Saturday, February 24, 2007

Revisiting Desktop Search Engine

5252Desktop search tool is something near and dear to my heart. With the deluge of unstructured information we create and receive every day (email, MS Office documents, etc.), I can't imagine working without it anymore.

As I wrote before, I have been quite happy with X1. But recently I tried upgrading my Microsoft Office 2003 to Office 2007 and started experiencing performance problems with my laptop. (Office 2007 is a bigger memory hog than Office 2003). Since X1 takes up a lot of system resource and since I don't want to give up on Office 2007 just yet, I decided to experiment with other desktop search tools.

First off, I decided not to experiment with Microsoft Windows Desktop Search because I know it's a bigger memory hog than X1. Windows Desktop Search is supposedly well integrated with Office 2007, so it would be worth considering if I had a more powerful machine. My laptop has the following configuration:

Dell Latitude D610
Windows XP SP2
1.6 GHz Pentium M
512 MB RAM
About 30 GB worth of data to index

The first tool I tried was Google Desktop Search (GDS) version 4.5 because others have testified on its efficient use of system resource. However, after using it for several days, I decided to uninstall it. Along the way, I discovered several things:

  • Resource use is indeed lower than X1. If I go to Task Manager, I could see that my page file usage is about 100 MB less with GDS.
  • Initial indexing takes way more time than X1. With X1 I could install it and the end of a work day, then just leave my laptop running throughout the night and have the indexes ready by the next morning. With GDS, it was more than 2 days before indexing finally completes (in all fairness, because indexing runs over until the next morning, some of the indexing time was parallel to my working time).
  • The sidebar may be a good idea for some people, but not to me. I think there is too much distraction already when you're trying to do actual work on your computer. I just don't need to have the weather forecast or popular dugg stories constantly shoved in my face.
  • The factors that made me decide not to use GDS are:
    • GDS does not allow easy filtering on the search results. For example, in X1 you can type a few key words to search for an email. On the search results, you can then apply other criteria (email folder, sender, whether there is attachment, etc.) to narrow down on the results.
    • Search result preview is much weaker than X1.
    • GDS does not allow scrolling through the search result based on the key word. Let's say you're trying to find a PDF file with the words "foo bar" in it. If you key in "foo bar" as your search key word in X1 and specify the document type to be PDF, it will return with a list of matching documents. In the preview window, you can scroll through the selected document and view where "foo bar" appears. GDS does not have this functionality.

After GDS, I decided to try Copernic Desktop Search 2.0 (CDS) which used to be a favorite of mine before I discovered X1. I always thought that X1’s user interface is plain ugly and CDS’ user interface really blows it away. The new CDS 2.0 even looks even better than 1.0.

Unlike GDS which uses a web browser, both CDS and X1 comes with its own search interface. CDS user interface is quite nicely designed and in my opinion the best in all desktop search tools. I mention above that X1 has the ability to scroll through search result based on key words. CDS takes this feature one step further by allowing scrolling through each of the key words. So in the example above, CDS allows scrolling through either “foo” or “bar”.

However, in the end, there are a few weaknesses of CDS that made me decide to stick with X1:

  • CDS does not come with the ability to search content inside zip (archive) files. This is an important feature for me because I zipped a lot of my important documents for the purpose of grouping and space saving.
  • It turned out that CDS used just as much system resource as X1 does.

So after all that effort, I decided to stay with X1. But at least I got to revisit these desktop search tools and review their newer versions.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

SkypeOut Frustration - Conclusion

6a71 Three working days after I tried a bank transfer, I finally got SkypeOut credit in my account. A full EUR 10 was deposited in my Skype account. Finally! Applause

So, for Indonesians, here is the bottom line for purchasing credits with Skype:

  • Choose the bank transfer option when purchasing credit at Skype's web site. Skype will give a detailed instruction to send the funds to an account at a HSBC Indonesia branch.
    • If you have an online account with HSBC, go to HSBC's online banking web site and make a fund transfer.
    • For any other banks, go to your respective online banking site to see if an inter-bank transfer is possible.
    • Else, you must physically go to your bank and do a funds transfer.
  • Any other payment method with Skype will fail. This includes credit card, debit card and PayPal.

Monday, February 19, 2007

SkypeOut Frustration

4d10 In my moment of weakness, I could spend hours and hours trying to fix something that is advertised to work but doesn't. In the last few days I must have spent countless of hours banging my head against the wall trying to buy SkypeOut credit using anything except physically going to a bank to make a funds transfer.

It all started when Mina moved to Singapore and I found myself spending a lot of money making international calls. That's when I looked to Skype to remedy this situation. At first I tried to purchase SkypeOut credit using my credit card. However, due to Indonesia's notoriety in online transactions, even my platinum Citibank Visa got rejected. Of course Skype won't admit that this was the reason behind the rejected transaction, but it's publicly known that credit cards issued in Indonesia have very low credibility in the e-commerce world.

Then I discovered that PayPal is now offered for Indonesian residents. Of course this is old news (shame on me), as apparently PayPal entered the Indonesian market since October of 2006. I thought this was awesome as it would surely allow me to get those pesky SkypeOut credits now. But I was wrong for the second time.

Skype evidently has some reservations about Indonesian PayPal users as the PayPal payment option does not even show up from the purchase screen. This was after I registerd my PayPal account on Skype. I even tried to trick Skype by signing up for PayPal auto-recharge which would automatically make PayPal purchase if my SkypeOut credit falls below 2 Euros. None of this efforts worked.

Not willing to give up, I tried other ways to purchase SkypeOut credits. Next, I tried my Bank BII Master Card debit card. I thought a debit card would give more credibility in this type of transaction. I was proven wrong again as this card was rejected like a nerd on prom night.

My last desperate effort was to go Apparently Moneybookers is the second biggest online payment behind PayPal. Except for having to go through the ugly brown web site, the sign up process was similar to PayPal's. Unfortunately, the conclusion was the same as well. I fared even worse than PayPal as Moneybookers even failed my credit card verification. No reason was given. Just plain rejection.

At this point I'm ready to throw in the towel. And by that I mean dragging my ass to a local HSBC bank where Skype has an Indonesian bank account via Global Collect. At the last minute, I opened my KlikBCA account to see if they offer any service that could help. Unbeknownst to me, KlikBCA now offers a way to transfer to other banks. I don't even know when they started to offer this service! DohI typed in the purchase amount and now it's a waiting game . I should know in 4-5 days and will put an update if this method works.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

University of Bubur Ayam

fb2e I ordered bubur ayam this morning, sold from a motorbike. I flagged the abang, as he rode in front of my house. This is a pretty common way to sell food in my neighborhood, but what was surprising was the abang's attire. He was wearing a University of Virginia cap -- the original one with the correct logo and color.

Usually when you see fake clothing items in Indonesia, you'll see peculiarities that any college sports fan can spot right away. Wrong school color is the most obvious one. Another is the mix up between NCAA and professional league (I once saw a "Harvard Major League Baseball" jacket). But the abang's cap was UVa's orange and navy blue.

I commented that the cap looked good on him. For the record, he said somebody gave him that cap and he didn't know what the logo meant.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Passionate about Employer vs. Passionate about work

When you're working a 16-hour day to finish a deliverable, is it because you are passionate about the company you're working for or is it because you are passionate about the work that you are doing (or, worse, is it motivated by fear)? What's the difference and why should employer care?

This post gives a fresh take on this interesting topic. See how well you do on the 4 questions Smile.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Dopod C720W

1b62 I started using the Dopod C720W in December 2006 after previously using the HP iPaq 6515. Moving from the Pocket PC 2003 platform to the Windows Mobile 2005 Smartphone Edition (WM2005 SE), I had several concerns. What is the usability like with no touch screen? Will my existing software work the same way in the Smartphone Edition? After using it for a couple of months, I can say that I am very comfortable with the WM2005 SE and even prefer it to the touch-screen Windows Mobile.

The lack of touch screen may prevent some types of software to be used (e.g. sketching, scribbling tools), but for the most part it becomes a blessing in disguise for a Smartphone. I always believe that a true Smartphone needs to be operable using one hand. The Treo line of phones does this very well (I used the Treo 600 and 650 prior to using the iPaq 6515). But we don't see other Windows Mobile phones (the touch-screen ones) concentrate on this usability feature. The C720W does one-hand operation very well. There are some drawbacks, for example scrolling becomes slower in Pocket Internet Explorer, but this is not a major issue.

The best part of the C720W may be its thumboard. It feels significantly better than the iPaq 6515 thumboard and a joy for typing emails and text messages. The text prediction functionality is excellent. Not only it offers suggestions to complete the word you're typing, it is also smart enough to guess and offer suggestions for the next word. It does this by looking at your past words. If I typed "Dear" after "Hello", the next time I type "Hello", it will offer "Dear" as a suggestion.

The C720W comes with a few nice software and utilities. Worth mentioning is the copy and paste utility which allows selecting, copying and pasting without using touch screen. It also comes with basic RSS reader, voice commander utility and a Java engine.

Besides the positive points, there are a number of things that can still be improved. I will start with the JOGGR. The JOGGR is meant to be a next-generation scroll wheel, implemented using touch pad technology. At the top of the touch strip is a touch button that functions as a “back” button. At the bottom of the touch strip there is another touch button to access the messaging functionality.

The problem with the JOGGR is that there is no tactile feedback between the top button, the touch strip and the bottom button. You can easily accidentally touch (and activate) either the top or bottom button while trying to scroll. The lack of tactile feedback also prevents you control your scroll speed. I had to furiously move my thumb up and down before realizing that I could easily achieve the same effect (while using much less energy) by clicking and holding the D-pad. There really is no motivation to use the JOGGR when you already have the D-pad. Fortunately there is an option to turn off JOGGR so its weaknesses are off of my mind.

I should also mention that the location of the JOGGR (on the right side and slightly to the front) also prevents you to access it using your left hand. This is a design flaw to both left-handers and right-handers because right-handers sometimes hold their phones using the left hand as well.

Another hardware weakness that I note is with the Wi-Fi reception. It is sufficient if you have a small house or does not sit too far from the wireless router, but in general its reception is fairly weak. If I sit next to my D-Link wireless router with it, I only get 60% signal quality strength.

Overall, I have a very positive experience with this Smartphone device. The form factor is excellent and its thinness and light weight are quite a difference compared to the iPaq 6515. The build quality is also very good. I dropped this phone twice from waist high to concrete floor, and it kept on running.

Wet Weekend Part II

9119 I had to take Mina to the airport earlier today. We were worried that the toll road to the Soekarno-Hatta airport was blocked due to flood, as often happened during rainy season. Fortunately the trip was mostly smooth, except for a few rough spots where cars couldn't exit the toll road due to flooding outside of the toll road.

The toll road was built above the streets so it has the advantage of being dry despite flooding everywhere else. On the flip side, some cars that got on the toll road got trapped and couldn't get out because their exit got flooded. Rather than brave it out, these cars are parked on the side of the toll road near the toll exit. People then get out of their cars and walked around looking at the flooding underneath the toll road, causing a carnival-like atmosphere.

ba70 This is the pool in the Pondok Indah water park whose size is expanded by the flood. Beyond the net you can see the driving range. Picking up those golf balls became a lot harder now.

Wet Weekend Part I

a3b1 The big story this weekend is flood in Jakarta. The local government was caught by surprise, judging by the lack of preparation in anticipating such catastrophe. And who could blame them? Jakarta hasn't seen flood since... oh, wait... last year's rainy season!

The picture above was shamelessly copy-and-pasted from