PETERZHANG

Hello there.

I'm a front-end developer passionate about cutting-edge technologies and impacting everyday lives. It's nice to meet you!

Who are we doing the work for?

Yesterday, during Economics class, after showing us the Fear the Boom and Bust video (again), my teacher said something was surprisingly insightful. I couldn’t remember the exact quote, but it sounded something like this:

I feel that teachers often give assignments for students to do it for teachers, such as essays, which are actually not very helpful to students.

What an interesting idea I’ve never thought of. Relating back to myself, the assignments that I find most motivated to those that relate to us more, those that make us feel like we are not doing it just for a grade. When we grow up, we won’t be writing essays for teachers anymore, but real stuff without a “rubric” to be grade on: it’s either a thumbs up, or “pack up your stuff” thing.

Graphics Design has been one of my favorite courses, because it simulates an environment of fwhat real designing life is like – Mr. Meyer is a genius in the way that he set up all the competition and teamwork factors, etc. Because of this, I learn much more than just the skills, but also experiences of what real life feels like. The same goes for Media and Computer Science, where its assignments are not done for just the teacher and the grades, but for the students in the school and those around us.

And yes, our MAD Project also fits perfectly in this category. I don’t know about you guys, I actually enjoy MAD Project. It gives us an opportunity to show off ourselves and to demonstrate our true abilities. These kind of projects will be what we are working on when we grow up, so take advantage of this opportunity to really do what you want to do, and enjoy in the process.

I mean, this is the real point of education, isn’t it? It’s to prepare us for the real life, not for the teachers!

Time to talk about my future.

Colleges seemed so far away, but now that I really think about it, it’s actually not. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The College Info Session thing that just happened this afternoon at YCIS was fun. The representatives were funny, presentations were very informative, and taught me quite a few things, too. I enjoyed it because I got a lot more exposures to schools that I never thought I would be going, and it made me I realized that, hmm, Stanford might not be THAT good after all.

When everybody else talks about what kind of special programs there are (The one that interested me the most was Dartmouth plan, which was kind of really smart), Stanford only bragged about how much money they spend on research, how great their campus is (which really was great). But do I really care? No. What disappointed me even more was that, given their strategic location near the Silicon Valley, they don’t have any programs related to it! (even though they bragged about how so many big companies like Google came out of Stanford).

I guess I need to rethink this through. Perhaps Stanford was just another myth, something like how girls used to think “I want to go to Princeton because all the princes are there”, just in a more mature way, I guess.

Other colleges, however, did a great job on impressing me. Chicago with its “no walls between undergraduates and pros” system, Dartmouth with its #1 Undergraduate Teaching and Dartmouth Plan, Duke with its location and environment, and Yale especially for their House System. I’m probably most persuaded by Dartmouth today, but I enjoyed all their talks.

Heh, but who am I to talk with only a 1940 and a 3.8 GPA… I’ll just keep on dreaming.

And… feel free to take a look at the notes I took during the session.

Registering for ICS Tribal App

Because the ICS Tribal App is designed for ICS students only, there are several security measures taken to make sure that only ICS students/faculty join. We wouldn’t want to ask you for a personal email and stuff, so the best way for us to check is through Facebook’s built in network system. Which means, you’ll need to be in the International Christian School network to access to the App.

Click here to join in the App

There is a network setup on Facebook, but not very well known – only 81 people are on it. The rest are either in their previous school (I see a lot of AIS), Hong Kong, or are having trouble to join any networks. Follow this tutorial, and I’ll get you into the app shortly.

If you are not in the network, you’ll most likely see a message like this when you access to the app:

Some people might be able to resolve the issue through Network Settings in Facebook without any hassle, but others find it troublesome to change network. In that case, you’ll need to double-check the following settings:

Are you in any colleges/high schools currently?

  1. Click on “Profile” on top right corner
  2. Under “Education and Work”, click on “Edit”
  3. Remove your colleges records
  4. Update your highschool record to be “International Christian School (Kowloon City, Hong Kong)”, and set the year to be the year you’re graduating.  (For 09-10 school year, Seniors = 2010, Juniors = 2011, Sophomores = 2012, Freshmen = 2013)
  5. Save your settings

Check your Birthday

This is quite important, as somebody over 18 obviously can’t be in a high school network. If you don’t have it set, or set as something over 18 years old, you’ll need to contact Facebook to change it for you. Or, if you really are over 18 and are still in this school, you’ll need to contact Facebook as well.

Join the Network again

After the steps above are done, try to edit your network settings again. You should be able to see International Christian School in the Edit Network Settings screen.

If you don’t see it, please contact Peter Zhang at p@peetahzee.com.

26 pounds in 4 months!

4 months ago at a regular hospital check up, my doctor told me I was way too fat and I need to lose weight. During the 4 months, with various friends’ help, especially Sam Hsieh, I was able to control myself from eating and started working out. Sure, there have been a few days where I couldn’t control, like the Christmas week and the CNY week, but hey, I did get thinner! And when I visit the doctor today, even he was surprised. I think that was actually the first “good job” I have heard from any doctor. Aw, I’m proud of myself.

Just a little statistics… I was at 89kg (196 lbs), and now I’m at 77kg (169lbs). My current BMI is 25 I believe. Still a few pounds away from “normal weight”, but hey, at least I’m not obese anymore!

Just wanted to say thanks to all those who have encouraged me along… you guys are awesome! Though, I still need help reaching that “normal weight” though, so keep controlling my appetite and making me work out.

And in dedication to my achievement, here is a little poem I wrote for English class. (And yes, thanks to Tim Au who helped me on the poem :D)

A scene quite opposite to heaven,
Happened on November Eleventh,
The day when I was announced clinically obese
Oh crap, doesn’t that mean I can’t eat?
“You have 4 months to lose 4 kilos”, he said
with a casual expression on his face that just made me mad.

“That can’t be hard for you, can it?
Just control yourself a little bit,
Eat less, work more,
And soon enough, you’ll get the girl you’ve been looking for.”
Okay… that last thought was kind of weird,
but it was true my weight might be what the girls have feared.

I was sure that once they see the new me,
They would jump for joy and shout with glee.
But wait, before all this can happen,
I must work to become like the legendary Kraken.
How I can achieve that I didn’t know,
All I wanted was people saying “whoa”.

Four months of sweat have dripped,
Thousands of calories have slipped.
Now, I am standing ever close to the trophy
On a journey that I never thought was easy.
When I look into her eyes that I now have caught,
I know in my heart, my hard work has been bought.

The concept of the ICS Tribal App

I’ve realized the ICS Tribes App looks much more confusing than it is. I thought writing something about it explaining fully how the whole system is would be nice, so here it is 😉

When I designed the app, I spent a lot of time thinking about how I can make use of the already-awesome Facebook systems. That way, I don’t have to spend a lot of time on programming a nice interface myself, nor do I have to worry about the right security stuff – Facebook can take care them for me!

Showcase with Pages

After thinking a while, here’s what I decided: Facebook Pages! Each Tribe has its own Facebook Page, and that is where the tribes”showcase” their class. Through them, tribes can easily upload pictures and tell everybody about it through the fans system. Pages are where tribes basically showcase their work, and most likely where all the tribal points will be coming from (posting good pics, reflective stories, etc.)

While that is solved, another issue popped up: I need to somehow connect the pages together. And this is where the Page Tabs come in. With the “ICS” Tabs on each page, you can access the information about a tribe quickly, such as points and members, as well as links to other tribes too.

“Internal Communication” via App

In addition, there is also a separate part from the pages system, and it is the app itself. If you launch the app from Facebook menus, you’ll be able to see something like an announcement system. Although the whole system is still in progress, the part with advisory announcements is done. Advisories and Mr. Chan can easily setup advisory meeting times. And yes, that means no more posting “any advisory tomorrow” messages on Facebook. =)

Always Looking for Suggestions

So now, please do me a favor and start using the Facebook App! We’ll be running a few contests soon, but it’s never too late to start. =D

I’m always looking for suggestions. If you have ideas (be reasonable, please) that you think can help the ICS App Experience, please do tell me! Either by Facebook wall post, or commenting on this post.

Two Facebook Ideas I’m Planning to Work on…

After developing ICS Tribes, I find that it’s actually quite fun to make a Facebook App and share it with friends. It spread so fast it’s not even funny, which makes me wonder again at the awesomeness of Web 2.0 and Social Networks. I started thinking, how can I take advantage with it? I mean, from the way I vision it, there are a huge user base for Facebook already, and all I need is some really slight advertising, and the app will automatically grow rocket high.

But there is a problem as well. With that many apps already made on Facebook, I have to make mine really stand out and make the users really like it and find it useful. But how exactly do I do that?

Social Vocab

Let’s see… apparently people like apps to interact with their friends and stuff (look at Social Interview)… but I want to make something more than Social Interview; being a copy cat never works. I was studying Vocab for my SAT when I thought of that, and an idea immediately popped out – Social Vocab!

It’s still a very rough idea, but I think it definitely has potential. Basically, this app will allow the user to go through the friendlist and assign SAT vocabs on them. Let’s say, the app will pick a random person from the friend list, let’s say, Peter Zhang, and the user replies that Peter Zhang is scintillating (out of 5 vocabs optoins). During the process of assigning vocab, the user actually unnoticeably learned the word by associating the word with the object. Now, because of that, supposedly the user will think of Peter Zhang when they see the word “scintillating”, and remember its meaning as being “brilliant”.

Of course, there will be other tools to help the user memorize as well, such as flash cards, quizzes and maybe games; but the main point of the app really is about the paragraph above. The reason I think it will be successful is because, this app can easily spread by posting on other people’s walls (“You’ve been described as ‘scintillating!'”); more users will join, and eventually, I’ll be rich.

That’s So True!

Quite opposite to the idea above, this idea came from being annoyed by “Person A joined This Group and 7 million other groups” messages. I really hate it when people join these groups just because they think the name is true. By having a large group, group creators can now earn from putting ads in their group, and I simply think that’s not fair. Plus, you’re most likely going to be spammed for joining groups. Groups were not made to be used this way!

Therefore, in an attempt to bring back the clean Facebook without the joining group messages (yes, I do know I can filter it out), I came up with the idea for “That’s So True!” App. Basically, in this app, the user can find phrases where they think it’s true, and join it. That way, people can discover the trends of what people think safely. No spams; no duplicates; no unfair advantages for anybody else. Also, people are going to find the “truth” so much easier, too.

What do you think?

I don’t really have time to develop these ideas just yet, but I will. Someday. What do you think about these apps? Will you use it? Why or Why not?

Getting started on ICS Tribes

First, let me welcome you to the amazing app of ICS Tribes. Through this app, you can communicate with your friends and schoolmates much easier than ever.

Registering is extremely simple, just fill out your advisory and your tribe roll, and then click on Submit. I mean, how hard can THAT be?

Now, If you are the first one to register in your tribe, you’ll be prompted to create a page for your tribe. In that case, you’ll need a little bit more instructions.

1. Click on this link, you’ll be led to a Facebook page where you can create a Facebook Page. (Wait, did that make sense?)

2. Fill out the info as follows:

NOTICE: The name of Page has to be in this format: ICS*space**tribe*. If you do not name your page that way, the app won’t be able to recognize you. So, if your tribe is 9G2, enter ICS 9G2.

3. Click “Create Page”

4. You can mess with the Page’s settings later, but right now, let me get the app to recognize you first. Go to this page IN A NEW WINDOW: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=182521498415, DO NOT close the Page you just created yet.

5. Click on “Add to My Page”

6. Choose the page you just created

7. Go back to the Page, and click on “Edit Page”

8. Scroll down until you find ICS Tribes, click on “Edit”

9. Enter in your Tribe name. Click submit.

10. Go back to your page, and click on “+” on the tabs.

11. Choose ICS from the list, and… you’re done!

11. LAST STEP. Invite all your other friends to use the ICS Tribes. When they’re done, invite all of them to be admins of the Page so that they can publish things on the Page’s wall. More wall stories = more points = more prizes!

Happy ICS-Tribes-App-ing!

[TQLive] Preparation

A series of ThinkQuest related posts will start to show up as I continue my way down the event. It is not going to start until October 10th (the date that I depart from Hong Kong), but whatever. These posts are going to have [TQ] in front of the title to distinguish them from the rest. Expect A LOT of pictures coming and a new blogpost everyday. CHECK BACK REGULARLY AND FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER FOR UPDATES ON THE EVENT!

So, I started getting really excited this week, I mean, after all, the long-awaited event has finally arrived. My family, due to the financial crisis, haven’t been on a holiday/vacation for such a long time (Well, the Macau one doesn’t really count) that I think I forgot what travelling is like already. In fact, the last trip vacation I went to was Summer ‘07 where I went to a summer camp alone, and the most recent family vacation is May ‘05 when we went to Gold Coast, Australia.

For those who don’t know what’s happening – Long story short, I, along with 5 friends, won a website competition called ThinkQuest, and we get a free trip to San Francisco and a free laptop worth $1500.

What should I eat?

I was looking at my itinerary and agenda and figured out that dinner on Saturday night (when I arrive at SFO) was not included. No, I didn’t freak out. Instead, I thought it was good news because I got to pick whatever I want to eat. I went on Google Maps and started searching for restaurants near my hotel. However, in a country that everybody drives, even the closest restaurant is a mile away. Eating in the hotel isn’t necessarily an option either because of the price.

Soon later, I found out an alternative. Last time I went to California, probably the only thing I can remember is the In-N-Out Burger. It was just… SO. GOOD. PERIOD. There were, sadly, no In-N-Out’s near my hotel (there is like nothing there), but there is one at Millbrae, which is one BART station away from San Francisco International Airport. Then… I found out it costs $4 just for an one way ticket to Millbrae, which means it takes $16 on transportation alone. Plus two burger meals, we’ll have to spend like $30 just for eating fast food burgers! My mom was like “WHAT? We’ll spend (HKD)$200 in eating BURGERS? No way!”

So now I don’t know what to do. Should we walk the mile, or should we pay the $16? Just as I was wondering, I found out that there is a bus near our hotel that goes to Hillsdale Shopping Center(judging from its website, I’d say it is quite big), but apparently nobody in America would go out at weekend nights, so there are no buses available on Saturday night. Plan screwed up. Again.

Then, my mom suggested we’d bring Cup Noodles with us to America and eat them for that night. But of course, that suggestion is quickly rejected by me, and this time even my dad’s on my side.

I guess, we’ll just have to see when we get there. Perhaps we’ll just end up with a McDonald’s Big Mac.

What should I pack?

You see, when you travel with your mom, you don’t get to pick your clothes. Technically saying, with San Francisco’s 12-20C degree, I can wear short pants, but no, my mom decided that it is too cold (note: only for her) for me as well to wear short pants. But can you really imagine, long pants in a 20C afternoon?

That’s not the most painful part yet. Apparently, I’ll need to wear long pants on the plane too! Not to mention that I won’t be able to bring my crocs on the plane (she said too less space in the suitcase). WHAT?

What should I listen?

I bought two albums just then – David Tao’s 69 and Lee Hom’s Music-Man concert. But still, I don’t think that’s enough for my 13 hour trip. I have been asking for suggestions on twtiter and facebook… anybody any ideas?

Alright, now what do I do?

So I’m still packing, still considering what to east, finding good songs to listen. But I am just too excited to settle down on doing one thing!

Anyway, here is some info on my trip:

  • Flight AC8 (Air Canada)
    • Hong Kong to Vancouver
    • stop for around 5 hours
  • Flight AC562
    • Vancouver to San Francisco
    • Arrive at around 4:30pm.
  • The rest of the night will be free – remember, I had to find my own restaurant to eat.
  • The event officially starts tomorrow morning at 7. Hopefully I won’t experience any jet-lags.

Alright, I need to stop writing now. I should probably finish what I was going to do and get a good sleep. Wish me a safe trip!

I’m an idiot.

WARNING: This thing I am going to talk about, is very depressing.

Our team, in response to ThinkQuest’s request, made a short video about our reflection on the competition to be played on the Awards Dinner, where a lot of Oracle executives and a ton of media will be there. The request happened in the first few weeks of July. My friends in Singapore spent two days filming everything, and indeed I was very grateful for them. I finished editing the whole video in about 2 weeks. After submitting the video, they asked us to shorten it and to make some adjustments. The video was almost ready, and I sent a low quality video for them to double check if there is anything to be changed.

The email that I used to communicate with the staff in charge, peter@axieblast.com, was for some reason down in the week of Sep 21 to October 3 (or something like that). Coincidentally, during that two weeks is when the staff replied with instructions how to upload the high-quality video onto a FTP server. And yes, I totally missed that.

I actually didn’t know about it until this Wednesday, 7th Oct, when she sent me an email saying that she is very sorry that our video cannot be shown on the Awards Dinner. I was at school when I saw the email, and I immediately (and I mean, immediately, in fact, it only took 7 minutes) sent back a reply asking if there is anything I could do. I was very desperate, and I suddenly feel like I am an idiot.

But of course, I knew it wasn’t possible.

And then, that night, I could not sleep at all but keep on thinking how I could never apologize enough to the other guys and I would owe them for life. Why am I such an idiot? Why didn’t I cc the email to my friend so that if anything happens, the staff can send him an email as well? I have never been so angry with myself before, I mean, it is a once-in-a-lifetime chance! How in the world could I have possibly miss it?

May I just use this post here to say “sorry” to my teammates in the LEAD Portal team – you guys spent a lot of effort and you certainly don’t deserve something like this. I am terribly sorry. I hope that through this mistake – I’ll learn how to be careful and not to rush through everything next time. 

On the brighter side – if you would like to see the video, I’ll upload it after the TQ Live event.

Guess what laptop I will get, and WIN A PRIZE

UPDATE: The contest will be automatically cancelled if there are less than 15 entries by October 10 (when the contest closes).

That’s right. I am actually going to get a souvenir in San Francisco, and just give it to the person whom guessed the laptop right.

So I’ve won a ThinkQuest Website Competition back in June, and as a result, I get to go to California in October 10 (6 days away as of date of posting) and get a laptop worth of $1500. Just to make myself even more excited, I want to host a mini contest here.

This contest will run until October 10. I won’t know the answer to this question until around October 13th, but I will release the answer (and pics!) right away when I get it.

Here are some hints:

  • The laptop’s approximate value is US$1500 (you might want to calculate tax in it as well…)
  • HP and Dell are major sponsors of the event (that probably won’t mean I’ll definitely get HP or Dell)
  • They might not have bought the laptop on the day that they give it to me…
  • It’s probably not a customized model (which means fixed specs), so on websites like HP’s and Dell’s, I suggest you look for Quickship models

Comment on this post with your answer, probably with exact brand/model/specs by October 10. Here’s how I will determine who’s the closest (example values):

  • EXACT: Apple Macbook Pro 13’’ 2.53GHz
  • CLOSE: Apple Macbook Pro 13’’ 2.26GHz
  • 2nd CLOSE: Apple Macbook Pro 13’’
  • 3rd CLOSE: Apple Macbook Pro 15’’ (whatever specs)
  • 4th CLOSE: Apple Macbook Air
  • 5th CLOSE: Whatever laptop with with 2.53GHz CPU, 4GB RAM, 250GB Harddrive

Each person is only allowed to enter this contest once. If I catch anybody cheating, you will be disqualified.

The value of the prize will not be less than US$3. Only ONE person with the closest/exact answer wins. In the case of tie, I’ll use a random generator to determine the winner. I will most likely just  hand you the prize in person if you are in Hong Kong or Shanghai (you’ll probably have to wait until December for Shanghai people), or via paypal for other people in the world (Paypal not applicable for real life friends in Hong Kong or Shanghai)

Feel free to visit the website that I won!