Thursday, June 28, 2007

Busy is just NOT an excuse for being irresponsible

Have you ever asked somebody to do something for you (and you know that it's his/her job) and s/he said that s/he (alright, when I say he and his, I mean s/he and his/her) is too busy and gave you no idea when he will do it? I have, zillions times before, and I'm so upset about it.

Alright, please listen...

Who the heck is not busy in this world??

All people are busy with their own priorities. Okay, I've no problem with it. I have no right or intention to judge whether something is important to a person. After all, it's very likely that I don't see the reality.


That doesn't mean that one can use busy as an excuse and expect people to shut up! At least, one should take some time to read the request and tell the person who asks for help when the task is going to get done. Why don't people do that? Two reasons that I can think of:
  • They can't predict how long their tasks take
  • They're irresponsible assholes and don't want to make promises
For the first reason, I can still accept it if the task is very complicated (I've had a hard time when my ex-manager asked me when I can get an entire commercial software project done). From what I've seen, however, people are usually just irresponsible or afraid to make promises.

Just like I mentioned that not planning your life can have an aversive chained effect on others, not letting people know when you can get something done produces similar results. If it takes 5 days for you to get the task done, I'll put my focus on something else for these 5 days instead of continuously reminding myself to follow up.

Come on, it's okay not to do the task now but please just tell me when you're going to do it. Period.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

時光倒流二十年 (Going back 20 years in time) - Eason

A very good song from Eason's that didn't have as much popularity it deserved. I love its melody :)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Why you want all B's instead of many A's and a few C's

There's a Hong Kong cafe named Sika's that I go to regularly. From what I can remember, I think it's the restaurant at which I spent the most money throughout the years. Yup, I know quite some of my friends don't like going there. It was called OK Cafe for many years and my friends always made fun of its name saying that

"Yeah, everything is just okay, as its name implies, nothing special."

Some time ago I read one of Joel Spolsky's posts named Foreword to Painless Project Management with FogBugz, by Mike Gunderloy. Joel used a restaurant called Isabella’s in New York City as a metaphor to explain what great software is.

After reading the post, I suddenly understand why I visited Sika's for so many times these years: this Sika's in Los Angeles is just like that Isabella's in NYC!

For reals, Sika's is just okay in many different areas. For example,
  • Their food is okay, it never really surprises me. It doesn't taste bad either. Actually their new Chinese dishes are pretty good. I would give them a B+ for food
  • The environment is pretty comfortable, especially the booth seats. Their restroom is pretty bad though as the light is too dim and it's not so clean. I would give them a B for environment.
  • The service? I don't think you should expect much from Chinese restaurants. Despite this, I can't recall a single incident the waiters/waitresses make me mad. I would give them a B for service.
  • The price is actually pretty cheap. For just 7 to 8 bucks, you can get a soup, an entree, a drink and a little bowl of dessert. I would give them a B+ for price
If you calculate their GPA, they have a score of (3.3+3+3+3.3)/4 = 3.15.

Let's say there's another restaurant with two A's, one A-, and one C+. Their GPA would be (4+4+3.7+2.3)/4 = 3.5.

Oh, so the latter one should be better right? 3.5 > 3.15!

No. At least in terms of the money I'm willing to spend at the restaurant, the one with 3.15 beats the one with 3.5. How come? Let me explain.

My friend who said that there's nothing special if everything is just okay was wrong. Indeed, it's very special if some business is okay in every aspect of its daily operations. Using Joel's/geek's term, these kind of businesses are completely debugged.

Because Sika's does pretty well in all areas, there wasn't any single incident that gave me very bad memory. Since I don't have any aversive feelings with it, I just keep going back.

There's a Japanese restaurant named Rokuan in Chino Hills that serves very good sushi and sashimi. The service is very good (the boss would recommend the patrons to cancel their orders if she thinks that they're already full). The environment is okay; it's kind of small but gives you a feel of home.

However, the wait is extremely long.

At a normal weekend night, you should expect to wait for at least one hour before getting a table of 4 (since it's kind of far away, you usually go with your friends).

If I'm going to rate Rokuan, I would give them a solid C for the time I need to wait before getting a table. Just because of this single C, I seldom go there, unless there's some special occasion like a friend's birthday.

I go to Sika's almost every other week. Rokuan? Maybe two times per year. Which restaurant do you think I spend more money at?

When people make decisions, they usually do it emotionally, although they (especially guys) think that they're doing it rationally. If there's a waiter that shows me disrespect (such as making me look like a fool when I ask for some special customization of my food), no matter how good that restaurant does in all the other areas, I just would not go there again; no one wants to look like a fool man!

That's why you want all B's instead of many A's and a few C's for your business.

You may ask me

"What if a restaurant get all A's like those straight A's students?"

No, it won't happen. If they do so well in all areas, the restaurant must be packed, and since it doesn't have an infinite number of tables, my wait is going to be hours and I'd rather go to some place where I can eat immediately :P

Note: I don't really go to Sika's that frequent anymore since they've raised the prices of their dishes a lot. Due to the raising gas prices probably? (*___* )

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Zip or Unzip your files with WinRAR

I always have a habit of assuming that everyone is using the same software that I'm using and not until recently did I realize that I'm usually wrong.

For example, I assume that everyone is using WinRAR to zip or unzip their files. When I did a Google search for "windows compression software", WinRAR is no where on the first page. Does it mean that it's a bad software? I don't think so. WinZip ranks number 1 on the search results page and I hate it. The reason? Simple, they were trying to force me to buy their software. If I didn't do it, I've to wait longer and longer to unzip a file. I just don't think anyone should pay for some software to zip/unzip their files.

Although WinRAR is commercial software, it still gives me all the features I need (and possibly all the features you need too) without forcing me to pay a dime.

(By the way, let me confess that I've not really used any other compression software before. The ones you're using may be just as good as or better than WinRAR. I just don't have to try other ones since WinRAR never gives me any problem)

To use WinRAR to unzip a ZIP file, just right click on it and select the action you want in the context menu:

Just select Extract Here or Extract to <folder_name>. Don't select Extract files..., since you probably don't need to bring up the application interface unless you need to do some advanced stuff. Note that <folder_name> is the name of your ZIP file with the extension ".zip" removed.

As soon as you select an action, it'll start unzipping:

To compress files to a zip file can also be easily done through Windows Explorer. Just highlight the files you want to compress and right click:

From the context menu, select Add to archive... and you will see the following window:

From this windows, you can choose the name of the zip file in Archive name and change the Archive format from RAR to ZIP (which is the format you'll use most likely). Note that the suggested archive name is the name of the folder containing the files you've selected, which is "temp" in this case. If you like, you can also change the Compressions method, but I usually just leave it as "Normal".

After hitting OK, you will see the ZIP that you want:

Of course, there're tons of other features of WinRAR. I just covered the two actions that you most likely will need to perform. Let me know if you discover any interesting use of WinRAR :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

Went to a friend's graduation on Sunday and it reminds me of this graduation speech delivered by Steve Jobs at Stanford in 2005, one of the greatest graduation speeches I've ever listened to.

The two seemingly bad incidents that happened in his life (dropping out of college and getting fired by Apple) turned out to be good things to him. There's a good question he brought up in the speech:

If today will be the last day of your life, will you want to do what you are about to do today?

I think most of the people (including me) will answer no to this question. If we answer no to this question, are we doing something we truly want to do in our lives? Are we doing something that will make us become what we truly want to be?

As he mentioned about his pancreas cancer, we all have limited time in our lives. When we die, there's nothing we can bring with us, so we don't really have anything to lose if we think of it from that perspective. What people will remember is what we contributed to the world, such as calculus from Newton and the Theory of relativity from Einstein.

Steve has been following his heart and doing what he truly loves. Are you hungry and foolish enough to follow your heart? (*__* )

Friday, June 15, 2007

光輝歲月 (The Glorious Days) - Beyond

In the beginning of the video Ka Kui said
Thank you for coming to our concert. I hope that next year we can find a place with more open-mindedness, freedom and peace to sing together, to forget about our pressure and worry, to enjoy a peaceful concert...
I really feel that he loved music a lot.. It's been 14 years since he left us. Someday when I go back to Hong Kong, I'll go visit his grave..

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

"Hey, you stuff too much in your bowl!"

One time I went to the Westfield Santa Anita mall with my girlfriend and ate at the food court there because we were so hungry and couldn't wait till going back to the Monterey Park area.

We decided to ate at Great Khan's Mongolian Festival since it's pretty delicious and you can stuff as much meat and vegetable in the bowl and let the staff there cook them, I thought. As we were putting meat and veggie in the bowl, a staff there suddenly told us

"Hey, you stuff too much in your bowl!"

I was kind of confused since I thought that the patrons are free to take as much food as they like.

"We're just a small business, we can't survive if you put so much food in your bowl." (I don't remember the exact wording, but that was what he meant)

There were other patrons there and they saw the whole incident. My girlfriend was pretty mad and told him that he's so mean, which was agreed by another woman in the line behind us. Despite this, we didn't want to argue with that staff and just let the chefs there cook our food. That was one of the worst dinner I've ever had, not because of the food (the food was delicious), but because I was angry about how rude that staff treated us.

If you think about it, this whole incident was ridiculous. First of all, there was absolutely no sign saying that there's a limit of the amount of food you can put in your bowl. Even if there's such a limit, I expect them to politely tell us not to take too much food; after all, we're patrons, the ones who're paying, right?

I don't know whether that staff was just an employee or the boss of the store (since Great Khan's has a franchise program).
  • If he was an employee, why the heck did he care how much food the patrons took? He got paid the same anyways. Alright, maybe he was a responsible employee. A responsible employee won't piss a customer off for something that's not the customer's fault (again, there was no sign saying that I could only put that much food in the bowl)
  • If he was the boss, that's even more ridiculous. He yelled at us in front of other patrons. Whether he was right or wrong, do you think the patrons who saw this incident would want to go back again if they've other choices?
The funny thing was his claim of going out of business if I took too much. Honestly, I'm not that skillful and I can only put a few more pieces of meat and veggie compared to other patrons. How much did those few extra pieces of meat and veggie cost? Let's say $3 (their meal was like $7)? For 3 damn bucks, they decided to lose two customers forever, not to mention the other ones who never want to go back because they saw the incident. What kind of business brain did that boss have?

If you've been to Pizza Hut before, you should know that there's a salad meal for which you can take as much salad as you can in one trip. Some crazily skillful people can actually take this much

(Photo from

Do you think that Pizza Hut loses a lot of money because of these greedy patrons? I don't think so. Why?
  • There's probably only a handful of people who can build such a salad tower.
  • Patrons usually don't just order this salad meal; they order pizzas also (this is Pizza Hut man)
  • Greedy people like me seeing such a photo will probably go try it myself (but can't get as much of course). This is a great marketing campaign a lot cheaper than doing ads on TV!
After we went home, we actually used the comment form on their website to complain about it. Sadly, we didn't receive any reply from them. (I seriously doubt if that comment form does anything after I click "Submit")

If you're reading this and is one of the management people of Great Khan's, please think about what I said (O___o )

Monday, June 11, 2007

Backup your website or blog with HTTrack

Do you own some kind of blog or website? If you do, you're probably using the services of some third party company to host it, such as Blogger for blogs and Google Page Creator for simple websites.

Because the data reside on their side, there's always a possibility for you to lose everything on your website if their servers burn down or you violate their terms of service. It's just like losing everything on your hard drive if you don't backup your data regularly.

If your website is so important to you like the files in your "My Documents", you should backup your website regularly, and a good tool for this job is HTTrack.

HTTrack is an open-source application designed for downloading websites. When you start it, the first screen you'll see is this Welcome screen:

After you click the Next button, you'll be asked to enter some information of a new project:

You may enter anything as the Project name, such as "My Blog" for a backup of your blog. The default download path is C:\My Web Sites but you can change it to another folder if you prefer, such as C:\Documents and Settings\username\My Documents\My Web Sites.

The next screen you'll see lets you specify the action you want to perform and the website you want to backup:

Here's the list of actions you can perform:

After selecting an action, you click the Add URL... button to specify the URL to your website:

If the website requires a login and password, you should enter them in this dialog box. Note that you may need to remove www from the Proxy field by clicking on the Set options... button for the download to work:

The next screen is for your to select some options before actually mirroring the sites, such as Shutdown PC when finished:

As soon as you click the Finish button, it'll start its long journey of download your website:

Depending on the size of your website, the time it takes for the download to complete varies. If you try to download a huge website like, I'm sure it'll fill up your hard drive before the download completes. I take no responsibility if that happens to you :P

Related post: Backup Your Data with SyncBack

Thursday, June 7, 2007

夕陽無限好 (Sunset's Infinitely Wonderful) - Eason

There're two MTVs of this hit song in 2005 and I like this MTV a lot better. There're three stories embedded in the MTV:
  • The group of friends
  • The young couple
  • The old couple
All three stories express some kind of uncontrollability of people relationships. I especially like the story of that group of friends: do you have a really good friend in childhood whom you completely lose contact with now? That's kind of sad... (-___- )

Updated: Three different stories happened at the same place, this makes me thing of an old post I wrote before: "Do you really see the reality?"

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Firefox Add-on: Customize Google with, hmmm, CustomizeGoogle

CustomizeGoogle is a Firefox add-on that lets you customize various Google products/services such as Google Web Search, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Reader, etc.

Pictures speak better than words, let's look at the configuration screen of Google Web Search:

The descriptions of the options in the dialog box are pretty descriptive already so I'll only talk about the ones I like.

First of all, if you check Add links to other web search sites, you will see a list of links to other search engines on your search result page:

If you check Use Google Suggest (suggest words while you're typing), you'll see a dynamic drop down menu when you enter your search phrase in the Google search box:

This is actually a feature of Google Suggest and you should have seen it if you played around in Google Labs before.

This one is a handy one, Give the search box focus. Most of the times after you perform a search, you'll want to refine the search by adding more keywords. Without this checked, you'll need to click the search box with your mouse before you can alter the search phrase.

If for some reason you would like to see the position counters of the search results like Yahoo does, you can check Add position counter and the search results will look like this:

I like this one the most, Stream search result pages [BETA]. With this checked, you'll see more and more search results as you scroll down the search result page. In some sense it's like a "infinite search well". The nice thing about this is that you never have to click "Next" or "Previous", just scroll up and down!

For Google Image Search, there's a nice option called Rewrite links to point straight to the images:

This is one feature that I think Google should have done long time ago. Very often when I do an image search, I'm only interested in the images, not the websites that contain them. In the past, I always have to click two times before I can see the original images. With this you can see the image directly by clicking the Original Image link:

Don't know why Google can't think of this with all the smart people (O__O )

It also has options for other Google products such as making Gmail secure (using https). I'll let the readers explore the rest of them :)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Oops, I need to pay tax and tips?

Did you ever have lunch/dinner with a group of friends and found that the chipped-in cash wasn't enough to pay the bill (including tax and tips)? I did, quite many times before. That's because some people only pay for what they see in the menu:

"$4.95 for the dish and $1.95 for the drink, alright here's $7, should be more than enough"

$4.95+$1.95 = $6.90, wow, 10 cents more!

Do you know that that you need to pay TAX & TIPS in this country?

In case you don't know (I'd be amazed), sales tax in the Los Angeles county is 8.25% and you should pay at least 10% tips to your server for any kind of restaurant (unless s/he did an exceptionally poor job, like spilling a bowl of soup on you). That's

1.0825 x 1.1 = 1.19075 or 1.2 for practical purpose

So, you should multiply what you see on the menu by 1.2 to find out how much you need to pay. If it's $6.90, you should actually pay $8.28. Always pay at or more than this amount. Bring quarters if you want to pay $8.50 instead of $9.00.

Bad at math?

You say you're bad at math and don't know how to multiply 1.2 in your head? Come on, just divide the menu amount by 5 and add it to the menu amount, that's it. One division and one addition, you can do it right?

But I can't remember the prices of my dish and drink

Then just try to remember the price when you order them. If you really forget, ask the waiter to give you the menu again. Some of my friends like to divide the bill amount by the total number of people and that's what you've to pay. This is just not fair. Some people order drinks and some people order water. Some people eat salad and some people prefer filet mignon. The differences in prices can be pretty big most of the times.

Come on guys! Isn't that so embarrassing to ask each person how much s/he pays when there's not enough money? (O__O )

P.S. By the way, I think that it's nonsense to pay tips according to certain % of the bill amount. Read about it here.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Launch Programs, Documents, Websites, etc. with Launchy

Are you tired of going through layers of directories in the Windows Start menu to look for a program that you use occasionally? If you do, Launchy is for you (downlod it here).

After installing Launchy, you can bring up the search box by pressing Alt-Space:

I don't really like the hot key Alt-Space since I always use it to invoke the System menu of the active window. (Side note: using the System menu, you can restore, minimize or maximize the active window, very handy).

So, the first thing I did was to change the hot key to Ctrl-Space, which isn't really used by any well-known application. To do this, right click on the border of the Launchy search box and select Hotkey:

Then, select CONTROL and Space in the first and second drop down menus and press OK:

Of course, you can select any key combination you prefer.

Alright, now you can type in any keyword to look for a program you want to start and Launchy will try to guess what you want. For example, as soon as you type "fir", Launchy will think that you want to launch Firefox:

If that isn't what, you can pause typing and Launchy will display a list of options for you to choose:

As you can see Friendster from the options, Launchy also indexes your Firefox bookmarks by default (this is because of the Foxy Plugin which you can disable by going to Plugins on the right-click menu and unchecking Foxy).

You can change the skin of the Launchy search box by selecting Skins on the right-click menu. My favorite skin is Aero Soft:

Another feature I like so much is the built-in calculator of Launchy. Instead of using the Windows Calculator, now you can calculate something like 123.48 + 15.89 - 125.78 with Launchy:

The nice thing about this calculator is that it'll display the result immediately based on your current equation. With this feature, I can see the intermediate results of a long stream of calculations.

If you're an advanced user, you'll love the Runny Plugin: you can create aliases for any command! For example, you can create a an alias to search on YouTube. Let me show you how to do this :)

First, select Plugins on the right-click menu. Then, select Runny and click the button Plugin Options:

On the Running Options windows, enter a keyword in the Command Name input box, such as "yt" (for some reason, "y" is reserved for Yahoo, so don't use it for YouTube). Then, put the following string in the Execute input box:$1

(If you're curious, $1 stands for the first argument of the command. You can read more about it in the Readme PDF file that comes with Launchy)

Click the Add button and then click OK. Now, you can search for any video on YouTube with Launcy! For example, I can do this to search for videos related to Eason:

Launchy can also index files in certain directories on your computer and let you find them quickly. Since I'm using Google Desktop for this purpose, I've not tried that feature yet. Let me know what you think if you try it :)