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Archive for July, 2006

Long drive

Ever since moving to the East Coast, I’ve been missing the quiet time I sometimes get int he West Coast. I remember I used to take long drives by myself along the Pacific Coast, 500 miles at a time. During the trip I would have A LOT of quiet time to think about new ideas, and kinda work them out in my head. Now that i move to NY, I don;t drive at all. The subway rides are way too short to load a problem into my head.

1 comment July 29th, 2006

Be Inappropriate, try and do something.

Recently I’ve been thinking about if I miss working in big companys and things that come with it, the big paychecks, the so call peer recognition by them, and the know that there are more jobs like that out there.  Am I being nieve by trying out different shit that doesn’t have a straight “career path”?  Here is an interesting article by Paul Graham.


Add comment July 29th, 2006

Only a geek…

It was so clearly a choice of doing good work xor being an insider that I was forced to see the distinction.”–Paul Graham talking about being a painter in when he was in grad school, from article “Copy What you like”

Add comment July 29th, 2006

bought BHP @ 40.87

BHP, BHP Billiton Limited, a diversified minning group. Refreshed my position that I sold in May. The stock has historically traded in tandem with gold price. Spot gold price has rebounded from $560 to $630, but the stock has been trading in reverse direction. Bought some at $40.87 yesterday.

Add comment July 19th, 2006

Logistics in Hong Kong

I havn’t been back to Hong Kong since 1997. Over the years I have heard how technologically advance Hong Knog has become, but man was I in for a treat. In the last 10 years, Hong Kong has implemented two centralized proximity cards, the HKID and the Octopus. HKID is a government issued card that identifies who you are. Upon entering the immigration hall, if you are a HK citizen and has nothing to declear, you can walk straight through with this proximity ID card. The system keeps a record of who goes in and out, and flags any anormalies.

All luggage entering the HK airport is tagged with an RFID tag with an antena. Through the different gates they are able to track your luggague and know where it is if it get lost. Leaving the airport you rely on something called the Octopus. The Octopus is a stored value proximity card endorsed by all public transportation, vending machines and some cas registers. Because fare for HK subway is distance based, you register once when you gain entrance into the system, and once more when you exit. The fare will be deducted from your card. You can use the same card to get a soda from the vending machine as well.

But there are times that Taxi is more convience, such as going to the new territories. There is live TV on an LCD screen in the cab. The government has subsidized natural gas as a fuel source, so almost all cab now runs on natural gas. The taxi now all runs different ad hoc social networks, each with about 15 cars serving a single neighborhood. They would take calls from their pool of customers, and dispatch it among themselves first before passing it back to the main dispatcher.

At the resturant, the bathroom attendant have a company picture ID on display, along with a number to call to report how good or bad of a job he did. Not only him, but also anywhere from government departments to the guy who collect tolls all have an ID and a phone number to report performance.

I am amazed how the west hasn’t catch up to these advancement yet. I have a feeling that they are going to show up very soon through Hutchison Whampoa and PWCC’s investment in China.

Add comment July 10th, 2006

Economic baseline, risk and Innovation

One of the fuel of innovation is companies and individuals who are willing to take risks.  Even thought no everyone who take risk will innovate, if noone deviates from “industry best practice”, we would have no innovation.  However, certain economic baseline has to exist for people to take risk.

One of the thing I observed in China was that there is little risk taking going on.  People are afraid of asking the wrong question, or giving the wrong answer.  People tend to follow what the guy in front of him does, and are willing to happily accept current condition.  But why?  Why would people not willing to take risk?

I discussed this over tea with George.  To encourage people to take risk, a society has to have some sort of safty net.  In the States, if you failed, you can still get a job pumping gas and survive with minimum shelter and food.  In China, if you failed, you have to sleep on the street.  Not only that, your parents and your kids has to sleep on the street as well.  Simpily for that reason, people are more adverse to taking risk.

But then, risk taking doesn’t seems to be thriving in wealthfare countries either.  It turns out if the safety net is too comfortable, peole tend to absue it and stay in the safety net instead of where they should be.  The incentive of doing extra work to take risk isn’t big enough to justify doing so.  So how would China evolve into a country that encourage innovation.  I think this would take at least 10 more year.  Innovation came from necessity, whcih China has now.  But the country need to establish a social safetynet to make sure everyone can at least have basic needs, yet expose everyone to the potential reward of taking risk temselves.  With more risk taking in the marketplace, people will have a higher tolerance for risk taking, thus propelling innovation

Add comment July 10th, 2006

On Chinese education system

Before I went to China, my thought was to go meet all my developers, get to know them, put a face to their names, and identify who would be responsible for each module, and do some knowledge transfer so they can do the requirement, design and code.

Man, was I in for a surprise.  The Chinese software market is still at its infancy.  If you think about it, US has about 40 years of SW development experience.  India has 20.  China has about 10.  The developers in China are treated more like blue collar workers in the technology sector than actual developers.  Independent thinking was so discouraged that my developers were afraid to ask questions, let alone challenge your design.

So I took a developer out for dinner.  We went to this sushi place in a prime building in the business district.  The quality and the choice of sake rival that of Seattle, so as the price.  I wasn’t surprise we didn’t see any locals there.  We talked about a lot of things, and one of them was China’s education system.  In China, there is a national curiculum issued by the government to ensure that all colleges in all Proviences fills the same base level of requirement.  The requirement is so literal that most college choose to test if student remember these requirements stright from the book than anything else.  Of source for the student, if you can recite the entire text book, you get a good grade.  This is not too different than American public high school, where the goal is to make sure everyone get some base level of an education, at the expense of the top performing gropup.  It is an impressive task given how many people China has.  But because of that, Chinese student were not encourage of independent thinking.  Universities are just factories to produce engineer ready to code, rather than education institutes taking on a particular view on an academic subject (i.e. CMU A.I. vs MIT A.I.).  There is little variation or need for innovation either because of the lack of a domestic market.  Student are satisfy with the status quote and just following the crowd rather than challenging it.

Mind you, at 1.6 billion population, this is not an easy task.   But since that’s the case, student seldom challenge  what was taught.  They are afraid of giving the wrong answer or asking the wrong question.  If you spoon fed them, everyone of the engineer will be capable of executing exactly what you tell them, exactly the way it is.

But I have every confident that this is going to change in 10 years.  As soon as China develop a domestic market, there will be greater and greater to innovate locally.  Which make me think the only thing outstanding as a bottleneck is the talent to train all of the Chinese developer, to establish a culture for innovation.  I am doing my share.  Hopefully China wiill have 5 more real developer than it has today by the time this is finished.

Add comment July 10th, 2006

Chinese as commodity

Add comment July 10th, 2006

does the camera make the photographer?

There are people who insist that it is the person behind the camera that make the image. What camera he uses has nothing to do with it. That’s like saying what programming language you use has nothing to do with the charateristic of the program it produces.

MWONG was showing me a Hasselbald H2 the other day. In the realization that it is lossing market shares in the fashion advertisement industry, that camera was Hassy’s attempt to compete with the Mamiya 645AFD. But in reality, it has very little to do with Hassy at all. The camera operates more like Japanese than a German product. But does it matter?

If you look at the image created by a German camera (e.g Contax and Leica, Hassy is swedish), they all have a very distinct characteristics. The contrast, the brokhen and the red and yellow spectrum is unique to German lens. The sharpness is also very different than a Japanese lens. Japanese lens produce a very clean sharp and German lens are generally more moody, producing a more “classic” look.

But it has to do with a lot more than the lens. German camera are usually built completely with metal rather than hybrid polycarbon, resulting in a heavier feel weight distribution. It take a lot more to “get into place” with them. What that translate to is images that are much less spontaneous and more “stable”, images that are composed or collected instead of snapped. If you take a look at image created by Lomo LC-A, a light weight plastic camera, they tend to be more spontaneous, fun and random. It’s great and I love it.  People usually use it to reproduce random moment of everyday life. Because of the steadiness of operation as oppose to the dynamic operation of a Nikon or a Canon, you don’t see than many German camera covering the news.

it’s not saying you can;t create a spontaneous image with a Leica, or a classy image with a lomo LC-A. But the operation of the camera, it’s built, it’s weight and lens influence on what see in the view finder, thus influencing the image it produce. Why do we need to know that? Just like programming language, different one thend to encourage differnent style of coding style. It is silly to believe that if I use C++ to build a parser, it will be as easy to build than if you use PERL. Then, if you know what you are going for, it will help you choose the camera that fit your style.

I am planning to turn this into a irregular series. Next time I’ll talk about medium format Vs 35mm, and why is the difference more than just size.

2 comments July 10th, 2006

bought GS @ 150.08

GS, Goldman Sachs, an investment bank had a good track record of making extraordinary trades in volitile market. Low PE. Betting on the Fed stop raising interest rate, decreasing the attractiveness of fix income

Add comment July 5th, 2006


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