All posts by phuoc

Gaming

I’m slowly getting back into gaming.  This latest foray has me playing some old games by gaming standards but they’re fun nonetheless.  The first one I installed was Need For Speed Hot Pursuit.  It’s so very familiar but not what I played years ago on the Sony Playstation 2.  That’s right… the good old PS2.  This version has updated high resolution graphics that just looks amazing.  My friends have been telling me that the newest generation of consoles like the Xbox One is even more amazing.  I haven’t seen those live yet but I sure am happy with what I have on my modestly equipped PC.  I like the NFS series for driving/racing games and most of these type of games generally because they allow for short bursts of play.  You don’t feel like playing for hours on end?  No problem… play one race and you’re done.  If you want to keep going, you can and that’s the beauty of it.

The other one I installed was Unreal Tournament 3.  The last time I played the UT series was more than 10 years ago when the first person shooters (FPS) was taking off with titles like UT and Quake leading the way.  How far this genre has gone indeed!  UT3 is so different from UT 2004 that I was pretty surprised.  The game play is the same but again, the leap in graphics technology is pretty damn amazing.  It’s not a coincidence that many of the FPS games these days are running off of the UT engine.  These types of games are also good for short sessions.  Of course, you can keep going if you wish but that’s why I like these genres.  It’s not the huge time sink like World of Warcraft (WoW).

Lastly, I installed Civilization V.  I used to play Civilization 2 for hours on end.  Talk about time sink!  This was probably one of the first games that I can say I was addicted to.  It’s been a while since I played the Civilization series save for a brief stint on the iPad with Civilization Revolution which was pretty good.  I installed Civ V but have not started it up yet.  Therefore no first impressions on the game play or anything like that.  I’m saving this one for a little later.  :-)

A Better Google News

I’ve been using Google News for years.  It’s really good at what it does, which is to simply crawl the web and aggregate news stories from variety of sources around the world.  Based on the content, Google groups stories together that are about the same topic.  Google has been in court several times over the practice, with publishers arguing that what they’re doing is abusing fair use and that they should pay a royalty to do so.  So far, Google has prevailed in its argument that its simply doing no more than searching the web like it has always done.  I in particular agree with this stance.

However, Google News is not perfect and there are a number of ways to improve it.  Somehow, Google engineers either do not agree or are not farsighted enough to do.  I believe someone doing exact the same thing as Google News with these few additional features would have a great killer app on their hands.

So what are these features?  They’re pretty straight forward and in some instances Google has some implementation of them, but not all.

1. The ability to include & exclude sources with fine grain control.  Google allows you to specify a source that you want to see more of or less of and that’s great.  However the number of sources appear limited.  If this feature is expanded to allow an unlimited number of sources in the list as well as better controls of more, less or even never, this would be a huge addition.

2. Expanding on the above is the ability to limit topics.  This goes beyond saying you’re interested in news, world news, technology, entertainment, sports, money/finance, etc.  Those are sector based.  I think the ability to permanently not hear a single thing about Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian would be a killer feature.  For people who are really interested in reading the hard news, this would be a welcomed feature indeed.

3. The ability to include or exclude news stories that are purely video.  It’s irksome that some news stories are short video clips when I really want to read something more in depth.  It’s worse when the story has a video that always auto start.  I’m looking at you ABC News and CNN.  Whoever thought that having video auto start on page load should be shot.

4. The ability to show only longer articles on any topic.  I personally love to read longer, in depth articles and opinions.  The really short stuff isn’t for me but for the younger generation that has permanent attention deficit disorder.  The option to only read longer articles would be most welcome.

5. The ability to include to exclude paywall sites completely.  Right now Google marks those sites but I’m not interested in bringing them into the feed period.  I respect the rights of news sites to charge for their content.  If they think they have good enough content to warrant payment, kudos to them.  I just don’t want to pay and the culture of the Internet is such that most people expect information to be free (relatively).  I know most are already monetizing their sites with ads, etc. and that’s fine.  But when you want to monetize and charge, then I want to be able to skip over you completely.

That’s it really.  If anyone has something like what I’ve described above, I’ll be all over them in a heartbeat and I bet many, many others would as well.  Google doesn’t seem to care so there’s a niche market out there for someone that’s interested.

Scanning in everything!

For the last several years, I’ve been scanning everything and uploading it to my cloud service.  I find this simplifies my life greatly.  Never again do I have to hunt for receipts or manuals or old financial statements.  Everything is now filed away electronically and easily searchable.  It’s been a HUGE time saver!  It took a little getting used to at first but now I do it without a second thought after I get the mail.  It literally takes me perhaps 2 additional minutes if that.  My process is dead simple:

  1. Open mail and decide what I need to keep/scan.
  2. Scan it and OCR it.
  3. Upload to my favorite cloud service.

Step #1 is pretty easy and requires no explanation.  Everyone knows how to scan for the important stuff within all the junk right?  :-)

Step #2 is where people can get a little tripped up if they don’t have the right set up.  For this, I’m using what’s commonly known as an MFD (Multi-Function Device) or MFP (Multi-Function Printer) or MFC (Multi-Function Center).  The exact acronym & name depends on the manufacturer and it’s basically just their marketing term but they all do something in common: offer a multiple of functions which usually includes printing, scanning, copying, and faxing.  For me, 1) the key is to have a device that’s easy to use, 2) produces good quality scans and 3) is dead simple to set up.  The product that I found to meet my needs is the Brother Printer MFC7860DW Wireless Monochrome Printer with Scanner, Copier & Fax.  I like this device because it meets all of my most important criteria.  It produces good quality scans and it was dead simple to install.  The biggest deal for me is that it connects wirelessly to my computer so I only have to plug in a power cable.  It works on both my Mac and Windows machine.  The included software is rudimentary but very easy & intuitive to use so I have no complaints.  There’s a new version of this device called the Brother MFCL2740DW Wireless Monochrome Printer with Scanner, Copier and Fax.  Either one works and if you buy it from my site, it helps with the upkeep here.  After getting it into the computer, I use Acrobat to OCR it.

Step #3 is just to upload it to OneDrive, which is my cloud service of choice.  Since I like the Microsoft Office solution and use it on both my Mac & PC, it works best for me.  I’ve tried Google Drive before and that’s fine.  It integrates great with Gmail but the fact that the editing is very rudimentary was not a plus for me.  And I also found Google Drive less reliable with files becoming corrupted now & then.  I haven’t had that issue with OneDrive but am sure you can make it work with Box, Dropbox, iCloud (whenever they support direct access that is), etc.  But OneDrive works for me and it’s seamless so I like that.  I have a simple hierarchical folder structure that helps me to organize and use the search function if I need to pinpoint something.

I’ve found that this works wonder for me.  I recently had to get service for my Samsung monitor and being able to pull up a receipt day after is just priceless.  Good luck with your organization and let me know if you have any questions!

My experience with Apple Pay

I had my first experience with Apple Pay yesterday.  My wife & I had gone to Macy’s to look for an overcoat for our upcoming trip to Washington DC.  We found very nice gray overcoat from Michael Kors that got a lot of compliments even when I was in line waiting to checkout.

I hadn’t intended to pay using Apple Pay at all.  Rather, I had my phone out because I was busy checking on my village in Clash of Clans as I waited.  Lo & behold, a message popped up as I got close to the register to touch & pay.  After the total was rung up, the cashier didn’t even asked me for a payment method.  I simply touched my thumb to the Touch ID button and voilà, the coat was paid for!  The only additional thing I had to do was give her the last 4 digit of the card that was on screen.  I don’t think I even had to sign!

It was painless and required absolutely no effort.  I think Apple may have a potential winner here.  Of course, the whole thing is kind of like the chicken & egg problem.  Right now there are so few merchants accepting it that you almost have to go out of your way to find someone that accepts it.  I’m just going to try at other NFC enabled point of sale and see what happens.  If it becomes saturated though, I’m certain it’s going to overtake other payment methods.

How to play SNES games on your jailbroken iPad

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!  If you’ve ever wanted to play the classic games from the Super Nintendo platform on your jailbroken iOS devices (iPad or iPhone), I’ve made a new video showing you how to do it.  You can find it on Youtube at: http://youtu.be/nEM39hZIk_o.  These games may be old but they’re very good and that’s why they’re classics!  Enjoy!

Domo Sushi in Santee

Good Monday morning everyone!  I had a great experience at Domo Sushi in Santee this weekend.  It’s located in a big strip mall on Mission Gorge Road, between Cuyamaca and Olive.  The reviews on Yelp were great and I can attest that it’s spot on.  The sushi is more than reasonable and was very tasty.  I had their rainbow roll, the Domo house roll and the tiger roll.  All were delicious.  If my wife hadn’t stop me from overeating, I would have happily eaten it all.  One tip though is to see if you can call in for a table before you come or at least when you’re on the way.  When I was there to pick up my to go order, they were packed.  This was on a Friday night around 8:00 pm.  There was a line outside and although it moved pretty quickly, it can get chilly waiting outside.  I couldn’t believe how busy it was but considering it’s sushi in Santee, I don’t think there’s a lot of competition!  But don’t let that sway you from going here; it’s one of the better places in the county!

Wedding playlist

I’m in the process of putting my wedding playlist together.  So far there’s about 52 songs and my wife & I are still refining it.  It’s a fun process but we have a bit of a disagreement on what should go in there.  Her criteria is pretty much if she knows it, it’s in.  However, we have two problems there: 1) She’s 21 and 2) She’s new to the U.S. having come from southeast Asia.  This pretty much means that a lot of the classics are just not in her repertoire by no fault of hers.  So while fun, we’re having a lively debate on how many of the classic wedding standards should go in the playlist or should we just have a playlist composed of John Legend & Bruno Mars (not bad choices mind you)?

I’m pretty sure we’ll work it all out and will put together a great playlist for us and our guests.  It’s a challenge but rewarding nonetheless.  Happy Saturday everyone!

Signature in the Cell

I’m currently reading the book Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer.  The book is subtitled “DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design”.  I’m very close to finishing the book and feel I have more than enough to write a review from an atheist’s standpoint.  I’m not a scientist although I’m familiar enough with most of the concepts Meyer talked about in his book that I was able to follow it pretty easily.

In terms of non-fiction book, this is pretty decent although there are some areas where it’s quite dry.  But that’s more the subject matter than Meyer’s writing.  I can’t critique it beyond that on the writing alone since I think it’s pretty well written.

I do have a lot of issues with Meyer’s main argument in the book though.  That argument boils down to essentially the following:

Life as we know is governed by DNA, an information rich molecule that pretty much codes all the necessity for biological life itself.  Given the complexity and specificity in coding information, Intelligent Design is the best explanation for the origin of DNA & therefore life.

That is pretty much the argument in a nutshell.  He does talk at length about scientific explanations that have been put forward such as the RNA first hypothesis but he invariably finds the same deficiency in them.  Namely, that they presupposes some initial information pool to get things started.  But that’s pretty much my counter argument to his Intelligent Design argument!  He presupposes something much grander: an intelligent designer.

To me that’s a fault worse than anything else.  It’s a cop out to say it was from intelligent design since anyone can say that.  I can look at any physical phenomenon that we do not understand and make the argument that it was designed that way by some intelligent being.  But to me that feels like giving up. I’m OK with saying I don’t know.  Or I don’t know right now.  But to fall back on the old “Oh, some intelligent being must have created/designed it that way.” just feels cheap to me.

While I feel he made a lot of interesting points that may guide this field of research further, he didn’t add anything new to the argument.  As such, I’m quite surprised at the positive review on this book.  So there you have it… summarized but pretty accurate I would say.

Leave of absence

I’ve been absent from the site for some time now.  Part of it is just life and another is that I got lazy.  There’s no if’s, and’s or but’s about it.  When you’re a one man operation and you’re trying to maintain a daily blog, it can get tough!  I have a new found appreciation for those that can do it day in and day out.  Or even multiple times a day!  I know it’s supposed to get easier the more you do it, like all things.  But for a poor writer like myself, getting started is hard enough.

One of the things I can do to get over this hump is just to force myself to write regularly.  Maybe not everyday (although I’d love to), but regularly enough that it becomes a habit.  Then we’ll take from there.  So take this as a relaunch of me getting back on the wagon.  I feel there should be more of my kind of blog… the individual writing about his own mundane life.  If people read it, great!  If not, that’s OK too.  Blogs these days have become so commercialize.  I long for the day when you really feel like you know the blogger personally.  If I can do a small part to bring that part of the Internet back, then hooray!  Stay tuned…

My new iPhone 6 Plus

For over 3 years I’ve been using my trusty iPhone 4S.  It has served me well but it was definitely getting a little long in the tooth.  The iPhone 5 wasn’t a big enough change for me to upgrade and neither was the 5S.  However, with the introduction of the iPhone 6, especially the 6 Plus variant, I knew it was time.  I usually carry my iPhone and iPad with me.  I use the iPad for reading as the bigger screen makes a huge difference.  With the new 6 Plus, I won’t have to take the iPad with me as much unless I’m doing some serious reading.  The Plus is huge, almost too unwieldy.  Somehow it manages to be just portable enough.  It’s a slippery fish though so I’ll have to get a case.  I ultimately went all the way and got the iPhone 6 Plus in gold with 128 GB.

Aside from the form factor, it does have a huge gorgeous screen.  Now that I’ve used the larger screen, there’s no way I can go back.  Performance wise, I’m not seeing much of a difference between the 6 Plus and the 4S or in battery performance.  But given that the 6 Plus has 4 times the pixels to push around as well as a screen that’s twice as big to light up, that is impressive indeed.  Some cool features that I’m enjoying include the Touch ID.  It works amazingly well for pretty much anything that supports it.  Maybe too well for things like Apple Pay when it comes in October.  I can see paying for something on accident but it’s very accurate.  As I didn’t have the 5S, this is something brand new to me.  The other thing I’m enjoying very much is the 3rd party keyboards that now support things like “swyping” via either the Swype keyboard at $0.99 or the SwiftKey keybord (free).

The other thing I like is the live dictation. I’m not sure if this is what Apple calls it or not but basically after hitting the microphone key, you just speak and the words appear.  No more hitting the done button for the speech recognition to happen although you still have to touch when you’re done speaking.  You do still have to speak punctuation marks but it’s a pretty nice improvement.