Technology Roadmap updated June 2011

Back in February 2010, I wrote about when I would replace various pieces of technology that I use. Tonight as I was doing some research on home servers, I thought I would revisit my original predictions, and see what has changed.

As for the home server, I found a solution and am very excited about its potential!

So here we go.

Laptop

Current: MacBook Pro 15″ (early 2008) purchased February 2008
Change every: 3 years
Original next purchase estimate: MacBook Pro 13″ after February 2011
New next purchase: MacBook Pro 15″ at next major update (~February 2012)

Since last year, I have replaced the internal left-side fan. Also, the performance has not worsened significantly. I have decided to stay with a 15″ model because this is my only computer, and that carrying the laptop to university almost everyday does not bother me at all. I also have a 24″ screen that can be used if I need more screen space. Although I aimed to replace it this year, I decided to delay replacement for tax reasons.

Mobile Phone

Current: iPhone 3GS purchased June 2009
Change every: 2 years
Next purchase: Next iPhone after June 2011

The plans for my phone have not changed. Although I am out of contract, I will wait until the release of the next iPhone.

Camera

Current: Nikon D80 purchased March 2008
Change every: 3-5 years, or until image quality deteriorates/equipment fails
Next purchase: Next Nikon dSLR

Nothing has changed here either!

Portable Music Player

Current: iPod (5G) purchased December 2005
Change every: When it breaks
Next purchase: iPod classic

The backlight of the screen began to fail, and I replaced the screen. Repairing is better than throwing stuff out!. It now looks as if it were new! This iPod is now plugged into the car, so at least it has some use. Still has not broken yet. There are rumours that the iPod classic may not be made anymore, so I will have to keep an eye on that.

Portable Hard Drives and their Functions

Current: 2 portable hard drives (80GB and 320GB), one desktop hard drive (500GB)
Change every: When they get full or break
Next purchase: Depends on the current need

Over the last few years, I have bought bigger hard drives as my need for storage grew. The portable hard drives are used for photos and other storage (disk images, archives) and the desktop hard drive is used for Mac backup via Time Machine.

Now I want to consolidate all these drives into one unit, as well as provide file and media sharing services over the home network. Put simply, a box that stores lots of things and can do certain functions. I had originally wanted to build a Linux-based PC with lots of storage, but that proved to be cumbersome.

I looked at network attached storage (NAS) devices, especially this QNAP one (TS-419P+), and knew this was a good enough solution. The spare hard drives can then be sold for dirt cheap!

The network router will need to be upgraded soon, as it is struggling to cope with all the wireless devices (at least 8). Faster network traffic would be a plus. I welcome any suggestions as to what router I should get.

 

So, that’s made me excited for what is to come. Anyone want to buy the 80GB hard drive for $10?

Review: Terminus

A word of warning before you go see this: If you can’t focus for more than an hour, don’t go. Also, note there is no interval to gather your thoughts.

Terminus by Mark O’Rowe follows the stories of three strangers going about their lives. From the dead of night to the deadly violent, the stories take wild turns until they somehow relate, similar to the 2006 film Babel (starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett). From the stage, we can only rely on the limited body movements and the rich, rhyming dialogue. The rhyme keeps the stories going, renewing the audience’s (and certainly my) attention. There’s not much else to see, except for the occasional flashing light. But from what we get from the stage, the imagination is left to paint the picture of what is going on.

For me, it took a while to ‘settle in’ into the play. The stories become more intense as the play progresses, and more gruesome as well. As for the supernatural element (B gets caught by a demon), it was fun imagining what it was like. (Actually, kind of hard when it is described frequently as a ‘can of worms’!) The thing to take away from this play is that ‘click’ moment, when you realise three stories combine into one, and how much of a train wreck one of the characters is. All in all, I liked it, although I could have been more awake throughout.

This is a play for the mind, not the eyes. You have been warned.

Terminus plays until Saturday, 9 July at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House.

What to do?

Two Saturdays ago, a friend and I went out to see the lights as part of Vivid Sydney (they were really good, by the way). As we were walking back to the car park, we witnessed an altercation between a taxi driver and the passenger. The passenger didn’t want to pay the fare, the driver wanted the fare. A fight ensued, and a minute later the passenger ran off the driver’s cap.

My friend asked me whether we should help the driver. I said no. The reason being that I (we) didn’t want get hurt as a result. In the end I said to him, “Even though you want to help, it’s safer not to. Sad, I know, but that’s reality.”

I know I did the right thing, but would you have done the same?

Earlier that night walking along George St, I saw at least two cases of passengers running of without paying. In the more fortunate case, two girls ran out of the taxi to the cover (it was raining that night). The driver followed them and recovered the fare after some shouting.

These incidents, I believe, highlight the need for prepaid fares in the evenings on weekends. I think it’s reasonable and not difficult to hand over $10 before the trip starts. I also think it is right to pay for the services that you have used. For the drivers, it is their livelihoods. They are the same as anyone with a job, and deserve to be paid for the job they do. It is a shame to the society that young people are not taught/told of these basic life principles.

Whether drivers get paid enough is another issue; the important thing is that they get paid in the first place.

Covers and Samples

When it comes to current popular music, I usually prefer to listen to the longest, most original version of a song. Sometimes these songs are sampled or covered by others; I tend to steer clear from those (except in certain tasteful circumstances).

One example about duration. I have the Sister Sledge’s 8-minute long hit single ‘We Are Family‘ on my iPod. It’s far better than the 3-minute version that is often played on the radio. If you search through the iTunes Store for this song, you will find plenty of covers. Yuck.

It can be said that the radio has toned down the appreciation and creativity of popular music. Short versions, ads in between plays and countless and tasteless cover versions and samples. This is an extreme generalisation, I know.

But given all that, I must confess that I have a weakness.

Last week, I bought the album ‘The Very Best of Supertramp‘. When I listened to ‘The Logical Song’, my mind almost instantly thought of the version done by the German happy hardcore group Scooter. See the YouTube links for comparison.

Despite trying to block out the Scooter version from my mind in favour of the original, I couldn’t. Maybe it’s because I currently enjoy some forms of dance music. Who knows? Mind you, I still thoroughly enjoy the original. Often, they are the best version out of the lot. The only reaction for me is to simply laugh it off. *cue laughter*

This is a behaviour that will linger in my mind for sometime, perhaps until I get tired of hearing Scooter’s version.

In the meantime, back to exam study. Here’s another pair of songs to fill in the time.

Another interesting recurring conversation…

Here’s another recurring conversation topic that I have with other people. See what you make of it.

Me: So, I never went to my Year 12 formal.
Other: Really? Why?
M: Oh you know, political reasons.
O: Political reasons?
M: Yeah, tensions between me and the organising committee. They didn’t want me organising it.
O: I see.
M: But on the other hand, I did spend an hour outside Luna Park taking photos for everybody.
O: That’s very nice of you.

A recurring conversation topic

SHB during Earth Hour 2008

The Sydney Harbour Bridge during Earth Hour 2008.

During university, I talk to people who I have just met for the first time. A question I often ask (a local) is which part of Sydney they are from. This question usually leads to questions about how they get to uni. I say that I have to catch the train across the Harbour Bridge each day. Then a statement similar to this arises:

Wow! Really? What’s it like crossing the Bridge each day?!

The answer: It gets boring after the first time. The only interesting times after that is when a big cruise ship is docked, or when some idiot dumps dirt on the road.

Just thought I’d share this with you.

What am I?

If you saw me across the hallway, would you think I am a local student, or an international student?

(Assuming you never hear me speak)

I’ve wanted to ask this question to passers-by at university for a while now. But thinking about it, if you were asked that question by me, you would think that I am a bit weird.

If you were to hear me speak, that would defeat the purpose of asking the question.

So instead I’m asking it here, and I’ll explain why I am interested in your answer.

First off, here is a picture of me:

This question arose after noticing the high proportion of international (mostly Chinese) students at Macquarie University. A similar claim can be made for other major Sydney universities.

I want to know how my look was perceived by the public. Do I look like an Aussie? Or do I look like a migrant/vistor?

After having studied belonging and identity in Year 12 English, I have been interested in seeing how much people have to do to ‘fit in’. My unscientific definition of ‘fit in’ is “to not feel out of place, or like a fish out of water”. Can someone fit in by just speaking the language (English)? Or does one have to fully adopt and accept the culture and mannerisms of the society?

I’ve noticed some changes in my behaviour, mostly in order to generate some small talk.

With your input, I’m able to judge whether I look more like a local or international student. It will also help me to understand what others think about this issue.

Observations: Martin Place

You know, one of the side effects of my habit of being overly punctual, is that I get a lot of time to sit around and observe the surroundings. Two Thursdays ago I was in Martin Place, waiting to go to Wharf 1 Theatre. I had two hours to grab some dinner, and catch one bus. Not wanting to wait at the theatre for a long time, I sat down at a bench in Martin Place and watched the time pass.

Here’s a list of what I saw:

    Commuters leaving work
    People who look dressed to go somewhere
    Scooters, bicycles, and even an electric bicycle
    Tourists resting
    A couple kissing 4 times in succession
    A man on a unicycle, who appears to be commuting from work

 

It’s amazing that these normally ordinary activities suddenly become so significant. I was able to notice small details and understand why they were there, very similar to getting into the mind of the person concerned. Let me tell you more about some of the things I saw.

People who look dressed to go somewhere
This one is obvious. These are the people who are wearing a nice suit, a beautiful dress, those high heels, or that funny tie. They might say something like, “Let’s get this night started!!!”, or have someone around their arm. From where I was sitting, these people were heading to Angel Place, or to a bar/hotel.

Tourists resting
Normally when someone sits down on a bench in a park (or in this case, at Martin Place), one might only take a brief glance at who is sitting down, and then return to whatever they were doing. Adding inactivity to the mix causes the need to be stimulated by surrounds. But what is there to stimulate you? Answer: the person that just sat down. So in this example, how do I know they are tourists? Well, they were analysing a map of Sydney CBD quite closely, they had a camera out for quite a while, and they had a bumbag of essential, touristy items. Once again, little details.

A couple kissing 4 times in succession
This observation comes with scathing commentary. So a couple was sat down on the other side of Martin Place. With arms around each other they talked, showing intimacy, then proceeded to kiss. And kiss again. And again, and again. To the occasional onlooker, once is acceptable. But going on and on in public shouldn’t happen unless you want to break a world record! Admittedly, they were better than another couple I saw kissing in the middle of the footpath, blocking foot traffic in peak hour.

A man on a unicycle, who appears to be commuting from work
Now this is something you don’t see everyday! So a man in lycra, and also wearing a helmet was riding a unicycle towards George St. The unicycle was quite high, presumably he could see over people and vans. The pedestrian light had just turned red, and he increased speed to make the crossing. He was a fraction late, and the rear of a bus just passed to make a little room for the unicycle to get through. Some homeless folk had been watching too, and exclaimed loudly at the near miss. “Whoa, d’you just see that?! How close was that, eh?!”

It’s amazing what you notice if you stop a minute to observe the passers by. To quote Ferris Bueller:

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Birthday Statistics 2011

Once again, I have compiled statistics of the messages I received for my birthday this year.

Birthday messages (change from last year)
Facebook messages – 64 (-1)
Face to face greets – 4 (0)
Text messages – 1 (0)
Phone calls – 1 (+1)
Tweets – 0 (-1)

Frequency of Facebook messages vs. Time (i.e. when was the message posted)

Use of initials (mine or otherwise) – 20
Average length (words): 4.7
Facebook email lag – none

Gender split of Facebook messages
Male – 38
Female – 26

Observations
It is easier and more interesting this year because there is data to compare with!

I expected a normal distribution (bell-shaped curve) again. The histogram shows something resembling a normal distribution, with a slight right skew, and a spike at hour 20 (8pm).

The two posts at 1am (AEST) show something different was happening compared to last year. From the raw data, one post was make in Hong Kong (where it would have been 11pm) and the other I believe was made as a result of being awake for a night-shift job.

The spike at 8pm could be due to people checking Facebook before a night out.

There is a small group of friends who have posted birthday messages in both 2010 and 2011. This subset tends to have known me for longer than others. There are also people (who I consider to be good friends with) that have not posted messages at all. This isn’t a bad thing.

Gender Split
This year is the first that gender has been analysed. I predicted an even split of male to female, but the graph is self explanatory.

Initials
This year I have counted the number of people who used any initials. This will be the count methodology for the future.

What’s interesting is that my standard birthday greeting can be transformed to a birthday message for me with the removal of the exclamation mark.

In some cases, ‘Happy Birthday’ was abbreviated to ‘HB’, and thus shows symmetry with my initials (BH). Although I usually frown upon this method of greeting, in the interests of symmetry and brevity I have accepted it.

Conclusion
Thank you for your messages!

Review: Sucker Punch

I don’t watch too many mainstream films, mainly because they follow the overused storyline for a particular genre. But when I saw the trailer for Sucker Punch, I couldn’t resist to at least watch it once. I don’t know whether it was the mostly female ensemble cast, or the stunning visual effects, but I said to myself, “I have to watch this.”

Sucker Punch is a story about freedom and standing for what you believe in. Director Zack Snyder has blended action, video games, and girls into something rather tasteful. (Note: I have not seen any his previous work (300, Watchmen))

The first ten minutes of this film resembles a short prequel to set the scene and tone of the story. I found it strange that the only dialogue was of a cover of the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams’, accompanying vision of Baby Doll’s stepfather raging throughout the house; akin to a combination of the prologue and the opening titles of a James Bond film. Following this we reach the main plot, ‘Find the five items to set you free!’

Did I not mention that this film was a visual feast? Apart from the amazingly graphic battles against the machines, steampunk soldiers, dragons and the humanoids, the moving between the dreamworld and reality becomes a bit ordinary after the second time. Nevertheless, there is an urge to keep watching and thinking ‘What will they do next?’ The film takes on a twist eventually, and the two worlds merge into one.

In many ways, you could argue that Sucker Punch is almost like a storyline from a video game. With a few prominent film adaptions of popular games released in the last few years, you wouldn’t be the only one thinking the same.

So, should you watch it? I think you should. With any film, whether you like it depends on what you make of it. See it for the visuals, the soundtrack but not so much for the story.

I give this 3.5 out of 5. What do you think?