Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007, Hello 2008

The yuletide season heralds the coming of a new year. It brings to mind the faithful past and the rhapsody from the future. It is also the time of the year when one takes a step back to look at the eventful months that have gone, be it quietly or in haste, and to prepare for that beckoning journey which lies not too far ahead.

HanWorks Research takes a brief look at some issues that will affect us in the coming year.

Technology Predictions for '08

Throughout history, humans have made it a habit to read and tame the future. This year, it is no different, except that the advent of the internet has swelled the number of "predictions".

I think that 2008 will be the year cloud computing will take off in a big way, with Amazon leading the charge. Casual gaming (such as those countless games which have been integrated on Facebook) is clearly on the rise (I was addicted to Desktop Tower Defence for a couple of months this year). Of course, a Facebook acquisition/IPO may also be round the corner. Twitter may get acquired.

On the more technical side, the excitement of HTML 5, CSS 3, XHTML 2 and ECMAScript 4 looms large. Firefox 3 is slated for release in the early months of 2008, while IE 8.0 is in the works and continues the catching up game started by its predecessor, IE 7.

US Presidential Elections '08

The United States has always prided itself as a country which upholds freedom and equality for all men. Ironically, the American people has never chosen a president who is non-white, non-male or non-Christian. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton can make the difference. Barack Obama is a promising candidate, but he has hinged his campaign on a campaign of hope.

Mini reading list for 2008

I conjured a recommended reading list a year ago and I have decided to continue this insignificant but meaningful tradition.

1. The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World by Alan Greenspan. I have yet to read this book, but reading memoirs can be a refreshing change from the monotony of life. One identifies with the author's struggles, shares his dilemmas, and learns from mistakes made by others.

2. Superfreakonomics - The sequel to Freakonomics, to be out in 2008.

If you are looking for more books to read, Scribd is a good place to start.

Many Anticipations, One Aspiration

2008 promises to go down in history as an exciting and memorable year. Beijing will be hosting its first ever Olympics. The F1 will have its first night race in the streets of urban Singapore. The Large Hadron Collider will finally begin operations. The world is watching.

So, goodbye 2007 and hello to 2008!

Last but not least, HanWorks Reserach wishes all readers a very Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: Majestic Mountains Part II

In the spirit of our last post, we present to you this HDR panorama:
Again a shot of made during my skiing vacation. This was taken hand held.
Please take your time to view it Large on Black, it looks much better this way.

Majestic Mountains Part II, originally uploaded by chop1n

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Creating a Panorama using Autostitch

There are numerous ways to create Panoramas. This post will focus creating a panorama the vanilla flavoured way using Autostitch.

1. Download Autostitch and unzip it into a folder of your choice.
2. In the root folder, launch autostitch.exe
3. On the menu, goto Edit > Options.

4. Change Scale to 100% and JPEG Quality to 95%. Then click "OK"
5. On the menu, select File > Open.


6. Select ALL the images from the folder path {$AutostitchRootFolder}/images/test in the open dialog box.
7. Let the application to the processing.
8. The result is immediately displayed on screen. Two files are also automatically generated in the folder {$AutostitchRootFolder}/images/test: pano.jpg and pano.txt

9. Congratulate yourself on creating your first panorama using Autostitch.

Notes:
- A guide on how to modify the settings in the options dialog box can be found in README.txt (in the root folder of your autostitch program).
- The version of autostitch you downloaded is "for demo" only. (Quote from website:)
Individuals or companies are free to use images that they generate using the demo version of Autostitch without restriction or royalties so long as they acknowledge the use of Autostitch in such works. A commercial license to Autostitch provides access to the patent, source code, technical support and updates.

Other panorama-creation programs worth taking a look at:
- Hugin (tons of tutorial, including this video tutorial on working with GIMP). This is free, and works with other cool free tools such as enblend.
- Autopano (commercial)
- Photomerge feature in Adobe Photoshop CS2 and above, and Photoshop Elements.

Cool panoramas:
- viewAt.org (Uber cool 360 panos)
- photos on Flickr created using Autostitch.
- Gigapixel Pano

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

There is no Bubble



"The Bubble" video is awesome!

It is sung to the tune of We Didn't Start the Fire (mp3). And if you have not heard before, check out We Didn't Go to Harvard (mp3) too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Times Higher World University Rankings 2007

The Times Higher World University Rankings for 2007 just came a few days ago and we provide you the file without having to sign up at the website. Also, provided are the files from 2005 and 2006 for comparison.

As one can see, this year's results may dwell on the side of bewilderment, but as usual, such rankings should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Not to be missed, there is also the ranking by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Inside Out



How to turn a sphere inside out. (21:23, with voice-overs)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: Morning Launch

'Morning Launch' Large On Black

A portion of the wintering population of Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. I love the running crane with the bit of splash.

Morning Launch, originally uploaded by Fort Photo

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Kaye Effect

It's time for a science lesson.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Making sense of 9s

A recent article on TechCrunch featured the uptime of Google for different countries around the World.

The table looked like this:




Hm... sometimes we take a glance at these digits, but we don't notice the difference between uptime and availability, which can lead to misleading impressions.

As usual, Wikipedia provides the answer:

Availability is usually expressed as a percentage of uptime in a given year. In a given year, the number of minutes of unplanned downtime are tallied for a system; the aggregate unplanned downtime is divided by the total number of minutes in a year (approximately 525,600), producing a percentage of downtime; the complement is the percentage of uptime, which is what is typically referred to as the availability of the system. Common values of availability, typically stated as a number of "nines", for highly available systems are:

  • 99.9% ≡ 43.8 minutes/month or 8.76 hours/year ("three nines")
  • 99.99% ≡ 4.38 minutes/month or 52.6 minutes/year ("four nines")
  • 99.999% ≡ 0.44 minutes/month or 5.26 minutes/year ("five nines")

It should be noted that uptime and availability are not synonymous. A system can be up, but not available, as in the case of a network outage.


Anyway, here are some tidbits for regular readers:
- Mac Leopard Wallpapers
- Mac Tiger Wallpapers
- The 5th Wave RSS Feed

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Windows Vista Sample Videos

Just as we brought you the wallpapers and the music, here's the sample videos from Windows Vista.

They are decent enough, but not as high res as I had hoped they would be.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mehran Sahami Inspirational Speech



He actually said, "Think about the time you are living in. Like Donald Knuth is considered the father of computer science. He is still alive and he is still in this department. Its sort of like... you are living in the time of Euclid."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: What’s That?



A superparamagnetic fluid, otherwise known as a ferrofluid, in a dish over a neodymium magnet.
What's That (64) originally uploaded by jurvetson

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

I just discovered some useful Windows keyboard shortcuts, besides the standard ones I use frequently (like win+d [minimize all], win+r [run dialog], ctrl-b [bold text], ctrl-x/c/v).

F2: Rename the selected item
CTRL+SHIFT+ESC: Opens task manager
ALT-ENTER: Open the property dialog for the selected file

And for Internet Explorer:

F4: Display a list of addresses you've typed
CTRL+ENTER: Add "www." to the beginning and ".com" to the end of the text typed in the Address bar
CTRL+LEFT ARROW: When in the Address bar, move the cursor left to the next logical break in the address (period or slash) (update: my friend was kind enough to point out that this also works for most input boxes; ctrl-home works too; you can combine this with shift to select words too)


Oh... and check out this cool Free Software Sticker Book.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Google Flight Simulator Guide

Flying over San Francisco. You can even make out Coit Tower in the distance.

You might have heard about it - there is a Flight Simulator built right into (as an easter egg) the newest version of Google Earth (the version in which the sky feature which allows you to view constellations in outer space, debuts.)

Firstly, for those who don't know yet, the "activate" the Flight Simulator, hit Ctrl+Alt+A (for Windows) or Command+Option+A (note it must be capital A) (for Mac) once you are in the newest version of Google Earth (version 4.2.0181.2634 beta).

Well, for many first timers out there, here is a quick guide to using the Flight Simulator. Google Earth's Flight Simulator is far far inferior to Microsoft Flight Simulator or FlightGear Flight Simulator (the free, open source, non-MS version).

Plane / Airport selection screen

Once you have successfully activated the simulator, you will be greeted with the screen above. In addition, you will also be able to access the simulator from the menu [Tools > Enter Flight Simulator] after your first activation.

For beginners, the good places (with nice scenery) to begin are Sydney or Los Angeles. You also get to choose between the F16 or SR22. For starters, the SR22 will be easier to control as the speed is slower and it is easer to get accustomed to your controls. As mentioned in TechCrunch's comment, "F-16 is officially called the “Fighting Falcon” - the use of “Viper” is a common pilot nickname."

The Runway


Once you have made your selection, you will get a view of the runway, as seen from the cockpit. Note: this is not a sign of bad graphics or whatsoever. Its just a runway!

To take off, press Page Up on your keyboard to increase speed. While continuing pressing Page Up, press the Down Arrow to get your aircraft to point upwards. Do not keen pressing the down arrow, as your plane may go upside down.

It is a MUST to take a look at the help manual for keyboard instructions.

How to interpret your screen

Landing

Landing your plane is very tricky, but it currently seems that you can land anywhere. For landing, a slow decent with the nose angle almost to nil is recommended. Once you know you are about to touch floor, continuously press Page Down to decrease the speed. Pressing the comma and period to brake both wheels should also help. The landing may be a little bouncy.

Conclusion

For the first few times you play, your plane may crash, and you can get a little dizzy looking the at the horizon spinning round and round.

It might be good to have a large cache and memory so that Google Earth does not need to re-stream the maps.

I hope this quick guide is helpful. Most importantly, have fun!

Flying over LA

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Breakthrough Image Resizer Technology



(you should play this with audio on to hear the explanations)


I want this in Photoshop immediately!

This image resizing technology (as described in the video above) is awesome. The related paper is written by Dr. Ariel Shamir and Dr. Shai Avidan. The technology itself is promising and its definitely a breakthrough in terms of resizing for static images. The latest news is that co-inventor Shai Avidan has now joined Adobe.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

iWoz

Yesterday, I finished iWoz, the autobiography of Steve Wozniak.

Having read iCon Steve Jobs, I would say that iWoz is a book that is profoundly different in terms of viewpoint. Woz dwelled little into Apple's political history during its tumultuous years, but he did offered insight into the decisions he made, including leaving HP. In fact, he highlighted the very statement (told to him by his then boss Allen Baum) that convinced him to leave HP to start Apple was, "You can be an engineer and become a manager and get rich, or you can be an engineer and stay an engineer and get rich."

Woz proudly talks about some of his famous pranks, such as the TV Jammer, how he tricked Richard Nixon, and making a call to the Vatican by impersonating as Henry Kissinger. Besides the good old times, he also devoted a chapter to the less known plane crash and his resulting experience with temporary anterograde amnesia.

All in all, iWoz is not a must read, but it is a good book for anyone interesting in engineering, technology or the PC.

At the end of the book (in the last chapter "Rules to Live By"), Steve offered advice to youths regarding their passion. These are interesting lines and also worthy to note.

If you're as lucky as I've been, then you'll get to live in a time when you're young just as a revolution is about to take off. Just like Henry Ford was there for the automotive industry, I was there to see and build the first personal computers.

Back in the mid-1990s when I was teaching school, I thought one time to myself, Wow, I wish I could be twelve now, look at the things I could do with what's out there now.

But then I realized I was lucky. I got to see the before, the during, and the after of some of those changes in life. I got to be one of those few people who could effect some of those changes.

Excellence comes to me from not having much money, and also from having good building skills but not having done these products before.

I hope you'll be as lucky as I am. The world needs inventors - great ones. You can be one. If you love what you do and are willing to do what it takes, it's within your reach. And it'll be worth every minute you spend alone at night, thinking and thinking about what it is you want to design or build. It'll be worth it, I promise.


Steve's words are a reminder that things are progressing. There will always be revolutions as long as there is innovation.

And just like every other good book, the last paragraph left a lasting impression on me.

Friday, August 10, 2007

.Mac Web Gallery

Recently, Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the all-new, redesigned iMac and demoed the new features in iLife '08, iWork '08, and .Mac at an Apple Special Event, held at a Town Hall meeting in Cupertino (watch Steve Job's presentation here). Among the impressive announcements were Numbers (iWork's new spreadsheet program) and the new .Mac Web Gallery (for photos & videos).

True to Apple's slick design style, the .Mac Web Gallery is absolutely cool. I compared several web services such as Flickr (demo) and Picasa Web Albums (demo), but none can be beat the .Mac Web Gallery (live demo 1, 2, 3) in terms of the professional layout and design.

Apple also made Numbers more than just a spreadsheet program, with its intuitive and easy to use interface - Numbers could be used instantly to make small presentations, such as positioning multiple spreadsheets in one "canvas" (or page), along with various elements such as charts, pictures and titles, without resorting to using a presentation-specific software such as Keynote or PowerPoint.


To end off this post, here are some titbits:
- 'Grass' Wallpaper for Leopard as shown during WWDC 07
- Hamad's Vista Wallpapers (direct download here)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Your CMOS Battery

Your computer's system clock is dependable on your CMOS battery. Which actually means that your computer's system clock is like your watch. If the CMOS battery runs flat, your system clock stops or reverts to its original setting (e.g. 1 JAN 2000) upon every reboot (You may also see such an error message - "Time Date not set"). Indeed, many first time computer users, and even some long-term users do not know this. Of course, this probably applies to those who are rich enough to change computers frequently as well.

Depending on your computer usage, your computer's (desktops and laptops) CMOS battery has a high chance of running flat after 5 years. The problem (of the system clock) arises when one switches off the computer for a longer period of time (e.g. 12 hrs), which is also when the energy from the capacitors are diminished.)

In my case, another interesting observation was the need to press the start button twice to boot the computer - the first to recharge the capacitor as the battery is flat, the second to use the available energy reserve (in this case the only remaining reserve has to come from the capacitor) to get the CPU started.

Thus, the solution will be to open up your PC casing and replace the CMOS battery mounted on the motherboard, such as in the photo taken from Compaq's website below.
The CMOS battery comes in various types and sizes (it can be roundish or squarish).

To get a replacement battery is not hard. Open up your casing and note down the type of battery on the motherboard. The one in the photo is the Lithium Battery, CR2032 (3 Volt). This battery also happens to be found commonly in watches. Thus, one can go to a watch repair shop, or a shop selling watches, or your nearby equipment shop to buy a replacement battery. It does not matter which brand you use (Maxwell, Toshiba, etc). Remove the old battery and put in the new battery with the same orientation - the positive side of the battery, the one with words engraved, normally faces up (as in the photo).

Depending on the length of time since you last power down your computer and also how fast you change your battery, you may encounter an error message - "Invalid CMOS Checksum" upon your first reboot thereafter. This should not be of any worry - simply let the computer reboot again and you are done.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Good Math, Bad Math

A week ago, I chanced upon a good blog - Good Math, Bad Math. Basically, its a blog that discusses a wide range of science, from computer science to mathematics and physics, but with an emphasis on mathematics. The blog is written by a really cool guy - Mark Chu-Carroll, a PhD Computer Scientist working at Google. In many ways, the blog offers a platform for intellectual discourse - criticising and highlighting bad/flawed science and mathematics. This is a reminder that the very notion of science, no matter how grand it may seem, is susceptible to those who either manipulate it for their own means (e.g. General Relativity is not about all things being relative [not absolute]... just as relativistic speed do not refer to speed of light being undefined.), or confuse it unintentionally.

Currently, I am reading Mark's recent articles on Graph Theory.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Artificial Intelligence: A Beginner's Guide

Two weeks ago, I read the book Artificial Intelligence: A Beginner's Guide written by Blay Whitby. As the title suggests, it was a very brief introduction to AI, While the book did not dealt too much into techniques regarding AI (neural networks, backward propagation, genetic algorithms, etc), it provided a healthy dose of discussion on the philosophy regarding AI, such as strong and weak AI, why films are usually wrong about AI, and what AI holds for the future. Of course, one cannot discuss AI without the Turing Test and the Ford and Hayes (1998) analogy of flight. Overall, its a proper introduction to anyone without any knowledge of AI (knowledge in this context excludes what you learn in films).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Eric Schmidt with iPhone (Photos)

Eric Schmidt showed off his iPhone when he spoke to the World Economic Forum at the Google Campus yesterday. He took out his iPhone at around 24:30 in this video (thanks to Robert Scoble for this hint), to show his location using Google Maps.

Photos of Eric Schmidt with the iPhone below:






Photo of the Google Campus on the iPhone.

and he even commented, "this is the privilege of being on the Apple Board... and I have to guard this with my life here."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: The Writing Is On The Wall – If You Can See It, You Can’t Read It

Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.
-- Mark Twain (1835-1910)

I passed this sculpture so many times. You have to. It is made of stainless steel and placed in one of the busiest Wellington streets, in the perfect position to capture the colorful lights of the city after daylight, the nightglow of the capital.

The ‘Invisible City’, as it’s called, is the gigantic panel of Braille text that highlights the communication gap between those who can’t see and the rest of us.

The post is designed to remember all the folks, my countrymen and yours, the often invisible part of society, all those who finish schools, who work, play music, do sports, pay taxes, have and raise children, to the benefit of us all.

The Writing Is On The Wall – If You Can See It, You Can’t Read It, originally uploaded by Peter from Wellington

Saturday, June 02, 2007

D5 - Historic Moment?

And, you know, I think of most things in life as either a Bob Dylan or a Beatles song, but there’s that one line in that one Beatles song, “you and I have memories longer than the road that stretches out ahead.” And that’s clearly true here.
-- Steve Jobs

Last week, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates shared the same stage at D5 - All Things Digital, a yearly conferences hosted by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). It has a historic moment, of sorts, for the two technological giants, who had been at odds at some time or another. The interview was laced with many references to the past and present. To name a few: Bill Gates claiming that he is not fake Steve Jobs, and talking about "Steve’s taste", Steve Jobs saying that "PC Guy is Great. Got a big heart." and most surprisingly, quoting the Beatles (Apple vs Apple was not so long ago).

Perhaps, what was most clear that both Bill and Steve had mutual respect for each other, and Om Malik even went as far to say that Steve Jobs appeared kinder and gentler.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Mathematical Century

Note: I shall devote this entire post to Mathematics.

I have been reading a book - "The Mathematical Century: The 30 Greatest Problems of the Last 100 Years", written by Italian mathematician Piergiorgio Odifreddi. The one I have been reading is a translated version (from Italian to English). The Mathematical Century provides interesting insight into the development and history of Mathematics in the past decade. By looking at some of the most famous problems in mathematics (eg Fermat's last theorem, Abel's Impossibility Theorem), Piergiorgio Odifreddi traces the development of mathematics since ancient times, from the days of the Geeks, to Pythagoreas and then to modern day mathematics, the progress of which has been largely influenced by Hilbert's problems and perhaps the unification of which by the Bourbaki group.

The book is written in prose-style, free of technical details (this refers to equations, symbols, but does not refer to mathematical terms). (However, some of the ideas presented are rather abstract.) Odifreddi starts by discussing the four main philosophical foundations of mathematics in the 1900s, mainly - Sets (ZFC, etc), Structures, Categories and Functions.

While I admit that I could only understand less than 40% of what was written in the book, the book provided insightful breadth, (rather than depth). Indeed, modern day mathematics is no longer limited to abstract algebra or topology. With the birth of the PC, computer-assisted proofs have become acceptable (eg the Four Colour Theorem) and the P vs NP complexity problem is indisputably one of the most open problem in computer science and mathematics.

Overall, Odifreddi offers a sagacious bird's eye view on mathematics from the perspective of mathematical problems.


Anyone looking forward to appreciating/understanding mathematics should also read A Mathematician's Apology (PDF), an essay written by G. H. Hardy in 1940. It is an essay that is not only reflective, but personal as well. In it, Hardy made one of his most famous observations:
No mathematician should ever allow himself to forget that mathematics, more than any other art or science, is a young man's game.
While one may agree or disagree with the above statement, the essay certainly proffers intriguing views.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Segmentation Fault!

Fortunately, this post is not about the dreaded segmentation fault that many C programmers will be familiar with. It is instead about the 'dead' Segfault website. Segfault used to be a popular humor website which posted fake news reports on hacker-related topics on a near-daily basis.

Some examples will suffice to show what I mean...
For the first time in recent memory, someone actually clicked an Internet banner ad. This refutes a previous experiment, in which one thousand monkeys were placed in a room for a year with one thousand Internet-connected computers. None of the monkeys clicked a banner ad (one did write a Shakespearean play, however). (See Infinite monkey theorem)

-------------------------------------------

Assembly: You crash the OS and overwrite the root disk. The system administrator arrives and shoots you in the foot. After a moment of contemplation, the administrator shoots himself in the foot and then hops around the room rabidly shooting at everyone in sight.

MICROSOFT C++ w/ WINDOWS SDK: You write about 100 lines of code to print "Hello, world!" in a dialogue box, only to have a UAE pop up when you click on OK. This shuts down the program manager, leaving you nothing but a screensaver. You then fly to Washington and shoot Bill Gates in the foot.

sh,csh,etc: You can't remember the syntax for anything, so you spend five hours reading man pages before giving up. You then shoot the computer and switch to C.

(more here)


So check out the archived Segfault website for a good laugh.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Spell Checker for Windows Live Messenger

Inspired by Aspell's integration in Pidgin, I have finally integrated Aspell into Windows Live Messenger. The script, using Messenger Live! Plus, can be download from the Messenger Plus website. I have "aptly" called this script aSpellChecker (more information here).

Enjoy!

By the way, this is the 400th post.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: On the 1st of November

The Augur (pl: augures) was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of the birds (flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are), known as "taking the auspices." The ceremony and function of the augur was central to any major undertaking in Roman society--public or private--including matters of war, commerce, and religion.

(from Wikipedia)
On the 1st of November, originally uploaded by xylonets is dead

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dreamhost Sucks?

It seems official - Dreamhost, the once popular web hosting service which offers relatively cheap hosting for a ton of features, sucks. Period. Indeed, a slew of articles on the blogosphere have confirmed this.
Sorry, guys, but your service is simply terrible.
Today, there were just 83.11% of uptime (3h23min offline until now!) - data obtained from Pingdom.com.
Since 4/9, there were just one day with 100% uptime.
In the sum of last ten days, I just had more than 9 hours of downtime (while my other servers had no more than 15 minutes).
Every day I see server problems in my server.
That is unacceptable!!!
Of course, it seems that their service has more or less reached tipping point. No doubt this is a quality vs quantity issue.


Going on to web server trends, it appears disturbing that the Apache market share is shrinking.
The newest Netcraft Web server survey shows again a shrinking of Apaches market share. It is now at 56%, followed by Microsoft with more then 30%.
A quick check at the Netcraft Web Server survey for May 2007 confirmed this:


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Digging our Freedom

In a tour de force by the Digg community, the Digg team was forced to back down and stop deleting posts regarding to a possibly "illegal" decryption key for HD DVDs. When the Digg team deleted several stories regarding the decryption key and banned several users involved, a furore was created and what ensued was one of the most unprecedented in Internet history. The Digg community responded with overwhelming force and users took full control of the site by making sure that the enter Digg front page was posted with news of the decryption key.

Indeed, technology has democratised information.


Kevin Rose, Digg founder, gave his view on Digg the Blog:
But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.
In fact, what is even more interesting is that the supposed HD-DVD unlocking key is for Linux only.

Today's incident has shown the true power of the community. While the wisdom of the crowd may not be always right, at least freedom of speech was preserved. The particular act of making the decryption key free, perhaps 'free as in freedom', by a flourishing online community, has demonstrated the Internet as a platform for the plurality of diverse sentiments and is symbolic of a powerful pillar of liberal order.

This, is certainly a day to remember.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Pidgin

Pidgin 2.0.0beta7 (formerly Gaim) was released recently. An artist associated with the Tango project, Hylke Bons, was hired to do a complete graphical overhaul of the UI, and a logo designer was also hired to create a new Pidgin logo. This has resulted in a much better visual interface for Pidgin.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Desktop Tower Defense is highly addictive

Desktop Tower Defense is a highly addictive game I just stumbled upon. Rarely do I take an interest in games, but what seemed to be an innocent and unsuspecting click to the link turned out to be "time consuming".

Whatever it is, DO NOT click on this link to Desktop Tower Defense and start playing if you are very busy...

Its in the strategy...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: This is becoming a habit

The lights began flashing and the bells started ringing just as I was driving past so I pulled off the road and took up my position again. This is my favourite of these bridge shots - it seems better from this side of the tracks ;-)
I'll soon be on waving terms with these train drivers, methinks...

It's a pity Jicin only has one decent railway bridge...

This is becoming a habit, originally uploaded by stevacek

Monday, April 09, 2007

Reflections on a Mote of Dust

Have you ever wondered what it looks like it we are to put the entire universe into proportion, from prodigiously small atomic particles to the deep infinite reaches of space? Nikon Universcale is a superb flash application that tries to give us that perspective.


Encapsulated in its pedagogy is the measure of sentient life. One cannot help, but be reminded of Carl Sagan's "Reflections on a Mote of Dust". Nikon Universcale holds immeasurable beauty -- the beauty of creation.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Gaim renamed to Pidgin

In a move that has shocked many loyal Gaim users and also the open source community, Gaim has announced that they are renaming Gaim, the popular instant messaging client used in many Linux variations, to Pidgin.

At the center of this controversy is the AOL issue. The name was changed to protect the developers and to ensure the long term survival of the project, in order to reach a settlement with AOL. All that being said, AOL is not doing any good to its reputation. To quote Digg user ackza:
The fact that AOL-time warner and entities like the RIAA and MPAA can't make any money anymore and are horrible business people doesn't excuse them from this BS they pull every second. They deserve to be counter sued for frivolous lawsuits.
Meanwhile, we will wait for Pidgin 2.0.0, which is expected end of this week or early next week.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

RSSing The 5th Wave

Many of us have heard of The 5th Wave, a weekly comic strip by Rich Tennant which usually appears in the papers on Sunday. Naturally, I enjoyed it. However, a certain question struck me - where is the RSS feed where I can view the cartoon every week in Google Reader? Indeed, there wasn't a RSS feed which I could subscribe to!

With some help from Dapper (read more it here), I managed to extract the relevant parts of the webpage which I needed and generate an XML file which could be manipulated.

Since I was not satisfied with the RSS generated by Dapper, I went to Yahoo Pipes, another data masher of sorts, and pieced together a RSS feed that gets data from the XML file.

Still not fully satisfied, I decided to write a simple PHP script that gets data from the XML file and outputs it in the exact format that I wanted.

Every week, when a new cartoon is published, the content from the Dapper XML feed will change and so will the corresponding RSS feed. Google Reader will then rely on this RSS feed and "adds a new post" for your viewing pleasure.

Thus, I have come up with 2 viable options:
- Yahoo Pipes RSS Feed for The 5th Wave
- Host your own PHP script to extract the contents


I also hope that through this post, I have demonstrated the usefulness of Dapper.

Friday, March 16, 2007

$1500 for a keyboard


Optimus Maximus OLED keyboard, which costs $1490 USD.

Whats so special? To quote Engadget:
Also, all the keys will in fact be OLED with an expected life span of only 5 years, depending upon use of course. Each 32 x 32 resolution OLED will remain stationary. Instead, the key-press mechanics are executed by a plastic cap which slides around the display like a sleeve to keep the wear and tear on the OLEDs to a minimum. Break a key? No problem, replacements will be offered for $10 a pop.

And to quote this comment:

Dave @ Mar 14th 2007 2:50PM

I think I have this company's business strategy figured out.

1) conceive cool product
2) bring it to market to prove product exists
3) sue any other company that infringes on concept and is able to deliver on it at a lower price point.

Well... you get the idea - is this a joke?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Running Vista Games on XP

Is running Windows Vista Games (Minesweeper, Solitaire, 3D Chess) on Windows XP possible? No and perhaps yes.

No

Windows Vista Games (possibly) require DirectX 10 to run. The latest version of DirectX supported on Widows XP is 9.0c. That is, DirectX 10 is exclusive to Windows Vista. Windows Vista Games may also (possibly?) require Vista APIs.

Yes?

Now... where can we find a version of XP with DirectX 10? A hacked version of Windows XP called "XP Black Edition (DVD)". Windows XP Black Edition is (to quote here):
XP on a DVD with plenty of other pirated software included… Software that covers every aspect of day to day computing and even some outside of it…
That claim is supported here. I have not personally verified this claim.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Flickr Photo of the Day: Under The High Tech Canopy

Clark Quay, Singapore. This whole place is under an artifical canopy, protecting people from the rain and solar radiations. The temperature is controlled by those funny looking grey devices with holes (see note on the photo). These are mechanical fan systems which mimic wind in tropical environments.

Under The High Tech Canopy, originally uploaded by DanielKHC

Saturday, February 03, 2007

New Vista Fonts

This is a quick follow up to the previous post on fonts. Windows Vista comes with 6 new fonts for the web. There are: Calibri, Cambria, Candara, Consolas, Constantia, and Corbel.

A preview of the fonts are available below:
Download the new vista fonts here.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

All about fonts

"And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do."
-- Steve Jobs

Unconsciously, fonts and typography play a very important part in our daily lives. If you happen to visit a web page with ugly design and hard-to-see fonts, chances are that you will run for the door. However, if you are to visit a nice looking web page, or look at a poster with easy-looking fonts, chances are that you will take a longer look - like that poster below.


For starters, the font used in the diagram above is the Adobe Myriad (aka Myriad Pro). This Apple corporate font has been in used by Apple since 2002 for marketing purposes. Another familiar font will be the Apple Garamond, which is prevalent in the Think Different slogan.

With Windows Vista, Microsoft has also set Segoe UI as the new default system font. It replaces the Tahoma font, which has used since Windows 95 for all Latin and European language versions of the Windows OS.

Finally, for all of those that can't wait to download the above-mentioned fonts, here they are:
- Download Apple Garamond, Adobe Myriad (Myriad Pro) fonts
- Download Segoe UI font
- Download Microsoft Core Fonts
- Download Misc Fonts - (Lucida Grande, etc)

* For info - List of Apple typefaces

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lets be Pirates!

The Pirate Bay has started negotiations to buy Sealand in order to avoid copyright laws. (But since Prince Michael of Sealand says that he won't sell Sealand to pirates... maybe he will sell to Google?)

If you think Sealand is an island, you are mistaken. Its a man-made off-shore installation (image above). Now it is interesting to note that Sealand's claims to sovereignty and legitimacy are not recognised by any country.

Sealand's current price tag is a hefty 1 billion dollars. Currently, the amount of money raise on www.buysealand.com is less than $20,000. In comparison, Wikipedia took quite some time to raise one million dollars. It will certainly take a miracle (e.g. Bill Gates decides to chip in some money) for The Pirate Bay to hit one million dollars.

What if Google Buys Sealand?

Now... if only Google can change its motto from "Don't be evil" to "Let's be evil", Google can easily buy Sealand. Afterall, they bought YouTube for 1.6 billion dollars and the amount of pirated content on YouTube is peanuts compared to the all the stuff you can torrent from all the computers in the world. Looking at the costs involved, I am sure buying Sealand will be a far, far better deal for Google. However, since there are so more BitTorrent leechers than seeders, maybe the ROI will be a problem.

(Downloading 'The Internet.zip' using uTorrent)

Of course, buying Sealand will only be the first step for Google. The next logical step will be to rename Sealand to Googleland (for Google, its again as easy as renaming a file in windows). Now, since Googleland might not be so hospitable for humans, we should start cloning GoogleBots on Googleland (like in Star Wars). Armed with the latest super lava-lamps and lava-phasers, these GoogleBots will start go on to colonise the rest of the Earth... and the universe beyond. How long will it take? Exactly 42 Days.

After that, some Wikipedian (probably Jimbo Whales) will have to change the Wikipedia entry on Sealand (erm Googleland), since the 'leadership' of the state will no longer be "Prince Roy" but King Larry Page, Prince Sergey Brin, and Prince Regent Eric Schmidt.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

iTalk on the iPhone, therefore I am

Alan Kay once said, "The best way to predict the future is to invent it." In the case of Steve Jobs, the best way to predict the future is to reinvent it. Last week's CES was no doubt shadowed by the big bang at Macworld 2007. The "revolutionary new product", the iPhone, came from a man who reinvented three industries - the Mac changed the way computers look and function, PIXAR with the world's first full-length computer animated film, and then the music revolution that came with the coming of the iPod in 2001.

If the iPhone "works like magic", as magician Steve Jobs claims, then Job's 2007 Keynote @ Macworld was also "like magic". It was another of his reality distortion field, a presentation fine tuned to near perfection.

However, like the first iPod, the iPhone does have some questionable problems:
- Apple Inc. filed over 200+ patents for the iPhone. Unfortunately, Cisco got there first.
- Concerns over non-replaceable battery? According to the small print, the iPhone allows 16 hrs of battery life with music playback.
- If the iPhone will be exclusive to only Cingular, will it scare away potential customers?
- Will using the touch screen cause the screen to become oily, dirty and full of scratches over time?

Of course, we will find out the answers to these questions in a half a year's time.

One more thing, Engadget provided the best 'live' coverage of Steve Job's Keynote.

With the iPhone to be out in June, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch already asking people to "throw out the PC", and everyone else forgetting that Bill Gates gave a keynote at CES, the times are indeed a changin'.

Flickr Photo of the Day: Syntax Error - FUBAR

Another one for our bi-weekly assignment:
Some CSS code "fubar'd" - in this case thats "Folded Up Beyond All Recognition"
Syntax Error - FUBAR, originally uploaded by Simon Pow.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

CES, Macworld

Its another new year once again and its time for CES and Macworld.
- CES (Consumer Electronics Show): Jan 8-11, Las Vegas
- Macworld: Jan 8-12, San Francisco's Moscone Centre

Where to get updates: TechCrunch, Scobleizer, Gizmodo, Engadget (The guys over at Gizmodo have managed to sneak inside)

What to watch out for:
  • Cool new stuff/technology @ CES
  • Steve Job's keynote (iPhone?) [Keynote on 9th Jan, 9 AM GMT -8:00; get ready for the RDF]

Saturday, January 06, 2007

JSON vs XML

On the fringes of the Internet, another epic battle is brewing. Its not the notorious browser war, but one on data formats. Welcome to the JSON vs XML debate.

Introduction - XML
XML like HTML or xHTML, is NOT a programming language, but a mark up language. XML stands for Extensible Markup Language and is endorsed by W3C. It is the standard for xHTML, exchanging of data in Ajax web applications, RSS feeds, and desktop applications such as FileZilla even use it as a form of data storage.

Introduction - JSON
JSON, pronounced "Jason", stands for JavaScript Object Notation, and is considered a much simpler alternative to XML. Since JSON is a subset of JavaScript's object literal notation, one can then recreate the data object with a simple eval(). If you are really new to JSON, take a peek at this.

The debate - Some main points
  • Currently, XML has the upper hand, given its history, breadth and depth of usage. It has been around for almost a decade and is widely accepted.
  • Its much easier to parse JSON and JSON parsers are usually more than 100 times faster than XML parsers.
  • Higher security concerns with JSON, such as cross-site scripting, because of the usage of the eval() function.
  • Maybe JSON is just XML simplied - just replace a change of brackets.
  • JSON is NOT XML - JSON has not namespaces, and has no validator.
  • Parsing XML is troublesome and XML is strict - a little bit of error causes a big headache. On the other hand, XML, like HTML, has a loose structure.
  • Continue to waste time arguing.... Ever since Tim Bray (XML's creator), fired the first salvo, things have been going a little out of hand.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Install Windows Media Player 11 (WMP 11) without Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA)

The procedure for installing Windows Media Player 11 (WMP 11) without Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) is much simpler than that required for IE 7.

1. Download WMP 11 installation file from Microsoft.
2. Download wpa_registry.rar or wpa_registry.zip (which will contain wpa_registry.reg)
3. Execute wpa_registry.reg. (Double click)
4. Run the WMP 11 installation file. On the initial install screen, you may see a "validate" button. Just click on that to continue, but it will skip validation. Enjoy the setup!


Also, if you are in the United States, and you install WMP 11 with URGE, you can get a 14-day trial with unlimited music downloads.