Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Mafia muscling in on piracy?

The New York Times has posted an article about movie piracy, with Peter Jackson (director of upcoming film King Kong) providing some interesting comments. Apparently (like it's really any surprise), filesharers aren't the biggest threat to the movie industry; organised crime is.

Interview with Jonathan Zdziarski

Jonathan Zdziarski is a big advocate and long-time contributor to the open source community, and considered by some as an authority on spam filtering. He recently released his new book Ending Spam. Check out this interview conducted by /. where Zdziarski talks about being an open source coder, the new GPLv3, and spam filtering.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

WinFS Beta 1 Released

WinFS (Windows File System), which was originally supposed to be included (and be a core feature of) the upcoming Windows Vista (previously Longhorn), has entered "Beta 1" and is available to MSDN subscribers. WinFS is the new file system that will supposedly revolutionise the way we store, manage and retrieve files. Beta 1 provides support for Windows XP, leading many to think that the release version may provide such support as well.

Read Tom Rizzo's blog for full details.
Original sources: Microsoft Watch, ThreadWatch and Scobleizer

Nothing more.
To whomever it may concern,

I am, to put it bluntly, pissed off.

It's not that I'm pissed you chose someone else to do the website over me; after all, I'm a die-hard advocate of a meritorious society.

What I am pissed at is you chose this over me. And it took, what, 4 months to do this?!

What. Ever.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Improvements to heuristic viral detection methods

PC Magazine has posted an article about AV-Test, an ongoing project researching into the behaviour and performance of various anti-virus products. In their latest test against last week's MS05-039 PnP vulnerability, it was found that 11 of 36 anti-virus products managed to detect at least one of the six attacks conducted, even without having the appropriate signature update.

This demonstrates a significant improvement in heuristic detection methods in current generation virus scanners and present a possibile future where anti-virus products are able to intelligently detect new viruses without having to first be updated with the latest virus definitions.

Disappointingly, popular anti-virus products Norton Antivirus, Trend Micro and AVG were not among the 11 to pass the test. Neither did industrial-strength Sophos Antivirus. They were able to detect the attacks quickly enough with updated virus profiles, but apparently their heuristic detection programs were not good enough to proactively detect the attacks otherwise.

Thoughts on Singapore's Anti-piracy policy

I've been struggling to connect to the Blogger post page for the last few hours and only just managed to; my net connection's been crawling lately. So anyway, I originally intended to post about two seperate issues, but seeing as I'm not sure I'll get the chance to make another post, I've decided to post about reactions to Singapore's anti-CD-ripping policy first.

The other thing I wanted to blog about is regarding Intel's new VIIV line of processors (pronounced Vive), but you can check out the news directly at AnandTech, who have a journalist reporting directly from the current IDF. I might post again about this later or perhaps tomorrow, bandwidth permitting.

So, I was reading a couple of posts on both mrbrown and Union Post regarding the recent case of three people being charged for illegal file-sharing back home in sunny Singapore, and their reactions to Singapore's "anti-CD-ripping" law. While I have no problems with mrbrown, who seems like quite an intelligent writer and wrote in a very open manner, soliciting better-informed responses, the Union Post article rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to me that writers who've been around since 1999 (as they claim) would do a little more research before posting outright criticisms of a policy they don't seem to know much about.

Truth be told, I'm actually quite surprised this issue is only hitting Singapore now, since it's been popping up in most "developed" nations for a few years now. Granted, Singapore's had problems with piracy for a long time now, with the authorities largely turning a blind eye to it till pressured by the corporations to uphold the law, and I suppose that probably goes some way to explaining the average Singaporean's relative ignorance about such issues.

As I understand it, reactions have been harsh against the "anti-CD-ripping" policy, which was recently brought to public attention, that basically states that it is illegal to rip (or record digitally) any music from a copyrighted CD, even if said CD has been paid for.

Now this may strike many as strange; if I've already paid for the music on the CD, why shouldn't I be allowed to do with it as I please? Why shouldn't I be allowed to "transfer" that music (which I've paid for, by the way) to my PC/laptop/iPod/MP3 player/whatever?

The simplest of answers is this: when you pay for the CD, you're paying for the right to listen to the music that has been recorded onto that CD, but only if you're listening to it using that CD. The media plays a huge part in the equation. The reasons behind this are obvious: if you're allowed to rip the CD to a digital form, there's nothing preventing you from copying, transferring, burning or otherwise making more copies of that music and passing it to others who haven't paid for the right to listen to it. It's like buying a DVD, then recording it to VCR; people do it, but that doesn't change the fact that it's illegal.

Granted, many countries have a "fair use" policy which allows you to rip music from a CD and have a certain number of copies of it for use on your mp3 player, backup, what-have-you. But the problem with such a policy lies in proving that someone has actually made more than the allowed number of copies. With p2p programmes, you could upload a file to 100 different computers and still only have that one file on your computer. So what's the easiest and most efficient solution? Don't allow for any copies to be made.

Well then, doesn't that mean that my iPod (etc.) is just a very expensive paperweight? Of course not. You can still rip audio CDs that aren't copy-protected (like certain independent bands and the majority of garage bands). In fact, that's (supposedly) the main purpose of the CD-ripping and recording software bundled with most music players.

Then of course there are the online stores like iTunes, which allow you to buy music in digital format. The key difference between buying a track off iTunes and ripping it off a CD, though (besides the fact you have to pay for it), lies in Digital Rights Management (DRM).

DRM technology is basically additional encoding within a music (or any other) file that allows for very specific use of that file. Maybe it doesn't allow you to make other copies of the file. Maybe (especially if it's a sample) it only allows you to keep a file for a certain period of time before deleting itself. Or perhaps it only allows you to use the file on the machine you downloaded it to. One way or another, DRM sets very specific parameters within which you can use a particular file, and this is yet another way the recording industry prevents the blatant copying and transfering of their copyrighted material.

That actually brings home the reason why the RIAs of the various countries despise the mp3 format so much; up till now, the standard still doesn't support DRM. That's why when you buy songs online, you rarely see them coming in mp3 format.

But wait, it doesn't make sense to have to pay for music I already legally own! Well, not if you put it that way. But let's say you own a game on the Xbox, say Brothers in Arms. After playing it for a while, you find you would much rather play it on the PC (because FPS should be played with a mouse, after all). If you now want to play BiA on the PC, and assuming you could find an Xbox emulator for the PC (don't bother looking; I made that up), would it be legal to rip the Xbox game and install on the PC for play? Of course not. Even though it's essentially the same game you're playing. Why? Because they're not the same media/format.

Furthermore, no one's saying you have to pay twice for the same music. What is required is better decision making. If you want to listen to the music on your iPod, buy it digitally. If you want to listen to it on your stereo, buy the CD. In fact, most (above average) stereos allow for line-in nowadays, and iPod allows you to transmit music over radio waves (with the add-on), so it shouldn't even be that huge an issue. And in my personal experience, only a few tracks on any CD (the ones you hear on the radio) are ever any good, anyway. But of course, that could just be me.

At the end of the day, the police aren't going to start arresting everyone who walks out their front door with an iPod in hand. Just like how they aren't going to arrest 5 high school students sitting in the corner of Dhoby Ghaut MRT talking at the top of their voices and drawing weird stares from passers-by for "illegal gathering" and "disrupting the peace". Those laws are in place for the very same reason this one is: in case they need to invoke such authority. Does that mean they're pointless or ineffective? Not as long as people know they exist and are aware that they may possibly be held liable for these actions. And after this hoo-hah, it can fairly safely be said that a lot more people know that such a policy exists, eh?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Pwning captchas

Just came across an interesting site, courtesy of /. PWNtcha is what is known as a captcha decoder, and just in case you have no idea what I'm talking about, a captcha is one of those image verification tools used to defeat comment-spam bots. Kind of like what's used in the comments section of blogger. Click on "comments" to take a look. (hint. hint.) The site basically explains how captcha techniques work, and is well worth a visit.

Nothing else.

Extra Content here

More Google news and analysis

Well, it's been a really big week at Mountain View, with Google releasing two new tools in as many days. However, I'm kind of getting slightly sick with talking about the same company so much, so I'll mainly be linking to a few google-related news and analysis others have written recently.

Firstly, BBC News' Techdesk thinks about where Google is heading with all these new releases.

Also, the New York Times reports that Google is the new bad kid on the (silicon) block.

Tribeworks also wonders if Gtalk is more about Skype than about Jabber, even while Skype releases a new set of third-party development tools for it's own IM system.


Hang on, Scott. Why're you blogging at 9.30 in the morning? Don't you have a class on System Integrity by the brilliant but eccentric Prof. Rhys Jones?

Well, Prof. Jones decided not to turn up for class today, which means I woke up early for nothing. I did get to overhear a few students talking outside the lecture theatre, though, and found out the betting odds currently stand at:

Family emergency: 10-1
Accident: 5-1
Sick: 2-1
Drunk: 1-1

Thanks a lot, Rhys!

So, anyways, I decided to write a little about my teaching experience.

Wait a second, did he just say teaching? Yes, your ears have not altogether given up on you; for those who haven't been tuning in recently to the hit emmy award-winning series The Weird and Wonderful Life of Scott, I'm now teaching two hours a week at a primary school. To primary five and six kids. You can stop laughing now.

It's basically a final year elective offered jointly by the Science, Engineering and Education faculties, in conjunction with the public schools' new technology program. It's kind of like technical class back when, except instead of making clay bowls, the kids learn advanced (for them) science, engineering and IT skills. Since it's a relatively new program, especially at the primary school level, the schools are in need of people with skills in such areas and this placement program helps match people with skills and nothing better to do (like me), with the schools' needs. Again, stop laughing; I mean it this time.

So, yeah. Once a week, I go down to one of the nearby primary schools to conduct a two hour session on web design. Yes, I know I don't have any formal webdev training, but that's what the school wanted.

The program's been quite a challenge, partly due to the fact that in order to conduct a 2 hour session each week, I've got to prepare back home for another five to six hours. On top of that, teaching 11 to 12 year old kids is not as easy as it sounds, and I have experience dealing with kids.

Actual academic teaching is very different from conducting camps, though; talk for too long and they start getting fidgety and the whispering starts. It's a real balancing act between both imparting the necessary (boring) academic knowledge to them and getting them involved by asking questions and taking part in hands-on activities.

I sometimes also forget that they're really a bunch of kids and gloss over stuff that may appear obvious to me, but confuses the hell out of them. And they don't always clarify when they're confused till later on. Or maybe they're not really listening, I don't know. Thankfully their regular teacher is normally in the class as well, and she does a very effective job of both controlling the class and clarifying concepts she feels her students may not understand.

My biggest challenge thus far occured yesterday when the regular teacher was away, and I began to appreciate the biggest difference between conducting a camp and teaching a class. When I used to work as a camp instructor, we were really ever doing only one thing at a time. "Ok, kids, climb that rockwall; follow me through the mud; build a raft; climb over that electric fence." With teaching, especially since yesterday's session was for them to work on their web pages, they're all working on different things at the same time, asking different questions, getting stuck at different areas, demanding for your attention all at once, and finishing up at different times. It's a big multitasking challenge to make sure these students aren't off downloading music while answering those students' questions and making sure the ones who've finished aren't playing basketball in class.

But as tiring, challenging, and altogether draining as each session may be, I find myself really, really, really enjoying every minute of it, and feeling sorry there's only three weeks of class left.

Review: Google Talk (Beta)

I really wanted to post something before Google released their new product, but got held up by other concerns. So I guess I'll just have to settle for a review.

Yes, it's official. A little more than 12 hours ago, Google released their latest attempt to take over our desktop: Google Talk (Beta). I think Gawk would have been a cooler name, but then again, what do I know? Naming conventions aside, the main reason this post is coming late is because I just spent 2+ hours trying to connect to the server, and another 1 hour or so testing it. That by no means indicates it's a difficult program to use; I'm just an idiot.

It's actually a very simple chat program; simply go to the Google Talk site and download the installer, and a quick install later, you're good to go. The only catch is you need to have a Gmail account. If you're in the US, that's no problems, since you can now get a Gmail account by sms. Otherwise, ask around; some of your friends are bound to have a few score invites lying around. Unfortunately, isnoop's Gmail invite spooler was shut down in June, but still, getting one shouldn't be a problem.

Once you've powered GTalk up, you'll be presented with a clean and simple login interface. Simply use your Gmail account to log into the server. If you're presented with a "Could not autheticate to server" message, you need to ensure that ports 80, 443 and 5222 are open. If you're running a firewall (like Zone Alarm or, heavens forbid, Windows Firewall), turn off the firewall, log into GTalk, then turn the firewall back on. That worked for me.

Once you're logged into Gtalk, you're presented with another clean and simple interface. Did I mention it's clean and simple? Gtalk is everything a chat program should be: straightforward, easy to use, fast, and without all the bells and whistles that bog down other IMs. Adding friends is devilishly easy. Since you're logged in using your Gmail account, your Gmail address book is readily accessible. In fact, simply start typing in the search bar, and contacts that match the query instantly appear, waiting to be added.

Clicking on a contact brings up a chat window, where you're presented with all of three functions. Type in the message area to send a text message, or click on the email or call buttons. Yes, that's why it's called Google Talk; while it doesn't yet support video conferencing, the talk quality was amazingly clear. Better still, it takes up negligible bandwidth and there's next to no lag. In fact, in a test I ran with Stupidboy, he sent me a message and spoke into his mike at the same time. The audio actually reached me before the text did. You're also able to hold up to 4 audio conversations at a time, though you can only speak to one at any one time; the rest are put on hold.

Gtalk also allows you to change a few basic settings, like notifiation options, audio, and so on. There's an option for you to keep a record of IM conversations, but I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to pull past convos up again later.

Status messages are basically Available or Busy, though Gtalk does allow you to type in personalised status messages. There's also a block function, though no appear offline/invisible.

One thing Gtalk doesn't support is offline messaging; ICQ is still the only widely used IM with that capability. It does, however, allow you to send email messages to your contacts. A single click loads Gmail in your browser, which I guess makes up for offline messaging.

I was a little concerned initially that Gtalk would automatically log you into Gmail, wondering if you were kept logged in while using Gtalk. I soon found out, thankfully, that Gtalk simply creates a new session, which ends once you sign out of Gmail.

Speaking of Gmail, Gtalk also monitors your email account and pops up a notification whenever you receive a new email in your Gmail inbox (if you want it to) . My only gripe with this is that's the only way Gtalk informs you of new emails, and the notify fades away after a few seconds, meaning you'll miss it if you're away.

If you use the new GDS2, you can also dock Gtalk as a panel on the sidebar, although that eats up even more precious screen real estate. It also makes it pretty small, and doesn't seem very practical to me.

The only two aspects I find Gtalk lacking are support for multichats and file-transfers; there's none. While I really like the whole "back to basics" ideology, those are two really useful tools that I feel should be included.

Also, the Gtalk support website acts up once in a while. That definitely needs to be addressed sometime soon.

Lastly, in contrary to previous speculation, Gtalk doesn't seem to be linked to Adsense in any way at all. There is no advertising at all anywhere on the interface (yet).

Overall, Google Talk is a really great product, especially for a beta. Google has stated they're rushing to add in additional features like language support before launch, so we should all be in for a treat. Get Gtalk if you use Gmail regularly or want a decent, simple, intuitive instant messaging program.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


If Google decided to release its own instant messaging service (like msnM, AIM, ICQ, Y!M etc.), what would it be called? GTalk? Gawk?

Tech sites all over have been abuzz for a few hours now about the possibility of Google releasing its own IM service. The grape vine has it that it will be announced on Wednesday, US time, and will be called "Google Talk".

It all started when sites like SlashDot and ThreadWatch posted news that was running Jabber and listening on port 5222. Then, as the mass media picked up the thread, it started appearing on news sites like the LA Times and MSNBC, sometimes even citing "unnamed sources familiar with the service" (whatever...).

But before you get overly-excited, bear in mind one simple fact: up till now it's still a rumour; Google has yet to admit or deny anything. Which is actually the reason I didn't originally want to blog about this yet.

Hmmm...I originally wanted to talk a little more about the possibilities of such a move by Google, but apparently it's already 6.30 am, and I've got to get ready to go teach. I'll post more about this when I have time. Meanwhile, treat this as a heads up. ;)

Intel's new CPU architecture

AnandTech, reporting straight from the current Intel Developer Forum, has released an article with news about Intel's new microprocessor architecture.

Performing an about-turn from their previous strategy of producing processors with ever-increasing clock-cycles, Intel CEO Paul Otellini revealed the new microprocessors during his keynote. These new CPUs demonstrate Intel's new "performance/watt" ideology and unify Intel's mobile and desktop architectures for the first time.

Otellini showcased the first three CPUs to be built on Intel's next-generation architecture: Merom (mobile), Conroe (desktop) and Woodcrest (server). All three versions sport a 65nm dual-core 64 bit architecture. Merom was used to show the presentation, and ran 64bit Windows XP, Conroe was running Fedora Linux, and Woodcrest ran Windows Server 2003. Otellini is quoted as claiming Conroe will five times the performance/watt compared to current generation Intel desktop chips.

This new focus on lower power consumption and hence lower heat emmissions may (hopefully) pave the way for the "handtop", a new mobile computing platform, which may finally perform the role the TabletPC was supposed to.

Don't update to PSP 2.0

MAKE Blog has just released an article advising owners of the Sony PSP not to upgrade to version 2.0, which will be released sometime soon. Apparently, it will not allow for homebrew mods (like that's a surprise...). While I don't own a PSP, I know some of you do, so treat this as my good deed of the day.

Nothing else.

Student Politics

I got around to thinking about student politics today, probably because of all the various elections coming up. It isn't even really about anything that's happening currently, but more about what I've observed over the last few years I've been in uni.

I guess it's a little misleading when I use the term student politics; it's not really the politics part I've been thinking about. Granted, with any election involving more than one party comes elements of politcal maneuvering and the occasional backstabbing, but I guess that's all accepted and written off as "strategy".

What interests me, though, is the forming of tickets. When I say tickets, I of course mean political parties, and not those you buy to watch a film. When it comes to most election involving a small group of people (like a student organisation), tickets are generally based on individuals who would like to work together, as opposed to any great divergence in philosophy. Granted, there normally exists some forms of ideological differences between the teams in their "vision" for the organisation and the issues they have chosen to base their campaign on, but more often than not, it's also largely a matter of "I'm not so sure I'd want to work with them".

However, being small organisations with only a relative handful of seriously active participants, it's inevitable that everbody knows nearly everyone else. And because everyone knows everybody, certain teams end up being formed in "secret". I use inverted commas here because it's not really a secret; nearly everyone knows about it.

But why do we do this? What's up with all the secrecy? Is it because we're all friends? Is that the reason we shy away from blatently saying "We don't want to run with you because (insert legitimate reason or otherwise). We don't agree with your campaign/don't like the way you do things/think you're an asshole. So we're going to form a team in secret. But not really, 'cuz you know we're doing it. But we won't mention it anyway till elections draw nearer. Because it's a surprise!"

What, are we afraid to hurt their feelings? It's not like they're not going to know when the time comes. And seriously, surely if we're even thinking about running an organisation that deals in running activities for/looking after the welfare of/otherwise interacting with a few hundred/thousand students, we can be mature enough to accept the fact that not everybody thinks we're the best thing since sliced bread.

Make no mistake, I'm not innocent of this either; I, too, have once taken part in such a practice. I've seen it happen to others many times more. And I'm still wondering.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hmph. Today was largely another wasted day. After going through my newsfeeds in the morning, I then went on to read through my research material (surprising as that may be). Unfortunately, I forgot to watch the clock. Before I knew it, it was 12+...and I had a lecture at 11...

I..heheh..decided to skip the lecture since I would have missed nearly 3/4 of it anyway. This is really quite horrible. I have only 4 hours of lecture a week, and here I go missing 2 of them. Dammit. Well, guess I'll just have to go grab notes from Rick or Yogen.

So anyway, I decided to go to uni. Stopped by faculty to look for Bruce, who's my thesis supervisor. I sent him an email last wednesday/thursday about creating the questionaire for the thesis and he has yet to reply. Apparently, he's away till Wednesday, which is weird 'cuz he said he's be back from his conference last Friday. What does "away till Wednesday" mean, anyway? So, is he back on Wednesday or Thursday? Stupid language...

Popped by the faculty office to see Helen, the Academic Advisor, who made me fill out a form to shift some credits around so I can graduate this semester, than spoke to Michelle, the receptionist. She has no idea where Bruce is, either. -sighz-

Went over to MUISS and mucked about on the MUISS computer for a while. Tried to load more photos onto my photoalbum, but the MUISS computer wouldn't allow me to install the thingamajig upload tool. That just totally blows 'cuz my home connection's been crawling like a sloth the entire month. So I guess you won't be seeing any photos from me anytime soon.

Went downstairs to Meeting Point and got some lunch, then had a chat with mei, Rong, Wendy and her friend. Talked a bit about SAM (the club) and the upcoming ball, and bitched about some guy called Keith. (Don't worry, not you. Some other Keith. :P) Their booth duty started soon after, so I headed back up to MUISS. Had a chat with Danny over a smoke, talking about both MUISS and non-MUISS stuff.

I reached home around 1430 and bummed around some more, chatting with Janz online. Then I made the stupid decision to go take a nap. It was stupid because I was supposed to meet Janz after her work at 1800 to go to the gym. In my defense, I did set my clock for 1650 and ask her to call me when she got off work at 5...

As luck would have it, I slapped off the alarm thinking Janz would call me (plus I was a lil' too sleepy to care), but for some reason, she couldn't get through to my mobile. So I only got up close to 1900 when she was nearly home from the gym... Sorry, Janz!!!!!! ^^;;

After waking up, I bummed around a little more, then decided to write a review on GDS2 (below). Started feeling slightly hungry after that, so went to San Remo and got a take-away of spaghetti marinara.

Right now, I'm wondering why Thunderbird isn't downloading my newsfeeds, grumbling at the extreme tortise-like fleetfootedness of the net connection and teaching Pris how to grab a screen shot, all while typing this out.

Who says guys can't multi-task? :P

Google Desktop 2 (Beta) Preliminary Review

So..I went and installed GDS2, and after monkeying about with it for a while, here are my thoughts.
  • News
    Not too bad; it apparently pulls news feeds from a variety of newspaper websites to give you relatively up-to-date reports on what's happening in the big out there. My main gripe is that the user has no control (that I can see) over where the news is pulled from; it just motors on by itself. Now, I'm not sure if the app molds itself to your surfing habits or not, but it would be nice to have a slight touch of control, even something as simple as specifying your location and the type of news you're interested in.
  • Web Clips
    Google's version of a feed reader. It allows you to add and remove feeds and even has a nifty function that, when checked, automatically adds feeds from pages you frequent. Only problem I have with it is you can't sort feeds into categories/folders.
  • Email
    This panel displays any new email you have, both from Outlook as well as Gmail. Convenient, though you have to have Outlook open for GDS to check it, which kind of defeats the purpose...?
  • Scratch Pad
    This is a little notepad where the user can quickly type little notes or copy-and-paste details etc. It's like OneNote or PostIt for the desktop. I suppose it potentially has its uses, mainly adding convenience for the user.
  • What's Hot
    This little panel is updated with the latest hot topics being discussed from who-knows-where on the web. Useful if you want to keep in the know, but I personally feel that if that's you, you probably already know what's hot, and if you're like me, you couldn't care less. So it's probably useful for those not in the know, but want to be. ;)
  • Quick View
    This is something like the section of the Start menu which lists the programs that have been accessed recently, only it shows individual files. Something like "Recent Documents". Useful if you're lazy, or forgot where you opened a file from, but I wasn't particularly impressed.
  • Photos
    This displays a little random slideshow of the images GDS has found on your PC. Ok, seriously, why would most users want something like this? Maybe if I were really bored, but even then, I don't know. Seems a little too gimicky for me.
  • Stocks
    Since I don't dabble in stocks at all, I have no idea how well/poorly this works compared to normal stock aggregators.
  • Weather
    This is admittedly a useful feature, but only if you're currently in the US. For some reason, it shows Honolulu for me. Hopefully an international version will be up and running by launch. Another point is that it only shows very basic information like highs and lows, and a little image representing weather conditions. It also only shows the forecast for today and tomorrow. A little too basic for practical use, I reckon. If you're using Firefox, you're probably better off using the ForecastFox plug-in.
Overall, GDS2 adds convenience by trading in power and control; they're basic, stripped-down versions of more advanced apps you probably already have, just located conveniently together in a bunch. A few other things about the program overall:
  • I did notice a slight performance hit while using GDS2, which means power users who're anal about maximising every little bit of power available might want to give it a miss.
  • I like the fact that it swaps quickly between sidebar and deskbar modes with the click of a button. The panels are also easily rearranged to your liking, and each panel utilises a sliding drawer system to provide additional information.
  • There are more plug-ins available located at the plug-ins page. I like System Monitor, which presents your CPU and memory usage and so on, although, once again, it's pretty basic.

    Also, if you're using an email client other than Outlook (I use Thunderbird), you migt want to download the MIME indexer, which indexes .eml files and allows the email panel to display emails from any client.
At the end of the day, I guess I'll keep the sidebar around for a while and see how it works out. If anyone else gives it go, let me know what you think. :)

Mr. Ploppy's Affiliate Marketing Tool List

Affiliate Marketing, a subset of SEO, has always been a tricky business. Thankfully, Mr. Ploppy has kindly put together a list of some of the best Affiliate Marketing tools around. So, if you're in the SEO business, or have ever wanted to find out more, give it a look. Be forewarned though that there are probably as many black-hat tools there as there are white-hat. A good list, nevertheless.

(What is Affiliate Marketing?)

Google Desktop 2 (Beta)

The breaking news this morning is that Google has released their newest version of Desktop Search called Google Desktop 2 (now in beta). It uses a sidebar format and apparently does a lot more than just search; it also integrates email status, webfeeds reader, weather and stock reports and even a little picture slideshow thingamajig. I'll write up more about it if I get around to installing it later today. In the meantime, check out this review from InsideGoogle. Be sure to also read the comments.

Recent activities

So..what's been happening in my life recently? A lot, but I'll just go over the last few days before I bore you to tears. I mean, you must be bored already if you're here, so you don't really need more, eh?

Anyhoo, went to the Monash Multicultural Night (MMN) on Friday night. This year it was at the Park Hyatt, which is actually a pretty small hotel for a Hyatt. Had a pretty good time there. Although wasn't as oh-my-god brilliantly pulled off as last year's ball (which I'm sure will go down in history as the best MMN ever, thanks to the amazing job pulled off by the logistics exec. Fine, and the events exec. Oh alright, the whole committee. :P) it was a fun ball nevertheless.

They managed to sell 33 tables, which is 10 more than last year. That's quite an amazing feat. Although 10 tables were VIP tables. We (last comm) are pretty sure it must be because last year's ball was such a hit that tons of people wanted to go for this years. I mean, what other explanation can there be? ;]

So anyway, props to this year's MMN comm for a good job. The atmosphere was certainly lively, many lucky draw prizes (only I didn't win. Again. :[ ), good performances (mostly dances) and most importantly, free flow of alcohol! The "special" performance was a brilliant touch. Seriously, who would've thought two of the most senior uni staff could play the guitar and sing so well? And the harmonica, holy crap!

I wasn't too impressed by a couple of points, though. These in no way made the ball anything less than great, but are just pointers to bear in mind.
  1. No games. You really need games or some other way of encouraging audience participation.
  2. The two-tiered ballroom. Ok on its own, but arranging the tables in two rows on the higher level means that those in the row farthest from the stage had a hard time watching the performances. I only noticed this because that's where I was sitting.
  3. Staff tickets shouldn't be entered in the lucky draw. The ball is, after all, meant for students. I'm not sure many people were too happy that a staff member won the Xbox. I was okay with it, but some people were talking.
  4. Danny won the Grand Prize. What the hell?! Kelong!!!! :P
Okay, guess that was more than a couple. Anyway...after ball we went to Next Blue for the after-party. That was alright. Typical clubbing and stuff. Spent close to $150 buying people drinks, which explains my current brokeness. :'(

Just a note if the current committee reads this: Get Trent to give you more! Last year we managed to get 30 VIP passes for the committee, free ladies' passes, CDs, free drink cards and so on. Although that might have been because we knew him...

Speaking of Trent, it was nice to see him again. I apologised for not turning up at his gigs for the last many months, but he was cool and invited me to Stereo's last bash in two weeks. Apparently KampNokturnal is planning to move from Next Blue down to Platform 1 at Flinder's Street Station and start something different there. I guess it makes sense. The life of a weekly clubbing event is generally between 1.5 to 2 years before the crowd starts getting bored and looks for something new, so the fact that Stereo's lasted for nearly 2.5 years is pretty impressive.

So, after getting off the high from the many drinks I wasted my money on, I went with my sis and Keith et. al. to Crown to try and win some money back (yeah, right). Keith and Sarah introduced me to three-card poker, which was quite interesting. I only didn't like the fact you have to pay just to see your cards. Think I'll stick to Hold'em, Roulette and good old Black Jack.

Y'know how I said I went to try win my money back? I won all of 4 bucks. What kinda lousy luck is that?!

So anyway, hitched a ride home in Keith's car. One of their friends, whom I can't remember the name of right now, was pretty sick and we had to stop the car a few times. Hope she's ok.

So..reached home at around 5 and bummed around in my room for a while before going to bed at around 7. I set the alarm for 1300, but it was so nice and pleasingly cool in bed that I only forced myself to climb out at 1800. So..yeah. Pretty much wasted my Saturday. Also missed out on post-ball Yum Cha. Dangit.

Dinner was not bad. Retard cooked his "whatever chicken" and a new dish, "whatever fishballs with eggs". Gave Vv and Kee a call to check if they wanted to play mahjong, but they were out in Glen Waverly having dinner after post-ball yum cha and said they'd call later. Then Keith called up after dinner and asked us out for coffee.

Paul went and did whatever-it-is-he-normally-does-in-his-room and I went back to the Xbox while we waited for Keith. A punctured tyre later, and we were AirStream Cafe in Glen. The three guys got banana shakes, while Sarahmama got something hot (forgot what), and we had a good time chatting. Oh yeah! Nearly forgot that we saw two people at Century City who had just watched Wedding Crashers and looked suspiciously like they were on a date... Hmmmmmm...

So anyway, Vv and Kee came over at around midnight and we stayed up playing mahjong the whole night, pausing at around 3 for a Maccas break. As usual, their ice cream machine was being washed. :( We swapped to 3-player mahjong when we got back and things moved a lot faster. I don't know how many of you play 3-player mahjong like Paul and I do, but if you don't, you should!

That pretty much kept us awake till 0950, when we all piled into NED and went off to the city to pick up Janz, who was just getting back from Sydney (lucky girl). The five of us then proceeded to VicMart for lunch and some shopping. I got a new pair of shades to replace the pair I broke while boarding at Falls Creek, and a new belt to replace the one Clive gave me, which is frayed. I've been wearing that belt for years, though, and I mean, Clive gave it to me, so I turned it into a wrist strap thingie instead.

So anyway, we got back from the city mid-afternoon, and Retard headed off to St. Kilda to meet Abby while Janz and I went back to our rooms. I played more Xbox till dinner time. I was too lazy to cook (hahaha) so I settled for leftovers of whatever chicken and whatever fishballs-with-eggs over a DVD with Janz. The movie was pretty entertaining, and I'm guessing would've been even better to watch on the big screen.

After dinner-cum-movie, I played some Hold'em with Luke, Penny, Shaun and their friend Katsuya. No money involved, though. We stopped when the Grand Prix came on, and I was about to head back to my room when who should call me but Sarah asking if I'd like to join them for Hold'em!

Keith and Sarah came to pick me up, together with Si Tien and Rae, and we headed over to their place for Hold'em with Sam (Tan), James and Mags. Did pretty well and came in third and tops in the two tourneys we played.

Unfortunately, I think the two days of no sleep did me in and I came down with a fever that made me stay in bed till 2100 Monday. Yes, I know; I'm getting soft. Grabbed Maccas take-away for dinner and ate at home. Pris, Roger and Tristain came over and we played a few games of Dai Dee before I decided they really needed to learn how to play Hold'em. Unfortunately for them, I was the only one remaining after the just four hands. :D

We decided that was enough of cards for the night and proceeded to Paul's room to watch a DVD, which was still pretty funny the second time. We finished up at about 2+ and I walked Pris back to Rusden (Paul was lazy as usual :P). It's actually not that far. Probably equidistant to Maccas. By the way, if Jams ever gets to read this, stop playing games so much and spend more time down in Clayton, dammit! ;)

So anyway, got back home and checked my email, read my newsfeeds and so on, then got the stupid idea in my head that maybe I should give this blogging thing another go.

Which, I guess, brings us here.

Seeya tonight, if we're lucky.

A new hope?

So..why'd I decide to start a new blog? Hell if I know. Will it last longer than one post this time? Who knows? I guess we'll just have to wait and find out, hey?