Friday, May 28, 2010

iPad Revolution

Just came across a good article here. Just wanna share with you all:

The iPad Revolution
by Sue Halpern

As just about every sentient being knows, Apple Computer launched its “revolutionary,”1 “game changing,”2 “magical”3 tablet computer, the iPad, on April 3. This was after years of rumors, dating back almost a decade,4 but starting in earnest in February 2006,5 when Apple filed a number of patent applications that hinted at its intentions to move into touch computing. Though this turned out to be the prelude to the iPhone, tablet rumors began building again throughout the summer and fall of 2008 and into 2009,6 despite consistent denials from the company. By following the age-old dating protocol—flirt, be coy, don’t call back, flirt some more—Apple successfully turned up the dial on desire: here was a device that, sight unseen, large numbers of people wanted and believed they had to have, even without knowing precisely what it was or what it did.

In October 2009, at about the same time that rumors about the phantom Apple tablet were beginning to swirl, but before they coalesced into a media suck, the bookstore chain Barnes and Noble issued a product announcement of its own. It was getting into the electronic book reader business (again, ten years after its failed RockBook launch) with a small device called the Nook, reminiscent of Amazon’s popular electronic book reader, the Kindle, whose dominance it meant to challenge. Though The Wall Street Journal gamely live-blogged the launch, which took place in a basement conference room at the Chelsea Piers sports complex in Manhattan, and despite an overrun of holiday preorders for the Nook, once Apple revealed, right around Christmas, that it was planning a major product announcement at the beginning of the new year, excitement that another player had entered the e-book arena dulled.

At the Nook event, there was a lot of talk about the book industry and the future of books and the promise of e-books. Stephen Riggio, the CEO of Barnes and Noble, pointed out that publishing was still big business; at $30 billion a year, it was bigger than both the music and film industries.7 He also observed that readers wanted books on demand, which is what the Nook—with its access to the Barnes and Noble catalog, as well as to the more than one million scanned public domain books already on offer through various online sites, and, most likely, to the millions of books promised by the pending Google Books settlement as well—would give them.

Riggio pointed out all the ways that the Nook was different from the Kindle: it was based on Google’s open-source Android operating system, it used the nonproprietary ePub format, it had both wireless and 3G Internet access, it had a dash of color and a rudimentary touch screen, and it could be used to play music. He didn’t have to say that with an estimated three million Kindles in circulation, Barnes and Noble was playing catch-up to Amazon. It didn’t help that, aside from having a small touch screen rather than a keyboard, the Nook looked nearly identical to its rival, or that in its first iteration, the one that landed in the hands of reviewers like The New York Times‘s David Pogue, its underlying software was buggy and slow, or that due to supply issues, the company was unable to put Nooks under the Christmas tree. The machine didn’t actually ship till February, which is to say after Steve Jobs’s exultant iPad unveiling at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco on January 27, but before anyone could get their hands on an iPad, when desire for it was most pronounced. So while the iPad didn’t render the Nook dead on arrival, initial Nook sales, estimated to be around 60,000 units, were not strong enough to test the Kindle’s preeminence, let alone toss a lifeline to the publishing industry, if that’s what trying to capture a share of the growing electronic book market was expected to do.

Stephen Riggio was working with old data when he spoke that day at Chelsea Piers. According to the Association of American Publishers, book sales fell nearly 2 percent last year, to $23.9 billion.8 Educational books and paperbacks took the biggest hit. Their downward trajectory seemed to confirm what Steve Jobs said to The New York Times back in early 2008, when he reflected on, and then dismissed, the newly released Kindle, a device “which he said would go nowhere largely because Americans have stopped reading.” “It doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, the fact is that people don’t read anymore,” Jobs told the Times. “Forty percent of the people in the US read one book or less last year. The whole conception is flawed at the top because people don’t read anymore.”9

Imagine his surprise, just two years later, when the number of book apps—books that can be read on the iPhone and iPod touch—surpassed the number of game apps in Apple’s own App Store, and sales of digital books for machines like the Kindle and the Sony Reader tripled, to over $313 million, with analysts at Goldman Sachs predicting that US sales of e-books would grow to $3.2 billion by 2015, and that Apple would command a third of that pie.^10 Most people may not have been reading, but those who were doing so on digital readers seemed to be reading a lot.

In 2008, visitors to Apple’s iTunes store downloaded one book app for every six game apps. Last year, that ratio was one to four. By the time Steve Jobs took to the Yerba Buena Center stage it was obvious that he had been wrong about readers and reading, and wrong about the Kindle itself. His mea culpa came in the form of a picture of a Kindle, projected on the big screen behind him, and the words: “That’s an e-book reader. Now, Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with its Kindle. And we’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a bit further.” With that, he introduced Apple’s own e-book reader in the form of an iPad application called iBook. As he paced the stage, highlighting its “functionality,” the audience periodically broke out in spontaneous applause, even when it became clear that iBooks would be readable only on the iPad, and even when he noted that Apple was working directly with publishers, who would be setting their own prices, which were most likely going to be three or four or five dollars higher than Amazon’s loss-leading, penny-less-than-ten-dollars standard, and their own policies, which might keep new books off the e-book shelf so they wouldn’t compete with hardback sales. Prices and policies, that is, that appeared to favor publishers over consumers in the short run, which many publishers considered to be essential to the health of their industry.

You don’t have to be a technophobe or a Luddite to dismiss out of hand the idea of reading on a machine. Maybe it is muscle memory, but there is something deeply satisfying about a “real” book, a book made of pages bound between hard or soft covers, into which you can slip a bookmark, whose pages you can fan, whose binding you can crack and fold as you move from beginning to end. E-books, by contrast, whatever platform delivers them, are ephemeral. Yes, you can carry thousands of them in your pocket, but what will you have to show for it? What will fill your bookshelves? Then, one day, you find yourself housebound, and Wolf Hall has just won the Booker Prize, and you download a sample onto your iPhone, and just like with a book printed on paper you are pulled into the story and are grateful to be able to keep reading, and your resistance disappears, and you press the “buy” button—it’s so easy!—and that is how it starts.

There are two basic ways, so far, that words are displayed on a small screen, and those different ways offer different reading experiences that may influence whether you find reading on a handheld electronic device satisfying or not. There is “E Ink,” which reflects light rather than emitting it, and looks surprisingly like regular ink, though the page itself is grayer and offers less contrast; and there are liquid crystal displays (LCDs), pixels filled with liquid crystals arrayed in front of a light source that can be dimmed or brightened. The Kindle and the Nook, which are both monochrome readers (though the Nook has that petite color touch screen where it’s possible to see a thumbnail image of a book jacket), use E Ink. The iPhone and iPad are LCDs, and both are backlit. Backlit screens are hard, if not impossible, to read outside or in direct sunlight, and held at certain angles have a mirror effect so that the reader’s face is superimposed on the screen. Reflective E Ink screens, meanwhile, are difficult, if not impossible, to see in low light—forget reading under the covers. One is not better than the other; they are both flawed. New “transreflective” technology11 will bridge this divide, but that’s in the future.

When the Nook was announced, tech pundits wondered aloud if it would be a “Kindle killer.” It wasn’t, because, while it generally improves on Amazon’s model by, for example, being easier to navigate, it’s basically the same thing—a small, lightweight, pocketable, durable, black-and-white book reader. Both are simple to operate. Both allow access to hundreds of thousands of titles, the Kindle through Amazon’s extensive bookstore, the Nook through Barnes and Noble’s. While I prefer the Nook because it connects to the Internet through both Wi-Fi and 3G, unlike the Kindle, which has only 3G connectivity and is not operable without being tethered to a computer to retrieve books in certain geographic regions (like mine) with poor access to 3G, the reading experience is indistinguishable.

True, the Nook has the capacity for listening to music and now, with its most recent software update, for simple Web browsing and playing a couple of games, but these features are, so far, primitive and uninspiring. The real difference between the two machines, and the one that matters, is that the Nook is built around the ePub format, which is open and freely available for any device, unlike the Kindle’s proprietary format, which functions only for Kindle. The ePub format is used by every electronic reader except the Kindle, and promises to be a big selling point for Google Editions, the search firm’s planned Web-based electronic bookstore scheduled to launch this summer, which will allow buyers to read books and much else on any number of devices. (This may include, by year’s end, Google’s own tablet computer.) It’s through ePub that readers have instant access to millions of books in the public domain,12 that electronic publishing has a chance to become standardized, and that writers will have more options when it comes to disseminating and selling their books. As the Jacket Copy blog in the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Theoretically, an individual author could create an EPub e-book and publish from home.”13 The implications go deep.

The headline of that piece, published the day of the iPad unveiling, was “The iPad Shows Up the Kindle.” And it did. When Steve Jobs projected the image of the iPad after his damned-with-faint-praise nod to the Kindle, the Kindle looked comically out of date, a relic, like a black-and-white TV next to a fifty-eight-inch plasma HDTV. As an analyst for the investment bank Needham and Company put it a week after the iPad went on sale and nearly half a million units flew out the door, the Kindle is “not a compelling product.”14 Even so, he and a number of other forecasters estimated that upward of three million of them would be sold in the coming year. (According to Apple, a million iPads were sold in the first month.)

What this suggests is that there remain good reasons to buy an uncompelling e-book reader like the Kindle rather than a polished, entertaining, ingenious Apple tablet. E-book readers are smaller (so far) and lighter and can slip into an even more compact space than a traditional paperback book. By contrast, the iPad is a fairly large slab, nearly as big as a page of manuscript paper and, at about 1.5 pounds, decidedly heavier. Dedicated e-book readers are considerably less expensive than the iPad and likely to drop in price to stay competitive. (Amazon has even begun giving away free Kindles to its most active book buyers, which of course will lock those buyers into continuing to purchase e-books from Amazon.) E-book readers can be used outdoors and in direct sunlight indoors. And, perhaps most crucially, even though the move is on to add Web browsing, so far electronic book readers reduce the temptation to check e-mail or the baseball score or stock prices or headlines or Twitter or all of the above every few minutes, allowing a reader to do what readers typically like to do most: get lost in the pages of a book. That the pages are not made of paper, that the ink is made from electrical charges, does not matter.

The iPad, in contrast, celebrates and enables mental roving. You can check e-mail, listen to the radio, watch a film, play poker, read the headlines, edit photos, compose a song, shop for shoes, track calories, look up recipes, and on and on, and you can read a book and write one, too (though typing on the keyboard screen is hit-or-miss and editing with Apple’s $9.99 touch-based word-processing program is as messy as eating with your fingers). What you can’t do, with few exceptions, is do these things simultaneously. You may want to check e-mail while a commercial is playing during an episode of Lost, but pressing the mail icon shuts off the ABC icon. You may need to convert dollars to kroner while searching for hotels in Oslo, but if you’re looking for those hotels on the Kayak app, it will disappear once you tap your finger on the conversion app. Multitasking, which may soon come to the iPhone, is absent here, which makes the iPad less like a computer and more like the large-print version of the iPod Touch.

Okay, that’s not completely fair: there are a number of unique applications that have been developed specifically to take advantage of the iPad’s size, resolution, and graphics, and they are either unlike anything we’ve seen before or different enough to seem original and new, and the number increases daily. There’s a realistic labyrinth that works by tilting the machine and, as the marble caroms off the sides, makes a satisfying clunk. There are also an acted-out edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets in what is called a Vook—a book with embedded video; a Netflix app that allows subscribers to stream movies; and a gorgeous, three- dimensional rendition of the periodic table. Magazines haven’t yet hit their mark (a single issue of Popular Science on the iPad costs $5 while an annual print subscription costs $12), though this could change in the coming months as more magazine publishers, like Condé Nast, cut deals for iPad-enabled editions. The free New York Times Editor’s Choice app is anemic, especially in contrast to the Web edition of the paper, but may be a placeholder or a teaser for a more robust subscription-based app in the future.

In the meantime, news organizations like the BBC, NPR, and Reuters show what’s possible with the iPad technology, providing up-to-the-minute written reports on the events of the day supplemented by high-quality, often stunning, audio and video. On the BBC site, for example, it’s possible to tune in to live radio while scrolling through the day’s stories, while NPR’s masterful application lets you read, view photos, and listen to pieces from a slew of public radio shows. Whether all this adds up to a game-changer able to revive magazine and print journalism will depend, not surprisingly, and as usual, on whether it’s innovative enough to lure consumers and advertisers into paying real money for content. At the moment, most of the news sites are both free and largely ad-free: while neither “revolutionary” nor “game-changing,” this is indeed “magical.”

One place the iPad shines is with its iBook application. Apple not only straddled Amazon’s shoulders when designing the app, it found the finest e-book application for the iPhone, called Classics, lifted its best features—a virtual bookshelf filled with the book jackets of virtual books and pages that curl and turn like paper pages—and enhanced them. Turn the iPad horizontally and the book on the screen instantly shows left and right pages. Turn it vertically and there’s a single long page. Flick the screen with your fingers and the pages fan. Flick them one at a time and you hear them turn. It’s a little cheesy—but it’s familiar, too, which makes holding and manipulating a book made of glass and metal a little less strange. Though the actual iBookstore is so far limited to less than 60,000 volumes, half of which are the public domain holdings of Project Gutenberg and the rest the thrillers, mysteries, and celebrity memoirs that top recent best-seller lists, that number will only grow as more publishers sign on with Apple, which has been much more accommodating of publishers’ interests than Amazon by letting them set prices and release dates, as well as by adopting the ePub format. (It’s still unclear how books purchased through the Google Books settlement or through Google Editions will work with iBooks.) With ePub, too, it’s also easy to retrieve free books from or Project Gutenberg or Google Books, as well as to download PDF files, send them to iBook, and have them appear on the iBook bookshelf ready to read. In addition, there is a stand-alone free books app.

Free books, typically, are either self-published or published before 1923 and in the public domain. Some, like Alice in Wonderland and Pride and Prejudice and the Kama Sutra, are quite popular, but for the most part, when readers seek out digital books, they are looking for titles that are contemporary, if not new. What the Kindle and the Kindle app for the iPhone/Touch demonstrated was that if the price was right, books could be an impulse buy. But immediacy—being able to push a button and having a book appear instantly on your screen—only worked if the price was low enough not to get in the way of hitting the “buy” button.

Somehow, maybe by focus group, maybe by luck, Amazon determined that the ideal price point was $9.99 and made that the sticker price for most of its titles, despite hardback prices that were often more than twice that, despite losing money on them, and despite many publishers’ belief that cheap e-books were going to cut into their bread-and-butter retail sales. For better or worse, there was a catnip quality to the $9.99 book, much the way there was for the 99-cent song. By May 2009, Kindle downloads accounted for 35 percent of Amazon’s book sales when there was a Kindle edition available,15 as the folks over at Apple were well aware, since a lot of those sales were coming through the Kindle app, not the Kindle itself.

Within days of getting into the e-bookstore business, Apple, as if to answer the question of whether higher e-book prices would put a brake on buying, anounced that 250,000 books already had been downloaded on 300,000 machines. It turns out, though, that it was fudging. By using the word “download” to describe readers’ behavior rather than “purchase,” it was not possible to distinguish between books that were added to all those new iPads without charge—free books and book samples—versus those that cost money. Whether higher prices will slow e-book sales remains to be answered. In the meantime, readers who balk at paying a premium to read books through iBooks can still buy books on the iPad using the Kindle app or one for Kobo Books, a Canadian bookseller, and in a few months through Google Editions. While their formats are not as elegant as iBooks’, it is not unusual to find a book selling for a couple of dollars less on these sites, and as soon as someone comes up with the book price comparison app, that kind of shopping will be even easier.

Of course, there’s no telling if Apple will allow such an app in its App Store, since it keeps a tight rein on what can be sold there. All software for the iPad (and iPhone and iPod Touch) goes through a lengthy vetting process and has to be approved by the company. Apple can reject software it considers too competitive with its own products, or deems inappropriate, or just does not like—it’s an arbitrary process, as shown by Apple’s rejection of an app created by political cartoonist Mark Fiore because it “ridicules public figures.”^16 This is its prerogative, and it’s not that different from publishing (editors routinely reject manuscripts) or retail (that’s why there are professional buyers).

Still, Apple’s vetting is the antithesis of the openness that has sparked much of the creativity and ingenuity that defines and drives the Internet. Since the release of the first browser seventeen years ago, the Internet has been an unrestricted playground, accessible to just about anyone. Its openness is why some governments fear it, why certain corporations are threatened by it, why a formerly unknown singer can sell a million albums, why a teenager in Mumbai can contribute computer code to a piece of software developed in Amsterdam and distributed globally.

The Open Source movement and Creative Commons both derive from the Internet’s essential freedom, a leveling that allows designers and filmmakers and singers and craftsmen and any number of writers, activists, politicians, artists, and entrepreneurs, many of them amateurs, to develop and disseminate their ideas. Imagine what the Internet, and our lives, would be like if, after inventing the Mosaic Web browser back in 1993, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina not only required users to buy it but required payment for every click or download or page view. Try to imagine how a privatized, monetized Internet might have developed, and you can’t, because its evolutionary path would have been so different. Apple’s iPad apps may be ingenious. They may be fun and entertaining. They may be useful. What they can’t be is free of Apple’s control.

It is true that the iPad, like the iPhone and iPod Touch, comes with a Web browser app that takes the user directly to the Internet. Arguably, this makes these devices comparable to any computer and renders the complaint about gatekeeping moot. In fact, Web browsing on the iPad is less than ideal. Keeping more than one window open at a time is not possible, and Apple’s refusal to enable Flash, a piece of proprietary software owned by Adobe Systems that underlies many websites and allows for animations and video, means that those websites are either not fully functional or not available at all. But why bother going through a browser to get to YouTube or to read the AP headlines or check the weather when there is a dedicated app for each of these? This is what is really revolutionary and game-changing about the iPad: once there is an app for everything, it’s Apple’s Web, not the wide world’s.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aspiration for my son

Being a parent of a young boy, every now and then I would be asked for what career I hope my son will have in future. Cuz, from most parents’ point of view, you need to customize some kinds of specific training program to bring your kid up, so that he/she will become what you ‘plan’ him/her to be. Well, to be honest, I’ve no such aspiration or ‘plan’ to make my son to be in any specific career in future. Therefore, I don’t really have any plan to bring him up in any specific way.

As I blogged before, I believe that character of a person is largely set from birth. Certain twits here and there will make a difference. So, I believe that there is still 50-50 chance that I can tilt him to take 90 degree turn from his inborn direction of development. At this stage, I don’t have a very clear picture of what his inborn profile is, much less the direction I want him to tilt towards to. Don’t get me wrong that I don’t know my son at all, I do see some clear signs of certain characteristics about my son that are good as well as troubling. Nevertheless, whatever that I can tilt would only be at micro level, without a clear broader picture of his whole inborn profile, I don’t believe my effort would have the best effect as it can be. What I mean about the inborn profile is what kinds of interest he has, what things that he has trouble with or naturally dislike. Cuz, kids do change, they may not like certain things this month, they will demonstrate 180 degree change in the next. So, I’m still watching and learning.

I don’t believe a whole lot the concept of genius. Yes, genius exists, like Mozart, but they are extremely rare. At least, I think my son is no genius. On the contrary, I believe that talents or skills of most successful people are coming from a combination of factors. Some of them are environmental, but the key one would be the personal effort in practice and continuous improvement. So I buy what Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his book ‘Outliers’ that the rule of 10,000 hours of hard practice can cultivate talents. It does make a difference between a high school band and the Beatles.

So, what I will do now is to expose my son to different things, let he knows what the world can offer, and see what he will filter and pick up as a result. Simply trying to give him a decent and joyful bring up, I’m sure he will decide what he wants to be when he is ready. I don’t know it is true or not, but there are my beliefs now about the skill development of a person:
- You won’t be successful in things that you don’t like.
- You will work your ass off for things that you like.
- As a result of your time and effort spent on doing the things that you like, you will be good at it. Duration and level of hardworking practice is proportional to the talent and skill level that will be attained.
- Skills and talents are developed the best by primarily individual motivation with secondary environmental support.
- It will be great to have one outstanding talent, it will be better and fortunate to have more than one, but it is extremely rare that can be done. Cuz, there is only one Leonardo DeVicci known to the world so far. Warren Buffet is known for investing, Eric Clapton is known for his guitar skill, Jamie Oliver is known for his cooking skill. I would not doubt that they have second talent, but they are just not widely known or admired.
- One outstanding talent should be good enough to make a decent living, but to be extremely rich or influential, that would take a lot of karma which can be controlled or managed by the same individual.
- A great talent is usually cultivated by a combination of personal characters. Unless that talent is extremely unique and unfortunately would be replaceable, like fixing typewriter, those personal characters should be able to adapt the changing environment somehow to adjust and morph to fit in.

I don’t know if I sound to Zen about my beliefs above, I just think that you can’t know grow a coconut tree from an orange seed. What I can do is to water and fertilize the soil, and just let the plant to grow healthily and happily. If I end up eating oranges, not coconut, at least the oranges would be sweet and juicy. That’s the view I have at this stage of my life as a parent.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

East vs. West on apology

Saving face is a very unique Eastern practice that I don't know where exactly it came from. However, it has become a very natural behavior that shared among all walks of lives regardless of their age, gender, wealth, education, etc. As long as they are 'immersed' in the Eastern culture, somehow they are brought into the 'face-saving' mode. One typical example is my dad, I've never heard him said 'I'm sorry' or even apologized for anything in his life. Certainly, he is no saint and he made mistakes. Being the head of the family, it is just not in his gene to apologize to his family. When I got older, I don't really care if he apologized or ever, cuz, I don't expect that from him and it doesn't really matter to me. Don't get me wrong that I'm not here to criticize my dad. I simply cite him as a personal example that I see which is very common in the society, especially among the older generations.

The younger generations are seemed to be a bit different, perhaps it has to do with the fact that 'public apology' is a common practice in the West. With the power of media, they saw public figures saying sorry in news conferences or in the press. They are exposed to the idea of public apology. But, that's only confined to the public figures. Young people these days are too spoiled and corrupted by the twisted values of their parents that many of them don't even know they are wrong. So, what's the point of saying sorry if they don't even know what's wrong with them!

Come to think of it, 'saving face' and 'admitting wrong' are not certainly contradicted each other. Japanese are famous for deep bows in public for their wrong doings, but they also adopt face-saving as well. I guess one thing that make them a bit different from us is that they can clearly distinguish the difference between 'admission of defeat' and 'apology for wrong doing'. The former is after trying your best to do the right thing but still fail in achieving your goal, then bravely admitting such fact. It may still include an apology in the speech, saying something like 'sorry for not trying hard enough (which may not be true)', and 'sorry for causing disappointments to supporters (which is for being polite rather)'. However, the main point is to bring the fact of defeat to the public, then get is over with. The best part is the aftermath, by putting the 'emotion of guilt or shame' of the past in the past, they can focus and improve again in future to strike the gold. However, 'apology for wrong doing' is different. It simply means what has been done is wrong! aka. I screwed up! Japanese does apologize for such, which would go the the same stream as the previous - they take the blame and move on.

On the contrary, the Chinese are not custom to do neither. Some of them may have the heart, but not enough gut to do it in public. Usually, exceptions only happen to those who studied or brought up aboard in the Western culture which views public apology as a common practice. Still, they may only apologize to the close ones or in private, unless their immediate environment adopt such practice. For example, in some western companies or institutions. Western culture just doesn't share the same level of face-saving belief as we do. It doesn't mean that they are shameless. They just can take the fact as fact. Perhaps, it has something to do with Christianity which teaches forgiveness. Eastern culture does preach forgiveness as well, but I think the extent of which is certainly not enough. We perhaps just don't like to let the past goes, so we may forgive at this moment, but we don't forget. People are more inclined to remember what we did wrong then how sincere we were in our apology. Maybe, that has something to do to our stubbornness in admitting we are wrong regardless how wrong we are. Such belief is so widespread and shared to a point that authority figures in our governments, businesses, schools, and even religious organizations, would not apologize for their faults, as long as they are not illegal, moral wrong doings are being hidden. For them, silence is truly golden. They not only keep their mouths shut, they also want to shut the media up from investigating, reporting, and chasing them for their wrong doing! The saving face belief even drives people to cover their wrong doings with lies or additional wrong doings. All I can say is that...what a shameful mess!

I'm just an insignificant member of the society that can't change much. However, I would practice of apology in my home to my wife and my kid. Not sure what difference will that make, but I do feel good at least and have a good night sleep afterwards. It is not an excuse for making mistakes again, but at least I would put a stop of them and hopefully would do better tomorrow....

Monday, May 24, 2010

A new beginning....again

Another milestone in my life - starting a new job today at the new company. Well, it is not the first time, probably won't be the last time neither. Life just goes on.

Still getting my feet wet, I'm mentally prepared, but still don't know what's gonna hit me yet. It is always nice to have new start in life. Cos, that give me motivation to improve. I don't complain my ex-company, it is more than better corporation. However, just for my position and job wise, I think it could have been worked out better. I won't rule out any possibility of going back in future, provide opportunity comes up and they don't mind to rehire me somehow. However, my current focus is on my new employer. Hopefully, things can work out better. Based on what I see so far, it should have the potential. It is just up to me to work things out.

Being an old dude in the industry, I do run into 2 unexpected old faces at the new place. Thank God, they are not my arch rivals or someone that I stepped on their toes before. Let's see what's gonna happen in the coming periods.....

Just need to keep my engine going and take the road in front of me, let's see where it will lead me to...

Friday, May 14, 2010


I think I’m a quite tolerant person compared with most others. I mean that I am usually able to see a thing from different angles before making judgement. As I can see thing from others’ perspectives, that makes me to be able to give more objective opinions and sometimes those would be contradict to many people’s. Also, when I try to improvise how others think, I become a more tolerant person. For example, for most people who receive rude services from a restaurant, they usually will see that it is the restaurant’s fault right the way. They just think that I’m a customer who is paying for your services, you should treat me well regardless. Well, I don’t think that’s wrong, but I also will look at why bad services were given. Is it because the waiter was watching horse racing and probably lost some money? Is it because the air-con is not working well and people just have bad temper? Or, since I’m going to a cheap restaurant that probably pay bare minimum wages to its employees, so we simply get what we pay for? I know that none of these should be excuse of being rude to the customers. But, nobody would be rude to another person without reason. There must be trigger(s) and by understanding what it is, it usually makes me feel a bit better and be able to tolerate what was given.

Perhaps, that’s what tolerance comes from understanding means. Then, sometimes, such understanding and tolerance have lowered the threshold of my satisfaction on things. I.e. I’m a person who is quite easy to satisfy with things than many others. Well, don’t get me wrong that I don’t like perfection or improvement. I do have a strong belief of continuous improvement and abiding to standard once it is set. Therefore, if it is stated in black-and-white that you should give me a 10, and you only gave me a 9, you bet I’m gonna chase you the missing 1. Especially when I’m representing others beneficiaries of certain matter. However, on my personal level, I’m a quite easy-going person that always to try to be happy with what I got and not try to be upset for not getting enough. It doesn’t mean that I’m not motivated to do things, and be happy to have a 'pie' on my face. I just think that motivation can come from more than one source. You can get your ass buzzing to do certain things out of anger or sorrow for not receiving enough. On the other hand, I think that being happy with what you have while looking forward to enjoy improvements should also be a drive to motivate yourself. I guess it goes along the ‘carrot and stick’ thing. With a twist that, I’m satisfied with the 'celery' that I ate, but I’ll still chase the 'carrot' ahead.

'To be able to satisfy easily' is actually easy to be said than done. I’m not sure if it is in the gene or something. Some people just can’t accept that or they are just never able to do. I think that I’m lucky to be able to do that. Cuz, satisfaction brings happiness. I wouldn’t say that I’m always happy, but I’m not a cranky person who like to complain all the time. Cuz, not everyone can turn his/her anger into a driver for improvement, I can tell you that many people simply get angry, and lash out their anger to others. That’s it. Just make other people feel bad or get them angry as well for being lashed on. I find that to be so destructive that I always try to avoid being such target.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Thoughts on recent news

Some thoughts on recent news events:
David Cameron becomes the new prime minister of Britain - I didn’t pay too much attention to this election, but the local media did spend quite a bit of coverage on this news. Being an avid reader of news, I can’t help but learn quite a bit about this election and its aftermath. Well, finally Mr. Cameron at the young age of 43 becomes the prime minister. By leveraging Obama’s theme of ‘Change’, I’m not sure how much change he can make when he has to compromise and compromise controversial policies with the ‘left’ Liberal Democrats when the Conservative Party doesn’t have the majority of votes to push policies through. But, with a young face of blue blood, it would be nice to see how he can lead the old kingdom in this rough economic environment. Nevertheless, the importance of the Brit in the geo-politics in these days has not been changed at all, it is still the side-kick of Uncle Sam. I somehow compare Britain’s prime minister to Japan prime minister. Though the British ‘swinging door’ doesn’t turn as fast as the Japanese one, I just think that the direction or the foreign policy of either country just won’t change because of the change of prime ministers.

Celtics beat Cavalier in NBA Eastern Semi-final game 5 with a lead of 3-2 in the series – Well, it is NOT officially over yet, but the press has been pounding Cavalier and almost pronounces its exit of the playoff this year. Furthermore, they also assume that LeBron James will pack its bags and move to other cities in this summer for sure. I think they got their points but they do exaggerate a bit. Cuz, game 6 has not been played yet. Being a fan of the Celt, I do get excited about the resurging of Celtics at this time of the year. I still get my fingers cross, and hope that they will ‘finish’ the job in game 6 and take on Magic which will be a very interesting series. Of course, the ultimate goal will be the showdown and rematch with Kobe and the Lakers in final. Just can’t wait! Got to be patient for now.

World Expo Fiasco in Shanghai – my comment comes a bit late as the show was officially started almost 2 weeks ago. The local press has been largely fair in their reports. Chaos, pushes, verbal abuse, and all kinds of uncivilized behaviors demonstrated by the domestic visitors were broadcasted and reported widely in the media. It is not the reporters’ fault to report those things. Cuz, most of them are not news ‘makers’, they just told us what were happening there. They didn’t pile trash next to trash can themselves, so as to take fabricated pictures. All of these have not only enforce the negative impression of people all around the world about the people there, but also might have discouraged their intentions for the visit. Surprisingly, number of domestic visitors has been smaller than expected as well. Go figure! Certainly, this whole event has both pros and cons. I don’t care too much about its pros in infrastructure development the event has caused. What I think that matter is the push for 'self-reflection' of local people to be more civilized and to catch up to the ‘common sense’ standards practiced by most developed countries in terms of behaviors in public. However, for a country of 1.3 billion, I’m not surprise that many of them will still continue be ‘laughing stock’ by foreigners for being rude in years to come. This kind of improvement just takes time, like the aging of wines that can't be good if it's rushed.

iPad phenomenon – Though I love my iPhone since Jun 2007 when it was firstly unveiled by St.Steve Jobs, I didn’t get a hand on it myself till the 3GS was released in 2009. I think I will get an iPad eventually, not necessary because I want to wait till Apple fix its bugs like most Microsoft products did, but I just want to see hardware features of this product to be a bit mature before I got it myself. It is understandable that Apple has been practicing the ‘squeezing toothpaste’ approach in its product release. i.e. don’t give us everything even if they can, since Apple fans will just open their wallets to buy whatever they make. Like the front end camera that iPad reportedly should have and left for installation at the last minute. So, I’m just gonna wait till iPad's harddrive gets bigger, and screen resolution to be even better, etc before get a hand on it. Also, personally, I don’t think I would have a lot of time to really play it. So, just hang on with my iPhone for now would be good enough. From a broader perspective, the adoption of iPad in the market is quicker than iPhone. I’m not surprise for that. First of all, the population of people that use Apple products is much bigger now than 3 years ago. They are more comfortable with multi-touch, iTunes and all that. iPhone has been a successful tool to teach the public how user-friendly Apple’s products are. Secondly, iPad being the most high profile product of this class also kinda enjoy being the first mover of tablet computer. Yes, there ‘were’ tablets before, but those pioneers only generated ripples in the market. But the technology these days allow Apple to put together this generation of tablet product that is just more appealing and the 3G technology, internet and all that just make all things come together this time. I predict that iPad has certainly open the door of the coffin for netbook. Within 5 years, netbook will only be niche product that most people won’t even consider buying for most daily use. On the contrary, laptop and desktop to a certain extent will still be around.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gone too soon

My mood over the last weekend wasn’t good as I learned from Facebook that an old colleague of mine passed away due to sickness. I’ve not seen him for over a year, understood from other common friends that he was trying to keep himself away from larger social circles, so what I’d heard about his conditions were 3rd or 4th party info. We learnt that he was taking treatments and we hoped that he would be ok soon….That was our understanding of his status till we heard the latest tragic news…

I wasn’t the closest friend he has but we did have a pretty good relationship while we were working in the same company. We didn’t have a lot of common projects that we worked together, with the limited number of them, I had a very good impression of him for being a good partner at works. Both of us are the type of ‘get the job done’ kinda person. So, we did get along well. Socially, he was a very nice person with humor and was popular among different groups of people. Since we left that company, we didn’t see each other often, a fact similar to with most other ex-colleagues, but the time that we met during some gatherings few times a year among old colleagues, he remained to be the same nice guy as before. On a more personal side, he recommended his ex-boss to contact me as his replacement when he decided to seek another job in other company. So, I did truly thank him for doing me this generous favor as I was trying to seek a career move at that time. We did chat a bit often during that job transition period and we then get to know more a bit about the more personal side of our respective lives.

In the last few years, I did meet him every now and then for lunch to catch up. It is just so sad for me to learn that the news.

Over the weekend, I did think about the time that we talked before. The hopes and plans that we had for the future, etc. Yes, I’m a very rational person that usually don’t let emotion get to me. Also, I’ve experience death in my family when I was a teenager, so death is not a total foreign concept to me. However, I’m human after all. I do have a newer perspective about life for being a father. So, when I think about how would my friend’s living family members felt over the Mother’s day weekend, it was just sad! I hope his parents and his spouse would be able to recover from this tragedy and get back on their feet as soon as possible. It is particularly hard when the dead is young, or being the pillar of a family. As a 3rd party observer, we can say all the right things we want, but life just won’t be the same for the immediate family. Cus, they have to wake up everyday to deal with whatever comes their ways in their waking hours. Things have definitely changed when someone is gone. He will always live in our memory. Sadly, that’s where he can only be…

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New PC

This blog is a bit late. I got my new desktop delivered to my home for more than a week ago. Since my old Dell was brought back in 2004, though it is still running fine, in spite of small harddisk and the slow speed, I did ponder this purchase for more than a month before I made up my mind to get a new one. This time I got a HP through the staff discount offered from my company. It has been running well, but I still have a lot of tweakings to do in order to really replace my old Dell. That's been a challenge considering the limited free time that I've and fine tuning of PC does take a lot of time. My wife may not really appreciate it, but I hope she will find it nicely to use once dust is settled.

Upgrading myself from WinXP to Window 7 is a bigger jump for me. So far, Window 7 looks good. I can't comment much until I'm comfortable with this new machine. Transition from my old Dell to new HP is a pain! First of all, I've bought a new scanner from Canon as my old Microtek one doesn't have Window 7 driver, though I love the old OCR more than the Canon one after I found out that the Canon one can't convert the scan to MS Word directly (I should ask thoroughly before the purchase, now I've to get and run an additional program to convert .txt and .pdf to .doc). Secondly, I've to shell out extra $ to get a new MS Office 2007 (to be upgraded to Office 2010 in few months), cos my old office can't be migrated to new HP and the freeking Microsoft Works that come with HP kinda sucks. I'm sure my wife is not gonna happy with that stupid striped down Works. So, $ is gone! The worst part is the migration of my iTune library. I got the podcast and apps done, but the music part is still confusing to me. Man! it is just a lot to do. But the upside is that, it makes me to really consolidate my files and folders in a more organized way which is good thing that I should have done long times ago. Also, upgrading to Window 7 makes it more relevant to read tech magazines which only talk about Win 7 anyway.

Not sure if I was 'itchy' or not, I even bought an additional external harddisk for the sake of backing up files. It costs quite a bit, but I think 1.5 Tb should last for few years. Upgrading and getting my PC ready has occupied my mind recently, all my spare time is spent on this. I hope I can get it done shortly, cuz I don't see I would have a lot of free time much longer in view of a new milestone of my life which is gonna happen in next few weeks.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

We do come to this world with something...

When I was a kid, I took home a strayed cat of only few days old. Its mom was missing, believed to be dead of a traffic accident or whatever reason. Out of sympthay for being a cat-lover who didn’t want to see that poor little thing died in cold or of hunger, I brought it home with care. I remember that the kitten had still got skin membrane of some sorts that covered its eyes. After it got to our shack, my sis and I took care of it and so on. For most cat owners, they should know that when their cats finished with their ‘number 1’ or ‘number 2’, wherever they did, the cats always do few scratching with its paws back and forth as a ‘clean-up’ action to cover excretion with soil or hay. I’ve seen tigers do the same thing in documentary films. House cat does the same thing even it was not using sandbox or doing that in the garden. In fact, my cat was doing that in a toilet bowl. At that time when I was a kid, I wasn’t thinking much about that. However, thinking back then, one thing for sure was that my cat exhibited that behavior out of its own natural instinct rather than being taught. Cos, it was an orphan, and there is no way it learnt that from any other cats. Come to think of it, it is kinda strange…. A cat licked its fur, it paws, etc with its rough tongue as a way to clean itself could be quite natural, I can understand that as a natural behavior to clean ‘ITS’ body parts. However, that ‘scratching’ behavior after number 1 or 2 has nothing to do about taking care of its own body. In my opinion, it is actually a different type of behavior. So, I conclude that that behavior must be something genetic that cats are borned with!

I mentioned my cat here is because of my young son’s recent behaviors that got me thinking. Well, my son doesn’t scratch anything after poo poo. But the point that I want to make is that not everything about our behaviors are taught. Though people say that all babies are like blank sheet of paper after they leave their mother’s wounds, babies interact with the world and learn, they then exhibit their behaviors and build up their characters as a result. I think this is a nice school of thought, I’m not exactly buying this completely. Cuz, I do think that we all do come to this world with something in our head that would strongly affect how we behave.

I’m no scientist, and I don’t and perhaps won’t ever be able to prove what I just said scientifically. As popular beliefs, there are ways to predict the inborn traits of characters. One way is on the paranormal side of using astrology (i.e.based on the birth date, place, and time to predict what kind of person he/she is) or through some reincarnation studies (i.e. via some psychics to trace what kind of karma from previous life would affect the current one). There is an belief that the characters of the baby’s parents, grandparents, or great grandparents may have impact to baby’s behavior through inheritance of some sorts. For me, these beliefs are not contradictive, as the truth may be by compromising themselves. Nevertheless, based on what I see in my son, I really think that the foundation of our character is very likely to be something that we are born with. That would be what we call the ‘inherited potentials’. They are just there like’seeds’ in the ground. However, having those potentials doesn’t mean that they could be realized. However, if the ‘weather’ is right, those ‘seeds’ will sprout. I’m not sure if this is a good analogy.

Though my son is still very young, I can already see what kind of ‘seed’ has already sprouted. I don’t think it can be uprooted. I can only try my best to make it grow the preferred way. Cuz, characters are not absolutely good or bad. Some of them are like double-edged swords, you just need to handle it properly. Let a person like to throw things in anger, if he can practice the throwing to make it into a skill, maybe he will become a good baseball player! Who knows? Anyway, theory or belief are in place, the difficult part is always about execution. Huh, it is tough to be a parent!....

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Iron Man 2

Just came back from seeing Iron Man 2 with my wife. For her, as usual, it is not her cup of tea, but hey, what the heck? I like it. She didn't hate it, but just not a story that she would understand why this is fighting with that, etc. Anyway....

I think this sequel is decent. Not taking the who story to another noch, but certainly not a let down while you are looking at it as a continuity from the first movie.

Let's get the 'so-so' part out first. Story itself is very plain and simple, nothing extremely dramatic has happened. Hero is not gonna die, how a father care of his son through time is touched upon, but not sentimental. Love affair between male and female leads doesn't matter much. Good guys and bad guys are quite one dimensional.

So what're the good sides? Special effect still good, nothing very surprising for a A-list production. The fights are ok, could be a bit more exciting. The really bright spots of the movie are:

  • Scarlett Johansson's fight scenes.
  • Exchange between Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) and Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man)
  • Iron man in his birthday party.
  • The scenery and the Iron Man vs Mickey Rourke at the F1 track in Moracco.
  • Mickey Rourke's makeup.
  • Robert Downey Jr. 's CG scenes of doing research.
Anyway, I enjoy the movie as a popcorn flick and nothing more or less. By the way, the last scene after the rundown about Thor's hammer is disappointing. It is just a damn hammer! Instead, I found the Captain America 's broken shield is more entertaining. Anyway, the whole thing about Avenger and the S.H.I.E.L.D set up are embedded in the movie. So, stay tune for more in other upcoming Marvel Comic movies, and let's see when will Avengers be really made!