Saturday, December 31, 2005

Year in Review: My Top 5 Tech Finds

Yes I am gonna forgo my usual ultra-cool metrosexual side and go a little geeky for this post. The following are the top 5 finds of last year that really made a difference in the way I use the web.

1. Music: Last.fm/Pandora

In the past the only way I got to discover new music/bands was going through music websites, finding highly recommended artists and then downloading mp3s of their songs, after which I would buy the CD if I liked it.

Those days are long gone with the emergence of music sites like Last.fm and Pandora. Last.fm is not just an online radio station, it tracks the songs that you play on your computer, and plays you other artists that you might like based on your musical tastes. It does this by comparing you to other users who like the same bands. I have lost count of the number of amazing bands that I have discovered through this amazing website. In fact it's so good I became a paid subscriber.

Pandora works in a similar way, but it's more "scientific" as it identifies key components in the song (tempo, vocal style etc.) to find similar artists for you. However it runs off the website so all you need is a flash-enabled browser.

Links:
Last.fm
Pandora

2. Bookmarks: del.icio.us

The problem with traditional bookmarks is they are practically impossible to manage once you have a sizeable number. The reason for this is even if you sort them into folders after some time you forget which folders they are under.

Del.icio.us solves that problem by using tags to sort your bookmarks. del.icio.us tags are simply ANY words YOU associate with a website. For example, for my site you might use the tags "blog", "lamea" and "daily" . Then when you search for a particular bookmark, just search for any of the words and you should see it. Might sound confusing at first, but you will get it after you use it for while.

Link:
Del.icio.us

3. Tech News: Digg

Digg is a very cool tech news website but with the unique feature that readers submit the stories. However, it allows users to rate ("digg) stories that they think is good , only the highest rated ones are shown on the main page.

Link :
digg

4. RSS Portal: Netvibes

In the old days you had to keep going to a site to check if it has been updated. But with RSS , you get updates sent to you. Google and Microsoft have web portals that allow you to read rss feeds, but the best in my opinion is Netvibes as it manages the feeds very elegantly. You can even check your gmail, yahoo or any pop or imap based email from the page. Click the screenshot below to see my portal.



Link:
Netvibes

5. Games: Scorched3D/Pawn

My two favorite free games I discovered in 2005. Pawn is a free chess game that is really exceptional considering its price, a good way to pass the time when you are bored. Scorched 3D is a 3D game that is like worms but you control a tank and try to take out other tanks.

Links:
Scorched 3D
Pawn

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

My Christmas Weekend

So I had a relatively low-key Christmas this year, except for the fact that my uncle tried to matchmake me with some girl who is a daughter of a friend, but he doesn't really know her. Do I look so desperate that he feels the need to hook me up with someone he doesn't even know that well?

Oh went to catch King Kong on Friday. Almost fell asleep during the first half hour, the setup was kinda draggy for a blockbuster action movie. But it quickly picked up after that and all in all I would say it was a really good movie. The fight between Kong and the dinosaurs is pretty adrenaline-inducing, but the best part was the end - it was really sad, it almost brought me to tears. Fine fine I was tearing a bit alright, but that's only because I have a soft spot for giant gorillas.

Finally, I got this really hurtful comment from an anonymous reader for my facial post:

"...Maybe you should save up and go for a plastic surgery instead. Meantime buy some mirrors to remind yourself how ugly you look...so you'll stop misleading people by telling them how cool or macho you are"

Thanks to that comment I cried for the second time in 4 days. How can people can be so cruel to post such a mean comment considering it's Christmas and all? At first I thought it was my mom, after all she has suggested to me in the past that I should go and "get some work done", but then I realized it couldn't be her because she would have the balls (figuratively speaking of course) to leave her name.

Finally I realized who it was. Yes Chris, I know it's you.

Who is Chris I hear you ask? Chris was this really good buddy of mine in the past, we were really close. Till one night when we both got completely wasted. The next thing I know he suddenly seemed really sexy in that tight singlet of his and a second later my hand somehow found its way to his crotch. One thing lead to another ..... well I will leave the rest of the details to your imagination.

The next morning I told him it was a mistake, that it was the alcohol and his tight singlet that caused it to happen, and we should try and forget about it and move on. But he didn't wanna accept it, he said we could make it work. I told him that it couldn't because I was straight most of the time, and that's when he completely lost it and went all psycho on me, talking about the power of man love and how it can conquer all and weird things like that. I left quickly before he got dressed and avoided him after that.

Anyway the asshole has been stalking me ever since, and now he has found my blog. Seriously Chris, give it up. You ain't getting any of my booty (anymore). I repeat again, it was a mistake, it was just a two one night thing, move on!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Zdnet writer is a leecher

This is funny. This ZDnet writer hotlinked to this guy's image of an Xbox for his ZDnet article, and he paid the (very high) price for his stupidity. Click the title of the post to see it. Hope he's married, otherwise he would probably have a hard time finding dates after this.

Long Boring Explanation:

K this is for those who aren't sure what I am talking about. If you see an image on someone's site and you wanna use it on your own site, the proper thing to do is download it and upload to your own server (or a free image hosting server like photobucket) and link it.

The reason for this is if you just link to his image, the image is being pulled from the poor fellow's server everytime someone views your page, and uses up his bandwidth. And most sites have limited bandwidth.

It's still understandable if a non-techie person does it, he/she could feign ignorance. For a computing site writer to do it is another matter altogether.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rap Music Used To Torture Terror Suspects

Ha this is kinda funny. Apparently songs by Eminem and Dr Dre were forced upon on inmates in a secret US prison "for up to 20 days". Hmm if I was Dr Dre or Eminem I would be kind of insulted that my music was deemed bad enough for the purpose of torture.

But I am guessing the wardens probably thought it would be way TOO cruel to use songs by Backstreet Boys ?

Listening to :
Alien by Strapping Young Lad
This Godless Endeavor by Nevermore

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Man with the Facial Mask



Yup that's me at my facial on Monday. I went on the insistence of my sister who booked the appointment for me - she told me that her friends were coming over on Xmas so ANY improvement in my appearance would be a godsend.

When I arrived at the place, there was this ah beng also waiting for his facial. The place was rather small so we were kinda sitting uncomfortably close to each other while we waited, and for some reason I suddenly felt the need to assert the fact that I was not gay. So I grunted. Very macho-ly. Cos' everyone knows that gay guys do not grunt.

The ah beng looked at me, and then he took out his phone and started calling his girlfriend and talking to her very lovingly, that was probably his way of asserting his sexuality.

After 10 agonizing minutes of intense homophobic sexual tension, I was called into the room. I asked the lady if I needed to take off my shirt, and she replied (rather too quickly in my opinion) that I shouldn't. Sigh if I had a dollar every time a girl said that to me.

Anyway the facial itself was really nice, the facialist's hands were pure magic I tell ya, I almost fell asleep at one point. She was pretty friendly as well, we had fun exchanging information about the latest sales in town (e.g. Mango) and the wonderful decorations all around the city streets.

After what seemed like too brief a period it ended. I looked at the clock and it was almost 9, it had lasted almost 2 hours. I left the place with a tinge of regret and sadness, but then I cheered up at the thought that I will be back a month from now. Can't wait.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tips for backpacking in Vietnam

1. Check the weather forecasts in those cities you are visiting.

This is very important, you do not want to go to a place with a nice beach and end up stuck in the close vicinity of your hotel because it rains the whole freaking day. To make it worse, we had the view of the sea/beach from our hotel room. It's a horrible thing to see something so beautiful everyday but not being able to touch it (the same way I feel about most women I meet)

2. Don't bother bringing too many clothes, toiletries.

T-shirts and shorts are really cheap as hell (around 2 dollars), so don't bother bringing too many of your own clothes and adding more weight to your backpack. Especially heavy clothes like jeans and jackets.

3. Don't change your money in Singapore !!!

Our local moneylenders' rates suck so much, I changed 350 in Singapore at a rate of 1 Sing dollar for 8400 dong, in Vietnam it was 9400 dong. Hell of a difference, it is. When you are soliciting services from young hot Vietnamese women on the street, every extra dollar counts, take it from me.

4. Use a travel guide book.

Get one of those guidebooks and research on the places to visit, sleep, eat. I used footprint Vietnam guide that we got from the library, it was pretty good , very detailed and also gives you the estimated cost for the attractions/transport so you don't get ripped off by tour operators. And believe me, some will try and rip you off, especially the cyclo drivers. Make sure you confirm prices before you do anything, and ask if there is any other costs for the whole trip.

5. Know how to ride a motorbike/bicycle.

Motorbike rentals are pretty cheap (I think it was 10000 dong for a day), so its a good option for less busy towns like Nha Trang and Dalat. You can get a bicycle for even cheaper, I think like 2000 dong. Beats the hell out of walking.

6. Don't bother about vehicles when you cross the road in Ho Chin Minh/Saigon

Seriously. In Ho Chin Minh it's the responsibility of the motorcyclists to avoid you rather than the other way around. Yes it sounds crazy but its true. But please take note that I am pretty sure this only applies for bicycles and motorbikes, I haven't tried it with cars or buses, but you are welcome to try and feedback to me.

7. Don't trust people's answers when you ask them how long a train/night bus journey takes.

The hotel receptionist informed us that it takes 5 hours from Saigon to Nha Trang by train, and another told us it was 4 from Nha Trang to Dalat. We ended up taking 7 and 6 hours respectively. It is safer to ask the train or bus operator what time you will reach your destination and calculate the time yourselves.

That's about it I guess. Yes some of it might seem like common sense to you, but please do note that it was my first backpacking trip, and I had lots of distractions and suffering from really bad cramps before the trips....fine I am a stupid dumbass for not checking the weather,that's what you wanna hear right?? You happy now?? Makes you feel good to put down others doesn't it?

Big Ass Mistake In KL

Don't you just hate it when you prepare a demo the day before and it works fine, but on the actual day it completely screws up?

I gave a presentation and did a demo in a research institute in KL yesterday; I had spent a good deal of time preparing and testing the demo the day before. However when I did the demo after the presentation it screwed up unexpectedly which was more than a little embarassing, considering how I had hyped up our product during the presentation. I figured out later that the reason for the screw up was my demo server ran out of disk space. Grrr.

Oh and I also accidentally said "big ass" during the presentation. I was like "you don't really need a big ass server to do ...", invoking quite a bit of laughter from the students there, however the researchers themselves didn't seem to happy about it. Still got a token gift from them after the presentation though, that was nice.

It's good to be back to work.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Stallion Reporting from Dalat

I am currently in Nha Trang, a very nice and laidback part of Vietnam, in contrast to the hectic pace of Saigon. However, I learned one thing on my first backpacking trip - always check the weather forcast of a place you thinking of visiting. Hey it was my FIRST backpacking trip alright give me a break.

Yep it's been raining practically non-stop the whole day since I came here. Nha Trang is famos for its beach but I ain't gonna get a chance to check it out thanks to the god-awful weather. However the food here is really cheap and pretty good, if you are ever here check out the Banana Split Cafe, amazing food they have.

Alright I'm outta here, will be heading off to Dalat tommorow morning where I will be till Sunday, after which I will head back to Saigon in the morning and (hopefully) catch the plane back to Singapore.

Friday, December 02, 2005

1st day in Saigon

All I can say is the gals here are hot. Really hot. And somehow a lot of them like to wear really low cleavage baring tops, not that I am complaining.

The roads are pretty scary though, almost as bad as the traffic conditions in hyderabad; crossing a traffic junction is an experience almost everytime.

However, we kinda struck out with the two eating places we went to for lunch and dinner - locals kept recommending really expensive ( 3 dollars a dish) places that turned out to be rather disappointing.

Anyway that's all for today, didn't have much success in finding my future bride-to-be, there were a few promising ones but they were too old (above 21).

Oh finally the streets are especially crazy tonight, due to the fact that Vietnam beat Malaysia in the SEA games soccer semi-finals. It's noisy as hell, don't think I am gonna get any sleep tonight. But these people are really patriotic, we could see people waving flags and shouting way after the match ended. You don't really see that kind of fervour in Singapore, at least not since the Malaysia Cup days.

I'm leaving on a jet plane....

I am off to Saigon, Vietnam later to find myself a hot nubile Vietnamese chick the answer to the meaning of my life. Will be back on the 11th. Will try to update on my progress if I can, but no gurantees - wish me luck!

I am off to Saigon
To look for something that might not be found
A week and a half, there I will be
Hopefully I can update my progresson this blog periodically.

p.s. What? Its bloody 5:30 am alright, how good a rhyme do you expect?