Friday, April 30, 2010

Nokia Training on Qt

I attended a 3-day training at Makati Shangri-la organized by Forum Nokia. They're inviting developers to develop using the Qt Framework for the latest edition of the Series 60 phones. The Qt technology was acquired by Nokia when they bought the company Trolltech.

Qt is yet-another cross platform developer framework that uses C++. In that sense, its kinda like the .NET Framework except this one specifically works in Nokia Series 60 phones instead of Windows Mobile phone and .NET Compact Framework. It also has a lot more animation-related functions that can give Flash a run for its money. Or maybe not.

There are very few phones currently capable of supporting Qt. That is always a risk for developers to work on a platform without knowing for sure if it will become ubiquitous or it will end up in the technology graveyard.

I have to admit that the Qt framework is a helluva lot simpler to use than the old way of writing Series 60 apps using C++ and the Series 60 SDK. But I still haven't thought of a compelling reason to start writing Qt programs.

Updated List of Philippine Mobile Telco Prefix

I previously posted a list of mobile prefixes used by Philippine telcos. With Smart now at 40+ million subscribers and Globe around 25+ million, the NTC has released more prefixes to the telcos. I would like to acknowledge a Philstar writer (sorry, forgot her name) who took the time to do the research.

The Globe-assigned prefixes are: 0905, 0906, 0915, 0916, 0917, 0926, 0927, 0935. To Share-a-load, enter 2+10 digit globe/tm number. For per second billing, enter 232+10 digit. This will cost the call at P0.10/second for Mon to Sat and P0.05/sec for Sun. There is also the 235+10 digit offer which is P10 for 3 mins. And the 236+10 digit which is P20 for 20 mins.

For international calls, dial 12800 + countrycode + area code + telno. The price is P0.15/sec for the major countries -- US, Australia, Canada, China, Hongkong, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and UK.

The Smart-assigned prefixes are: 0907, 0908, 0909, 0910, 0912, 0918, 0919, 0920, 0921, 0928, 0929, 0930, 0938, 0939, 0999. And for Sun, its 0922, 0923, 0932, 0933.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile (aka. Manong Johnny) keeps hyping the supposed fact that telcos now charge per second due to a bill he filed. In fact, this is one of the major items in his TV ad. The sad truth is you only get the per second billing if you dial those obscure prefixes (ex. 232 for Globe). And nobody actually bother with those because if you embed those prefix in your phone's contact info, you cannot txt to that number. So its very cumbersome to add that prefix when calling, but not use it when txt-ing.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Chiang Family Outing 2010 @ Bellarocca Resort Marinduque

We were up by 4am on Apr 25 to catch our 7am flight to Marinduque. ZestAir told us to be there 2 hrs before the flight. ZestAir flights take off from the old domestic airport. Due to late arrival of aircraft, our flight was delayed by an hour. Bellarocca's GM, Mr. Gautier told us that ZestAir is always on time and that this was a rarity. Maybe we're really just unlucky but our return flight today (Apr 28) was also delayed by an hour!

Anyway, the flight to Marinduque took 35 mins. Then we were picked up by the resort van at the airport. There was a slight snafu as the local airport refused to let the Bellarocca staff get our luggage from the holding area. They insisted to use their porter or we carry it out ourselves. They're obviously protecting the local porters considering its a very small airport with not much tourists other than those going to Bellarocca. I had a bit of a bout with the local airport security head.

The van ride took 45 mins. From the dock, we took a 5 mins boat ride to get to the island where we were greeted by singing staff throwing flower petals. Mr. Gaultier was there to personally greet us. We drove off on the electric golf carts and registered at the lobby. We were then transferred to our cliff-side villas, Athena and Zeus.

Bellarocca (meaning "beautiful rock") is a Santorini-inspired island in the middle of the sea. The villas were just gorgeous. Can't thank the resort management enough under Mr. Gaultier for helping arrange everything perfectly. The service and hospitality of the staff is top-notch. There's even Internet access on the island care of satellite equipment. The house phones are Belkin IP phone units that ride on the same ethernet infrastructure as the data.
The resort did not scrimp on the furnishings and equipment. From German-designed (but Cebu-made) Dedon furnitures to high-end home theater and LCD TV equipment, we were really pampered. We also got a golf cart permanently assigned to us -- one for each villa. So getting around the island was a breeze.

On a little bit of downside, the island is still being continuously developed. There's not a whole lot of activities yet especially for the kids. There is a kids playroom at the main clubhouse though so the kids get entertained there. Also, the food selection is quite limited. Since we were there for 3 full days, we end up repeating some of the food after a couple of meals. Can't really blame the resort though. It would be impractical to have a really large menu especially since its a small, exclusive resort. The items that they would have to keep in inventory would be otherwise too many.

The waters around the island is also very clear. Not much marine life. The beach is also very rocky. Its definitely not a natural beach. The surrounding environment is quite beautiful with a large volcano in front of us. Everyone loved the place and the kids can't wait to come back here again someday. Kudos again to the management and staff of Bellarocca for making this a truly wonderful vacation

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Drag-and-Drop Attachments with GMail

Google Chrome announced a great new feature. Finally, you can drag-and-drop email attachments to Gmail. Unfortunately, this feature only works with the Chrome browser. While I do use Chrome most of the time on my HP Mini and home desktop, I still primarily use Microsoft IE 8 at my office desktop.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Caitlin's Face Swells Up

Its a sunny Sunday morning. Cols and I were getting ready to go to church. We're all excited for our trip to Bellarocca Resort in Marinduque tomorrow. Before heading down to the kitchen for breakfast, I passed by the kids' room. As usual, Ethan is already up and about playing with his train while Caitlin was still lazily sleeping.

Their ate Marlyn told me that Caitlin's lip seem to be swelling. I took a look and was shocked at how swollen her upper lip was. Her forehead also look deformed. Since William just had an allergic reaction the other day and his lips swelled up aso, we figure Caitlin must also just be having an allergic reaction.

Just the same, we decided to bring her to Medical City's ER for checkup. Imagine our shock when the doctor said that she should be confined for at least 2 days due to an infection! Since that part of the face is rather dangerous, they did not want to take any chances. There goes our vacation! Caitlin started crying when we told her we're calling off the trip because she was the one most excited with this. I called up Dad, who is with Nikki at China (and supposed to be coming home tonight) to tell them the situation. It was all agreed that we just have to move our entire trip to a future date.

So while Cols took care of admitting Caitlin to Medical City, I went to the ZestAir ticketing office at the old domestic airport to have our flight rebooked. I advised Bellarocca's General Manager, Mr. Jan-Michel Gautier, about the situation and he graciously offered us an extra night since the villas are available anyway! So instead of moving our Mon to Wed trip to next week, I moved it to Sun (Apr 25) to Wed (Apr 29).

Rebooking the tickets cost about P27k, but the extra night at Bellarocca will more than make up for it. Our vacation at Bellarocca hasn't even started and yet, I can already sense the excellent service that we will be receiving once we get there. The generous offer of Mr. Gautier was unnecessary on their part, and goes to show how far they will go to make sure our vacation will be perfect. Looking forward to being there next week!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Manny Pangilinan Plagiarizes at AdMU Commencement

I've been following the news thread regarding PLDT Chairman Manny Pangilinan (better known by his initials "MVP") in recent weeks with much amusement. MVP gave the commencement address at Ateneo de Manila's college graduation ceremony on March 27. What made this speech particularly controversial is that it was learned that several portions of it were copied from speeches delivered to other graduation ceremonies.

These fragments were found in graduation speeches delivered by known personalities such as Harry Potter's J. K. Rowling, Oprah Winfrey, Barrack Obama and talk-show host/comedian Conan O'Brien. So meat of MVP's speech was a veritable copy-and-paste of other people's speeches. This plagiarism incident might have gone unnoticed if it were not for the fact that it was delivered in a school of higher learning, no less.

The whole incident was so embarrassing that MVP offered to quit his post as Ateneo's chairman of the Board of Trustees. Being a busy person, it is expected that MVP does not really write his own speeches. Amidst the controversy, rumors came out that his ghost writers were actually former AdMU students themselves. This was later denied in a news article.

MVP's offer to resign was denied by the Board (probably out of delicadeza also). This did not go well with several faculty and staff. A statement was issued by these concerned staff, and I have to admit that I agree with their position. Allowing MVP to resign is actually the honorable thing to do and saves face for everyone. Denying his resignation offer puts him in a more awkward position with future events.

Thankfully, MVP insisted and even returned the doctorate degree awarded to him. A week or 2 later, he gave another graduation speech at FEU(?). I'm sure he learned his lesson this time and had it proof-read first. :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Clash of the Titans 2010

We watched Clash of the Titans 3D at Greenhills Theater with Nikki and Leslie. This is a remake of the 1981 movie of the same title; updated with the latest CGI effects, and of course, rendered in 3D. Unlike Avatar which was really intended to be in 3D, Clash of the Titans was not. It was only converted into 3D during post production. So it did not really make full use of the new media. It seems that all new, big movies are now coming out in 3D. I guess its the movie producers latest ploy to bring people to watch on the big screen instead of downloading the movie and watching it on standard 2D.

Clash of Titans is a retelling of the story of the demigod, Perseus. This movie is very loosely based on the original Greek tales. Unlike the 1981 version, this movie pretty much made up its own mythology with disregard to the original stories. Perseus is played by Sam Worthington. This guy seem to have popped out of nowhere and into the lead role of several recent major movies including Terminator Salvation and Avatar. Other major actors in the cast includes Liam Neeson (as Zeus) and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades).

This version explains that Zeus got Danae pregnant to spite her husband, Acrisius, who was waging a battle with the Olympian Gods. When Acrisius found out about the bastard child (aka. Perseus), he had him and his mother put in a casket and thrown into the sea. In the more classic story, Danae was the daughter of Acrisius. When the oracles foretold Acrisius that one day, the son of Danae, will kill him, he had the boy and Danae killed.

With the 1981 version, Perseus' love interest was Andromeda -- the damsel-in-distress who was going to be sacrificed to the sea monster. With the 2010 version, his love interest became Io, who in the original Greek classics, had nothing to do with Perseus. Also, the sea monster here is the Krakken, reminiscent of Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course, 'krakken', is a generic Scandinavian word that refers to some sea monster (most likely giant squids in the North Seas). But here, the Krakken is the beast controlled by Hades who used it to kill their parents, the original Olympians.

Pegasus, the famous winged white horse (and not the Gentlemen's Club over at Quezon Ave., hehehe) has metamorphosed into a black stallion with wings in this version. And there's not only one of these winged horse, but apparently an entire herd that graze together. Then there are new character additions -- the desert djinn's that saved them from the giant scorpions and accompanied them to the underworld to the lair of Medusa. Even though this CGI-enhanced Medusa was more nimble, she did not seem that scary and felt cartoonish.

For all its cheeziness (at least, by today's standards), the original 1981 Clash of the Titans, was a much better movie that left a deeper impression on me as a grade schooler than this latest incarnation.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Apple and Adobe War

The escalating Apple vs. Adobe War is starting to get interesting. It seem to have started with Apple's decision not to support Flash on their iPad and iPhones. Apple reasoned that they want to stick to the standard HTML5, which is not that widely supported yet. Apple batting for open standards seem anachronistic. After all, no computer or operating system is more closed than Apple. So why all these hullabaloo?

More recently, Apple changed the terms of use of their developer platform by requiring developers to code natively in C/C++ instead of using cross-platform frameworks. This further fueled the war with Adobe who was set to launch a Flash-based cross-platform framework that makes applications run on the iPhone without natively coding for it.

One conspiracy theory is that Apple does not want 3rd party application frameworks to control the schedule of application deployment. They reason that if developers decide to support a cross-platform framework like Flash or .NET, if the framework does not keep up with the updates of the OS (ex. the upcoming iPhone OS 4), developers will be at the mercy of these framework providers.

In a rare email reply, Steve Jobs tries to rationalize it also by saying that applications developed on top of cross-platform frameworks seldom work as well as those developed natively. A lot of developers are not happy with Apple's decision. But strangely, small browser maker Opera was approved entry into Apple App Store despite being a competitor of the built-in Safari browser. I don't know if their media hype to get Apple to put them into App Store made a difference. They supposedly put up a counter that shows the number of days their app has been posted for approval by Apple's staff.

Google Search Ranking Now Considers Site Speed

SEO followers have been hearing about Google's plan to use the speed of a website as part of its page ranking algorithm since late last year. This was finally admitted by Google today in their official blog post. The blog post claims that this new factor does not carry as much weight as the relevance of the page. It further says that fewer than 1% of search queries are affected by the site speed code. This new factor also affects only English-based searches so far.

Google added a Google Site Performance tool at its webmaster toolset. It analyzes your web site and provides data on the average load time, graphs out how the site has improved or slowed down over time. It also offers suggestions on how to speed up your site.

But does this whole thing actually make sense? To me, the relevance doesn't really seem to be related to site speed. Big companies can afford to get lots of bandwidth. But does that make their sites more relevant than the thorough research of some student in some small university?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Egg Hunt @ LGV

Leslie and William arrived early this morning (Nikki and Allison arrived first about a month ago). William was looking forward to his annual Easter Egg Hunt. Since this is the first time he's spending Easter in the Philippines, Nikki suggested we just do the egg hunt at our large garden.
We started a bit late (around past 5pm) because it was quite hot, and William had to take his nap since he is still adjusting to jet lag. But the kids were all excited and energetic with the event.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Holy Thursday @ Thunderbird Rizal

Since we had to plan ahead for a place to go to at Holy Week, and with Grandpa still at the hospital (before he passed away), we chose a nearby resort -- Thunderbird Rizal. Its part of an international chain of resorts. The Rizal branch is just about an hour from our house. So we figured, should anything catastrophic happen to Grandpa, at least we can easily come back. Of course, all of that is moot and academic at this point.

We had lunch at home first before heading out around noontime. Finding the place was not really difficult. I took the Cainta route instead of the Antipolo/Marcos Highway since I'm more familiar with that way. We arrived at the resort past 1pm.

Because the resort was fully booked the day before, the housekeeping could not cope fast enough to clean the rooms after checkout for the next guest to check-in. So we ended up waiting at the lobby for about an hour. All the other guests had to undergo the same hassle and people were constantly following up the front desk for the availability of their room. Mom, Dad, Nikki, and Allison arrived about half an hour later than we did, but they also had to wait at the lobby.

From Thunderbird Rizal

We finally got our adjacent rooms around 3pm. We were situated at the second floor facing the mountains and Laguna Lake in the far distance. Since it was really quite hot, we passed the time a bit and went to the pool around 4pm.

From Thunderbird Rizal
Ethan made big improvements. Even though he is still wearing his armband floaters, he was practically fearless in the pool. He would constantly go up and jump into the pool. When we last swam in Rockwell, he would be contented to wade by the shallow pool and would not even attempt to swim with the armband floaters. I don't know what he ate, but he's a completely new kid in the pool!

At night, we had dinner at the Chinese restaurant (no big surprise since the folks were with us). Food was pretty lame. Nothing to write home about. As part of our stay, we got a couple of P100 "free money" for the casino (yes, there's a casino in this resort). I tried it at the baccarat table and lost both coupons. I figure its not my lucky night so I did not add in real money, and instead, just went back to the room.