Monday, April 30, 2007

Review: Desktop Tower Defense

Many people had learnt this game from Jeremy Zawodny's blog. Similar to the Jeremy, I hardly play video games anymore (although I have XBox, PS2, PSP, NDS). Not I don't like play video games, but I just really don't have any time to play video games at all. I am just a causal gamer but not a hardcore gamer.

Desktop Tower Defense
(DTD) proves a simple and causal game can be highly addicted and very popular. I ran into multiple blogs and people are "complaining" that they are addicted into the game and they cannot get anythings done!!!

Besides the game playing, I like the author of this game keeps updating the game. He constantly adding new rules and weapons into the game and make it very interesting.

Readers. You should try this game if you haven't. Trust me, you will be addicted immediately.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Google Map & Simpson

It would be cool if the current Google Map can do real time satellite view.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

AAPL vs MSFT

AAPL breaks US$100/share today after the quarter financial report has been released. According to AppleInsider,

"For the fiscal second quarter ended March 31, 2007, Apple earned a net profit of $770 million, or $.87 per diluted share, on sales of $5.26 billion. Those results compare to a net quarterly profit of $410 million, or $.47 per diluted share, on sales of $4.36 billion in the year-ago quarter. During the quarter, Apple shipped 1,517,000 Macintosh computers and 10,549,000 iPods, representing 36 percent growth in Macs and 24 percent growth in iPods over the year-ago quarter."

The quarterly profit of this quarter is almost doubled of the quarterly profit of the same quarter last year. It's insane.

Let's compare the share price between AAPL and MSFT.




















What's going on with MSFT? Vista is really their diaster. I think Baller should step down very soon.

Now, go go go AAPL!!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Review: Newsgator NetNewsWire 2.1 vs Google Reader

I have been using Newsgator's NetNewsWire 2.1 for almost 2 years. I was very happy about it because I'm reading blogs on different machines everyday and NetNewsWire can sync the RSS feeds and my progress with multiple machines. In addition, the license includes a mobile web site and a mobile Java application (Newsgator Go!) so I can read RSS feeds on the go with my mobile phone while I don't have access to any computer.



Most of my friends are using Google Reader since the first version. They are very happy with that and always ask me to try. Although I work in IT industry, I am very conservative (I still don't trust online banking). I love thick desktop client more than Web 2.0 applications. I still feel thick client performs faster than any Web 2.0 applications. Plus, I prefer using keyboard shortcuts to do my RSS feeds reading (Yes, I still use VIM instead of BBEdit).

My believe starts breaking down since 2 weeks ago. I trusted NetNewsWire failed to sync between my Powerbook G4, PowerMac Dual G5, and Macbook Pro. I have no idea what happen and I'm too lazy to try to waste time to fix it. I start reading RSS feeds using Newsgator's web application. However, the user experience is not very good when I have over 2000+ articles need to browse through. The web application is very Web "1.5". It's fine when I am doing very light reading. However, for very heavy usage, it just does not work for me.

So I go back to try to fix NetNewsWire and I gave up. I have read Newsgator is developing the next version of NetNewsWire and it is in Alpha version. Seriously, I don't want to use any Alpha version software. I am really afraid it fails to save my reading progress. So I end up giving Google Reader a try.



I export my RSS feeds list to an OPML format file from NetNewsWire and import the file back to Google Reader. After 1 minute, all my RSS feeds are in Google Reader. It's the best migration experience I ever have (If I can migrate Apple Aperture to Adobe Lightroom that easy, I will switch to Lightroom immediately. Do you hear that, Adobe?) After reading the Help in Google Reader, I find out it supports keyboard shortcuts and the keys are very VIM like (OMG!!! That's awesome!!!). I can even share an article by clicking on the share button and it will be shared in my own RSS feed. As a result, I can share my interesting articles on the sidebar in my blog.

After using Google Reader for 2 weeks, I just love it. The only disadvantage of Google Reader is I cannot read it offline just like what I did with NetNewsWire. However, I believe Google will implement the offline feature when Firefox 3.0 released (It has an embedded database to sync with web application on/offline). Let's stay tune.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Where is my New TV!?!?

My last post mentioned I just bought a new LCD HDTV from Fry's. The shipping carrier is USPS via DHL.

4 years ago I bought a TV stand from a very big online merchant in the east coast. The item is very heavy (over 100 lbs) so the merchant uses USPS via DHL to save shipping cost. 1 day before the delivery day, a non-DHL shipping company called me and told me they were contracted by DHL to deliver my TV stand. I have scheduled a time with them and I took a dayoff to wait at home for the package's arrival.

I waited at home for a whole day on the delivery day. Nothing arrived. I called the non-DHL shipping company about the shipment and they said they DO NOT have the package in their computer system (WTF!?!?!). I called DHL and they told me the shipment is handle by 3rd party delivery and I should call them instead (2nd WTF. USPS via DHL via 3rd Party!?!?!?!)

After more than 10 phone calls between the online merchant, DHL, and the 3rd Party shipping company, I have no choice but claim lost via shipping insurance. I get the full refund including shipping. However, I wasted a day at home and so many troubles on the phone.

Unfortunately, DHL is handling my expensive TV set again.

Based on DHL's tracking system, my TV should arrive yesterday (04/20/2007). It is signature required so I have someone waited at home for a whole day for that. While at work, I kept using DHL's tracking system to track my TV. Since DHL picked up the TV from Fry's, the tracking system just shows "Processed at DHL Location @ Wilmington, OH". And again, by the end of the day, no TV came.

I called DHL at night and I was welcome by an "automatic" (voice recognition) system to "assist" me. I just hate this kind of "automatic" system because I never have luck with voice recognition. After fighting the system for awhile, I got the answer "Your package is still in our facility".

I decided to talk with a real human being and immediately I was welcome by a very friendly human voice. Once she asked my name and my tracking number, she apologized immediately (awesome!). She even helped me contacting the final shipping center to put my shipment into 1st priority. She told me my TV will arrive my home today.

So I am waiting at home today...

I tracked the package again when I woke up this morning. It still says "Processed at DHL Location @ Wilmington, OH". It seems my TV is still on the truck somewhere in the country. I called DHL again and being welcomed by a friendly voice and apologize. She told me my TV will arrive on Monday.

Hmmm.... I have enough now....

(Update: My TV arrived Riverside County @ 7:00am on Monday and finally arrived in front my door @ 10:00am. I got a phone call from DHL to apologize about the delay and they delivery to me right away instead of the end of the day. I feel happy about their service this time except the delay part.)

Shop for New TV

Long story in short. I gave away my 10 years old 27" Sony CRT TV and shop for a new TV. Obviously, I am NOT going to buy the old 4:3 CRT TV again. It is for my bedroom so DLP is not an opinion (although it is really cheap!!!). Plasma is a good choice (price is in my acceptable range too) but I just afraid the burn-in and the short lifetime issues. So I decide to get a LCD TV.

First of all, Sony is not in my list at all. For the past 10 years, I had enough trouble with Sony's product. Except the TV I just gave away, none of the Sony products I owned can last more than 2 years. Sony's technical support is the worst in the industry. Yes, their products really look great but the quality is very bad inside. They really don't know what they are doing right now.

So, what is my requirement with the LCD TV? Here is my list:
  • 27-32" in Size
  • High Contrast Ratio
  • 2+ HDMI Inputs
  • 2+ Component Inputs
  • 720p is enough (I don't plan to watch HD-DVD/Blue-Ray in my bedroom)
  • Cheap (Around US$1000)
Now, who makes the cheapest LCD HDTV now? No doubt, all the mainland Chinese brands are cheap. You can even get a 27" LCD HDTV for US$499 @ Costco. However, after checking the technical specification, I understand why they can be so cheap.
  • Bad contrast ratio (max 2000:1)
  • Only 1 input for each connector (HDMI, Component, Composite)
  • Ugly outlooking (OK, it's not in my requirement)
So, I also kick those Chinese brands out of my consideration list.

My next question is... Who makes the best LCD TV now? On my list, they are Samsung, Philips, and Panasonic. Samsung is on the top of my list. This Korean brand makes awesome gadgets and appliances for the past 10 years. They have great design, good quality, and fair price. I know my 20" Dell LCD Monitor is using the Samsung panel (so does my 20" Apple Cinema Display).

After some researches, I locked @ Samsung LN-T3253H and Samsung LN-T3242H. Fry's is selling the LN-T3242H for US$1099 while LN-T3253H for US$1129 (just US$30 difference). You may ask, what are the difference? There are 2 major differences. T3253H's speakers are at the bottom instead on the side (save space) and LN-T3253H has USB input so you can plug in USB thumbdriver or hard drive for music and photo. Also, LN-T3253H can use the USB input for firmware upgrade!!!

I also find out Fry's has free shipping for LN-T3253H!!! So end up LN-T3253H is cheaper than it's lower model LN-T3242H. I placed the order immediately and the total price is US$1230.14 (including recycle tax and state tax).

After 4 hours, Fry's sent me email and told me the TV has been shipped. The carrier is US Postal Service via DHL. My heart sinked immediately.

(To be continue...)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Apple Aperture 1.5.3

Apple just released a new update for Aperture. Version 1.5.3 fixes the following issues:

- Generation of thumbnails for adjusted images
- Entering and exiting Full Screen mode
- Working with large sets of keywords in the Keywords HUD
- Restoring from a vault

Great!!! I hope it really fixes the thumbnail generation problem I have now.

Mozilla Thunderbird 2

You may not notice... the best open source email client, Mozilla's Thunderbird 2, just released today.

New features including Advanced Folder Views, Message Tagging, Saved Searches, Stay Informed, more secure, and add-ons.

Click here for the full new features listing.

As usual, it is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Blogs

I just find out all my friends surrounding me all have their own blogs. A little advertising here:

Joyce's Blog
Mable's Blog
Herman's Blog
Shirley's Blog
Bernard's Blog

Efania - Improve Your Photography

It seems I haven't blogged for awhile until today. Yes, I was very busy for the past couple months. I was addicted with photography (and flickr). After some learning curves, my friends and I are able to manage some skills with digital photography and Photoshop.

One day, we sat down and start thinking how to share our learning experience with other people who are also very interesting into photography? From upgrading from point and shoot (P&S) digital camera/35mm film SLR to DSLR body, choosing new lenses, buying new tripod/monopod, learn how to use external flash, to basic skill of retouching digital photos with Photoshop. There are a lot of things to learn and research.

Yes, we can search for a lot of tutorials and discussions by using Google. However, information are separated and not very well organize. My friends and I really want to have 1 single place to collect tutorials and buying guide of photography matters.

That's how Efania was borned. Currently, we are hosting Efania as a Flickr group (why not? Flickr is the best online Photo social network). Each month, we pick the best photographer in our group and have him to help us to write a feature articles in our Efania blog. I'm in the process to write a lot of small open source (free) applications (Windows & Mac) for Flickr. There are a lot of things going on.

That's why I haven't blogged in my own blog for awhile. Please forgive me.

Efania: http://www.flickr.com/groups/efania
Efania Blog: http://efania.blogspot.com

Sony Ericsson W999i

I haven't blogged about phone for a very long time since Apple released it's iPhone. Hell yeah, Apple's phone is cool but I still love my current Blackberry 8100 Pearl. The Blackberry is the best phone I have ever owned so far. It is super thin and light plus a lot of powerful and crazy features.

Sony Ericsson is going to release this baby next year. This is the type of phone I like. Semi-QWERTY keyboard, 2MP auto focus camera, 2.4" 320x240 display, and HSDPA. No price has been announced yet.

Anyway, I still stick with my Blackberry 8100 until it dies (Did I mention the casing has been broken by itself?)

Apple Aperture Flickr Export Plugin

Believe it or not, there is only ONE Apple Aperture Flickr Export Plugin in the market right now which is ConnectedFlow's FlickrExport. It is a very simple plugin (and have some bugs) and the author charges us for £14 (about US$28). I think it's too expensive for a plugin like that.

Stop complaining, here is my version of Flickr export for Aperture. It is called Efania Faperturer. I'm still learning how to write Cocoa in Objective-C. The most difficult part is...there is not much documentations or discussions on the Internet about Cocoa or Aperture Plugin.

It is not fully functional right now so I don't decide to release any binaries for any public testing yet. Please stay tune....

By the way, since there is not much documents and/or discussions about programming Aperture plugin in Objective-C. I decide to blog the details about how I write this plugin.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tutorial: How to make HDR?

HDR stands for "High Dynamic Range". It is a special Photoshop technique to create art like photos. The basic idea is combining 3 or more photos with different explosure into 1 photo. The result photo usually is very stunning. Please visit Efania for detailed step-by-step instructions.