Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

This weekend, I went to the library and accidentally stumbled upon a small pocket sized book with a title "Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a new kind of Entrepreneur" by Derek Sivers.

Since I knew about Derek's work (CDBaby.com) and had read and liked some of his writings in the past, I decided to borrow the book. 

The book is essentially a list of carefully selected, probably in chronological order, articles he'd published on his site: https://sivers.org/blog. While you can read them all there, I'm old-school, book is still my preference.

The book attempts to share Derek's life experience shrunk and condensed into one hour (84 pages) and I thought it delivers. The articles are short ranging from 1 page or at most 2 pages; no aggressive mindset nor world-changing life experience. Simple, easy to read, and full of useful oft-repeated-yet-ignored lessons such as:
  • Don't do it for the money
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing
  • Start now (entrepreneur, listen!)
  • Ideas are just a multiplier of execution (I like this one a lot!)
  • Trust but verify (great Management advise by the way...)
  • You can't please everyone (and don't have to), and so on...
Through the book, I observed that Derek is always focused on one thing at a time and he persistently tried his best to finish the task. These are important traits for an entrepreneur: focus and persistent.

His business, CDBaby.com, was born out of accident because he's trying to help other musicians to sell their albums. He explained how he runs the company and the values that guide his business decisions. He also balanced the positive with the negative experiences by describing a few mistakes he stumbled along the way. 

One particular segment of the book that I enjoyed was his story about CDBaby and Apple. How Apple pretty much being a typical cruel mega-corporation by toying CDBaby. It's business after all and it's... well.. Apple and Steve Jobs.   

Near the end of the book, he described the thought process of selling his business, CDBaby, and giving away the money that could be his. This part of the book felt like an end of an era (or at least a phase in Derek's life).

I definitely recommend to read this book as a counter balance to those big-ideas, world-changing books. This book feels down to earth and humane instead of depicting a bravado type of life. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Day Microsoft Windows Displays Advertisement on Your Laptop

Today I learned that Microsoft displays advertisement on its Windows 10 Lock Screen. This is a very bold move from Redmond considering advertisements are typically displayed on free products instead of paid-for products. I'm not sure how I would react if I was greeted with an ads for a product I fully paid since I have not updated my Windows 7 to Windows 10.

Our household keeps a Windows 7 installation mostly for transferring pictures and videos via Picasa, a soon-to-be-retired product from Google which me and my wife love to use, from various devices to multiple (backup) storage devices.

On the bright side, some of these events force us to completely move away from Windows Operating Systems to another platform that I have, personally and professionally, been using for the last 3 years: Ubuntu Linux.

Ubuntu Linux is an excellent Operating Systems for both Server and Desktop systems. It is powerful, extensible, pragmatic, and here's the best part: it's FREE. Free as in Beer. Free as in $0.00.

I've been following the growth of Ubuntu for a few years and I began to notice that its ecosystems have expanded beyond the typical Linux ecosystems to the point that commercial hi-tech companies, such as SpotifyHipChatSteam, ship and support Linux native desktop app for their products. These products tend to support Ubuntu Linux exclusively by either providing debian package or prepared their own apt-get repository (which makes life of their users easier because the software will be listed in the Ubuntu Linux Software Center and will be included as part of autoupdate).

In our household, the number of installed Ubuntu systems have steadily increased by 1 every year. Back in 2013, I installed a Ubuntu Server 12.04 on a very old hardware dedicated for our Media Server. Maintenance was close to zero: all updates for both Plex (the media server software) and Ubuntu itself have always been smooth without any issues. In 2014, I made another move to dual-boot my one and only workstation (that has Windows 7 installed in it) and I have been using Ubuntu majority of the time ever since.

At the end of 2015, I decided to resurrect an old Macbook White (also known as Macbook 5,2) by installing Ubuntu 14.04 thanks to Apple for making it harder for us to install its latest Operating Systems past Snow Lion, not to mention that it was as slow as turtle after the upgrade. As Apple is moving toward AppStore model, this does not fit well with me since most of the developer tools and FOSS apps I relied won't be there.

Apple also has the habit of deprecating older hardware (no longer support) rather quick by my standard: we acquired the MacBook in 2009 (for free) and by 2013/2014, we were having a bit of a difficulty to upgrade the base OSX. Meanwhile, my old workstation has been with me since 2007.

Current Setup
The old complain that installing (any) Linux distribution will cost you a day or two since you will be fixing the gap to make Linux useful when compared with OSX/Windows is no longer true. I successfully installed the latest Ubuntu Linux in to Macbook without any problem at all. Everything just works. All hardware components continue to work as-is. Yes, that's right, a Macbook: unusual since it's tricky to be able to install a non-Apple Operating System to an Apple hardware and not long ago the only way to install Windows in to a Macbook is via "bootcamp". These days you just need to pop-in a Ubuntu installation CD and you're ready to install that awesome software :).

My network wireless printer works. I can watch Netflix. The OS can identify my Lumix camera when I attached it to the laptop. I can Skype with my parents fine. My wife does not complain and quite happy to use it. It does not need an anti-virus or firewall setups as the default configuration is good enough for a long period of time.

As a software developer in the era of SaaS/Cloud, I realized that I am more productive when I'm working on the same environment where my work will be deployed. This is probably the key as to why I chose Ubuntu Linux (could have been my past-time favourite: FreeBSD but alas!). And as I use and learn Ubuntu every day, I'm gaining valuable skill, which in turns, will hopefully increase my usefulness and my compensation as a knowledge worker :).

I've listed why I believe Ubuntu Linux is the right choice for me. If you're thinking to make a move away from Windows (or OSX), I would strongly recommend to give it a try since it's easy to install and you've got nothing to lose other than your leisure time.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

JavaScript Function: Overloading

Many object-oriented programming language supports Function Overloading: defining multiple functions with the same name and return value but with different parameters/arguments.

Let's use Java as an example:
public void displayName(String firstName){...}
public void displayName(String firstName, String lastName){...}
public void displayName(String firstName, Formatter format){...}
public void displayName(String firstName, String lastName, Formatter format){...}
JavaScript does not support function overloading because the type of the function parameters are not known hence there are cases where the signature of the function cannot be differentiated.

Let's use the following (invalid) example to describe why JavaScript does not support function overloading:
// Function with 1 parameter
function displayName(firstName){...};

// Function with 2 parameters, both are string, so far so good,
// JS engine can differentiate them (technically no, but let's just pretend)...
function displayName(firstName, lastName){...};

// Function with 2 parameters, but the second one is a method (or object)...
// JS Engine will not be able to differentiate the difference between
// lastName and formatter as the second parameter while JVM runtime
// knows based on the type information:
// string for lastName and Formatter for formatter.
function displayName(firstName, formatter){...};
JavaScript engine will take the last function definition that exist in the code as the actual implementation, throwing out the previous function definition.

Even though JavaScript does not support function overloading, it doesn't mean JavaScript is unable to imitate the feature. This is when the Function arguments object shines.

The above Java implementation can be simplified to:
function displayName(firstName, lastName, customFormatter){
  if(arguments.length === 0){
    console.log("No parameter passed");

  // Formatter is always the last one.
  var formatter;
  if(typeof arguments[arguments.length-1] === 'object'){
    formatter = arguments[arguments.length-1];
    // let's assume DefaultFormatter exist.
    formatter = new DefaultFormatter();

  var display = '';
  if(lastName && typeof lastName === 'string'){
    display = formatter.format("%s %s", firstName, lastName);    
    display = formatter.format("%s", firstName);


// only display first name using default formatter

// only display first name with custom formatter
// imagine if the display follows Arabic: starts from Right to the Left
// instead of Left to Right like Roman...
displayName("John", new RightToLeftFormatter());

// display first and last name using default formatter
displayName("John", "Doe");

// display first and last name using VerticalFormatter
// imagine if the name is displayed vertically instead of horizontal ;)
displayName("John", "Doe", new VerticalFormatter());
From the above example, it appears that the JavaScript solution to imitate Function Overloading looks simpler compare to Java.

Monday, January 18, 2016

JavaScript Function: Parameters and Arguments

This article will cover JavaScript function parameters and arguments. Please refer to the previous article for an introduction to JavaScript Function.

Function Parameters

In JavaScript, a function declaration can have 0 to many parameters, for example:
// function body is excluded for brevity
function clear_dom() {...}      // function declaration with zero parameter
function display_car(car){...}  // function declaration with one parameter
function add(a,b){...}          // function declaration with two parameters
Function Arguments

The function arguments refer to the variables/values being passed into the function when it is invoked. For example:
// 1 and 2 are number literals being passed
// as arguments to the add() function
var result = add(1,2); 

// the {...} is an object literal being passed
// as arguments to the display_car() function
display_car({ make: "Honda", model: "Civic"}); 
Function Arguments variable

Within the function body, JavaScript provides implicit variable called "arguments". This implicit variable "arguments" refer to an object that contains a list of values being passed as function arguments to this function. This is very handy if the number of parameters are not known beforehand, for example:
function sum(){
  if(arguments === undefined) {
     return 0;

  var result = 0;
  for(var i=0; i < arguments.length; i++) {
    result += arguments[i];
  return result;  

var noResult = sum();           // noResult is 0
var sumResult = sum(1,2,3,4,5); // sumResult is 15
Note that while arguments function variable appears to look like an array, it is not an array object. Here's the defining characteristics of the arguments function variable:
  • It is an object
  • It derives from Object prototype (not array)
  • It looks like an array but it is not an array
  • It always exist within the function body
  • It scopes is Function Scope (once it leaves function, it's gone)
  • It has 2 properties: length and callee
    • length: refers to the number of arguments being passed
    • callee: refers to the method/function itself (in above example: sum() function)
Function Arguments Variable Optimization Killer

One note when it comes to Function arguments variable is that it must never be passed around to avoid "leak" (leak refers to optimization killer, not memory leak).
function leakOptimizationKiller(){
   return arguments;

function leakOptimizationKiller(){
  var args = Array.prototype.slice.call(arguments);
The reason why this cancels out JS engine optimization is that the arguments variable is originally stored in the stack. In the above examples, JS engine is forced to create a reference of the arguments object in the heap as well.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

JavaScript Object: Array

JavaScript has a few built-in objects. One of the most-used objects is Array. Array stores a collection of ordered values that can be accessed via its index (a number).

Some of the characteristics of JavaScript array are as follows:
  • untyped (multiple types in the same array)
  • zero based, use 32-bit indexes
  • dynamic memory allocation (dynamically shrink or expand)
  • does not support multi-dimension (but can hold array of arrays)
  • sparse (can have gaps, multi-dimension can have varying length in the second dimension)
There are 2 ways to create an array: Array Literal and Array Constructor.

Array Literal

Array literal is the simplest and the most well-known way to cr// will throw Error, not a valid index numbereate an instance of an Array object in JavaScript and probably in most mainstream programming languages.
var arr = [];           // create an array with zero element
var arr = [1,2,3,4,5];  // create an array with 5 elements of the same type

// array with 5 elements: a number, an object, a string, a boolean, and an array
var arr = [1, {}, "This is a string", true, [1,2]]; 

// sparse array that contains 5 elements:
// a number followed by 3 undefined and ended with a number
var arr = [0, , , 3];
Array Constructor

Array constructor is probably less used and less well-known. It is also slower than Array literal.
var arr = new Array(); // create an array with zero elements
var arr = new Array(1,2,3,4,5);  // create an array with 5 elements, same type

// array with 5 elements: a number, an object, a string, a boolean, and an array
var arr = new Array(1, {}, "This is a string", true, new Array(1,2);

// sparse array that contains 5 elements:
// a number followed by 3 undefined and ended with a number
var arr = new Array(0, , , 3);
Modifying Element, Accessing Element, How Many Elements?

Here are examples how to modify/access element of the array and also to know how many elements in the array:
// declare an array of 4 elements, all numbers
var arr = [1,2,3,4];

// modify the value of the first element
arr[0] = 5;

// how many items in the array currently
var arr_length = array.length;

// modify the value of the last element 
// (array index starts from 0, last element means n-1)
arr[arr_length - 1] = 10;

if(arr[1] + arr[2] === arr[0]){
  console.log("The sum of array index 1 and 2 are equal to array index 0");

// modifying length property of Array is allowed in certain situation

// Example #1: increase length from 4 to 10, 
// we'll have 6 undefined elements added to the end of the array
arr.length  = 10; 

// Example #2: decrease the length from 4 to 3
// hence arr[3] = 4 no longer exist, we reduce the size of array
arr.length  = 3; 

// Example #3: invalid index number
// will throw Error, not a valid index number
arr.length = -1; 
Iterating Array Elements

There are 2 ways to iterate over Array elements: for-loop and forEach array method.

1) Example for for-loop:
var arr = [1,2,3,4,5];

// NOTE: arr.length is evaluated at every iteration
for(var i=0; i < arr.length; i++){
  console.log("Index " + i + " : " + arr[i]);
2) Example for for-loop optimized:
var arr = [1,2,3,4,5];

// optimized because arr.length is called only once
for(var i=0, len; len = arr.length, i < len ; i++){
  console.log("Index " + i + " : " + arr[i]);
3) Example for forEach array method:
var arr = [1,2,3,4,5];

arr.forEach(function(element, index, array){
  console.log("Index " + i + " : " + element);