Category Archives: Personal

Moved.

Friends!

I have moved this blog to the newly self-hosted blog on my server. The new blog is much better for the readers. It has bigger fonts and no distractions.
The new link is here: http://www.h4ck3r.org/blog/ 

Welcome!

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Fighting Distractions

The internet is a good place and also, ironically, a bad place for work.
By good place, I mean most of us can greatly benefit from the Internet thanks to its huge source of information. Being a programmer, I heavily rely on the webs to help me with my day-to-day job. When I have a problem need to be solved , a quick google search often saves me hours of trying to figure it out myself.

On the other hand, the internet also has its downside. Social networks, instant messengers, online news and entertainment, all these kinds attractive stuff are just one click away. And most of us seem not to be able to resist the urge of following this infinite loop of distraction.

One thing that most of us don’t realize that the Internet is one of the most distracting our mankind has ever invented. Yes, it is much worse than video games or TV. How is that possible? Let me explain.

If you playing games on a PlayStation 3 or watching TV for three hours straight, you know exactly that you are spending time on entertainment. And you will immediately know that you have been playing/watching too much.

But, on a computer, that’s a totally different story. You can spend hours browsing Facebook, reading online news and still feel like you are just taking a “quick” break from your work. And of course, with many of us, there are often not just one “quick” break in a typical work day. The ugly thing here is, even you just spent two hours or more in those kind of non-work related activities, by the end of the day, you still feel like you have been doing a full eight hours of work. There is no clear boundary between working and playing when it comes to a computer with high-speed internet connection.

So, how are we going to solve this problem? In my situation, I can not just unplug the cable to disconnect from the internet. As a programmer, I need internet to do my job. So instead, I put all websites that I consider time-consuming into a blacklist, then ban all of them from my computer.

What is the result of this? Every time my mind wanders and I type “facebook.com” in the browser, I get a friendly reminder like this 😉

Also, I moved the rest of news reading and other non-work related activities to my Ipad. The Ipad is a great device for those kinds of stuff. By using this trick, I now have a much clearer sense of how much time I spend on work and entertainment.

Are you aware of any other method that help us stay away from distractions?

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History

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”

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A life without Facebook

Delete Facebook account

These thoughts explain why deactivating your Facebook account may be one of the best decision you would ever make to have a more productive life and a better future. Bye bye Facebook!

The first couple of days took some getting used to. There were times when I caught myself typing my browser shortcut for Facebook out of habit. I think Facebook, like email has turned into a site which we click to whenever we’re distracted, when we’re facing some hard tasks at work, when we’re trying to procrastinate on something, or when we’re looking for an emotional release. In a way it’s an avoidance outlet. It’s okay if we’re conscious of that, but if we’re not, it can easily turn into a repetitive click-fest, where you post a comment, go to the next profile, post another comment, return to your profile, update your status feed, and by time you’re done, someone has replied to your comment and it’s now your turn to reply.

Now this whole process may take no more than 10-15 minutes, but most of us check Facebook more often than we realize. Say if you do it once an hour at work (which is pretty tame – back when I had an account, I noticed some users seemed to literally be online all the time), that’s 1.5-2 hours gone in a standard work day, or almost 15-25% of your work hours!

Personally, I didn’t realize how time I was spending on Facebook – It was only after deleting my account that I suddenly noticed myself having a lot of free time.

(From The Personal Excellence Blog )

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Some useful iPhone applications

My first experience with iPhone was quite pleasurable. Not only it’s nice-looking device, but it is also actually amazingly well-engineered. Compared to most smart phones I have a chance to use (or to hold for a while, at least 🙂 ), iPhone brings me a very different experience. This can be compared to the first time I had my laptop hah. Being a programmer myself, I don’t care much about how about the fashion side of iPhone, rather, how much productive it may help me to achieve.
Having said that, below are a small list of some applications I find useful and efficient. Apps are listed in no particular order. Also, there are some captured screenshots from my phone for better illustration.

1/ Longman Dictionary :


Needless to say, it’s super handy to have a 230,000 word/phrase dictionary right in my pocket.
Every time I speak with my friends, I just look up the right word on the iPhone then … show it to him.
This works extremely well, trust me. 🙂 You don’t need to remember a single word.
J/k, This great app has indeed turned my phone into a fantastic learning tool.

2/ Docs to go:

A wonderful app to view/edit your Office documents (Word, Excel, Powerpoints)  right on your Iphone.
It also supports synchronizing documents with Email, Desktop and Google Docs.
Your files are with you everywhere. Long gone are the times I had to open my laptop just to go over some slides before a presentation. 🙂

3/ Backgrounder and Proswitcher:


Prior to iOS 4 (iphone Operating System), the number one reason I hear from people who don’t like iPhone is because its operating system doesn’t support multi-tasking, that is, you are not able to run two third-party programs at the same time.
You have to close the currently opened application in order to launch a new one. That’s quite a bit inconvenient.
Well, the truth is iOS supports multi-tasking (yes, it does, even before iOS4 came out). However, only true native applications such as Email Clients, Phone , Ipod, Safari have privileges to enjoy this benefit. This should explain why when you are using Safari to surf webs, your phone is still able to receive calls from your friends.With a little hack provided by Backgrounder, your iPhone is now able to run multiple programs at the same time.
This works extremely well with any iOS version before iOS 4.0.  Proswitcher provides you a neat interface to switch between currently running applications. (like Alt-Tab function on windows machine)

Personally I think these two programs are must-have if you want to take iPhone to the best of its ability.

For those of you who are wondering why Apple didn’t enable multi-tasking by default. I believe they have a few good reasons behind that. The first reason is to make it easier for users to use the fone. Plus, running several programs in the background drains battery like hell. I have some experience with T-Mobile G1 which often has a lot of hidden apps and services running in background, the battery often suffers and drains out very fast. Hence, multi-tasking does have drawbacks.

So the tip is: if you’re still using iOS lower than 4.0, Backgrounder & Proswitcher combination is the way to go to get a full multi-tasking experience. And remember, don’t open more than 4 programs when using Backgrounder. It may slow down your phone.

4/ Mobile RSS:


A program that perfectly fit my need of reading news on-the-go.

A prominent feature of this program is supporting off-line reading mode.

Everytime my iPhone connects to the internet, it downloads all latest news to my fone and save on hard drive for me to read later.

Reading experience in full screen mode is not bad, if don’t want to say quite pleasurable, especially when you always can zoom in/out with your fingers.


5/ Podcast RSS:

To be honest, I’m a late-adopter of podcast. Primarily because in the past I found it quite time-consuming when I have to plug-in the iPod to the computer to get the latest podcasts.
However, with iPhone, it’s totally a different scenario. I really enjoy the pleasure of downloading my favorite podcast programs and listen when on the move. My English lessons or latest radio news are just one tap away. This is another plus for iPhone if you truely want to take advantage of every possible free time to gain new knowledge.

6/ IRC client:

A tool to keep me in touch with friends in the infosec industry.
Supports joining multiple channels at a time. Awesome!

7/ Cloud Browsing :
fully flash supported

Brings a 100% desktop web browsing experience to iPhone. The application itself is really a good news for people who crave for Flash on iPhone. Basically, the app provides you a remote screen connection from your iPhone to a dedicated desktop; so if anything on the website the desktop can see, you iPhone will see exactly the same thing. The app is still free at the moment.

8/ Unix shell:

a powerful coding and hacking tool right inside my pocket, period. 🙂

9/ Awesome note
A little friend that helps you stay organized. I like the fact that this application user interface is indeed “awesome” with several themes to choose from.  It encourages you to write more.
Another valuable feature is Google Docs synchonization.
Never forget any important things.
10/ Streaks

Have you ever needed a small motivation to continue your everyday streaks?
Mark down your streaks such as how many consecutive days you have been working out, reading books or just simple as going to bed 5 minutes early to see what is your longest records. You’ll lose your longest record if you fail to do your tasks anytime when you’re in current streak.  To me, adding one mark on my streak by the end of the day is somewhat an encouraging thing. 🙂

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If you know a good app, why don’t share it here? 🙂

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Refresh my blog

I just decided to tweak some minor things in my blog to improve the overall reading experience of viewers. Below is the list of changes and explanations I made:

  • Increase Font-Size of title and body contents: Since I do read and read a lot, it’s a real pain to me staring at some tiny text for a long time. It hurts my eyes so bad. The rule that I have developed over time is:  I never read any blog which has font size less than 11 (one rare exception is if the content of that blog is extraordinarily good). I bet you would feel the same thing, so I have made the text BIGGER.
  • A view is now showing at most THREE recent entries at a time: Having multiple entries on one page could confuse the readers. Plus, they may have a hard time scrolling up and down to find the next older entry if they want to skip the latest one. By observing the average length of entry in my blog, Three entries per page seems to be a reasonable number.
  • Add a simple “Just 5 minutes” slogan to very top of the blog: 5 mins? That’s right! I promise it won’t take you more than 5 minutes to read each latest entry in this blog. I will try to keep everything as simple & informative as possible. In addition, every entry should come with at least one or two images to illustrate better the ideas being mentioned in the post. After all, “One picture is worth a thousand words” isn’t it?  So keep in mind, it just takes under 5 mins to read and learn new thing in my blog. 🙂

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Good readings

I went to the library 2 days ago to grab these books. They are all non-technical readings because I’m growing tired starring at program’s source codes or diagrams all day. One thing surprised me the most was that almost every single book I searched for and decided to read on Amazon was found right in the library of my university. That was pretty awesome. 🙂

Should have a small plan to summarize all books as soon as I finish reading them, eh?

Now here comes the summer. 🙂

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