16:05 by FoxTwo
Image by Arnþór Snær via FlickrBack in this post, I talked about how my gadgets decided to die or develop faults. One of them was my digital camera. I eventually did bring the camera down for servicing.
A couple of days back, I went to pick it up from the Canon service centre.
It was pretty early in the morning, barely 1 hour after their centre opened. Not many people were there, maybe at most 3 people ahead of me.
At one of the counters, there was this "customer" being very agitated towards a calm-but-rapidly-becoming-helpless counter service girl. From the snatches of conversation (they were pretty dang loud for an empty center), the "customer" seemed to want:
1. A fixed, confirmed answer on when his item can be repaired, not "it should take 5 to 6 days".
2. When (1) was not given, wanted an exchange for the item within the next 3 days.
The counter girl tried to explain that before the technicians can inspect the item, they won't know what was wrong. If they don't know what was wrong, they won't know what parts may be needed to repair the item. If the parts they needed were not available, they need to order it from their overseas distribution centres.
The customer then went on a tirade about how he already explained what the fault was, and a "good technician" would "immediately know" what the fault was without the need to inspect his item. He went on about how inefficient Canon was, and how the process was detrimental to the smooth operations of their service centre, and even almost got to the extent of implying the staff were all incompetent.
I didn't at the time, but now on hindsight, maybe I should have just shut the "customer" up. It was VERY obvious the customer only thought about himself, and demanded that everything to be done to please HIM. Without "booking in" the item, how were the techs going to know what was wrong? Do you go to the doctor and say "eh Doctor, I got cough and sore throat" and doctor would immediately tell you "flu" (usual answer)? What happens if it's case of infection? Laryngitis? Throat cancer?
Obviously too, this person never worked in a place with more than 10 people. Like as if everybody will drop everything to help you at your whim?
When the date for repair was not given, he had the gall to ask for a 1 to 1 exchange within 3 days, because "Canon is such a big company, how can there be no stocks available"?
Hello, did you ever think about how OLD your product is? Since when do companies keep current stocks of products that are over a number of years?
The Service Center manager even had to come out to try to calm the guy down, and what the manager said was reasonable - the product was not bleeding-edge new, neither was it "too old", hence whatever stocks Canon Singapore might have, would probably be already shipped out to RETAILERS like Harvey Norman or Courts to sell. Furthermore, they do not keep new units at the service center for "exchange" because the service center was meant for repairing, not exchanging. The manager said, for this "special case" he could make calls to warehouse to check.
Lucky, because the Manager found that the warehouse still had a unit and could be sent over.
The guy went on and complained about how lousy the service was, and such a big company like Canon should "take note" of his "feedback" and "improve the service", and that to keep him waiting "so long" for a "simple answer" was "ridiculous".
When he was walking out of the centre he was still complaining about the lousy service he was given.
When it came to my turn to collect my camera, it went without a hitch. When I sent it in, smooth as silk too.
In my opinion, although the service wasn't 5 star excellent, it wasn't lousy at all. The problem was the customer himself, not the service.
Yes, remember that the next time you start to label the service of a place as "lousy". Think - is it actually you being unreasonable in the first place?
Yeah I should have gone and slapped the guy.
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15:34 by FoxTwo
Image via WikipediaRemember back in the old days, you'd get spam emails from your friends "warning" you about a catastrophic new virus which McAfee, Norton and "even Microsoft" doesn't know about? The email will urge you to send the warning along to your other friends, and thus, propagating the spam. We, the IT folks, used to tell users - "Look, Microsoft doesn't do anti-virus. The email is fake".
Well, it appears we can't use that statement anymore. Microsoft has recently taken their consumer anti-virus solution out of beta, and now it's available as Microsoft Security Essentials. Available COMPLETELY FREE, with no catch (other than requiring your Windows OS to pass validation checks).
Since I also recently reformatted my PC and installed Windows 7, I thought I might give this a whirl. When I got Windows 7 up and running, I groaned at the thought of having to search through my emails to get my Avast key again, to activate it when I re-install it. Avast had been my anti-virus of choice for years.
Eversince I read these articles here and here, I decided to try MSE. The things that sold me were:
- It's light on system resources
- Made it to top 5 among anti-virus software, free or otherwise
- Able to take care of spyware and other malware
- HAS ROOTKIT DETECTION <--- very important for me
Upon installation, MSE will automatically disable Windows Defender if it's enabled in your Windows. After all, MSE already includes malware detection and removal, so Windows Defender is not needed anymore.
The thing that might put people off from using this is that you are required to join Microsoft's "SpyNet", the platform where they examine new viruses and study them, to create updated virus signatures. Yes, there's no way to opt out of this. You either join as "Basic" or "Advanced" member. The upside is, they don't ask you to key in your particulars or "create an account". I am guessing they use your Windows key as your "account". It's very similar to Panda's Cloud Anti-virus in concept, except that MSE doesn't depend on the Internet as much as Panda does.
The only drawback of MSE is the frequency of updates. As far as what I can find on the internet about this, it seems that MSE only checks for updates once per day. However, after running this for a while, it seems like Microsoft updates their signatures between 4 to 6 times a day on average. I knew this only because I set my Task Scheduler to check for updates every 6 hours, and each time after the task runs, I check the update log files. Sure enough, MOST TIMES it downloads 1 (sometimes 2) new update(s).
Apparently the reason why MSE checks for updates only once per day is because Windows Update only checks for new updates once a day, and MSE "rides" on this technology although Windows Updates itself won't check for MSE signatures (unless you tick the "Check for Microsoft Products as well" part in the Windows Update screen).
Anyway, point is, MSE caught a trojan lurking around on my harddisk which both Avast and AVG missed previously. Yeah it's a zip file with an EXE inside, obtained from some shady site which I can't remember. I let it stay on my harddisk and didn't get around to installing it for almost a year. Good thing too, because when MSE scanned that ZIP file, a big red window popped up with the full details of the trojan. That's one up for MSE!
The best part for me though, is the light system resources needed for MSE. Just ONE 4MB process running, that's it!
If you are currently unhappy with your anti-virus solution, you might want to consider MSE as your next choice. I'm certainly satisfied with what it does.
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13:48 by FoxTwo
Image by dirtyfeet via FlickrThe pic on the right is what I wished happened in this decade. Right, because it never happened.
Looking back, there's so many things that I want to do in my life that never came to pass, such as the event depicted in the picture.
When you think about it, 10 years is a LONG time. Then again, from another point of view, 10 years seem short.
For example, I can remember vividly the mad rush to fix "Y2K". Back in 1999, IT people were definitely overworked. We weren't allowed to go on long vacations, "just in case" Y2K caused something catastrophic and we had to be recalled for disaster recovery.
On New Year's Eve 1999, we were all in the office during the countdown. Our bosses were all expecting something to screw up, computers to stop working, and the world coming to an end.
Then when the clocked rolled over to 2000, I joked to my colleagues on standby with me in the office, "Where are the flying cars? They're supposed to be here in 2000!"
Yeah, I remember that really clearly, as if it was just yesterday.
Now, it's 10 years to the day later.
10 years ago, I attended my last clubbing activity in China Jump (at Chijmes, basement). Back then I was active in the local IRC community. 10 years ago, I was such a regular there, that the waiters and bouncers knew me on sight. My face was my "VIP card". I could bypass the long snaking queues of people waiting to get in. I never needed to "jio" any friends to go. I would just go and my IRC friends will all be there, as usual.
10 years later, China Jump has ceased operations. Much of those IRC friends have scattered to the winds. I have deleted 90% of them off my phone. The remaining 10% or so, I have them as friends on Facebook.
Now THAT seemed like a long time ago.
Well, here's to the next 10 years of reminiscing.
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2010 EVERYONE!
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14:31 by FoxTwo time-bomb" built in to be faulty once the warranty date expires. While this saying is a myth, sometimes it makes you believe in it when the electronic devices DO die once the warranty expires.
My first brush with this phenomenon was back in 2003 or so. Well, the first one I can remember anyway.
Back then, DVD Recorders were new. They replaced the good old faithful VCRs. I bought one at S$399, with an 80GB Harddisk on board, thus I didn't have to put a DVD disc into the drive to record any TV programs.
Exactly 1 year 1 month later, ie, 1 month after the warranty expired, the DVD drive on the player/recorder decided to die. I called up the service centre, described my problem to them and asked for a repair estimate, since the player was out of warranty.
They said, to replace the DVD drive, it would cost me $350. What the hell? Even computer DVD drives cost only $150 at most, at the time! For $40 more I could have gotten a NEW player! To cut a long story short, I went out and bought a TV card and stuck that into my computer. My PC thus became a DVD Recorder for TV programs.
My second experience is with my Digital Ixus 60 camera - 6 months after the warranty expired, it decided to act faulty. At the time, the fault was intermittent, so I lived with it. Now, the fault is persistent. Again I called up the service centre and was told that they could not give even a ballpark estimate as they need to see what was wrong with it first. They would advise me on the cost at the centre after inspection, and will only proceed to repair it after I have given my consent. As of right now, I have yet to send it in, because I can use the camera on my phone for pictures should the need arise - for now.
My third experience, and I'm experiencing it now, is that my faithful and long-time friend, my Seiko watch decided to die on me. I'm not too upset about this one because the watch has served me faithfully for almost 10 years, and the warranty expired on it a long time ago.
For one thing, Seiko's email customer support is almost non-existent. I emailed them and described the fault, and I asked if they could repair it (the crown came out into my hand when I pulled on it to adjust time). Not only did they not answer my question (could they repair it?), the email contained the usual corporate blurb on how they are the authorised dealer in Singapore and their long history of dealing in Seiko watches.
The only ("human?") paragraph that doesn't seem like a template response was that they told me they needed to inspect the watch before they can tell me how much it was going to cost for repairs.
Seems like "We need to inspect the product first before giving an estimate" is now the catchphrase.
Anyway, so off I went, to the Seiko service centre. One thing I must say though - their service centre staff is excellent. They were courteous and friendly, and the "inspection" took about 10 minutes before they advised me of the costs. Seems like my almost-10-year-old watch needed a complete overhaul, plus they would change the crystal on it, for $145. Considering a new Kinetic Auto-Relay watch could cost upwards of $600, that amount seemed fair and reasonable. After all, I will be getting essentially a "new" watch - the innards would be changed, the glass also changed, but the case and bracelet would be the same condition as when I sent it in - scratched and well-worn. Even if I were to refuse repair and buy a new watch (any brand), chances are the new watch will cost more than just $145.
Well, I have to wait 3 weeks while they repair my watch. Not much of a problem since I have other watches to wear in the mean time.
The final story in this entry is about my (relatively) new Samsung LCD TV. Originally it came with a 1 year warranty. At the time, I was considering whether to extend the warranty on it for another 2 years, to make it 3 years total. Finally I decided to do so. I am glad I did.
The TV decided to show me pink and whites in place of any other colour. If the picture was blue or green or black, it would be PINK. Remember monochrome monitors in the good old days? Imagine the colours you were limited to are just PINK and WHITE instead of black and white.
I searched for the warranty on the TV and was glad it's still within the warranty. I called up the service centre and got very quick and friendly responses. The technician would drop by a few days later, but I still recorded a video of what the TV shows me when I turn it on. Just in case the other saying comes true - "Any piece of equipment will work flawlessly when demonstrated in front of the technician".
In any case, the video was unnecessary - the TV still showed me pink and whites when the technician came. He replaced the entire LCD Panel, ie the "screen". The whole repair was over in 30 mins and now my TV works normally again.
It should be said that LCD panels normally don't die so quickly. Look at all your laptops and your modern computer monitors - they still work fine after years in service. I just happen to have arse-luck and gotten a unit with a faulty LCD panel.
Well, that's all for this entry - the story of my dead/dying devices.
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21:48 by FoxTwo
Man, 2 of my childhood stars, dead. I'm gettin' old.
Don't worry, this entry won't be talking about them. There's enough ruckus in the Internet about those 2.
Instead, it's about my new toys. First of all, HP had a mini-roadshow thing at my company, and had this incredible offer on a 21 inch widescreen monitor at only $199. I fought my inner devils, trying not to spend money, but in the end, I lost. I forked out $199 and got the monitor - HP 2159m Widescreen.
When I got it all set up, I was surprised to realise that it had built-in speakers. I plugged the cable in and tried out the speakers - they ain't too shabby either! Almost as good as the desktop ones I have. The only reason why I'm not using the built-in speakers full-time is due to the lack of bass. Since I play games, explosions and gunfire won't feel as "frantic" with weak bass coming from the monitor.
The second reason is that the stereo separation isn't wide enough - left and right speakers sound like coming directly in front of me from the monitor.
HOWEVER, should my desktop speakers ever die on me (hah!), I'd have no problems plugging the monitor straight to the soundcard, and probably hold off buying new speakers till a pair of good ones come along.
The first thing I had to do when I got going with the new monitor was - to increase my mouse acceleration. I couldn't reach the sides of the screen with the old settings *grin*. Yeah, the new monitor had a resolution of 1920x1080, heaps higher than the old 1280x1024 - 700 pixels more to traverse with the same wrist-flick.
The next thing I noticed with this monitor is that now, my games look blocky on their previous settings of 1280x1024 (which was the max on my older LCD monitor). I finally settled on 1280x720 instead of going higher, because my current graphics card will start to stutter. *sigh*. I should have gotten the ATI 4850 instead. No I will not get a new graphics card, this one still works fine. I just have to set the resolution to 1280x720 and things will be pretty smooth most times.
My second new toy is a 1 Terabyte harddisk. Yes, that's 1,000 Gigabytes. 4 times bigger than a 250GB drive. Yeah I was running out of space all the time on my old 250GB drive. Yes I know, PC Show was just here in June. No I didn't go squeeze with the rest of Singapore. Besides, prices can't be that much lower in PC Show than in Sim Lim, and I don't mind paying $5 more to avoid the crowds.
So, with the new disk, I moved all my data and games out to the new 1TB drive, and re-partitioned the old 250GB drive into 2 equal 125GB partitions - 1 for OS, and 1 for "temp files". You know, those junk you download and for the internet cache.
Yeah, this is basically what I've been doing the past week - just mucking around with new hardware.
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16:11 by FoxTwo plurk thread here and then people were curious why I was so adamant about not supporting the particular bank mentioned.
These are 2 long stories, so be prepared if you are kaypoh enough to want to know more.
Bad Experience 1 - Standard Chartered Bank
Years ago, I was using Standard Chartered for personal credit as well as credit card facilities. They have a weird billing cycle - 22nd of each month. At the time, I was working at a company where the payday was 25th of every month. Due to the efficiency of Standard Chartered's banking systems, I was slapped with a late charge for payment by the time I make a transfer payment via Internet banking, and for the payment to clear by around 27th or 28th of the month.
After speaking to them numerous times about just moving the date forward a couple of days so I won't be penalised with a late charge, one particular officer told me that the best way was to go down PERSONALLY to the counter EVERY MONTH to make payments. Alternatively I could call in every month to have them waive the late charge.
Where is the logic of that? The whole point of us having Internet banking is so that we can pay bills and do our finances without having to rush to be stuck in a queue for hours!
Even going up the chain to the supervisor and department head made no difference. Everyone was apologetic but said the date had to stay at 22nd due to system limitations, and they would bill me a late charge by 25th automatically if payment is not received by then.
Eventually when Standard Chartered refused to budge, I canceled all accounts with them and swore never to use them again. Yes, since then I have never entertained a single call about a Standard Chartered promotion.
Bad Experience 2 - OCBC Bank
This one is more recent, as recent as May 2009. This one is indeed a long story.
Many years ago, I had a personal credit account with Keppel-Tat Lee Bank. They got bought eventually by OCBC, and thus my account just got "absorbed" by OCBC. Hence, I am clarifying I did not choose them on my own.
This account was to be my "emergency funds" account, for times when I needed extra cash really bad. For years this was a "dormant account" and I paid the annual fee of $60 without complaints to keep it alive.
This "emergency" really did come, around May 2008. A family situation called for funds, which I took from this credit line, being the sole purpose of its existence. When the crisis was over, I made full payment, over the counter, at Raffles Place branch, on 29th Aug 2008.
Now, as usual, I expected that when I pay in full, the account will be $0 owing to the bank. Hence I never bothered to check the monthly "statements" since it's always been $0 for the past like 6 or 7 years when I have never used it.
So, I was surprised to receive a call from OCBC in December 2008, about owing them over $130 in this account still. After I had explained that I paid in full, eventually the customer service officer said that she would waive all the penalties and fees, if I made a payment of $10.93 by 5pm that very same day via AXS, to settle the "original amount owing". I did that. A couple of days later I called the OCBC hotline to reconfirm the account was showing $0 owing to the bank.
Again, since the account was $0, I never bothered to check the statements from OCBC.
A rude shock awaited me in Feb or early March 2009. Another call came from OCBC, telling me I still owed them $175! Again, after explanations, the officer said he would waive all other charges if I made a payment of $70. I did that.
By this time, I was a little fed up, and called the OCBC Hotline again and asked why they kept charging me for money I never borrowed. I was told the account was a "daily interest" one, and that as long as there was a "leftover amount" in the account, the minimum amount of $5 finance charge would be levied. Hence my $175 was due to a $5 "fee" being laid on a couple of cents leftover from December's $10.93 interest, before payment. And since I never checked the statements, they levied late charges, and interest charges on the late charges, and so on and it snowballed to $175.
So I decided enough was enough, and I canceled the account on March 30, a Monday. Before I did that, I called the hotline up again at 11.29am, and reconfirmed once and for all, the account was showing $0 outstanding owing to the bank. I was assured that it was.
I headed to Ang Mo Kio Hub branch during lunch, and got into queue. When it was my turn, it was 12.18pm. The counter girl who processed my cancellation request told me I still had $1.07 outstanding, owed to the bank. At this point I was already more than slightly miffed. I told her that just 45 mins ago, they told me it was $0. Where did the $1.07 come from?
The girl disappeared into the offices behind for about 10 minutes, and appeared later and told me she would proceed to close the account, and that the $1.07 would be waived. Yes they should, because if they told me to pay it, I'd refuse to.
Anyway, I thought that once I had cancelled the account, that was the end of that.
Sometime in April, again I got a call from OCBC. This time, it was the "Retentions Department" that was calling me, attempting to dissuade me from canceling. In other words, according to their system, my account was still ACTIVE.
I told them of my frustrations at not being able to pay up in full and zero the account, they said they would investigate and call me back.
This happened 2 or 3 more times from April to May 2009.
Take note, during all this time, my account was still "active" and hence, being slapped with a $5 on the $1.07 they were supposed to "waive" but never did, and $40 for "late charges" on the non-payment of the $1.07 +$5+interest. Remember to double this amount, for the months of April and May which they spent trying to persuade me to stay.
At one of the final few conversation with the Retentions Officer, she happened to mumble that she would "waive" the outstanding charges on my account if I decided to stay with them, to which I interjected - "See? I closed it in March, your counter girl said you will waive the $1.07, and yet now you tell me I have amounts outstanding?"
Again, she would "investigate and call back".
At the final conversation around beginning of May with yet another Retentions Officer, she assured me the account was finally showing $0 owed, and persuaded me to retain my account. After much persuasion, I finally relented, with a condition - if I checked the following month's bill and if it said I owe them any amount, I would NOT be paying for it. She agreed, gave me her name and office number and invited me to contact her should this happen.
Again, I thought that was the end of the whole incident. Little did I know one more surprise was to await me 2 weeks later.
I got yet another call from OCBC, and this time the officer told me "Sir, I am sorry to inform you that your application for personal credit has been rejected".
I was laughing. Rejected? For keeping my account active?
I sure as hell didn't "apply" for it. They spent 2 months persuading me to stay! Eventually when I said YES, they REJECTED me! It's really hilarious, since this achieved the same goal I had on 30 March when I went to close the account in the first place!
I told the officer it was ok, and I was glad they did. That definitely ended my frustrating saga with OCBC bank, which dragged on for MONTHS.
If I didn't know better, they were acting like kids.. I cannot be the one to reject them, they must get in the last word and reject me.
Guess what, OCBC? I don't really care, as long as you don't get any more of my money through your subterfuge charges.
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11:45 by FoxTwo
For anyone who still doesn't know, here's what was written in the newspapers:
Foolish to advocate the learning of dialects
I REFER to yesterday’s article by Ms Jalelah Abu Baker (’One generation - that’s all it takes ‘for a language to die”). It mentioned a quote from Dr Ng Bee Chin, acting head of Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies: ‘Although Singaporeans are still multilingual, 40 years ago, we were even more multilingual. Young children are not speaking some of these languages at all any more.’
To keep a language alive, it has to be used regularly. Using one language more frequently means less time for other languages. Hence, the more languages a person learns, the greater the difficulties of retaining them at a high level of fluency.
There are linguistically gifted individuals who can handle multiple languages, but Singapore’s experience over 50 years of implementing the bilingual education policy has shown that most people find it extremely difficult to cope with two languages when they are as diverse as English and Mandarin.
This is why we have discouraged the use of dialects. It interferes with the learning of Mandarin and English. Singaporeans have to master English. It is our common working language and the language which connects us with the world.
We also emphasised the learning of Mandarin, to make it the mother tongue for all Chinese Singaporeans, regardless of their dialect groups. This is the common language of the 1.3 billion people in China. To engage China, overseas Chinese and foreigners are learning Mandarin and not the dialects of the different Chinese provinces.
We have achieved progress with our bilingual education in the past few decades. Many Singaporeans are now fluent in both English and Mandarin. It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.
That was the reason the Government stopped all dialect programmes on radio and television after 1979. Not to give conflicting signals, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew also stopped making speeches in Hokkien, which he had become fluent in after frequent use since 1961.
Chee Hong Tat
Principal Private Secretary
to the Minister Mentor
I have highlighted 2 portions in bold italics, because I totally disagree with the statement. First of all, dialects do not "interfere" with learning other languages. Personal interests do. If you have no interest in Mandarin, you will NEVER learn it, even if you speak only ONE language. I will illustrate with a personal example.
Why? Because I didn't like it. If I don't like it, I don't want to learn it.
So, why do you think that English is a stumbling block for the majority of Singaporeans? In my experience, it's because it's too different from Mandarin. The majority of the people think in Chinese (dialects or Mandarin) and translate that into English. That's how Singlish was born. Seriously. In other countries, this would be called "Chinglish", or, Chinese-English.
When they encounter an unfamiliar word in English, they stop. They don't know how it's pronounced, much less what it means. This is the typical way a Chinese-language speaker thinks, because in Chinese, when you encounter an unfamiliar character, there is no way to know how it's pronounced.
In English, however, we have phonetics. If you know the basics of it, you can break a word up into its component vowels and consonants, and pronounce it. Conversely, if you hear a word being spoken but don't recognise it, you can actually spell it out from the way it's pronounced. This is how phonetics work.
But I digress. In my family, before I went to school, we spoke English and Teochew at home, and Malay and English at my grandparents' place. My mom could have spoken Mandarin to us, but she didn't. She thought it was important that we spoke Teochew since we're all "Teochew nang", albeit Peranakan Teochews.
I never learnt Mandarin till I was 7 years old, when it was taught in school. I was doing fine till Primary 6, where I had a very fierce and very strict male Chinese teacher. He made classes intimidating, and thus I lost all interest in it. I scraped by every exam eversince, getting a C6 (or borderline pass) till I was in JC. During the final year, I failed Chinese simply because I was getting left too far behind due to lack of interest in the earlier years, and no teachers ever since had been "outstanding" enough to make learning Mandarin fun.
Now, learning dialects is probably less destructive on Mandarin than on English, simply because written dialects are generally the same as written Mandarin. Seriously. In most common dialects found in Singapore, like Hokkien and Teochew, if you were to write what you said in Hokkien down on paper, someone else can pick this piece of paper up and read it out loud in Mandarin. The only difference is just in pronunciation. Sentence structures are essentially the same.
So, if you're pushing to learn Mandarin, what is the harm to learn a dialect while you're at it? It's just a pronunciation change.
I learnt Hokkien this way actually. Since Hokkien and Teochew are similar, all I needed to remember were the different ways (and tone inflexions) to pronounce a Teochew word, to convert it to Hokkien. For example, "sweet" as in "it tastes sweet" is pronounced as "tiam" in Teochew, but "tee" in Hokkien. Just a slight change. In most cases, Teochew and Hokkien words are pronounced the same way, with just a change of inflexions of certain words.
I learnt Cantonese at 4 years old because my next-door neighbour was a Cantonese, and her kid spoke Cantonese and English, and, she was my playmate. Notice that I learnt it because it was FUN to learn, and I was HAVING FUN while doing it. If there was a Cantonese phrase or word I didn't understand, she would explain it to me in English.
So instead of saying that it's "stupid" to advocate learning dialects, try making learning English and Mandarin fun first.
Or is it "stupid" to have fun in class?
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13:24 by FoxTwo
Due to habit, I click refresh to see the latest updates from my friends, on the Home Page. Lo and Behold, what do I see?
Yes indeed, it seems that the former Facebook layout is coming back! However, right now it's kind of a hit-and-miss thing. Sometimes when I click refresh, I get the old layout. Other times, the new.
What I can speculate is that perhaps, the Facebook Team is rolling back the changes they made, and they are now synchronising all the servers to update them all. That would explain the randomly alternating between the old and new layouts.
Or perhaps Facebook is experiencing a server or database problem and their engineers are fixing it..
Well I sure hope the old layout is coming back!!Links to this post |
13:40 by FoxTwo
Hah ok yeah so I'm 5 days late. I've been busy ok?
On New Year's Eve, 31 Dec 2008, I was with Endoh, Xizor, and Xinyun. You can see a pic of the celebration here at xinyun's blog.
I just want to show the video of the whole scene a few mins after the picture taken by xy :)
Heh nice eh?Links to this post |
00:53 by FoxTwo Image via WikipediaLong long time ago, when man finally made a miniature clock small enough to put into the pocket, the watch industry was created. Through the years, the Swiss made a name for themselves in their craftsmanship in making watches.
Fast forward to modern day, the 21st century.
Now we have watches with tiny pieces of rocks inside it, called "quartz watches". They are supposed to keep very accurate time. Because quartz's (quartzes? quartzi?) need a current to be passed through them to cause them to vibrate and keep time, our watches no longer are just mechanical. Now, they have a power source, and are electrically powered! Witness the advent of Casio, Seiko, Citizen and a whole slew of other non-swiss watchmakers. The quartz truly did revolutionise the industry!
With this spawned a whole breed of humans, who are known as watch fanatics (or "fan" for short). Like any other fans, be it sounds (audiophiles), cars, bikes, planes etc. These people know everything there is to know about their favourite topic.
One particular argument that keeps popping up with watches and fans is the debate about "accuracy". Swiss or Japan? Which is more accurate?
Some people don't mind the watch being off by a few seconds a day. Some people are anal-retentive about their watches being off by even 1 second a week. Yes, even with a quartz, watches DO gain or lose time. Like all things man-made, it's not perfect. A quartz vibrates at a frequency that enables time to be kept more accurately than say, a pendulum, or water drips from a water clock. However, it still isn't "perfect". Perhaps the vibration is off by a few hundred beats a second, and the makers think that these few hundred beats equate to less than a few millionth of a second, so it's "ok" to ignore it.
It's just like 22/7 is a rough approximation of pi. It's close, but not a match.
Personally I don't mind that the watch loses or gains a few seconds a MONTH. However, I do adjust the watches I have every month to sync with atomic time. Why? It's just something I enjoy doing - to correct the time on my watches every month.
Eventually I learned that my Casios are the "least accurate" of all my watches. My oldest Casio G-shock can gain as much as 40 seconds a month. The most accurate was a Victorinox watch given to me by good old SAF to thank me for my years of Reservist training. That watch was only out 1 second every TWO MONTHS. Unfortunately, this particular watch died an early death. I replaced the battery on it one day, and then it died. Getting it fixed would cost me almost $100. I decided to not fix it. I may as well go out there and buy a new watch. If I added up all the costs of replacing all my watch batteries, I'd have spent like $50 every couple of years just to keep all of them running.
Hence, I have decided to stop buying watches that require battery replacements. That meant kinetics or solar powered watches. There's really only 1 brand that does kinetic watches - Seiko. Yes I own one of those. Not really the most accurate - it gains 1 second every 2 days. In other words, it'll be always 15 seconds too fast every month.
(No, an "automatic" is technically not a "kinetic", even if both use the body movements to generate power. An automatic watch is purely mechanical. Gears and springs make it work. A Kinetic watch uses electricity and a quartz crystal to keep time)
As for my solar powered watches - I have a cheap Casio. That one loses 1 second every 3 days. In other words, it's 10 seconds slow every month. Well it's cheap - only $50. What is ironic, is that my $50 Casio is "more accurate" than my $600 Seiko Kinetic (15 seconds fast every month). It also points something out - even if the watch is made by the same maker, it's not a given that it has the same kind of accuracy in every watch that it makes. Note my earlier reference to a Casio G-shock watch that is out 40 seconds a month which I bought way back in 1994 or so.
My Timex is also solar powered, and thus far it's more accurate that any watches I have that is still working. This is only my 2nd week owning it, and so far it's lost 2 seconds. Extrapolating, it will be 4 seconds slow every month. Not bad for a "cheap" $120 watch. But it still hurts to think my $600 watch is not the most "accurate".
Why all these talk about accuracy, especially when it's only mere seconds "off"?
No, it's not because my life is ruled by time down to the last second. It's just the watch geek in me that would like to have bragging rights about the watches I own. Unless someone owns a working atomic watch here in Singapore (such as one of those in the Waveceptor series by Casio), there is no way to automatically adjust the time-keeping function of a watch.
So I guess, "accuracy" is relative. Compared to the early 19th century watches, what we have today are highly accurate. Our watches are just mere seconds "off" every month.
ps: the clocks in your computer is also not accurate. It uses the CPU frequency to regulate time, and thus, computers do not need a quartz crystal. That is why we have clock-sync software to sync your computer time with atomic clocks on the Internet. If you pay attention to your computer clock, you will notice that on some days, it loses more seconds per day than other days. Why? Because different software you run, stresses your CPU differently. Running CPU-intensive apps will slow your computer clock down, because CPU time is taken away from updating the clock.
pps: the clocks on your mobile phones work on the same priciple too - your phone has a CPU, and the time is regulated the same way. Unless your telco is able to send clock-sync signals to your phone, your phone will be "off" every month by a few seconds too.
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13:08 by FoxTwo
So off I went, to Harvey Norman, Best Denki, Courts et al, to check prices and see if there were any promotional items or free gifts, since this is after all, Christmas period.
Courts staff need more training. Seriously. Their service was the most appalling among all the electrical retail stores I have visited. I have already done SOME research, I already knew roughly the kind of air conditioner units I wanted. Yet this promoter or sales person kept pushing me to a "special offer" of "only $2999", because the unit has been discounted from $3600. She kept repeating "You save $600!" and "You get what you pay for" when I said $3K was out of my pricepoint. Besides, it was a System 3, and I wanted a System 2. I don't wanna do up a 3rd room just to "save $600"!
It got so irritating that I almost said "Look, I might save $600 on this if I buy, but if I don't buy I save $3600, understand?". I had already told her I was looking for something in the range of $1500 to $2500 max. No higher. In any case, I finally said "Look, thanks for your time, but apparently Courts does not have anything that I would be interested in" and left.
However the story was vastly different in Gain City. When I entered, I asked to look at something about $1.5K. He showed me some models. When I said I wanted an invertor unit, he looked at me apologetically and said "Sorry sir, but the cheapest invertor unit is about $2000. I am afraid we don't have anything you might want.", which impressed me.
As we talked, the Gain City personnel was honest and very helpful. He laid out the pros and cons of various units, as well as some advice on their maintenance and upkeep. He even calculated "contingency costs", for example, when I wasn't sure if my window could accomodate the compressor unit, or whether I had a spare power box for the aircon.
When I asked, just for the hell of it, for a System 3 unit, he did a quick calculation and showed me the result, and said "if you want to stick to your budget, a System 3 is out".
Eventually, through his helpful and honest opinions and advice, I actually went above my budget and got a unit plus installation plus extended warranty et al, for $2994. Plus, it is a "4-tick" unit as opposed to a "3-tick" one I was ready to buy.
Yeah, I could have spent $3K if I wanted to. I just didn't want to at Courts. As a matter of fact, the Gain City personnel didn't even persuade me to go above my budget at all. All he did was dispense honest advice, and calculated costs to show the customer. He let the customer do all the deciding.
Yeah and that is what I purchased.
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13:53 by FoxTwo
Problem is, Casios can last pretty damn long. I still have the original $20 Casio watch I bought when I was a young strapping lad of 19 going into the army. After numerous battery changes through the years, I decided to stop spending money on that watch to change the battery back in 2005 when it ran out. Since then, I've stopped replacing batteries for my watches when they run out, one by one.
So yeah, now I'm left with a drawer full of watches with dead batteries.
Nowadays though, I'm more eco-friendly. I only buy watches that are solar-powered or kinetic powered. In other words, no need for battery changes. Um ok I admit, it's more like I'm lazy to bring the watch in for battery replacements :)
So anyway, currently I own a Seiko Kinetic watch, and a Casio Tough Solar watch (not a G-shock). Both of these are "dress watches", suitable for office. Recently though, I was thinking that I wanted a third watch, for weekend and rough wear. Casio, through the years, have steadily increased their prices till they are no longer the "cheap" and "throwaway" watch brand anymore. Also, the G-Shock range have very limited solar-powered watches in the lineup which I like. Even if I do like the watch, I don't like the price.
Thus I went hunting for the next best alternative - Timex Ironman series. Yes they are the "G-Shock" of the Timex line. Timex have typically been cheaper than Casio, and thus I found what I wanted - a rugged solar-powered weekend rough-wear watch, the Timex Solar Dual Tech T5G7019J. Checking around in Singapore, my jaw dropped at the asking prices - typically in excess of S$250!
Now, converting the RRP of US$110 listed on the Timex webpage, it should cost no more than about S$170 even with a conservative exchange rate. After rummaging through the Internet for abit, I realised that watches can be bought very much cheaper from the Internet, than I could by going to a watch store like City Chain.
I located a US company that sells the model I wanted, for only US$60. Yes, only US$60! Even after adding shipping to it, it was US$80. That means I pay only like S$120 or so. Yup, I went ahead and ordered it. No it wasn't on ebay :) Truth to tell, the people selling them on ebay was asking for more than US$60 for it anyway. So yeah, ebay is not always the cheapest place to buy things.
Amazingly, the watch arrived in only 5 business days. Less than a week! I'm impressed!
Now, being a Casio user for most of my life, owning a Timex watch is similar to suddenly switching from a Nokia to a Sony Ericsson phone. While the buttons and functions might be similar, the way to operate and set the watch is ever-so-slightly different. For example, you need to press-and-hold the button to reset or perform some operations. Also, for the stopwatch function, the start and stop buttons are 2 separate buttons instead of the same button. That threw me off slightly, because I'm so used to pressing the same button for start and stop.
The other thing is that the word "SOLAR" which you can see in the picture, is actually printed on the watch glass, at the 9 o'clock position. That means that if it's 9 o'clock, you can't see the hands, or at least not the hour hand. It's hidden behind that printing. It also means that at any hour and 45 mins, you also can't see the minute hand.
That irritated me slightly. Timex shouldn't have made such a boo-boo on a watch this way. Why have hands when it's going to be obscured by printing?
What I do like about the watch is that when it's being charged (which is nearly all the time), and the battery isn't full, you can see a blinking battery icon, so you know that it's being charged. If it isn't blinking, ie not being charged, it shows the battery power level, like on a mobile phone. This is better than on my Casio, which only shows "Hi, Med, Lo" for the battery power level, and does nothing to indicate when the watch is charging the battery up.
Yeah to charge the watch, just face it to a light source, like an open window, or towards a light bulb.
Coincidentally, the Timex uses the same rechargeable battery as the Casio - ML2016.
I'd probably have to replace the batteries on the watch some time in the future, but I'm thinking it won't be anytime soon. Rechargeable batteries can last for a pretty long time, even decades.
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10:04 by FoxTwo
I seem to be running into problem after problem in my life, and on hindsight, it appears I'm having a streak of bad luck. I can't say it's "poor planning" because all these are beyond my control.
Bad luck #1 - I decided to sign up with Skype for "unlimited phone calls" to Singapore, my caller-ID wouldn't work correctly. After submitting a ticket for assistance, Skype Support is still unable, as yet, to fix this problem, and it's been a month. This is not a big problem, I can still use Skype to call OUT to phones in Singapore. It's just a minor irritation that I know a number of people whom I call, do NOT pick up "Private Numbers" or "Withheld" calls, and I can't blame them completely.
I was like that once, too.
I even have a couple of friends who run phone "firewalls" to bar unknown numbers from calling them. If you're not calling from a number they have in their phonebook, your call automatically gets dropped.
Bad luck #2 - So after running into this problem, I found a better solution - I signed up with pfingo. pfingo offers a free Singapore number, so caller-ID became a non-issue with them. My problem with pfingo however, is very weird. Even I cannot explain it, and I bet the tech support people there are scratching their heads about my problem too. Every so often, quite randomly in fact, incoming calls to my pfingo number will have no sound. So even if I pick up the call and answer it, both me and the caller can't hear anything. I have submitted a ticket for this problem, and pfingo support is still actively working on it.
Bad luck #3 - Recently I purchased an item on the internet, after looking around Singapore and finding exhorbitant prices being asked for that item here as compared to the Internet. After going ahead to purchase it, and getting a confirmation that the item has been shipped, I am unable to track it. Even on the website where I bought it, their system couldn't find the ORDER NUMBER too! Have written to their customer support, but have received no replies yet.
The only "good" thing about this is that my credit card is not charged for the amount yet.
Well, if you want to avoid having bad luck, don't hang around me for the moment. My bad luck might rub off on you!Links to this post |
11:28 by FoxTwo Youtube to Vimeo. At the time, Vimeo was an up-and-coming startup, and it offered some features which I liked. For example, no 10 minute limit, weekly 500MB uploads, and your videos can be in High Definition!
All these made me choose Vimeo over other sites like Viddler or metacafe or veoh.
However, just today, I got a short and terse email from Vimeo:
"Your account has been removed. Reason: Gameplay videos not allowed"
Um wha~~!? I've been uploading gameplay videos since Jan or Feb 2008 and nobody said anything about it. In fact I don't even remember reading anything about their usage policy saying that we can't upload videogame captures! Besides, I distinctly remember seeing other gameplay videos from other people on Vimeo too!
Now, if the rules changed mid-way, shouldn't a site like Vimeo send an email out to all members to tell them to click on ACCEPT on the new Terms Of Service? Well no such email came. No blinking "we updated our terms of service, please read" words appeared on my dashboard or whatever whenever I logged in to upload videos.
In other words, I didn't know.
They removed my account without warning. NONE. Just a short, terse, "your account has been removed" email.
So how does a user take steps to remedy a situation before account removal happens? No chance to even delete/remove them on my own accord to keep my account.
So if you are looking for a video sharing site, do NOT use Vimeo! No, not even if your videos are non-gameplay videos. The way they do things is not .... reasonable.
I guess I'm switching AGAIN... maybe Veoh, maybe Dailymotion. Who knows?Links to this post |
10:08 by FoxTwo
It's the first anniversary of this domain - foxtwo.org. I registered this one year ago at the recommendation of xinyun during a conversation.
Incidentally, today is also xinyun's 1st anniversary of her own domain too.
02:02 by FoxTwo Image by sean dreilinger via Flickr With recent announcements of price increases from Singtel on their fixed line subscriptions, I just had to stop and review the situation. Now, adding 0.1 cent per 30 secs (or 60 secs off peak) is a very very small amount. Tiny, in fact. In total it's just $10 per year, the price of one pack of cigarettes.
Being the lazy-assed bum that I am, I was going to just "leave it alone". It's just $10 more.
However, my recent mobile bills have been climbing too. Part of the increase is due to work. The other part, a more major part, is due to personal stuff. It is also fortunate that I am currently contract-less in the mobile department - I can "jump ship" anytime I wanted to. My contract ran out in May actually, and the only reason I stayed with Singtel is because I've been such a loyal and faithful customer since the 80's (OMG is it 20 years already?!)
Also, suddenly work requirements stipulated that I need to enter several sensitive (and hence, "high security") areas on a frequent basis, and hence phones with cameras are disallowed. Now, I personally think that this is a stupid rule. If I truly had bad intentions, I'd have no problems sketching out whatever I need using a pen and some paper. Having a camera just makes it more convenient to plan dastardly deeds, that's all. Disallowing cameras just makes it a tad harder, but not prevent it.
In any case, my first thoughts are - how many modern phones today come without a camera? A quick search through CNet showed only a handful. Choices are truly limited. Personally I don't mind a phone without a camera. What I do mind is that I can't get the phone(s) I really want because they come with a camera. Phone manufacturers should really make more camera-free versions of their phones!
Also, my Sony Ericsson phone has just decided to introduce me to yet another hidden feature - auto-poweroff-at-random-times. Yeah, in my opinion, Sony Ericsson stuff suck really bad. And, I don't mean just their phones.
So, this really provided me the push I needed to evaluate my position with Singtel. Since I needed a new, non-camera-enabled phone, that would mean signing a contract with a provider just to get the phone I am limited to, for free or almost free.
After reviewing my choices, M1 seemed to have the best combination of perks vs price. Starhub was a close second. The only thing Singtel got going was that I'd get the phone free if I signed a contract with them. The thing that made me consider Starhub over M1 was simple - price. While I may need to pay an amount for the phone (under $50), I'll get something like 30% discount off my bill because once I subscribe to Starhub, I automatically become a "Hubber" since my Cable TV and Internet connection are all under Starhub. Besides, my work areas are usually in town anyway, so Starhub's rumoured "sucky coverage" in Jurong is irrelevent to me.
With full Number Portability, there isn't really much incentive to stick with Singtel. Nobody needed to be informed of my "new number" since it'll still be the same. The second thing is that Starhub has a dataplan that is cheaper than Singtel's, meaning it has an "in-between" plan that Singtel doesn't. I'm not a lite user (10MB?! Who the hell surfs as little as 20 web pages in a month?), but I'm not always on the mobile broadband to require a 50GB limit a month and a speed of 1 or 2 or even 3Mbps. Yeah Singtel's plans only go up to 3mbps.
Starhub's "in-between" plan which I am currently on, called the "MaxMobile Value", has no speed limits. It'll go as fast as your phone is capable of (and on my new NOKIA camera-less phone, that's 7.2mbps if I am hooked onto a 3.5G GPRS connection). Although the "free bundled data" is just $30 (or 10MB) worth, the subscription is only $5. Besides, even if I do exceed the "free bundled data", the plan caps it all at about $36. Yes, even if I do exceed like crazy, like maybe downloading stuff or whatever and using up 200GB, they'll just bill me for $36. Yes I confirmed this with Starhub, both on the hotline as well as in person at the counter when I was signing up a new line with them.
As a clarification, the MaxMobile Surflite plan may be "unlimited", but it's a constant $38 a month. Plus, according to them, you can't have it on your phone. You need to get a USB device. The helpdesk has no answers to this, because I told them technically this was POSSIBLE since it's also using the GPRS network. All they can say is that company policy requires the subscriber to pick up a USB device and it won't be activated on a phone. So if you want an unlimited plan on a phone, you need to get the MaxMobile Ultimate which will set you back $72 a month.
Since I needed it on the phone, I dropped one level down to the MaxMobile Value plan. Besides, even if I exceed the provided 10MB "free data" like crazy it's still capped at $36. That's still $2 cheaper :) That's like having an unlimited data plan for $36 instead of $38. This plan also means that I don't pay $36 every month, because the amount is variable depending on whether I exceed by a lot or very little.
With all these "plus" factors, Starhub gets my money. And I got a new Nokia phone off them too. Yeah, no more Sony Ericssons for me! Oh yeah, I am also swapping my Singtel fixed line phone over to Starhub's Digital Voice. Now, I am completely Singtel-free!
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13:13 by FoxTwo DK had a plurk about having dinner at a German place, Brotzeit, and a few of us responded. So, the gathering actually happened (on 25 Sept) and we converged on City Hall at 7pm.
I met up with xinyun beforehand though, because I'm shy like that :) When we arrived at the place, xinyun's bionic eyes found DK even before I could scan the whole place. She even said "Nicole's sitting beside him" and I didn't even see anybody looking like either DK or Nicole.
Anyway I found them finally, sitting in a secluded corner (*wink wink*).
Pretty soon, we got down to ordering the food. Now, this place is a German joint, so the menu items had German names. Needless to say I couldn't pronounce three-quarters of the names on the menu, much less have an idea of what's in them. I just decided to get sausages and pointed randomly to an item on the menu to the waitress. DK, xinyun and Nicole had something called "Pork Knuckles".
Here's a shot of the dish, courtesy of xinyun using my camera :) If you think it's big, you are right. It's positively HUGE!
Xizor was seated next to xinyun and this is what he had:
Here's a 2nd shot from another angle:
Yeah those are Xizor's hands attacking the sausages :)
When my order finally came, what I had ordered was actually this:
Remember, I had no idea what I ordered, and when it came, I had a slight feeling of being let-down. Xinyun's ter kah looked so big and juicy, and mine looked pathetic. Just 3 sausages floating in water, and a bagel.
Surprisingly though, what I ordered was good, and pretty filling. Didn't really leave me craving for more food after I was done with it. Xinyun was very generous though - she kept giving me and Xizor small portions of her ter kah asking us to try it. I must say, it was indeed tasty!
Everyone then ordered their Oktoberfest beers, except me. I just had iced coffee. Yeah I know, although I am classified as a "drinker", I don't drink beer (except for Kilkenny or Hoe Gaarden). Beer makes me feel full and burp constantly which I hate.
Brotzeit is a nice enough place, but I doubt I'll ever go in there alone, or on my own at least. No, it's not that the food isn't good. In fact the food was more than satisfactory. What will be stopping me is that the menu items were all unpronounceable to me :) Full, authentic German names.
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01:38 by FoxTwo The White Rabbit.
So, it was set. We headed to The White Rabbit.
First impression - the place was posh. It was indeed posh, as we later found out (at the bill). Secondly, it was a nice place indeed. Ambience was cosy, and best of all, food was good! Since I have already eaten dinner that day prior to us going to The White Rabbit, I only ordered side dishes and a salad.
I ordered the Macaroni and Cheese side-dish. I can't help it, I love cheese. When the dish came, I tucked in. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The cheese was creamy, and full of texture. Everyone else also tried a small portion, and all agreed that it was good indeed. In my opinion the Mac And Cheese is the best I have ever tasted. Kudos!
She ordered something that looked yummy too. Sorry I forget the name. Here's a pic of that dish, and I wish I could remember the name now.
After dinner we ordered a whole bunch of desserts. My drinking buddy and I shared a Banana Split.
Honestly though, the banana split wasn't that fantastic. I can honestly say that Swenson's has better Banana Splits than White Rabbit. However, all is not lost. The other dessert, Mars Bars Souffle, was good!
Here it is. We were joking "Where are the Mars bars?". Seriously though, this is good too!
On the whole, we agreed that The White Rabbit had good food, and nice cosy ambience. Coincidentally, there was an event happening on that particular Saturday. It seemed that Mumm's champagne was having a promotion, and there was a free flow of Mumm's champagne out in the yard. Unfortunately though, free flow was restricted to only ladies.
We did hang around for a little bit, just so the ladies could have a go at the free champagne.
All in all, The White Rabbit is a nice place to go. However, be warned - it's not your average run-of-the-mill restaurant and bar. Expect to pay - A LOT.
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23:29 by FoxTwo
It's been 7 years since the world changed. I remember that back on 11th Sept 2001, the fateful day, I was writing on my (then) soapbox, complaining about something. That was like 9am in the morning, Singapore time.
I remember that I got home from work, went online and played Neverwinter Nights with my buddies from USA, Australia, Spain and Netherlands. I remember that suddenly, the American members of the party just stopped their attacks and heals, and the rest of us died. Then one of the Americans said "OH MY GOD! TURN ON YOUR TV QUICK!"
It was 8.55pm. I remember it very clearly. I was still joking in party-chat "Hey you forget, not all of us are Americans. What's on our TV won't be the same as what's on yours". None of the Americans in the party moved their characters. No one typed anything. For a full 10 mins or so, the rest of us non-Americans kept asking them what's up.
Finally one replied - "The New York twin towers are burning!".
30 mins later, when news came on at 9.30pm here in Singapore, the grim footage was shown to us. It was very surreal. It just looked like something out of a Hollywood disaster movie. Except this time, it was real.
The game was very quickly forgotten. The party moved into a tavern and we just talked. No attacking monsters, no running, no nothing. We just sat at the tavern and talked. When the towers collapsed later, people started logging off. The whole PW (persistent world) started to become scarce, which is not surprising since the server is an American server, and most players on it would be Americans.
(Remember this was waaayyyy before social 3D worlds existed. This was back in 2001, and games like Neverwinter Nights were revolutionary back then)
Makes me think that the "bad day" I had at work today paled in comparison to the bad day 4000 Americans had back in 2001... they perished.
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11:37 by FoxTwo Image via Wikipedia Some time last week, my PC died on me. That would kind of explain my disappearance from Plurk, as well as the sudden dearth of updates on this blog.
Due to some unfortunate circumstances, I'm also currently a little tight on budget, hence I couldn't spend too much to replace my dead PC. Thus began my trek down to SLS (Sim Lim Square), the Holy Shrine Of All Things Technological. I kept chanting "Under $500, under $500" to reinforce in myself that I shouldn't exceed my budget even if I come across something that is totally awesomely cool, and to stick to the plan.
So naturally I popped in to Bell Systems up on the 5th floor. It has kinda become my "regular" place eversince my old "regular" shop closed down. For one thing, their service there is actually pretty dang good. They don't bug you or recommend outrageously-priced items hoping to make another sale. As an illustration, I told them my budget was $500. After some calculations, they recommended I go with an AMD system instead of an Intel system, and the whole thing would cost $400 with the case (as opposed to $600+ for an Intel system).
So yeah, I took their advice (which seem pretty reasonable) and went with the best that is available within my budget. In fact, I'd say my new "budget system" is out-performing my old top-of-the-line system by far. Comparing the prices I paid for, this current system is a steal. The old one cost me $1600 approximately. Current one is 1/4 the price!
I tested my usual games on the new PC and yeah, they do play smoother, and I could increase the graphics quality too with no significant loss of framerates.
I have friends who asked me why I didn't want to head down to Comex (which was on at the time I was getting this new system). My reason is simple - at Sim Lim Square, you can custom build your own system. You don't have to "settle" for anything. For example, I chose not to put in a floppy drive for this new PC (seriously, when was the last time you stuck a floppy disk into your PC?) but replaced that drive bay with a slew of memory card readers - SD, MMC, Memory Stick, CF etc. So yeah now I dun need to stick any card readers into USB slots to read my SD cards.
Also, I could install ANY OS I want to on custom-built machines. I could install Linux, or Vista, or XP, or whatever. No they don't do OS installations - they just build the machine for me. I bring it home and do the installations myself.
One thing I can say - RAMS are getting cheaper. I should have gotten 4GBs instead of just 2GBs, for about $27 or so per GB. I think I'll pop by soon and grab 2GB more, and run this PC on dual-channel RAMs instead. Should improve performance somewhat.
So in summary - for just $400 I could get a pretty good system. The motherboard I got was a Gigabyte GA-MA78GM-S2H board. Yeah I'm a Gigabyte fan. In my opinion they make the most stable motherboards around. Yes I value stability over "overclockability". As for the CPU, it's an AMD Athlon x2 5000, so it's like about 2.5Ghz per core. What I saved on was the graphics card - ATI Radeon HD3200 built-in on the motherboard, which is actually pretty decent. The only downside to these integrated cards is that the "VRAM" is now your system RAM, so a chunk of it is taken out for graphics. If the graphics chip was an Intel or something sucky, I'd have rejected it.
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01:00 by FoxTwo
In IT, one of the first and most basic form of troubleshooting any network connectivity problem is - to check the cables! If it's not plugged in, you won't see anything. Of course this doesn't apply to wireless networks that is so prevalent now.
Anyhow, recently I had thought that the battery charger for my Canon Digital Ixus 60 camera had died. I slipped in the battery, and .... nothing. Nada. Not even a blip. The charging light didn't come on.
After hammering on the charger for abit (hey it just might work you know?), it still didn't work. So, I resigned myself to the realization that I'd either have to buy a new camera or to get in touch with Canon and see if they have a replacement battery charger for sale.
So I shot an email off to Canon support. They called me back promptly (next business day, pretty dang prompt if you ask me) and informed me that regretfully, the charger isn't covered by warranty, but they would be more than happy to sell me a replacement battery charger for a mere pittance - $99.00. Not only that, they'd "reserve" it at the Canon Service Centre in Vivocity for me till Friday.
I did a double-take.
Wha-?! Ninety-nine bucks for a charger?
Ok so I told them thanks, hold it for me till Friday. If I don't turn up to grab it, they can feel free to release it.
So, I ran off to Plurk and asked if anyone knew of a cheaper way to get a charger. Soon enough I was pointed to Alan Photos, and I called them for enquiries. I was told a "3rd party" charger was available for $35.00.
It was a no-brainer. $35 beats $99 any day. So right after work, I trotted off to the shop and got myself the 3rd-party charger.
As a quick aside, I must say that the service at Alan Photo's is great. Although I was just buying a cheap $35.00 item, they didn't treat me like a second class customer. The guy was helpful and gave me advice on camera and battery care, and such. He also told me that he has never heard of a Canon battery charger dying - ever. Mine would be the first time he's heard about it. He mostly sell these "3rd party chargers" to people who travel alot and want to bring a compact charger along with them.
So, I got home. As I was dismantling the Canon charger from the power outlet, I remembered what the guy at Alan Photo's said, and I thought to myself - why not try it once again? Could he be right?
For some reason, I didn't use the original power cord that came with the charger. This time I used another power cord, and plugged it right in. Then I slipped the battery in.
THE LIGHT CAME ON!
So I swapped the power cord again, back to the original one. No light. Swapped out to another power cord - light came on.
And I kicked myself. I could have saved myself $35.00 if I had just swapped power cords!
On the bright side, I could have wasted $99.00 on another Canon charger only to realise it was just the power cord that was the problem. I took it that I bought a spare charger for "travelling", so I don't have to bring the original one out with me. The "3rd party" charger was more compact and had foldable power pins, which made it into a nice snug rectangular brick.
If you ask me how a power cord could fail I have no idea. I thought they're basically just copper wires encased in rubber, that's it. They conduct electricity. What can fail? Well, other than the copper wire actually breaking inside the rubber. I find it highly unlikely since I have never subjected the power cord to any extreme movements. Once I had set it up, I had left it there.
Well after learning this $35.00 lesson, I packed the "3rd party" charger back nicely into the box, and kept it in storage. Then, I charged the battery on the original charger. Now, if only I had charged the battery a couple of days ago. Then, the previous post could have had nicer pictures.
Ah well, lesson learnt I guess.
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12:40 by FoxTwo kakis recently here.
About a year ago, my regular drinking place closed. As such, us regular customers (who have been patronising the place for years) suddenly lost a "home". My buddy and I spent the past year flitting from pub to pub, trying to find a new "home". We thought we found a place somewhere in Chinatown.
Then a couple of days ago, an old friend and fellow pub patron from the old place, told us that one of the bartenders have found a job at a new place, and gave us directions to the pub. My buddy and I just thought we'd pay her a visit and check the new place out. After all, we haven't really decided on a "home" pub yet, although the one at Chinatown is currently serving as one. There's still something..... missing...
So we popped by the new place.
The first feeling that hit us was - ok this feels familiar. The decor, the lighting. Then we walked towards the bar counter. Yup, she was there (from the previous pub). She was happy to see us. We were pleasantly surprised to see a few more familiar faces - patrons from the old pub, a couple of waitresses from the previous pub (who are now working there). It was then that even more was revealed to us.
The owners are former regular patrons of the old place. They have even gone to the extent of contacting all the previous staff of the old place and offering them a position at the new pub. We can even see that some efforts were made to "preserve" the ambiance from the old place. It was no wonder that the place felt familiar the moment we walked in.
As we sat at the bar counter (our old positions at the previous pub), we started to feel more and more comfortable. Yup, this indeed felt like the old "home pub".
That got me to thinking - why didn't the Chinatown one feel like home?. The decor was pretty close to the old pub, so that wasn't it. The ambiance was almost the same, perhaps that was why we decided to frequent the pub in Chinatown.
No, it was the people. The community, so to speak. Same people, from staff to patrons, all talking, laughing, playing. It almost felt like nothing has changed. We're all still here.
So it didn't really matter where the place is. The location may change. The decor might suck or be better, but, the most important factor in the whole equation: the people.
It's even more omen-ish that a similar event happened in the virtual world to me recently though, and I think this is a real-life lesson to be learnt, and apply, to the virtual world.
Yes, I am home.Links to this post |
18:33 by FoxTwo
Interviewing people for a position is kinda like placing incredible amounts of power at your disposal. You alone decide whether he "lives" or "dies". Your decision alone dictates whether he's gone, or he can come back.
Also, normally I am not the one doing the interview. I generally shun meetings and interviews because simply, I just don't like them. Interviews and meetings are what bosses are for - they handle them :) Us grunts just do the work and be done for the day.
Anyway recently I was asked to interview some candidates for a position. Most of them are internal staff, and the interviews were quick and fast. However even among internal staff, it was quite surprising at some of the answers I get. Like I said before, these people know what they are doing - some of them knows more than I do even.
Yet, as I said, some answers I get are pretty interesting. A very good example is below:
Migrating from one mail platform to anotherSet up new mail platform, copy all the user information over. At designated time, change DNS records to point to new server.
Now that's a novel way to do it. No messing around with parallel runs, no confusing of users. Best of all, no mucking about with mail redirects and what-nots (which, by the way, is listed as the "correct answer" in official support documentation). Short, quick, and no weird helpdesk calls about "missing mail".
This method should work with ANY mail platform migrations too.
I'm actually kicking myself why I never thought of this when I was migrating my users from Exchange to Notes too. Darn it!
Unfortunately, the candidate that proposed this solution flunked on other questions, some of which were fundamentals (setting up domain controllers, configuring DCHP etc). Not that surprising since he's "live" on the job and his current job scope has him handling other stuff. It is however, a little surprising that he either forgot or doesn't know how to do those fundamental stuff, and those were actually the "predefined requirements" we need to have.
Inside me, I was actually rooting for this candidate to get the job though. However I had to be honest and rate him accordingly, and from the way it looks, it doesn't seem very likely he'll get the job. Sigh!
The good thing is, I'm not holding the "absolute power" to decide his fate. All I can do is give an assessment of his technical capabilities. My boss is the one deciding his fate, and he was right there in the interview too, but asking him other non-technical questions (soft skills). I can't give this candidate an assessment that is "too good" since my boss is also a techie guy, so he knows this candidate fumbled on the fundamentals.
Ah well, the good thing is, we probably have interviewed enough candidates and there should be no more left to interview (not by me at least). I really don't like having to interview people and giving them a grade.
ps - My current "official" designation is a Unix Admin. When it's "crunch time" I'll be deployed to handle the Unix servers. However I also know Wintel Admin. My boss was saying I'm a "steal" given what I know and can do (salary vs skills). I should have asked for $10K salary mannnn!!!! *kick self*Links to this post |