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 ( 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.