Convenience Through Online Transactions

Courtesy of lifehealthpro.com

Now that we’re in the information age, there are a lot of manual processes that have been improved through online transactions. By utilizing such resources, we can save time and effort that we can allocate in more productive things.  Here are some of the stuff that you can do via web:

Online Banking

Depending on your bank account, you can manage your savings online and in turn use your funds to address different financial transactions. Here are some of the services that you can avail.

  • Bills Payment – Instead of going to payment centers, why not enroll your bills to your online banking account and perform the payment there. The process may take several days for first-time payment, but after that, the succeeding payments will speed up.
  • Funds Transfer – Usually you can transfer money between accounts from the same bank. Depending on the bank’s terms, this may require an approval process from each bank account involved. This step needs to be manually processed, but the convenience it will bring afterwards is worth it.
  • Balance Inquiry – Need to check if your salary has been deposited already? Check it online and you can confirm it on the fly.
  • Transaction History – This is useful for tracking your expenses. You can view the amount of money, transaction time and place of your last bank activity.

A few banks that offer such services are BDO, BPI, and Bancnet banks.

Movie Ticket Reservation

I utilize this service a lot when it comes to movie night-outs. This approach saved us several times for securing a movie seat. My favorite is sureseats.com since it allows post-paid reservation. You just need to pay the tickets 45 minutes before the actual show time or else, your account will be penalized, and you have to pay the amount equivalent to the unpaid tickets. The reservation process will take you to the actual theater layout from which you can choose the specific seats to reserve. Credit card payments are also available and are more convenient since the tickets are good as paid and all you have to do is show the printed receipt at the theater entrance.  I’m not fond of credit-card transactions because of the risk of disrupting my budget and my fear of hidden charges, but it’s just me XD.
SM Cinemas also have their own online reservation system, but it’s limited to credit card or E-Plus prepaid card payment. The movie layout is only present at selected cinemas. Nevertheless, this might come in handy for exclusive releases (we used this to watch Rurouni Kenshin ^_^).

Buy & Sell + Budget Deals

For the budget savvy, there are several sites that offer buy and sell services where you can find items that are sold at a cheaper price. Good examples of such sites are sulit, ayosdito, and tipidpc. Items range from used books and gadgets up to second-hand cars and real estate properties. However, these websites don’t offer the actual payment service but rather an avenue for preliminary arrangements that may lead to an actual transaction, usually done by meet-ups. This is still useful since you can inquire more about a product and verify if it’s a good deal. You can also sell your own stuff to earn extra money. Just beware of scammers  who tries to sell non-functional or poor-quality items. To make sure that you’re dealing with a trustworthy person, see the reputation that is associated with that person’s user account (i.e. user ratings and feedback). Like in actual markets, you may experience some price haggling, and it’s up to you on how you will proceed with the deal.
Other sites promote sales and discounted deals like livingsocial and lazada. A lot of the offers are effective for a limited time only so be sure to check these sites often to look for budget deals.

There are a lot more online services out there that you can utilize for your transactions. If you’re planning of buying something or making some routine payments, check the sites associated with these items, and maybe you can find more convenient ways to do these things. Just remember, you should do this to save time and effort and not to exhaust your resources. Hmm maybe a blog post about money saving would be useful (~^_^)~

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Gamasutra – News – Video: Making a game while struggling with obsessive compulsiveness

Courtesy of Gematsu.com

Retro/Grade – Image courtesy of Gematsu.com

Last GDC 2013, 24 Caret Games co-founder, Matt Gilgenbach shared his experience on how his Obsessive-Compulsive behavior had put the development team of Retro/Grade (a PC rhythm reverse-shooter)  to four years of crunch-heavy development process. One of the useful insights that was given here was to consider the extra time spent on features, to debate if they increase sales or at least impact the player’s experience.

Original Post By: Gamasutra | Making a game while struggling with obsessive compulsiveness.

Of Software and Cathedrals

Of Software and Cathedrals

Ah, the unpredictability of software development. Whether it’s an update from an external library, an unreadable documentation, or a long-lost code of a developer from centuries ago, it never fails to amuse or frustrate the developers, waiting, hoping, praying eagerly that their software still works after that agonizing wait for the completion of the build.

Musicshake – Composer Application and Social Network for Music Lovers

As a music lover, I would like to create my own songs that make use of different instruments. However, I’m not that skilled to use all of them. I know how to play the guitar (intermediate at best) and the piano (basics) but that’s about it. Good thing there are tools out there that aids aspiring musicians to create their own music. One of them is Musicshake, a composer application and social network site for creating and sharing your own music.

Getting Started

First, you have to create an account from their main site. You can link this account to your facebook account if you want. Once done, download their composer application and install. Open the application and login with your account. From here you can start making your own songs.

Making Music

When I first joined musicshake, the only way to create music is by using their desktop composer software, but now, they also offer an online version which has a different user interface and more limited features. Before proceeding with the steps, let’s define some terms.

  • Track – Refers to an instrument or effect track that can be added to your music. Instrument tracks offer a lot of choices ranging from guitar, string pad (violin, cello, etc.), piano, drums, up to vocals and raps. Each choice is further divided into different groups, with each group containing several choices of play styles. Effects offer sounds from various sources like nature, animal, voice overs, etc. I’ve used this to add dramatic effects or for portraying situations like in an actual music video. Each track also has a volume and effect property. The effect property adds modifications to the sound of a track (e.g. Reverb, Normalize, Higpass, etc.). You can also add a record track where you can use a recording device to add a track of your recorded sound, so if you’re a professional musician, you can use this application for your accompaniment.
  • Part – This represents a single constant measure in your song (A song with 9 parts at tempo 90 will last 3 minutes and 33 seconds which makes each part around 23.6 seconds). Each part has a chord progression attribute which affects the available play sequences (not applicable for effects) for each track that you add to your song. This means that, a track’s play style, chord progression, and play sequence will determine that track’s music output. This enables the users to have countless possibilities when they are making their own music.
Playscreen (Desktop Application Version)

Play Screen (Desktop Application Version)

Play Screen (Online Version)

Play Screen (Online Version)

Here are the basic steps for creating your own music

  1. Click Menu -> New Song
  2. Choose One Click Start or Genre – Tempo. I recommend the latter for further customization
  3. Choose your desired genre. (can be previewed by hovering your mouse cursor to an item)
  4. Choose your desired tempo. (can be previewed by hovering your mouse cursor to an item)
  5. Click Add Track and choose an instrument or effect. (can be previewed by hovering your mouse cursor to an item)
  6. Click the part’s header to set the chord progression. (can be previewed by hovering your mouse cursor to an item)
  7. For instruments, click the part’s cell of the track that you wish to play and choose a play sequence. (can be previewed by hovering your mouse cursor to an item)
  8. For effects, move the effect bar to the time that you want it to be played.
  9. If you need to add more parts, just click Add Part.
  10. To save your song, click  Menu -> Save
  11. To post your song online, click Menu -> Post on Musicshake
  12. After uploading your song, you’ll be redirected to your musicshake page. Hover the newly uploaded song and click post to share your song to the community.

I recommend using the desktop application version since it’s faster to use and offers more options for customization. The online version goes through a download process each time you add a new track, effect or part which slows down your music making experience. In the desktop application version, you will still need an internet connection to preview the tracks but other than that, you can add your components on the fly.

Music Sharing and Subscriptions

Songs shared online can be rated and marked as favorite by other users. You can also view the most played songs for the last 24 hours. Users also has a fan based system where you can become a fan of another user. Your fan base can be viewed in your profile. There’s also a battle option where you issue a challenge to another user’s song and then choose a song of your own. From there, other users will rate which song is better. The site also includes a forum for any queries and promotions that you would like to make.

You can only play your song through the composer application or through musicshake’s main site. In order to acquire a MP3 version of any songs shared in the community, you have to avail their subscription purchase. These includes unlimited downloads of MP3 as well as putting your song in Youtube’s Audioswap. If you want to take it to the next level and sell your creations, you can do so by paying the commercial subscription which is $250 a year. This includes the other privileges in the subscription purchase. Purchasable items can be paid using credit card or their in-house currency, shake cash (which is still purchased using a credit card XD)

Musicshake can not emulate all the types of music that can be done by an actual musical instrument, but this is a nice option for those who would love to experiment on making their own songs specially those who lack the time to study. Who knows, maybe you’ll be the next great freelance composer and gain a lot of fans in the community. Try it and unleash the musician within you! (~^_^)~

Anime Movies in SM Cinemas

After SM Cinema’s successful theatrical release of Rurouni Kenshin: The Movie, they continue to acquire more exclusives from current and upcoming Japanese movies. Right now, there are three anime movies that are added to their queue.

Naruto Shippuden: Road To Ninja

Synopsis:
Sakura and Naruto are brought in a mysterious world by a mysterious masked ninja where all the people they know have alternate personalities. Moreover some of the people who are supposed to be dead are revived in this world most notably, Naruto’s parents. With Naruto finally having the chance to fulfill his desire to live with a complete family, he’s now facing the risk of being trapped inside this fake world. Watch a whole new fight featuring the Akatsuki members, Uzumaki Kushina, and 4th Hokage himself Namikaze Minato.

If you’re planning to watch this movie, then you should get moving. Today’s the first day of showing for this film. See the schedule here.

Hunter X Hunter: Phantom Rouge

Synopsis:
The story is supposedly part of the YorkNew City arc which the writer, Yoshihiro Togashi eventually scrapped off. Kurapika had his eyes stolen, and the suspect happens to be the former No. 4 of the Phantom Troupe (Before Hisoka). Gon, Killua, and Leorio come to his aid but the Phantom Troupe blocks their way. The former No. 4 is also speculated to be the one who exterminated the entire Kurta clan. Kurapika is determined to execute his revenge no matter what sacrifices he has to make.

As a fan of the original series, I’m interested on what this whole lost chapter is all about. Schedule of the local theatrical release is still to be announced.

One Piece Film Z

Synopsis:
The marine’s trump card, Dyna Stone (stones that create powerful explosions when exposed to air) was stolen by a marine Ex-Admiral, Zephyr. He formed a new group called the Neo Marines that aims to exterminate every pirate on the Grand Line. The Straw Hat pirates joined the battle when the Neo Marines attacked their ship while crossing their path. Luffy and the rest of the gang are set out to battle their most challenging opponent yet.

I haven’t watched the entire series. Having 594 episodes (and still counting), it will take me a lot of time to keep up unless I file a month of vacation leave and do the marathon all day long XD. I watched a few episodes though and I really enjoyed it. Schedule of release is still to be announced.
If you can read katakana, then you might observed that part of the movie’s soundtrack was performed by Avril Lavigne with her own version of Bad Reputation (Originally popularized by Joan Jett).

For my wishlist, I would like to see Dragonball Z: Battle of Gods and Detective Conan: Private Eye in the Distant Sea. Make it happen SM Cinema (~^_^)~.

Sources: animenewsnetwork, wikia, tvtropes

Mind Map – A Tool for Organizing and Expanding Your Thoughts

I observed these past few months that I was thinking or worrying about a lot of things that I’m having a hard time where to start. I need something to regain my focus and pinpoint the root cause of the problems that I need to address before things go out of hand. That’s when I remembered the concept of using mind maps. Organizing the information and connecting the dots helped me identify which issues I should address and how to prioritize them. I also came up with strategies on how to perform solutions that can resolve several problems at the same time. Realizing how it was beneficial for me, I decided to share some information about this powerful tool.

How it works
You start of with a central topic that will be the focus of your mind map. From there, expand the central node of your map to other connecting concepts, terms, ideas, and anything in between. Though the possible connections may seem limitless, keep in mind that you’re organizing ideas to achieve a goal, so stick with your goal while constructing your map. For example, if you’re trying to conceptualize a new product, you can start by identifying the features, target market,  cost, and useful references. It may look something like this…

Sample mind map for conceptualizing a concept. Created using Freemind - http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Download

Sample mind map for conceptualizing a concept. Created using Freemind – http://freemind.sourceforge.net/wiki/index.php/Download

It’s up to you how much you want to expand your graph. From there, identify the key nodes that may prove vital in fulfilling your goal. Check if there are any distant nodes that may seem to be connected in another way. Evaluate which are the most important concepts listed on the graph and create the necessary action plan or report.

The same process can be used to identify and address a particular issue like lack of product output or slow development process. You can start by identifying the possible root cause, then dividing it to smaller bits of data and then create a possible solution from there.

Weapon of Choice

I use FreeMind for creating my mind maps. It’s free and easy to use. The application requires Java Runtime Environment for your operating system. I find it convenient to use since it utilizes the use of the keyboard shortcuts to access the different utilities of the program. If you prefer not to install anything, then you can try MindMeister, a web based mind map creator. However, I find the former to be more ergonomic and feature-filled compared to the latter.

Possible Applications

Some applications I can think of:

  • Game Design – Start with a theme, expand the concept and choose a set of nodes or a connecting path that may lead to a solid gameplay
  • Advertisement Idea – Identify the target message and the connecting concepts that may be used for portraying the aim of that advertisement
  • Brainstorming Session/Meetings – Summarize or outline the topics covered in the particular session and use it as a visual guide for reviews and reports
  • Teaching – Create a mind map of a specific concept and let your students expand the concept and try to generate a pattern and pick up the most important ideas. This may increase your students’ critical thinking and analytic skills.
  • Life Hacking – As exaggerating as it may sound, you may use a mind map to evaluate different aspects of your life and find ways on how to improve it.

Mind Map is a powerful tool, but remember you can only utilize its capabilities if you take action after organizing and expanding your ideas. Don’t devote all of your time and strength for just gathering your thoughts. Knowing is just half the battle. Identify, plan, then execute.

P.S. There is actually an online game that uses a mind map as part of its mechanic called Argument Champion. It’s a fun game, try it! (~^_^)~