# Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Someone once told me that for budget airlines, the later in the day the flight was the higher the possibility of it being delayed. I didn't think too much about it but here I am sitting in SkyPark Subang, where my 9:00PM flight was delayed to 10:50PM... and now.. 12:30AM...

I guess it's fine by me, I still have one more presentation to rehearse and time. Maxis 3G is performing in the airport, and most importantly, I'm in a StarBucks and I found a table with a power socket. So I have the Internet.. and I have POWER!!!

I just won't have much sleep. :P


Wednesday, 16 September 2009 22:22:51 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Saturday, 12 September 2009

You might have heard about it already, but Paint... the little painting program that's in Windows? Well, the Windows 7 version of Paint received a fresh coat of paint! (yes... I couldn't resist doing that)

paint

Gone is the low res single pixel pencil tool, now you have TEXTURED BRUSHES, you have brushes that simulate oil and water color brushes, ie they taper off with a fading effect. You have a crayon that errr.. has a crayon like texture, and pens that give it the slanting stroke feeling. There are now predefined shapes that kids can play with like the star and lighting bolt shape shown.

And if you have a Windows 7 compatible pressure sensitive Tablet (I'm gonna say the Wacom digitizer tablets count) The brushes are PRESSURE SENSITIVE, draw hard.. broad stroke... draw lightly.. thin stroke.

And another cool feature that I can only dream about. If you have a MULTI TOUCH enabled touch screen, You can draw with multiple pens AT THE SAME TIME. This is a great way to test how many touch points your screen supports (each multi touch device might contain a different number of recognition points) Just open paint, select a brush, finger paint with all 10 fingers and see how many come out.

The one thing that stops Paint from greatness is that it doesn't support image layers... but then again that's probably the thing that stops people from filing lawsuits too. Want a more complicated paint program? Get Paint.Net.

Good old Calculator also got the new visual treatment.

calc-basic

What's interesting about the calculator now is the inclusion of some nifty commonly used tasks, such as unit conversions.

 calc-convert

This would come in handy for me since whenever my father asks me to get something that involves length he always states inches, and I always ask him what's that in centimeters.

The little program that I never really had a reason to use, Wordpad has been transformed into a much more attractive and usable lightweight document editor.

wordpad

The useful part is that it can open MS Word DOCX (As well as the Open Document Format) files though certain things might not show up properly since Wordpad doesn't fully implement the features MS Word has, well at a glance.. I don't see anyway to insert or manage tables! I guess it's useful for someone who bought a barebones Windows 7 system, where the OEM didn't bundle in MS Works, or the MS Office Trial, or any other word processor.

So... new Wordpad... nice... but I'll probably never actually use it though.

And then there's NOTEPAD!!!

notepad

Which still looks EXACTLY THE SAME as it did since Windows 95, but then again, Notepad always served a single purpose. Show you the text contents of whatever file it was asked to open. No formatting, No pictures, NOTHING. I guess one area of improvement would be it's performance when opening extremely large files (ie.. > 1MB Server Log files) But then again, if you ever needed to open such a big file, you could just use Wordpad!

Ever since Windows 2000, I always looked at these little bundle programs and wondered "Damn.... they look old!" And now after MS has gone through the trouble of actually improving them, would I actually use them? NO.... BUT... they're definitely more useful for people who just need to get a little something done when they have no other alternative. And for that purpose, the new improvements will surely be welcomed by the users.


Saturday, 12 September 2009 01:33:38 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 10 September 2009

After a few trips to the Den Of Sin know as Deal Extreme I ended up with this.

DSC08017

It's something that I always wanted to find after reading about it on the net. So... what the heck is it? First of all it's like a giant paper clip. But then, there are 2 movable hands on the top.

DSC08020

The 2 hands end as small fine needle points

DSC08021

Which you then use to touch the contact points of a battery which you clamp down on with the clip.

DSC08022

The tail then lights up to indicate that it has found a proper polarity of the battery.

DSC08023

Figured out what this is yet? Yup.. it's a battery charger. I think the term for this is "Universal Phone Battery Charger" The universal term is used loosely, basically because it uses USB power to charge the battery it can charge any battery that's 3.7V ie. MOST gadget batteries. This is techincally a newer model because the ones I saw on the net previously required you to find the correct polarity terminals on the battery yourself. This one is able to auto adjust the polarity so all you need to do is just keep touching points on your battery until the green light lights up.

Then you plug it into a USB port.

DSC08024

And the charging COMMENCES with a red light!

My wife looks at me fondling the clip and asks me "why the heck would you need this for?" Which is a valid reason considering I have other means of portable power. Well I was intrigued but how it worked. But really this thing's pretty useless because of the simple reason that you need to TAKE THE BATTERY OUT to charge it! And it's not like it's an express charger, the output is stated (I don't think it's appropriate to use the word RATED for such a product) at 4.2V 500mA. Which means it'll take a while to charge a battery, so it'll be a while before you can use your device.

Also.. it sure looks dangerous just sitting there all exposed! :P

Yup... it's pretty much useless. But it sure is a NEAT idea! ;)


Thursday, 10 September 2009 22:43:10 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 09 September 2009

Here's an important thing to take note of when making RIA applications. Wheter it's Flash, Silverlight or just plain AJAX. If you need to make a call through the browser's for data, always append a random query string parameter to it so the browser will never return to you a cached response! For example suppose your code calls this URL for data.

http://www.myapp.com/mypage.aspx?id=myid

After the first call to the page, it's likely that the browser might just cache the results and give you the same data for any following calls. Therefore you need to insert a random factor into the url like this.

http://www.myapp.com/mypage.aspx?id=myid&rnd={5656-234-3435}

It DOESN'T MATTER WHAT IT IS, it could be a number, current tickcount, guid, as long as it makes the browser think that it needs to hit the server and get a new page.

On the flip side, if you know your page will be hit via client side calls, it's a good idea to disable caching in the response headers.


Wednesday, 09 September 2009 22:56:31 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [2]  | 
# Monday, 07 September 2009

One of my most liked and second most used feature of Windows 7 is BitLocker To Go. Put simply it allows you to change ANY portable storage medium into an encrypted filestore. The ANY keyword here is important, because now a days when you buy some USB thumbdrives, they'll have some form of encryption software that allows you to repartition some of it's storage as an encrypted store. But as mentioned it's only for SOME of the USB thumbdrives, and it's only for the THUMBDRIVES. BitLocker To Go will allow you to encrypt that 320GB hard disk which you use to backup your system with!

But before all that you'd have to first setup BitLocker To Go on the drive you want to encrypt. This is easily done by just right clicking on the drive in question and selecting "Turn On BitLocker"

01-in menu

Then you'll be asked on what password to use, and then you're given an option to save a RECOVERY KEY file to your system.

03-Save Key

This key is what will allow you to unlock the drive if you forgot your password, I've already used this feature more than once since I keep forgetting the passwords to my test media all the time. My keys are stored in SkyDrive so they are ever present if I need them. (Of course there's always the interesting topic of why keep such an important thing in the cloud?)

And after that, you might think that your drive is now a fully encrypted filestore right? WRONG! After the initial setup you'll be greeted with this.

04-Encrypt

Your drive will then undergo an encryption process to lock it's contents. Personally I have no idea how much free space is needed on your drive when you do this because it seems like you can still use the drive normally while it's being encrypted. So it's really interesting to me how it's achieving this. One thing you need to be aware of though, this process TAKES A WHILE to complete! That's why there's a PAUSE button there. If you have a need to eject the drive BEFORE IT FINISHES ENCRYPTION press the PAUSE button FIRST! So.. the burning question of how long does this take? Depends on the size and speed of your drive I'm guessing. I'd say  10~15 MINUTES per 1GB of storage space. For comparison purposes I encrypted my 320GB backup hard disk over the course of 2 working days.

THIS IS A ONE TIME PROCESS! So once it finishes, that's it.. your drive is now a fully encrypted filestore.

Performance wise it's obviously slower than an unencrypted source, but for just moving files around it feels normal to me. Haven't done any throughput test on it to see wheter I can play 1080P videos off it properly though.

And now for the bad news, only Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise Editions able to CREATE BitLocker To Go drives. But ANY OTHER Windows 7 Edition can read/write to the drive once unlocked with the password.

If you plugged the now encrypted drive to a version of Windows OTHER than Windows 7, that's when it get's interesting. First of all you'll be able to see that the contents of the drive is pretty much gibbrish.

btg-filecontents

And you'd best not touch the contents too in case you accidentally break anything. What you need to do is to run the "BitLockerToGo.exe" application which is the program to unlock the contents of the drive.

btg-non7password

And then after unlocking you're giving a view into the drive's encrypted contents (contents censored, note there are no video files in there)

btg-reader

And you may READ from the drive contents. Yes, you may read but you CANNOT WRITE to it. Obviously this is a major setback if you need the encrypted storage to shuffle files between a Windows 7 and non Windows 7 machine. For that you could probably just use your thumbdrive's own encryption store creator

But if you're just using it to transport data between Windows 7 systems, want to encrypt any sort of portable media (I wonder how long does encrypting a 1TB hard drive would take?) BitLocker To Go is a really neat feature to use in Windows 7 Ultimate/Enterprise Edition! And I LOVE IT!


Monday, 07 September 2009 23:58:56 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  |