James Crisp

Software dev, tech, mind hacks and the occasional personal bit

Category: Personal Page 4 of 5

Consulting


A present from my adorable fiancΓ©e πŸ™‚

Fixing a Palm Treo’s Digitizer (Touch Screen)

Let me tell you a sad tale. One day, out of the blue, the digitizer on my palm started to drift. Every hour, it got worse. This meant that when you tried to click a button like ‘Add’ the Palm thought you clicked ‘Delete’ – no fun at all! It was possible to temporarily improve the situation by running the re-calibration program built into the system, but within a few hours, where you clicked again had very little relation to where the Palm thought you had clicked. After about a week, it was not possible to run the re-calibration program, as the digitizer was so far out (program just looped forever so I had to reboot the Palm). I discovered that there are actually keyboard shortcuts for just about everything, and that the 4-way nav button gets you most places, so the device wasn’t a total write off. However, it was slow and cumbersome to use.

Now, one month later, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to know that things are better, the sorry tale has had a happy ending (touch wood!). Much googling led to many suggested approaches to fixing the problem including:

  • Various auto-calibration programs (AutoDigi, DigiFix, etc).
  • Running paper around the screen under the casing to remove gunk.
  • Cleaning the insides by putting a vacuum cleaner to all openings.

However, all of these approaches ended with disappointment and no noticeable improvement.

Finally, near buying myself a new device (aside: it is a shame that Palm has not managed to produce a device significantly better than my several year old Treo 600), I came across a site selling replacement Treo 600 digitizer/screen modules. They kindly provide a very useful movie on pulling your Treo apart to help you replace your digitizer/screen module. With little to lose, I decided to open up the case of my Treo and see if there was anything I could fix.

Following the instructions in the movie was not too difficult. I didn’t have a small star alan key myself (required for opening the case), but I borrowed one from my dear dad, who has an amazing tool collection. Also, lacking a plastic case opening tool, I used a butter knife – this worked OK, but did damage the plastic of the case a little. If you have something made from thin and strong plastic, like the case opener in the movie, it would be a better tool for the job. I had a great time pulling everything apart and finally had all the components spread out before me. I cleaned the screen carefully (there was a fair bit of grot around the edges), fixed the buckled taping on the side of the screen, and put everything back together, carefully re-seating the various cables.

And now, almost a month later, the digitizer still seems to be working fine! Hurrah! So if you are contemplating what to do about your Palm’s broken or drifting digitizer, I recommend pull it apart, clean it all and re-seat cables and then hope for the best!

Experience of an International Amazon Virgin

Recently I ordered 12 books from Amazon. It was my first time.

The process started really well – quite easy and pleasant to find the books I was after. Not to mention that amazing range and the great option of getting cheaper second hand books. Adding to the shopping cart was also a breeze.

I was pretty impressed, good prices, nice process. But then the honeymoon was over. Time to check out – stream of consciousness. First, I need to enter address details. Fine, as expected. Then I get a message (from memory) “There is a slight problem with your order. Some of the books you have chosen cannot be shipped to your address. Change your delivery address or change the quantity to 0 on these books.”. Not happy! One third of my books (second hand ones) cannot be sent. That means I need to cancel the check out process, remove 4 books from my cart and then try and find the same books from other more expensive suppliers which can be shipped international. So I try again, adding the same book from multiple suppliers to my cart, in the hope of finding one which can deliver to Australia. Then it’s back to the checkout process again.. Problem – I missed one book and have to cancel the process and go back to basket process again. Great, all books are OK, finally time to complete the order. So I get to review my order, and it says at the top something like “With an Amazon credit card, this order would be $324 rather than $368”. No other total including postage is provided. So is my order $368? Maybe? Further screens finally confirm that this is the case. Nowhere is it possible to see how much postage is per book – you have to work it out yourself doing best guesses and following the Amazon formula. Maybe it would have been better to get a new book rather than a second hand book, as second hand books have twice the postage charge.. ah well, too late now, I’m not going to go through the whole process yet another time! So finally I can check out and my credit card is charged. However, since my credit card is hit by a multitude of different vendors that use Amazon as a front, within seconds of each other, some transactions are rejected as my credit card does not allow too many transactions in too short a time (some sort of security feature?). Finally, after getting a few emails from Amazon saying the card could not be charged, and then telling Amazon to retry, my order is at last paid for and on the way.

Okay, so what could be done to make this better?

  1. Allow buyers to filter their results so they only see books that can be delivered to their addresses.
  2. Do not use patronising messages like “there is a slight problem”.
  3. Do not suggest that people change their delivery address to another country.. that is clearly not going to happen!
  4. Show the cost of postage all throughout the process. Book buyers know they are going to have to pay postage and want to optimise their orders taking it into account.
  5. Do not show the order total including postage for the first time as a confusing advertisement (“With an Amazon credit card, this order would be $324 rather than $368”). Instead, provide a simple breakdown in a table, including postage on each book.
  6. Hit the credit card once per order, and divvy up the money at Amazon internally, rather than allowing each book vendor to do it and having credit card rejections as a result.

UPDATE: My books arrived about two weeks after I ordered them. Delivery was smooth and on time. Unfortunately, one of the CDs that came with a book was broken. Amazon has kindly agreed to replace it and the book.

 

Mango Liqueur – Fruition

The mango liqueur started about a month ago has now reached fruition. After filtering with cheese cloth, and adding a little sugar (much less than a cup), it is quite tasty. It should improve further as it ages over the next month or so, assuming it lasts that long πŸ™‚

A few choice quotes from “The Unbearable Lightness Of Being” by Milan Kundera

Starts slowly with quite a philosophical bent, but becomes really compelling once the main characters are introduced. Some memorable quotes:

Happiness
“If Kerenin had been a person instead of a dog, he would surely have long since said to Tereza, ‘Look, I’m sick and tired of carrying that roll in my mouth every day. Can’t you come up with something different?’ And therein lies the whole of man’s plight. Human time does not turn in a circle; it runs ahead in a straight line. That is why man cannot be happy: happiness is the longing for repetition.”

Love
“The brain appears to possess a special area which we might call poetic memory and which records everything that charms or touches us, that makes our lives beautiful… Their love story did not begin until afterwards: she fell ill and he was unable to send her home as he had the others. Kneeling by her as she lay sleeping in his bed, he realized that someone had sent her downstream in a bulrush basket. I have said before that metaphors are dangerous. Love begins with a metaphor. Which is to say, love begins at the point when a woman enters her first word into our poetic memory.”

A feeling of importance
“We all need somebody to look at us. We can be divided into four categories according to the kind of look we wish to live under. The first category longs for the look of an infinite number of anonymous eyes, in other words, for the look of the public…
The second category is made up of people who have a vital need to be looked at by many known eyes. They are the tireless hosts of cocktail parties and dinners…
Then there is the third category, the category of people who need to be constantly before the eyes of the person they love. Their situation is as dangerous as the situation of people in the first category. One day the eyes of their beloved will close, and the room will go dark..
And finally there is the fourth category, the rarest, the category of people who live in the imaginary eyes of those who are not present. They are the dreamers.”

Kitsch
“Kitsch is the absolute denial of shit, in both the literal and the figurative senses of the word; kitsch excludes everything from its purview which is essentially unacceptable in human existence
Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch. The brotherhood of man on earth will be possible only on a basis of kitsch…
And no one knows this better than politicians. Whenever a camera is in the offing, they immediately run to the nearest child, lift it into the air, kiss it on the cheek. Kitsch is the aesthetic ideal of all politicians and all political parties and movements…
In the realm of totalitarian kitsch, all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions. It follows, then that the true opponent of totalitarian kitsch is the person who asks questions…
From that time on, she [Sabina] began to insert mystifications into her biography, and by the time she got to America she even managed to hide the fact that she was Czech. It was all merely a desperate attempt to escape the kitsch that people wanted to make of her life.”

Wing Chun: Bong Sau Tips

Today my class was visited a very talented high level instructor. Although he only spent a few minutes looking at my bong sau, he gave two invaluable tips:

  1. When bringing your hand and arm up into bong sau, you need to be moving both upwards, forwards and inwards towards the centre simultaneously. A good way to do this is to imagine your elbow tracing an arc through the air from start to end point.
  2. When moving from bong sau to tan sau when rolling, move into fook sau first, and then roll your wrist over. This will stop your hand from dropping and will leave your hand on the centre line.

Holiday 2007 – Venice and Padua

It was a sudden decision to take a sleeper train to Venice. We didn’t really know what to expect. By chance, we arrived at Carnivale (mask and costume festival), probably the busiest time of the year. Venice was filled to the rafters with tourists, prices were high and it was difficult to walk in many areas due to the number of people in the narrow streets! The solution was to take to the water – catching the ferry was fun and it got you out of the crowds.

Venice is really beautiful. The Doges (ruler’s) palace and nearby Cathedral in St Marco square are amazing. The palace has huge painted ceiling murals by famous artists and enormous open halls. In the Cathedral, there are golden mosaics over the whole ceiling, and even the floor is an artwork in tiles. There’s also some impressive golden relics from when the Venetians sacked Constantinople during the crusades.

In Venice, most streets lead to the water, and the best facades are turned towards the canals. It really is a city designed to be traversed on the water. The buildings are mainly standing on foundations made from hundreds of pine trees hammered into the silty mud under Venice. Historically, Venice’s influence peaked in the 13th century or so, and from then on, it was a slow decline in power. But to make up for this, the wealthy families spent lavishly on buildings, clothes and decorations.

On our last day in Italy, we went to Padua to take a look at a more typical Italian city. It was a friendly and fun place with few tourists, but good food and a nice atmosphere. Last picture is of Padua, all the rest are from Venice!














 

Holiday 2007 – Monaco

Monaco is easily accessible from Nice – about 1/2h by train. We spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening there, visiting the cactus “exotic” garden, castle, casino and cave. The cave was particularly interesting – it was about 18degC inside (despite winter temperatures outside), and walkways for visitors had been made using explosives and diamond drills! Despite the damage, it was still a lovely cave. Monaco was clean and tidy, and felt almost like a movie set.





 

Holiday 2007 – Provence & Cote D’Azure in the South of France

France supposedly is the number 1 tourist destination in the world, and certainly it is one of my personal favourites! Besides the pleasure of speaking French, we had the opportunity to eat a lot of good food, and visit really pretty coastal areas, medieval towns, castles and ancient Roman remains.

Our itinerary looked roughly like this:
Marseilles -> Aix En Provence -> Avignon -> Nimes -> Arles -> Tarascon -> (Italy) -> Nice -> Antibes -> (Monaco)

In terms of hotels, it was very much ‘get what you pay for’. We tended to stay in two star places around 40-50 euros per night. Our first hotel in Marseilles was only 37E per night, and it convinced us that the extra 10E or so was really worth it! Hotels were fairly easy to find (well sign posted), though often not too close to transport.

We tried the random approach to finding good restaurants to start with, but this led to a number of disappointments. The solution was to ask our hoteliers for their favourite restaurants – this led to some really great meals πŸ™‚

We had planned to rent a car for some parts of the trip.. however, make sure you learn to drive a manual before attempting this! Autos in France are horribly expensive to rent, so we ended up doing everything by public transport – bit tricky in winter time especially, but we managed. Tourist offices were generally very helpful.








































































 

Holiday 2007 – South Korea

South Korea is a great place to visit. People tend to be very friendly, the alphabet is phonetic, food is good and everything is excitingly foreign! Don’t forget your phrase book though.. English is not widely spoken. This was my 3rd trip to Korea, and it was an opportunity to catch up with Soosun‘s relatives, improve my pitiful Korean and see some interesting areas.

Should you happen to go to Korea with a partner, I would recommend staying in ‘motels’. They are around 30,000-40,000 WON in most places per night, are conveniently located near transport and generally have nice rooms. Despite their reputation as love hotels, they are often more comfortable and cheaper than other alternatives. Don’t be surprised, however, if they don’t ask for your name, and require payment in cash!

Also, visiting the local jimjil-bung (sauna) is an experience not to miss. They are generally open 24h and provide showers, sauna rooms, hot and cold pools, massage and general sleeping and relaxing areas, as well as funny coloured clothes to wear while you are there πŸ™‚

Some of the fun stuff I did this trip was catching up with friends and relatives, walking around fortresses, going to a hot spring spa, doing a little caving, taking in some amazing scenery and going skiing.
















 

Page 4 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén