Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

It was a intriguing descriptive of five close high school friends, and how their friendship meant so much as they were growing up, but the intensity fell apart as they went to college and the pain caused by the rifts and the strangeness of their eventual careers and lives was so hurtful/devastating/awkward.

“and this was what they did most often – they just hung out someplace, and talked for hours. It wasn’t like they showed up with a topic in mind – they just never ran out of things to talk about.”

It’s difficult for large groups of friends to stay together a long time. Especially as life, habits, and circumstances change. We should appreciate it while it lasts.

“Not everything was lost in the flow of time. … We truly believed in something back then, and we knew we were the kind of people capable of believing in something – with all our hearts. And that kind of hope will never simply vanish.”



Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki

Poetic wisps

It’s been so long that I forget
The streets branching off Orchard Road,
The Wisma-Taka underpass
And oh the Lucky Plaza one too.
I forget the first Singtel shop that used to be in the basement where the first HTC phone was,
The old back door escalator of Kino that made is so fast to get out to the train station,
The first Garret popcorns, nah that wasn’t so long,
When Heeren used to be a youth paradise with warrens of stalls, now moved to bugis.
When there was HMV, now long gone, long past the time of CDs,
When there were younger simpler crowds,
When it was afternoon on a weekday,
When we thought we were finally old enough, but really still really not that old after all.

Poetic wisps

Google Home in real life environments

My two new Google Home have arrived. And it’s time to try out just how good (or limited) the launch version of Google Home is.


The set up:

1 x Google Home : in living room
1 x Google Home : in bedroom (sometimes it moves around)
1 x Nexus 6p running 7.1 dev preview, modded with Google Assistant
1 x Nexus 5 running 6

Note that this is being used outside of US. Hence certain US-based services were not available.

What’s known to work, and observations:

Single device situation:

  1. Google Home (GH) can be configured with 1 primary “linked” google account. This account is at the moment the single main account for that particular GH device. If you ask this device any account specific questions like “what’s on my calendar”, “good morning”, etc. It will answer using this account’s name and calendar info.
  2. You cannot link a second account to this device. The text label “linked account(s)” look like this will be introduced in the near future.
  3. GH voice recognition is not person-specific like your phone Google Assistant or Google Now is. There is no voice recognition training step.
  4. Remember that specific voice recognition is on-device only, it does not get transferred between your devices.
  5. Any person can talk to your GH device, including friends, kids, partner, etc. What I mean is that anybody’s OK Google will be recognized.
    1. Good: other people can try out the GH. it’s more community friendly.
    2. Bad: no distinction of personal info, this probably needs to be fixed
  6. Music account, locality account are all set as per main google account holder. If you have just one device, only one account can be set. This is definitely odd thing.
  7. Search History is saved into the history of the main account holder. This means you will accumulate a huge amount of junk queries as everyone try out the GH.
  8. Search queries are obviously almost always very very good. Assistant finds most answers and can read out longform answers from websites like recipes. That’s pretty well done.
  9. Did not test out smarthome commands as I do not have the ecosystem set up.
  10. Music controls are really basic at the moment. Anything outside the specified range of “play music”, “play x”, “next song”, “stop” will usually fail. Including really simple commands like “play something else”, “I like this song”.

Two Google Home devices

  1. So I bought two GH devices for reasons: to put one in each room, to try out dual accounts.
  2. Each GH is set up individually. They are not forcibly linked, even on the same wifi network. meaning each GH can be on separate Google Accounts. or each GH can be on the same Google Account.
  3. If separate Google Accounts:
    1. each device will answer according to it’s “owner”. as per above, all personal info, music account will be specifically linked.
    2. you can still cast music to each GH, regardless of their account, as long as it is on the same wifi network.
    3. you can still group them together inside the Home app. This allows you to cast music to both of them at the same time.
    4. If your phone is nearby a GH with the same account, it will offload responses onto the GH intelligently. If nearby GH is of a different account, it will not offload the response. I hope you understand this.
    5. Music playing is really screwy as both GH are linked to different accounts so when you talk to them, they access different music accounts.
  4. If same Google Account is used for both GH
    1. it works as you would expect. you can talk to any of the devices perfectly. your music plays perfectly.
    2. other people can still command the GH as like guests, but all info go through your account.

Other comments:

  • command pickup: pretty decent. no need to shout, but don’t speak too softly. it does not pick up whispers, ever.
  • loudness: the speakers go really really loud very fast. about 30 to 50% strength is enough. I wish it could go softer, Volume 1 is still too loud sometimes.
  • data usage: if you run it the entire day playing music, it can use quite a fair bit of data. mine can probably download like 1gb a day, perhaps.
  • touch sensitivity: bit of a lag. also wish there were other buttons on it for music controls. sometimes it’s too tiring to keep saying every little command out loud. “ok google next song” is a bit of a stretch to keep repeating.
  • As described in the above two sections, management of multiple Google accounts is a headache. Compared to phones where one phone equals one person (whether one or multiple accounts), a smarthome device has to be shared between multiple people. So we have new combinations that are very hard to manage, both for the computer and for the humans. Even as I know Google engineers and enable linking of multi accounts, it will still be a huge challenge for the user without any visual cues of which is the active account.

Imagine the combination and scenarios:

one Google Home | one user  | one google account
one Google Home | two users | one google account
one Google Home | two users | two google accounts
two Google Home | one user  | one google account
two Google Home | two users | one google account
two Google Home | two users | two google accounts


Best thing about Google Home so far:

It’s a very lovely music player. The convenience of having having an always-on music player, being able to just say “play music” and something decent starts playing. It’s been awesome instead of having to plug something in, turn something on, open some app and choose a playlist. I believe this is going to be the primary purpose of GH, followed by all the random search queries. In smarthome enabled households, home commands would undoubtedly be heavily used as well.

Music playing benefits heavily from having a premium music streaming service with unending songs, auto playlist, and machine learning assisted smart playlist generation.

Note: if you do not have a valid premium music subscription with Spotify or Google Play Music (or YouTube Red), you can still play music from Pandora (Free) or Google Play Music Free versions. You can only play ‘radios’, that is you cannot choose specific songs. But you will still have some form of music. You should still also be able to play your own uploaded personal Google Play Music files (in playlist form).


Would I recommend Google Home? Yes definitely. It works very well as a search query device, it listens well to your commands, it is a great music streamer, it’s relatively inexpensive. For all the money people throw into smartphones, this is definitely worth the money.

Google Home in real life environments

More critics of the new Macbook Pro

Once again, for normal browser-using and Office-using folks, the MBP is still way overkill, and very usable. If you want to pay the premium price for the nice hardware and stuff, it’s great.

For the power user, meaning the graphic artists, music artists, engineers, physicians, mathematicians, serious hardware is really important. That means more cores, newer cores, more ram, new ram, better rambus, better ssd speeds, better GPUs, more GPUs, still more GPUs, more screen, more storage, more network speed (not wifi, LAN!), and more everything. Even if it costs more.

But there isn’t more. There isn’t more of any of that that they can throw their money at. There’s no more significant upgrades other than price, other than some little speed tweaks here and there, no more new Mac Pro, new iMac. Only that precious Mac OS now with nothing to run it on. Oh dear, Apple you might as well go the M$ route and license out the OS to other hardware makers.

I think this is a focus problem. Apple is focused on improving their revenue, and Mac OS is not significant enough, with insufficient potential. So their talent and engineering and marketing and budgets and focus is all on other things. No talent and no focus means no progress. For sure.

The only good thing for many engineers, hey at least you can offload the heavy duty stuff to cloud servers. yay. In that case, you just need a linux terminal.

You know what, people who make software and people who make tutorials and guides need to make them for other OS. Make it such that everything works well also on Windows and Linux, and we’ll all have choices.

More critics of the new Macbook Pro


Oh man, that was one massive migration of Hypervisor, from Proxmox to VMware ESXi. Took me 1.5 weeks and it’s quite worth the improvement in local datastore functionality. Redid all my VMs in like a version 2 manner, since the Proxmox set was pretty noob. 

It wasn’t all smooth since I didn’t follow all the exact same settings and versions, but largely quite tolerable. 

Got a new reverse proxy up, which I’ve always wanted. And gave up on Observium and back on PRTG which I like much better. 

Well, here’s to hopefully a stable homeserver system that stays in place for longer than the previous set. Or until I run out of spare storage space and need to move things around again. 



Wow it’s been a extraordinarily surprising and inspirational Friday evening and Saturday. Totally unexpected. It’s been weeks and day in day out of work, office, home, home server, office, emails, requests, Civilization VI (yeah), Pokemon Go, work, etc. And normal people. I mean, they aren’t bad people, or evil people, or totally boring people. But I guess they are normal people, or perhaps I only see the normal side of them at work.

Friday evening. Another evening to myself and I go out for a walk to just get my eyes away from the crazy Civilization VI game (which I am exceedingly proud to have purchased at full retail price on Steam and played a crazy 29 hours so far). It’s killing my eyes by the way. I see a chance tweet by StraitsTimes (of all people) about Singapore Writers Festival, and hey that’s cool, I didn’t know or I forgot it’s on. And it’s on tonight! I quickly check the schedule on my phone while eating dinner in a restaurant with poor network connection and no free wifi, sigh the pain, and I realise there’s one of those poetry events that night. Awesome. I head straight over to Arts House, gosh I love that place so much, it’s got such a beautiful architecture, beautiful rooms, superbly done up for performances, and quite central and accessible. I love the SWF vibe, love the crowd, love seeing my favorite local poets, love seeing bookshelves of books on sale. As much as I normally dislike paying full price at a brick n mortar shop, I actually bought a physical book. Recently I’ve been deliberating about a Kindle again… Oh well but never got to it. So I have yet another physical book. Strange Weather in Tokyo, by Hiromi Kawakami. It’s been a great read so far, I’ve going slow to savour it.
Damn I miss books, I miss reading, I miss writing, I miss listening to people talk about books, lit, themes, stories, their opinions of it, etc etc. It’s wonderful. It’s people with ideas, people with passions, people with stories they are trying to craft. People who aren’t really earning much money as poets or authors. People who try to do it full time, half time, part time, no time. People who have day jobs in normal corporates, or government bodies, or social companies, etc. I love how quirkily some of them dress, in their fancy clothes and fancy bags and fancy getup and fancy accessories. But no it’s not fancy like Chanel dresses or LV bags or necessarily tailored shirts or shiny shoes. It’s fancy in that it could be so cheap, so thrown together, so casual, so hipster, so not hipster, so all over the place. And that it’s so inclusive. I would say Writing and Lit is part of the Arts community. Part of Music, Drama, Dance, Painting, etc etc. Even as Sarah loves her Musicals, it is another art form that I respect, as much as I am unable to appreciate alot of it. I don’t like all poetry. I probably like only half of it. The quirky ones with strange rhyme, strange built-in music, strange sounds and strange stories are also cringe-worthy to me. Haha. And yet Arts being Arts, is all inclusive of everyone who wishes to express themselves in the format, differently. And that’s crazy. And good.

Friday night I heard Arianna Pozzuoli recite one about Romeo on Tinder. LOL, it was downright hilarious. It was just a “quick” “simple”, non-literary joke piece on the Shakespearean theme, but it was hilarious and one of my favorites. You gotta hear it for yourself, out loud.
I heard Shivram Gopinath tell a tall tale about William Shakespeare and how he really is from india and ran to England and changed his name to Shakespeare. Oh it was a tall tale and hilarious too.
Jennifer Anne Champion had a awesome line about “Television, films, and YouTube slam poetry”. Lol Youtube slam poetry is a thing huh. I gotta admit it is quite catchy, though often frivolous. But still entertainment great for any bar night.
Omar Musa rapped a piece about “Eh / Play On” – “Tomorrow isnt your friend / Never let the fire in the lamp burn low / For you never know / When today might end” Hot damn he is inspirational. The rest of the poem was equally impactful. Read it here.

I was really inspired. And I missed it all, so much. Back to the days when I read, and read, and read. When I wrote, and blogged and wrote. When I daydreamed day in day out. When we all had dreams. When we were students. When life in university meant classes in everything under the sun. It was awesome.


Saturday Afternoon was GDG-SG Devfest. Although I work on IT stuff all the time, it’s still cool to see all the developers, who work on apps, cloud, machine learning etc etc. To be reminded again of Firebase, of GCP, of Search, of ML, of Android Run-Time. Makes me want to make yet another app again.img_20161105_173137img_20161105_161101

Saturday Evening we went for another Poetry reading together. This one was themed on Love. Poets from Japan, Taiwan, Iceland, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and some others. Very much an eye-opener into many, many, many, different styles of poetry. It was cool. Some were beautiful, some were cool, some were bizarre, some were shocking, some were boring. But it was a great and amazing diversity.
Iceland lady was stone-faced and sharp but funny in a sense. Taiwan guy was like cool surfer dude but writes well. German/Ghana woman was funny and also boring. Singapore malay guy was bemusing in fact. Japan man was crazy. It was real fun. And I enjoyed it so much.



Hardware at scale

All the big guns have such impressive economies of scale at purchasing high end hardware. How do small companies compete? What’s 4 servers versus 40,000? I did not realise even LinkedIn had such a big demand.

Intel understands that the market is changing. Four years ago, the chip maker told us it sells more server processors to Google than it sells to all but four other companies—so it sees firsthand how Google and its ilk can shift the chip market. As a result, it’s now placing bets everywhere. Beyond snapping up Altera and Movidius, it has agreed to buy a third AI chip company called Nervana.

That makes sense, because the market is only starting to develop. “We’re now at the precipice of the next big wave of growth,” Intel vice president Jason Waxman recently told me, “and that’s going to be driven by artificial intelligence.” The question is where the wave will take us.

LinkedIn is designing and building nearly all the pieces and parts of software and hardware that it needs for its data centers, poaching away key people from Facebook and Juniper to do it.

Microsoft today open sourced its next-gen hyperscale cloud hardware design and contributed it to the Open Compute Project (OCP). Microsoft joined the OCP, which also includes Facebook, Google, Intel, IBM, Rackspace and many other cloud vendors, back in 2014. Over the last two years, it already contributed a number of server, networking and data center designs.

Hardware at scale

Is it one of those inflexion points?

Fall of Year 2016, the year that the giants of Silicon Valley’s consumer tech – Apple, Google, Microsoft all made huge hardware and software announcements within a short span of a few weeks, and all made waves in the news, for different reasons.

Google started the ball rolling.

  • Under the new #MadeByGoogle moniker, they announced what they felt was a (secret) revolution

    • Google Pixel Phone – a first Google branded and fronted phone where they threw in all their chips, where reviewers are saying it is a pretty good contender in all aspects to the iPhone. It wasn’t super standout in features, but it didn’t seem to get anything wrong.
    • Google Home – a relatively small-ish product, actually made to show off
    • Google Assistant – their newfound Artificial Intelligence embodiment, their precious new baby which takes the entire (impressively large and talented) company worth of (world best) knowledge gathering, (one of the world’s best) machine learning, (again one of the world’s best) artificial intelligence and combines it into one singular entity called Assistant that for now spans the AI-assisted chat app Allo, the imbued Pixel Phone, the pure Home.
    • Daydream headset – a further push into VR after last year’s successful Cardboard surprise.
  • A reorganization of Google Apps for Work into a new G Suite brand, a new Jamboard whiteboard to bring all of G Suite into your brainstorming sessions

Microsoft put down some really good hands with

  • Windows 10 Creator’s Update – a surprisingly wholesome gang of 3D image capturing, manipulation and sharing. It brought a fresh new swiss minty breath to the Windows OS, as if Microsoft was forgiven for the Windows 8 debacle, the respectable Windows 10 steps. A Windows PC could now be cool again. It had a new function that it could not do before. And it tied so well with the darn Hololens they have been talking up for years but gotten nowhere, and it tied so well with the Surface line full of touch interface. surfacedial_10_imagepanel_v2
  • Surface Pro – already selling well and growing steadily since gaining momentum a year back hitting the right spots, now souped up with more power and more battery
  • Surface Book – continuing to impress with the fancy cool super suede design and computing power for engineers. This blew the crowd away last year.
  • Surface Studio – this year’s mind blowing hardware which beheld so much attention in the design and form, which really really seemed to make you want to have one. It was just so dreamworthy, so perfect for what it was advertised for. It was the talking point of the year. And OMG the Surface Dial.
  • Xbox – nothing big this time round.

Apple’s cards were all flops

  • iPhone 7 and 7+ with some more camera tricks, CPU tricks and battery tricks. Nothing at all worth noting, year after year of performance and speed improvements with no useful real-life gain. Not in terms of hardware, not in terms of software. Oh and they took away the headphone jack without any discernible benefit and everyone hated that, and their wireless earphones are delayed.
  • iPad – lost in oblivion as people refuse to buy new ones
  • iMac – lost in oblivion and forgotten by Apple in the quest for better iPhones.
  • Macbook, Macbook Air, Mac Pro – again lost in oblivion.
  • Macbook Pro – this year’s stunningly bad reveal from Apple. A marketing disaster all told coming 24 hours after Microsoft’s mindblowingly and expertly delivered presentation by Panos Panay (Corporate VP of Devices) (a man who could move you to tears the way he talks about his Surface devices).
    The Macbook Pro took away all the needs of the programmers, the designers, the artists, the scientists – all the people who use the Macbook Pro and iMac with the highest end configurations at few thousands of dollars each, people who run the heaviest of applications that require tens of gigs of ram, xeon processors, the largest screens, the best screens to do their work. People who have budgets normal people only dream of and use applications that cost thousands of dollars.
    And the Macbook Pro fails at that. It is now a middling piece of hardware whose only redemption is that it is the only thing that can run Mac OS.
    Every other year it’s been “oh they added this other whatever thing, and now it’s more expensive, but it’s okay it still is useable”, and this year it is “where’s everything we need and why is it taken away when someone else is making super powerful and cool laptops AND a desktop”. People who buy $3000 laptops and $3000 monitors probably don’t care about having a slightly thinner laptop, don’t care about 10% more battery life. Not for an emoji strip.macbook-pro-touchbar-emoji-610x293

Other companies bring in new products that reflect the growing trends – awesome AI integration, 3D, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Touch screens (even Microsoft gets this), high end hardware for the serious people, and lower end accessible hardware for normal people.

Of course, Apple will still make a lot of money from the Mac ecosystem – from people who already use a very old mac and need an upgrade, from people who run applications that only work on mac, from people who don’t have time to switch, from people who just want the Apple logo (by the way it no longer lights up), from people who use iPhones, from people who have to make iPhone apps. But someone said it right, it will die, slowly, by programmers who no longer use a mac at home and start making apps for other devices, and slowly the software tide will shift.

Is it one of those inflexion points?