Saturday, December 27, 2008

Home Theater Sofa

Our 3-seater home theater sofa was delivered by Blims today! We went for a China-made cheaper version of La-Z Boy. It was about P10k cheaper (based on La-Z Boy SRP) and came with a free Toshiba Regza 19" LCD TV. Not that we really needed another TV, but I want to have 2 x PC's at our den and I don't want to buy another LCD monitor for the 2nd PC. A 15" LCD monitor nowadays costs about P6k.

From LGV House Blessing

The recliner mechanism of this sofa is not as good as La-Z Boy's. But one thing I liked about it over La-Z boy's 3-seater is the center seat reclines as well. With La-Z Boy, only the left and right side reclines while the center one converts into a table where you can put food. But I thought it was more important to have seating space so I opted for this one.

The home theater's configuration is supposed to have 2 x rows of theater sofas. But since we're on a tight budget, we opted for one set first and placed it on the raised floor section. Maybe we'll just put bean bags for a while on the front row for the kids.

The home theater is 6-meters deep. The sofa is just slightly behind the overhead projector. So that puts it at about 4-meters from the projection screen. I think its just right. If we put another set on the lower floor level, I think it will actually be too close to the screen.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas @ Boracay Day 3

With still almost the whole morning to spare, Cols, Caitlin, Les and I went to ride the banana boat. Ethan stayed at the hotel beach front with Dad, Nikki and William. At first Caitlin was afraid, but she got over it soon. After the banana boat, Cols and Les went parasailing. Caitlin and I stayed on the motorboat that pulled them.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

After the activities, the hotel shuttle drove us back to Discovery Shores were we played a bit more on the beach. I was advised a few weeks ago by PAL that our flight from Kalibo will be delayed by an hour. But the hotel insisted that we should leave at least 4 hrs before. So we left the hotel around 1pm. The shuttle took us to the ferry port. They arranged for the hotel boat from Boracay to Caticlan and hooked us up with a private van to take us to Kalibo airport. The transfer service was pretty efficient.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

We dozed off on the ride to Kalibo. When we got to the airport, there was nobody there as it was still too early. I checked us in while Cols ordered for food at the restaurant across the airport. We had a late lunch there. The flight took off on time. There were so few passengers. I think there were barely 20 of us in the Airbus back to Manila.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas @ Boracay Day 2

After a quick breakfast, it was off to the beach for the kids. We took the "island hopping" package from the same agent we got the sea walker yesterday. Mom and Les joined us. Nikki wasn't feeling too well so she stayed on shore with Dad and William.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

The supposed 3-hour bangka ride did not go far because of strong waves. December usually has strong waves and the sky is not as bright. There is always an overcast cloud, which is ok I guess since at least we don't need to put on that much sun tan. We went snorkling a bit in one section of the island beyond the former Station 1. After snorkling for about 10 to 15 mins with Les, we came back on board and were greeted by a marshall of some sorts who charged us for some environmental fee.

Then the bangka headed back towards the other direction (the side of the hotel) and went past Discovery Shores. There are several more resorts being constructed there including one supposedly owned by Manny Pacquiao. Then behind the bend is the soon-to-open Shangri-La Boracay. The beach sand there, in my opinion, is not as good as the main area though.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

After lunch, Ethan went to take his nap while Caitlin went to the children center at Discovery Shores. I called home to check on the maids and the house and we were advised by our helper, Didith, that the ceiling in their room has a big leak. We coordinated with our contractor/architect Juni for have someone come over. But being Dec 24 and all, her workers were all on leave. Cols was eventually able to get hold of Eloy, the electrician/plumber, and had him go over to the house and check.

Around 3:30pm, Cols, Les, Mom and I went over to Sea Wind to be entertained by the owner who is a former neighbor from Iloilo. She toured us her place and we had a hearty snack at their restaurant. We were so full that we had no more appetite for dinner. But we accompanied the kids for dinner at the beachfront of Discovery Shores.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

We took the hotel shuttle to D' Mall after dinner. That's the commercial area of Boracay where all the shops are. There's a small ferris wheel in the center area. The folks joined us in a while but Nikki and Les stayed home to rest. Caitlin was pretty sleepy already so after the folks had dinner at Mang Inasal, we called for the shuttle again for pickup.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas @ Boracay Day 1

We woke up early to catch our 9am flight to Kalibo. This being Christmas season and all, we wanted to make sure we won't get stuck with a long queue at the airport terminal. But surprisingly when we got there, the lanes were not congested at all. We took PAL from Terminal 2, while Dad and Nikki took PAL Express via Terminal 3. This is because we availed of our PAL miles last summer, but our trip got cancelled due to the typhoon. So we moved it to December to coincide with the whole Chiang family trip to Boracay.

Caitlin has been excited about going to Boracay the past 2 to 3 weeks. She's been counting down the days to Dec 23. So here we are. Our plane touched down on time at Kalibo and we took a chartered bus to Caticlan ferry terminal. From the terminal, we took a bangka to cross over. Then from the Caticlan terminal, we took a multicab for P250 (rip-off!) to get to Discovery Shores. We got there ahead of Dad's party even though we had to travel a longer distance because their plane left Manila much later.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

We arrived at the hotel around 1pm. Our room was not yet ready so they placed us in a temporary room. But we headed to the restaurant to catch a late lunch. The kids weren't complaining of hunger anyway. The folks arrived about 30 mins later and joined us for lunch.

After lunch, the kids went off to the beach. Cols and I contracted with one of the "agents" walking around the beach offering sports/activities. We went for the "Sea Walker". The guy took us via tricyle for P50 (another rip-off!) to get to the station. As it turned out, the station wasn't that far from our beachfront to begin with. One of the Yellow Cab Pizza outlet is behind that station.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

A motorboat took us to the location of the sea walker platform. A heavy piece of round helmet was put on our heads and it pumped in oxygen, which prevented the water from coming in. We got a quick briefing and jumped down. The walking area is about 20 to 30 feet below sea level. Its a very claustrophobic experience. It was already around 4:30pm and the sky was cloudy so the water below was also kinda dark. There were not much corals in that area and not that much fish either. The guide handed us some bread to break in the fishes. Cols and I had some shots taken by the guide using Les' underwater disposable camera. Just for the guide to take your picture, he'll also charge for the service (tourist trap!).

From Boracay Christmas 2008

For dinner, we walked over to Sea Wind Resort. They were having an eat-all-you-can barbecue buffet by the seaside. After a hearty meal, we had fruit shake smoothies at a popular place called Jonah's. Then headed back home to call it a night.

From Boracay Christmas 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mozcom Christmas Party

Mozcom and Comnet celebrated their Christmas parties separately this year. As far as I can recall, this is the first time that the two sister companies did not have a joint party. Since today's a Thursday, its the CRV's color coding so we only had one car. We scheduled a board meeting at Taipan in the afternoon so I just took a cab from the Peak to Taipan.

I instructed our driver to bring the Altis and park it in the adjacent public carpark at Taipan and just hand over the key to me when he's done servicing Caitlin. I usually park on the big lot between Taipan and Prestige Tower. But the driver had a different idea in mind and parked on the Julia Vargas side. So it took me some time to find where he left the car! Grrr...

The traffic within Ortigas Center was quite heavy. Lots of companies are probably having parties also. It took me about 30 mins just to get from Taipan to Shangrila EDSA Plaza. We were booked at Krocodile Grille. The party was a lot smaller this year because Comnet was not part of it. The three tech guys who played host did well. The motif this year was safari, but as usual, only a handful of people actually dressed up for the occasion.

We were done by around 9pm, I think so I headed home. Cols was simultaneously having a Christmas party with her Fortune Tobacco friends at home. By the time I got home, they were still chatting. Jehan, Carol, Bridgitte, Mar, Ollie, and their respective spouses and kids were there. The party lasted until around 11pm and that's when we called it a day.

Monday, December 15, 2008

First Monday

Its my first Monday to leave home for Makati. Since the Altis is on coding today, I left house the house pretty early at 6:15am to make it to Makati before 7am. I headed to Rockwell Club to workout at the gym. I'm not used to working out this early, but it was actually quite refreshing after the shower. Since the car is still on coding, I took the cab going to The Peak. The cab ride costs about P60 to P70 from Rockwell to The Peak.

Nikki arrived from Canada this morning with Leslie and William. We agreed to meet up for dinner at King Crab in Greenhills. But since I'm on coding, I couldn't leave Makati before 7pm. That was ok since I still had to empty the refrigerator; disconnect the PC; etc. and load everything onto the car.

I got to King Crab at about 7:30pm. The folks and Nikki soon followed. Ethan did not stay long as he was getting sleepy so he went home ahead. William still kinda looked the same from we last saw him. But Nikki assured us that he grew taller. :P

The food at King Crab tonight fell below my expectation. The King Crab rice wasn't as good as before. I think this is the only branch left. Poor control of food quality may have caused other branches (like the one here before in Jupiter St.) to close down.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Microwarehouse Sale

Cols, Caitlin and I came to Rockwell this morning to check what items have still been left behind. Cols also had to do the payroll from here since our LGV house still doesn't have Internet access and the PLDT DSL is still active at Rockwell. We had lunch by the poolside, then Cols and Caitlin went shopping while I went to a warehouse sale.

Microwarehouse, one of the larger distributor of Apple products in the Philippines, held a warehouse sale at Enterprise building along Ayala. It was publicized online, mainly via Facebook contacts. Social networking must be a pretty effective means of communication as there was a big turnout.

I parked quite far away since there's no street parking near Enterprise. I had to walk about 5 blocks, I think to get to Enterprise. To control the crowd, they assigned people numbers and only allowed 50 numbers at a given time. So I had to wait for my turn for about 30 mins, I think.

I initially planned on buying a Linksys (now Cisco) DSL router, but ended up getting a Belkin DSL router + wifi when I came across a former Mozcom employee (Dianne Lee) who is now Belkin's country head for Sales. I also got Cols an iPod nanochromatic since it was on sale at about 17% off. Cols has been dropping hints that she wanted an iPod after test-driving my demo iPod that we borrowed for Fliptunes before.

After I got my items, it was time for the cashier. The line here was ridiculously long and slow moving. I must have been there on that line for a good 2 hours. Luckily, Cols didn't get mad at me for going back to them late since I got her an iPod as my Christmas gift.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our First Blackout

I went back to Rockwell first thing in the morning to meet up with Quickpak for the last batch of boxes to be transferred. The guys came a bit late but we were out of the condo by noontime. So by afternoon, all our stuffs (aka. junks) are now officially at our new house in LGV!

Things went normally until at night, the power went off. At first, I was afraid that something went wrong with our house's (or Meralco's) electrical wiring. But I was reassured when I noticed that the entire neighborhood also had no power.

This was our first blackout for a while. Having lived at Rockwell all these years have spoiled us and left us unprepared for such eventualities. The residential complex's massive backup generator powered us through even the worst power outage in years as brought about by typhoon Milenyo a couple of years back. Caitlin kept complaining about the blackout.

Since we didn't have any backup light, we had to borrow one from Aunt Lucy. The power outage lasted for about half an hour, I think. According to our neighbors, these types of outages are quite rare. Who would have known that we'd be so "lucky" as to experience it just on our 2nd day of living here. :P

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Big Move-In Date

Our movers (Quickpak) arrived around 7:30am. They got a bit delayed because the admin person who needed to sign some gate passes for them was not yet around. They came up to our unit by around 8am and quickly started with their packing. I think there were around 10 packers.

They came with giant rolls of bubble wraps and packing tapes. They looked like they were really used to doing this as they quickly wrapped our 6 years worth of possessions into cartons. In a way, it was kinda sad to see our things leaving Rockwell, which had been our home since we got married. We brought the sofa with us, the huge master bed and the big master entertainment cabinet. It was amazing to see how they figure out how to disassemble it and re-assemble later.

I stayed at Rockwell to oversee the packing while Cols went ahead with the maids to LGV to receive the items. The Quickpak truck was only able to make 2 trips due to the heavy traffic. So several boxes still had to be left for a 3rd trip tomorrow. The important ones (like the bed) made it to the 6pm deadline of LGV for movers.

I left with the 2nd trip after locking the house. I arrived at LGV about the same time as the movers. The movers finished reassembling everything around 9pm to 10pm. We had our first dinner and overnight sleep at our new home tonight.

From Moving Out of Rockwell

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Meeting Arnold @ Petron

We've been moving in some boxes already to our new home in Loyola Grand Villas (LGV) ahead in preparation for the big move-in date tomorrow. We brought the maids to help clean the house already. After the day's work, we decided to just have a quick dinner at the Petron gas station outside the La Vista gate. Cols wanted to eat Jollibee with the household helps. Since I'm not particularly fond of Jollibee meals (the last Chickenjoy lunch I had was pretty disappointing), I went solo for Chowking.

While eating my rice topping, I saw a familiar face walking towards the restroom. It was my old Planet employee Arnold Julio. Last I heard of him, he said he went to UK to work for some telecom-related business. I waved him and we got reacquainted a bit. Seems that he's home for the holidays because of a death in the family. But he's already working for Nortel in a suburb a couple of hours from London. I'm happy to hear that he's doing well there and that his (second?) wife and baby have migrated there along with him.

Pretty amazing and coincidental how we happened to be in the same gas station at the same time. He said he just stopped by to use the restroom and was on his way to his house in Fairview.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cousin Lindsay's Wedding

Cols' cousing Lindsay Go got married today at Mary The Queen church. Caitlin was the flower girl. Its a weekday so I took the afternoon off (although I had a meeting in the morning with Beta, Elvie and Ronald at Taipan). Lindsay's husband (Zhen) flew in from the States and Lindsay will be living there next year.

The blushing bride was blooming on her wedding day. Caitlin tried to hide her missing front tooth by not smiling too much. Samantha (Uncle Peter's daughter) was the other flower girl. Shawn acted up and cried while walking on the aisle prompting Shella to walk down with him. All in all, the wedding was simple, but beautiful. Not very emotional (read: no crying from parents of losing their daughter).

Since the wedding started around 2pm, there was a long lull afterwards before the dinner at Shangrila Makati. The wait was well-rewarded as the sit-down meal was quite heavy starting off with my favorite smoked salmon appetizer of Makati Shang.

From Lindsay's Wedding

Monday, December 8, 2008

Yellow Cab Marikina Christmas Party

After 4 years of being a Yellow Cab Pizza franchisee, Cols and I finally joined our store's Christmas Party. This year's party was held at a small "resort" about 10 mins from Blue Wave called Nemohaven. Its basically a single pool with a small activity area and a room upstairs. Its kinda expensive at around P5k for the use of the facilities for the evening. Amazingly, it actually has a website -- http://nemohaven.com/.

We donated a lechon from Lydia's along Marcos Highway. Other dishes include chicken, vegetables and pasta. The store closed early (around 8pm) to give the staff enough time to clean up and head to the party venue. Everyone was in good spirits and joined the fun and games.

Cols and I stayed until past 11pm. The staff still stayed and swam on the pool. See the photos of the Christmas Party 2008 here.

From YCMK Christmas Party 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

First Party @ LGV

We held a small Christmas Party for our construction workers and contracters at our new house this afternoon. Cols prepared spaghetti, rice, buttered vegetables and chicken. We had about 20 guests which included our architect and general contractor Juni Azachee and her husband Anton, our Interior Decorator Monica Lagman, Arch. Arnold who drew the original house blueprint, our landscaper Noel Metilla, and the actual workers.

Grandma and Grandpa came over to also take part in the merry-making. Ilene, Alvin and Honeylen came to join. Cols rented monoblock tables and chairs for the guests to use at the garden.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Taking Cab Home from Training

I took the cab from Marvin Plaza since our CEH trainings have been finishing quite late. I had the misfortune of getting a cab with a neophyte driver. When I got into the cab, he asked me to give him directions to Rockwell. Ok, fine.

I gave him general directions to get to Makati Avenue. Surely, he would know such a common street. But he missed the intersection and kept going straight along Buendia. So we had to make a turn at Paseo de Roxas, then to Jupiter and back to P. Burgos towards Rockwell. I don't know if he's feigning ignorance just so his taxi meter gets to run longer or whether he's really clueless.

I reached Rockwell with the meter reading more than P100. I refused to pay him the amount because my cab ride the other day was only P70. I reasoned that it was his fault that we had to go farther than usual. I grudgingly paid him P100.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CEH Training Day 1

Since the training yesterday was postponed due to the holiday, the first day of my CEH training commenced today. There were only two of us students for this class. My classmate is an auditor from ICTSI (a sea port container operator). Our instructor is Mr. John Ang, a certified Microsoft and EC-Council trainor.

The course material is voluminous. Even with 5 full days, we cannot possible cover all modules. So only the major modules (maybe 1/3-rd of the total) will be discussed. The rest is self-study if we are to go for the certification exam.

Meals were included -- that's both lunch, snacks and dinner because we have to do overtime up to 8pm. I just took the cab home since its quite late and we already sent home the driver.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Of Tires and Jolly Green Giants

Today was supposed to be the first day of my Certified Ethical Hacking (CEH) training course. But due to some miscommunication, the party that booked my training (Softweb Consulting) was not advised that the training center will be closed due to a holiday (Bonifacio Day, which is normally Nov 30 was moved to the nearest Monday, Dec 1, as per President Arroyo's holiday economics rule). I went to Marvin Plaza but found out the training center was closed. Bummer.

I brought the CRV to the nearby Rapide along Makati Avenue for a new set of tires. All 4 tires are pretty worn out. These are still the original tires from way back in 2002. The normal place where we buy our tires do not have staff today due to the holiday, so we just asked Rapide to match their price and have it done there.

While waiting for the tire change and wheel alignment, I watched Hulk 2008 starring Edward Norton on my portable Sony DVD player at the Rapide office. Its certainly a much better Hulk than the previous attempt by Ang Lee in 2002(?). Marvel's Stan Lee made his usual cameo appearance in the movie as a victim who drank from bottle contaminated with Banner's gamma-poisoined blood.

Having a big, familiar baddie like The Abomination also gave it a feel of a superhero movie. The 2002 Hulk only had the usual military guys running after The Hulk. Tim Roth as the human-before-he-turned-into-Abomination was good except that I thought he looked kinda short compared to the other actors. For a toughie mercenary look, I would imagine they would have gotten someone bigger.

But I guess it did not matter much as he transformed to The Abomination, it was all computer-generated graphics (CG) already. The CG artists took a lot of liberty redefining The Abomination though. He was no longer the web-eared monster wearing spandex trunks like the comic books. :P

Friday, November 28, 2008

Christian Bautista @ Shangrila Mall

As has been our practice for the past few months at the office, all celebrants within the month would pool their celebration together at the end so that we can have only one party. Since my birthday is this month, I did the treating at the end of the month (today). For the party, Cols prepared chicken and salad. I had Jhonna (our admin) order spaghetti bilao's. Ethan and Yaya Rose brought the food to the office around 3:30pm with Cols driving to the Peak.

After eating a few bites, Caitlin came to pick me up around 4:30pm so we can get ready to go to Shangrila for Fliptunes' 2nd Popfest concert this year with Christian Bautista and the DLSU Pops Orchestra. We picked up Cols from home and headed straight to Shangrila EDSA Mall.

The show was held in the atrium/lobby of Shang. We got three (3) reserved right in front. The DLSU Pops Orchestra rendered about 5 songs before Christian was introduced. Of course, the excitement picked up when Christian came onstage and started singing. He plays the crowd really well; interacting with his "shrieking" fans. He did 6 songs, I think. Before the end of his last song, Jedi pulled us over and brought us to the backstage so we can have first crack at a photo op with him!

From http://picasaweb.google.com/dick.chiang/ChristianBautistaShangrilaMall?feat=embedwebsite

After the show, we did some more Christmas shopping and had dinner at a Korean restaurant at the top level.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Marikina City Engineering Office

After much delay, we still haven't received our clearance from the Marikina City Engineering office for our house's electrical system. Without this, Meralco refuses to process our application. I've been working with a contact of Tito Bert named "Rey" who claims to know people inside the City Hall, but the movement has been really sluggish.

I decided to take the afternoon off to get to the bottom of things at City Hall. I first went to the main Marikina City Hall where electrical permits are usually released. The City Hall is well kept and organized. There are people (city employees) roaming around offering strangers help if they look lost (like myself). Quite impressive.

When I got to the engineering window, the lady told me she does not know the name that Rey referred. As it turned out, the engineering office is in the City Hall Annex which is quite far. I took a tricycle going there. Cost me PHP20! I haven't taken a tricycle ride for a very long time and I was very surprised that it costs that much nowadays.

At the engineering office, I found the contact lady. Then we had to wait for the City Engineer to sign off on the papers. He was out on a meeting. So after what felt like a couple of hours, the contact lady offered to bring the papers inside to the restaurant from the Engineer was meeting another client to have it signed. At that time, it was also closing time already and I guess they were embarrassed that I was sitting it out there.

After a long wait, the paper came back and was signed by the supervisor who was also still there waiting. With the paper finally released, the next challenge now is to get our permanent breaker from Meralco.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

PayEasy is now PayPal Channel Partner

After a couple of months of working with PayPal in integrating Mozcom PayEasy to it via 3rd Party Merchant API, we finally made the official announcements today at our news site -- http://www.payeasy.ph/news_paypal.html. PayEasy is now an official PayPal Channel Partner.

In a nutshell, that means we can now officially and legitimately integrate a merchant's paypal merchant account as part of the PayEasy payment options. Through the 3rd Party Merchant API, we can just make Express Checkout calls in behalf of the original merchant. But all payments go directly to the merchant's PayPal account. PayEasy just earns incentives through the Channel Partner program.

Integrating to the API via SOAP was not so bad. I was able to recycle probably a good 80 to 90% of the original code I wrote to integrate PayEasy to the PayPal DirectPayment API (which has already been renamed to Website Payments Pro) before I switched to the Website Payments Standard model which only uses HTML. The Standard model plus the instant notification mechanism was just not very accurate. We would often get a couple of transactions which cleared in PayPal but did not properly post back to PayEasy. With the SOAP API, this problem will be permanently resolved.

So aside from the major credit cards, local ATM cards, mobile payments and direct bank debit from most of the banks in China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, Mozcom PayEasy can now provide local merchants with direct PayPal payment capability.

I posted a free press release at:

Press Release: PayPal Integration Made Easier For Philippine Online Merchants

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas Lights @ Rockwell

Sigh... I'm feeling nostalgic already thinking that this will be the last Christmas season we will spend at Rockwell. We're scheduled to transfer to our new home in Loyola Grand Villas, Marikina City before the year ends. Rockwell has been a comfortable and convenient home for the past six years, but I guess we've out-growned it.

Caitlin and I took our nightly after-dinner stroll to take some pictures of the festive lights. The trees are wrapped with red lights. The giant Christmas tree outside the Power Plant Mall is also filled with lights. I guess if you own the electric company (Meralco), you can afford to splurge on the lighting. I brought along my tripod so I can take long exposure shots using my Canon EOS 400D without the aid of flash and no hand shake.

From Rockwell Christmas 2008

Another Coincidental PictureBook Customer Sighting

I was processing a photobook order from one of our photographer-clients. She did the photo/video coverage of a child's baby party. While going through her layouts, I realized that the mother/baby is also a PictureShop customer for our full-spread picturebooks! The mom ordered their photo guest signbook for the party from us.

In fact, our 6x6 photo guest signbook was in the picturebook that the photographer-client layed out for this client. Very amazing coincidence. With so many potential customers in the Philippines, what's the likelihood of us bumping into the same client.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening

I watched M. Night Shyamalan's latest movie The Happening starring Mark Wahlberg tonight. I've followed most of the movies he wrote since Sixth Sense. However, I have to admit that most of them were disappointing, or at least, did not live up to Sixth Sense. The Village and Signs were so-so. Unbreakable was pretty much a dud. Lady in the Water is ho-hum.

A typical characteristic of M. Night's movies are the twists in the ending. He usually has this surprise ending such as when Bruce Willis realizes that he was dead in Sixth Sense; or in The Village where Joaquin Phoenix's found out their village was just a wall away from the rest of the present day world and that their elders were just scaring them so that they will not venture far away. With The Happening, the ending was very anti-climactic. The plot development was actually pretty good and had me at the edge of the seat eager to find out how it will pan out. But the ending left me hanging.

Another M. Night "signature" is his cameo appearances. He always makes these short appearances in some scene -- just as Stephen King appeared as a graveyard caretaker in his Sleepwalkers; or Stan Lee in Spiderman. With The Happening, M. Night did not appear visually but he was the phone voice of the guy pestering Mark's wife (they're having marital problems).

Mark Wahlberg is a pretty good actor. He can play tough guy roles (like in the new Max Payne movie) or like the nerdy high school science teacher in this movie. John Leguizamo is also another versatile actor. Although I normally think of him as a comedian, his dramatic performance in the movie as the friend/co-teacher of Mark was pretty darn good.

I guess the overall message of the movie is that if we don't take care of our environment, someday it will lash back at us. The likelihood of plants releasing neurotoxins that disables/inhibits the human self-preservation attribute is very far-fetched although its an interesting concept.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Off to GenSan for Grandpa's Death Anniversary

Woke up at 5:15am. Arggghhh! Hate taking the PAL flight to GenSan at 7am. It just screws up my body clock the whole day. Cols already went ahead yesterday. We're all going down to GenSan to celebrate her grandpa's 3rd year death anniversary. Technically, its really just been two years since he passed away, but they count the year of the death itself -- so that's 2006, 2007 and 2008 (or 3 years). And the 3rd year death anniversary is a big celebration for Chinese. It sorts of signal the end of the mourning period. And everyone can wear red again.

So anyway, the flight is about 2 hrs. But the Airbus was not full today so I think the the lighter plane was able to fly faster. I had the middle row all to myself. Actual flying time was only about 1.5 hrs. I watched my Sex and the City Movie download on our portable Sony DVD player. But because the first 15 mins or so of the plane's ascent (while the seatbelt fasten sign is on), you are not allowed to operate any electronic device, and also for the last 15 mins or so of the descent, I was really only able to watch about a little over an an hour's worth of the movie.

One thing I dislike about this portable player is it has no fast-forward on its control panel. You can only do fast-forward using the remote control unit. The remote control unit does not use standard AA or AAA batteries. Instead, it uses one of those round and flat battery typically used by watches. So we haven't gotten around to buying a battery for it and don't carry it around. So I guess I can only "resume" the movie when I get back to Manila and watch it on my regular Philips DVD 3455 Recorder/Player which I can fast-forward.

Since the plane arrived early, no one was around to fetch me at the airport. Waited for about 10 mins before Alvin arrived on the Starex. We headed over to Chester's house to rest and just pass the time. Time in the province is pretty slow. But I was able to resume my Doctor Who Season 3 marathon in the afternoon.

The big news today is Barack Obama winning the US presidency and making history as the first African-American to hold that position. It marked the end of 2 terms for the Repulicans under George W. Bush. Most people seem to think that John McCain was simply just too told to hold the position at 74 years old. While his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, charged up the troops, she was also belittled for her lack of experience in national and foreign policies. Some view Obama's win as good for the Philippines since he can sympathize better with other races being of mixed blood himself; others think that he will not be as supportive in fighting Abu Sayyaf and MILF insurgents in the south unlike the Republicans whose "no borders" mantra under Bush fully supported all forms of war against terrorism.

In other news, one of my favorite author, Michael Crichton, passed away. He became a household name with Jurassic Park and the tv series ER. I have several of his novels. I even have the last two, "State of Fear" and "Next", in hardcover. Its sad to see him go.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trip to Star City

We took both kids plus their respective yayas to Star City along Roxas Blvd at 4pm. Caitlin has been excited about this for some time. Actually, the original plan was to take them to Enchanted Kingdom (since its "cleaner"), but we figured it was too far and the entrance + rides fee is more expensive than Star City's. So it was decided that we go instead to Star City.

The ride-all-you-can fee was PHP300. We bought that for Caitlin and her Ate Melanie. Then Cols and I took the "3-Cheers" at PHP275 which entitles us up to 3 rides only (since I had no plans of really doing a lot of rides with the kids around). Yaya and Ethan bought regular entrance tickets since they don't really ride. In addition to that, we all bought extra tickets for the "Snow World" attraction at PHP100 each.

Star City started out as a Christmas season-only carnival/fair. But over the years, it has become a main stay and was converted into a regular theme park for the masses. So expected, the crowd patronizing it is more of the Class CD, as opposed to the AB crowd of Enchanted Kingdom. I was pleasantly surprised at their more "extreme" rides. Their Sky Flyer ride is way much better than the roller coaster at EK.

Our first ride was a small roller coaster for kids. Caitlin and I rode on the same car, while Cols rode with Melanie behind us. Caitlin had her eyes closed most of the ride but I think she enjoyed it. It was pretty boring for an adult, of course.

Next stop was the Snow World for all of us. Its like entering a giant ice plant, I guess. We were all required to wear jackets because of the cold. With the number of people visiting the attraction (and I doubt if they really wash those jackets regularly), the jacket had a bad smell. Ethan refused to wear his despite the cold. So they exited shortly after entering the attraction.

Caitlin loved the place although she was also cold. We rode the ice slide. At first, she was afraid to give it a try. But just like almost everything else, she loved it after one try and insisted to go for it again (and again). Melanie couldn't stand the cold and went out. But Caitlin and I rode the slide one more time before leaving.

After Snow World, Caitlin still wanted to try several other slides. But we all wanted to go home because it was already past 7pm. We relented and let her ride the kiddie bump car and then the ferris wheel. We had to drag her out after that since she still wanted to try all the other rides. All in all, Cols and I only used 1 out of our 3-cheer ride. Only Caitlin really maximized her ride-all-you-can ticket.

We got home exhausted and had dinner around 9pm. Then Dad called from China to ask how things were.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Caitlin's First Cemetery Trip

Since the folks are on tour in China, the task of visiting my brother's plot at the cemetery for All Saints Day rested on us again this year. And since one of our maids took her day-off today, we dragged Caitlin along so that she will not bug Ethan at home.

My brother is buried at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City. Its actually walking distance from Loyola Grand Villas' (where we will transfer to once our house is completed) Barangka Gate. But since the folks were not around, they lent us their driver (Jobert) so that we don't have to worry where to park. We also brought their household help (Vicky) along.

Caitlin took the whole thing in strides. She felt it was one big picnic. We brought junk food and iced tea. Vicky brought her little chair. It was drizzling a bit so the big umbrella became her makeshift tent. She didn't seem to feel afraid being around dead people. Of course, she had these initial fear that perhaps they might rise up from the ground (not sure if they show that on cartoons). She also had all sorts of questions why the baby in our neighboring plot died upon being (still-)born.

We only stayed for about an hour because of the bad weather. We left after that and bought take-out lunch at our Yellow Cab store and brought it to Valle for lunch.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Doctor Who Season 2

Stayed up late tonight (well, at least, later than usual) to finish the season finale episode of Doctor Who Season 2. The 2 part finale (episodes 12 & 13) was pretty exciting with millions of Cybermen and Daleks all attacking earth (and each other) at the same time. Torchwood Institute played an important role in the whole incident, so I guess it was a good way for it to get exposure so that it can later be spun-off into its own series.

The Doctor and Rose were reunited with familiar characters introduced in earlier episodes of Season 2 (Age of Steel) -- the father of Rose from the parallel universe, Mickey, her (ex-)boyfriend who stayed behind in that parallel world, and the freedom fighters. It also gave a nice closure to the story of Rose and her mother who got "trapped" in that other universe forever (although Rose did make a cameo appearance in Season 4). Her mom settled with her other-world dad and Rose mentioned at her farewell to the Doctor that they have a baby on the way.

The final goodbye scene between The Doctor and Rose was pretty touching. It was not clear to me whether The Doctor wanted to say "I Love You" to Rose in a romantic sense, or more in a fatherly sense. But he never got to say it because the power needed to send his holographic projection to that remote location in Denmark (or was it Norway) got cut-off before he was able to utter the words.

I've never really been a big fan of Billie Piper, who plays the character of Rose Tyler since Season 1. However, her dramatic acting in this last episode was pretty good. It was kinda sad to see her go. I'm not sure if it was Billie who wanted to pursue other acting opportunities or the show's producer wanted a different sidekick for The Doctor.

Doctor Who fans were given a preview of Freema Agyeman, who played Adeola in Torchwood Institute. The Adeola character was killed by the Cybermen. Freema went on to play Martha Jones, the main travelling companion of The Doctor in Season 3. The producers of the show had to explain though that Martha and Adeola were "cousins" hence the physical resemblance. Of course, in reality, it was Freema who played 2 different characters. Interestingly, Martha Jones eventually ended up as a Torchwood character just like her supposed cousin.

Freema is certainly more "eye candy" than Billie. Her character, Martha, is a medical student so she brings in a smarter(?) character than Rose to complement the Doctor. She was portrayed as a black (is African-British a more politically-correct term?) in the series, but according to her biography, she is actually half-Iranian and half-Ghanian. I initially thought she was Indian (as in a native from India, and not Native American Indian)

Season 2 ended with a preview of the Runaway Bride Christmas Special, which introduced viewers to Catherine Tate. She eventually becomes the Doctor's travelling companion, Donna Noble, in Season 4.

Looking forward to continuing my Doctor Who marathan of Season 3!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Testing Free Wifi with WiGO

Since I had a lunch meeting at Kuretake in Power Plant Mall, I decided to give the free Wifi service there a spin. The service, offered by WiGo, follows an ad-supported business model. You download their (really annoying) toolbar that continuosly flashes ads from their sponsors. In turn, you get to enjoy free Wifi service. Not such a bad deal, I guess.

I sat at the bench on the ground floor area in front of the Lacoste store not far from Marks & Spencer. A scan for available Wifi Access Points (WAP's) from that area shows four (4) operating points:

  • WiGOSpot-P1A-FreeWifi
  • WiGOSpot-P1B-FreeWifi
  • WiGOSpot-R2-FreeWifi
  • WiGOSpot-R3-FreeWifi

Based on the naming convention, two are located at the food court area in basement 1 (P1A & P1B), one on the 2nd floor (R2), and a third one at the 3rd floor (R3 -- the movie theater level). Power Plant Mall is fairly small so I guess 4 units is sufficient.



Once connected to a WAP, opening the browser leads you to the wigo login/signup page. Signup was quick and simply. Not too many intrusive and personal questions. The only thing I could not figure out was -- it asked for an email address and said it will email activation code there. Hmm... but how can you access your email and activate it if in the first place, you don't have wifi access yet? Kinda like a chicken-and-the-egg problem. But strangely, it allowed me to proceed online without having to activate the link that was emailed.



I hated the thought of downloading the executable ad Toolbar installer. But I had no choice so I went ahead. The surfing speed was not bad. Doing a traceroute shows they are going through Bayantel (bti.net.ph). Not too surprising since Rockwell is owned by the Lopezes. Banner advertisers so far include Bayantel, JobsDB, Flower Farm, 88Db, Dell, and Convergys.

My old Thinkpad only has a 1024 x 768 resolution. The toolbar ad was occupying about 1/5th of the screen below so it was pretty annoying (the window is configured to be "always on top"). It covers a portion of my browser at any given time. If you try to push out the toolbar beyond the edges of the desktop to "hide" it, it repositions itself so that the entire window is visible at all times. I guess for users of larger screens, it won't be that much of a problem. But in my case, just to use GMail, I had to keep moving the toolbar around so I can read what's lying underneath it! Ah, the price one pays for free Internet, I guess.




After testing the service for about 10 mins with my GMail, I hibernated my notebook and proceeded to Kuretake. The entrance to the restaurant is outside the mall and along the driveway -- although its still part of the mall building. I checked my notebook again and found out there's no Wifi signal there. :P

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Configuring Cisco 2501

It must have been more than 6 years since I last configured a Cisco router. My knowledge on IOS is so rusty already that I had to resurrect some old config files from my Planet days that I burnt onto CD for posterity sake. I sold a second-hand Cisco 2501 to my uncle's company so I had to re-live my Cisco days and configure it to see the telco's router via ppp encapsulation. It wasn't so bad though. I got it to ping the other router after just copying-and-pasting some old config file!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Low Mileage With Ethanol

For the past several months (even before the fuel prices started skyrocketing), we've been using Shell's E-10 Ethanol Blend for our Altis and CRV. E-10 was PHP2.00 cheaper than regular unleaded (although its now just PHP1.75 cheaper) and according to people I've talked to, modern cars with fuel-injected engines should have no problem with ethanol. At some point during the peak of the fuel crisis, all gas stations would run out of E-10 as everyone switched to it.

I saw Petron's ad recently claiming that their Extra Unleaded gasoline gives better mileage to cars. That made me wonder whether there is really a difference in terms of mileage depending on what kind of fuel you use. So I had both CRV and Altis driven until their tanks were empty then filled them up with E-10 so I can measure their mileage. The CRV has a 48L tank and the Altis has 40L.

After about a week and a half, both tanks were already empty. We checked the odometer and were surprised with the finding. The last time I measured their mileage was a couple of years ago when we were still exclusively using unleaded fuel. Back then, the Altis does about 11 km/liter, while the CRV does about 9 km/liter. With this recent experiment, the Altis showed a dismal 8 km/liter, and the CRV just below 6 km/liter! A drop of more than 25% in terms of mileage! For a measly 4% to 5% savings on E-10 vs. Unleaded, we lost 25% in mileage.

Could this have been just coincidental or does E-10 really evaporate faster, and thus, get consumed faster than regular unleaded? Well, we emptied both tanks again today and filled them up with regular unleaded. Odometers have been reset to zero, so we'll see in a couple of week's time if mileage improves with regular unleaded.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Off to Cebu for SEO Tech Talk

Woke up early today to catch the 8:30am flight to Cebu. I took Cebu Pacific so I boarded at the new Terminal 3. Its my first time to go through Terminal 3. The airport looks very clean and cavernous. Reminds me a lot of Hong Kong's international airport -- only slightly smaller. Majority of the stalls reserved for concessionaires are still empty and boarded up. With only Cebu Pacific and Air Philippines using the terminal for now, there's not yet a lot of people (which probably explains why there are very few concessionaires operating as of now).

I brought along my new Sony portable DVD player to help pass the time. The flight was not very long. From the time the captain announced that you can bring out electronic equipment while on flight, until the time he announced that all electronic equipment have to be stowed, it must have only been about 40 mins. I wasn't even able to finish one full episode of Dr. Who.

I'm going through Dr. Who Season 2 right now with David Tennant playing the lead role of The Doctor. The episode I watched on the plane, The Girl In The Fireplace, was one of the best stories so far. Its one of the rare episodes where the character of The Doctor falls in love with no less than Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, also known as Madame de Pompadour, the mistress of King Louis XV. Its not surprising it won the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Upon arrival at Cebu, I took the airport cab to Mozcom Cebu office in Metrobank Plaza. I proceeded with Mike and Jeremy to Casino Espanol for lunch and preparation for our Tech Talk on Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I gave an internal SEO training to our tech people earlier this year on the same topic, so I used more-or-less the same slides.

We originally planned to have about 40 to 50 participants only. We ended up getting more than a hundred online registrants and we had to turn down some. At the end, we had about 70+ attendees representing about 50 different companies and businesses.

Mike dropped me off at Marco Polo, since he just lives across the street. I was really drained by the afternoon activity (and the fact that I had to wake up early this morning) so I almost fell asleep upon resting on the bed. I dragged myself downstairs for dinner at the poolside bar. The servings were bigger than I expected so I was really full. The Marco wood-fire pizza was a bit of a letdown though. It wasn't as good as I hoped.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Philips DVP-5166K and New Samsung LCD

The government called off work today in celebration of the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr. So I did some errands -- had a customer's full-spread picturebook produced, then went to Western Appliance to pickup our free 22" Samsung Series 4 LCD TV. Samsung has been very aggressive with building their other appliance businesses (aircon, refrigerator) and they have been giving away their LCD TV (the crown jewel of their consumer electronics business) as a come-on. We recently bought a new Samsung refrigerator for the new house and this TV came as a freebie.

To go with the new LCD TV, I bought an entry-level Philips DVP-5166k DVD/CD/DivX/MP3 player. Unlike my previous Philips DVDR3455H recorder/player, this player is more basic. It does not come with a TV tuner and hard-drive for recording or pausing live TV programs. Of course, it also does not have DVD-writing capability. The remote control is more basic. On the plus side, it has new features not found in my DVDR3455H.

These include:
  • It is DivX Ultra certified already (my DVDR3455H is just standard DivX certified). So I should be able to playback DivX Author-generated files or DivX Converter concatenated DivX files.
  • A Karaoke support scoring feature
  • Windows Media Audio (WMA) playback
  • Progressive scanning video output
  • DivX playback via USB (still have yet to actually try this out)

In the meantime, I installed both the player and the new LCD TV at the kids' room. So Ethan gets to enjoy watching his Dora/Diego cartoons at his room.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Doctor Who Marathon

I've been doing a marathan-of-sorts of Doctor Who Season 4 this week. Since Season 4 is not yet finished (I think), I've only gone through the first 6 episodes. I've been a Doctor Who fan since the 5th or 6th grade since a friend introduced me to the character. Back then, his stories were available on pocketbooks only since the TV series wasn't being aired here locally. I must have collected a good couple of dozen Doctor Who pocketbooks during this time.

Doing a bit of research on the Time Lord from Gallifrey known only as "The Doctor", I was surprised to find out that it is actually listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the longest running sci-fi tv show in the world having started back in 1963! And since the character was designed to be able to "regenerate" himself several times whenever he is about to die, the producers of the show was able to conveniently explain having different actors play the role.

The current Doctor (actually the tenth already) is played by David Tennant. I think he portrays the Doctor's quirkiness, eccentricity and humor quite well. I wasn't a big fan of the ninth doctor played by Christopher Eccleston. I think the character of Donna Noble (Catherine Tate) is a bit too old to be the Doctor's companion though. I would have preferred a younger sidekick.

I was also surprised to find out that BBC has spun-off a couple of series recently based on the Doctor Who characters -- The Sarah Jane Adventures, K-9 and Company, and Torchwood (which turns out to be an anagram of "doctor who"). The Sarah Jane Adventures is based on one of the longest running companion of The Doctor, Sarah Jane Smith, while K-9 and Company is based on The Doctor's robotic dog sidekick, K-9. Both Sarah Jane and K-9 are familiar characters back from my pocketbook days, and its pleasant to know that their mythos have survived all these time and they have become main characters in their own storylines.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Opening Command Prompt at Desired Folder

Another really useful application I downloaded from Microsoft's PowerToys for XP is the Open Command Window Here utility. I often have to open the command window first, then change drive, then type the long folder name. With the Open Command Window Here utility, I just need to right-click on the folder name (from Windows Explorer) and choose the "Open Command Window Here" item on the pop-up menu. The command prompt opens and you are right there already! Saves me lots of typing.

The Alt-Tab Task Switcher is also interesting. Its more of bells-and-whistles though. It gives you a graphical preview of how the window of a certain application looks. So if you open multiple MS Word, for example, no need to guess anymore which Word document you want to switch to. The Alt-Tab Task Switcher gives you a thumbnail view of each Word session that is opened.

Monday, September 22, 2008

XP Virtual Desktop Manager

I finally got around to installing Microsoft's Virtual Desktop Manager today. Its a free download and is part of the Microsoft Power Toys for XP. I actually downloaded it the other day, but couldn't figure out how to get it to work. It just goes through the installation and then nothing. No icon on the desktop. Nothing added on the Start >> Programs menu bar. I had no idea where it was going and how to actually start it.

I had to do some research today and found the answer from this other blog entry. It apparently gets added to the taskbar's menu when you right-click it. Choose toolbars from the pop-up menu and you will see Desktop Manager.

The Desktop Manager gives you up to 4 virtual desktops. You can open new windows on each virtual desktop and avoid cluttering your main display. Its not as intuitive as virtual desktops in Linux though. I noticed that if you open a new application on a virtual desktop, even when you switch virtual desktops, the new application still appears at the bottom taskbar of the other desktops. Shouldn't it only appear on the taskbar of the particular virtual desktop that it was opened in?

It also does not shows you a thumbnail representation of the content of a virtual desktop. I remember using Borland's Sidekick utility that does the same about 15 years ago. At that time, it already shows you a thumbnail representation of its other virtual screens. I believe Linux virtual desktops also has the same capability.

Being able to switch virtual desktops by pressing the Windows Start button + "1", "2", "3" or "4" is a nice trick. Each virtual desktop can also have its wallpaper customized.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cashing Out with GCash

We had an online customer who paid us online via Globe G-Cash for a wire-bound picturebook a couple of weeks back. I never got around to cashing out since the Globe Hub at the Rockwell Power Plant closed down some time ago (I guess most residents in Rockwell use Smart?!). Since I needed some cash today, I dropped by the Globe business center in Blue Wave Marquinton of Marikina on my way to our store, to do a "cash-out" (that's what they call when you want to convert your G-Cash into real money).

My first problem was, I couldn't remember my MPIN. Globe requires that you keep changing your MPIN every few months. And you are not allowed to re-use your last 3 MPIN's. For people who don't use their G-Cash on a regular basis, its practically impossible to remember the latest MPIN. So as expected, my transaction failed.

The lady asked me to called the G-Cash hotline 2882 to request for a password reset. So I used my Globe Handyphone to call the number. For those of you with a Globe phone, try calling that number (its a toll-free number anyway). It has one of the DUMBEST Interactive Voice Response (IVR) prompt! Ever!

The prompt goes:
"Welcome to your G-Cash Hotline. If you wish to talk to a customer service representative, press '0'."

That's all! Now lets ponder about that for a second. Is it just me or do you see the stupidity of the whole prompt? Maybe I'm just picky because in a previous lifetime, I actually wrote IVR software. This one is just plain stupid. Why would you bother putting an IVR if **THERE IS ONLY ONE OPTION TO CHOOSE FROM ANYWAY** ?!

If there is no press '1' for this; press '2' for that; etc., then why even bother putting a prompt? Why not just direct the customer straight to the customer service representative holding queue? Its not as if you have any other choice anyway! Is that sort of a trick just to filter out stupid people who don't know how to navigate IVR's from talking to the human operator?

Anyway, I digress. I got to talk to the operator who helped me reset my MPIN. The next problem was -- Globe's SMS system seems to be overloaded this Sunday afternoon. When the lady sends a Cash-Out SMS Request, you have to reply back with the MPIN confirmation within 5 mins. Otherwise, the transaction fails. But because Globe's SMS was particularly slow this afternoon, I was practically receiving the MPIN request at the same time as the time-out notification! D'oh!

After doing it a couple of times with the lady, I finally was able to get my P850 in cash. The whole transaction (including my waiting time at the queue) must have taken 30 mins or more!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bluetooth Programming with C#

I've been tinkering with an el-cheapo, unbranded, Bluetooth USB adapter that Purchasing bought from CD-R King for Php 250.00. I requested for the unit for R&D purposes with a planned kiosk project I have that needs to dispense digital music files onto bluetooth devices like mobile phones.

The device did not come with any CD installer. At first, that worried me. But when I plugged it in to my Windows XP, the OS automatically detected it and used its internal Bluetooth drivers. Based on my readings, it seems that there are only a handful of popular Bluetooth software stacks -- the built-in Microsoft stack, the one provided by Widcomm (now Broadcom) and Toshiba. The type of stack used seems to depend on the firmware of the adapter. Thankfully, my cheap USB adapter used the default Microsoft stack.

Since I have no plans of writing low-level code to talk to the hardware, I searched around for existing .NET libraries that work with Bluetooth. The most popular one seems to be 32feet.net by InTheHand. I'm not sure why "32 feet", other than maybe that's the typical short-range distance of Bluetooth? The free library actually is not limited to Bluetooth, but also supports Infrared (IrDA) and Object Exchange (OBEX).

The Bluetooth functions are easy to use. To scan for Bluetooth devices within the vicinity, you simply do a:

BluetoothClient bc = new BluetoothClient();
BluetoothDeviceInfo[] devices = bc.DiscoverDevices(8);


The BluetoothDeviceInfo structure will give you the device address (akin to an IP address) and device name. The device address is important since most commands would need to use it.

One can also invoke the built-in Bluetooth dialog boxes of Microsoft for searching devices by doing the following:

SelectBluetoothDeviceDialog sbdd = new SelectBluetoothDeviceDialog();
sbdd.ShowUnknown = true;
sbdd.ShowRemembered = true;
sbdd.ShowAuthenticated = true;
if (sbdd.ShowDialog() == DialogResult.OK)

{
...
}

OBEX is a communication protocol that facilitates the exchange of binary data between compliant devices. Using OBEX, one can send files from the phone (eg. photos taken by the camera phone) to the PC via Bluetooth; and vice-versa (eg. the PC-based kiosk sending a music file to the phone). It is pretty much based on standard HTTP technology and the .NET classes are fairly straightforward and similar to accessing web services.

Sending a file from the PC to the Bluetooth device is also very simple and takes only a few lines of code:

string filename = System.IO.Path.GetFileName(openFileDialog1.FileName);
Uri u = new Uri("obex-push://" + devAddr.ToString() + "/" + filename);
ObexWebRequest owr = new ObexWebRequest(u);
owr.ReadFile(openFileDialog1.FileName);
ObexWebResponse response = (ObexWebResponse)owr.GetResponse();
response.Close();


The call is blocking. I'm sure you can also implement this using async postback with the .NET library so it doesn't block, but I chose to implement it as a thread instead. The InTheHand library also contains samples on how to receive files on the PC side.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Ethan Headbutts Me

While playing around with the kids on their bed tonight, Ethan suddenly jerked his head back and hit me on my left eyebrow using the back of his head. It was a really stinging headbutt. And while it really hurt on my side, Ethan did not feel a thing. He was still playing around.

This led me to think about one of the things that has always puzzled me -- what is the proper way of doing a headbutt that does not hurt the attacker -- only the recipient? I'm a big fan of professional wrestling (or at least, the sports-entertainment variety of WWE). And they often use headbutts too. And the one giving it doesn't seem to get hurt.

So I did some research on the Net to find the answers. The key seems to be knowing which part of your head is the hardest; then using that to hit the part of the head which is the softest. In general, anything above the eyebrow level is the hard part (the cranium protecting the brain); while anything below is is the soft part.

The strongest part of the skull is the crown, which is roughly where the hairline is. The nose is one of the easiest to break, so if an attacker grabs you from behind, a sudden jerk of your head can hit him square in the nose. Other soft parts are the eyebrow (where Ethan hit me) and cheekbone.

Here's a couple of how-to's I found on the Net on how to give effective headbutts:

http://www.hubbardtwppd.org/selfdefense/headbutt.htm
http://www.wikihow.com/Head-Butt

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sony Portable DVD Player

We bought a new portable DVD player with LCD at Western Appliance -- the Sony DVP-FX720. Cols has been talking about getting a portable player for some time because it seems to be the only way to keep Ethan behaved when we're out in parties or when he's on vacation. Playing Barney or Dora on the portable DVD player can keep him entertained for hours.

The DVP-FX720 cost about P11k. We took the additional P1k+ Malayan Insurance offer for an extra 2-year coverage on parts and labor over-and-above the standard 1-year insurance. They allow payment with 12-month installment using a credit card so we went for that.

Cols was originally looking for a NextBase. But it did not support DivX. Philips sells a portable DVD player with LCD at around P7k, but no DivX also. The DivX models sells at P9k+. Our Philips CD/Radio player has been problematic so we decided to try another brand -- Sony this time. And with the DVP-FX720 supporting DivX and USB playback of mp3/jpg, it seemed to be the best choice.

I noted in an earlier blog entry that my Philips DVDR plays certain AVI files, aside from DivX. My friend Orly clarified that AVI and DivX are just "container" file formats. The actual data stored inside can use different codecs. So not all AVI's (or DivX files, for that matter) are playable by DivX players. Only those that contain data that were encoded in DivX codec can be played back correctly.

However, I would like to point out something I've noticed -- even though my Philips DVDR plays AVI files which contains DivX-encoded data, they don't seem to have the "proper" aspect ratio as my TV. I notice that there's often black letterboxes on the left and right side, and there is the annoying keystone-ish effect on the left and right edge of the screen. But none of my DivX-encoded file has this. I suspect that the DivX Encoder correctly applies the proper screen profile which fixes this problem. So there really does still seem to be a point in doing the extra step of converting AVI's to DivX even if the AVI already contains a DivX-encoded data.

Interestingly, the DVP-FX720 manual clarified that it also does not play DivX files more than 2GB or were encoded originally from a 720 HD source. That explains why I could not play the BBC Planet Earth series even on my Philips DVDR -- it has the same limitations as this Sony player. I still plan to buy a Philips DVD/DivX Ultra player with 1080p and HDMI support. I wonder if that one will play these HD files.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Disabling Windows Autoplay for Removable Drives and Media

I have long been annoyed with Windows opening the dialog box whenever I plug in a USB Flash Drive or a CD/DVD on the CD/DVD Drive. I would much prefer going to the drive myself from Windows Explorer. I've always been concerned also if the Autoplay might auto-run some malware or trojan on an infected flash drive.

I came across a tip from PC World magazine on how to turn it off in Windows XP. You have to disable it from the Group Policy (although I'm sure you can manually tweak it from the Registry if you know the exact key to look for).

The steps are:
  1. Click the Windows "Start" and choose "Run"
  2. Type gpedit.msc to start the Group Policy editor
  3. Select Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System
  4. On the right pane, double click on Turn off Autoplay Properties
  5. In the dialog box, click the Enabled button and choose All Drives from the dropdown list.
  6. Click OK.

That's it! Next time you plug in a flash drive, no more annoying autoplay.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PayEasy Now Accepting China, Thailand and Taiwan Online Payments

I've activated the PayEasy/Ecapay integration code last week on our production system, and no hitches so far. With this new code, PayEasy Direct merchants can already start accepting online payments from buyers in China, Taiwan and Thailand. China online debit bank payments are being processed directly by Ecapay through their direct partnerships with mainland Chinese banks. So this is our second gateway already to China, with the first one going through our partnership iPay88 / China Unionpay.

Practically all the major Chinese banks are supported: ICBC, China Construction Bank, Agricultural Bank of China, Bank of China, China Minsheng Bank, Guangdong Development Bank, Industrial Bank Co. Ltd., China MerchantBank, Shenzhen Development Bank, China Citic Bank, Huaxia Bank,Everbright Bank of China, Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, ChinaPost, Bank of Communications, Bank of Beijing, Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank, Nanhai Rural Credit Cooperatives, Guangzhou RuralCredit Cooperatives, Shunde Rural Credit Cooperatives, Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank, Guangzhou Commercial Bank, UDPay, Shenzhen CommercialBank. PayEasy's USD payments are automatically converted to Chinese Yuan (CNY/RMB).

For Thailand payments, Ecapay is switching it to their Thai partner, PaySbuy. PaySBuy operates as an e-Wallet similar to PayEasy. It supports direct debit funding from the ff. banks: Direct Thailand Bank Debit online payments with: KasikornBank, The Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Bank of Ayudhya, TMB Bank, Bangkok Bank and UOB Bank Thailand. USD payments are automatically converted toThai Baht (THB).

Taiwan payments are coursed through Ecapay's partner there, EZrun. I'm not familiar with the exact banks that they support. But Ecapay said they cover the main Taiwan banks. I think they also support some mobile payment capability in Taiwan (but I'm not really sure).

These new payment options have already been incorporated to our simplified PayEasy Cart and Mail models as well.

Highlighting GridView Rows using C# .NET with Javascript

I've been wondering for some time how to do that neat trick of changing the color of a data grid row when the mouse hovers over it. I'm sure its just a Javascript routine, but how do I integrate it with my C# .NET code and not really have to now Javascript (yes, I don't know how to write Javascript).

I did the usual Google search and found several answers. I tried them but could not seem to get it to work. Some of the explanations talk about trapping the ItemDataCreated event, but Visual Studio 2005 does not seem to have that event for the GridView object.

After a while, I realized that my search phrase in Google is wrong. I've been looking for ways to change the highlighting of a DataGrid row, when instead, I should have been looking for ways to change the highlight of a GridView row. The GridView is a newer construct introduced in VS2005 and is supposed to be more flexible than the older DataGrid model. So I reconstructed my query and found the answer I was looking for:
protected void TxnGrid_RowCreated(object sender, GridViewRowEventArgs e)
{
if (e.Row.RowType == DataControlRowType.DataRow)
{
e.Row.Attributes.Add("onmouseover",
"this.orig=this.style.backgroundColor;this.style.backgroundColor='#cccccc'");
e.Row.Attributes.Add("onmouseout",
"this.style.backgroundColor=this.orig;");
}
}

Some programmers suggest using the styles and doing something like:

e.Row.Attributes.Add("onMouseOver", "this.className='highlightrow'");
e.Row.Attributes.Add("onMouseOut", "this.className='normalrow'");

I can't seem to get it to work, however. The previous one worked better for me. Its not as elegant as the second one, admittedly. It would require changing the code just to change the background color, whereas the latter implementation only need a change in the stylesheet.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Checking Out Pico de Loro at Hamilo Coast in Batangas

Dad invited us to join him to Nasugbu, Batangas to check out a real estate development by SM which he is planning to invest on. They picked us up at about 8:45am and we headed to the SM Mall of Asia complex where we were supposed to take the coaster. But as it turned out, they just put us on a Mitsubishi L300 van since the coaster was "full" with other would-be investors.

Our van driver took the Coastal Road for Batangas. It was a bit traffic along the Imus area. But once we got past that, it was straight driving. Ethan was very well-behaved at the back row with Caitlin.

We stopped over for lunch at Dalampasigan in Batangas. The place looked like the hall of an old house. They served Filipino food, of course. Our guide treated us for bulalo, crispy pata, kare-kare and an inihaw platter. The other dining patrons were also heading for Hamilo Coast and were likewise being treated by their respective guides.

From the restaurant, we resumed our drive. It was another 15 to 20 mins of winding road. The van had a hard time climbing up the mountain road. We had to drive pass Punta Fuego to get to Pico de Loro. The two are practically just neighbors.

Pico de Loro is still in the early stages of development. A couple of buildings are about half-finished structurally. The man-made lagoon that will be in the middle of the building complex is already visible. The beach club is also partially constructed already. Aside from that, everything else is just mountains.

Our van dropped us off at Pico Point, which is their made showroom and where they currently entertain guests. The guide (Bo Rivera) showed us the different financial packages and layout, while Cols and the kids went down to check out the beach front.

We left Hamilo Coast at 3pm stopping by the Tagaytay wet market to buy some fruits. Mom took a long time buying fruits so we were there for at least 30 mins. We got back to Mall of Asia by 6pm. The actual road trip would have been 2.5 hrs were it not for the market detour. (It would be interesting in the future once they get the ferry between Mall of Asia and Hamilo Coast operational.) We just caught a quick dinner at Legend restaurant before we called it a day.



To see more of my photos of Hamilo Coast, visit this link.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Caitlin Second Tooth Falls Off

Caitlin's lower right milk tooth has been moving for a while. The lower left side milk tooth has actually fallen off already about a month ago. But it was quickly filled because the replacement permanent tooth was already growing behind it. With the lower right milk tooth, the replacement is also in place already, but it was shaking yet as hard as the left one before.

While playing with Ethan on our bed, Ethan accidentally hit Caitlin in the jaw and knocked off her tooth! Well, at least we don't have to worry about it anymore.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spending the Day with Caitlin

Cols and Ethan are in Gen San this whole week because of her grandma's birthday. So I've been playing single dad for Caitlin. I promised to bring her to the Mars exhibition at Mall of Asia since she seem to have a deep interest on planets. Since Caitlin slept at Valle last night (Friday), I attended to my Marikina errands first in the morning then had lunch at Valle.

We left Valle after lunch and passed by Rockwell quickly to bring an extra shirt. We rushed to Mall of Asia to catch the screening of the planets at the SM Science Discovery Center (aka. Planetarium) at 2:40pm. Our car arrived there in the nick of time, but to our disappointment, the Planetarium changed their screening schedule and only showed The Enchanted Reef the whole day. Stranger still, the lady was totally unaware of any exhibition about Mars. I could have sworn I saw in the newspapers that there was a Mars exhibition.

Well, Caitlin couldn't decided whether she wanted to watch The Enchanted Reef or to just come back again next time when the planets movie would be showing. But in the last minute, we decided to go in anyway. Even though it was still early, the lady said the next showing we can watch is at 4pm. So we had to kill time by going around the Science Discovery Center.

The Discovery Center is highly over-rated, in my opinion. There's hardly anything in there. They have a replica of first Philippine solar car. There's a flight simulator game. Smart has some games there housed in their kiosks. There were model images of robots in movies. Lego has its small room there showcasing their product. There's an earthquake simulation room. Overall, very lame as compared to other science museums I've seen abroad. There were a couple of scientist mascots walking around much to Caitlin's fear who suffers from a severe case of mascot-o-phobia (the irrational fear of mascots).

While waiting for the Planetarium to let us in, someone called me. I couldn't recognize his face at first. Had to spend 2 to 3 seconds before I recognized him -- Robenson Cheng, an old classmate from Grace! He's married now also with 2 kids and he was there with his family. His wife works for IBM and there was an IBM excursion where family member of their employees joined.

Caitlin and I watched The Enchanted Reef, an animated movie that is really about the effect of the moon on the tides. The clarity of the projection is not that clear, but it did make good use of the dome screen through interesting angles or points-of-view.

After the show, I took Caitlin to the ice skating rink. Along the way, she had to endure through yet another mascot sighting (this time of a chef mascot walking around the mall). We got 2 free skating tickets actually as part of the Discovery Center entrance. But I still had to rent her gear, hire an instructor for her, and pay for myself to accompany her inside. Total damage still amounted to more than P300 (no wonder SM is very generous is giving away free skating tickets, since you still had to pay for a lot of other things).

Caitlin had a great time skating. At first, I was afraid that she would give up since she was having trouble keeping her balance. But she was very attentive to her teacher and, pretty soon, was slowing moving around on her own. In fact, even after her 30 mins training was up, I though she would call it a day already. But no, she was willing to skate on her without anyone with her!

The ice skating rink of Mall of Asia is supposed to be "olympic-sized". It even had fake snow falling every hour or so. Click on the image below to see more photos of our day together.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wall-E

Cols and Ethan went to Gen San this past Tues (Aug 12), so I'm left babysitting Caitlin. I had to take a leave today to take care of bringing her to school; then meeting with our interior decorator at Greenhills after lunch; then back again to ICA to pickup Caitlin.

After school, we decided to catch the 4:10pm screening of Disney/Pixar's latest offering -- Wall-E. As can be expected from Pixar, the graphics and story-telling was top-notch. This is a much lower-budget movie than Cars or Monsters though. The actors providing the voice-overs are not known. But then again, there's very few dialogs as the robots (Wall-E and Eve) do not really talk much.

I would say the movie is "ok", but I don't think it will be a big commercial success unlike Cars. Sure, there's the usual merchandise tie-ups with the fast food chains and lots of toys bearing the character images, but I think the topic of Earth getting destroyed and made unliveable with this floating ship programmed to return when one of its droid have found signs of life, is a bit too complicated for kids to absorb. I had to keep explaining to Caitlin what's happening.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Amazon Online Payment

Amazon opened its online payment system to other would-be online merchants and competitors with little funfare. The service comes in two flavors: Checkout by Amazon and Amazon Simple Pay.

Checkout by Amazon gives merchants the same powerful checkout feature that one experiences when buying items from Amazon. It supports real-time shipping and tax computations; cross-promotions; orders management tasks and shipping tracking. You get full programmatic access similar to PayPal's API.

Amazon Simple Pay provides a simpler model that only requires cutting-and-pasting HTML code. This is useful for integrating the payment with an existing checkout process.

Both payment options let you leverage on the existing Amazon.com customer database. In fact, the buyer has to have an Amazon.com account in order to use the system. The upside is they do not have to re-enter their billing information since its already available. Of course, it leads one to ask -- would you trust Amazon payments if you offer products that compete with Amazon? And given that Amazon seem to sells everything including the kitchen sink, would you really want to give Amazon information on what your customers purchased from you?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Yet Another PictureBook Customer Sighting

I was just commenting last week on what's the likelihood of bumping into someone in a public gathering whom I would recognize because of our picture book service. I thought that it was extremely remote given that we don't really have a lot of clients and that our products are shipped all over the Philippines. Add to that the probability that even if you meet the person by chance, you will actually recognize the face just based on recall. Well, not only did I meet such a person last week, but even more amazingly -- I met another one today!

We had our residential condominium association annual meeting today at Luna Gardens. There were the usual rants from the usual disgruntled residents. The meeting ended earlier than usual (before 6pm). As is customary, there's finger foods served afterwards.

When the meeting was adjourned, everybody stood up and headed to the food area. There was this guy sitting in front who was, of course, walking towards the back exit. I looked at him and thought that he looked familiar somehow. Since everyone at the meeting had ID lace/tags, my eyes gravitated towards his.

The name sounded a bit familiar although I couldn't place where I saw it before. Then after about 3 seconds of pause, once again, it just clicked in my head -- I did the layout for this guy's picturebook! He was not our direct client. The one who contracted for the order was his staff who gave him the picturebook as a retirement memorabilia.

I was contemplating approaching him, but he looked a bit too serious. And he was talking to a couple of other admin staff so I didn't want to intrude.

Building My Home Theater Part 3: JBL SCS260.5 Speaker System

Last month, I wrote about the Harman-Kardon audio-video receiver (AVR) that I bought for my future home theater. I picked Package Two which came with the JBL SCS260.5 Speaker System. Although it cost a little bit more than the Package One because of these speaker set, I figure I might as well spend that extra PHP10,000 since I've spent a fortune (or will be spending a fortune) on the rest of the home theather anyway.



Its a typical 5 set speaker + subwoofer setup -- 2 x front L-R, 2 x rear L-R, and one center front speaker. The sales people at SM Applicance Center have been helpful in explaining what makes these speaker set different from the more common consumer brands like Sony, Pioneer or Yamaha (or maybe I've just be sales-talked and I'm now trying to post-justify my actions). But to their credit, JBL speakers are very popular for audiophiles as compared to the likes of Sony. Most movie theaters (even the SM Imax theater), use JBL speakers. JBL belong to the Harman group of company, which also owns the Harman-Kardon AVR's.

My whole shopping experience had a bit of a kink though. The Package Two had an SRP of around PHP49k. But since I was willing to pay cash, I haggled for a discount with the JBL/SM Appliance Center people. After some deliberation, they offered me an extra 7% discount. I came back a couple of days later and left a check. Then after it cleared, I had the unit picked up.

When I opened the box at home, I noticed that the "freebie" iPod Bridge to the AVR was missing. I thought it was an honest mistake and went to SM Appliance Center to ask for it. Then the salesman gave me this stupid look and asked if nobody told me that the reason why I got the discount was because they took out the freebie! Hello?!?!! He was the only JBL salesman I was talking to there, so who else could have possibly told me. And ALL appliance stores routinely give cash discounts with no bearing whatsoever to withholding any freebies.

What a rip-off from those dishonest people! If only there were other JBL outlets, I would willingly return this unit for a full refund. But only a few SM Appliance Centers seem to carry JBL. None of the other appliance chain stores (Western, Anson, etc.) carry JBL.

So I guess I have to live with the discounted unit minus The Bridge. For now, its no big deal since I don't even own an iPod. But I just felt cheated from the deal. So to anyone out there reading this blog -- be very careful when dealing with SM Appliance Center (or JBL sales people for that matter). I would still strongly recommend Western Appliance stores.

Some Very Interesting Statistical Trivia

I received a mailer from the International Herald Tribune soliciting for subscription to their newspaper. The mailer was different from the usual annoying junk mail. It contained several interesting stats (from 1% to 99%). Below are some of the ones I found more interesting:
  • 1% of the world's vehicles are in India
  • 4% of the world's population does not live in its country of birth
  • 7% of the world's male population is affected by red-green colorblindness
  • 9% of the world's population is left handed
  • 10% of the world has shopped online
  • 11% of the world's music is downloaded
  • 16% of the world's energy is produced by nuclear power plants
  • 17% of the world's population is illiterate
  • 21% of the world's atmosphere is oxygen (78% is nitrogen)
  • 22% of the world's population is Chinese
  • 24% of the world's undiscovered oil and gas lies in the Arctic
  • 26% of the world's construction cranes are in Dubai
  • 27% of the world's land surface is high mountain
  • 30% of the world's vehicles are owned by Americans
  • 34% of the world's cigarettes are smoked in China
  • 40% of the world's concrete is used in China
  • 42% of the world's spam email comes from the US
  • 50% of the world's languages have been lost in the last six years
  • 53% of the world's laptops are made in Taiwan
  • 54% of the world's popcorn is grown in Honduras
  • 56% of the world's suicides occur in China
  • 61% of the world's birth take place in Asia
  • 67% of the world's manual work is done by women
  • 69% of the world's Internet searches are done using Google
  • 70% of the world's population has never heard a dial tone
  • 72% of the world's fresh water is frozen in Antarctica
  • 73% of the world's population lives in cities
  • 74% of the world's convicted serial killers live in the US
  • 88% of the world's 12 year olds are familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator
  • 89% of the world's computers run on Microsoft Windows
  • 94% of the world's population recognizes the Coca-Cola trademark
  • 96% of the world's languages are spoken by only 4% of the world's population
  • 98% of the world's motherboards are produced by Taiwanese companies