Interesting discoveries #02

It’s been a busy week at work; I never thought I had the time to write this. So here’s what I gathered the past week or so.

1. Read: The Art of Racing in the Rain

A sweet book about a racer from a dog’s perspective. It’s not a book I would have picked up if not for Amazon’s offer and reviews. It’s a good book but I shan’t delve into what Amazon has already decide to be anyway.

The fact that I bought a book on mere offer must have meant something. My spending methods have changed. I use to despise the idea of going to the supermarket and purchasing goods simply because the item is on offer. I now found myself succumbing to that temptation and a half-an-hour introspection was to follow.

Story! Yes, the book is good and this is coming from a reader neither a racing enthusiast nor a dog owner. I do like dogs though.

2. Gun fires in Sandy Hook Elementary School

The most heart-wrenching story of the week is to be the case (CNN) where a gunman killed 26 people at the school, including 20 children, before taking his own life on Friday. I was watching the video reports of this online.

It’s leading to gun control debates, even the National Rifle Association has pretty much shut up in their Twitter account. Moving on from the tragedy, it’s a good opportunity to discuss on the issues with gun ownership and I believe America will reach a rightful conclusion in the months to come. It does irk me a little that the discussion got distracted by people who are calling for more god in schools. Focus on the gun policies first, we’ll talk about morals later.

3. The Walking Dead

Kevin recommended me The Walking Dead and I have been pretty much glued to it. The Walking Dead is an American television drama series developed by Frank Darabont. It is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. The series stars Andrew Lincoln as sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to find the world dominated by flesh-eating “walkers”, resembling the zombies of George A. Romero’s horror movies. He sets out to find his family and encounters many other survivors along the way.

I am not why the drama distance themselves from the “zombie” association. I found that hard to accept. Given the whole setting was made to resemble reality — i.e. having places like the CDC, Fort Benning and Atlanta — I feel a little “betrayed” that no one seems to know about “zombies.” Why is that even so? This is not the reality I live in. Of all the efforts that place in creating this familiar environment, I found myself constantly awaken at each mention of the word “zombie.”

The Walking Dead has good story arcs but falls shorts in their lines. I love the visuals too.

4. Apache Maven

I never came across Apache Maven until this week where my new job requires me to. Maven is a build automation tool typically used for Java projects. Maven serves a similar purpose to the Apache Ant tool, but it is based on different concepts and works in a profoundly different manner. It can also be used to build and manage projects written in C#, Ruby, Scala, and other languages.

I don’t have much of comment on this accept that it is one of the most complicated build management tool I have seen. Or maybe I’m just unfamiliar with these things.

5. SimCity, released on March

What got me excited this week most is the upcoming SimCity.

I leave you the video to watch.

6. Upgrading/buying a new computer

I never learnt so much about computers until I have intentions to buy on. My new work place is at Sunshine Plaza and that is a 5 minute walk away from nerd heaven Sim Lim Square. So I was there doing a bit of cost research. I don’t plan to spend a lot on a computer since I’m just going to play SimCity on it when it is released.

If possible I am going to just stick with an integrated graphic card. I saw that the upcoming Intel Haswell micro-architecture has a significant improvement on their Intel HD offerings and I am looking forward to it although I might not have the patience to wait for it. Making a decision when SimCity is out is definitely not too late so, I’ll do that!

For those self-professed hardware idiots, like me, the update is they are now on DDR3 RAM, and the graphic cards are less a necessity more an option. Also the CPU casings are getting more beautiful. And also Intel i5 3330 (Ivy Bridge) seems to suffice. MSI is cheaper than Asus and it’s okay to get cheaper motherboards, they aren’t as bad as the cheaper motherboards of the past. Okay I know nerd language now. Moving on.

7. Sunshine Plaza

How little they did for Christmas decorations:

Sunshine Plaza

Sunshine Plaza has a mall, a residential and office building. It’s across Fortune Center. Good location, I’m happy it’s near all the tiny food places. Will update on that.

8. Google Maps for iOS

Google Maps for iOS is just pure joy to use after the 4 month deprivation of it. Currently the Google Maps application is top in Apple’s App Store and has a 5 out of 5 average rating. Google really deserves this and Apple has help educate the public how hard it is to get mapping right. Google has triumphed this time and Apple is probably a bit thankful for that. It’s time to put Apple Maps in the folder where I place all the crap I can’t uninstall.

I would have but cannot get rid of the following applications:

  • Reminders
  • Notes
  • Weather
  • Compass
  • Voice Memos
  • Stocks
  • Passbook
  • Maps

Google Maps team definitely deserve a good vacation.

End notes

This week has been busy and my sore throats gotten worse. I met my new colleagues that I haven’t been as able to be chatty as I could have been. I spend more time reading this week, mainly on Maven, Backbone.js and Handlebars.js. It’s going to an exciting next week.

Degraded performance in Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (N. Virginia) or EC2 is down. This brought down Heroku and Reddit together with many others. It kinda serves as a reminder how reliant companies are on Amazon if anything.

What’s worse is that Amazon EC2 console is down too. Amazon says, “We are experiencing elevated error rates with the EC2 Management Console.”

The North Virginia facility seemed more unreliable than other availability sites. I used to run 2 EC2 instances in Singapore (Asia Pacific) for work and they’re much more reliable than this. There was a case where they had to do some hardware migration but that’s mostly minor.

Amazon Kindle press conference

To watch for — Amazon Kindle announcement. According to Ars Technica:

Amazon Kindle press conference liveblog: Thursday, September 6

Amazon will be holding a press conference on September 6, and as usual, the company has been keeping silent on details. Amazon hasn’t said what it will announce in advance, but all signs seem to point to a new version of the Fire, which may keep that moniker, or may be called the Fire 2. The new tablet will likely come in either a 7-inch or 10-inch model (or possibly both), and it looks like it’s set to compete with the Nexus 7 and the oft-rumored iPad mini.

I’m waiting for Amazon Kindle Fire 2, if there’s even going to be one.

Reading on Amazon Kindle

I can’t recommend Amazon Kindle enough if you’re an avid reader. I got mine delivered over from the US to Singapore through a proxy courier. I think I used comGateway.

Since then I bought numerous books from the US shop without trouble, it all get delivered to my Kindle. I haven’t encountered phone verification of any sort.

The question I get most from people is what is it that don’t work in Singapore. Well, the 3G internet on the Kindle can only access Wikipedia and Amazon websites unfortunately. Other than that everything works fine.

I have been using Kindle for Mac more often lately:

Kindle for Mac.

It’s a lot easier to search through the annotations in the desktop application.

E-readers get heavier with each book

Years back a classmate asked if flash drives get heavier the more you use it. I laughed at her. I stand corrected.

E-readers get heavier with each book

Using Einstein’s E=mc² formula, which states that energy and mass are directly related, Prof Kubiatowicz calculated that filling a 4GB Kindle to its storage limit would increase its weight by a billionth of a billionth of a gram, or 0.000000000000000001g.

It’s quite amazing how books have evolved.

Just ordered an Amazon Kindle

I just ordered an Amazon Kindle yesterday:

Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6

It turns out that Amazon Kindle doesn’t deliver to Singapore, the leather cover does though, but that would be just useless without a Kindle. I decided to use a post forwarder to bring it to Singapore and we’ll see how that works out. I got the one that says “Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, 6″ Display, Graphite – Latest Generation”.

Thoughts on migrating to EC2

One thing that I notice with Amazon EC2 when trying out their micro instances in Singapore (Asia Pacific) is that the round trip takes approximately 250 ms from United States. This made me reconsidered a little about having my instance hosted in the Asia Pacific region since a majority of my visitors remain to be US-based.

I originally planned to use Amazon EC2’s micro instance to do just host a few blogs. Most of my images from the blogs are hosted at Amazon S3 already and I felt like moving everything over to Amazon’s US East facility (North Virginia).

Amazon EC2 offering is slightly cheaper than Rackspace Cloud’s similar offering and is quite attractive. A huge plus would be that I can host it in Singapore but then that’s probably benefiting just me. I can probably blog faster if it is hosted in Singapore but, to be honest, I wouldn’t really want to blog more than my current rate.

Recently Rackspace had some issues with my host machine and my server instance kept freezing up over a month. I didn’t suspect it could be an issue on their side and up the memory in my instance to 1024 MB. When that didn’t help, I almost wanted to migrate to another host — Linode. Now there’s Amazon’s micro instance I’m really spoilt for choice.