Saturday, August 30, 2008

Happy 51st Birthday Malaysia!!!

Happy Birthday my dear homeland

Merdeka -- we commemorate the struggles of our forefathers
Merdeka -- we commemorate our freedom and independence

Yet today, the struggle continues against 'new' enemies
Enemies within our country, not without

Yet today, we continue our fight against agents of destruction
Agents of disunity and chaos .... against You --

Ignorance, prejudice, complacency
Intolerance, false-pride, mediocrity --

You and your ilk are not true Malaysian Values
You are our true enemy, and we are still slaves to You

Real independence will only be upon us
When we, as a nation, have rid ourselves of You!

Happy birthday Malaysia
Let our struggles continue...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Robot trivia -- intermission

OK, OK, just in case some of you have had an overdose of robots, here's a breather.... some more of the fun pix from Ai Hua, and this time, with scenes from Russia! (I really envy him, gets to travel all over the world.... for e.g. how many of us can claim to have visited Namibia and even seen the source of the Nile?)

Enough envious talk... now on with the pix.

Who would have imagined finding such a romantic view in Moscow?

I have this sudden, unexplainable urge to play Tetris!!

Aren't you itching for Tetris too?

As a kid I loved it when Sesame street showed a stop-motion clip of these dolls moving about having fun!

Hmm, i wonder if this is their version of the Pasar Malam?!

Everybody loves a good sale...

A final word about the robot trivia... Part 1 'contest' ends on Merdeka Day. And I'll be announcing the 'winners'... so if you haven't posted your answers yet, com'mon, quickly!

Stay tuned (or run away if you like) as the next round of Robot Trivia will be back real soon!!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

More robots (Part 1)

Tell you one specific thing about technology that I love -- robots! I have always been fascinated with them -- both real and fictional -- ever since I was a kid.

Yeah, grew up reading Mazinga-Z comic (rocket boosted fists, wow!), and later on, watching videos of Macross/Mospaeda (light years ahead of the Transformer franchise). Do you remember watching on RTM2 the Malay language dubbed Macross? "Bersedia untuk bertukar.... aaar, berdebar betul!! Eh, itu dia, Min Mei!"

I especially love robots with lasers and rockets shooting out of every nook and cranny (think: a fully decked-out battloid, or 'The Sumo'). There's something about opening up a full magazine and letting loose a couple dozen guided missles on some distant enemy. That spells.... G.E.E.K!

At the other extreme end, I also love the more whimsical robots like Doraemon (of course, back then he was just called by his Chinese translated name, 小叮当). He's a mechanical cat who's terrified of mice, sent back from the future to help his owner's loser of a great-great-great-great granddad. He pulls out all manner of inventions from his hyper-dimensional pouch (八宝袋) and almost always manages to save the boy's sorry behind.

Watching Wall-E brought back lots of fond memories of the robots of yesteryears and not too long ago... So I thought it would be fun to dedicate today's post to some of the robots of popular culture. Tell you what, lets have a simple contest, and see who is the first to name all the robots and where they are from.

Post your answers in the comment area... and I'll announce the WINNER in my next post!! The winner goes home with the bragging rights that he/she can out-geek people on robot trivia :)

So, its trivia time.... PART 1. Lets see how many you can get right... Post your answers in the comment section. I'll not publish your answers until this is over... then we'll see who knows their robots more! :)


To get the ball rolling... here's ole Arnie....

#0 - Cyberdyne Systems Series 800/850 model 101 from the Terminator movies

#1 - Oh boy, you should know him right?

#2 - don't get lost looking for him

#3 - Mr hypnotic eyes himself

#4 - Here's looking at you, evil twin!

#5 - Who's that?

#6 - Lay down your weapons... or else!

#7 - Groovy, baby!

#8 - Seriously, you don't want to make him angry!

#9 - Need input....

#10 - Oh what's the point of this trivia!?

#11 - Talk to the fists

#12 - I liked it better as a big gun

Remember.... put in the name of the robot (character) and what movie/series or company is he/she/it from!

So post your answers.... and there'll be PART 2 coming up soon as well.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

More pix from the Lumix TZ2

In early July, I wrote about the amazing Panasonic Lumix range of compact super-zooms, given the series name of TZ (short for travel zoom).

My friend, AiHua, had since sent me more lovely pictures taken with his TZ2, but I'd somehow overlooked them and didn't post the pictures.... am hoping to make amends today, and in another future post.

Again, thanks AiHua, for sharing these!!

Hmmm... I really must seriously look into migrating to a different template. The current one looks nice but has 2 limitations... (1) the body / main column is too narrow for my liking... as a result, it doesn't do justice to the pictures below (they look too narrow/small!!)... (2) this is currently a 2-column template. Need to look for a good 3-column template that still gives lots of space in the middle for long-ish articles and photos.

Any recommendations, friends?

Macro #1

Macro #2

Max 10x zoom

Sights of Melbourne #1

Sights of Melbourne #2

What a view!! Northern Territory, AU.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Malaysia wins the debate!

I know I'm supposed to be off this keyboard and enjoying my holiday sans technology, and certainly without blogging.

Instead here I am, pecking away at these words, and later on, will have to go around looking for an internet connect to post this.

I couldn't help myself -- had to -- after thoroughly enjoying the debate between the ex- and the present CM of Penang this evening.

Often, it is hard to admit it when one is wrong. Even rarer is it when one admits a mistake happily. In an earlier post just after the debate between DSAI and DASC, I predicted that chances are, that would be the first and last debate.

I am so glad that I was WRONG about it. And I HOPE to continue to be wrong in that aspect, and that there will be many more of such debates in the future!

I personally think these debates are great. This gives a public platform for both sides of the political line to air their points, raise arguments and defend themselves. Admittedly, it remains to be seen if such debates will yield any long term benefit to the people. But at the least, the real judges (i.e. we the Rakyat) get to hear the (hopefully uncensored) exchanges and form our own opinions.

A great use of technology to serve the masses!!

BRAVO to the powers that be who allowed the 2nd debate -- keep it up!

BRAVO to the 2 speakers, who, contents aside, showed a very strong command of the Malay language -- they were articulate, fluent and witty in what is obviously their 2nd or even 3rd language.

Hmm... perhaps Bangsa Malaysia may not be a pipe-dream afterall....

So permit me to resume my holiday, and fantasise a bit about that....

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Be right back...

Alright... the bags are packed and we're ready to balik kampung.

Well its not quite Raya yet (we're Malaysians, we celebrate *everything*, remember?), but it is the school holidays! So, we'll be headed up North, hopefully for a few good days of R&R and some fun at the beach.

Away from the KL/PJ crowd.... away from computers and the Internet.... and away from blogging for a while.

Should be back in 5 days or so.... and until then, take care y'all, stay well and happy!!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

World's most adoroble trash-compacting bot

You really have to give it to the geniuses at Pixar.

Movie after movie, they manage to churn out the most lovable and endearing characters, pen the most beautiful stories, and produce the slickest movies without missing a beat.

Count them -- 9 movies to date, and not one of them deserving of any serious criticism. OK, so Cars was a relative disappointment compared to the other greats, but still, it stands as a pretty decent movie and is still miles ahead of the plethora of crappy children's movies around!

List from Rotten Tomatoes

I loved the way Pixar put so much effort into bringing life to the characters.

Think about it -- the characters in Wall-E are CGI-drawn robots rendered in massive server farms. They don't have real human voices behind them. They don't even look vaguely human!!

Does he remind you a bit of Johnny from Short Circuit?

Yet, the true stars of the show -- Andrew Stanton (writer & director) and the animators -- successfully bring 'life' to the string of ones and zeroes! The amount of human qualities the characters exude -- love, an appreciation of life, comradeship and loyalty; the intensity of happiness, sadness, excitement, fear, curiosity, sense of duty and responsibility....

Sure, we could marvel at the gagillion-bytes and thingamaflops of computing power that went into rendering the movie to absolute perfection. We could step back and be amazed at how many light years ahead the CGI is from Pixar's early days. But that would be missing the point.

Wall-E and Eve are the representation of all things human -- and they are so *much more* human than the many cardboard-thin 'real' characters in so many human-acted movies!!!

Yet, it is not 'just' a fun movie about friendship and first love. Behind that story is a message of the danger of unbridled consumerism. Of people who have traded in a real life for convenience and creature comfort. Of loosing sight of Mother Nature... until eventually losing Mother Nature. Of Man's arrogance which then led to the total destruction of his home planet.

But it is also about the all-redeeming hope.

Wall-E wondering if he'll get his own sequel like Woody and Buzz...

All of that is wrapped up in a nice package without being over preachy or moralistic.
Good fun, a warm-fuzzy and something to learn from. What more could you ask for?

Do yourself a favour... go watch the show and discover your inner robot! :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Totally awesome

Its fun to occasionally talk about something that has nothing to do with technology.

Take this video for example. I started noticing it appear on the Discovery channels a some time back. And I absolutely love it to bits!!

Its got a great catchy tune, simple but lovely lyrics, and boy, what a concept and message.

World, I love you -- you're totally awesome!!

Thank you Discovery and all you wonderful hosts of Discovery shows, who participated in this 'music video' :)

Fittingly, this video was also played right before the screening of Wall-e. If you've seen this sweet and touching movie, you can see the video placement was just apt.

I found in YouTube yet another rendition by Mike Rowe and other DC hosts ... just as wonderful! :)

OK, OK, so its Discovery Channel's 2008 advertisement. Even so, its one advertisement I'd gladly have it sitting in my mind, going Boom De Ya Dah!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Where did all the days go???

Good gosh!! It felt like a blink of an eye, but wow, I'd not been posting for over a week already!!

The past week has been crazy. Very late nights meant absolutely no time to indulge in a bit of story telling or tech-surfing. The rest of the couple of days that I did manage to get home early was spent trying to catch up on some precious ZZsss...

Next week's going to be just as bad (or good, depending on how you look at it, I guess!!) -- will be away during the school holidays... and chances are, where I'm going, it will be pretty hard to find a broadband connection.

Hope to be able to continue posting regularly again real soon.

Until then, take care.... and to those of you pending time with the family during the school holidays.... selamat bercuti and drive safely ya!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Are your kids safe in your car?

I have been meaning to write about hypermiling since my last post about fuel saving devices. And wanted to do so today. But what I saw this morning made me change my mind and switch to this topic instead.

There seems to be a lot of ignorant or utterly stupid Malaysian drivers around. No, I'm not referring to the those who hog lanes or tailgate or any other kinds of inconsiderate drivers ... for them, I'll probably reserve a whole future post!!

I'm referring to the loving and obliging parents who are either too clueless or thoughtless about child-safety in cars. These are the people who allow their kids to stand or climb around in the front passenger seat or sit in the driver's lap, while the car moves along at full speed.

Haven't they heard of this thing called inertia?
  • The kid is standing on the passenger seat one minute, the car hits another car, and in the next split-second, the kid smashes through the windscreen to who-knows-what beyond that.

Haven't they heard of these things called airbags?

Don't be misled by movies or TV shows
which always seem to show airbags as gentle, pillowy,

rubber balloons that perfectly protects the driver
and doesn't even
mess up your hairdo!
  • In an accident, an airbag deploys at the speed of 320kmh ... and 'deploy' means the tough nylon bag smacks into your face and chest faster than you can blink!
  • The airbag has to deploy with sufficient force to prevent the body from hitting against the steering or dashboard.... i.e. has to hit you hard and fast enough so you will not travel more than a few inches forward
  • Old airbags have only one setting -- they fully deploy when triggered -- regardless of whether you're at 25kmh or 60kmh
  • New airbags have a 2-stage mode -- they fully deployment at high speed crashes; partially at lower speeds
  • Airbags are built for adults.... they are extremely harmful or even deadly for children below 12
  • If a child seat / bassinet is placed with the child facing the airbag -- if deployed, the airbag will likely kill the child
  • If the same seat is placed facing backwards (away) from the airbag -- the bag is strong enough to smash through the seat, killing the child by inflicting massive head injuries; or it could push the seat backwards and crush the child against the seat
  • Airbags are a form of SRS (supplementary restraint system) and WILL ONLY WORK properly when used together with seat belts. If you think the airbag alone will safe your skin, YOU'RE WRONG
  • If you must have your child sit in front, look up the manual on how to disable the passenger-side airbag

Haven't they heard of rear passenger seat belts -- tie those little squirts up in the back!
  • Allowing the children to roam about freely at the back is also rarely a good a really bad idea
  • Don't wait until the law is enforced.... Singapore has enforced it, Australia has enforced it.... do you think just because Malaysia has deferred the enforcement by 6 months, the laws of physics will also not apply for 6 months?
  • Use a booster seat to make sure the child is brought up to sufficient height for the seat belt to work properly

The technologies in modern cars are lightyears better than those of 25 years ago. You now have the ABS, EBD, Airbags, pre-tensioner seat belts, vastly better tyres, slip and skid control, impact crumple zones, more rigid passenger area.... the list goes on.

But wonderful as these safety innovations are, they come to nothing, if we do not heed safetly practices and put our own children in harm's way.

Sorry if I've been preachy .... have a good drive, and may you and your family arrive safely!

Read more about airbag safety here and here.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What do you do with the junk in your drive?

Ever noticed how your hard disk free space seems to shrink even if you feel you're "not really" creating or downloading lots of documents? The truth is that your free space really does shrink after some time. And that's usually due to 'junk' that gets created 'naturally', and tends to accumulate as time passes.

Here are some of the most common space eaters.... and a couple of suggestions on what you can do about them:

1) The ever expanding trash can
  • Reduce the trash size % if you have huge drives (10% of a 1TB drive is 100 GB of trash ya!!)

2) Web browser cache
  • Do a one-time review of the allocated size and then leave it alone
  • Many tools offer quick fixes to free up your HD by deleting the cache... which is kinda a con as when you start surfing, the cache will start building up again
  • Clearing your cache give a very temporary (and likely pointless) relief!

3) Review and spring-clean your temporary folders (not advisable if you're not keen on getting your hands dirty... or have no idea what you're messing with!!)
  • C:\WINDOWS\Temp -- look for fossils that take up lots of space. If you don't see anything big, leave the rest alone. They should clean themselves up. And, you wouldn't want to accidentally delete stuff which you actually need, like cookies.
  • C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator\Local Settings\Temp -- ditto above, except there are no internet files nor cookies to worry about here.
  • Temporary zip paths -- If you access a content within a zip file, and you close the zip file while the content file is still being accessed, that file will remain in the zip temp drive indefinitely, and you'll need to manually delete them.
  • Search for core-dump files -- especially important if you have buggy apps installed. These dumps are usually found in the application path of the offending application. Hint: files usually end with '.dmp' (I have 2 such nasty little Java-based apps which periodically generate multiple 100MB-sized core-dump files!!!)

4) Accidental copy and pastes
  • This can sometimes happen so fast that you don't realise you've just duplicated a whole bunch of files with an extra Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V combo
  • Unless you have a tool (see below), manually searching each directory and removing these duplicates are a real pain
  • Or if you are feeling lucky, do a search for all files starting with "Copy of...." and delete them!!

5)Forgotten ones and the useless extras
  • How do you delete extra files which you don't even know exists?
  • You need tools!

Hey, are you trying to sell me something?
  • No. Unless you consider introducing to you some of my favourite freeware tools as selling. :)

So what are they, come on, tell already!

  • Find out which of your folders are taking up most space. TreeSize Free is my absolute favourite freeware for this category. Its fast, simple and the visual presentation really helps.

As with most system tools, PLEASE READ CAREFULLY the instructions of each of the tools. You're deleting stuff here, so you don't want to mess up your system while spring cleaning okay? :)

Ridding your drive of crud is a good thing. But that's not all. There are other things you need to do too, to keep the HD spinning away hapily. I'll be covering a few other nifty tools in a future post!

( Due apologies to WLE and other Mac users -- can only blog on stuff I know about or have actually done... and I have not used a Mac since the days of the G4! Soli aah...)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Renovation in progress...

Dear folks,

I must apologise that the postings here will be a bit more erratic than usual for the next few days. I'm in the process of 'renovating' this blog -- adding / removing stuff... and also fidgeting with the templates. Among the ideas -- convert to a 3-column layout, and to give the main text column more space.

Also trying to figure out a couple of 'under the hood' issues as well -- like metatags and sitemaps. Yep all the poking around a blog newbie like me need to do... its been confusing but fun!

I admit that I'm still learning new stuff, and having google answer every whim is kinda cool. The only problem is figuring out which are the useful things, and which are best ignored!

Will keep you posted on the changes as and when they happen.

Till then, thanks again for visiting... come again... tata, 再会,and, jumpa lagi!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The ultimate gym in a pill?

Ever wondered if it would be possible to stay healthy, slim and in great shape without needing rigorous exercise? And add that to being able to eat anything you want, yet have your stamina double that of what you previously have?

The WSJ and NY Times have just reported that researchers have discovered two drugs that gives you the same effects as if you've had a good aerobic workout!!

Here are some of the benefits of the drugs:
  • Improved ability of cells to burn fat
  • Body is better at retaining muscle mass
  • Increased stamina and endurance by between 44% to 70%
On top of that, these drugs even show promise in fighting obesity (30% of Americans are obese, 60% are overweight!), protection against diabetes and even muscular dystrophy (you muscles waste away for no reason).

Sounds too good to be true? Yeah, it is -- too good to be true. Sorry to burst your bubble.

These drugs have only so far been tested successful on mice. One of the two drugs are in late-stage human trials -- but have been withdrawn due to toxic side effects.

Already there are fears that these drugs will still find their way into gym lockers where there is a ready market where athletes look for that extra edge over their competitors.

Remember during the 80s when we first heard of performance-enhancing steroids? Those goodies targeted what's called the 'fast-twitch' muscles. These muscles burn sugars, and are the ones responsible for giving us the power and speed for sprints and any activity requiring a burst of energy. Those steroids were bad, remember, as they mess up your kidneys and a bunch of organs.

These new drugs target the 'slow-switch' muscles. These muscles are effective at burning fat, and are the ones that give you sustained performance -- like long jogs and marathons.

If there are sportsmen among you who think "oh I should go out and grab myself some of these GW1516 and Aicar pills (yeah, they're called that) from GlaxoSMithKlien, you better forget it. The guys are already one step ahead of you! They have already developed ways to detect this stuff the same way they test athletes for doping.

AND, if ever you stumble on those 'miracle' fat burners and 'as seen on TV' wonder cures.... be careful you know what you're getting yourself into!

For me, its back to the threadmill, or orbitrek, or a dip in the pool, if ever I feel guilty that I'd downed yet another half-tub of Rum 'n Raisin!