Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cloud Storage

Storing data on the cloud is fast becoming common as users begin to accept its convenience with ubiquitous and fast Internet connections anywhere in the world. More users no longer worry over the privacy of the data they uploaded. Highly confidential information are naturally stored in secured private servers instead of over public servers provided either for free or for a fee.

Some of the popular cloud storage services are Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Microsoft Skydrive, iCloud, iDrive, OpenDrive, Mediafire and Backupandshare. There are of course many more in the market for you to choose from. You can check out from THIS website.

Recently a new cloud service has appeared to offer their services. I find the offer of 20Gb free storage very very exciting, far larger than other free services that offer from 2-7Gb. On top of this huge quota, during its launching promotion the company is also giving out free 5Gb for each successful referral made. Theoretically you can hit 100Gb or more free storage for your entire library of home photos, music and movies if 20 of your friends accept your invitations. Once you've registered you will be able to invite your own friends. For now if you are interested why not sign up at this secured website link.



Monday, June 24, 2013

Changing Smartphone

The last time I was stuck with making a gadget choice was in buying my next camera. After reviewing several models of compact digital cameras my choice ended with the Canon Powershot S100 which I got at a bargain auction price far less than the retail price. It has become my default camera whereas my iPad was used regularly before its purchase.

I had been toying with changing my 26 months old Galaxy Ace not so much because of age factor but because I was fed up with its slow load up time of the installed apps. The current haze had me locked indoor so I went about checking the most popular phone models in the Malaysian markets and what reviewers say about them. The choices narrow down to these models:

  • LG Nexus 4 - 3G compliant, older technology, low internal memory of 16 Gb max, no microSD expansion slot.
  • iPhone 5 - 4G LTE compliant, only 1 Gb RAM, pretty boring with only 4.0" display, pricey, 16/32/64 Gb internal memory, no microSD slot.
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 - 4G LTE compliant, 2 Gb RAM, like iPhone 5 with 16/32/64 Gb internal memory BUT with microSD expansion slot and 5" display. Major complaint of cheap body built made of polycarbonate.
  • HTC One - not as popular as iPhone or Samsung but emerging as a phone with great workmanship and aluminum body, 4G LTE compliant, 4.7" display, 32 or 64 Gb internal memory and 2 Gb RAM but no microSD slot. 
  • HTC Butterfly - like its One brother but only 16 Gb internal memory but with microSD slot to 32 Gb. 5" display screen. Also 4G LTE compliant.
  • LG Optimus G Pro - 4G LTE compliant, 2 Gb RAM, 32 Gb internal memory and expansion slot to 64 Gb microSD card, larger 5.5" display and equally large size body dimension. Largest of the 6 models reviewed.

Nexus 4 and Optimus G Pro were eliminated because of technology and size issues. Butterfly was knocked off because of internal memory issue that can affect apps loading time, a big issue for me. This leaves just 3 contenders:

iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

iPhone 5 is safe as I'm already familiar with the Apple iOS6 on my iPad but I find the 4.0" screen now too small and the apps overly crowded on the screen. But I like the seamless and fast switching between apps.

In the Samsung Galaxy S4 I have issues on plasticky built and my experiences with 4 Samsung cellphones so far. Not exactly very pleased with Samsung phones.

HTC One. I have no experience whatever with this brand so I have to trust third party reviews and my gut feel. Among the 3 manufacturers HTC is the smallest player in the smartphone market but catching up quickly. I like the reviews on its exquisite aluminum body and crisp screen display and great audio speakers. I am a sucker for looks besides performance. With its Qualcomm Snapdragon quad-core 1.7 GHz processor it runs really fast. Therefore the One meets my expectation. The final hurdle is to hand hold and test out a physical unit soon. Hopefully the One is really going to be the one. Meanwhile here are pictures of the 3 finalists, courtesy GSMArena.com.








Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Haze Season Again

About 4 days ago I noticed the skies in Seremban was hazier than usual but didn't know then that it was caused by smoke that had drifted across the Straits of Melaka from Sumatra due to open burning of forests being cleared for planting of oil palm. Below is the image captured by NASA satellite.

You can almost feel the pain of those whose air have been polluted by the drifting smoke caused by such indiscriminate and illegal opening burning. Singapore was very badly hit 24 hours ago when the Air Pollution Index or API hit 401 which is considered hazardous. What else can the government do but blame on the Indonesian government for failing to arrest this annual problem? And to be rebutted as being childish is unbecoming. The source of smoke had come from Sumatra and the host country must deal with it as the problem had hurt the residents of Singapore and Malaysia. A simple apology and an assurance that the government is trying its best to contain the problem and that any assistance offered would be appreciated would be more neighborly and assuring Unless drastic steps are taken now we can be expected to suffer this health problems for years to come.

I cannot recall when we started complaining about haze. But it certainly have to do with the development of Sumatra as a world producer of crude palm oil. In the mid 1960s Malaysia started planting oil palm as a commercial oil crop after importing the seeds from Nigeria and that transformed our economy to be the largest palm oil producer in the world. However rising costs of harvesting and processing as well as government restriction on the expansion of oil plam incursion into the natural forest cover led to the plantation owners in Malaysia to collaborate with Indonesian land owners to develop the tropical forests in Indonesia and Kalimantan into oil palm plantations. It is economically profitable as land there are cheap and so are the labor which is in abundant supply. As a result Malaysia lost its position as the no. 1 palm oil producer to Indonesia after 2006. Today Indonesia is the largest producer of crude palm oil while Malaysia retained its position as the top exporter of palm oil products (refer HERE for additional information).

In between the late 1990s and mid 2000s was the period when vast tracts of virgin forest lands in Sumatra were cleared for replanting with oil palm trees. To speed up the land clearing open burning was the preferred and cheapest option. The devastation was both ecological and economical. Wild lives were dislocated and diminished when they had no where to run for cover. Elephants, tigers and the endangered orangutan died at the hands of ruthless plantation owners who had selfish profit motives in mind without any concern for wild life conservation. Economically while Indonesia prospered with better job availability for their workers neighboring countries suffered annual high medical bills, loss of manpower time and loss of tourism income in such a time when open burning is carried out in defiance to government orders. It is quite possible some of these owners have good connections with senior government officials to explain why year after year the problem stayed unresolved.

Looking back I'm sure the haze season became a routine problem for us from around 1998-2000 and since then there had not been any improvement in air quality. Today we have the internet and social networking to receive live reports on how air quality deteriorated and what decision we take to plan our day. Those affected are not taking this lying down. While we share common air we also demand that the air we breathe must be responsibly used and exchanged. Global efforts must be made to pressure offending nations to take immediate measures to stop hurting other nations especially when the causes are man made. Volcanic eruptions that spew dust and poisonous gas into the atmosphere which are carried thousands of miles into the airspace of surrounding nations are a natural disaster unlike those actions taken by citizens and corporations who deliberately violate environment laws regardless of how their actions inconvenienced or endangered the lives of others. It is not improper for the Association of SEA Nations or ASEAN and the United Nations to force Indonesia to act more decisively on the offenders. A cross border law enforcement agency must be set up to stop future air pollution of such a scale. Profit motive must never overide the need to be civil and kind to our environment and health.

This aerial picture grabbed from my Facebook friend posting this morning caught the actual open burning in action. Question is with such an evidence will the land owner be persecuted?

These pictures showed the air quality this morning in Kuala Lumpur and Seremban. I joked with my wife as we drove to church that we should fly to New Zealand for a 2 weeks holiday and return after the haze is over. I believe my friends there are thankful they had migrated to a land where the air is clean.





















I have little doubt that nothing will change until the haze dissipate on its own when the open burning dies down. Will we then forget and be reminded a year later or will strong government to government talks eventually lead to cleaner air for all of us affected over the past 15 years or so? Or do we let our children and grandchildren grow up in such unhealthy environment?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Does Rallies Prove Anything?

The KL622 rally at Padang Merbok has ended. About 30,000 supporters of Pakatan, Bersih or anyone who wants reform to be instituted quickly came and left peacefully with a handful now camping there to occupy the field to await the opening of the new parliament session on Monday. It was a relatively tame affair. Despite the threat from the City Hall who refused to issue a permit to gather there the might of human wave pushed the threat aside. There is nothing City Hall officials, the minister or the police can do. The participants were just walking orderly from seven gathering points towards PM. There is no offense in walking in a group. The police did the right thing to just coordinate the traffic flow. By the time the participants dispersed after 6pm there were no reports of any scuffles or injuries. KL622 has sent the message to the government. Disband the current Election Commission or face continuous pressures from civil movements until they do. This is the purpose of the rallies, to force the reformation since they refused to reform on their own. In the mind of the protesters the Pakatan coalition lost the election because of bias of the EC. Having won more popular votes, they deserve the right to form the government, not Barisan which earned less than 50% of the total votes casted. The EC has failed to institute a democratic electoral process to allow popular votes to decide the choice of their government.

All over the world governments are beholden to the people. Gone are the days when people fear the government. Now it is the reverse. The Barisan government had better listen and concede to the demands or face further actions. Just get rid of the heads of the EC and have new ones appointed. What is the fear?

Hats off to all the participants who gave up their weekend afternoon for a cause that help define a more equitable society. We must be a nation ruled by a government chosen by the majority. Only then can we have peace and harmony between the people and the government they put in power. For now 51% voters disagree that Barisan have any moral right to run the nation.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

First Time Dad

Today being Father's Day took me back to the day I first became one, on a December morning in 1974 when I went to the maternity ward of the hospital where my wife gave birth to our first child, a daughter. As I gazed at the pint size infant in the cot next to my wife I asked myself this ageless question, "Is this my child?" Not that I doubt but in a sudden bewilderment that I am no longer responsible just to the two of us, my wife and I, but a third person has become an important part of our lives. I was soaked in feelings of joy and fear, pride and humility. I still couldn't comprehend the enormous responsibility I was then bestowed. I stood in awe of a life that came from us, a feeling till today I could not repeat for in that moment in time my life changed forever. I had become a father.

I became father twice more and for the next 25 years raised my children as best as we could. They moved where I moved, they became pawns of my follies and they were delivered into my world to be made adults who not only carry the family tradition but values that impact their peers and society. My key advice to them all is make society a better place by their presence.

Today I wore two titles. This morning my older grandchildren called up to wish me Happy Grandfather's Day. It was a sweet feeling that I know I will enjoy year after year. The upbringing of our children has led to the filial upbringing of their children. My wife and I are truly blessed to have our six grandchildren. They will be our gems we wear upon our crowns in old age.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Father's Wish

It will be Father's Day again and over dining and gifting with perhaps some hugging, kissing and maybe a holiday for him and mom, the event will become another day gone. I was a son, a son-in-law, a father, a father-in-law, and now a grandfather ( hopefully to live long enough to be a grandfather-in-law one day ). And I look upon Father's Day not just as a recognition from a son or daughter to his or her dad, but also how he hope they and their children will turn up to be.

First of all I must confess I wasn't the best of son. I know from mom and dad's eyes and hearts I was and still am a good son. I provided, I repaid the love they gave by giving them money as a son would. But I wish I had done more to make them really really glad to have such a son. They never asked much, neither did they demanded. I think what they asked was a sensitive heart to know what they desired and to quietly provide for them. It required a great deal of empathy to know your parents well. Because we are caught up with our own lives we may be careless in our remarks or insistent in our ways. I guess the right thing to do is put ourselves in their shoes.

I cannot speak of the relationship of other people. I can only share how I feel and deal with my own father and father-in-law. In age comes a fair amount of wisdom and in looking back a fair amount of regret too in having less wisdom then than now. I wish I had understood my dad better before he died. I wish I could do much more although in his heart this son had brought him pride and joy. Yet this feeling that if he still lives today I would surely made his life more comfortable and our father-son relationship closer. Maybe that's because I am now where he was 15 years ago. At about the same age I could think like him then. And born of him I too inherited the character of not asking or demanding.

I think the best thing I really did for him and mother was accompany them to the States in 1991 to visit their unmarried son, my 3rd brother. It was the first and only trip they made including my mother who at 88 now is in no condition nor desire to travel. I helped them realize their dream. And I could do so because my other father, my heavenly Father, enabled me to be financially ready to make the trip. It shall remain a journey forever etched in my memory. I believe he was grateful that I brought him there although he never openly told me. He was a quiet person. Throughout our stay he was happy and enjoyed himself. That made my day as a son.

I married my wife in 1973 and got to know her father to be a difficult dad but he wasn't like that to me. He wasn't abusive nor violent but he could be divisive and quarrelsome. He sometimes made life a little unhappy for people around him including his wife. But he wasn't a bad guy. In my mind, he was a father and husband in need of recognition and physical love. Born in China he carried the belief that he ought to be the head of the family in all situations and therefore respected for whatever instructions he said or views he carried. Sadly he didn't have a career he was proud of, even my mother-in-law was better qualified career wise as a teacher. I guess he felt inferior, unappreciated, unrecognized as the father figure, and ignored. These made him more bitter and difficult. I can empathize with him and felt his pain and deep seated unresolved anger and frustrations. In these 40 years I tried to be a good son-in-law both in term of providing monetary gifts and wishing him as well as holding simple conversations with my limited Cantonese. I knew he wanted to be noticed and valued as a person. He didn't demand much but his past made him harder to love. Only by understanding his past and making a patient effort to draw closer into him can anyone restore his inner peace and quietened his bruised spirit. My father-in-law is now 94, coming to 95 soon. I love him as my own father because he had unfulfilled needs and he cried out in unabated anger many misunderstood as divisive and destructive. He is not an easy father or grandfather. Yet he is also a child of God. And he has his fears too. Being of simple mind he fears death although he was baptized. He needs closure with all his past hurts so that he can leave this world in peace. The other weekend I just held his head in my chest and cradled him for a long while. He wants to be understood but don't know how. I want to be to my father-in-law now what I couldn't be to my own dad because I was in different circumstances and level of maturity and wisdom. I wish he can smile again, a gift he lost many years ago.

To him and to my late dad, what counts isn't a happy Father's Day. What they, and I believe all fathers, including me, wish for is to understand that we are imperfect, we need love and respect, and we need to be heard, given space and time, and encouragement to continue leading the life and role as fathers and grandfathers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blackout Rallies

After the 11th Blackout rally held last night in Kangar, Perlis, the smallest and northern most state in peninsula Malaysia held by the BN state government one common observation stood out. There was not a single unruly incident reported. And the police were not present to create any trouble. Unlike the Hindraf and Bersih rallies that the police and riot squads intervened that resulted in injuries and property damages. In fact the estimated half million participants who eagerly attended all these rallies were there to be part of a peaceful revolution with no intention to cause any trouble or inconvenience. They went to support a noble cause, to restore a just government for what they experienced was that the BN government had been corrupt, divisive, extreme, arrogant, self centered and inept. Malays, Chinese, Indians, Punjabis and East Malaysians. It is a universal desire to want a leadership that possess qualities that endear the public to them. Over a month after BN was reinstalled as the federal government for another 5 years, the same old incorrigible BN remain. In fact the deputy PM even threatened constituencies and states that did not vote in BN candidates that they will not receive the same assistance as BN won states and constituencies. This is blatant discrimination. Did he not realize his statement has hurt those in the opposition won constituencies who has voted for the BN candidates?

PM Najib spoke of national reconciliation after the election. Nothing that took place these past week suggest he has made any effort to heal the nation. A peacemaking PM he is not. Perhaps many voters who casted for BN had begun to regret their choices.

Both coalitions have begun to file petitions in high courts over irregularities in constituencies their candidates lost. Precious time will be spent to assess evidence and calling up witnesses to decide if any re-elections are necessary. The central blame had been on the partial Election commissioners who took the unashamed stand of being pro-government. Demands have been made on their resignation but they doggedly refused. The country is going to the dogs at the way our government ministers muddled through a weak mandate. More seats did not equate to popular support. The electoral system definitely need to be revamped to be fairer. The outlook is bleak as both the EC and BN wants to bury the Pakatan opposition before it reach full size. The problem is Pakatan is having more people backing its right to form the government. How many of the rank and file police and military forces as well as the civil servants are quietly pro-Pakatan ? The third strike in 2018 may see BN knock out after losing their two third majority in 2008 and 2013 and having a reducing simple majority.

All these Blackout rallies serve to keep the spirit high and reminders to BN never to underestimate the power of people movements. Like the post-911 rallying cry against terrorism we are reminded to 'never forget' how we were cheated of our victory on May 5, 2013. The 'Ini Kalilah' placard in my room will be a constant reminder of how very close we came to taste victory and real change.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Nothing Happy About Birthdays

Whoever that create happy birthday songs and teach people to celebrate their anniversaries of growing old must have known that growing older is certainly not something to be happy about. Celebrating birthdays are to soothe away whatever misgivings we have of leaving the past behind and heading into our sunsets, especially when we cross the decade bars. Ask anyone who becomes 30 and the answer is likely to be, ooooh I am growing old and I can feel it. As 30s hit 40, and 40s hit 50, the same feeling that birthdays are just reminders of our vulnerability knead at our souls. How we wish time can slow down a little so we can enjoy our mid age a little longer.

Somewhere someone just turn 60 and I can empathize with him or her for I had entered that zone several years ago. People can say all they like that it is a glorious thing to be old, people give you more respect, make way for you and are more patient with your slowness. Well, that's all crap to those who believe that at whatever age each stand alone alongside the others. Truth is we are really losing advantage to the younger citizens. Our bodies refuse to cooperate and our mind conveniently forget. The least we need is to be reminded every year that we are giving away more of our abilities and faculties as we age. Perhaps that's why some people refuse to celebrate birthdays. They prefer not to be reminded that time is flying ever so fast away.

I may be wrong but I'm sure there are people who like to grow old and die. These people look foward to a perfect and ageless life after death which is priceless and free from worldy pain and sufferings. Most likely this category of people are sufferers and find this life not worth enjoying. So to them birthdays can be happy reminders in anticipation of going away sooner.

If you are happy with growing older, then Happy Birthday to you. Otherwise I guess wishing you a Blessed Birthday would be more appropriate.

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