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top ten Google tricks you probably do not know.

Google has become such an integrated part of our lives that it has replaced Internet Search; you simply Google something instead of Internet searching something. I’m using Mac Safari as my web browser now and only laziness (to transfer bookmarks) is causing me to delay my switch to the better and faster Google Chrome web browser. With Google TV, Docs, Maps, Calendar, Mail, and Groups amongst the other products that I use on a daily basis, I thought it’d be good if I put together the top ten lesser-known tricks in our regular use of the Google search bar, to make virtual activities a little more convenient.

1. Definitions. Key in “Define [insert keyword]” and save some time there instead of checking via an internet dictionary.

2. Blog search. Pretty self-explanatory – search within listed blogs only. (It’s pretty interesting when I see how WordPress reveals how people end up at my blog.)

3. I’m Feeling Lucky. Ever wondered what this button is for?

4. Products. Type in “Better than _[insert keyword]_” and you will get an idea of how good something is. Remember the underscores. If you are someone who’s frugal and wants a good buy, try Froogle. (Clever wordplay!)

5. Translator. This is so good that it translates beyond just phrases, but entire websites and even documents. The amazing thing is that it continuously learns.

6. Conversions. You could just about convert everything. For example, type “123 metres in feet” or “456 SGD in RMB”. Too bad it doesn’t convert pre-believers.

7. Time. If you have a lot of friends overseas and want to know what their local time is, type “What time is it in [insert country]”. Never call at the wrong time ever again.

8. Checking within sites. This lets you zero in on one website. For example, type in “site:joeyasher.com huiyi” to find every post with her being mentioned.

9. Bypass proxy. Not really applicable in Singapore but definitely helpful in Shanghai where just about everything is blocked by thegreatfirewallofchina, including Facebook and WordPress, and for a period of time, Youtube and Wikipedia. Type in “cache:website.com”. Also helpful for annoying company fire walls.

10. Chuck Norris. My favourite, of course, is to type in “Google Chuck Norris” and press the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button. Have a good laugh at the result.

Some additional trivia… During the time that I was in China, Google actually legalised the download of music (simply because they can’t keep up with the country’s normalised piracy). But don’t bother accessing it via a Singapore IP address – you’ll be denied.

The groundbreaking thing about Google is that it is a learning organism. For example, everything that is being searched for, including the actual search results and what appears in the search field (i.e. the autofills) is a result of what people key in, find and eventually click on. Google then intelligently learns these search behaviours; that’s why most of time you actually can find what you are searching for within the first couple of pages – because thousands upon thousands of others have searched what you are currently searching for.

Like many others, I’m inclined to recognise Apple and Google as the leaders of our world today – their influence and impact on our society are staggering; they pave the way for change and have a say in just about how we look at and use things. For e.g. iPhone revolutionised the way we look at mobile phone usage and Google revolutionised the way we use the Internet. This phenomena is mind-blowing (and potentially devastating).

Now if only Christians could exert that kind of influence… Hmm…

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top ten free programmes you must download.

All right, let’s do something fun for the third list in the “Top Ten Tuesdays”. Here are the programmes I’d personally recommend to anyone with a computer because these little works of IT genius have made my life a little better. Not all programmes are available on the PC and I won’t apologise for it because… WHAT IN THE WORLD ARE YOU DOING WITH A PC!?

The following are not mentioned in any order of preference. I’ll recommend whatever comes to my mind first!

1. Google Chrome – I use it on my work computer and I like it so much I might just choose it over Safari on my Macbook Pro in time to come.

2. YouSendIt Express – Drag, drop and send from your desktop; until I discovered Dropbox, YouSendIt was the best way to send big files to others.

3. Dropbox – Convincing, convenient and certainly confirmed for coolness this year; 3-thumbs up!

4. Adium – The first programme I installed in my (then) black Macbook when I first switched over to Apple nearly five years ago.

5. Skype – You should throw away your computer if you haven’t heard of Skype; and no, it’s pronounced “Skype”, NOT “Sky-pee”!

6. VLC – Seriously, do I really need to describe this? Which media file doesn’t VLC open? (Ok, I just did.)

7. WideMail – A tiny but significant improvement that doubles your efficiency in the way you use MacMail.

8. AppDelete – Conveniently deletes all files related to an application and stores it neatly in a folder in your Trash.

9. MacSword – Always good to have a virtual Bible that you can copy and paste (or read) from when you’re not connected to the Internet.

10. Quicksilver – This has to be the slickest and sexiest way of searching for files and applications.

(Disclaimer: I am not a tech-savvy IT geek, so I’m sure that there are better stuff out there that deserves to be mentioned in this Top Ten list!) Do let me know which ones you like and which other free programmes should be in this list. Let’s share the inner IT geekiness in all of us with all of us for all of us!

can i dream with You?

In life, there are many things that we share in common; dreams are one (and nightmares are another, but let’s not go there today). We tend to associate positivity to dreams (e.g. daydreaming always seems light and fluffy, after all it can’t be scary building sandcastles in the sky, right?); and we tie in negative connotations to nightmares. There are, however, dreams that well, are just neutral.

Like most of you, I can’t quite recall the majority of my dreams. I do recall a few particular (bizarre) ones, such as:

  1. It was 1994 and the first World Cup I watched. Brazil won Italy on penalties and it was Italy’s maestro Roberto Baggio who missed that decisive last kick. I was Signore Baggio and I remember placing the football on the penalty spot. The millions of spectators in the stadium were rapturous in their chanting of “JOEY! JOEY!” (Yes, indulge me, please). Very non-chalently, I silenced all of them with a wave of my hand and I knelt down to gather a handful of grass. (This is when it gets crazy…) I put one blade of grass into my mouth… And I shouted, “MEE GORENG!!!” (!!!) This catapulted everyone into delirium and they began their choruses of “MEE GORENG! MEE GORENG!” I went on to score of course, not that it mattered anymore. Crazy, I know.
  2. A part of my childhood was spent in the messy precinct of Jalan Besar and that was when I was really into Taoism – deities, ghosts, spirits, souls blah blah blah. It was also the time that I was really into Ghostbusters… (Yes, the TV/movie series with Marshmallow Man.) I recall being able to fly and manoeuvre around the estate on some cool skateboard machine. My main task each evening was to heroically exterminate the spooky beings in the (there’s-something-strange-in-the-)neighbourhood. I did that with ease and a dash of suave of course, shooting out from my bazooka green, acidic, slimy blobs of I-don’t-know-what and sucking the vermin into an ashtray-shaped ghost containment unit. As with all crazy dreams, before the mission was over, I ended up RECRUITING these ghosts instead. There is no sense in this, of course.
  3. When I am stressed, I almost always end up dreaming about looking for a needle in a haystack. (Cliche, but that’s the most normal bizarre dream…)
  4. And when I am very stressed, I dream about eating a piece of cake that grows bigger and bigger with each mouthful, and this stupid piece of cake (I remember it to be a strawberry shortcake) grows to the size of a HDB flat! It gets really insane because I’m supposed to finish eating a piece of cake that doesn’t quite finish!

These are the four dreams that come to my mind all the time, but I think if I had the time, I’d be able to pen down a few more ridiculous ones. Does anyone have crazy (or crazier) or recurring dreams like that? Do share!

On a more serious note, I actually am of the opinion that creativity takes place in the purest form in dreams. It’s as if each night we go to sleep with a white canvas, beckoning God to paint on it. Think about it, there are absolutely no limits in dreams; I can be anyone, doing anything, at anywhere I desire, at anytime I determine and with or without anyone. To an extent, it is when we actually get to experience what CREATING is like. (With God as the supreme Creator, I opine that human beings have absolutely no creativity. We are only able to innovate because everything that we “create” is but a reference from something else that already exists. More on that in another entry…)

Hence with dreams potentially serving as such powerful platforms, I’m inclined to do what I wanted to do some time ago – put a small notebook beside my pillow and to jot down, in whatever semi-conscious state I am in in the immediate aftermath of any dream. This is as good as getting free downloads from the Creator of the universe. Sounds lunatic, but dreaming actually taps into the creative power of God. (I say that very loosely and irresponsibly, of course.)

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that new songs and poems can be written and inspired by dreams. Dreaming is the playground for divine revelation and forward thinking. Our (finite) imagination is the platform for infinite possibilities. Holy smoke, I don’t even know how those statements came about. I believe that dreaming (whether day or night) transports us to places that our human eyes cannot see and our cognition cannot handle. We should not underestimate what (the work of God in) our minds are capable of accomplishing.

Of late, I keep dreaming of one particular action but in different scenes; I dream that I’m running against the wind – be it in football matches, away from crooks, chasing buses or even just regular jogging. Wind (or resistance), be it external or internal, is the immediate obstacle that is common to all, that all of us must overcome. I have mine and you have yours, in varying intensities. It’s always easier to cycle downhill or swim with the current; but it is running against resistance that train muscles and going against opposition that confidence is built up. These song lyrics sum up my sentiment perfectly:

逆风的方向,更适合飞翔;我不怕千万人阻挡,只怕自己投降。- 五月天:《倔强》

(Translated: Traveling against the wind is the best way to take flight; I’m not afraid of the opposition of a million people, I only fear my own surrender.)

I haven’t the faintest clue how this article evolved into this ending but I’m glad it did anyway; I just kept typing. In a sense, I put into practice what Finding Forrester advocates:

“No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!”

Spoken like a classic Sanguine, without first dreaming, we are never going to get anywhere. Dreaming without action may be useless and a complete waste of resources but without dreaming we have no solid action to execute at all! Let’s engage God in our dreams. Can I dream with You?

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