on Tuesday, 16 October 2007
I'm currently quite involved in playing Flash games on Kongregate. Let me be your referral.

It is still in development since last year but much of the site and its features are already up and running very smoothly. What is it? It's a outlet for both players and game designers. A place where you can play games and upload your own Flash games for others to play. If your games get rated 3 stars and above, you're entitled to some of the revenue earned from advertisements.

What's different about this Flash games website and numerous others out there are three things (for me anyway). One is that the interface is clean. I don't like cluttered webpages that put in too many obstrusive links too close together, and not enough clear space.

The second is they have both a system for points and a system for achievements. While nothing concrete on how to use points yet, the achievements are pretty fine. Some of the more popular games get badges that are awarded to you when you achieve a certain objective. It makes it a nice target to play towards. Oh sure, it has the usual high score tables and such but those are usually too huge, too dynamic, and too impersonal. I dunno, I just like the idea of having a objectives to a game rather just playing for the sake of playing.

And thirdly, the most compelling reason, is that they're developing a card game for their site. By completing game challenges (special objectives for certain games), players (i.e. accounts) are rewarded with access to a game for the upcoming card game (yea, it's not ready yet). so far there have been like about 30 challenges. I have 3 cards, so yea, I joined pretty late and missed alot. I hope there'll be a challenge that allows latecomers to obtain the older bonus cards. The card game system itself sounds pretty interesting and I'm definitely eager to try it out.

You can also check some blogs on the games or the site in general. COCAK is a good start. And remember, use this link to join :P Being your referral gives me a small number of points, heheh.

Media collection organizer

on Thursday, 20 September 2007
Libra is a free collection organizer software does tracks your books, audio CDs, movies, and games (for now apparently). It is only free for non-commercial use of course.

It hooks up to the Amazon database for its searches, although there's nothing stopping you from adding you own stuff.

The features highlighted on its website are:
  • Turn your webcam into a barcode scanner (sounds impressive! no webcam to try...)
  • Lightning speed database (not exactly lightning, but fast nonetheless)
  • Track who borrowed your stuff (nice! provided I remember who borrowed what prior to this...)
  • Print beautiful catalogs (interesting, those I prefer to save on ink ;)
  • Share your collection online (I'll have to get some friends to try this)
  • Attention to detail (yes, it looks prefer good, supports custom skins too)
  • Import existing collection (from a couple of applications, most notably MS Excel)
  • Extensible & Flexible (claims it is designed to support any collection)

Other stuff not mentioned include a built-in browser for their forums and the ability to edit item details (and reset, based on Amazon) as well as adding your own notes. A feature I found to be very very useful is being able to specify custom actions to items, such as creating a command that automatically fires up a playlist or opens up the PDF of a book. Another thing I like is that I actually like the cheeky tone they used for their website. Nice touch, hehe.

All-in-all, I'm quite impressed. I'm gonna keep it around and catalogue my collection of stuffs using it. I'll probably merge all my other mechanisms for keeping track of stuff into this!

The mourning of Robert Jordan

on Tuesday, 18 September 2007
Robert Jordan has sadly succumbed to his illness and died 2 days ago. He was the author of many well-known books including some on Conan the Barbarian and the famous the Wheel of Time series. The final book of that 12-part series remains unfinished. A moment of silence for an author whose books I thoroughly enjoy reading.

Online Games Galore

on Wednesday, 11 July 2007
It seems that there's a whole slew of online games that got me piqued have been released and will soon be released these days.

Ever since I chose Guild Wars over D&D Online, I've been pretty watchful of new massively-multiplayer online games (MMOG). I have not regretted my choice, despite D&D Online shaping up to be something that seems to be pretty impressive (doubtless due to me being a D&D fan). Guild Wars is still keeping me stuck to it, no less thanks to the impending release of Guild Wars: Eye of the North (the first true expansion) at the end of this coming August and Guild Wars 2 around 2009 - 2010.

And to think I haven't actually tried World of Warcraft yet... I really wanted to but after registering for the trial, the huge download put me off. But I have seen friends playing it before and I can certainly understand the addiction there. Something I'd rather not get into.

Of late, I've tried the beta of the newly-released Sword of the New World (called Granada Espada in Korea), and while the graphics is certainly very impressive, the gameplay falls quite short of other recently-released and soon-to-be-released games.

I keep getting tempted to try all those new and impressive games but being pampered with the business model adopted for Guild Wars (not monthly access fees!), I'm slightly abhorrent of having to actually pay monthly. Games like Lord of the Rings Online is certainly at the top of my tempted-to-play list. Other upcoming and definitely promising MMOGs like Age of Conan (a unique and involved combat system), Hellgate: London (FPS), Fury (PvP CORPG), Tabula Rasa (futuristic action RPG), Aion (RvR), Warhammer Online (you don't know Warhammer?!), Vanguard (traditional style), Gods & Heroes (squad-based), and Dungeon Runners (free-to-play business model) all look soooo delicious. Too bad I'd probably have only enough time and money to just play one or two or them at most. Life is about choices indeed, heh. I wonder if I'll get around to previewing each of them...

PDF Reader

on Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Goodbye Adobe Acrobat Reader..... and a wonderful good riddance. What have I got against that oh-so-pervasive PDF reader software? I installed Adobe Reader 8. The following is a rant.

Huh? Why? Two words: It sucks. Why does it suck? Well, first off, Reader 7 adds something called the "Adobe Speed Launch" into your Windows startup folder. Reader 8 does that too in addition to also add something called "Adobe Reader Synchronizer". What does that do? It's supposed to synchronised shared documents or collaborative documents... uh... right... but I only use Reader to read PDF files, I don't care about these features. And I'm not alone seeing all the comments in this blog post.

For those of you who didn't even realise that Reader has "Adobe Speed Launch", here's a primer: It pre-loads part of Reader into your memory... regardless of whether you'd actually use Reader or not. As such, it hogs memory that it doesn't use and slows down Windows startup. What's worse is that the so-called "speed launch" gives an almost negligible improvement given the processing capabilities of even an "average" computer these days.

If Adobe really thinks that these are useful, it should be an option. How hard is it to make a little checkbox on the installer to ask whether people want to use it or not? A forceful approach is almost always a bad idea.

Do you know what's even worse about Reader 8? For some reason, it's check-for-update keeps creating weird directory names like "Updater5" on my hard disk. I was worried that my computer got infected by some kind of trojan or virus because I recently reinstalled it and was slow in getting an anti-virus software in place. Luckily for me, another commentor in the above blog post link confirmed that it Reader 8's problem. I'm beginning to think that strange slowdowns and unresponsiveness on my PC might be Reader 8-related... only one way to find out.... uninstall it!

End rant.

How am I gonna read PDF files? Well, I found Foxit Reader. It's afree PDF reader from another PDF software company. According to this and this, it sounded too good to be true, so I just downloaded it, installed it, and whoa! Finally! A PDF reader that does just what I want it to do: read PDF files!

The latest version 2.0 is only 1.67 MB, compared to the 21 MB Reader 8 installer. It installs easily and very quickly. It doesn't have a tonne of so-called features that I almost will never ever use. The interface is simple. And most importantly, it opens all the PDF files I tested on (from tiny to huge) very very quickly. I should have looked for PDF reader alternatives even before Reader 7.


on Sunday, 8 April 2007
Do you find yourself going the same routine of traversing the Start menu of Windows daily? Go to Start, go to All Programs, go to some company name that provided you with the tool, and finally the launcher for the tool or application you want to execute. I found that pretty tedious and plain sucks.

Which is why I use the Windows XP Start menu pin-up, recent documents, the quick launch taskbar, and the desktop alot. I also use RK Launcher, a little docking program where you add shortcuts to it. But these shortcuts had shortcomings too. I have to manually set up all the shortcuts, for each computer that I use regularly.

Now I don't have to anymore. Check out Launchy, an application launcher for Windows. It automatically indexes your Start menu by default and all you need to do is hit ALT-Space to bring up its window, type in some combination of characters that match the application you want, and it'll find the application you want. Useful no? Especially so for a "keyboarder" like me. It's pretty too, with its own site for user-submitted skins. And it doesn't just indexes your Start menu. By default it supports the Firefox keywords I mentioned in my previous post! It also has it's own quick search for several useful sites plus a simple built-in calculator. Hate the daily digging down into your personal directory of files that's over 5 levels deep? Well, Launchy can browse directly to the directory you want; all you need to do is type out c: and use the tab key for auto-completion. That's not all! You can have Launchy index whatever directory you want, for whatever file extension you want. No more having to locate that one particular ebook or mp3 or movie that you have among thousands of similar files. And finally, you can even install Launchy on your pendrive and have it work (once you rebuild the index, which is fast) on any computer!

See also:

Firefox Tips

on Thursday, 5 April 2007
Are you a Firefox user? If not, you might want to give it a try. Are you comfortable and content with using your mouse for everything? If yes, then I think you can stop reading. For those of you, like me, who prefer to use keyboard shortcuts as much as possible, read on. We use shortcuts for two reasons I think, either we just want to do things quicker or we are just lazy to take our hands off the keyboard and move it to the mouse to move cursor.

For starters, here are two very useful shortcuts:
  • CTRL-L - this focuses on the location bar, or the URL address bar.
  • CTRL-K - this goes to the little search bar on the top right.
Not using these yet? You should, it's faster than mousing over and selecting it and then going back to the keyboard to type.

That's it? That's the tip? Of course not. Next up is... bookmarks. We all know what browser bookmarks are. But did you notice a little field labeled "Keyword" when you add a new bookmark or open up the properties of a bookmark? (see image on the right)

Take a wild guess what it's for. And no, it's not for tagging the bookmark. If you create a bookmark like the one shown (or add a short keyword to a bookmark you already have), do the following and be pleasantly surprised:

Press CTRL-L, type gm, hit ENTER

Tada! Gmail login screen! (Replace "gm" with whatever keyword you decided on). Sheer convenience. Obviously you shouldn't add keywords to all your shortcuts, just add them to sites that you visit daily.

One last tip is about something called a "Quick Search". Give it a try first, press CTRL-L again and this time type "google (something)". Replace "(something)" with whatever you want. Hit enter for search results. You might think this is useless given you already have a search bar. But, if you have several search engines added to your search bar, you need to mouse over and manually selected it rather than just CTRL-K-ing to go up there.

Another thing is, it's not limited to search engines. You can add whatever quick search you want. See the image on the right for the dictionary quick search. A quick CTRL-L and "dict (word)" and I get an explanation on the "(word)". Where do I add that bookmark? Anywhere actually. But if you open up your Bookmarks Manager (under Bookmarks -> Organise bookmarks...) you'll notice a convenient "Quick Searches" folder.

See also:

Guild Wars 2

on Tuesday, 27 March 2007
ArenaNet has announced the upcoming Guild Wars: Eye of the North, Guild War's first expansion (note: not standalone). Information regarding Guild Wars 2 were also announced. Exclusive interviews:

Much more details can be found in the PC Gamer May Issue #161, which has an exclusive article on the upcoming plans for Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2. A summary and lively discussion can be found here.

I'd rather not summarise all that I've read (I haven't got my hands on the magazine yet though) but I'm both excited and sad at the same time. Excited because the new promises ArenaNet is making all sound wonderful. Sad that I'm unable to transfer stuff over. But at least they're designing a feature in the upcoming GW: Eye of the North (GWEN! GW players would know the significance of that ;) will make sure that veterans get recognised for the time they spent in Guild Wars. I hope they get more details out soon. I'm dying to know more!


on Monday, 19 March 2007
Seeing that I'm kinda taking a break from Guild Wars, I actually started playing other games. Why did I break from Guild Wars? No Internet access for over a week. Why? Because lightning fried my modem, my router, and the network card socket on my motherboard... poor oh wallet of mine.

Anyway, about the only good thing about that is that I actually started playing other games :p Aside from continuing the campaign in Dragonshard that I started over a year ago and abandoned, and doing a little practicing on DotA, I actually registered for and tried out Audition.

My sister was pretty addicted to it so I got curious. Boy was it addictive. It's a dancing MMORPG where you compete with others in sort of dancing stage. How you dance is basically by hitting the direction keys in the sequence shown on the screen and being able to finish on the correct beat. So it's a game where finger-eye coordination is extremely important. After playing it for several hours (!), my fingers were pretty tired. Apparently, it's not as boring as I thought as I watched my sister play. Not a whole lot of play styles and content, but still pretty addictive. The forum for it is here.

Aside from not having much content, keyboard longevity is affected, not to mention finger-aches. The number of songs available isn't really that large. I keep hearing the same songs over and over on random mode. The patching software sucks. Each patch averages around 30-40 MBs! And they expect you to download all available patches in one go. Something fails while you downloading the last one of the set? Too bad, you have to start all over.

The game is being distributed and maintained by AsiaSoft. They utilize a sort passport system that gives you a master account for all AsiaSoft games (you still need to create individual game accounts). That's another of my peeves with it. Just to create my Audition account, I've suddenly increased the things I need to remember by 4 - the password to the passport account, an authentication PIN number to that account, a password to a playing account for AsiaSoft games, and a password for my Audition account... Crazy. It's worse than my banking accounts.

From Eclipse to Netbeans... and back

on Sunday, 18 March 2007
After a bit more use of Netbeans...
  • There doesn't seem to be any window that shows all errors and warnings currently in the project. Which means any problems introduced from refactorings won't show up until I actually manually build the project.
  • Maybe I'm just blind but the wizard for creating a new interface doesn't seem to allow me to specify a parent interface to extend from...
  • Configuration for the autoformatting of code is very, very, limited. Taking my current company's code style, Netbeans is unable to produce a format that conforms to it.
  • There doesn't seem to be any "quick fix" option for unrecognised classes that allows me to jump to the create class wizard with a simple shortcut.
  • Trivial, but I can't collapse the empty packages in the hierarchy view. It's just a little unfamiliar I suppose, given that I'm used to the more space-conserving collapsible package tree in Eclipse.

On the other hand, I did like several of the managers provided in Netbeans, particularly the Template Manager. Very useful and flexible. But on the whole, I think Netbeans is not for me, as it does not have features that I've come to expect when I'm working on something. I'll think wait for the much touted Netbeans 6 before trying out Netbeans again.

From Eclipse to Netbeans

on Tuesday, 13 March 2007
I've been using Eclipse as my IDE of choice ever since I switch over from Netbeans version 3. But after attending the Sun Tech Days 2007 Kuala Lumpur, I can see that the latest release version, Netbeans 5.5, has been tremendously improved. I daresay that I think it's coming on par with the capabilities of Eclipse, even if you take MyEclipse into consideration. I'm actually giving Netbeans 5.5 a go with my current development work and first impressions are both good and bad. I'm not really attempting a critical and in-depth comparison of both IDEs (since I just started on using Netbeans) but just presenting how Netbeans impressed on me when compared to my experience on Eclipse.

I'll start with the negative impressions:
  • Personalization and syntax coloring is something I'm particular about. Netbeans has very few customisation options and syntax coloring is very limited. But the good thing over Eclipse is that you can save the colour scheme as a profile, so that's a small plus.
  • There's no easy way to change look-and-feel; have to much command line parameters. Although projects like this makes things much better.
  • Seeing what compile errors I have is a pain in Netbeans. Code errors don't show up in the project or file hierarchy trees. I can only see errors in the current file I'm looking at and if I rebuild the project. Eclipse shows errors in the project tree and traces it from the offending file all the way to the root project container.
  • "Find Usages" is very limited compared to the similar search references function in Eclipse. It also forces me to still have to click on "Next" before the search actually takes place. Why can't it search by default?
  • There's no shortcut to jumping quickly to methods in a class. You have to either use the standard find text or use the navigator window. No biggie, but one gets used to being able to jump directly to a method from anywhere else in a class.
  • I don't like the fact code errors don't show up immediately. Maybe it only checks for errors while you've slowed down your typing for better performance but it does mean I have to move my cursor back. The slight pause before the error appears is sometimes disruptive.
  • I find the configuration options window baffling. Is it really necessary to separate basic and advanced? The basic version is much easier to use and navigate, but mostly useless. The options that really help with personalisation and customisation are all in the advanced. Can't better forms and dialogs be designed for the so-called advanced options?
And then the positive impressions:
  • Speed. I just can't help but notice that Netbeans works much faster than Eclipse. It even exits much faster. This is a huge plus.
  • I found the wide array of tools that comes with the basic installation very impressive. The additional packs are even better - the web designer, the mobility pack, the Java EE designers, the profiler... very nice.
  • Built-in mapping for Eclipse shortcuts. Which really helps transition from Eclipse to Netbeans, although I'm using my own slightly-tweaked Eclipse keymap.

Biased? Yea, looks like it, since I'm way more familiar with Eclipse than Netbeans. But looking at the features list of Netbeans 6, it looks like those are just the polish Netbeans needs to make it much more persuasive for me.

EDIT: 15/3/07 Fixed the subversion issue on Netbeans.


on Thursday, 8 February 2007
I am unfocused, unable to focus, fail to focus. How do I focus?