Tough Questions

A typical conversation with Bryan, my three-year-old….

Me: Bryan, Look. It’s raining.
Bryan: Why is it raining?
Me: Because there’s too much water in the cloud. And when there’s too much water in the cloud, water drops fall and becomes rain.
Bryan: Why is there too much water in the cloud?
Me: Because water evaporates into the air and eventually end up in the cloud.
Bryan: What is “evaporate”?
Me: ….
Bryan: Why is water falling from the sky? Is there a big hole in the sky?
Me: …. Um, no.
Bryan: Is the sky hard (as opposed to soft)?
I need to visit some science 101 sites for kids….

CitiMobile, CitiSuck

Firethorn released a pretty cool iPhone app today that allows mobile banking (check balances, transfer funds… etc). But Citibank is simply not ready for this roll out.

First the website on CitiMobile was buggy. Then I found out they don’t service the iPhone. I wonder how much longer I can take their crap before going with BoA or another tech savvy bank in terms of customer-facing applications…

Why am I still banking with them anyway?!

Update: Citibank has been rolling out incremental updates to the app. Unfortunately it still sucks and is not very intuitive when it comes to mobile UI. Some companies just don’t get it.

Chain Reaction

Insecurity breeds suspicion.

Suspicion leads to misunderstandings.

Misunderstandings bring out the worst in people.
It’s as if we didn’t already have enough to worry about on daily basis to go the extra mile to be insecured about ourselves to be suspicious of others just so that we can misunderstand each other. C’est la vie.

A Heartfelt Good Bye to Professor Randy Pausch

Last year I wrote about Professor Randy Pausch’s last lecture. It saddens me to even write about his passing after a few weeks of non-activity on my blog. I especially feel bad for his young children. But fortunately their father left a lasting legacy in this world for them to remember him by for a long time to come.

Farewell, Professor Pausch.

Hacked, Again

My blog had been breached once before with the same attack. But it’s happened again even though the WordPress version being attacked the 2nd time was definitely newer than that previous attack. I hadn’t been on my own blog for weeks. And the only reason I found out was because I installed Firefox 3 Beta 5 on Grace’s machine, and the new Firefox (working with Google) has this new feature that can detect “bad ware” like that.

wiredatom attacked

Basically someone “somehow” inserted a line of Javascript code into a couple of my blog entries and pretended to be “statistics” code. But in reality, it’s a script that behaves as trojans, presumably for Internet Explorers…

After some troubleshooting and searching, I removed all the codes and requested my site to be reviewed by Google in order to be considered safe again in its database…

Family Feuds

For the first time in my life, I tasted what it felt like to have my words twisted in a family political wrestling match in order for one side to win an argument. The worst part was, what was said didn’t even come out of my mouth! It infuriated me, but at the same time, it saddened me that they had to resort to lying to make a stance in light of my father’s passing.

Ever since my father died, the secondary issue that everybody gossips about now is how the overall combined “Chu” family wealth was to be redistributed. You see, my father had many siblings; and when it comes to money, of course, for many people the idea of “integrity” is just a recommended trait to have whilist fighting for what they think is their “fair share”… I am sure all this is making the ancestorial spirits groovy about the whole ordeal.

Family politics is fun when watching from afar. Now that I got dragged into it for a lie someone (whose name shall remane anonymous) made up, the real “fun” is yet to come.

Oh, why must “lies” and “politics” always go hand-in-hand?

Volusion V5

I’ve written Volusion a few times. The first time I used Volusion (version 4) it really sucked in terms of UI (though the commerce portion was pretty good). And many of the problems in V4 were addressed in V5. So kudos to Volusion for noticing what sucked and made improvements upon them.

The good on V5:

  1. Much simplified templates. No more nested ASP codes that one may accidentally delete/alter and break the entire store. It’s now easier than ever for any designer types to make modifications to the store’s front page.
  2. Way better administration console on the back end compared to V4. Cleaner UI with improved tool tips.
  3. Great documentation now with video tutorials and an active community forum.
  4. Ample email tech support.
  5. Easy to copy/paste Div IDs that would ultimately to be replaced by generated codes. Volusion has good documentation on them too.

Now the bad on V5:

  1. Templates are somewhat messy and limiting. For example, it’s hard to change the way the featured products are dynamically laid out on the homepage. There are tables upon tables upon tables nastily nested within each other with the generated codes — I’ve never seen a more ugly generated code with tables like that.
  2. Web 2.0 functionalities need to apply (unless they were implemented by Volusion). It’s a little dubious that neither Prototype nor jQuery were allowed to run on Volusion because somehow it breaks the

    functions that make those Javascript libraries so beautiful and powerful to use.

  3. It’s one thing to produce generated code, but it’s another to NOT give them good ID or class labels so that us designer/coder types can at least manipulate the look and feels more easily. It’s not unusual to target a table nested 3 or 4 layers down with CSS selectors trying to get something look just right.
  4. Tables are evil, especially nested ones. At least have the sense of giving us the chance to alter/modify those templates that were generated from the ASP code (i.e. featured products). For example, give us the template that generates the output of each product. Even if they are just tables, show them to me and allow me to replace all those tables with nice and easy DIV tags!
  5. About the only thing that someone can really customize is the homepage. Everything else is pretty much locked down (or at least I couldn’t find a way to modify the other product pages in any meaningful way). In other words, customization is limited only to the homepage (layout wise), everything else all you can do is font sizes, colors and what not (maybe some graphics)… that is if you know your CSS (Thank you, Firebug and Safari 3 Web Inspector)
  6. Volusion claims that they have fixed the transparency problems with

    files. They lied. PNG files will show like a sore thumb in IE6 and earlier. And don’t bother to include one of those


    fixes in the header or CSS either. Volusion doesn’t allow them.

  7. Instead of using standard Prototype and other popular Javascript libraries, Volusion opts to use some commercial package that is 3rd rate at best in performance and generated output.
  8. The pages are pretty slow to load. I’ll bet it’s because of all the nested tables. It’d be in Volusion’s best interest to cut down the load on CPUs on those nested tables per page so that its overall server performance can increase for everyone!
  9. Email support is getting pretty slow in replying issues. It used to take mere hours, now the turn around is the next day.

I hope Volusion fixes at least the problems with Javascript libraries so that I can use Prototype and Scriptaculous to enable my clients’ sites to be more visually interesting (without constant page refreshes!). The next big deal would be to allow more flexibility with templates elsewhere.

Otherwise, I think Volusion is still a decent package. It’s just that many of the stuff they implemented are still stuck in 1998.

Short Life Spans of the Information Age

Brian and I are supposed to start a project on a site that would help consumers make more informed decisions on products they consume on daily basis. It’s going to be a site where anyone with Internet (or heck, an Internet phone like the iPhone) would be able to find out immediately all they’d need to know about a certain product they are buying: materials used to manufacture them, labor conditions, political influences of the manufacturer, environmental impacts/footprints….etc.

So I was doing some reading and research on the underlying software and how I’d build or modify it to work the way Brian had envisioned. I went back to some bookmarks I saved for this project from a couple of months ago and was surprised that some of them had already gone offline! And then I dug deeper and did more reading and realized that a lot of useful info on how I’d approach the project had all but disappeared!

We have all been relying on the availability (or the perception of) and immediacy of the Internet too much nowadays. We expect everything at our finger tips through the power of Google. But most of the time we fail to retain the information the good old fashion way — make a copy of it… This is frustrating… So I guess from now I will just use OSX’s “Print to PDF” feature more liberally when I see a keeper on the web….

Intelligently Designed Mess

I’ve heard some “interesting debates” (to say the least) about the idea of Intelligent Design that somehow all people were “intelligently designed” by this supreme being living up in the heavens. And this supreme being is almighty and can do no wrong.

My answer to that is: that being could take some industrial design lessons down here on my humble Earth. And while he’s here, I’d like to ask him a few questions as to why he designed things the way they were if they were supposedly so intelligently designed (NOT!).

Anyone who’s tried to pick his/her own child’s ear can attest that the way ear wax are formed inside a child’s ear canals proves that the ears aren’t so intelligently designed. Some wax hug to the wall of the ear and seem to have root grown inside them. Sure, there are remedies to use and techniques to try, but my point is, if the ears were so intelligently designed, the damn wax would always fall out of the ear “by design”!

Evolution is dirty and messy, and that’s the way things work. Anyone who tells me there’s a God up there who so intelligently designed everything so perfectly can try to dip his head in the water for 10 minutes and tell me if the fact that we can’t breath under water was so intelligently designed by this God of his. When everywhere else in the world is in a hurry to fund math and [real] science, it’s hard to comprehend that here, in the United States, arguably the most advanced nation in the world, even has a movement that’s seemingly winning the “Intelligent Design” war in education. Are they really serious? Or is this just a big hoax by the Religious nuts?

Religion belongs to the heart and private homes; it has no place in education, politics or government.

Sorry. I was frustrated trying to pick some of the weirdest ear waxes in Bryan’s ears. And I thought this stupid Intelligent Design idea is just insane and poorly conceived…. hence the rant…

Pissed About My Own Forgetfulness

I’d been following the opening of The Secret Workshop in California so that I can attend one and learn more of what I can’t get from other professionals. I am not so worried about the technical stuff in Photoshop or lighting stuff — it’s the meat on how to get into the commercial and editorial industry that I am most interested in. Also the bits on how to photograph infants that will be a boost in the right direction.

But I’d been so busy with other stuff that I’d forgotten to follow up with the site and COMPLETELY missed out on the signups for San Francisco, San Diego, AND even Phenix, the next closest thing to anything California! I am so bummed! The only opening they have is in Michigan, but it’s going to be held within weeks after Grace giving birth, which means it’s probably not a good idea to leave home for four days…

Maybe I will bum around trying to get on a waiting list (if I am so lucky)…


Another Microsoft IE Rant

Ok, another pointless ugly rant on Microsoft IE.

Engineers who came up with the guidelines for Microsoft IE must have their heads filled with tofu… umm, wait, I like tofu. Their heads must be filled with turd. Simple standards are simply ignored or conveniently misinterpreted by the IE’s rendering engine. It makes debugging a living hell from the perspective of a web developer no matter how much time I’ve already spent doing this for a living.

And then today Microsoft went and made an offer to buy out Yahoo for a cool $44.6B? Give me a f*cking break. How about spending some of those billions on fixing the damn IE and ensure future developments of IE adhere to standards?

The World Wide Web would be a better place without Microsoft. But then again, without scums, how can we appreciate the beauty of all the other standards-adhering browsers? Nonetheless, if I ever meet the guy(s) who was in charge of defining the renderer guidelines, I might just kick him in the nuts. Idiot.