I’m still alive

Just been very very busy now that I’ve moved from studies to work.

Low Cost Way to Improve Your USB Mobile Broadband (3G/LTE) Reception

I have a mobile broadband USB dongle which I carry along with me every time I bring my laptop out. It has come in handy so many times especially when I’m doing work outside the house.

But there is a problem that I face quite often – cellular blind spots! Unfortunately, many cafes and public libraries are plagued with bad mobile reception. This means not being able to connect to the Internet at all, or more annoyingly, intermittent connection which makes it impossible to get any work done!

Well, I found a low cost solution to this problem! It’ll cost you no more than SGD$5! Well, ok, maybe SGD$10 if you need to buy an extension cable.

What is it?

It’s a mini 3G “satellite” dish!

It’s a mini 3G “Satellite” dish!

All you need to do is to spend about SGD$4-5 for a sieve.

The one I got is about 18cm in diameter. That would be the most ideal size. Make sure the concave is deep.

What I did next was to cut a little rectangle in the middle so that I can put my USB dongle in it. You can connect a USB hub or a USB extension cable at the back, and connect that cable to your computer.

I mounted my sieve on a mini camera tripod. You could tie this to a water bottle or something if you don’t have a mini camera tripod lying around. Anyway, these mini tripods are cheap. You can get one at about SGD$5 or so at Sim Lim Square.

Next, like a satellite dish, just turn your mini 3G “satellite” dish (slowly) until you get the most optimum reception. In some cases, you might have to point it up or down.

Pretty cool, yeah?

Pretty cool, yeah?

I got this idea from the Internet. Some people have suggested doing the exact same thing to improve Wifi reception using a Wifi USB dongle. I figured it might be possible to apply this solution to 3G networks since we’re dealing with electro-magnetic waves.

How much of an improvement did I get from this solution?

Well, let me show you the results!

Here’s the reception strength when the mobile broadband dongle is plugged in normally to the laptop:

When the mobile broadband dongle is used normally (plugged directly into the laptop).

When the mobile broadband dongle is used normally (plugged directly into the laptop).

The reception measures at -95dBm (wavers between 2-3 bars of reception).

Here’s the results when the mobile broadband dongle is plugged into the mini “satellite” dish:

Here’s the results after the mobile broadband dongle is plugged into the mini “satellite” dish. It’s an improvement of 12 dB!!!

It measures -83dBm!!! That’s an improvement of 12dB!!!!! (The closer it is to zero the better the reception)

In English, that’s an improvement from a wavering 2-3 bars of reception to the maximum of 4 bars!!!

Just to be sure, I placed the mini “satellite” dish at the same place where my mobile broadband dongle would have been if I plugged it in directly to my laptop.

Amazing, isn’t it?

Normally, the dongle will transmit signals all over (i.e. 360 degrees, left/right, up/down). The strength of the transmitted signal will be quite weak. It might not even reach the mobile base station because of interference. Similarly, the base station broadcasts signals in the same way (all over). It’ll also be quite weak by the time it reaches your dongle.

With a concave wire mesh, the transmitted signal will be focused into a beam that will be shot in the general direction of where your “satellite” dish is pointing at. Likewise, weak signals from the base station will be focused and strengthened by the wire mesh, thereby improving your dongle’s reception of the base station’s signals.

That’s roughly how it works!

Well, I’m quite happy with this results. I’m gonna bring this mini “satellite” dish with me when I go out just to give it a try.

If you happen to see some eccentric guy with a medium-sized sieve mounted on a tripod using his MacBook Air in a cafe or library, that would be me. Do come up and say “Hi!” =D

So there you go! A low cost solution to mobile reception problems! You’ll never have to worry about cellular blind spots ever again!

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Mooncake Making Workshop

It’s the eighth month of the lunar calendar. That means the Mid Autumn Festival is coming soon! Tis the season where mooncakes are in abundance! YUM! I love mooncakes!

I’ve never attended cooking classes at the community centre before. But I’ve always heard so much about them. A few days ago, out of curiosity, The Girlfriend and I walked into Taman Jurong Community Centre to see what courses they had to offer. When we saw that they had mooncake classes, we signed up immediately without any hesitation.

What’s interesting about this workshop was the fact that they were teaching how to make Teochew-style mooncakes. The Teochew style is unique because unlike the common ones that’s baked, the Teochew one is fried and has a very crispy, flaky crust, and is filled with yam instead of your usual lotus paste.

So yesterday, both The Girlfriend and I attended our very first cooking class. And boy were we in for lots of fun!

Our trainer for the day was Elizabeth Ow. She conducts quite a fair number of cooking classes for the community centres. Anyway, what we loved about her was the fact that she made it a point to teach us transferable skills. It turns out that the method for making the flaky crust of the Teochew-style mooncakes can be modified and used to make puff pastries. So cool!

By far the coolest thing about the class was learning how to make the spirals in the crust that’s so typical of the Teochew-style mooncakes. For the longest time, I’ve always wondered how they made the spirals, and how they made pastries so flaky and crispy.

As it turns out, it’s pretty easy! But I don’t know how to explain it online, so I’m not going to try (I tried writing a paragraph, but it wouldn’t make sense to someone who didn’t do it before). The secret is that you need to make two types of dough. The outer dough uses plain flour, while the inner dough uses cake flour. And then you roll them together like a swiss roll (you’ll need to flatten and re-roll) until the inner and outer dough gets thoroughly mixed up.

Once that’s done, you flatten the dough and add the yam paste.

Yummy yam paste!

Yummy yam paste!

The yam paste, as it turns out, is very very easy to make. Cut your yam into cubes and steam it. Then, fry it with oil, shallots, and starch. Then you proceed to mash them and form balls so that it’s easy to insert them into the dough.

And once you’re done, this is how the pre-cooked mooncakes look:

Camera 360As you can see, the spirals are already showing!

Next, you put the mooncakes into a deep fryer.

The most useful cooking lesson we learnt was that when dealing with hot oil, it doesn’t matter if you’re using a high, medium or low fire. But once you start with a particular heat intensity, do not change the heat intensity at all. If you do, the change in heat will result in more oil seeping in, thus causing your food to be more oily than it should be.

Ready to see the final product?

Here it is!

Looks good, doesn't it?Looks good right?

The photo above is the product of my second attempt. My first attempt was quite sad. I used too much force to flatten my dough to the point that there weren’t any more spirals left.

The trainer gave me some feedback on what went wrong. Immediately, I grabbed more dough and started again. And voila, success!

All in all, The Girlfriend and I made quite a number of delicious mooncakes at the end of the workshop. MMMmmm… YUMMY!

A box full of mooncakes!

A box full of mooncakes!

I’m looking forward to signing up for the next class. The trainer has promised to teach us how to make a very unique type of char siew buns (roasted pork), and if possible, how to make egg tarts. Oh boy! So exciting!

I never knew cooking classes at the community centre could be so fun. Makes for a fun couple activity too! We had a lot of fun making mooncakes together while joking around. It was a good time well spent.

Oh, did I mention that the mooncakes we made were delicious? MMMMmmm…

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Save Humanity by Donating Your Unused Computing Power!

Oh wow, this is pretty cool! I just discovered this project known as Folding@Home. It’s a project by Stanford University where you can donate all your unused computing power towards biomedical research!

You can donate your unused computing resources to help with research on Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s, and many different types of cancers.

These research projects revolve around the study of how proteins fold. I don’t really know much about this, but from the little I understand, proteins have a certain way of folding. And diseases come about when they fold incorrectly (something like that, I think). But figuring out the ways proteins fold is something that requires a massive amount of computation. I think the algorithm is doing some kind of brute force method to simulate all the various possible ways of folding a protein to see which ways work and which ways don’t.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, this research can be divided up into small pieces and shared by as many computers as possible. Otherwise, such research would take years even on a supercomputer. The scale of the computation is sooooo large that it can only be solved in a short time by outsourcing it to all the people around the world.

There are a few options available on how you can donate your computer’s resources to this research. You can either set aside a percentage of your computer’s processing power to carry out the computation whenever your computer is turned on. Or, if you are worried that it might cause your computer to lag, you can choose to enable it to carry out the computation whenever you are not in front of your computer (i.e. when it goes into screensaver mode).

What’s cool about this project is that you can view the progress of the research either on their progress viewer program or via the screensaver (you’ll have to change your screensaver to that). You can see the proteins being folded in all the different possible ways, bit by bit. Like this:

You can’t really see much different within a span of an hour. But if you check back like 5 or 10 hours of computation later, you’ll see a big change! It’s pretty cool and quite geeky too!

If you use a laptop, you’ll notice your laptop getting hotter than usual. Don’t worry (unless you use it on your lap)! Your laptop won’t explode. It’s just the processor working a lot harder than usual.

So don’t let your dual-core or quad-core processor go to waste. Donate all that computing power to help find a cure for cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s or something!

Who knows? Maybe your computer might find something groundbreaking that will bring about cures to these diseases! I think they’ll tell you if that happens.

So don’t wait! You can find out more about Folding@Home and install the program at http://folding.stanford.edu/

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Wifi is NEVER Secure. Here’s Why!

A few months back, I started learning a thing or two about network security as I thought it might be a useful skill to learn (might be good for employment purposes too). All the tools and instructions are easily available online. I’ve learnt quite a lot, but I must say that I am very spooked by just how vulnerable Wifi communication can be.

In this post, I will show just how unsecure Wifi can be, what steps you can do to increase the security of your Wifi networks, and more importantly, run through some scary scenarios of what a malicious hacker might do if you did not do enough to secure your wireless network.

But first, here’s a disclaimer: Please note that I have not done anything illegal. In the examples below, I have set up my own machine and network according to standard practices, and hacked into them. Also, I did not go out of my way to capture data. Whatever information that I show below are already information that’s flying around in the air when people use Wifi. This post is for educational purposes, nothing malicious or illegal was done.

Let’s begin!

One of the tools you need to effectively crack into people’s wireless networks is a special kind of wireless adaptor capable of packet injection. What’s that? To put it simply, packet injection involves injecting packets of data into a network in such a way that it looks like the packets are coming from an authorised source (e.g. your wifi router). A wifi adaptor capable of packet injection allows someone to be able to intercept and rewrite packets (of data), or at least transmit data while pretending that it came from an authorised device.

However, it’s usually the case that a wireless adaptor is not sufficient. If an attacker wishes to break into your wifi network and create trouble, it wouldn’t be safe for the attacker to be sitting just outside your house or office. He must be able to do this from a safe distance without being noticed. In which case, you’ll need an antenna upgrade.

Here’s what I got:

Look at the size of that antenna. It’s a 10dBi antenna. The white one next to it is a 5dBi antenna.

What’s the difference between a built-in wifi antenna, a 5 dBi antenna and a 10 dBi antenna?

Most built-in antennas have, at best, a range of up to 15m in the home or office. Living in a public housing area, my built-in wifi card can only detect up to 10 wireless networks.

A 5 dBi antenna performs a bit better. It gives me a slightly wide range. I can detect up to 40 networks in the neighbourhood.

A 10 dBi antenna? I was able to detect 180 wireless networks in the neighbourhood!!!

Judging from the number of networks detected I think that gives me a coverage radius of something around 50-100 metres within a built-up area alone!

With an antenna like this, I could actually connect to someone’s network about a hundred metres away from me!!!

A malicious hacker could park his car in the HDB (public housing) car park with such equipment, and enjoy access to the hundreds of wireless networks around him that he could potentially exploit.

If you’re crazy enough, you can go to a shop in Sim Lim Square (Level 3), and buy a 50 dBi antenna. That’s as big as a flag pole. But I’m guessing you might be able to cover up to 1km in a built-up area. I don’t know. Anyway, a 10 dBi antenna is pretty strong already. I actually get very bad headaches just using it for several minutes.

I should say that the wireless adaptor (with packet injection) and antennas can be easily bought from any computer hardware shop. So as long as you are using Wifi, you are already VERY VERY vulnerable to hacks. All you need is some crazy unethical guy with these easily bought tools and the skills to break into your network. Anyone can do it and you may not even know.

How unsecure are wireless networks? Well, let me demonstrate. There are programs, like Wireshark, that allow me to monitor all Wifi data that is transmitted around in the air. Even with basic Wifi security such as WEP or WPA turned on, here’s what I can see the moment I begin monitoring:
While I can’t see the precise content of what people around me are surfing, I do know that someone in my neighbourhood is surfing YouTube, and someone else is surfing Facebook. I can look at the source/destination address and figure out what people are doing. I also discovered that people in my neighbourhood were doing online shopping.

All I had to do was to stick my antenna out of the window and I could already see what people are doing online.

I didn’t do anything else. Everything that’s being transferred between your computer and your Wifi router is flying all over the air – it’s all public!

Moreover, if we’re all on the same wifi network (even if it’s encrypted), I can see all your surfing activity, including the content of what you’re browsing. Places like airports, libraries, cafes, where people are connected to the same network – these are potential sites for hackers to harvest all your important information! If the hacker has a 10 dBi antenna, he could even hide in a corner, or somewhere far away, and break into people’s computers or harvest all their sensitive personal information – without you even realising it!

Are you spooked by this, so far?

Well, let’s go a little further. So far, I’ve not done any actual hacking. I only stuck my wifi antenna out the window and already there’s so much information readily and publicly available. Most wifi networks today are password protected. But if yours isn’t, please do something about it. I know one or two people who think that they have nothing to lose if they don’t secure their networks.

But it’s worth asking: what could a malicious hacker do to you and your computer if your network wasn’t secured?

Well, in the first place, you would have made the attacker’s job easy.

The hacker can gain access to your network and use programs like Wireshark to harvest all your online surfing activity. Once he has broken into your network, the hacker can steal all your sensitive information, especially log in information for your e-mails, Facebook, and other important accounts. He could steal your credit card information. He could learn more about you and steal your identity by pretending to be you on the Internet. He could even harvest enough information to blackmail you, especially if you have done something wrong.

If he is more skilled, he could gain access to all your computers and your smartphones and tablets, and he could even use your computers to coordinate cyber attacks or spread viruses to your friends. He could even use your computer and/or Internet connection to conduct illegal activity. In which case, if the police were to trace the source, it would lead back to you.

That’s what you could possibly stand to lose with an unsecured network. Of course, the reality is that all secured networks are hackable. If someone is determined to get you, it doesn’t matter how much security you put in place to protect your Wifi network. But at the same time, you don’t want to make things too easy for some mischievous person to ruin your life.But what about the other means of securing your Wifi network? Are they secure?

Well, let’s start first with WEP!

If you subscribed to SingTel Mio several years ago (I’m not sure about the other ISPs), and you’re still using the same Wifi router today, you should take note of this (especially if you didn’t change the settings, because the default settings use WEP).

Simply put, WEP gives you a false sense of security. Your Wifi password can be broken in about a minute or so.Here I have set up my router, and secured it using WEP. Let’s call it the Victim Router.

WEP protection is really simple, so all you need to do is to run Backtrack (the popular network security and hacking tool), and get it to make the Victim Router send you sufficient data to easily work backwards to decrypt the password. You can easily find instructions to do this online, so I won’t go into details.
Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 6.36.45 PM

The point is, WEP offers you a false sense of security. If your home or office network is using WEP, please change it immediately. Once someone has successfully decrypted your WEP password, he can now infiltrate your wireless network and carry out any of the malicious scenarios I described above.How about WPA protection? Is that any better?

Well, the short answer is yes, but only if your WPA password is very very long.

WPA’s protection works very differently, so it isn’t that easy to crack.

For an attacker to do this, he will need to inject a packet (of data) into the victim’s wireless network. This packet pretends to come from the Victim’s Router, but it isn’t. What this packet does is that it disconnects the victim’s computer from his wireless network. The victim’s computer will then attempt to reconnect with the router. While this is happening, the attacker’s computer is recording the reconnection attempt, known as the handshake.

If you find yourself suddenly disconnected from your WPA-protected wireless network for no reason, this might be happening. Someone might have purposely disconnected you for this precise purpose.

Once the attacker has the handshake information, the attacker can go home and slowly try to decrypt the WPA password. He doesn’t need to be physically present anymore. Once he has cracked the password, he can come back another day.

How long does it take to carry out a brute force cracking? If your WPA password is short, then it’ll be fast. Otherwise, it’ll take a very long time.

On my MacBook Air, I’ve configured the cracking tool to make use of my dual-core processor, thereby allowing it to test 1000 keys per second.

Most people would limit their WPA passwords to just lowercase letters and numbers. That gives a total of 36 possibilities for each character. Assuming the hacker can test 1000 keys a second:

A 3-character long WPA password would require up to (36^3 / 1000) = up to 46 seconds.A 5-character long WPA password would require up to (36^5 / 1000) = up to 16 hours.

An 8-character long WPA password would require up to (36^8 / 1000) = up to 89 years.

Not bad, right?

But since WPA allows a-z, A-Z, 0-9, and punctuation, there’s about 94 possibilities for each character. If your password consists of a variety of these characters, assuming the hacker can test 1000 keys a second:An 8-character long WPA password requires up to (94^8 / 1000) = up to 19 3160 years.

Well, provided your password doesn’t start with ‘a’ like the example below (I forced it to begin checking passwords from 8 characters onwards to save time).

Screen Shot 2013-04-26 at 7.58.12 PM

Does that mean that your safe as long as you have an 8-character long WPA password consisting of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and punctuation? Well, kinda. But that means the hacker will have to employ other means to crack into your network. Please note that this doesn’t mean that WPA with such a lengthy password is 100% safe. It just means that it’s just not going to be easy for the attacker to break through. There are other means that only take minutes, but these would require a more skilled attacker.

So what is the moral of the story?

(1) Wifi is never secure. NEVER. Do not for a moment imagine that it is – even if you have the most complex security settings, it still isn’t secure. Your data and surfing activity is broadcasted in the air. Even with WPA protection, people with the right tools can still see what websites your surfing, even if they can’t see what exactly you’re doing online.

(2) If you have to do sensitive things online, do consider adding an additional layer of security, such as using a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your wireless activity. Even if a hacker has broken in to your wireless network, he will be unable to see what you’re doing online since everything appears as encrypted stuff to him.

(3) If you haven’t already done so, please change your wifi security settings to WPA, and make sure your password is at least 8 characters long, with a mixture of numbers, alphabets and punctuation. The longer it is, the better. Stop using WEP!

(4) Please be sure to put an admin password to your Wifi router. You don’t want an attacker to discover your connected devices and crack their way into your computers and smartphones, or mess up with your Internet connection.

(5) Always remember, if someone is determined to hack into your wireless network, they will be able to do it somehow, eventually. But you should still have some layer of security just to keep mischievous people away.Hope you’ve found this useful!

Children Learn the Best and Especially the Worst from Adults

About four days ago, I witnessed a scene that left me utterly shocked and quite disgusted.

I was on the MRT train heading towards Pasir Ris. Unfortunately, the train was crowded, but thankfully not too crowded. The seats were all taken, but there was a handful of people – including myself- standing.

There was an elderly man carrying a large bag on his shoulders, and he looked quite tired. He was standing in front of the reserved seats (meant for senior citizens, and pregnant women), waiting for someone to give up their seat for him. After a few stations, one of the passengers got up from the reserved seat and got off at his station.

The elderly man slowly took the bag off his shoulders, but before he could step forward to take a seat, guess what happened next?

A small girl, about  lower primary age, ran up and stood in front of the reserved seat. If that’s not all, she glared  aggressively at the old man. The elderly man (and myself too) was shocked. He stood still. The girl’s mother, who looked like she was in her late 30s, strolled in a few seconds later. She saw the old man; she saw her daughter glaring at the old man. But guess what she did? She told her daughter to sit on the reserved seat, with absolutely no care for the elderly man at all!

The elderly man just stood there. Probably in shock. My jaw dropped after witnessing that. I was shocked too.

The next station, the passenger sitting at the adjacent reserved seat got up and left. But instead of giving the elderly man the seat, the woman sat on it.

The poor man continued standing for about another 20 minutes before someone finally gave up his seat for him.

I actually wanted to intervene and tell the girl (and mother) off for preventing the old man from taking a seat. However, seeing how the mother saw what had happened and had endorsed her daughter’s actions, it would have been a futile attempt that would spark off an unpleasant argument. Lately (or maybe thanks to social media), there’s been many incidents of ravingly mad adults hurling abuses at people who attempt to correct their children’s misbehaviour. This might turn ugly.

Anyway, I was quite horrified by what I saw. I was quite disgusted by how the small girl, who was probably around 7-10 years old, treated the elderly man with such disrespect.

I’m not going to repeat the usual refrain that the youth of today have no manners. I grew up hearing that on a frequent basis. In fact, even now as an adult, I still hear it repeated over and over again that children today have no manners. This statement is false. It’s pointless lamenting about how rude the youth of today are.

Over the years, I’ve come to realise that in reality, there are just as many adults who misbehave in public than children. In fact, I dare say that this year alone, I’ve witnessed far more adults behaving like brats all over this country than children. In hawker centres, buses, trains, libraries, etc.

If children are indeed behaving badly, I think it’s because they have learnt how to misbehave and treat other people like dirt from the adults around them. They have seen how adults treat other adults with the utmost disrespect and have gotten away with it.

Children are not stupid. They learn from what they see. And if they see adults getting away with all kinds of misbehaviour, these children know that they too can get away with mistreating other people. More so if their parents endorse the same kinds of rude behaviour.

In hawker centres, buses and trains, I’ve seen uncles and aunties cursing and swearing at people over all kinds of small and ridiculous matters. For example, in May this year, an elderly cleaner accidentally bump his cleaning cart against another elderly man. The cleaner apologised profusely. But guess what the other guy did? For the next 5-10 minutes, he just kept hurling vulgarities at the cleaner and kept scolding him. The cleaner continued to apologise profusely and tried to walk away. But the other guy didn’t let him. He even tried to pick a fight with the cleaner. His children (young adults) actually had to get up from their seats to withhold him!

This is one of the many similar countless situations I’ve witnessed here in Singapore. I’m very very sad, and I do often wonder if this society is going down the drain. Are we so ungracious, so morally bankrupt that we have forgotten how to treat other people with the dignity and respect deserving of human persons?

Of course, occassionally, I do see acts of compassion and kindness in public places. But these are sooooo rare! The number of times I witnessed acts of kindness here in Singapore are so few I can count them with one hand! The number of times I’ve witnessed public misbehavings in public actually far outnumber the public acts of kindness. It bothers me so much because I have counted far more public acts of kindness (by strangers to strangers) the few times that I’ve crossed the Causeway into Malaysia just this year alone! Despite the high crime rates in Malaysia, people there still have a heart. Strangely, the crime rate is low here, but look how people are treating people here in Singapore.

This is so disturbing.

Anyway, back to the point. I think the adults here (of all ages) have been setting a very bad example to children. If we continue to condone these public acts of rudeness and disrespect, our children will learn likewise to be just as rude and disrespectful to people of all ages.

Sure, we all have our own human failings. I do believe that people here are very stressed. On the trains and buses, I hear more complains about work and family, than happy stories (they’re very rare). But I don’t think it’s fair to vent our stress, anger, and frustrations on other people. Nor is it fair to treat others with disrespect.

But we must do more than just pay lip service to the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. We must try our best despite our human failings and weakness.

At least do it for the children that they learn to respect people. Do you want a small child to glare aggressively at you and deny you a seat on the bus or train when you are old and frail? How would you feel if you see the small child’s mother endorse her daughter’s rude behaviour?

This is not the kind of society I want to live in. This is not the kind of society I want to raise my children in. I’m sure you wouldn’t want that too, would you?

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I’m on a Pizza Hut Commercial!

I’m famous! Well, not exactly.

To be precise, my back is famous! The Girlfriend’s ear is famous too! Look out for The Girlfriend’s ear (on the far left) and my back (in the brown shirt beside her ear) from 0:00 to 0:01. Here’s the commercial:

A few weeks back, The Girlfriend thought it’d be fun to sign up as extras for TV shows and commercials. She has a friend who’s involved in video production and he sounded out to her about the need for some extras. I decided to tag along as I thought it’d be an interesting experience.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle was the fact that we had to wake up at 6am in the morning to go down to one of the Pizza Hut eateries. The good thing was that the production company was nice to provide breakfast (and lunch) for us!

Here, we have the production crew setting up all the lighting equipment:

Can you recognise the three lead actors in the commercial?

We had a chance to speak with the guy acting as the Pizza Hut waiter. He’s an actor who graduated from the La Salle College of the Arts. He’s been building a portfolio by starring in ads and other shows, as a stepping stone to a bigger career in film.

According to him, the other two have also been starring in other ads. Wow… I’ll be sure to keep a look out for their faces every time I watch TV.

Anyway, recording started at 9am and ended at 2pm. We’ve been told by one of the production guys that that’s quite good already. We were warned that the worse case scenario would be that we will have to stay till as late as 8pm!

It was pretty fun and interesting. As extras, we had to sit around and pretend to be consuming our food. Unfortunately, we weren’t given edible stuff to eat.

Here’s what’s in front of me:

I had to pretend that I was drinking a cup of coffee. But inside, it’s nothing but tap water. The girl sitting opposite me was given pasta. It smelled really good, but it was largely inedible because it wasn’t properly cooked. They just cut up some garlic and vegetables, tossed it into a plate, and microwaved it.

Some of the extras were given salads. Unfortunately, the prawns in the salads were still frozen.

I was hoping that as extras, we could eat free pizza while filming.

Anyway, we were told to pretend to consume whatever’s in front of us. I just pretended to sip my “coffee.” The others were having a fun time tossing their food around, or moving bits and pieces of food around their plate.

It got boring after one or two hours later. Oh gosh… The actors only had three lines to say in total. But the creative director had quite high standards, so those three lines were repeated ad nauseam. After 20-30 takes, we got really bored hearing the three lines repeated over and over and over and over again.

Luckily, the production team wanted to take some close-up shots, so we, extras, weren’t needed for some time. We just congregated at a corner, but we weren’t allowed to talk as the microphones were extra sensitive. So we could only gesture to each other, or play with our handphones. There were gaps in between takes, where they weren’t filming. That was the only time we could chat. It was hilarious because it kept interrupting whatever conversations we were having.

Anyway, they finally brought out the new pizza on their menu – the Fully Loaded Crust pizza! Oh wow. It smelled sooooooooo good. I always wondered if the actors had to actually eat the pizza. Unfortunately, because they had to retake the shot over and over again, the actors only took a bite, but they didn’t eat it. The reason being that if they kept eating at each take, they’d be too full to take another bite for the subsequent takes. (They did get to eat the pizza after filming!)

One of the actors burnt his tongue while eating the piping hot, delicious pizza. Ouch!

I was lucky to get a bite of the thing after all the filming was over. My verdict? It’s actually very very good! In the words of the commercial, “Great choice!”

In all, the whole experience was quite fun. I would love to be an extra for another TV commercial again!

Anyway, I couldn’t post this earlier as there was an embargo of all fully-loaded pizza material until the official publicity was released. So, The Girlfriend and I had been waiting for days, monitoring all Pizza Hut publicity to see when the commercial would be released.

And since, the pizza tasted so good, the moment we got word that the ad was released, we went down to the nearest Pizza Hut to try the whole thing in its entirety (since I got one bite). Here’s how the awesome pizza looks:

Fully Loaded Pizza! MMMMmmm...

Fully Loaded Pizza! MMMMmmm… Great choice!

Look at that! The crust is filled with delicious, juicy chicken and spinach. And the crust is so soft and fluffy, yet crispy on the surface. It’s actually so good, I could just eat the crust on its own! MMMmmmm…

If you have the chance, do give this pizza a try. I hope you’ll like it as much as I did!

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