Kids are simply amazing…

I was just watching my 8 year old son on the computer as he was busy playing an online game on the Cartoon Network website. The game he was playing was a ninja game based on the popular kid’s TV show called Ninjago. I watched him intensely focussing on beating the bad guys, and not a care in the world could distract him from his mission. What’s so amazing about it? He is just like any 8 year olds when it comes to computer / video games.

What amazed me is the fact that I did not teach him how to play the game. I have yet to figure out how he is even aware of this game site or a few others that I did not even knew they existed until my son showed them to me. He knew which keys on the keyboard to use for which movements. Basically he knows how to get into the game, enjoy the game and leave when it is done. Again, I never taught him any of that. I guess kids watch us and absorb everything they see. And they probably learned those from their friends, who in turn learned it from theirs, and so on.

I still remember vividly the time when my son was three years old and I had him on my lap while I was working on the desktop PC. He watched closely how I was moving the mouse and hence the cursor. And without any inhibition, he wanted to do the same. So I let him try. Much to my amazement, he picked it up fairly quickly how the mouse work. For a three year old to grasp that concept isn’t a small feat. I remembered that I just showed him once with a brief explanation, and he was already on his way to becoming a PC user… well sort of a user. So it should not be a surprise to see him pick up quickly how to surf the internet, etc. I believe this is the case for all kids, especially those who are fortunate enough to grow up in a home with multiple computers scattered through the house. They have no problem learning the computers. For them it is really another household gadget like the many we have around the house, such as the TV, DVD player, stereo system, microwave, etc.  This is the kind of world they are familiar with, unlike the one that their parents grew up in. Ok, I’m speaking of myself, the ancient one. When I was growing up, we only play games that we made ourselves. And that never minimize one bit the amount of fun I had had in those days.

Anyway, the fact remains, kids, I believe, are gifted by our Creator to learn quickly. They have to in order to assimilate into the “grown up” world. On the caution side of the fence, as parents we need to be mindful that it also works in the negative way, meaning that they learn the negatives just as quickly. I think it is sad that too often I have seen  parents neglecting to pay attention to that fact and allowed their kids to go in the wrong direction. The path they take today determines the destination where they ended up in. Put simply, “we reap what we sow…”.

To finish up, take time to notice our children, even in the seemingly mundane things they do everyday. And it will surely help us understand our children better, as they grow.



Is my account secure?…

Recently in the news, Yahoo! was reported to have been hacked and had more than 400,000 user credentials stolen. And the hackers apparently wanted to make their feat publicly known by posting them online. According to them, “We hope that the parties responsible for managing the security of this subdomain will take this as a wake-up call, and not as a threat,” What a thoughtful way to go about helping Yahoo! Who cares about the 400K+ users who are inconvenient by the incident. Do you know the trouble a Yahoo user had to go through to change their password? I’m talking about those who are ATT users as well, who had one time or another had their Yahoo user account merged with their ATT account. It took me half an hour of searching through the internet to finally accomplish that. And considering the fact that I am a computer guy. What about the thousands of users out there who relied only on the customer support to do that. For the lucky ones, they get it done without  too much further woes. But others like those I read on the forums, who spent hours on the phone and got directed from one party to another. The ATT support told them to contact Yahoo support and vice-versa. What a mess! Thankfully with more search on Google, I got that resolved fairly quickly less further frustrations.

Anyhow this hack raised some questions about the security measures taken by some of these companies. Especially the bigger ones who have the resources to do better. Even if the hacker were to steal the user data, it would have taken them a long, long time to extract those encrypted passwords, assuming that they were encrypted. So to be able to get those 400K+ passwords posted  (I have not seen those posted data myself and rely only not the news reports) will mean one of two things (if not more). The passwords were not encrypted (which would be a “shame on you” thing) and in plain text on the database. Or they have such weak encryption that could easily be broken fairly quickly. Either cases is no excuse, especially for a large corporation which supposedly has the resources to do better.

How can we tell if the service provider has good password encryption process to keep your private data private? I’m sure there are many ways to do that but for me the simplest way to find out is to use their “Forgot your password?” link. If the provider sends you back the password in the email in plain text that you can read, you better avoid using their service from here on. This is a good sign that they are using a weak encryption method or worse no encryption at all. A secure company should not be able to show you your password because even if they want to, they won’t be able to. So they will send you a link to reset your password, after further verification of course using some security questions and answers that only you know.

Well, if after knowing that the service provider (that means any website services that you use) isn’t secure and you still would want to continue using their website, in this case I would recommend that you use a one of a kind password with that site. Meaning that password will not be used in any other websites, and also that website has nothing important  with regards to your privacy data. By that I mean something like a game site or something. You decide what is important to you. And if it is a site like your email service provider, I suggest that you change your provider quickly with our further risk of compromise. I can tell that there are a lot of email users whose account had been compromised and it is not only inconvenient but sensitive data too has been compromised. So be aware that everyday there are actual living beings out there somewhere in some dark corners of this earth who are at this moment trying to break into your account. Just a week ago, I received an email that supposedly come from someone I know, but judging by the email, I know instantly it wasn’t from him but definitely the work of someone who has hacked into that account. If I were to tell you how easy it is to hack into someone’s gmail account (at least at one time. Hopefully Gmail has updated their security process since), you would not believe it. I did not either until I saw it on YouTube. Well, if it is on YouTube, you can be assured that thousands if not millions others have also seen the video, and probably also learned how to do it in the process. This is real on the cyber world. But by taking the necessary precaution, you will be a little safer, although no security is 100%.

Free Kindle books are worth it…

I have always enjoyed reading. Although with a busy family and professional life it is often a challenge to find time to read. That was until I got myself a tablet last August, a HP Touchpad at their fire sale. I was fortunate to be able to grab a 32GB Touchpad from Best Buy, after waiting in line for more than an hour and a half. That’s another story to tell, about my experience with the HP Touchpad.

Anyway the tablet together with the Kindle app has practically became my mobile library. Today I have about 150 books on my Touchpad, that I have the pleasure of carrying around with me for any period of free time I might find myself. Especially thankful to have that whenever I have to accompany my wife to the supermarket. While she shops, I take the opportunity to catch up with my reading.

Why carry around so many books? Do you even have the time to read them all? Well, that is not the question that I am interested with. I guess, I would probably ask why not. The main reason I have all these books with me is due to the fact that they are readily available for me to download…for FREE. Some of you might already be fully aware of this but for the benefits of those who aren’t, there are practically lots of kindle books on Amazon you can download for free. All the books I have on my Touchpad library were free books from Amazon. Don’t be fooled that those books are worthless books that nobody wants to buy. On the contrary some of those books I have downloaded were hot books.

To share a secret about these free books on the Amazon (well it is not really a secret but not everyone is aware of it just the same), everyday there are price movement on the kindle books on Amazon. And the best news is that they often temporary move to be free for a short period of time before returning to its regular price. I do not claim to understand why this is so. But I just enjoy this “secret” nevertheless of being able to download books that I wanted to read for free. Of course, it doesn’t mean you are able to download for free those best seller books that you heard about on the news and wanted to read. You may still get them if you are patient enough and willing to wait till they move temporarily to the free zone. The point I am getting at is that there are good books that are free… for a period of time.

So, how do I go about gathering my collection of books? A few times a week I would visit the Amazon site to view their free collection. To do that would be as simple as clicking a previously stored bookmark to the page for free kindle collection. And I would browse through the category that I am interested in and when I see any books that look interesting enough, I would not hesitate for a moment to download them. After all it cost you nothing but mere a clicking of the “Buy now with 1-Click” button. The act of browsing through the books is just like going to your local library except you do it from the comfort of your own home or wherever you might be. Consider those books that are not moved to the free category yet, as books that have been checked out by other people, in the local library scenario.

To summarize, to get free books on Amazon, you need first to have an account on Amazon. That should not be difficult to do. Once you have an account, you have the convenience to immediate start downloading books. Of course, to read the Kindle books, you will need either a kindle app on any of the available electronic devices. Personally I use a tablet but I would consider it a good investment to get an Amazon kindle. So if you do not have a tablet, it would be worthwhile to consider getting one, if you love to read. At the time of this writing, the tablets are getting cheaper by the months. Especially the 7″ tablets. I think it would not be long before they become one of those cheap everyday devices.

After you click the purchase button, the kindle book will be added to your collection, which is incidentally stored on Amazon computer. So regardless what devices you may be using, or even multiple devices, it can be automatically synch with every devices you have.

One extra note, when you are downloading the free books, make sure you are looking at the “Buy” price showing at $0.00, and not only the Prime Members price. Unless you are a Prime Member, of course. The reason I bring this up is because often these two prices do not necessarily match, and often the Prime Member price shows $0.00 the Buy price may be the regular price. So just beware of this so that you do not ended up with an invoice saying you will be charged for so and so price when you thought it was free.

Lastly for those of you for whom the kindle books experience is a totally new concept, to read kindle books you first need a kindle application/software. If you already have a tablet or mobile devices, you should be be able to download a kindle app available for your device. For those of you who do not have a mobile device, you probably own a PC. And there are also kindle app for PC too. Yo can download this kindle app for PC from the Amazon site for free.

Before you can begin to use your kindle app, you need to have downloaded kindle books to your device. And before you could download, you first need an Amazon account. So go ahead and create an Amazon account. Once you have done that you can link your kindle app to your amazon account. That way, Amazon will know which device to send your purchased books. Actually how it works is whenever you purchase a book (even for $0.00), it is “downloaded” to your Amazon account. And whenever you use your kindle app, it will do a sync to your Amazon account and download any new books that you purchased, to your mobile device. After that you can read the book without the need to connect to Amazon. Your kindle connects to Amazon only to sync your books.

Anyway enjoy reading…

Jumping onto the Apple wagon… finally.

My relationship with Apple products has always been a love-hate type. Well, maybe not that intense. Probably more like a love-dislike type of intensity. I was been a Windows person for as long as I can remember. The decision to stick with Windows for so long was based mostly on work environment than on personal choice. Where personal choice is allowed to express itself, I have to say that the prices of Apple products are not a great help to move in that direction either. Yeah, I know, you get what you pay for. The problem was that I could not convince my mind to pay for it.

The other thing I dislike about Apple is how they tell you what you need / want. To rub it in, they do know what they are doing most of the time. They are so good at creating products that you ended up wanting. Even if it goes against the flow of the crowds. When I say Apple, it is pretty much synonymous with referring to Steve Job. We all know the two cannot exist apart from each other. And I have high regards for Steve’s visionary approach to Apple. Yet as a consumer, especially a technical one, it sometimes gets frustrating to patiently wait for new features or enhancements to their next product releases and to end up disappointed that they were not included. In spite of all the endless consumer suggestions or expressed desires, you get what Apple thinks is good for you. This was one the reasons why I held back for so long from jumping into the Apple wagon. Well, no matter how much resistance you may have, eventually they get to you. That is if you let your guards down and allow yourself to use an Apple product, say the iPad, iPhone or the Mac OS X.

Sometimes we do not control how our life script would end up to be. The path we choose will inevitably decide the direction we take. For me that came with a new job last December working as a web developer. As it turned out, our development platform is all Mac OS X based. I would not say it was painful to have to switch to the Mac platform. As much as I hate to admit it, I have actually come to like the Mac experience. Ok, you had me… I love the experience. Especially working in web development using Ruby on Rails. The difference is like day and night, when compared with using the Windows platform. Before someone start to take a shot at me for making this statement, I better qualify it as a “IMHO”.  After having used the OS X for more than 6 months, I can’t see myself going back to my old way of using Windows for web development. I can understand now from a first hand experience why more than 90% (my guess) of the Rails developers I meet are all using a Mac.

My old Toshiba Windows laptop has served me so well for so long, more than 6 years to be more specific. It had even survived a 4 foot drop in a car park, falling out of my laptop bag. The binding around the screen is about to peel off. But it is still working in spite of that. A few weeks ago I even spilled half a cup of coffee on it, and I thought that this must be the end of it. But it is still going strong. Even though I may feel somewhat sentimental towards this faithful servant, it is really past its time, I need to retire it for secondary usage. And in looking for a replacement, I went back and forth between getting another Windows machine and A Mac book pro. If I have not been using a Mac OS X the past 7 months, I might have resisted the temptation to jump the wagon. As it was, the pull was much too strong and I finally caved in. I guess that’s why Apple’s strategy involves getting kids in school to use the Macs and when they leave school, it is a no brainer that they will end up getting a Mac, assuming they are able to afford it. Anyhow I ended up getting myself a 2011 version MacBook Pro, a few days after Apple  launched its new MacBooks. This was a good time to buy an older version product at a good reduced price. So after all the years of resistance, it was just futile to stay away and finally I jumped into the Apple MacBook wagon… much to my personal delight..



It’s been a long time…

This blog has been neglected for such a long time. Always at the back on the mind would be that I’ll get back to it as soon as I can. But unfortunately with a family, job and other things that demand one’s time, it is a scarce commodity.

I know… everyone has the same 24 hours. Yet the same 24 hours can be different for different people. For some, they can’t remember what they did with that 24 hours. For others, a ton of things have been accomplished. I wish I am the well organized type but sadly I’m not quite there yet. Even though I have the desire.

The truth of the matter is I really do enjoy writing. Maybe I should spend more time on the things I enjoy rather than the things I need to do. 🙂 Well, like it or not, the things that needed done will still need to be done. Anyhow as the Chinese saying goes “the journey of a thousand miles begin with the first step.” Hopefully this long neglected blog will finally get to see more entries.

But seriously, I doubt that anyone would come specifically to read this  mundane blog. But hey, who cares. I write to release the thoughts that goes on in my box that is resting on my shoulder. That’s all that counts for me. Hopefully once in a while some real worthwhile thoughts might surface themselves, that could be of value to my readers.