20 April, 2016

Things I Didn't Expect To Work, But Do

Picasa Merging With Google Photos

Google is killing the Picasa desktop program, and merging Picasa Web Albums with its Google Photos. It tried to merge it with Google+, which was.. not well received.., and now it's trying, harder, with Google Photos. It's a necessary evil. It'd be much worse to have 2 photo services.

Merging services is fine. What's not is dropping features.
Copy Image URL
Wish we could get a picture URL
One of my biggest uses for PWA was for photo hosting. Most sites/forums will let you display photos, but won't actually host them for you, because it's expensive. PWA used to officially support this, with direct links to different sizes of photos in the panel. Photos has hidden this feature, most probably because it's expensive and uses more bandwidth. I wonder what the TOS has to say about bandwidth? Because all these cloud plans from all the companies (Google Drive, Dropbox, iCloud etc.) only specify storage space, but in web hosting, I'd say bandwidth is a more important parameter.

Anyway, Google is hiding this feature and may drop it at any moment. Just like Apple doesn't like you to use Photo Stream as photo storage. FOR NOW, right-click and "copy image URL" works. Here's a good page with more details, and how to dynamically resize the image:
https://sites.google.com/site/picasaresources/Home/Picasa-FAQ/google-photos-1/how-to/how-to-get-a-direct-link-to-an-image

What about on mobile though? I've found a longwinded way:
  • In the Google Photos app on iPhone, make a shared album and add all the photos you want to share into it (photos can be in more than 1 album)
  • Open that album's address in Chrome (there's a command to copy album link or something)
  • In Chrome, open the photo you want to get the address of. You should be seeing only this photo, not the album.
  • Request desktop site. The site doesn't seem to change.
  • Press and hold on the photo. Now you'll see the photo's address, and "Open Image". This is your final photo's address.
  • IMPORTANT: for privacy reasons, it seems you can't trace back the shared album with the individual image URLs. EXIF and geotag data seems to be removed.

Another step backwards is, there is no way to manually sort photos OR albums in Photos. No wait, it's worse. THERE'S ONLY ONE WAY to sort photos and albums. Photos seems to be sorted by date taken, and albums by newest photo. This one-size-fits-all mentality is really stupid.

15 April, 2016

iPhone Volume Controls

(I'm specifically calling this iPhone because I don't know if it applies to the iPad)

How many volume settings does the iPhone have? I'm positive of at least 3 independent ones, and maybe 3 more that may also be independent. This is important, e.g. so you don't silence your alarm.
  • Ringer - the most important one, also the one you change when you press the volume buttons when the phone isn't doing anything. The screen says "Ringer". Affects: calls, SMS, notifications, alarm clock. Silenced by silence switch, and partially silenced by DND mode EXCEPT THE ALARM CLOCK. Alarm clock still rings even if the phone is on silent or DND mode. Seems to be overridden if e.g. you're using an app that has sound, but you set the media volume (next one) to 0, then the ringer won't ring either.
  • Media (speaker) - for music, games and other apps through the speaker. This is the one you control in Control Center. Doesn't seem to be affected by silence switch. If you press the volume buttons when sound is playing through the speaker, this is the one you control, instead of the normal Ringer Volume. Seems like the 3rd party alarm apps I looked at use this volume.
  • Call volume - how loud people sound when you're using the speaker that requires you to hold your phone to your face.
Others, could be linked to the first 3:
  • Ringer/media/call (headphones) - I know Macs have separate volume settings for the speaker and headphones.
  • Ringer/media/call (Bluetooth) - both headset and A2DP (music playback) profiles
  • Call volume (apps) - some apps use the smaller speaker you use when you make calls (NOT speakerphone/music playback/ringing). WeChat even uses it for voice messages, so you can listen to them discreetly. I wonder if the volume for this is the same as call volume.
  • Speakerphone - is this a media or call volume?
  • Find My iPhone - supposed to be able to override some volume settings, is it then always max volume or is it controlled by something else?

06 April, 2016

FBI: Unlock this iPhone. Apple: No.

In February 2016, the FBI asked Apple to do.. something, to unlock an iPhone used by a terrorist. Now what they actually want and their motives and the implications and all that is all very complicated and wrapped under layers of politics, legal ramifications and PR spin so I don't know what the truth is, much like the school clock bomber case. Only know this - Apple's motives aren't so altruistic, they're motivated by PR and profits as well. Or the massive leak of celebrity pictures a few years ago wouldn't have happened. But this is a huge issue, much like net neutrality (oh my, another can of worms).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FBI%E2%80%93Apple_encryption_dispute

Ok so what does the FBI want?
Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation.
This makes no sense to me. YOU CAN'T INSTALL/UPGRADE IOS ON A LOCKED PHONE! If you do, you'll lose the data anyway.
Also, why does the FBI need Apple's help with this specific phone anyway? They've broken into locked phones before - look at the Wikipedia article,
It was revealed as a part of the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures by Edward Snowden that the NSA and the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) had access to the user data in iPhones, BlackBerry, and Android phones and could read almost all smartphone information, including SMS, location, emails, and notes.
They eventually got into this one without Apple's help. Heck, just go to any phone repair shop and they can probably do it too. This isn't FBI-level difficulty. So what was the FBI asking for?
Also, ok - maybe they want an insecure iOS, for this and future cases, so they don't have to send 1 person to the mall for a day to unlock an iPhone. Why can't they write it themselves? Why do they need Apple to write it?

27 March, 2016

Security In Terms Of Delay

Consider the following:
  • Time lock safes
  • Passwords can be brute-forced, their strength is measured in time needed to brute-force
  • When you lose your key, you call a locksmith
  • Repeatedly entering the wrong password on some systems forces you to wait before you can try again
  • High security areas need to be checked regularly
I'm just thinking, we can express how secure something is by how much time it takes to break in. Adding security can be thought of as delaying break ins. Interval between security checks needs to be less than the time needed to break in.

Spring Theory

When I made my own fabric phone pouches, I used elastic to close the opening. Now, the problem with elastic is that it can only expand so much, meaning there's a minimum length/size you have to use so that the opening can stretch to the size of the phone. This left a pretty big gap in the pouch, because the elastic couldn't contract to 0. Let's say the phone width is 10 cm, and 5 cm of elastic can stretch to 10 cm. This means if you sew a pouch with 5 cm of elastic, it'll barely fit the phone, but it'll leave a 5 cm hole. If you used less elastic, say 4 cm, the phone wouldn't fit. How can you increase the elasticity/flexibility/spring of a material, by design?

The alternative was to use drawstring, which didn't contract by itself, but you could pull it as closed as you wanted. I realised there's a trick to make elastic stretch more, and I'm sharing it here.

Normally people will sew a straight line of elastic in the direction they want to stretch: --------------
This is the simplest, most direct method. But as I tried to explain, it can only stretch so much.
The trick is to sew in a zig-zag: /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\
By varying the angle and width/length of the zags, you can make it stretch as much as you want (at the cost of losing tension)

Basically this is how a coiled spring works. A straight wire will deform under tension or compression very easily, but the coil fits "more" wire in the same space, spreading out the deformation.

People already do this with solid springs:
https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:950426
This unibody carabiner designed for 3D-printing uses the flex of the material for the spring and gate. If the material were solid, either the gate would be too stiff, it would permanently deform once opened, or it would crack and fatigue quickly. By adding zig-zags, flexibility is greatly increased.

You've probably seen this on flexible toothbrushes:
From http://www.mariettadental.net/choosing-toothbrush-marietta-dental-advice/

The PB-9 Para-Biner has a similar spring:
But I don't think this is the same, as the bending isn't in the direction of the zig-zags.

What's my point? People have no idea how to make clips and they're paying way way too much for nothing. This can easily be solved with good design. Even the brittle 3D-printed steel can have flex, but the 3D printing resolution is too low to make good zig-zags.

14 March, 2016

Things In 2016

Deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman
FBI asks Apple to.. unlock an iPhone? Unsecure iOS? It's very confusing. I'm writing a post about it.

March
Terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium airport and metro
Terrorist bomb kills at least 70 in Lahore, Pakistan
Egyptair flight 181 hijacked. Passenger takes picture with hijacker. Hijacker had fake explosives and an issue with his ex-wife.
4-year-old girl beheaded in Taiwan, in broad daylight, in front of her mother
SMRT has fatal accident

April
Documents from Panamian law firm Mossack Fonesca leaked, exposing hidden assets of government leaders worldwide
PM Lee Hsien Loong and sister Dr Lee Wei Ling disagree on Lee Kwan Yew's commemorations

end

Levels Of "Offness"

This was inspired by a conspiracy theory that our phones are spying on us, sending what they hear all the time, even when off. Now this would be obvious from the battery consumption, but it got me thinking: when is a phone really off? Usually not when you think. Now, in order:
DEAD
  • Blended, burnt, destroyed
  • Battery removed - you'd think this was totally off, but most phones can keep the time without the battery, at least for a few minutes. I wonder if they just remember the time the battery was removed (which doesn't require power), or they actually have a working clock and some form of power besides the battery
  • Switched off, battery in. In this state, the radios and sensors are off, but some phones can still turn themselves on to sound alarms. This means they must be monitoring the time.
  • Switched on, "locked"/"standby". This is the state phones are in most of the time. The screen is off, but the phone is connected to the network and can receive calls (data in the case of smartphones). Other levels of activity vary (it may be playing music).
  • ON - screen is on, it may be processing something, in a call, etc. Most "active" state.
ALIVE

28 January, 2016

Tiffany T Wire Bracelet

Insider tip: they said "bracelet" refers more to the flexible chain type, and "bangle" is the hard type. I'm only talking about the hard types here, using both "bracelet" and "bangle".

There are 3 thicknesses. The 2 thinner ones flex. The thickest one has a hinge.

Narrow (thinnest one), small, white gold: SGD1850
Medium, small, white gold: SGD2500
The flexible one with diamonds (I think there may be another one with hinge and diamonds): SGD5000

There's a sterling silver one that isn't available in Singapore.

Sterling silver single infinity bangle: SGD655
Sterling silver double infinity bangle: SGD815

28 December, 2015

Nike Air Zoom Structure 18

I never paid much attention to shoes, but I just got these:
Lots of better pictures out there, so I won't compete.

  • Why is there a Texas shape on the front?
  • I never noticed shoes had well-defined names and release cycles, like, say, iPhones. They say this is the 18th year of this series. I guess it's not surprising, since they put so much effort and research and marketing into these models, I just never thought about it. I wonder if branded clothes have proper names or just article numbers.
  • I just started noticing shoes have started coming in different styles like barefoot, neutral, extra support, etc. I'm pretty sure it's a new trend, but apparently this is its 18th year so I don't know where I've been.
  • Catering to different feet is great. I should pay more attention to the fit of shoes. Previously my requirements were: loop on the tongue for laces to pass through to hold it in place, and a loop at the back to help pulling the shoe on. None of which this has by the way.
  • Queensway is for real. I knew they sold cheap shoes, but I thought they only had older stock. Nope. You can expect 30% off the normal price, that's like saving 50 bucks for these. It was very crowded for an old, out-of-the-way shopping centre that only sold shoes too. Oh and they also sell Casio G-Shock and Baby-G watches for about 20% off.
  • The trend in Nike shoes now is Flyknit. On paper it sounds great. A seamless, single-piece of fabric that can have tailored density and elasticity in different areas, like unibody for shoes. Less waste during manufacturing. But, they're SO UGLY. Flyknits have a face only a mother, or obsessive blogger, could love. They look like my old sofa's covering. On another note, you'd think variable density was a job for 3D printing, but very mature technologies like weaving and knitting can do it too. Looks like 3D printing has a lot of stiff competition.

I love this review:
http://www.solereview.com/nike-air-zoom-structure-18-review/
for its technical details like the types of foams used.

Delete Photos From Camera Roll But Leave Them On Photostream

Also seen on Google as "delete from camera roll but not photostream". I looked through the hits from 2015 but nobody had a solution. I found one! First, a rant: iOS is doing down the drain. It's sad to see this once shining OS become a buggy mess. Apple is going the way of Nokia if they don't buck up. What's the difference between Photostream and iCloud photo whatever? How do you keep photos organised between multiple devices and the cloud? Why on earth can't you change the default notification sound, and how do they expect this to work in a household with multiple iPhones? It's as though Apple doesn't use its own products. But it's still better than Android.

Soo I want my Camera Roll (CR) to be a "to save to computer" list, and leave things on Photostream (PS) until they expire, to share among my devices. Apple doesn't like that. Because PS has unlimited storage, they don't want to give it to you for free. To be on PS, it has to remain on the CR of the device where the photo was originally created. Deleting it from CR forces you to remove it from PS. Unless you do this.

If you connect an iPhone to a Windows computer, it shows up as a camera device, a bit like USB Mass Storage, but with limited functionality. Anyway, it lets you delete things from the iPhone using Windows Explorer. This removes them from CR. But leaves them on PS. That's it. DELETE YOUR PHOTOS USING WINDOWS EXPLORER AND THEY'LL DISAPPEAR FROM CAMERA ROLL, BUT REMAIN ON PHOTOSTREAM. WARNING this directly deletes your photos, they don't go to the recently deleted album.

Update 15 Apr 16
I found another method, since, you know, Apple doesn't like people using PS and they could "fix" this at any time. Use the app Google Photos (hoo boy, Picasa Web Albums, Google+ and Google Photos is another mess). Open a photo, tap the 3 dots in the top right, then "Delete device copy". This deletes from CR but leaves the PS copy PLUS it appears in the Recently Deleted, if you make a mistake. Something deleting using Windows doesn't do.

While I'm at it, what deleting/copying things from where does:
  • Delete from CR - removes from CR, puts in Recently Deleted. Removes from PS, EVEN WITHOUT WIFI
  • Delete from PS - leaves in CR
  • Save from PS to CR - doesn't create a second copy in PS. But if you delete the copy in CR, it deletes the original in PS too

06 November, 2015

Flip-Flop

Theories / urban legends that have been repeatedly proven/disproven, or whose opinions change drastically.

Saturated fats bad, trans fats good. Saturated fats bad, trans fats worse.

People swallow 8 spiders a year

People listening to War Of The Worlds on radio thought it was true, causing mass hysteria. Nope. Effect was greatly exaggerated.

Woman sues McDonald's because she gets burned by hot coffee. Sue-happy Americans, need for ridiculous/obvious warning labels, etc. Turns out she had 3rd degree burns and was hospitalised for 8 days. Also, McDonald's has had numerous complaints about their coffee being too hot.

Stanford prison experiment - to prove there are monsters in everyone, take people, assign some as prisoners and some as jailers, see jailers abuse their power! Meant to show how normal people did evil during the Holocaust. Later proven that their methods were unfair and meant to encourage their conclusions. https://www.reddit.com/r/askpsychology/comments/3k8ob0/is_the_stanford_prison_experiment_taken_seriously/

Fake Medela Bottles?

I have 4 (5oz/150ml) Medela bottles that came with my pump. These are 100% genuine. I also bought 3 of the same size bottle from Amazon (http://amzn.com/B000WPVCQE), sold by Amazon with free international shipping:
 
At first, I thought they were just weird - they were much softer than my original bottles. One of them even had a dimple after steam sterilisation and I threw it away. Maybe the US version is like that. Then I bought the 8oz/250ml bottles, also sold by Amazon, but only shipping within the US this time:
 
(questions: are "Amazon Export Sales LLC" and "Amazon.com LLC" the same? Does Amazon keep stock from different sellers separate? I mean if I buy from seller A, am I definitely getting stock supplied by them? This is a big issue in counterfeits.)
And these are similar to my original 4! So I took a closer look at my 150ml bottles and found more differences! I think those I got from Amazon are fake!

The first problem is the fakes are noticeably softer/thinner. They're also not uniform. There are some spots on each bottle where they dent easily if you press them. As I mentioned, one had a permanent dent after steaming. The originals are hard all around. So are the 8oz bottles.

The second, most objective, difference, is the weight/mass:
Original on left, fake on right
The original weighs 21.5g, the fake weighs 19.9g. (note: measure more bottles to improve confidence)

Third difference, and easiest to check. The bottom:
Original

Fake

Original says something like -25°C - +110°C. Fake has no wordings, but has these 2 arc-shaped impressions. I think these are used to eject the bottle from the mould. 8oz bottles are like the original, words and no arcs.

Last difference, the most interesting - colour-shifting ink! Not sure if this is an intentional copy-preventing feature. This is harder to capture.
Same original bottle, different angles

Same fake bottle, different angles

Ok the original bottle, when held at a reflective angle, has ink that appears silver, but turns darker when viewed straight-on. You'll see that the fake's ink appears the same colour regardless of angle. Again, the 8oz bottle also has colour-shifting ink.

So, I have good reason to believe there's something up with the bottles, and they're probably fake. I just ordered 2 more sets of 5oz and 8oz bottles, both delivered within US, so we'll find out more.

Bonus: this might be an issue with the fake caps, but my instinct says it's just bad design. The cap has an inner rim that flattens easily. In the picture below, from the 12 to 3 o'clock position, that's the original rim. From 7-11, it's flattened outwards. Once this happens, the cap will leak.

21 October, 2015

Where To Buy Baby Stuff In Singapore

Online

https://www.pupsikstudio.com/
I bought the Parklon playmat. They also sell Medela accessories. Shipping is only $4.90. They use Ninja Van for delivery.

http://www.mumsandbabes.com.sg/
I actually bought the Medela pump from them at the Expo, but they have an online store too. I bought some pump accessories from the online store. Delivery is $20.

Amazon
How could I leave out the Amazon. The going rate for breastmilk bags in Mothercare is SGD64 for 100, regardless of brand.
On Amazon, they're less than USD14 with free international shipping.

There are other sites like Qoo10 that I haven't tried. I wouldn't buy from Groupon.

Shops

Baby Hyperstore (https://www.facebook.com/Babyhyperstore) Kaki Bukit
Biggest place to buy strollers I've seen. Got my Quinny from here. Has lots and lots of brands. It's funny, they're the only place I've found selling some big brands like Quinny. While you're here, check out Baby Kingdom too.

Baby Kingdom (http://www.babykingdom.com.sg/) Kaki Bukit, Shun Li Industrial Park
I already bought my stroller when I found this store, so I didn't look at their strollers. They have a wide range of clothes, bathing stuff, pacifiers, etc. Best to visit these 2 shops together. They're in the same building.

First Few Years (http://firstfewyears.com.sg/)
Bought a crib from here. Oh they also have an online store with fast, reasonable delivery. I bought my bag for my Quinny here.

Mothercare
This is probably the biggest chain. Has a wide variety, but doesn't have some cheaper brands.

Kiddy Palace
Looks like a tiny shop but they have a lot of things!

16 October, 2015

Becoming An Expert

Helping people with computer stuff got me thinking - people come to me for help because I know more, but I've also learned a lot because people keep coming to me. It's a cycle. Does this also apply to jobs? I imagine for jobs with no formal training, a lot of what people know is from experience. How far can you take this? Which jobs can you start with no specific knowledge and learn as you go?

12 October, 2015

Instrumental Song

I've finally caught the name of the instrumental song stuck in my head! Do you know how hard it is to search for an instrumental song? Anyway, it was "Music Box Dancer". It actually made it into the top music charts, which is unexpected with a title and style like that.

23 September, 2015

Shapeways' Steels

Right now, Shapeways has 8 kinds of steel:

GROUP 1
Stainless
Matte Bronze, Polished Bronze

GROUP 2
Matte Black, Polished Grey
Matte Gold, Polished Gold
Polished Nickel

They're in 2 groups based on the cost. But what's the difference between the steels? Their website isn't very helpful. I think the second group is the plated group. From plain steel, they can plate it black, gold or nickel, then polish it or not.

Then what's the difference between plain stainless and the bronzes? I can't figure this out since plain stainless is already 40% bronze. Are they plating it with more bronze? I don't think so, since it would cost more and put it in the second group. So, I tried ordering something in polished bronze:
The left is plain stainless steel, and the right is polished bronze. Their stainless is already a bit yellow, but the bronze is dark brown. Polished bronze looks a bit rougher than stainless. Hmm so there's a difference, but I still don't know how bronze is made.

More on their metals: it looks like all their other metals (namely, platinum, gold, silver, precious plated metal, brass and bronze, excluding experimental aluminium) are made by the same process. They print in wax, make a plaster mould around it, then cast that metal. Only stainless steel is printed directly in the metal (although it's very porous). You can also buy the wax form and cast it yourself. These metals are more labour-intensive and hence more expensive, but much more detailed than stainless steel.

31 August, 2015

The Spam Solution

What's the solution to spammers, telemarketers, conmen and trolls?

What's the best way to deal with telemarketers? It is NOT by having a blacklist, screening calls or a do-not-call registry. This is the most basic solution, one that should be available everywhere in 2015 but sadly isn't. But what's wrong with this? It just allows them to concentrate their efforts on those who aren't blocking them. Oh that's not your problem you say? It still congests networks, and you have to pay (e.g. some of your credit card fees go to combating fraud) indirectly. Also, once enough people have blocked them, they'll concentrate their efforts on defeating the filters or flat out ignoring the registry. It's like trying to fix a dripping ceiling by painting it - you're just diverting the problem to a less obvious symptom.

So what's the solution? The solution is to occupy them. Fruitlessly. Some people pretend to be interested and lead them on for hours. You don't have to keep talking to them, you can simply ask them to wait while you look for a pen, or make them repeat everything. We have to take this one step further and automate it. A simple AI with prerecorded messages:
Hello
(wait for pause)
Oh that sounds great.
(wait for pause)
Can you clarify that for me?
(wait for pause)
Hang on, I need to write that down. Let me find a pen.
(30 seconds of rustling)
Ok I-
(pen dropping, 1 minute of rustling and footsteps)

This will tie them up and prevent them from hassling others. What does this have to do with trolls and online spam? The point is, just blocking and banning them is a cat-and-mouse game. We need to keep them busy.

At this point, I need to introduce the concept of phasing, as used in World of Warcraft. Phasing means something appears different to different people. We need to apply this to trolls. Do you see where this is going? Let them post. Let them do whatever they want. But only they can see it. To them, their junk looks like normal, but it doesn't appear to anyone else. A global ignore list, if you will.

This will work for all kinds of things. Spam, trolls, people trying to start arguments, even people trying to game voting systems. Oh but they can log out and see, as the public, that their works are gone. This needs to be coupled with IP monitoring to work. Hey, ad companies already monitor IPs to see if it's an unsuspecting customer before serving malware. If it's a server checking, they serve a clean ad. Even Wikipedia blocks anonymous users who misbehave, so it can be done.

26 August, 2015

vPOST Facts

Some things I've discovered about vPOST (this isn't a complaint):
  • I ordered 2 packages in 1 shipment, and they arrived on different days. So don't panic if only half your order arrives. DHL has done the same thing, they've made 2 deliveries ON THE SAME DAY.
  • When no one was home to accept the package, they automatically diverted it to the nearest PopStation. Not too bad, as long as you have one nearby.
  • Each package seems to have a unique ID. Current format is OJA####, where # is a number. They seem to be issuing these sequentially because looking back at my old packages, they were OHP####, OHQ####, OHR####, OHT####, OHZ####. I don't have any use for this piece of information yet, it's just interesting.
  • When you ship your packages, each will be assigned another number, VS1234567890 (VS then 10 digits). These also seem to be assigned sequentially, with no check digits. YOU CAN ENTER THIS NUMBER INTO http://www.speedpost.com.sg/ TO GET DETAILED TRACKING INFORMATION. I'm only seeing these numbers on my packages from June 2015. I say the numbers are assigned sequentially because all numbers are used - you can enter a random number below VS0000105000 and see its tracking, unlike say credit card numbers where only a few work. Better yet, get a tracking number someone posted on vPOST's Facebook page and see if their case was resolved. Hmm this seems rather insecure. Someone could run a script to mine all the tracking data, especially since there's no captcha protection. Also, this is an easy way to see how much traffic Speedpost handles and what's their error rate.
  • My other package had a different tracking number format, SS######A############ (6, then 12 digits). This didn't work on the Speedpost website, but it worked on http://www.singpost.com/. Hmm I wonder what's the difference between the 2 tracking numbers? Both were parcels.

28 July, 2015

Box Designs For Silhouette

Previously:
Tried making coin pouches using a box design
One of these websites had designs for boxes

Found these box designs and their 2D plan/net/forms that are perfect for small Silhouette projects:
You might need the Designer Edition, but it's very easy to convert the line patterns to Silhouette format, even if you do it manually.