First Flight Experience in a light plane (Socata TB10)

The first time I stepped on an airplane, I was 10 and was going to Australia with my family for a holiday. From then on, I always wondered what it was like to one day be the person flying the plane instead of being a passenger. Due to several decisions which I regret today like not joining the Youth Flying Club when I was younger, I never got the chance to do.

So when my friend Joyce told me her private pilot friend Roger will be going up to the skies with his plane, I jumped at the opportunity! It is not everyday that one will see a pilot controlling the very aircraft you are on and speaking to the air traffic controller in real time.

This is the plane, a Socata Tobago (TB) 10 co-owned by Roger. French-built, 13 years old and Malaysian registered (9M-prefix). It is operated under the Johor Flying Club at Senai Airport.

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Repair Kopitiam specialty electrical tools (Part 2): Short Circuit Limiter

If you have not read the previous post (Part 1) on this subject, I encourage you but it is not mandatory to do so before reading this post. I’ll still go through the fundamentals in this post. If you just want to see the raw technical details, the schematic and code of this project have been open-sourced here.

Post Objective

To show why did I build this and how it works plus the issues faced.

The clean case hides the complexity within.

Background

I’m a regular volunteer in the social initiative called Repair Kopitiam (RK) started by Sustainable Living Lab (SL2). On a monthly basis, we teach Singapore residents how to repair their household electrical appliances, fabrics and furniture. Our volunteers are also called repair coaches.

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CV of Dating Failures

Recently I wrote a blog post on my failures based on the concept of the “CV of Failures”. Inside, it contains key things or events I failed in.

I got a comment from a friend that it was still the “easy” stuff with only one line about my 3-year relationship that ended years back. Although the CV of Failures is largely career/skills based, the spirit of that concept is transferable. I missed the elephant in the room which is about relationship (attempt) failures.

Sometime back also, my female colleague once remarked “You are not even trying”. It was at that point I realised that attempts are rarely talked about. I mean people occasionally talk about their failed relationship(s) (including yours truly) in 1:1 or small groups. Much rarer are about failed attempts to start as that is considered quite embarrassing. Attempts specifically applies to men as ladies rarely make the move. (Assuming a typical heterosexual narrative here)  If typical failures are already taboo, relationship failures on the edge of being off-limits, then talking about failed attempts in asking ladies out must be hell.

So let me go to hell this time to break what we deem to be a hugely embarrassing topic. I’ll not mention all the cases just the more recent ones that happened in the last few years. I see myself as quite systematic so I’ll mention the qualities I saw in the lady to make me ask her out, how the encounter roughly went and what I learned from it.

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Book Review: Neither Civil Nor Servant (The Philip Yeo Story)

“life sciences graduates are only fit to wash test tubes” this statement I heard more than a decade ago was the first time I knew of this guy called Philip Yeo. Then chairman of Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star), it caused quite a ruckus I believe in Singapore at the time where there was a strong push by the government into the bio-medical field.

That line partly factored in my decision against taking up a triple-science (Physics, Chemistry, Biology) subject combination in secondary school. I opted for Physics and Chemistry only.

When I recently heard from online sources of this biography of the man himself “Neither Civil Nor Servant”, I was intrigued. I admit I did not know much of this supposedly very “notorious” Singaporean civil servant. So when existence of this book came to me, I decided I had to read it.

So here is my take of reviewing this book!

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CV of Failures

I recently chanced upon the concept of CV of Failures from Princeton Professor Johannes Haushofer. He wasn’t the first to do so but I guess the first that actually popularised it. Inspired by his example, I decided to write the following post. After all, it is not just success that defines us but the failures as well.

I’m obviously not as academically-credentialed as this Princeton Prof so I’ll put up key events that happened in my life in both school and outside.

For obvious reasons, this will be an evergreen post that will be constantly updated.


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A Science Project: Bringing the Covox Speech Thing to 2017

The Covox Speech Thing (CST) was a sound card released in 1986 by Covox, Inc to enable computers with parallel ports to have sound capability. Unlike modern machines, proper sound support was not a given on computers in that era and the Soundblaster by Creative has yet to be released.

As you will see later, the design is rather simple so I decided to revisit this old piece of hardware and see if it is possible to get it working on modern systems.

My remake of the Covox Speech Thing with a self-wrote media player software.

Video of everything in action

Video of the talk I gave about this subject at Hackware v2.6.

Slides of the talk I gave

If you are in a hurry to obtain the raw schematics and code, everything can be found in the following links.

Verified designs: Media player code, pure Covox clone, Covox clone with amplifier

Untested work: USB to 8-bit adapter, Covox clone with amplifier and USB 8-bit adapter

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A Science Project: Windows for Workgroups 3.11 on vintage and modern hardware in 2016

(This is a long 5600+ words post, I recommend reading this from a tablet or computer)

Windows for Workgroups 3.11 (WFW3.11) was an operating system (OS) released by Microsoft in August 1993 and ended support in December 2001. It is part of a series of OSes released by Microsoft at that time so it is common for people to refer to it as part of Windows 3.1x (Win3.1). The specific history behind its name and version number and be found on its Wikipedia article. Here is a brief list of first-impressions I have if I were to describe this OS.

  1. First Windows OS to have practical (installable) networking capabilities
  2. Last one to not have a Start Menu and legacy interface before Windows 95
  3. Last OS to require DOS as an initial install
  4. Last 16-bit OS

wfw-first

Here is a teaser screenshot showing that I managed to get WFW3.11 installed on a “modern” 2009 Thinkpad T400 with networking capabilities. Recognise some familiar applications there?

My talk on this subject

I gave a talk on this project at Hackware v2.2 on 7 September. Here are the slides and video.

Demo video

About 8 minutes of video for the vintage computing buffs. This shows the results of my work.

Why install WFW3.11?

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(Partial) Reverse Engineering the NDP 2016 LED Wristband

The Singapore National Day Parade (NDP 2016) happened on 9 August 2016 to celebrate its 51st birthday. For those who had the opportunity to attend the actual parade or its previews/rehearsals, they will also get to receive a funpack where one of the items will be a wearable LED band made by a company called Pixmob.

ndp2016-re-wristband

This band receives infrared(IR) signals from the organisers and then displays the LED colour of their choosing. There is also an onboard accelerometer. After the event when the IR signals disappear, the (single-axis I believe) accelerometer will cause the Red LED to light up when a shock is detected.

Here are the slides and the talk video on this subject I gave at Hackware v2.1.

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Repair Kopitiam specialty electrical tools

I’m part of this voluntary social initiative called Repair Kopitiam (RK) started by the social enterprise Sustainable Living Lab. On a monthly basis, we teach Singapore residents how to repair their household electrical appliances, fabrics and furniture. Our volunteers are called repair coaches. This initiative is similar to Repair Cafes which originated in Europe. My area of speciality is of course in the electrical appliance department.

This post is however not about the intricate details of volunteering, it will be about the special electrical tools I have developed in the course of my volunteering in response to certain unique issues faced by the RK team.

A literally high-level view of the tools I developed.

rk-equip-equipment-overview-small

Here are the slides and video of the talk I gave at Hackware v2.0 about these tools.

The problems

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Installing Windows XP on a modern unsupported (Haswell) system in 2016

(This is a long ~2900 words post, I recommend reading this from a tablet or computer)

Windows XP is the second-longest supported operating system (OS) in Microsoft’s history. Support by Microsoft finally ended on 8 April 2014 after a record-setting 12.5 years.  The number one rank is technically* held by Windows 1.0 at 16 years from 1985 to 2001.

*I say “technically” as that was when Microsoft finally declared Win 1.0 obsolete but I doubt Microsoft was updating Win 1.0 during its final years. This was unlike WinXP which was updated up to its final moments and even had an emergency patch after its support ended.

This page here also puts XP’s length of support in perspective with other Microsoft OSes.

Released in October 2001, it is almost 15 years old today.  I was only 11 years old when this OS was released so you can imagine I pretty much spent much of my teen years using XP machines other than Red Hat Linux of course.

Despite its age, XP continues to live on in embedded systems like ATMs, factory and medical machines where replacement costs and re-certification (timelines) makes them infeasible to be replaced in the near future. An extreme example is how the 23-year-old Windows 3.1 which crashed is still used in a French airport as of late last year.

The problem

I work in a startup called Algoaccess where we deal with medical devices specifically optician-related ones. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say we occasionally have to handle such older systems and test to make sure our product can work with them. This means we actually need a Windows XP installation for testing purposes. No, virtual machines like VirtualBox or VMWare will not cut it, we need a native installation for realistic testing.

My company could easily procure a machine of an older era with full Windows XP drivers. There are guides like this where people have used an older system to install WinXP in 2016.

But where is the fun in that? I saw this as an opportunity to determine if it is really possible to install WinXP on a much newer system.  It was also a good way to relive a bit of my childhood that way.

First thoughts? It shouldn’t be that hard right? I know drivers could be an issue but it shouldn’t be a show-stopper? Turns out things are not so easy to put WinXP on modern hardware.

The machine

modernxp-front

A photo to show that I have successfully installed WinXP on this machine abet with lots of missing drivers.

A short video for “extra proof”

The target machine is a Lenovo Ideapad U330p which was manufactured in 25 July 2014.

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