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May finished really quickly. That means that Katana is almost 3 months old! She can now “chat” with us and turn her head to look around at all sorts of interesting things. Still sleeps a lot though. May ending means that June is on us, which means summer vacation is only one month away! Where the school year go?

I traveled down to Mountain View this month for work, although it wasn’t directly for work as I went to Google I/O instead. I’ve tried to get tickets for a few years but this year I was finally picked! It was interesting to visit and hear about all the new Google stuff that’s released this year. If I didn’t go to Google I/O, I would have gone to Korea instead, but fortunately they happened on the same week so I didn’t have to travel for half the month.

California was hot the last day I was there (30°C) and so was Toronto, but the rest of the month was mostly rain. The trees have budded and most are full with leaves, yet the rain keeps on coming. The Toronto Islands and some parts inland are flooding due to the accumulation of water – I don’t think you’re allowed to go to Centre Island until July at the earliest!

While we didn’t get a lot of time to go out and walk around in the neighborhood after dinner, we’ve started doing more outdoor activities and packing the weekend. This month we went to Wonderland for the first time this year, Doors Open, and the York Region Police picnic.

  • The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’
    I didn’t know about this, but now that I know, it’s not too surprising. There are certain people in Japan who, after suffering to much shame, ‘evaporate’. What that means is that they just disappear and go somewhere else (instead of committing suicide), leaving their family and friends to wonder where they are.

    Whatever shame motivates a Japanese citizen to vanish, it’s no less painful than the boomerang effect on their families — who, in turn, are so shamed by having a missing relative that they usually won’t report it to the police.

    Those families who do search turn to a private group called Support of Families of Missing People, which keeps all clients and details private. Its address is hard to find, and its headquarters consist of one small room with one desk and walls sooty with cigarette smoke.

    The organization is staffed with detectives — often with evaporations or suicides in their own family histories — who take on these cases pro bono. They average 300 cases a year, and their work is difficult: Unlike the United States, there is no national database for missing people in Japan. There are no documents or identifiers — such as our Social Security numbers — that can be used to track a person once they begin traveling within the country. It is against the law for police to access ATM transactions or financial records.

  • The Great A.I. Awakening
    The efficacy of Google Translate improved greatly since last November, and the reason behind it is that Google started using AI to power the translations. This article talks about why and how they did that, but most importantly, how the use of AI in this feed can affect AI in general

    In the 1980s, a robotics researcher at Carnegie Mellon pointed out that it was easy to get computers to do adult things but nearly impossible to get them to do things a 1-year-old could do, like hold a ball or identify a cat. By the 1990s, despite punishing advancements in computer chess, we still weren’t remotely close to artificial general intelligence.

    There has always been another vision for A.I. — a dissenting view — in which the computers would learn from the ground up (from data) rather than from the top down (from rules). This notion dates to the early 1940s, when it occurred to researchers that the best model for flexible automated intelligence was the brain itself. A brain, after all, is just a bunch of widgets, called neurons, that either pass along an electrical charge to their neighbors or don’t. What’s important are less the individual neurons themselves than the manifold connections among them. This structure, in its simplicity, has afforded the brain a wealth of adaptive advantages. The brain can operate in circumstances in which information is poor or missing; it can withstand significant damage without total loss of control; it can store a huge amount of knowledge in a very efficient way; it can isolate distinct patterns but retain the messiness necessary to handle ambiguity.

  • Meet the husbands who fly first class – while their wives travel in economy
    An almost incredulous article where various men and women justify why spouses travel in different classes of the plane.

    “We left home as a couple, checked in our luggage together and went hand-in-hand to departures. When we boarded the plane, we parted, saying: ‘I’ll see you when we get there.’ We had a lovely fortnight together in Barbados. John was especially attentive — perhaps he was a little guilty.”

    Since then, Michelle has preferred to travel as far away from her husband as possible. And John couldn’t be happier: “Do I feel guilty? Not at all! I get treated very well in business class. And if, one day, we can afford it then I’d love for the whole family to join me there.”

  • Silicon Valley’s Culture, Not Its Companies, Dominates in China
    This makes a lot of sense. Who wants to work a rigid and long schedule when you can just work flex hours?

    Last year, Facebook fired an enterprising Chinese employee who played to the unmet demand and charged one group of tourists $20 each to tour the campus and eat in the company’s cafeteria. Now, the only thing notable for tourists to see is its thumbs-up sign.

  • “Architecture saved my life”: Pablo Escobar’s son is a good architect now
    I like stories like these where there is a juxtaposition between lifestyles within two generations. In this case, the architect seems to be making a career for himself, although I don’t know how much of this is actually a puff piece.

    I believe that in a way my father was also an architect, he was very clever. He was just an architect for his own convenience. There was a Sunday my father took me to airplane fields and in the middle of the jungle, we were standing on the airfield and he asked me, “where is the airfield?” I couldn’t see it, and he said, “You are standing in it.” I couldn’t see it because I was looking at a house in the middle of the runway and there was no way the plane could land because it would crash against the house. He took a walkie-talkie and told one of his friends to move the house. It was on wheels. When the airplanes from the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) were searching with satellites looking for hideouts, they couldn’t find anything because there was a house in the middle of what was a possible airfield. The planes can use it—just move the house.

  • What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team
    What did Google find when it did research on finding the perfect that worked well together and delivered? I’ll save you the trouble of reading the article and quote the answer. However, I think creating teams that can foster these types of environment is difficult in practice.

    When Rozovsky and her Google colleagues encountered the concept of psychological safety in academic papers, it was as if everything suddenly fell into place. One engineer, for instance, had told researchers that his team leader was ‘‘direct and straightforward, which creates a safe space for you to take risks.’’ That team, researchers estimated, was among Google’s accomplished groups. By contrast, another engineer had told the researchers that his ‘‘team leader has poor emotional control.’’ He added: ‘‘He panics over small issues and keeps trying to grab control. I would hate to be driving with him being in the passenger seat, because he would keep trying to grab the steering wheel and crash the car.’’ That team, researchers presumed, did not perform well.

  • You won’t believe how Nike lost Steph
    There’s two stories in this article. How Nike lost Steph, and how Under Armor was able to convince Steph to come across to their world. Here’s a quote from the former:

    The pitch meeting, according to Steph’s father Dell, who was present, kicked off with one Nike official accidentally addressing Stephen as “Steph-on,” the moniker, of course, of Steve Urkel’s alter ego in Family Matters. “I heard some people pronounce his name wrong before,” says Dell Curry. “I wasn’t surprised. I was surprised that I didn’t get a correction.”

    It got worse from there. A PowerPoint slide featured Kevin Durant’s name, presumably left on by accident, presumably residue from repurposed materials. “I stopped paying attention after that,” Dell says. Though Dell resolved to “keep a poker face,” throughout the entirety of the pitch, the decision to leave Nike was in the works.

  • What it’s like when your Tinder date lives across the U.S.-Mexico border
    This is an interesting problem faced by people who live near borders. I guess Niagara Falls/Buffalo could have similar things. Although, in this example there are some cultural hangups as well.

    Like Daniel, Jesús can tell from a profile where a girl is from, but it isn’t about language. He says a Mexican girl typically has a profile pic that’s a selfie set in a restroom with bad resolution: “American girls, you see them doing something, like going outdoors or to the beach or going clubbing or having lunch with their friends.” The key difference: “In Mexico, it’s ‘How hot are you?’ In America it’s more ‘What do you do, what are your interests, what do you like?’”

  • World Heat Record Overturned–A Personal Account
    This is a bit esoteric, but I found this to be interesting and convincing. The world heat record used to be 58°C (136.4°F) measured on September 13, 1922 at Al Azizia, Libya. Now the record has returned back to Death Valley!

    In any case, Randy picked up the ball and created an ad-hoc evaluation committee for the World Meteorological Organization to evaluate the record for the WMO Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes ( After this positive response from Randy, I asked El Fadli if Libya officially accepted the Azizia figure. He responded that they did not. Since records like this are, to a degree, the provenance of national interest and El Fadli responded that Libya did not officially accept the colonial-era data from Azizia (measured by Italian authorities at that time in Tripolitania), this became the catalyst to launch an official WMO investigation.

  • ‘How Much Suffering Can You Take?’
    I’m never going to do a marathon, or a triathalon, or an Ironman competetion. But these people do five consecutive Ironmans within 5 days! Is that crazy? Their bodies think they are.

    Ultra-endurance athletes appear to have an increased rate of cardiac arrhythmias, or unusual heartbeats, most likely because of scarring of the heart known as fibrosis. But what, if any, danger that poses has been hard to pin down, Hoffman said.

    “Exactly why the fibrosis occurs probably isn’t understood, but seems to be an adaptive response to this sort of exercise,” he said.

    These ultratriathletes, however, tend not to dwell on the wear and tear of their bodies, at least once the race is done.

    “I know this is not good for my body,” said Jay Lonsway, a urologist who completed the quintuple. “But it is good for my soul.”

  • They Promised Us Jet Packs. They Promised the Bosses Profit.
    A quick look at how Google X operates – did you know they get bonuses for purposely failing a project? In a way, it makes sense…

    The idea of celebrating failure is a Silicon Valley cliché, but Mr. Teller talks about it in the practical terms of a management consultant. Say you have a team of 20 people working on a project that is not going anywhere, he said in a recent interview. In a year those 20 people will be 30 people. The company has to pay their salaries and health insurance, and the team will inevitably hire a few consultants. Worse, they will have wasted a year.

    How much money could the company save if you could get them to cut bait a year earlier?

  • I have found a new way to watch TV, and it changes everything
    After hearing about this approach, I want to use it when I watch videos (is there a button that I can do toggle this on YouTube yet?). Although one area where this wouldn’t work is if you’re watching music videos (is almost half of the videos that I would watch).

    In the 1960s, a blind psychologist named Emerson Foulke began experimenting with this technique to accelerate speech. A professor at the University of Louisville, Foulke was frustrated with the slowness of recorded books for the blind, so he tried speeding them up. The sampling method proved surprisingly effective. In Foulke’s experiments, speech could be accelerated to 250-275 wpm without affecting people’s scores on a listening comprehension test.

    These limits were suspiciously close to the average college reading rate. Foulke suspected that beyond 300 wpm, deeper processes in the brain were getting overloaded. Experiments showed that at 300-400 wpm, individual words were still clear enough to understand; except at that rate, many listeners couldn’t keep up with rapid stream of words, likely because their short-term memories were overtaxed.

  • Everything we love to eat is a scam
    On the one hand, I suspect that the findings in this article are true (I’ve experienced a wide range of quality in salmon sushi), but as an avid food eater (which I hope you are too), it really sucks.

    Farmed Cambodian ponga poses as grouper, catfish, sole, flounder and cod. Wild-caught salmon is often farmed and pumped up with pink coloring to look fresher. Sometimes it’s actually trout.

    Ever wonder why it’s so hard to properly sear scallops? It’s because they’ve been soaked in water and chemicals to up their weight, so vendors can up the price. Even “dry” scallops contain 18 percent more water and chemicals.

  • The brilliant mechanics of Pokémon Go
    This Pokemon Go article is about how it is a great freemium game and some reasons why it is so addictive. Of course, now we have confirmation that it is a fad and doesn’t have dominant staying power.

    In Pokémon Go, there’s no feature that allows you to extend the life of your playing session by inviting or reaching out to friends. In fact, the social graph is almost non-existent in Pokémon Go. Instead, your in-game social graph is an extension of a supplemented version of your real-world social graph. A smartphone owner sees someone playing the game, becomes curious, downloads the game and plays it — both interacting with other players and inspiring curiosity in other potential new players. And the rest of the time you’re looking at screenshots of what’s happening in the game in your Facebook feed, or texting friends when you managed to catch that rare Pokémon.

  • How Chromebooks Are About to Totally Transform Laptop Design
    Just because Chromebooks run Android apps, doesn’t make it that attractive to me – I guess I’m not bought into the hype yet and I have a lot of use cases which seem like they will need local storage. Maybe if I wasn’t very OCD about my data I could live with one. In any case, here is a short history of the Chromebook and where we are right now.

    “The first people who bought Chromebooks were people who were computer folks,” he says. “They looked at the Chromebook and said, ‘This is not a real computer, it doesn’t have very many settings!’” They hated that you couldn’t find your files, or change the time setting. But why in the world, Sengupta argues, would any rational person want to manually change the time on their computer? It should just know. “The amount of work it took to eliminate all the settings,” he says, “so that you didn’t have to care and feed for your computer, was the thing that really made it successful.”

Surprisingly, I’m back on a two-year upgrade cycle for my phone. I bought the Nexus 5 in November 2013, and even though I’ve had issues with it and have been thinking about upgrading, I’ve delayed until this past week to get a new phone. I ended up getting a 64GB One Plus Two over my other two choices: Nexus 6P and Moto X Play/Style.

I waited until the Nexus 6P was announced before making my decision. I prefer getting the latest Android OS ASAP (for example, my Nexus 5 is on Marshmallow now but the OPT is still on Lollipop) so I really wanted to buy this phone. The main reason that I didn’t was because it is horrendously ugly – I hate that black bar on the back of the phone. The design just kills it. It was also the most expensive of my three choices by a significant margin.

The Moto X Play/Style was my first alternative but because it was not available for purchase yet in Canada or US, it lost me as a customer. Although the OPT has some significant drawbacks (NFC & not straight from Google), I decided that it was ok. I’m not too worried about lack of NFC. I think wireless charging contributed to the death of my Nexus 5’s battery and if I ever use Android Pay, I’ll probably end up using it via a wearable (and if it really takes off, I’ll get a new phone within 2 years).

The defining feature that made me pick OPT instead of waiting for a Moto X was that the OPT supports dual 4G sim cards. I can’t trust WIND Mobile in the GTA so having an alternative is valuable to me. Also, it would be great for vacation. That was enough to convince me to buy one, and I was able to secure a (free) invite after only a few days. Unfortunately, my equipment for USB type-C and nano sim cards have not arrived yet so I can’t actually use the phone!

Almost a year ago, I blogged about my Always Taeyeon app and how it was growing pretty well. Then I stopped blogging about it, why? Well there was a good reason. In November of last year, the app got suspended by Google Play and I stopped working on it. If I can’t get any new users, there wasn’t a lot of reward for putting more time into it.

Now, obviously I think the suspension was unwarranted, but that’s the typical position of the “guilty” party (whether it’s true or not is another matter). The rest of this blog is basically a rant on why I don’t think I should have been suspended; I’m not angry, but it’s for closure before moving on.

What my app did is basically displayed photos that were publicly accessible within an app. That was considered IP infringment. IANAL and in the back of my mind it was always quasi-legal (more on this later), but I don’t think it is infringement. Rather, I think of it as helping people be more efficient – you could access the same photos in a web browser. Web browsers wouldn’t get suspended from Google Play.

You may argue that a user has to explicitly perform some action to view the photos through a web browser (i.e., visit individual web pages). Then my argument to that would be that my app is basically a repackaging of a Twitter feed/Tumblr blog. I could RT or reblog a bunch of photos and that would be the same as my app. Is that legal (or quasi-legal)?

In any case, the process for appeal is tough and I’m sure under additional scrutiny, they would find other reasons to keep it suspended (or worse, ban my account). Given that the app was free with no means of generating revenue, it wasn’t worth the battle. It was easier to stop working on the app.

Although I said that Google Photos was not the solution that I needed to backup my photos online, I ended up starting the process of uploading all of my photos to the service. It’s taking a long time since almost 50GB of photos so I’ve been doing them overnight. Although I’m not going to use it as backup, I think it’ll be worthwhile to have them online for future use.

I usually organize my photos by year and since I already have another way of backing up photos online, I think my online collection might tend to be a year behind (so as to not upload photos twice as they take a long time). I’m also thinking that I will upload all photos that I’ve come across, not just the ones I’ve taken. So any photos that people have sent or shared with me I’ll just upload them. Hopefully Google will have some neat algorithms (their Assistant results so far have been underwhelming) or scalable UX to navigate them in the future.

At Google I/O, Google announced that their photo service is evolving yet again from Google+ Photos to just Google Photos. Although I’m still using Picasa Web Albums, this was of interest to me because now they claimed that you can store unlimited photos up to 16MP in resolution (I don’t have any 16MP+ cameras). Is this a solution to my photo organization prayer?

In the past year, I had already uploaded, backed up and trusted my music to Google Music. So it’s not a stretch that I would take advantage of free unlimited photo backup from Google right? Well after perusing the service, I don’t think I’m going to use it for three main reasons:

  1. It doesn’t save the original file – that defeats the ability for it to be a backup
  2. I don’t think the interface will scale – I have a lot of folders/albums (100s? 1000s?) so I think the one long feed UI will be problematic. I would rather have a more hierarchical view so I can sort them by year
  3. Photos are more personal than music – While your music collection speaks something about you, it’s not nearly as personal as photos of your friends, family and life. I’m not quite ready to share all of that with Google in a structured manner

While I was hopeful that Google Photos would be a saviour, looks like I have to keep waiting for the perfect service.

I’ve been curious about what’s been causing my Nexus 5’s battery to bulge. I’m pretty sure the immediate cause is because of overheating around the battery. Overheating from the CPU (due to running video conferencing for too long) caused my laptop’s battery to bulge and I think there’s some sort of chemical reaction in LION batteries around prolonged excessive heat. But what could have caused the overheating?

I do play some games on my cellphone, but I don’t think enough or for long enough periods to cause the overheating (certainly my battery would at least run out if I was playing for that long). The other hypothesis I have is that my phone could be running hot from trying to acquire location, but again that would have caused my battery to run out a lot faster than it would normally do under normal behaviour (and I would have noticed). My last theory is that using my QI chargers caused the problem. I think I recall my phone being hot while being wirelessly charged, and perhaps the prolonged exposure (charging overnight) caused the battery issue.

In any case, this is one time where I don’t like/agree with Google’s design principle of having non-removable batteries (I also would prefer microSD cards instead of cloud storage).

When I bought my Nexus 5, I broke my pattern of going a year and a half between phones. I’ve been pretty happy with my N5, and I haven’t dropped it or anything like that so there wasn’t a reason to buy another new phone (also the Nexus 6 wasn’t very appealing). But all good things must come to an end, even if it’s not 18 months yet – I started having a problem with my N5. It seems that it is pregnant just like my laptop was last year.

I didn’t notice this initially, but rather noticed that my battery life started becoming horrible. This coincided with the Lollipop update, and there have been lots of complaints about Lollipop’s battery usage so originally I thought I had that problem. Then I started getting random shutdowns – sometimes when my phone still had ~50% battery, and almost every time I did high current activities like taking pictures/videos. After doing some more reading, I noticed the bulging battery issue and am pretty sure that is what’s causing my problem.

It’s gotten progressively worse – I think I’m only getting a couple of hours on standby now. If I try and browse on my phone, it’ll randomly shut off after a few pages. I ordered a new battery and hopefully I can replace it; but if not, it’s time for a new phone!

  • Never Forgetting a Face
    Photo recognition is become more and more common, and this article discusses some of the dangers.

    Dr. Atick sees convenience in these kinds of uses as well. But he provides a cautionary counterexample to make his case. Just a few months back, he heard about NameTag, an app that, according to its news release, was available in an early form to people trying out Google Glass. Users had only to glance at a stranger and NameTag would instantly return a match complete with that stranger’s name, occupation and public Facebook profile information. “We are basically allowing our fellow citizens to surveil us,” Dr. Atick told me on the trade-show floor.

  • Baseball’s Best Lobbyist
    A brief look at MLB super agent Scott Boras and his impact on the Washington Nationals

    Others simply refer to the Boras Effect. “What consistently happens is that there will be a rumor that Boras has a team that is going to give his player X amount of money, then everyone laughs,” says New York Times sportswriter Benjamin Hoffman. “And then someone signs that player for that much money.”

  • At the World Pun Championships, Victory Is Easier Said Than Punned
    I was expecting a great article full of funny puns, but unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. Looks like the competition is more about language agility (similar to spelling bees) than being actually funny.

    In 2000, Tiffany Wimberly won by dressing as RaPUNzel: “When I was a young CURL, a jealous queen LOCKed me in a tower. I was STRANDed … at my SPLIT’S END … truly a damsel in THESE TRESSES.”

  • The History of Mana: How an Austronesian Concept Became a Video Game Mechanic
    If you were ever interested in how the word “mana” came to represent the ability to cast spells, then this article is for you!

    Spell-casting units in Warcraft used a spell point mechanic, and their magical energy was measured by a green bar. What kind of magical energy was it? No one seems to be sure. Apparently the developers had never developed a backstory for their game deeper then “orcs and humans fight.” The reasons why were made up by one employee, who made up the backstory as he went along.

    Warcraft II, released in 1995, changed all that. Now there was a guy whose whole job was to create worlds for the game to take place in. In this game, mana was the official unit of magical energy and the bar that measured it had turned blue.

  • Pablo Escobar’s Private Prison Is Now Run by Monks for Senior Citizens
    When I read this title, I thought the story would be about some weird evolution of a private prison due to mellowing out of a drug cartel mastermind. Well no such thing. Pablo Escobar actually just left his prison, and *now* it’s a senior citizen home (no real story given).

    With the Vice Minster of Justice now a hostage, Gen. Pardo’s 4th brigade had little choice but to strike. All hell broke loose. Mendoza managed to escape amid the frenzy. A sergeant from the Directorate General of Prisons, Mina Olmedo, was shot and killed, and eleven other guards were badly injured. At some point during the madness, the most famous prison inmate in the world and nine of his henchmen simply walked out the back door, past a few guards, into the thick woodland of Mont Catedral.

Google Play Music finally launched in Canada today. I’m kind of happy about this, because it means sales and cheap music. Their launch promotion is a bunch of current hit and past albums for $1.49. For that price, I don’t mind buying albums that I don’t really know; and picked up Arcade Fire’s Reflektor and Tegan & Sara’s Heartthrob on a whim. Hopefully there will be more sales, credits or promotions because that would be a good way for me to continue building my music collection since I don’t spend much time on it anymore.

I guess Google Play Music is like Amazon Cloud Player, which I have had access to for a long time. A quick play around Google Play (heh) and I think I would use it more than I would Amazon’s offering. One reason is device integration (I don’t have Amazon phones/tablets) but I think it’s more because the design is nicer than Amazon’s utilitarian approach. Being able to upload 20,000 songs (instead of Amazon’s 250) is really useful too, because I checked my iTunes and I have less than 5000 songs there. So I can upload my entire collection and store it in the cloud. For free!

  • Adventures in the Ransom Trade
    A look inside the interesting and thrilling K&R industry. What’s K&R? Why Kidnapping & Recovery, which apparently rich people pay insurance premiums for.

    Those feeling particularly kidnap-prone can buy in insurance from both sides. You can buy the conventional plan at annual premiums ranging anywhere from $10,000 to more than $150,000 per person. One South American billionaire has insured 90 members of his family; many insure their mistresses. Or you can buy a vacuna, or vaccination, directly from the kidnappers. In Bogota, a $60,000 vacuna will protect you from a half-million -dollar kidnapping. This saves both sides wear and tear.

  • The Notorious MSG’s Unlikely Formula For Success
    The history of MSG with a slight pro-MSG bias.

    The simple fact that has perpetuated the MSG stigma in our culture more than any other is that food high in MSG is almost always bad for you. Almost all of Ajinomoto’s MSG is bought by the processed foods industry — upward of 21 million pounds per year, according to one estimate. Only in poorer countries that lack industrialized food infrastructure is the sale of “over-the-counter” MSG for use in home kitchens significant, Smriga says. Simply put, the foods that provide an average American his or her FDA-estimated half-gram of MSG daily are not healthy. But not because of MSG.

  • Auto Correct
    A look inside the world of self driving cars, with a focus on Google’s initiative.

    It knows every turn, tree, and streetlight ahead in precise, three-dimensional detail. Dolgov was riding through a wooded area one night when the car suddenly slowed to a crawl. “I was thinking, What the hell? It must be a bug,” he told me. “Then we noticed the deer walking along the shoulder.” The car, unlike its riders, could see in the dark.

  • Inside the World of Competitive Laughing
    What the heck is competitive laughing? Well it’s a sport that held a competition in Toronto!

    The first challenge is the Diabolical Laugh. Nerenberg demonstrates the technique for the audience with an apt and villainous impersonation that resembles a melding of Dr. Evil and Gary Oldman’s Dracula.

    This laugh can best be categorized in three stages: the initial giggle, followed by an increase in pitch and animated body language, and then finally a near-maniacal crescendo, complete with floor strikes, yelping, and, in some cases, pelvic thrusting. The laughs range from several seconds to more than a minute, but if they seem prolonged or feigned a nearby referee steps in to end it.

  • Harnessing the Power of Feedback Loops
    This article talks about sensors in our daily lives and how feedback loops are going to be used to change behaviour. It’s already starting (with products such my Fitbit Force), and this area will just continue to grow. Here’s a good starter

    A feedback loop involves four distinct stages. First comes the data: A behavior must be measured, captured, and stored. This is the evidence stage. Second, the information must be relayed to the individual, not in the raw-data form in which it was captured but in a context that makes it emotionally resonant. This is the relevance stage. But even compelling information is useless if we don’t know what to make of it, so we need a third stage: consequence. The information must illuminate one or more paths ahead. And finally, the fourth stage: action. There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals.

My life kind of revolves around lists. In the sense that if I want to GTD, it probably needs to be on a list. I’ve tried various note taking apps in the past, but I hadn’t found one that fits my work flow until Google Keep was released.

Prior to Google Keep, I guess what I did most was either create list within a Gmail draft email (so that it is synched across computers), or keep a text file on my desktop. With Google Keep, I have the sync capability, and a lot more organizational ability.

I typically only use (or I guess you could say always use) checklists with Keep. Everything is a checklist, such as things I need to buy or things I need to do. I also organize my things-to-do each week by having a checklist for each week, and then placing things on that list (and completing them). In fact, the only time I use non-checklists is when I need to scribble something down (which I hardly do anyways).

I’m thinking that I should use the reminder ability in Google Keep more though. Right now, I just put reminders in my (Google) Calendar and then when the day arrives, I will get notified. This pollutes my calendar – it might make more sense for me to just put it in Google Keep!

There were two “incredible” “shopping” deals this weekend. Both Incredible and Shopping are in quotes because they were not supposed to happen and it’s not really shopping at all!

The first deal was from Future Shop where you could trade in any current generation game (including old sports games from past years) and get one of the new AAA titles that have released for the holiday season – for free. These games would normally go for $50-$60 and hold line ups for midnight openings. Many people would have paid full price with REAL money to buy these games! Yet, a large number of thrifty “shoppers” (i.e., RFDers) were able to score the games for free. I’m not sure why Future Shop decided to put on this promotion, as the majority of people who took advantage of the deal already knew that Future Shop bought and sold used games.

While the Future Shop deal may or may not have been a mistake, the second one surely is. Samsung put up a website for Note users where they could submit their serial number for $600 in vouchers (including $25 in Google Play credit). In theory, that’s a good reward for Note customers. But it turns out that:
1. It wasn’t restricted to Note serial numbers; most Samsung cellphone serial numbers ended up working, and even printer serial numbers!
2. You could register a serial number again if you entered a space (i.e., the serial number matching was not trimmed)
3. You could get lists of Galaxy Note serial numbers online
4. There was (seemingly) no hard limit to the credits being give out.

You had people on SlickDeals (and RFD) accumulating thousands of dollars of credit for Google Play by using scripts. You could use the credit to buy any of the soft products (i.e., no hardware). In fact it was like printing free money because presumably you could release a “private” app on Google Play that costs thousands of dollars and then buy it with your free credit.

I watched The Internship on my cross-Pacific flight. That’s the one by Vince Vaughan where he and Owen Wilson become interns at Google. Out of all the recent movies availble, that was the one that interested me the most because I wanted to see how accurate the portrayal of an internship would be.

I was kind of disappointed in that rather than being about interns it was more of a coming-of-age type movie first, then a huge product placement movie second. It seemed to show some of what being an intern at Google would be like (extrapolating from my intern experiences), as well as the Google campus, but I guess I was expecting too much for it to be a documentary about internships.

I would rate the movie 3 out of 5 stars. Even though I was not expecting too much, I still didn’t find it that funny or entertaining. I enjoyed the credits the most though as they integrated it into a bunch of Google products.

I’ve always liked the idea of an eReader because they are thin and handy so you can read on-the-go. But back before there were eReaders, magazines filled that gap. Magazines were great because they were foldable, didn’t get your hands dirty like newspapers, weren’t collectible (like comics), had a lot of bite-sized reads and didn’t cost a lot (this was back when magazines were $3-$4 with occasional 99¢ special issues). You could just put it in your back pocket and then check it out when you’re done.

EReaders satisfy most of those criteria except that I tend to read books on them. There are ways to get shorter reads on your eReaders – I’ve tried exporting my instapaper backlog onto my Kindle, and there’s always Kindle Singles.

In reality, I don’t carry my eReader around that much, because my phone is a better alternative. Out of curiosity, I finally checked out Google Play Books & Magazines – the magazines part. I’ve seen magazines being sold through the Play store for a long time (they have 99¢ issues again! as long as you’re willing to buy back issues only) and have been curious to see how the interface is, but I’ve been too cheap to buy one to try it out.

After some searching, I found that there are a couple of free magazines you can subscribe to:

  • AUX MAgazine is a music magazine from Canada. It’s actually a pretty good interface and fees like a small Android app. I’m not too interested in the content though because it mostly focuses on lesser-known, possibly up-and-coming Canadian artists.
  • ShortList is a men’s general interest magazine from the UK (without the girls). I might read this occasionally just to see what sort of advertisement and materialistic goods they talk about across the pond.
  • Stylist is a woman’s lifestyle magazine, but I didn’t download it because it didn’t seem very interesting to me as I was a guy

I also had a couple of freebie issues which I suppose I received when they launched the app. I also look at them but was disappointed that unlike AUX magazine, the magazines were basically scanned JPGs that you can zoom in to. I was hoping for a more interactive experience! Because of the size differences, I think I would rather read paper format magazines than reading them on a phone. I would probably pick paper over tablet too, because you can bend and fold the paper.

This month was the start of summer but it didn’t really feel like summer to me. Toronto had a stretch of really hot, summer days but we were travelling in Calgary at the time (and had to deal with other crazy weather). My travel plans were a bit wacky this month because for awhile, I thought I had to travel to SF for work, but it turns out that I didn’t.

Apollo has been making a lot of progress this month. He can crawl well now, can pull himself up, climb steps and can start walking with a little bit of help. I lowered his bed earlier this month, and thought to myself that I probably would have to lower it again two weeks later – yep, I ended up having to do that!

The hockey season finally ended this month and it was a pretty entertaining playoff run. This month also saw the end of Google Reader. I delayed my switch to an alternative until halfway through the month and decided on The Old Reader. It’s not as good but a satisfactory replacement to Google Reader. I actually don’t want to read/maintain so many RSS feeds but am caught in its inertia I suppose. Actually I (finally) noticed that a couple of blogs that I read in the past stopped posting so I guess if I totally stopped, it wouldn’t be too bad (will need to find a new source for news though)

With Google Reader shutting down on July 1st, I feel like I’m in a funny and backwards situation.

A couple of years ago, I switched from having a offline application handle my RSS feeds (i.e., FeedReader) to an online version. It made sense at the time because going online meant that my reading would be synchronized across devices err computers, there weren’t non-computer devices back then. I even went so far as to think about creating my own RSS reader that would perform the sync. Alas nothing came of that.

Even though it was free, using online software such as Google Reader is like only having a license to the software. You don’t have to pay for it each month or each year, but once they decide to pull the plug, you’re up the creek – like a lot of people are finding out about Google Reader. If you have a offline “physical” version, then you can keep running the software as long as you have a copy (and as long as it can run on your OS). It’s a tradeoff, and now is when we lose.

There are some online alternatives, and they are easy to migrate to since you can just export a .opml file of all your feeds from Google Reader to the alternatives. But it won’t be so easy if they shut down GMail.

After a long process, I finally received my Nexus 4 this week. Once I heard that the N4 was released (in a press conference cancelled by Hurricane Sandy), I knew that I was going to buy it (perhaps related to this cycle). I patiently waited till the release date on November 13, with my heart intent on the 8GB version (it’s cheaper and I don’t need that much space anyways). I knew it was going to be popular and so was going to employ my ticket-buying skills & strategy; basically buy it right when it was released.

Well I would do that provided I wasn’t asleep at the time. No one knew when it was going to be released, some said 0h EST, some said 0h PST (3AM EST), some said 9AM EST, some said 9AM PST. It turned out to be 9AM PST which was noon for me. I had been keeping an eye on forums throughout the morning to find out the time, and had checked around 11:30AM in preparation. It turns out that they started selling it a few minutes after I checked, and I didn’t realize until I checked the forums at 11:40. By then, the phones weren’t sold out yet but I could only get as far adding an 8GB to my cart – when I tried to pay I would get an error (and I had prepared by entering all my info into Google Wallet beforehand!)

I had just experienced an event that was shared amongst a lot of other nerds around the world. Google had underestimated the popularity of a cheap phone that had top-of-the-line specifics, both in terms of inventory and their purchasing system. You might say that I was lucky though, because many who had successful orders would end up waiting several weeks to receive their phones as Google dealt with stock issues.

Finally in December, I received an email that N4s were instock and to be sold to Canada in under 2 hours. Using the skills I practiced the last time around, I was able to buy one! I still ran into several errors, and couldn’t buy one for five minutes, but at least I got my order through eventually. Fortunately, the restricted sales to one per account and had a moving shipping window to handle their stock (I ended up in the 1-2 week window).

After a 2 week wait, I received the phone and the first thing I did was to unlock the bootloader and flash CWM recovery. I suppose I should have powered the phone on first because when I tried that afterwards, it ended up hanging on the boot animation. If you run into this problem, to get back into business, you’ll need to wipe the cache and dalvik cache before rebooting.

I had a netbook in the living room for a few years, not as a HTPC but just to have a second screen so I could do other things, look up stuff or just have a second screen while the TV is in use. Earlier this year, I replaced that with a ($150 10.1″ Chinese, but quite serviceable) tablet. It had one killer feature (HDMI out) that my netbook didn’t have, plus everyone is always saying how a tablet is better to than a laptop in the living room.

After doing this for half a year, I can definitively say that my quality of life has decreased because of this change. The tablet is too sluggish, and the UI too clunky to look up stuff quickly – and it’s not an issue with Android/Chinese-brand stuff either; I work with iPads so I am familiar with their UI and speed. I don’t bother looking up stuff in the living room anymore, I go back to my desktop.

So that tablet experiment fizzled rather quickly.

But I’m hopeful that the Chromebooks will change things. It is cheap ($250), light (2.5 pounds), and thin. It’s a tablet with a keyboard and mouse. Hopefully it will revive my living room computer.

Not only is this a baby, it’s my baby – I’m a dad now! Apollo was born a couple of days ago and I’m adjusting to fatherhood now. That is one reason for sporadic updates recently (although I haven’t had as much enthusiasm or ideas to blog about this year either).

Nowadays, I’m spending most of my hobby time wearing out the shutter on my camera, and posting photos of the first few days of Apollo’s life up on for family and friends. I’ve created a Google+ account for him, which hopefully will be the best mechanism to share his photos.

As part of the course mark breakdown for my Korean language class, everyone had to do a solo presentation on one aspect of Korean culture. The teacher tried to motivate us by suggesting various KPop groups to do a presentation upon, but seeing as how I don’t know too much, I couldn’t present a KPop group (and surprisingly only 2 of the 10+ presentations I saw were on KPop). Instead I decided to do a presentation about 반찬 which are the small side dishes you get at the beginning of each meal.

This presentation was the first time I tried out the presentation capability of Google Docs Drive. It was better than I expected, and I was able to lay out all the text boxes and graphics that I needed. I think my only complaint was that the themes are limited and kind of boring. On the plus side, you can now see my presentation online.

In retrospect, I think it would be funnier if I had done a presentation on Starcraft, or at least the Koreans skill in it.

I remember having a conversation in 2005 about having all my photos online (i.e., the term we used before it became the cloud) and now 7 years later, I’m still struggling with putting my photos there.

It’s not that I don’t have a solution; I do have all my photos online using Gallery, but Gallery is old (feels like it’s from 2005), and the new version (Gallery3) doesn’t have the archiving features that I need (also I tried upgrading a few times and it didn’t work with all the photos I have).

One big reason why I’ve been thinking about it right now is because I want a solution to show my photos on phone or tablet – basically when I’m on the go. There are a lot of ways to put photos on the web (Flickr, Picasaweb, Facebook, etc), but not a lot of ways to view them. I have a bunch of photo albums on Facebook, but the Facebook app is too slow to view photos through (plus you need to have be online).

I’ve been thinking of using Picasaweb, but the problem there is you only get 1GB of free space. That’s not a lot of photos, even if they’re optimized. I also have to reorganize them and pick the best ones to show; which is a good idea in principle, but I have too many photos to go through!

An ideal solution would be some integration with Gallery, and there is such an app for Android (Regaldroid), but it’s just not very pretty or smooth.

So right now there’s no good solution, which is weird, because a lot of people have a lot of photos on the web!

We just came back from a short trip to Boston this week. Being so close, we didn’t do a lot of planning (except for food – more blogs on that later). Instead we went equipped with a data plan and a phone and explored that way – although effectively, we only used two apps – Google Maps and Foursquare.

Google Maps was essential because you can get a unlimited ride pass for a WEEK on the MBTA for only $15 and we ended up using this a lot instead of walking around everywhere. Unfortunately, the MBTA routes don’t make a lot of sense so we had to look up the routes between destinations quite frequently. Google Maps is also generally useful when you have no idea where you are or need to search for a specific place that is nearby.

In the past, I’ve used Yelp to find places to eat when I didn’t know where to go, but the more frequently I’ve used it the more that I’ve found it lacking. I tried it once while in Cambridge and it suggested a places in central Boston! I didn’t want to go there, I wanted some place nearby! I later found a setting where you could restrict the area and ranking of the search, but I don’t want to do this every time.

I found myself using Foursquare more and more. I could search the nearby area for interesting things and I could also quickly scan tips to see what was interesting there (instead of reading through reviews). In fact, I used the tip feature a lot; because I didn’t remember or research what was supposed to be good at each place I went. Both Google Maps and Foursquare are essential tools, although you’d need data to take advantage of it.