Sky Force 2014

Does anyone remember playing Sky Force on their old Symbian phones, when Nokia was the smartphone brand? It was really fun while it lasted – Sky Force was one of the more polished games in the Symbian S60V2 generation of smartphones, among others.

Photo credit: allaboutsymbian.com, androidforums.com

Thus it was a pleasant surprise when I discovered Sky Force 2014, a release on modern smartphones celebrating the original series’ ten year anniversary. I knew I had to try it!

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The incredible graphics. Image credit: idreams.pl

The first thing about Sky Force 2014 is how incredibly polished it is – the menu interface is slick, the gameplay is fluid, and the graphics leaves no room for error. It’s a beautiful game. I’ve played other shoot ’em ups found on the Android Play Store, and nothing comes close to the overall cohesiveness of Sky Force 2014.

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Creative level design. Image credit: idreams.pl

The game design is exceptional as well; each stage introduces different enemies with a multitude of firing patterns, as well as bosses each with their unique style. The different difficulty levels for each stage (unlocked with achievements such as destroying 100% of enemy forces) cater to both the casual gamers and the hardcore achievers, and offers replayability. One of the stages (pictured above) even challenges you to win the stage without the ability to fire bullets!

Pictured: Stage selection, hangar for upgrades.

The hangar offers plenty of upgrade options, ranging from the main firing cannons, heat-seeking missiles to single use but powerful laser beams and energy shields. One thing I love about Sky Force 2014 is that while it offers in-game purchases, it’s not pay to win; you can grind enough to get stars to fully upgrade your ship.


There’s a new release of the game (Sky Force Reloaded) and while I haven’t played it yet, I’m confident that the studio will deliver something of quality. If you haven’t tried this game before, give it a shot!

Your passwords should be long, and doesn’t need those symbols

Was taught by a friend about how symbols actually make your password harder to remember compared to longer length alphabetical ones. It’s best summed up in this xkcd comic:

Okay, I have no idea what that comic was about.

For the less tech-savvy, a few common ways of breaching into an online accounts are dictionary-based attacks (possibly via the use of rainbow tables), or getting your password via social engineering or keyloggers. The latter methods are more specific when you are being targeted by some organization, so we’ll be focusing on the former here.

Typically, dictionary-based attacks work by constructing a pre-determined list of ‘simple’ passwords – that is, passwords that are often used, like football or iloveyou, and use them in a brute-force attack on the website. This is coupled often with rainbow tables, which generates a cryptographically irreversible hash of such common passwords to perform the attack (because many websites stores the hashed version of passwords instead of the actual password, in an attempt to protect your privacy).

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Wikipedia’s example of a rainbow table with three reduction functions

The common misconception comes as websites nowadays force your passwords to contain special symbols like @#*(%&#@. (Yeah, I’m really scolding vulgarities here because that’s how illogical this advice is.) Then, most of us would have the idea of converting symbol-like alphabets to those symbols and numbers, for example:

iloveyou becomes 1l0v3y0u!

Surprise! The hackers know how to do this too! And their dictionary for the attack will most probably contain these words too, making you an easier prey for them.

Damn! I’m gonna change my passwords now! But what makes a good password?

The general guideline for a good password, both in terms of security and usefulness, is that it should be long and easy to remember. (No point having a password like KJdlf2i3f9wueolfkJHLK when you can’t recall it.) Instead, the comic above suggests chaining English words together.

The key thing to note is that for a login attempt, there is no partial match – it’s either your password is correct or incorrect. That makes a brute force attempt take ages to reach your account when it has a really long password. So if my password is waddup my awesome mates yo, hackers essentially need to choose from a pool of 26^26 = 6.156 * 10^36 passwords, assuming they know my password length. And I’m pretty sure that comes to mind easily.

Compare this with the commonly misbelief of a good password: w@ddupy0, which takes 46^8 = 2.004 * 10^13 attempts to crack. Now that’s much lesser!


Long story short? Use long English passwords. (But of course, do use a different password per site. One method is to include the site’s feature or name into the password. It probably can be easy to remember if you’re using the English method.)

Thanks Shopee dev team for the heads up!

Brunch Market @ Gillman Barracks

This post is meant for residents in Singapore.

Part of the reason for South East Asian cities’ appeal as a tourist destination, at least for me, is the variety of food and shopping markets available – cheap deals, affordable quality clothing, what more can you ask for? I’ve been to the Chatuchak and Siam Market in Bangkok for my spending indulgences, as well as the Legazpi Sunday Market in Manila for my food fix (it’s probably the best food fair I’ve been to so far!).

Thus the Facebook event suggestions recently brought me to my attention – there are pop-up markets in Singapore too? Unable to hold my curiosity in I decided to drop by last Sunday to Red Baron for a quick look.

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Reason #1 against outdoor markets in Singapore – hot and humid!! The weather was a scorching 30+ degrees and I was drenched even before I reached the market. But no matter.

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As I only had time for a quick stopover, I quickly chose my brunch – the Avocado Chicken Taco.

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Yummy!

Man, was it delicious! The avocado serving was very generous, and it did not contain the gelat (Malay for weariness and irritation after a few mouths) taste that I often experience with less fresh avocados. The greens and the chicken came together to form a rich but light taste, and in no time the food was down my stomach. Oops!

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There were other stalls selling fresh oysters and farm produces too, but sadly I didn’t have time (and effort, under the blazing sun) to cover them.

Before I left, I got myself a Ginger Beer from Red Baron for $6. Tasty! (But the Legazpi Market’s $3 ginger beer is really still the best!)

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A variety of ciders are available too!

Definitely recommend the visit especially if you’re nearby, for the delectable brunch eats and to support the local market scene. 🙂

The Different Interpretations of Pop Music

I’ve grown to dislike listening to Adele’s songs; the distaste cultivated from the overly aggressive marketing conducted by her record company – one would certainly get tired of listening to “Hello, it’s me” over and over again wherever he or she goes. Now I do think Adele is a good singer and her songs definitely carry themselves well; it’s probably just due to what I mentioned above and probably my musical taste.

What intrigued me this morning, though, was the quaint discussion my friends and I had this morning, about her song Someone Like You.

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Image credit: Wikipedia

Upon heading the song play on my workplace’s pantry, one of my friends J expressed his thoughts on how Someone Like You had a spiteful atmosphere to it, which was a stark contrast to the other friend S’s interpretation of it as an emotionally charged and sorrowful piece. As I recalled the lyrics of the track, my own opinions were that while the lyrics were generally regretful, the melody carried a snide feel to it – I interpreted Adele’s powerful vocals as a means to express her resentment towards her ex-other half.

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Image credit: quotesgram

A more detailed analysis led us to a common understanding on a few pointers:

  1. The chorus of the song begin with the lyrics “Never mind I’ll find someone like you”. The phrase never mind is explained as “forget it; it doesn’t matter” in some contexts, which can be interpreted as a sign of frustration.
  2. From my female friend S’s perspective, listening to Someone Like You is akin to hearing Adele sing out her sorrows; J (male) however took it negatively as described in (1). Gender and perspective definitely plays a part in the divided understanding of the piece.
  3. As mentioned previously, the tune of Someone Like You coupled with Adele’s striking vocals led me to understand her emotions differently – the melody and lyrics of a song may come into conflict sometimes.

Ultimately, the beauty of music is its many different forms, both created by people and interpreted by people. So thanks Adele for creating a piece worthy of discussion (and one that’s beautiful in its own right!) 🙂

Featured image credit: jadeseba

Lightning Post: Nestia for Singaporean Home Living

This post is intended for readers residing in Singapore.

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Was looking for a good bus timing app when I came across Nestia.

What?

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Nestia claims to be the go-to app for home living in Singapore, and it lives up to its name by providing a variety of services from within the app, such as public transport timings, movie showtimes, and more.

Why this?

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Previously, I used three apps for bus arrival times:

  1. SG Buses: Didn’t really like it’s slightly cluttered and non-modern design.
  2. bus@sg: This app is good, but doesn’t provide an arrival alarm (notification when the bus is arriving at your stop).
  3. SG BusLeh: Intrusive with pop-ups and rating prompts in its UX.

Nesta’s bus arrival feature works well for me, albeit it can be a bit slow at times with the latest design update. I like it though!

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The one thing that Nestia really helped me with, though, is its movie showtimes & booking feature. I would even go as far to say it’s probably the best in this section. Movies are sorted in a clean list with information on synopsis, actors, as well as consolidated showtimes from all cinemas in Singapore. It just works.

Cool! Anything else I should know?

That’s only two of many features that Nestia has to offer – there’s also home rental and leasing, home services, amenities finder, and the recently introduced F&B finder. Best of all, there’s no advertisements. That alone won me over.

P/S: Nestia offers leasing and rental listings for property owners and agents!

https://www.nestia.com/ – App StoreGoogle Play

Lightning Post: Decathlon @ Farrer Park

This post is intended for residents in Singapore.

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What?

A megastore selling a large variety of sporting equipment, clothing and gears.

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Why should I go?

You can literally find anything you want – from dry fit clothes, hiking gear, backpacks of all sizes, tents, to even fishing rods, bicycles, and gym equipment. Each item sold comes in a range of qualities differentiated by the prices, so there’s always something you can find regardless of your budget. For example, backpacks range from $4 (no kidding) to $200.

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Ok I’m in. Where is this?

There are two outlets, one at Bedok and one at City Square Mall (Farrer Park MRT). I was at the outlet in City Square Mall which is like VivoCity Daiso-level big, but I heard the Bedok outlet is even bigger!

www.decathlon.sg

Google is a fun dictionary

I was reading Bleach the other day (the quality of the manga is going downhill by the week – the dour atmosphere takes away the fun from the storyline) and I looked up the abilities of the quincies in the latest arc, and noticed that the signature skills were described an an epithet.

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Now I was like whoa that’s some chim Greek-sounding word right there, and being my curious self I decided to check out the meaning of the word via our friendly neighbourhood search engine, Google –

And what befell me was a series of English adventures I never expected.

Google search: define epithet

Note: Somehow the flow chart doesn’t show in the desktop version – someone help me out? 😦

Okay, so I was right, this was indeed of Greek origin – but check it out, Google’s dictionary now gives you the history of the word in an organized flow chart! I’m certain most offline (or even online) dictionaries don’t offer this sort of functionality. It’s a captivating feature. 😃

But back to the brilliant word that captures its use in a concise way, if not for its frequent use as a euphemism. I had some trouble understanding a good place to use it, when my eyes focused on the synonym sobriquet.

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Thanks to Google, I now know that sobriquet is a term of French origin that’s relatively more frequently used than epithet. Neat, except in the example which sobriquet is used, Google naughtily used haughty. Not again!

Google search: define haughty

No, I definitely do not want to be associated with such a derogatory designation.. and I realized that my English is awful when I had to look up disdainful:

Google search: define disdainful

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And just to be certain I understand contempt correctly:

Google search: define contempt

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It’s probably a good thing that I don’t encounter terms like disdainful or haughty so often in conversations and thinkpieces, but it would be interesting to see beautiful words like sobriquet appearing more. And thanks to Google, my English improved a little today!