Thoughts Weekly

Weekly: Rabbit hole of reading PDFs

In preparation for my upcoming AWS Exams, I’ve gotten some PDF materials to go through and study. However, the formatting of the document is terrible, and it made it really hard for me to study.

So I moved to my iPad, hoping that some Apple magic might help with making the text more readable instead of sprawling across the entire width of the screen. That didn’t help.

“There has got to be a way to reflow the text”, I thought. I ended up downloading 3 different PDF reader apps looking for that magical bullet that would solve all my problems.

  • One didn’t have the functionality
  • One worked but it made the format worse
  • One works beautifully, but I cannot annotate or highlight in the “Reflow” mode which made it basically useless for studying

I gave up on the iPad and I thought, there has to be a way on the Desktop that would help me to reflow the text. My default go-to PDF reader: SumatraPDF didn’t have that option. After Googling for way too many minutes, there was basically no obvious option that could solve my problem of having reflowable text and still annotatable (and free).

It was when I came across (rediscovered) that yes, you could convert a PDF into a Word document. So I quickly searched for “Word” in my start menu and guess what, I don’t have it; because I recently formatted my computer. The version I had in the past was my education version that I shouldn’t have access to anymore. But I still tried, logging into my old school email to dig for that option that allows me to install Office.

You currently do not have a valid Office subscription for your account

Web Microsoft Outlook circa Sep 2020

That led me to searching online for what’s the cheapest way to get Office legitimately, preferably something that is a one-time license and not a subscription fee for a product that I only use infrequently. It was during this search that I saw someone mention that “education” should be free. I thought, okay, why not give it another shot.

Bam! Logging in with my student email through the official Microsoft Office site gave me an option to download a genuine version of Office that is properly licensed. The best part? I apparently performed some kind of voodoo in the past for claiming office, and the license actually belongs to my personal account and it all ties in nicely with my existing documents.

I finally have Word now.

Yes, it was able to convert PDFs into a Word document, no problem. This solves my reflow and annotation problems.

Then I thought, hey, doesn’t this mean that I could now study on my iPad?

Pushed the document over to my iPad then I thought, “wouldn’t it be nice to have Word here too”. I remembered that I was able to use it freely on my 8″ Xiaomi Tablet. Downloaded it, fired it up and it asked for my account, I logged in, only for it to tell me that

You currently do not have a valid Office subscription for your account

IOS Microsoft Word circa Sep 2020

Confused, I did a quick check online, so…

Apparently, any devices >10 inches are considered professional use, which basically rules out all iPad Pros out there. Which means that I would need to purchase a subscription in order to use it. Nevertheless, this caused me to open the Pages app for the first time ever, and it managed to open up the document flawlessly.

It was at this point when my girlfriend asked me, “why not just print this out?”


In my relentless pursue for a digital solution to read a damn PDF comfortably, it totally slipped my mind that sometimes having a physical copy is much simpler and elegant.

Lesson learnt indeed.


Keyboards: SA Profile Key Caps

As I slowly sink into the rabbit hole of the world of mechanical keyboards, I finally got my hands on my first set of SA Profile Key Caps from Domikeys [AliExpress].

left: kailh switch testers; right: Domikey ABS Doubleshot keycap set

For those that are not familiar with key cap profiles, here’s a quick primer on them. Key caps comes in various shapes and heights, most common of them are OEM and Cherry Profile which are on most of the pre-built mechanical keyboards.

SA profile as you can see is much higher and has a retro feel/look to it. I have been curious about it cause I think it has a type writer look which tickles my fancy.

I bought black and white because I realize that I didn’t have any basic sets like these. Coincidentally, this goes really well with my Black Drop CTRL keyboard that I’m currently using.

It feels distinctively different

I have tried OEM, Cherry, DSA, XDA keycaps before, but SA is a whole different beast altogether. The main difference for me is that the gaps between the keys are much wider than I’m used to and it feels like my fingers will always fall into the crevices when I’m not too careful with the way that I type.

The other difference is its weight. Because it’s so much taller than the other keys, there is obviously much more material to it, which makes it heavier. But because the keys is heavier, it makes typing feel lighter. It also feels sturdier because these are some thiccc bois.

I like it. The keyboard definitely has a nicer thock sound with SA key caps.

What’s next?

I have two GMK key caps set shipping in Oct and Dec. And I am extremely excited for them.

  • GMK Blue Samurai
  • GMK Mito Laser

My main motivation for getting this set is because I didn’t like how cheap the PBT key caps that came with the CTRL keyboard feels. I’ve swapped them out with another cheap set that I have but it only improved the feel ever so slightly.

Have also placed an order for the Keychron K6 (hot-swap version) which should be arriving this week as well. This would be purely for experimenting different switches and possibly be my portable keyboard when I feel like working outside.

Down and down the rabbit hole I go.

DevOps Learning Weekly

Weekly: Microsoft Azure

Took an online introductory course (Udemy) on Microsoft Azure AZ-900 because lo-and-behold, my team has chosen the Azure platform for our translation services (will write more about this next time).

As someone who has been 99.99% working on the AWS platform and Linux systems in general, Azure feels pretty foreign because most of the concepts seem to tie into the Windows systems more so than anything else.

  • Access control? Active Directory
  • RBAC? Active Directory
  • Networking? Virtual networks
  • Pricing? Subscriptions
  • Compliance? Almost everything under the roof

The main difference I find between AWS and Azure is that: AWS is a loose collection of services that are “grouped” through networking, Azure is a logical collection of services that are “grouped” by “folders” of resources.

Productivity Thoughts Weekly

Weekly: Organizing to chaotic information

The title sounds grander than this really is. It was one of those work days where I felt like I didn’t get much done. I checked my calendar and there wasn’t many meetings, only the one in the morning. It felt like a really busy day but I couldn’t think of a concrete task that I have accomplished that day.

As I lay in my bed, tossing and turning, being unable to sleep, I figured out why I couldn’t get my tasks done for the day, and came up with a simple workflow that would solve this.

Why I wasn’t able to work on my tasks

A day in the life of a software/devops engineer is pretty chaotic. You have various information requiring different context streaming in from multiple sources throughout the day. For example, I was working on updating some configuration mapping on Kubernetes for our new SES SMTP Relay credentials. Then I get a message clarifying about a story that I completed yesterday, about a backend API written in GO. Then I had to join a meeting about decoupling our entire platform from an external service that many of our logic is intertwined with.