Author Archive - christian

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I’ve always disliked Apple, but this is getting ri-god-damn-diculous

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I’ve always disliked Apple for very specific reasons: its insistence on closed and propriety systems and its general hipsterish I’m-so-much-cooler-than-you-simply-because-of-my-computer’s-branding attitude being among the top reasons.
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But, I could never deny, nor would I ever try, that they have not pushed the envelope as far as technology goes. The company has found a way to consistently be at the forefront of innovation (that something may be known as Steve Jobs). But in that way, I respect Apple. They make gorgeous products (even if they’re prettifying and borrowing heavily from BSD) and they get people to buy them.
But these ads cross the line.

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Review: iStanford App for iPhone/iPod Touch

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Officially released Oct. 4, the iStanford App from Terriblyclever Design purports to be “Stanford University in the palm of your hand.” How accurate is that? Read on to find out…
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Fightin’ Words for the Fightin’ Irish

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

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GoStanford.com
It has been reported by various media outlets that Stanford offensive tackle Chris Marinelli had some pretty tough words for the Notre Dame team and their fans on the eve of their nationally-televised game tomorrow afternoon (11:30am PST).
Marinelli supposedly does not have much respect for the Notre Dame defense, pointing out (correctly) that the the Fighting Irish have one sack for 200 blitzes this year.
Marinelli, speaking in an interview to CardinalReport.com, also said: “We are going out there to mash them up, and that’s all there is to it.”
Let me say…I sure hope so! The thing about trash-talking is, we gotta come out and batter them now. We have to live up to
While the Athletic Department tried to clean up the mess earlier today, the truth is, I’m kind of happy to see Marinelli say that. He was a bad-ass already, and saying this only confirms it. More importantly, it shows the truth about this team. The Cardinal’s got some fire in its belly; it’s hungry and it is relentless.
Predictions for tomorrow?

Why the New White Plaza Sucks

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

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The Stanford Daily
One of the Daily’s lead stories today was on the “mixed reactions” (read: NEGATIVE reactions) to the new White Plaza. (On a side note, the new Daily website is very nice, you all should go check out the cleaned up look).
The story mentions a lot of the reasons (and there are many) but it got me thinking so let me give my 5 reasons:
(1) It screws up traffic of all kinds in that area: Why can bike traffic only go in front of the Bookstore now? If I’m going from the clock tower towards the Row and I actually decide to follow the traffic circle just “below” the Claw Fountain, it would make logical sense for me to continue up on that side of the Claw, past Old Union. No can do. So then they encourage people just to make a left up the roundabout because we have to go past the Bookstore.
(2) A corollary to number one, it makes the area less safe to bike/walk/skate/run through: Those big brown blocks (see number three below for more on them) are placed everywhere, and seemingly with no reason or logic. With the closure to bikes on the Old Union side of the Claw, it’s pretty simple to see that with the same space in front of the Bookstore (the Claw hasn’t moved) and the same number of bikes, it will be more heavily congested right on that little 12-foot wide patch. Another thing, something they certainly didn’t consider was about the sidewalks being raised. It sounds good so that there are delineated places for pedestrians to walk, but the problem is, many many people bike through the area near Tresidder and alongside Old Union and when there are new ledges and 4-inch drops everywhere, it can cause trouble.
(3) It’s really ugly: With the exception of that new raised platform beside Dinkelspiel, the entire thing just looks worse, from landscaping to those aforementioned big brown blocks everywhere.
(4) It seems to discourage student assembly: Before, White Plaza was an actual plaza: a place where students could rally. We could stand shoulder to shoulder, filling the entire area of the space, to demonstrate a policy or to get excited about an athletic event. Now, the new setup discourages traffic through the area and makes organized assembly more difficult. Let’s just say that it’ll be really interesting to see the Student Activities Fair tomorrow. White Plaza has looked really cramped this week already with a few booths out, but wait until all the various VSOs have a table and all the freshmen head out there in the afternoon…
(5) It’s just illogical: Pathways start and stop. I can be walking alone one of those cobblestone part-gutter-part-ankle-twister things and then, inexplicably, end up standing in front of a tree. I’m not kidding: try it as you walk from the Post Office steps towards Tresidder.
Is it just me or does White Plaza honestly suck a lot more now? Let me know what you think in the comments…

For you technophiles out there, YouTube is down…

Monday, September 15th, 2008

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Massive server failures over at YouTube, it seems. I recorded this screenshot and tweeted a quick blast at 5:24pm PST and I was the not the first (that distinction seems to go to omegamb). I was the twelfth.
Dunno what’s up, but this obviously will cut into my time watching some of my all-time favorite vids like Afro Ninja, Fat kid gets owned, Aladdin in Compton, Dave Chappelle and grape drink, or the classic Can I Have Your Number?
NOTE: When I tried to report the error via the provided link, I got the following page after submitting the info.
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UPDATE: 5:40pm PST– false alarm, YouTube’s back up…PHEW! Now I can go back and watch those videos instead.

Thoughts on Google Chrome

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

chromelarge.jpg adapted from ICanHasCheezBurger
My good friend Anuraag had some excellent observations about Google Chrome which he shared with me via gChat while I was in jury duty today (don’t get me started). Since I have gotten home and found time to play with Chrome, I wanted to share with you our (combined) opinions on the new browser.
The bottom line: it’s worth your time. Here is some of what I took away from our conversation after revisiting my chat history in GMail, in no particular order.
1) Pro: Chrome is light (memory), fast (speed) and clean (UI).
It is in this way the quintessential Google product (like GMail when it first launched way back in 2004). It was well-engineered, with efficiency and simplicity in mind. Just start it up and you’ll see what I mean.
2) Con: there is very little customization (so far).
With the above-mentioned simplicity comes with what is for an end-user, a lack of sophistication. (Chrome under the hood, might I add, appears to be anything but “simple” as it has a brand-new JavaScript engine and a novel memory allocation system which allows each tab to be treated as an individual process– and let’s you see them in a Chrome task manager). This is only the beta release so I expect much more from future releases. In fact, this is hardly a “con,” since even where there is room to improve, we see the seeds for growth– such as tight Google Gears integration. However, so far as customization goes, the bigger problem is the lack of Firefox-y about:config fun or toolbar personalization. Again, I’m confident that will change in the future but at this point (“launch early and iterate“), that’s a disappointment.
3) Pro: Omnibox, “Speed Dial,” download manager are good.
The Omnibox behaves similarly to Firefox 3’s “Awesome Bar,” looking through your browsing history and bookmarks to suggest as you type; Chrome also does Google search through this bar. The default start page, which looks something like Opera‘s Speed Dial (which you can mimic in the ‘Fox with this add-on) is intelligent, useful and good-looking. The download manager by default is large enough to read descriptions easily on one line.
4) Con: Ugly icon.
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Anuraag thought the icon was ugly. I agree. I don’t get what exactly it is…a compass…a robot eye…a stylized Noogler hat with propeller…?
5) Pro (and this is a biggie for me): Chrome is respectful.
Much has been wondered about Google’s distribution for Chrome. Sure, Google doesn’t need to do much to get the blogosphere in a tizzy about its release of any product (let alone a web browser) but some have suggested that Google may use the Google homepage to promote Chrome, or package it with updates to Google Toolbar or some such thing a la Safari and iTunes. I hope not. And the way Google has acted so far with regards to the product has been respectful. When asked to import preferences from other browsers or whether to add desktop shortcuts, Chrome was respectful and made it easy for me to deselect any or all of it. It didn’t step on anyone’s toes to make itself the default browser on my machine, it delicately– even graciously– asked me at each step what I wanted to do with it, and when. Even upon starting up, Chrome asked me if I wanted to leave Google as the default search engine. Search! The one thing you’d think Google can get away with pushing hardest with the least resistance, is search with its 60% market share.
The ultimate question is, of course, how many people will use it. How many people, perhaps not over the next few months, but over the next 2 or 4 or 6 quarters will switch from IE or Safari (or even Firefox) for day-to-day browsing?
Right now, Chrome is Windows-only but Googlers are “actively working” on Mac and (more importantly, at least for me) a Linux version. I’ll expect them soon. There are many arguments that can (and have been) made about Chrome as it pertains to Google’s advertising arm– where I worked this summer— but for a moment, I just wanted to comment on the pure fun of playing around with and getting to know a piece of software which, without a doubt, will become verryyy important to an increasing number of consumers in the near future.

TUSB Offers Preview Beta of SugarSync

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I have two computers. One is a Vaio and the other is an older Dell. The Vaio is bigger, has a larger screen and is the computer I generally consider more of a workhorse. As such, it is the one I leave parked on my desk in Granada, taking it perhaps on a run to Late Nite or when working in the lounge. The Dell, an Inspiron 600m, is a tad thinner, lighter and more mobile. It’s no Tablet PC or MacBook Air (though I’m thankful it’s not the latter) but I use the Dell when I’m around campus in class or– as I am right now– in Old Union.
I bring this up because the only problem with my setup is that I do not always have all my files with me. Sure, I often use Google Docs or Zoho, two free online office suites, but when I forget to upload a particular file there, I’m out of luck. And I do have a flash drive, but it’s simply not convenient to have different versions of my History 150B essay on my flash drive and then a slightly older version on my hard drive of a computer I was working on. You can see how this gets annoying and at some point, also counterproductive for my work.
I have found a solution. I started working as an intern at a four-year-old Palo Alto startup called Sharpcast and their product (currently in closed beta) is the best product out there to help me. I spoke with the powers that be at Sharpcast and so today I have a treat for you all.
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It is my pleasure to offer you, dear reader, an exclusive preview beta of Sharpcast’s newest product, SugarSync, which is set to debut in March. I will walk you through the features of SugarSync and if you’re interested, at the end you can score a free beta at the end of this post.

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Facebook, What kind of person do you think I am?

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

In November, Facebook rolled out its new tightly targeted advertising platform, to much fanfare, fanfare and fanfare.
Yay, many said, now advertisers can target exactly whom they want to reach and Facebook will leverage all the data points they have on users like me to decide which ads I see.
Which leads me to believe that they have something of an opinion on me. You know, if they serve up ads on my homepage about saving kittens from trees then they recognize how I’m a kind-hearted individual, etc.
But that’s not what they think of me, clearly.

For the record, I’m not one of these people whose Facebook interests include “boozing it up,” so it’s not as simple as pulling keywords from my profile page. And I haven’t added the BeerMe, Booze Mail or How Much Can You Drink? applications. So they’re not using my App adoption data. Is it just demographics: male and in college = in need of DUI help? Um, I’m not even 21.
Is it just me or are other people noticing some weird ads on their Facebook pages? I’m not talking about outside Application canvas pages or anything (where the Developers would decide what you see). I’m talking about your homepage, profile page, friends or networks page, etc. I had other ads pitch things like trading foreign currency, “Top Paid Internships,” among others.

Showering is now a painful ritual.

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

I’ve lived in three dorms in my Stanford career: Twain, Toyon and now Granada. Never in that time have I heard of people “readjusting” shower heads themselves (as I’ve heard was done in FroSoCo), nor have I seen emails whose subject line reads: “Serious issue with shower heads” (as one Bob resident recently wrote to their chat list). The issue has been a common dinner-time conversation, at multiple tables in the dining hall every night for the past few days.
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Actual picture of Stanford shower head on its way soon

Over break, it seems like Housing went ahead and replaced a good number of the shower heads in campus residences. The new ones, as I understand, are designed for lower water flow to help save water and be environmentally-conscious. This is clear to anyone who has used one, however, because the water is more of a trickle. It is like showering under a sink faucet, really. On my first night back, after taking a shower I asked one of my friends, “Dude, have you taken a shower yet since we’ve gotten back?” and immediately he responded, “I KNOW! The shower heads…what the heck did they do to them!?!?!” He knew exactly what I was talking about, and didn’t even think that I could be referring to his God-awful stench. Just kidding!
Want to see what I’ve done to help resolve the shower dilemma and we might be able to save every dorm on campus? Read on!

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Holiday Gifts

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Holiday time is rapidly approaching, so I wanted to take a moment to suggest three possible gifts, each falling into its own price range (from $0 to $999) but each being techie in its own way. Ready? Let’s start at the top, with the most expensive of the gifts…
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23andMe: A new Bay Area company, 23andMe is one of the first commercial genomic companies out there. For a mere $999, 23andMe will collect a sample of your saliva and provide you with your genotype information. What is that, and why should you care? Well, if Mom’s always wanted to be able to blame Dad for your flat feet, you can give her the ammo. I first heard about 23andMe in a sophomore IntroSem with Prof. Russ Altman in the Med School. 23andMe’s Linda Avey came and presented to us about the company in its infancy.
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Kindle: Kindle is Amazon.com’s new e-book reader, which retails for $399. In attempting to revive the e-book, Kindle has received only mixed reviews in the blogosphere (such as this one on TechCrunch). Among my biggest complaints is the fact that you have to pay for subscriptions that you ordinarily wouldn’t have to– like blogs for example. Still, if you’re interested in the e-book realm, Kindle is the best iteration out there.
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I promised you gift ideas (from the techie world) from $0 to $999 so here is your free one: Ubuntu. I’ll admit this is not a new Bay Area start-up or a hot item from an online retailer, but I recently myself started running Ubuntu on an aging Dell Inspiron 600m. Ubuntu is the most popular flavor of Linux, a type of OS which gracefully walks the line between Mac OS and Windows. It also has all the customize-ability of, say, Firefox, but across your entire OS. There are many many great things to say about Ubuntu, all of which I won’t get into here, but let me say that for your free gift, you can’t get any better.

Latest Addiction to Hit Facebook

Sunday, November 18th, 2007

I have recently been consumed by a new addiction on Facebook: Scrabulous. The game uses the Facebook platform in a great way because, as the creators point out on the app homepage, users don’t have to be online at the same time to play. It’s got a lot of users (almost 400k active users, according to Facebook) and it is even popular among Facebook employees (Facebook blog). I don’t want to do what seems to be the whole requisite tech thing and start reviewing Facebook apps, but this particular one has been making some waves (subscription, or access to Stanford log-in/computing, required)– particularly because it’s clearly just the game Scrabble. Which belongs to Hasbro.
Anyways, I play Scrabulous all the time. I love it. In fact, I love it so much that I feel it’s perfectly suited for a limerick:
There is this new game on the Platform,
Everyone seems to play– it’s the norm;
It is really quite fabulous,
And oh so much fun…
That wonderful, wonderful game called Scrabulous!
Now that’s out the way and I’ve used my expansive (voluminous, perhaps?) vocabulary to show you why I’m clearly so good at Scrabulous, let me move on to a problem. I’m not talking about a bug in the code or any UI complaints. I took a screenshot of my problem below:
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Can’t see my problem? I’ll zoom in a bit:
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Still can’t tell what I’m talking about? Here, I’ll even caption it for you:
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Crappy Scrabble Move Rewards Big
“Za” is the most bogus of all words. In fact, that’s because it isn’t a word. How is it that “Zen” is not a word in Scrabble (one of the most disputed Scrabble words out there) but “Za,” not even a common sound, is a 36-point play?
My friend, Darius, is cheating I’m sure, that’s all.

$150 Fines Await You

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Last week was the first time I noticed this. Police officers were lurking around behind Terman. I saw their cop car there going from the Quad to Lag at lunchtime. When I left for my 1:15 class, they weren’t there…at least so I thought. The police were waiting to nab bikers who run the stop sign(s) on Santa Teresa.
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The Stanford Daily
Supposedly, last week the police were out only to issue warnings, but this week they’re getting serious. Watch out, particularly at those busy 10am, 11am, 1:15pm times since I’m sure that’s when they will be out in force.
There is a Daily article about this in today’s issue, in which we are told that fines could be levied (up to $150 since bikers are subject to the same rules and punishments as drivers). The same is true for biking with earphones on (one bud is ok but two is not).
I’ve personally spotted police at two intersections (marked with red dots), and the Daily photographer has also seen them on Serra Street (see photo from article, above).
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Where else might the police be waiting for us? Let me know in the comments section.

Junior Convocation Featuring iPhone’s Scott Forstall

Sunday, September 23rd, 2007

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Today’s Junior Convocation was notable for two reasons. It took place in the new (and beautiful) Old Union, and the keynote speaker was a very engaging Scott Forstall ’91 (Symbolic Systems) and MS ’92 (Computer Science).
Old Union looked great. To be honest, earlier today it looked kinda ominous out, so I was worried about sitting in the Union courtyard. But by the afternoon it was sunny, and that made it a lot of fun listening to VPUE John Bravman, Forstall and the heads of the three Schools (Earth Sciences, Humanities and Sciences, and Engineering).
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Forstall’s talk was wonderful. He talked about his Stanford days and even made a joke about Azia Kim! He described how when he was deciding between Stanford and Cal, a Cal professor with whom he met told Forstall to go to Stanford: “not all Berkeley professors are evil.” He then went on to discuss a motto he likes, Plus est en vous, meaning There is more in you. He used that motto to show how that idea applies to the iPhone, enabling people to do more than they thought they could. This includes the iPhone team, which he said was spurred on to greater work than they thought possible. He even described the squabbling within the group (the iPhone dorm since people even slept there) about the most minute of details.
One of Forstall’s primary points, though, was about two types of people: roughly, those who believe they can become smarter, and those who have a more deterministic view of themselves. He said that those in the former group are better off because they look for challenges. The way he built his iPhone team (all exclusively transfers from other Apple divisions at the beginning) was by attracting primarily those types. Forstall chastised the latter group for seeking only to look smart or appear capable, and said those people were not as willing to expand their minds or abilities.
After the talk, Forstall defended the iPhone to me, when I asked him about the nature of its platform. I asked him– politely– why the iPhone was not exactly an “open platform” despite his charge that the iPhone encourages innovation and finding the more inside each of us (think: that motto he had). Forstall countered by saying that with the wide array of applications for the iPhone, the device really is an open platform. I asked about the rumored gPhone from Google, supposedly a Linux-based hand-held mobile device which will be a fully open platform. He said that the reason for a closed root-level API was not for lack of sharing but simply to protect both the user and the network (AT&T) from possible viruses. Interesting.
Tomorrow classes start. That means for some students, “Woo Hoo.” And for others, “Oh crap.” Depends on which group of people you’re in.

Starting Off the School Year Right at TUSB

Friday, August 31st, 2007

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Hello all!
We at The Unofficial Stanford Blog want to welcome you to September 2007 because it marks the beginning of some exciting changes for us. Want to know more? Here we go:
We are so happy to see everybody post to this blog and read it as much as they do. Please continue to do so! As the school year resumes, don’t forget to point your friends toward us as a place for campus discussion unlike any other. For example, who else will be streaming live events on the web (with Ustream.tv) or posting immediate dialogue on campus events as they happen? Just us at the blog!
If you are a Stanford community member (student or otherwise), we wanted to remind you that positions are still open to help lead the blog — and we welcome your help. If you’re particularly interested in the arts or sports, or if you’re a typepad and/or wordpress expert, please drop us a line (blogforstanford at gmail dot com). We’d love your help in supporting and guiding our blogging community.
Finally, we are moving to a new subdomain (location) on the Stanford Web. Our new address will be tusb.stanford.edu starting September 15, and all of our previous content will be coming with us. Along with our new address (update your bookmarks!) we are planning redesigns for parts of the blog. For example, check out our new logo at the top of this post! We will be making newer and better changes as we can, and we are considering a switch from Movable Type to Word Press.
You can always reach us at blogforstanford at gmail dot com and we would love for you to tell us what you think about our new changes.
We will be out in force at the Activities Fair on the first Friday of classes, signing up new bloggers and getting out the word about our group. We can’t wait to see you there.

Biggest Rip-Off You’ll Forget You Ever Made

Friday, July 13th, 2007

My Rant Against the Student DIS-Advantage Card
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To the Class of 2011: Listen up.
To all Classes before: Comiserate with me.
Two years ago, perhaps to the day, I received yet another pack of mail from NSO [New Student Orientation] or FDO [Freshmen Dean’s Office] or some other acronym’ed place on campus. This particular one suggested I buy 2 things. One was a sweatshirt/t-shirt combo from the Stanford Store. I did so, because I wanted to have a cool Stanford hoodie and all of that. (The deal still exists, here). The second was the option to purchase a Student Advantage card. I did this, too, since I figured I would want to have access to the myriad of savings the card brought with it.
The sweatshirt I still have (and wear) but that Student Advantage card was a mistake. Here’s why. I never use it. In fact, now that I think about it, I can’t think of one person who does, or one reason why I should. The thing is, the card offers little– if any– local deals, and the most frequent thing it does is periodically spam you with its latest ripoff, er, “deal.” I know, I know, it looks great– savings from Urban Outfitters or Amtrak– but it’s actually useless.
I don’t know, maybe I’m weird and I’m the only one who stupidly bought one. Or maybe everyone else bought one too and actually uses theirs. (If that is the case, please let me know in the comments section below). All I know is that the damn thing was a waste of money for me.