23 Mar 2006

end of procrastination

my blog title had some undue influence on my behaviour for the last couple of months. so i've changed it to be less subverting. it was either the one now, "amplifying the noise", or "there is no signal".

Procrastination

this is my new background to send subliminal messages to myself. it's nearly as good as setting my supervisor's self portrait as my background (like someone does in my lab.)

damn it. i'll start to be selfish and work for my own goals rather than the good of mankind. muhahaha ..

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22 Mar 2006

ryanair now charging for check in baggage

i heard this on friday but i didn't believe it at first, but i just saw it on their webpage.

so now you get to pay £2.50 for your 20kg luggage. still, they are the cheapest airline around. *grumble* .. i'm so cheap!

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22 Mar 2006

plotkit - canvasgraph reborn

i'm putting up the rewrite of canvasgraph online, plotkit. it is still a javascript graphing/charting/plotting (whatever you want to call it) library that allows you to draw charts using the html canvas -- and now, inline svg!

svg support is still preliminary, in fact, i've had more trouble getting svg to work on more browsers than canvas. but you now have an option to use svg if you wish.

Plotkit-Demo

there are some major changes in this version, and hence the name change:

1. complete code rewrite. now split into 3 to 6 files depending on whether you want the new slicker graphs, or just to old traditional graphs.
2. svg support. it works, as you can see on this test page. however there are number of caveats that i cover in the svg documentation and in my svg/canvas browser status document.
3. extendible rendering class. it is much easier to support various themes and customisation without knowing anything about the layout code.
4. slightly longer initialisation.
5. a dedicated mailing list in case someone wants to discuss, or help out with the development.
6. emulated internet explorer support, via canvas on ie.

so learn more, check out the new plotkit project page. and of course, my stats page has been updated to use the new code.

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20 Mar 2006

australia beat india at basketball by 84 points

what is the point?

At Ballarat last night, the Boomers beat an Indian team out of its depth by 84 points, 133-49, giving those bored by the no-contest the opportunity to remember that last Thursday the women's team had beaten India by an even hundred, 146-46.

link to smh article.

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19 Mar 2006

newsgator crushing under the load?

i've been trying the new beta of netnewswire 2.1. after all the dabbling with many news readers (i've bought both netnewswire and newsfire previously) i still think netnewswire suits my needs the most.

the main cool things with this release is the speed and the newsgator syncing. but i still haven't been able to get that work properly. somewhere along the line, the syncing misses more than half my feeds, mostly bloglines and flickr ones. i can understand the bloglines one, because who wants one web aggregator to aggregate feeds from another web aggregator.

however, i believe the real problem is that newsgator hasn't been working well all weekend. it would stall, give me .NET errors and continually log me out even though i told it to remember me. maybe i'll wait a bit before i try it again.

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19 Mar 2006

london weekend trip

as i said, i hopped down to london on friday night to see off my friend joanne. she's a friend i made way back in high school through a friend. i didn't really see her much until uni where she started going out with one of my very good friends. since then she's been a good friend which i sometimes share problems with.

well, she had made her way to london for half a year on some law firm rotation thingy (they call it seconded, but they pronounce it in a weird way to make it sound all poncy). she's leaving next week, so i was down for a farewell dinner thing.

surprise meeting

turns out there were like 14, 15 people there, most of them either lawyers (grr..) or bankers (grr grr..). to my surprise, there were a couple of aussies in the midst, and from sydney as well. i have to clarify here, these aussie-asians, so the same type as me. the best thing of all was that i bumped into a friend of mine back in high school called shaun. he (unbeknownst to me) made it to oxford and then ended up working at the prime minister's office. yeah, he gets to see tony blair regularly -- and he's an aussie-asian. figure that out.

it was cool meeting up with him, because i had not realised what people had been up to, and he even told me there 's a 10 year high school reunion this year. damn, has it been that long? i remember a graduated in 1997, so it can't be. hrmm. also got the gossip whats up with some of the ultra elite people in my high school (i never made it into the top 20 in my high school), and some of them have gone on to doing PhDs at MIT, Harvard, Stanford, etc.

thing is i was never really good friends with him, since he was in what we/they term as the A-crew. you can sort of guess what that means, these are the people who us inferiors would look up upon and call them nerds because they made it into the A-class for all their subjects. even though you didn't bond well in high school, when you bump into them later in life, you feel much closer to them than any other people when you're in a foreign country.

anyway, just wanted to share one of the best friday nights i've had this year. i think it is the first time i haven't felt alone in this world -- and plus talking the shaun made me realise how important it is the chase your dream and figure out what you really want to make out of your life. not what some friend or family thinks you should do with your life.

i hope i get some chance to meet up with him again next time i go down to london.

expensive dinner

other things at the dinner, it was at covent garden at a place called detroit. the food was excellent, but you'd expect that after paying £36/pp. beer and drinks were super expensive there, if you think castle pub is expensive, wait till you go down here for some lame imported lager. yet these lawyer people could all stomach the cost -- but hell, i haven't gone out for dinner in 2 months, so i could afford to splash out a little.

btw, that 36 quid basically was for some drinks, black ink pasta with cuttlefish and a really really nice grape, walnut, pecan rocket lettuce salad. i just realised that is basically $A80, which meant i could of been eating all the lobster and salmon sashimi i could stomach for 2 days straight. that is how crazy it is to eat out in london. i'm really thinking whether i want to work here after i finish with cambridge.

illegal beer

i didn't fancy doing taking the cinderella train back to cambridge on friday night, so i opted to crash at manfred's place (cinderella train = last train before 12). turns out i rushed out of cambridge so quickly that i forgot to bring any sleeping clothes, toothbrush etc.

i said goodbye to joanne and wished her luck as she was going to rome for 4 days before heading back to hk. told her about all the things to look out for like the pickpockets on the subway and the bag slicing thieves.

i met up with manfred at covent garden and we managed to catch the last tube back to oxford circus. not feeling like we wanted to end the night so quickly, we went round to the convenience store for some beer. the beer was in plain view in the fridge, but when we decided to choose something, the shopkeeper told us that we couldn't buy any because it was past 11pm. fair enough.

so we was about the reach for some 7up when the last customer in the store had left, and suddenly the shopkeeper decided that he'd sell us beer after all. except we have to put them in our bags. hey, i don't care about breaking the law here, nice to see some sense in these shop keepers. so thanks to the law flouting shop keeper who kept the night flowing for us.

we went and chatted till 3am, about everything from our ambitions, to relationships, to architecture, to tech, to work, etc. it was great fun. as i had 5 pints of beer, i had a bit of a hangover the next day.

saturday lunch + double espresso + apple store

we met up with some friends that manfred had been asked to meet up with -- which he didn't know before. its one of those things where you go to some place new, and someone says "hey, my cousin/sister/friend lives there, i'll give you their number and you can give them a call!" i never follow through with that sort of stuff, but i suppose they might be been really bored of london.

they were great people tho, really friendly, in that american type of way. they were from the states. we had some traditional fish and chips, but rather than the beer at lunch, i opted for a double espresso to clear my head. once that was clear, i could remember my usual subliminal london visiting objective. that is, i have to visit the london apple store. again, this doesn't disappoint. i checked out the ipod hifi which i ranted on about before, the sound isn't thaaat good, but it is better than all the other ipod speaker docks. but seriously, i dunno if i would call it home audio quality.

the macbook pro is great, the magsafe power supply really does work, the built in isight camera was pretty decent quality. the rosetta stuff isn't bad, microsoft word was usable for typing documents, but i'm not sure how other sutff like photoshop would be.

so thats about all there is to say about my trip to london. this is a much longer post than usual, but many things happened that i'd like to reflect on -- and bore all you guys to death. btw, to those who actually know the characters i'm talking about, it wouldn't kill you to drop me a note :P

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18 Mar 2006

wisdom of crowds

i went down to london on friday night, and on the train i didn't feel like working so i put on one of two "south by southwest interactive" (SXSW 2006) podcasts i downloaded earlier in the week to listen on my ipod, and boy was that interesting.

if you haven't heard about wisdom of crowds, do yourself a favour and read up on what it is about or even better, listen to the podcast or watch the video from SXSW2006 of the talk given by James Surowiecki on his book, Wisdom of Crowds.

basically, he describes a phenomenon which contradicts the belief that the collective intelligence of a large group of non-experts can exceed the intelligence of an expert when it comes to solving problems. the caveat is that this will only happen under certain circumstances, and these conditions are not preposterous. the talk itself is very interesting because James Surowiecki is a very good speaker, so you definitely won't get bored.

in the talk he relates the content of the book to how the internet can be used to forecast events or problems. he mainly argues based on anecdotes, so it isn't clear whether it is real phenomenon, or just in corner cases.

this is definitely something intriguing that i want to investigate. i'm going to get his book to read more about it. you can think of a couple of new sites that work on this, such as digg.com.

one further note, he mentions something about hollywood stock exchange (HSX), i actually remember playing this for a year back in 2000. i didn't realise that i was actually involved in a special kind of prediction market.

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15 Mar 2006

google mail and privacy

i've switched two of my email addresses to gmail and i'm starting to like it quite alot, especially because i can access my email on both my linux and mac machines without resorting to evolution/apple mail.

however, i don't trust google enough to store all my email, so only my high volume accounts will go to gmail, such as my cambridge account and liquidx.net (spam). my tse.id.au account will never go to gmail or any other web mail providers, ever. as long as i have my own server, it will be hosted on that, and if not, i will try to keep it in a secure place. in fact, my tse.id.au account is so low volume that opening it up in apple mail ain't so bad.

so if you are really privacy conscious or if you have something that you are extra paranoid about sending to me, then use my tse.id.au account. you can find the email address on bio page.

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13 Mar 2006

hong kong's octopus system

while i was talking about the japan suica system, i thought about the octopus rfid card system in hong kong, which i've used ever since they introduced it back in 1997. wikipedia has a very complete description of the octopus card. here are some interesting points:

1. octopus was developed by a company in perth, australia.
2. the same company is deploying the system in netherlands.
3. there are twice as many cards issued than the population in hong kong.
4. the maximum amount you can store on the card is HK$1000 (eg. US$120).
5. transfer rate is 212kb/s, uses sony felica (same tech that sony is putting into their laptops to read japanese rfid cards, suica and edy)
6. takes 0.3 seconds to complete a transaction. that is quick!
7. the card uses a two way challenge response with PKI.

that probably is how it works on buses and trams. since these vehicles have no network connection, they couldn't possibly store the value in a central server. so i suspect what happens is the card itself stores a number of public keys, and each company is given a private key to authenticate with it.

the interesting bit is revocation, if a key is compromised (like a sloppy tram operator), how will the system revoke the key? if i were to design the system, i'd probably revoke it during the "recharge" process where you have to take your card into a 7-11 (or other convenience store), and in the process upload the new key list. the situation is a bit interesting with the auto-topup system that is operated by some banks that allows value to be added on automatically when funds run low, that means a card might never be used on a recharge station.

seems like rfid payments have come a long way -- except there hasn't been any substantial security analysis of the cards, or maybe i'm looking in the wrong place.

finally, i, for one, welcome my contactless card touting overlords.

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13 Mar 2006

del.icio.us and lenovo

Delicious Lenovo Big

here are the icons for delicious and lenovo (pc maker who bought IBM's PC operations). do those icons look similar or is it just me?

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