Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Eng Confidential

Let’s first be frank and say that as coders we live pretty lavish lives compared to the rest of the middle class. Especially in the SF Bay Area! If anyone wants to complain about life, it shouldn’t be us. Really, just don’t!

However, I often wonder just how efficient we really are… working at these companies that are valued beyond what a cheap calculator could comprehend. What does it mean to be a coder and how do we improve?

Here are some lessons that I have either learned, realized or daydreamed.

1. Coding is not a gift from your good genes.
Someone once said that coding is a special gift you have. What a load of bull! I’m here to testify that it’s completely false. Anyone who can make simple decisions can in fact become decent coders. The rest is determined by interest and experience. More on those later.

2. Most of us are mediocre coders. >video
Be careful when you complain about someone else’s crappy code and your awesome ability to pinpoint the wrongs. I’ll be the first to admit that I have made this mistake many times. As coders we love to hate on other people’s work, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of being overconfident. The truth usually lies somewhere in between. Most of us are just mediocre coders. The key is to leverage unique strength from individuals, put the team in a position to benefit from mediocracy. If someone seems weak, mentor them. Give them some room to breathe and learn.

Continue reading Eng Confidential

Tree Hugger

Environmentalism needs a facelift

Tree HuggerI studied Environment and Business at the University of Waterloo for 5 years and I have always kept quiet about some of the obvious ambiguities and ironies in the program. We were a passionate group of folks who believed there is common ground to be found between economic growth and environmentalism.

However, it was a difficult task when even the professors could not suggest a suitable alternative to nuclear power; especially considering the electric vehicle revolution. It soon became obvious that the modern idea of environmentalism was a dream and an impractical one – a dream that only seemed to have initiated costly marketing campaigns. The modern idea of environmentalism in a capitalist society simply cannot survive. Continue reading Environmentalism needs a facelift

What is up with tech IPOs?

First all, Happy New Year to all! This is the first post of 2012, and I want to give my 2 cents on why tech stock, especially new IPOs aren’t doing so hot.

Market not understanding value of tech?
This is a common excuse tech companies use to explain their lukewarm stock performance. Just look at Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA); their IPO was 100 million shares for $10 but the stock has been trading below the IPO price at around $9. Groupon’s IPO (NASDAQ: GRPN)  was also fairly flat. Initially the stock was priced at $20 raising the company more than $700 million but the price is hovering around the IPO price. So why have these new IPOs not taken off like Google or Yahoo back in the days?

I think the problem is not that investors don’t understand tech companies, but simply that they do not trust them to be profitable in the long term. We look at the business model of Zynga – games are web-based, free to play, simplistic game-play, and lead-gen supported. The gamer doesn’t have to actually pay for the game unless they need special game currency to be more successful in the game. In this case, they can  either take out a credit card, or fill in a bunch of offers from lead-gen sources to pay. The only innovation Zynga brings to the table is the idea of a social game where you can connect with your friends on Facebook. This does add major value to the game, but it is nothing new. In fact this has been done on consoles in years, Facebook is just a more convenient place than XBOX Live or PSN. Therefore, Zynga is surviving on a shoestring of an idea that is incomparable to the value that companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft brought to the market. How can investors get excited about Zynga?

I don’t think investors are not understanding tech, they have seen so much change in tech over the past 10 years. It is simply getting more difficult to wow them.  Continue reading What is up with tech IPOs?

Much ado about Wireless Carriers

Irrelevant Prologue: It’s been a while since my last post, and just want to reassure everyone that I am still planning to do another build of my poor man’s drobo NAS. So please stay tuned and follow me on Twitter to get updates.

Now let’s talk about the main topic – ISP/Carriers. I recently graduated from the University of Waterloo, and relocated to San Francisco, California for a job opportunity. I love this city, the people and the cultural dynamics. However, my 3 year contract with Canadian wireless carrier Fido still have 2 more years left to go. Don’t get me wrong, I’d be very happy if I could stay with Fido because of the deal they gave me for my iPhone 4. They just don’t do business here in the US. Therefore, I started researching about carriers that serve the Bay Area.

American vs. Canadian Carriers/ISP
Carriers are ISPs these days because they provide an Internet uplink for your mobile device. Unlike Rogers/Fido, Bell, and Telus in Canada, some of these carriers don’t provide residential wired services, either cable or DSL. For example, Verizon and T-Mobile are solely wireless carriers. Other than the difference in market coverage, the technologies these companies use across the border are completely compatible. It is either GSM or CDMA with equivalent 4G class technologies for speed boost. This means that an unlocked phone purchased from either country can work across the border. Just remember that if you bought a phone from a local carrier, it is probably locked to their network, in which case you can only roam and are unable to switch to another carrier.

International Roaming
There are a lot of people buying the new iPhone 4S because it can support both CDMA and GSM bands, which means you have more options to roam aboard if your phone is unlocked. Carriers like O2, Vodafone, Virgin and Orange have some great prepaid deals for travelers, and they have begun to ship GSM cards in microGSM form factor.

Continue reading Much ado about Wireless Carriers

Thoughts on “Collateral Murder” and Wikileaks [Video Download Added]

If nobody knew what Wikileaks was, they probably do now after the arrest of Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange.

It’s ironic how the whole drama of his arrest and other allegations actually boosted the popularity and support of Wikileaks. I have long heard about the site, but never really dug into any depth. I mean let’s face it… who has the time to read those cables even if they are top-secret…

On that note, the footage dubbed “Collateral Murder” was a well-known leaked video of an attack on insurgents from an Apache attack helicopter that killed two reporters and wounded civilians.

I watched the video on Youtube when it was first made public… but little did I know there was more to it. There is FULL version of the footage that included an attack from the call sign “Crazyhorse” Apache that involved 3 hellfire missiles fired into a building. It was a brutal scene… and  I have to say that this footage had completely changed my perception of modern warfare. I am providing a download of the full video for a limited time since the Wikileaks servers are incredibly slow right now. Continue reading Thoughts on “Collateral Murder” and Wikileaks [Video Download Added]

"Too Asian"?

“Too Asian”? – on Canadian Universities

The article was removed shortly from MacLeans due to “controversies”. I personally think it is an interesting and insightful read. The article is rather lengthy, but it addresses many real issues in universities in Canada and the US. (esp. University of Waterloo, which is my school.. and I am Asian.)  =p

Update: the article has been republished on MacLeans.

‘Too Asian’?
By Stephanie Findlay and Nicholas Kohler | November 10th, 2010 | 9:55 am

A term used in the U.S. to talk about racial imbalance at Ivy league schools is now being whispered on Canadian campuses.


"Too Asian"?

When Alexandra and her friend Rachel, both graduates of Toronto’s Havergal College, an all-girls private school, were deciding which university to go to, they didn’t even bother considering the University of Toronto. “The only people from our school who went to U of T were Asian,” explains Alexandra, a second-year student who looks like a girl from an Aritzia billboard. “All the white kids,” she says, “go to Queen’s, Western and McGill.”

Alexandra eventually chose the University of Western Ontario. Her younger brother, now a high school senior deciding where he’d like to go, will head “either east, west or to McGill”—unusual academic options, but in keeping with what he wants from his university experience. “East would suit him because it’s chill, out west he could be a ski bum,” says Alexandra, who explains her little brother wants to study hard, but is also looking for a good time—which rules out U of T, a school with an academic reputation that can be a bit of a killjoy.

Or, as Alexandra puts it—she asked that her real name not be used in this article, and broached the topic of race at universities hesitantly—a “reputation of being Asian.” Continue reading “Too Asian”? – on Canadian Universities

iPhone 4

iPhone vs. Android devices

Recently we’ve had an interesting debate among some friends about which is the better platform. The debate of course came at the expense of my buddy Mitchell McKenna‘s Facebook wall… but nonetheless some interesting points were brought up. Mitch, I’m sorry we hijacked your thread. However, after David’s comment I just had to voice it all out. =p
To summarize and bring everyone else up to speed:
For Android (Droid X in particular):

  1. Voice Commands across multiple apps. You can literally talk to the phone to accomplish complex tasks.
  2. True multi-tasking in the background. The app is kept alive in the background as a process, while the iOS suspends the app and stops it from running.
  3. Flash support. iPhone has absolutely no support or future plans to support for Flash.
  4. No need of a media player like iTunes. iPhone is completely depended on iTunes. You need iTunes to activate and install apps on the phone. Many people think iTunes is slow and quite buggy at times.
  5. No curated App Store. You can run anything you want on the Android platform. There is not watchdog to dictate what you can run on your device.
  6. Native Google Apps support, Google Voice, Google Navigation. Many Google client apps are not available on the iPhone. For one, Apple would not allow some of them in the App Store for whatever reason. Also, Google never published an iPhone app for it.
  7. Better battery life than iPhone 4? Someone will have to do some extensive testing to confirm this one.

For iPhone 4, iOS 4:

  1. Apple’s multi-tasking API allows for a much more efficient structure of doing background processes. Multiple apps share the same common background process, which gives more battery life and better performance. At the end, it accomplishes the exact same thing. You have to keep an app running on Android to receive offline line instant messages, iPhone uses Push Notification API while the app quit.
    Continue reading iPhone vs. Android devices