Music and the Internet

If there’s one thing I am extremely thankful to the internet for, it’s how much it has enabled me to enjoy music. Beyond allowing me to listen to new music that I would have never discovered otherwise, the internet has been a great teaching tool. Thanks to the wonderful people out there who have spent their time transcribing song lyrics and tabbing guitar parts, I can easily learn how to play and sing a song with a few clicks.

Sure, it doesn’t make learning the song any easier, but the fact that I don’t have to spend time trying to figure out what notes are being played and what words are being sung saves me a lot of time. I can head into the nitty-gritty right away. We can also watch video tutorials to figure out the right way to play songs. Back then, we’d have to ask friends or teachers to learn the songs so that they could teach it to us.

And thanks to the internet, I can also easily publish a song for the whole world to hear, just like that. Back then you’d have to record something to a CD or tape and pass it along by hand. Crazy. It’s because of the internet we’ve had so many musicians breakout and become commercial successes. Sure, it also enables a lot of crap but fortunately we’ve been blessed with the sense of hearing so we can learn to ignore what we dislike.

In addition to learning about music, the internet has opened my world to instruments. It’s easy to find out what your favorite guitarist plays and how to replicate their sounds. You can read all about an instrument you want to buy before pulling the trigger. If you’re unsure of how to use its features, video tutorials are available. Same thing for recording software.

When you think about it, it’s insane how much music is enabled because of the internet. It’s one of the things I’ll be forever grateful for, and I can’t imagine a world without such a tool.

Topre and Me

A couple of years ago if you told me that I’d be spending an exorbitant amount on keyboards, I would have told you that you were crazy. Well, fast forward to now and I eat my own words. Ever since I fell in love with the hobby (if you can even call it that – since I don’t assemble my own boards yet), I’ve been on the lookout for new keyboards to try out. Different layouts, sizes and switches.

However, one of the switches that I never had an opportunity to try were the polarizing Topre switches. There were a lot of people raving about them and on the other hand there were people saying that Topre switches were just expensive rubber domes. I had to find out for myself – but that was an impossible task since I didn’t have friends with Topre boards for me to try out and retail stores here didn’t carry them either. Fortunately, I had a friend in Japan last week and thanks to him, I have one of the most iconic 60% keyboards in existence – the HHKB Professional 2.

While I had never tried Topre before, I was a fan of the keyboard’s design and layout so that made it an easy buy for me. Also, I figured, if I wasn’t a fan of Topre I would have no problems reselling it on the secondhand market. Turns out, I don’t even need to consider that option because man, I’m in love with the switches. Tactility is different compared to the almost non-existent bump on MX Browns, and it’s at the top of the key press instead of midway. It feels great to type on – each keypress when bottoming out gives a nice, solid ‘thock’ that sounds like music to my ears.

In terms of aesthetics, the retro colorway and non-gamer Sans Serif font is perfect for such a timeless keyboard that hasn’t really changed since 1996. Despite it having a plastic shell, the keyboard feels extremely sturdy and is heavier than I expected.

The learning curve is pretty much zero, since I’m used to 60% boards and I’ve been using a similar layout for the past few months. My only real complaint with the keyboard is that my control key rattles more than I’d like it to. Other than that, I love the HHKB Pro 2 so far. It’s only my first day with the keyboard but I can see myself using it until it gives up on me (which hopefully won’t be any time soon!).

Limited Connectivity

One of the interesting things I experienced growing up is the state of our connectivity. I grew up in an age where internet access was non-existent, available and slow, fast, and now prevalent. These days, if we didn’t have internet access on our phones, we’d feel extremely lost and disconnected. It never used to be the case. Internet connectivity used to be a privilege, a bonus and now it’s a requirement. No, this isn’t going to be a post about how kids these days are constantly glued to their screens at dinner (I’m guilty of such behavior; damn you Six Match, why are you so addictive?) – it’s just something that I thought of while trying to connect to a public wifi hotspot today.

There’s nothing wrong with using an internet-less computer. In fact, it helps with productivity. I can imagine if I was online now, I’d be watching Liquid vs OG at DAC instead of writing this blog post. So it’s alright to have no connectivity every now and then. I’ll just catch the NoobfromUA highlights tonight. It’s times like these I’m glad to have my music collection stored locally. Although I’ve used Spotify in the past, it hasn’t replaced my need to have music on my hard disk. Just knowing for sure that I can play any song I like without having to worry about my internet connection or if Spotify’s servers are working is a good feeling. Sure, it’s a hassle to collect discographies of obscure artists, and my music collection takes up a lot of disk space – but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

Over lunch, there was a short conversation about tour guides and how it’s not something a lot of people enjoy these days. I hypothesized it was due to the availability of information on the internet. If you were to visit a brand new country in the coming week, I’m sure you could do a quick search to find out places you should visit, things you should avoid and so on. Then, from the comfort of your own home you could plan your whole trip without having to rely on a tour guide. Benefits of your own trip? Not having to do things you don’t want to do and being able to set your own schedule (nobody wants to wake up at seven, especially when you’re on holiday).

The internet is wonderful, and I would dread going back to a life without it. It can help you with your work, yet it can hamper your progress as well. It’s all about self-control and moderation. Don’t let it turn into a vice – it should be a tool.

RIP Uber Malaysia

So it was announced yesterday that Grab had finalized the deal to purchase Uber in the region and not long after that, I started receiving emails from the company informing me about it. As of now the Uber app still works (I checked, it will stop working on April 8th), so I guess I can still use my weekly promo codes to get around.

While I have no opinion on monopolies (it has never really affected me since I am an informed consumer who makes choices based on research and opinions), I think it’s kinda shitty that Uber had to fold to its only competitor in the region. After all, Grab was a copycat of Uber – it makes me wonder how an imitator could outdo the original so easily.

My favorite feature about Uber was its global presence – it didn’t matter which country in the world I was in, I could use the same app on my phone to get a ride. Since I don’t go overseas so often anymore, I guess it’s not much of an issue. But coming this April, I’ll have to install Grab on my phone. I have an account which I used once because I had a promo code, haven’t touched it since.

I’m not sure if Grab does the same thing, but I enjoyed receiving promo codes every week for free short distance trips. Great for going to Mid Valley on those days where I didn’t feel like looking for parking. Also, I took Uber rides just because of the promo codes.

I don’t have any complaints about Uber – it has saved me loads of money since I didn’t have to get scammed by non English-speaking taxi drivers in foreign countries. It also saved me the trouble of directing drivers to my destination since the address would be on their phones. I’ve only had one bad experience using Uber here (dude followed Waze blindly, getting me to the airport later than I had planned) and it wasn’t the app’s fault (a shitty driver is a shitty driver). So with a heavy heart, I bid Uber farewell. Grab, make me happy about the buyout.

A handy guide to Windows shortcuts

Whenever I watch someone demonstrate something to me on their computer and they navigate through clunky menus instead of using shortcut keys, it irks me. So in honor of those people who aren’t using their computers efficiently, I’ve decided to write a handy shortcut guide to make their lives better. I’ll keep it as general as possible and include only commonly used programs. If you have suggestions for any other shortcuts, let me know and I’ll consider adding them to the list. Here we go!

Windows 10
These should work on older versions of Windows as well – also, you should have upgraded if you haven’t already.
Windows + D : minimizes all your programs to reveal your desktop. Great ‘boss key’, also great if you need to access something on your desktop without minimizing every open window.
Windows + M : minimizes your current window
Windows (to open the start menu) then type the name of the program you want to launch : this should let you launch the program of your choice without having to click through multiple menus or look for icons on your desktop. It should work for most programs installed on your computer. If it doesn’t work, you can use the shortcut below.
Windows + R : brings up the run dialog which will allow you to run or open any file on your computer. Most of the time you will need to get the filename of the program correctly i.e. winword for Microsoft Word, not word.
Windows + E : opens Windows Explorer. Something I use on a daily basis, and I’m sure you will too.
Windows + Left/Down/Up/Right : snaps the window to the corresponding edge of the screen. Windows 10 will also allow you to select another program to fill the other side of the screen if there are any available for you to choose from. It will also allow you to move windows across multiple monitors. Down will restore and minimize, while up will maximize the window.
Windows + L : log out of Windows. Great for when you need to leave your PC unattended without having to sleep it or shut it down.
Windows + . : brings up the emoji menu for you to easily insert emojis into whatever you’re typing.

Alt + F4 : exit the current program. When you have no programs open, this will bring up the dialog for shutting down your computer.
Alt + Tab : cycle through your running programs.
Windows + Tab : cycle through your current programs with a larger preview, also gives you the option to create additional desktops on your monitor.
Alt + Space : brings up the menu bar for your current window. From here you can hit the shortcut keys to Restore, Minimize, Maximize, or Close it.

Ctrl + Backspace : delete a word. This saves you so much time. Make it a habit. It allows you to easily erase words instead of tapping the backspace key multiple times. You can also double-click a word to select it and hit backspace/delete to achieve the same effect. This shortcut deletes characters from where the cursor is until the next space on the left.
Ctrl + Delete : Same as above, except it deletes instead, so it will delete characters from where the cursor is until the next space on the right.
Ctrl + Escape : Brings up the start menu. If for some reason your Windows key is broken and you want to bring up the start menu, this shortcut will do that for you.
Ctrl + Left/Right : this shortcut lets you jump through your text word by word instead of letter by letter. It will place your cursor to the beginning of the next or previous word. Words are clumps of texts separated by spaces or punctuation.

Ctrl + Shift + Left/Right : highlights text, one word at a time.
Shift + Left/Right/Up/Down : highlights text, one character at a time.
You can also use Home/End/Page Up/Page Down with the shortcuts above for bigger jumps.
These shortcuts also work in Excel, letting you select cells instead of words.

Windows Explorer
Ctrl + Shift + N : create a new folder.
Shift + Delete : delete a file or folder without sending it to the recycle bin. Be careful when using this – I’ve deleted files that I didn’t want to delete using this method before. Fortunately I could just download them again.
F2 : rename selected file or folder.
Ctrl + Click : add a file or folder to your current selection.
Shift + Click : add files or folders from the current position and everything in between where you click to your current selection.
Alt + D : jump to the address bar – in the event you would like to type out a location instead of manually navigating to it.
Shift + Double click : open a folder in a new window.
Ctrl + Drag : create a copy of selected items at the location you drag to.
Shift + Drag : move selected items to the location you drag to.

The shortcuts above should improve your Windows experience significantly once you have memorized them. Here are some additional shortcuts for some commonly used programs. More will be added in the future.

Google Chrome
Ctrl + W : closes the current tab.
Ctrl + Tab : jumps to the next tab.
Ctrl + Shift + Tab : jumps to the previous tab.
Ctrl + T : opens a new tab.
Ctrl + Shift + N : opens an incognito window.
Ctrl + F5 : forces a complete refresh of the current page.
F5 / Ctrl + R : refreshes the current page.
Ctrl + N : opens a new window.
Ctrl + 9 : jumps to the last tab.
Ctrl + 1 - 8 : jumps to tab 1-8.
Ctrl + -/= : zooms in or out of the page.
Ctrl + 0 : resets the zoom.
Ctrl + click on link : opens a link in a new tab. Can also be accomplished by clicking a link with your middle mouse button.
Shift + click on link : opens a link in a new window.
Alt + D or F6 : places your cursor on the address bar and selects the URL, allowing you to easily copy/paste/or type in the address bar.
Ctrl + J : opens your downloads page.
Ctrl + H : opens your history page.
Ctrl + F / F3 : search the current page.
Ctrl + D : add the current page to your favorites.

VLC
Space : play/pause a video
Shift + Left/Right : jump back or forward a few seconds.
Ctrl + Left/Right : jump back or forward a minute.
T : displays the time remaining for the current video.
Mouse scroll up/down : increases/lowers volume.
M : mute.
F : toggle fullscreen mode.