Our Home

Buying a House

(To see the photos, scroll down to the end of this page)

Credit Union

Every time we told our friend we got our loan from a credit union, they would say "Oh, you are a member" like it's some kind of cult. This is weird. Our understanding is that you can choose from at least a few credit unions to join and that you can apply for a loan right away. Websites like FindACreditUnion.com can tell you which credit unions you will qualfy for by the city or county you live, your job or employer, the school you went, ethnic background, etc. Since many credit unions have good mortgage rates (they publicize on the Web) and even a .25% can make a few thousand dollar difference throughout the loan, wouldn't it be worth checking it out?

House Search

We are surprised to see so much info about house sales is publicized on the Web. By going to websites like Zillow, you can see the sales history and trend of the house you are looking into and also its neighborhood.

Our Projects on the New House

Room Layout

Like the last time we moved, I took the measurements of the rooms beforehand and designed the room layout in 3D modeling software (Maya) before we moved. Each piece of furniture is a box with the right measurements and the image from my camera as the texture. It works.


Like many other people who have just moved, we became big fans of Ikea. For instance, each shelf unit in this set in the photo (2 units) is only $79! Of course, by the time you add glass doors, drawers and handles, it goes up to $300 in total, but the owners (we) still think it's inexpensive. Since it's a bit of a challenge to select and collect all the parts, you get the sense of achievement when you are done. It makes you love the product even more. It's a nice mind trick ;)

Racks in Garage

Collecting the parts for the racks I installed in the garage was even tougher than the kitchen shelves. I had to go to East Palo Alto and Emeryville Ikea stores a few times because one of them was always out of stock for certain parts. Among the racks I installed, in this picture is the cable rack which I'm glad to have finally. Cables take least space when stretched. I always thought hanging would be the best way to manage cables (won't tangle; easy to find) but I never had the space until now.

Pallets on Wheels

Next to the garage, underneath the living room floor is our storage. It's as wide as our living room but only 3 foot high. So I bought a bunch of 2'x4' wood boards, attached caster wheels and made movable pallets. Each time I load or unload one of them, I'd bring it close to the entrance so that I wouldn't have to crawl across the storage many times.

Eye Toy Kinetics

The apartment where we used to live had a gym in the common area. Our new community doesn't. So we just bought Eye Toy Kinetic for PlayStation 2. It comes with a USB camera. Your image is captured by the camera and you play the games by punching, kicking and dodging the moving objects on the screen. I was surprised to see how much exercise you get to do by playing these games. This will be much better than the slow-paced treadmill that I used to do while watching iPod video.

On top of the TV is the Eye Toy camera.

Powerline AV Ethernet

The coax cable for the cable TV/modem comes to downstairs and most of our computers are upstairs. We bought a Linksys PLK200 Powerline AV Ethernet adapter kit ($150 at Best Buy). You plug one unit to the outlet downstairs and the other upstairs and it works as if you ran a long Ethernet cable between them. It was easy. It is also close to best possible speed (100 Mbps) and I'm quite happy with it. Wi-Fi (802.11n or "Draft N") could have been another choice but I'm not sure it would be fast enough in our 40'-apart situation.

Home Automation

  • Motion Sensor Switch

    Replaced the ceiling light switch in the garage with this $25 "occupancy sensor" from Home Depot. The light turns on when we enter or when we pull in our car into garage. Neat.

  • X10

    "X10" is the industry standard for controling lightswitches and outlets through powerlines. Companies like X10 (the one famous for its bad-taste ads) make a lot of inexpensive switch and controler modules. I have a few modules including the PC interface and I programmed it to turn on, dim and turn off the lights automatically every day.

  • Voice-controlled PC

    I wrote a voice-controlled program on PC that can run X10 commands to turn on and off the lights and control the stereo before. So I'd like to revive it for our new home. A little more details on the Voice-controlled Entertainment Center Projects page.

Multi-room Audio/Video

This is another ongoing project. Since our living room is downstairs and the office and bedroom are upstairs (good 21 stair-steps apart), the sound of our living room stereo doesn't travel so well. Our wirelss speakers cannot handle the distance and noise, either. We are looking for a multi-room audio solution that wouldn't cost us like $1000 or even $500. I will post my findings (and purchases hopefully) here later.


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August - Open house, with previous owner's furniture


360-degree Panorama

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Living room (August, open house, with previous owner's furniture) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Dining room (December) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Dining room (open house) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Dining room (December) - Scrolling Panorama - QuickTime VR

Stereo 3D Photos