Journal #313

A friend and I went to Orchard Road today. One of the reasons was I wanted to get collect the Gigabit Wireless Router from the telco. I got it free because I re-contracted my broadband internet a week ago. At the same time, my friend wanted to get some Chinese New Year goodies.

But before that, we went to have lunch at The Sushi Bar again. We ordered the same stuff we always eat. Actually I wasn’t feeling that hungry because I just had my breakfast of Lor Mee.

After lunch, we went to Best Denki because my friend suddenly wanted to take a look at the Apple Watch series 3 stainless steel version. However, Best Denki at Nee Ann City didn’t carry it. So we decided to go the Apple Store.

First, we went to the bazaar in the basement to take a look at the Chinese New Year goodies but we didn’t actually finish walking through it. My friend last minute decided not to buy anymore.

We made our way to the Apple Store and had a look at the watch. I love the polished body of the watch and the red coloured knob.

I will probably get one next month.

Then we made our way to the basement of Somerset 313. I got the queue number from the service center and waited for my turn. It didn’t take too long and we were out within 20 minutes.

As we went up, I had a craving for something cold. Ice cream was that something I wanted. So we went to Stone Cold Creamery. I ordered a mocha ice cream with Oreo cookie and rainbow sprinkles as topping. Half way through, I actually felt thirsty. The overall ice cream was just too sweet and gave up. I prefer something more bitter. Like you know Americano with no milk or sugar, dark chocolate, etc.

We went home after that.

Once home, I installed the new router and got rid of the old one. The old one has been giving us problem with its constant restarting and poor connectivity. I hope the new one can last us a bit longer.

I joined my family for dinner at Putien and it was a treat by my sister. I didn’t feel particularly interested by the food. Some of the food were either too salty for my taste or just don’t stir all my senses enough.

Originally, I didn’t want to go out because I wanted to focus on writing. At the end, I went anyway. I used the time waiting for bus, walking to bus stop and walking to the restaurant writing on my iPhone using the iA Writer app.

I promised that I will get the iPhone X review out before the end of this week. I decided to go with writing about 5 Things that I Love About iPhone X and published it a couple of hours ago, just before the food came.

At around 9pm, my family and I made our way home. I was feeling kind of irritable and not too good but it didn’t stop me from focusing on writing my journal. Half of this journal was written during the journey home.

Other than eating at restaurants, getting stuff, and window shopping, I also downloaded a new game for my iPad and iPhone. I got the game call Inside. At first, I wasn’t sure if I like the game. So I tried it out and really loved. I reached the end of the first stage and decided to just buy the full game and pay $9.90. Thus far, I’m enjoying every moments of my gaming session with it.

I will switch to writing something for my novel for the rest of tonight.

One last thing, the upcoming week will be a short one with only three work day. Chinese New Year eve, which falls on a Thursday, is a no work day and the actual Chinese New Year is a public holiday. I also took a paid leave for the following Monday. That means, I will be having 5 days of break from work.

Now, that’s a good thing. I can recharge myself since I am already feeling uninspired and hate my job. It’s also about getting away from what I feel is a toxic environment for creatives like me who primarily operate with feelings first than rationality.

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5 Things I Love About iPhone X

iPhone X is now my primary phone since Jan 27 and I have since put my iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 Plus into storage. I got the 256GB version of iPhone X for $2249 and that was inclusive of Apple Care.

Although it’s expensive, I still feel that it’s valued for money.

Here are five things that I love about the iPhone X.

Face ID

Using Touch ID to unlock your phone with it is pretty convenient, compared to typing in your passcode, especially when your passcode is more than 6 characters long. However, Touch ID doesn’t really work when your fingers are wet. It’s particularly irritating if you are suffering from hyperhidrosis because your fingers are wet most of the time. I spent half of the time unlocking my phone using my passcode. Face ID changes the way phone is unlocked.

With Face ID, I just need to glance at it when the display is on and swipe up. It works correctly like 98% of the time. The times it doesn’t work is when I didn’t put the phone far enough for the camera to detect my face correctly. All you need to do is to cancel the passcode screen, reposition the iPhone, and swipe up again. And it will work again.

Super Retina HD and OLED Display

Apple made the OLED Super Retina HD display way better than the competition. The OLED used made blacks really black. When you play games like Inside, you actually feel like you are in a dystopian world because of the OLED display. Combined with the Super Retina HD, everything looks crisp and sharp.

With the wide color gamut, colors from videos and games are just popping out and looks great. It just made the whole viewing experiences much better than iPhone 7 Plus.

Overall Design

The all screen design with the thin bezels immerses you into whatever you are viewing. The way it follows the edge of the phone, joining up to the highly polished stainless steal band which then transit to a glass back made everything look really seamless. It is almost like the whole device is one solid thing.

And the controversial notch on top of the phone? It was one of the most unique and striking feature of the phone. It made the phone easily identifiable. In someway, it looks like the phone has very nice looking horns. I love just how original it was.

Size

At 14.36cm tall and 7.09cm wide, iPhone X is smaller than iPhone 7 Plus at 15.82cm tall and 7.79cm wide. It is much easier to hold and with it’s all screen design, screen estate is not compromise. You still get to see as much content as you can on a iPhone 7 Plus.

On the other hand, iPhone 7 or even iPhone 8 is way too small. The bezels and the home button take up much of the screen real estate and make webpages, images and videos too small for comfortable viewing.

Speakers

iPhone X has better sounding speakers than iPhone 7 Plus. With the volume bar set at center, it’s is louder. The sound are crispier and the bass is more perceivable. Even at a 75%, the sounds produced don’t crackle.

Bonus: Performance

With its new A11 Bionic chip, the phone is snappy and doesn’t have noticeable slowdown when watching videos, or playing games, and listening to music.

Switching between apps when multitasking also doesn’t feel slow and could keep up with me, enabling a more productive day.

Journal #312

After waking up at around 8am, I decided to laze around in bed until about 8.30am. Then I went to have my breakfast. At about 9.30, I started cleaning up my room, starting from the window side of the room.

That window side is also where my computer desk is located. So I had to spend some time disconnecting all the cables and moving the desktop away. Only then I could move the desk and start cleaning.

Systematically and as methodically as I possible can, I cleaned my room in a clockwise direction. By the time it was 1pm, I only managed to clean half. I spent the next 3 hours cleaning the other half of my room.

For this cleaning session, I decided to apply some minimalism.

I removed one desk that I rarely use and consolidated some of the decorations that I have. I also removed a wall picture because it was falling apart. I have also moved my television console table that have my Apple TV and Playstation 4 to the space previously taken up by the desk I removed.

So now my room is more spacious, less cluttered. I am loving what I have now and I do feel happy.

But I’m not done yet because I still got a whole bunch of papers and old documents that I have yet clear. They are still stuffed into whatever drawers that I could find space.

Other than clearing and cleaning my room, I helped my parents washed the windows and the grills in the living room and kitchen.

Having spent the whole cleaning, my whole body is aching. I also had a craving for some western food. So I suggested to my family to eat at Hot Tomato and it’s my treat.

After a shower, waited for everyone to come back home, and then we made our way to the nearby mall. At Hot Tomato, I ordered a cup of earl grey tea and mixed grill.

Mixed Grill is basically a collection of spaghetti, pork chop, chicken chop and pork sausage.

After that, we went to Cotton On because my sister want to get some clothes for the New Year. I didn’t want to get anything so I loitered around until it reached a point when I decided I rather go home. So I took my leave and got down to craft this journal.

So here I am.

Tomorrow I will be heading out with my friend to get some stuff. Until tomorrow’s journal…

Journal #311

Today was a decent day. I felt slightly happy because it’s Friday. And I do feel pretty lazy and unproductive.

Oh, I also came down with cold/flu-like symptoms and spent the whole morning until lunch sneezing away.

I did mention I don’t feel inspired to work on anything yesterday. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t do any work. Doing even something small is better than nothing.

My definition of small for today was building a high definition prototype of a search result page. At first, I thought the Telerik library used for the project had some kind of built in image gallery. After some searching, there was none.

Then I stumbled upon the RadTilesList user control provided by the library. I thought with some basic hacking and tweaking the codes, I can use it to present search result like an image gallery. But since it was the first time I’m using this particular control, I had to spend some time studying on how to use the control.

The whole high definition prototype took me two hours to cobble together. The end result looked pretty good. Of course, there aren’t any major business logic or codes that will handle events or load data. Instead, I let it relied on hardcoded data so that I can show my colleagues if the overall look and feel is acceptable.

I did show my colleagues and team lead after lunch the prototype. They gave me some feedback like how to present the data and how big the individual component should be.

They also mentioned how ugly some parts were. Haha. Surprisingly, I’m totally fine with that comment. Looks like I have somehow learn to let go of some stuff… or maybe I am disengaged from my work. Can’t tell which.

So, with the feedbacks, I put in the placeholders for the data, tweaked the grid used to hold the components and tweaked the size of each tile.

By around 3pm, I was done working. I just lost the desire to work and want to do something else.

I spent the remaining time playing some games on my phone, chatted with my colleague and helped her out with the part she’s working on, especially the RESTful API, SQL query using Linq, and chomping down on the bunch of fruits (a slice of watermelon, honey melon, and a bunch of kiwis) I bought.

I also bought a 250ml bottle of Soy to drink. The combination of fruits and soy turned out to be the right call. I didn’t feel that hungry until like 7pm.

Once the clock struck 6pm, I pretty much scurried out of office and made my way home. After I got home, I spent the evening showering, having dinner, and watching the last episode of Altered Carbon on Netflix.

There is a new movie call The Ritual and looks interesting. Maybe I will watch it later tonight.

And yes, I know I promised I will prepare an iPhone X review some journal back. I will get that done and published before the end of the week.

Tomorrow, I will have to do spring cleaning. Chinese New Year is around the corner and there aren’t any more days left for me to do that. And I have not gotten any new clothes.

If you are wondering, Chinese traditionally will buy new clothes for the lunar new year as part of the saying, “get rid of the old, welcome the new”. The minimalist in me now is wondering what should I do…

Friday Tech News Roundup #26

Below are 10 tech news that I found interesting and are related to topics I care about.

Apple AirPods are the latest tech product that can allegedly explode – Another tech product, another explosive allegation. Mashable

Some iPhone source code just hit GitHub, and Apple isn’t pleased – Apple’s legal team has been busy. Mashable

10 things you (probably) didn’t know about Apple’s HomePod – Apple HomePod sounds really great, works with Apple Music, Siri is still meh, and it requires an iOS device to set up. The end, right? Mashable

Microsoft is testing authenticator logins for Windows 10 S users – It seems Microsoft may be aiming to ditch passwords sooner than some may have thought. The company first made their anti-password goals clear back in 2015 with the release of Windows 10 which launched with the “Windows Hello” facial recognition system for logins. Techspot

Intel rolls out random reboot-free Spectre microcode updates for Skylake chips – Back in January, we covered Google Project Zero’s disclosure of massive CPU security flaws Spectre and Meltdown. If you’ve never heard of these vulnerabilities before, here’s the gist: Spectre and Meltdown are two serious CPU security vulnerabilities that allow hackers to steal personal data from computers, mobile devices and servers without a given machine’s owner ever realizing it. Techspot

Hacker group manages to run Linux on a Nintendo Switch – Hacker group fail0verflow shared a photo of a Nintendo Switch running Debian, a distribution of Linux (via Nintendo Life). The group claims that Nintendo can’t fix the vulnerability with future firmware patches. Techcrunch

Nvidia up 10% after Q4 earnings beat, says cryptocurrency demand ‘exceeded expectations’ – Nvidia’s successes are continuing to pile on as the company’s gaming and data center businesses drove revenues up 34 percent year-over-year. Techcrunch

From July, Chrome will flag all unencrypted websites as ‘not secure’ – Google’s fight for a more secure internet continues with the announcement that its Chrome 68 update – to be released in July this year – will see all unencrypted websites (HTTP sites) marked with a ‘not secure’ label. Techradar

Surface Pro 5 release date, news and rumors – You might suspect that the Surface Pro (2017) is the closest we’ll ever get to the Surface Pro 5, but if Microsoft itself is anything to go by, you would be dead wrong. The Surface Pro 5 doesn’t exist right now, as Microsoft Surface leader Panos Panay confirmed last May, but it will when more meaningful changes erupt from the geniuses at Microsoft’s hardware design lab. Techradar

Microsoft is reportedly shifting its Windows strategy as it tries to outmaneuver Apple and Google – Last weekend, long-time Microsoft blogger Brad Sams reported that Windows 10 S – the latest version of the operating system, launched in mid-2017 – is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Business Insider

Journal #310

The cold I had yesterday didn’t really go away this morning. So after breakfast, I had to self-medicate. That medicine kicked just when I left house for work. It made me pretty drowsy and slow my reaction time down. I got pretty clumsy in a way when I walk. But I made it to the train station safely. Ha.

I went to work and ordered a grande-size Dark Mocha along with a Panwich with chicken ham and cheese from Starbucks. Those two combined sure could last me until 12pm and I wasn’t even hungry when I went for lunch with my colleagues.

Work was uninspiring. I no longer feel excited by the project and I don’t feel that excited by anything I have implemented so far.

In the morning, we had a quick sync up on what’s our progress with the team lead. I also saw that I still got a whole bunch of JIRA tasks I need to clear yet I don’t feel like working on them.

At around 3pm or so, I got so tired that I just feel like lying down and sleep. But since it’s not conducive to sleep there, I fight off that urge and use my phone instead. Social media prove helpful.

Later in the afternoon, like around 4pm, I went and guide my colleague on how to work with the server-side code. According to her, she has never touched backend stuff including entity frameworks since 7 years ago. By about 5 pm, she confident enough and ready to continue from there.

I spent the next hour or so discussing with my other colleague about how to implement asynchronous processing for one of the use case. After much discussion, we went from a highly complex solution to something really simple. It turns out we don’t need to do something that complex like task scheduling or management. All that is needed is the use of a thread pool or a timer, a few conditional statements and a few loops with database backing. We could achieve asynchronous processing without blocking user interaction.

That felt kind of good.

So, earlier I was saying that I felt uninspired at work and only want to do the bare minimum. Well, there is only one person to look at when it comes to such situation. That person is me. I will have to re-evaluate what I’m looking for again and what I should be doing next.

So let me break it down…

First, I need the money to pay off the credit card bill I incurred buying the iPhone X.

Second, I need the money to go for further studies. It could be anything. Short courses. Online courses. Anything that expand my knowledge further.

Third, I need to take a quick break and focus on my hobbies to counteract that feeling I’m having now.

Fourth, I need the money to build my freedom fund.

Let me start with money…

Therefore, for as long as I do my job not to shabbily, and don’t break any rules, I should be fine. I will just look forward to my paycheck every month. Check.

Have a break…

Well, I decided to go for a long weekend break during the Chinese New Year period. I applied for a day of paid leave the following Monday, which is the 19th. I will use that day to actually take a good break and focus on other stuff.

I will probably go on another break in March and then on a three-day or two-day course in April. I am thinking of User Experience Design or Creative Writing.

Journal #309

I came down with a sudden cold late afternoon and it is making it hard for me to think and concentrate.

But I will try and write something.

There were two things that stood out today.

The first was one of my colleague was dissatisfied with her situation at work and I won’t say more because it’s not my place.

Personally, I’m also equally not satisfied with the place but I need the money so that I can continue to study whatever the hell I want.

The other thing was the mistakes I made with the calculation of the center point of rectangles given some values. It prevented the correct detection whether the mouse cursor was in that rectangle and I debugged the wrong place, causing me to spent unnecessary amount of time on it. I had to rely on my colleague to review through the codes to determine that I was on the wrong track.

This is what happens when you don’t create enough chance for yourself to play with graphics and mathematics. It’s my fault really.

That’s all for today. I better turn in early for the night.

Wednesday Science News Roundup #25

Below are 10 science news that I found interesting and are related to topics I care about.

New CRISPR method efficiently corrects Duchenne muscular dystrophy defect in heart tissue – Scientists have developed a CRISPR gene-editing technique that can potentially correct a majority of the 3,000 mutations that cause Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) by making a single cut at strategic points along the patient’s DNA, according to a new study. Science Daily

Magnetic brain stimulation alters negative emotion perception – A new study reports that processing of negative emotion can be strengthened or weakened by tuning the excitability of the right frontal part of the brain. Science Daily

Brain pacemaker study shows promise in slowing decline of Alzheimer’s – Researchers have studied how using an implant — likened to a pacemaker for the brain — could help Alzheimer’s patients to retain cognitive, behavioral and functional abilities longer while also improving quality of life. Science Daily

It’s a bad idea for a toad to swallow a bombardier beetle – Toad versus bombardier beetle is almost a fair fight. Toads are hugely bigger, can tongue-strike in an eyeblink and swallow all kinds of nasty stuff. But bombardier beetles can shoot hot steam and noxious chemicals from their back ends. Science News

A blood test could predict the risk of Alzheimer’s disease – A new blood test might reveal whether someone is at risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. Science News

Insane Numbers of Viruses Are Constantly Falling on Us From The Sky, Study Shows – If there are viruses on the ground and viruses in the water, one might expect there are viruses in the sky as well. Science Alert

Ingredient In McDonalds Fries Key To Curing Baldness, Researchers Find – You wouldn’t expect a McDonald’s Happy Meal to be a cure for anything, unless you’re chronically underweight. However, a new study has found that a key ingredient in making the meals might be better used to cure baldness. IFLScience

Woodpeckers Seemingly Avoid Brain Damage Despite The Build Up Of Abnormal Tau Proteins – As an animal that spends much of its time hammering its head against trees at a force of 1,200 g’s, it’s unsurprising that many sports companies have looked to the woodpecker’s biology to design better safety equipment and helmets for football players, in order to protect them against brain damage. IFLScience

New Data Shows TRAPPIST-1 Planets Are More Habitable Than We Ever Thought – You’ve probably been on the edge of your seat wondering what the TRAPPIST-1 planetary system has been up to. Now we have four new studies that have probed the planets and its star, and found that they definitely bear further investigation in our search for extraterrestrial life. Science Alert

For The First Time Ever, Astronomers Have Detected Planets Outside Our Galaxy – In an incredible world first, astrophysicists have detected multiple planets in another galaxy, ranging from masses as small as the Moon to ones as great as Jupiter. Science Alert

Journal #308

I have made some small changes to my life as of late. I also have an achievement at work that I’m pretty happy about.

Of course, there will be some unhappy stuff but hey, that’s life.

And it’s gonna be a long post, I guess.

Lifestyle Changes

For a start, I have been doing weight training. I have not done that since 2015 because I got lazy. I also increased my pushup reps. As of now, I have accumulate 55 pushups in a day. My goal is to hit 100 per day. I also just started doing planks for up to 40 seconds.

All that exercise was in part to stave the weight gains that I have as a result of spending too much time sitting down at work and even at home. Muscles for a start consume more calories at rest.

Although I do climb the stairs up to my office on the fourth floor when I go to work and come back from lunch, it isn’t enough as I’ve noticed my waist, butt and thighs getting bigger from fats. I could no longer fit properly into my pants and shirts that I recently bought.

I also acknowledge that despite my desire to be slim like an ectomorph it just won’t happen. My genes just won’t allow it. Instead I have a mesomorph-endomorphic body. So in that case, why should I continue to aim for something impossible and instead focus my energy on toning my body, taking advantage of what I got?

The other change that I made was I started wearing my Apple Watch even at home. I only put it on charge when I go for a shower or sleep.

Previously, I took it off once I came back from work because it just didn’t make sense to be wearing a watch at home. I got clocks around the house. Lately, I just find that it’s a waste to have it just sitting on its charger. The activity rings aren’t closing too. After all, I do move around quite a fair bit at home.

With that, I have increased my move calories settings from 400 to 450. As of now, I have already moved 520 calories. So far so good.

I wrote and published an article here and here about what happened when I did abruptly stop caffeine intake. Yet there is no denying the fact coffee is actually a healthy beverage but only so when consumed in moderation. So I introduced coffee back into my life but in small amounts as part of other beverage. E.g. mocha

Now mocha isn’t healthy because of its high fat and sugar content. But the funny thing is I stop feeling hungry that easily. Previously, I always ordered 3 shots, sometimes 4 shots, Americano from Starbucks just before I go to work. But drinking that put too much caffeine into my body that caused my gut to process food too fast (quite literally dumping) and not absorbing nutrients. It was making me eat more. That was also the reason for my weight gain.

By switching my drinks to Mocha or even Dark Mocha (simply more chocolate), I put less caffeine in my body and the fat and sugar I’m taking is actually making me go longer before I need to eat again. And I do love chocolate and milk anyway. So it’s a win for me.

That’s all for my life changes.

Work achievements and changes

Today I managed to implement several HTTP utilities to help with making RESTful calls, serializing and deserializing data. Alongside that, I also implemented one of the use case and added logic to handle half of another use case, if that makes any sense.

Right now, my work requires me to detect user mouse events on the thick client and do image processing given those events. I was able to implement some basic programmatically generated lines and boxes given some data using Windows GDI. I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made despite it being trivial in grand scheme of things.

Working with computer graphics also brought back some nostalgia from my school days when I was studying computer graphics as part of game development course. To have to deal with pixels, vectors, bounding boxes, and trigonometry is fun although admittedly I’m very weak at maths. In my previous jobs at other companies, I don’t get a chance to do any of that because it’s just not part of their business.

I have also pulled myself away from software and code design. I simply put codes anywhere I see fit. It’s now back to basics, back to the times when I write codes that simply works. I focus now only on the output. There’s no more pattern to why I put my codes.

I also let my colleague write whole backend and I don’t even go there now. The code style, packaging style, naming and whatnots are now all hers and I no longer have any input because I don’t feel like there is a point.

Notice I use feel and not think. I’m a feeler, not a truly rational person, and I’m not ashamed. That’s me being fully self-aware.

And why do I feel there is no point?

First, management don’t care if it’s well designed or not if the core functionality is not out. Design takes time and money. That’s something they don’t have. At least that’s the sentiments I’m getting.

Two, it’s a brand new project and there are no business analysts to tell us what the customer want or need. The requirements will keep changing. It just doesn’t make sense to waste time on beautifying the codes.

Three, the deadline is super tight. There’s no time to waste on it.

Four, my colleagues don’t see any difference between my style of coding and theirs. They focus on the short-term end results, which are functionality and finishing their tasks. Me? I care about long-term more. And that means maintainability, meaning, and readability of the code. But majority wins.

Last but not least, and I will sound very selfish and short-sighted, my contract is only for two years and I don’t feel vested in the company.

Most people look for jobs to pay the bills. As long as the job pay high, they do the job. As for me, I do care about the money and the money is decent. But I am also looking for an overarching meaning in the work I do, or at least be inspired to do more.

However, I see a company full of zombies who are pretty much dead on the inside. The feel of the company is also “meh”. I don’t feel inspired at all. In fact, I’m drained the moment I stepped into office. I’m a feeler and if my energy is already all drained the moment I stepped in, how do you expect me to feel vested?

Ok, that’s all for today. Until my next journal entry….I’m feeling hungry now…

Journal #307

Deep in sleep, a series of moving scenes play out.

A slow churn, up and away to answer nature call.

As heavy as lumbering bear, collapsed into the embrace of loving bed

A series of chimes and beeps interrupted the series of moving scenes;

Drawing the poorly rested mind out to reality.

Filled self with sustenance followed by full body cleanse;

With zero enthusiasm, I left for work.

With a cup of ice chocolate from the lady in white to raise happiness, attain accomplishment at work.

Intentional slow day, escaping from reality through the supercomputer in my hands.

As dusk approach, I called it a day and gone home.

Had a warm shower, nice warm dinner, enjoyed Netflix;

Today was a good day and I’m grateful.