Category Archives: tech

Male Restroom Etiquette

This video starts with practical advice on what the social rules are and how calamity can result from disobeying these rules. Film making is now easy enough that all you need is a computer, a game or two and a lot of skill in directing a movie to create a low-cost film and tell a story. This one is made using The Sims 2 and Simcity 4.

update: Or you can just get a few actors to bring your point across.

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wireless router with built-in BT client and 160GB HDD

Saw this at boingboing. A very good device to suck up internet bandwidth. I can easily download more anime than I can ever finish watching, just keep it running. This will be tempting if I see it at comex this weekend.

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Disaster relief effort

We are now in the third week of data patching and emergency code changes to salvage a live system gone very wrong, and morale is at a very low point.

Bosses call it a fire, I call it a disaster. And now we are working our asses off to save as many records as we can, no matter how tired we are. Such an incomplete software system should never have been allowed to go live, but it slipped through several layers of checks and did so anyway. The decision was made to "bite the bullet" and to cut over, crossing over "the point of no return", with nobody really aware of how big a mistake that was until a few days later when we discovered inherent flaws in the design. Worse, the project lead was released to go on a 3 week overseas leave just after cutting over.

My Hokkien-spewing boss liked to joke that working in the IT industry should not involve us acting as superman all the time, wearing red underwear outside and putting in huge amounts of effort. He advocated going home on time and spending time with the family, and went against the company culture of working at least half an hour overtime. He sure needed supermen to help stabilise the system and endlessly patch data. Not that I'm eager to put in heroic efforts to save his ass. I have already given 2 weeks of my youth, or what is left of it, patching data. Crimson Editor is my best friend during this time, its column mode making the very manual task of formulating SQL inserts and updates easier.

The HOD concluded that this product was only at Alpha stage and should not have been released. At this level of immaturity, we would not nornally even call users to come for an acceptance testing! Sigh. We did not have to work so hard even when working on our own projects! I wonder if heads will roll. Not mine; I was identified as the technical lead but taken out because there was some other less interesting thing they wanted me to do. I had no chance to contribute to the success, or failure, of this project. I can say with certainty that I could have averted the technical errors we encountered in the last 2 weeks. They were easy to catch! You know that they don't really believe in the complexity of doing systems when they insist on going ahead without adequately competent people on the team. Don't they know from their years of experience that doing it properly the first time round with the right mix of people can save much grief later on? And they do not lack reminders from us.

Morale dropped to an all-time low. Mistakes in data patching surfaced. Other pieces of work are put on hold. I was entertaining thoughts of quitting without a job. The only good thing to come out of this is that I finally started updating my resume. 6 years is far too long to stay in the same place. Surely there must be better things that I can learn elsewhere.

Bosses talk about how systems know how to wait until the key personnel are on leave to throw tantrums, and leave the rest of us scrambling to rectify the problem with our limited knowledge. The way I see it, a series of bad decisions led to a very bad mess. There is hell for them to pay before everything is over. A lot of questions for the bosses to answer to their superiors and end users.

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Singapore is on sourceforge

SourceForge is a place where open source software can be downloaded. Some truly well-made softwares, such as Azureus, Mediawiki, JBoss have been released as open source, their source code and executables hosted here to benefit everyone. There is thus some prestiege to make it here.

Imagine my surprise to find that a simple internet photo gallery was named SG, but the name is too short to be accepted by sourceforge. Thus it was renamed as Singapore. What a reversed way of naming something from its acronym!

If you want to try it out, you can go to OpenSourceCMS where various open source internet softwares written in PHP are hosted, so you can get a hands-on feel before choosing which to download and take the pains of installing yourself. Quite a nice showroom, isn't it?

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Desktop usability with DHTML

Getting users to like my web-based application is a problem. Whoever said that we should not just meet our customers' expectation, but should aim to exceed them, clearly has not met my user before. Give him what he asked for and he can still complain about a hundred other items that he wanted also. It is difficult putting all these nice features into our existing application, but what if we ravamp part of it with some nice widget?

Can we replicate his desktop application's ease of use with HTML and CSS? The boss asked me to explore how to get HTML to do drag and drop, and stuff like that. We know that it is do-able, we have seen websites doing these things, just that our company has yet to do any of these things internally. What I found blew me away.

There are now a lot of javascript libraries that you can use to create desktop functionality in a browser. It is time for my company's applications to get a face lift! Well, as much as their budget allows, anyway.

http://www.walterzorn.com/dragdrop/dragdrop_e.htm
Cool, now I can also get the latest coordinates of the dopped item and submit it back to the web server! I can resize the image and get its latest width, height, x and y coordinates, set it transparent when dragging and resizing it! It's under the Lesser GPL, which means I can use this in my commercial application, for free!

Other free libraries tend to work with lists, but this looks like IE!
http://www.activewidgets.com/grid/
Tabs, trees, lists, tables can now be done in your browser. The demo on this page is staggering! You can do up your IE Internet Options menu using just HTML!

http://tool-man.org/examples/sorting.html
You can do drag and drop boxes in lists and tables and all over the page. The best part is that lists and tables will arrange themselves and snap back into position smoothly when you drop another item in their midst.

http://brothercake.com/site/resources/scripts/dbx/
Lovely docking boxes that can be closed and dragged.

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