Wearing dice on my head since 2008 Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart. Randomly amazed.

Tech Life

Macbook Air (2017 Model)

| Categories: Tech Life | Tags:

Friends will know I’ve been wanting to get a Macbook for quite a while now. I have chat messages as far back as 2016 musing about buying a Macbook Pro. I haven’t had a serious personal laptop purchase since 2008. (Side note: Qualifier “serious” because I do have a low-spec MSI laptop I think I bought for cheap some years ago that I’m not really happy with. It’s got a dead battery now, I should probably install it with a more lightweight Linux or something and maybe use it as a torrent device or such?

Ancient PC Gaming

| Categories: Tech Life Gaming | Tags:

I recently found a stash of old DOS games we used to play, so I thought I’d write about the early days of PC gaming. My PC gaming career (such as it is) started way back in the MS-DOS era. It was an interesting time to be a gamer, to say the least. It was a time when you had to make bootdisks and fiddle around with files like autoexec.bat and himem.

Quora

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Recently, Q&A site Quora announced that they got hacked. Quora is good reading, but it seems difficult to navigate and chance upon the really well-written answers. Or maybe I dunno what i'm doing — Roy Tang (@roytang) August 18, 2012 I started reading Quora back around 2012. My impression then of the site is that it encouraged insightful, well-written, story-like answers. This was opposed to other Q&A sites like Stackoverflow which encourared concise and clinical answers.

Online Privacy

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I must admit being a bit unconcerned with online privacy tracking by the large vendoers (Google, Facebook, etc). I mean, I do tend to use my real name as username after all, so most everything I do online can be traced back to me. I assume that anything I do on the internet can be figured out by other parties, so if something is important enough to me that it should be kept private, it shouldn’t go on the internet at all.

Social Credit System

| Categories: Tech Life | Tags: Current Events

China is setting up some kind of large-scale “social credit system” to rank and monitor the behavior of their citizens. Citizens with low scores can get penalized in various ways like being denied travel or access to top-tier schools and so on. It’s quite creepy, and the mere idea evokes the dystopian Black Mirror episode “Nosedive” where people use an app to rate other people. China’s social credit system might be even worse than the Black Mirror one because:

Daily Blogging

| Categories: Tech Life Writing | Tags: blogging

Looking at my archives, I was blogging regularly from 2005-2009, mostly because I was really active in competitive MTG during that time. Starting 2010, my blogging activity started to taper off, with less than 60 posts until 2015. I tried to revive the habit around mid-2016, posting at least once a week, but the writing slowed down again around April this year (coinciding with one of the more busy periods for me work-wise).

Review: Fitbit Charge 2

| Categories: Tech Life | Tags: walking

I mentioned in yesterday’s post about my daily walks that my brother got me a Fitbit Charge 2 mid last year, I thought I’d write a quick review. (Actually, this is mainly an excuse to write down a story about how stupid I am.) Anyway, yeah my bro got me a Fitbit. Or maybe I paid for it. I don’t really recall. The point is, I had it and I’ve been using it regularly for the past year and a half.

iPad Restrospective

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Looking back on 8 years of apple tablets. I got my first iPad (1st generation!) back in 2010 with 64gb storage. This version was purchased for me by a friend in Singapore. I got the 3g model back then, but I never got around to using that feature. Future purchases would be wifi only. My main usage for the iPad back then was for reading ebooks/comics and playing some games. I spent a lot of time on Tilt to Live on that bad boy.

Leaving Wordpress I’ve been using Wordpress for this blog since circa 2006 I believe, but as I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I was not 100% happy with using Wordpress for this blog. I have a few issues with Wordpress, none of them a major dealbreaker, but collectively enough to make me consider something else: the new Gutenberg editor set to become standard in 5.0 was in my experience, very clunky and kinda annoying the code structure of Wordpress is very deep and complex, sometimes making it difficult for me to make changes I want.

My history in text editors

| Categories: Tech Life Software Development | Tags:

Text editors (and by extension IDEs) are a programmer’s best friend. I thought I’d look back at a number of text editors I’ve used over the years. (I grew up with Windows, so I won’t list vim/emacs/nano here, even though I’m at least a bit proficient with vim by now. That is, I know how to exit vim.) Notepad – of course, the default editor in Windows. The one we turn to when all else fails.

Responsiveness and Notifications

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I had always considered my responsiveness to emails and IMs a point of pride – I liked to keep an empty inbox so I replied to emails and IMs as soon as I became aware of them. This of course turned out a bit bad in the short run. I was easily distracted from whatever work I was doing – although I did take pride in being pretty good at multitasking (Yes I know, no one is *really* good at multitasking, I’m just less bad at it than other people).

Apparently, Youtube’s algorithms tend to promote extremist content. This is an unsurprising (yet unforeseen) consequence of the “free” advertising-driven internet. Social media algorithms optimize for engagement (eyeballs, views, likes, whatever, etc). Meanwhile, humans are more likely to engage with controversial content. Everyday status quo content is boring by comparison. Hence, controversial or extremist content will tend to bubble to the top. It’s the same reason politics has made social media divisive – promoting divisive content has turned out to be profitable in terms of engagement.

This is a story from the early days of the internet. Circa 2001-2004ish. A time of Geocities and AIM and and ICQ and from before Gmail even launched. At that time, I was a big Final Fantasy fan (okay, I still am, more or less). My first real experience with online fan communities was a Yahoo Groups mailing list called the “Final Fantasy Forum”. It was a fun, tight-knit group that loved to discuss the FF series and other JRPGs of that era.

(Somehow I now have a series of posts about blogging in 2018. Here’s the first one. Two is a series, right?) Great comment the other day on reddit (found via r/bestof), in response to Twitter’s inaction vs Alex Jones. Quoting part of the comment: How can the OG generation of web users possibly hope to maintain the Internet as a free and decentralized medium when a growing majority of the current userbase accept centralization of content and audience, as not only the status quo but as the way things should be?

A couple of days ago I was rummaging through some old files and found a folder of some personal files I had copied from work computer at my old long-time place of work. One thing I was hoping to find there was this TODO text file that I kept throughout the years I worked there, even as I moved from one computer to another. It was a very long, append-only file, accumulated over some number of years.

Google Duplex and Conversation AIs

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Google recently had a demo of their new AI assistant Duplex at Google IO 2018: It’s an amazing demo to watch, from an engineering perspective. Basically a combination of natural language processing + text-to-speech that can emulate human speaking patterns. It’s not that much of a breakthrough (more like putting several different things together), but it’s impressive and is a good indicator of where we are with regards to true conversant AI.

When Game of Thrones entered its sixth season in 2016, it was true spoiler territory for those of us who had read the GRRM books before HBO’s TV adaptation turned the property into a worldwide phenomenon. Due to the author’s glacial writing pace, at this point the TV series went past the point that the novels had reached. Thus nobody – book readers or tv viewers – knew what events would unfold in the story.

Rethinking Facebook

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There’s been a recent brouhaha lately over Facebook’s data privacy issues after the Cambridge Analytica scandal came out. For a while, a #DeleteFacebook hashtag even made the rounds. I will admit that I had been considering reducing my own Facebook usage for a while, but not because of any data privacy issues. While I understand that Facebook probably mishandled private data and that this is a serious concern for a lot of people and even for society at large.

The Setup 2018 Edition

| Categories: Gaming Software Development Tech Life | Tags:

While browsing through my old blog posts, I found one about my setup from 2010. I figured it was a good time to do an update. I like doing posts like these because it provides an easy reference for me to look back and see what I was working with at a certain point in time. What Hardware Do I Use? Desktop. I bought a new desktop rig back in late 2015, here are the specs:

[][1](Image credit: r/ProgrammerHumor) I’ve been meaning to add SSL to this blog ever since I first heard of Let’s Encrypt last year. Unfortunately, support on my otherwise awesome webhost was not yet first-class and seemed complicated at the time, so I kept putting it off. But recently I was testing something unrelated and found out that I needed to have SSL on my server in order for OAuth2 to work, so I grudgingly got to it.

Around four years ago (give or take a few days), one of my many Twitter interactions with Globe Telecom’s CS account went a little bit viral due to them trying to justify their Fair Use Policy by calling 3% of their users “rotten bananas”. Apparently I didn’t bother writing on the blog about it back then, so I thought I’d do it now. View post on imgur.com The exchange went a tiny bit viral on social media, with friends telling me about people I don’t know sharing the image of the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Hardware Review: Steam Link

| Categories: Gaming Tech Life | Tags: Hardware

Last week the local gaming shop had the Steam Link on 70% discount so I figured I’d give it a try. We recently got a new TV at home, so I was eager to try out some Steam games on the big screen. If you’re too lazy to click the link above, the Steam Link is basically a set-top box that streams your gameplay to a TV via HDMI, allowing you to enjoy your steam games from the comfort of a couch.

Sony 4K HDR Bravia X8000D

| Categories: Tech Life | Tags: Hardware Review

4k XLocal tech blog YugaTech is doing a giveaway of a Sony X8000D Bravia 4K TV. To be honest I wasn’t sure about using this blog to participate in a promo, but I was already in the market for a new TV since our living room TV is already starting to have some problems. I checked out the product features of the Sony X8000D Bravia on their website. Some of the features stood out for me specifically:

Internet History

| Categories: Philippines Tech Life | Tags: Nostalgia

No, not that kind of history, don’t worry. Twenty-five years ago this month, the first website went up on the world wide web. That was 1991. It took a few years for the Philippines to catch on, the first internet connection in the country was only set up in 1994. My personal experience with the internet came a bit later, during our freshman year in University, sometime in the schoolyear 1995-1996.

In the modern era of online services and applications, it is getting more and more common to hear of databases and systems being hacked and user data being exposed. The most dangerous of this data is the user’s password since it may allow access not only to your own service but to other services as well. As an application developer, the below is probably the bare minimum you need to know when handling user passwords:

Password Security for Dummies

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Around the first week of June 2016, Mark Zuckerberg, well-known nerd and founder of Facebook, was hacked. If even the founder of the world’s largest social network can be hacked, anybody can! So it might be a good idea to review how you manage and secure your online passwords     Avoid using short, simple, or commonly-used passwords! These are subject to so-called “brute force” attacks where bad actors just try a whole lot of passwords until they find one that works.

iPad: First Impressions and Snap Judgments

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So, through a complicated series of circumstances where I initiated the process but actually managed to get myself surprised, I now own an iPad Wifi+3g 64GB (yes, it’s the most expensive model, don’t worry it did not break the piggy bank). It was purchased from Singapore and brought to me by a friend last Friday. I’ve used an iPad before (during the CCS trip Baguio), but this is the first time I’ve had the chance to customize the applications and content, and have it exclusive for my own use.

The Setup

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A while back I started reading The Setup, which is basically a collection of interviews with various tech/creative guys about what sort of hardware and software they use. I always enjoy this sort of thing – it feeds my tech envy when they describe cool setups or gadgets I don’t have. (A lot of them have Macs!) I actually purchased a new desktop computer a while back without posting any details, so I thought I’d something similar to The Setup so that I have a record of what I’m using now.

Imeem

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My brother pointed me to a new (to me at least) online music service called imeem. The website caught my interest for two reasons. It uses Adobe Flex, a technology which I’ve been using for the past year or so. Any Flex developer knows it’s Flex just by looking at the widgets. (Click to enlarge the screenshot!) The service allowed me to find an mp3 which I’ve never found before and have used as a benchmark for how good an mp3 search service is.

Bayan DSL Proxy

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If you’ve been having trouble with Bayan DSL web connections to some websites (which we have for the past few weeks or so), you may be surprised to know that they have an HTTP proxy server you can use. Strange, considering that when reporting such problems to their trunkline, they never ask whether you’re using that proxy server or not. I don’t recall ever being told about it by the Bayan DSL staff.

I needed to transfer a file to my phone today, but could not find my USB cable. I figured I’d try out the Bluetooth with the laptop. After around 30 minutes of struggling with the unintuitiveness and some helpful googling I finally was able to transfer my file using the ff steps, for future reference: Turn on Bluetooth on the Acer Aspire using the Bluetooth button. Right-click the Bluetooth icon on the systray -> Show Bluetooth Devices -> Options -> tick “Allow Bluetooth devices to find this computer”

GMail Redesigned

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I came across the Stylish Firefox Extension, and the GMail Redesigned project, which gives the GMail user interface a sleek facelift. [ ]3 _ (I’m not sure if it was necessary to blot out the names of contacts!) _

Flocking

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I’m not sure why but I decided to try out the Flock 2 web browser beta, the “social web browser” built on top of Firefox. This is a test actually. Flock’s blog post dialog doesn’t seem to provide any category support (it supports tags instead), so I want to see what category this post would go under. (Update: Flock let me choose a category after I try to publish the post.

A Week So Far With Vista

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The gist of it is: it wasn’t as annoying as I had been led to expect. Frankly, I think it’s better than XP, but I might be blinded by the fact that it’s very pretty. Visually it’s a step up from XP the same way XP was a step up from ‘95. The XP box at work seems so bland to me now. The file manager (Explorer) is very nice, I like the functionality of being able to navigate the address bar by mouse click (though I never used this back in Ubuntu) and the ability to sort files even in thumbnail view.

New Laptop!

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Just a bit of an indulgence. There was a warehouse sale at the office building from Tuesday to Friday. Like every single time I would make a big purchase I waffled undecisively between buying and not buying a laptop for the first four days, only to succumb at the very last minute when a model with an insane price became available. On 7:30pm of the last day of the sale, I picked up an Acer Aspire 4920 unit with the following specs:

Opera 9.5

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Because I’m a sucker for trying out alternative software, I installed and tried out the latest release of the Opera web browser, Opera 9.5, for a bit more than a week. Opera is neat and all, but I don’t see any features that are so awesome that they can’t be done in Firefox (with some extensions maybe). My favorite feature is I guess the Speed Dial page; where opening a new tab displays a customizable table of common websites you visit.

OpenOffice Calc 2.4 vs Microsoft Excel

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An alpha release was just announced for Open Office 3. Being an Ubuntu user, Open Office is really the only sane choice I have for an office suite. At work I’m using Microsoft Office 2007. Among the office suite applications, I’m most of a power user for the spreadsheet applications. Here’s my side-by-side comparison of Excel and oOo Calc:

Microsoft Excel 2007 on Windows XP:

  • Looks really pretty.
  • Loads up quickly.
  • Proprietary and expensive.
  • Not available for Linux.

OpenOffice Calc 2.4.1 on Ubuntu:

  • Feature-rich – has some features that excel does not.
  • I can have a sandwich in the time it’s loading.
  • Free as in speech, and as in beer too!
  • Usability issues, such as inconveniently prompting a dialog box on every delete. (This is logged in their database as bug # 9392. There’s a workaround, but hopefully it will be fixed by default in Open Office 3)
  • Autofilter feature is immature compared to Excel, not enough options for filtering.
  • It can open a password-protected XLS correctly (prompting me for the password), but it can’t save it back with the password.
  • I was going to complain about the UI, but now that I’ve thought better of it, it’s no worse than other GTK/Linux apps.

Laptop Keyboards Suck

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Seriously. Having to hit an extra key just to use “Home” or “End”? For some reason, PrintScreen and CapsLock keys are higher priority than Home and End, meaning you don’t need to use “Fn” to access them. Do people not use Ctrl+Shift+Home and Ctrl+Shift+End all the time? I’m sure a lot of developers do. Whenever I’m on this laptop and need to use Home or End, I mentally pronounce “Fn” as a seven-letter word starting with “F” and ending with “ing”.

Trying out KDE4

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After finding out that KDE4 was already available for Kubuntu 7.10, the nice screenshots of the new Oxygen theme and hints of a revamped panel and widget system appealed to my inner geek envy, so I decided to install and give it a whirl.

KDE4 Screenshot

My quick impression, after 15 minutes of usage:

Today is a good day to nuke your XP install

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I’m not sure why I keep trying to get the Ubuntu + XP dual boot thing working. I don’t really need it, I can do most of the things I want to do in XP. And I can’t really play games in Ubuntu (I don’t really want to bother with all the crap Wine puts you through). Still, every so often I’m hit with some sort of geek envy where I just want to have an Ubuntu installation handy so I can try out some cool stuff like Compiz or whatnot.

Social Networking

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_ “Robert suggested we create Facebook accounts, I think in an effort to establish that we were “down” with whatever “new jives” the kids were flexing on the mean streets. I refused. Gabriel buckled, and the bullshit that ensued verified my initial assessment: that maintaining Facebook would quickly constitute another job. Of which I already have several.”_ — Tycho, Penny-Arcade I never really bought into social networking (because I am of course antisocial) But lo and behold!

Back into the Fold (or Revenge of the XP)

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Amazingly, I went more than two whole months using only Ubuntu at home since one of my RAM sticks got busted and Windows refused to boot. Luckily, I have a dual boot computer, with Ubuntu as my alternative OS. Ubuntu is pretty awesome. As a Windows replacement, it does most of the things you need without much problem. It has two distinct advantages over Windows: The Debian package distribution mechanism is just great.

Indulgence -- the Nokia N73

| Categories: Tech Life | Tags: Hardware

I bought a new phone yesterday. At the recommendation of my brother, I got one from the Nokia N-series, the Nokia N73. As a relatively recent smartphone release, it cost quite a chunk of cash. I was having second thoughts for a while, because I’m almost never comfortable parting with a significant amount of cash. If I’m going to spend more than a week’s salary on something, it better provide me with a decent amount of entertainment

The Miracle PC

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My computer died last night, refusing to boot. Ubuntu would complain of being unable to read the root filesystem. Windows XP would say that there’s a corrupted DLL. I immediately arranged to borrow both an Ubuntu LiveCD and a Windows XP install disk the next day to help check the problem. When I got home today, the computer had been miraculously fixed. My brother said he’d been using it no problem.

NewsHutch -- feed aggregator

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I’m going to try out a new feed aggregator for a while – NewsHutch. Don’t get me wrong, Bloglines is nice and all, but one gets tired of the UI after a while. NewsHutch looks… nice. And don’t get me started on Google Reader… that one is slow as molasses. (I added it to my Google Customized Homepage though, maybe that makes it better)

Personal Productivity

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Since I’m going back to work starting on Saturday, I thought I’d try to look for ways to improve my productivity at work. I’ve downloaded a few utilities that I can try at work to see if it can improve my workflow. The first one is SlickRun. Basically it’s a Start -> Run replacement – press a predefined hotkey and a small command line tool appears where I can type shortcut-like commands.

Adventures in Linux Land, part 4

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I upgraded my Kubuntu Linux installation to Edgy Eft during the Christmas break. Some notes: Why can’t there be a one-click install? You know, some pop-up alert bubble in the corner saying “A new version of Kubuntu is available.” I don’t see why the user needs to edit the sources.list file, do the apt-get stuff, etc., when all of this can basically be automated away. Except for one thing, I can do everything I need to do using Kubuntu instead of using Windows.

new monitor

| Categories: Tech Life | Tags: Hardware

new monitor Originally uploaded by zroytang . As promised, a picture. That desk used to hold an entire monitor! Now it has my wallet, a watch, a couple of flash drives, a landline, a cellphone and a whole bunch of wires!