Monday, December 31, 2007

Car Wash

Monday, December 17, 2007

Lego RCX Programming

I have two Lego RCX units sitting around as part of a large Lego collection. When I first got them about four years ago I played with them intensely. I would look at other people's designs online and then spend hours building cool things with them. This was about six months before I started college, where I didn't have access to them at all. Since I graduated, I have my Lego collection again, but I haven't really had time to do anything with them. Until now.

Four years is a long time when you're talking about technology. While I though my RCX units were the coolest thing ever four years ago, they've now lost some of their appeal (due to Lego releasing their second generation NXT based robotics kit, and me getting older among other things). Four years is also enough time to make the serial port virtually obsolete (try finding a modern-day laptop that has one, mine certainly doesn't). Of course, a serial port is exactly what I needed to connect the IR tower, which communicates with the RCX, to a computer. Luckily, I was able to find a USB to Serial adapter at Fry's for $25.

After hooking everything up and installing the Lego software, I was reminded of how outdated it was when I saw the unskippable intro movie with the terrible compression and the lame 3D graphics that was considered cool back in the day. Even four years ago, I felt Lego's programming language and IDE was overly simplistic, meant more for the 8-14 age group. Now, after three years of school to get a CS degree and half a year of working in the industry, there was no way I was going to program my RCX by dragging brightly colored blocks around, listening to a voice guide me through the tutorials, and watching that cheesy intro movie every time I wanted to edit my program!

Thankfully people have made several of their own languages for programming the RCX. NQC or Not Quite C is one such language based on a simplified version of C. I was surprised to find that the nqc binary not only lets you compile and download programs to the RCX, it also lets you sent raw commands via IR, which basically allows to remotely control everything about the RCX if you know the right opcodes! Good thing someone has compiled a list of opcodes.

As an added bonus, nqc is a command line program, so it can easily be called from other programming languages, like Java, my language of choice. This definitely opens up a whole slew of interesting possibilities.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

DIY iPhone Car Stereo

So I really wanted to listen to the latest episodes of my favorite podcasts on the road without having to burn them to a CD. In an earlier post, I lamented how the stock Sonata stereo doesn't even have a line-in jack, which I could hook up my iPhone to.

Well, the days of podcast-less driving are over. I bought an after-market head unit and mounting kit for about $150 from Car Toys (it was the cheapest one with a line-in jack). Installing the unit myself was easier than expected since I already had experience removing the existing unit. The most annoying part of the process would be having to solder about 20 wires together.

Opening the little storage compartment door makes a good tray that I can put the iPhone dock on. The dock is then connected to power and the head unit. It looks a bit messy with the wires, but it gets the job done.

Controlling the iPhone while driving is actually harder than I thought it would be. Since it's a touch screen, I have to actually look at the iPhone to make sure that I'm pressing the right button. Also, it's very easy to mess up and hit the wrong part of the screen. I think I could get used to it with practice though.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snow in Bothell

From last Saturday.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Verizon Sucks

Okay, all the things I said earlier about Verizon having good customer service are hugely offset by this. I just looked at my credit card statement and discovered that they charged me $158.88 for the FIOS in the month of November. It should be $49.99 like all the previous months. I have no idea why I was charged an extra $108.89. This has been irritating me all morning and I haven't gotten any answers.

My FIOS information doesn't show up when I log into my account at, probably because they did something screwy when I canceled my landline with them a few months ago. I've been on hold with their customer service number for a good half hour. I guess they don't have anyone to work on the weekends.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Phoenix Wright

The Phoenix Wright games may not seem like much at first glance, but they are, in my opinion, the best games available for the DS. The games' captivating storyline, unique gameplay, colorful characters, and superb localization combine to make it one of the most enjoyable portable gaming experiences ever.

There are 3 games in the Phoenix Wright trilogy:
Phoenix Wright - Ace Attorney
Phoenix Wright - Justice For All
Phoenix Wright - Trials and Tribulations

In the game, you play a defense attorney, Phoenix Wright, who must defend your clients who have been convicted of various crimes (usually murder). Each game includes 4 or 5 separate cases, where each case takes around 2 to 6 hours to finish. The cases are all different, and played in order, they reveal a captivating backstory that rivals that of many films and novels.

The final case in the last game was so gripping, in fact, that I managed to stay up until 4am without even realizing it. Let me just say: it was awesome!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Podlinez is a useful service that lets listen to podcasts from you phone. Just enter the url of a podcast feed on their website and you will get a telephone number. Just call the number anytime to listen to the latest episode of that podcast.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

No More Long Office Episodes

After 4 consecutive hour-long episodes, I thought that my favorite TV show, The Office, had made a permanent switch to this wonderfully longer format. Unfortunately, I was misled, for the 5th episode of the season is back to the regular 30 minutes.

You know how your brain adapts to drugs like caffeine and morphine, so that you need higher and higher dosages to cause the same effect, and if you decrease or stop you dose, bad things happen? Yeah, that's what I'm feeling right now.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hatsune Miku

Hatsune Miku is the latest singing sensation to hit Japan. What makes her different is that she's not an actual person, but created from vocal simulation software Vocaloid2 from Yamaha. I think it sounds pretty good. Could this replace real singers someday?

Here she is singing Fly Me to the Moon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Missing Candy

I went to the store to do some grocery shopping. There was a bag that caught my eye advertising 155 pieces of assorted candy goodness. That's a lot of candy - so I bought the bag.

When I got home, the first thing I did was sort and count my loot. Here's my candy distribution:
Hershey's Milk Chocolate        20
Jolly Rancher Hard Candy Stix 27
Jolly Rancher Double Blasts 46
KitKat Crisp Wafers 20
Twizzlers Mini-Bars 20
Notice anything strange here? The total is only 133 pieces! That's 22 pieces or almost 15% less than the advertised 155 pieces! Now why would the Hershey's Company advertise such a specific number, but deliver 15% less than promised? Is this an innocent packaging mistake or are they purposely cheating all of their customers thinking no one is going to bother counting their candy?

IOV - Internet Over Voice

You know how there's VOIP (Voice Over IP) right? Well, why isn't there Internet Over Voice (IOV). I'd imagine it would be something like this:

Dial 1(800)INTRNET

IOV: Calls recorded for quality.
IOV: Welcome to Internet Over Voice!
IOV: What URL or search query?
You: Prison Break.
IOV: Prison Break, top ten results from Google.
IOV: Number one, Fox broadcasting company, Prison Break.
IOV: To select number one, simply say number one or press one.
IOV: Number two, Prison Break, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
IOV: Number three...
You: Number two.
IOV: Number two. Prison Break. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about a television series. For the act of escaping prison, see, link, prison escape, end-link. Remember, you can follow the most recent link by saying, follow link. Prison break is an...
You: Follow link.
IOV: Following link, prison escape. Remember you can go back by saying, go back. Prison escape, from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. A prison escape or prison break is where a prisoner leaves their, link, prison, end-link, through official or illegal ways, and almost always results in an effort to recapture them by...
You: Go back.
IOV: Back to Prison Break, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia......

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Verizon FIOS Service

I had a remarkably good experience dealing with Verizon FIOS (their fiber optic internet service) customer service the other day.

Last Thursday, I was having internet problems. Access to the internet would be down intermittently, corresponding to the WAN light on the Verizon supplied router turning off. After this kept happening, I got annoyed and called Verizon - at 12:30 in the morning. Fully expecting an automated message, I was surprised when a human picked up the phone within seconds. He spoke clearly, knew his technical stuff, and was pleasant to talk to. He explained that Verizon was doing scheduled system maintenance in the Bothell area that night, but would be happy to send me another router, via next-day-air, free of charge.

Although the problem seems to have fixed itself, I am really happy with the service that I received.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Portal Song

Portal is one of the best video games I have ever played. It has everything you could ever want in a game: a gun that bends space, a quirky AI character, and the promise of a cake party. After beating the game, I witnessed what is probably the most awesome ending credit sequence ever.

One component of that awesomeness was the song. Of course I wanted to listen to it over and over again. If you find yourself in the same situation, here's how you can extract the portal song, Still Alive, from the game files:

1. Download GCFScape, a tool for exploring Valve's .gcf files.
2. Use it to open Steam\steamapps\portal content.gcf
3. The file you want is portal\sound\music\portal_still_alive.mp3

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Boom, Head Shot!

I can dance all day! I can dance all day!!!

I know I bitched about TF2 not getting released on time earlier, but it's such an awesome game, that all is forgiven.


It's my hometown - in an episode of Prison Break.

Friday, September 28, 2007

To Kill

It's only the second episode, and the kids have already started killing...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kid Nation

What do you get when you put 40 kids, aged eight to fifteen, together and isolate them from adults? No, it's not Lord of the Flies, it's CBS's new reality show, Kid Nation. Like some twisted summer camp with no consolers, these kids are left to survive on their own in a small ghost town in the middle of nowhere.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


It came in the mail sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard. I guess I need to buy a proper frame now.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Hey Valve, Where's Team Fortress 2?

It's 10:56PM on the west coast right now - and still no Team Fortress 2. Valve has about an hour left to keep their promise of a September 17 beta release.

Update: It's now 12:00AM on the 18th. Valve has officially missed their deadline. I gave them my money for nothing!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Breakfast - Gummified

Found in the Snoqualmie Falls gift shop.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Price of Early Adoption is $200

I set up my Twitter account to get SMS updates from MacRumors for today's Apple keynote.

So around 10:30 in the morning I start to get text messages about new iPods across the board. New iPod Shuffle, iPod Nano, and iPod Classic. That's cool I thought, but my high-tech multi-touch iPhone has them all beat.

Then I start getting text messages about the iPod Touch. I get a little nervous, it's basically the iPhone without the phone (so all the cool stuff). When I get the text message with the price, I feel sick. At $299 for the 8GB, it's half the price of my 8GB iPhone. Little do I know the worst is yet to come.

At 11:53am, I get the text message telling me that Apple has officially screwed me and all the other early adopters over. The $599 piece of gadgetry I'm holding dropped in value to $399 in a matter of seconds.

I knew that the iPhone would eventually have a price drop, but I never imagined it to be this soon or this much! I feel like I've been conned - cheated out of $200 by Apple.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Australia is the New Nigeria?

An email I got in response to my craigslist room-for-rent ad:


Thanks for the response to my introductory mail,i will like you to know the full information about me. I was born and razed in Australia,i am quiet and easy going person to live with. I'm 26 years of age, I am extremely clean,quiet and respectful, I am a sensitive, intelligent, patient and caring person, have a good sense of humor and am easy to get on with. I am a faithful and committed person, who is very considerate of other people's feelings. I don't drug, I don't smoke and i don't drink.. I enjoy going out with my friends to movies, plays, parks, hikes, anything to do with the ocean and horses but i'm cool living with people.I really do appreciate the breakdown details of the room.I must confess i'm comfortable with the cost of the room and its quite reasonable and affordable . I will like to make the payment for the first month ahead of my arrival, and then i will make subsequent payment thereafter as i plan to stay for 12months,'ve told my boss about this and he promised to make sure that he will meet up with the payment so that I can depart from here as scheduled.He also said I will have the advantage to make payment for deposit .I should arrive to US on or before the 12th of september, so pls keep room for me till my arrival.He also said my mode of payment will be the Most acceptable,safer and reliable means of payment which is United state certified money order,so get back to me with your name and address so that i can send you the payment as early as possible.

Kindest Regards,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cat Bite

I found a cat wandering in my backyard.

Somehow, I managed to convince the cat to let me scratch it. The cat seemed to be enjoying itself. It was moving its head around in order to let me know where to scratch. Then suddenly, with no warning, it jumped up and bit my hand!

I felt used and betrayed. I'm afraid I can never trust another cat again.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Enormous Spider

I just found a huge-ass spider on my carpet. Killing it required a ton of paper towels. I sure hope it wasn't poisonous...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

No More 300 Page Bills From AT&T

I got this text message from AT&T today explaining how they were simplifying my paper bill. This is funny because I had already signed up for paperless billing several weeks ago.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

NDS Game Overload

After several weeks of mediocre releases, there seems to be a deluge of awesome NDS games that came out within the last week:

Glory Days 2
Luminous Arc
Rune Factory
Heroes of Mana
Gyakuten Saiban 3 (Phoenix Wright 3)

Trying to find time to play all of these is going to be difficult though...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Boeing Future of Flight Museum

When we arrived at the Future of Flight museum, we discovered that the only tour that had enough space for all of us had already stared 10 minutes ago. However, we could still catch it if we hurried. I was on the phone frantically trying to tell two other people who got off at the wrong bus stop how to get to the museum. Security wouldn't let me take my phone with me even when I explained my situation to them. The tour bus was about to leave and everyone else was waiting for me. Not knowing what else to do, I handed over my phone and asked the receptionist to give my friends directions, and ran off to the tour bus.

The tour consisted of watching a 10 minute film (that we missed because we were late), a bus ride to the factory, walking through an underground tunnel, taking an industrial elevator up to a viewing level, walking around and looking at the factory, walking back through the tunnel, and taking the bus back to the museum. The whole thing took about an hour.

As soon as I got my phone back I called my friends to see what had happened. In the end, they never got directions and just took the bus back.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Don't Feed the Animals

This is what happens when you start feeding the animals at Olympic National Park.

Seattle Ferry Seagulls

Seagulls like to fly across the Pudget Sound with the ferries. For some reason, they don't like to land and ride on the ferry, but would rather just fly near the ferry.

Don't Drink the Water

While Olympic National Park is very beautiful, with its lush green forests and misty ridges, it's not without dangers. For example, while the water in Lake Crescent may appear unnaturally clear, it's actually infested with parasites.

When we were hiking back from Marymere Falls, we stopped by this little creek to drink the water, not knowing that it was dangerous. As we were cupping the water with our hands, another hiker saw what we were doing and ran over to our group, literally screaming for us to stop. Thanks to one good Samaritan's quick actions, we could have all been saved trips to the hospital.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Good Unsolicited Mail

I got some unsolicited mail that's useful for once: sticky address labels with my name and address. Oh, and there's pictures of flowers too.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Hi, Me 5¢

I think my drink is trying to tell me something...

Saturday, August 4, 2007


I arrived at my first Seafair not knowing what to expect, but left quite content after thoroughly enjoying myself with the airshows, hydroplane races, and fair activities.

The airshows were amazing. The first round started soon after I arrived at 1pm. The Patriots Jet Demonstration Team and the US Navy Blue Angels performances both dazzled the audience with their tight formation flying and their intense maneuvers. A second round of airshows started at around 4pm, beginning with some amazing aerial acrobatics by Team Oracle pilot Sean Tucker, and continuing with a variety of other equally awesome aerial acrobatic demonstrations.

The hydroplane races began with a very dramatic start when one of the boats flipped over in the air and crashed upside-down in the water on the very first lap. The rescue boats, which were standing by, quickly arrived and the driver, Chris Bertram, was thankfully alright. The three remaining boats continued the races.

I don't think I've been to a fair where people were giving away more free stuff. Every other booth had some attraction or swag that they were giving away. The Capri Sun booth even had its own half-pipe and had hired four professionals to perform extreme sports for the crowd; they were also giving away free Capri Sun juice drinks to boot!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

iPhone Backup - Missing Items

Software update 1.0.1 came out for the iPhone yesterday. It was mainly a security update with no really noticeable changes. However, I did notice that Apple fixed the UI problem on the usage screen where the text for the current period call time was being cut off.

Unfortunately, the update process didn't go smoothly for me. Since I had hacked my iPhone just a few days prior, I had to do a full system restore, which wipes all the data and settings. After the system restore, iTunes will offer to restore your settings from a backup. While most settings got restored, there were a few that did not. The most important and irritating of these missing items was the camera roll photos. I lost about 20 photos that I took with my iPhone. The other things that didn't get restored were my YouTube bookmarks and saved passwords (voicemail, email, and wifi).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Custom Icons on my iPhone Springboard

These were a pain to install using iphoneinterface,
but I think the end result was worth the effort.

The icon set is paperCONS by fred777.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

iPhone Custom Ringtones

After spending the day hacking my iPhone, I finally got custom ringtones! Actually, the process was fairly straightforward. All you have to do is follow these simple 12 steps. It's even easier if you have an Intel Mac now that there's a program called iFuntastic that does most of the work for you (unfortunately, I don't have one).

The most time consuming step was actually finding some ringtones. I never realized how difficult it is to find free ringtones. I ended up just making most of them myself. I took some mp3 files, cut them down to about 10 seconds in Audacity, then converted them to m4a with iTunes.

Finally, you may have noticed something missing from the picture above. That's right, I also got rid of the AT&T carrier logo from the iPhone top bar (instructions here). I think it looks much better now that I'm not constantly being reminded of which carrier I'm stuck with.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Disaster Ready

Now that I have my very own disaster survival kit, I'm ready for any disaster that may be foolish enough to face me.

One of these emergency rations provides enough sustenance for one person to last three days. It's hard to believe...but they taste great! - according to the quote on the back. Shelf life: 5 years.

This 52 piece first aid kit comes with everything you see here. Medical emergency sold separately.

Isn't a solar-powered flashlight kind of useless? At least this one can also be charged via hand-crank. It's also a radio and cell phone charger - but doesn't come with an iPhone adapter (charges most popular cell phones indeed).

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Apparently, this is what I look like as a Simpsons character.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


The TV I bought last week - 32", 720p, $668 at Walmart.

I think I need a bigger one...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

iPhone to the Rescue

Yesterday at 7:30pm, I was driving to Redmond Town Center with my friend David to watch the new Harry Potter movie. I had just pulled into the parking garage and was looking for a spot when I noticed a car stopped in the middle of the driveway. A young man ran over to my car and urgently asked me to get help. Not knowing what else to do, I stopped my car, got out, and called 911 on my iPhone.

David and I ran over to their car and found an older woman who looked very sick. We could see that she can just thrown up and was now sitting, propped up by the car. I relayed the information to the 911 dispatcher and asked her to send an ambulance. There was some confusion with the address since we didn't know which one of the many parking garages in Redmond Town Center we were in, but David ran outside and quickly returned with that information. About three other people stopped to help. David waited near the entrance of the garage to flag down the ambulance. I stayed on the phone until the ambulance arrived, which took about five minutes.

We ended up being a little late to the movie (missing how Harry stops the dementors), but it was well worth being able to help someone who needed it.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Hyundai Sonata Stereo Removal

The stereo system in my Hyundai Sonata doesn't have an audio in port, which is quite absurd. You'd think car manufacturers would add such a simple and convenient feture. Well, I disassembled my stereo in order to determine how easy it would be to add this functionality myself.

After some searching I found some Sonata stereo removal instructions (pdf) which really helped. The hardest part was step 3 - getting the trim panel removed. I didn't want to damage it, so I tried prying it off slowly with no luck. It really requires quite a bit of force to get off.

There are white clips on the panels that I removed, which I discovered come off really easily. I had four of the clips fall off inside the car when I removed the panels. They fell behind the panels, so I could not easily retrieve them. Now there's probably going to be a rattling when I drive, and the panels will not be as fixed. This is going to bother me greatly.

There's two blocks of wires and one antenna cable going into the stereo head unit. I disassembled the unit a bit but didn't find anything useful. I put everything back together and besides the fallen clips that I mentioned above, everything is back to normal.

Update: So I finally did it!
This is what it looks like with my iPhone or my Droid.

Tree Trimming

March - Tree looks nice.

June - Tree looks like it has cancer.

July - After trimming, tree looks leprous.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Rubik's Cube

Ever since I played with the Rubik's Cube that I found in my hotel room two weeks ago, I've been itching to get one for myself.

However, they're harder to find than I thought. Walmart has them in their online store, but the last few times I went to a physical Walmart they were out of stock. I also tried Alderwood Mall with no luck.

Well, today I went to Walmart for something completely different and what do you know - they had six Rubik's Cubes on display, so I grabbed one.

Kind of funny how I had more trouble getting a Rubik's Cube than my iPhone.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Google Furniture

My Google beanbag arrived today.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

iPhone 3rd Party Headphone Problem

The headphone port on the iPhone is recessed, so most 3rd party headphones will not go in all the way. This was the problem with my Shure E4G earbuds. I could have bought a $10 adapter just to use the headphones that I like, but instead I did a bit of modding and managed to get them to fit.

As you can see, all I did was scrape off some of the insulation surrounding the jack using an exacto knife. The headphones that came with the iPhone are on top for comparison.

Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone Activation to Take 6 Hours!

Okay, this sucks.

I was expecting my iPhone activation to take less than three minutes and that I would be playing with my iPhone right now. Unfortunately, I'm getting a message from iTunes saying "Your activation requires additional time to complete". After talking with AT&T iPhone activation support, I learned that this process could take up to six hours and that there's nothing I can do to speed it up.

Since I can't do anything with my iPhone (except call 911) until it's activated, this is the equivalent of opening a Christmas present and then being told you can't use it.

Update: Activation took 7 hours.

iPhone - Unpacking

Most Apple products are a pleasure to open.
The iPhone is no exception.

iPhone - Launch Day

I arrived at the Alderwood Mall Apple Store a little after 5pm.
With an hour to go before launch, I was 119th in line.

At 5:30, they take off the covers.
"Say hello to iPhone."

5:50pm, 10 minutes to go...

It's 7:20pm, I finally make my way inside the Apple Store.
Unfortunately, the line continues inside.