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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

remaking The Habit

I guess now would be a good time to say, “It’s been a long time coming,” Those of you who know me would know that I hardly ever talk about books other than the Bible or the occasional mention of text books. There’s a simple reason to it, I don’t read. At least, I don’t find myself compelled to pick up a novel and make it my own.

When I say ‘read’, I don’t mean reading articles off the web or magazines, but picking up a solid book with chapters that would nail my attention until I finished it. I don’t do that these days, so that’s why I say I don’t read.

I used the phrase ‘these days’, so actually yes, I did read novels when I was younger. That’s all thanks to my good mother who wasn’t going to let her child be educated by television. She got me into the habit of reading when I was a child and I used to love some of Enid Blyton’s works such as Secret Seven and the Famous Five. Even when I got into high school, my interest in war got me into reading Tom Clancy novels, even if I didn’t understand the whole content.

Somewhere in between high school and college, I lost the interest to  read. I think I finished the novel that I last read before I even finished high school. I guess the web was grabbing a lot more of my attention, MSN Messenger and Friendster was all the rage then, not to mention PC gaming is something plenty of boys are into as long as they’re bound to something called school.

Over the past few years though, I have bought a couple of books, they weren’t fictional though. They were more ‘educational’, business books. If you look through the archives of my blog, you’ll definitely find some mention of titles such as ‘The Starbucks Experience: Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary’ and ‘The Ultimate Sales Machine’. Since business matters were of some interest to me I picked those up, but I haven’t finished either one.

Hence, until now, I haven’t finished a single book. I haven’t even read the first chapter of a motivational book my internship department bought for me as a farewell present. I even remember buying a novel from the used bookstore in Ipoh a couple of years ago that I didn’t even open.

Just a few weeks ago though, for whatever reason I took that book I just mentioned off my bookshelf. I looked at the back for the summary of the story and then I suddenly thought, “Why don’t I start reading again?” Just turning the page to the first chapter and reading the first paragraph was actually a little refreshing because I couldn’t even remember the last time I was reading a story off a piece of actual paper. If you’re wondering what book I’ve started to read, its this one:

I’ve been reading it in my spare time, and I’ve also been taking the extra initiative to bring it to classes that I find boring and really don’t pay attention to. I won’t tell you which classes those are though! In any case, it does feel good to be reading fiction again. I do wonder if it could help me become a little more creative since in a lot of ways I’m a ‘by the book’ person.

Still, most importantly, I hope I’ll finish this book and not leave it hanging halfway. I need to complete at least one, and perhaps more will follow then.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

backup Tool

Today, I thought I’d just share a simple application software that I use with everyone since I find it rather useful and perhaps anyone who reads this will feel the same once they use it.

I’m actually referring to SyncToy 2.1. This is actually a free lightweight application developed by Microsoft that synchronises folders between different locations. To put it simply, it helps you to replicate any files or folders that you like into another location. In addition to that, when running this application you can also update changes from your original folder to the folder that you are using to back up files from.

1. SyncToy 

The image above shows the window that appears when you launch the application. Since I have already configured a ‘backup pairing’, it appears immediately on the home window. More details about what is on the main screen will be covered later on.

Firstly, we need to know how to start using it. As with any backup task, there are two locations involved, one being the original source folder, and the other being the target folder. Hence, this application works on the basis of ‘folder pairs’. SyncToy requires users to backup folders and cannot target only specific files. The only workaround would be to create a single folder and to put a single file in that folder, although I don’t think this is a major issue to any user.

2. SnycToy 

In order to create a new folder pair, you just need to click the ‘Create New Folder Pair’ button as shown in the first image, and it will then direct you to the form shown in the image above. Here, for the ‘Left Folder’, you should select the source folder and choose the target folder as the ‘Right Folder’ and click ‘Next>’ when you’re done.

After creating a folder pair, you need to select what kind of ‘relationship’ this pair to have, and there are three to select from:

1. Synchronize
2. Echo
3. Contribute

The next three images below will give you a description of each option.

3. SnycToy (Synchronize)

4. SnycToy (Echo)

5. SnycToy (Contribute)

After that, you just need to name the folder pair because the application will save this pairing for future use, since you will probably want to use this same pairing over and over again.

6. SnycToy (Name folder pair)

Once that is done, you are ready to perform a backup task on your folder pair/s. Once you click ‘Finish’, the above window will close and the home page or home window will appear again. Select the folder pair you want to work with by clicking on one of the folder pair names that will appear in the left margin. When you select it, the folder pair details will appear on the main window.

6aa. SyncToy (Buttons)

Then, at the very bottom of the home page, there are two buttons you can use that will start the task process, ‘Preview’ and ‘Run’.

6a. SyncToy (Preview)

If you choose to click ‘Preview’, SyncToy will run a cross check between the two folders in the selected folder pair. If there are differences between the two, a list of files that are not synchronised between the two folders will appear. A summary of operations that would be executed if the button ‘Run’ is clicked is provided at the bottom left hand corner of the window.

6b. SyncToy (Run)

Upon clicking run, the actual backup process will run and upon completion a short summary will be shown.

You can also customize your folder pair synchronisation by changing certain options. On the main window where you have a folder pair selected, click ‘Change Options’ to launch the window in the image below.

8. SyncToy (Change Options)

‘Files to include:’ and ‘Files to exclude’ are actually referring to file types that you can filter. So to enter a file type into the list of either, you just have to type in a file type/s like this: “*bmp, *mp3”. If you click the link ‘Select subfolder’, you will be directed to a new window as shown below.

9. SyncToy (Select Subfolder)

Here, you can select or unselect folders and subfolders you wish to participate every time you run a synchronisation task on SyncToy.

One last thing feature of SyncToy I’d like to share is that you can also change the backup task type or profile of each folder pair anytime. If you look carefully at the main window, there’ll be a link that’s labeled ‘Change Action’. Click that, and you will be able to select again from the three action types, synchronize, echo and contribute.

There are other similar applications, one of them being Allway Sync, which is also free to use. However, compared to SyncToy, its not as customisable, especially since there is no function similar to the folder pair in SyncToy. You’ll have to specify the source and target locations each time you run it. Not only that, you won’t have options such as filtering which folders should and should not be involved in the backup task. Of course, it still works but I’m advertising SyncToy instead since it has the few extras that make it better, at least from a user friendliness perspective.

That’s all there is to it really, SyncToy really works well as a backup tool for any ordinary PC user like myself. You won’t have to worry about wondering if you already or haven’t copied folders from one location to another because SyncToy can remember that for you, haha! I definitely recommend it to anyone who would like to have an easy to use, yet customisable backup tool. If you want to give it a try, you can always download it from either one of the following links. The latest version is SyncToy 2.1.


Microsoft Download Centre: http://bit.ly/17AYut
CNET: http://bit.ly/aW8wHR
PC World: http://bit.ly/9nkDUp

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

talking Commodity

I think most of us know deep down that basic commodities are always taken for granted. Food, air and water. They're the three things that keep us alive, but we're hardly ever thankful for them. Its either because we've been so accustomed to and easily afford these things to the point we forget how important they are, or we just don't care at all. When we have it we don't care about it, but when we don't, its an emergency.

Those three things I mentioned are all tangible. They are things you and I can touch. After a few things I’ve experienced lately, I realised a commodity (for myself at least) that is intangible, which is simple conversation. Which person have you ever heard say, "I'm thankful I have the ability to talk"?

As human beings, speech is probably one of the important gifts God gave to men, even if they never realised it was one. It allows us to express, and quite frankly we all do have freedom of speech. Its just a matter of if we're willing to face the consequences of what we say, depending where we live. As with any other thing God made, we can choose how we want to use it, for good or for bad. There's no auto-lock function in any brain around the world that prevents us from insulting and cursing or praising and affirming each other. There're no time limits, and there aren't any word character limits either.

I'm not going to blog about how people should be responsible with what they say or anything like that, because that isn't the focus of this entry. Right now, I just want to be grateful for some experiences that I've had since I'm fortunate enough in the sense I'm physically able to have an audible conversation with  people around me. I cannot even imagine how different my friendships would've been without being able to speak.

The best way to know somebody is to talk to them. That's my rule of thumb if you want to know a person. Even businesses understand this and that's why until today, face to face interviews still exist. Even with all the social networking media of today, they all fail to tell you who a person really is. Sometimes even a five minute conversation can tell you more than you've found out browsing through a person's online profile for an hour.

Recently, as I've returned to UTP, I got to meet with several people that I hadn't met for a while. I didn't even realise how much I missed them until I started talking to them again. Its not like I had conversations that were uber meaningful with them but rather simple ones. Most of them were just catching up. With others, we just talked about random things or issues that we were concerned about.

Somehow, in all of them, I felt very happy to have had those conversations. I always walk away from them with a good feeling. That's when you just know you've had a good time with a friend and you've grown that little bit closer because you spent that little bit more time with them. Not only that, every time you talk to somebody, you stand to earn a little more trust too. Can you see how important conversation is?

The way we talk affects our relationships with people around us, which in turn affects who we are as individuals as well. That's the power of conversation. Speech is often the best expression of our inner thoughts and is such a personal trait. It really is a gift, very valuable. Our life would be so dull without it. Treasure it always.

Friday, August 06, 2010

active Again

There're a number of good things I'm rather thankful for with my last semester in UTP having just begun. One of them is the fact that I don't have a lot of subjects to study for, although I don't think any of my subjects are easy, haha. Having said that, the fact that I'm not taking many subjects means I have more time to spend on my final year project (FYP). It also means I have more free time for sports.

I haven't played tennis in about a year or so. Its not my favourite game, but still something I enjoy, and the skill you pick up doesn't fly away from you so its okay to be on hiatus for a while. This week alone, I've probably gone down to the courts four times. The cool thing is that I've been able to play with a variety of people. It certainly challenges you in different ways when you're facing up to someone with a playing style you're not accustomed to. This is even more true when you're playing against someone who's definitely better than you, which was the case yesterday evening.

His shots were very nice and sharp while I was struggling to keep the ball down and I also had a hard time with my hand not being as strong as I wanted it to be. After a while, we decided to play a set, and I was fairly beaten 6-1. There were hardly any long rallies, and I guess that kind of tells you the quality of the game, haha! I had such a hard time returning serve, since I hadn't faced any fast ones for a long time. I was standing probably more than a meter away from the base line. My own serves were hardly decent, and that was after I'd practiced serving the night before.

I really need more practice. One thing I'll miss after UTP is the chance to play tennis frequently. Where can I get such an opportunity to play for free at anytime I want? I'd probably need to own a condominium for that! Still, I appreciate the fact I still have a few more months to do this, so I'll probably head down to the courts as often as I can.

Outside of UTP though, church is one place I'll certainly frequent most if not every weekend, and they actually have a table tennis table, which is super awesome. It remains my favourite indoor game, and somehow it's very conducive for very random and funny moments if the two people playing are having fun. It was my second favourite game I played in Vietnam after cricket. Tennis actually ranked behind at third place then.

Last Saturday, I played with David after music practice and boy was it fun. We just went on and on, and it felt like one of those free online games or arcade games where you just get so addicted that you can't stop playing, regardless if you're winning or losing. The funny moments were certainly there with both of us winning points with the ball coming off the edges of the table or if we missed clear cut smashing opportunities. I rediscovered that the backhand is probably the most important shot in table tennis, or at least the most versatile one.

All this certainly feels more fun than jogging and futsal with random people I don't know at all although I still like both. I guess I can enjoy my sports in UTP more this time round, one last time, haha.