Report on a conference

Just finished the morning session of the international conference on information technology for education 2010. Generally speaking, I’m disappointed at the organization skills and the content of the conference.
They started an hour late (9am instead of 8) and even so, they used the first hour to let the sponsoring organizations advertise themselves. Boring, and they haven’t provided us a single bottle of water. The tea break only has some cheap snack, coffee and soya. The tea is too bitter, it’s not something you can hold and sip while talking to someone else.
The technical presentation brings nothing new either. The first, G-system from a university in Canada is about linking everything to create an “internet of things”. Translate into normal English: ubiquitous computing. It’s not something that you need to goto Canada to do. It’s really just as simple as making a new command for Mozilla Ubiquity. If that presentation is to attract student to canada, I would say they haven’t chosen the best representative for their education.
The second keynote, a datamining report from the head of computer science dept. At NUS, my previous dream school. Well, it’s not so dreamy anymore. Hearing him talk about splitting set and reducing sample all I can feel is a non-functional (in academic speak: conceptual) version of a spatial database. I have never agreed with PhD comics like that before. Their best research is esentially fruitless, despite the $50 million funding they got from companies each year.
The third speech is about internet trends. The translator seems to be a representative for the speaker’s company. The guy keeps making stuff up during the translation using his prior knowledge about the speaker. The speech, in sort, describe stuff that i have been tumblr-ing for the past year. Nothing new again.
Fourth speech, a PhD working for Dell’s R and D dept., opening a college in Vietnam (and I guess the fee will be sky high). It’s the same old blame on education: you cannot do anything right after you graduated. I would say bullshit! If you are so good you should have thought if something better than that.
Yeah, so rounded up: I don’t feel this conference is really presenting any useful work and more or less something made up so the experts can get a trip abroad (which their hosting institution paid for).

Just finished the morning session of the international conference on information technology for education 2010. Generally speaking, I’m disappointed at the organization skills and the content of the conference.
They started an hour late (9am instead of 8) and even so, they used the first hour to let the sponsoring organizations advertise themselves. Boring, and they haven’t provided us a single bottle of water. The tea break only has some cheap snack, coffee and soya. The tea is too bitter, it’s not something you can hold and sip while talking to someone else.
The technical presentation brings nothing new either. The first, G-system from a university in Canada is about linking everything to create an “internet of things”. Translate into normal English: ubiquitous computing. It’s not something that you need to goto Canada to do. It’s really just as simple as making a new command for Mozilla Ubiquity. If that presentation is to attract student to canada, I would say they haven’t chosen the best representative for their education.
The second keynote, a datamining report from the head of computer science dept. At NUS, my previous dream school. Well, it’s not so dreamy anymore. Hearing him talk about splitting set and reducing sample all I can feel is a non-functional (in academic speak: conceptual) version of a spatial database. I have never agreed with PhD comics like that before. Their best research is esentially fruitless, despite the $50 million funding they got from companies each year.
The third speech is about internet trends. The translator seems to be a representative for the speaker’s company. The guy keeps making stuff up during the translation using his prior knowledge about the speaker. The speech, in sort, describe stuff that i have been tumblr-ing for the past year. Nothing new again.
Fourth speech, a PhD working for Dell’s R and D dept., opening a college in Vietnam (and I guess the fee will be sky high). It’s the same old blame on education: you cannot do anything right after you graduated. I would say bullshit! If you are so good you should have thought if something better than that.
Yeah, so rounded up: I don’t feel this conference is really presenting any useful work here, another day wasted in commute between countries while they actually could have used it to do real work.

Life with Ubuntu

First, Happy new year to you and your family 🙂

I have been using Linux on a daily basis for several months now and so far life is quite comfortable. For the first time I can simply forget what people have been telling me  since day one –  “you always need antivirus protection”. Heh, how the hell viruses is gonna infect my computer when even I myself can’t modify the system files! Yes, it’s true that if enough people use it there will be some folks spend time to carve into each input box in the whole operating system to find exploits but considering the rate of Firefox adoption over IE, I’d say it may took decades before Linux can take over. This world is resistant to changes, even if it’s good.

Though the default Ubuntu distribution works out of the box and satisfy the needs of most user, it’s oriented to the naive, who doesn’t have the need for more complex configurations, say – multilingual inputs. That’s when Google comes in handy but it may take a while and some searching skills to find what you need. There’s many question and answer in the Ubuntu forums but they are not always anwered satisfactorily.

Below is a collection of what I have to Google for the past months.

Japanese input

I posted about Japanese on Windows back from last year but I don’t really need Japanese for Linux until now – when my HDD is somewhere in the middle of snowstorms in America and I’m working on a little USB flash drive. It kinda feels like a netbook except it’s faster 😛

Windows doesn’t differentiate between input language and keyboard layout –  it combines both into the IME environment. The result is hideous registry settings to configure what should be readily available. It’s a different thing on Kubuntu: the keyboard layout you can configure in System Settings > Regional & Language > Keyboard Layout is for your physical keyboard only, which means if tells the operating system if there’s something special about your keyboard, like is it laid out in Dvorak, does it have extra function keys, does it have the Japanese switch button etc. To input languages you have to use the input method (IME) which is what translates what you type on the keyboard to something else according to configuration. For example, the Vietnamese input method translates Tie61ng Viet65 into “Tiếng Việt” and the Japanese input method translate katakana into “カタカナ”. All this happens within an input framework. To put it simple, an input framework is a tool that let you switch between languages (This is not technically correct but you’ll know better when you have become familiar with it). Being an operating system of choices, there’s three framework for you to choose on Linux: UIM, SCIM and iBus with iBus being the future.

To install iBus, first add the following line to /etc/apt/sources.list

deb http://ppa.launchpad.net/ibus-dev/ibus-1.2-karmic/ubuntu karmic main #IBus 1.2 for Karmic

Then run

sudo apt-get install ibus ibus-gtk

Once iBus has been installed, you can install input languages, say Vietnamese and Japanese:

sudo apt-get install ibus-unikey ibus-anthy

You can activate iBus with

im-switch -s ibus

It requires a restart and then you are good to go! 🙂 Note that instead of using the command line apt-get, you can type “ibus” into the software installer to find the packages and install them.

You can see the language you want to type is not bound to any specific keyboard layout here – at the start of this post you can have Qwerty, Dvorak or Colemak – that doesn’t matter, you can use it to input the language you have installed!

References: ibus @ ubuntu vn, ibus project

Multilingual input with Opera 10

Opera is a great browser, many of the functionality that defines the modern browser is from opera – say tabbed browsing, integrated search function, modular design and many others. Should Opera be free from the start it could have overthrown IE as the most popular browser. Well, what’s history is history already 🙂

I use Opera on linux for the sake of simplicity – it provides all the functions I need without the need to install any fancy plugin (I’m talking about you, Firefox). It’s a surprise that I can’t use iBus to type Vietnamese in Opera when I first installed it :(.

I found out why: the default version you can download from Opera’s homepage is compiled with the Qt3 library while iBus works with Qt4 only. Luckily Opera is also compiled with Qt4 but you’ll need to cruise around some FTP servers to get it.  Click here to get version 10.10 for ubuntu/x86, which is the latest at the time of writing.

When 128MB isn’t enough or how to expand your Ubuntu installation on a USB stick

Kubuntu 9.10 comes with a new feature: make a USB stick bootable and persists your changes between sessions. At first you may think the default storage space of 128 MB could be enough but after some themes, customizations and application s (namely Firefox); 128MB is used up in no time.

Your Linux home is stored within an image file in the root of the drive – casper-rw. You can allow Linux to use a bigger share of your stick by expanding the file then imposes ext3 formatting on it with the following steps:

# dd if=/dev/zero bs=1M count=1024 >> casper-rw
# e2fsck -f casper-rw
# resize2fs -f casper-rw
# e2fsck -f casper-rw

1024 means 1024MB, change this to whatever size you want. Note that this capacity is added to your existing quota, so if you have 128MB already then after this command you have 1153MB for storage.

File managing – Norton Commander style

While Kubuntu have dolphin as a pretty good file manager, iallowsng you to split windows and drag the navigation dock around, it’s still get nowhere close the original NC feel (say tabbing, F3, F4 and F5). Of course Midnight Commander have been around since Linux was still stuck in the server rooms but what? A text mode program on the all cute KDE Oxygen? Does not sound right to me.

Good thing that there’s Krusader. It’s a bit old but seems to work fine. The menu bar, button bar and command line stays true to the tradition – I feel like home 🙂

The webgame storm

It was not so long ago the web was still a bunch of text-only HTML without CSS and stuff. Now it can open your documents, let you communicate, catch the latest scoop on entertainment, then why not play games on it?

Before, the web was designed to deliver text-based content. Most related technologies are also text-oriented: CSS, XML, AJAX, and JavaScript. But now, as browsers have got more mature and text features are saturated among competitors, there goes the performance race. JavaScript got faster, as JIT compiling and other interpreted language technologies are improved. Now games are feasible and the web game industry began to rise. GIF for sprites, PNG for effects, JavaScript is capable of image processing is far than enough to make a game possible.

For web game, you know I don’t mean those simple flash games you play at work to make your boss mad, but instead role playing games that will take you an indefinite amount of time to play, just like Lineage or Ragnarok. Those game is also a kind of society, where players can communicate with each other, thus games could be considered a part of the 2.0 hype.

This is far from being an exhaustive review of web games, but instead the experiences I have with them.

Gaia online

Possibly the most influential web game now is Gaia Online, a collection of game and community activities. As the biggest, it also causes most controversial problems (say pedophilias). It’s not a single game with a single story but it does have role playing elements like quests. Nevertheless, it’s nice interface and huge community is quite attractive to those who have nothing else to do. Gaia also sure inspired a lot of modern web games.

Gaia online town

Image: CNET

Gameforge

Gameforge is an influential game maker emerged recently. Though their games are pretty much in beta stage, their international approach (provides as many language as possible) seem to be effective. Based on the number of new games they release each year, it’s clear that they made quite a lot selling enhancements to their games. Those enhancements does not provide a real advantage over those who don’t have time, but that’s a right move: they attracted a huge number of free players that even the slightest advantage will have effect toward thousands of another players.

Most of their games are real-time. That is, moving armies or explore and area will cost you hours in real life. It’s up to you when to care about the game but the more you care about it, the more successful you are. It’s like the Japanese’s Tamagochi where your chicken is now a gladiator or an empire :P.

They also don’t have a nice interface like other producers. I’m unsure why but all their games look pretty clumsy to me

Ikariam is the most recently Gameforge game I played. You can build cities in an ancient Rome theme. You build cities on islands with a specific resource. Among them: Wine, Marble, Crystal and Sulphur. You can freely develop your empire, research to improve technologies, build troops to defend your empire or wage war at another, trade and exercise diplomacy with other empires. Addictive and time-consuming. Though you don’t have to wait for the buildings to build, you are always at risk getting attacked if you are not prepared; and even if you did prepared, you might get attacked by someone stronger anyways :p

Ikariam city view

Before, I have also played Gladiatus, where you play the role of a Roman gladiator. You can fight others, work to earn money, do quest to gain fame etc. Simple interface, you don’t actually see the gladiators combat and I get bored after a while doing repetitive actions: work – quest – explore – buy / sell items – dungeon – work, and get bashed by stronger players (though their levels are lower). It’s still a mystery how they get so many gold to win at auctions ;).

Other Gameforge games include bitefight, kingsage and ogame.

Though those games are of great entertainment value, Gameforge is quite stingy to rely that much on volunteers to exercise control on the game. Even when it cost them almost nothing hiring those volunteers (they pay by in game bonuses), they are still reluctant to hire some more. It’s funny when they don’t allow multiple accounts in their rules but doesn’t have any automatic control over user registration. Instead they rely on 5 game operators to ban each of the violating accounts. Imagine when 30% of the server of 10 thousand players decide to go against the rule, what will happen?

Well, that is happening already and it made those games tasteless to me now, since Vietnamese are so clever to dodge the rules to satisfy their deflated self-esteem in games :(. What’s the good for that anyways? Games are games and they still spend hours to fight in game, and then take another hour to fight on the forum. In the end, it turns out that all the big shots are multis 🙂 (Note that multi account players have a huge advantage over those who don’t, say, a 1000% increase in resources by manipulating the clones).

I’m off until those games get better so I can play it the way I want, undisturbed by idiots who have no reasoning capabilities. I’m giving away my accounts for Ikariam and Gladiatus for someone who can take care of them under one condition that I can borrow them sometimes :). My Ikariam account is 4 months old on Gamma and has 3 cities: level 16 -16 -15. The Gladiatus one is somewhere around level 19. Email me if you have inquiries about this.

Aurora blade

A RPG, where you can actually cast spell, do action and handle items, which you once thought it wouldn’t possible without a 2 GB client :P. Its graphics is quite nice though the image compression is somehow flawed (you can see jagged JPGs all around). Nice game with rich content, from monster fighting, quests to game events. Though it’s criticized for copying many designs from Ragnarok and WoW, it still take quite a lot of effort to build this game and integrate all the graphics. Cheers for the Chinese! (IGG is founded by Chinese).

In Vietnam

Though the big guys have developed quite a stand in this business with quality games and strategic moves, smaller publisher and developers still find their foothold somewhere. Sadly, most of the games in Vietnam are still just translations from foreign developers (again, Chinese). Though they employed large advertisement campaign and sexy cosplayers I still find little interest in them. First, they are from China. What’s so great about Chinese games? Or are they paid by the Chinese to accomplish the cultural elimination the Chinese was unable to complete years ago? Second, under their colorful interface, you can barely find the register link (sometimes you actually have to ask to be shown the register link :P).

There are quite a lot of stuff to entertain you on the net already. Web games are still at the beginning of their era. Even though they have come over technical challenges, most of them still don’t fit the average user’s playing habit. For any SimCity fanatic out there, Ikariam is like a disater where your beloved city get ripped of its bone by aliens from the next planet :P. Each of the game has its own strength and weakness, competition between them would be a fun thing to watch in the future.

In Vietnam, I don’t think any of those games will make a difference.

  1. The current economic crisis have driven away some hardcore player. They have to make a living!
  2. There are fewer clients who is willing to buy virtual stuff to support a game.
  3. Unless Vietnamese gamers’ barbaric and lawless attitude is changed, those game won’t attract the more educated classes. Playing along with idiots is pretty irritating. (LEEEEEROY!)

End of another lengthy post 😛

Simplified Vietnamese

If you are thinking about some other language that have “simplified” before its name then no, Vietnam is not going to use that language as it official language, at least not in this year.

I recently read this article (For a side note: This site copies most of its content from blogs, and doesn’t ask for the author’s permission of course). I simply couldn’t get whatever it’s trying to tell me =)), so as a reflex I asked Google and found this. In short, the “program” and the “new language”, as they identified themselves, are going to change Vietnamese completely, so Vietnamese can be typed faster. They are first planned to be used in the Vietnamese computing society.

Completely impractical.

Vietnamese is a mixed language; it contained elements from both European and Asian roots. This “research” referred only one or two papers and end up creating a “better” language? Apparently its author has neither previous experience nor care to get some about constructed language. The idea of creating the “perfect” language, easier to write, easier to understand isn’t new. Some have tried and fail silently. If you live in Vietnam have you ever heard of “quốc tế ngữ”? Probably not. I’m not even sure which language that noun is referring to: Interlingua or Esperanto? Constructing a language and put it into wide use isn’t an easy problem. The two languages above have multiple contributors, even have their own lingual institute to research and introduce new principles into the language and still, they aren’t as success as they wanted.

What make that guy think one man is going to change history that easy, arrogance or ignorance?

Furthermore, Vietnamese is completely unorganized. There is no formal organization to regulate the use of new words yet (which have been hindering access to newest technologies for most Vietnamese, what would you call a blog or a shell in Vietnamese? =)). Vocabulary differentiates between regions to – North, South and the Central; even the pronunciation is different! (The “simplified” language claims it is based on pronunciation – which will make it easier to learn) Which region’s pronunciation is it using to simplify?

Well, to say how impractical it is, it may as well get 1st prize for that competition. I’m not a judge for that matter.

Faster Vietnamese

Searching for the above, there seemed to be a similar effort before, but it doesn’t dream as big, its main purpose is to allow you to type unpunctuated Vietnamese faster  

Qui ước gõ tt

Ví d

f  = ph

 Gõ fai  bung ra
(→)  phai

j  = gi

       ju jn jay j giu gin giay gi

 B bt h  : – gh

                    – ngh

      gi gn ghi gn         ge  ghe          

      ngi      nghi              nge nghe

c  = k *

       đ  k  = kh

      cim kim                    ce ke             

      ki ko kan    khi kho khan

Hmm, what a pity the author didn’t publish how this method was born, what’s its advantage, estimation of benefits etc. Otherwise more people would have been convinced to use and contribute to it. :/

Reading further into its rule:

Trăm năm trong cõi người ta            

Gõ phím:
       Tram nam trog coi nguj ta               

Bung ra       Tram nam trong coi nguoi ta

 

Ch tài ch mnh khéo là ghét nhau          

Gõ phím:        Chu tai chu meh keo la get nhau
         

Bung ra       Chu tai chu menh kheo la ghet nhau

 

Tri qua mt cuc b dâu                        

Gõ phím:        Trai qa mot cus be dau                       

Bung ra      Trai qua mot cuoc be dau

 

Nhng điu trông thy mà đau đn lòng     

Gõ phím:        Nhug diw trog thay ma dau don log      

Bung ra       Nhung dieu trong thay ma dau don long

 

Even though this method doesn’t seem to have wide usage, I can’t help notice similarities between this and the so-called “9x language”. Is there any chance those kids have seen their parent using this method but failed to learn properly and thus a new language is born? :))

2008 in Google’s terms

2008 is almost over, and Google has released Zeitgeist 2008. A good time to blog about it, since it’s still quite fresh and if I don’t do it now, I would postpone it on and on and on, right? 😛

Zeitgeist | Pronunciation: ‘tsIt-“gIst, ‘zIt | Function: noun | Etymology: German, from Zeit (time) + Geist (spirit) | Date: 1884 | Meaning: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.[1] [2]

This year the chart is not as colorful as before but it was enhanced with annotations 😛

Economy

Since the first release in 2001, the Zeitgeist progressively does a better job reflecting situations of the world, from regional to international.


Trends for Layaway

And no, that’s really a burst, a sudden increase in term of 8 times the original volume; not because the chart is scaled! The turkeys did quite a good job!

Over the hedge comics @ overthehedge.com

Oil

Gas price contributed is part, oh well…

Look at how consumerism has taken over the world. People care about the environment not for their children but instead for their pocket. What if one day the earth stood still? 😛

Who, what and how

I comment only for what I feel like commenting 😛

Who is…

  1. who is Obama
  2. who is McCain ~ Google is becoming one of the criterion for presidency 😛
  3. who is Palin
  4. who is lil wayne
  5. who is miley cyrus
  6. who is dolla
  7. who is jonas brothers
  8. who is chris brown
  9. who is biden
  10. who is martin luther

What is…

  1. what is love ~ How can you define love 😛
  2. what is life ~ 42
  3. what is java ~ Americans doesn’t seem to use that much coffee 😉
  4. what is sap
  5. what is rss
  6. what is scientology
  7. what is autism
  8. what is lupus
  9. what is 3g ~ Proof of Apple’s influence (j/k, 3G standards are in active development)
  10. what is art

How to…

  1. how to draw
  2. how to kiss ~ Isn’t this stuff best practiced than learning
  3. how to write ~ Blog is growing, right…
  4. how to cook ~ Restaurants are now expensive for Americans
  5. how to tie
  6. how to hack ~ Adults are taking their kids apart from the fun…
  7. how to run
  8. how to cite
  9. how to paint
  10. how to spell

International queries [3]

Nothing that much interesting, since Google themselves is quite lazy to translate the international queries this year 😛

What a pity Vietnam still haven’t generated enough data to appear in the yearly list, or is it some kind of classified data? Because I’m quite sure not only Vietnam are contributing to that infamous #1 query, while the second and third appeared in the Zeitgeist…

It’s not something that makes you proud when you searched for blog the most… ;))

Loneliness

Technology takes people nearer to each other… less and less lonely since 2004. The world is getting better! 🙂 You’ve got to love it!

Translation

Google released Vietnamese support for Google Translate this year together with a couple of useful enhancements (translated search, dictionary, etc.). Before that I have always been in doubt that all the Vietnamese pages on Google is machine translated; but that’s countered by the fact that nobody in Vietnam ever succeeded in writing such a translation engine; and the translation looks natural enough :-/ Time to put that to the test 😛

Web history in Vietnamese

Same page, translated from English

Sure enough, you can see the apparent similarity: the wording is the same; the grammar on the static page is a little better than the translated one but is still far from perfect. My guess is Google has someone with basic Vietnamese knowledge, and the person’s responsibility is just to check whether the translated text is readable. Oh well, even though people has to turn to English if they want to read the TOS, this may help kids and give a good example of how hard to translate Vietnamese (O’ great language =)).

Also, since I received complaints that my English is so terrible, this blog has just been enhanced with a translator thanks to David Pozza and Google for providing the API, hope it is more readable now 😉

(Look to the right)

~ And that’s another day with Google