Geek news

Friday, March 30, 2007

I've never really bothered much about tech news and other more geeky stuff, at least not until recently. I've discovered that it can be pretty cool to just read up about the latest technological happenings around the world. It's even affected my conversations, as people say I've become really 'geeky' recently, although I don't think that's all bad.

It all started when I decided to check out Google's offerings, and came across a little something called Google Reader. I never subscribed to any RSS feeds previously because there really wasn't anything that I wanted regular news of, except of course my weekly Anime fix. I went through what Google Reader had to offer, and decided to try out their geeky and tech channel. What followed was a barrage of interesting news from sites like LifeHacker, TechCrunch, Make Magazine, Penny Arcade, Engadget, Slashdot and the infamous Digg.

It can be quite overwhelming to be receiving updates from these gargantuan sites. I realised that there were actually quite a number of interesting issues currently going around in the 'geeky' world. Some of them include the RIAA backlash, 3rd Generation Console War, Apple vs PC, Linux vs Windows, Google vs Viacom and many more. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also plenty of articles like latest releases, new plugins, software and other cool stuff that might just be your thing. I must admit I've learned a lot more about Firefox Extensions to increase productivity, Linux software to increase 'coolness' of the desktop and various other Windows gadgets that make my XP look like Vista or MacOSX. It also tells you about online services available, like Scribd and NetVibes.

So I've really been following these type of news closely for the past few weeks. It's interesting and doesn't burn a hole in my pocket. It's informative and insightful, especially since I'm into IT. I've learned quite a few things, some really important (like resume writing and the importance of an online profile) to some really fun but perhaps not so beneficial things (like The Paperang). Time doesn't allow me to delve too much into it though, and I really choose what I want to read as reading EVERYTHING would be time wasting.

Sure beats wasting time on an MMORPG... although if I DID find a good one...

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Posted by Gerald at 3/30/2007 10:19:00 PM

Downloading not Illegal?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

After reading this, I'm beginning to rethink some issues with regards to downloads. I think this point isn't totally valid, but it does raise some interesting issues with regards to downloading.

Now piracy is illegal. I'm not saying anything about the ethics behind it, but the law clearly says it's illegal. However, to equate downloading to piracy requires deeper inspection. The issue is that downloading involves a bunch of ones and zeroes somehow making its way to your computer, which may turn into something useful. I use the word MAY because UNTIL you have downloaded the file, you cannot guarantee that what you download is legal or illegal. Let's say you downloaded a file with the name "Introduction_To_Quantum_Physics.avi", which CLAIMS to be an un-copyrighted educational video and found out after you downloaded it that it was, in fact, a DVD rip of Spiderman? Or let's say we TRY to download a file called "The_Matrix.avi" and find that it is actually a text file filled with random garble or repetitive phrases? You can't really tell until you've opened the file.

The point I'm trying to make, is simply that to equate downloading to 'piracy' seems a little unfair. I could simply set up a website claiming to offer the latest mp3s and actually send them mp3s of a recording of me farting being played over and over again for three minutes, and there might be a chance that SOMEONE might get sued for downloading it, if nothing else because of the file name. Now this could probably not happen if people actually monitor the files and can somehow check that they really ARE copyrighted material. Unfortunately, it seems that till now, that's not happening. I mean, do the RIAA actually check and make sure the 'songs downloaded which are being stolen' are really copyrighted songs? How do they do it?

The fact remains that downloading and obtaining a file does not equate to 'stealing' the file. It is not the act of downloading that is illegal; it's when what is downloaded is proven to be illegal, and STILL kept that it becomes infringement is it not? Is this illogical or is this making sense? Wouldn't this be the right way to handle these cases?

I do not claim to be an expert in the law, but copyright infringement is a highly controversial topic which many people feel strongly about, particularly in this new age of iPods and HDTVs. It is important to spell out the guideline for which one should follow in internet downloading so that people don't mistakenly fall victim to draconian law.

Fair use is a tricky issue, of which many people are blatantly ignorant of. While there are some people who abuse it, many others simply enjoy the convenience it gives. I for one, like to rip my CDs into mp3s so that I can listen to them without spoiling or scratching the disc. I usually skip albums and buy only compilations since they have a higher number of songs that I enjoy listening to instead of only one or two. No, I don't open up Limewire or Ares to share my music; it eats too much of my bandwidth anyway. BUT to impose DRM on all media is going to make me stop and think twice about buying ANY CD. It's going to be troublesome and chances are, I'd rather just not listen to the song. After all, it's just a song. If I can't use it the way I want to after I buy it, I'd rather not have it.

In relation to this, here's my personal experience with downloads. I have a compulsive streak where I WILL go and buy originals when I really enjoy something. There's something about owning originals that's simply irresistible. For example, I watched Gundam SeeD Destiny by downloading the fan subbed Anime. However, I STILL went and bought the original because it was simply too good a show. If it weren't for watching the downloaded episodes, I wouldn't have even heard about the show, much less buy the DVD. The same goes for music. I enjoyed The Calling's Wherever You Will Go, and when I found an Alternative Rock compilation album from HMV, I bought it! If I'd just walked into the store without hearing the song before, I'd never have done that.

I'm not advocating that people ignore intellectual property rights. I'm just asking for a little more thought into policy making when it comes to protecting your rights. It HAS to be a case of give and take, and so far, the consumers have been doing all the giving. I'm still waiting for a better resolution to this issue.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/20/2007 10:08:00 PM

Of compositions, opinions and narratives

Monday, March 19, 2007

So lately, I've been writing quite a number of essays, either as an assignment or to express discontent, or to help others out with their cover letter. I wouldn't say my writing is perfect, but I do take pride in one ability that I feel I'm very blessed to have: To ENJOY writing!

Yes, you heard me. Unlike the huge number of people who shun or dislike essays, I actually feel I have an affinity with them, particularly if the topic is something that I feel strongly for. The whole reason why I even bother to blog is because I like to 'pen' down what I think, and they usually cover from a whole spectrum of things. As you've probably noticed, I'm very interested in things like God, Technology (or Geek stuff), Anime, Digital Art, and Social Issues. Just take a look at my bookmarks and you will see that they are categorised into things like Computer Development, Anime, Games... which is probably similar to a lot of guys. All my blog posts can be put in any one of those headings, or perhaps in two or more of them. I enjoy writing about them. It's the telling of my experiences and stories, of my interests and life. It's addictive!

I could probably attribute my innate affection for compositions to my innate tendency to enjoy arguments; Arguments in the sense of "Philosophy of reasoning" and not necessarily the arguments in the sense of "verbal abuse or fights". The difference lies in the fact that the former involves premises, logic and justification, whereas the latter focuses more on the emotional aspect. I like to structure my thoughts logically and present them as a 'case' for others to consider. I imagine my writings to be able to at least make an impact or leave an impression on the reader, and not just to be a garble of text. This motivates me to write better, clearer, more logically and with better flair than I normally would. Having the drive to do it makes things really simple.

Language is of course, an important aspect in writings. My command of English is far from masterful, but it is at least strong enough to allow me certain advantages when creating a composition. For starters, I verbalise the sentences I type, testing them to see if they sound right if I spoke them out loud. Inevitable, I make a lot of changes as some of the sentences need to be rectified. I cannot explain grammar, because to be honest, my command of it theoretically is next to none, as I have no idea what rules a 'past-participle' ought to follow. Instead, I merely 'test' the grammar by reading the sentence in my head to see if it SOUNDS correct. This probably has to do with the fact that I REALLY enjoyed reading A LOT when I was younger. I will never forget Enid Blyton. Eventually I graduated to authors like Tom Clancy, Jeffrey Archer and Isaac Asimov. I devoured books like crazy, and even now, I take roughly a day to complete a book like the Da Vinci Code. No, this doesn't happen because I read fast, it happens because I just can't put the book down. Getting addicted to a book is really bad for me, especially when there are other things to do, like homework. In any case, if anyone ever asks me why my English is above average, I'd confidently say that there is only one reason, I loved to read.

All in all, these various aspects come together to 'explain' just why I enjoy writing so much, whether it's an essay, a narrative, or an argument, I simply don't find it difficult to write as long as the subject matter is interesting. (My interest only goes so far for SOME topics) Of course, I still have a long way to go, and there are many areas to improve my essay writings. It does make me wonder whether I made the wrong choice of my major though, considering I seem to do pretty well in arts modules, especially those involving argumentative style essays. I probably need to find my niche, but that's the problem with a person who dabbles in a little bit of everything: You become the Jack of all trades, but master of none.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/19/2007 04:33:00 AM

Ubuntu display fixed

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I finally managed to settle things with my fussy computer. After my fifth reformat, I think I finally managed to sort the problem out. It appears that the NVIDIA drivers were the root of all my problems. After hunting around, I finally found a solution. I downloaded the alternative ISO for Ubuntu 6.10 and installed it in expert mode, but choosing NOT to install ubuntu-desktop. This gave me a kernel but without xserver, which meant no graphical problems yet. THEN, from the command prompt, I installed it, but chose not to start it up just yet. After installation, I ran the setup, bearing in mind the information about my monitor that I wrote down. This was done using:

sudo apt-get install ubuntu-desktop

sudo dpkg-reconfigure xserver_xorg

The configuration itself wasn't difficult. The key points to take note of was my monitor's horizontal and vertical refresh rates as well as the native resolution. Oh, and choosing "Vesa" as the original driver first was the smart thing to do since I hadn't gotten my NVIDIA ones yet.

With this done, I could finally launch xserver with "startx", but it was a disappointing 1024*768 even with all the work done so far. I needed to get new drivers for the display to work properly. Still, at least I could SEE the desktop, and it wasn't a garble of colours running all over the screen.

Using the command line, I successfully downloaded and installed Envy using the following commands. I guess I could've gotten it the easier way by using Firefox, but surfing was a problem because scrolling on the screen took AGES.


sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install -f

sudo dpkg -i envy_0.9.1-0ubuntu3_all.deb

Again, some things to take note of. I couldn't execute the last command initially to setup Envy because of dependency issues. I solved it by manually configuring the software repositories using

sudo gedit /etc/apt/sources.list

I effectively removed all comments for the required repositories and saved the file. Since I was modifying it anyway, I changed the source to NUS' mirror, which would be a lot faster since I AM on campus. I then updated and did an install -f, which solved my dependency problem. Installation of Envy was a breeze.

After that, I merely followed the setup instructions on Envy's website. After the reboot, things just turned out beautifully!

This experience has taught me a bit more about Linux and how it worked. I'm quite happy I managed to solve it myself, although it's probably not that hard a problem. Hopefully someone else might just benefit from my experience. For the record, my graphics card is a NVIDIA GeForce 6600 GT and my monitor is a Samsung SyncMaster 940BW with a native resolution of 1440*900.

Problem solved!

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Posted by Gerald at 3/14/2007 09:43:00 PM

Ubuntu problems

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

So I thought I could enjoy using Ubuntu, but to be honest, it hasn't been the best experience. For starters, it actually HANGED while I was trying to install the updates. (Who said Linux doesn't hang?) I know a lot of people would point fingers at me and say that the problem is me, not the OS, but all I did was run the update manager and surf around in Firefox, and it just HANGED. I had to force reboot...

The settings for Ubuntu were not to my taste either. I didn't like that the default setting of GRUB, I'd prefer to have Windows on default because like Ubuntu was supposed to be more for development. Till now, I'm still trying to find how to fix that. I didn't have this problem when I used SuSe.

AND, there's little or no support for my widescreen monitor. I checked through the forums and tried some fixes, but they only caused my Ubuntu to crash at X startup and now I have to reinstall Ubuntu. I guess there is a good reason why some people simply won't even consider Linux. While Ubuntu is supposed to be the most user friendly, it's a far cry compared to SOME of the simpler things Windows offers. For one thing, I didn't have to reinstall Windows when I first got my 19" widescreen. It hurts my eyes to stare at a 4:3 screen in Ubuntu and until I can FIX that, I won't be using it much.

That's been my Ubuntu experience. Honestly, I should probably have stuck with SuSe, at least I didn't face as many problems. I'm still hunting for the solutions to the three simple (IMHO) problems which have yet to be solved. I wished I was either a lot better with Linux or I never heard of it.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/13/2007 01:48:00 AM

Google not so original

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Guess what I came across Stumbling around? NetVibes. Familiar? It should be. It seems this has been around for quite some time. (Judging from the welcome screen which shows the browser versions it supports). I guess Google Home isn't that original after all.

BUT, I will say that having to sign in to ONLY Google to access all its services is ONE advantage it has over NetVibes. After all, I can access many different Google services by signing on to only one account. Although NetVibes DOES support GMail and has a whole list of RSS/ATOM feeds pre-configured, it basically requires ANOTHER sign-up to customise it. I already have a GMail account, so why is would I want to sign-up if Google is offering the same thing with just one account? Admittedly, I didn't discover this earlier, although if I did, I'd probably have used it.

Nontheless, I thought Google Home was Google Inc's brainchild, something that was original and innovative. Seems I was wrong. On reflection though, I'm thinking that probably NOTHING Google has to offer is significantly innovative... They merely come up with superb improvements, building on the ideas of others. They provide QUALITY service, centralising all the cool stuff on the net in one place. I guess they deserve credit for just doing that. It IS much simpler and more 'productive' to work this way...

After all, Google is one huge giant on the internet, and NOBODY can rival it just now... Sorry, IMHO, Yahoo falls REAL short.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/11/2007 10:09:00 PM

300 the movie

The first thing I noticed when I first saw a poster of 300, was that it was gory... Very gory... Watching the trailer emphasized that point, and the moment I saw it, I thought 'Sin City'.

Frank Miller has done it again.

I just caught the show and it is definitely worth the watch. It was rated M18, largely due to the fact that it has very gory scenes (decapitated heads are just the beginning) and nudity as well as sexual content (not explicit of course). Personally, it wouldn't have made a very big difference if it was censored, but to finally watch a FULL movie in the cinema without the sudden cuts was refreshing.

I came back and immediately checked the storyline because it intrigued me. Surprisingly, the story was quite accurate. Wikipedia explains History of Sparta and Leonidas. If you don't know the history, perhaps it would be better not to read it before you watch the show, since it's so accurate it might just spoil it.

The show itself was amazing. In the same flavour as Sin City, the scenes were 'cartoonised' and thus less upsetting. It was totally interesting throughout. I'm amazed by just how well they manage to portray characters that are both distinctly human, and cartoonish. Just watch the trailer and you'll see what I mean. It adds real depth to the movie. Also, there were a lot of Matrix like scenes, lots of blood and flying limbs, artistic nudity and cool effects to boost the experience.

The story itself was obviously modified a little for entertainment. It was politics, betrayal, deception, courage, valor, sacrifice, and pride all wrapped into a neat package of about 2 hours. The story was believable, engaging, and historical, which made it seem even more real. Numbers were exaggerated of course, as it was not a million vs 300, but it was certainly exciting to see a small army stand up to a much larger one and take down a significant number of them.

For eye candy, let's say that girls will be drooling all over the six eight packs of the almost naked Spartans. There's only ONE girl in the whole movie who has a name, although she's not that bad. I'd also think that Xerxes wasn't straight after seeing the movie... Though I might be wrong. His body piercings must've hurt though.

Still, the movie has its flaws. For one thing, the whole movie has only one 'setting', typical of Frank Miller I suppose, but it can get a bit boring to see only scened and scened of war cries and splattering blood all in the same gloomy like background of mostly brown. It can get tiresome.

Despite that, I really enjoyed the movie. It's a good watch, lots of excitement, lots of energy, it's not TOO emotional, and with cool effects and sound, it's probably already worth the money I spent. It could've been better, but then it wouldn't be a Frank Miller.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/11/2007 02:59:00 AM

Linux Distribution Chooser

Friday, March 09, 2007

Ever thought about switching to Linux but don't know where to start or what suits you? Don't worry, just check out Linux Distribution Chooser! It helps you find out which distribution best suits you. Pretty handy to have if you can't decide.

On another note, Google Desktop seems a viable option to those who are sticking with Windows XP. Windows Vista is expensive and as of now, still unsupported by most applications, so I'd recommend putting it on hold. Still, perhaps when it stabilises, in about a year or two... we'll see...

On a personal note, had two midterms yesterday, and another one tomorrow. That's enough from me for now. Hope tomorrow will turn out ok.

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Posted by Gerald at 3/09/2007 04:31:00 PM

Google Goodies

To those who don't already know, Google services just seem to be getting better and better. If you though Gmail was good, wait till you see some really much cooler services, like Google Home. From here, you can add even more services, including an online version of Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook (Google Calender). Check all the services they offer by signing up. If you're worried about clutter, you can always choose the services you want and ignore those you don't. Google Home is truly awesome; You can make it look the way you want it to just be dragging and dropping. Sweet!

Well, apart from the usual Google offered services, there are quite a few Google goodies that you can find. Most notably, some Firefox extensions to fully maximise the awesomeness of Google. You can start here. There are also services to synchronise your Google Calender with either your phone, pda or Microsoft Outlook. (Check here) Really nifty.

If you're wondering where I get my news from, RSS feeds from Google Reader obviously. Really informative. Try it out too!

Edit: I also failed to mention, I've discovered some cool stuff lately. Some of them are really interesting. For starters, consider AllPeers said to be the next big thing, utilising BitTorrent technology but comprising individual (read: PRIVATE) networks. Also, if you thought YouTube was cool, wait till you see Scribd In time, you're going to be able to find just about any book available...

Copyright holders will be screaming their heads off when these services become mainstream...

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Posted by Gerald at 3/09/2007 12:21:00 AM


Tuesday, March 06, 2007

It's amazing the amount of coverage the RIAA is getting nowadays. I'm not particularly surprised that almost all of it is negative. The RIAA has made a reputation of making itself obnoxious. I tend to agree with these guys.

Now I'm not saying piracy is right; Legally it's not. However, just because it's legal doesn't mean it's ethically right. Just read more about it by checking the links with regards to the RIAA on the right. While they may seem to be doing the 'right' thing, it definitely doesn't help to threaten consumers to get their way.

I believe they ought to learn a lesson or two from the Anime community. Sure, sites like still exist, but Viz (the license holder) doesn't seem to have a problem with them. I remember reading once that Viz monitors the online Anime community to make corporate decisions simply because working in tandem with the fans leads to increased revenue. Viz does not press charges and claim that millions are lost because people are downloading Anime. In fact, an upper executive once conceded that they do NOT take action because all these "pirates" do is generate publicity and gain the interest of millions of fans around the world. This in turn increases the revenue generated through the sales of the DVDs, Soundtracks, Models, Comic books and the like. Perhaps the RIAA and MPAA could learn a thing or two from them.

I watched part of a documentary on piracy in Canada, and I noticed that the head of CRIA (The Canadian Recording Industry Association - Canadian version of the RIAA) mentioned that music 'sharing' is not sharing at all since "you don't lose anything by this type of 'sharing'". I'd probably agree, and put to him that since you don't lose anything, then it can't be "stealing". If there was a way I could produce a duplicate of anything I touched, and I went over to your house and touched your Ferrari thus making a duplicate of it, would you come yelling at me for 'stealing' it? I doubt so.

The ethics of intellectual property isn't a simple matter. True, people need to get paid for all the hard work they put in. Unfortunately, treating your consumers as criminals and using threats isn't the right approach either. Neither is forcing consumers to pay for what they've already paid for again and again by disallowing them to use the products they buy in the way they like.

I personally still feel that if there's something which I really like or enjoy, I'd go out and buy the original. Why not? At least I don't have to worry about it getting lost when I reformat my PC, or that the file doesn't become corrupted in time. Let's face it, the quality of even MP3s aren't perfect, and I'd pick owning a CD to just an MP3 any day. The last two CDs I bought I bought because I liked the songs in them, and I won't be ashamed to say I ripped it to my PC so I won't have to use my CD to listen to them. Also, unlike the USA, the price of music, movies and software are so high here that it's not always affordable. Maybe they ought to lower the price of original stuff in Asian countries if they want people to even CONSIDER buying them. After all, if the price difference between an original and a pirated copy is 95 bucks, how can they expect people to NOT buy them?

These are just some of my thoughts. I still think the RIAA are going about this the wrong way, but they can do what they want... After all, the worst that could happen was that NOBODY ever buys ANYTHING from them... EVER...

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Posted by Gerald at 3/06/2007 05:49:00 PM