Chinese stock market, Robinhood trade referral

Note I have not talked about Chinese stock market for a long time (this is last time I talked, 2007 when I spent 6 months in China). It gets interesting lately because of its big drop and swing. Keep it a bit in perspective, the Chinese stock index Shanghai composite did not do well in last 5 or 10 years, compared to S&P 500 or Neikei. But last year it did very well, then followed by a big drop lately. I think a lot people just looked at the big drop, while forget about the 12 month or 5/10 year chart.

Robinhood, the free trade platform on smartphone, is giving some new invitations . Here is the Link, if you use it to sign up, you get $5 and I will get $5 too. So it’s a win win :-)

1-year chart (Shanghai Composite vs. Nikkei vs. S&P 500)

5-year chart (Shanghai Composite vs. Nikkei vs. S&P 500)

10-year chart (Shanghai Composite vs. Nikkei vs. S&P 500)

Work around for Excel lose leading and trailing zeros when importing csv data

This is from reddit. “…open a blank workbook in excel, then from the Data tab, under the “Get External Data” setting, choose “from text” and point it to your file. This will open the text import wizard. On the first step, choose “delimeted” and then “Next.” On the second, select the checkbox next to “Comma” then click “Next.” Now in the third step, the field should be shown, along with Excel’s best guess as to the data type. You’ll see that your numbered fields are shown as “General.” Click the column containing the numbers and change that field to “text.” Do this for all applicable fields that you want to save leading zeros for, then click “Finish.” (Excel truncates leading zeros if it thinks a field is a number. Leaving it as text will preserve the zeros.)…

My workaround is to stick an apostrophe (tick mark) for the numbers I want to keep the zeros. In other words that essentially make it a text by adding the tick mark.

iPhone 6 and 6+ models for use in China

Refer to Apple, and redmondpie.

It’s slightly cheaper to buy iPhone from US and use it in China. The trick is to figure out which one to buy, because not all models can be used smoothly in China. Some of the models are designed towards the US carriers (e.g. the T-mobile version). Here are the recommended models.

Short version
Go for the SIM free version:

iPhone 6 (model A1586)
iPhone 6 Plus (model A1524)

Long version
China has 3 main carrier, China Mobile (biggest), China Unicom and China Telecom. China Mobile has its own standard for 3G/4G implementation (those bands starts with TD), and it’s not compatible with the rest of the world.

Here is more details from redmondpie:

The SIM-free variant of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is the one which is tailored to be used pretty much anywhere in the world, with compatibility for 4G LTE capable carriers in various nations.

This model also works on China’s advanced TD-LTE and TD-SCDMA networks, so you can rest assured that all the necessary bands are there when you get hold of the device.

The SIM-free iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus may not offer full compatibility with carriers in the United States, therefore you might be restricted to 2G or 3G on some popular networks.

Translation by Google:



iPhone 6(型号A1586)
iPhone 6加号(型号A1524)

中国有3个主要运营商,中国移动(最大),中国联通和中国电信。中国移动有自己的标准,3G / 4G的实现(这些频段开始TD),它不是与世界其他国家相兼容。


在iPhone 6和iPhone 6加的SIM卡免费变种是是专为使用几乎在世界任何地方,用在不同国家的4G LTE能够兼容运营商之一。


该SIM卡免费iPhone 6和iPhone 6加可能无法提供与美国运营商的完全兼容,因此你可能会限制到2G或3G上一些流行的网络。

Sustainable software development II : rewrite and star performer

Developers usually like new project, sometimes called green field project, in the sense developers have more freedom to create (think of a white paper). In the same token, from time to time people will start a “full rewrite” project as the old project (code base) is “so messed up” and beyond repair. Is that real? A very high profile “rewrite” failure is the Netscape rewrite (see Joel Spolsky’s post here). And recently yours truly was involved in such “rewrite effort” as well. The result is also similar. I think not just developers, some managers also like the “rewrite” as well, due to various reasons. Some are valid, and some are not. Software (if it’s true software) usually lasts longer than people thought. In 2002, I visited my former workplace, a manufacturing place in Shanghai, and surprised to found they are still running my Foxbase/Foxpro based report generator, the the OS is Windows 3.1. At the time I worked on this (1994/1995), it saved 2 accounts, a few days of work (type calculators), each month. I bet they still used it for sometime after 2002, but I really doubt that will last till today, and the printer (Epison pin based) may not find punched hole printing papers :-)

Star Performer
I thought this problem for a while. I happened to listen to one podcast from “this agile life“, and read this article The surprising danger of being good at your job from yahoo/business insider, both helped me think more about this problem.

I think in software development world, it’s a very common phenomena, like @codinghorror said in this post “two types of progammers“, basically he is saying there 20% of developers are passionate about software development, 80% of them are there to get a pay check. But the star’s power and magic needs to be balanced or controlled, so that the teammates can also thrive and together the team can deliver something truly good.

Another related phenomena, is Lebron James in NBA. A few months ago we witnessed his heroics again. But Cavs did not win eventually. One reason I think is they are one man team. While their opponent Warriors are a real team.

Side note
Last week I received an email from my former boss asking me about a “magic number” I put in the code. I had to admit I messed up :-)

Some observations of 401k in last 10 years

New job also means 401k investment election time. Here are my choices. Large cap: value 10%, index 30%, growth 20%, small cap: value 15%, index 15%, growth 15%. All US stocks :-)

I took a look at my #Siemens 401k 5 year performance, stock funds did better than all other, international stock was weak compared to US :-( The good thing is I keep all (98%) in stock funds.

Ideally we should look at 10 year or longer horizon for 401k, so I looked at as well, international stock was weak in last 10 years too :-(

The reason why international stock did not do well in last 10 years (note by international I mean mostly Japan and Europe), is the economy in both places grew very slowly, much slower than the US rate of about 3%. Japan may have negative growth rate.

New job, offense and defense in software world

I changed job again recently, to be more precise, I made the change at beginning of the month. So today marks the conclusion of first 3 weeks.

I felt fairly good so far, both in terms of environment and the work. It’s a bit different from what I did in last few years, as I engaged more in product support (still software world). I consider this to be more defense type of work, esp. the part of trying to keep application up and running, vs. the development work I did in the past (more like offense). Both are important. Some new tasks include handling customer requests (technical, second or third level if we look it from level of support). We can say this is a bit like defense too, because sometime people literally threw problems or questions at you (or me).

I did give it some thought before making the change. I’ve been doing software development for the most part in last 15 years (first 8 years at Siemens PLM Software formerly UGS or Unigraphics). I’ve done some customer support here or there, mostly when I was with Autodesk. Most recently I was doing development at Mercy. I still like development. But at the same time, at this stage of my career, I like to think about what I am good at and what I like to do more. I think troubleshooting, and problem solving are definitely in my comfort zone. I also need to step out my comfort zone a bit (aka customer support). And I like to learn more on production, operation, devops (the new buzz words, essentially the automation of deployment and production), and last but not least security. So here comes my rationale. I think in some of the places like google, the job is really refined and one thing I am interested is “site reliability engineering“. Another good thing about current place is it’s a decent size company and has some interesting problems: both technical and non-technical. So here comes challenges.

Let’s see how I do as time goes :-)

PS: I heard about the news about my old company’s incoming layoff. We went through a similar exercise last year when I was there. At that time I was relatively new at the old place. And I was a bit scared. I think this expansion/shrinking is a way of IT life nowadays. Ironically, I got call from a recruiter and she told me the news I already heard. I recall last year some recruiter even sent email to my working account. Just a fact of post linkedIn world. Also another of my old company had a layoff recently too. See my post at uudaddy.

PS2: I think in software development there are also both defense and offense. Maintenance, fix bugs, and refactoring can be considered as defense. New features, bells and whistles can be considered as offense. Both are important as if we don’t refactor, or maintain, soon or later the code or the software will become unmaintainable :-)

PS3: in the soccer (or football outside of US), we have seen players moved from middle field to defender position as they age. Similar can be said for software work, from development to support, from new development to maintenance.

PS4: did Sony release Play Station 4, really? Just kidding. Another thing I want to say is this transition does not mean “I am no longer a coder”, a more precise description is I will do more diverse things, from coding to anything else related to product support (applications, and customer), whatever it takes. In a fancy term, I will get a more holistic view of application in production. :-)

Switch from iPhone 5s to Amazon Fire Phone

I did a switch from iPhone 5s to Amazon Fire Phone about a week ago. This is not the first time I switched from iPhone to Android (Nexus 4), I did a switch for a few months in Summer 2013. It was ok, but I really missed iPhone for some of the features, and its smoothness. I think I still miss some of the things on iPhone, e.g., the “Cellular” in Settings tells me immediately how much data I used on iPhone. On Fire Phone (android), the UI is not as good. There were some rough edges esp. when switching apps, it slows down or when I tap on something, the response is not immediate sometimes (Safari). But for the most part, for a $80 phone (the price was $179, and Amazon offer a year prime membership there, which costs $99 by itself), I think it’s understandable.

I did get a Fitbit Charge from Microsoft store because Fire Phone does not come with pedometer. I didn’t intend to keep the Lumia Phone, so I sold it on Amazon right away.

By the way, since Amazon released Prime Music Players, I was fascinated by it. Essentially I don’t need Apple iTunes anymore :-) The Amazon app store does have some limitation compared to Google Play store, and some popular apps are not there yet, e.g., BoA and weChat apps. I read it’s possible to side load play store apps, but haven’t done so myself. Also, I still have the original iPad mini, so I can still use iOS apps there.

Some of strong points of Fire Phone
1) Large screen compared to iPhone 5s: 4.7″ vs. 4.0″, that’s meaningful.

2) Large storage room too 32 gb vs 16 gb, considering the OS and app sizes, the real usable space for phone/video/podcast is much bigger.

3) The camera is also good.

4) Some fun factor added on Fire Phone (or android), e.g. the daily changing theme (home screen background), for one.

Some migration tips
1) The contacts: I tried to put them on Gmail contacts, it syncs automatically.

2) Prime music: I installed the app (note the pre-installed music app is not Prime music app), and download the songs/album I like to have again.

3) Data usage: there is no way for Fire Phone to control the usage of cellular data per app, which iPhone does. I just turn off and on Cellular Data as time goes.

4) Fitbit: with the Fitbit on hand, the measurements of my steps are more accurate, as I did not carry iPhone 5s all the time. I do wear Fitbit all the time.

Maybe I will write a review for Fitbit charge sometime. The one thing I did (after I learned from Amazon product review) is I bought this fasteners to make sure I don’t lose it.

How I unlocked t-mobile iPhone 5s and transfer to H2O wireless

I have thought about this for a while, especially after hearing about republic wireless $25 month plan from my friend Luke and H2O wireless (thanks to mitbbs penny savers forum). Previously I only heard about the StraightTalk $50 plan ($45 now, it appears T-mobile also dropped its $50 plan to $40). A little background, I had an iPhone 5s for t-mobile, full price bought from Apple store in Oct/Nov 2013. I only used it for T-mobile prepaid legacy plan, which means “pay as you go”, 10 cents a min for phone call, and 10 cents per text message. I like to have the 3G data, like I had before from AT&T. Here are the steps I followed:

1) Unlock the iPhone 5s. Although I paid the full price, by default the phone is still locked to t-mobile network. The quickest way is to chat with t-mobile, which I did. Actually I did twice, because the first time they did not do the job. The second time they sent me notification saying my phone is unlocked.

2) Get a sim card for H2O wireless from Amazon. I made a mistake again. Without much thought I got this micro sim card first, and I quickly realized iPhone 5s needs nano sim.
3) Last but not least, when my t-mobile prepaid balance came very low, and when it’s weekend (not critical time), I started transfer. I did online on h2o wireless website first. Haven’t seen the number transferred after a bit over a day. So I called. One problem is since my t-mobile is prepaid legacy plan, there is no account number. And I did not give correct pin per H2O rep. Got it solved. The next thing they asked me to install couple profiles for internet (because I want data plan). Then talk to the billing department setting up monthly pay, they gave me 10% off for setting up month bill auto pay via credit card, make the final bill $27. Note H2O actually uses AT&T network, and the data usage is available in real time from “Cellular” setting of the phone.

(update) The main reason I ditched T-mobile is its poor coverage. Sometimes I don’t get signal in the condo neighborhood. The wifi-call feature helped out a bit by tapping into the Wifi network, but it has two drawbacks: 1) It still uses the regular minutes; 2) When at work and I walk around, as the Wifi hot spots changes, the phone will disconnect or lose signal.

Also, how to setup Internet and LTE for H2O. The operator texted me two links. Install the first profile for initial Internet setup. The second one was sent via Dropbox link. No need to install Dropbox app, just tap top right, “direct save”, and install. It will complain about the first profile just installed. Go ahead and remove that one, the second one should install. This is not very intuitive as I did not hear instructions clearly from the operator, nor did I bother to look up their website for FAQ. From my own experience, the first one is probably just for verification or something. Also the operator asked if I want multimedia message, I said no because she mentioned I need to install some “jailbreak” app or something.

Also, I heard from my other friend, if one is really budget conscious, Ting is also a good choice, they use both Sprint and T-mobile network.

Silly mistakes in web service implementation

Came across a strange problem this week using a web service from 3rd party. It’s a soap based web service. When we pass the XML with the required data elements in certain order, it works. If we did not follow that order, it complains invalid parameter or something. I guess in the code they have something like this:

if parameter_1 is invalid
return bad_parameter

if parameter_2 is invalid
return bad_parameter

In my opinion, we can do a simple fix as shown below:

if (parameter_1 is invalid) || (parameter_2 is invalid) || …

To be fair, I have made this kind of mistake myself, probably a while ago :-) I think it’s important for experienced developers have empathy towards people who make those mistakes, and understand how they come to the imperfect solution, and how to avoid those problems in the future.

(Update 05-09-2015) It looks like a common problem in web service, as explained in this thread. Quote:…Some vendors may grab SOAP parameter values by element name (the proper way) and others may grab the values by node position (what you’re probably running into)…

Another post on stackoverflow about similar problem on WCF SOAP web service.

Sustainable software development : I

I am starting a series of “Sustainable software development” blog posts. Like many series I did in the past, it could be a series of one and only, or it could be a true fall classic (WS series).

Back to the topic, I have been doing software development for almost 15 years, been through many organizations, sometimes move between different organizations inside one company. And I think among all these agile, water fall, off shore, near shore, on shore etc., the most important of all is: consistently deliver values to customer. The key of what I said is “consistently” and “value”. Note I am not trying to add another one or two buzz words here. By that I mean everybody should be happy: employee or contractor don’t get overworked, feel they got the short end of the stick, managers don’t feel they got squeezed between sales people and the end customer, the customer does not feel been lied to (by the “used car” salesman). How do we achieve that? I think it’s both a management and engineering question or discipline. Note I said “sustainable” in the topic, if any of the one conditions (symptoms) is true in real world, what will happen? Employee or contractor will leave, manager will feel depressed (they may not leave as fast because it’s usually harder to find a manager position), customer will get angry and make threatening calls…

Note I will mentioned “software”, not “application” or something. Software is a bit older word than application, or “apps” the new buzz word popularized by Apple (Steve Jobs?). Good old fashion software. A lot of times when I saw “applications” people developed, it’s merely a configuration or customization of some prepackaged software. I used to work for company does that sort of thing too. Don’t get me wrong, there is value in customization or configuration. But that is NOT “software development”, that is “software customization” or “configuration”. Also, there is a drawback to this approach, the “upgrade nightmare”, because it’s hard to upgrade to the original software due to poor customization. Customization, if properly done, I think the changes can be localized, and the application can be maintained. On the other hand, if it’s not properly done, just like “hard code” things in the code, it becomes harder and harder to catch up with the vendor as time goes. It’s very likely those kinds of system will generate a lot of outages and support calls, and we know most developers don’t like handle production support problem all day (and night). They like development better.

This reminds me a related question I came across on Quora How do you make programmers work 60-80 hours per week? The short answer is don’t do that. In today’s world, we still think about a problem when in shower (just like Warren Buffett got the idea to buy BoA stock in shower :-), as Ryan Matte said in Quora: a programmer never really turns it off. So from management point of view, they should really encourage the hard working developers to go off to take a break. I recall my middle school teacher had very similar philosophy.

So this is my 2 cents to get started on this topic. I will hopefully get back to this soon…maybe talk about how to use agile and team size to make software development more sustainable:-)

So long…