Saturday, December 24, 2011

Flying to Gen San for Christmas

The traffic to NAIA was very light, but I left home 9:30am for my 12:30pm flight. The queue at the airport was pretty bad but moving.  Even the web check-in line was pretty long.  I went to the no checked-in baggage lane instead which was much shorter than web check-in.  I noticed Cebu Pacific also setup 2 x PC's for people to do self check-in.  But no one was using it. :P

My gate is packed like divisoria with no seats available.  So I decided to hang out here at Cafe France (the cafe formerly known as Delifrance before Jollibee sold it off).  The free Wifi here by Globe is actually pretty decent.  Makes the free PLDT Wifi at NAIA1 pale by comparison.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Samsung Allshare

I was experimenting with Samsung's Allshare feature.  Its a way for Samsung devices to share media among each other.  As far as I can tell, it seems to be Samsung's proprietary implementation of the DLNA standards which allow home devices to "talk" to each other over IP.

I can use my Samsung Galaxy S mobile phone to play its audio and video content on my Samsung LED TV.  My Samsung TV can also "see" what's on my phone and play it (if the format is supported) -- all using our home Wifi network.  Its pretty cool!

Samsung's proprietary implementation does not seem to be setting well in the forums though.  Many people are complaining that it does not adhere to the DLNA standards even though Samsung is claiming they are.  For example, if you run a DLNA server software on Linux, Samsung cannot "see" it.  Samsung devices seem to only work if you use their Windows-based Allshare server software on a Windows PC.  I've haven't tested this part yet.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Just Upgraded My TV's Firmware

This blog entry title would have sounded really strange a couple years ago.  But Smart TV's are really computers already.  And their features can be updated by loading the proper firmware.

I've been trying to figure out how to make our qwerty remote work with the U55D6600WP.  It actually uses Bluetooth technology to "pair" with the TV to send all those keystrokes.  But it will not work with the firmware that comes shipped with the TV.

I could not figure out how to make the TV perform a firmware upgrade via its Wi-Fi connection since the button is disabled.  So I opted to download the firmware on a regular computer; transferred it to USB; and performed the firmware upgrade via USB.

The upgrade went smoothly and the qwerty remote is now working!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Will Not Start Up

I was using my Galaxy Tab to read some comics.  I'm sure when I powered it down, the battery still had some juice left.  When Cols tried to turn it on today, it would not power up anymore.  I tried different electric sockets and plugging it direct to a USB port to no avail.

Finally, after reading some Android/Galaxy Tab forums, other users suggested holding down the power button for at least 10 seconds.  Some suggested touching the screen at the same time.  I don't know if the latter is just coincidental, but I pressed and touched at the same time and it worked!

Monday, December 5, 2011


I've never really understood before why people listen to audiobooks.  Are they visually challenged?  Are they just plain too lazy to read?  Well, as things turned out, I'm now an audiobook convert!

Yes, I found it to be the perfect cure for boredom during the long commute to work and going back home.  I easily spend between 2.5 hrs to 3 hrs a day driving to and from work.  Since it would be impossible to read a book while wading through traffic, listening through an audiobook on my Samsung Galaxy S makes the time just zoom by.

My first audiobook attempt was Stephen King's Cell (sometimes referred to as Pulse) read by Campbell Scott.  Unfortunately, my download seem to have gotten truncated at Chapter 7.  So I was left a bit hanging.  In the meantime, I switched to Steve Jobs official Biography by Walter Isaacson.  I've read iCon before, but "reading" (or "listening") to this one felt very fresh.  It was like listening to Steve's amazing life story for the first time.  Its just astounding how much of what we know about personal computing and user interface today originated from him.

As strange as it may sound, I now actually sort of look forward to the daily commute to catch up on my reading.  The only downside is you can only go at the pace of the reader, unlike a book where you can skim certain paragraphs or read at a faster pace.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Cheap Fiber Optic Cable

The Samsung Blu-Ray player that came with our new Samsung U55D6600WP TV did not come anymore with a coaxial audio port.  It only has an optical audio port at the back.  I was not aware that my really old Yamaha receiver actually had optical ports all these years.  The old Philips player was just connected to it via coaxial audio.  But after tinkering with the back panel of the Yamaha a bit, I noticed that the optical port was just covered.  D'oh!

I previously shopped for an optical cable at Shangri-La Mall where the audio/video shops there were selling them for like P1,500 or more.  Since we were at SM Marikina this afternoon, I tried going to Ace Hardware.  Lo-and-behold, they have China-made ones for a measly P250.  Digital data is digital data no matter how thick or how well-insulated a fiber optic cable is.  So I plunked in my hard-earned P250 and bought the low-end cables.

When I got home, I tried it and it worked perfectly fine!  Granted that I am not really an audiophile and that my hearing is not that sensitive to distinguish a cheap cable from an expensive one.  But the sounds are good enough for my regular movies.  'Nuff said.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New Samsung 55" LED TV

We've been wanting to upgrade our 3-year old Samsung 40" LCD Series 5 TV with a bigger one.   And finally, the successor was delivered today.  We bought a Samsung 55" LED TV (U55D6600WP).  Its a Series 6 TV, and not the top-of-the-line, break-your-piggy-bank Series 8 TV.  I've never been a bleeding-edge guy.  Even with computers, my specs are always 2 to 3 generations behind the latest-and-greatest technology out there.

The new TV came with 3D capability.  Granted that there are really not that many 3D movies out there yet, I guess its an investment for the future since that seems to be where the industry is headed.  Personally, I don't find 3D that amazing.  It doesn't really make the movie any "better".

What is interesting about the 3D capability of the U55D6600WP is it can make standard 2D output into pseudo-3D.  Its a software trick, but it does give a 3D feel to regular shows.  I don't know how the TV determines which part of a 2D show to make 3D-ish.  Does it assume that areas with pixels moving a lot faster to belong to an image that should be in the foreground, while slower-moving pixels are assumed to be background images?  I watched a short segment of 2D Captain America in this 3D-mode, and does get some sort of a feel of 3D admittedly.

The U55D660WP is labeled as a "Smart TV", a fancy word for a TV with a built-in computer.  It comes with an internal media player which can pretty much play a very broad range of media formats.  It renders having a separate player (ex. DVD) redundant.  You just copy the file you want to watch into a USB flash drive; stick it into one of the 3 available USB ports at the side; the TV takes over and can play the file directly.  I tried plugging in my WD portable drive to one of the USB ports and it could see all my movies inside and play it directly!

The unit also comes with built-in wifi capability and a wired ethernet port (which I am not using).  You would need it to download Samsung Apps; surf on the Internet; watch YouTube; have a Skype session; etc.  A qwerty remote control helps you navigate easily.

The freebies that came with the unit are:

  • Samsung Blu-ray Player
  • 4 x 3D Glasses
  • Megamind 3D Blu-ray Disc
  • Web cam
  • 32" Series 4 LCD TV
Although I've been a skeptic before, I now believe LED output really looks better than LCD.  It just looks so much brighter and colors are sharper.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Worst Passwords for 2011

Mashable compiled this list of the most commonly used passwords on the Internet for 2011. Do any of them look familiar to you? :P

1. password
2. 123456
4. qwerty
5. abc123
6. monkey
7. 1234567
8. letmein
9. trustno1
10. dragon
11. baseball
12. 111111
13. iloveyou
14. master
15. sunshine
16. ashley
17. bailey
18. passw0rd
19. shadow
20. 123123
21. 654321
22. superman
23. qazwsx
24. michael
25. football

Friday, November 11, 2011


Numerologists and geeks today are having a field day today. This will be the only 11/11/11 that we will have in our lifetime (the next one will be 2111 already).

On a bright note, Gmail is back to "normal". For several months, most of my outbound mail has been bouncing back to me. The Gmail filters seem to think I'm a spammer for some reason. It has rendered my Gmail account almost useless and I had to install Thunderbird just so I can send out email via Mozcom's SMTP. Thank goodness somebody there must have fixed something.

But on a sad note, Google announced that they will be shutting down Google Notebook by year-end. Its not exactly a popular app, but next to Gmail, its my most-used Google product! Its kinda like Microsoft One-Note. Its like notepad and is great for unstructured data. Now Google will be migrating all Google Notebook content into Google Docs (which I'm actually not that big of a fan).

Monday, November 7, 2011


I've been suffering from a really bad toothache in my inner left molar the past couple of days.  Since its a national holiday today in observance of a Muslim celebration, I went to see the dentist beside Ilene's nail space at QC.

When I got there, she confirmed my worst fear -- I needed to get a root canal!  However, since its currently inflamed, she cannot perform the procedure yet.  The infection need to subside first.  She cracked the cap covering that tooth and bore holes onto the damaged tooth to let it "singaw".  I didn't realize rotten tooth can smell so bad.  The stink permeated the entire room.

Once the pressure has been relieved by the removal of the cap, I finally feel a whole lot better.  But I'm not exactly looking forward at the inevitable root canal procedure itself.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Steve Jobs

Much have already been said about the recent death of Steve Jobs, Apple's co-founder. I don't really have much to add. I admire him for what he has done for the tech industry, movies (Pixar), music (iTunes, iPod), typography (fonts), telecommunications (iPhone), etc. Young and Simon's iCon is one of the best biographies I've ever read.

But strangely -- I've never been an Apple fan. I've bought an iPod for Cols before, but that's it. I don't personally own any Apple product myself. I have never lusted for an iPhone. I bought a Samsung Galaxy Android phone instead. I have no plans of getting an iPad, but a Galaxy Tab is in my shopping list this month-end at Singapore. I do love Pixar movies though.

I cannot deny the fact though that products like the Android phones or the Galaxy Tab would not have seen the light of the day were it not for Steve Jobs' creations.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Database Mishap

My database file has been growing big making backups rather slow. I decided to delete old records but things took an unexpected downward turn when I punched in the wrong query. What I wanted was:

delete from table1 where (cond1 or cond2) and cond3;

But the problem was I did not include the parenthesis and that completely changed the logic:

delete from table1 where cond1 or cond2 and cond3;

Crap! Had to spent the whole day restoring lost records. Luckily, my daily backups actually work. I was able to restore all data as of 2am. Just had to reconstruct the last few hundred records from 2am to around 11am when the disaster happened.

Thank goodness too for FBExport which significantly helped in the reconstruction. I should look more into this tool for doing incremental backups. The default gbak utility does not have that capability making backups of large Firebird files over-the-network really slow.

Friday, August 26, 2011

GMail Sucks

I never thought the day would come when I would say this, but -- I hate GMail! It seems that the GMail guys recently made lots of adjustments on their system to prevent spammers from taking advantage of their resources. But in the process, it has affected a lot of users including myself.

For the past 3 days, almost all my outgoing mail is being tagged as spam and is bounced back to me. I can receive incoming email without problems, but I can hardly reply to any of them. And the worst part is, after so many failed attempts in a day, my account got locked up for 24 hours!

So now I installed Mozilla Thunderbird and just configured it for IMAP with my GMail account. Then for my SMTP server, I just pointed it to Mozcom's SMTP so I can send out email. Its taking forever to synchronize the mailboxes though since I've been using GMail for years.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More Philippine Bank Codes

I tried to do an online fund transfer today from my Unionbank account to a client's HSBC account. When I checked the dropdown list, there was no HSBC but there was a "Hongkong Bank". Since I was not sure if it was one and the same, I called up Unionbank's Customer Service hotline. The phone rep put me on hold for a couple of minutes while she verified the info. She came back and told me that they are not the same.

I looked at the HTML code of the Unionbank Retail Internet Banking fund transfer page and it shows the different bank codes assigned to each item. I noticed that Hongkong Bank has a code of 010060014. I blogged a couple of years back about the possible bank codes that can be used when withdrawing money from PayPal to a bank account. I noted in that blog entry that based on Citibank's fund transfer page, code 010060014 belongs to HSBC.

Still not convinced, I decided to call a friend who works at HSBC and he confirmed that, a long time ago, HSBC was known simply as Hongkong Bank in the Philippines. So it seems that the Unionbank lady is mistaken.

Here's the bank code listing I got from Unionbank's page:

010770074 --- ABN AMRO
010320013 --- Allied Bank
010700015 --- ANZ Bank
011020011 --- Asia United Bank
010530667 --- Banco de Oro
010760013 --- Banco Santander Phil.Inc
010030015 --- Bangko Sentral
010670019 --- Bangkok Bank
010120019 --- Bank of America
011140014 --- Bank Of China (Manila)
010440016 --- Bank of Commerce
010040018 --- Bank of the Philippine Islands
010460012 --- Bank of Tokyo
010720011 --- Chase Manhattan Bank
010100013 --- China Bank
010690015 --- Chinatrust Commercial Bank
010070017 --- Citibank, N.A.
010650013 --- Deutsche Bank
010590018 --- Development Bank of the Phils.
010620014 --- East-West Bank
010130012 --- Equitable-PCI Bank
010860010 --- Export and Industry Bank
010169999 --- First E-Bank Corporation
010640010 --- Fuji Bank
010509999 --- Global Bank
010060014 --- Hongkong Bank
010560019 --- Intl Comml Bank of China
010660016 --- Intle Nederlanden Bank
010710018 --- Korea Exchange Bank
010350025 --- Land Bank
010220016 --- Maybank Philippines, Inc.
010269996 --- MetroBank
010110016 --- Phil. Bank of Communication
010080010 --- Philippine National Bank
010090039 --- PhilTrust Bank
010150018 --- Prudential Bank
010280014 --- RCBC
010140015 --- Security Bank
010050011 --- Standard Chartered Bank
010299995 --- UCPB
010270189 --- United Overseas Bank Phils.
010330016 --- Veterans Bank

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Smartphone Predictive Texting

Its been a couple of months since I switched from Nokia "dumb phone" to my Samsung Galaxy S smartphone. I was originally expecting to experience withdrawal symptoms after using the old mobile phone keypad with predictive texting for 15 years. But surprisingly, I'm getting the hang of qwerty typing on the lcd touchscreen surface of my smartphone.

Predictive texting on the Samsung is far more superior than in the dumb phone. I guess the manufacturerforesaw that thumb-typing on a small screen can produce a lot of wrong spellings. So the predictive texting tries to figure out what you are typing even if you occasionally hit an adjacent key and corrects it based on its dictionary.

Also unlike dumb phone predictive texting wherein you still have to type all the letters (for example, if the word has 10 letters, you still have to press 10 keys), the Samsung predictive text lets you just enter the first few letters. If you see that the word it predicted is correct, just hit space or some other punctuation and it performs auto-word completion.

If you type a new word that is not in the dictionary, it automatically adds it. It does not bring up a dialog box unlike Nokia dumb phone where you have to add the new word first.

Lastly, the predictive texting seem to learn which words you use most often and gives suggestion for auto-completion. Like in my case, just typing "Dr" automatically brings up "Dragonpay". The Nokia dumb phone dictionary is more based on just word frequency in general use and not specific to the user.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Getting Ready for Singapore

I bought Jetstar ticket online for the first time. We're planning to go to Singapore during the semestral break of the kids. Jetstar seems to have the best rate from Manila to Singapore as compared to Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific (I could never seem to catch those elusive Cebu Pacific seat sales). Jetstar flies out of NAIA unlike most other budget airlines who fly out of Clark (ex. AirAsia, Tiger Airways). And the Manila departure of 10:30am, and Singapore departure of 4:20pm, are just ideal.

While filling up the online credit card form using Google Chrome, the Jetstar site kept telling me that there were missing/invalid fields. I'm sure I filled up everything. This is reminiscent of PayEasy customers questioning us now and then about them filling up all the fields in PayEasy and yet its complaining of missing fields. So I followed the same advise I always give PayEasy customers -- try it out on Interne Explorer. Sure enough, it worked fine with IE. Very strange.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Goodbye Lullaby

Its not often that I get to hear a record album where I end up liking almost all the tracks. But Avril Lavigne's Goodbye Lullaby is one such album. Yeah, I know... Avril Lavigne is not exactly the type of singer that is supposed to appeal to 40-year-old-married-males-with-2 kids, but I actually like her music. Her genre of punk rock (with lots of angst), admittedly, is not my normal cup of tea either. But when I first saw the music video for Smile, one of the top singles from the album, I just had to hear the rest of the album.

Avril has matured a little bit with her music compared to her Under My Skin days. She still cusses a lot in her lyrics though. I believe she's a mom now and maybe that mellowed her a little bit. The title track, Goodbye Lullaby, seems to be her singing to her child (baby?).

Her acoustic rendition of the Guns 'N Roses classic, Knocking on Heaven's Door, added a nice contrasting touch to Avril's typical punk/pop-rock beat.

Darn That Landbank Dongle

I hate the whole concept of using dongles for Internet banking. Dongles are such a hassle to use. You have to run the custom program everytime to generate the unique password just to login. Then if you travel around, you have to remember to bring along the dongle. Otherwise, you cannot access your own bank account.

But some overly-protective banks require 2 factor authentication -- passwords (what you know) and physical USB dongles (what you have). Landbank is one of these paranoid banks. For corporate clients, Landbank gives up to three (3) dongles for free. They use Transcend USB flash drives with a custom Java program (on a positive note, I do get to use the 2GB storage as my general-purpose flash drive as well).

It is probably not surprising that they use Java since its supposed to be cross-platform. However, installing it on Windows does require running some batch file installer. And this is where the problem starts.

The dongle program installer that Landbank provides is not directly compatible with Windows 7. It works out-of-the-box for XP, but it completely thrashes Windows 7. It somehow disables all the USB ports after installation. And since our new home PC did not come anymore with PS/2 keyboard/mouse ports but USB ports only, even the keyboard and mouse were rendered unusable forcing me to reformat the entire PC. Jeez! I hate dongles!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

There's a Hole in my Fuel Tank

I had a scheduled meeting at SM MOA this morning so I left home a bit late with the Altis. I decided to fill-up gas at the usual Shell Katipunan just outside our village gate. While waiting for my credit card charge slip, the gas attendant noticed that my gas tank was dripping gasoline. They peeked under the chassis and concluded that the tank had a hole somewhere on top. So it only leaks if the tank is full.

I called the driver to come over and convoy me to Toyota Shaw to have the tank replaced. It was kinda scary to think that anytime someone nearby was smoking and carelessly threw the cigarette, that my car could explode! Had to cancel/reschedule my meeting and have the drive bring me to work instead.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Caitlin's First Recital

Due to very strong rain, Caitlin's recital yesterday was postponed. But with the weather clearing up, the teacher confirmed that it will push through today from 2pm to 5pm at UP Diliman's Aldaba Hall.

The family attended in full force. Caitlin played 2 songs -- Gavotte and Little Spring Song. She was nervous, but overall, did very well. The folks left pretty much after Caitlin's turn (she was the 8th out of a total of 30).

From Caitlin First Recital

After the recital, we proceeded to have dinner at Peking Garden Trinoma.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Mobile Phone as a Credit Card POS

After the much talked-about Square service, which turns any iPhone into a point-of-sale (POS) terminal for swiping credit cards, comes, which promises to do the same without the need to attach any additional hardware. uses the phone's built-in camera plus its pattern recognition software to read the card details. Hmmm... I don't know, but this sounds to me like a solution looking for a problem.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Metrobank Card 3D Secure

Incredible! I applied for my "Secure Online Shopping" (SOS) PIN from Metrobank Card half a year ago and only got it today! This has got to be one of the worst customer service in the e-commerce world of all time.

In any case, I finally enabled 3D Secure on my Metrobank credit card. Not that it is of much use since I originally intended to do this for shopping online while I'm in the US/Canada last December.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Citibank Philippines Online

Citibank gave their online banking site a facelift the past couple of weeks. Finally -- the annoying on-screen virtual keyboard that pops up when inputting the login password is gone! I hated that.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Blogging from my phone

Making my first blog entry using the Blogger Android app on my Samsung Galaxy phone. Typing a blog post using a small qwerty virtual keyboard is not simple. I can't imagine doing this on a regular basis. Its just a novelty more than anything else

Published with Blogger-droid v1.7.0

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cleaning Up My GMail

For the past week, GMail has been sending me warnings that my 7.59GB allocation is almost full. It was suggesting that I pay for additional storage already. I'm sure there are lots of junks in my GMail that requires pruning but manually going through them seems too tedious. I've been using GMail since 2004 so there is quite a lot of email to go through.

I did some research and came across this site -- FindBigMail. Using OAuth, it basically requests your permission to go through your GMail and label-tagging all your large mail with attachments (ie. more than 2MB; more than 500KB; more than 100KB; etc.). Then by choosing the appropriate label, you can quickly see which useless email are hogging all the storage.

After the labels have been posted, I did a quick scan of my large email and deleted the useless ones. I'm now back down to 69% consumption. :) This is pretty addictive though. I will go through some more cleaning up later.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My New Samsung Galaxy S Smartphone

I've been using my new Samung Galaxy S smartphone for a couple of days now and have the ff. comments:

  1. I don't really miss my old, trusty Nokia 6680. True, typing an SMS using the virtual qwerty keyboard takes a lot of getting used to. Its pretty hard to type an SMS while driving using this interface unlike the old Nokia keypad. The predictive dictionary is a big help.

  2. The phone seems to be a battery hog especially if Wi-Fi is enabled. I just left it on overnight and it was dead when I woke up in the morning. When not in use, disabling Wi-Fi seem to extend the life quite a bit. But unlike my old Nokia 6680 which can go 2 to 3 days without charging, I find myself charging the Galaxy S at least once a day.

  3. On the bright side, the Galaxy S uses a standard USB port for its power adapter. That means you can connect it to a regular PC's USB port using the provided cable to charge it. No need to connect direct to a power outlet.

  4. The unit has hanged a couple of times on me while running some apps. When it hangs, you really have to remove the battery to get it to reboot.

  5. The thin form factor still takes getting used to on my palm.

  6. The mobile signal bar seems to be low most of the time. I don't recall seeing it at full bar. Could it be that Samsung's reference for signal strength is more stringent than Nokia's?

The Galaxy S runs on Adroid 2.2 (Froyo). Not surprisingly, integration with Google Accounts is fantastic. The Calendar app syncs with Google Calendar. The GTask app from the Android Market syncs with my GMail Task. The contacts list also syncs (unnecessarily) with the GMail contacts database.

I must say that the switch to a smartphone is worth it. Its not just a phone but a full entertainment console and productivity tool all-in-one.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Not All Flash Drives Are Created Equal

I recently bought a PHP400 USB Flash Drive at the friendly neighborhood CD-R King. The drive has a capacity of 4GB. Amazing how price has gone down to P100 per GB now on flash drives. I didn't want to go with the generic house-branded CD-R King flash drive so I picked one with a slightly known name -- Ridata. I don't really know the brand well but I've seen it a few times on the blank CD/DVD labels so I took that over the more expensive brands like Kingston, Apacer, etc. I figure all flash drives are more-or-less the same.

Well, after using the Ridata USB flash drive for several weeks, I have to say that it is quite poor in performance as compared to my old Kingston flash drives. Reading and writing is slow. When you drag-and-drop files onto it in Windows Explorer, there's a 1 to 2 second lull where nothing seems to happen before you see the animated files flying between folders to indicate a file transfer.

A Pictureshop customer lent me his 8GB Sandisk USB Flash Drive a few months ago. That one was just fantastic in performance. I'm sure it costs an arm and a leg too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Synchronizing Chrome Bookmarks

Hey, very cool! I was able to synch my Chrome bookmarks between my office PC and netbook using the sync feature. I opted not to sync my passwords, auto-fill, and extensions for now. Bookmark is more important.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

HD + Fiber Optic Cable @ Home Theater

I connected the WD TV unit to our home theater projector using the component video cables because the projector does not support HDMI. I wanted to test how HD videos appear using standard component video cables. I previously assumed that it will only work on HDMI because of all the details, but I guess not.

We watched Green Hornet in 720p HD and it was very clear. It can really spoil you from watching "standard definition" DVD rips. The audio was also fantastic using the fiber optic cable that my friend, Andrian, lent me. I connected it to the Harman Kardon receiver and the sound was very crisp.

My only complaint is that the video seem to go reddish now and then. I would need to pull the component video cable and re-connect it for the color to go back to normal. The connector seems pretty tight, but it appears like one of the Y-Pb-Pr signal loses every so often.

My Most Expensive Japanese Meal Ever

We had lunch today at Sushi Kappo Kobikicho in Legaspi Village, Makati. We were supposed to eat here last Saturday but the place is quite popular and its small 10-seater sushi bar could not fit us. So I had the reservation moved to this week.

I was fore-warned that this place was expensive. But Cols has been wanting to eat Japanese and I figured it wouldn't hurt to splurge on good Japanese food once in a while. And since this place had very good reviews, we took the plunge.

One of the house specialty is the toro (blue fin tuna). So when the manager offered it along with salmon sushi, we immediately agreed without even looking at the price. Then I ordered a meat dish and Cols had tempura. The main entrees were actually not that fantastic in my opinion. But the toro, man! That was something else. The reviewer was correct -- it really does melt in your mouth. And being first-timers, the manager was extra generous to us and gave us 10 pieces instead of the usual 8.

Finally the bill came, and I already braced myself. I was expecting our "simple" meal to be in the neighborhood of P4k. But my eyes almost popped out when I saw we racked up P7.5k, with the toro alone costing P4k already! At 10 pieces, that's P400 per piece! Ouch!

It was an experience for sure. But I don't think we'll be coming back here anytime soon. Maybe it was vaule-for-money, but somehow, it felt morally indecent to have spent that much on a meal when other people only earn that much in a month.

If its any consolation, I did use my Standard Chartered card which comes with a 3% off on restaurant spends, and a P300 gift certificate promo from Fully Booked.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Very Poor Service at Bank of Commerce

I opened a personal bank account and a corporate bank account at Bank of Commerce about a month back. I intended to use both for Dragonpay. Bank of Commerce was a small-time bank until it was bought by giant San Miguel Corporation a couple of years ago. So I figure with SMC's backing, its only a matter of time before Bank of Commerce would join the big league.

The bank staff seemed pretty excited to get me as a new client. The bank managers were very friendly. But I was caught a bit off-guard when they couldn't seem to agree on what is the correct maintaining balance for a corporate account. From P10k, to P20k to P25k, they cannot seem to agree among themselves. Maybe that should have been a sign of things to come.

When last I inquired, they told me it was P10k. So when I came to open the account about a month ago, I only brought P10k with me. Then they tell me that the minimum opening balance is P10k, but the minimum maintaining balance should be P20k to avoid getting penalized. Huh? Why didn't they just tell me P20k to begin with? Why would anyone want to open anything less than that minimum if they were going to be fined? As my voice started to increase in pitch and volume, the manager pacified me by saying that she will give me up to a month to bring my balance to P20k without any penalty, and gave me some freebie organizers. That issue was resolved for now.

From the time I opened both accounts, it took them about 10 working days to produce my ATM card. That's terrible! The major banks can give it to you in a couple of days. Some like Citibank and PSBank even give it to you on-the-spot. 10 days?! That's so 90's!

Then came the biggest problem -- the corporate Internet banking facility. They dragged this for almost a month giving me all sorts of lame excuses why it was not yet activated. Until finally, they admitted they cannot offer it. It seems that among all their corporate clients, only San Miguel was actually given this facility. No other corporate clients can actually use their corporate Internet banking. Huh?! Then why even bother to offer it at their site?

I finally got fed up today and went to the branch and closed both my personal and corporate account. I returned my unused checkbook and had them refund the cost to me and waive all early closure fees. San Miguel Corp. should do something about this. It was just a plain awful experience doing banking with Bank of Commerce.

OMG! Obama's Dead (and other gaffes)

After 10 years, the US special forces have finally tracked down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and killed him. News of his death grabbed front page headlines in news and print everywhere. The resulting news took a hilarious turn when newscasters, podcasters, twits confused "Osama" with "Obama". Suddenly, US President Barrack Obama was killed off!

With only 1 letter separating the two names, the similarity can be quite confusing. Read this article for excerpts.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Switching DSL Providers

I finally bit the bullet and took the big switch. After more than 2 years of using Bayan DSL at our house, I finally gave up and switched to PLDT MyDSL. While Bayan's service for the most part of the first 2 years was satisfactory, the last 3 months or so have just been awful. The IP link keeps going down intermittently, sometimes almost every minutes. I was originally planning on getting a PLDT DSL when we first moved in. But at that time, PLDT's DSLAM at our subdivision is already full and could not accomodate new connections until they migrate the entire network into their NGN (Next Generation Network).

As far as I can tell, it was not a physical problem as the modem stays "green". Viewing the router status shows that the IP addresses also look fine but the router is in a "disconnected" status. I'm not sure exactly how Belkin determines that status. Its probably doing a ping to an ip address on the other side of the link. But to restore connection, I have to do a disconnect/reconnect cycle on the router everytime this happens. It has gotten to a point that it was a major pain already.

PLDT's MyDSL implementation is a lot simpler than Bayan's. The Zyxel modem connects to their DSLAM and generates a dynamic IP which you can directly plug to a PC or a router. Bayan's implementation is over PPPoE. So a login process is required. Much more cumbersome.

Our PHP 899 Bayan DSL can supposedly burst to 1.2 Mbps during off-peak hours. But that feature is practically useless if the link keeps going down anyway. The new PLDT MyDSL is PHP 990 inclusive of our landline already for a 384 kbps. So far, the performance seems the same though for regular browsing. PLDT's upstream link seem to be slower though. When I tried uploading images of more than 300 MB to, I left it overnight and by morning, it was still not halfway done.

As a side effect of the PLDT migration to NGN, we had to change our home phone number just to avail of this DSL. Sigh... too bad there is no number portability in the Philippines even within the same telco.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Big Royal Wedding of the Century Question

It was the wedding of the century as Prince William, heir to the throne of Britain, married commoner, Catherine (Kate) Middleton. This made me think of a very profound question -- what the heck is Prince William's last name anyway? They are always labeled as "Prince William and Kate Middleton". But how do you exactly address them as a couple -- "Mr. & Mrs" what?

We know William's middlename is Spencer, since that is Princess Diana's surname. But what is Prince Charles' lastname? Do royals even have lastname? Or are they like "Ivan the Terrible", or "Prince Charles of Windsor", or "King Richard the Lionheart". Or is he Prince William son-of-Charles?

Prince Charles must have a lastname because his dad (the husband of Queen Mum) is a regular person (not some king). So it follows that William's lastname must be that of his grandfather. Unless he is not allowed to carry it since the grandfather is not of the royal bloodline.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Terrible Pico Sands Hotel Experience

For the Holy Week break, we came over to Hamilo Coast. The folks were staying at the unit so we were booked at the newly opened Pico Sands Hotel. The hotel was still in "soft opening" (translated - staff still inexperienced). When we got there, the lobby queue was really long. All the customers were irate due to the very poor and slow service. The housekeeping could not clean the rooms fast enough for the next occupant, and so on.

To top it all off, there was no water in the rest room due to some equipment breakdown. We decided to move out after the overnight stay and just squeezed in with the folks. The hotel gave us a 20% discount on our stay, and charged us a lower fee for our lagoon-facing room, which we did not get to enjoy anyway.

The hotel management really rushed this in time for Holy Week. They should have made sure their staff was prepared before jumping in. This left a bad taste in everyone's mouth.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spartacus Gods of the Arena on HD

I finally used the WD TV that my sister and brother-in-law gave me for Christmas to watch an HD feature on our Samsung LCD TV. Ok, its not exactly 1080p, but the 720p season premier of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena was an eye-popper. This is a 6-part prequel of the Spartacus season 1. Ahh... blood and gore look so much better in 720p. :)

The story line, as usual, is fantastic and really engaging. Action, drama, and, of course, lots of sex and violence, makes this prequel just as addictive as Season 1. The show explains a lot about the characters' background in Season 1. Too bad, the show's main star, Andy Whitfield, is rumored not to return for Season 2 due to his illness.

Friday, April 15, 2011

HCR @ Wee Nam Kee

I've been wanting to try Wee Nam Kee at Ayala Triangle for some time. I brought the family here on a weekend a couple of months ago but the place was too crowded and we did not want to wait. Since I often have late lunch, I finally decided to give it a try today.

Wee Nam Kee is a very popular restaurant in Singapore. Its specialty is the Hainanese Chicken Rice (HCR), which is also Singapore's national dish from what I know. They offered a personal set which is meant for a single serving. Prices are reasonable.

I must say I was pretty satisfied with my meal even though it was a very long walk from The Peak. I did have a bit of an upset stomach tonight though. I don't know if it is related. I should give this a try again soon.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Decoding MIME Attachments in C#.NET

I previous wrote an application that required extracting email from GMail via POP3 using C#. Now that same application has gotten a bit more complicated. I need to extract file attachments from the email. I've done Base64 MIME Encoding/Decoding a long time ago. I did not have the inclination to re-do it in C# so I went searching through the 'Net for ready-made code.

There were several open source examples, but the one that suited me best was this one from CodeProject:

For now, I'm just using the decoding part. But I foresee a need to do encoding pretty soon.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Crappy Diskette-based SSS System

The Social Security System (SSS) require that local employers should submit their monthly contribution reports in diskettes. Yes, you read that right -- diskettes! Not flash drives, not CD's, but diskettes! PC's vendors have stopped pre-installing floppy disk drives for years.

I had to borrow a USB-based external floppy drive from the office and attached it to our den PC because the built-in floppy drive seem to malfunctioning and damaging all diskettes you plug in it. But as I found out, the crappy SSS program does not give you the option on where to save your data. Its hard-coded to always write on Drive A!!! Attaching my USB floppy didn't work because Windows was assigning it as Drive B.

I eventually installed the SSS program (which seem to be written in Visual FoxPro) on my HP Mini 110 which correctly assigns Drive A to the external USB floppy drive. I can't understand why a cash-rich government agency like the SSS can't even get their software re-written for the 21st century. It should already be moved to the web and the report files uploaded via http. Diskettes? Unbelievable!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Retrieving Email from GMail using POP3 Programmatically with C#

I'm writing some new Dragonpay code to interface with UCPB's online banking system. I need to retrieve some information via POP3 protocol. POP3 is a very simple protocol using TCP stream over port 110. In fact, I've written code 15 years ago to retrieve email and read it over the phone using text-to-speech synthesis using Dialogic software. But the challenge this time is I need to get the data from Google's GMail.

Unlike regular POP3, GMail's POP3 uses SSL encryption. My limited knowledge on encryption does not extend to SSL encryption. So I did some research. The UNIX fetchmail program can retrieve GMail POP3 email with SSL encryption. But to run code after retrieving the email would require having to program with Linux and procmail. Since I mainly write in C# .NET, that was more trouble than its worth.

I eventually found my answer at Code Project -- Downloaded the code and it worked like a charm.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kaos @ ResortWorld

Cols, Caitlin, Kenneth, Stephanie and I watched the 3pm matinee show of Kaos at Resortworld. Kaos is a full stage production involving singing, dancing and, of course, death-defying acrobat. It is similar in format to a Cirque du Soleil show -- just on a slightly smaller scale, of course. The performers were a mix of European, South American and Asian acrobats.

The Resortworld theater is located in the same complex as the casino. But instead of going straight to the playing area, you take a right and go up the escalator or elevator. The theater looked great. Way much better than Meralco Theater which is quite old. Much bigger than the RCBC Plaza auditorium. The seats were very comfortable and leg room is very generous.

The show was ok. It was Caitlin's first time to watch a "circus". Production value was also good. Ticket price was reasonable. We bought it as a promo a couple of months back at the SMX Travel Expo.

Friday, March 4, 2011

PLDT Billboard

I took a cellphone shot of this PLDT billboard ad along C5. I just find it rather strange. It shows a mom and daughter spending quality time enjoying surfing the Internet. But wait -- what are they surfing? What else but their PLDT telephone utility billing! I know its kinda hard to see from this blog, but the image that seems to "float" out of the screen is really their phone bill.

Uhmmm... I don't know about you guys but viewing utility billings is not really something that I would find enjoyable. Judging by the smiles on their faces, they seem to be having a great time looking at their phone bill. There's something wrong with this ad.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Kirin Restaurant at Fort Bonifacio High

We had dinner at Kirin Chinese Restaurant at Fort Bonifacio High with the folks. Its the only Chinese restaurant at High Street. And since the kids do not eat much other than Chinese, we did not really have much choice. The food was not delicious. Service was pretty bad. The waiter kept confusing the orders and bringing the wrong food to our table. Price was also a bit high for the "quality". Not recommended.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Pre-Valentine Dinner at Robot Restaurant

I bought my first group-buying voucher from CashCashPinoy the other day. I've been waiting for a deal at the new fancy Japanese Robotayaki (aka. Robot) Restaurant-bar along Makati Avenue, and CashCashPinoy finally offered a special PHP888.00 for a multi-course sampler meal set. I made reservations and Cols and I got there by 7pm. The place was pretty bare. There were very few diners. In fact, almost all diners were availing of CashCashPinoy vouchers too. Looks like the restaurant is not living up to its hype. While waiting for our meal, a senior Chinese customer at the adjacent got really mad. He was creating a scene and shouting why the food takes more than an hour to come out when there are so many cooks at the kitchen (the kitchen is separated from the dining area by glass panes so you can see what's gong on inside). Our order actually did not take that long, so I don't know what was wrong with his. The waiter quietly confided to us that the guy was actually the dad of one of the owners. I previously thought the restaurant was owned by socialite and self-proclaimed "eventologist" Tim Yap. But the waiter said that he has no ownership and its only the image that they want to project because of his connections. Overall, I wasn't really happy with the meal. Would not want to come back.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

New All-in-One Small Office Printer

Brother Philippines is running a trade-in promo this Jan 27 to Feb 11, 2011. Since we've been looking at getting a multi-function printer for the home office, we grabbed the MFC-8380DN all-in-one scanner/printer/copier/fax unit. From an SRP of P25k, I just traded in my old/non-working Brother HL-2040 and got a 50% discount. The net price came out P12,495 and 6-months installment via credit card with zero interest! Its a steal!

The unit is huge. Definitely not your typical home printer. It comes with a huge paper tray; a multi-purpose tray for paper of odd-sizes (eg. letter envelope, thick paper), and an automatic document feeder (ADF) on top for scanning or faxing multiple pages. The front panel is pretty intuitive. There are 3 main buttons - Fax, Scan or Copy. So far, I've mainly been using it for scanning since my old Samsung monochrome laser is still functional.

The 8380DN is network-ready. It has an ethernet port at the back which I connected straight to our ethernet switch. It can work standalone without a PC attached to it. Its practically a PC by itself with its own operating system. This model has a web server that allows you to remotely manage and configure the unit through a standard browser. It has an FTP client software that lets it send the document you scan into an FTP server over the network.

The 8380DN can also work with CIFS/SMB file storage systems (and this is the part I love most). Since I recently installed a home file server, it sends all my scans directly to the storage folder in PDF or JPEG depending on the profile you choose. The scanning quality is great -- way much better than my (really) old Benq flatbed. This unit has both a flatbed for small pieces of documents. You can also use the ADF for scanning multiple pages. The ADF can accommodate up to 20 pages.

The following are some of the nifty features that I really like about the unit:
  1. Duplex Printing - you can print back-and-front on the same piece of paper without having to flip it. Gone are the days when you had to print all the odd pages first; flip the stack of paper; print all the even pages at the back. By setting printing to duplex mode, the printer takes care of flipping the paper and printing back and front.
  2. Duplex Scanning - this allows you to scan documents with front-and-back print without having to manually flip them one-by-one. The ADF takes care of flipping the pages and scanning them both sides!
  3. Scan-to-Network - scanning is supported from 100 dpi to 600 dpi with output format in JPEG, TIFF or PDF format.
  4. Direct Print - if you have a PDF or JPEG file in a USB flash drive that you want to print, there is no more need to connect the drive onto a PC and print from the PC. You just stick the drive directly to the USB slot in front of the printer. You can then navigate the small LCD screen to print the document that you want from the drive.
  5. Scan-to-USB - similar to Direct Print, you can also scan directly to a USB flash drive. Just stick in your drive and do a scan. Output is sent directly to the flash drive without having to go through a PC.
  6. PC Fax - any of our PC can now send a fax by just using the PC Fax printer driver. The software takes care of routing it to the 8380DN and faxing it from there.

The unit is remarkably quiet. It just sits there quietly at our den with hardly any hum. The blue light is always on though. I don't know how to turn it off even if it goes to sleep.

After reading the docs, it looks like the higher model 88xx is even more interesting. It has SMTP support which allows you to do things like forward your fax to email (or scan to email?). But at P12.5k, I'm pretty happy with this one already.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Home Fileserver

I installed a file server at home this past week. There was a spare PC lying around. I think its either an old Celeron or an AMD Sempron on an ECS motherboard. It used to be the POS at our store. But after Ondoy, we replaced several of our equipment.

Anyway, I installed Turnkey Linux's File Server Appliance on it. I love the stuffs from Turnkey Linux. This is the third type of pre-configured appliance I've downloaded from them. There's the Wordpress Virtual Machine appliance that I'm using for Dragonpay. I'm also running three (3) barebone core Linux virtual machines. Now, its the File Server appliance.

The File Server image is available in both ISO and VM format. Since I wanted to test first how it behaves, I initially played around with the VM version by running it under the free VMWare Player. It worked without any configuration necessary. My Windows XP could immediately see the SAMBA share from the VM.

For the home file server, I burnt the ISO image onto a CD-ROM disc. It took me some time to get the old PC to boot from it mainly because my CD-ROM drives are all unusable already. I had to throw away three old CD-ROM drives before finding an old Asus one that still worked. Installation from there was a breeze. The installer CD prompts you for basic things and reformats/repartitions your drive. Enter an IP address and you're off. A quick check from our home Windows XP shows the share is already available.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's Going On?

There's a school along Annapolis Greenhills called Fountain International School. Its right across Atlanta Center (which is more popularly known as the building where Nida Blanca was killed). I've passed this school a few times in the past couple of weeks and there is a banner outside that has been bothering me.

The huge sign across their wall says: "ENROLLMENT IS ON GOING". Is it just me or does it look grammatically incorrect? As far as I know, "ongoing" is one word and not two.

Normally, I would not make a big fuss out of a wrong grammar in a signage as that is very common in the Philippines. But this is a school for crying out old! This is a place where children are supposed to learn good English. If the school administrators and principals who enter that school every day do not even find their own signage strange, there is something very wrong with the English standard of that school. Parents beware!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Birds and The Bees

I'm babysitting the kids this weekend as Cols is in GenSan. Over dinner the other night, Caitlin started asking me about the birds and the bees -- you know, where do babies come from? She's only 7 years old. Isn't she a bit too young to be asking this? Anyway, I quickly parried the question by explaining to her that it is still too difficult for her to understand the concept and that her biology teacher in high school will be able to explain it better. She did not insist after that. Phew!

We went to watch Jack Black's Gulliver's Travel at Greenhills Theater this afternoon. I used the Citibank credit card movie promo. For every single credit card receipt of at least P1,500, you get P100 off from the movie ticket. One of my receipts was more than P5k (it was for a car battery). That one entitled me to a completely free movie pass. Greenhills Theater now charges P180 for an ordinary movie (ie. not 3D). So I still had to pay P80 per person.

The movie is so-so. It was interesting how they used different camera perspective to make Jack Black look larger than the other characters. But you can still tell that they are just super-imposing the different shots on top of each other. I guess if you do not have a budget like that of James Cameron, you just have to make do with what you have.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hello World from Up In The Air

I'm currently flying on board Delta Airlines from New York City to Salt Lake City. The plane is offering free Wi-Fi service until Jan 3 (tomorrow). So even though I'm really sleepy for having to wake up at 4am today, I just had to try the experience.

The speed is pretty fantastic and rivals wireline DSL service. Each session lasts for 45 minutes only. But you can just close your browser and re-login. Lots of people are using their laptops and iPads on board. When it goes commercial, the airline will charge about USD12 for the service (not sure if that is only still for 45 mins). Would be great to have this service in PAL or CEB in the future. Yeah, maybe 10 years from now.