Retaining Control Over Your Purchases

If you haven't realised, it's probably time that you do: Software across the years are getting more and more restrictive. Apple started it all with their iOS platforms. You can't do what you like with them. Instead, they will dictate what you can do with these devices, like it or not. I have no idea if the Mac OSes are the same, but I know Windows is somewhat edging towards that direction (whether it's intentional or not I don't know. I hope it isn't).

There are arguments for this, on the user side that is, in support of this iron fist control. Most people wouldn't want to be messing with the internals of their device (phone, tablet, full-fledged PC), accidentally. That's understandable. But it doesn't mean they have to lock away everything and not give out the key at all.

I'd say, if you don't know what you're doing, yet you still do so, get your device in trouble, and were not prepared to accept the consequences, then you're a dumbass, and I couldn't care less for you (I do care for your poor device though). As a developer, you can hide the full access away, and warn people if they might do something that could break their device (Mozilla does that nicely, with warning messages and stuff) but still give full access fairly easily for those who know how to get it.

Anyway, WHY am I talking about all this? I am a strong advocate of jailbreaking, rooting, etc, and retaining full control over your devices. Stuff that you PAID FOR with your hard-earned money. "Why do I need to do that?" you might ask, "The device performs what I want it to already." See, that's for most of the time... MOST. I'm going to concentrate on iOS devices hereon, since those are the most restrictive (almost claustrophobic device).

So, you buy an iPhone, or an iPad, and you go about your daily use of playing games and communicating, surfing the web and social networks. You make a few app purchases... and then due to region restrictions, you can't download some stuff which you'd like to play. That's the first frustration. There are ways around it, and usually the people who experience this are 1. Multilingual, 2. Well-exposed to other countries and culture. So basically, if you're the above-average person, with a good taste for stuff from all over the world, you'll run into this problem sooner or later.

Then after maybe a few years, you want to download that game you purchased from some time ago, for some reason: perhaps to play it again for nostalgia, or maybe your friends finally picked it up, or maybe it suddenly became cool, or it could even be an app that you realise you need it again for whatever function it served. You try to redownload it... only to discover it's been swiped off your list of purchases, and no longer available to you. What are you going to do now? You PAID for it previously. They have just taken it away from you. There's also nothing stopping them from taking away anything or everything else btw. (And this is what happened to one of my games which I had paid for. True story. I am not telling you of a hypothetical scenario.)

Another few years later, you want to migrate from your old device to a new one (or maybe just 2 years after you purchased your old device!) and you want to move some of your game DATA over. There is only one legacy way: Save a full back-up of your device, and do a restore to the new device. It should work. SHOULD. If there's some incompatibility, or the restore fails for some reason (trust me, it can and will happen), you're stuck.

Unfortunately, companies like Apple can't give a damn how many hours you took to grind the level of that character up on your device, or how elegant your solution to that level 27 problem is, and there's no other way to migrate game data over for games that don't have some form of cloud or online sync service. You're dead. You can kiss that save-game goodbye.

Don't forget, you can't do partial migrations, or other nifty things like backing up your highscores while getting rid of the game to make space for new games (and then restoring your highscore to the old game some time in the future if you want to play it again).

So, if you don't mind getting swindled, stolen from, have your save-games gone, being told exactly what you can do with your device, then I guess this post is not relevant. Otherwise, you might want to take some proactive measures to prevent all these problems from occuring.

1. Jailbreak, Root, (or equivalent) your device. If you can't (e.g. iOS 9 does not have a jailbreak), consider NOT GETTING the device. Otherwise, you have to accept that, for at least a period of time until a solution can be found, you're at the mercy of the company to do whatever they want with your device. (Doesn't sound very appealing for a device you've paid a couple of hundred bucks for right? You don't really get to own the device...)

2. Get 3rd party software to help manage your device (iFunBox seems to be pretty good all these years for helping you manage your full access to iOS devices) after you've gotten full access. This way, you can do whatever you need to with your device.

3. Backup. This is not the shoddy backup that Apple has. You want to be able to function WITHOUT INTERNET. So, back up the App installation files themselves. iTunes may not allow you to install certain stuff that they feel like not allowing (like regional restriction change, etc. You really don't know what they'll do). Backup your data from the app. Literally copy the whole app as it is installed in your device. This way, after installing a fresh app on the new device, browse to the folder, paste your complete data in that place, and you'll have your app exactly as it was. As good as a snapshot frozen in time.

4. Never update anything unless you know what the update brings. Updates may bring functionality or restrictions. Sometimes both. Sometimes updates just break everything (remember the fail of Apple Maps?). You have to know what you're getting. Weigh your options carefully. Let others be the guinea pigs to update. There'll always be people who are willing to risk it, who can risk it, and then there are the dumbasses who don't know what they're doing. Let them suffer the problems first.
And don't forget that iOS updates will jail the devices again.

17:23 28 Sep 2015

"Sound Driver" Fault

In dreams, certain weird phenomena may appear, that is, outside of the usual dream weirdness (as if the dreamworld wasn't weird enough). I don't quite understand this, but there are times when awkward sounds or unusual situations cause my sound driver to experience problems. This time, it was traffic noises. It was during one morning about 2 weeks ago. I was by the road (I can't remember why) watching the traffic. I recall vividly that as each vehicle (mostly cars) went by, my mind simulated the sound pretty much correctly. It had the usual grainy-ness for diesel engines, and the Doppler effect on each of them. However, something was slightly amiss.

The lingering of each sound was slightly too long. Kinda like how a sound "rings in your head" shortly after the actual source disappears, this was exactly the same, except that since everything was in my head, it just ended up as a longer sound. The decay was unusually long (to put it in proper sound terminology). This may have been the cause or the trigger for some other complication, but after a number of vehicles, the "base noise level" built up and I began to notice something amiss. Turning my attention on to it just made it worse, and then it started to grow like a positive feedback system. At this point, the noise became coarser and coarser, losing its fine detail as a wash of traffic noise and becoming more like a jackhammer (much like a jammed CD). I woke up with the sound still ringing in my ears.

Deciding that this was too strange (and that I had experienced something similar before) I decided to investigate. This was the first time I was this successful. After closing my eyes I ended up in a great "test lab". It was a traffic T-junction with a flyover (basically enough road for lots of traffic). It's modelled after the one that's near my house. I should mention here that this dream started as a lucid dream directly. (In a sense you could say it's a WILD but I'd say it's more of an instant MILD.) The one before I woke up was only lucid at the very end where I noticed the sound getting louder and louder.

I let one car pass by, then another, and another. The "long decay" effect was gone. I couldn't get a whole bunch of cars (or mixed traffic) to come by, but I thought it was good enough, and didn't cause my "sound driver" to experience problems, so I moved on to the next step. With the cars continuing, I tried to get the largest combustion engine land vehicle to mix in to the traffic and roll by: armoured vehicles. (Not to mention I am actually in Germany right now.) If anything, these low rev large engine vehicles would have very coarse sound that could replicate the fault. I couldn't. They didn't want to appear. So I thought, "if they won't cone to me, I'll go to them!" and tried to teleport by "closing my eyes and reopening them". I woke up. Damn.

I went back straight to sleep in frustration. Teleporting and conjuring had always been difficult to achieve. I thought I had given up, but I found myself back at the same roads again. Ok, one more try. I flew up above the flyover and the junction to get a good view this time. Hovering over the flyover, suddenly APCs started to drive by below me from behind. I watched as a whole convoy started to roll by. I could see and hear about 5 armoured vehicles now (not only APCs). Heavy diesel engines, all of them. No sound driver failure. Hmm...
I woke up.

04:10 04 Aug 2015

Why You Should Lucid Dream

Whenever I get a chance to have more in-depth and personal talks with people, I'm likely to introduce them to lucid dreaming as a possible hobby that they could (and should!) take up. Of course, not in an evangelistic manner. I doubt there is any other "sleeping hobby" (hobbies you do while asleep) apart from lucid dreaming, so as long as someone is unaware of this possibility, I usually introduce and then encourage the person to try it.

At the surface level, lucid dreaming is just outright fun. You change your dreamscape, having control and being able to actively influence the dream. You can do whatever you want that's impossible to do so in reality...

...or so I thought. At a slightly deeper level, you realise that there are things that you can't do, or can't do so well in a dream. I used to have a slight problem with flying — I couldn't lift off from ground level. All my flights had to be initiated by jumping off somewhere high enough. These problems make you realise that your imagination isn't quite as unlimited as you would like to think, and therein lies a chance to train it. A sort of mind exercise. To be "good at lucid dreaming" requires a fine balance of concentration but detachment. It's not a paradox since these two aren't in direct opposition with each other. They are, however, somewhat in opposition, which requires more effort to try not to let them compete against each other. Concentration is required to remain lucid and required for any form of influence. Detachment is required to ensure your body and mind doesn't hit a waking state and you end up waking up. I believe such an exercise would have its benefits similar to meditation, and other related mind-body activities.

At a deeper level than that, you would probably want to analyse the dreamscape, dream-physics, and possibly the dreams themselves. I'm not talking about the dubious Freudian-type analysis of symbology within dreams. I'm just referring to pure practical and obvious appearances and situations which happen. Anonymous friends is a phenomenon which I think is quite worth delving into. These types of analysis tells you more about yourself in various ways. It can tell you about your character, your attitude, the strengths of your mind, the weaknesses of your mind (which you could then work on to improve), and possibly other things which I haven't seriously thought about.

Lucid dreaming, if not followed up by post-review and the like, is not very meaningful, though it is still enjoyable. It's what I do nowadays, unfortunately. In order for analysis to happen, one needs to record down one's dreams, and for me, that takes a very long time. When I was getting into lucid dreaming, it wasn't uncommon for me to be writing 1000 words on a single night worth of dreams. My dream recall used to be that powerful and detailed, and so keeping a dream journal was tough indeed. However, if you do record them down religiously, you can then analyse them properly, and you will find something about yourself that you didn't know. I'm certain of that.

04:37 21 Jul 2015

The Matrix

Can you imagine if we ever created a VR that is so immersive it's a whole new world, like the dreamworld we frequent? Somewhere you could go to without physically being there? Just think about what it actually means, and how we physically achieve that.

We experience the world through our senses, nothing more, nothing less. Shut off all our senses and the noise we make alone causes hallucinations[1]. One common time this happens is every night, when we reach the stage where our mind is pretty much active, but our body isn't, and is completely numb. It's called REM sleep, and that's when most dreams occur (other times it can occur is when you go to a special chamber[2]). You can even rise to a certain level of consciousness to be "awake while being asleep" (see Lucid Dreaming[3]), and this is more or less "short circuiting your brain". What this means is that whatever "reality" you're experiencing is completely generated by your mind, for your mind. Your mind is generating the physical signals you normally receive from your senses, and it goes right back to your mind where you experience them. It feels real, doesn't it? Perhaps sometimes even more real than reality (called "hyper-reality").

Now what if, instead, we fed real signals to your mind while deprving sensory input, or basically overriding it with much stronger signals? If those signals come from, say, another human from the other side of the world, you'd basically experience exactly what that person is experiencing, provided all the sensory inputs are transmitted. Otherwise, if it's just sight, you'd be seeing what the other person is seeing, sound would be hearing what the other person is hearing, etc. So you'd effectively have teleported to the other side of the world. The only possible difference from actually being there, is that there may be some lag, unfortunately.

So let's take it one step further and say that, instead, we use a computer to generate those signals, BAM! We have a full, immersive, virtual reality. Sure, you know this already, but why I bothered going through the physical part of all of this is because it tells you what it can achieve.

Sending signals to your brain, bypassing your senses, effectively extends your reach of experience. Allowing two-way communication (allowing your brain to send signals back to influence the world) allows you to extend your reach of existance. You're now limited by the speed of light and information theory (and electronics and photonics), no longer by mechanics. By comparison, the Earth is now ridiculously small. You know this already from the internet. Telephony, video conferencing, you've already seen it. The world "has shrunk". But those still present a barrier. Why? The information is incomplete. It's but a tiny fraction of what we might be transceiving in actual physical interaction. If all information is transceived, then the interaction will be complete, and indistinguishable. That's what VR hopes to achieve.

But what does it all mean apart from sounding cool, and giving everyone a chance to experience realities that are physically impossible (like flying for instance)? Well, if you think about the physical side of virtual reality, it's information transfer. And when you think about information transfer, in the information age, and you see what the internet gave to us just by enabling large exchanges of information, you see that it will start another revolution.

Physical involvement in most things aren't actually necessary. Food, water, and air are basically the only things that the human body needs that is physical. To fulfill those, you'd need some more physical involvement (like roads that transport them), but like I said, most things don't. Take schooling for example. You don't need any physical involvement with the world to learn. What is learning? It's just new pathways of between neurons in your brain. We could plant those new pathways if we knew how. It's essentially information. "Practicals", like lab sessions don't produce anything, they're there to help you learn something, again, just information. You can go through your entire school life in VR, and be no worse off than someone who did "physical schooling" and perhaps you'd likely be better off since VR can bend the laws of physics to enhance teaching. So a school need not be a physical place anymore. It can be totally virtual (there are some "lesser" virtual schools already present in the form of online courses as you might know).

What else can be done entirely virtually? Well, EVERY OFFICE! Think about what happens in there. It's all information processing. You have stacks of papers, emails; you work by processing information, documents, etc. You don't need physical paper. You can have virtual paper, and it'll be the same. We only still use paper because it's easier to interact with than screens. Once all the information has been processed, you then just need the final result to enter the real world. That is, for example, you print out the bill of lading to collect the (physical) shipment after getting all necessary processing, error checking, approvals, guarantees, etc. Maybe that's not even necessary if cryptography is good enough. We'd be much closer to the "paperless world" that was envisioned.

Just to give another example for clarity, it's not just document processing that can be done entirely virtually, even the manufacturing industry can have the starting part of their pipeline, i.e. the design phase, virtual. Take Intel which manufactures microchips (or should these be called nanochips?). They can do design, calculations, and simulations all in the VR space. Only once they need to generate a prototype do they start interacting with the real world, and even then, not a single sheet of paper is needed. The design is sent to the plant to produce the prototype. Since such high precision is never done by hand, the design files go directly to the machines that produce the prototypes, and then many iterations later, the products. Not a single sheet of paper is needed.

Office workers would never have to travel to work. They'd just get themselves into the virtual space from their home. Everyone would convene in the virtual office and start working as they'd normally do. The office can be huge. It can have the best designs for the best office environment, psychologically, to make work comfortable. It need not even be a building. It can have the best ergonomics. You can even bend reality and physics if it helps, like, being able to place pieces of paper floating in air and not have wind scatter them over the place while being in an "outdoor office". You could be working at the beach, underwater, in space, anywhere that you'd like (or rather, your boss would like) the office environment to be. If you had your own cubicle or room, it could be an entirely different environment from the common office area. It could even be bigger than the office itself.

Anything, absolutely anything, that is solely information manipulation/processing/generation/transfer, can be done entirely in the virtual space, and it's going to be more efficient because these processes are no longer limited by mechanics. This is why it'd be one heck of a revolution.

01:11 06 Jul 2015


I once spoke to a friend regarding posting personal stuff online. When I mentioned I posted some entries of my dream journal online (on this blog), he was saying he'd never do that, for the fear of potentially being psychoanalysed by others. He, naturally, doesn't maintain a blog. A fair argument he had was, "You aren't a psychoanalyst yourself, so you don't know what kind of secrets you're giving away with these posts." Well, maybe not, but I can sure obfuscate the information such that no one knows which part is real and which part isn't.

Psychoanalysis (I'm making assumption here) would have to make use of the individual details of the account, say, like what the action and reaction, thoughts, but not the big picture like the setting, since it doesn't take an expert to tell you what it means if your dream setting is in school. But the thing is, not everything I post under the "dreams" tag is 100% true.

Firstly, all of them are half-truths (or varying degrees, like 1/4-truths, 7/8-truths, and so on). That is, I only put up the bit that is interesting and omit everything else, otherwise the post gets too long, and also for the reason of not being too revealing.

Secondly, I modify certain bits if I feel that it is too personal. Before you think you can spot modifications due to sloppiness etc, let me tell you: I analyse my own dreams, often so immediate that I could be analysing them while I'm waking up (i.e. in the half asleep state), or immediately after I wake up. This, many times, results in myself modifying the dream, such that I get two versions: one of which is the one I actually dreamt, and a patched version, which, if I'm still half asleep, can spawn into an actual dream, resulting in two legit dreams. I only post one of them, not the other(s).

I think you may also be aware that in half-asleep states, imagination basically runs with the same coherence (or rather, incoherence) as dreaming, thus my patching works as a full patch, and never seems out of place (if there can be such thing as out-of-place in the dream-world). Think about it as substituting a patch of white noise for another patch of white noise. They're random and different, but indistinguishable from each other (as long as care is taken to ensure that their statistical properties are the same, which is very easy to do).

Now then, "isn't that the same thing?" you might ask. Am I still giving out my secrets? Not quite. It's equivalent to Lucid Dreaming, where you exert conscious control over your dreams, so no, it's not the same. Couple that with omitting certain things, and no, you'd definitely be none the wiser of what I actually (in full detail) dreamt. Those who are not seeking to psychoanalyse me shouldn't find this a bother. Who cares if the enemy I was fighting was wearing a shirt or not wearing a shirt? Looked like... say... one of my childhood bullies or something. What matters was that I sliced them in two with a laser. See?

So there you go. You can protect your secrets without having to stay completely silent. I can see one question that might pop up, "why the hell post in that case?" Think about the purpose then. The post is to share an interesting experience (to whomever who might find it so), and also, as a log for myself, which, due to the way memory works, need not be a carbon copy of the memory, but just cues needed. As long as most of the information is retained, the original memory will be recalled. Easy for me to get back the original information, impossible for anyone else. Information theory! Go figure.

23:12 24 Jun 2015

Lah, Leh, Lor, Loh, Liao, Har, Meh, Mah, Hor, Siah

What do they mean and how do you use them? This article by The Straits Times gives a few example sentences. But being rather isolated sentences, it doesn't quite give the full idea. I decided to do a short dialogue example instead:

*Ah Boy goes into a shop with a friend*

*takes out shopping list*

Ah Boy: "Uncle, dis one, have anot?"

Owner: *thinks a while* "Dun have leh."

Ah Boy: "Har!? Dun have meh?"

Owner: *searches around* "Dun have lah!"

Ah Boy: "Dis one leh?"

Owner: "Dun have liao."

Ah Boy: "So fast ah?"

Owner: "Popular mah."

Ah Boy: "Liddat, den dis one dun have hor?"

Owner: "Gone loh."

Ah Boy: *turns to friend* "Dun have siah!"

Friend: "Told you dun have one lor!"

*both exit*

05:43 13 Jun 2015