Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Art of Working from Home

When I am in a meeting, I post a sign on my door so other family members know and keep the noise level down.

Drobo Saved My Day for the Third Time

A few hours ago, I went home to see one of the lights on my Drobo blinking in red color: one of my hard drives in the Drobo has died. For those who don’t know, a Drobo is an external hard drive enclosure which houses five (in my model) 3.5-inch hard drives. Drobo offers protection against drive failures such as the one I am currently experienced.

In the old days, a failed hard drive meant data loss—that is how I lost several photographs and video clips of my family. When I lost my first batch of files due to hard drive failure, I got wiser and backed up my desktop’s hard drive. Sadly, when my hard drived failed the second time, I found out my back-up CDs (those old days) also turned bad. For years, I struggled with back-up solutions, none were reliable enough for my use. Then came Drobo.

The first time I saw this black box, I knew it should be part of my data storage and back up plan. The initial price for the empty Drobo S, my model, was nearly 700 USD—a very steep price indeed. However, the more I thought about my past incidents, the more sense the Drobo makes. Finally, I bit the bullet and purchased one. Let me cut right to the point: I experienced today’s episode twice before, and had not lost a single file due to hard drive failure. I believe that was the best $680 I have ever spent.

Tonight, I will replaced the doomed drive knowing that my Drobo is working hard to ensure my data integrity. My Drobo has saved my day yet again.

How I Name My Printers

At home, we have two printers that I set up so the whole family can print. Their names were HP LaserJet xxx and Epson xxx, the default my OS gave them. Things were fine until my wife and kids start asking me which one is the color printer.

What? Don’t they know that the Epson printer is the color one? The truth is, for the people who wants to print, they don’t care if the printer is laser or inkjet, made by HP or Epson. All they care about is which one can print in color and which one cannot.

Finally, I named them Black & White Printer and Color Printer. This makes a lot of sense for them: they don’t have to wonder which one is which. It also releases me of the answering duty.

Configure GUI FileMerge with the svn diff Command

The Problem

By default, the subversion svn diff command shows the differences in text mode. On my mac, I would like to the FileMerge application, which comes with Xcode instead.

The Solution

I created a wrapper to opendiff, which is in turn the wrapper for FileMerge. I call this wrapper svndiff. The will show how to install and use the tool.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Mini Review

The Problem

I would like to have a keyboard for my iPad mini that is compact and usable to bring with me.

The Review

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Mini is about the size of the iPad mini and a little lighter. It comes in black or white to match your iPad mini’s colors.

The keyboard has a hinge which attachs to the iPad mini and acts as a clam shell cover. This design has the advantage of offering two solutions in one piece of hardware: a cover and a keyboard. The disadvantage of this design is when I open up the keyboard, I still have to detach the iPad from it and place the iPad into a groove on the keyboard. I wish I can just open up the keyboard and start working right away.

The first time I turned on the keyboard, I went into the iPad mini’s bluetooth settings and saw the keyboard listed. By selecting they keyboard the two devices paired after a few seconds–a painless experience.

Performance is where I have issue with this keyboard. The keys are tiny, especially for such Delete, numbers, and symbols. After a couple of days of use, I started to get use to the keyboard layout and tiny keys become less annoying. The keys don’t repeat when held down–a behavior that is different from a computer’s keyboard. I found myself from time to time needing to repeatedly delete characters and it is a pain not being able to hold down the delete key to do so. Because of the small number keys. Their placement is a little out of place. For example, when I need to type number 3, I ended up with number 2 instead. Likewise, I often get a hash (#) instead of the intended dollar ($) sign.

The groove in the keyboard is designed to act as the iPad mini holder, which can hold it in portrait for landscape mode. In landscape mode, the goove has some magnets, which holds the iPad mini securely. One complain I have against this setting is the keyboard holds the iPad mini a a fix angle, which makes it usable on a desk setting, but not on my lap.


What I like about this keyboard

  • Thin, light
  • Acts as a cover for iPad mini
  • Easy pairing
  • iPad mini can be in portrait for landscape mode
  • Can act as a stand for the iPad mini

What I don’t like

  • Small keys
  • Fixed screen angle


Easy Way to Create Colorful Bash Prompt

The Problem

I often want to fiddle with the bash prompt, but don’t want to deal with bash prompt escape sequences. I wish for a utility which simplify setting a bash prompt. I finally wrote that utility myself: mkprompt


Copy mkprompt to a directory in the path.

Using mkprompt

The best way to show mkprompt usage is via a couple of examples.

PS1=$(mkprompt "red workdir" space dollar)  
PS1=$(mkprompt "cyan Workdir" space "green dollar")  
mkprompt # display help

For more information, see my shell_tools page.

What’s Next?

The following are improvements which I plan for mkprompt, depends on my free time:

  • Implement the rest of the prompt escape sequences
  • Improve the help output
  • Implement installation script

The Script

I current host my script as part of my shell_tools collection on GitHub.

The iPad Stylus Socks GOLD Review

The Problem

I need a stylus to draw on the iPad, but don’t like the rubber-tip ones because of the lack of smoothness and they don’t last long.

The iPad Stylus Socks GOLD

My long research took me to this product. I wish I remember where I received the pointer from to send my thank, but I do not.

The iPad Stylus Sock is basically a “chopstick” stylus, wrapped in a conductive “sock”. I purchased a two-pack GOLD version with marble-like decoration. The stylii are of different sizes, which I will talk more about that later.

Because of the wooden construction, the stylus feels light in the hand. I wish it feels much heavier the way I prefer it. The sock which wraps one end of the stylus is a conductive fabric. As such, it feels much better to draw on the iPad glass surface than a rubber tip. The stylus glides effortlessly with just the right amount of friction. This is the one feature that draws me to this stylus. The sock seems to hold up well. On average, I use my stylus about one to three hours a week for two months now and don’t see any visible sign of wear.

I was curious while the stylus has the word “iPad” in its name as if it is designed just for the iPad. So, I tried it out on an iPhone and Android phone: it performs just as well. However, using a stylus on a phone is not something a phone owner would do.

Because the tip of the stylus is flat, as in a chopstick, I have to hold it vertically for the iPad to recognize. When holding the stylus at an angle to the iPad surface, the stylus sometimes miss register due to the small contact area. This could be a deal-breaker if you are not used to hold a stylus that way. Fortunately for me, I can write with my pen in nearly vertical so I can easily adapt my posture.

I purchase a set of two stylii, the smaller of the two is ideal for travel as it is small. The draw back is it is chopstick skinny to hold comfortably. For this reason, I keep the large stylus in my bag and the small, skinny one at home. The larger stylus’ body is wide at the tip, then heavily tapper in at the top. This shape of reminds me of the dip pens I used in elementary school in Vietnam.

Finally, I would like to mention about the price. I purchased the two stylii for $22, plus $6 shipping and handling; which makes it about $14 a piece. Compare to the other stylii I owned, the iPad stylus socks are inexpensive.


The large stylus is a keeper for me. The combination of smoothness, style, and price makes it a winner. I keep the smaller one at my desk for occasional use.

What I Like about this Stylus

  • Smooth writing, drawing
  • Comfortable in hand
  • Inexpensive
  • Beautiful style. The larger stylus looks like a dip pen.

What I don’t Like about it

  • Heavier. The stylus is too light for my taste.
  • Holding posture. I would be nice to be able to hold it at a natural writing angle.
  • The smaller stylus is too skinny to hold.

Where to Buy

I bought mine from Etsy