Bright Stove

Reflecting information risk journey

Archive for November 2008

Local food, local foreign food, foreign food, foreign local food, foreign foreign food

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Dinning at a Vietnamese restaurant yesterday evening and it occurred to me that we (my family and I) actually didn’t try any Vietnamese food before while living in Singapore in the past few decades of our life. But now, living in Beijing, we have learnt to enjoy not just Vietnamese foods, but also foods from other countries as well.

Reflecting this, I rationalized that while in Singapore, we are well adapted to local foods, and our favorites are always easily available. Walk in to any food court, restaurant, or coffee shop, chances are we can find among the offers something that we like or used to. This eliminates the need for us to look for something else, except for special occasions, when we want to have something special (i.e., foreign).

In Beijing, and for the matter, any places that are non-Singapore or non-Malaysia, we are still foreign to the local foods in many ways. Even when we like the local foods, we don’t eat the same dishes everyday. At the same time, we don’t have the choices of Singaporean foods like in Singapore, even when we get to Singapore-style restaurants. This often makes us wonder into more foreign restaurants (for foreign foreign foods) than we used to while in our home country.

Living overseas, we therefore gain not just the food culture of where we live (outside of our home country), but also those of other cities around the world (where there are good foods to offer).

For the restaurant owners, perhaps this means that for those selling non-local cooking styles type of foods, it is always better to locate them nearer to the residential or office areas where there are more foreigners than the locals. Locals will always want local food, and also know where to find them (even if they are located farther away from where they live or work). Foreigners will get sick of the new local foods (i.e., foreign local foods) quickly, and would not mine trying new foreign foods (or foreign foreign foods), including foods from their home country, in order to have a change even without the special occasion to celebrate. This perhaps also explain why there are so many foreign foods restaurants around where we live and work in Beijing. This is not a new idea indeed.

Interestingly, the pattern of malware infections in China, as reported in the latest Microsoft’s Security Intelligence Report (SIR), version 5, reflects something quite similar. The top 25 local malware and spyware were found to attack mostly local applications and web tools, like locals going for local restaurants, but not in the top 25 of the worldwide list; only one foreign malware (Win32/RJump Trojan) in the worldwide top 10 list, was popular in local context—like Coke being a more popular drink in China than many local drinks, but most of the other top drinks are occupied by the local brands.


Written by mengchow

November 28, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Food and drink

Losing heart earned data

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I haven’t been running for the past two weeks due to the numerous short trips and started with the treadmill at the gym yesterday, which covered a nice 6 km distance. Today, managed to get home earlier and seeing that the sky was still bright and shining, I quickly changed and dashed out for a longer distance run to cover my favorite Chaoyang Park 9 km track.

Being winter now, the sun sets pretty early and quickly, and being Beijing, it is always windy when the sky is clear. Today is no exception. The temperature was around 9 degree Celsius, and the wind was strong. In less than 2 km, I started to feel that my feet were freezing, like being solidified, even though I had extra think socks, wearing two layers pants, and three layers of shirts (with a wind breaker as the outermost layer). As I ran on the first part of the Park towards the north, the wind were face-on. When I turned, at some corners, trapped wind were blowing all over.

While on the run, as usual, I monitored my pace with the Nikeplus device hooked on my little iPod Nano. The first check was at 3.8 km point, and as I turned the second corner at around 5.9 km, I clicked the center button and everything went quiet. My running was disrupted, then I pulled out the iPod to check what happened. Meddling with the buttons here and there, the pace count continued, and suddenly, the Powersong that I set up previously (with U2 singing the “Where the streets have no name”) came out, replacing the playlist that I was on. At that point, I was only about two-third of my planned track, I’m not going to dash with U2 for another 4 km. I switched to the menu option and upon pressing the “Change songs” option, the iPod rebooted itself 😦 That was the worst timing to have a software error resulting in a system reset for the entire device. My “heart earned” run data just vanished as a result.

After the reboot, I restarted the Nikeplus program and continued my run, but with a new count. So this run is counted as a 3.84 km run, as shown in the chart below, instead of the actual 9+ km.

This is not the first time that such an incident happened with the iPod with Nikeplus. I’m not sure whether it is the Nikeplus software or the iPod platform has a bug somewhere, or the iPod platform. Once, when I pressed the center button on the iPod to invoke the Powersong for my final leap to make a spike on the score, the device hung and the only step I could take then was to reset it, losing the entire 9 km of heart earned run data. When I first bought the device and set up the account at the web site, for some reasons, it did not upload the data relating to the first two runs. I contacted the support desk via email and after a few rounds of to-and-fro discussion, the support line gone quiet, totally forgotten about the issue that have been reported.

Usually we may tend to dismiss such losses as trivial, since they are non-mission critical, or not even business or personal life safety or privacy critical. We however can see that more such technological devices are creeping into our way of life in many ways. Over time, more and more data will go missing, and if simple devices cannot be relied upon to help improve our lifestyle, or even achieve what they are meant to provide reliably, then what we have will just be a false sense of a technology-enabled society. It is therefore important that such small technology things work, and work reliably all the time, with adequate redundancy or provision for recovery so that they give confidence to users when we adopt more complex systems into our daily life. In fact, we are already adopting more complex technological systems into our daily life, and in some cases, they have not been living up to expectation. Sometime they do, and those occasions give light to move us forward.

Written by mengchow

November 26, 2008 at 10:17 am

Posted in Running

Two-way communications

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While it is often a challenge to achieve two-way communications in a typical conference setting, even with the use of new communication tools such as mobile short messages (SMS), as discussed in my previous blog entry, in a concert setting, the outcome is entirely different.

Last saturday, I managed to get to a Taiwanese singer, Zhou Huajian’s (周华健) concert at the Beijing Capital Stadium (see first picture below, taken before the start of the concert).

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At the stage, there were a number of screens set up for different images and video projections throughout the concert to provide multimedia effects to the songs and improve the ambient of the event. At two separate intervals during the concert, the extreme left and right screens were used for another purpose, like what I saw in the previous conference in Beijing. The first screen (left picture below) shown a mobile number and five song titles put up for the audience to vote using SMS, live. Subsequently, while Zhou Huajian was singing, the SMS messages were received, and the results of those votes were counted and projected (right picture below.) Very quickly, Zhou got the results and knew exactly what are the live audience’s preferences for the next few songs, and he sang the top two selections in the sequence of popularity reflected through the SMS votes.

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Even though the concert, unlike most conferences, was already achieving very much two-way communications, in which many audiences participated by singing along, tapping their foot, clapping their hands, waving the torches, etc., the addition of the messaging technology added another interesting dimension to it.

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The appropriate use of technology, as we can see here, adds to the already rich experiences of the event, further enhancing the communications between the performer on stage, and the audience below.

Written by mengchow

November 24, 2008 at 12:56 pm

Posted in Misc

Two-way communication

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Conferences, in general, is a one-way communication platform, where a series of speakers get up to the stage and deliver their messages. While there are often opportunities for Q&A, they are mostly limited to a few minutes for very few questions. The setup therefore remains mostly one-way, i.e., unilateral. To achieve two-way communications, it should be with “s”, i.e., plural form of communication, which should be interactive, or in the form of a dialogue. Those are limited to roundtable types of setup. 

Today, at the China Software Security Summit in Beijing, the setup is rather interesting. While the speakers present their slides on one screen, there’s another screen on the other side presenting a scrolling list of live messages received from the participants thru’ mobile SMS. Speakers could not see, and therefore couldn’t read what’s on the scrolling list of SMS text. Some of the messages were commenting on the speaker’s slides and messages, asking related questions relating, and others ranged from asking for general information to spam messages advertising the presence of some companies in the conference. It is uniquely two-way communication, without “s”, i.e., two unilateral channels of messaging in a conference setting. While the setting was interesting, it was rather distracting when reading the SMS text scrolling on one side, the speaker’s slides on the other sides, and then listening to the speaker’s speech in between. 

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This reminds me of the many meetings that we thought were two-way communications, but were actually two-unilateral communication as in this conference setting. You speak yours, and I speak mine. Let the audience decides which he/she wants to tune-in.

Written by mengchow

November 5, 2008 at 10:41 am

Posted in Misc

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