27 January 2008

Lost-and-Found Works

Lost-and-Found centers really works, believe it! If you ever lose something and suspect or know where you lost it, go back to the place and ask. Just the other day, after visiting the public library in Chinatown, out on the street I felt the strong wind blowing over my uncovered head. I was sure I had a hat with me getting out of the house, but I also thought I left the hat at the music studio where Son was taking his gu-zheng lesson. Still, I went back to the library and traced my way but no dice. Back at the studio, there was no hat to be found, so back to the library I went. I asked the library person at the return counter and he asked around. They had this paper box for the various items people lost in the library. Sure enough, the lady who checked the materials out for me earlier knew where it was. It was not a brand new hat but it had the flaps for the ears. Talk about "Seek and Ye Shall Find"!

Some weeks ago Son lost two sweaters. Somehow one of his friends had the sweater. The other one I found after rummaging through the school's Lost-and-Found box. Interestingly, the Lost-and-Found box used to be in the school's main office, but perhaps because there were too many items, the two boxes were re-located to the cafeteria. When I was going through them, there were even uneaten sandwiches and a fruit or two.

Son managed to also lose a glove shortly afterward and I told him to look for it in the L-n-F. He attends an after-school program and spends some time in the cafeteria. He never bothered to look. One Friday after dropping him at the Boy Scouts meeting, which is also at the same school, I took a quick look through the L-n-F. Sure enough, the lone single glove was there.

Lost-and-Found works, believe it!

22 January 2008


When Apple started selling the package of apps for the iPod touch, my rationalization was that, "Hey, I got the thing for Christmas, it is OK to spend some of my own money for it." I regret I bought it. It was one of the few time I bought something impulsively instead of waiting for reviews.

I was itching for a note-taking app so I jumped at the chance when the January Software Package was offered. Nice-looking as it is, Notes is a disappointment. Since I plan to replace my aging Visor Deluxe with the touch, I inevitably compare the apps on the touch to that found in the Visor. For starter, the lowly 8-MB Visor comes with the Memo List, free of charge. You write memos on the thing and next time the device syncs, you have a copy on the computer. From there you can highlight the text and copy it to elsewhere. I've written a few blog entries or ATPM software reviews in that fashion. The same cannot be done with the touch's current Notes app. No syncing of any kinds happens as far as Notes is concerned. The only way to get the text out of Notes is to send the whole thing as an email. It is a very incomplete "solution", if it can even be considered as such.

Mail is a decent email client, although I was already accessing my Gmail through the mobile Safari. Of course, writing and reading email via Mail instead of the web browser is a better experience. Yet I cannot shake it that I paid $20 for the package. Not taking the feeble Notes, I did not get something that I could not do before. It is nice that Mail can also pull my .Mac email and Yahoo!Mail but I don't use those two much nowadays. Yahoo!Mail account gets mostly spam and there are thousands of messages in the Inbox. Thanks to the Mail-enabled touch, I now can clean up those spam messages, if I ever in the mood to.

I don't play the stock market, don't need to know too much about the weather, and find the map program a bit weak, so the rest of the January Package is not that appealing either. If Apple had to charge for the package because of accounting practices, I think $5 or $10 would be more reasonable. Instead, the iPod company prefer to fleece their loyal customers for twenty bucks.

I am curious if there will be quarterly, or more frequent, software packages for the iPhone and the iPod touch. Here's my wish list for improvements:

  • A device-wide search function. Regardless whether it is an entry in Notes, Calendar, or Mail, etc. if I search with a keyword, all those apps' data should be looked into. The Visor has that years ago.
  • A simple To-Do List that I can look in one screen and filter based on completion status, dates, etc. Again, it's something that the old Palm OS app has.
  • A way to highlight text for copying and pasting. Data entry in any device should be kept to a minimum. Copying and pasting is a very basic computing requirement, how the iPhone platform cannot handle is perplexing.
  • All these upgrades should be free!

10 January 2008


Wardriving is the act of driving in a car looking for open wireless network. The "war" part of the word comes from the movie "War Game". Back when the movie was new, personal computers "talked" by calling each other over the modem via phone lines. Supposedly one can dial numbers a whole series of numbers, or wardialing, just to see which numbers end up connecting to a computer. In the movie, some kid somehow hooked up to a Pentagon computer and almost started a war.

I never cared about open wireless networks because I didn't have a mobile device. Sure, my laptop is wireless-capable, but it is still too big to carry around. Now that I have the iPod touch, that all changes.

I practice what is better known as warwalking, since I walk around with my iPod touch instead of driving around. It has been a while since my company blocked out access to web mail accounts like Gmail or Yahoo! Mail, so the touch comes in handy, if it can sniffs out any wireless networks. Up until last week, on days that I work in the office, I would walk over to the Brooklyn Heights Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library system to use the free service. I already go to that library almost every week to borrow Shonen Jump magazines anyway so it's not a big deal. However, recently I stumbled upon the MetroTech Public WiFi service, available in the grove of trees known as The Commons, at the center of the MetroTech complex, between buildings #2 and #5 (which is part of Polytechnic University). Nice!

One thing I've discovered in my warwalking experience is that most people have their networks locked. Either people are now more tech-savvy or the default settings on the wireless access points come better protected. In my own neighborhood, I did stumble across a few open networks. Even in my own home, in certain parts of the house by default the device, either the iPod touch or the PowerBook, sometimes automatically connects to one of the neighbors' unrestricted wireless network. The signal is weak and after a minute or two I would notice how slow the web browser is and would switch back to my own network. Whether my neighbor is ignorant of the technology or is a nice person who shares out his 'Net access I wouldn't know.

07 January 2008

ARROWOnline.org Re-launched

For years I was the webmeister for the green group Astoria Residents Reclaiming Our World, or ARROW for short. I know, it is an ambitious-sounding name. I was not the first webmeister but rather inherited the design from someone else. Over the years, I kept the site mostly up-to-date, reflecting a few changes with the Board Members and the occasional event announcements. Life changes took a toll on the Board Members and much as we wanted to do more for the environment, other responsibilities took higher priorities. Somehow, even with the convenience of email and the cell phone, I didn't get frequent enough updates to put on the web and for a long time the web site was idle. One day, my ARROW friend SR came across some MAWebCenter person. The software sounded promising, with the possibility that SR and others can just update the web site themselves. I didn't make any changes to the original web site design so it was about time the site got a face lift.

It is a few months later and the new www.arrowonline.org is up. For SR, the software isn't as easy to use as advertised, but I think the site looks pretty good. ARROWOnline's goal is to disseminate useful green news, be it recycling, re-using, or reducing, focused on local organizations. Check it out and learn a thing or two about the green movement!

03 January 2008

Touched by the iPod... touch

For Christmas the Wife got me an iPod touch. I was in the market for a new iPod, since my 10-GB player is constantly low on space. Unfortunately, the highest capacity the touch product line has only 16 GB and that's what Wife got me. I wouldn't get it myself, as I wanted my next iPod to be a big leap in terms of capacity, perhaps like the 160-GB iPod Classic. Still, after a few days of using it, the iPod touch has grown on me.

Like most new iPods, the touch can handle, in addition to music, movies and photos. It is great to finally be able to carry around my cartoon collection to show them off when needed. Oh, and family photos, too. The iPod touch looks like an iPhone but it lacks the iPhone's camera, speaker, and of course, phone. The touch interface takes a little getting used to, but it has its merit. No more worrying about losing styluses. I had my share of losing a few when I actively used the Palm PDA.

Wi-Fi web surfing, albeit limited, comes in handy, as nowadays I often have to compete with my Son for the use of the PowerBook. One time I had him use the company Dµll laptop but he hated the control. The Dµll's touchpad leaves much to be desired, nowhere near as comfortable as the PowerBook's. With the iPod touch's Wi-Fi capability, I can now check my Gmail inbox with the touch while Son feeds or plays with his pets at ClubPenguin.com.

I already started to use the touch as a PDA and getting away from the Visor Deluxe. Lesser use of AAA batteries is one good reason. Still, the Visor has tons of apps for it while the touch has nothing other than what Apple provided. Since I don't like to install software hacks that most likely will be wiped out with the next Apple firmware upgrade, I'll just have to wait for official apps developed for the iPhone/iPod touch product line. Here's hoping the software development kit (SDK) promised for February 2008 will come through! Last but not least, I think it's misleading that Apple proclaims the web browser on the iPod touch "full". Lacking support for Javascript and Flash, it is far from being full. Many web pages don't work with the touch. Mobile Safari may be a fully-featured web browser if this is the 1990s. But it is already 2008 so the lack of support for JS and Flash, among others, makes this version of Safari fail to meet the average consumer's expectations. For now, I'll just have to make the most of it and again hope for software upgrade to cover the gap.

01 January 2008


Maybe it is a sign of old age creeping upon me, but this year I've decided to make a list of New Year Resolutions. Here they are in order of feasibility...

  1. Draw at least one new cartoon every two weeks. The topic can be anything. If it's work-related, the usual audience can see it. If it's Mac-related, very possible ATPM can use it. Anything else can go into Flickr. Exposure in every way.
  2. No staying up late past 11:30 p.m., unless it's some kind of work emergency or scheduled work.
  3. Get up early to do exercise or better yet, to run 2K or more at the nearby park.
  4. Lose 20 pounds. This is a tough one...
  5. Go vegetarian one lunch per week. I've done it before for about one year and didn't particularly enjoyed it, but let's give it a second try.
  6. Get handier with (physical) tools, to fix broken things around the house, to put up shelves, etc.
  7. Keep in touch better with friends and family. Hopefully my handy iPod touch can help me in those moments I need to write a message and my Son is hogging the PowerBook.
  8. Win the lotto jackpot so I can quit my day job and actually follow through the above items.
That is all, just eight items. I do not like to make up resolutions just to fill the list. Let's start by going to bed before 11:30 p.m. today!