Monday, April 30, 2007

Crimson Room & Viridian Room - Toshimitsu Takagi

Probably most of you guys have played these two games before (if you're reading my RSS feed, please go to my weblog to see the two games):

The purposes of them are to figure out how to escape from the room. There were created by Toshimitsu Takagi. Viridian Room is actually much more difficult to escape from compared to Crimson Room. (I already forgot how to escape from Viridian Room) Have fun :)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Backup Your Data with SyncBack

For average computer users in these days, I'd assume that they store all kinds of data on their PCs: documents, photos, video clips, music files, you name it. As hard drive space is becoming cheaper and cheaper, people store more and more of their data on their PCs. (I know people are beginning to organize their documents online, but I'm pretty sure that storing data on local hard drive will still be the main trend for many years) The data become so important that you just can't afford to lose them.

But do you know that your C: drive can fail at anytime and all your data will be gone?

Yeah there're companies like this one specializing in recovering data from failed hard drives, but the fees they charge can easily be enough for you to buy four or five 500GB hard drives. So, it's very important for you to back up your data regularly. (Honestly, how many of you guys are doing that?)

To back up your data, you will need two things:
  • A secondary storage such as My Book
  • A backup software
My favorite backup software is SyncBack from 2BrightSparks. The main screen of the application looks like this:

It has many features so I'm just going to go through how to start using it quickly. First of all, click on that "New" icon at the lower left corner to create a Profile:

To back up data, you should choose the "Backup" profile type. "Synchronization" is for synchronizing data between your PC and your laptop. It's useful if you need to carry a laptop and work on it when you travel around. Let's focus on the "Backup" profile type now. You will need to give it a name:

Call the profile "Backup" and click "OK". Then, you will see the Profile Setup screen:

Many options here? Don't worry, you don't need to change most of them unless you've some special backup plan. Simply enough, you need to specify the folder where the data come from (Source), which probably is some folder in your "My Documents" (or the whole "My Documents" if you wish), and the folder the data go to (Destination), which should be somewhere on your secondary storage drive. The choice "Backup the source directories files, including all its sub-directories" is good, but I found that you may want to make one little change by clicking on the "Advanced" tab:

On this screen, under "What to do if a file is in the destination but not in the source", change it from "Do nothing, skip the file" to "Delete file from destination". If you don't do that, your backup drive will be full of garbage as you move files around in your primary drive. (Since the original files are not deleted in your backup drive).

Alright, you're ready to backup your files! Just select the profile you want to run and click the "Run" icon in the main window and you're good to go.

One final thing you may want to do is to go to Preferences and check Skip Differences Window. If you don't do that, a Differences Window, which list all the differences between your primary drive and backup drive, will be shown and you've to click "OK" to start the real backup process. It's a hassle if you have huge amount of data in your source folder as you've to wait for clicking that "OK" button. Instead, you should go out with your buddies and have a cup of coffee while your computer is doing the job :)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

When Grape is Ripe - Eason

My another favorite song by Eason. Ironically, I think that Eason sings better on stage than in recording studio most of the time. Part of the reason is that he feels more "naked" on stage. Do you think so?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bill Gates VS Steve Jobs

Pretty fun to see Gates and Jobs fighting against each other. I don't know but I'm so used to Windows' user interface and wonder if I'll ever switch to Mac. Does the mouse of a Mac machine still have only one button? This one-button mouse just makes me feel so weird and it's one of the greatest reasons I don't use a Mac machine, although it doesn't really sound reasonable :P

Friday, April 20, 2007

Feeling Naked with Clothes On

Do you play musical instrument? Have you ever performed when other people are around? If you do, I'm wondering if you ever have the feelings that I had yesterday.

I was at my friend's home last night for a little gathering. After the gathering, I asked her about the piano that I noticed when I entered her house. It was a Tokai upright piano with some dust on it, seemed that it wasn't play by people for a while. Encouraged by my friends, I played my two favorite songs (and the only two songs that I can still memorize) "Close to You" and "La La La Love Song", both of them from the Japanese drama Long Vacation.

As I've not played piano for a while, I didn't play that well and hit some wrong keys. One thing I noted about myself was that I was feeling afraid when I played the songs.

On my way home, I thought about why I was feeling afraid. No, I didn't feel afraid because my friends might tease my playing. I was afraid because I felt that I was naked with my clothes on.

After working in the commercial world for a while, I feel that many friends that I've know for a long time have changed. Actually, I do feel that I've changed in the same direction also, although I don't really know how my friends feel about me.

We all become more insecure to tell others our true feelings and personal affairs.

One old Chinese saying says "You shouldn't hurt other people but you also shouldn't assume that people won't hurt you". Sometimes you just wouldn't know how people will react to your feelings and how they may use the information they know about you. Yeah, it's pretty true. A close friend that I've known for years wouldn't tell me what his career was until he's been in the industry for like two or three years. Another friend would never let people know about what he likes or dislikes. When I invite my friends out for dinner, most people will say that "I'm busy" if they won't attend but seldom tell what they're busy at. And I'm not expected to ask "What're you busy at?" because if they don't tell in the first place, that means they wouldn't want to let people know about it.

Most of us are building an invisible shell to protect ourselves.

I realize that I cannot build such a shell around me when I'm playing piano, when I'm playing a song with all my feelings. I feel naked because every bit of my feelings is conveyed without any distortion. It's a moment when I've no way to lie, to pretend, or to build a shell around myself.

Music touches people's hearts not only because it is a medium without language barrier, but also because it tells us genuine stories. That's why I love music so much (^__^ )

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Remember your friends' birthdays with Google Calendar

Not sure how many of you are using Google Calendar (as most people don't like planning). If you do, you're probably using it to record events or invite friends to lunch. One other use of it is to keep track of your friends' birthdays. (Yeah I know there's website like Birthday Alarm specially designed for this purpose, but it's one less username and password to remember if you already have a Google account)

Let's say your friend Peter's birthday is on the 20th of June. First, you go to the month of June and click on the 20th day

Then, click on edit event details and you'll be directed to the event details page. Enter "Peter's Birthday" in the What input box and select "Yearly" in the Repeats drop down menu

And you'll see the following screen

Be sure to select the "Never" radio button for Ends; Peter'll get pretty upset if he knows that you select "Until" and put some end date to his birthdays :P

To make Google Calendar remind you, say, one day before your friends' birthdays through email, you should go to Settings -> Notifications, select "1 day" for and check the Event reminders checkbox under EMAIL

Oh, because of this post I discover a bug in Google Calendar. If you have a friend whose birthday is on the 29th of February and you add an event for it according to the above steps, it doesn't show up in the any following year! Let's say I add Peter's birthday as an event on 2/29/2008

When I go to February 2009, no birthday event on 2/28/2009, which makes sense since it's not 2/29 exactly. But even if I go to the February of 2012, there's no birthday event on 2/29/2012!

So, according to Google Calendar, people who were born on 29th of February will never have a chance to celebrate birthdays, poor guys :P Fix the bug Google Calendar team!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Joke: Are you Gay?

My friend sent me this joke from, want to share with you guys :)
It has be reported that an employee for Ansett Australia (Airlines), who happened to have the last name of Gay, got on a plane recently using the company's "Free Flight" offer for staff. However, when Mr. Gay tried to take his seat, he found it being occupied by a fare paying passenger.

So, not to make a fuss, he simply chose another seat. Unknown to Mr. Gay, another Ansett flight at the airport experienced mechanical problems. The passengers of this flight were being re-routed to various other airplanes. A few were put on Mr. Gay's flight and anyone who was holding a "free" ticket was being "bumped".

Ansett officials, armed with a list of these "freebee" ticket holders boarded the plane, as is the practice, remove them in favor of fare paying passengers. Of course, our Mr. Gay was not sitting in his assigned seat as you may remember. So when the Ticket Agent approached the seat where Mr. Gay was supposed to be sitting, she asked a startled customer

"Are you Gay?"

The man, shyly nodded that he was, at which point she demanded:

"Then you have to get off the plane."

Mr. Gay overhearing what the Agent had said, tried to clear up the situation:

"You've got the wrong man. I'm Gay!"

This caused an angry third passenger to yell

"Hell! I'm gay too! They can't kick us all off!"

Confusion reined as more and more passengers began yelling that Ansett had no right to remove gays from their flights.

It is reported that Ansett have refused to comment on the incident.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Happy Birthday Katie! :)

Went to Cheesecake Factory last night to celebrate Katie's birthday. The wait was long (expect a two-hour wait at a Saturday night) but their service was just exceptional. Here was the Godiva Cheesecake we ordered

As most of our friends know, both Katie and me eat very little, so we couldn't finish the cheesecake. The server packed it for us and this morning we figured that she wrote another happy birthday greeting to Katie on the to-go box (although she misspelled Katie's name as "Kate")
I was pretty impressed by this little thing that she did, considering the fact that the restaurant was completely full of patrons and all the server were busy like hell. To the waiters and waitresses at most Chinese restaurants: something you may want to learn here. Try your best at what you do and people will notice the heart and hard work you've put into your job.

And, most importantly, wish you a Happy Birthday Katie! (^___^ )

Friday, April 13, 2007

Get Things Done with GTDInbox

I always consider myself a productivity freak - I would go through a series of troubles to get a certain software installed just to reduce the time it takes for me to complete a certain task for a few seconds. Because of this, I love using Firefox a lot as there're numerous cool add-ons that I can install to make me work faster.

One of my favorite Firefox add-ons is GTDInbox. In case you don't know what "GTD" is, it stands for Getting Things Done, a methodology to increase productivity proposed by David Allen. GTDInbox is a Firefox add-on that implements the GTD methodology with Gmail.

Just to save your valuable time, you can continue your web surfing on other websites if
  • You don't use Firefox or
  • You don't use Gmail

If you do use Firefox and Gmail, please read on :)

What's so great about GTDInbox? it comes with some cool features that turn Gmail into a powerful To-Do list. Let me introduce to you some of the features I like in the following:

Enhanced Labels box

After installing the add-on, you will that the Label box on the left hand side looks differently now:

GTDInbox has grouped the labels into meaningful groups, including

  • Contexts
  • Statuses
  • Projects
  • References

GTD Popup Window

Besides, you can label an email right in your Inbox now:

Just place your cursor over the little "GTD" image on the far right of an email and you'll see the above popup window.

Label groups in Message View

When you go into the message view by clicking one of the emails, you'll see groups of labels showing above below the email subject line:

Now assign labels to an email is simply a task of clicking the links there, much easier than using the "More actions..." drop down box.

GTD Action Drop Down box and Task Links

In the Inbox view, there're also some additional handy links for you to view your tasks and a "More GTD" drop down box for GTD specific actions:

Compose Action and Compose Reference Links

Below the "Compse Mail" link on the upper left corner, now there's a "Compse Action" link:

If you click on it, it will take you to the regular Compose Mail screen without the "To" input area at the top:

Note that there're also two additional links now, which are
  • "Compose Myself an Action" and
  • "Compose Myself a Reference"

You can use these two links to quickly assign yourself a task or create a reference to something like a Word document.

There are two more features that I don't use as often, which are "GTD Search" and "Print Hipste PDA Cards". They are left to the readers to explore :)

By the way, their Lead Developer Andy Mitchell is doing a fundraiser to further improve GTDInbox to the next level. If you try GTDInbox and love it please skip your next cup of Starbucks coffee and donate a few bucks to them. Andy is a nice guy and I'm confident that he and his team members can make GTDInbox the coolest plugin to Gmail ever! Keep up with the nice job guys! :)

Monday, April 9, 2007

Shaolin Soccer - Sauce Explode

This scene from Shaolin Soccer is one of the funniest scenes I've ever seen in Stephen Chow's movies. That Sauce Explode guy (or Exploding in the subtitle) was just classic. Note that they copied Michael Jackson's dance moves from Thriller :)

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Monkey Kick Off

Just discovered this fun online game Monkey Kick Off:

The longest kick I did was 4758 meters, you can try to beat me by clicking this link. Or, you want to go another direction and beat my girlfriend's shortest kick, which was 32 meters:

Honestly, I couldn't even do shorter than 50 meters and I don't know how she did that. Let me know if you beat her record hehe :)

Friday, April 6, 2007


Last week I asked my readers that they like to read and didn't really get any response (Thanks for your comment Katie, otherwise I would have zero comment for that post, which would have been pretty embarrassing...)

Actually, one friend told me that I should write more about my daily life. Yeah, most of the blogs I've seen before are like that: people write about what happens to them everyday, much like a diary to me. You may not agree with me, but I think it's kind of boring. People usually are interested in the private lives of celebrities not because their lives are particularly interesting; a mountain climber's daily life probably is more fun. We buy magazines that reveals private lives of celebrities because they themselves are interesting to us. Will you be interested in who your neighbor (whom you only say "Hi" to and don't care much about) is dating this weekend? Probably not. Will you be interested in who Britney Spear's new boyfriend is? Well maybe not now, but it should be a "Hell yeah" a few years ago.

Do people find me as a person interesting? I don't really think so. How can an engineer be interesting anyways? :) (In a recent event named Three Strangers and a Wedding held by Mark and Brian, that poor engineer potential groom was obviously not attractive to any of the brides) So, writing about my daily life is most likely a good strategy to drive my readers away :P

What should I write about then? Since I started this weblog, I've been writing stuff similar to what I like to read. There're two types of stuff I won't be tired of reading everyday:
  • Something that makes me laugh/happy
  • Something that enlightens me
Like many nerds, I've a constant appetite of learning. However, one thing that excites me more than gaining new knowledge is enlightenment. What I mean by enlightenment is something that changes the way I think about certain thing, especially if I'm so accustomed to a "standard" perspective.

For example, most people would agree that rewarding employees with certain incentive will increase their productivity. However, Joel did not agree about that. Although I didn't not completely agree with what he said, he made me think of this traditional incentive/bonus management methodology in a completely new perspective. To my mind, a new way of thinking like this one is more valuable than functional knowledge (such as learning how to do oil change for a car or how to set up a server) as it opens up a new horizon of viewpoints for me to explore.

One of my old posts "Do you really see the reality?" was written with that purpose. I don't necessarily want people to agree with my opinions. Actually, I'd feel happier if people don't agree with me and tell me about it since it can very well be another enlightenment to me. That's why I always welcome people leaving comments on my weblog.

A scene in the TVB drama "To Get Unstuck In Time" kind of impressed me. Roger Kwok was walking Flora Chan (who was in a wheelchair) on a pavement along a seashore. The sun was setting and Roger exclaimed in awe how beautiful it was. Some auto sprinklers were sprinkling the plants along the sides of the pavement. Suddenly, Flora told Roger to kneel a little and look at the sunset through the mist. What appeared in front of Roger were several rainbows reinforcing the grandeur of the setting sun, which was a marvelous picture.

"People who cannot walk like me may have lost many opportunities in life, " Flora told Roger. "but these beautiful rainbows could only been seen by people riding in wheelchairs since normal people see the world at a different height."

This is a perfect analogy of what I regard as enlightenment: seeing something in a brand new direction, which may not be discovered until someone points the way to it.

I don't and am not qualified to have the greedy hope of being the source of enlightenment (this is the job of saints like Gandhi). However, I'd be so glad if my posts can make you think differently once in a while in this busy world :)

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Blogging Softly

As you may have noticed already, I created a new blog named Blogging Softly last week. I'll write about any topic related to software there, such as reviewing software that I love/hate.

I also thought about writing technical stuff like a how-to on integrating Apache with Zope. It'll benefit both other developers and me since other developers may have the same problem and I can refer to the how-tos when I forget about the details.

However, that probably would be too technical for most of my current readers? I probably should just write software reviews for a while and see how it goes :)

Find out answers with 1-Click Answers

I'm always a big fan of As a non-native speaker of English, from time to time I'll encounter some words that I don't know how to pronounce. And has this little speaker icon on the right-hand side of an English word that pronounces the word when you click on it:

If you're like me, who look up stuff on everyday, you should install 1-Click Answers. After installing it, you can Alt-Click (holding one of the Alt keys and press the left button of your mouse) on any word in most Windows application and a little window will pop up and show you the meaning of the word:

And that little speaker icon is also available in this pop-up window! Another nice thing after installing 1-Click Answers is that you can pull out an AnswerBar from either the left or right edge of you screen and enter the word you want to look up by pressing a Windows key (the keys with the Windows flag on it, right beside the Alt keys) and 1:

When you press enter, a new browser tab/window will be displayed and show you the word's webpage. This is quite a bit faster than opening up a web browser, go to the homepage and and type in the word there.

Oh one interesting thing about You may be able to guess that it's a public company and yup you're right, its stock is traded on NASDAQ. But they only have 53 employees! (I don't know much about business and stock but I didn't know that company of that size can go public) And they're not doing well financially these two years... (If you're interested you can see their profile on Google Finance) Hope that they'll do fine soon and continue to provide excellent software and services!

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Flying Smiling Face

When I was on my way back home today after lunch, I saw that some aircraft was trying to draw a smiling face with white smoke in the sky. I didn't have a camera with me in my car but I tried to take a picture of it when I got home:

It was that little white circle in the picture. The smiley looks something like this (I now realize that it's so difficult to draw even a simple smiling face with a mouse):

This smiley reminds me of a cartoon character called Umininn that was introduced to the market in 2001:

I really like this cartoon figure because it looks like me as I have very small eyes. My girlfriend always said that my eyes are like two horizontal lines and made fun of me. Well, I think Umininn is pretty cute, so, by deductive reasoning, I'm cute too? That's not too bad :P

I remember I bought a pair Umininn dolls years ago. Not sure how they are doing now?