New to Owl Order? Click here for 2009's best posts! 00:00:00

Friday, 30 April 2010

Sights of UK: Derby County FC

Note: High resolution images of all of the following photos are available. Click on the photos to view their higher resolution images.

One quick question: what is UK most famous for?

Food? Nah.

Fashion? Nah.

I have to say the answer is football, and I think a lot of people will agree with me. Most UK visitors will take the time to visit famous football clubs and stadiums, most notably Manchester United. Apparently Man U's souvenir shop even sells golf balls and pacifiers with Man U logos on them.

I haven't got the chance to visit Man U FC (and probably never will), but I have paid a visit to a less well-known FC in UK -- Derby County FC.

Pride Park Stadium Façade
[HiRes] Pride Park Stadium, Derby County FC's home field.

Derbyshire neighbours Nottinghamshire -- it took about 30 minutes of westward driving to reach Derby. Who cares if I was actually there to attend a conference (which was held in the VIP viewing area), I still took the opportunity to snap a few photos.

Pride Park Stadium Crop 1
[HiRes] It's supposed to say "DERBY". The 'E' was covered for maintenance, I think.

Derby County FC's official mascot is the Ram. Wherever you go within Pride Park Stadium (official name for Derby County FC's stadium), you see Rams everywhere.

We Are Derby
[HiRes] Are you Derby?

For an English stadium, I think the Pride Park Stadium scores on just average. Compared to Malaysian stadiums, however, it's obviously lightyears ahead. I remember the dusty, gloomy interior of the Bukit Jalil Stadium, and I was not impressed.

Pride Park Stadium Crop 2
[HiRes] "The Rams".

So few hours later, when the conference came to a close, I left Pride Park Stadium, feeling more fulfilled than before.

Pride Park Stadium Field
[HiRes] Pride Park Stadium's field.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Coming Soon: Spring

The blogpost, not the season. The season's here few months ago.

Sitting On the Wall
[HiRes] Flowers sitting on the wall.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Sights of Nottingham: Sutton Bonington Campus

Note: High resolution images of all of the following photos are available. Click on the photos to view their higher resolution images.

The University of Nottingham has several campuses located across Nottingham -- the main University Park Campus, the new Jubilee Campus, the converted King's Meadow Campus, and to be covered today, the Sutton Bonington Campus.

Sutton Bonington is a (very, very) small village to the south of Nottingham city, along the edge of Nottinghamshire. A half-hour bus ride away from University Park, along which there is nothing but breathtaking countryside views to see, the Sutton Bonington Campus is so far from the centre of Robin Hood county that its official postal address actually says "Leicestershire" (pronounced 'less-stir-sheer') instead of "Nottinghamshire". I assure you that, however, Sutton Bonington safely falls within the realm of the totally-awesome Nottinghamshire.

Please Drive Carefully

Compared to the rest of the campuses, Sutton Bonington Campus is relatively peaceful and quiet. I dropped in to visit in the middle of the week, and it's hard to imagine how deserted the place would be during the long summer break.

Country Road

It was a good thing I took the time off that autumn day, because Sutton Bonington sported some of the best autumn views, being less-developed. The leaves going 'crunch-crunch' under your feet, while more flutter past you with the gentlest breezes. Colourful berries littered everywhere, leaving the floor much more interesting than the top of the trees.

If only I had better photography skills back then.

Autumn road

As far as I know, the campus started out as an independent university before being taken over by the University of Nottingham about half a century ago. Most modules taught in the Sutton Bonington Campus are agriculture or at least biology-related. This is easily seen as the campus has countless greenhouses and outdoor farms all over it.



The greenhouses sheltered many plants, probably projects of students. Most commonly seen were tomatoes, some juicier than others. There were also dozens of flowers I have seen but never bothered to find their names out (typical guy), and more of herbs and fruits and veggies.

Juicy Tomatoes

There is also a barn, with dairy cows getting milked daily with the latest technology R&D'ed by no one else but students and professors of the University. Unfortunately, the barn was closed off to visitors.

I caught sight of a few horses though.

Pardon my poor editing skills. I can't believed I sent this photo home to my family.

I can't explain it, but I swear I could just sit down in the middle of the lawn and stare at the horses for a big part of a morning. They're so strong yet silent; valiant and graceful; powerful, and still friendly. Nobody, not even a Victoria Beckham on drugs can catch my eye for that long.


A campus comes with a library, of course. That was the only place I visited which was occupied with more than few people that day.

Sutton Bonington Campus Library

All in all, the campus offered great sights, and I certainly visited the place at the right time. Being born in a busy town, you can bet a peace-lover like me enjoyed the trip there, however boring it may sound to most of my peers.

Wide green field

I mean, it's not everyday I get to see things like a big, yellowing tree growing over an old wooden fence beside a field wide enough to house the entire Vatican.

Farm and Fences

Or the last golden rays of the evening sun laying on brown leaves over a wooden countryside gate.


Except perhaps in movies.

It was a simple, but beautiful campus.

Behind the Bushes

And I don't remember breathing in fresher air before this.

Village Houses


Well, all those sights weren't as surprising as this.

Catchy, huh?
You may want to click on the picture to view a higher resolution version to read the text.

Well anyway, time passed by, and soon before long, the afternoon was over and I hopped on a bus and departed Sutton Bonington.

Sunset photo, on the way back to civilisation.

I caught over 600 photos that single day.

Plants were everywhere. Even on the walls.

Most of them turned out to be utter rubbish, and I can't believe that I'm only satisfied with less than 50 of them.

Well at least I got one step further in photography, and I get to enjoy peace and tranquillity for that one special afternoon in the middle of the semester.

Come to my window
Definitely one of my favourite photos among the thousands I've shot in UK.

It's spring now. Perhaps it's a good time to visit again?

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Talking with the Geeky

Warning: High-bandwidth blogpost here!

Many people see nerds and geeks as losers. They think nerds and geeks are those who hide in corners when they attend parties. Those who very politely turn down all invitations to games with strangers. Those who'd rather get lost in a city as vast as London rather than open their mouths to ask for directions. Those who would rather send 20 texts than to make a 60-second call.

Sadly, many of the descriptions fit me. I have to say, as a 20-year-old man with a slightly hunched back, thick glasses and that signature "blur" look, I think I'm quite a bit geekier than I would have liked.

It is not impossible, however, to strike up a conversation to people just like myself. When you hit the right topics, I can babble on for hours (literally), until you wish you hadn't started the conversation at all.

So there you go! Some things you need to know to strike up an easy never-ending conversation with people just like me. Or you don't even need to know those things at all, just allow us the chance to lecture all the geekiness onto you.

Conclusion: nerds and geeks are still people. Only those who have no clue on interacting with them will find them boring.

Not dorks though. Dorks ARE boring.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Sights of Nottingham: Autumn

Note: High resolution images of all of the following photos are available. Click on the photos to view their higher resolution images.

Autumn. That's when everything turns orange. The evening of the annual cycle.

Autumn, the Evening of the Year
An autumn evening. On the way back from Sutton Bonington Campus. More on the campus next time.

When autumn arrives, things change. You'll want to keep your head up, for leaves have never been more golden.

Never has trees been so interesting before. By the University Park Lake.

And you'll want to keep your eyes low. for surprises await you every step you take.

Colourful Floors II
Kinda reminds me of potpourri. Sutton Bonington Campus.

Some fruits just beside the University Park Chemistry Building. Coates and Pope Buildings seen behind.

Out of Place
Along the way to Nottingham City. Something's kinda out of place here...

Sometimes I get the temptation to lie upon the big pile of prickly yellow leaves and let off a blissful "wheeeee!!!"

Colourful Floors I
Sutton Bonington Campus.

This is also when the so animé-ish leaves whoosh past your face when even the gentlest of the breezes blow.

I can't really remember where I shot this. Probably some place in University Park Campus.

And trust me, it's not as cool as it seems on animès.

Golden Leaf
Now this is what I call a Golden Leaf. Shot in Sutton Bonington Campus.

More to come: Sutton Boning Campus, autumn.

PS: The SLR I loaned came with a lens that produced super ugly bokeh... Sorry about that.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Deadline Gadget for Google Wave

Q: What is Google Wave?
This video should be able to answer your questions on Google Wave.

Q: What is Deadline Gadget?
Deadline Gadget is a Google Wave extension I wrote. Its primary objective is simple -- calculate the amount of time until a certain set date. The calculated time will then be counted down (or up if the deadline is over) and will be automatically refreshed. You can add multiple Deadline Gadgets to construct schedules in a single wave!

Q: Any live samples of it I can check out?
You can take a look at this website, it contains an embedded wave with the gadget in action!

Q: Who are you, and why are you doing this?
I'm a 20-year-old engineering student with a slight (slight, yeah right) obsession in programming. My aim for writing this gadget is simple -- I do some programming as my hobby. When you like doing something, you don't really need a reason for it, right?

This gadget is written by me and me alone. However I must use this opportunity to credit several parties, including the Google Wave team for coming up with such a great product, Clarence for the Wave invite, and my friend Azzizat for the inspiration. Oh and you, if you're using it =D.

Q: Great! How do I install the Deadline Gadget?
If you have Google Wave, visit this wave. If you don't, try to get one.

Q: How do I use it?
Once you've installed it, a new icon should appear on your Google Wave toolbar in edit mode. Hit on it to add a Deadline Gadget. When the gadget is first added to a wave, you will be presented with a calendar and several text fields. You'll realise that it has been filled in with the gadget load time. Click on the calendar to choose the date, and use the text fields to set the deadline description and time. Note that time has a format of HHmm (military time). When you're done, hit the "Done" button at the top right corner, or click on the "Deadline Gadget" icon and text on the top left. The gadget shrinks to a small strip -- neat!

Q: My gadget is outputting lots of "NaN" gibberish!
The NaN nonsense (NaNsense?!) is caused by invalid input. Check your deadline input (especially the date) and try again. A fix for this "bug", although possible, will probably not be implemented, as it will only increase the file size of the gadget and benefit few people.
Edit: due to newer algorithms incorporated in V4 of this gadget, NaN errors should not occur too often. Please let me know if it happens, along with instructions on how to reproduce it.

Q: I've mistakenly set the deadline/description. Can I change it without having to remove and reinsert the gadget?
Oh yes! Click on the your deadline (it turns blue and your cursor changes if you pause your mouse on it) and you'll be presented with the page that allows you to set the deadline -- you can then make changes to the description/deadline there. Click on the "Done" button or the Deadline Gadget text or icon to shrink the gadget.

Q: Does the gadget consume much processing power?
This gadget's processor usage is rather negligible, especially if the gadget is not displaying countdown time in seconds. Your computer should be able to handle a number of Deadline Gadgets without slowing down. I've taken great care to keep processor usage to a minimum (as Google Wave itself is already very processor hungry) and future releases may see further performance tweaks.

Q: Why is the gadget so small?
The gadget is designed to be as small and unobtrusive as possible. Hell, how much space should a date occupy?

Q: What browsers do you test the gadget on?
For the sake of the question, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. The gadget should run fine on all major browsers, however.

Q: Will you release newer (and better) versions? How do I update my Deadline Gadgets?
Oh yes. There are lots to be done, bugs to be smoothed out, exciting new features to introduce, edges to polish. Good news is: you don't have to update your gadgets! Gadgets used in waves will automatically get minor updates (thank you Google Wave!). Major updates will not be incorporated to existing gadgets, but such new versions will be used when you add the gadget via the icon.

Q: How do I uninstall it?
However much I hope you don't, you can visit this wave and click on the "Uninstall" button to uninstall Deadline Gadget. Take note that this removes the Deadline Gadget icon from your Wave toolbar -- all of your waves with the Deadline Gadget will be unchanged. If you mean to delete the Deadline Gadget from your waves instead, just mouse-over the Gadget in edit mode, and a little arrow should appear. Click on it and you'll see a "Delete" option. The final step really couldn't be any more obvious.

Q: I have more questions!
Just post a comment at the bottom of this blog post and keep checking back for reply! Alternatively, visit this page to post a feedback.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Microsoft to Purchase 300 iPads for Employees

Microsoft announced the purchase of 300 Apple iPads for some of their employees in a move that shocked the world, 31st March.

The Redmond-based company had been very strict about its employees using rival products, especially those from Apple, whose iPods and iPhones became the newest must-have gadgets of the century.

Employees are instead encouraged to use a Windows Mobile-based handset. A Microsoft-branded media player called Zune also gave Microsoft employees no excuse to resort to iPods. Founder Bill Gates even went as far as banning his family from using any Apple products.

But all that is about to change. Although Microsoft have been working on a tablet of their own, christened the "Courier", which (among other innovations) features two touchscreens, it seems like their rival's newest internet tablet, due to be released this Saturday, is too irresistible even for them.

"Microsoft had had tight rules when it comes to using rival products. After two decades, it is clear that... (we) have lost many talented engineers and programmers to rival companies because of these rules. They are our biggest assets in the company -- we need them happy to keep them," Li Beipian, a spokesperson for Microsoft commented, Wednesday.

"We did strong in the 90s. We hope for the best but expect the worst."

Despite Microsoft's revolutionary Windows Operating Systems, the company have lost significant market share in recent years. Windows Vista was badly received and its browser, Windows Internet Explorer is steadily losing its position as the world's favourite to Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome, especially after European Internet Explorer users start seeing the browser ballot screen, which allows them to download alternative browsers easily. Google's announcement of their own Operating System, Chrome OS, further put Microsoft's future into question.

According to Microsoft, some of the employees receiving the iPads are working on the Microsoft Courier tablet itself. When asked whether this increases the risk of implementing patented features of the iPad to the Courier, Li said it "actually reduces it, as developers with iPads are more aware of the features of the iPad than those who don't".

One of the employees who is on the receiving list of Apple's newest gadget commented, "This has never happened in Microsoft before. It is certainly a signal of a significant turning point in the company's history. With any luck, this move may help us outdo the iPad with our Courier."

The WiFi version of the Apple iPad will be available in selected countries this Saturday, while 3G versions will be rolled out later this month.