This Week I Learned - 2017 Week 43

Last week post or the usual archive.

Lots of things I've learned and shared during the week. I sincerely hope the young lady who is starting a new chapter in her life is going to learn to invest her money wisely.

Seven years ago, there was one technical question that still lingered on. Due to some unexpected coincidence, I managed to revisit and solve it. The lesson learned here is given any web application performance problem,  if the bottleneck issue cannot be optimized further and the programming language lack of or stable support for asynchronous model, just delegate it to a message queue system.

Do you have the Learners Syndrome? Yes I do.

Where Do Old Programmers Go? The best, funniest, and sad answer is "They don't Go anywhere, instead they Rust?". But one question still remains, as Slashdot reader puts it (emphasis added by me). In the end of the day, is between money and legacy.
"Another who used to be self-employed coding for people on a consulting basis told me he got into woodworking, eventually. His reasoning? As you get older, you start asking yourself questions like, "What have I created that will be used and enjoyed by others even after I'm gone?" It's easy to sink years of your life into a software application, only to find that in a decade or two, nobody is using it anymore. It's become "old and obsolete". If you build good quality, hand-crafted furniture pieces? They're quite likely to be used for 100 years or more. Build a dresser for one of your kids and they may even be handing it down to THEIR kids."
How to write efficiently. Keep it short and simple.

Scott And Scurvy. Really long but worth going through the whole essay or you like the YouTube version of it. So much wasted efforts on focusing on the wrong stuff than we should just focus more on the medical and scientific research. Scurvy is a curable disease due to lacking of Vitamin C.

This Week I Learned - 2017 Week 42

Last week post or something from the archive.

Sweet old week 42. Another ten more weeks and we can conclude the year 2017. Things are getting more exciting. Switching different diet seemed to help somehow, even the complexion of old wounds was getting better.

21 years. That's is probably the longest overdue to-do item I've checked off this week. When I was young, Japanese Drama was a regular slot our local TV channel TV2. There was this drama and song which I partially remembered but can't remember the name or the casts. The tune have been humming inside my head for the past 21 years.

While building a play list of songs to test different amplifier or speakers, I stumbled upon a list old 90's Japanese opening theme songs. The first song on the list was the bloody tune that have been lingering in my mind for so long. The name of the song is "Ima Sugu Kiss Me (今すぐkiss me)" sang by the pop/rock band, Lindberg. You can safely ignore the awkward 90's fashion sense and MTV style. And the name of the drama is "Sekai de Ichiban Kimi ga Suki (世界で一番君が好き!)".

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition. One of the issue when picking up new skill is you may stuck at the advanced beginner level and can't move on to the next level. The joke about having ten years experience but doing the same thing ten times clearly illustrates this sad but truth scenario. How you know you're stuck in the advanced beginner level? Observe your seniors who have work much longer than you. Refactor your wetware is one of the possible way to overcome this.

Philharmonic Audio Affordable Accuracy speakers. Some knowledge on electronic and speaker design does help to improve an existing good enough speakers to excellent level. Again, sadly we can't get the parts here in MY.

The Farmer's Horse by Alan Watts. Not really much about the lesson of the story but the origin of the story. I've read this story several times and there are several versions. Some believed this is an old Chinese parable but I don't remember reading this story in any ancient Taoism literature. There are always stories from second source rather than the primary source. I was wondering what is the primary source of the story?

Vim after 15 years. (via HN). Time to clean up my Vim configuration again.

The ES9038PRO DAC chip (details from manufacturer). Never buy product by the brand, always look into the component used. Compare the specifications and features and purchase according to your budget. However, product based on this DAC chip is still rather expensive. Can't wait to get myself on any cheaper DACs based on this chip from China to test it out like the TFT HifiDuino project. Comparable, you also can get DAC using the AK4497EQ chip.

Coursera - Writing in the Sciences - Week 4

Continue with week 4. I've been quite behind the schedule and needs to stick back the schedule. Managed to finally sit down and went through all the week 4 modules in one session straight which took me around 3 hours. For the coming weeks, I should be able to get back on track.

4.1 More paragraph practice
The key take away from this module is emphasis on paragraph. Two important things:

(1) What's the paragraph about?
(2) What's the main idea or important points?

Good exercise to learn this is to summarize the main idea of the blog posts, papers, or other published literature. Webshit Daily is a good example of such writing with humour and sarcasm.

When you've a paragraph with complex idea, we can represent the concept as table or diagrams. As they said, a picture is worth a thousand words. If there are repetitive words or ideas, shorten it to take away the repetition. Wordiness may also leads to ambiguity, rewrite it to become more specific.

When to use passive voice? When it doesn't matter who did it.

Use "However" when you want to contrast something in the previous sentence.

One paragraph should contains one main idea. If you have two ideas within a paragraph, rewrite it into two paragraphs instead.

A paragraph can contains 1 - 3 sentences. Yes, there a paragraph with one sentence. I always think that a paragraph should at least have four sentences. One topic sentence, two supportive sentences, and one final concluding sentence.

4.2 Overview of the writing process
The main point is how do you approach writing? There are three major steps:

(1) Pre-writing.
A process of collecting, synthesizing, and organizing your data and ideas of your writing.

(2) Writing the first draft.
Turn the ideas into complete sentences. Writing should be fast and quick. Fsck grammar!

(3) Revision.
Revise to make it sounds better.

As a writer, you should follow the three steps in a sequential manner. Don't do two steps in one time. Multi-tasking is always bad! For example, start writing without much research is a typical approach by most people but this is not recommended. Not only this will stress you out, you are also prone to distraction as you're busy googling and doing something else. As you all know, googling for information will often leads to other unproductive online activities like reading news, checking social media status, and others. Also, when you're focus on the details of writing, you will lost focus on the big picture. Therefore, invest more time in pre-writing step.

Similarly, do not carry out writing the first draft and revision at the same time. Fsck grammar! Just make sure you have written down the ideas in complete sentences. Is okay you've wrong grammar, spelling, or the sentences do not sound good. That is for the last step -- revision!

The next question is how much effort or time we should spend on each step? The recommended breakdown are as follows:

- Pre-writing (70%)
- Writing the draft (10%)
- Revision (20%)

See how important the pre-writing process is. While going through this module, I've realized that my approach to writing, especially writing for learning should follow in this sequence!

4.3 The pre-writing step
Again, remove the bad habit of writing and gathering information simultaneously. Focus on gathering information. Don't starting writing unless you've gather and organize the information. If you have a sense of overall structure of your writing, then you can proceed to the next step.

To have an overview, use several available organization system. For example, mind map or road map so that you've an outline of the overall document. By organizing the ideas, you will know what are the missing pieces and what to search next. This process will take a while. If you're stuck, do something else. Subconsciously, the missing pieces will come to you, eventually in one way or another. Always carry a recorder, a pen, or any capturing ideas tools. You can even put a water proof whiteboard in your bathroom.

When come to organizing ideas with different viewpoints, group the arguments. For example, you can group the ideas by those who support it, the counter arguments, and the rebuttals.

4.4 The writing step
Just write. Fsck grammar or spelling or what ever style. Convey your organized ideas into complete sentences. Focus on the logical organization of your ideas. Best to set a timer on this so that your priority is to finish the writing instead of doing any revision or editing.

Do not edit your writing. Just write it down!

4.5: Revision
Six important steps which will improve the revision process. These are:

(1) Read your writing out loud.
The main purpose is to identify awkwardness in your writing. When the writing sounds good, then the reader will appreciate the natural flow of the writing.

(2) Do a verb check.
To make sure your writing is expressed in a direct way, underline all the main verb in each sentence. There are three issues with verb:

(a) Lackluster verb. For example, "are".
(b) Passive verb. For example, "was".
(c) Burried verb. For example, the main verb is too far from the subject. We have discussed this in previous week.

(3) Don't be afraid to cut.
Identify these issues to improve your writing. Those marked in bold are my bad writing habit.

(a) Dead weight words or phrases.
(b) Empty words or phrases.
(c) Long words or phrases.
(d) Unnecessary jargons and acronyms.
(e) Repetitive words or phrases. 
(f) Adverbs. (very, really, quite, or basically)

(4) Organizational review.
Tag the paragraph of your writing. Each tag is a summed up main point of the paragraph.

(5) Get outside feedback.
As the reader with or without the domain knowledge for feedback. The reader should be able to identify the main point, the take-home message, or the significance of your writing. If they are unable to do so, ask them to identify the part which are hard to grasp. Their feedback is the focus of your revision.

(6) Find a good editor.
Someone know have the domain knowledge and good in writing.

4.6: Checklist for the final draft
Finally, before sending out the writing to the editor or journal, go through these check list below to ensure consistency and accuracy.

(a) Check for consistency.
You writing style and so forth.

(b) Check for numerical consistency. 
For example, is the writing match the result in the table? Sometimes, sloppy copy and paste can cause inconsistency between the numerical data and the writing.

(c) Check your references.
One main issue is citation propagation where the writer back his/her statements based on a secondary source instead of the main source. Always do fact checking and reference to the main source.

Learning Objectives
(1) Practice writing clear and concise paragraphs.
Some common tips.

(2) Describe the steps in the writing process.
Most important lesson learned here. Pre-writing is so crucial that we also neglect it and do it together with writing. There will be no writing until you have completed the pre-writing step.

(3) Recognize the importance of spending sufficient time pre-writing.
This learning note was done in such way where I jot down the ideas which took me 3 hours. The writing was fast and it took around 1 hour.

(4) Recognize that good writing requires extensive revision.
Read, review, revise, and repeat.

This Week I Learned - 2017 Week 41

Last week post and something else from the archive.

Slow week. Too many pending stuff that needs my urgent attention and got sidetracked into firefighting some unplanned work.

So much I've learned regarding audio stuff. Some are hard lessons. First, active (or powered) and passive speaker have different features and usages. When you're getting a standalone DAC or DAC/Amplifier combo, make sure the DAC have enough output terminals. For example, passive speakers need two pairs of left and right output terminals where each pairs is channeled out to each speaker. Good comparison is the popular JBL LSR 305 and Pioneer SP-BS22-LR. See screenshots of the input terminals for each speaker.

The JBL LSR 305 only have two types of input, XLR and 6mm jack.

Meanwhile, the SP-BS22-LR have both positive and negative terminals. You will need to connect speaker wires to transfer the sound signal to both left and right speakers.

Second hard lesson. Not all amplifiers are created equally. Bookshelf and tower (floor-standing) speakers needs different output watts to produce optimal sound output.

After so many days, managed to finish Neil Gaiman's American Gods  book. Sadly, the TV series does not really live up to the book expectation (maybe due to limited budget?).

Use the `git stash` command correctly. Differentiate between `git pop` (apply and remove) and `git stash` (apply and keep in stash cache).

This Week I Learned - 2017 Week 40

Last week post or the usual archive stuff.

Week 40. Twelve more weeks to go before the end of the year.

The case against open office when people just copy without including the subtle details of the design and layout. While many organization sugarcoat the many benefits of of open office layout, the main advantage is the organization save a significant money using such layout.

200 productive hours per month? (via HN) Research shown that it's possible on daily basis, if a worker can concentrate 4 hours on deep work and remaining 4 hours on shallow work (meetings, random discussions, surfing, and slacking off). However, deep work requires more solitary environment, which is not possible in a open office environment.

Via Reddit. You always have to be suck at something before you can be better at it as shown in the quote below. But, unless you're constantly improving, you will stuck at the expert beginner level.
"Successful writers are people who allow themselves the freedom to suck—unrepentantly, happily, even."

What are the best combination (budget and feature wise) to setup a desktop music system? Below are the list of components:

(1) JBL LSR305 active speaker
(2) Lexicon Alpha audio interface / Behringer UCA222 / HIFIME(DIY) DAC
(3) XLR-to-3.5mm cable / TRS-to-3.5 mm cable / XLR male to RCA male cables

You should look into the issue of balanced audio.

Slashdot is 20 years olds! Ironically, good discussion was found in HN instead! I found the site when it was going through it second year and getting more popular due to discussion of FOSS. And off course, those idiotic memes, Anonymous Cowards, and BOredAtWork comments. Man I feel so old.

Audio gd is an interesting audio equipment manufacturer. The website still looks like those site Geocities era and you have to wait for a while for your order to be processed and built. While relatively unknown in some part of the world, Audio gd is one of those China manufacturers who build good audio equipment or parts.

How to increase gain in FX-Audio DAC X6. Some Redditor found a tiny little hack that increases the overall gain of the amplifier.

Coursera - Writing in the Sciences - Week 3

Last week, I've learned two important things, using strong verbs and cut unnecessary words. However, due to schedule conflicts, I'm way, way behind the schedule with week 3.

On a side note, interestingly, I've managed to organize the note in a more visually pleasant way. My future blog posts will follow such visual style.

3.1: Experiment with punctuation
Why use different punctuation? To vary your sentence structure so it won't become boring and monotonous. However, the examples and discussions in this module are quite limited. I've googled around for better one.

Different punctuation marks have different separation power. Below are the list starting from the lowest to the highest separate power. Read aloud when you use these punctuation marks, it will help to focus and stress on which part of the sentence.

This module will focus on the middle four (emphasis in bold). Dash and parentheses are less formal, use when necessary.
- Comma (shortest pause)
- Colon (bigger pause than comma)
- Dash (bigger and more abrupt pause)
- Parentheses (slip something extra into a sentence)
- Semicolon (near complete stop because it separate two related sentences)
- Period (complete stop)

(1) Dash
I seldom or never use this punctuation mark. Two purposes: to add emphasis or abruptly insert a definition. We can use dash to replace either commas or parentheses. Good example to compare three different usages.
"The food, which was delicious, reminded me of home."
"The food—which was delicious—reminded me of home."
"The food (which was delicious) reminded me of home."
(2) Colon
To main purpose is to introduce a list, quote, explanation, conclusion, or amplification.

(a) To introduce a list.
"I have three sisters: Daphne, Rose, and Suzanne."
Another example I love using number in the list.
This research follows four distinct phases: (1) establishing measurement instruments, (2) measuring patterns, (3) developing interventions and (4) disseminating successful interventions to other settings and institutions.
(b) To amplify and extend independent clauses where the second explains the first.
"He made three points: First, the company was losing over a million dollars each month. Second, the stock price was lower than it had ever been. Third, no banks were willing to loan the company any more money."
(c) To explain and amplify.
"After three weeks of deliberation, the jury finally reached a verdict: guilty."
(3) Semicolon
Something that I never use in my writing. I still can't seems remember or use this properly. Surprisingly, you can interchange period and semicolon! Use semicolon in these two situations:

(a) To connect two independent clauses (an independent sentence which contains a subject and a predicate), typically between the transition words (emphasis in bold).
"Mushrooms grow very quickly; in fact, after a good rain, it takes only a few hours and you start picking them."

(b) To separate series of items where items in the list contains internal punctuation. For this case, a comma.
"Science fiction includes Star Trek, with Mr. Spock; Battlestar Galactica, with its Cylons; and Star Wars, with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader."
As a visual cue to group items in a list. I always have problems when describing a list of items with adjectives.
"I bought shiny, ripe apples; small, sweet, juicy grapes; and firm pears."
(4) Parenthesis
Use this when you want to put optional sentence fragment in your sentences or don't want to break the flow of your sentences, an afterthought. I'm referring to my own typical writing.

(a) To specify date in the sentence where you have extra comma which will break the flow of the sentence.
"We will schedule our appointment on this coming Sunday (24th September, 2017)." 

(b) To write informally or as an interjection, a style I commonly used.
"Anyone can afford (ahem, cheap!) the amplifier."
3.2: Practice, colon and dash
Still needs more practices to nail this down and it's quite hard to remember all the rules.

3.3: Parallelism
Also known as Parallel Structure. Definitely something you may encounter before but never know its actual name. Some good examples found in proverb:
"Easy come, easy go."
"No pain, no gain."
"Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."
"One man's trash is another man's treasure."
"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." 
Two common types of Parallel Structure:

(a) With the -ing form (gerund) of words.
"Mary likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling."
(b) With infinitive phrases.
"Mary likes to hike, to swim, and to ride a bicycle."

3.4: Paragraphs
The key concept here is "1 paragraph = 1 idea". To elaborate, good paragraph is short (3 to 5 sentences) which encourages more white spaces (good for readability).

Apply the inverted pyramid style (see image below), similar to newspaper writing style where you put most important information at the beginning of the paragraph or writing. In the web, this is known as clickbait title.

Good paragraphs can consists of three things:

(1) Logical flow of ideas.
Three types as well, sequential in time, general to specific, and logical arguments.

(2) Parallel sentences structures.
We have discussed this earlier.

(3) Transition words (use with cautious and as simple as possible)
We use transition words in a sentence to indicate "changing gear". Popular transition words is "but", simpler than over exotic one like "on the other hand" or "nevertheless". But I'm surprised that she recommended to use two transition words ONLY:

(a) But, to signal a change of discussion.
(b) And, to further discuss some additional information.

Do not start every sentence with transition word within a paragraph. You can write beautiful flowing paragraph without using much transition words.

Focus on the first and last sentence in a paragraph. These are the only two things a reader will remember.

3.5: Paragraph Editing I
Some general advice from this module.

(1) Don't overuse transition words.
(2) Identify the main idea of the paragraphs.
(3) Identify the supporting ideas of the main idea.

One good example from the editing which illustrates brevity and reduce wordiness.

"Although the methodological approaches are similar, the questions posed in classic epidemiology and clinical epidemiology are different."
"Despite methodologies similarities, classic epidemiology and clinical epidemiology differ in aim."

3.6: Paragraph Editing II
When editing, outline the existing paragraph into several main points or sentences. Reconstruct these main points to replace the existing paragraph. The editing is shown below. It dawned to me that reviewing and editing other published literature is also crucial step to become a better writer.

Another example but shorter. However, if you pay attention to the editing, the main reason for wordiness is because the author wants to vary its writing and sounds intelligent (we discussed this is earlier post) and this impacts understanding.

3.7: A few more tips
In this module, Dr. Kristin raised an important question that I've encountered in most of my writing- repetition. To fulfill the number of pages in your writing assignment, you will inadvertently rewriting the same idea in different ways or using different words. How do you know? If you need to use thesaurus to find synonyms to avoid repeating a word in a sentence or paragraph, then you have the wordiness issue. For example, within the same sentence or paragraph, you find the words "illustrates" or "demonstrates". Another example, is "banana" or "the elongated yellow fruit". The second example is known as Elegant Variation. I have mixed feeling on this second example because for normal writing, it does add variety to writing.

If you are aware of such writing behaviour, ask yourself these two questions:
(1) Is the second instance of the word needed?
(2) Is the synonym of the word is better than repeating the word?

There are exceptions. Keywords in scientific writing can and should be repeated as those are the key concept of the writing. For example, anything in abbreviation list should be use consistently.

Learning Objectives
(1) Practice using colons, dashes, parentheses, and semi-colons.
Read it aloud and identify the duration of the pause. Then, pick the right mark punctuation.

(2) Recognize the importance of varying sentence structure.
Look into varying your transition words.

(3) Practice writing focused, organized paragraphs.
Look into Inverted Pyramid Style.

(4) Recognize that it is OK to repeat key words in scientific writing.
Look into the issue of Elegant Variation.

(5) Fix sentence parallelism.
Consistency is the key here. Follow the same sentence structure within a paragraph thus increase the cohesion.

This Week I Learned - 2017 Week 39

Last week post or the old archive.

Picking up lots of audio related stuff. Interesting week indeed.

Building a audio system but worry that your spending will lead to a serious discussion with your significant other(s)? Pay an acceptable amount on your credit cards and the remaining amount by cash. The audio sales person suggested this "workaround" for all his client who worry about their spending being known to their significant other(s). Interesting indeed. On self-reflection, if you worry your spending will cause an issue with your significant others(s), then you should not even spend that amount of money.

Buying headphone but low on budget? Doesn't have a trained ears or the time to test through all available headphones? Get Superlux HD668B, definitely worth every cent of your money!

One interesting trend with audio shop in MY is the emerging of community oriented stores. Currently, Starpickers and E1 Personal Audio are the two good example of such type of stores. Chill environment and good place for local audiophile meetup.

Klipsch R-15PM powered speaker (also known as active speaker). Worth it? Not with a retail price of MYR 2600. Unless you have extra cash to burn, have (going to build) a vinyl records collection, and love a minimum setup (no need extra amplifier, receiver, or DAC) with different input sources (TV, PC, Bluetooth, and Phono). Suitable for neat freaks who like clean setup where you have a pairs of speakers which can connect to to any electronic devices that generate sounds. Furthermore, JBL LSR 305 is still a better choice, sound and money wise (you can get it from Massdrop around MYR 1500 inclusive of shipping).

Stoner Acoustics UD125 is a locally made DAC and headphone amplifier. Price is set around USD 85 or MYR330. While I'm tempted to get it and support our locally made product, is it worth the money?

As I learned by reading blog posts and watching videos on different DACs and amplifiers, the product is as good as the components. While there is no information on what brands of capacitor used, the key electronic components are (1) Savitech SA9037 USB Audio Processor. The audio chip. I can't find any information on this except there is another audio chip using model number SA9027. (2) Asashi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) AK4490 High Performance DAC. (3) Texas Instruments (TI) TPA6120A Dual Channel High Power Amplifier.

When comes to reviewing and modding the Nobsound MS-10D Tube Power Amplifier, this guy knowledge sharing and follow ups is simply epic. We need more producer rather than moocher in this world.

Why you shouldn't spend money on cheap amplifiers or DACs. Be careful SMSL stuff as it's notorious known for creating spark when plugged in. Just get Lexicon Alpha and JBL LSR305s.