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I have a pair of IconX, which in theory are a great idea. A pair of earbuds only (no hardware to connect between the earbuds) that act as a bluetooth headset or an mp3 player. They’re kind of like the Apple AirPods, except they were available (and cheaper) before AirPods were released or announced.

I received my pair “for free” because I had some credit to spend as part of my employer’s year end gift. I was on the fence about spending it on this (+ some other stuff) because there were some negative reviews centered around:

  • Limited battery life: I think it was rated at 1-2 hours over BT and 3-4 hours on standalone
  • Mono sound on standalone: Some reviewers/users didn’t follow instructions and copy their music to both ear buds to enable stereo sound

In the end, I persisted and got the IconX.

I think the battery life limitation is fine, because you receive a case which doubles as a battery pack. You have to use the case anyways to store the earbuds (more on that later). The earbuds are supposed to last a few hours on standalone, which is more than enough for a commute.

Since I don’t have to commute, I haven’t been using the IconX frequently, but lately I have had some opportunity to try them out. Sadly, every time I try to use them, I hit some sort of problem.

  1. I setup the earbuds in standalone mode and tried them out. I listened for about 10 minutes and then took them off as they kept playing the same song over and over! It turns out that you can’t organize your music in folders as it will only play music from the root folder (and I only had a single song there).
  2. I tried controlling my music, but the control mechanism (single, double, tripe clicks, and up/down swipes) is finicky. Either the tactile pickup is laggy or the timing is off. It just doesn’t feel natural to control it, and often I go to the next track when I try and pause/resume music
  3. I fixed my music and the next time I tried it out, there were no batteries. I guess that even though the earbuds are in the case, they are still on/consume battery. So standby mode basically drained the batteries and I couldn’t use them. I learned my lesson and now keep them on the charger until I need them.
  4. After charging the batteries, I used it again in standalone mode. It worked well for awhile, but then complained and ran out of batteries after half an hour! It turns out that even though they are operating in standalone mode; if your paired BT device is nearby, it will maintain an active connection to it. Whoops
  5. Next time, I removed the pairing from my phone and used the earbuds in standalone mode again. My phone kept popping up a message saying that the earbuds wanted to pair – every time you dismiss it, it comes back after a few seconds. It turns out that the earbuds will try and pair for 3 minutes after they are removed from the case. I don’ think there’s a fix for this so it’s just annoying
  6. Finally, I was able to use it for awhile, but then in some instances, the earbuds get out of sync and the audio is off by a few 100 microseconds! I guess there’s an easy fix – you just remove the earbud from your ear and put it back in.
  7. Oh and pause/resume doesn’t work correctly. After you resume playback, it always starts at the beginning of the song rather than where you stopped. That’s also annoying

I’m disappointed that there are a lot of fundamental problems that make this frustrating to use. It’s too bad, because I like the idea. I guess I will have to go back to carrying an mp3 player and wired headphones.

One of the reasons I bought the One Plus Two was because it had dual sim card slots. There are a lot of Chinese phones that have dual SIM card slots, but the OPT is one of the first ones with Western world support (the other being ZenPhone 2). From past research I knew that usually dual SIMs meant that the second sim would be GSM only, so before deciding on the OPT, I did research to verify that both slots could indeed support 4G.

While my OPT arrived last week, my Micro B to USB type-C adapter didn’t arrive until this week, and I went out on the weekend to do SIM swaps from micro to nano (WIND waived the fee and Bell charged me $10). However, when I tried both SIMs, I could only connect to one network at once! I tried a bunch of things and thought that I had a software caching issue (I had used the AWS SIM first and then switched its slot, maybe the first slot was still looking for a network on AWS).

Anyways, it turns out that while it didn’t matter which slot I put the SIM cards (i.e., both supported 4G networks), only one could work on 4G at once. The other had to work on GSM. I guess this kind of made sense – OnePlus didn’t bother embedding 2 4G radios in the phone. But it basically broke my use case because neither WIND nor Bell has a GSM network so I couldn’t use both SIM cards at once. Even if one of my providers had a GSM network, I don’t think it would satisfy my use case, because I wanted 3G data fallback and 3G/LTE data can only work on one SIM card at one time.

In the end, I decided that my strategy would be to carry both SIMs but only use one at once. At least this way if I hit one of the WIND deadspots, I can switch to Bell. The switching process is kind of a pain though, hopefully I can write a quick Android app to make the process one-click.

The completionist in me has me suffering through Trexels (which I disparaged here) so that I can clear all the missions. It’s still a horrible game, but right now I don’t have another casual alternative. So on I go.

The farming isn’t even most infuriating thing – I can live with that (because that is what kills time). I can even get around the UI bugs now because I know what they are and can avoid them. It’s the poor software that is to blame (some bugs, some not). I even made a list!

  • There are rooms that give adjacent rooms a bonus. One would think if you put a room between two bonus rooms, that room should get double bonuses right? Nope!
  • Upgrading room takes time in a sequence (30 min -> 10 hours -> 24 hours). However after you move an upgraded room, every once in a while it gets reset down to level 1. Now you have to invest another 2 days into leveling it (and losing the associated farming)
  • There is a bug where if you do a holodeck simulation and gain command/research/power, those values do not reset after you are awarded the resource. Instead, each subsequent award is added to the previous (so first time you get 500, then next time you get 1000, then 1500, etc). Meaning, it is possible to get unlimited command/research/power at a much faster rate than farming
  • There is a holodeck simulation that costs 0 resources to attempt (Sector 2 – Mura Tapa away mission). Not a big deal when you have unlimited resources, but good to start out with. Later you can use Sector 7’s Arodna Prime to get a lot of resources really quickly once it is stacked.
  • There are some missions that assume you have a specific character – for example, the Lore mission assumes you have Data as a helmsman as the dialog talks from Data’s perspective. Except…Data is not free and costs a large amount of premium currency to obtain. Also, you get Sulu for free and he is a helmsman, so a lot of players will probably not invest their hard earned premium currency on Data. Why is Sulu talking like Lore is his brother??
  • In general, not a lot of attention was paid to who is speaking the dialog. Often the captain refers to him/herself in third person!
  • There are some missions that are just bugged and cannot be completed (i.e., Sector 2’s Mendel mission which many people have complained online about – yet has not been fixed!)
  • The later missions are impossibly hard even with fully leveled crew members (300 in all stats). I’ve even resorted to using character bonuses (i.e., +Combat) on top of the 300 stat in an attempt to pass them (they ask for only 240 average stats) and it doesn’t work. Basically it is now impossible for me, through skill, to pass any space or hand-to-hand combat missions. I have to wait for a fix or wait until the random number generator is in my favour.

Wow, that’s a lot of bugs!

I went down to Silicon Valley for a couple of days this week for work. This is my first time here actually (I went down to SF for a couple of days in July 2005 but didn’t spend time in the valley) so it’s been a learning experience.

What I learned is that it is basically like Seattle (but with better weather). Most of the areas that I’ve been driving around are filled with one-storey industrial buildings that house famous tech companies. There are a lot of streets, a lot of traffic lights, and a lot of cars. We drove from Sunnyvale to Mountain View for dinner the first night and it was more of the same. After dinner (at 8pm) it was back to the hotel which was a long term stay place that was reminiscent of my Archstone residences in Redmond.

Since I am still on EDT schedule (so 4 hours ahead), I’ve been waking up early. That’s unfortunate because there’s nowhere to go! There’s no where to walk and even though I have a car, there’s no where that I would want to drive too!

I can see why people would want to live in San Francisco and suffer the commute to the Valley.

Even though I learned the scientific principle behind it as part of my university education, being able to wirelessly charge a device still feels like magic. So I have been pretty excited that the last few Nexus devices support the Qi standard and can be charged wirelessly. I had considered buying the official Google Qi charger because of the magic, but when I thought about it more, it really is spending $50 for the convenience of not plugging in your phone every night.

So I waited until Qi chargers started appearing cheap on the Chinese sites. They have had them for awhile, but it was only in the last few months that they’ve fallen to around the $10 mark. So far I’ve bought 4 Qi chargers and my experience has not been that great.

The first one I bought was on a slant, so that it could work like a dock for your phone when it was charging. I thought it might make my phone more useful as a clock (or at least use the daydream mode). I knew that it would not magnetically hold my phone (like the official charger), but use some sort of anti-slip material. It turns out that anti-slip material was a form of glue/tape that eventually loses its grip. Since the position really matters (and affects energy transfer), this ended up in the garbage quickly.

Next I bought one that was like a hockey puck. This worked fairly well for awhile and I used it as a bedside charger. But the positioning of the phone started making a difference after awhile. Some mornings I would wake up and my phone would only have been charged slightly (annoying) or not at all (useless). Most nights it would be ok – but because it is possibly unreliable, I can’t trust it. I suppose I should have just spent the money on the magnetic one, but I didn’t because I wanted a couple of chargers.

I got a rectangular pad with a larger footprint (similar size to a phablet) for my desk and that has worked fairly well. I find it more useful than plugging my phone in, not because I’m too lazy to plug my phone in there, but because it prevents my phone from being recognized in ADB when I don’t want to deploy apps to it. This has been my most successful use of a Qi adapter.

Finally, I got another puck shaped one and put it in the living room in case I needed to charge my phone there. This again worked for awhile (although I didn’t use it too much) until it decided to burn out or otherwise not function any more. Again it became useless.

I won’t even get in the fact that Qi charging is not 100% efficient and is thus slower than actually plugging the phone in. But ignoring that, my experience with Qi has been much less than magical.

I bought a cheap 7″ Android tablet recently (don’t worry, it’s not a Chinese one so I won’t throw it away). I was waiting for a Nexus 7 (1st gen) refurb to hit the $100 mark so I could get one as a test/development device, but then Dell had a sale on its Venue 7 for $119 so I got that instead. It’s not terrible, but it’s not as snappy as my Nexus 4 (or Nexus 5). Also I still have an issue where I don’t how to use a tablet for personal use, but that’s another story.

What was neat about a new tablet was that I had a chance to try out Android’s multi-user support. In theory it sounds great when you need to share 1 device in your family, but does it truly work that way? Well the first problem I faced was that it wasn’t enabled in the OS version that shipped with the device (4.2.x). I had to upgrade to 4.3 before that feature was enabled (bad on the part of Dell).

Once I enabled it, it was a disappointment. The apps that are installed are not shared between users, so you would need to install something like Facebook twice. The size of the apps add up. I know that the SD card is different for each user, so any data downloaded by an app is not shared either. If multiple users want to play a game that is a couple of GB? They’ll each have to download the app and the resource files! At least this tablet has expandable storage.

Then I tried restricted profiles. This seems like a great idea to setup a child with a kid-friendly device. You would disable access to the important apps and let them read books or play kid games. I bought a bunch of children books in the past when they were on sale for this very purpose. Now, I was very disappointed to find that while you can give a restricted profile access to some of the apps on your account; if those apps need a license check (whether through Google Play or Amazon app store), they won’t work. That pretty much invalidates most of my kid apps and books.

So the multi-user support sounded great in theory, but I think I’ll stick to having a single user on the tablet now.

I bought my Nexus 4 in December 2012, and as per my upgrade cycle plan, I was due to upgrade in April 2014. Well that didn’t happen because I just bought the Nexus 5 when it was announced at the end of last month.

In actuality, I bought 2 Nexus 4s, and have been having a lot of trouble with them (due to LG’s hardware design). I shattered the front screen of my first Nexus 4 (my fault) and had to get it replaced. The replacement took a longtime and I don’t think it was the same type of screen (Super AMOLED or whatever) as the colour reproduction seems a bit dark. In the meantime, I had bought another Nexus 4 and had started using that one, so there was no need to use my fixed one (since I would have to move my settings over and what not). My first N4 became a test device (and I installed Paranoid Android on it just to see what the hype was about).

I used my N4#2 for awhile but had a freak accident one day. This one was definitely not my fault. I plugged the phone into the USB cable for charging, and the back glass started cracking over a period of a few minutes. Eventually the entire back was cracked. Aside for some worrisome prickling, I guess I could’ve continued using the phone – except one of the cracks was over the camera lens glass which refracted the light in a funny manner if there was a point of light within the frame.

I lived with this for about four months, but at the same time was looking to see what I would buy next. I liked the MotoX but the off contract price was too expensive. The Nexus5 was reasonably priced (albeit not having any wow/cool factor) so I ended up with that. I actually missed the announcement window by 35 minutes but there were still white backed 32GBs randomly appearing in stock. I wanted a white-backed one, but didn’t really need more than 16GB. But having gone through the inventory scarcity the last time, I just picked that version up. It actually shipped very quickly (estimated Nov 8 but shipped on Nov 2)!

If you’ve been reading my blog, you probably know that I have been playing Happy Street. One of the reasons it piqued my interest and caused me to play it was there was an upkeep cycle which rewarded frequently playing. It was detrimental because the upkeep cycle was pretty short (maybe 2 minutes max to do some farming and choose what to craft next).

Over the last few months, I have built a surplus of almost every item in the game. This is necessary as one way to get the premium currency in the game is to provide a random item when the game asks for it. I was in a nice equilibrium where I play frequently enough that it was relatively easy for me to obtain the maximum amount of the free premium currency.

Of course, they updated the gameplay and now it’s frustrating to play.

They basically added a new premium currency in the form of collectable cards (although there are only 5 different cards). Using the cards, you can get new collectible/premium content. That’s fine. Even getting the new premium currency is fair, as you trade things that you’ve crafted for a random card every x hours.

The problem I have is that some of the trades they ask add an incredible amount of upkeep to the game. For example, they may ask for 12 planks of wood (in addition to other items). Wood is an easy resource to craft as the supplies are common and it takes less than 5 minutes. But the game mechanic is such that you can only craft 1 plank of wood at a time, so in order to supply this order, you have to check the game every 5 minutes within an hour.

I know that the game makers want to convince players to “check in” with the game frequently, but every five minutes over an hour is ridiculous. And it is because of this goal that I don’t think there will ever be functionality to do batch crafting. Wood planks is not the only example of this either, as there are other objects which have this rigorous crafting schedule. This frequency makes the game a chore and might be enough for me to give it up.

I already complained a lot about Nonis’ moves this off-season, but that was just a rant. There are a lot of other moves that I thought were dumb:

  • Re-signing Colton Orr for another 2 years – I don’t think we need an enforcer on the team to be tough. We need to be tough to play against. So signing Colton Orr for another two years doesn’t seem to make sense to me (plus he’s already earned his pension).
  • Re-signing Kyle McLaren for another 2 years – same as above, but now redundant because we already have Orr!
  • Trading Bernier for Scrivens, Frattin & a 2nd rounder – Bernier has more “potential” than Scrivens but who knows which one of them may turn into a superstar (perhaps neither). This is counter-balanced by the fact that our goaltending solution just got more expensive and complicated (no outright #1) and we lost a solid & cheap third liner in Frattin. This move might turn out to be a win for the Leafs, but so far it’s a dud.
  • Letting MacArthur go – MacArthur was a good, skilled player for us. He made his teammates better and took good shots. It would have been better (and cheaper) to resign him than to resign Bozak
  • Signing David Clarkson for 7 years – Ever since Burke took over, he has wanted this guy on the Leafs. Now we finally have him, but the cost is that he’ll be here until he is 37 y/o. For a bruising, power forward type of guy; I don’t think he’s going to hold up that long and we’re going to regret this deal. I’m not happy with the amount of money either – would rather have Grabovski instead!

As you can see, these are all moves that I disagree with, and think are detrimental to the future of the team. This makes me sad and maybe I will just stop being a fan for a few years.

Like most off-seasons, the Leafs have made a bunch of moves; but this is the first year in a very long time where I feel that the team is worse off than when it started – by a fair margin. The recent memory for a Leafs fan is mostly optimistic, starting from the time that Brian Burke took over, he began a “rebuild” and we seemed to be moving in the correct direction (although with a bunch of a setbacks). With his firing, it seemed liked we were still on a good path because is softer-spoken right-hand-man, Dave Nonis was now running the show.

But Nonis’ recent moves have made me think about just taking a break from the Leafs for a couple of seasons.

The most knuckled headed move was to use our second amnesty buyout on Mikhail Grabovski (whom I like to call Crosbovski for his awesome shootout moves). Being a big budget team, we had the luxury of using our amnesty buyouts to take an expensive problem from a small market team, for a non-monetary fee (such as a prospect). Instead, we used it to buy out our most experienced and arguably best all-around centre. Grabovski can score (even though he didn’t this year, because he was utilized incorrectly), drive possession, and play the tough minutes against top opponent lines. He was being paid $5.5 million a year (which might be a slight overpayment).

I can only guess, but it seems the reason that he was bought out was because he didn’t get along (communicate) with our coach, Randy Carlye, well. During the lockout, he played in the KHL and was one of the top players in the league. Why we would buy-out our best centreman (and possibly a #1 centre) when we have said repeatedly that we are still looking for a #1 centre is beyond me! I think this has really set back our team.

One of the reasons cited for getting rid of Grabovski is so we have more money – and we ended up spending that money by resigning Tyler Bozak for 5 years at $21 million. Even though he plays on the first line, Bozak is not nearly as good as Grabovski. He just isn’t the all-around centre we need (another reason why the Leafs management has stated they’re still in the market for a #1 centre). We shouldn’t have resigned him!

The other reason we needed money is because we just traded for David Bolland who is making $3-odd million this year. In a vacuum, this is a good pickup because we traded him for 3 draft picks who will probably amount to nothing either. I don’t think he is substantially better or worse than Bozak, although he has gotten a lot of press by being on 2 cup-winning Blackhawks teams. But, by getting him, we had $13 million committed to 3 “2nd line” centremen. That is a dumb situation, so we had to get rid of one, which became Grabovski; but why did we have to have this problem in the first place? We could have just not resigned Bozak or not traded for Bolland!

My feeling is that Nonis is making these moves so he can construct a Caryle team with Caryle-like players. The problem with that is I don’t have confidence in Caryle as a coach! I fear that we will look back on these moves the same way we look back on the dumb moves that JFJ made. And worse, these are only SOME of the problems that I have with the Leafs’ off-season moves!

Now that I have multiple computers that I actively work on, I actually have a problem with keeping them in sync. All my files used to be on my desktop and I had a specific way of organizing them across several drives; but my laptop doesn’t have nearly as much hard drive space (and I even sprang for the upgrade 256GB version). I’m not sure what files I should keep on my laptop, what files to keep on both, and what files to keep only on my desktop – I guess all my media (photos, music, books) would end up being on my desktop only; and everything else would be in both locations.

Another problem I have is that I’m using Firefox as my primary browser on my desktop but decided that I would switch to Chrome as my personal browser on my laptop (I’m using Firefox for work-specific logins). This means I have bookmarks and saved passwords across two different browsers that I can’t synchronize. Seems like the easy way is to switch to Chrome on my desktop, but I guess I have a legacy preference.

I also need to buy a new desktop (no more upgrading) eventually so I figure I should think about this and try and solve my issues so that the coexistence with my next machine will be easier.

This month, I’ve been trying to setup a corporation to own all the web and mobile development that I do. The process seems overwhelming and most people suggest that you pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to help you set one up – but for me that is not a good deal since my revenue will not offset the lawyer fees!

So I’ve tried to do much of it by hand. In theory, it is actually not that hard or complex. There are a couple of forms that you have to fill out, and a couple of documents you have to file. For a corporation that is small (i.e., very few shareholders or directors) you can do this via templates.

But in practice, it is confusing and tedious; and this is because there are too many competitors trying to make money off you in this space. The web is filled with information, but the information is incomplete because the publishers have an interest in selling you a service to perform the process for you. Similarly, no one wants to provide templates or samples, because then you can just copy them and avoid paying for service!

I can understand why businesses want to do this, but it is a infuriating when you expect the web to lower barriers and allow you to do it yourself!

One of the things I hate doing is taking the car in for maintenance. Even if the service representative isn’t pushy, I still feel like I’m getting scammed into paying money for no reason. I think the reason for this is because I don’t really know what I’m paying for.

The car industry reminds me a lot of the consumer computer industry – places like Future Shop and Best Buy will suggest that people buy extended warranties, anti virus protection, recovery discs, geek help, etc with their computer purchase. I’m sure a lot of consumers don’t actually know whether they need these services or not but are preyed upon and end up spending more money than is necessary. I feel like one of those consumers when it comes to cars.

Of course, I don’t want to feel helpless, so I try to never make impulse decisions and to do some research before committing to certain tasks. But I find it is very difficult to do research – I can’t (economically) experiment with my car to see the effects of my decision and I find the information I find online is biased. For example, I had to decide whether to do my timing replacement this weekend and did some reading online – the anecdotes were from people who suffered premature failure and those that repeated the standard line (replace it every 100,000km). The (perhaps silent majority) who had their timing belt last well over 100,000km hardly post at all; and why should they? They are quite happy with their timing belt’s longevity.

I ended up getting the timing belt replaced, because I had already put it off for almost 35,000km longer than I should’ve (obviously it didn’t snap). But it got me thinking about a recent article I read in Wired about designing for failure.

If you chart failures over time, you will almost always see some form of bell-shaped curve: A few units will fail early, most will fail in a cluster in the middle of the chart, and a few will last much longer than expected. Knowing when the first failures will happen is vital to guaranteeing reliability. On Ford parts, the very first fails aren’t supposed to happen until just after the 10-year mark (with most of them occurring much later).

I am quite confident that the maintenance guidelines for every single part are set so that the time limit is to the extreme left of the bell curve – it would be a public relations disaster if a car’s parts failed when it could have been prevented through a more pre-emptive maintenance plan. Of course that means that on average, you can safely go beyond that guideline without suffering failure. The trick, is that you don’t know the time scale of the curve so it is difficult to judge how much longer you can go (and the car companies will never tell you either).

Therefore in a way, the money that you pay for car maintenance is actually a form of insurance to ensure that your parts don’t fail. Except instead of the insurance companies having full knowledge of the statistical likelihood something will happen and charging based on that calculation, car manufacturers make you pay the full price for the part at pessimistic intervals, every time. That is an inefficient system, and a rip off.

Two years ago, I complained about my inability to move my Gallery2 installation (now with 32k+ photos) to the “new” Gallery3. Two years later, I decided to try again, because I figure that by now all the kinks should have been solved in the import process right? Well I was wrong. I still can’t import my photos so I’m still stuck using photo software from web 1.0 to host my photos online. That’s just wrong!

But I can’t find a good solution to this problem. I blogged recently about my intent to put my photos on Picasaweb but that is not easy to do! My current gallery has 771 albums and takes up almost 40GB of storage. It will just continue to grow in size (especially with my new camera taking photos at higher resolutions). If I forget about backing up my originals online, and let Picasa compress my photos (to say 600kb each), that’s still 18 GB of data to transfer. Then I have to ensure it is organized properly.

Personally, I see Picasaweb as a curated photo collection, but it takes even more of my time to filter, select, and post my photos.

I’ve done searches every few months to see if there is better software out there to help me organize photos, but every other PHP script is, like Gallery2, stuck in Web 1.0. I’m resigned to the fact that I should backup my photos by mirroring them offline, but I still don’t have a good solution to put ALL my photos on the cloud. I’m just surprised that other people haven’t run into (and solved) this problem – whenever I search for issues on importing from Gallery2 -> Gallery3, users are talking about only hundreds (and in the odd cases) thousands of photos. Surely, there must be people out there trying to manage photo collections of hundreds of thousands?

For the last few days, I’ve been fighting with a worm on my web server. I think my site was infected when my host (Dreamhost) had its FTP passwords compromised, but I didn’t detect it until now. The hack is pretty innocuous; it simply injected some JS that would load a page in a small or hidden IFrame. The purposes, I suppose, is to increase page hits on those pages. I didn’t notice it for a long time because my browser’s AdBlock plugin blocked the IFrames!

This type of hack has been discussed quite extensively on the WordPress forums and the advised solution is to delete everything and re-install WordPress (thankfully, the database is unaffected, so you can re-install on top of your existing installation). After some investigation, the reason for this is because the worm injects JS into every single Javascript file it can find (anything with .js extension). In fact, it’s not restricted to WordPress; it’ll look for anything in the file system!

I’ve cleaned my WordPress several times, but the worm has re-appeared. I think that it placed a .php file somewhere on my host which, when run, will perform the file system scan and add itself to JS files. To combat this, I’ve been systematically going through and deleting files that I no longer use. Fingers crossed that I found the root file!

It’s a bit frustrating to have to combat this. Originally I was annoyed at WordPress for causing this problem, but it turns out that WordPress is just another victim. I can’t even play the mainstream-software-sucks card!

Like I did with the Kindle, I have some complaints about the Kobo Touch. Here they are:

  1. Too much promotion
    When you first buy the device, there are featured books all over the place. I’m not really interested, and I understand that the device is partially subsidized by it, but I don’t like it. Fortunately, you can push the ads & etc aside so it doesn’t intrude on the UI.
  2. Too much phoning home
    Reading on the web, it sounds like the device tracks itself using Google Analytics. Plus, there is already implicit tracking through Reading Life and the Awards. I disabled the Google Analytics tracking by using a hosts file on the device, but I’m not sure what else they may be doing.
  3. Weird touch screen behaviour
    In the beginning I had lots of problems with the device not recognizing my touches when I wanted to turn a page. I had to resort to double clicking (which went ahead 2 pages) and then click back one page. It turns out that you have to tap and release quickly for it to recognize a click – something that is unintuitive.
  4. Can’t highlight text across a page
    Or at least I can’t figure out how to do it. I think the workaround is to change the font so the text you want to highlight fits on one page, but I’m to lazy to do that!
  5. Not enough awards
    “Awards” is the equivalent of badges which you can earn from reading books. It comes with about 20 awards, and I’m not close to attaining all of them, but I’m sure I will. I wish there were more awards (possibly this can be updated online).

Aside from the clicking, I don’t think any of these are terrible, so I am still fairly happy with the device.

Here is a problem with the TTC:

The 68 Warden (north of Steeles) is supposed to come every 20 minute or so, and should be spaced accordingly. Except, in real life, due to the riders or the drivers or traffic, it doesn’t happen that way! In this case, 40 minutes worth of buses going south are now approaching the same stop, and the next bus is 50 minutes away (instead of 20 minutes). Or at least that’s what they say, who knows if the next northbound bus is actually going to go north of Steeles?

Why are there 6 northbound Warden buses around 401?

VIVA typically doesn’t have this problem. Sure their drivers make $7 less per hour than TTC drivers, but maybe it’s because YRT invests those $7 into other job roles that make sure their buses are on time!

Ever since grade 8, I’ve relied on public transit in some capacity or another (although I do take long breaks awake when I have a personal car). I can only remember a transit strike affecting me once, which was back when I was in high school and I ended up riding my bike to school instead. The current YRT strike is the second time.

In reality, there is no large affect for this strike on me, I am fortunate that my work is supplied by both TTC and YRT/VIVA so I can switch over to using the TTC. Of course there is a lot of little frustrations and changes:

  • Did you know that you have to add 10¢ on top of your “extra fare” north of Steeles now? This is to match YRT prices (with the side effect that you can use YRT tickets as the extra fare). I wonder if that will increase to an extra 30¢ when YRT raises its fares in the new year
  • YRT asked TTC (or so TTC says) to change the frequency of the Warden bus from ~15 minutes to ~20 minutes. At the same time, YRT decreased the VIVA Pink frequency from 10-12 minutes to 15+ minutes. I wonder if they want to prevent people from switching to TTC?
  • I have to pay almost 2X per week to get to work now. If I take VIVA, that’s $26/wk and now it’s $50+/wk
  • The cost per day is $10.20, which is a lot of tokens and dimes to stock up on (20 tokens and 10 dimes a week). After doing that for a week, I just ended up buying a GTA pass for $52/wk
  • TTC drivers have much less skill than VIVA drivers. A lot of TTC drivers jerk their buses a lot, either to accelerate or brake, so the ride is uncomfortable and bumpy. I’ve only noticed once or twice on VIVA.
  • The last strike (in 2008) lasted two weeks. This one feels like it will last much longer, because there aren’t any talks or negotiations scheduled! It’s almost like they will be off the job indefinitely. That is frustrating, but what can you do? They have a monopoly and there is no real alternative.

Remember I blogged about these horrible Steve Maddens shoes back in March of this year. Well I’ve been wearing them for the last few months – not every day as I switch them up for runners or other colors some days – and they are just as bad as I describe them. It seems silly to just throw them out though, so I’ve been wearing them until they wear down.

Now when I say wear down, I mean the fabric; due to weather or dirtiness etc. I haven’t worn down the sole of a shoe since I was a little kid! I can’t say that anymore though, I’ve worn this pair down. As a kid, I would sometimes wear down my sole so the at the heel there would be holes. The same thing happened here; except with these Steve Madden clunkers, I wore down the toe part as well! The front part has no more tread either! I’ve never done that before.

I can understand if I wore this pair of shoes for a long time, but I’ve been wearing them for less than a year! I also haven’t spent a lot of time walking in them (I do most of my working on vacation and wear other shoes there). These are just, for the second time, very poorly designed shoes made from low quality materials. Don’t buy Steve Madden.

On Friday night, I was watching the Maple Leafs/Sabres preseason game and learned that it was a home-and-home, with the second game on Saturday night. I asked Pauline if she wanted to go on Saturday night and she said yes. Great! but the only problem is that we didn’t have tickets…

I ended up using StubHub for the first time, which is a website where people can resell tickets to events. We got a pair of 3rd row 300s for $31 each, which is over a 100% increase of the face value ($15). That’s not too expensive because I had looked at preseason tickets at the ACC and they were $35 for obstructed-view tickets! What pissed me off is that StubHub is the same garbage as Ticketmaster. I had to pay a 10% fee (so $6.20) for using the service, and then a $4.95 fee for “getting my tickets over email”.

Having a game in Buffalo also gave us an excuse to do some cross-border shopping, which we did, and then drove through some unfamiliar and ghetto parts of Buffalo before arriving at the stadium. The event parking was only $10 which was nice as I was expecting $20 as per Toronto. There were A LOT of Buffalo jerseys (the more recent gold and blue ones, not the old black and red ones) and not as many Leaf jerseys as I thought there would be. Although I did find a pair of Leaf fans wearing jerseys with the name Miller (and numbers 1 and 35) – so they had Ryan Miller on the wrong team AND wrong number! Speaking of wrong team, I also saw full poster advertisements for Tim Connolley who is now on the Maple Leafs!

(I saw Elliot Friedman as he talked on HNIC)

We sat above the Leafs goal in the first and third, so I saw a lot of #51 (Jake Gardiner’s) impressive skating and first pass skills. Unfortunately, Toronto played most of their regular lineup on Friday so we only saw ⅔ of the second and third lines, ⅓ of the defense. Here was the starting lineup for Toronto (Buffalo iced a much stronger team, although they were missing Miller, Roy and Pominville from their regular lineup).

(Grabovski just got thrown out so Kulemin is taking the faceoff)

The game ended up being Buffalo PP 3, Mikhail Grabrovski Crosbovski 2. Grabovski scored a couple of nifty goals, deflecting the first one off his skate and then leaping to tap in a rebound. Our PK looked shakey (couldn’t clear the puck and gave up all 3 goals) and Gustavsson did not look confident in net. Buffalo has a very strong team this year, and they played a stronger lineup so it’s not too surprisingly we lost; but hopefully we’ll get our act together and be more competitive by the regular season.

Earlier this year, York Regional Transit finally joined the 21st century and implemented an electronic fare system. That might sound tragic, but the TTC has yet to implement the same system! Meanwhile if you head over to London or HK or Tokyo, everyone is using their transit cards to ride their system and buy snacks etc. I can only say that it is about time!

Even now, it’s only partially implemented. If I were to ride on a TTC bus, I would have to use a token. If I were to go to some less-frequented subway stations, I would need to use a token too! I can probably pay for parking or buy from Tim Hortons with it in 2050 or so.

I’m sure there was a lot of politics behind this, but my user impression is that it just doesn’t work well. I wanted to get a Presto Card, but I couldn’t even buy one! I tried the local store that sold transit tickets and they didn’t sell them (with no plan to get them). I’ve seen booths at Richmond Hill Centre selling the cards, but why would I want to get off the bus to buy one? I was finally able to get one by filling out a form on their website, paying $16 by credit card and receiving it in the mail 5 days later. Yay I finally simplified my life right?

Wait – you can’t use it yet though. First, you have to make sure your card is registered on their website. Since I bought my card online, I had to complete the registration process before they would mail me my generic card (they could have at least printed my name on it!). If you were to buy your card elsewhere, you would need to register online first!

Wait – still not done. After you have a card, you need to activate your card. You click a button on the website and are told that your card will be activated “within 24 hours” and then you must use your card within 7 days! Why are there these restrictions? Why doesn’t my card come pre-activated even though I specifically ordered it from their website?

So in all, it takes me 6 days to get my Presto card and have it working. Good thing I’m not a tourist to the city! An e-fare system isn’t bleeding or even cutting edge. It can’t be that hard to design so that it is simple to use.

I can’t wait until I have to reload my card, hopefully that will be straightforward.

Earlier last month, we started watching Glee from the pilot. I’ve caught Glee various times on TV, but have not watched it religiously. It’s entertaining enough in a fan-of-music type way that I was willing to watch the entire series.

Halfway through the pilot, I had a sinking feeling that Glee was not actually that great – but surprisingly, it redeemed itself by the end of the episode. I think it was because there was a strong positive message that tied up the character introductions. But as I am watching through the rest of the season now, I’m growing to become ambivalent about the show. Perhaps one reason is that without the artificial delay of weekly telecasts, you end up suffering from an overload of Glee (and it’s not like we watch a lot, just an episode a day).

In the first few episodes, many of the characters exhibited odd quirks; but I think as the season wore on, this werid moments lessened and the themes became mainstream again. This helped to lessen the appeal, if it’s just a high school drama I can watch 90210! Second, the music is too varied. I don’t really have an interest in Broadway, so after the 5th Broadway number it just feels like wasted time. Same for a lot of other songs I haven’t heard about or enjoy. Then, beyond the initial appeal of random teenagers dancing and singing to a song you know, I end up only being interested in some of the performances (and isn’t watching Glee mostly about hearing them sing?)

(Is it bad that two of my favorite Glee clips are washed-up early 90s boyband-esqe artists?)

Finally I get the most fed up with the fact that most of the time when they sing, there have these goofy smiles on their faces. Granted, it might be a show choir requirement to wear a smile mask; but seeing them do this in every song, even when rehearsing in their classroom, makes it a farce. Are we supposed to imagine that music solves all problems? Or only that this opportunity to sing in the classroom is the one moment of absolute joy for the Glee kids?

Do you wait all winter for summer to roll around (which takes about 8 months to get here) so that you can go out and enjoy the nice weather? Me too. But one look at that weather forecast, with all of those 38°Cs popping out at me just makes me want to stay indoors to spend some quality time with the A/C and play video games all day. Kind of like winter I guess.

Well at least I can look out the window and appreciate that we have sunny days!

Last week, I had the crazy idea of installing Windows7 on my netbook. In the end, I think it would have been better use of my time if I just bought a new netbook with Win7 pre-installed as it took me 5 days to get this done!

The tricky thing is that my mini9 has a 8GB SSD as a hard drive. That’s pre-formatted, so it’s only 7.2GB effective space. If I installed stock Win7 then I would be left with something like 600MB after install – and that’s minus the hibernation file or page file (although I typically set VM to 0). Add a few apps, and I can’t do anything with my netbook, so that obviously won’t work.

The solution is to strip down the Windows install and only install the key components. I did this with my prevoius Windows XP install using a program called nLite. For my Win7 journey, I used vLite. The process is fairly simple – you pick what components you don’t need and those are not installed. There are several guides online to say what you shouldn’t remove if you want a running system. So I tried this, and must have gone through the process of stripping and installing something like 15 times to no luck! The reasons behind this were (I thought):

  1. Corrupted or lingering linux traces within MBR on netbook (since I used GRUB to force XP on)
  2. SD card problems: bad sectors, incorrect preparation of SD card MBR, incorrect partitioning
  3. Removing too many components with vLite
  4. Working with a bad/corrupt Windows7 ISO
  5. Incorrect settings in BIOS wrt SSD controller
  6. Incorrect partitioning on SSD

I really thought my problem was #1 because the result was that I would consistently get a digital signing verification failure on winload.exe when trying to boot Windows for the first time (which you can bypass), or a corrupt/missing classpnp.sys. Googling seemed to indicate that this was a problem with the MBR – yet I cleaned it (using diskpart clean all) and overwrote it and rebuilt it (using bootsect and bootrec) many many times without avail.

In the end, it turns out that the problem was because I was using a (not bad nor corrupt) Windows7 ISO that had SP1 integrated. vLite cannot support the SP1 integration (it’s written for Vista really) and I had to use rt7Lite in order to strip the install properly. My first try with rt7Lite worked (although I mistakenly stripped out my WLAN drivers so I had to grab them from Windows Update)!

In the end, I still only had 1GB left over on my SSD after install – although that is with a 2GB hibernation file. It’s usable and actually quite zippy (if Windows Update isn’t doing updates in the background). I also moved up to Firefox4 so I have a completely new interface and almost like a completely new netbook!

I have a pair of casual Steve Madden shoes. I have no idea who Steve Madden is, but I guess he is one of those brands that have a suddenly large commercial presence in the last decade (i.e., Coach) and make reasonably priced “designer” goods. I have a pair of shoes by him, and they suck. I think I bought them at Century 21 for $60 (so it’s not like I bought a pair of $20 shoes from Walmart, nor do I expect high quality shoes).

These shoes have some special coating (you can feel it) on the laces whose only purpose is to prevent knots from sticking. I’ve tried tying reef knots and granny knots but after say a 100 steps, they will unravel. I have to resort to tying two knots in order to keep them together, but even then they slowly unravel after a week of usage.

Secondly, the soles of the shoes are very thin. If you’re walking on cold concrete in the winter, you feel like you’re walking barefoot. If you’re walking on gravel, good luck. Needless to say, they are quite uncomfortable – and you’ll need to invest in insoles to wear these shoes.

I’m not too fancy about my footwear as long as it serves its purpose, especially since they are casual. But if the shoes are uncomfortable and bothersome, I think they are definitely poorly designed!