Monday, May 28, 2012

How to rescue dye stained clothes

After washing my load of clothes in the washing machine last night, I found that many of the pieces have been damaged by dye stain. This has happened before in the past and I had not been very successful with attempts to rescue them using bleach. I tried something different this time and it worked.

First I soaked the damaged pieces in hot water for about 1-2 hours, minus any suspect pieces that could have caused the dye transfer stains. I added a generous amount of Vanish Napisan to the soak.

Then I placed them in the washing machine to wash again. I set the washing machine to "Whites", which enabled the wash cycle to operate at 95C (normal cycle is 40C on my machine). Again, I used a generous amount of Vanish Napisan. It worked! All the stains were gone from every piece, even from those that looked hopelessly unrescue-able.

Pictured here: Napisan Vanish and some white clothes after rescue)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lo-fi photography

Wikipedia has this definition: "(lo-fi photography) refers to unconventional photographic practices, chosen for aesthetics, which to give an impression of low quality. Popular techniques include the use of toy cameras or pinhole cameras for their distinctive stylistic effects."

In today's context, it refers to the use of effects ("FX") in mobile phone apps like Instagram, Pixlr-o-matic, etc., to create the old look. This article in dpreview gives a good introduction to what lo-fi photography is all about: . Some of the effects have found their way from smartphones into conventional cameras, albeit the lower entry-level ones.

My thoughts on this:
Even an amateur or a professional photographer can engage in lo-fi photography. It is not about the person, it is more to do with the practice of how the photo is taken, processed, and published. The thrill of lo-fi photography is the unexpectedness of it. After a picture is casually taken, one filter after another is applied to it. Then an unexpectedly eye-catching image appears, giving him the adrenalin rush. The image is immediately shared on a social website.

Incidentally, lo-fi photos are often published alongside other photos casually shot with the smartphone but not modified with effects.

Whether lo-fi will eventually emerge as an established genre in its own right remains to be seen, but I seriously doubt it. I think it will always be a loose aggregation of ad hoc point-and-shoot work with no direct commercial value. The good ones are like well-drawn graffitis (no negative connotation intended). The bad ones are simply kitsch.

An amateur and a professional photographer takes years to hone the craft of photography. A lot of effort and costs go into setting up a shot. Equipment is top notch, or at least they get increasingly more sophisticated as he ascends the learning curve. In fact, his shots are often post-processed to give it a less-than natural look. In that sense, it is akin to lo-fi photography but the difference immediately stops there.

Melbourne camera expo 2012

This year's camera expo in Melbourne is called The Digital Show. What I enjoyed most in this year's show is the photo exhibition section. The images in the AIPP section are the cream of the crop. The images are all highly creative and they are all tastefully photoshopped. An image straight out of the camera will not make it to the very top of the heap. It must be tastefully and artistically improved to give it the cutting edge.

I took some of the images at random with my mobile phone in order to display here, just to show what I mean by "tastefully photoshopped". They almost look like paintings. I dare say almost all of those in the AIPP section are not created by simply adding run-of-the-mill effects (I can't say the same for some of those in the less competitve sections).

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Feature

I stumbled upon a strangely named publication in The Calibre (the software which I use to download papers and magazines to my Kindle). The name of this publication is called "Give Me Something To Read". While trying to google for the website, I discovered that it has been named The Feature. So here it is; you can visit the website at:

What is unique about this publication is that it is a compilation of articles and essays picked up from Instapaper. Instapaper is an app created for people to store articles on their mobile phone for later reading. There is a rich spread of good articles, which are organized into categories such as Science, Technology, Politics, etc.

Check out The Feature. It is good! The essays make excellent reading.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Plagiarism on the internet

You would think that the ease of publishing something on the internet will spawn creativity. Ah, people would at last find an easy outlet for their creative juice to flow. People could be using email to write more often to one another. People could be writing blogs, putting up pictures, and sharing short video clips.

Well, it seems that while all of the above is true, the internet seems to be the place to push jokes and other people's writings around; often without acknowledging the authors or the source. Plagiarism is no longer a dirty word. I have seen jokes resurfacing after months or years. I have very often  received other people's writings from more than one email source at around the same time. I have seen beautiful prose being nonchalantly reproduced on somebody's Facebook wall, seemingly assuming that the reader knows it has been "borrowed". Likewise, beautiful pictures are shared on Facebook and other social media without informing the reader as to the source. Recycled literature just keep churning through the internet. It seems that the distinction between original work and "borrowed" work has blurred.

Monday, May 21, 2012

What is 1000 percent increase?

A friend of mine told me that Samsung's handphone sales in Malaysia rose by 1000% last year. I tried to figure out what 1000% means. This is what I think.

By definition, % increase  = (new number-old number)/(old number) x 100

For example, if the old sales figure is 100 and the new figure is 200, then the increase is 100%.

To get 1000%, the new sales figure has to be 1100.
That is, % increase = (1100-100)/100 x 100 = 1000%

Since 1100 is 11 times of 100, therefore a 1000% increase is simply another way of saying 11 times higher. Of course it sounds more impressive to announce that sales has gone up 1000%, than to say it is 11 times more.

Consider these carefully:
While 100% increase means 2 times, a 100% decrease does not mean half. A 100% decrease actually means going down to zero, from whatever number it originally was. Refer to the formula above.

Also, while 100% increase means 2 times, 1000% (which is 10 x 100%) does not mean 20 times. It is actually mathematically 11 times the old number, as explained above.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Unbelievable true love

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 says "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs."

Here is a video clip I've just watched, shared by a friend in Facebook. It is about a girl who had dated a guy for 10 months before he met with an accident that left him brain damaged and unable to fend for himself. Earlier, he had plans to marry her. So despite his condition, she got married to him. See true love in action:

Think: is true love only to be demonstrated by extreme adversity? I don't think so. IF the man in the video had fully recovered from his accident, I bet that the woman would still be demonstrating true love to her man, simply because she is capable of such love. The video would not have been made then. And somewhere in the world, this one couple would be living a life of unbelievable true love.

Most of us are fortunate enough not to be put through such a test. Yet without this difficult test, many already fail before sitting for the "exam"! Paraphrasing 1 Cor 13:4-7 in the negative, this is what is happening in many of today's failed or frail marriages:
Non-true love is impatient, non-true love is unkind. It envies, it boasts, it is proud. It dishonors others, it is self-seeking, it is easily angered, it keeps records of wrongs.

(You don't need to marry a quadriplegic to show true love to the one you marry!)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Facebook IPO

Here is what I think of the Facebook IPO (initial public offering) on the New York Stock Exchange. Last Friday it managed to a become a US$100bil company in capitalization.

I think this is the dotcom boom all over again. All the financial experts have gone crazy. I think very soon many people will wake up to see a big drop in the share price. Here's why.

1. On the first day of offering (last Friday), the share price would have dropped from $38 down to $32, if Morgan Stanley had not stepped in the prop it up. (re PCMag)

2. At $38 per share, it is more than 100 times its profit. In comparison, Google's share is 18 times and Apple's share is 13 times (re: ABC News). If this extends to Apple, Apple's share is a steal. So where is the rule of thumb for earnings-per-share? Or has all the bonker bankers lost their thumbs when they got their fingers burnt in the last dot-com bust?

3. What is the value of Facebook's tangible assets? Surely it cannot be anything close to $100bil! Is its intellectual property worth that much? No. Has it a proven track record of profits to justify its share price? No. At $100bil it is valued at more than McDonald's. I can literally see a lot more underlying assetss in McDonald's than in Facebook.

Facebook is a fad. Fads can quickly pass away. Just like many once-popular hot software products. Some are now lost from public memory while others have been humbled and replaced by better or cheaper alternatives. Facebook uses a devious means of building up the user base. It blatantly plays on the public's emotions to create a network of "Friends" around every user. Then when you want to call it quits, it "... makes a blatant appeal to your emotions. You're not deactivating your account, you're deactivating your friendships!" (quote from PC World). I believe in time people will get fed up of this and will spend less time on Facebook. That's when advertising revenue will drop and Facebook's profitablity will drop accordingly.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Epson Workforce 645

I bought an HP print-scan-copy inkjet printer many years ago. The model is HP PSC 2310. It has served me flawlessly ( major catastrophe) for nearly ten years now and I am still using it to print, scan, and copy documents. I cannot recall how much I paid for it, but it must be about AUD$200 back then.

A few years later I bought a mono laser printer. It is an HP 1012. It is still in use after seven long years.

Both printers are still as good as the day I bought them and are still in constant use. The only reason to ever retire them is when I have to upgrade my Windows Xp to something newer. They have been around so long that the required software drivers are no longer provided by HP.

Recently I took an interest to look at the current crop of printers. It is amazing how the prices have come down! A monochrome laser printer can be had for less than $50, while a multifunction inkjet printer can also be had for even less.

Going upmarket a little, I narrowed my search to the Epson Workforce 645. The main features are:
print-scan-copy-fax; wireless and wired connection; double sided printing (duplex); auto document feed (ADF); 4 separate ink cartridges for black, cyan, magenta, and yellow.

What else I like about the Epson 645:
The body is matte, not shiny; the ADF can be folded up when not in use, giving a nice covered top; print straight from a mobile as well as normal PC; special Connect Email Print app (i.e. can print remotely simply by emailing a document to the printer).

I am sure there are other printers that are quite similar in feature and price. But as of now, I am already more than happy with what I am seeing to want to search any further. Not when I can get so much of a printer for just AUD$149.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What I think of Wayne Swan's budget proposal

I think it is a farce. Everyone is so hung up about the budget; perhaps it is because we all want to see what the proposal has in store for us. But then THAT is the problem isn't it? When we are so carried away by "what's in it for me," we forget that the government has gotten away with enormous deficit for the last four years of Labor government (that is not to say John Howard did a fantastic job; he sold government assets to keep the budget balanced).

Last year alone the fiscal deficit was $44bil. Now Wayne Swan is trying to convinced everyone he is a good financial manager, based on his budget proposal to create a surplus of a puny $1.5bil. Mind you, that is just a proposal and nothing more. Come next year, people will forget what he promises now and they will be looking at another new budget proposal. Who will be paying for all the deficits?

Back to Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard's management of the economy. Last year alone, they managed to spend $44bil more than the amount they collected. Nobody, except the opposition party made any noise; for vested interest, of course. If Wayne Swan and Julia Gillard were to manage a public listed company, the company would have faced a riot from the shareholders. The shareholders would not be so keen to see what they propose to do next year. No, they would be asking how the duo have managed last year's profit and loss account. Gillard and Swan would have been given the sack rightaway.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Adobe Photoshop Express

Of all the free photo editing apps I have come across for the smartphone and tablets, this one has got to be best*. The interface is so well designed that the learning curve is a snap (pun aside). Plus it is free. The paid upgrade doesn't do much more; so it is just as well.

Granted it does not have a slew of effects (HDR and panorama stitch would have been nice), but it does all the basic things like crop, straighten, rotation, exposure, saturation, tint, B&W, contrast changes. Most of these are done by simply swiping a finger across the display (how well thought out!). It does go further with sketch, soft focus, sharpening, as well as a few effects. I can see Adobe easily adding more tools and effects and the interface would still be just as simple and as uncluttered as before.

Adobe has certainly set another benchmark for what a tablet's photo editing app should be like. It certainly did with Photoshop (for graphics artists), and later with Lightroom (for photographers). I reckon this app should be THE benchmark for happy snappers and smartphone/tablet users.

Check out Luminance too. It costs $0.99. I haven't tried to out but it looks like a great app.

Facebook bares all (you, that is)

I have just found out that when you are on Facebook, any advertisement or website that you click may be tracked and displayed to all and sundry.

Go to your Facebook wall. Somewhere on the page you will find a section called "Recent Activity". That section displays your digital fingerprint! I don't know how long Facebook has introduced this. I am shocked that such blatant intrusion into personal privacy has gone unchallenged. Fortunately I am not a big Facebook user and I have been using Blogspot to share my thoughts, rather than have Facebook come behind my back to snoop for information about me.

As an immediate response, I went to my "Privacy Settings" and "Account Settings" and disabled as much of the personal intrusions as I could. I don't know how much that will help. The best protection is to keep personal information to a minimum when socializing on Facebook.