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.

Connecting to the internet with a 1964 modem

Wow, a 1964 modem. These things belong to the museum but not yet – this guy has it. What good is such devices when in a museum.

Background: This modem was given to me ~1989 by the widow of a retired (IBM?) engineer. Computerhistory.org has a Model B dated 1965, and I’ve seen a ~1967 Model C written up in a magazine. (Interestingly, incorrectly identified as being only 110 baud.)

Even better than seeing it in a museum, I decide to hook the trusty Model A up and make it talk to something. After some trial and error, I manage to get it to talk to a terminal server at work and use it to connect to a linux box. It’s ALIVE! So, 45 years after it’s creation, this antique modem gets to send data to and from the modern Internet. (From Youtube)

1964 Antique MODEM Live Demo

It’s a 1964 acoustic modem.

How fast can 24 Samsung SSDs in RAID perform?

These guys got 24 SSDs from Samsung and look at what they did with them! Awesome. A 6 TB rig with RAID. And it hits 2 GB/sec. Another awesome for you?

We took 24 256GB Samsung MLC SSD’s and put them in RAID to make this awesome computer! See how we did it, and what the results were!

And BTW this is great viral marketing too. Good choice of handing out the SSDs to these guys, Samsung!

Upgrading the Acer Aspire One A150 netbook

It was a sudden decision to head to Sim Lim. I made several acquisitions there:

  1. Laptop memory, it’s a 677 Mhz DDR2 (1GB) SO-DIMM whatever Kingston RAM.
  2. Desktop memory, it’s a 800 Mhz DDR2 (2 GB) Kingston RAM.
  3. A SATA to USB convertor.

I opened up my Acer Aspire One bravely voiding the warranties. I own an Acer Aspire One that I gotten upon a SingNet contract renewal. It’s a netbook that came at a time I wanted to get a notebook. I treat it as a sign from the gods that I should delay a notebook purchase (to yet another year). It comes with 1GB memory, of which 512 is soldered onboard. I followed a hardware guide to open the netbook and add in new memory.

For the Acer Aspire One A150, the maximum amount of memory it can go is 1.5 GB. I chose the option to rid the 512 MB RAM and placed in a 1024 MB RAM. I don’t really know what I was doing. I hesitated before I buy but I thought, heck, it’s just 18 bucks and I’m already here so let’s get it and try it out.

Acer Aspire One A150 opened up to add memory 1
Acer Aspire One A150 opened up to add memory 1

Here’s how it look like when it’s all naked. It’s the first time I opened a notebook and I’m extra careful with everything. I didn’t follow the full instructions as it didn’t suit my model but the guide still help a lot.

Acer Aspire One A150 opened up to add memory 2
Acer Aspire One A150 opened up to add memory 2

It become apparent that Acer designed the netbook without upgrading concerns in mind. The DDR2 slot is located all the way inside, you have to unscrew everything, rid the keyboard, the daughter board and sound card to reach the memory slot. I almost given up at the keyboard stage actually (that’s when I realized the guide has 4 more pages).

I fixed in the RAM and put everything back and am glad it is all working fine. But it’s certainly a task not for the fainthearted.

I also fixed in more RAM in my desktop my Windows Vista and Windows 7 are both significantly quicker. Photoshop did launch slightly quicker. I don’t feel an improvement in the start up time though. As for the netbook, I have yet to feel much improvement actually.

This shredder shreds your 3.5 inch hard disk!

I simply love watching these things get destroyed. Replay for me!

Data Security – Shredder

By the way, you should never just dump your hard drive just like that if you care about security. There’s a chance that files can still be recovered using tools. So if you’re one of those forgetful people who has this passwords file – oh you thought so – “well” hidden using file properties, consider keeping your malfunctioned drive indefinitely. Or if you’re feeling a little bored over the weekend unscrew it and play with the magnets or something.

Shouting at hard disks increases latency

Brendan Gregg from Sun’s Fishworks team makes an interesting discovery about inducing disk latency.

Shouting at Disks Increases Latency (VIDEO)

For more details, see Brendan’s blog entry.

Now you know what the technicians do to hard disks when they get angry. They shout at them and then notice something surprising and go like woah. For me, I whisper sweet nothings to my hard disk. It fetches documents a lot faster this way.

Bought the same old keyboard

Not sure if you noticed how little I blogged last week. My previous keyboard was all to blame. The alphabet ‘e’ cannot work and no matter how hard I depress it, the cursor just blinks nonchalantly.

Since ‘e’ is the most common alphabet in daily English, I was type-impaired. Assigned the alphabet ‘e’ to Control+C works for 5 minutes but I given up typing soon after.

As a bonus, I never did as much studying for a week. Perhaps when examination nears I can consider wreaking my keyboard.

Anyhow, I bought a new keyboard. It’s the very same one from Microsoft. It’s the wired curve keyboard 2000 or something. I got so used to it I couldn’t feel right typing on something else.

Microsoft doesn’t lie, SATA woes and more

They were right when they say “This may take from a few minutes to a few hours”. It took 8.5 hours on my computer.

Disk Defragmenter takes 8 hours

I guess my computer is really fragmented. I haven’t really been lucky with the computer recent days. I had a couple of hardware-related problems. I had one case where my computer can’t boot up due to CMOS problem and another one that’s regarding SATA DVD drives and JMicron whatever. I can’t fix the SATA problem, I just couldn’t get my 2 SATA hard disks and 1 SATA DVD drive to work happily together.

On the software end, I had problems with the error message “Replacing invalid security id with default security id for file…” Windows Vista ran a check disk and replace everything all the invalid security id and when it’s done my computer can’t start up correctly.

Replacing invalid security id with default security id for file

It’s this type of shit that scares me at night – not big blue monsters. Continue reading “Microsoft doesn’t lie, SATA woes and more”

Restart problems could be due to CMOS problem

My whole computer keep restarting just now and it was the scariest moment of my… week. I just restore a back up from my other hard disk and I was reformatting the back up hard disk. During this period of transition. I don’t have a full back up.

And when my computer just keep restarting at boot up without even loading to Windows Vista, I panicked. There was nothing on screen, it just restart and restart every second! I wanted to call my expert friend to help but I figured he would blame me for purchasing Windows Vista instead of Windows XP. So I start unplugging all my wires and open my computer up. I shifted the RAM, shifted the video card, even pat my hard disk twice.

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It didn’t work and soon I was pretty sure the problem lies with the motherboard. I almost wanted to just go to the repair shop to get it fixed fast. There was then when, by some mythical chance, the motherboard manual – ASUS P5K bible – was left open at page 2-24.

If you’re really geeky, you’ll know that page 2-24 is about jumpers. Says book 2, chapter 6, verse 27 to 34:

Clear RTC RAM (3-pin CLRTC)

This jumper allows you to clear the Real Time Clock (RTC) RAM in CMOS. You can clear the CMOS memory of date, time, and system setup parameters by erasing the CMOS RTC RAM data. The onboard button cell battery powers the RAM data in CMOS, which include system setup information such as system passwords.

Well, as we all know CMOS stands for the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, it is certainly not the thing you want to mess with in your computer. But you know, I was feeling a little adventurous that minute and my hands just went to unplug the battery and flip the jumpers.

And oh my god, my computer came alive!

[CMOS also stands for Complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor.]