1Q84 and Math

I made the "mistake" of picking up ichi Q hachi yon by Haruki Murakami. Of course I cannot put it down. Here is Tengo on Math:

"Math is like water. It has a lot of difficult theories, of course, but its basic logic is very simple. Just as water flows from high to low over the shortest possible distance, figures can only flow in one direction. You just have to keep your eye on them for the route to reveal itself. That's all it takes. You don't have to do a thing. Just concentrate your attention and keep your eyes open, and the figures make everything clear to you."


Review of Delineato Pro, a light weight diagramming tool for the Mac

I came across Delineato Pro almost by chance while browsing the App Store. A quick googling around, after reading the developer interaction with his users on macrumors forum, I bought it just to try it out. I wrote the review with it as you can see below. For the search engine: I recommend giving a try, especially if you are frustrated with the complicated feature set of OmniGraffle, and find pure mind mapping tools too restrictive in terms of layout.

Reviewing the perfect Hi-Tec-C pen, the Render K

I love fine point pens. All my fountain pens are either F or EF nibs. I use Sharpie F points. But I never gotten excited about the Hi-Tec-C and I never knew why, until this week.

After hearing Brad Dowdy and talked about the Render K many times on the Pen Addict Podcast, I decided to get one. Hoping on the  Kara Kustoms website, I saw that they have some limited editions available. Somehow the Raw stock version seems to be the most authentic version for a pen like the Render K, so I ordered one.

The Render K is everything it is suppose to be. A beautifully created pen with all the right lines and precision construction. I popped an old Hi-Tec-C refill that I had into the Render K, and I suddenly find myself loving the Hi-Tec-C ink. Then I realized why: I really dislike light weight pen. The standard Hi-Tec-C is the worst -- both light weight and thin. That is the reason I never liked it. Now with the weighty Render K, I really like writing with the Hi-Tec-C 0.4 mm refill now.

Note that this is a special raw stock edition. The body is deliberately not polished. I happen to like the look. When you buy a regular Render K from Kara Kustoms, it will look beautifully polished.

Amazon Paperwhite Kindle Review

The postman dropped this through the mail slot today! My new Kindle Paperwhite, one day early. I have the original Kindle, and the Kindle Touch (well the kids have the Kindle Touches). How does this one compare?

  • much faster respond time, including typing
  • the display is way better
  • the UI changed a little, for the better
  • remember it does not have audio capability now, so it is purely a reading device

The only negative? My unit has a little scratch on the side edge on the rubber case. I am not going to exchange it for now obviously. Ignoring that, Highly recommended!

Click through the photoset below for many more pictures.

Amazon Paperwhite Kindle, a set on Flickr.

Aperture stopped importing photo from Photostream

Did you find that suddenly Aperture stopped automatically import photos from your photostream? This is a bug in Aperture, as of version 3.3.1 I found. If you have more than 1000 photos in the Photostream imported into Aperture, Aperture will stopped importing any new photos. One more time: Aperture misunderstood the 1000 photo limits that Apple is suppose to have for Photostream. The correct way for this to work is that Apple will discard older photos and keep the most recent 1000 photos in the stream. But Aperture instead stopped importing after 1000.


  1. Go to the photostream meta project on the side menu/explorer
  2. (Assuming you have already imported the older photostream pictures) select the older photos and delete them "from photostream" using either command-delete or right mouse click then select "delete from photostream".
  3. Then newer photos will automatically start being imported again.

Photo Stream "Album":

See Count at bottom:

Kindle is still better than the iPad, for reading

Instructions on Power Up I love my iPad. There, I said it. It is with me 50% of the time. I consume media on it, Zite, Hulu, Netflix, Safari . I connect with it, Facebook, Twitter, Hootsuite, Mail. I write on it: iThoughtHD, iA Writer, Notability. I even read Kindle books on it using the Amazon Kindle app. But when it come to reading books, I still like the real Kindle ereader better.

The Kindle is better for five very important reasons:

  1. The e-ink display is wonderfully usable even in sunlight. A person who like to read, like to read outside. iPad does not work.
  2. The Kindle is light. The iPad is not very heavy, but the weight difference is significant when you are holding it to read for a long period of time.
  3. The Kindle battery last a long time.
  4. The Kindle is cheap(er) than the iPad. I would feel much less annoyed if I damage or lost my $99 Kindle Touch than my $700 iPad.
  5. The Kindle is more robust. It is much less likely to damage the Kindle then the iPad, when taking places.

What prompted me to write this blog post? I just came back from a short cabin camping trip for four days. I took my iPad and my Kindle Touch with me. I never once took out my iPad. I carried my Kindle everywhere, and caught up with a lot of reading. Sitting under a tree reading from the Kindle. Much better than the iPad.

I look forward to the anticipated new Kindle announcement next week. I am pretty sure I am going to get one. But I hope they bring back the hardware "next page" button.

English Public School is American Private School

This used to confused me when I started living in the States. I went to an English public boarding school, which would have been called a private school in America. Why the opposites? I found a good answer while reading Jeff Jarvis' Public Parts, a book on the impact of sharing and being public in the age of the internet. The definition of Public, prior to the early modern period, was synonymous with the state. Only men of official stature were public. English non state run schools, usually for the privileged, are call public school. Similarly, the common soldiers, the ordinary man without rank, is a private.

The fluffy product reviews - Jabra Solemate

I am sick of them. A company releases a new product. Major gadget sites get a review unit and write up a fluffy review that is pretty much useless. Copy a few talking points from the product release. Snap a few pictures, write a few generic paragraphs and push publish.

Case in point -- Jabra released the Solemate Bluetooth outdoor speakers today. Both gizmodo and Engadget has a "review". Anyone could have written them without even seeing the actual product. Do you the one thing that I wanted to know about this product? What is the power source. Is it rechargeable batteries? Is it proprietary built in rechargeable ? Does it have a DC in with a supplied adaptor? You won't find the answer in these is call reviews.

Oh, and I looked on t Jabra site. The battery information is not there either. It says something about charge via USB and that's it.

Other things a real review should tell us:

  • What is the power source?
  • Do a real life battery rundown test to see how long it last
  • Are the batteries replaceable?
  • What is the range of the bluetooth connection?
  • How much power drain is there for the source, iPhone, iPod?

WordCamp Boston 2012 Review


This year's WordCamp Boston went off with an interesting start. I got there about half an hour early, grabbed a coffee sat down at one of the tables in the keynote area. After chatting with the only other person at the table for a bit, something sounded strangely familiar. When I mentioned I lived in the South End, she figured it out. We sat almost at the exact same spot, during breakfast, and chatted at last year's WordCamp. What are the chances?


The opening keynote speaker was non other than Diane Darling the famous FFI and author of The Networking Survival Guide, and "how to work a room". She gave her usual funny and insightful talk about how Introverts can still network effectively.

Stylesheet Preprocessors

First session I attended is "How we can have nice things" by K Adam White. My main take away was the benefits of using a stylesheet preprocessor, like SASS or LESS. I know of LESS from the bootstrap CSS framework but have yet to try it. Now there is a reason to try it. One thing that I wish LESS support is the @extend feature, which would allow clean rule inheritance in the CSS.

To make any of these work, one should get node.js working on your desktop environment so that you can run javascript at command line.

Wordpress Optimization

A talk on Wordpress Optimization by Ben Metcalfe, co founder of WP Engine, which also which gave out the coolest t-shirts at this unconference. He gave a useful set of recommendations:

A funny fact is that he listed a list of plug-ins to avoid -- things like broken link checkers. Later on, in another session on SEO, another speaker recommend using the same plug-in. Ben is right of course, broken link checking should be done outside of WordPress.

Wordpress as an Application Framework

This talk was not what I expected. The presenter created a piece of code to allow PHP code to access a global (singleton) object, which is useful for adding more functionality to Wordpress. But that is far from being an application framework. Is is more in the line of -- if you want to stick with wordpress and knows PHP, this is one approach for writing more custom PHP code.

Content and more Content

After lunch I switched track and attended the sessions on content and SEO. Jeff Cutler gave an entertaining talk about the process of creating content.

  • addictomatic, a search aggregation site (like duckduckgo) is a site that I didn't know about, and
  • the importance of an editorial calendar -- I know I should use one, but now I am convinced.
  • YouTube, storify and instagram seems now to be "valid" channels to consider when cross posting content


No wordpress conference would be complete if I did not attend a session on SEO. I sat in on a session by Casie Gillette . She recommended a few tools that I did not know about:

  • Screaming Frog's SEO Spider
  • sharing plug-ins: sharebar and sharaholic
  • Google authorship markup is all the rage apparently, it is a way to have Google recognize your blog posts with you as the author, showing your picture alongside search results. The authorsure plug-in is one way to handle it.
  • related posts link using YARPP


The last session that I attended is Guerilla Podcasting by Lanna Lee Maheux. She makes a good case of using a podcast specific hosting service for the podcast because they will charge by size vs bandwidth. If you have a successful podcast you will be paying bandwidth costs if you host the files at a normal hosting company. Libsyn, buzzsprout and blubrry are the three sites that she mentioned.

Final Thoughts

Due to scheduling conflict I had to leave wordcamp early. There were other sessions that I wanted to attend. All the sessions were tapped and should be available online. Overall I like this year's program better. I still think there are one SEO session too many. I wish they have more case studies instead.

How to Adjust IKEA SAVERN Shower Curtain Rod

I do not buy spring loaded shower curtain rod too often so I often forget how to install and adjust one. After the move I bought a IKEA Savern show curtain rod and for a few minutes cannot figure out how to adjust the length. Then it came back to me. You just PULL. There is a lot of built in resistance inside the rods to keep them attached. You just have to pull really hard to extend the rod until it is just a little longer than what you need. Another tip: If you ended up pulling the two rods apart, make sure you insert the smaller rod back into the larger rod spring side last. The spring at the end of the smaller rod is supplying the tensions.

Forget Dr Gregory House, watch Doc Martin

In the times of Downton Abbey, let me call your attention to another great British TV Series: Doc Martin. It is a clean (kids friendly) funny and satirical show that also packed with medical knowledge as a side product. It is what Kingdom to Law as Doc Martin to medicine. The show is available streaming on all platforms, Hulu Plus, Amazon and Netflix. I was avoiding the show initially because the show's description made it sounds like it is about a mean character surviving in a small town. I hate show that has mean characters. That's why I can never watch the Office. However after watching Murder in Suburbia, I looked up what other shows Caroline Catz stars in and found Doc Martin (again). Description on wikipedia mentioned that the main character is supposed to be from Imperial College. Well then I have to give it a go.

Four episodes later, I have to say this is one of the best show. If you like high brow humor, English villages, medical terms, people with heart, quirky characters, family friendly, men in suites, this is the show for you.


Upgrading iThoughtsHD to use Dropbox Cloud Sync

iThoughsHD is one of my favorite iPad application. I tell people: when I need to create a mindMap, I will use iThoughtsHD on the iPad rather than to use any desktop applications even when I am sitting at my desk with my MacbookPro. I was really happy when iThoughtsHD v3.0 adds full Dropbox syncing support. Before I used to have to manually save each map to my dropbox folder. When 3.0 is released, there seems to be some bugs and I waited for the next release, 3.1 to upgrade. In short, the new syncing works. But for users like myself, who has already saved a few maps to dropbox, the upgrade setup is not as easy as it sounds. Making it worst is that the instructions on the iThoughtsHD website is confusing. So here are my version of the upgrade instructions:

Instructions to Upgrade to Dropbox

Important: This instructions is for iThoughtsHD users who is already using Dropbox, on a per map basis, to save/backup some maps. The instructions are in several parts:

* Disclaimer: Please read these instructions and try to understand what is going on before attempting to change your maps. You should back up all your maps once before attempting this * Backup instruction (via archive) here.

Part 1: Follow instructions from iThoughtsHD to Creating a Cloud folder (your maps are already in the cloud)

Original instructions on their page, but here are more detailed version:

  1. Click on the "Forward/Action" icon forth on the left
  2. Select ‘New Cloud folder’
  3. Select an existing storage provider  (DropBox if you already are backing up to DropBox)
  4. Select the formats you wish to sync (ideally select ITMZ as one of the formats as this gives you a good backup option), optionally click PDF as well so you will have a printable copy
  5. Browse to the folder in the cloud where your maps reside and choose ‘Use this Folder’
  6. Select ‘Create’. This will enumerate all the maps and folders and download them.

Note: At this point you would have created a "(Dropbox)ithoughts" folder that is automatically syncing (which is good). However, it would have downloaded any maps that are already backed up to that folder. i.e. you have duplicate maps but pointing to a single file on dropbox.

Part 2: Cleanup the duplicate but do not delete them (This is the part that is missing)

We need to first delete all duplicate map references that you had backed up before. Now they exists in two folders on your iPad. Follow these instructions to remove the references that are not in the synced folder, for each of these already backed-up maps. Make sure you are deleting the right maps. These maps should already have a "cloud" icon on the right because they were backed up to the cloud.

  1. click on the map button on the top left (looks like a book)
  2. click [edit] on the top right inside the pop-up list of maps -- this will bring you to the map edit view, where next to each map you will see a delete icon on the left, and a more [>] icon on the right.
  3. click on the delete icon on the left.
  4. When it ask you to "delete cloud copy", click cancel (IMPORTANT)
  5. This will remove the extra copy referenced outside of your now synced folder.

Part 3: Move the rest of the maps that were not backed up before into the synced dropbox folder

Do this for each remaining map:

  1. click on the map button on the top left (looks like a book)
  2. click [edit] on the top right inside the pop-up list of maps -- this will bring you to the map edit view, where next to each map you will see a delete icon on the left, and a more [>] icon on the right.
  3. click on the more icon [>], you will see a folder (probably Maps) showing on the bottom, with it's own more [>] icon
  4. click on the more [>] icon, this will let you change the storage (now syncing) location of this map
  5. change the map folder location to the (Dropbox)... folder that was selected earlier, where you are storing and syncing all your maps.

At this point all your maps are in the (dropbox)ithoughts folder. Remember to create any new maps in that folder (or sub folder underneath) going forward.

Kindle Touch Review, from an iPad2 User

Executive Summary

  • If you are a serious reader, even if you own an iPad2, buy the Touch.
  • If you have a child who loves to read, buy the Touch.


I own an Amazon Kindle 1, aka the White Wedge. I used it quite a bit until the battery stop holding it's charge, and I got an iPad2. I do almost all of my book reading on the iPad2 using the Kindle App (how ironic). However the weight and the glare makes the reading experience sub par. One cool thing that I can do however is to flip between the Kindle App and iThought HD (a mindmapping app) to make notes while I read.

I pre-ordered the Kindle Touch when it was announced and it arrived yesterday. Charged it up in about an hour, and it is ready for use.


  • It is small and light, something that you can "throw" in your bag and have your books with you anywhere, bonus: much lighter than the iPad2
  • Page turn delay, which is always an issue with e-ink display, is not bad. Check out the video review I made, basically it is quick enough not to be bothersome.
  • The on screen virtual keyboard is also very responsive, meaning you can make notes easily right on the device


These are all minor issues:

  • The charging port, which is a micro-USB port, feels loose. I hope it does not break in the future
  • The feel of the plastic body is not great. I cannot tell why, but it just does not feel nice, especially compare to Apple products
  • Similarly, I which it comes in a sharper color, but then that's what cases and covers are for
  • no landscape viewing mode (at least for now) -- I do not find this to be a big problem, but people using the Kindle for reading personal PDF may find that an issue
  • When you click a "button", it does not "flash" -- so there is no visual feedback of a button being pressed. This is something that, say Apple, will never let go. They should either turn the button dark for a moment or have audible feedback, considering there will likely be a delay until the action is taken. (Note: The keyboard has this "flash/dark" feature. Only buttons in dialog boxes do not.

For Video Review click here to see my video on Amazon.

More Tips and Issue

Amazon Account Management

We use the Kindles within the entire family. One question is whether to use one single Amazon account for all content? Or split them up into adults vs kids accounts. This is a problem that would be solved if Amazon allows a easy transfer of content between accounts, but they do not. This is how the "book" metaphor breaks down. We are not allowed to give our books away. Since we may want to read each other's books, we choose to use a single amazon account. As a result, we need to:

  • disable auto-syncing so that two people can read the same book at different speeds without all devices automatically jumping to the furthermost point
  • use collections to organize a larger than necessary set of books

Listening to Music from iTunes

I am a Mac user and all my music are stored within the iTunes / Apple ecosystem, as DRM free Apple Lossless format files. the Kindle only support MP3s. So I need to convert any music that I want on the Kindle into MP3 files. iTunes has this feature but it may not be obvious.

Kindle Touch for Kids

The Kindle Touch is a great device for kids who read.

Final Thoughts

Summarizing the bigger points regarding the e-book and digital living marketplace:

  • Amazon should allow ownership transfer of e-books. This is solved in the music world by the removal of DRM in music files.

Jabra Supreme Bluetooth Headset Review

I have been eagerly awaiting the Jabra Supreme bluetooth headset. I always find boom based headset sounds better. While the Jabra is a bit larger then, say the Jawbone, I find that it is still small and comfortable to wear. I like the flip boom design, where it switches on and off as you flip the boom open and close. Very natural. When the boom is folded in, the headset is smaller but still pretty thick. I wish for $99, Jabra ship the headset with a case.

Out of the Box Experience

The out of the box experience is pretty good, with the standard exception of needing to charge the unit up before first use. It is very nice that it comes with both a charger with a fixed cable, and an additoinal USB to micro USB cable so that you can use your computer to charge it up. It took just over an hour to get the headset fully charge.

Initial Pairing

Because the Supreme has "Voice Guidance", it will literally talk you thru the initial pairing. You can see this video of the voice guidance in action. I suppose you are expected to wear the headset to listen to the instruction, but I thought (wrongly) that I have to press some buttons, so I had the headset off. The voice guidance is loud enough that I can hear it anyway.



The headset is really light. To be fair most of the new generation headsets are light. 18 grams. You really would not notice it. I wear eyeglasses, and it still fit over my very thin eyeglasses frame without problem. If anything I find that it is a little lose. I don't think I can jog in it.

Sound Quality

I say the sound quality is fair, which is good for a bluetooth headset. The noise cancelling works very well. I place a test call with the radio blasting in the office and much of that is muted out.

Voice Control and Guidance

Of course the Jabra is no Siri! But the voice system works surprisingly well. In fact if I do not have an iPhone with Siri, I would be really impressed. You can say "what can I say" and the headset will read you a list of available commands. One that is particularly useful is "phone commands". When you say "phone commands" it passes you thru to the phone. Since I have Siri activated on the iPhone, it starts Siri up for me. However, currently the Jabra Supreme firmware does not work with Siri. I can hear Siri, but Siri cannot hear me. Jabra promised a fix really soon.


  • boom design for initiative on/off
  • long battery life (5+ hours)
  • comes with a charger and an extra cable for computer charging
  • voice guidance and commands


  • Does not work with IOS5, no SIRI, no Skype. Jabra promise a fix real soon, check their support page to see when it is available.
  • Does not come with a case


Day 7: iPad Stylus is a must

I decided on Dan Bricklin's Note Taker HD as my note taking app. It is an amazing app with a lot of features, including:

  • free hand input
  • free hand input with shapes
  • a zoomed mode that allow you to write in a larger space (hard to explain, go try it)
  • PDF annotation
  • image annotation
  • and much much more

It is by, I would say a software artist, Mr. Dan Bricklin of VisiCalc fame. What's not to like? However, I was having a tough time writing on it with my finger. I was at Office Depot and I decided to pick up the only type of stylus they have, the Targus stylus. This is the rubber tip type, not the foam tip type. I actually like this better, and now I can really make hand writing notes on the iPad.

Day 6: Using the iPad in a Business Meeting

I used the iPad in a meeting today. We usually bring up documents and websites on the projector to review. Since I have the iPad with me, I decided to give the iPad try. I click open an email containing a powerpoint, click on the powerpoint, and it shows up immediately. My co-working came over and sat next to me. We look at the iPad screen on the table and work through the powerpoint presentation. We also needed to check a few competitor's website. Quick launch Safari, type in the site, and we are off. Observation: The iPad invites collaboration. We sit side by side instead of across a conference room table. This calls for a friendlier and more informal meeting. It is almost like back-to-paper. We can point and click on the iPad screen together, instead of passing the mouse back and forth with the traditional laptop and projector setup.

The iPad is a good meeting facilitator, for a two person meeting.

Day 5: Sorting out NPR and PBS on the iPad

There are too many apps for NPR and PBS, for iPhone and iPad. I spend half an hour cleaning up all the apps. There are two pair of apps that are useful:

  • The official PBS (tv) apps published by PBS, for iPhone or iPad
  • The official NPR (radio) apps published by PBS for iPhone or iPad

The NPR (radio) apps both let you do live streaming or catch up on old shows. The Video program has selected content for viewing, but obviously no life streaming. These apps are confusing because they use the same icon for both iPhone and iPad, but the apps are different. On first sync I have both versions on the iPad and I need to launch them to figure out what is what.

There are other apps out there, the Public Radio Tuner will stream radio, and WBUR has their own apps. But I am not sure if they are necessary if you have the official apps.

iPad day two: protect and serve

Yesterday I realized that I do not have a way to carry the iPad home! I ended up finding a part of my backpack that is padded enough for me to carefully put the iPad in. So today's main task is to find something to protect the iPad. In the meantime, I "made" my own iPad case: (yes it is just a towel). I don't like covering up the iPad with too much "stuff" I believe apple design their devices beautifully and they are meant to be touched and held as is. However this is a touch based device, and I know it is going to be hard to protect the screen. So I broken down and bought a protective skin from Best Skin Ever. Their prices are much lower than ZAGG's. I think that's because theirs do not come with a spray bottle, and "tools" for application. You will have to get your own water sprayer and a credit card to apply the skin. I am going to use a used iTunes gift card as the squeegee tool.

That will protect the iPad while it is in use, but how do I carry it in my bag? I went to the Apple store thinking they will have third party cases, but they do not. They claimed that they are not available yet. But I think they just want to push their smart cover. I went to Best Buy and they have several cases available. I ended up buying the "way over priced" incase convertible magazine cover. I like it because

  1. it is thin and light
  2. it has the thick rubber band holding the cover close, reminding me of the Moleskines notebooks.

I would prefer a leather case but the few they have are really cheap feeling.

My iLive is now complete, iPad day 1

My iPad finally arrived. I think the FedEx guy knows it is an iPad. Even him sounded happy. First thoughts: Problem that I didn't think I will have -- OMG! How am I going to organize all the apps? It took 20 minutes for the first sync. It brought over ALL my apps. I am still going through cycles of removing apps that are not suitable for the iPad, while are useful for the iPhone. Then reorganizing where apps should go.

Do you notice the little virtual marks on the F and J keys on the virtual keyboard? It will have something to do with their new haptic patents?

Typing on the virtual keyboard is harder than I thought. It is too narrow, and I have small hands. Yes I am typing this on the iPad.

I went to the apple store trying to buy a protective case but they do not have any third party cases in store yet. "we only have the smart cover" conspiracy to get you to buy their cover? You decide.

Final gotcha of the day - the iPad cannot be charged by the USB port on my powered USB hub. I have to separately plug in the included 10watt charger to charge it.

Get the CSV QuickLook plugin for your Finder

I have been using Macs for three years now. Yet I did not know you can install additional plugins for QuickLook so that you can quickly view different types of file in the finder just by pressing the spacebar ! I work with CSV files a lot and it has always been a pain having to open them in numbers or openoffice to view them. Now come (free) CSV quicklook plugins. You can find a lot of different plugins at this site . This CSV plugin is the one that I installed.

How to Install

  1. Go to the download site, often it is something on
  2. click on the <whatever plugin name>.dmg to download the software
  3. Click on the downloaded DMG file and it should open in Finder
  4. copy the <whatever plugin name>.qlgenerator file into your quicklook plugin directory: Either at /Library/QuickLook/ or ~/Library/QuickLook/
  5. If you copy into ~/Library... it will only be available to your account. If the ~/Library/QuickLook directory is not there, create it first.
  6. either reboot, or start a terminal session and type: qlmanage -r

That is it!