Archive for the ‘Roadblocks’ Category


This is not one of those events that have a happy ending. I do not feel like writing too much about it, but essentially, I bit off more than I can chew, & the results were disastrous. The final status of this project is: aborted. There will be no further attempts to revive it. All remaining life-forms were distributed to capable care-takers; most, if not all the equipment involved were either sold, sterilised (for future use), or destroyed (recovery efforts out-weigh the item’s value). What follows, is a harrowing tale that cumulated in one of my most unglamorous under-taking…

Initial setup for this secondary project is a GEX Glassterior Slim 450 low-profile tank. Substrate is GEX Shrimp Soil on top of a layer of Mosura Old Sea Mud Powder. This is coated by a thin layer of ADA New Amazonia AquaSoil (powder-type; to facilitate planting of carpeting soil). Main hardscape is a relatively large pice of driftwood, placed off-centre & binded with Christmas moss, as well as random units of Anubias barteri var. nana ‘Petite’. Secondary hardscape are various small pieces of lava rocks scattered around the substrate to make the surroundings look bigger. Illumination provided by a pair of T5HO tubes from an AquaZonic fixture (cheap, simple, gets the job done; cheap-looking fixture as well). Filtration is provide by an Eheim Classic 2211 containing maximum capacity of BioHome Plus media; output via a rainbar.

Performing some conceptualization of the hardscape…frankly speaking, the GEX Glassterior Slim 450 is a very narrow tank, but I still love it.

Placing the driftwood after it has been tied with Christmas moss & “Nana petite”. The environment has to be keep humid to prevent the moss from drying out. The driftwood is embedded deep into the substrate; even them, it is about as tall as the tank’s depth. Note the cheap-looking plastic light fixture.

As always, filling up a tank using soil-based substrate is always, a messy affair. Though the detritus usually clears up within a day, I may have came up with a way to greatly reduce stirred up debris from Day-0 filling-up…

Top-down view of the tank, showing the spacing between each glosso stalk; as well as the amount of Christmas moss deployed.

The Glossostigma Elatinoides is planted node-by-node to promote spreading. After so many times of using glosso, I still pay too little attention to burying them until their leaves touch the topsoil. The above planting, is an example of shoddy work.

View of the tank from the side.

Too long a photo-period, too rich a substrate & you get hair algae!

Illumination has been upgraded to a Beamwork Model 1300 (1-watt-per-diode LED fixture). A small Totto bubble stopper has been added to provide further aeration. Frogbits (the floating plant) are introduced to cope with the high levels of nitrates; as well as kill off some of the direct light. The colony is introduced after weeks of cycling. Notice the Tubifex worms wriggling in the substrate? Yup, that’s what happen when the worms are not introduced via a tray.

Close-up view of the colony.

Tank has been upgraded to an Ocean Free 2-footer, with a depth of 45cm. Substrate is changed to a sand that is even finer (& brighter) than the usual favourite: Sudo Bottom Sand. Compared to the Sudo, this sand is super-fine. Filtration is amp-ed up to an Eheim 2224; output via lily pipe to produce a large but gentle current. Additional filtration is supplemented by an internal sponge filter (which bubbles the water all the way up above the water level before splashing it down). A pair of Giant Nana is introduced to serve as rallying points for the colony. The Totto bubble stopper is upgraded to its larger iteration as well. The substrate is intentionally laid thin.

Another close-up view of the colony. In the new environment.

The Colony is never heard from again.

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"KILL IT WITH FIRE!"


I know exactly what you are. I see exactly what you want. If you are looking for latitude, I can tell you I don’t have any. But what I do have are a very generous serving of fortitude; tenacity I have acquired over some very arduous life experiences. A resilience that make me a nightmare for green scum like you. If you let my plants go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will eradicate you.

Well, that’s a full two-&-a-half months of solid effort gone down the gutter; but life’s short & there ain’t much time to take things lying down. So I have to proceed with implementation #2 of my Dry-Start Method learning experience. This time round, I am prepared to go the extra mile in all aspects of the deployment environment.

Precautions in execution include:

  1. I believe flooding is a major destroyer of yield. This time round, I will implement measures to prevent & eliminate any flooded regions.
  2. I believe inconsistency in humidity, temperature & moisture content invites risks of yield failure. I have to devise some mechanism to maintain most, if not all, of these attributes.
  3. I believe excessive lighting & lighting in the wrong places will be a potential source of ingress for algae.
  4. On a less critical note, I believe there are more effective & precise methods to tweak the topography of the substrate.
  5. Likewise, I believe extra procedures have to be in place to maintain that topography over time.

So with these new guidelines in mind, I set off to prepare the deployment ground for batch #2 of my foreground carpeting plant, the hemianthus callitrichoides.

Step 1: secure a pair of broad-diameter straws, pierce holes (using a hot paper-clip) along their length in all axis.The holes should be smaller than the size of each granule of your substrate. The straws should preferably be opaque in colour, so that at their area of insertion no light is transmitted into the substrate, i.e. concept of optic-fibre. This may sound a bit ludicrous, but note that when the lights are powered on, imagine the clear walls of transparent straws are transmitting some light constantly all the way into the substrate. In the event of extreme flooding, these straws will act as outlets where excess water is drawn out. That's is why their diameter must be able to accommodate an air tube's girth.

Step 1: secure a pair of broad-diameter straws, pierce holes (using a hot paper-clip) along their length in all axis.The holes should be smaller than the size of each granule of your substrate. The straws should preferably be opaque in colour, so that at their area of insertion no light is transmitted into the substrate, i.e. concept of optic-fibre. This may sound a bit ludicrous, but note that when the lights are powered on, imagine the clear walls of transparent straws are transmitting some light constantly all the way into the substrate. In the event of extreme flooding, these straws will act as outlets where excess water is drawn out. That's is why their diameter must be able to accommodate an air tube's girth.

Step 2: Grab a bunch of Post-it notes, & list down each significant numerical aspect of the substrate, e.g. height of front edge, height of rear apex, etc. After which, stick these "labels" at their actual positions, preferably on the outer side of the tank wherever possible.

Step 2: Grab a bunch of Post-it notes, & list down each significant numerical aspect of the substrate, e.g. height of front edge, height of rear apex, etc. After which, stick these "labels" at their actual positions, preferably on the outer side of the tank wherever possible.

Step 3: Lay the base additive system as per the first deployment.

Step 4: Position straws vertically & slowly fill the tank with substrate. It is important to note that the lazy method of inserting the straw into the substrate after the substrate has been laid in the tank, is ill-advised as the straws will be choked & their primary purpose will be ineffective: drawing excess water from a flooded substrate.

Step 4: Position straws vertically & slowly fill the tank with substrate. It is important to note that the lazy method of inserting the straw into the substrate after the substrate has been laid in the tank, is ill-advised as the straws will be choked & their primary purpose will be ineffective: drawing excess water from a flooded substrate.

Step 5: Scape the substrate so that its topography aligns with the various Post-it notes that are distributed around the tank.

Step 6: Completely devoid the tank of light by sticking pieces of black paper on all clear sides entirely.

Step 7: Mist the surface of the substrate to make it “clumpy” to facilitate further modifications to its surface.

Step 8: Drive a few pieces of bent corrugated foam boards into the higher regions of the substrate to maintain the steep slope over time. Their apexes must be facing the slope's angle of repose.

Step 8: Drive a few pieces of bent corrugated foam boards into the higher regions of the substrate to maintain the steep slope over time. Their apexes must be facing the slope's angle of repose.

This is how the corrugated plastic board look like

This is how the corrugated plastic board look like

Step 9: Use a tool to create organized, regular depressions into the substrate where the plant nodes are supposed to be planted.

Step 9: Use a tool to create organized, regular depressions into the substrate where the plant nodes are supposed to be planted.

A closer look at the depressions from the left.

A closer look at the depressions from the left.

A closer look at the depressions from the right.

A closer look at the depressions from the right.

Step 10: Use a vessel with a pouring tip, e.g. one of those small jugs use for cooking, to pour dechlorinated (but again, not de-ammonium-ized) water into the straws gently & steadily. The effect is quite awesome when I execute Step 7. I saw water saturating the substrate from beneath it, all the way until some water peeks above the topsoil (at which point I stop pouring).

Step 10: Use a vessel with a pouring tip, e.g. one of those small jugs use for cooking, to pour dechlorinated (but again, not de-ammonium-ized) water into the straws gently & steadily. The effect is quite awesome when I execute Step 7. I saw water saturating the substrate from beneath it, all the way until some water peeks above the topsoil (at which point I stop pouring).

Step 11A: Cover the top of the tank with an opaque material when there is any form of visible light around. I will not allow any form of algae to have a head-start in this tank.

Step 11A: Cover the top of the tank with an opaque material when there is any form of visible light around. I will not allow any form of algae to have a head-start in this tank.

Step 11B: Cover the top of the tank with some mesh at night, only when there is no light in the room. This is to air the substrate to dry out excess surface water before planting. Preferably the mesh should have very fine holes so that dust in the room will not enter the tank.

Step 11B: Cover the top of the tank with some mesh at night, only when there is no light in the room. This is to air the substrate to dry out excess surface water before planting. Preferably the mesh should have very fine holes so that dust in the room will not enter the tank.

And then we lie in wait…for a week or so until


On the 14th of February 2012, a colony of highly-assorted algae infiltrated & successfully overwhelmed a field of Hemianthus callitrichoides in a 2-feet village. The massacre was over within a matter of hours. There were no survivors. Looks like no Valentine’s Day for the occupants of this village.

– An external witness

It's a lot worse than it seems

It's a lot worse than it seems

So here’s 10 weeks of consistent daily effort gone down the gutter. An algae attack reduce my progress to zilch. As a matter of fact, my progress has been reset to below zero, i.e. “negative”:

  1. The algae assault team has gone underground, literally. & since I have no water in the tank, using an algae scrapper on a dry & soiled (again, literally) surface runs into the danger of scratching the tank’s glass.
  2. Since at this moment in time, I do intend to re-use the substrate system, it means I can not use harsh chemical solvents (Hydrogen Peroxide, anyone?) to treat the algae; for fear of persistent negative effects harboured in the substrate long into the future.
I'm not even entirely positive as to the species of this algae.

I'm not even entirely positive as to the species of this algae.

So, I did what I can, at least, what measly efforts my broken spirit allows me to pursue today:

  1. I removed all traces of the HC, i.e. algae-fied, rotten, half-dead. Armed with a pair of tweezers & some elbow grease, after surface extraction, I use the pointed tips of the tweezers to rake through the soil to ensure all plant material (inclusive of roots) are removed. I do not want any further rotten material inside this substrate.
  2. I re-laid a layer of powder-type Aqua Soil as a form of repair to the topsoil of my substrate.
  3. I completely covered the tank from any visible light to implement a total blackout. The tank “cover” was only removed at night to accelerate the dehydration within the substrate. Faced with depleting moisture & no source of light energy, the existing algae colony should be having a hard time.
Utter & complete wipe-out

Utter & complete wipe-out

& then it starts travelling underground. To destroy any possible foundation

& then it starts travelling underground. To destroy any possible foundation

New topsoil administered to the immediate affected area

New topsoil administered to the immediate affected area

Using powder-type Aqua Soil as the new topsoil

Using powder-type Aqua Soil as the new topsoil

More powder-type

More powder-type

& then I try as I might, to repair everything

& then I try as I might, to repair everything

I’m done for the night, I suppose. In fact, I’m surprised that I even have the strength to recover (& rebuild) from the calamity that has befallen my crop. But I guess when you are used to utter bad luck, you tend to bounce back faster.


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.


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.


Full details of the Microsoft Photo360 contest

In a nutshell, this contest is for students to create “synths” (3D-visual mapping) of places of interest within Singapore. I’ve been a day-one fan of the potential of Microsoft’s PhotoSynth project from their Live Labs department. This is the perfect opportunity to flex my composition muscle, clock some field-work & deploy the final output via an up-to-date technology! Talk about synergy of my ideals! Alas, it was not to be, as I’m afraid my peers are not so free & passionate to embark on such a crazy journey (quite literally, in terms of foot-work) & the organizers require a team of 3 students. I doubt they will allow me to just submit the names of 3 friends yet accomplish my submission on individual effort, as there is a workshop which I suppose they will actually wanna secure our attendance! Arghz!

Nonetheless, I’ve some great ideas about what my potential submission will be structured upon, but for those of you who are unfamiliar with the magic of PhotoSynth, I strongly encourage you to view these videoes otherwise my idea will be quite lost on you:

Basically my idea is to scale Mount Faber & exploit its position as a natural vantage point to really deliver on the 3-dimensional aspect of a “synth”. The various landscape I capture along the gradual altitude-ascent will add to the richness of the end-result. I intend to go 1 full round & span from daybreak to evening, whereby I will reflect 2 aspects of Singapore, dawn & dusk.

Imagine walking up the winding road alongside a hill; albeit slowly taking photos

This way, as the visitor pans through my “synth”, he will experience how the urban landscape transform across a temporal scale. Naturally, I can easily geotag my photos using GeoSetter. It goes without saying I’ve to explicitly introduce a slight pause/interval between shots to improve the accuracy of the geo-tagging as well as lock the exposure & white balance across neighbouring frames so as not to have light grey clouds one moment & cream white clouds the next, etc. I may also have to wait for vehicles & humans to clear my frame.

See how the exposure of the sky is all messed up in this panoramic stitch?

Other ideas I have include snapping the shots on a moving vehicle, ala Google StreetView, maybe using a bicycle or  even a luge. The fine-tuned quality I desire will imply loads of time invested on my part (cant rush this & expect lots of iterations). Too bad I can’t form my team; I wonder if they will allow me to simply attend the workshop & use the software for personal enjoyment.

Imagine touring this in 3D. The transformation of Singapore's urban cityscape from VARIOUS graduated altitudes of Mount Faber. Across the span of a day, you observe the hustle 'n' bustle of the morning vigor transcend into the skyscraper star-scape of the night-life beyond your horizons. From the comfort of your computer, you establish a presence as if you are walking the trail yourself...

This is NOT a good sign

Posted: January 11, 2010 by ralliart12 in Roadblocks
Tags: , , ,

How do I know I got really shitty luck? Try this:

  • Imagine you are showering
  • You proceed to wash your face with facial foam
  • A sneeze sneaks up on you
  • You gasp & inhale out of control
  • Swallowed the facial foam around your lips
  • Burning sensation down your throat

Conclusion? Outstanding!


"Opennet! Get your free Opennet!"

A few months after its soft launch, the actual Opennet hardware setup has finally been deployed at my HDB block. Opennet is a new initiative (by IDA, I suppose) to deploy an optical fibre network across the country as a ready infrastructure for ANY service providers to retail high-end broadband internet access in the near-future. It is non-affiliated with any telco, i.e. the consumer can choose to subscribe to any provider & that provider has the authority to execute the activation using your Opennet box. As a matter of fact, after some digging around their appointment emails, I deduced the technical partner for this rollout is “Alcatel-Lucent”. Nonetheless, deployment of a 15m link from your residence’s point-of-entry is free provided you schedule an appointment with them via their letter to you. If you didn’t secure a free setup during this promotional period, future request may start from $2xx onwards, or so they claimed. So if you ain’t hear nothing yet, please verify if other occupants within your household hasn’t dismiss any Opennet letter by negligence.

As usual, my appointment wasn’t without a few hiccups. Opennet assigned a 2-4pm slot to me today & yet I was awaken in the morning to their request to push the appointment forward by 2hours (start work at noon). Although I just returned from overseas & is trying my best to catchup on some sleep, I obliged out of consideration for their convenience. However, they STILL arrived 15mins early, i.e. setup was from 11.45am till 1.38pm. Luckily I wasn’t out of the house for a meal around that timeslot. Somehow, everything always don’t happen according to plan for me. Btw, the cable, though thin, has a glass composition & should not be subject to excessive bending, just fyi.

New name; SAME CRAP

Accompanied S in late afternoon to claim warranty for her CrossRoads Bijou earphones from that wretched store, Jaben. I was expecting the build quality of that crap to give way sooner than later & what luck! Hers is no longer under warranty & the staff there was quick to:

  • Sell her the same crap by asking her to top up $40
  • Conceal the broken-down unit from her & feigned ignorance when I insisted she retrieved her piece even though claims cannot proceed.

She reported they couldn’t find it even though she just stepped out of the store mere moments ago. She has half the heart to leave her piece there until I reminded her that it is peculiar for companies to withhold faulty merchandise when there was no promise of diagnostics and repairs. As for why the staff at Jaben showcased a reluctance to have a faulty sample in the public, is anybody’s guesses.


“It was said that the inability to reciprocate the efforts of your investors, has a profound effect on one’s conscience…”

Just another commonplace failure

Results for last semester has been lacklustre (to put it nicely), as usual. Sometimes, I wonder if my sporadic periods of hard work will ever surface in front of people that have an influence on my future. I don’t even dare to back myself up using my transcript so far, much less put a value on my self-worth. Having no clear direction or concept of what I am adept at in my near-future, will be a very disturbing fact for my investors. My peers will issue positive comments about some of my skill set every now & then, but at times I wonder if lip service is best served with a thick layer of sugar-coating & reality should be staple food for the minds of the rational. My university tour has educated me of my worthlessness in their perspective & it is extremely conspicuous that my profile is of no value to the university’s objectives. It’s al right; my unique experience within my faculties has opened my eyes to their real motives. And once you understand how this school works, the rationale for their programs & their methods will quickly fill the void left by their conscience & moral values. But hey, one may deemed my perspective a bias of my academic standings. Well, opinions tend to be subjective; you are entitled to yours as I am to mine.