know what to do with it.

In other news, I don’t like buzz and don’t know what to do with it either.


in techtalk |

iamhere

Sarah Lacey at Techcrunch wrote about why she doesn’t use foursquare, which is rare in in the Silicon Valley world. The pros are abundant — location based services allow personalising, and the game aspect is pretty cool. But as she says,

telling my friends where I am doesn’t gives me enough in return to warrant the privacy invasion

She goes on to talk about shopkick and why she might start using it. All for extremely good reasons.

All this is really a segue into my reasoning on why I don’t use foursquare or gowalla and such like. I don’t particularly want people to know I’m at the supermarket or the dentist’s. I’ve seen check-ins from people on fb that they’re at the doctor’s or hairdresser’s and I’m thinking I really have no use for this information.

In any case, my locations will be extremely boring — home, office, “L”, lake and occasionally supermarket. I mean, who in the right mind will want to know that?

in techtalk |

sony700

I bought a couple of new ebooks and when I went to read one of them it kept freezing the ereader. After doing a soft reset several times, the screen was still stuck on the start up page. So I decided to do a hard reset, which is like reformatting and wiping it clean.

All the books I’d purchased are in the calibre library, so I wasn’t worried. The free classics that I got when I first bought the ereader are also on the mbp, but since I never got round to reading a single one, I didn’t even reload them.

I really have to figure out how to a) convert and load my own stories and b) getting everything on the ipad.

in techtalk |

speedtest

A technician came to Car’s house to fix their very slow internet. After changing to a wireless router, he got the download and upload speeds to significantly increase. He introduced us to speedtest which pings a nearby server for internet speed. My speed isn’t all that good, but it’s fine enough for me.


in objects of desire , techtalk |

itoys2010

My itoys: ipod original, nano, classic, iphone, ipad.

Yes, I went and bought an ipad. The wifi version, not the 3G. This one is actually for Mum. I can’t get one for myself yet — it’s not compatible with Tiger so I have to either upgrade to snow leopard or get a new mbp first.

Anyway, look at how huge the original “cigarette case” ipod is, especially next to the nano. This one has a lot of memories for me. I bought it with mm’s sis, and in those days ipods were mac only. In a way, I’m glad apple opened it up to PCs, cos it shows that the revenue has gone into further research and design. Of course we’re all having to adjust to more people in the apple space nowadays.


in outside interests , techtalk |

pmx680

I was saddened to learn that Prof Fritz Sennheiser has passed away. He was of course the founder of Sennheiser, one of the biggest names in audio technology. Microphones, speakers and headphones with the Sennheiser name usually mean high quality.

When I started using my ipod again, I was immediately on the lookout for earphones to replace the original apple ones. Shures and Boses were too expensive. Skullcandies didn’t fit. Everywhere I looked, the answer was Sennheisers. For everyday listening, I use the twist-to-fit models. I used the green ones for running for the longest time until I broke the arm so I was on the lookout for replacement ones last week.

These are adidas branded but made by Sennheiser pmx680. I was at first skeptical of the behind the head arrangement cos I thought there won’t be room around my ears to fit these and my glasses. Turns out, I didn’t have to worry. These absolutely stay in place, even better than the twist-to-fit. The sound quality is excellent and I like how it comes with a short cord for armbands and an extension for other use. I’m not using the armband anymore, having switched to a spibelt (well, Nathan shadowpak), that’s another post.


in techtalk |

mba

There was a rumour that the macbook air might get refreshed this week, citing a source that was reliable in the past. And that the refresh may come as early as Tuesday. Well, Tuesday has come and gone and no announcement. Sigh. It seems more likely that any refresh will be later this year. According to ars, who spoke with intel,

low-power Arrandale-class processors “for the ultra-thin segment” are coming later this summer

I am very tempted to get an mba in addition to a new mbp (may be even an ipad) this year. Walking around London for 4hrs with the mbp, the e-reader, adaptors, wires and 3 books in my backpack was good training, but I can do weights at home and an mba would have made it feel less like hiking expedition. Big apple year this may end up being.


in techtalk |


youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAl28d6tbko

We were at best buy and I couldn’t help it. Played with an ipad for a bit. Yep, it’s just like a larger ipod touch. It’s still a bit too large for my liking. It can’t fit into my back pocket like the iphone, and it’s kinda too big and heavy to carry around. My maximum size tolerance is the ereader and it’s bigger.

Way cool though. No doubt I’ll get one eventually.

Will it blend? Looks like it does. I watched this with horror.


in techtalk |

I’m not buying an ipad yet. I know I will, eventually. But not now.

Some other people also think this way.

in techtalk |

A stupid, annoying number has been calling my iphone 3 times a day for the past 2 weeks, always at the same times. Silence when I pick up, and unreachable when I try to call back. I think it’s a fax or modem or something automatic that got programmed wrong. Finally I couldn’t stand it and I called at&t. The rep and I tried to think of possible solutions. There is a blocking plan but it costs $5 a month. Finally I said, why don’t I just change the number. Seeing that only 6 people have my iphone number, it’s no big deal.

In any case, I’m switching to my google voice number so I can have better control. I can block numbers in gvoice, as well as get notifications inside gmail. I’ve been juggling multiple numbers for a while, I seem to have gathered a horde of them:

  • iphone — secret number only 6 people know
  • google voice — “public” number
  • pre-paid plan I use for the nokia — disposable number for services etc
  • office
  • blackberry

Ironic, since I never answer if I don’t recognise the caller and the only people I call are my parents and mm. Looking at my account, I’ve used up all of 9 mins this month. Shock.

in techtalk |

Only recently that I discovered that there’s mobile signal in the underground sections of the red line — tolerable 3G signal at the stations, but spotty in the tunnels. I should be excited, but all I can say is: a) about time and b) it’s still below global standards.


in techtalk |

css3walker

[via df] Click on the image above.

This works only on chrome and safari (and I checked). Anthony Calzadilla used css3 to create this moving at-at walker, no animated gif, no photoshop, no video. Just css. Wow.

I learned a little html and css when I first set up the website, but I haven’t kept up. And now it’s html 5 and css3, I’m not sure I’ll ever learn it.


in techtalk |

ipadhero

Why I will buy it:
  • so pretty
  • just touch it
  • easy to use
  • better than b&w e-readers
  • apps!!
  • I can see it replacing the netbook
  • pretty, pretty, pretty



Why I won’t buy it (yet):

  • can’t multi-task
  • no flash
  • no webcam or camera
  • no usb, not even an sd card slot
  • adaptor isn’t magsafe, ie need yet another power supply set
  • additional 3G cost — unless there’s a bundle for iphone+ipad
  • it’s just a larger iphone / ipod touch, can’t take the place of the mbp
  • price will drop


in techtalk |

apple

mm just called to tell me that she got her iphone. In white, so we’re now “a pair”. Heehee. I told her about the apple event tomorrow when every single person in the world knows that the tablet will be announced. I’ve deliberately avoided posting about it, cos I know it’ll just be post after post of how I want it. But, well, I want it.


in techtalk |

ipgrowth

[via giz]

Akamai just published their 3Q09 state of the internet report, and it’s interesting reading with lots of stats. A couple stands out. Globally unique IPs grew by 17% yoy, but China alone grew by 30%. Yep, my opinion that China is a self-sufficient single market still stands.



The other stat is the average broadband connection speed. Growing in the technologically advanced countries like Korea, Japan and in Scandinavia. But decreased in the US. Another sign of decline that unfortunately no one seems to be surprised about.


in techtalk |

mwnymastery
With all the furore last week over Mark Zuckerberg saying that the age of privacy is over, I can’t remember where I read where someone said, “I just want to play mafia wars”, and I laughed. Even with all the annoying spam, mafia wars is addictive. And here’s the proof — a full set of job mastery items after I finished New York just before going to bed last night.


in techtalk |


youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwEupAQReCs

Talking about google, I’ve been using google chrome on the netbook and at work. The official work browser is still IE6 (*yuck*) so for personal stuff I use another browser. It used to be firefox, now I use both.

I really like chrome. It’s fast and uncluttered. The thumbnail page of recently visited pages is brilliant, as is the search directly at the address bar, which google calls omnibar. It’s already overtaken safari in certain browser market share measurements. When it gets more plugins, most importantly ad-block plus and I’m sure Gina will make some Better google extensions, I’ll make it the default browser on the netbook.

Unfortunately it’s only available for 10.5 and later, so I’ll stick with firefox on the mbp. Reminds me of the old days of firefox 1.0 when I was on system 9 on the pb2 and couldn’t use it. Man, I was using netscape then. How far and fast browsers have come in just a few years.


in techtalk |


youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6COwgigJ-g&feature=player_profilepage

don’t get me wrong, I’m forever an apple fanboi, but omg is the google nexus one fantastic or not? I’m so tempted to get one because: a) it gets full 3G support in US, UK, HK and Singapore — my 3 primary locations are all there; b) it fully integrates google voice!!! c) android is bringing serious competition to apple but mostly d) I have 4 sim cards but only 3 phones, this is the perfect opportunity (*excuse*) to correct that anomaly.

in 101.1001 , being healthy , techtalk |



I bought wii fit plus during black friday even though it wasn’t on sale. At the time, I was debating between this wii fit, which I’d always wanted, and the new Tony Hawk skateboarding game.

The first time I started it up, the program did some body measurements — height, weight, bmi, balance. Then there are some basic exercises — yoga, strength training, cardio, which are pretty decent. I tried the balance training ones — skiing, heading a football etc and not only did I suck, it told me I was unbalanced. Heehee.

I did better at the advanced games, and these are fun! Segway, biking, martial arts, flying — all involve some form of balance, cardio or at the very least, moving the body. They really did great on the games.

Its selling point is that it’s a fitness program. Hmm. I’m on the fence on this one. I know people have claimed to have lost weight on wii tennis, I’m just not sure it’s an effective weight loss program. It will benefit people who aren’t active normally. For me, it’s a fun game. It’s not gonna replace running or strength training.


in techtalk |

flickryahoo

Yes, I’m well aware that yahoo bought flickr ages ago. But why is there a need to force the yahoo branding onto the flickr logo? I hate, hate, hate it. I don’t hate yahoo, I just think that this move is desperate and unnecessary. There is nothing to gain by diluting an already strong brand. Plus, it makes it look really jarring and ugly.

I’m certainly not the only one. Poor judgment, yahoo.

in going places , techtalk |

i shut down the mbp this morning with a guilty twinge — i’m gonna be without it till next sunday — a good 10 days. I’m going away on holiday, then to the conference. I’m taking the netbook. A fb friend, upon reading my dilemma tweet (mbp or wind?) put it aptly — that it will be an experiment to see if I’m compatible with netbook computing. I think I am, but ask me again in 3, 5, 7, 10 days.

in techtalk |

new toys! netbook taken on iphone

This is an important pic for 2 reasons: a) it’s my second new toy this week and b) it was taken on my iphone. Yep, i succumbed to the temptation and got myself a netbook. It was basically as simple as Car emailing me a Tigerdirect link and me saying go ahead. MSI Winds had been leading contenders in any case. I didn’t end up getting the u120 at the end, I got the u100 which is older but had more functionality like b/g/n wireless, bluetooth and faster upload speed. For just under $400 I get a 10” screen at 2.6lbs, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, 3 usb ports, 4-in-1 card reader, neat. It even came with a case which is shiny plastic and kinda tacky and i won’t use it.

I’m writing this post on it, and typing is fine — I’d eliminated the Acer and the 9” Eees cos i was constantly making mistakes on the keyboard, this one is fine. I have my usual tabs open in firefox, and have been happily surfing on it.

I suffered through installing stuff on it — firefox and add-ons, itunes, mcafee, ccleaner, and bemoaned Window’s lack of userability when i found myself forgetting basic stuff. The ability to hackintosh was a deciding factor in the decision to go for the Wind. Will I end up making it dual boot? Probably, but i’m not in any hurry.

As to the second important event, this was the first pic taken with the iphone camera. I have to do a big shrug cos it’s pretty pedestrian, even for “just” a 3MP camera. It will be useful for taking disposable pics for twitter, that’s it. I can see myself embracing this new form of photography though. At the very least, expect even more food pics.

in 101.1001 , objects of desire , techtalk |

iphonewall

I can’t get away with just yesterday’s one line post about the iphone right? Of course not.

So, i’ve had 24 hours with it, is there anything new I can add to the millions of words already out there about the device? No, not really. All I want to do is add this: SQUEEEEEEEE!!!

In a way, I feel like I have 2 years of catching up to do. That I couldn’t be a part of the early adopter crowd, or the 3G excitement last year, only to partake vicariously. But, c’est la vie, I wasn’t living in the correct part of the world. Then again, I am glad that this is my first, that I won’t be holding onto a 2G or a 3G and wishing I can get a 3GS.

Early impressions:
pros — fast, fast, fast. apps. easy to use. easy to sync. apps. beautiful. great functionality (see that apps wall at WWDC this year?)
cons — my fingerprints are all over the screen! luckily i have one of those sticky protectors. and it’s a bit big for my pockets, especially when wearing work clothes, i probably need to get a holster.

Basically, I can see why Apple sold 1 million in the first weekend. I know i’m guilty of disdain / contempt at people who’ve recently jumped on the Apple bandwagon — that i’m no longer the anomaly with the cool computer — i guess it’s either swallow my pride and be one of the masses or get on another train. I suppose I could have gone the Gina Trapani Android route, if it were any manufacturer but Apple i may have. As it is, I’m seeing a long and mutually enjoyable relationship with my iphone(s). And I haven’t even been tempted to jailbreak it yet.

in 101.1001 , techtalk |

I went to the Apple Store after work and got my iPhone. Enough said.

in objects of desire , techtalk |

netbook osx

I hadn’t planned on having spare time this weekend, so I didn’t bring the mbp. *gasp* So when I find myself with spare time I naturally started missing it, or wishing I had a netbook. There does seem to be a huge netbook mania nowadays. I think there is a time and place for netbooks — as second computers for basic tasks only — but it seems that there’s already feature creep on these machines.

The majority of netbooks are Windows (mostly XP) and Linux. The nearest mac equivalent is the mba or the new 13” mbp. Both very attractive machines undoubtedly but not even I will want to spend $1200 or $1500 on a spare laptop. If I wanted a mac netbook I’d have to get a regular netbook and hackintosh it. I missed out the chance to get a hackintosh-perfect dell mini 9, even though I’m sure it’s available on ebay. I’m not saying I will necessarily hackintosh any netbook I get, but hackintoshability is one of the criteria. Luckily lots of people are also interested in this, and bb gadgets have been keeping track of the various netbooks in the market. So it looks like I’m getting the MSI Wind U120.

in techtalk |

I’ve been playing with hunch, a new startup from Caterina Fake that

helps you make decisions and gets smarter the more you use it

What is it? It’s a “decision engine” — I ask it a question, it asks me several related questions, then it gives me answers based on my answers. There’s also a big list of 70+ questions that i can answer that educates hunch about me.

So far, hunch has told me I should get the iPhone 3GS and not the Palm Pre (like, duh); that if I were to visit London I should stay at the Blake; and that I should try deep water aerobics as a fitness program. The last one is, well, pretty inaccurate — and I get a chance to disagree. It’s still a work in progress, there are not so many questions, but it’s fun.

in arts and media , techtalk |



There are tens of thousand of iphone apps available. This one, Brushes, created a stir last week, as it was the app used to create the June cover of the New Yorker magazine. Of course, artistic talent had a lot to do with it.

in techtalk |

iphone3gs

I was following the liveblog of the WWDC keynote. Price reduction on mbp! Snow Leopard out in a few months! All very exciting. But of course everyone was waiting for iPhone news. That there’d be a 32GB model, compass, video, cut & paste, new OS…it’s all been leaked already. But it’s still nice to have it confirmed. Now the question is, how soon after 19 June can I wait?

in outside interests , techtalk |

Yes, I’m a gadget freak, and I love looking at shiny gadgets. Interestingly though, I’m not an early adoptor, and I use gadgets for a long time. The mbp is an original from 2006, camera is a 350D from 2005, cellphone is from 2007, i only got my ipod nano recently. So it’s a pleasant surprise to hear Anil Dash and Gina Trapani talk about how cool it is to keep using older gadgets. Anil has even set up a new website last year’s model to promote the idea:

It’s totally normal to lust after the hottest new geeky gadgets. It’s also cool to put some thought into what we buy, and what we throw away. So this is a place to show the world that a lot of us are choosing to use Last Year’s Model.

To support, twitter #lastyears.

in techtalk |

samsung

I finally got a US mobile, after months of procrastination. I don’t have an address or credit card yet, so I opted for the easy option and got myself a prepaid plan. After looking around, I went for t-mobile’s $100 for 1000mins plan. It’s already the most value for money, which frankly totally sucks. I mean, back home I pay equivalent to US$10 per month and I get 1000mins. Just shows how much more expensive telecoms is in the US.

The second thing that sucks is that there are all of 4 phones to choose from. 2 basic (1000-series) nokias, another basic nokia flip phone, and what I eventually picked, the samsung black stripe. And only cos at $29.99 it was on web special. I really couldn’t face owning a basic nokia. I suppose I can get the sim card and put it in my existing phone, but well I need to still use it.

The black stripe is also a basic phone. Very light, feels like a toy. I will use this as my disposable phone, for real estate agents and shops that ask for phone numbers. It has its purpose.

in techtalk |

since twitter seems to be BIG news these days, here’s a couple of twitter tools for the iphone I want to bookmark.



1. birdhouse
They call it a notepad for twitter, and basically it’s for draft twitters. Like how I use read it later.



2. tweetie
It’s now for the mac, but 10.5 only. This is a twitter client that has a much more mac feel than tweetdeck.

in techtalk |

Seeing that there seems to be more, more, more and even more rumours of a mac netbook, I’ll hold off getting an mba this year. May be upgrade to the new mbp, but I still need a smaller machine.
ars talked about why apple will or will not bring out a netbook. There are cases for an apple netbook: it’s all the rage, and there’s too many rumours and “we’re not doing it” statements…and we all know about these statements. OTOH a netbook means stripped down functionality, which apple doesn’t go for. Besides, it’s arguable that the iphone is a good netbook-quality small computer already.

in arts and media , techtalk |

ebookstoreclassics

Apparently it was just a display issue, and my account was credited with 100 classic books. I looked through the ebookstore today, and even though there are over 900 books, it took me a whole day to come up with 66. Jane Austens, Shakespeare comedies, and a bunch of Dickens. But there were many from authors who are obscure, like Charlotte M. Yonge. And for some like Trollope, they’re not offering his most popular books. They have just one or two of each series, like just Barchester Towers above, but not many more. Actually the entire list looks like it was gakked from project gutenberg and if i wanted i could just download them free from there and convert.

in arts and media , techtalk |

I have to register twice for the ereader — once at the sony website for the device itself, and a second time via the stupid PC only software at the ebookstore. The first went fine, cos I did it on the mbp. The second wasn’t so smooth. The device had been authorised before to another user. What? It became obvious that I had been sold a returned product, as new. This is very annoying.

I emailed Sony, following the instructions on the faq. The fact that they had the answer to that question is disconcerting.

I got a reply within a few hours. They gave me 2 codes, each for 50 free classic books. I entered the code one at a time, and hey presto! Only one code worked. My account has 50 free books, but the other 50 was missing. I’ve emailed again, and waiting for the answer.

This is becoming ridiculous and a farce. Am I not supposed to have bought it? Was someone thumbing their nose at me for getting the 700 instead of the more popular 505? Should I have been more patient and ordered direct from Sony instead of getting from Borders?

Very bad taste.

in arts and media , techtalk |

ereader700

so I was visiting Car this weekend, and she’d told me during the week that she’d ordered the sony ereader and it was expected to arrive on Friday. And when I got there Friday it was there, all tiny and thin and cool looking. How possibly can I resist such a toy? I had myself during the week went over to the Borders at Michigan Avenue to look at them in person, and i was amazed at how small they are.

Instead of ordering and waiting, I just decided to go get it. Originally I thought I’d go during the week when I’m back in town, but Car very kindly offered to take me to a nearby Borders. The one we went to first was further away, in a large shopping complex. I queued up at the till and told the person there I wanted to buy a sony ereader. She gave me a blank look for a few seconds before something snapped. she was still a bit clueless, first having to ask a colleague, then offering me the 505 when I specified the 700. Eventually i found myself at the information desk, and a VERY helpful lady told me they actually have one and was bringing it out. Then it turned out the they didn’t have it, but she continued her helpfulness by calling another store nearby and holding it.

Backtrack. Why not the kindle 2? The main reason is the DRM — I want to buy books from sources other than amazon, and the conversion process put me off. The k2 still looks like a toy to me. I will probably use the iphone, when i get one, perhaps on a daily basis. I wish I had gotten more into ereaders last year when I was travelling so much. Why the 700 and not the 505, at $100 cheaper. One word: touchscreen. I’m a big sucker for geeky things I can touch. When I was playing around both the 505 and the 700 at Borders, I’d finish with the 700 and was poking at the screen of the 505 expecting something to happen.

Okay, back to the buying adventure.

The other Borders (at 95th and Western) turned out to be elusive to find. First off, it started raining heavily, then there was zillions of traffic. We ended up at the mall, but it wasn’t inside the mall. Finally we got there, and I queued up again to buy my ereader. The helpful lady at the first store had told us, “it’s behind the registers” which we first thought it was the store that was behind some “registers”. Hee. Anyway, i paid for it, got suckered into getting a Borders card, and off we went back home.

Close. But the story doesn’t end there.

I carefully opened the box, fondled my new ereader, and then discovered the usb cable was missing. It’s a fairly standard cable, and i have a couple at home just like it, but still…it was missing so we should get the whole package. i called the store, and was fairly inept at the whole explaining thing, but finally i found out that i could go back and exchange it.

After a dinner of “shit on a shingle” — i was too concerned with my ereader to take pictures of the new food — we headed back to the store to exchange my ereader. Actually it ended up at the store assistant ripping apart a 505 package and giving me the cable. LOL

So i sit here, it’s happily charging up. The only hurdle to overcome is Sony’s STUPID decision to make their software PC only. Then again, they make vaio’s so they don’t want to be associated with macs? As i said, stupid, and it rings a sour note. But i’ll get round it somehow.

in easily amused , techtalk |

inboxzerobadge
Farhad Manjoo wrote in the NYT about managing his email inbox. Taking his cue from the great Merlin Mann 43 folders inbox zero concept, his method is simple but easier said than done. Basically we should limit our time spent on checking emails (crackberry addicts take note) and should start clearing out our inbox. Then incoming emails should be subject to the following treatment as soon as they come in:

  1. reply to it straightaway
  2. archive it — folders can be as elaborate or simple, as long as they’re used
  3. forward it — to the correct person who will deal with it
  4. hold for future action — this is the least preferred method, emails that are read and stuck in the inbox have no use

To this, I add one more: delete it. Sacrilege I know, but if it’s part of a chain that has been superceded, or is useless, or will not have any use for me in future. I delete it. Especially at work where our mailbox capacity is capped. With gmail I might archive it.

My gmail and yahoo inboxes are empty. My work inbox has about 10 emails, all read. THAT’S IT. So I think I can lay claim to one of these cool nerd merit badges.

in easily amused , techtalk |

web2logos

via techcrunch, a neat little web 2.0 game — try to recognise as many web 2.0 sites by their logos. Some are instantly recognisable, but some are more tricky and some i’ve never heard of. And in true web 2.0 fashion, the site is facebook connect enabled.

i got 23/34, which is as many as i could have expected.

in arts and media , techtalk |



25 years ago, on 22 January 1984, this ad showed once during the Super Bowl.

The rest, as they say, is history.

in techtalk |


I had the website graded by website grader,

a free seo tool that measures the marketing effectiveness of a website. It provides a score that incorporates things like website traffic, SEO, social popularity and other technical factors

Apparently I have no meta data, which is strange cos I thought movable type does that, have to look at the archive templates again. The other point is that I have too many images. Well duh, it’s a blog. On the positive side, I have an Alexa rank of 5,545,875 which is in the top 18.05 % of all websites.

in techtalk |

I bought a new external hd, a small 320gb one for travelling. It transferred the mp3s alright, but when I opened up itunes somehow it was still wanting to locate the files at the old drive. So I did something drastic and deleted the whole library (keeping the files of course). What i forgot was to take a copy of the library database file, so i lost all my playlists and more importantly, play count, import date and ratings — the soft data so to speak. Sigh.

I guess it’s no big deal, some of the playlists date back to my first ipod, and are ratings really that important? I’ll just treat it as a new beginning.

At least it’s good news that drm is coming off itunes soon.

in how the day went , objects of desire , techtalk |

First I went crazy at amazon and bought three earbuds. Then I met up with my parents for lunch, and went crazy with more gadget shopping. Here’s what I ended up buying today.

sennheisermx75 sennheisercx300-b skullcandy inkd


from left to right: sennheiser mx75 sport $27.68, sennheiser cx300-b $19.99, skullcandy ink’d silver $9.63. Also bought a ton of replacement earphone sponges and buds.

mytaxi

Bought the my taxi game for the PSP. This is quite an old game that I’ve played on the PS2, and mm’s brother let me play on his PSP at christmas, so I had to get it.

Another gadget was a spare card reader, 55-in-1, it’s the same one I have now. It doesn’t need a power supply, just plugs in straightaway.

Mum and I went to look at apartments cos I suddenly decided I can afford to buy a small investment property. Saw something quite promising, will explore further.

Early dinner at the casual restaurant at the wet market. Then had to go back across town to get the wooden car beads that I forgot to get. Those were heavy, man. And no, I don’t have a car. But I will in Chicago, so I wanted to get these now.

in techtalk |

One of the stories that surfaced during my nano stint was the one where the washington post helped shut down a major baddie web hosting company and spam traffic dramatically fell. It’s true! Since I started using igoogle, I only log into gmail proper about once a week. There used to be hundreds of spam messages waiting for me to delete. Today I went in and there were 46, mainly Russian or Chinese spam.

Whoever was responsible for this, and I think Washington Post is taking the credit, millions of people will thank you. Yes, the spam kings will be back, but this is one battle won.

in about me , techtalk |

I did the unthinkable. I joined facebook, and myspace. Actually I’ve had a couple of myspace accounts for ages, but I never updated it. And I discovered one of them has been there since 2005. Wow. I updated it, but I’m quickly getting a tad bored of it.

The leap to facebook is even more extreme. I held out for the longest time, then I thought sod it and bit the bullet. Again, 2 accounts. Big firewall between them cos I have to separate my online life with my real life-life. So far I’ve been systematically adding friends, and others have friended me, it’s an all round friendly situation.

So, follow me, friend me, write on my wall. Follow the links on the sidebar here ————->

in about me , techtalk |

smartphones2008

I’ve been thinking of which phone to get in Chicago. The heart says iPhone, but I hate the prospect of going through the whole pwnage process. The android G1 is tempting, as are the new blackberries. I will have a bb from work, so it may be weird to have two.

In any case, the thought is that a landline isn’t necessary so I will need more functionality and I know the plans in the US are not competitive, especially since I will only consider the GSM networks. Still, I doubt I’ll change my behaviour even if I get super-duper smartphones:

  • I don’t give my number out
  • I won’t answer a call if it’s a number I don’t recognise
  • Even if I answer, I will let the other party speak first and hang up if it’s not a legitimate call
  • I will not use voicemail, if it’s part of a bundle I’ll not activate it and certainly won’t respond

I don’t understand why when a phone call comes in, I have to drop everything I’m doing and attend to it. And calls where the caller ID isn’t displayed is plain rude. I mean, with most forms of direct interaction—be it a letter, email or ringing the bell at the door—I, the recipient, can usually see who is sending/initiating the contact. Why phones were developed without caller display is baffling. Even so, why stop at just displaying a number? Even with unstored numbers all callers should be forced to display their name and purpose for calling.

And now there is hope. A new invention, truecall, intercepts all calls. It has a pre-programmed white- and blacklist. If the call is from the whitelist (the inventors call it the star list) the call is let through automatically. If from the blacklist (or zap list), it is rejected. An unrecognised number will receive an automated enquiry that asks for name and purpose for calling. It will then ask you whether to let the call through or not. The white- and blacklists are remembered. £99.99, which I’d be willing to pay to be rid of nuisance calls.

The best way of hacking through and possibly getting a response will be to text me. I like sms, because it’s not intrusive, gets the message across, and is free of the needless small talk that is necessary in a phone call. I’m glad that my feelings are vindicated. wireless and mobile news reports on a Sprint-sponsored study that:

a text is far more likely to elicit a quick response than voice mail. In fact, those under the age of 30 are four times more likely to respond within minutes to a text message compared to a voice mail, and 91 percent respond to a text message within one hour. Adults 30 and older are also quick to text — and are twice as likely to respond within minutes to a text message as compared to a voice message.

The older you are, the less likely you will respond to a text. I guess it’s the resistance to change — older people have gotten stuck in the habit of listening to a human voice. Even though we all know that speaking is less concise. As giz pointed out:

Why listen to your friend Jane hem and haw about a good time to meet up [on voicemail] when you could’ve spent three seconds reading “Im in da city. U free 2 meet?”


in techtalk |
msmouse6000


When I first got the mighty mouse, I was advised by the shop person that the wireless version was sluggish and couldn’t hold up to the wired version. After trying it out, I agreed so I ended up with the wired version.

Even though I wasn’t altogether comfortable with the mouse, I used it since getting it in 2006. It never occurred to me to explore anything outside of the Apple comfort zone. RSI in my right hand is less serious than in my left, but I knew it was only a matter of time and since it isn’t as bad I should try to preserve the condition.

My search for a wireless ergonomic mouse started with an informative lifehacker article. When I was in Chicago, we went to Tiger Direct and my specific goal was to buy a new mouse.

I deliberated between the logitech MX revolution and the microsoft natural 6000 although I’d originally wanted the evoluent vertical mouse, which wasn’t available.

In the end I got the—gasp—microsoft one because it felt more comfortable in my hand. It’s not obvious in the picture, but the mouse is slanted, so the grip is more natural. I find the angle works for me, and the scroll wheel better than the tiny pointer on the mighty mouse. It’s huge and heavy, reviewers have compared it to half a softball. Others commented that it was too large for their hands although I don’t feel it’s too large—and I have small hands. I guess it comes down to personal comfort.

I’m still a little freaked out that I just hooked up a microsoft product to the mbp. Well, for the sake of my hands, I just have to get over it.

in objects of desire , techtalk | | comments (2)

ipodnano

I just kinda decided, spur of the moment, to get an ipod nano. I’ll probably still end up getting the iphone, but the nano will be useful for travelling and running.

I got the 16GB black one (what else). Now that my iTunes library is over 50GB I have to be selective, so I spent this morning sorting songs and moving to a nano playlist for copying. It’s easy.

I also created a playlist for running: 60 favourite songs, rated at least 4 stars. And I did take it out running. And it did make the running easier and more enjoyable. Nice.

in techtalk |

mbp2008

The reason I hadn’t been all googly-eyed and want!want!want! with the new mbp is that I know I am getting it. Soon. 3 years is a decent run, and the old mbp won’t go to waste — Mum will get it, and she’ll be slowly weaned off her PC and become a mac person.

in techtalk |


Word Clock for Mac, PC, iPhone from Simon Heys on Vimeo.

I’m not a big screensaver person. Normally I’d just let the screen get dark and that’s it. Then I discovered word clock. It’s mesmerising, I’m tempted to adjust my energy saving settings and let it go to screensaver sooner so I can stare at it.

in techtalk |

Five years ago, there wasn’t facebook and myspace was an unknown site that had just launched. LJ and blogger hadn’t gained the popularity they enjoy now. MT was on version 2.x. Wordpress was still in its precursor state of b2. Personal websites existed but most people had their sites hosted at places like geocities and tripod.

My original blog was on tripod and I wrote my first ever post on 23 September 2003. I can’t believe it’s still there.

I had some pages hosted on xoom when it was a hosting site. I’d started a very basic site in 1999 using Claris Homepage but it’d lapsed while I went on assignments all over the world.

I re-registered invisiblecompany.com on 29 September 2003, moved it to a proper hosting company, and started redesigning. I still can’t figure out why I decided to use MT, it’s not like it was easy and it’s not like I was a web expert then. I don’t regret the decision, in fact I think it was a rather good one.

Five years later, I have 7 installations on the site. I’ve written at least one post a day for almost a year. I have over 1,700 posts including blog posts, technical updates, travelogue, recipes and stories. It’s the best method of finding out what I’ve been up to, where I am and what is on my mind. At times I wonder if anyone is reading but mostly I do this for myself.

It’s been a great 5 years with the website. Happy anniversary.

in techtalk |

I read the techcrunch article about how voicemail is dead the other day and I found myself nodding in agreement.

I hate voicemail. I delete them and never reply. I haven’t activated the feature at work or on my cellphone. I think it’s the whole paranoia about being being contacted and people’s false sense of urgency about everything. Besides, I can see who called by looking at my missed calls log.

Lifehacker set up a poll, and to date, those in agreement that voicemail should die has the highest vote. One of the best remarks in the comments state simply:

My cell phone is not a leash. I may not get back to you immediately.

I can’t help but think that we are slowly rebelling against being constantly available. Even though the crackberry phenomenon is well known and documented, where the ‘blame’ is on the user, it’s only a matter of time before the blame shifts to employers and the expectations of bosses and colleagues. Disputes and unions may get involved.

There is nothing, baring family emergencies, that require our immediate attention. The world doesn’t stop if things are not attended to within a minute.

in techtalk |

From Nury Vittachi, a delightfully funny satire on why facebook is a bad idea.

“No. Poking is the first stage of a relationship. Studying a person’s profile is the second.”

“And the third?”

He pulls out two large pieces of blank white card from an art portfolio bag. “Stage three is to write on each other’s walls.”

“Do we write poetry? Or do some sort of art?”

Peter shakes his head. “Nah. We just write inane phrases or we forward ancient jokes.”

She watches to see if he writes anything clever or witty, but he just writes words she doesn’t understand: “Whassup? LOL.”


in techtalk |

firefox3cert

One week of using firefox 3, what do I think?

Is it faster? I can’t tell. Sometimes it’s very fast, but other times it loads and loads and loads and times out. Whether or not it’s firefox or a poor connection at the apartment I don’t know. I have to reserve judgment till I get home to a connection I have confidence in.

The good stuff — supposedly it’s more secure, which makes me feel good. The text is a little more scrunched together, which maximises the view area. Rounded buttons. Tags for bookmarks is a bit late, cos most of my bookmarks are on delicious anyway. The way bookmarks are handled could be good, but I need to get used to the menu. The awesome bar, I can’t see myself cheering about it. There’s a little tweak to improve colour handling.

The bad stuff — I have to revert to the default theme cos I can’t see any scroll bars. It’s not saving my passwords, even though I tell it to allow passwords to be saved. It imported an older version of my firefox 2 bookmarks.

Like all new things, it’s a matter of giving it time to stablise. Would I have waited before upgrading if I’d known? I think so, especially with the scroll bars and password issues. It’s a little disappointing.

in techtalk |

ff3

I’ve done my bit towards the world record. I downloaded firefox 3. If you haven’t, go download it now.

in techtalk |

My first experience at an Apple Store.

My colleague wanted to buy a mbp for her friend, and I went along to offer support. We found a nice sales associate who punched in the order in a macbook. There were some small specs including bumping the RAM to 4GB and installing iWorks. Seemed to us very straightforward.

Until we were told to come back in 3 hours to pick it up.

What?

3 hours? It doesn’t take that long, surely.

I bumped my RAM to 2GB (max), and they wanted to take an hour to do it. Again, what?

But we had no choice, so we came back. My overall impression of the Apple Store? Lots of nice young sales people, how indoctrinated they are about the Apple culture I’m not sure. I guess they know their products but they seem more like shop assistants than mac geeks, you know?

in photography is life , techtalk |

64gbcf
When I first switched to digital photography, I had a 128MB card, then a 512MB card. And I thought they were great.

When my card failed in NZ, I bought a 1GB card for megabucks.

Then I got a couple of 2GB, and recently a 4GB.

But today Microdia announced that they will begin shipping the 64GB XTRA ELITE CF card in June. No, that wasn’t a typo, CF cards are now 64GB.

I’m sure in 3 years’ time, when tetrabyte cards are the norm, I’d look back fondly at these GB cards.

in techtalk |

ff3
firefox 3 RC2 has just been released. Mozilla is aiming for a world record for most software downloads in 24 hours on Firefox 3’s official launch day. The exact day isn’t posted, but it’ll be sometime soon. Must keep an eye out.

in techtalk |

A few google-related things I came across recently.

How google map really places markers, via giz. Hee.

googlemapsign

Now I don’t use google maps a lot, what I do use everyday is greader, and the better greader download from lifehacker has been great. Skins, new functions, and favicons.

greader

It’s amazing how google has penetrated our daily online life. Then again, some people are still thick and asks questions when they can just fucking google it.

in techtalk |

There was an article and poll on lifehacker on ready written sites aimed at educating serial junk email forwarders. The one I like most is thanksno. Next time I get a chain letter, lolcat picture, or lame joke that wasn’t sent bcc I’m gonna reply with the link to the page.

Hi. The person who sent you this link is a friend who likes you a lot but who wants you to respect their email address, their privacy, and their time.

Chances are, this person asked you to visit this page because you did one of these things:

  • Forwarded a funny story, a virus warning, or a photo that you enjoyed
  • Sent email to lots of people using the “To:” line (instead of the “BCC:” line), thereby exposing your friend’s email address to strangers
  • CC’d your friend unnecessarily on something you had sent primarily to someone else

In any case, you might want to go back and have another look at the email they’re replying to. They asked you to visit here because, while they love getting one-on-one, personal messages from you, they really don’t want to receive more messages like the one you just sent. Cool?

You’re not a bad person, and no one hates you, but it would be valuable to learn the very personal preferences of your friends, family members, and co-workers before including them in unrequested email or choosing to expose their private address to people they don’t know.


The tone is a little passive-aggressive and rude. But I figured sometimes you need to be painfully direct for people to get the message.

in techtalk |

So, iPhone 3G is coming in June. Exciting.

Well, I’ve never been too bothered with 3G. It’s been available here for donkey’s years and I still only have a 2G phone. But what got me excited was this:

Apple will announce their new model at the WWDC Keynote on June 9th. The second-generation iPhone will be available worldwide right after the launch

Does it mean it’s no longer tied to a particular provider? That it’ll be available unlocked, like every other phone out there? If so then it is truly exciting news. I just have to remember not to be tempted and wait a couple months for the price to drop or a newer version to come out.

in techtalk |

This is a random daily meme I came across. This week’s Sunday Seven at Patrick’s Place tells us to:

List either the name of a favorite blogger or their blog’s title that begins with the first letter of each of the first seven letters of the alphabet.

I have 80+ on my greader. About 10 are of friends, and most of the rest are techie or news related. I follow #2 to 5 of the 50 most powerful blogs according to the Observer. I’ve kept my subscription to harpold out of respect, even though the website is no more. So anyway, back to sunday seven:

  • A is for Infinite Loop at Ars Technica — Ars has a bunch of sections, from PCs to gaming to gadgets to security. But who am I kidding, all I want to know is everything Apple
  • B is for tomato nation by Sarah Bunting aka Sars from twop — I don’t know if the twop connection is good or bad, because there’s more than just TV on tomato nation. It’s funny, astute and just a little bit quirky, just like its owner. The only thing I don’t like about it is that the feed is truncated, I really would prefer a full post feed
  • C is for chocolate and zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier — great food writing, lovely recipes that aren’t run of the mill…they are interesting enough to make you want to try and needing just that much more technique to ensure the proper amount of showing off
  • D is for daring fireball by John Gruber — I read DF and kottke last on my greader list because I’m the sort of person who leaves the best bite till last. Beautifully designed and with all the right connections when it comes to tech stuff, one of these days I’ll get the t-shirt
  • E is for Elise Bauer — there are two blogs I religiously follow on elise.com, simply recipes and learning movable type — they are very different, and LMT has moved beyond just Elise; but whether it’s cooking or teaching people how to use a complicated CMS platform, the matter-of-fact style of writing can’t be beat
  • F is for Finance and Frugal (okay this is a little cheating) , as represented by wisebread — there’s a lot of good advice on wisebread, some I think are just common sense, but sometimes we need the obvious pointed out to us
  • G is for gizmodo — it may be sacrilegious, but I can’t tell much difference between giz and engadget. Apparently giz is more frat-jokey and engadget cooler and more straitlaced (note that gizmodo has a funky nickname but not engadget, like call it “eng”? hmm). Like a lot of readers, I go to both, so it doesn’t matter much


in techtalk |

macheist
I missed the first two macheist, so when I saw the teaser for the latest bundle, I thought this was finally my opportunity to get it. From what I read, it seems that this contains some of the apps that had already been offered before, and this is more a non-geek version. It is further distinguished from regular heists by being described as a retail bundle, and that it will be sold in stores later this year.

But having looked at what’s on offer, I’m disappointed. 12 shareware apps valued at $285 for only $49 sounds like a steal, but when I looked at what the apps more carefully, I wasn’t interested. Lifehacker even came up with a list of alternatives that are free. Oh dear.

mupromo
Ars reports that MacUpdate will be releasing a similar bundle for $65 vs $474.76. Now these apps look way more useful. There are 10 apps altogether, and the first 7 are immediately available.

When you purchase bundles now, you’ll be the immediate owner of Hazel, Art Text, MenuCalendarClock, Leap, StoryMill, Typinator and DVDRemaster Pro. Then when the Mac community spreads the word and reaches 5,000 bundles sold, Sound Studio will be unlocked into the bundle for free. People that purchase the bundle before each unlock milestone will have the unlocked products automatically added to their accounts for free.

The next 2 milestones, at 10,000 and 15,000 unlock BannerZest and … **gasp** Parallels Desktop. My original Parallels is out of date so this is a great opportunity to upgrade. There’s 10 days left, so I’m gonna come back next weekend and check on progress.

in arts and media , techtalk |

Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty? asks the New York Times Magazine this week as they cover the work of Jan Chipchase, an anthropologist-designer working for Nokia whose job is to live and understand how cellphones means for people in Tibet, Uganda, Ecuador etc — in other words the other 4 billion people on earth who don’t have access to a mobile network.

Yes, ultimately the likes of Nokia and Motorola are there to make money but what strikes me as inspiring is that they are making an effort to learn about unique local needs in the developing world. These are potential customers for whom a cellphone isn’t just another gadget or device .

Something that’s mostly a convenience booster for those of us with a full complement of technology at our disposal — land-lines, Internet connections, TVs, cars — can be a life-saver to someone with fewer ways to access information. A just in time moment afforded by a cellphone looks a lot different to a mother in Uganda who needs to carry a child with malaria three hours to visit the nearest doctor but who would like to know first whether that doctor is even in town. It looks different, too, to the rural Ugandan doctor who, faced with an emergency, is able to request information via text message from a hospital in Kampala.

Given resources and the right motivation, people are fantastically inventive. That’s why some humanitarians favour the bottom up approach to aid rather than top down — empower and encourage entrepreneurship rather than telling aid recipients to wait for money to filter down through bureaucracy or corrupt agencies. An example is what Grameen Phone Ltd in Bangledesh offers:

Women use microcredit to buy specially designed cellphone kits costing about $150, each equipped with a long-lasting battery. They then set up shop as their village phone operator, charging a small commission for people to make and receive calls

In the Philippines, pre-paid cards double as currency and gives an alternative way of sending money to far away relatives. Monks in Mongolia are unbelievably tech savvy. In India locals want cellphones to tell them about the weather because they have no access to TV or radio. In Ghana locals are given a chance to test some new Nokia designs:

“Hellllloooooo,” Chipchase said, smiling broadly.

“Helllllooooo, Brudda,” she said back in English.

“We work for Nokia. You know Nokia?”

The woman said nothing, but reached down and from the folds of her wrapper produced a Nokia phone. “Not good,” she said, shaking her head disparagingly. “You call. It switches off.”

Chipchase enlisted the interpreter to explain that her problem sounded like a network problem and not a Nokia problem. Shrugging, the woman went on to inspect the prototype phones, testing their weight in her palm, pressing them against her cheek, punching buttons. She pooh-poohed the stylus phone but said she liked the one-button model if it meant she didn’t need to use a lot of numbers. “Brudda, how do you charge it?” she asked. From his bag, Burns pulled another still-conceptual design, this one a thin metal cylinder with a whirlybird antenna on top. He showed the corn seller how to rotate the cylinder in small circles, causing the antenna to swing, which, he explained, in 15 minutes or so would generate enough power to charge her phone battery.

The woman picked up the futuristic gizmo and began to swing it; the antenna whipped around and around. She let out an enthusiastic whoop. Then a friend of hers who’d been sitting in the shadow of her umbrella started to laugh. Another woman, a spice seller perched on a stool next to small mountains of turmeric and cumin heaped on canvas cloths, began to laugh also. “Very nice,” the corn seller said to Burns and Chipchase, swinging the antenna like a toy. “It’s good!”


in techtalk |

Seems that my posts the last few days are kinda related. Just yesterday I was complaining about the need to sign up to use Photoshop Express (compared with picnik where I don’t need to re-sign in if I’m just doing simple edits). And today on a list apart, Luke Wroblewski tells us Sign Up Forms Must Die. In his book he

described the process of stumbling upon or being recommended to a web service. You arrive eager to dive in and start engaging and what’s the first thing that greets you? A form.

Oh man, yes and yes. Everyone wants our personal information nowadays and it’s obvious that it’s for marketing. I’ve come to the point where, yeah, I’m giving out my yahoo email knowing that it’ll get spammed. It’s stupid. What the article suggested is a process of gradual engagement. Allow users to sample and explore the web service first, then if they need to go further then ask for registration. There’s always the 10-minute email option, but sometimes more information than email is requested.

The absolute worst example is facebook. To this day I have no clue how facebook looks like, cos I refuse to sign up. At least on myspace I can look at people’s public pages without being forced to me a member.

I realise I may be in the minority here, cos there seems to be less and less paranoia about personal data and online presence. But I can’t foresee myself changing my mind soon.

in techtalk |

firefox3
As soon as I read that firefox 3 beta is stable enough for non-geeks I grabbed the download.

My first impressions, verrrrrrry nice. Especially the address bar features and the advertised speed hike is true. Most of the plugins aren’t working yet, obviously. The qute theme isn’t available yet but I’m humming happily along with the default theme. It looks so much like Safari. I read a comment on gizmodo from someone guilty about using Firefox and not Safari, but hey … Firefox is such a good thing it transcends platforms.

Can’t wait for the release.

in arts and media , techtalk |


The strangeness that is my mind. I saw the periodic table poster on thinkgeek and my first thought was: “I wonder if someone can make a steampunk version.” I guess it’s the greenish grey background.

I find it not an exact science to define steampunk. It’s science; it’s fantasy; it’s history; it’s animation; it’s an attitude and a mood. It’s Jules Verne and laputa and Firefly.

Just watch that video, the guy’s work is so intricate.

in easily amused , techtalk |

On the topic of birthday and looking at the surely oversweet cake that Caterina Fake posted for flickr’s anniversary, gizmodo today posted the ultimate question: is getting caked a good omen for gadgets? According to Brian Lam, giz’s editor:

no one makes a gadget cake unless they love the gadget

hmm. Surprising how baking and gadgets come together. It doesn’t take long to google: kindle cake | wii cake | iphone cake | ibook cake and a whole bunch of geek cakes celebrating engadget’s birthday. Basically I could find whatever gadget, comic and geek-related cake I could think of.

cakegadgets

in all about people , techtalk |

Yesterday was delete your myspace account day. The person who started the movement was fed up with myspace so he started a facebook group to tell people to delete their myspace accounts on a set day. Now the irony of using a social networking site to tell people to nix a social networking site is … ironic, and I can’t help wonder why it’s not Delete All Your Social Network Accounts day. Surprising number of tech savvy people don’t use these sites but the fact of the matter is the rest of the population are blind lemmings, so there’s no getting away from them. Speaking of social sites, young people are not happy that older folks are going online. They cite examples like their Mom IMing them or their Grandmother posting on their facebook wall.

Well newsflash, noobs, the older folks made the internet, many of them have been online longer than you’ve been alive so show some respect. Also, to the university student complained:

“I mean, I’m in university. There are bound to be at least a few drunken pictures of me on Facebook, and I don’t need my parents’ friends seeing them.”

Why are you inflicting your drunken pictures on an unsuspecting public and most importantly, are you sure you want your drunken pictures accessible by a potential employer?

in techtalk |

In a week’s time, AOL will stop supporting netscape. I remember fondly my first browser experience with Netscape 3, then Communicator. There was also the long period when I was still using OS9 and firefox wasn’t available — I’d stuck with Netscape 7 then.

There’s a lot of nostalgia to what was an excellent product in its day. That it fizzled out after being swallowed by AOL, and the advancement of Firefox is a shame.

I tried to get a screenshot using the pb1 but I couldn’t get connected. Must be something wrong with the TCP/IP settings, which I didn’t have patience to figure out. Like many people I’ve stopped thinking about Netscape a long time ago, perhaps it is time to put it in the museum.

in arts and media , techtalk |

Ever since the kindle came out I’d been having on and off thoughts about getting an ebook reader. I’m still not sure about the kindle. I’m with Philippe Starck, it is a little sad. No, it’s actually pretty ugly, expensive and the wireless all but useless for me. I wonder why ebook reader designers insist on using a one page portrait orientation. I’d prefer a device that shows 2 pages on a screen, landscape — like an actual book.

But ebooks aren’t just for handheld devices. ebook software has existed for a long time, and I can’t believe it took me this long to download ereader. I have the free version now, but the pro version is only $5, which is…nothing.

Car did all the research, cos she’s the one who likes reading on the screen. There are so many places to download ebooks, one of the early favourites is manybooks with they claim almost 20,000 titles, mostly from project gutenberg. The books come in all sorts of formats including: kindle, palm, iPhone, pdf, even newton. Most of the titles are public domain classics and with so many available, it’ll be a long time before anyone is tired of their selection. Here’s how Pride and Prejudice looks on my screen.

ereader

For fanfic closer to home, there’s pdafiction, and Susan has converted a number of stories on the muse to ebook format — it was weird downloading my own stuff. Hee.

Ease of reading is very high. I can choose one page, two-pages and full screen. There’s a range of backgrounds, fonts and sizes — these may be pro only features but like I said, $5 is a doddle. I can pageup or down using my arrows. There’s also links, annotations and a dictionary. No complaints here. For $29.95 I can get ereader studio which allows me to create ebooks. Oh boy, I can see days and days of fun.

in techtalk |

Look. Aside from the one post with four screengrabs of last week’s Stevenote have I said a word about the macbook air? No. I have been very restrained. I’ve gobbled up every review I can find, and I exchanged emails with tues about it … no wonder since we were early mbp adopters. But have I gone all geek about it? Hardly. A small mention, yes.

chatcar


I’d be deluding myself if I said I needed it. It would make travelling better, since my backpack tends to get heavy with mbp, wires, camera and book. Taking thickness and 2lbs from that certainly helps. The problem is the lack of ethernet port since the hotels I visit, though 5-star standard, doesn’t seem to be too “in” with technology and are mostly still on ethernet. Or actually, they want us to pay the $19.95 a day internet connection charge cos they’re conning us. It’s disheartening to read that:

While most midprice and extended stay properties include Internet access as part of the overall rate, most upscale properties still charge extra for the service.

But I digress. I’m talking about the mba and why so many people (or may be just the techie bloggers I read?) are waiting, waiting for the mba to come out. So how to deal with gadget envy? The choices are stark: a) resist, with difficulty or b) give in. lifehacker readers suggest everything from getting married to mooch off geekier friends, though the consensus is practical — analyse need vs want; and don’t impulse buy using money you don’t have.

Now that I’ve established I don’t need the mba; and I don’t have money issues, how can I be spared the gadget lust? My saving grace will likely be — I’m lazy and a homebody. It may take me ages to actually get myself to the shop to check it out. By that time I would have read more reviews, the price could have come down and Apple could be adding more features to the product. I got kinda burnt getting a early mbp with the battery and heat problems, so if I get a mba it’ll be a 1.1 or 1.2 version.

One of the suggestions was to use the girlfriend factor. If she gives “The Look” it means the wallet stays in the pocket. Heh, may be that might work.


in techtalk |

macbook air

in easily amused , techtalk |

stevenotegame

via engadget. As Macworld expo looms nearer, here’s a little flash game to get us in the mood. The blurb:

Imagine being Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Imagine getting ready for this years MacWorld Expo keynote presentation.
Imagine having to collect all the insanely great Mac, iPhone and TV Stuff you are going to present at Macworld Expo without revealing it to industrial spies and journalists.
Try the game that lets you experience what it feels like to be Steve Jobs just before your Keynote presentation.

It should be an easy enough game, but I suck at it. Steve Jobs I’m not.

in techtalk |
One million exhibitors. Sixty million attendees. Four trillion booths spread across an area the size of Rhode Island.

It’s an exaggeration of course, but that’s how the New York Times described what it felt like at CES, the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas.

Since the weekend, all my technology feeds have been obsessed with what’s going on there, if I forget to read my posts for a day, there’d be hundreds of post from engadget and gizmodo alone. But it’s too much, too overwhelming with all the huge flat screen TVs (150” from Panasonic), DVD players, GPS devices, computers, keyboards, cellphones and every gadget under the sun. Out of all the multitude of reviews and scoops I’ve read, the one that caught my eye (and that of lots of people) is the alienware curved display. 2880x900 man, that’s double the length of the mbp.

alienware2880

And then there’s Apple. The consensus seems to be that Apple announced refreshes to the less glamorous MacPro and x-servers to leave time and room for the big attention-hogging announcements next week at Macworld. If anyone can steal CES’ thunder, it’s Apple.


in techtalk |

ipod 2007
All of a sudden, I decide that I want a new iPod. And as we were walking around the electronics store today I was extremely tempted. The reasons I didn’t:

  • I didn’t want to get it at that particular store. My usual Apple reseller will probably give me a small cash discount.
  • I want to get the nano, the classic and the iPod Touch — it’s hard to decide on one
  • Macworld expo in 2 weeks. One thing for sure, don’t buy anything so close to dates when Apple is likely to announce new products. It’s unlikely that they’ll significantly upgrade the iPod range, but there may be bumps in memory sizes, especially for the models that use flash memory.

so no. I didn’t get one.

in techtalk |

via techcrunch, 73% of Americans have never heard of google docs and other online office applications.

This is an example of how techies and early adopters are different from the general public. Ever since I was introduced to what was then writely, I’ve sworn by it — and posted many times on it. Yes I dislike the google redesign — prefer the old orangey yellow theme and hate the menu on the left — it’s just cosmetic and I can live with it. Can’t beat the ease of use, large screen area and the collaboration feature. It’s sad that the public has been so conditioned to IE and Office that they don’t know better. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, once something becomes mainstream it loses its geek appeal, and the functionalities that make it special get diluted — market share becomes more important than features.

Lately I find that I’m not even using photoshop. Ever since I started using picnik for image processing. The flash / ajax-like interface is fast and has all the functionalities needed for day-to-day uses — crop, resize, rotate, colours, exposure, sharpen, basic fixing — in an intuitive browser based application. And I can now launch it within flickr. I will still need photoshop for more complex photo-manipulation and to process my pictures, but I highly recommend picnik for most imaging needs.

picnik demo

in 101.1001 , techtalk |

That was one of the easiest tasks on the list. The magSafe airline adapter works with macbook and macbook pro and connects to in-seat empower and 20mm power ports on planes where DC power ports have been enabled.

I haven’t tried it out, cos normally I eat, watch movies and read on planes. May be on my next long haul flight.

in techtalk |

I’m sitting here quietly thankful that I made a conscious decision not to sign up for facebook. The need for real name, the sheer amount of personal information it tries to wheedle from users at sign-up and wanting to know my gmail password totally wigged me out. A report by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office [pdf] revealed that 71% of young people weren’t concerned about strangers having access to their personal information; and as many as 4.5 million people aged 14-21 had posted information on the internet which could make them vulnerable to identity fraud or blight their future careers. It’s chicken-and-egg isn’t it — social network sites breed indifference causing more participation in social network sites.

Now comes the furore over Facebook’s Beacon marketing program. I thought the signing up process was squicky enough, this sounds downright scary. Here’s what it does:

  • you log into fb and do your usual stuff — I’m guessing like most users you’ll leave the tab open during your online session, or at least you don’t consciously log out
  • you open a new tab and buy something from say, amazon
  • you may or may not see a little pop-up window telling you that amazon is sending a “story” to your fb profile — you may not know what a “story” is and even if you do, you click the close button like you do with any pop-up that escapes your pop-up blocker, and forget about it
  • because you hadn’t explicitly told it not to, amazon sends information (I think it’s something javascript-esque) to your fb — how? you’ve still got fb open right? or if you logged out you haven’t deleted private data yeah? amazon and fb both read from your browser/cookies
  • information about what you bought from where is fed to fb
  • it’s posted for all your friends to see

That’s right, all your fb friends (and to me “facebook friend” is almost an oxymoron, but that’s another post) can see that you bought 48-count boxes of regular strength ex-lax chocolate stimulant laxative. Oops. Or worse, your gf sees you bought an engagement ring and either: a) start subscribing to Modern Brides or b) break up with you because you surely have someone else on the side.

You do some digging and realise that there are ways to stop amazon (and 40 other retailers at last count) from automatically sending stuff about you to facebook without you knowing. But it’s already too late. The damage is done.

Facebook claims that the mechanism for opting out of the program is available. But users found that they have to physically opt out from every single website that does that, and only after they have sent one round of information. It’s the lack of transparency and that it’s an opt-out rather than opt-in scheme that leaves a very sour taste. It seems to me that a large-scale website like facebook is making users jump through hoops to protect their private information rather than taking steps to protect that information.

Perhaps one of the best argument, for me, is presented by Jonathan Trenn: it’s all about user relationship. People accept that when they are within fb, that they’ve signed up to display all sorts of personal information, hobbies and shopping habits. But that’s within the closed fb framework. They do not expect that their electronic footprint outside of fb to be brought inside fb, without their explicit consent. A nice analogy in that article:

When I buy a product from a local retailer (an actual store, you know, a physical one), I’m a customer of that retailer and not the local newspaper. I don’t expect the store to then send a press release to the local newspaper about what I just bought and then get a phone call from a reporter asking me to approve of them putting the news in the paper. Screw that.

Moreover, there is absolutely no user benefit to this scheme, all the benefit goes to fb, retailers and the great data mine in the sky. Now if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

Admittedly, it’s not the first time that activities on one site can be shown on another site. I have my bloglines feed on my website; and should I choose to, I can display what is on my iTunes, what I’m doing on fm.com (assuming that I am on fm.com), books I read on amazon, my flickr photos … the list goes on. The big difference is that I would have had to actively do an action to enable those functions — mostly it’s adding a script to the webpage template. flickr doesn’t put up pictures from one of my sets automatically, I control what gets displayed.

Perhaps we are being naïve. That no one’s data is safe anymore. That someone somewhere is tracking our IP address, our keystrokes, our surfing habits and it’s part and parcel of being online. 4.5 million young people in Britain don’t seem bothered. In fact, some people may get a kick out of this — purchasing risque items just to show off to their friends.

But I am. There’s something wrong with how the information is passed from one third party to another, that I, the owner of that data, don’t have active control over it. I’m sure the ToS in both facebook and the retailer will have appropriate legal wording, but again I feel like I’m being suckered and making this too big a deal.

Arguably facebook doesn’t care one bit whether I’m signed up or not, and that’s a good thing. I’d be petrified if they do.

in arts and media , techtalk |

humanvstech

The third new book from yesterday’s big book order is a nice story about government, the President of the USA, a writer and 3 kids. It’s also set in year 2020-ish. Looking at the publication date, first published in 2001 which means probably written during 2000 or earlier.

Though a well-written story that flows easily and with likeable characters, I can’t help but smirk at some of the “advanced” technologies that we thought in 2000 would be in place in 2020.

  1. voice activated computer and media systems with voice authentication, as in “Computer, start playback on disk, code 123456” where you had to use your activation code Every.Single.Time you issue a command — um newsflash, voice activation is a hassle and stupid; and needing to speak a code as security is worse than no security
  2. taking pictures on a film camera — i mean, who uses film anymore?
  3. paper newspapers — I won’t be surprised that by 2020 paper versions of newspapers and magazines would be overtaken by electronic versions
  4. people using the phone to contact each other albeit with holographic images, no mention of IM, sms or anything using the web

I’m not deriding the book, in fact the tech part is small and only incidental to the story. I’m just kinda amazed at how quickly technology has advanced and how writers have to think very far ahead when writing a contemporary story set in the future. There were hardly any blogs in 2000 and certainly no facebook or skype. Again, amazing.

in techtalk |

websiteflowchart

digg (from a while ago) via warpedvisions, a tongue-in-cheek flowchart to tell if a website sucks. Honestly, I’m only posting this cos I led myself to believe that I’m the Real Deal. Snerk.

in techtalk |

When Software Update prompted me to install the Tiger upgrade, I was doing something else and closed the prompt. But like a good mac citizen I finally got round to upgrading the other day. The reason I’m even writing this post is because it didn’t go as smoothly as I expected.

My experience with any automatic upgrades, which are mainly Apple and adium related, have been simple: download, install, reboot. Download and install went fine, but when I came to reboot, the mbp was stuck at the grey spinning wheel (aka grey screen of death) forever. And the fan was whirling around like crazy.

After a few minutes of this I got tired of waiting and did a hard powerdown (held down the power key for a few seconds). After that reboot, everything went fine.

It’s the first time an upgrade hasn’t been 100%, and looking at the Apple forums, other people have worse problems.

There’s been a lot of attention, not all of it good, on Apple lately. Even long time loyal fans are becoming slightly disgruntled — the iPhone price reduction, iPhone bricking, Leopard teething problems amongst others. I know no one or company can be perfect, but kinks are definitely appearing in Apple’s previously impeccable armour.

in arts and media , objects of desire , techtalk |

kindle

There’s been a fair bit of attention on amazon’s kindle lately. At first I skimmed past all the articles but today I sat down and read a few of them. First impressions? Very mixed reception and boy, is it ugly. Conclusion? No thank you.

I’ve never considered using an ebook reader at all, although I can see the benefits especially when travelling, or for students who are carrying around too many heavy textbooks already. The demo video on the product page sure is enticing, and it tempted the gadget-geek in me for, oh, about a second.

why I might buy it

  1. it can store hundreds of books in one book-sized package — saves lugging lots of books around

  2. as of launch, almost 90,000 titles available from amazon at a lower price than paper books

  3. amazon name, especially the book selection

  4. eliminates expensive shipment fees

  5. built-in wireless means instant shopping gratification

  6. subscriptions to newspapers, magazines and blogs

  7. dictionary and wikipedia

why I won’t buy it

  1. oh lordy, is it ugly or what

  2. $400 for the reader alone — there’s comparison with iPod pricing, but thing is … music requires a widget, be it walkman, boombox or iPod but books don’t need no hardware, dude

  3. monopolistic — it can only read the proprietary amazon format, cannot load other formats, no connection between the book on my shelf and the ebook

  4. DRM — who’s ever heard of DRM-ing books? Once bought, it’s mine and i should be free to do as I please with it, including sharing with my friends

  5. although cheaper than paper books, $9.99 for best sellers is expensive — the publishers don’t seem to be passing along the vast amount of savings from not needing to physically publish and distribute books

  6. charging consumers for books in the public domain doesn’t seem right

  7. charging consumers for stuff they can otherwise get free is ridiculous — $0.99 per blog per month? Kidding?

  8. omg, black & white screen?

  9. what is the keyboard doing there? why isn’t it a slide-out panel?

  10. the so-called built-in wireless uses EVDO, which for those of us who live in non-caveman networkland is something unknown — apparently it’s a CDMA (omg!!!) based cellular wireless network that is provided by Sprint. In other words it’s completely and utterly useless outside the US

  11. I said ugly already, right?

I want to like this device. I’ve not thought of using an ebook reader but I’m intrigued. I read enough books to want something small that can hold more — I took 6 books with me on my 2 week trip, imagine the convenience with a kindle. I can imagine the convenience of having loads of travel guides when I’m on holiday.

Many people, including the newsweek cover story likened the kindle to the early iPod. Not apples to apples, I’m afraid. Yes even though the analogy is there, there is one HUGE difference — the consumer can happily use and enjoy the iPod without ever going near iTMS. I mean, I like amazon and order a hell of a lot of books from them so it’s not a huge problem that the content is tied to the hardware. But it’s too closed. What if a book I want isn’t on amazon but is available from say a niche publisher? So my choice is limited, isn’t it?

The iPod sold us something we never thought we needed before, but can’t live without after. There’s no such buzz with the kindle, for me it’s meh at best. It’s a great idea, and I hope amazon will continue to improve the product. Until then, I’ll stick with traditional books.

And really, they have to do something about the dismal design.

in techtalk |

I did a little site re-organisation. I put the weblog back to the second tab like before. The homepage is now an aggregate of:

  • the weblog
  • tumblr posts
  • del.icio.us links
  • twitters

menu20071108

In fact, the homepage is the tumblr page. At first I followed the official instructions and changed the IP of invisiblecompany.com to 72.32.231.8. This meant invisiblecompany.com points to invisiblecompany.tumblr.com. Unfortunately all my other pages came up as 404 not found — because I changed the IP for the entire site to tumblr. Oooops.

I got suresupport help, logged back into my control panel and restored DNS defaults. I tried another method for redirection. In the root .htaccess file I added one line:

redirect /index.html http://invisiblecompany.tumblr.com/


in techtalk |

I was talking to an ex-colleague who just bought a macbook, only for his wife to appropriate it … and now he’s thinking of getting a black macbook for himself. We were talking about software and I realise how much of my normal work is done on web apps. There’s a big shift from desktop apps to web apps definitely. When I was backing up the mbp I noticed how few docs and files are stored purely on the hard disk — the hard disk is the backup for web storage, as opposed to the other way round.

Inspired by Chris Garrett’s list, here are my top 10 most important apps. And no, Lotus Notes isn’t coming anywhere within a million parsecs of this list.

  1. firefox — the obvious choice as #1. Almost all my time is spent online and at this point I shouldn’t have to explain why firefox is better than the rest. Safari is fine, and I use it as a backup but there’s nothing about firefox that I dislike.

  2. gmail — long time ago I started with excite, then email.com, before settling on yahoo. I switched over to gmail late but I never looked back. I still use yahoo for registration and stuff. For disposable emails I use either jetable or 10-minute mail. Plus greader has taken over from bloglines for keeping up with feeds. I prefer some of the bloglines functions but greader is too convenient. Damn those Mountain View people!

  3. adium — I *heart* adium. It’s so heart-worthy. The number of friends I keep in touch with is small but they’re all over the world, and adium is essential in that regards. It’s hands down the best chat app, ever. Just the tab function alone takes it heads and shoulders above all others, including I expect the mac version of trillian.
    Need to try: meebo — about time there’s a web-based IM tool. I think it’ll be useful at work or in situations where I don’t want to use a desktop IM program.
    Need also to try: campfire — web-based group chat that doesn’t need an IM client. The only restriction I see currently is that the free version only allows 4 participants, but perhaps that may change.

  4. google docs — wow, I remember the days when I fretted over not having Word on the pb1. Ancient history. The sentimental geek in me still has google docs bookmarked as writely. The spreadsheet and presentation functions are pretty useful too.

  5. movable type — since most of my website is built on MT, it’s logical that I need MT to run it, right? I mean, if MT stops functioning, I have no website and hence nothing. Hmm let’s not talk about that catastrophe.
    also: tumblr. The new 3.0 version is so slick, I’m thinking of shifting my pages a bit to make the tumblelog the main page.

  6. control panel — by the same token I need access to my website. I do a fair bit of direct editing there, of simple html coding using the built-in editor. I also upload images directly rather than using an ftp app.

  7. photoshop — considering how important pics and images are to daily web living, photoshop is a must. I know there are cheaper alternatives and for what I use it for I don’t need something so “big” but I’ve been using it since version 3 and it’s second nature to me.
    growing on me: picnik for when I want a quick image editing tool. Simple crops, resizes can all be done in the browser. It’s extremely convenient.

  8. flickr — have pics, will need somewhere to store them. Yes, photobucket is bigger and in theory I can host my pics on the website. But why? Collections, sets, tags, organizr, groups … everything is there.

  9. dreamweaver — okay I don’t actually need dreamweaver because i don’t use it for coding. It’s gonna sound so strange but I use it to backup my website. The ftp function is good, and I can have both local and server views at the same time. Oh, and I heard Dreamweaver is a handy tool for web design too, who would have thought [/cheeky] ?

  10. vlc — a couple of weeks ago K sent me a video with the direction “enjoy”. I looked at the extension and groaned. wmv. So what to do when your windoze friends forget that you don’t share their “joy” of using clunky, unfriendly and downright unsafe software? You power up your trusted version of vlc, of course. It plays almost every audio and video format out there, and it’s free. That’s it.

No big surprise this list. Like most people, I use a browser, use email, write docs, publish on the web and need to do stuff with pictures.

in techtalk |

Over on tuaw (the unofficial Apple weblog, in case you were desperate to know), there’s an article about whether or not to upgrade to leopard. Basically.

If you have only one computer and it’s your production machine, don’t upgrade.
If you work with Adobe software and need your software to work reliably, don’t upgrade.
If you work with Windows, don’t upgrade.
If you have a lot of system customizations, don’t upgrade.

In theory, I shouldn’t have issues upgrading. The mbp is my production machine, and I use Photoshop and Dreamweaver, but neither extensively. I also have good upgrading instructions from John Gruber, so I should be okay.

But I’m gonna wait for a while.

I’ve decided I’m not an early adaptor, even though in theory I can be. The only early adaptor action I did was to get the mbp soon after it came out, because I really really needed to replace the pb1 then. I don’t think not having leopard will affect my daily routine and I want to wait for a few dots before shelling out my $129 equivalent. There’s also the niggling notion that I want to wait till there’s a 10.5 version of cleardock because guess what? I’m one of those apparent minorities who have the dock at the side rather than at the bottom.

What will I get when I upgrade? I believe the new features will be worth it. The os has come a hell of a long way from the b&w mac plus days, sigh. Sometimes I get a little nostalgic at the old look and feel … I’m still looking for that playable version of bandits (fat chance …). How better to wax nostalgic lyrical than to look at how far system preference panels have evolved. There’s this nice Apple Insider article / illustration. Look at how it changed from System 1, through System 4 and how it looks on System 10.5 now. Thank you, Susan Kare.

system1   system4
system10.5


in techtalk |

via tumbl.us and how better to celebrate the release of leopard.

Typing “virus” in the search box on apple.com gives an amusing reminder about The Obvious Superiority.

applenovirus

in mind babble , techtalk |

Relating to yesterday’s post and an example of how my thoughts flow in strange directions, here’s some mind babble about information explosion, email addresses and human-robot relationships.

We are surrounded by information. Lots of information. Ever since I switched to google reader I’ve been spending a lot more time than before reading feeds. Comparatively I shouldn’t have enough feeds for rss fatigue to set in — around 60, of which some are to keep track of friends who hardly post. That’s pretty manageable, even though I dread to think what I’d have to go through if I went on vacation for 2 weeks.

It’s not just the sheer amount of information around us, it’s the speed at which it’s coming at us. We’re literally bombarded 24/7 by an unending stream of news, or stuff on digg, or pictures of the newest gadgets. We don’t have enough room in our brains and we’re remembering fewer and fewer basic facts these days:

This summer, neuroscientist Ian Robertson polled 3,000 people and found that the younger ones were less able than their elders to recall standard personal info. When Robertson asked his subjects to tell them a relative’s birth date, 87 percent of respondents over age 50 could recite it, while less than 40 percent of those under 30 could do so. And when he asked them their own phone number, fully one-third of the youngsters drew a blank. They had to whip out their handsets to look it up.

It’s true. When I left OldJob I printed a copy of my personal Outlook address book but I couldn’t take the entire company email database of course. Sending emails to ex-colleagues became less intuitive; I actually had to think about it. Fortunately, like most corporate emails the external emails were mainly firstname.lastname@company.com; but there were a few exceptions I had to specially remember.

It’s even worse for friends’ and family’s email addresses. I can remember the ones I email regularly, but the rest I rely on gmail’s autofill feature. I can’t remember anyone’s birthdays apart from the most important people; and forget about addresses — 90% of letters I send via snailmail are to pay bills at places I can’t pay online. Every memory seems to be archived, it’s now a matter of remember where the information is stored rather than the information itself. It’s like I have flashdrives hooked up to my brain that I need to download and upload memories to.

I feel like I’m developing hardware. The mbp is almost an extension of my body, it is more important than the tv, or any sentient or insentient entity in my existence.

AI researchers were talking about the possibility of sex between humans and robots in five years and marriage by 2050. With humans becoming more robot-like and robots becoming more lifelike, it’s a matter of time before the two species merge. There’s enough sci-fi stories and movies about this that it’s not as whacky of preposterous as it first may seem. Yes, it’s icky and the exact ethical implications haven’t been thought through, but pesonally I don’t want to rule it out. Some part deep down inside me can see how the idea may be attractive.

Robots can provide a tremendous amount of comfort. For example look at the Ri-Man that was developed at the Bio-Mimetic Control Research Center in Nagoya. It’s a robot that is intended to be a nurse’s aid, to help pick up patients at the hospital. But with artificial intelligence that allows the robots to learn emotions and even develop personalities, who’s to say that there is a limit to the degree and type of comfort / companionship that a robot can offer? Think real doll [nsfw].

robot ri-man

At least, robots can be programmed not to a) engage in or b) feel hurt if they’re told that they are engaged in annoying behaviour. Which leads me back to email addresses, a reminder to think before forwarding those cute / “send to 10 other people or you’ll die” / “send to 10 other people and you will meet the love of your life” emails because:

  • may be it was cute once, a very long time ago when people only read one newspaper; but not after you’ve seen it 457 times
  • nah, a hippo with a baby chimpanzee on its back eating a banana ain’t cute
  • by the time I get one, the fwd:fwd:re:re chain is so long, I wonder why it took me so long to get it … am I not popular enough? [/sarcasm]
  • if I were a spam harvester I’d wet myself — all those hundreds of email addresses of real people
  • baby elephants and polar bears cuddling with an Eskimo child ain’t cute … really
  • most people are too embarrassed to tell their cute-email-sending friends to buzz off (um I don’t have this problem, I tell them to buzz off)
  • they’re not just sending me an email, it’s a AYCE malware party — open an attachment, get viruses, trojan horses, spyware, worms compliments of your (shouldn’t it be ex- by now?) friend

Is it a stretch to see why a customised robot may be a viable alternative?

in techtalk | | comments (2)

We live in a universe of short attention span, yet we crave attention and connectivity with strangers whose faces we hardly know.

The rules are changing. Just a few years ago, it’s enough to have a livejournal and belong to a forum or two. Then came the likes of mt and wordpress when it became sport du jour to show off your technical street cred by running your own blog on your own webspace. Blogger changed that. Then came wordpress.com, vox, and this wee little phenomenon called myspace.

And then it exploded, with new social network / microblogging / web presence platforms announced every other day; and there doesn’t seem to be an end to them. If I wanted to, I could friend people (or be friended) at facebook or myspace; if I had a business I’d want to be on linkedin. I could upload my pictures to flickr, my videos to youtube and share my mp3 collection. To tell people what I’ve been up to I can use twitter, pownce, tumblr, not to mention the old fashioned (oh my, “old-fashioned” already) blog. That’s a lot of time spent on posting.

Apparently, the trick is cross-posting. But do I really want the same message to appear in five different places? Does the argument that “I use these platforms for different purposes and I need them all” hold any water? When does keeping to the forefront end and social network fatigue begin? Who cares?

The long and short of the situation is, not only am I talking to myself here on the website, I’m now doing it in more than one place. That doesn’t hide that fact that multiples of zero is still zero and I’m still only talking to no one but myself.

Still, I stubbornly persevere.

I can’t find the article but I remember reading that the average tumblelog only last 3 weeks before fading away into oblivion or the owner finds a newer shinier social networking platform to play in. Which is why I’m happy that mine has lasted over a month. It didn’t take me long to figure out the difference is external vs internal.

  • external — the tumblelog is where I keep a footprint of where in the webverse I’ve travelled to — articles I come across, links I want to tag to del.icio.us, photos, videos and odd bits that float my way. That they conveniently split posts up to 6 types gives me a framework to think about what I should be including. The only slightly non-external type of posts are chat snippets, but that can be argued both ways. Mostly, I intend the tumblelog to be about fun. Case in point, the most recent post is about the skirt that turns into a vending machine disguise. (Yes, really.)

    invisibletumbles

  • internal — what I’ve tried to do on the main page is concentrate on longer posts that are more article-y. I’m not sure I’m there yet as any sort of original thinker, one might say I’m being delusionally indulgent. It doesn’t mean all posts will be serious — the Apple love, the travel journal, the pictures of food I’ve eaten, nano word counts and everything that defines me will still be here, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how high your tolerance of my insanity goes. Hee.

But what about twitter? facebook?

I have a twitter account but after a handful of posts, I found out that I was forever posting about me reading, or messing around my website, or playing a game — in other words how boring my life is. There’s no point in documenting this. What few twitters I have are crossposted automatically to tumblr.

As for facebook, as long as they insist on real names and don’t seem to be transparent (video link) about why they need it / who they give it to, I’ll pass thank you.

in techtalk |

Some call it an about turn but mostly the reaction to Apple’s announcement that they will make available an SDK (software development kit) to be positive. The SDK will allow third party apps to be developed for both the iPhone and the iPod touch; it will be rolled out next February.

It sounds like this is the beginning of making both devices much more open. In a way this is like plug-ins for wordpress or photoshop. Third party apps will be developed no matter what Apple does — it’s inevitable given the tech focused user base. The hoopla about jailbreaking the iPhone is testament to this. Who wouldn’t want to more functionality?

ipod touch freed

Plus with the prospect of unlocked iPhones in France I’m more and more hopeful of getting an officially unlocked one eventually.

in objects of desire , techtalk |

All the attention and big whoo hoo about the iPhone unlock mostly did the rounds in the tech side of the blogosphere. It’s ironic, that it didn’t hit the big time until the firmware upgrade to 1.1.1 bricked the phone. Heh, I wonder who coined the term “bricked” because it’s so appropriate and easily understandable.

Naturally the tech world reacted quickly, with instructions to unbrick appearing right away, to varying degrees of success. The latest? downgrade to 1.0.2. Oh dear.

In other parts of the world, iPhone will be carried by O2 in the UK, Orange in France and T-Mobile in Germany. What about the other European countries? Personally I am keen to see how it does in Scandinavia and how it comes up against Nokia.

When I try to explain the US model to my friends, inevitably I am met with expressions of disbelief and incredulity at the outdated and preposterous nature of it. Apple will have to think carefully about how they tackle Asia markets where:

  • there is intense competition between carriers
  • phones are not tied to carriers
  • there’s often no strict service contract
  • customers demand all the latest in technology (ie, it must be a bells and whistles 3g iPhone)
  • phones are commodities
  • copycats and parallel imports are a fact of life

I was tempted to get an iPhone in Chicago, but I’m glad I didn’t. I’m not a good enough hacker to be able to deal with the unlock and I don’t want to pay someone to tamper with it. Still, it’s hard to wait. May be I need to console myself with a lego iPhone for the time being.

lego iphone

ETA: via engadget: for this clever bit of advertising I might even stick with Nokia when the time comes.

nokia poster

in techtalk |

As a result of my small research into how the online community feels about Lotus Notes, I came across talk about Enterprise 2.0. It’s strange, that terms like Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and Office 2.0 are branded about, but really … only geeks have a true idea of what these are about. I can guarantee that not one single person in my immediate social / work circle has a clue.

I remember 2 or 3 years ago when our department needed a calendar for the annual performance / compensation review season and we approached the IT department to see if they can build a simple web based solution for us. The answer was a regrettable no: because they didn’t have the budget and didn’t have an easy solution that fit what we were looking for. They offered to build an Access database, but it didn’t fit the criteria.

At the end, I ended up building a simple solution using *gasp* Wordpress. Divisions, departments and action items (performance appraisal, bonus recommendation) were categories, often grouped together as parent / child. Each event — eg [dept] deadline for bonus pool allocation was an entry. It was easy to call the monthly archives to show all the events that month; and it was easy to call the category archives to show each category.

I paid for the domain name from my own pocket because that little project wasn’t exactly allowed by the company. Use of an internet address was frowned upon. Wordpress uses php and sql and these were also considered risky.

None of the data was truly confidential — no numbers, no names, no specific proprietary information was used. I put a general sign-in form to even allow access to the website.

I let the domain name lapse now, so the work isn’t available (though I have the backups). If it were now, I wouldn’t have used wordpress on a website, I would have used wordpress.com or even better, a wiki.

The point is, IT departments of large companies don’t think like end users. Often they have a vested interest in keeping to older, clunkier, solutions from brand names because that’s what they know. They fear the wrath of the business so they ban IM, webmail, forums, social networks and a whole lot of perfectly innocent websites in the name of productivity. They don’t realize that those are what the next generation of employees take for granted in their lives. Banning IM is like banning the use of phones to 2.0 users. Not using wikis is akin to throttling the flow of information. But that’s what conservative corporations do. That’s why they will never catch up.

in techtalk |

I cannot believe I’m saying this about a Microsoft product but I miss Outlook. NewJob uses Lotus Notes, which I’d never used before. I took me 2 days, and a ton of IT Helpdesk help to get it working — it was showing some bad domino server error. The last few days I lost the folder view on the desktop. I have to switch to using a secondary (and slower) server to see the folders. Some of the weird stuff I’ve experienced so far:

  • can’t import pst files. Yes I know that I’m expecting too much, it’s like trying to get Excel to read 1-2-3 files (oh wait, it can do that)
  • calendar items do not function as email — can’t forward meetings, can’t forward meetings as email, can’t suggest new time
  • too many clicks to get anywhere
  • opening an attachment involves, again, too many clicks, the dialogue box doesn’t close automatically
  • selecting multiple messages is not intuitive — I want to be able to do shift and ctrl, but no those don’t work
  • confusing Reply and Forward actions — I’ve replied to myself only lots of times, when I wanted to use the same mailing list of a sent mail
  • date sort defaults to oldest on top (silly)
  • what are memos? why are email messages called memos?
  • I was afraid to delete a meeting invite because I wasn’t sure if it’d stay in the calendar — untrustworthy
  • why do I need to decide between delete, remove and some other “get rid of this item”? Don’t overcomplicate things
  • moving a mail to a folder doesn’t delete it from the Sent folder
  • can’t recall or resend

What I do like:

  • tabs — I can see the inbox and however many open emails as tabs
  • um … that’s it

There’s a couple of debates about Outlook vs Notes. Very interesting. One commenter suggested that

Endusers - Prefer Outlook
Administrators - Prefer Lotus Notes

IBM describes it as Groupware, pointing out that it is not just an email too, it’s a collaborative / total productivity solution. Most proponents are sysadmins who are puzzled at why there are so many complaints, and are quick to point out its features — stability, scalability, use of databases, and that 120 millions users can’t be wrong.

But I’m not a sysadmin, and I have an increasingly stressful job I need to be doing. My needs for Notes are email, calendar and (to a lesser extent) address book. I simply don’t have time to tolerate the ugly user interface (I expected Comic Sans to show up at one point), controls that are not intuitive and not trusting that what I did was actually what I was supposed to have done. It’s no use telling me about the fantastic database and sharing functionalities that I don’t use. It can’t even handle email properly. I remember using ccMail and it was okay. What happened?

Another commenter, in Notes’ defence, said that most users don’t receive enough training to use it properly. They acknowledge that Notes takes longer to learn but once learnt, “you’ll never look back.” To be honest, most corporations don’t have the time or resources to train their staff; we’re expected to know the system or figure it out ourselves. I’m self-taught on all the software I use and consider myself a little more advanced than most typical office workers. I should have a jumpstart on the Lotus Notes learning curve and I find that I’m struggling. I don’t think I am the problem.

My sense is that Notes tries to be too much. It obviously is a good piece of software, but IBM isn’t in touch with what the users want. The majority of its users don’t care that it’s a cool database system — they just want to read and write emails, set up meetings and store a list of contacts. If I wanted a database I’d use Access, or get an IT person to set it up for me. If I wanted to share files and data I’d use a web-based tool, using Notes as an intranet makes no sense in this day and age.

This is an old discussion but there was an interesting tidbit in the comments. The chief designer for Notes 8 posted a link to a user survey. The first question was:

How do you prefer to access your databases?
  • Workspace
  • Bookmarks Displayed as List
  • Bookmarks Displayed as Workspace

and one of the commenters aptly pointed out:

Why is this question mandatory? Why do you assume that I want to access my databases? What are you talking about?—I want to access my email messages.

It’s kinda amusing, in a sad way.

Apparently there’s lots of improvement for versions 7 and 8. A fat lot of good that is, because NewJob uses 6.5. Don’t tell me that comparing Notes with Outlook is apples and oranges; because as far as I, the USER, is concerned I am using both for the same purpose and therefore the usability comparison is valid. And don’t tell me 120 million users can’t be wrong because how many of them had a choice in the matter?


in techtalk |

Oh great. I start posting on tumblr and another similar site shows up.

This one is called jottit and its tagline:

Jottit makes getting a website as easy as filling out a textbox.

And it’s true! Type some text into a text box, and if it’s the first time it will prompt you to claim that site. Give it a name, a password, enter an email address and make some simple font and colour settings and it’s done. Obviously no further customisation, but I can edit my jottits which is more than I can do with my tumblrs.

After playing around, I came to the conclusion that it creates webpages, not posts listed in reverse chronological order like I’m used to. I randomly added 2 posts and they show up as separate pages. So, different concept from tumblr.

Oh my, I can sit here all day updating all my various websites.

in techtalk |

I signed up for tumblr. I have no idea why because it overlaps with so many parts of the website. What is tumblr?

If blogs are journals, tumblelogs are scrapbooks.

In other words, a more organised way of side- or link-blogging. For the big bloggers who churn out magazine article length posts and who regularly entertain lots of comments, it may be something useful. A big advantage over regular blogs (be it mt, wordpress, LJ, blogger), according to lifehacker is that:

unlike regular blogging - which confronts you with a large, empty textarea to type your thoughts into - there are 6 distinct types of posts that have their own visual format: a “traditional” blog post, a photo, a quote, a single link, a conversational transcript, and a video.

tumblrtype

This means even fewer formatting and coding headaches, and instant posting gratification.

The disadvantages are no comments, no trackbacks, no categories, no search and no functionality to change the timestamp. Actually, this what-you-post-is-what-you-get type of low touch posting has its appeal. The tumblelogs are hosted at their site, though there is a functionality to bring it on-site — but it looks like they can only point to the root and there’s some palaver about A-record and needing to mess with domain name DNS. Oh hell no.

The other thing is, it comes with standard themes. To make it look like the rest of the website will take some nifty (and time-consuming) css work.

Still, i can’t quite distinguish in my mind how I’d use the tumblelog vs the website. There’s no clearcut demarcation unfortunately, grey like the rest of the world. I’ve posted one youtube link before, and theoretically it should belong to the tumblelog now. hmm.

And besides, this is yet another social networking tool (like twitter and facebook) that is supposed to keep me in touch with my friends. I doubt it, cos I can’t see many of my friends joining. And like the my first tumblepost quotes, “If no one reads your post, does it exist?”

In any case, go check it out.

in all about people , techtalk |

Friend of mine asked if I was on Facebook. I replied “no, but I can be.” I’m usually late to the party (though early among my immediate social group) but I tried myspace for a while and wasn’t interested. I like the music part of myspace very much, great place to find new artists. But friending people? Having thousands of “friends” for basically the headcount rather than actual interaction? I don’t get the appeal.

I’m not saying I’m against having a wide social network. With the internet, geography and physical distances have become less important in making, and maintain, friends. I’m comfortable in my small compact network. The virtual world is a convenient tool and environment, that’s all.

This is what a survey from researchers at Sheffield Hallam University said.

Although the numbers of friends people have on these sites can be massive, the actual number of close friends is approximately the same in the face to face real world.

Some theories that say that most people can handle around 150 contacts — friends, co-workers, neighbours — in their circle, and tend to have 5 close friends. The others are people we keep to varying degrees of closeness. And this is the same in the case of real life friendships or online friendships. Or a combination of both.

While it is likely that some people will have more than 150, it seems overly optimistic IMHO to think one can keep in touch with friends numbering in the 5- or 6-figure marks. Remember the guy who has 19,000 flickr contacts and claims to follow them all? How can they be more than a passing fancy?

The researchers agree, that face to face contact is almost a must for close friendships. “Face to face contact is a requirement for intimate friendships. There are many emotional cues that people give face to face, such as smiling and laughing, which are impossible to fake, whereas online it is easy to say “You are wonderful, I love you.”

It’s common sense, really. Until you actually meet someone, you don’t know if they’re real or not. With online friendships, there’s always that uncertainty, no matter how close you’ve become; or how much you talk to each other.

Anyway, back to social networking sites. The likes of usenet, forums, communities, chat and now flickr, myspace, facebook, twitter — has facilitated this. Made contact easy, and maintaining contact easy too. But I must admit, that without my having flown halfway round the world so often, it may be harder to maintain the closeness of my friendships. I don’t have many close friends in my immediate vicinity — basically it’s mm (and her sis when she was alive). I fall below the threshold of 5 close friends too.

I’m not on facebook. Yet. I didn’t like how I have to enter my name and all sorts of personal information. I know I can put an anonymous name but I dunno, it icked me out. People on the internet used to be so paranoid of their identity, but with the advent of myspace, facebook and the like, it seems Real Name is In. I don’t know if this newfounded open-ness is goo, or whether people are becoming more blasé. The recent quechup fiasco is perhaps a wake-up call, that we need to be vigilant again.

Which brings me to the final part of this post. I added some small icons in the meta area of each post. These are social network bookmarks. What are they? I think the BBC explains it best. Click on one and it’ll bookmark it online, then you can retrieve and share it with the community. Now why would I suddenly offer the facility for people to share and tag a post? Why would anyone want to bookmark one of my posts? I get 8 people voting in a poll and I start getting delusions of grandeur.

social bookmarks

Anyway, from left to right: del.icio.us, digg, facebook, google, reddit, stumbleupon.

in techtalk |

All the recent hub-bub around iTMS offering ringtone functionality made me think about ringtones in general. For the record, I don’t like fancy ringtones. From my observation and experience, most of the people who have Glamorous or such like on their phones are the ones who: a) make them ring loudly and b) talk at the top of their voices on the bus about their dog puking on the carpet.

It’s actually pretty straightforward to make your own mp3 ringtone using audacity. Just slice and dice the song and bluetooth it to the phone.

But I don’t want a snippet of a song, however much I like it. I just want a regular ring that sounds like a ring and not some high pitched version of bagpipes blowing. Unbelievably my new phone has only one tone that I like. Fortunately there’s no shortage of people who think the same. A little research brought me to rcptones and a nice selection of non-offensive ringtones. Here’s what I’m using, it’s called norm01:


powered by ODEO

There are a few simple tones that have emphasis on understatement rather than shouty. I like this popular one called Wheels:


powered by ODEO

Oh, read how to embed an mp3 to a website.


in eating and drinking , techtalk |

I started building the recipes section, click on the Taste tab. I’ve developed a sort of reputation for photographing the food I eat, which I hope comes across as endearing rather than annoying. Photographing food I prepared is actually full of problems: 1) I have a tiny kitchen, there’s literally no room to set up a tripod; 2) I have a dark apartment, very little natural lighting that provides bright light for photographing food; 3) clutter everywhere; 4) no decent flat, light surface. Confession: the white surface in a lot of the recent pictures? That’s my microwave. It’s the only white surface available.

I have a whole plastic folder of recipes from magazine pages, a couple of shelves of recipe books, and the old recipes section from html days is still around. So there’s lots to post. In the meantime, to whet your appetites here’s all my flickr photos tagged with food.


in techtalk | | comments (4)

The entire website has been converted to the new design now, hopefully I haven’t left any page out. This is a time when I wish I had readers, sigh. Anyway, I’d be grateful to know your opinion on the new design. Please vote in the poll, and feel free to add further comments (at the bottom of this poll click on Comments). I’m not looking for compliments, it’s just that I feel like I’m bumbling along without much direction and it’d be nice to know if I did the right thing or not. Thanks in advance.

Couldn’t have done it without dreamweaver and photoshop. I’m glad I kept the panic to a minimum when the old photoshop 7.0 conked out. CS3 is nice, very nice. But I was looking at animated checkered flags for the Sports project yesterday and suddenly discovered that CS3 has gone and left ImageReady behind. It used to be that ImageReady was bundled with Photoshop, but no more. Apparently some of the functions have been absorbed into Photoshop CS3 and some ported over to Fireworks.

There’s been a fair number of frustrations by longtime ImageReady users. Among the biggest complaint, that we can’t open an existing animated gif in Photoshop and see all the frames. We have to use either the old ImageReady or Fireworks. But Fireworks isn’t as intuitive, and I tried opening up a CS3 psd file in my old ImageReady to bad, bad results.

Sigh, another new software to learn. Thanks, adobe.


in objects of desire , techtalk |
ipodtouch

sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh, sigh.

I wonder why it only has 16GB. If it has more, I’m getting one when I’m in Chicago in 2 weeks.


in about me , techtalk , workstuff |

I was chatting with Car (literally just 5 minutes ago) and she was telling me about the books I should be reading. I said I have little time for reading right now, cos of the 80-20 rule — I’m now at the time-consuming 20% part of the Great Website Redesign project.

She said, and I’ll quote:

80-20 rule? is that something you’ve made up in your anal little mind? lol

Oh my friend, it’s real alright. It’s called the Pareto Principle and was used originally to describe the distribution of wealth. In project management terms, it means that 80% of the work uses up 20% of time / resources.

As anyone who’s spent splodges of time putting the final touch on any project — baking, planning a holiday, building an office block — it’s the last litty bitty details that take up most time, energy and frustration. In terms of the website stuff, it means I’m spending time on the css details before moving onto the static pages.

I tried to explain all this, and the response was still:

car: I think that’s something you’ve made up
me: HA! it’s on wikipedia
car: oh whatever…it simply justifies your need to spend hours changing the color and margins of your website. LOL

Who’s a skeptic now? (Or she’s pulling my very anal legs.)

in techtalk |

I upgraded to movable type 4. It looks vastly different from 2.661 and 3.35; SixApart added more functions and changed the way the indexes and templates work. I’ll write it all up in the technical section this weekend. I did a full upgrade, which even SixApart say is for the brave of heart. I deleted everything except the content and completely rebuilt every single index and template. Using the car analogy, I didn’t just change the brakes and spark plugs: I took every single part out and put in a new one.

The current stylesheet is called Minimalist White and it’s a default stylesheet. There aren’t so many available styles for MT4 and I thought I’d stick to one that works initially. This means that:

  1. the font behaviour isn’t exactly what I want — I use verdana instead of trebuchet, I’d like my links to be a different colour
  2. the customised styles from the old stylesheet (like the float and box elements) haven’t been implemented
  3. some more work needed on margins
  4. some formatting will look kablooey; an example is the ul list at the top left — it will be a tabbed nav bar eventually

I also need to look at all the pages underneath the main index to change default wording, take out unnecessary code etc. The static pages (about, faq, personal pages) have not been converted to the new style yet.

I’m very excited and happy with what I have so far. It’s been hard work and consecutive late nights. Here are some of the new features:

  • quiet thoughts is now the homepage, the preamble is gone
  • both writing sections are merged and stories categorised in an organised manner
  • I’m starting on the recipes section
  • I can now publish static pages like the about page
  • I’m now able to use subcategories
  • tags and tag clouds
  • registration on sections that allow comments means no need to re-authenticate when returning

I’m lucky that I wasn’t a big user of plugins. My favourites like Blacklist and Markdown have been incorporated into the program. I did find the most coolest plugin — Crossposter from Arvind Satyanarayan. Because LJ and Vox are now part of the SA stable, I can crosspost to LJ. No more copying, pasting and reformatting. And this is the first crossposted post.

in techtalk |

so at long last I bought a printer. It’s an Epson CX6900f — colour printer, scanner, copier and fax. Very fancy. Easy to set up, just install the drivers and follow instructions.

After I set it up the Epson way, I connected the USB cable between the printer and the Airport, restarted the printer (and Airport for good measure) and whoohoo, wireless printing. Can’t scan wirelessly of course.

The downside is, the installation screwed up my Photoshop. Probably something to do with the colour settings. I can use ImageReady but Photoshop crashes every time I open it. I’m long overdue for CS3 anyway, so I’ll see what alternatives there are.

in techtalk |
in techtalk |

After yesterday’s musings, I made a prototype page for the gallery using simpleviewer and flickrviewer. I wrote up the technical details.

This displays all the pictures in my favourites flickr set. Full screen shot to see the location of the flash viewer.

gallery with flickrviewer

Once I upgrade and redo the stylesheets, I’ll integrate this page more fully with the rest of the site.

in photography is life , techtalk |

Researching into how best to redo the gallery. I don’t have stats but it seems to me that a typical personal website will include a blog and a place to put photos. I’m surprised that there aren’t more integration between the likes of flickr / photobucket and MT / Wordpress. May be I’m not looking hard enough, but I don’t think so.

Like many before me, I hacked MT to make it a sort of photoblog/gallery type page. Six Apart say it’s straightforward — witness the number of SA staff using Byrne Reese’s PhotoGallery. But honestly, it’s not immediately intuitive, especially the treatment of thumbnails. There’s the flickrphotos plugin but there’s a fair bit of fiddling needed, it seems to me.

Of course, I don’t have to use MT or a specific CMS. There are several popular solutions:

  1. gallery
    PHP/database, flexible, seems easy to install but I’m not sure how well it can integrate to the MT-based css. Apparently some performance issues.
  2. lightboxphoto
    Full-featured, gallery maker more suited for professionals selling their photos. The most basic license is $399.
  3. pixelpost
    PHP/mysql based, developed specifically for photoblogging. Looks fantastic, allows comments and all that we’ve come to expect of a blogging software.

But I’m not going to use pixelpost or gallery (forget about lightboxphoto) because these require that my images are uploaded and hosted on my server. Not that I haven’t done that, but for the purposes of the gallery I really want to use flickr. Why? The practical reason is because of tags, sets, convenience and not having to upload to multiple locations. They’re neatly organised on flickr, I just want to link them back.

I’m glad I’m not the only one considering the options.

There are quite a few options. My thoughts:

  1. chasr
    Simple app that displays thumbnails of sets, click on one and it goes to a page with the photos, then the photo itself. Includes recent photos and popular tags. In order to view private pictures, add comments and the like, I have to sign into flickr. Feels to me like it replicates flickr feel on my own website.
    comment: not for me. I’m not looking for a flickr clone, I’d like something that looks more elegant. Apparently I can play with the demo to see how my sets look like, but I never got it to work.


    demochasr

  2. pictobrowser
    A flash widget that displays flickr pictures. Simple filmstrip design and interface. Choose a set, tag or group and it generates a block of code to embed into a webpage.
    comment: very easy, no need to worry about design. But it’s for single sets or tags only, and in order to display multiple sets, I’ll need to code it myself. Basic, but I need more functions. Here’s my 26thngs for Sept06.



  3. jetphoto
    More of a desktop photo organiser that happens to generate a flash web album after it’s uploaded to flickr. Has GPS and geotagging. In use, it’s very Windows look and feel. The flash feature generates a pop-up page that has fairly basic navigation elements. For instance clicking on the photo brings me back to the album.
    comment: I don’t want to organise my photos through their application because I use iPhoto on the desktop. The whole point is I don’t want to manage my photos in multiple places. Such a Windows-heavy application won’t make many friends with mac users anyway.

    jetphoto

  4. satellite
    Another PHP application that makes use of flickr’s API. Uses mootools and slimbox for sleekness. Displays thumbnails of pictures of a set; clicking on one dims the set and overlays the picture in question over the set. Looks nice, very nice. Comes with a black and a white theme, so I’m not sure how much it can integrate into a sitewise css.
    comment: nice, worth looking at.

    satellite

  5. flogr
    Similar to Satellite in its use of the slimbox overlay method. Themes are customisable and EXIF data is displayed.
    comment: similar in concept to Satellite, appears to have a few more features. Worth looking at.

    flogr

  6. simpleviewer
    Very popular. Generates a flash slide show with thumbnails of remainder of photos at side, makes it easy to navigate. Integrates with flickr, wordpress as well as desktop apps like iPhoto.
    comment: I like this. Clean and neat navigation.

    simpleviewer

Verdict? At the moment it’s between simpleviewer and flogr/satellite. It’s to do with navigation — do I like the slimbox overlay approach or the filmstrip approach. Ah, decisions.


in techtalk |

I changed mobile provider and while I was it I got a new phone. I mean, I love my 7280, it’s fancy, freaky and not many people (still) have it. But the battery is on its last legs and the phone has the annoying tendency of shutting down without warning, in the middle of a call. At the back of my mind I know that I’m waiting for the iPhone, so I didn’t want to get one that is too expensive. I decided on the nokia 6300 quickly. I don’t have that much patience when it comes to shopping. It’s nice — slim and easy to use and omg! numeric keyboard.

nokia6300

in techtalk |

I’m at the tedious stage of the Great Website Re-design: tagging entries. I must admit I’m not a huge tagger, despite having a fairly long flickr tag list. I mean, I don’t tag a photo with food, food&drink, “food and drink”, lunch, meal, “cold meal”, chicken, salad, “chicken salad”, greens, lettuce, tomato, dressing, “balsamic vinegar”, “olive oil”, “oil and vinegar”, yummy, yum, yums, delicious, “I made this”, homemade, “made in a kitchen”, etc etc nor do I cross post to a pageful of groups.

Anyway, tagging the technical and writing sections was easy. Tagging the main blog, now that’s a task and a half. I can’t filter by category and mass update, there’s more to it because of the variety of posts I have.

I’m going through every single post, all 900+ of them. Yes, tedious. But, the upside is I read them again.

One thing that strikes me, as I’m reading 2003 posts. I was a better writer, a better thinking. And I was happy then. Sigh.

in techtalk |

I spent the last couple of days upgrading my website’s database from mysql 4 to 5 and playing around with Movable Type 3.35. Anyone remotely interested who’s been reading this journal for the almost 4 years it’s been in existence will probaly know that MT is the blogging software that powers 99% of this website. I’ve been using version 2.661 since day one, and didn’t follow the upgrade path when Six Apart released MT3 because they started charging for it. Now that they’ve gone back to no fees for personal user; and having just released MT4 beta, I think it’s high time I upgraded.

I partially upgraded to MT3.35. I will wait till MT4 becomes more stable, or the GPL version is released (supposedly Q307). In any case I want to get used to the new backend, and to watch for any problems for a week or so.

What does it mean for the readers? Not. A. Thing. What you see in your browser is no different to 2 days ago. But there is a big difference for me, when I write these entries — the look is different, I have tags now, I can do sub-categories, I know my website is safer from spam, and good stuff like that.

The only possible issue is that permalinks have changed, but that only affects anyone who’s linked to an entry which … I doubt there are any. The changes are to the naming convention and the doing away of truncation. So before, there may be a permalink like:

individual entry: http://invisiblecompany.com/archives/my_inner_science_ge/0001747invisibly_new.php
category archive: http://invisiblecompany.com/my_inner_science_ge/index.php

we now have:

individual entry: http://invisiblecompany.com/archives/2007/08/21/invisibly_new.php
category archive: http://invisiblecompany.com/my_inner_science_geek/index.php

There’s more to do in the next few months, if I keep at it. Next steps:

  1. Merge both writing sections [ETA23.08: done]
  2. Redo gallery — flickr is a better place for my photos, there are a few plug-ins and software that will display flickr sets as a gallery on websites
  3. Think about what I want to do with Delicacies [ETZ23.08: deleted]
  4. Add recipes section
  5. Add tags for all entries (!!!! that’s over 1,000 entries for the entire site)
  6. Delete unused weblogs [ETA23.08: done]
  7. Site redesign — this design is getting old, I don’t want to look like a 2002 website, I need web 2.0 look

in techtalk |

via bb, someone put a whole NeXT system on ebay. WOW. That brings back memories. 1996. My first job at ex-ex-company, I had a huge NeXT plus a regular monitor (the large ones, not the flatscreen ones we use nowadays) on my tiny desk — I was left with the equivalent of an A4 sheet of paper for writing space. It was a funny system, there was home and objects and it was slow but pretty. The trading floor used it, and there were in-house software written on it, so certain people had to have it. I just remember there were black NeXTs and white NeXTs — mine was black. In terms of computer history, I’d just gotten rid of my LC and was about to purchase the Performa 6200.

next

in techtalk |

I automatically updated to adium 1.1. First of all, it now only runs on Tiger which, with my pb1 still on a combo of jaguar and classic os 9, is kinda sucky. Then again, I don’t chat on the pb1.

Quite a few new features, including the ability to arrange tabs on any side of the message view, not just the bottom. It’s really cool, especially if I have multiple tabs open. I do love the tab feature of adium as well as how it combines IMs from the same contact. Of course, if the same person messages me on yahoo then gtalk I won’t tell the difference, but that’s another story.

Apparently BUZZ in yahoo is now fully supported. I’ll have to ask Car or K to buzz me one of these days, hee.

On ars technica people are saying they can’t participate in yahoo group chats on adium. It threw me at first … I’ve done group chats on yahoo using adium. Then I realise — group voice chat. Ah, the good old days, the reason why I got the dell. *shrug* Skype works just as well for me.

I’ve said this many times, for a program that’s free it’s fantastic. I would say it’s an essential program for any mac user. Yep.

in techtalk |

Apple announced (among other new things) iWork ‘08, which now includes Numbers, a spreadsheet function. It compliments Pages (the word processor) and Keynote (the powerpoint equivalent). It’s supposed to work with MS Office and at $79 for a single version is very affordable.

iWork came with the mbp, and I’m ashamed to say that I’ve never tried it. Like 99.9% of the population I use Office at work, and the poor mac version at home until a couple of years ago when I discovered writely. Even though it’s now under the google umbrella I’ve continued to use it. I dislike the newest layout but nothing can beat its portability and clean interface.

So, will I try out iWork? May be. Don’t hold your breath.

in techtalk |

Sis was asking me about burning photos to dvd for backup. I told her to back it up to an external hard disk instead because of the capacity. But then I remembered mm making a dvd of her pilgrimage trip and how she said I should make a dvd of my trip.

I mean I have the programs, so I really should make better use of them. Especially since I already use iPhoto to organise my pictures.

Heh. So straightforward with iDVD. Pick a theme, split the trip up to smaller slideshows, add music, add comments, customise the menu and burn. Tested it on my tv, it looks good.

In other news, still blastfully hot.

In further other news, this is entry #888 for this MT installation.

in techtalk |

Oh wow I can’t believe how dependent I am. I woke up this morning and gmail was down. Stupid 502 temporary error. Well that temporary turned out to be more than a few hours, which in this day and age is several lifetimes. Searched around the google help forums and found several alternate login addresses. The only one that worked was this one. I’m trying to find out what the difference is, but it seems to me that it’s not javascript enabled, there is no periodic checking of the inbox, gchat / contacts isn’t available. For simple, straightforward checking of email this worked great.

Talking about being connected, lifehacker linked to internetfrog where we can test our broadband speed. My download time isn’t bad but what’s up with the crappy upload time?

broadbandspeed

in arts and media , techtalk |

Lifehacker reports on some fantastic people who lists possible methods of accessing pandora from outside the US. I haven’t tried them all, but the most obvious public cgi loads, but is slow. Kudos for them for trying to help.

in arts and media , techtalk |

Talking about Pandora, the day after I decide to listen to it more, it will no longer be available to non-US users because of some crap-ass licensing issue. It was always intended for US users only but they were okay about users supplying any zip code.

Pandora operates under Section 114 of the DMCA, which gives them a clear process for paying rights holders in the U.S. There is no international equivalent of the DMCA, and so to operate legally in other countries, Pandora must sign deals with rights holders directly. That means separate deals with labels and publishers for each song, an extremely difficult and time consuming task.

You really gotta hand it to the music industry don’t you. They’re gonna kill their own industry all by themselves. If it weren’t for Pandora, I wouldn’t have discovered Brookville, Ivy and a whole slew of artists. And today I went to HMV looking for The Village Green! (Didn’t find them, I’ll probably order from amazon.) How are less well known musicians going to have this sort of exposure? Pandora is easy to use, has great recommendations and is not intrusive. And now they’ll lose a large chunk of their users because they live in the wrong part of the world. The world, and especially the internet world, is global nowadays, when will greedy businesses ever catch on to that?

in techtalk |

Blackberry service is down. I really can’t help but snort very gleefully. I’ve studiously avoided getting one for ages and ages and ages. And I don’t want one.

in techtalk |

I backed up my website, which I haven’t done so in months and months. Pretty simple really, just set up the site and synchronize in dreamweaver. I bought a 500GB external hard disk for myself (sort of birthday present) and I’ll gradually move the backup stuff there, and free up the 250GB for music. The 80GB I’ll use as a portable device.

Updated the colophon-y type pages — the about page, faq and 100 things got a little spring clean. Amazingly, there’s also a new personal page.

I also finally moved trip write-ups over to the travel section. Korea, Vegas, SF, Toronto and Chicago. Updated the countries visited map. Trying to figure out where some old photos are and loading them if I find them.

Joined a new flickr group, lots of nice travel photos and a couple of neat games in the group forum. This one where one person posts a photo of a place and the next poster must add one from a neighbouring country. Educational and fun.

in techtalk |

I wanted to download the latest version of Stuffit Expander. Aside from a loud and marketing heavy website (the relevant link is hidden among lots of verbage telling me to upgrade to the Deluxe version by paying $29.99), it requires an email address so they can send download instructions. Nothing unusual, lots of websites operate this way. But when I read this:

By confirming your email address and downloading this file, you are signing up to receive periodic followup emails from us.
Any emails we send you will contain unsubscribe information, and you may opt-out of future emails at any time.

I get uneasy. Why can’t I opt out now? I don’t even want that first email from them. My gut tells me they will ignore my request to unsubscribe, misuse my email address, or even sell it to spammers. Thank goodness for disposable email addresses. I grabbed one from jetable, forwarded it to my regular address, and made it valid for 1 hour. According to the faqs, “Jetable.org is a service provided by the french non-profit association APINC (Association for a Non-Commercial Internet), and the service is totally exempt of ads.”

Thank you, APINC.

in techtalk |

Among all the virtual reams of articles about Macworld was a Jacqui Cheng interview with the YM development team about … *gasp* YM3 beta 2. Okay, it won’t be released for a few months yet but some of the things they’re promising us:

  • voice chat (about bloody time)
  • tabbed message windows (about bloody time #2)
  • message logging/archiving (about bloody time #3)
  • spotlight integration
  • phone in and out integration through Yahoo Voice
  • webcam support

Adium has been behaving strangely lately, since an upgrade a few weeks ago. It keeps wanting to load my gmail contacts even when I’ve removed them. Now I’m hoping they catch up with YM when beta 2 comes out.

Man, I don’t like talking, but even I get the urge to open my mouth occasionally.

in objects of desire , techtalk |

iphone

in techtalk |

Internet access is back to sporadic. It depends on the site — apart from here and google, everywhere else is sloooooow or can’t load. I’m getting annoyed. Luckily some books arrived today so I can read instead.

What’s more annoying is the ISP claims that general access has been restored. I’d much rather they be honest and say there’s still connection issues and customers should expect delays, not feed us bullshit marketing spiel because they have KPIs.

in techtalk |

Internet access has been lousy since Wednesday, ever since the earthquake in Taiwan damaged a whole lot of undersea cables. Amazing how a whole region’s telecoms traffic depends on those small cables. Sporadic but not completely gone, I was lucky to still have google, writely and bbc. My website too, since the server was local. I wonder how Mountain View does it. It was majorly pissy to have no yahoo or any of the regular websites I depend on.

About an hour ago, some connection came back. Still slow, but after the isolation the last few days, I’m grateful. Makes me happy at what I have.

Originally it was supposed to be a read and write weekend. I can still do that, of course.

in techtalk |

Talking about nablopomo reminds me of the Wired article that good-naturedly teases the different blog styles of the “BIG” sites. I only have 36 feeds in my bloglines and I don’t read them all, but of those I do, I’d say the author hit it right on the head. Here are what a typical post may look like, and these are the ones I read with varied frequency..

Boing Boing: Crocheted replica of subway map cracks DRM on collection of old video games.

Slashdot: AMD, SCO patent MP3 over TCP/IP, sue ATI, EA. Microsoft probably responsible somehow.

Kottke: Elwin Festerator is the unsung inventor of the curly telephone cord. “I looked at a straight telephone cord, and I asked myself, Elwin, why can’t that be curly? So I went out and got my brand-new curling gun, and I curled the hell out of it.” Related link: New Yorker article on the Olympic curling team. (LOL!!!)

Engadget: Samsung releases new cell phone/mp3 player/camera/web browser/GPS/game player/wireless hub. Now in gray!

MacRumors: Apple is going to sue us for revealing that Apple is going to sue us.

Metafilter: Unhelpful link text. Extra links added for padding that have little to do with the main topic of the entry. Are extremely loaded rhetorical questions the only thing that can save us now?

Digg: Hey, cool, someone wrote an article about Digg!

Another telling feature of how typical that article was … scroll to the bottom of the page and see how it’s been hit with comment spam.

in techtalk |

More mac love. I mean, any article that starts

I have right here in my hot little hands that actually aren’t all that little and are only slightly warm at the moment a brand new lick-ready smooth-as-love Apple MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo Super Orgasm Deluxe Ultrahard Modern Computing Device Designed by God Herself Somewhere in the Deep Moist Vulva of Cupertino Yes Yes Don’t Stop Oh My God Yes.

has to be quoted, copied and displayed proudly on my screen, right? (Emphasis mine.)

Is it another macgeek talking? Possibly. But this one is all.about.design, Apple style. Ya gotta give them credit, them iPods and mbps and stuff do look good, no? Thing is, I’m beginning to not want too many of the masses catching onto our little good thing. Especially when overzealous geeks start doing things like creating proof-of-concept kernel panics for the sake of … what?

Probably not too helpful.

in techtalk |

firefox 2.0 was released earlier today. I downloaded it, but haven’t unpacked or installed. I’m waiting a day to check out the user reaction around the world. I’m sure I will use it, it’s not even a question.

Talking about browsers, I was trying to attend a web meeting from work. Dialed in okay, and then clicked on a page that brings me to the internal meeting site. A company the size of mine, and they create a site that only works on IE. Geez. I’m lucky I know the topic almost by heart and didn’t need to actually see the system demo. Heh, I was only there to make sure there weren’t any questions from people in my area. Geez again.

Talking more about browsers … actually, no. There nothing of interest to me in the browser front recently aside from the firefox upgrade. Nope, moving along now.

in techtalk |
ipod


Everybody is talking about it. I took mine out, connected it to my trusted old firewire cable, and it’s charging again.

Five years ago this week, the iPod was born. Watch Steve Jobs introduce it to the world.

The original 5GB held 1,000 songs, which Steve Jobs described as most people’s “entire cd collection.” How things have changed. Now collections are measured in tens or hundreds of thousands of songs, and the largest capacity has grown to 80GB. The “deck of card” mark 1 looks positively ancient and bulky compared with the newest nanos and shuffles, but I still feel nostalgic towards mine. Those early days, when they were mac only, that’s when they were seriously cool. Now, they’re only commonly cool. Not complaining, not complaining.

Me, I’m waiting for the iPhone.


in techtalk |

Interview with the engineer who worked on YM3 for mac. Interesting article, though too full of corporatespeak for my liking.

The whole Yahoo! Messenger team really wants to provide a great experience to all Yahoo! users — including Mac users.

They want to give us a great experience — by excluding voice, archiving and the ability to selectively set status. Yeah right. Whatever.

in techtalk |

My broadband connection disappeared at around 9pm last night. Reset the modem, reset the decoder and nothing. Airport kept trying to find a connection. After talking to the customer service people (and repeating the reset routine) and having realized that it wasn’t my equipment that was failing, I had to come to terms with the stark reality — no internet, no TV (apart from the crappy terrestrial channels). I called mm and was “assured” that the outage affected her too.

I surprised myself at not panicking because of the lack of connection to my outside world. It’s true, I don’t have a sense that I live here in this city that I will not name, I’m merely stuck here because of work and because I’m too lazy to really push for what I’d like to do. I have no connection to my immediate proximity, my ‘reality’ is in the ether. I dunno, is that sad? or typical of the times?

But no, no panic. I went to bed knowing that things will be fixed by the morning, and that I could just read for a bit and catch up on some sleep. It’s the thought that the isolation is temporary that kept me calm. I read for a little and was asleep by 11pm.

And yes, reconnected in the morning. Now if I still couldn’t get online when I woke up, I would have totally freaked out.

in techtalk |

The mbp is hot, that’s a known issue. Recently, some enterprising folks have finally come up with a possible solution. It involves modifying the kernel extensions (.kext files) that control the speed and frequency of the internal fans. They even made available several applescripts for running the fans at different rpms. Wow.

As the author pointed out, no pretty GUIs, and the script needs to be run everytime the mbp is rebooted or comes out of sleep. But it’s not even an issue because, HELLO, no more hot wrists! I’ve been running it at 3,000 rpm and it’s markedly cooler, especially the area above the battery where my left hand usually rests. coreduetemp says 27°C. The bottom is still too hot to stay on a lap for long, but I’ve never gotten into the habit of using it on my lap — too soft and unstable.

There’s some talk about whether the increased speed (setting it at 3,000 means I have the fans running continuously at that speed) will wear out the fans. The default is 1,000 and it means they’re running all the time too. I really believe that the cooler temperature will benefit the entire computer. There’s no increase in noise level either.

Most people on the forums report theirs in the 40-60°C region. I’m sure that my new koolsink helps too. No, the mbp is never as cool as the pb1, but that’s like comparing apples with oranges.

There’s a second method which involves setting the minimum fan speed rather than a fixed speed. Looks interesting, I may try it out over the weekend.

ETA: coreduotemp now stays at the 39-41°C range, which makes better sense thn the 25-27°C that it claimed was the temp cos I definitely could feel the heat. I can feel the fan working, there’s a tiny breeze when I put my hand on top of the vent.

in techtalk |

Firefox 2.0b2 is out on beta release. download here. New features include: anti-phishing tool, inline spellcheck (which I dislike), search engine manager (as Wired mag says, “hallelujah”), individual close tab button, better crash recovery, better RSS capabilities and a whole bunch of behind the scenes improvements.

Note: not all installed extensions work on b2 yet. And it’s not supposed to be for anyone other than testers and developers. Meaning, if you don’t know how to tinker, or if you just clicked on the “download here” link above and don’t know what to do next, keep to 1.5 for the time being.

Reviews: Wired | Ars Technica | macworld

in techtalk |

I have a myspace account. I think. I’ve never used it, or logged in it more than a couple of times. I can’t remember the login name or password, though it’ll be in one of my email accounts. So I’m terribly terribly behind the times. But lately I’ve been on such a myspace music kick, I start on the page of one band / person, listen to all their songs and click to one of their friends’ page.

A nice way of spending an evening, exploring music. Some of the artists enable downloads, it’s so fantastic.

Yes I know, this is so old.

in techtalk |

Anyone tired of my mac obsession yet? :P

For the third year running, Apple came first in customer satisfaction survey of personal computer manufacturers. Respondents to the American Customer Satisfaction Index survey, which has been conducted once a quarter since 1995, gave it 83/100 points. Second place is Dell, with 78.

It’ll be interesting to see if the problems with the macbook pros and the macbooks, coupled with a larger user base, will take its score down next quarter. After all, Apple has 12% of the US laptop market share.

Talking about problems, my replacement battery arrived and I changed it. It may be my imagination but the mbp is hotter than before. I’m not sending in the old one just yet.

in techtalk |

Remember how I thought upgrading to 10.4.7 made my fonts fuzzy? Well, upgrading to firefox 1.5.0.6 makes the fonts look different again. The fuzziness is reduced, but they still look a little strange. May be they went back to what they were before and I’m not used to them.

in techtalk |

There is something stupid going on with my internet connection. I seem to be reverting to dial-up days, when each click on a link is a crapshoot — will it load? will it time out? should I go get something to eat first? So much we take for granted nowadays.

in techtalk | | comments (1)

via kottke again, how to read the website and make it look like a word document, thanks to workfriendly. Now if only my website weren’t banned at work.

workfriendly

in techtalk |

I used to shut down my computers every night and reboot the next day. At work I’m in the habit of logging off every Friday. But some people prefer sleeping to shutting down. Personal preference I suppose.

In cnet today there was (yet another) mac vs PC debate and the talkback turned to uptime of weeks, months, years. So what to occupy the CPU during idle time? Enter distributed / grid computing, where people volunteer the use of their computers’ CPU when they’re not using them.

I looked at folding@home and seti@home. Both involve running work unit tasks either in the background or as screensavers. In a way the network of personal computers combined is as powerful as a supercomputer. Complex problems, such as the human genome project, finding a cure for AIDS and looking for extra-terrestrial lifeforms, that require massive amounts of calculations are split into smaller calculations and farmed out to millions of computers around the world. Wired magazine compared it to someone needing to label 10,000 envelopes. Do they do it themselves, or ask 100 friends to label 100 each? Which one is more efficient?

Sounds good. And an opportunity to contribute towards scientific research.

But I haven’t downloaded the client and joined the fun. I need to find out more about how much power it uses, and if I leave the mbp on for extended periods of time, even idle, how hot will it get?

in techtalk |

via kottke, modern friendships. LOL at the last part:

H1: Why hasn’t he said anything on his LiveJournal? I’m one of his LJ friends.
H2: No one updates their LJ anymore. Vox is for, you know, grown-ups.

So, I built my website on Movable Type, I update my LJ, I use typekey. So how come I still need to beg Six Apart for an invite to vox? [/sarcastic whining]

in techtalk |

I learnt about this via infinite loop. Apple announced a worldwide “15-inch MacBook Pro Battery Exchange Program” covering MBPs sold between feb and may 2006, with model number A1175 and a 12-digit serial number that ends with U7SA, U7SB or U7SC. eeeeep, that’s me.

Went to the Apple page, filled out the form with my serial number, my battery serial number and yes, they both validate. Filled out address info and hopefully a new battery will be shipped to me soon.

The discussion about why there is such an exchange program hasn’t started because the Americans aren’t up yet. Apart from the mbp getting very hot, I’ve (touch wood) not had any problems. And it’s on whenever I’m home. hmm.

And no sniggering or 5% comments!

in techtalk |

adium … here’s an interview with the designer of the ubiquitous duck icon. You either love that duck or you don’t. Me? I’m not a big fan but I’m used to it. The app itself makes up for the whackiness I suppose.

adium ducks

Oh, and the new icons will be available on Tuesday to add to the tons of other customisable icons available on adium xtra. Plus 1.0 beta is out.

in techtalk |

Talk about being underwhelmed.

Just when we thought we’d been forgotten, yahoo released YM 3.0 beta last week. Cocoa interface, invisible mode, avatars, “what’s on my iTunes” feature. I installed it, and promptly went back to adium. Why? No logging, and still no voice chat. Apparently vc will be included in the next beta. I’m not holding my breath, it took them 3 years to get from 2.5.3 to 3.0, it’s long enough to get very bitter about it, consider stupid PCs are at 8.0.

in techtalk |

Installed the OS 10.4.7 update. Lots of upgrades and improvements, except I don’t use Mail or iChat. But one thing I don’t like, is how fonts are now rendered in firefox. They’re more … blurry, especially bold text. Reminds me of how it looked like in 10.2.2 on the pb1. Unless I’m doing something wrong in sys pref.

in techtalk |

I don’t like the new “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” ads. The PC guy is funnier and actually geekier, the Mac guy is borderline obnoxious. Gives us a bad rep, IMHO. Watch the fabulous 1984 superbowl classic ad instead.


in techtalk |

I was tempted to buy Parellels after testing it. I’m glad I did. Paid $40 for it 2 weeks ago. Last week it came out of beta and the price went up by $10.

Haven’t got round to playing with the release version yet, I haven’t found any need to run Windows.

in techtalk |

The mbp takes no time at all the boot up. I’ve written somewhere else (but I can’t remember where) that I booted up both the mbp and the dell at the same time and I was happily browsing and doing things on the mbp when the dell was still halfway through it’s boot routine.

What I have noticed is some applications load slower than expected. Photoshop takes almost forever to startup, almost as long as on the dell. That it is being hampered by the Rosetta emulation is very well documented. It’s not a problem once it starts.

The other, surprisingly, is Firefox. Perhaps it’s my perception, but there is a delay between me clicking the icon on the dock and it actually opening.

So I was interested to see an article via infinite loop about the various browsers for OSX, entitled humorously, All the lovely browsers.

The author doesn’t go through the tried and tested “IE sucks, Firefox rules” verbiage, even though I buy into that train of thought. Market share for IE has decreased from 90%+ in October 2004 to somewhere in the 80%+ region. That’s a lot of users. In the same period, Firefox has gone from 2.5% to over 10%, which is outstanding however I look at it. Safari usage has gone up too, though it is likely due to the increased user base of macs (with Safari pre-installed).

An interesting point, and one that makes me happy:

It strikes me that today we have the largest number of truly great browsers than we’ve had in a long time. All three of the major competitors to IE–Firefox, Opera, and Safari–have matured to the point that they are not only way ahead of Microsoft’s line-in-the-sand, but they are all well worth getting to know and perhaps using daily for different kinds of tasks. From the turbulent 1990’s browser war, which was fought between only two primary browsers, we now have four players worthy of entering the race.

A portion of the article is from the pov of a developer, of whom I am not. What I found surprising is that Opera came across as a browser worth looking at. Like many web users who are not fans of IE (stating it mildly LOL), I have been using Gecko run browsers since almost day one of my web experience. Heh, remember Netscape Navigator? I’m still on Netscape 7 on the pb1. I have also looked at, and downloaded Opera at various points. It was nice but I was never tempted to switch.

Based on this article I downloaded Opera 9 beta, and played around with it a little. It opened VERY quickly, and it looks good. Time will tell whether I can be torn away from the familiar Firefox interface. I also discovered that I have Opera 8.5 already downloaded, but never used. sigh.

In other news, I finally installed Parallels Desktop. What does it do? It allows me to run another os at the same time as OSX by virtualization. This means I have a window running XP. The installation of XP took hours and I had to partition off 10GB on my hard disk. But it runs! Albeit a bit slowly, and the other Tiger apps are slower too. Of course I had to download a bunch of virus and anti-spyware software immediately because I’m so paranoid and wary of the risks that windows os causes.

parallelsxp

It’s uncomfortable to look at my pretty Tiger screen and then have a honking big windows desktop there. But for a situation where I need to use some sort of Windows software (grouper and limewire comes to mind) it’s a useful tool.

It’s $40 to pre-order. I’m tempted. It’s a good software.

in techtalk |

I tried to install adobe cs2 today, and got as far as CD3 before it failed. So I quit the installation program midway. The CD was still stuck so I did the restart and press the trackpad button trick. The CD ejected but the mbp wouldn’t boot up. I got the blue screen of death that is reserved for wintel users … only I didn’t even get the fatal error text. Okay it’s MAJOR PANIC time.

Luckily I have the pb1 where I could google what to do.

Seems that cs2 install fails on intel macs because of a conflict between Version Cue and the Quicktime 7.1 update. What? Adobe needs to get off their behinds to sort out this, as well as get the core duo cs3 out asap. Mac geeks, who are heavy photoshop users, will lose patience, if they don’t.

I’m very tempted to try to install again, without version cue now that I know the probably cause, but I want to backup the mbp first.

This is another good reason to keep the pb1, as backup and fallback. Having something that still uses OS9 may be archaic, but sometimes the old stuff works better. Talking about the pb1, I had it on all afternoon, and it didn’t get hot at all, compared to how hot the mbp gets. I can’t believe it’s because of thermal grease, it can’t be that simple. Can it?

Anyway, the best investment I’ve made are these speedballs. I need to get some more next time I’m in Singapore.

in techtalk |

I saw this last week already: BLACK MACBOOK!!!!! Yeeeee-hawww.

I’m not tempted, since it’s an iBook replacement and doesn’t have the ooomph of the macbook pro. It looks awfully pretty though, and definitely drool-worthy. One commenter in the numerous articles I read said that Apple knows its customers well, we are the sort of geek who would shell out an extra $200 just because it’s black. Remember my iMac Graphite Special Edition?

blackmacbook

in techtalk |

Hee. I had my first firefox crash on the macbook just now. But I’m not worried, gmail crashes firefox sometimes, it’s the java stuff. And since I have crash recovery I get back to the state I was in before the crash. I mean, that’s one of the reasons for using firefox, right? Oh, and more secure, faster, easier to use and generally more superior too.

I was trying to play some of the .avi files I had on the dell on the mbp but all I saw on quicktime was a blank screen. I had the presence of mind to realise I needed divx codecs, but even after installing and even fixing the .avi files on divx doctor, all I got was sound.

Still not worried.

A little googling pointed me to a very useful guide to how to get the right plug-ins.

First, download the binary of xvid/avi import components, making sure it’s the intel version.

Then, download the binary of ac3 codec, again picking the intel version.

Open both sets of dmgs and copy the BIN files to library/quicktime and that’s it.

in objects of desire , techtalk |

Apple announced the 17” macbook pro. Sigh. Pretty. And 5x faster than the Powerbook G4. I’m not annoyed that they announced a new machine a week after I bought mine because I wouldn’t have considered the 17” anyway.

I booted up the mbp and the dell at the same time tonight. I had a conference call and needed webex, hence the need for the dell. I have totally neglected it btw, soon I won’t need it at all once I get either Boot Camp or Parallels working.

Anyway, I had the airport on, firefox loaded and beginning to check gmail on the mbp. Meanwhile the dell was still going through the bootup routine and only 1-2 icons had been loaded on the task bar.

There is no comparison.

in techtalk |

Most software is set up, except for the faulty adobe CS2 suite. Bookmarks from all the machines (iMac, pb and dell) are imported. Just downloaded the Korea pics.

Life with the macbook is already domestic bliss.

I hate the thought of having to go to work tomorrow.

in techtalk |

Met mm at HMV. I was there early and she was a bit late. Then we had high tea because I was hungry. Then we went to the computer shop for the main purpose of coming out.

I got my new macbook today.

It’s a work of Art.

in techtalk |

via boing boing, someone made an altoids case from an iPod shuffle. Which reminds me, I bought a couple of frisks so that I can use the case for a shuffle. Except, um, I don’t have an iPod shuffle.

All this talk about stripping an “old” iPod shuffle has me chuckling. Why? I’m still using my 20GB generation 2.

Who’s old now?

in arts and media , techtalk |

From iPod observer via Matt, the Microsoft designs iPod box parody was actually made by MS. Don’t know what to make of that. Applaud MS for having a sense of humour? Be suspicious that they only made the announcement after seeing the publicity they were getting? Apparently it was “an internal-only video clip commissioned by our packaging [team] to humorously highlight the challenges we have faced re: packaging and to educate marketers here about the pitfalls of packaging/branding” and they didn’t intend to release the video to the public. Yeah, like MS ever releases anything they don’t want to. Come to think of it, Apple too.

Still think it’s one of the best videos I’ve seen this year.

in techtalk |

From Wired.

Someone held a contest to have windows XP installed on the intel macs, and a couple of developers have come up with the solution. Download the bootloader here.

Not everything works —the optical drive, ethernet, USB, Firewire and sound (via headphone/speaker jack) all work; but not the Airport card, iSight, remote, video drivers. The screen brightness adjustment, numlock key, delete key, keyboard backlight on the macbook don’t work either.

The question I’d like to ask myself is, do I want to “contaminate” what will be my precious macbook with something as ugly as xp? If not for the inability to install Tiger on pb1 and my need for YM 7, I wouldn’t be using the dell so much. I downloaded the zip file, just in case. It was like getting Virtual PC in the old days.

in techtalk |
msipodbox

From boing boing.

Even though I never get enough sleep, I’m usually okay about wakting up to the alarm. Not that I actually like waking up with the alarm, I’m too uptight to just sleep and ignore it. When I travel, I take my little alarm clock and back it up with the hotel’s wake-up service.

Still, it’s interesting to see a top ten list of the most annoying alarm clocks. Most work by making you physically get out of the bed, to retrieve the clock itself while it either rolls around the room or retreats higher toward the ceiling; or some smaller objects that are shot out by the clock at the appointed hour. They look kinda cute too.

Oh, on a completely related subject, walked home again today.

in easily amused , techtalk |
msipodbox

Via metafilter and digg.

What if Microsoft redesigned the iPod box. Alternative link to wmv file, and as another grrrr comment in Redmond’s disfavor when I first downloaded the wmv at the second link (youtube was down) it forced me to install Windows Media Player and attempted to hijack all my media files, plus it put shortcuts all over my desktop and menu bar without my permission. grrrrr again.

The consensus is that this is so true. The simplicity of the Apple design vs the clutter and overinformative parody MS design is another example of the differences between the two companies. The spoof MS design isn’t bad, it’s just extremely boring and corporate and definitely lacks the coolness factor.

I’m watching it again. It’s so funny and addictive. I’m so easily amused, especially if it: a) pokes fun at MS and b) reinforces my Apple love.


in random words , techtalk |

Not even the manufacturer could retrieve the data from my dead flashdrive, so the nano is gone. I was trying to act blasé but it’s tearing me up inside. I keep saying it’s crap, but at least it was crap that I wrote and that perhaps one day I could return and edit. I was proud at how fast I wrote it (15 days) and I suppose I have no one to blame but myself for not backing up.

After various back and forth emails, imation was kind enough to send me a replacement flashdrive, since it’s still under warranty. Brand new, of course, and it’s blankness will surely mock me.

in techtalk |

I’m still worried about bandwidth. I learnt from terra that her domain host gives tons of bandwidth, and when I checked, even the economy plan offers 250GB. I’m jealous now. Unfortunately I’m with icdsoft for another 1.5yrs, and they’ve been good to me.

It’s the 10th already, and looks like I’m under control. 1.36GB, so projecting to the end of the month, I’ll be at around 4GB. That’s more than usual but yeah, it’s okay. For now. I’m not seeing the wild spike from last month. I don’t think I was hacked or anything, it was probably the large number of graphics and movies on this page.

sitestats0210

I changed the # of days shown on the main page from 60 to 30 and it loads so much quicker now. This should help too.

in photography is life , techtalk |

I bit the bullet and paid for a flickr pro account today. I made the Jan deadline of using up the free 20MB transfer last week and uploaded 151 photos. Today I thought I’d make a start on the feb quota. Heh, doesn’t give me that much, at this rate it’ll be August before I upload all the NZ pics. $25 a year isn’t bad. 2GB transfer, unlimited storage and unlimited photo sets. Doesn’t resize my pics. Gives me the flexibility to eventually move all my pics over to flickr and not use up my server space. The $20 I save from my host goes there I suppose.

What else do I like about it — tags, tags, tags. The organizer is okay, though I would like to have a functionality where I can add multiple pics to a set. It’s easy to use and intuitive. I’m up to Christchurch, 721 pics. I’ll do North Island tomorrow.

Oh, and my photostream has already been viewed 82 times and I have a few comments already. Wow. It should also let me post directly but it doesn’t respect my css, and the img didn’t have an alt, and there are too many strange html. Yeah, I prefer to html it myself. This was a sign we saw at the pub in Kaikoura.

sign

in photography is life , techtalk |

I’m now at the stage when I’m re-sizing the NZ trip photos. They’re huge — the onces from my camera are 3,456x2,504 px and naturally the file size is astounding. So with 1,650 photos, how does one scale them down to a manageable size and not have to do them one by one?

Photoshop Actions to the rescue. I could simply record the action (select image size —> set width to 800 —> close and save) and run it under File>>Automation. I wish it were smart enough to recognise the difference between portrait and landscape pics so it automatically makes the longest side 800px, but it’s a small thing.

I’m at 1,000+, just finished the Franz Josef Glacier set. Then I need to figure out where to upload the pics. Comcast has PhotoShow, which looks great but I think the file is only available for 30 days. Yahoo photos, hmm, boring. Ofoto or photobucket. I’m definitely leaning towards flickr. Or use iPhoto and the same plugin kottke uses … it looks great.

in techtalk | | comments (3)

I planned this website to be a small scale personal project. I didn’t sign up for an expensive hosting plan and I’ve always thought that I have more than sufficient for my needs. 500MB storage and 7GB transfers a month seemed to be numbers I’d never reach.

I’ve had this since September 2003 now, and I’ve managed to keep it small scale. Imagine looking at the site stats today — 120MB used, 380MB remaining. But the shocker — 3.4GB transfer, 3.6 remaining. My usual bandwith hardly get over the 1GB mark. Look at the red graph at the bottom right.


When did I start using almost half my bandwidth????? No. of visitors is as low as before, 100ish a day. What happened to the bandwidth usage? It must be the images and movies I’ve been posting because number of visitors and pages haven’t changed significantly.

in objects of desire , techtalk | | comments (1)

omg. Want. Now.


in techtalk |

I was looking around to see if I can find the html character for the command symbol and came across an article on how the command symbol came about.

Originally they used the apple symbol to invoke menu commands but one day, Steve Jobs declared.

“There are too many Apples on the screen! It’s ridiculous! We’re taking the Apple logo in vain! We’ve got to stop doing that!”

After we told him that we had to display the command key symbol with each item that had one, he told us that we better find a different symbol to use instead of the Apple logo, and, because it affected both the manuals and the keyboard hardware, we only had a few days to come up with something else.

It’s difficult to come up with a small icon that means “command”, and we didn’t think of anything right away. Our bitmap artist Susan Kare had a comprehensive international symbol dictionary and she leafed through it, looking for an appropriate symbol that was distinctive, attractive and had at least something to do with the concept of a menu command.

Finally she came across a floral symbol that was used in Sweden to indicate an interesting feature or attraction in a campground. She rendered a 16 x 16 bitmap of the little symbol and showed it to the rest of the team, and everybody liked it. Twenty years later, even in OS X, the Macintosh still has a little bit of a Swedish campground in it.

Susan Kare rocks.

⌘ is the BEST SYMBOL! Oh, btw, it’s 8984.

in techtalk | | comments (4)

I’ve been seeing this type of sigs in many forums, well actually it’s just the nano forums, but I don’t visit many of them, that’s why. So I made one too, thanks danasoft.

systemwatch

Apparently only you can see what’s on the screen, the info isn’t stored. I know definitely it’s not stored on my servers cos that’s a linked image to outside the invisible company. It’s quite eerie, knowing how much information my browser is showing though.

PB1

in techtalk | | comments (1)

I’m back on the PB, phew. Finally got the internet to work again, have no clue why it wasn’t connecting. Switched over to Basic user on TCP/IP (huh?), created another config and reconnected the cable to the modem. Sigh, apparently this dinosaur is too ancient to have a readily available airport express card, so no wireless for my baby.

Of course I’m still resolutely using 9.2.2 and Netscape. I do miss Firefox though, a great deal. Tried installing Tiger, but got an error that the software can’t install on this computer. I know this machine can take up to 10.4.3, I’ll have to check with mm which version PB2 runs on.

I’m just relieved and happy to have the PB functioning again. Perhaps I’ll keep it as a 9.2.2 machine and forget about Tiger. Very tempted to get a new PB so I can run Tiger. Sheesh, it’s not like I’m rolling in gold, I just bought a new camera, and taxes are coming up. Eeeep.

in techtalk |

From washington post.

I hope that within my lifetime the idea of free, accessible wifi anywhere I go in the world will become reality. The technology is, or will shortly be, here. It’s businesses and governments (profits and politics) that are the real stumbling blocks.

So it’s interesting to read about a 700 square mile hotspot in the middle of nowhere, aka Hermiston, Oregon. Never heard of it? Nope, me neither. Looking at the satellite map on google, I’m thinking to myself “are there even buildings there?” A little digging reveals some more info:

  • Hermiston is located in the northwest corner of Umatilla County in Northwest Oregon. It is centrally located between the major cities of the Pacific Northwest. The city is 185 miles east of Portland, 183 miles southwest of Spokane, and 260 miles northwest of Boise. Hermiston is easily accessed by Interstate I-84, east and west, and I-82, north and south.
  • Population - 14,540
  • Major industries - Agriculture, food processing, wood products
  • Precipitation - 9.060 inches

So, desert country, not much going for it apart from cows and processed cows. But this entrepreneur Fred Ziari spent $5m and built a wifi cloud. The initial purpose is for the local officials to pass information quickly amongst themselves. The desert area around the town happens to be the home of one of the nation’s largest stockpiles of Cold War-era chemical weapons and officials needed to devise an emergency evacuation plan for the accidental release of nerve and mustard agents.

Now, officials in the three counties surrounding the depot are equipped with laptop computers that are wifi ready and set up to detail the size and direction of a potential chemical leak, enabling them to initiate an evacuation quickly. Traffic lights and billboards can also be controlled remotely over the wireless network.

A side benefit is that the service is free to the public, since the local government and companies foot the bill. Apart from emergency evacuation plans, the local officials also use the network for more daily tasks.

“Internet service is only a small part of it. The same wireless system is used for surveillance, for intelligent traffic system, for intelligent transportation, for telemedicine and for distance education,” said Ziari.

With local backing, and location remote enough to fly under the radar of the big telcos, sounds like the idea has worked very well.

Well, my friend Mary moved to Oregon and she said it’s beautiful. And with free wifi, what more do I need? Now, how do I set about moving there again?

(I know it’s a large state and Eugene is nowhere near Hermiston. May be the cloud will migrate or expand? You never know.)

in techtalk | | comments (1)

If you are one of the, like, three people reading this website, you may have noticed that I've been posting every day this month. No, it's not national weblog posting month or anything like that, I just thought it'd be something different. This coincides with a article I came across, about good weblog design. Most I agree, others not so much, mainly because I don't have the readership that the article assumes. This is similar to the exercise of comparing my design against those of big name web designers. Overall, I think I'm okay.

Top Ten Design Mistakes for a Weblog

  1. No author biographies
    So people want to know who writes this stuff. Really? I have an about section and an faq, but neither will tell you too much about me. The most you'll get is the 25 squares of random tidbits. And that's about it.

  2. No author photo
    So that people have "a more personable impression of the author". Um, the answer is no.

  3. Nondescript posting titles
    *shrug*

  4. Links don't say where they go
    Many authors seem to think it's cool to write links like "there's more here and here." I agree that this is bad, at least tell the readers where the link is going. And I learnt to use titles from day one.

  5. Classic hits are buried
    I don't have a "fan base" or posts that are especially outstanding. I will link to an old post if I'm writing about something related. Oh wait, I did that this post too.

  6. The calendar is the only navigation
    I have archives and categories. Yay MT. When I get round to the redesign, I'm doing tagclouds, even though by then they may have fallen out of favor, heehee.

  7. Irregular publishing frequency
    This is not a magazine and I'm not writing about anything important, I do try to post whenever I can. It is annoying to click on a random link on the ringsurfs and hit a website that hasn't been updated for 2 years, may be they should be taken off the ring.

  8. Mixing topics
    Don't know about this. I think part of the fun about weblogs is I can write whatever I want in whichever format I want. I'm a control freak so I'll put different topics in different posts and categories, but I don't have to.

  9. Forgetting that you write for your future boss
    If my future boss (hi!) finds what I write here intolerable or controversial, perhaps they're not the right people for me to be working with.

  10. Having a domain name owned by a weblog service
    The bloggers and typepads of this world offer convenience, especially to beginners or personal users. No need to worry about html, css, templates, web design. Just focus on the content. If it weren't for these, we won't have the blog explosion and the world will be a poorer place. There will always be a market for the users who want something simple and free.

I should have posted this in the technical section. Oh well.

in techtalk |

From cnet news

Yahoo, Microsoft close to IM pact
by By Ina Fried

Microsoft and Yahoo are close to a pact that would allow users of their respective instant messaging services to exchange messages with one another, a source told CNET News.com on Tuesday.

The exchange of both text and voice messages is being considered, although the source stressed that details of the pact are still being finalized. The two companies are planning to announce the deal on Wednesday, the source said.

A Microsoft representative declined to comment on the matter. A Yahoo representative was not immediately available for comment.

The three major IM providers — Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL — have talked about interoperability for some time, but there has been only limited progress.

For some months now, workers at businesses running Microsoft’s Live Communications Server have been able to exchange text messages across multiple instant messaging programs. However, consumers have had to manage multiple accounts in order to use more than one of the big three services: AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and MSN Messenger. Third-party programs like Trillian have allowed users to connect to multiple services within a single program.


Heh. No one’s ever heard of trillian? Dopes. And instead of getting in bed with microsoft, can yahoo please work to upgrade the Mac version of YM so it has the same features as the PC version?

in about me , easily amused , techtalk |

I spent like 4 hours updating my list on 43 things. In all honesty I had the old list on twinkler and received the email in January that 43things proper had launched. It only took me what, 10 months to get back to it.

Naturally my old list is gone, so I have to create a new one. The user interface isn’t as user friendly as I want — I can’t see the most popular entries, it take too many clicks to navigate, I can’t do mass delete or update on my list items and the re-ordering should be more intuitive drag and drop.

I tried using the script they provided to import it to the sidebar, but they use an ul, and the items are indented. Just didn’t look good on the page.

Did more digging around and found some interesting tidbit about an alleged conspiracy involving robot co-op (the parent company) and amazon. Luckily the great Jason came to the rescue. Oh, all that happened way back in February. Geez, bb, catch up.

I’m a little unsure about the social network aspect. Like I find 23 other people who want to buy a new camera, do I contact them and swap notes? I mean, we probably live in different countries, have different criteria and besides I know exactly which camera I’m getting. The cheers and mutual encouragement aspect might work, but there are so many other social networks and communities out there already.

They’re doing something new, 43 places. I’m playing round with it, can’t decide if a country or city a place. Like should I put New Zealand as a place I want to visit, or drill down and use Queenstown, Franz Josef and Rotorua etc?

in techtalk |

Jay Allen closed MT-blacklist. Some stupid people taking advantage of his generosity and almost brought down his server.

The other reason is that its features are now incorporated into MT3.2, so it’s no longer necessary, according to Jay. But wait! What about those of us who aren’t on 3.2 yet? “Why aren’t you on 3.2?” Well, cos it costs $99? And cos I don’t have the time right now to tackle an upgrade project? It may be easy for some people, but since I didn’t build the website as well as I should have, it’ll be a hell of a lot of css and html work, especially for the static pages.

In any case, I’m grateful for MT-backlist and Jay. Like many others who aren’t professional, or even good amateur, developers, I would have been buried under the weight of spam a long time ago and given up.

So the message I’m getting is … upgrade to 3.2. Or perhaps it’s time to move to Wordpress. I wonder.

in techtalk |

Movable Type is at version 3.2 now and I’m still using 2.661. I was one of the last ones to get the free 2.661 I think. I installed it and a couple of months later version 3 came out.

Now they’re having a limited offer until end September, $39.95 for 5 authors and $69.95 for unlimited authors. $30 savings. But I hear 3.2 has bugs, so should I wait? Again? Decisions, decisions.

in techtalk |

From Wired.

It’s a dichotomy. Cell phones. On the one hand the manufacturers inundate us with functionalities of their products. Now they come with browsers, cameras, mp3 players, bluetooth and PDA functions. More advanced phones handle email, records and plays videos. What of the future? Next step, it’s broadband-quality access, video conferencing and video streaming.

But, have we forgotten what the basic usage for that machine? To make phone calls and text messages. I was trying to find the time on my phone the other day, and I was frustrated at how deep I had to go into the menu system. And then, some time later, I discovered I don’t have a calculator.

Is it unreasonable to expect a calculator in a cell phone? It’s strange, what we have become used to.

I read about the new service from Vodafone, called Vodafone Simply, where they offer only 2 phones, each with calendar, alarm, calculator, contacts, and that’s it. No camera, no bluetooth, no fancy schmancy gadget-y functions. Just plain phone and clear menu labelling. Apparently it’s aimed at the more mature population who neither want nor is willing to learn all the complex functions of today’s cell phones.

Neat. I say, go for it.

in techtalk |

I dislike Office and most MS products, that’s a given. But even I have Office, in both PB and the dell. Necessary evil. One of my mac friends was looking for a way to open .doc, cos she has an iBook but no Office.

So I looked. At first I thought Nisus, then OpenOffice. Which led to NeoOffice. I tried downloading to PB1, it stopped downloading at 120MB so I thought that was it. But it never mounted. Turns out the full download is 357MB. Wow.

I haven’t used it, but I was told it’s really good. Hey, it’s free!

in my inner science geek , techtalk |

No really. I have to say so myself.

Woke up at 5.30am with a gigantic coughing fit. Can’t sleep, felt miserable. So I put the kettle on and made a large cup of tea. Settled down and tried to hook up the wireless. Didn’t work at first — remember the router isn’t supposed to take the place of the modem, it needs to be added on top.

The disk didn’t save initially, but I changed the security settings and it was fine. The first time the dell hooked up to the network I was ecstatic.

Set up her PB2 so its airport picks up the signal. The first time I had both on my desk, both using the wireless, I was lilke, wow.

Still not successful with the ethernet cable to PB1, I think it’s the boot server, it’s been a long day, I took a short nap in the afternoon but I’m still tired. We went out for dinner, I popped into the shop and upgraded my broadband to a cheaper but unlimited plan, so it’s all well.

I’ll deal with the ethernet later.

in my inner science geek , techtalk |

After one too many times switching the ethernet connection between machines, I came to the conclusion that I need a wireless router. So that’s what we bought today.

We took PB1 to my friendly Apple shop, added 512k of SDRAM —> 768k, but had to order the wireless card, cos it’s for an old model.

Asked about Airport Express, the lady told us to get a PC one, for half the price. I really didn’t want to, one blasphemous act a year is one too many. But she gave me this disapproving look, so I relented and we bought 2 Linksys routers.

For some reason I’d screwed up the PC — yeah I’ve had it one day and it’s on the blink already, what a typical PC. I tried setting up the router but not successful. Gee, I know this will bug me all night, I almost wanted to leave the bed but the temptation for smoochies was too much. Leave it till tomorrow then.

in my inner science geek , techtalk |

I must confess that I did the unthinkable this week. I bought a PC. Yes heresy, blasphemy and all that. Not a huge overwhelming reason either.

After much searching and waiting for the appropriate discount, I put the order in for a Dell Inspiron 6000. Rather an entry level laptop, but sufficient for my purposes, looking at the specs. Didn’t even go for the Centrino processor, Celeron is fine. Specs:

  • Celeron M Processor 350 1.3GHz, L2 cache 400MHz FSB
  • 512k upgraded to 1GB SDRAM
  • 60GB HD
  • DVD +/- RW drive
  • 64MHz PCI Express ATI video card
  • 10/100 Fast Ethernet
  • Wireless 2200 WLAN (802.11) card
  • Integrated Stereo Sound with RJ11, RJ45, IEEE 1394, SD Slot, VGA Out,S-video TV-Out, 4 USB 2.0
  • 15.4” wide aspect TFT display
  • Dell TruMobile 350 Bluetooth module

Comes with a nice padded backpack.

One of the first software I downloaded was Firefox. Yay firefox! Yahoo messenger of course — one of the reasons is to take advantage of the vc capabilities.

Putting it next to the Powerbooks make it look very clunky. It’s larger than I thought, certainly a lot more ugly than expected. But it’s supposed to be a desktop replacement, not to be lugged around, so I’m tolerating it.

On the subject of new laptops, she bought a brand new 15” Powerbook at the weekend, with TIGER!!! So now my study has 4 computers - the iMac SE with the defunct hard disk, the Titanium Powerbook (PB1), her new Powerbook (PB2) and the dell. The PB2 is like heaven, rounded corners, sleek look. And Tiger, omg, I hated OSX when it came out, but after playing with it … as soon as I find some use for my OS9 stuff, I’m upgrading.

in techtalk |

Stats are in better control now, after making stats password protected and adding the referer controls in htaccess. Only one suspect referer source this month. Most other referers are from kb, plus a few from the 404 webring, now that one’s FUN.

And I’m thinking this should go in shiny parts. Hmmm.

in about me , techtalk |

I keep thinking I should update my personal page, you know, the 25 squares about myself that I modelled on Leslie Harpold’s system status page, even though she’s changed her format, I kept mine.

Apart from the faq, about and other tmi (oh, someone asked me what tmi means, obviously they’re not CSI versed, tmi = too much information) pages, the personal section is the only sectiont not MT powered, they’re just a series of static pages. I’m thinking I should MT them too but can’t be bothered.

Anyway, like I said, I keep meaning to update the page, cos it’s been there since early Jan. But I can’t think of anything special to say. May be I’ll leave it till April then.

in techtalk |

Everyone who is just that little bit knowledgeable about web stuff, ie anyone who stays away from the evil twin monsters that are Windows and IE (cos they’re like lemmings who don’t know nothin’ and who don’t matter) knows firefox is good for you.

I’ve been having problems with the website lately, slow loading times and occasionally being shut out. I switched back to firefox and eureka! Loading time is like 1/10th that of Netscape. My goodness! I’m totally in awe. I love me this firefox more and more. I’m even getting used to the unfamiliar way the fonts appear.

in how the day went , techtalk |

I was a bad student today, doing something else during training. Our PC training room has 12 desks and I was sitting at the last row, while the others listened during the training. Got a bit bored and distracted so I was looking at website stats — I’m getting more hits, over 200 some days. Still puzzled at the hits from obviously spam sites, the poker, viagra and annoying other sites that show up on the log, I think it’s MT Blacklist doing me a fantastic favor. Added more to my blacklist, I hate these spammers.

Checked email after lunch, had to use webmail cos we don’t have enough machines, but that’s fine.

Went to Lau Pa Sat for satay with my colleagues. One has her husband and young boy with her for visit, it was a nice dinner. Had a couple of mugs of beer, it’s a while since I’ve had beer, I now have a headache. I was right to cut it out.

in techtalk |

When the whole thing started, I searched around for gmail invites, but none of my friends or even colleagues in the IT dept had heard of it, much less have a spare invite.

Some kind soul on the nanowrimo forums sent me one, so I joined the ranks. Problem was it doesn’t work on Netscape 7, which is what I’m still using on OS9. Of course one of the advantage of going on firefox on OSX is it’s all clear.

I was surfing round yesterday and was reminded of the spooler, where people with unwanted invites put them in a pool for people who want them. Last few times I ambled by, there weren’t any, but currently they have over 170k. I wonder if google did a big splurge, or if it’s already old hat, anyone who wanted one has one. I dunno.

Anyway I set a couple accounts up and got mm one too.

in techtalk |

I finally figured out how to get internet on OSX. Go to System Preference > Network. Configure using Built-in Ethernet, use PPPoE, enter username and password. Go to Internet Connect under Applications X and login.

Took me a wee bit of trouble to download firefox 1.0 (only had 0.9.3 previously), but this is the first post on OSX, via firefox. YAY! At last.

Don't quite like the faded colours and large menu fonts on OSX. And Verdana looks different, more square, more squished.

But it's worth switching, though it'll take a fair bit of getting used to.

in techtalk |

I'm checking stats everyday, both on the website and my Common Areas hits. Website is averaging around 70-80 hits a day, according to awstats, but that's again probably me and the CA avatar. So it's a bit overstated to say I have more visitors. CA has reached 9,300+ since first post, but if I don't update within about 3 days it stagnates.

I'm still my only subscriber on bloglines. Imagine people like Dave Shea getting 2,500+ subscribers and even antipixel has a few hundred, I'll be happy if one day I manage 10.

Now I see people's obsession on hit counters and the like. Though I've always said that I don't want to be know and want this space to be quiet, I do wish more people can come visit this little garden occasionally and enjoy a little quiet thoughts here.

in techtalk |

Come Christmas, our thoughts inevitably turn to gadgets. We bought our current phone, the Motorola A760 about a year ago, thinking its PDA/camera function will be enough. But we've had a lot of problems with the phone, so we're going back to Nokia.

We've already looked at many many shops, but she couldn't decide. Finally we went to the Nokia shop and she bought the 6670, in silver/white. Contacts, calendar, 1 Megapixel camera, video, viewer for Word/Excel/Powerpoint, and the function that sold it to her over the prettier 7610, full screen picture on caller display. The salesperson was very patient and took his time in explaining and demonstrating the functions. He has a whole lot more patience than me, haha.

Me? I don't want all these functions. I hardly use the calendar, all I need is to store phone numbers. And camera? I have the ixus for that, and if I'm thinking of getting a ixus 500, why bother about the phone? I wanted to get the white 7260, with its distinctive art deco design, but now I'm thinking of waiting for the 7280, with its narrow body and wheel and unconventional design, it's even more expensive than hers, but may be worth it for the newness factor. Plus, it made Fortune's 25 Best Products of 2004.


nokia7280


in techtalk | | comments (2)

Depending on which site stats I look at, the website had either 100 or 190 visitors on 14 Dec, that's the most it's ever had. Now whether or not these visitors include search engines, spiders, links to my public images (eg the nano winner jpg I use as avatar), I don't know. I'm thinking the 100 figure is for human visitors cos that's what awstats claim they can do, and the 190 from Webalizer includes bots and non-humans.

A few of those "visitors" is me of course, cos highest on the list of external links in is the MT login, followed by the home page and I think I'm the only person who uses the homepage.

But, yay! I've had 60 clicks from Miss Elizabeth's LJ already (thanks Miss E!). Wow, talk about a being shoved into the spotlight.

Do I want these visitors? I dunno. Time will tell. I just want to reiterate what I've said in the faq that no, I don't want to tell people where I live or whether I'm a teenager or adult or even if I'm a real person at all.

Most people just want to be themselves and enjoy the internet experience in the privacy of their home or school or office, but there're too many unscrupulous sorts out there who spoil everyone's fun. I remember when I first set up my other websites on wordpress, I got hit by the stupid poker guy comment spam almost immediately and had to quickly learn how to do preventative measures. It was a good learning experience but I'm bitter that the reason I had to learn wasn't because I wanted to, it's because some jerk paid money to another jerk to waste people's time and energy.

Anyway to those of you new here, which means everyone reading except the one person who reads this weblog regularly, welcome. This is my small private garden, but if you are able to find a little enjoyment here, then I'm glad.

Remember though, this is a quiet space for quiet thoughts only. :)

in techtalk |

... not a computer.

Or, stupid Service Centre enquiry of the day.

Our Australia office allows people to "salary package" certain items, it's pretty common in Australia apparently. The staff produce receipts for certain allowable items and that amount is subject to preferential tax rates.

Most companies have defined items that can be packaged, usually car park, car leasing, superannuation contribution, laptop computers. But with computers it's very well defined, so they can claim the computer itself but not peripherals like wires, printers and stuff.

This staff asked if it's possible to package an iPod. I mean, duh. Which part of an iPod is a laptop computer?

in about me , techtalk |

Over at 43things, I can save my list.

Alternatively, saved list then enter the key: 4WsGp6x64S27g/vMGc+u74/pww8=

No clue what it's supposed to do, or what 43things is about. Why must everything make sense?


in about me , evidence of my insanity , techtalk |

haven't played in a while. This week we'll choose one or the other of the following:

  1. bar soap or shower gel
    shower gel
  2. cd's or cassettes
    cd's, but the real answer is mp3
  3. television movies or documentaries
    tv movies
  4. wall calendar or desk calendar
    both, wall for the wall and desk for the, um, desk
  5. dsl, cable, or dial-up
    dsl
  6. summer or winter
    winter, can't stand sticky icky hot weather
  7. city or country
    city
  8. camping or stay in a hotel
    hotel, as many stars as I can afford
  9. gold or silver
    no preference, may be silver?
  10. fiction or non-fiction books
    fiction, well [small voice]fan fiction[/small voice]
  11. mashed potatoes or baked potatoes
    baked, with sour cream, a little butter, but then I'm partial to mash too, a bit chunky with lots of pepper
  12. ranch, italian, or catalina dressing
    none, don't like dressing
  13. solid or spray deodorant
    used to be solid, now it's liquid roll on
in techtalk |

I've been trying out WordPress in my other sites and one of the requirements is for future dated entries to show. Looks like I can't do it in WP, but let's see if it's possible in MT.

This is posted 25 Oct but dated 26 Oct.


Edited: looks like it works. Er, yay. Now I have to make it work in WP.

in techtalk |

They're talking about not polling to cellphones. But really, people are ditching their landlines in droves nowadays.

Which is something I've thought about. I use the phone to make calls when I'm home but when it comes to incoming calls I adopt a mainly "leave me the hell alone" attitude. I only answer calls from numbers I recognise and even then I don't answer if I don't feel like it, I just let it ring and ring and ring. I gave away my answering machine ages ago.

This means I don't have many calls and that suits me just fine thank you very much. So I can be left in peace when I'm home. I mean, you think, why am I being so difficult I don't want to talk to you for a few minutes? Well, if 3 people think that, I have to spare 3 times the x minutes expected. And between that and cooking and eating dinner and taking a shower and powerbooking, that doesn't leave me with any time for myself right? Right?

So anyway, I don't need my home phone, I can get a cheap enough service with lots of minutes on my cellphone. So why don't I take the step? May be soon.

in techtalk |

From progsoc via gizmodo, the resilience of powerbooks.

A 12-inch powerbook survived a devastating apartment fire and even works. Everything else was burnt to a char.

We can all bow down to Apple and Steve Jobs now.

in objects of desire , techtalk |

When I first got my iPod it was a rarity. A much coveted rarity for those in the know, but it wasn't for general consumption. It was the version with the touch wheel and the control buttons neatly positioned next to the wheel, much more intuitive than the later versions where the buttons sat above the wheel.

At that stage the Windows version had just came out.

Since then the iPod has become the accessory of choice. Apple sells more iPods than Macs now.

On the one hand I'm glad it's so popular, on the other, it takes away the exclusivity feeling that us long term Apple supporters have enjoyed. I mean Apple = cool = exclusive. It's like any riff-raff can claim to own an Apple product nowadays.

Anyway even the designers have jumped on the bandwagon and there are so many cases available. This pretty spread from city magazine via gizmodo. I like the black leather one (hint hint ...).

iPod cases


in techtalk |

From Friday's feast.

  1. Appetizer. Name 3 things that you think are beautiful.
    fresh snow, my computer, mm.
  2. Soup. What was the last concert you attended?
    No clue. Do musicals count? Went to Mamma Mia a few weeks ago.
  3. Salad. What is one thing that frightens you about getting older?
    Getting ill, needing a lot of care and being a burden.
  4. Main Course. Tell us about one of your funny quirks or habits.
    I pick out spring onions from soup, noodles, rice, everything.
  5. Dessert. If you could extend one month to 50 days (instead of the normal 28, 29, 30, or 31), which month would you want to lengthen?
    None. Why? It means more work days.

In other stuff, I submitted another entry to photofriday. Entry #260. I waited for about 10 minutes, cos I didn't want to be #258, just not as neat. May be that's another funny quirk.

in techtalk |

Officially this is entry #100 here on quiet thoughts, although on the database it's probably something like #341. It's small potato compared with the weblogs out there that's been around for ages.

But to show the power of this all, I'm posting this inside the Silver Kris lounge in Singapore airport, having just gorged myself with fried rice, chicken nuggets, soda water and a pretty ordinary tasting brandy. They don't have enough terminals so I kept watching until someone finished. I have about an hour till the plane departs so what better use of my time?

Reflecting on why am I doing this, the weblog, the website? To make my mark in the world may be. Like most people I have a collection of thoughts, photos, travel stories and stuff that makes up ... me. Usually they get lost cos I forget them quickly. I won't be around forever, so perhaps this is an attempt to have something of mine that has a chance of outlasting me, I dunno.

I don't know precisely, apart from that I enjoy it all, the html learning, the redesign, setting up the weblog, and I can't imagine giving it up now.

One of the reasons is to rediscover myself. I find that as I grow older I'm becoming more and more uncaring, detached and indifferent; my motto has become I don't care. Or on a more expressive day, I don't fucking care. I have emotions but none are on any grand scale, be it grief, sadness, anger, love. Nothing burn in flames anymore, the intensity has all but disappeared.

The hope is by being disciplined and writing down my thoughts I might learn about the art of feeling again, if I don't record my thoughts I might end up losing them.

in arts and media , in the news , techtalk |

The Guardian has a weblog, of posts by their journalists I guess, short "interesting" pieces of news. Much like the weblog of a real life blogger. Except it only has a date and name of poster, no comments, no trackback, quite static in feel.

Getting on the bandwagon much? All the politicians, pundits and celebrities are doing it. Soon it'll be like the iPod, the novelty factor, the sense of uniqueness, ok the superiority complex, of being an iPod owner, quickly disappears as it's invaded by the masses. Every day hundreds, thousands of new weblogs are created and millions are updated.

I'm certainly one of those masses, joining the party late. I'm still amazed that no one I know seems to be aware of this global phenomenon.

Back to the Guardian weblog. What caught my eye was a week-old post, that Countdown has been renewed by Channel 4 for another 5 years. Truly, it's a wonderous program, the first to be shown on Channel 4, and continues to be as fantastic as ever. Even now that the presenters have become celebrities, they continue with the tradition. I remember watching the first Countdown and whenever I'm back in the UK I try to watch it. I don't think I'll ever tire of it, it's so simple yet intelligent, that's a sure sign of good programming.

The second funny tidbit about this particular post is that the Guardian links to the story on the Independent. Perhaps because the Guardian missed on the story? Or trying (too hard?) to look and feel like any old weblog.

I like the Guardian's weblog, they've been at it for 3 years, so they must be doing something right. I just wished the Independent had one too, sigh. I've been disappointed with the Indy recently, with the change to tabloid format and a boring website — you have to type in the www, just typing http://independent.co.uk doesn't work, in this day and age it's not acceptable — it's not the Indy I used to be fanatically loyal to.

in techtalk |

I think I'm killing myself, trying to learn all those web design stuff in such a short time. I went from proudly congratulating myself that I fixed all my tables and converted to xhtml (was that only the beginning of June?) to totally disowning tables and getting onto the web standards bandwagon. I look at the masters' work and I'm totally in awe.

So am I killing myself trying to emulate what other people are doing? People who've been doing this way longer than I have, and most of them professionals at this business.

To calm myself down and may be to give me some encouragement, I started looking out for more personal weblogs. Like those on tripod, or a few from b2. Getting away from the higher echelon cliqué certainly made me feel better, I felt like a kindergarten kid in a room full of self- and mutually- congratulating PhD's.

Not that I haven't given someone the I-am-way-cleverer-than-you treatment. Ahem.

Still, there are some really nice personal sites out there, but they just go about their own business and don't harp on about validation and zen gardens and stuff. Yes they are ramblings about nothing in particular (or their dog, or crazy grandmother, or how school sucks) but they have something in common — it means something. Of course some of them have bottom scroll bars or have orange words on blackground or are hideously small. It's a relief to get away from the 2 column centered on page look that seems to be everywhere (that's the MT3 look, right?).

It's a neverending game. It's like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. I know that once I have all the sections converted I'll start tinkering with them again. Who knows what the next fad is.

Sometime in the future I might achieve a balance.

in techtalk |

The website related entries are moving to shiny parts, which is now MT powered.

I'll still put my geeky science nerd thoughts over here, but website development details deserve their own panel.

in all about people , my inner science geek , techtalk |

Within my circle of friends, colleagues and family, I have the tech skills of a god. Like I don't know anyone who has a website, runs a weblog, or knows their way round (albeit in a really beginner's way) status symbols like photoshop.

But talking to more technically inclined people makes me realize how pathetically basic my so called skills are. It's good to be humble.

Another expectation is I can solve all their problems. Man, don't they know I'm know nothing about support, hardware, connections and most importantly, I don't touch PCs with a 40 foot pole. This means start talking about Windows and I'm gonna blow a gasket. Unfortunately I know a bit about MS Office cos I have to use it at work, but no, I don't use it at home.

So yeah, they think I know, but I'm just pretending.

So I studied chemistry and I get questions about the side effects of drugs, or how to make a bomb from fertilizer. Like, dude, if you trust a chemistry grad to tell you all about these things? mm took computer science and she's the first to admit she's totally lost the knowledge. Yeah, considering she switched as soon as she graduated.

I'm just glad I don't get asked about repairing elevators and stuff like that.

in going places , techtalk |

I finally loaded our Africa trip. We took 27 rolls of film which at 27x36 = 972, but some rolls had 37 shots so around 980.

We had to sort through them and take out the ones we liked and wanted to display in the album. We ended up with over 400 photos for showing. Out of which I scanned and photoshopped just over 100 for the website. Between those 5 pages the website went from 15 to 23 MB.

I also did some revamping on the website, but I can't get the design right. When I first put it together it looked neat but I want it even tighter, and I'm not sure what I can do.

I'm getting towards a stage when I feel like I'm kinda stuck in terms of the website. I know there's still some bits to be done, like finish writing parts of d&f and switch over to movabletype. The rest is maintenance - occasionally update the personal page, load new trips as they come along, continue with the writing, take more pictures for the gallery - but the big pieces are done.

It's like coming to the end of a journey.

in techtalk |

I had a big scare when I got back. I got an earlier flight so I was home more than an hour earlier than expected. I had time before going to dinner, so what do I do? Hook up the Powerbook, right? Natural as natural goes. Imagine my horror when I could connect successfully but none of the webpages loaded. Not even the simple ones like yahoo or google.

Mad panic and very annoyed for 2 days. Yesterday I tried using dial-up which worked, albeit at a snail's pace, so it wasn't the hardware or browsers. So today I checked the faq, and luckily it was a simple fix. Phew. So for posterity's sake, here's how to set up broadband:

1. In TCP/IP select Enternet.
2. Use the PPP server.
3. In the Name Server address box type in the IP addresses: 218.102.62.71 and 203.198.23.208. If they don't work, use 1.2.3.4, in any case Open Transport need that box filled. That's what I forgot to do.

The not-so-new news is that I feel like my arms and legs have been chopped off when I'm offline. Scary.

I did manage to do a fair bit of writing though. I updated Bigtown, Between, Unexpected. And started another. At least I was productive.