Archive for July, 2010

Convocation

Posted: July 22, 2010 by ralliart12 in academia, Quotes
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Live for Greatness. Strive for Perfection.

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Helix

Posted: July 22, 2010 by ralliart12 in Quotes
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"We are mere passers-by, caught in the intertwine of our own convictions"


Caught this Kraken of a burger at Tanglin Mall. Cosy environment & friendly service refilled continuously with smiles, the burger is conjured from Spicy, Cajun-style grilled chicken breast with jalapeño Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickle and ancho-chile ranch dressing, topped with crispy onion strings. Routinely served at Chili's restaurant, hunters proceed with extreme appetite =)

Chung Cheng Prawn Mee #01-59: prawn noodles with pork ribs for $4 (right). Ab Balling Peanut Soup #01-75: dumpling with sesame seeds & peanut fillings, served in almond essence (left). Both can be found at the food stalls of Golden Mile Complex.


I waited quite a while for Apple’s official-until-cannot-official stand on this issue before posting my thoughts on the whole debacle. But before I proceed any further, there are a couple of details I need to clarify. Essentially, there’s 2 antenna-related issues uncovered soon after the release of the iPhone 4. The “original” one is the impact on signal transmission when the iPhone 4 is gripped in a certain manner (a manner, which isn’t all that uncommon to me, even though I’m a right-hander). The negative impact on the phone’s data communications was represented by the drop in signal bars when the phone is held in one’s left palm. Certain individuals were quick to point out that diminishing signal bars are not irrefutable proof of (drop in) reception quality, but when YouTube demonstrations, i.e. loading a website via 3G NOT over a WLAN, of ridiculous slowdown, sometimes even complete termination of data-based operations were blooming like toadstools/fairy rings after a night’s shower, these individuals were once again eager to state their devices did not produce such behaviour. Naturally at this point in time, it is easy for me to derive the fix if your iPhone 4 is afflicted by such symptoms: a bucket-load of DENIAL. Either that, or being a fanboy appears to be a quick solution, since I’ve nary heard any fanboy being affected.

The second, distinct issue, which was lucky to have been revealed at all, is the wrong algorithm used to calculate & subsequently manifest the no. of signal bars since outdated models like the iPhone 3G.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to calculate how many bars of signal strength to display is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays 2 more bars than it should for a given signal strength. For example, we sometimes display 4 bars when we should be displaying as few as 2 bars. Users observing a drop of several bars when they grip their iPhone in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak signal strength, but they don’t know it because we are erroneously displaying 4 or 5 bars. Their big drop in bars is because their high bars were never real in the first place.

If I understand that letter/paragraph correctly, the reception could have easily been far worst than what the signal bars are depicting. It’s a wonder & likely a blunder that Apple declared this issue in the midst of the storm of the first issue! It is unfortunate that some of the less vigilant consumers may be hoodwinked into thinking that open letter was Apple’s acknowledgement of the first issue.

& I feel the intense need to clarify one point in case people think as long as there is no direct contact between the 2 antenna types on the left side of the phone, the reception’s gonna be okay. Because it is NOT (to be EXTREMELY clear, there are 2 effects users are exerting on the phone’s reception depending on how you hold it; direct contact between the 2 antenna types on the iPhone 4 inconsistently recreates both/these 2 effects, which is why a THIN tape will not solve rid those 2 effects completely). This is a misnomer, & I feel that an episode from This Week in Technology will illustrate 1 of the negative effects pretty well:

Spencer Webb If you go to my blog I wrote a little bit on why the – the thicker the bumper the more it pushes your lossy hand away from the phone and it’s going to reduce the sensitivity to your hand. And I’m not so sure that Apple hadn’t considered this from the beginning, obviously the evidence is that they came out with the bumper so quickly.

Leo Laporte Right.

Spencer Webb But…

Leo Laporte You used electrical tape and did that work?

Spencer Webb I used electrical tape, in fact here is the actual roll of electrical tape, this is exclusive to this WEEK in TECHNOLOGY…

Leo Laporte I thought electrical tape was black.

Spencer Webb No, antenna engineers are permitted to buy white electrical tape.

Leo Laporte Oh, you have to have a license.

Spencer Webb You do. You have to show it at The Home Depot, so we used white electrical tape; this is serious…

Leo Laporte Stop Laughing.

Spencer Webb …and we did the insulation and we did the grip of death and it had no absolutely no change on our experiment, I have to admit it wasn’t a rigorous experiment, it wasn’t a very carefully controlled experiment but it was enough of an experiment for two RF guys sitting next to each other, look at each other and say, yup, okay, no change, no difference.

Leo Laporte So it’s not that the moisture in my hand or somehow bridging this plastic gap that’s a misnomer, that’s not what’s happening.

Spencer Webb That’s DC thing, that’s light bulbs and flashlights thing, we are dealing with radio frequency currents that are switching back and forth at, in this case about a billion times a second, RF acts differently. And if we take a thin insulator and put it over that band, the RF actually doesn’t know the difference because we are making so much capacitance with our hand. So it’s not really what we would call a Galvanic connection that’s causing the problem, it has nothing to do with that; it is a combination of detuning the antenna from putting our hand there and literally attenuating the signal as it’s coming off the antenna which means it’s turning into heat inside of our hands.

Leo Laporte So the farther away the bag of moisture that is your body is from this part of the phone the better?

Steve Gibson Yep.

Spencer Webb Yes. Absolutely.

Leo Laporte To a certain point, obviously if you are six inches away…

Jerry Pournelle And but it only takes one thin piece of tape to do that. Is that correct?

Leo Laporte No, no, it doesn’t, it sounds like.

Spencer Webb No, you need to – the bumper case pushes your hand, or I haven’t – I don’t have a bumper case in front of me, but I have the case that I use on my…

Jerry Pournelle Okay, I misunderstood you, and I suspect if I did some others did.

Leo Laporte Yes, no, thanks for clarifying.

Jerry Pournelle You are saying that a piece of tape won’t do it, you have to have something that has [ph] enough (38:22) physical difference to actually affect the capacitance of the…

Spencer Webb Right.

Jerry Pournelle connection between your hand and the antenna.

Spencer Webb Yeah, I predicted that a thin piece of tape will have no effect, we observed that a piece of electrical tape didn’t seem to have an effect and next week I’m going to get much more detail than the measurements.

Here are some of Mr Spencer Webb’s entries on the iPhone 4 antenna. You may find his company’s & his credentials here.

UPDATE #1: This is Anandtech’s updated analysis of the iPhone 4 antenna issue

UPDATE #2: The latest episode of We Have Communicators, #94, got Spencer Webb on their show as a host & I feel the segment has a pretty good grasp of the entire antenna reception debate. Strongly recommended.

This is the audio excerpt, containing only the portions with content related to the antenna issue.

UPDATE #3: Just in case you are still mystified by what those 2 effects are, here are the definitive quotes from Mr. Spencer Webb (Antennasys) & Brian Klug & Anand Lal Shimpi (Anandtech). Let’s start with Anandtech’s:

After getting those numbers, my first thoughts were that two dominant effects were responsible for the iPhone 4 signal drop being measured. The first was detuning due to capacitance added by the hand making galvanic contact with the stainless steel, and possibly even coupling the two discrete antennas together. The second was simply attenuation due to our meatbag extremities (read: hands) being not perfectly transparent to RF at 850 MHz and 1.8 GHz. I made some Star Trek references that some of you caught about us being bags of mostly water – it’s true, and it’s something Apple has emphasized heavily in its letter – that all phones drop signal when your hand is in between the path to the base station antenna. The real question was how much of that 24 dBm drop was due to galvanic contact with your capacitive hands (detuning), and how much was due to your hands being mostly water, and so close to the radiative surface.

Source

& here’s Mr Spencer Webb’s explanation:

I have seen mention of the electrical tape fix, the scotch tape fix, the bumper case fix, even the short-the-other slot fix on various web sites.  The important thing to realize is that we are dealing with radio frequency (RF) currents in the antenna, not direct current (DC) as you will find in a flashlight, for example.  If you place a thin insulator (tape) across the “gap” and over the “band” on the iPhone 4, I would not expect that to make a very big difference.  With such a thin insulator you are effectively preventing a short at DC (zero Hertz), but at the RF frequencies involved (around 1GHz, or one billion Hertz) you are just making a large capacitor.  A capacitor is fundamentally two conducting plates separated by an insulator.  When the capacitance is high enough (plates big, insulator thin) at the frequencies in question, it looks just like a short circuit.  So, I would not expect tape to create any improvement when the Grip Of Death is used (see photo).

When I was on the phone with the WSJ, I explained the two distinct effects that holding the phone over the antennas will impart: detuning and attenuation.

Detuning can be understood by imagining a wine glass that is empty.  If we tap the glass with a fork, the glass will ring, or resonate, at some frequency.  If we put some wine in it (or apple cider, since I don’t imbibe) the resonant frequency will change and in this case increase.  This is the same for antennas.  Antennas are generally resonant at their frequencies of operation, and when we put our hand over them we “load” them with the dielectric of our bag of salty water.  This lowers the resonant frequency of the antenna and may make it harder to squirt energy into it at the frequency we want.  If the antenna is particularly narrow-band, it may “kill” it completely.  Generally, physically small (compared to a wavelength) antennas are narrow-band and large antennas may be wide-band.  This is why detuning is the first detrimental effect of putting your hand on an antenna.  Any antenna.

The second effect is attenuation, or loss.  Your hand is a dielectric, meaning it concentrates electric fields more than air.  This factor is called the dielectric constant, and for your hand is pretty high, like 12 or 20 or so.  It depends on your diet and BMI, so it’s kind of personal and I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by dwelling on it; the important thing is to be healthy.  Oh… right…. so this is what detunes the antenna.  But, your hand is also conductive, but not perfectly so.  So you WILL get a shock if you stick your thumb in a light socket, and I don’t recommend it.  This not-so-perfect conductor is what we call “lossy”.  RF energy impinging upon your hand (or head) is partially going to be turned into heat.  This is the SAR we were talking about, and you may have heard of.  This leads to an attenuation (reduction) in the signal being radiated into space by the antenna.  This is the other bad thing that happens to hand-wrapped antennas.  Once turned to heat, the RF energy is gone.  Just ask your dinner in the microwave.

So, detuning causes problems with squeezing energy from the circuitry into the antenna (or vice versa), and attenuation causes problems with losing energy to heat.

The so-called bumper case is a much thicker insulator (or dielectric) than a piece of tape. It pushes the lossy dielectric (your hand) further away, significantly reducing the capacitance.  I would expect this to reduce the detuning effect, but not the attenuating effect.  Will it help?  You betcha’.  However, it is a tradeoff: pushing a very high dielectric constant but lossy material away, and substituting it with a lower dielectric constant material.  If I were a betting man, I would guess that the dielectric constant of the materials used is about 3.3.  So, it still will load the antenna, but not as much; and it is entirely possible that this was taken into consideration in the design of the antenna.  Since I have had a case on my Primordial iPhone since it was new, I expect to do the same with the iPhone 4.  When it gets here.  Any time now.

Source

As for me, I have been waiting for a trigger to force Apple’s hand, i.e. to acknowledge the first issue, i.e. the then-ingenious design of the antenna hardware which turns out to be a southpaw’s hindrance. I’ve mentioned countless times across multiple channels, that a hardware design flaw can never, never be truly fixed by mere firmware updates. No matter how magical Apple’s software are, I don’t think they can bend the laws of Physics. Heck, they can even update the firmware until it shows 3 million bars but without modifying the hardware, once the antenna frame of the iPhone 4 is gripped in said manner, real impact on data transmission will serve to surface the [ugly] truth, be it 1 bar or a million.

Apple was forced to perform a PR recovery operation when Consumer Reports finally performed a more thorough testing & replaced their original verdict of the iPhone 4 with an updated, unpleasant version. I’m not sure what genre of consumer peruse & base their purchasing behaviour using Consumer Reports, but apparently the genre is large enough for Apple to launch a very last-minute press conference on July 16. Surprisingly, for no apparent reason, there appears to be a select group of individuals who is suddenly calling Consumers’ Report’s integrity & validity into question. I suppose those individuals must have more experience than a publication solely dedicated to test-drive consumer products using non-sponsored, no-ads, anonymously-purchased units. In fact, there is even a podcast dedicated to naming one of its episode, “Consumer F-ng Report“!

More crude than entertaining. Definitely NOT value-adding

But I digressed. I will like to point out for such a PR-maestro that is the Apple we all know, that last minute press conference is an insult to the attendees’ intelligence and time. Every one’s there on their own (company’s) timesheet & naturally would expect Apple to be straight to the point & settle the issue specifically. Apple threw a curl ball when it screened an YouTube video that adds no value to the conference.

The press must be thinking, "why did we fly here again?"

It’s shocking for me to learn shortly after that, the press was treated to the usual “Apple-tizer” often served at the beginning of their usual annual keynote. I can’t speak for the press, but that conference, to me, is not the time for Apple to perform its regular “pats on its own shoulders”. Secondly, which is my main gripe with that conference, is the very next moment Apple dragged all its 3 major competitors under the bus! HTC, Blackberry & Samsung cellphone units were demonstrated by Steve Jobs to reproduce the same antenna-related issue as the iPhone 4. That’s a new LOW. My opinions are: when you are drowning in your own crap, you fix your own problem. Dragging other company’s product into the same sh*thole you created for yourself, is NOT solving the problem.

UPDATE #4: At least Mr. Tom Merritt from Tech News Today agrees with me.

UPDATE #5: Here’s gdgt’s take on how Apple Inc. “dis-apologizes”

Don’t forget: those companies were never the ones that advertised their devices as magical & revolutionary in the first place! Imagine how you will like it when the next time round should the other 3 companies hit some brick wall on their own product launches & they dragged Apple into it then? I can’t imagine how even the friendly Blackberry “camp” was thrown into oncoming traffic by Apple; my impression of Blackberry supporters are that they have always been a peaceful, mind-their-own-business bunch.

"You see, all cellphones has this issue, as I've demonstrated using my unit. But yours may not exhibit such issues as yours isn't a cellphone and you are seated so far away from me the reception profile in your zone may be different"

Ironically, during the Q & A session when someone wishes to hand Steve Jobs a Blackberry to reproduce the signal-bar-diminishing issue, Steve Jobs retorted the fellows that he may not see it in certain area. But I thought Steve Jobs was sitting on the stage simply a few rows in front of that fellow who proposes the 2nd demonstration?! Is Steve Jobs implying the few-rows’ distance between their 2 spots within the same hall has very different service provider reception profile? Is this the same Steve Jobs who claimed at the iPhone 4 launch keynote, that the ad-hoc 3G-Wifi/Mifi hotspots created by his audience at the bottom of the stage, has an impact on the iPhone 4’s then-data-failure on-stage?

Yup, some people, don't say who, always like to tear Google down because Google is "doing well"

On a totally un-related note: I will like to discuss the topic of hypocrisy. It’s funny how the tide has turned. Because during the Q & A following the press conference, Steve Jobs mentioned how other people like to attack companies that are successful. It’s even more funny when he mentioned Google as one of those successful companies that people has been trying to tear down. It’s simply freaking hilarious when I recall another Steve Jobs saying the following:

& he just said this, like earlier this year?

Oh btw, the conclusion of that press conference, which in the end I personally concluded is a huge waste of time for those that flew down: is that Apple will issue free bumpers/cases to fix the antenna-placed-in-a-spot-where-it’s-super-easy-for-someone’s-hand-to-bridge design problem. Hold on; scratch that. Apple didn’t apologize. It can’t apologize because it still refused to acknowledge that design flaw as its own! Basically, Apple held the press conference is claim the iPhone 4 is still the #1 smartphone & almost nobody is complaining about the antenna issue, despite what is on YouTube & other blogs. That press conference is a reluctant admission of the fact that Apple’s telecommunication devices are subjected to the same constraints of Physics as the other manufacturers’ phones. Shocking, perhaps is this realization, to Apple & its rabid supporters. Of course, I may very well use this opportunity to interject some brilliant examples of fanboyism

Example #1 – iPhone Live! podcast episode #108: 1 of the host says he gives kudos to Apple for trying again and again after some of the less-desirable aspects of earlier iPhones were proved to fail effectiveness i but remember, these are the same people that always throw mockery at competitors like HTC & Samsung for trying & trying to be the next “iPhone-killer”. So why does Apple deserve kudos for repetitively trying-&-failing while its competitors are left with mockery for trying just as hard? They also mocked every HTC phone for looking the same while conveniently forgetting the iPhone 2G-3Gs design similarities? In addition, it’s been a trend for this podcast, iPhone/iPad Live! to mock the Motorola Droid series whenever 1 of the host’s headset produce some audio issue. I find it revolutionary that repeated headset “accidents” on their own parts can be used to bash another company’s products time after time. But then I recalled the manner in how Apple “solved” its antenna situation & suddenly I’m not that “amazed” any more. Maybe it’s just how some people handle problems, i.e. mechanisms such as verbal mockery & open letters to detract from real problems. It’s also extremely commonplace for such podcasts to mock analysts for making erroneous predictions when I dunno what gave these hosts the qualifications to “guarantee” the next iPhone won’t have such antenna issues. I suppose these hosts are henceforth also qualified to critique the press/mass media for being hyperbolic & irresponsible for reporting negative issues of the iPhone 4 when they “conveniently” forgot that its the same press that always gave Apple product launches excessively-exuberant publicity at other times. I also observed how they keep emphasizing that nobody is forcing the iPhone 4 down your throat when clearly, before the antenna issue gained critical mass, their tone were of a different theme. “No one’s forcing you to buy the iPhone, but we will just keep mocking Motorola, HTC, & other competitors like those are such worthless piece of crap”…

I'm sure this is taking it a wee bit too far?

Example #2 – Today in iPhone podcast episode #137: Two listeners wished to point out that Apple was less than honest when in the open letter it claimed it was shocked to learn that it has been using the wrong formula for calculating signal bars display. The host was quick to talk about how much better the actual battery life of iOS devices were, compared to what Apple always declared. I feel tempted to tell you how cooling the weather was, when I wrote this entry, but you may wonder, what has the weather got to do with this entry? This is the same bemusement I experienced when the host starts talking about battery life when 2 listeners dialled in to talk specifically about intentional signal bar misrepresentation. To make matters worst, the host once again drags the HTC Evo 4G under the bus and “claims” it has only 2 hours of battery life as compared to HTC’s stated 6-hour battery. I doubt the host even used the HTC Evo 4G for more than an hour or so. But of course, it’s easy to claim the 2-hour battery performance as absolute truth when the host has simply read it somewhere else. Hmm, I suppose simply reading it somewhere else & re-posting things as the truth is al right when it comes to bashing anything non-Apple, but when the blogosphere starts doing the same thing to Apple devices the very same act becomes a crime? May I have an “H” for “H-ypocrisy”?

I expect the "symptoms" for the iPhone 4 SG launch to be much, much exagerrated

Talking about rabid supporters, I’m disturbed to observe how the local iPhone discussion community is harbouring a select group of individuals that possess “unique” perspectives on discussions related to the iPhone. Some of these people are breathing down others’ necks for the slightest inaccuracies in information. Some are claiming that Android fans are mocking their iPhone 4 ownership excessively (though I “dunno” why other people will disturb you if you didn’t rub your elitism/superiority in their faces earlier on). It is unconvincing, that I am too tired to provide reference to each and every single post in that forum that lay claims to such animosity there, but if you are someone who trawls that forums for whatever bits of useful information, I believe such behavioural patterns are too foul to ignore. Why is there so much anger & temper & outbursts over such trivial communication devices? Of course, I’m not suggesting every participant in that sub-forum is a frothing, agitated troll, but I often indulge myself in wondering whether such extreme forms of self-belief are exhibited by these folks in their real life to the same extent as their cyberspace presence. Some already took leave to prep for the iPhone 4’s launch in Singapore; some are considering (feigning) medical leave to queue, some are cooking up excuses to take a day off from school, etc. The tension in that specific iPhone discussion forum is so tight one can cut it with a knife, i.e. the same group of boisterous supporters believe they are the victims of the media. They still believe they are the under-dogs! They believe their beloved Apple company is under attack by everybody for no good reason. In other words, they believe it’s 1984.

Suddenly everyone's an armchair expert. Why so furious?

Wow

Outstanding

Epic

What does all these mean for me? Well, mainly I’m let down by the way Apple refuses to step out of the shadow of its pride & arrogance. Perhaps the company’s management has basked in the glory of their past successes for too long & gotten far too intoxicated in the embrace of its fanboys? Sometimes I think the over-rabid supporters don’t get it: I don’t care if your unit doesn’t exhibit such (reception) flaws; if the unit I purchase does, are you willing to place a financial guarantee or even swap your unit & mine? Will you subsidize the 2-year contract that I would have signed should I really purchased a “lemon” set? I strongly believe quality products should speak for themselves & not require too much of a company’s PR to drive/ignite its market performance. I’m not asking people not to get an iPhone 4 or to get an iPhone 4. Personally, I’ve always wanted to get an iPhone. It’s simply unfortunate when I am finally driven enough to consider a serious purchase, came the generation of iPhone that was bundled with the most controversy. On one hand, if I purchase the iPhone 4 once it launches in Singapore, I have to convince myself that I’m parting a lot of cash for an imperfect device (the antenna design {specifically, I’m referring to having the entire area where the user is most likely to grip the handset with, designed as an antenna; NOT the bars-dropping-when-intentionally-“man-handled” syndrome} is a flaw beyond doubt, to me at least. A flaw that no rational person can ignore or deny). I’ve to convince myself that I will miss out the potential silently-revised version available after September 30th (Apple will stop issuing free cases/bumpers after this date). And at a deeper level, if I purchase this phone, it implies that, on top of the imperfect design, I can live with the horrendous bullcrap that is Apple’s press conference last week 😡

Spencer Webb If you go to my blog I wrote a little bit on why the – the thicker the bumper the more it pushes your lossy hand away from the phone and it’s going to reduce the sensitivity to your hand. And I’m not so sure that Apple hadn’t considered this from the beginning, obviously the evidence is that they came out with the bumper so quickly.Leo Laporte Right.

Spencer Webb But…

Leo Laporte You used electrical tape and did that work?

Spencer Webb I used electrical tape, in fact here is the actual roll of electrical tape, this is exclusive to this WEEK in TECHNOLOGY…

Leo Laporte I thought electrical tape was black.

Spencer Webb No, antenna engineers are permitted to buy white electrical tape.

Leo Laporte Oh, you have to have a license.

Spencer Webb You do. You have to show it at The Home Depot, so we used white electrical tape; this is serious…

Leo Laporte Stop Laughing.

Spencer Webb …and we did the insulation and we did the grip of death and it had no absolutely no change on our experiment, I have to admit it wasn’t a rigorous experiment, it wasn’t a very carefully controlled experiment but it was enough of an experiment for two RF guys sitting next to each other, look at each other and say, yup, okay, no change, no difference.

Leo Laporte So it’s not that the moisture in my hand or somehow bridging this plastic gap that’s a misnomer, that’s not what’s happening.

Spencer Webb That’s DC thing, that’s light bulbs and flashlights thing, we are dealing with radio frequency currents that are switching back and forth at, in this case about a billion times a second, RF acts differently. And if we take a thin insulator and put it over that band, the RF actually doesn’t know the difference because we are making so much capacitance with our hand. So it’s not really what we would call a Galvanic connection that’s causing the problem, it has nothing to do with that; it is a combination of detuning the antenna from putting our hand there and literally attenuating the signal as it’s coming off the antenna which means it’s turning into heat inside of our hands.

Leo Laporte So the farther away the bag of moisture that is your body is from this part of the phone the better?

Steve Gibson Yep.

Spencer Webb Yes. Absolutely.

Leo Laporte To a certain point, obviously if you are six inches away…

Jerry Pournelle And but it only takes one thin piece of tape to do that. Is that correct?

Leo Laporte No, no, it doesn’t, it sounds like.

Spencer Webb No, you need to – the bumper case pushes your hand, or I haven’t – I don’t have a bumper case in front of me, but I have the case that I use on my…

Jerry Pournelle Okay, I misunderstood you, and I suspect if I did some others did.

Leo Laporte Yes, no, thanks for clarifying.

Jerry Pournelle You are saying that a piece of tape won’t do it, you have to have something that has [ph] enough (38:22) physical difference to actually affect the capacitance of the…

Spencer Webb Right.

Jerry Pournelle …connection between your hand and the antenna.

Spencer Webb Yeah, I predicted that a thin piece of tape will have no effect, we observed that a piece of electrical tape didn’t seem to have an effect and next week I’m going to get much more detail than the measurements.

Entrepreneurial idea from a P5 kid

Posted: July 5, 2010 by ralliart12 in ScratchPad
Tags: , , , ,

“My niece asked me to take over Microsoft so that every time someone uses Microsoft Word they will have to pay me licensing fee.”


The Doomsday. It's revolutionary. The best you will ever see! Amazing & magical!

Just yesterday, Apple published a letter on its site, clarifying their stand on the entire antenna issue. As usual, that letter is a handsome piece of PR, so beautiful crafted that someone actually suggested that Apple can take any calamity, i.e. even a doomsday event, & turn it into wonderful news. Since my mind was craving for some literary exercise, I tried my hand at it. For those who haven’t read the original letter, please finish it before reading my satirical take. & here’s my version:

Letter from Apple Regarding impending doomsday phenomenon

Dear citizens of Earth,

The Doomsday has been the most tremendous natural phenomenon launched in Earth’s history. It has been judged by nationalities around the world to be the most major event ever, and people have told us that they loathed it. So we were surprised when we read reports of weather & agricultural problems, and we immediately began investigating them. Here is what we have learned.

To start with, screwing with Mother Earth’s resources in certain ways will reduce her lifespan by 1 or more millennium. This is true of Alderaan, Aeten II, as well as many many other less worthy planets. But some users have reported that Earth can raise 4 or 5 degress when consistently f**ked in a way which causes the polar ice caps at the two poles to melt. This is a far bigger increase than normal, and as a result some have accused the impending Doomsday of having malicious intent.

At the same time, we continue to read articles and receive hundreds of emails from politicians saying that Doomsday awareness is greater than the Big Bang. They are anxious. This matches our own experience and testing. What can explain all of this?

We have discovered the cause of this dramatic increase in temperature, and it is both simple and surprising.

Upon investigation, we were stunned to find that the formula we use to moderate our consumption of natural resources is totally wrong. Our formula, in many instances, mistakenly displays a couple more centuries than it should for a given global population. For example, we sometimes display 4 centuries when we should be displaying as few as 2 days. Countries observing an increase of monthly rainfall when they neglect their infrastructure in a certain way are most likely in an area with very weak plumbing, but they don’t know it because the media are erroneously displaying wrong figures. Their big drop in credibility is because their high credibility were never real in the first place.

To fix this, we are adopting North Korea’s recently recommended formula for calculating how much BS to publish for a given national defeat. The real shame remains the same, but the media will report it far more accurately, providing users a much better picture of the sh*thole they will end up in, in a given area. We are also making bars a bit cheaper so the public will drink themselves into a stupor.

We will issue a free national address within a few weeks that incorporates the corrected message. Since this mistake has been present since the original cabinet/senate/government, this national address will also be applicable to the working adults and senior citizens.

We have gone back to our labs and retested everything, and the results are the same— the Doomsday’s effectiveness is the best we have ever seen. For the vast majority of citizens who have not been alerted of this issue, this national address will only make you sh*t your pants. For those who have had concerns, we apologize for any anxiety we may have caused.

As a reminder, if you are not fully annihilated, you can return your damaged properties to any Disaster Recovery Centre or eBay within your remaining useful lifespan for some food & water.

We hope you embrace the Doomsday as much as we do.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Apple

Hope it made some of you laugh. I knew I enjoyed it mrgreen Btw, I dun work for Apple.


Housekeeping

Let’s get some housekeeping done before delving into the main content of this entry. Needless to say, the first thing you would have noticed is the radical departure from my previous blog design. This will be the 3rd time I’d changed the visual appearance of my blog (the 1st 2 themes employed were “Quentin” & “Spring Loaded” respectively). The impetus for this revamp is the significant influx of theme releases by WordPress. Another driver for this change is to coincide with the 1st post upon my graduation (more on that later), signifying a new beginning. As a matter of fact, originally I wanted this entry to be the 1st entry of June, but alas, the iPhone 4 was launched & that took the priority simply as a reasoning of relevance. Short-listing the themes took a very long time, & I even seeked the opinion of a few members of the public. I literally went through all the themes available, & narrow the list down from thereon. The final 2 candidates, Greyzed & Notepad were equally matched in my favour. I would have chosen Notepad for its extreme readability, but Greyzed won the hearts of the public. In addition, I’ve also restructured the side-bar & I believe the underlying “theme” would be apparent if one pays attention to the widgets’ header. The individual widgets in the side-bar as well as the bottom of the page are carefully selected to enrich the content on my site with what’s happening in Singapore & the rest of the world (mostly technological news). There are also RSS subscription links if you prefer to follow my entries in that manner, as opposed to email subscription. Nonetheless, I hope the new design is much, much more “palatable” (pun intended), & a lot less morbid than the style of my previous version.

These themes were the few to made it to the last round of elimination.

In addition, starting from this entry onwards, photos for this blog will be hosted on my official Photobucket account & organized in folders according to which post they belong to. To streamline publishing, I’ll no longer apply the feather effect (don’t think anybody noticed) to my photos as that took too long. However, I found some nice Photoshop actions legally free from the Internet & I’ll be trying them out as we go along; so please bear with me if the touch-up of my photos are inconsistent in the near-future. I’ve also tacked on a Rating component for my posts, pages & comments, so feel free to air your perceptions whether you think my content is garbage or indeed worthy of your time. The only censorship here is effected on spam & crude remarks.

In other news, I’m not sure many may recall that I launched a bounty a long time ago to seek assistance for fixing up my jigsaw lamp which I bought from Thailand. I’m grateful to receive many guidance both from the web & in real life but I’m most pleased that in the end, I persevered & delivered the finishing touch to complete the lamp. To be honest, most of the comments on that bounty post (& the rest of the web) are actually from online-sellers of those type of lamps & since their instructions are the same (same supplier mah), when I couldn’t understand the final step of one, the rest are equally be-fuddling to me. The challenging part was never about joining the inner pieces together, but the final step of linking the “exterior edges” in the correct orientation.

Stack of uni notes (left); assembled jigsaw lamp (right)

Well, that’s about it, i.e. explaining the updates, announcing the changes, etc. With that out of the way, let’s move onto the main entry…

Main

At least the ending was a pleasant surprise

So I finally graduated. After 4 arduous years I managed to earn my degree & perhaps gained a little bit of academic education. Unfortunately, due to my unfamiliarity with my school’s module system & also my inadequate planning, I did not manage to secure any complementary Honours class along with my degree. However, at the very least, I’m relieved that I have something to show to my parents for the past few years that they have put up with my nonsense & attitude. Come to think of it, I would have been terribly upset if I were to be retained. It was a pretty close call though, as 4 years (8 semesters to be precise) is considered the maximum term of my study & a failure in any one of the last 3 modules of my final semester will result in an unfortunate extension.

A bit about my final 3 modules in NUS

Talking about those last 3 modules…the final grades I achieved was a pleasant surprise. It seems like yesterday when I have to “beg” to take the module CS4361 Service Systems simply because I have never taken its pre-requisite, CS3361, before. Luckily, logic prevailed & I was admitted to the class. It was pretty smooth sailing & I have the honour to work with another team of responsible achievers in NUS. So Team CS4361, I’m forever grateful for the collaboration opportunity bestowed upon me. I hope my commitment  to our assignments can only be surpassed by your fond memories of working with me. The assignments were thoroughly fulfilling as a result of every member’s dedication. As for my individual performance, not to brag, but this module is definitely manageable. Which is why I’m surprised by my final grade. This is because I was expecting the competition to be extremely stiff, since more than half the class have taken CS3361 before/has SSME specialization. What’s more, the final paper was open-book & I believe most of our answer scripts will be  quite similar to one another. None the less, I still remembered the night before the paper, I found the  extra reading materials so engaging I literally couldn’t put them down & go to sleep! & so I went to the exam hall, & shown my calibre.

As for MA1312, well I finally cleared 1 of my tougher Calculus module required to fulfill my degree. I was fortunate enough to encounter a truly passionate Calculus teacher after so many years in NUS. He is Professor Goh Say Song & when Mr. Ng Wee Seng (another effective & humorous calculus lecturer) described him as a “benevolent spirit”, Mr. Ng was spot on. Prof Goh proved to be extremely caring, patient, kind & understanding. Many a times he went out of his way to ensure the students really understand what the syllabus is about, even though such sessions often eats into his lunch time. He has achieved a miracle that few, if no other lecturers have been able to accomplish: ignite a genuine interest in me to explore Calculus. I find myself returning to him time & again, to learn more about Calculus. I actually witnessed the immense amount of time he forked out as consultation sessions for his student, & I can assure you: nobody will do this if he is not passionate about truly making the students learn. Even though when I attempt the final MA1312 paper, I wasn’t entirely confident about the outcome, he approached me directly after the paper, & comforted me that I have nothing to fear given my routine performance. Given my “brilliant history” with MA1505, naturally I was skeptical, but I didn’t end up with a borderline pass for MA1312. Instead, I scored a “B”! This kind of grade for MA13xx may be nothing to any one else, but “B” for my math module? B-ravo!

ST2334 is simply amazing. In the sense that a module that officially requires a MA-level Calculus module as a prerequisite, I have absolute difficulty finding even a single bit of calculus involved in the module. Perhaps it’s a secret level, that only the brightest student can unlock? Perhaps I didn’t pay for the “Calculus-flavored” version? Nonetheless, I was pretty glad I survived the course, given the fact that I’m not very proficient at Probability & my term test performances were below average. The final paper was terrifying as the opening question was on Probability & I find myself second-guessing my own answers. I got the luck of the draw when I realize there was a specific formula that I decided to include on my help-sheet at the last minute & it is this formula that helped me solved the bulk of another question. Excitingly, time ran out & I was only able to complete 3 of the 4 questions issued. What’s worse when the 1st question about Probability was pretty shaky & my solution for the last attempted question is simply derived from pure instinct (no kidding, that was the fastest speed I’d ever written for an exam paper); I dun even know what I’m writing halfway through the solution except to keep calculating & keep churning out hypothesis & percentages. Which is why, I was once again, thrilled to find the grade “quite a fair bit better” than borderline passing the module.

The NUS Experience

And that, is how I emerged from the NUS experience. Will not bore any one with the trials & tribulations I’m encountered over the 4 years, but perhaps some thoughts after completing this chapter of my education?

I’m very lucky to qualify for an university education after completing my polytechnic studies. At the university, I ran into many interesting people, mostly nice; as well as loads of modules that has cumulated in some of my knowledge regarding my field. I’m an Information Systems graduate from the School of Computing. The computing degree is a challenging one, for me at least. Most of the foundation modules (level 2000 & below) are indeed extremely low-level & I’m always awed by the immense amount of understanding my professors for those modules exhibited. In fact, sad to say, I would have preferred to take fewer modules simultaneously over the same period of time. This is because even though I cleared those modules, i.e. CS2102, CS2105, etc, I strongly believe it’s the grading system, the bell curve & relative performance of other students that enable me to “pass”. I cannot honestly in my heart say I’m a master of those topics but perhaps I’m too hard on myself ? In any event, I have those professors to thank for choosing the appropriate textbook for newbies like me to embark on. At the foundation level, completely grasping the “recommended” textbooks will really go a long way to cement one’s framework of understanding. The lecturers’ teachings may account for 30% of my understanding? I believe their role is simply to design assessments to challenge our grasp of the subject at hand. Most of their slides are “retro-fitted” versions of textbook materials anyway.

I’m not one of those “memorise-&-regurgitate” student. I believe my average performance at those foundation modules reflect this fact. It is when I entered my level 3000 (& above) modules that I feel the kick. A genuine passion, a primitive need to crack the challenges that the professors threw at us, to gain a firm grasp of the subject matter & one-up the other teams in project submissions. This stage is where the individual specialization of degrees occur, i.e. forking of module branches. I must say I’m thankful to have some of the better lecturers for the level 4000 modules. I’m glad I can afford their expert guidance & experience-based insights; many a times an ordinary module can be enriched by an entertaining delivery & this is one aspect that cannot be emulated by text materials alone. Special thanks & mention goes to eventually-will-be-Dr. Tan Wee Kek, the always-talk-very-turbo Dr Ng Boon Yuen (I actually timed her during a few of her lectures), always-humorous Dr Heng Cheng Suang, Dr. Danny Poo, curiously-inspiring Dr. Bernard Tan as well as Dr. Goh Khim Yong. The 2 major type of modules that I thoroughly enjoyed myself are the business modules & the information systems module. For business-related modules I took financial accounting, managerial accounting, (preferred this over financial) management behaviour (I think most folks in the industry termed this, “OB“), marketing, economics (basic). I indulged myself in the Information Systems module as they are more “real” to me, i.e. real-world situations where I can manipulate technology, people & business structure to better the status quo of for-profit companies & organizations. At this level, the team assignments are triple-F: fast, furious, frequent. 1 of the major components of team assignments is the team. I’m fortunate to be recruited by a close friend of mine, to work alongside a team of dedicated professionals (in every sense of those 2 words). I’m grateful they saw some qualities in me that I’m not very aware of; I’m grateful they endured my eccentric (at times) behaviour; I’m grateful for the commitment they’ve given to our assignments; I’m grateful for their patience, their unrelenting willingness to impart their know-how to me…most of all, I’m grateful, in my life, to be able to call these folks friends, as opposed to mere acquaintances. I can only pray my contribution to their university life can remunerate a bit of the benevolence they have graced me. So to my CS3214, CS42XX, CS4361 teams, THANK YOU & GODSPEED 😉

Back to me. Then again there are darker tales to tell of my journey through the non-academic portion of my NUS quest. There is nothing further I can say without getting into trouble, but there really is some BS going on in this school’s administration. For such a large institution, I can understand it’s hard to avoid unreasonable entities (people and/or departments, organizations, etc). what I fail to comprehend is how I can consistently ran into them. I must have signed up for the “BS value-added service” when I enrolled. But regardless of the events & their outcomes, the most critical thing is what I take away from them. On hindsight, perhaps I’m lucky to get these life lessons over & done with in school than in the public community. & these are the bullet point messages:

  • Nobody gives a shit if you are right or wrong. The only thing that matters is which entity has greater power (NOT authority). Life’s unfair. Live with it.
  • If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything. Opinions are a double-edged sword that cuts only the wielder. They can be tangible manifestations of one’s perspectives. They can also be loopholes for one’s opponent to exploit against you. As one can see, having loads of opinions, mean zilch. It doesn’t pay to have opinions. If one has so much time & effort to spare, amass power instead of collecting opinions.
  • If one really believes the opposing/malicious entity is so full of BS, then obviously there will be many before you that has challenged their BS. & since they are still giving you BS, it means your predecessors had been defeated by their BS. Which implies those entities would have the expertise & experience in covering their own arse.
  • Bottom-line? Walk away. Don’t take a stand. Don’t waste your breath & effort on something that has no tangible benefits. There is no point making a point.

I came across this article, which is a modern take on Dale Carnegie’s best-seller, “How to Win Friends and Influence People“. It was a good read (perhaps I should borrow the original work); I hope the guidelines there will resonate with my future-self.

The Next Chapter. A new direction.

& here I am, the juncture where I really need to take charge for a while & decide what to do with the rest of my life. It’s been almost 2  months since my last examination in NUS & I have been taking an extremely long time-out. Didn’t go for a graduation trip, well, because I don’t feel that the calibre of my degree deserves one. Very soon Reality will grab me & throttle me to the ground as Gravity brings any aloft objects speedily to their demise. Loans, bills, daily expenditures will fast tighten their grip on the freedom of my routine activities. I need to grab hold of my purpose & direction before the quicksand of my financial liberty pulls me in & suffocate my future. Here’s the list of things I need to get underway:

  1. Jump-start final severance from NUS
    ~ Prepare for my commencement, i.e. finalize all the info, decide on any commemorative items I intend to buy, prepare the graduation gown & decide the underlying outfit
    ~ Retrieve all mails & attachment from my school email accounts (ensure local archives are intact)
    ~ Download whatever valuable software I can from MSDNAA!
  2. Retro-fit my attitude for employment
    ~ Prepare my resume
    ~ Research on the company that I intend to work at
    ~ Concoct my answers to the standard interview questions, i.e. tell me about yourself, weakness & strength with examples, leadership skills with examples, challenges overcame with examples, etc
  3. Livelihood stuff
    ~ Figure out how much I owe the banks & the repayment terms & conditions
    ~ Review all the snail mail (letters) that has accumulated since my exams
    ~ Explore the perils of an uniquely Singaporean adulthood, which probably entails reading up on CPF, HDB, Income tax, insurance, etc
    ~ Stock up on my military equipping (mine’s lost in camp after 2 years [long story; doesn’t matter now] & my reservist’s coming up rather soon)
  4. “Me”-stuff
    ~ Tidy up my room
    ~ Continue with my music inventory~ Get back into my exercise routine
    ~ Update my wardrobe a little, i.e. get a new pair of formal shoes, 1 new pair of formal pants, a new belt, a few new pairs of shorts, a formal-looking sling bag in portrait orientation (that can accommodate a netbook & a sketchpad, amongst other creativity utensils).

This is simply unfit for long-term habitation. The flash just makes it look "passable"

Amazing as it may sound, in life, it’s very easy to take a step back & let others take charge of your life. In my earlier years it’s always following these instruction & that instruction. Was like this when I was a teen, when I was fulfilling my national service (most of the time), & during my university years. Only when nobody tries to control you, when you have to take responsibility for your own life, take responsibility for the welfare of your parents & loved ones, do you realize the hardship that is slowly manifesting before your eyes. It’s like all this while I’ve been slave-driven to row the oar on a ship & one day, the captain becomes you & you have to decide where you want to steer the vessel while furiously paddling to stay abreast of the storm.

Suppose I better have something to show for the rest of my life, as there are quite a few that expects the better of me. Got to start earning my keep, justify my time, buy loads of stuff, surmount likely challenges & exploit future opportunities. As always, there are so many things to do, but…

...Time is running out...

Get back into my exercise routine