Friday, April 28, 2006


I installed Internet Explorer version 7 beta 2.

I have been using Foxfire since version 1.0 and I love it but there are things I love about IE7 more.

First of all, tabs are great and IE7 does it better than Foxfire.

A new tab will open to the ...
IE7: right of the current tab
FF: far right of the browser (inconvenient)

To close the current tab I click an X located ...
IE7: on the current tab
FF: on the far right of the browser (inconvenient)

When I get too many tabs open ...
IE7: they scroll left and right
FF: they off screen and I cannot access them

IE7 has a thumb view of each tab and a drop-down menu for my tabs. FF does not. I can close tabs from the thumb view.

I still cannot re-arrange tabs and when an audio or video starts playing in a tab I still have no idea which tab it's coming from.

1 GB of RAM was plenty but lately I've started to need more. I open up so many tabs that I run out of memory and I can no longer open things. I can seriously see myself having 100+ tabs open at the same time.

I still open multiple browsers to keep my tabs organized by type for example work tabs and fun tabs and there are pages like my gmail that I don't like to go hunting for so I keep them in a browser with no other tabs.

If I visit link sites like metafilter or memempool I will open them up in their own browser because I will quickly create 20 or 30 tabs just from one site.

IE7 seems to display fonts more clearly than FF but IE7 is slow to open and beta 2 is a little buggy but that's to be expected. I like it's shiny glass buttons and tabs. Everything is smaller. I remember in the early days with Mosaic and Netscape 4 and IE 3 and 4 the buttons were HUGE! Actually I had a hard-time finding the Stop and Refresh buttons on IE7 because they're so small and moved out of the way. I thought for a few days it didn't have those buttons.

I'm forcing myself to use IE7 now. For a few days I was only using FF to access my favorites but I finally exported them and imported them into IE7 so lately I've had no reason to use FF.

Conclusion: I think Microsoft has succeeded in leap frogging the competition evolving the browser to a whole new level. I just found a new favorite browser.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Kung Fu TV

Sorry about the mis-leading title. This post is not about Kung Fu TV but I do mention Kung Fu and TV mainly because I strayed from one topic to another. The two topics are not related. This is what you'd call a ramble post where one thing leads to another ... just like sex ... except there's no climax at the end but you can think of this as the foreplay. Just don't expect to splooge.

Sister #8 (Tee) is a TV-holic and watches it morning until night. I would guess she watches over 8 hours of TV per day!

Sister #2 (Chin) doesn't watch TV. She watches her fish tank ... just sits there for like 30 minutes at a time staring at her fish.

We have now renamed the TV as the Tee-vision and the fish tank as the Tele-fishon.

Although Tee and Chin hardly speak any English they both understood my joke perfectly and we had a good laugh. I was relieved because I've tried to tell jokes before and they completely fail due to lack of understanding.

I joke with my deaf wife sometimes. Afterwards I tell her I'm joking by spelling JOKE in sign. I should just ask her what the sign is for "joke" so I don't have to keep spelling it, although it is really easy to sign.

You know how certain words or syllables just flow together like onomatopoeia or boogily-oogily. Well the letters J-O-K-E flow nicely together in sign language.

I've come up with my own marital arts based on sign. I call it Kung-Sign. The goal is to sign slowly and smoothly exaggerating your movements like you're doing Thai Chi or some Kung Fu steps. You attempt to make each sign flow in the next like it is one motion ... and you do it with style and throw a little body language and Kung Fu stance into the mix. It always gets a good laugh.

Each deaf person makes up a sign for their name so you don't have to spell their name. The lazy way is to sign the first letters in the first and last name. Since people know me by my middle name, James, here and my last name is Coston, they suggested I sign J-C as my sign-name.

J-C actually flows very nicely together but picking a good sign name is like picking a good domain name. It should be ...

* reflect your personality
* easy to remember
* quick and easy to sign

If you have a mole on your face or neck you just point to it. That uniquely identifies you and is easy to remember and sign. I don't have a mole or scar or anything to point to.

Kelly and I brainstormed for at least 3 weeks before we chose a sign that both she and I liked. She shot down all of my ideas so I trusted her judgement.

I frequently brush my hair back out of my face so that's my sign. Brushing my hair back out of my face. People immediately get it and remember it.

Coitus-Interruptus! Sorry, you don't get to cum. Was it good for you?


OK, la, the Chinese in Malaysia, la, use the word "la" at the end of a sentence, la, or phrase, la.

It drives me nuts, la!

When I ask them, la, why do you put "la" at the end of your sentence, la, they don't even know what I 'm talking about, la. They're not even aware they're doing it, la.

Sister #1 has a son whose name is La so I asked her this morning at breakfast, when you call your son do you say "La la"? She just looked at me puzzled not knowing what I was talking about. I was cracking up on the inside. It's a big joke to me.

If you're listening to someone talk you must also say "Haa" once in a while to indicate you agree or you are listening so if I'm speaking to you, it might sound like this ...

me: I just got back form this long ride ...
you: haa
me: ... and it was really hot!
you: haa haa
me: I had a flat tire ...
you: haa
me: ... but I was able to repair it.
you: haa haa

I cannot even pronounce "haa" correctly so when I point out they are doing it, again, they have no idea what I'm talking about. Haa, La.

Sunday, April 23, 2006


I think tabs are great on browsers because it allows me to open up many links from a single web page then continue looking at the current page while the tabs load.

I think we can thank Amazon for making Tabs popular. They become a favorite navigation feature for web sites and finally for web browsers.

Here is a screen shot of Amazon that I took April 16, 2001 back when they only had two tabs!

The problem I'm having is that I lose tabs!

I have to open up several web pages because if I open up everything in one window it's not only too cluttered, it's not organized. My work stuff will be mixed in with my play stuff.

I need one browser window just for my tabs for Metafilter alone. I typically open 20 to 50 tabs before I start looking at them. Then I have another problem. I'll hear a video start playing but I won't know which browser or tab it's coming from! Then the hunt begins. I just have to start clicking until I see some playing video. If the video is off-screen then I'm really in trouble.

Or in this case, I had so many tabs open I couldn't even access the tab that was playing the video because the tabs do not scroll.

Before tabs I would have to open up each page in a new window and this meant my task bar had to be 3 or 4 levels thick!

But then Windows XP came out with a smarter taskbar which consolidated all programs of the same type under a single icon with a pop-up menu.

But sometimes I would have some many windows open my screen couldn't handle the size of the menu!

I do like how some programs do not occupy any space in my taskbar. They are simply tiny icons in my tray like my instant messengers like my instant messengers for example.

I don't understand why I can't re-arrange my tabs or re-arrange the icons in my taskbar. I simply want to drag and drop so that are in an order that makes it easier for me. I've been asking for this feature in Windows since I started working at Microsoft.

I don't understand why I can't search my favorites. I put way too many links in my favorites then I can't find stuff. I just a Favorites Search. Is that too much to ask? Why don't browsers have this feature? Am I the only person who wants this?

When I worked at Microsoft they would have an annual company meeting at a football stadium. They would always show what future versions of Windows might look like. They have a research group that develops ideas that are 10 or 20 years out. Their goal is to make Windows easier to use.

Operating systems will continue to evolve and get easier to use. They still have a long way to go. We are still in the computer stone age.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Lately I've been listening to Rush all day while I work. I have every album (not counting live, compilation albums and their last album) saved as mp3s from when I left Washington on my road trip across America September 2000. It took me about a week to save 100+ music CDs to mp3s so I could listen to music from my laptop which was connected to my SUV stereo.

From 1987 I was pretty bored with Rush but I continued to buy their albums anyway out of loyalty and curiosity. I was into their early stuff but not the later stuff. I found their later stuff timid and boring unlike their early stuff which exploded and was full of energy and magic. The spark that I liked was gone.

But I'm gaining a new appreciation for their later work. It's "easy listening" for work. The early stuff is too distracting and too noisy for when I'm trying to concentrate. I was never one to pay attention to lyrics much. I was more into the early rush for the music and the energy it filled me with. The later Rush seemed to focus on meaningful lyrics and less on kick-ass music. It was more cerebral and less emotional.

As I sit here listening to the lyrics for the first time of their older stuff, I'm realizing that they had a lot of interesting things to say. I'm surprised to find myself starting to like the later Rush!

I was into Rush long before I knew who they were. At about age 12 I heard "Fly by night" about 1976 on the radio and loved it. The next song I heard was "Closer to the heart" about 1977 and I loved that too but I made no connection. I saw kids wearing Rush t-shirts but I still made no connection to the music I loved.

I used to record music to tape cassettes off the radio then one day in 1979 (age 16) I recorded most of a live concert and yet I still didn't know who they were. Some of the songs I recorded were Xanadu and YYZ.

In 1980 the album Permanent Waves came out and the songs Freewill and The Spirit of Radio hit it big. I heard the DJ say that the band was Rush and I finally made that connection. I rushed over to the music store and bought the album and thought it was brilliant from beginning to end. My dad had an awesome stereo so when my parents weren't home I would put the record on the turn table and crank up the volume to shake the walls.

I loved to shake the house with the song Natural Science from Permanent Waves. It represents the quintessential Rush song. It starts out quiet and slow then slowly builds until it explodes! This song is over 9 minutes long and most of it is hard rocking! It's like sex. You have the foreplay in the beginning, the build up then the intense intercourse followed by the orgasm then you can can relax.

I loved that formula! So many songs follow that like Cygnus-X1, A Farewall to Kings, Xanadu and so on. But after Red Barchetta on Moving Pictures in 1981 that formula was gone. For me, that's where the magic was.

It was then my goal to buy all of the Rush albums. Below is a list of the albums in the order I bought them along with the year they came out, what format I bought them on (Record, Cassette, CD, Download) and how I felt about them.

1980 Permanent Waves (1980 Record) - Brilliant!

1980 Fly By Night (1975 Record) - Awesome! It has the song Fly by Night, that I loved back in 1976

1980 A Farewell to King (1977 Record) - Good Stuff! Deep! SciFi! Part 1 of 2

1980 Hemispheres (1978 Record) - Good but not into the Greek Mythology. Part 2 of 2

1981 Rush (1974 Record) - Crude. It had the Geddy Lee shriek but the music wasn't unique and the lyrics were horrible. John Rutsey was the drummer so I blamed it on him.

1981 Caress of Steel (1975 Record) - Again Crude. Bad lyrics and a fantasy slant which I'm not into. Two back to back albums I didn't like. I was losing faith in Rush then Moving Pictures came out.

1981 Moving Pictures (1981 Record) - This album restored my faith in Rush with songs like Tom Sawyer, Red Barchetta and the long instrumental YYZ. In my opinion, this is when Rush peaked.

1982 Signals (1982 Cassette) - By this time Rush had "jumped the shark" and would never recover. This was the first album I purchased on cassette tape and I actually wore it out by listening to it too much. The sound quality got so bad that I went out and bought it again. I still loved the entire album especially the songs New World Man, Subdivisions, Analog Kid and The Weapon but it seemed to lack some of the magic of Moving Pictures. The Geddy Lee shriek was gone. He was no longer screaming lyrics. He was now just singing the lyrics like any other singer. A disappointment but yet their music still moved me.

1984 Grace Under Pressure (1984 cassette) - The albums start to blend together now. This was a lot like Signals but slightly different. I still enjoyed this album a lot but I felt like the magic was gone. They were still good ... just not great. This album was kind of creepy for me. It had an eerie message that made me feel paranoid. It didn't fill me with energy the way Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures and Fly by Night did.

1985 Power Windows (1985 casette) - Now I was certain Rush would never return to the previous glory. I liked it when Rush was more conceptual but now they were just telling stories. I liked the energy from the Geddy Lee shriek but I'm guessing as he aged he decided to save his voice. They were getting older and it showed. I saw Rush in concert once and it was when they were touring for this album. I had good seats in the 11th row and my ears rang for a week. I'm sure I lost some hearing from that concert. When I came out, I was half-deaf for a few hours.

1987 Hold Your Fire (1987 CD) - Forgettable. Yawn. More of the same. I miss the old Rush. But I decided to continue to buy every Rush album that came out for many reasons. (1) Loyalty (2) Curiosity. They were continuing evolve. This is a band that likes to experiment and I can respect that. I didn't listen to this album much.

1989 Presto (1989 CD) - same as above. Rush made the change from Mercury to Atlantic records on this album. I begin to wonder what comes first ... the music or the lyrics? Do they write music then add lyrics or write lyrics then write music to fit the lyrics? In the early years I think the music inspired the lyrics but in these later years I think the lyrics came first and the music was a second thought.

1991 Roll the Bones (1991 CD) - still no magic. I barely listened to this album.

1993 Counterparts (1993 CD) - as always there were some good songs but nothing great. Nothing that moved me.

1996 Test for Echo (1996 CD) - same as above. They used to put out an album every year, then it was every 2 years and now every 3 years.

2002 Vapor Trails (2002 CD) - 6 years have passed since their last album. Obviously they have better things to be doing.

Feedback (2004) - I never knew this album existed until today. It seems that I have another album to buy!

It is interesting how over time the platform has changed. I started with records, then cassette tapes then CDs then creating mp3s from my CDS then downloading mp3s from Napster then using the legal Napster and iTunes. I wonder how will I purchase their album Feedback.

I also wonder how many more albums they will put out. Geddy Lee was born July 29, 1953 which makes him 52 now. It seemed like the time between albums was getting longer ... 1, 2, 3 and 6 years apart but there was only a 2 year wait for this last album. Maybe they are on the come back for one last blast. I honestly expect at least 3 more albums out of Rush. I think they will be rocking at age 70!

Long Live Rush!


I like the fall weather in New Jersey because it's cool outside and you can exercise and push yourself hard and not sweat.

Here in Penang Malaysia, I step outside my air-conditioned room and I begin sweating immediately. I just returned from a 20 minute leisure bike ride and I'm dripping in sweat.

When I go on long all day bike rides I bring two dry shirts and a bag to put my wet sweaty shirts in. A wet shirt holds in the heat better. It sticks to your skin and doesn't allow air to flow thru to cool you. When you change from a sweat drenched shirt to a dry one you immediately feel much cooler.

On a long ride I can sweat out 4 liters (1 gallon) of water!

I miss the dry air of Arizona where you would stay cool even at 100 degrees (37 Celsius). When you step out of a pool you're freezing cold because of the rapid rate of evaporation.

Ultimately I'd like to live where there are no extremes hot and cold, dry and humid. I just want nice weather. I just want to be comfortable.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Your next language is ... Chinese!

I'm reading this article in the April 2006 Wired

about how China is pushing Mandarin to be the language of choice in the world. It's already the most popular language in the world.

Here's a quote: "The days of everyone trying to be American are over"

I've been trying to learn some Mandarin but it's hard and I'm just trying to pronounce simple things like "Good Morning" which sounds something like "Chow On". I can say the "Chow" part right but I have trouble saying "On" because it sounds more like "Awn" or "Aaun". No matter how many times they correct me, I can never get it right.

I'm planning to buy a book to help me learn some Mandarin but I'm wondering how a book is going to teach me how pronounce the word correctly.

Sometimes the Children like to have me say Chinese words. They get minutes of amusement as I mangle the words. They repeat, I repeat, they laugh.

I think Asian languages are inefficient because each word a symbol. I think letter-based languages are more efficient. Chinese uses different tones for different words. That's confusing and very frustrating to me when I pronounce the word correctly but in the wrong tone.

Letter based languages are certainly easier to type.

I was wondering how the Chinese type. Here is an example of a Chinese keyboard.

When I got my new PC I could toggle between Chinese and English keyboard input and sometimes it toggled on it's own and suddenly I was typing in Chinese and I saw that I got a pop-up showing many choices. This type of typing seemed quite slow to me.

I wonder how Chinese characters are stored in the PC. You cannot use ASCII (8 bits) since that only offers 256 choices. 16 bits offers 65,536 but is that enough to hold every Chinese character? I'm pretty sure the answer is no so the next step is 32 bits per character which gives you over 4 million (4,294,967,296) combos. I'm guessing there are less than 4 million Chinese characters and I'm wondering how the Chinese solved this problem back when we were using 16-bit computers.

The thought of learning Chinese actually frightens me. It's just so different to read, write and speak. But of course that's what the Chinese have to deal with when learning English.

English is not a great language either. If we're all going to speak one language, we should all speak Esperanto. That language has many advantages.

1. It is a neutral language, being the property of no particular group of people and therefore the equal property of everybody.

2. It is relatively easy to learn. It would appear from personal experience and anecdotal evidence that, for an English speaker, Esperanto is perhaps five times as easy to learn as Spanish, ten times as easy as Russian, and "considerably" easier than Chinese, Japanese or Arabic.

3. It's rules are very simple. Everything is spelled how it sounds. Letters only have one sound. There's one way to make a word plural or to make a word female or male gendered.

Strangely enough there are people who are against Esperanto. Here is a web page that explains why Esperanto is bad.

Here is a fun Esperanto tutorial. Here is The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-9) written in Esperanto.

Here are the languages I've tried to learn. Esperanto has inspired me to invent my own language just for fun. I work on it in my free time. The words in my language will be generated from my simplified alphabet using a program I plan to write. The most common words people use will be the shortest words and the least common words will be the longest words. My language will be designed for speed of talking, writing and typing. It will be very condensed.

For a long time I've been coming up with a simplified version of the A-Z alphabet for English. For example I would get rid of the letter "C" since the letters "K" and "S" can replace it. The Malaysians seems to agree with me. They love the letter "K" and "S" but hate the letter "C" it seems. Instead of "Clinic" I see "Klinik". They also do not like the letter "X" hence Taxi is spelled Teksi. "KS" can replace "X". In a simplified language, vowels would only make one sound. There would be no silent letters. No exceptions to the rules. No ambiguity.

Just because we can make the sound with our mouth does not mean it needs to be a part of our language. There are many sounds we can make that are not a part of languages. Imitate the sound of someone farting for example. That "fart sound" is not a part of any language as far I know.

It is my wish and prediction that we won't have to learn each others languages in the future since computers will do the translation for us. There is currently hand-held devices available for doing translation between the 10 most common languages. I saw it featured on the TV show Beyond Tomorrow but it is very expensive. You tell it what the source and destination language is then you speak into it and it display what you spoke in the source and destination language on the screen then it speaks the destination language.

A Pirate Story

I was at the mall yesterday shopping for a Pirate version of Visual Studio.NET 2005 Professional Edition. The actual version cost $800 but I could probably buy it on eBay for $300 but I a pirated version may cost $25 and right now I'm unemployed and I need Visual Studio.NET 2005.

As I was browsing thru the "Visual Studio" section the lights went out and suddenly everyone in the store quickly walked out. The vertical sliding metal gate was quickly shut to close the shop and lock it and the people running the store quickly blended in with the crowd.

A raid was on!

All around me stores were closing. Kelly and I walked around and there wasn't a single software store open but 20 minutes later we walked by the first store we were in and they were just opening the gate and turning the lights back on so we were the first to enter. Unfortunately the latest version they had was 2003 and I need 2005.

The other stores eventually opened and I went to each of them but they all had identical content. They must all go to the same supplier. All had 2003 but none had 2005.

I saw a lot of free Software for sale too. I saw various browsers like Opera, Netscape and even IE for sale. I also saw Visual Web Developer 2005 Express Edition for sale which is what I'm using now except I downloaded it for free.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Malaysian Shampoo

I just saw a TV ad for shampoo aimed at Malaysian Muslim woman who cover their hair.

I foget what brand it was and I don't understand Malay but I could still understand the message was they could attract men by the smell of their hair. A man walks in the room and immediately notices the woman because of her great smelling hair!

It reminds me of the 70's TV commercials for the shampoo with the long name Gee your hair smells terrific.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cafe with no coffee

In the USA a cafe restaurant serves coffee but here in Malaysia I've found that 90% of the time a cafe does not serve coffee.

One Look defines cafe as

A coffeehouse; a restaurant; also, a room in a hotel or restaurant where coffee and liquors are served.

but Ask Oxford says

a small restaurant selling light meals

I like to mention to the workers at these coffee-less cafes that the word cafe is derived from the French word for coffee (or Kopi in Malay). They're really not interested.

It's like when I told the people at the A&W restaurant that their Coney Dog was far from a the real Coney Dog on Coney Island in New York. They honestly could care less even though they're serving a chicken dog with chili sauce and mayo when the real thing is a beef hotdog with spicy mustard (they don't have it), relish (they don't have relish), ketchup (they don't have that either), diced onions (this they do have) and chili (they have it).

I have to confess they did get right the vanilla ice-cream in root-bear in a giant mug. Yum!