Tuesday, December 19, 2006

"Technology Neutrality" and what it means to us Malaysians - New Straits Times

My article finally came out in the New Straits Times Online, entitled "Opinion: 'Technology Neutrality' and what it means to us Malaysians". Its quite a direct article in that I didn't hold back in the direct criticisms and that was deliberate because the message has to be quite clear that the terms "Neutrality" should not just mean sit-back-and-dont-do-nufin. It should mean a pro-active approach in software evaluation to ensure that we have a level playing field.

Im just wondering if the New Straits Times would actually have the guts to put this opinion on their print versions, in conjunction with their BSA/CompTIA/Microsoft sponsored 'advertorials' which they so frequently have, often an entire spread with full colour ...

Well, its a continuation of our efforts in getting the communities voice heard in mainstream media, and hopefully we can have more of these in the future.


yk.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

MOSSA!

Today was the position statement of MOSSA, the Malaysian Open Source Alliance. It was wonderful to see vendors, users and organisations come together to show our support for Open Source in Malaysia. Competing vendors like IBM, Novell, Redhat, Sun and Malaysian ISVs like Omnilogic, QubeConnect, OpenSourceSystems, Skali to organisations who represent users like FMM, MNCC and UNDP. This was a truly unique phenomena and it was wonderful to see companies rise beyond their sales struggles to unite for a common cause which was inline with their customers needs.

Dr. Yusseri gave a talk on his experiences in setting up the MAMPU masterplan and how some people decided to concentrate on just one sentence in the 1000+ sentence document and harp on the very hypothetical situation of preference to OSS. He was dissapointed that the very people who were harping on it never really read the document and the main message it was sending out. And that was ironically the true form of technology neutrality.

He said that eventually, all software would be free. The entire stack is going in that direction. Now Operating Systems are pretty much free, productivity apps are decreasing in costs, with very good alternatives available for free, and eventually CMS, ERP and other products will be available in the OSS landscape. All this will happen while incubents will continue to wrange, increase prices and involve themselves in anti-competitive behaviour. And yet OSS is inevitable and will be more of a "no-brainer" sooner if not later.

He was worried that Malaysia's contribution to Open Source projects is still miniscule. The number of contributors vs population is extremely small compared to countries like Australia which has an avid contributor community.

After his talk, there was a enlightening Roundtable talk. Representatives from MOSSA answered questions and discussed issues pertaining to the software market in Malaysia, Piracy, the confusion of Open Source and Standards and Respect for IP.

The result was a true understanding of the term Neutrality and the benefits it can bring to Malaysians with increased Choice, lower costs, and more freedoms.

With it came the position statement of MOSSA, which is available here:

"Position Statement on Software Neutrality and Openness" from MOSSA (Malaysia Open Source Software Alliance)

You are invited to endorse the Position Statement -- you may do so by using the Comments facility at the bottom of this blog post or email us at the address open -AT - openmalaysiablog - DOT - com. Please submit your real name in full, organization, email address, contact number and website (if available).

If you support this position, go ahead and add a comment at openmalaysiablog.com


yk.

Friday, November 24, 2006

gimme my steel parang.

It would be humourous if it wasnt so sad.

Sounds like Malaysia and Thailand's Technology Ministers are trying to out do each other!

Here's the latest from our very own Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation:

The minister cited the example of a parang (machete) made from titanium and another made of stainless steel.

"If you believe that you can do more using the titanium parang, then use the titanium parang," he said. And if the stainless steel parang serves you better, you should use that.

"It's about choice. Let the market decide," he added

Anyway, who'd use a titanium parang?

  1. cost would be exhorbitant
  2. shouldn't use a lightweight product to do heavy weight work
  3. maintenance would be a killer
  4. sharpening stones would need to come with guaranteed advantage
  5. Once broken considered gone
  6. Weight distribution will be all wrong
  7. Form over function

All in all, users of titanium parangs tend to be bad hackers anyway.


yk.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Groklawed!

Woo... One of my posts have been Groklawed.
.... well ... in a very minor way.

Pamela Jones keeps a roll of interesting 'News Picks' articles on the right hand column of her very popular FOSS Law website, and the one which caught her attention was my commentary in the openmalaysiablog.com site on the concerns regarding Open Formula in the ODF / ISO 26300 specifications which Microsoft Malaysia is harping about.

Im trying to put facts into context and dismiss all the pseudo-concerns (FUD) regarding this issue.

Anyway, here is the screenshot, which Im very proud of:

And here is the article entitled: The Formula Issue in Detail.


yk.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Upgrading the E61 Firmware

I read with interest the new firmware released by Nokia for the E61. For example:
"I am waiting anxiously to get my hands on the new E61 firmware.
It is currently running 1.0610.04.04 and the new firmware version is 2.618.06.05. As soon as I get a chance to try it, I will post more details here "
This was written in August 18th 2006 on a blog called "All things fony!" which deals with E61 mods and stuff. Quite an interesting site.

To find out what firmware you are running, type in *#0000# in the dialer and immediately the phone should report what versions they are.
1.0610.04.04
19-04-06

RM-89

Nokia E61


So interestingly, mine was still the 1.0* version which is peculiar as I just bought it. Ah well. Fortunately, unlike older Nokia handphones, we dont need 'official' nor 'trained' Nokia 'service personnels' to flash the device to the latest and greatest firmware. For my 7710, I was scammed RM80 to get it flashed at a Dr.Mobiles, and vowed never to do so again. I hoped that the upgrade would make it faster, and have better character recognition. Unfortunately it was the Asian Version, so the upgrades were good for Chinese Character recognition which made my English character recognition even worse.

Anyway, the upgrade process was fortunately relatively simple! Just go to the Nokia Software Update Site, and follow the 5 steps.
  1. Backup Phone Settings (Tools / Mem / Options / Backup)
  2. Download the Windows based Software Updater (16MB)
  3. Install the Software Updater ( I had to install twice - the first attempt rolled back)
  4. Download the latest Firmware - 47.9MB (!!)
  5. Upload the Firmware to the device. It took about 8 minutes to upload the info to the E61, and the progress bar was moving slowly but surely. The device rebooted twice, and the last one showed the NOKIA logo (much to my relief) however it looked lower onscreen than usual.
Upon the restart,
  1. Had to reset the city/time settings
  2. Restore most settings from the memory card backup
  3. Restart the device again.
  4. Type in *#0000#
2.0618.06.05
14-07-06

RM-89

Nokia E61

Updated!

I didnt see much difference, only that the colours of the top two icons (Tx power and Battery indicators) tend to not change when the background fades. Otherwise its suppose to be faster. I guess I didnt have enough time with the old version to tell the difference.

yk.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Nokia E61 vs Nokia 7710


Ive finally moved from my Nokia 7710 and purchased the relatively recent E61.

The main reasons are:
  1. Wifi support - something severely lacking in the 7710
  2. Proper browser - with a better aspect ratio
  3. A proper keyboard - instead of resorting to the onscreen keyboard, after the character recognition on the 7710 got worse (after a firmware 'upgrade')
  4. A whole lot thinner. Fits in the pocket better.
  5. 3G
  6. So much more responsive. The 7710 is lagggggy. It takes 5-10 seconds just to load up an sms. Frustrating! The E61 is fast. Just like the old mono phones of yesteryear.
  7. Other communication features, which I havent gotten round to configure yet: SIP phone, Push-To-Talk, IM, and all these niceties...
what a brick.

What would be missed are
  1. The Camera - the E61 doesnt have one, which is peculiar for a 'modern' phone, but I guess it brings weight and costs down
  2. A good Alarm Clock - the E61's alarm clock is primitive. Just set the time, and it rings and dissapears. The 7710 has some great functionality like only ringing on weekdays, scheduling multiple alarms. It was well thought out.
  3. Power socket is smaller than the normal Nokia plugs. This will be a nuinsance especially at remote locations when batteries are low and the device needs recharging. The package comes with a proper charger, and a adapter for the plug, but its such a hassle. I also dont understand why Nokia phones can't charge via the USB connector cable provided.
  4. Boomier Bass - The 7710's speakers are huge. The E61 is not too bad either, but doesnt quite compare with its older bro.

Besides the great communication features E61 offers, it the really tactile keyboard which I like. Its reminicent of an old HP 4350 I used before about 2 years ago.

The problem with that model was that it was just a iPaq, with no phone features. It had Wifi and Bluetooth, but it really needed to have a decent phone.

I guess it takes the 3 years since before we have something like the E61.

Ive been using the E61 for three days now, and Im really happy with the build quality. Its light, but it doesnt feel that plasticky. Most things are customisable. There are also quite a few annoyances which I will definitely rant about one of these days.

The default screen protector is still on, you'd just have to pick out the corner foil, and it should stay on. Dinesh had his on for quite a while, which looked dreadful. When the time comes Ill replace it with a better one, as I hope he has done.


yk.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Things that make me go *sigh* for Malaysia.

Reading the papers nowadays is depressing at worst or sadly humourous at best. It takes alot of effort to see that anything good can come out of it all.

The first of course was the case of the MP who asked Customs to 'Close one Eye' on his alleged illegal imports of timber. That alone was a huge farce, but the complications related to that event in the towing the party line of the Backbenchers club ,and the subsequent resignation of the president showed that the wrong person suffered. Subsequently the One-eyed MP goes on with business as usual, committing other wrongs while going off scot free.

Then the Article 11 issues, where good intentions of debating pertinent issues in a civilised manner was disrupted by unruly people. Instead of arresting the rioters, the organisors were persecuted. And the subsequent gag order in the pretense of maintain blah blah stability was issued. Again, the wrong persons became the victims.

Next up, the asli report on corporate equity distribution. Whether or not the model proposed is right, does not deserve the damning accusation that the report is 'rubbish'. The document seems well researched with facts to balance, and it is open for all to review. Versus the 'closed document', it doesnt seem 'rubbish' to me. Because of this report which was published 8 months ago (Feb '06) asli was politically pressured to retract the figures, now the good Dr. has to resign. Again, the wrong person was persecuted for no apparent wrong doing.

The new thing is the case of the Fraudulent APs where it is alleged that a Senator's son was selling fraud APs. The Senator has the gall to state in newspapers that his son was stupid, and should have been more discrete in the fraud. Perhaps his quotes was out of context, but it sure doesn't sound like this Senator wholeheartedly disproves of his son's act!

Its darn frustrating that people like these are running our country.

Things do make things right again:
  1. Transparency. Opaque procedures like APs and Govt docs should be documented and published.
  2. Zero tolerance for corruption. MPs and Senators should resign (and not their critics) if they find themselves in controversy
  3. Knowlege-based workforce. Studies like asli should be encouraged and not persecuted.
  4. Multi-culturalism and Understanding. More dialogues should be held instead of gagged.
And then we have the haze, but that, we can't do much about.


yk.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Panic: Temporary File Seek

Administrating users emails is a bore. Some are packrats and just keep their emails forever. A quick look at the /var/spool/mail/ directory will show just how much emails are stored.

Yesterday there was a user who sent out an email with a large 17MB power point file to EVERYONE. Three times. This caused uptimes to soar and made people frustrated that their emails were delivered slow if at all. So we had to clean them up.

# mail -u lewser.
fseek: Invalid argument
panic: temporary file seek
Aborted
# |

What? we started panicking. File system corruption? Our RAID failed? Need a reboot? Mailbox dead? We tried it on other users with large mailboxes with the same error!

***panic*panic*panic***

We decided to take a breather and do some research before we rip apart our mailserver.
Googling gave us a hint: use mutt.

#mutt -f lewser

and I was pleasantly surprised with a console app that looked like this:

spam riddled email user.

It successfully opened the mail, allowed me to navigate to the bottom really quickly (PgDn), and interactively delete the email (d), feedbacked to me whenever it was opening or closing a file. No silly fseek problems. What a life-saver.

So why doesnt mail support large mailboxes? I have no idea.
Why doesnt it provide a more 'soothing' error message instead of sending us into panic mode? I dont know.
Will I use 'mail -u' ever again? Not if I can help it.

The Mutt is truly Man's Best Friend.


yk.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

PopTop - PPTP Windows VPN on a Linux Server

Our old PPTP server finally died last week.

It was an old Windows NT (!!!) server, and we were just wondering how long it would take before it got taken down. Well, it finally got found, and was subsequently infected with numerous viruses by the script kiddies out there. Comparitively, it lasted long enough, a good 8 years plus, so it had a good run!

We got rid of the viruses, and put it back on, and within a day, it got infected again.

Fortunately we dont have anything important running on it, most of our VPN requirements have been converted to IPSec. However is a small number of users who do want to connect from home, via the very convenient PPTP connections on their Windows machines. Very easy to set up and run. Not a crucial requirement, but nice to have...

So we decided to try PopTop.
"Using Poptop, Linux servers can now function seamlessly in a PPTP VPN environment. This enables administrators to leverage the considerable benefits of both Microsoft and Linux operating systems."
Setting this up was relatively easy. I followed the online instructions as described here: Redhat-howto. However there were problems.

At first the WinXP client would not connect to the server. Upon checking, I found out that the firewall was enabled on the server. So we opened up port 1723 for PPTP.

Then the WinXP client connected, but complained about the server not supporting certificates; either 40bit or 128bit encryption. My fault, didnt set the options.pptp file correctly with require-mschap-v2 and require-mppe-128 as options.

I used the webmin-PPTP-Server to do the administration (comes standard with webmin), and it was pretty much full featured except that it didnt have a section to define the MS-DNS and MS-WINS options as in the options.pptp file. Not a major problem; vi helped.

Its hard to debug the connection. Somehow I never got to ping the PPTP server when connected. So for a good 3 hours I was trying to find out what was wrong, and making sure that the routes are correct. Its annoying because a 'route print' nor a 'ipconfig' on the WinXP doesnt provide any useful information regarding the VPN setup.

And then finally I found this nugget of information: 'deselect "Use default gateway on remote network"' I tried it, and mysteriously it worked.

It took me longer that I anticipated to set up the server, however it was not because of the server setup, rather it was an obscure setting on the client to get it to work.

So now we have completely replaced the unsupported, defunct, aging, crackable Windows NT with a shiny new Fedora Core 5 server running PopTop. Users just have to make a small adjustment to their client setting to reconnect. I have since brought up the firewall to only allow certain traffic to flow through this connection to prevent future cracks.

Its amazing what FOSS can do for you.

yk.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ubuntu "Dapper Drake" LTS v6.06

I got a copy of Ubuntu from Aizat at the myoss stall at the PC Fair. Unfortunately it got me puzzled, as my laptop didn't recognise the disc as a bootable one. So it looked like a dud disk. However the content is OK, in that its viewable. So my only guess is that the person who prepared it mounted the ISO image and burnt the CD from the contents, and not the ISO directly. Ive seen this happen before, even by some computer experts. So if you happen to have this disc from the PC Fair, please throw it away and get a proper one.



I managed to get a bootable Ubuntu, and tried installing it on my laptop. Its a Compaq Presario x1407, which sports a widescreen 1600x1050 res. This gave X alot of problems in that my resolutions are not standard, and I often have to manually edit the config files just to get the settings right.

So I was rather pleasantly surprised when Ubuntu booted up into its glorious GUI and detected my display correctly. Its wonderful that these live installers allow the user to test drive the desktop before installing. Isn't it novel that linux can do that? "Try me, if you like me, install me". So I did. I clicked on the little icon, the only one available on the top right and proceeded to install Ubuntu, for the first time.

There were quite a few quirks with the Ubuntu installer, and I will list the few here in my notes during the installation.
  1. The time was wierd. After setting my timezone to KL, (which was on the map, fortunately) it added 7 hours to my system clock. This is wierd because my other OSs are ok with it. So I just went with it and readjusted the clock back 7 hours.
  2. The Keyboard selection was unique, it even has a text entry to try out the keys. However the screen on the right was conspicuously blank, which really show show a bitmap/SVG of the keyboards selected. The ability to support multi-languages out of the box is a real plus.
  3. The Disc Partitioner is slightly obscure. I have a 5GB partition which I leave for testing out OSes (the previous was linspire). I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to 'flag' which partition to install Ubuntu's root to. So I just deleted the linspire partition, and recreated it as ext3 with the option to format it. After clicking 'Next' it becomes obvious on how to set the partitions for installation, where we define the mount points. However it wasnt obvious when it mattered.
  4. It was great that it recognises all my partitions immediately and offers to mount all of them, including NTFS and FAT32s. My fedora 5 install requires me to jump through hoops for NTFS support.
  5. However the installer should show what the filetypes are to help us define the mountpoints. It would be great to have the graphic of the partitions displayed too.
  6. It took a mere 15 minutes to copy the gist of Ubuntu into the HDD. In the meantime, I could play all the games supplied in the GUI, and even browse the 'net as TCPIP was correctly configured. Thats quite a nice touch, and it beats Fedora's Anaconda which takes up the entire screen, or Window's text based installer.
  7. There were some issues with the GUI widgets: buttons started changing colours and only reverted on mouseover or when clicked and other oddities.
  8. So after the copying, I rebooted. Only to be greeted by a new grub, with WinXP correctly identified as a boot option. The cute drums upon login is a nice touch.
  9. 'sudo -i' is the means of getting the root shell. Use the users password, not roots.
  10. To get mp3 and all the other 'patented' goodies to work under Ubuntu, its relatively easy... in synaptic, select the 'Universe' and 'Multiverse' repos and reload the package info. Then install gstreamer and all the other stuff as described in this HowTo.
  11. One great thing is that Hibernate works out of the box! I assigned the power button to Hibernate, and after about 20 seconds, the computer shuts down. Starting up and resuming work would take about 50 seconds. Im not complaining, cos I never got it to work before.
  12. I added the Weather applet on the gnome panel. Unfortunately 'Kuala Lumpur' still is NOT an option under 'Asia/Malaysia'! The closest city is Subang, so I selected that.
  13. At home, the Wifi worked out well.
So its just been a few days of playing with this distro, and I must say, Im very impressed with it. Just one CD, and its quite a nice desktop, with all the apps to make it functional. The 'interactive' install is a definite bonus. I now know why this distro has so many fans and understand why it has grown so popular that quickly.

Well done to the guys at Canonical!

yk.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Office Values

There's this fantastic set of videos on Google Video on Microsofts' new training video, written and performed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, with Ricky reprising his role as David Brent from the originial BBC 'The Office' Series.

Its really fantastic.

Here is Part 1:


And Part 2:


To illustrate his crazy monologues, David Brent goes on to describe Microsoft's core value: "Maintaining and being informed by our passion for customers for the technology."

"... so Im selling this thing
'Can I buy this brilliant piece of technology?'
'Yes you can, you little four eyed freak. Its 400 quid. Now get out of the shop you're making the place look untidy!'

Its just as bad the other way 'round. Just as bad. Ive no passion for the technology 'eww made this right'
Im in the shop I love the customer though...
You walk in,
'Your glasses look nice, love your hair, You like this, do you? Its rubbish, it dont work, and its full of viruses, but I love you...'

Pointless!"

Heheh... Lots of fantastic misunderstandings as only David Brent can do. e.g. Stephen Hawking thinking too much will cause you to become half man half machine. His misplaced respect for Nelson Mandela for not getting convicted again is particularly funny.

At the end of each episode, theres a really good Blooper reel. His laughter is quite infectious, so watch out.

If you like this type of humour, watch 'The Office' Season 1 and 2, and the Xmas Special (a must). Then try to listen to the Guardian Unlimited 'Ricky Gervaise Show' podcasts Season 1 and 2 featuring Karl Pilkington, who 'plays' the part of the village idiot. Really fantastic stuff.


More information at rickygervais.com.


yk.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Blogger Beta is killing Planet MYOSS

Uh oh.. looks like my feed is killing Planet MYOSS.
Ive had issues setting up the RSS feed for the planet,
as described here, but I didnt know that it would
resurface with the new blogger engine.

Anybody knows how to fix it?

Oh yeah, sorry for the spam.


yk.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Blogger Beta

Ive just converted this blogger engine to Blogger Beta, and it was relatively easy setting it up. I dont have access to the raw HTML, so there are some formatting areas which I would have liked to tweak, but ah well..

Anyway, Ive changed the colour scheme, so no more polka dots.

Here are the issues currently Im facing:
  • I dont like the way it adds the title for my javascript 'page element'
  • The width shouldnt be restricted by absolute pixel numbers. Should be a percentage of screensize.
  • The template editor doesnt allow me to move the elements to the left of the page. So its stuck to the right for now.
  • The size of the right page elements should be narrower. There's no way to adjust the width.
An addition is the support for labels. Im not sure how Ill be able to label the previous posts.

Anyway, its good to know that Google has finally upgraded this aging Blog interface, with 'modern' features: Dynamic Pages, Access Control, Labels, Template Editor... see the very limited tour, or read about it here.


yk.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

SequoiaView - Graphical View of Hard Disk Usage

When I first got my new notebook, I had a 40GB hard disk on my desktop. The Notebook came with a 80GB and I thought to myself, "Finally, I'd never run out of disk space". Fastforward one and a half years, and I've run out of hard disk space. Sod's law.

So how do I make space on my hard disk now? ALL the applications I have installed, and ALL the data I have downloaded or created are surely invaluable! Should I get a bigger hard disk? I hear the new 120GB drives are out, at only RM450 or so...

Or should I do some spring cleaning?

Anyway, an invaluable tool is this one: SequoiaView.
"Ever wondered why your hard disk is full? Or what directory is taking up most of the space? When using conventional disk browsing tools, such as Windows Explorer, these questions may be hard to answer. With SequoiaView however, they can be answered almost immediately. SequoiaView uses a visualization technique called cushion treemaps to provide you with a single picture of the entire contents of your hard drive."


Basically it displays the usage of your hard disk graphically and at once you can remove that 696MB Knoppix ISO which you downloaded 6 months ago. Immediately you'd have freed up a substantial amount of space.

Unfortunately its relatively old, in that the last release v1.3 was in 2002. So don't expect anything fancy from this site. But its still pretty useful and does its job.

Dowload here (~500KB) [Free-beer]

yk.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Autostitch

Found this rather amazing utility called Autostitch.

This is what it says about itself:
Autostitch™ is the world's first fully automatic 2D image stitcher. Capable of stitching full view panoramas without any user input whatsoever, Autostitch is a breakthrough technology for panoramic photography, VR and visualisation applications. This is the first solution to stitch any panorama completely automatically, whether 1D (horizontal) or 2D (horizontal and vertical).
To get it to work, you just dump in a collection of images, and the sofware will automagically find out the adjacent images and seamlessly stitch them together! Its quite amazing. Ive spent many hours manually stitching pictures together, and this will truly make the process easier.

So to try it out, I loaded a series of pictures of the Bangsar Pasar Malam I took at about 6pm a few months ago. After waiting about a minute or two, with informative progress bars, an output file called pano.jpg was generated:


click for a larger view

The utility allows you to define how large you would like the composite to be, and there doesn't seem to have any limit [as I could see].

What is interesting, if you look at the image carefully is how it deals with changes. I know that we really shouldnt be stitching up a series of images with alot of movement like this scene, but the result is pretty good. Notice the man just under the umbrella of Devi's Corner on the left. He is translucent and blurred out, and the yellow plastic container is visible through his body. The result is a very subtle transition between the different pictures, and for me, quite acceptable.

Here are some other examples created by the author of this amazing bit of software.


And the flickr gallery tagged with 'autostitch'

Here is someone who did a Manually Stitched composite:


and compared it with the Autostitch output:


Its interesting how it fixes the perspective by warping the images.

Here's more info on Matt Brown's research and descriptions.

yk.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Stray Cat

A few months ago, a pregnant stray cat came up to my door for food. I didnt offer it any but I gave it a cardboard mat to lay on. She was happy enough. So she hunts during the day and retires to a comfortable pad for a rest at night. However 5 weeks ago, she dissapeared. I didn't know where she went to, and I just assumed that she gave birth and went on her merry way.


smugfaced pregnant cat with no sign of appreciation

Then yesterday I found her again, this time with a brood of two kittens. Very cute. She was in this position yesterday evening, and this morning as I left for work, she was in the same place. She must be tired.
ex-pregnant but still smugfaced cat but with cute kittens

The strange thing is, when I saw her first in mid May, she looked like she was about to burst already. The gestation period is 65 days. She definitely is the same cat: same markings and all. The kittens: are they new born or 1 month old? I have no idea ...

I dont like stray animals. They live in such dire conditions, that I would hate that their offspring would have to endure such harsh treatment too. So anybody want to adopt a cat-family? BTW, Im not a fan of cats. They have such irritating attitudes.




yk.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Blast from the past: Stareogramme

I got a nudge from a friend, and asked if this was me, and it is!

wow...


SIRDS Programs available last updated: 94.06.11

A summary of SIRDS ( Single Image Random Dot Stereogram ) and SIS ( Single Image Stereogram ) generating programs for the PC. If you discover any errors or omissions, please send corrections and your opinions to peterj@netcom.com for inclusion if future updates.


My entry is as follows:


Program:                    STAR   3.21  Stareogramme
FTP site: katz.anu.edu.au:/pub/stereograms/programs/pc
OS: DOS
Bump Format: TGA, TIFF 320x200 max
Output Format: TGA
Panel Format: TGA 200x400 max
Random pattern: yes, variable density
Number of Layers: variable
Back color: black
Shareware? Yes, voluntary amount.
Source Available:
Comments: Pretty good.
batch oriented

Author: Yoon Kit Yong
yky@doc.ic.ac.uk

Information Systems Engineering Dept.
Electrical Engineering Building,
Imperial College
London.



Of course nowadays that email doesnt work. And katz.anu.edu.au doesnt work anymore. And Ive lost the source code for this bit of software...

Must add that I received about 3 cheques from 'adoring fans' for this 'shareware'; 2 from US and one from Germany. It cost more to process the cheques than what it was worth, so at the end of the day, I still didn't get money from it.


yk.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Lotus Notes Crash = Reboot

I hate it when Lotus Notes crashes and then on a restart, complains:
Unable to open desktop file. Notes may have terminated abnormally in an earlier session. Please logoff or shut down the operating system before running Notes again.
So basically users would have to save and shut down all their work, and wait for a reboot cycle. This is not efficient. One of the benefits in using Crossover Office to run Lotus Notes on Linux, I just needed to do a cxoffice restart, and Im back in action.

But in the Windows world, a reboot was always a necessity.

Till I googled abit more.

It seems its quite a common annoyance, and people have found a solution. Once solution is to kill the namgr.exe process. I couldnt find that process in my Task Manager in WinXP. Then this detailed post states that we should kill off:
  • nhldaemn.exe
  • namgr.exe
  • naldaemn.exe
  • nweb.exe
Where the only one which was running on my system was naldaemn.exe. On killing this process, Lotus Notes started as fresh as a clear booted system.


yk.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Moon Landing Hoax.

I couldn't believe what I read in Computimes (now Tech & U) in the New Straits Times pullout last week. A little commentary insinuated that the moon landings were a hoax, and the jury is still out on whether it was a real event or not.

Comment by Ahmad Faiz: Are moon landings America’s greatest hoaxes?

It was a very short commentary on the IMAX new feature on 'Walking on the Moon' in 3D. However the reviewer of the film wanted alot more than that:
But pure entertainment is all that you should be looking for. If you are looking for answers to the question of whether man did land on the moon, you would be sorely disappointed.
He probably wanted something like Fox TV's "Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon?" which was shown a coupla years ago. Of course all the 'facts' brought up by that programme has been thoroughly debunked by proper experts. The best being: BadAstronomy.com on the Moon Landings by Philip Plait

However the NST commentary took an interesting turn. Instead of pointing out evidence of hoaxes, he goes on to define the 3 categories of positions on this issue:
Note that at the heart of this raging debate are three seemingly amorphous factions. The first are the die-hard nationalists who appear hell-bent on asserting that Americans did land on the moon in the 1960s and 1970s. The second faction comprises the sceptics, or conspiracy theorists as they have been dubbed, who are hell-bent on denying anything the die-hard nationalists say.
And the third faction comprises level-headed people who try to make sense of the first two.
So we have 2 extremes: The first are pro-Americans and the other, un-Americans. The third group lies somewhere in between. The problem with this assertion is that the issue is NOT about being a Die-Hard American Nationalist wannabe at all! Its about solid science and whether or not the mission to space and to the moon actually happened at all.

He also confuses the term sceptics. Conspiracy Theorists, by definition are not sceptics. We should be sceptical about their claims, as their 'evidence' is poorer than the case against them.
If you really want answers, you are better off sticking with the third faction. The first two have questionable intellectual integrity, in that they pick and choose issues they wish to answer, and thereby talk pass one another – a feat called spin-doctoring. They also tend to descend into mud-slinging matches and bitter personal attacks.
Unfortunately, it is so easy to slip into the muck of things even though you proclaim to be part of the third faction because no one is born into a vacuous state.
So either you have questionable intellectual integrity and make personal attacks, or you are a level headed person. I would like to think Im a level headed person.

HOWEVER the author states that because Im not born into vacuum (??) I will fall into the first category anyway and start quoting untruths and insulting people.

Can't I be a level headed person and yet know that the Americans landed on the moon? He leaves little position for that.
If you love America, you would probably think, “yes, mankind did land on the moon”, or if you have a dislike for Americanism, then you would be more inclined to think, “no, mankind could not have landed on the moon”, even before you look at the scientific evidence objectively.
If people took time to look at the scientific evidence objectively, then this Conspiracy Theory would dissapear. Again, its not about Americanism which makes people believe (thats too weak a word: 'know' would be better) that many people have stood on the surface of the moon, and Neil Armstrong was the first.

The Russians obviously did not LOVE Americans, but yet they conceded that they 'lost' the space race. With their abundant resources, Im sure they would have 'debunked' the American hoax the moment they saw NASA's pictures! They had so much more to lose: National Pride.

Again the two proposed positions are wrong. Logical Fallacies.
And for that reason, there will always be people who believe and people who do not. After all, truth equals belief, plain and simple.
The evidence be damned.
Truth = belief. I would counter with Knowledge = Truth. Because Belief is never necessarily the Truth.



yk.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Xen ... success!

Well, Ive managed to install Xen successfully, and Im actually quite pleased with the results. The new kernel boots up without a problem, and using the xmguest-install.py script which I complained about earlier (unjustly so), I managed to install a FC5 guest nicely. I tried both the GUI-based anaconda and text-based versions and they both work wonderfully. I was pleasantly surprised to see the GUI anaconda via vnc. Cheap thrills.

The purpose was to set up a virtual machine (VM) for dspam.
  1. So that it didnt interfere with the current sendmail configuration. I have been testing dspam for quite some time now, and found it works well with postfix. Also postfix seems alot nicer to administer compared to sendmail.
  2. I didnt want to commission yet another server just to filter emails. The load on the email server is relatively low, so it should be able to handle this task easily too.
  3. to R&D Xen's abilities. Heard so much about it, but never had a real reason to try it out.
  4. A means to easily maintain a server which can be replicated / brought up or down on any available server
So with dspam set-up as a relay (setting up dspam of course is a story on its own), the 'appliance' consists of:
  1. postfix for the smtp transport
  2. the dspam daemon
  3. mysql server running in the VM
  4. apache for its webui for training
  5. webmin for easy admin
  6. no X to conserve memory
i can now 'copy' this machine to any production server (whenever I get 'round to doing it).
Also one of these days, put in ClamAV which I hear is easy to integrate with postfix.

So the R&D server had to be upgraded from 512MB to 1GB RAM because after all GUI and stuff running I only had 100MB left. And this wasn't enough for a guest install of 256MB minimum. With the new 1GB limit, I could run 2 VMs easily, 3 if Im lucky.

Good thing memory is cheap. Bad thing is the R&D server is using the old SDRAM which is getting abit of a rarity nowadays and commands a 50% premium over DDR sticks.

Xen rocks. Its wonderful. Try it. No more uptime 0.06 for my physical servers from now on. They'll now have to work for their keep. Opportunities are endless in terms of consolidating the servers as well as keeping the VM images for safekeeping.

Well, the next Windows Server will be a hypervisor with the ability to run Win2003 and even RedHat.
Microsoft chose WinHEC to talk up its virtualisation software because Longhorn will not be available until next year. At that time the company will be playing catch-up with VMware's ESX Server and XenSource's Linux-based Xen Hypervisor which are both available now.
This for me is good news. At least now we can really think about consolidation and guaranteed uptime for IT services and thats very important.

yk.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Xen

Ive been testing out Xen. Or rather Im TRYING to test out Xen on a R&D server.
Since I have a preference for the Fedora Core project, I assumed that using the FC5 distro would be a great way to test out the new stuff. So I installed it on the server without much problem. I then updated everything using yum and installed the latest xen kernels.

Changed the grub entry to bootup xen, and rebooted.

Everything was fine, and seemed ok until I ran "xm list" which should show the status of the xen server.
But all I got was a silly error message stating:
Error connecting to xend: No such file or directory. Is xend running?


Checked the logs, checked the setup files, checked everything, with no success in getting xen up and running.

Then I found this via google (after about 50 searches):

http://lists.xensource.com/archives/html/xen-users/2006-05/msg00209.html

this is a well know bug, see

https://bugzill.redhat.com/bugzilla/show_bug.cgi?id=191037

Matthias


Great. So the bug entry states that "kernel 2.6.16-1.2111_FC5xen0 breaks xend"
Either download a new 2111 from davej
... using a newer kernel from davej helped. For details, add http://people.redhat.com/davej/kernels/Fedora/FC5/kernels.repo to /etc/yum.repos.d/ and update.

or downgrading to xen-2096. I did the latter using rpmseek.com.

[Of course when you rpm it to install, it will complain that there is a newer version installed blah blah blah, so I had to --force it.)

Updated the grub file and rebooted, and voila, xm list works.

Then I found that the xenguest-install.py script wouldnt install CentOS4.3 even though I provided NFS, and FTP to the base tree. It just gave an infuriating error of: Invalid NFS location give.

Again after the 51st google search, I found out that the darn script was only for FC5 guest installs! Why didnt they say so in the first place?

So I was not impressed, and it looks like id have to create the guest by hand.
To the fedora team:
1) fix the builds of xen so it doesnt break
2) Make it clear that the script is only for FC

[Because Im lazy, Im downloading the CentOS4.3 image from jailtime.org. Its just a 94MB download, but its so slow! another 3 hours to go....]

yk.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Innovation and Open Collaboration In ICT - The Way Forward for Malaysia

On the 11th of May, I attended a presentation organised by the Malaysian Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) and IBM, entitled "Innovation and Open Collaboration In ICT - The Way Forward For Malaysia"


The talk was given by a Ms Roslyn Docktor, with a long designation of 'Worldwide Governmental Programs Executive for Open Standards' for IBM. It was held in Cyberview Lodge, which meant me driving a long long way down.

It started late, and when it did, the preamble was given by a MOSTI rep, En. Alihan. From the website he is the Deputy Secretary General for Policies. He spoke about MOSTI's role in "entrusted to lead in natioanl innovation", and he touched on current events like the Austin Texas 'coup' of having a security centre here in Malaysia. Unfortunately for us, his speech was weak and basically did not contain any information of any use. For example, regarding the Texas deal:
.... to form 'smart partnerships' in the basis of win-win principle (sic) ....

He did not garner any confidence from the audience.

Roslyn spoke well, very casual, very informative, obviously she has done this many times to newbie government bodies. Throughout the talk she highlighted (mid 1990s) IBM's realisation of Openness as the way future, where innovation is the challenging of the status quo and the use of the Open Source Community to spawn invention quickly, efficiently and effectively.

Her views on Open Standards were more profound than others; to encourage collaboration and innovation, and in times of emergencies (Avian flu, HIV/AIDS, natural disasters) it ensures that documents and data can be used immediately, with no agreements required (EULAs and $$$), no conversions, and no worries of problems in sending data to someone you never sent data to before.

Open Standards also allows markets to focus on Value Added Differentiation. Meaning that from now on, we dont have to re-invent the wheel whenever we need to create a application to export text or data. The focus is on the innovations and to add value instead of recreating the framework to base the work on.

OStds also allow Global Governence in Choice and Control. Not just saving money, but it also means that their citizens can access information via web, calls, emails, handphones without having to buy computers nor unnecessary licenses for software. Because information is now easily shareable without licensing issues, OStds eventually breaks down silos of information and this is critical in issues like tax and healthcare.

She then talked about how to measure Open vs Closed standards. You have on one end of the spectrum where no one company has veto rights over standards, and all features are based on merits, and specs fully documented for anyone to implement without royalties. The other end is closed where only 1 body controls it and the information is proprietary. Of course its not black and white, there are many in-betweens, like 'Reasonable and Non Discrimatory' (RAND) licenses which allows use for a small fee.

She then goes and talks about the Open Document Format (ODF) which is an option for governments to take up. It satisfies the Openness. It is based on other ISO standards which are just as free.

Unicode (The Characters)
XML (The Syntax)
ODF (The Document)

She highlighted many real world examples which will be beneficial to goverments. Citizens are not forced to purchase licenses, nor a particular type of PC. Historical documents are guaranteed to be readable centuries from today, in times of emergencies, people can share information... etc.

The standardisation of ODF was a first for ISO, in that all 23 nations which voted (including Malaysia) voted for it, which was very encouraging. She talked about the ODFAlliance, and how in just a few months the number of members have increased to 136 or so. She also said that these members are not necessary using ODF today, but they are looking into it and working it into their policies and eventually, given time they will be adopting ODF as a standard.

With that she ended her little talk. I found it very refreshing to hear this information from IBM, and was quite encouraged with their support. She also mentioned about IBMs decision to open up 500 of their patents to the OSS commons. The reason IBM did so was because they realised that they didnt want to extract profit from areas like Government, Education and Healthcare and their interoperabilities. Thus their altruistic motives.

Next up was Q&A, and the first one up was none other than Dzaharudin Mansor who introduced himself as representing PIKOM and Microsoft. He was obviously prepared for this talk: he had 6 questions for the speaker. Which actually just sounded like 6 points he wanted to make: (I paraphrase)

1) "Collaboration is Good. However it is hard to collaborate without a good Framework. ODF does not provide a framework to interoperate..."

I think this is the same meme as the one picked by up by Andrew Updegrove here: On the Art (?) of Disinformation: telling the Big Lie. In this article Andrew finds it strange that a lie (ODF does not interoperate but OpenXML does) is propagated by the big names. We see its repeated here in Asia too!

2) "Standards is good to be defined. 'Reasonable charges' should be allowed too. We need to give back something to IP owners. Standard bodies (like ISO) should be free to adopt competing standards. Business should define the standards" He goes on to higlight the 802.11 (117 patents), PDF, Java ,etc...

This was an amazing comment by him. Here Roslyn proposes a FREE (in all sense of the word) standard, which does not have any charges. And now he suggests to prefer a standard which MAY cost money, or be restrictive to certain licenses? Why should we need to give back to IP owners if the IP owners themselve doesnt want anything?

3) "There are lock-ins even with Open Standards. Proprietary solutions on open standards e.g. in Telecommunications, GSM Base Station: GSM is Open, but the controller is proprietary and to make full use of it, customers prefer the proprietary solutions."

Here he tries to say that Open Standards are no big deal, people will get trapped and locked in anyway for convenience. The examples he talked about re-inforces how bad proprietary-ness can be for customers. The difference between a GSM solution and a ODF one is that the ODF document creating applications (OOo, Abiword, or IBM Workplace) already exist which rival any other proprietary applications. i.e. The customer can now chose Open solutions to read/write the Open standard documents.

4) "Open Standards breeds innovation? The Standard for Smart Cards x years ago was primitive, did not contain info like biometrics and bank details. To propose modifications and specifications to the standards would cost a development company money and time, also the opportunity costs will not make sense, therefore they would roll out the solution as a closed/proprietary card"

This again was very difficult to understand. But he is arguing a case where a small developer would not have the resources to push for a standard. This is where the difference is. It is not up to the developer to define the standards. The CUSTOMER defines it. So if a goverment had a need for a Smart Card solution, they would define the standard for the solution provider to implement. In the case of the ODF, the standard is already defined, we as customers can benefit from the hard work of Sun and the ODF guys. So the argument basically falls apart when you look at it from the customers' angle.

5) "We should NOT have a Preference for Open Standards. Danger to Manipulation! We should be given a CHOICE. We need to be pragmatic as we live in the REAL WORLD. We roll out products which has market ADVANTAGE"

Here again is the same arguments we heard when MAMPU suggested for the preference for OSS solutions in government procurements. The given the Choice suggestion is the most ironic. A standard is a method of making sure that people speak the same language. If everyone was given a choice to choose whatever language they wanted, won't that make it that much harder to communicate? The pragmatism argument is what I like to call the 'lazy way out': don't do nothing, status quo, lets just dig in deeper: changing now doesnt make business sense in the short term!

6) "There is Good News!" (He really said that!) "OpenXML will be standardised soon and it offers all features as a Open Standard, no royalties! It is also compatible with the billions of documents in the world!"

Im not sure how OpenXML can be compatible with other docs, because the application (MSOffice) is the app which should be compatible. Not the New file format. So its just a clever spin to the tale. Ah yes, 'SOON' in Microsoft terms means 'sometime next year... maybe.' Good News indeed!

After the preaching from the MS rep, En. Alihan tried to answer some questions, but all that came out was some mumbo jumbo which I could not understand. Ms Roslyn didnt know where to start, because it is hard to politely respond to these ludricous statements ...

Then En Zamani Zakariah from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) stood up to speak. He asked Of the countries who have not joined the ODF Alliance, what were their concerns, and what are the checklist for a good standard?
He also added that after his 30+ years in the industry, there will never be ONE standard, and correctly so as others should not be stifled, however there should always be a MINIMUM of standards.

Ms Roslyn answered this one well, she said that the countries who haven't adopted ODF were waiting for the process of standardisation to complete, and now that it has, she expects many of them to follow suite. For example France (Tax), Singapore (Defence), USA (Mass.) etc... The checklist was to have a good supplier of applications, i.e. so that the departments can procure the products. People can start testing them by downloading OOo and start using them. She doesnt expect roll-outs immediately but a gradual process.

En. Mansor from Sun Microsystems added that Java is not 100% closed, and its up to JSchwartz to open it up. It took them 2 years to get Solaris open up. He believes that Computing is a utility model, etc... At least with ODF, it has forced Microsoft to open up their schema, and thats a pretty good advancement for us.

En. Alihan then closed the Q&A and added that Goverment procurement is under the Ministry of Finance. So it is up to MOSTI to communicate awareness programmes in the "ecosystem for knowledge based economy" WHATEVER THAT MEANS?!!?

So that was the meeting.

The reaction from the audience was not very encouraging: Very quiet. It was a pity that most of the people who asked questions kept harping on "Pragmatism" and "Dont adopt 1 Standard". It would have been fantastic if the same level of enthusiasm was demonstrated at the SIRIM meeting, but I guess us Malaysians are too shy...

yk.

USB wifi Dongle

Need to get one for a PC for home...
Requirements:
1) Stable (signal doesnt drop after 80ft)
2) Compact (not too bulky)
3) Affordable (value!)
4) Supports Linux (no ndiswrapper stuff)
5) Supports Windows (without the unnecessary 'wireless management software')

Here is a resource:
Linux wireless LAN support

Wireless Adapter Chipset Directory compiled by HJ Heins
Last updated on 14 May 2006


Any good recommendations?

yk.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Standardisation of the Open Document Format 1.0 in Malaysia

I had a fantastic opportunity to attend the Standardisation process of the Open Document Format 1.0 in SIRIM's Technical Committee on E-Commerce today. This was the first time I was attending this committee, and I was thrilled of the outcome.

Basically it was just a formal process of going through the ODF spec and supporting it by the members of this Committee.

The formal process:
The standardization consortuim OASIS developed a specification, Open Document Format 1.0, and decided the specification's value would be improved if the specification were to become an international standard.

OASIS decided to employ a process in another organization, JTC 1, known as the Publicly Available Specification (PAS) process. OASIS has PAS Submitter status, which enabled them to submit specifications (such as ODF v1.0, and ebXML) to JTC 1 for approval as international standards.

In October 2005, OASIS submitted ODF 1.0. The six-month ballot period began November 1 2005 and ends May 1 2006.


It was explained that Malaysia was a Participative Member and is obliged to vote.

IBM played an important role in this, the rep from IBM, Hasannudin Saidin (Manager, Government Programs) outlined the importance and advantages of this format. The talk was very high level, i.e. the specs were not scrutinized, but the response from the committee members were very encouraging.

Simon Seow from the Malaysian National Computer Confederation (MNCC) supported it, saying that it would encourage local software development based on a common platform. The barriers of entry would be lower as people can now develop apps to generate documents which can be shared and re-used.

En Sidek Jamil from the Arkib Negara Malaysia (Malaysian Archives) was very supportive of this format as he is very interested in adopting a format which was open and would last a long time. I found it uplifting that the custodian of our heritage and 'intellectual property' supports this format too.

There were futher concurrs via email, from Telekom Malaysia, Institute of Engineers, Malaysia (IEM), Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) and The Association of Computers and Multimedia of Malaysia (PIKOM).

I added as a rep from FMM, that our members would be considered Users, and wholly support this format as it we are all for any reduction in costs, and increase in efficiency to be more competitive. But I also asked,
"With such strong support from our committee members who are represented from the entire IT industry, from Software Developers to Government Departments like the Archives and Customs, to Users like us, will there be a push or initiatives by the Government to educate the masses about the support of this standard so that it is known and recognised as a Malaysian Standard?"


I then cited the example of the Commonwealth of Massachusettes' directive and transition period from 2005 - 2007 before the cut-over to the ODF format.

The Chairman reiterated that this session was not for the rollout for ODF, but it was just a stamp of approval and support for the standard. However he directed the question to the representative from The Malaysian Administration and Modernisation Unit (MAMPU) as they are closest to the Government to drive such an initiative.

She however was very poor in her response. She just mumbled about something like MAMPU supports Open Standards and any standards are good for the government ... etc.

It was very dissapointing that unlike the rest of the committee members who 'get' the idea of how significant the ODF can benefit Malaysia, while she, arguably the most 'important' member, does not. :sigh:

Why do they always send such substandard representatives to important events? How will we ever get Governments' support if its these people we rely on to convince the Government to take up these as standards? I sure hope that there are more competent people in MAMPU driving this through or we mampus.

Also the representative from MDC (now MDeC) did not turn up, so there was no input from them.

Microsoft was also not represented, although there was an email comment from Dr Dzaharudin Mansor, stating:

"Consistent with our stand, Microsoft has no objections to the submission of the ODF standards despite being one that is not widely used and relatively new in the industry today."


Hmm... I wonder how widely used and new is the Microsoft OpenXML format?

More importantly, he adds:

"ISO has recognized the merits of competition and choise and has allowed for competing standards on the same subject ... Hence we would like to request assurance that this effort should not lead to the precluding [of] other competing document standards in the future. This includes the OpenXML standard that is being produced by ECMA and which will subsequently be submitted to ISO for acceptance"


So he wanted us to guarantee that we would also vote for OpenXML if he consented with this one. Unfortunately I dont think he has any leverage here...

So overall there was no objections to the submission of this as a standard, and it was interesting that it could be pushed as a Malaysian Standard (MS). The committee was also interested in joining the rapidly growing Open Document Format Alliance.

The meeting ended early, and the feeling and outcome certainly made my trip all the way to Shah Alam worthwhile.


yk.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Ops Tulen 2006 - Marketing Overdrive

Oh wow.

What a response.

After the post, I received many emails from people who echoed my views (privately of course).
Here is a collection of threats which have since come my way, and I'd expect the volume to pick up as they are seriously going into overdrive now that 30th of April is only 11 days away!

The first is from Microsoft themselves (again)



Here, it says that the Government has added 700 more Enforcement Officers to drive the lynch mob. Thats quite amazing.

Lets say the squaddies get paid 1K per month, and this enforcement period runs 1-3 months: OK: 2 months. Thats an expenditure of at least 1.4m!

Imagine putting all that resources to informative roadshows to push Free Software. How much as a country will we actually save? I sincerely hope that its not my Tax Dollars which is going into this drive.

Next up, I received a promo pack from a very enthusiastic Reseller:



Same old stuff: Deadline by 30th April 2006, for the next year's 'protection'.

But interestingly, they have this new icons: Audit, Legalise and Crackdown. Must be a great marketing genius to come up with this. Like the same guys who live in Utah USA.

btw... how I wish I was just as hensem as the 'Head of IT' for the 'Local Conglomerate'. Any details on him?

Last and definitely the least:



A poorly poorly designed web-mailer from YAR (Yet Another Reseller). Notice how they cant even get those simple 3 icons right: Crackdown is symbolised by an inverted questionmark? Im confused.

Software piracy is not only a crime, but it can destroy computers And data, please protect yourself & your business to avoid penalty


Man there are so many things wrong with this sentence its not funny.

1) How does piracy destroy hardware? I guess when one of the 700 the enforcement agents come in to remove your hardware and manhandle them, its possible that hardware and software will get damaged.
2) "And data, please protect yourself..." You hear that Data? If you want to keep being a sentient LifeForm, you'd betta be careful!
3) You'd better pay up or you or your business or someone you love will die. Sounds as threatening as our friendly neighbourhood taiko. Whats with that explosion at the bottom? Is thats what will become of me?

Anyway, if any of you guys have more of this new form of government sponsored marketing materials, please send them over. Its fascinating.

yk.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2006 Ops Tulen



I got this threatening email a few days ago. It reports that the Malaysian Government has just Launched the 2006 Ops Tulen Korporat. It then proceeds to headline that SME's are getting Raided and a General Manager was Arrested. However nothing in the email contained more information of the headline. No details of the arrest, which companies are affected nor the nature of Ops Tulen.

Instead the email continues on offers by Microsoft and its resellers on programmes to sell more software by Licensing Education and more workshops. I guess I wouldn't be upset if it was a plain ol' marketing email to me, but whats scary is that they are using the Governments efforts to reduce piracy and subverting it as a marketing programme for a means to blatantly sell more licenses.

Wouldn't it be more effective if Ops Tulen instead of just the strong arm for the BSA, with all these arrests, changed tacked by INFORMING the citizens of Malaysia about readily available quality Free and Open Source software?

I found this posting by Khairil about Ops Tulen 2004-2005, and I think its a Great Idea.

I really need also quotes and examples of FOSS/FLOSS use by Malaysian businesses.

eg.

Chris DeMarco from MyDirectory states that, "Like others concerned about recent actions by the BSA and the police, our company has moved most our software to using free and open source software". He further states that almost all their staff are now using Fedora on the desktop and using the OpenOffice productivity suite. "We have not only saved on costs, but are also now able to make better use of more software without licensing restrictions of proprietary software" ...


Of course these quotes need to somehow fall into the ministry's press releases, or quoted by proper journalists.

Here's a 2003 Ops Tulen Circular:

The Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, in its Ops Tulen enforcement campaign, has noticed a significant percentage of software infringement in the corporate end-user sector occurring as a result of software retail piracy. As such, the Ministry is viewing the issue of software retail piracy very seriously.


In it, it tells us the evils of piracy, and what happens to the pirates. Nowhere does it mention the ability for people to find cost effective alternatives in the means of FOSS, to stay legit. The ministry should point to websites such as Open Source Windows.

That way,
1) Piracy in Malaysia will decrease
2) People are educated in their Copy Rights.
3) Trade deficit in software for Msia is reduced
4) Malaysians can find software affordable and legal
5) Malaysian tax dollars would be better spent on education and self development instead on henchmen for foreign companies.

Overall, Ops Tulen can be a great thing. If only it wasnt driven by wrong intentions ...

yk.

Monday, April 10, 2006

UTF8 CSV files.

We're getting lists to be imported into MySQL in Excel (.xls) formats.
When we use MS Office to export it into CSV,
reading the data gives us gibberish, because
the default encoding is plain old ASCII.

There is not obvious setting available to change the ASCII to UTF8
for the csv file in Microsoft Office.

So I tried Open Office to see if it offers anything better.
In Save As, Change the Type to CSV, then the 'Edit Filter Settings'
checkbox will be enabled. Check this, and when you click save,
a dialog will appear requesting which Character Set to use.

And sure enough, it works like a charm.
The CSV loads up and saves into MySQL OK.

Hooray Open Office. Works better for multilingual requirements.

BTW, if anyone has the solution to export as UTF8 CSV from
MSOffice, please post it here.

yk

Thursday, March 30, 2006

bashrc : aliases I use.

Heres the file I always put in the
/etc/profile.d/ directory on systems I use.

===== yky.sh
# aliases i like to use
# 031110 yky Created from bashrc

alias h='history'
alias j='jobs -l'
alias l='ls -Fax'
alias ll='ls -laF'
alias d='ll'
alias c='cd ..'
alias md='mkdir'
alias rd='rmdir'
alias mr='more'
alias f='finger'


====

dont forget to chmod 755 it.

yk.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

MySQL: CHARSET from latin1 to utf8

A website im supporting needs to have multilingual characters. The default character set for MySQL is latin1. This unfortunately will not support Chinese nor other wierd multibyte characters.

It will quietly support them, but returns gibberish and will cause frustration all round.

After digging around, the best character set to use is UTF8.
To set the default charset for the server, the my.cfg/my.ini file has to be modified:

default-character-set=utf8


Unfortunately, once a database and their tables have been defined as latin1, they remain as latin1 unless you run this for each database:

alter database mydatabase charset=utf8;


and for each table:
alter table mytable charset=utf8;


and for each varchar/char type column:
alter table mytable alter column mycol charset=utf8;


and repeat ad infinitum....

This is rather tedious and boring, so there should be a better way. And that is to dump out the sql, change the charset and dump it back in. Here is the script.


===== latin1ToUTF8.sh

echo Script to convert MySQL latin1 charsets to utf8.
echo Usage: $0 dbname
echo 060329 yky Created.

echo Dumping out $1 database
mysqldump --add-drop-table $1 > db.sql

mydate=`date +%y%m%d`
echo Making a backup
mkdir bak &> /dev/null
cp db.sql bak/$1.$mydate.sql

echo String replacing latin1 with utf8
cat db.sql | replace CHARSET=latin1 CHARSET=utf8 > db2.sql

echo Pumping back $1 into database
mysql $1 < db2.sql

echo Changing db charset to utf8
mysql $1 -e "alter database $1 charset=utf8;"

echo $1 Done!


======

There must be a better way ?!

yk.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Timestamp your Photos - Filename Dater

Ive been printing digital pictures for quite a while now, and have always wondered why they never made use of the important information available in the EXIF sections of the pictures.

Wouldnt it be great if they printed that information at the back of your photo, so that you know the date and time and all the intricate details of how that picture was taken?

Currently now, they just print the first 8-12 characters of the filename, plus a whole load of unreadable junk at the back. Since I dont like printing the date on the picture itself, I have always renamed my images with the first 6 characters as the date, so there is a means of finding out the dates taken.

e.g. 060101_NewYearParty1.jpg, etc...

Now this is tedious, especially when doing over 300 pictures to process (I usually wait 6 months before processing images, as I do alot of retouching and some fancy stuff)

So I wrote a little delphi program to do this for me.
It will scan through the files in a directory, and if applicable, prepend the date information on the filename. The Date is either extracted from the EXIF data, or if not available from the modified date. If there is a date already tagged to the image, it will skip yet another prepend.

The original files:


After processing:


Note that the digicam pic uses the 'Date Picture Taken' and the movie uses the Modified date.

The very simple UI:


And its rudimentary output:


It was written in Delphi, and Im in the process of getting the permission of the dEXIF author, Gerry McGuire (believe it or not), to release this as GPL if possible. (The website says its 'opensource', but Im not sure which license...)

In the meantime, here is the executable:

FilenameDater.exe : 570KB v1.0

Have fun.

yk.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

dspam: Sendmail + Quaranteen

I had this nagging problem with dspam + Web UI where I couldnt send the quaranteened emails to the recipient if dspam caught as a False Positive email.

maillog gives this error: ======

Feb 13 16:55:04 rslinux27 postfix/sendmail[14503]: fatal: usage:
sendmail [options]
Feb 13 16:55:05 rslinux27 dspam[14495]: Delivery agent returned exit
code 64: /usr/sbin/sendmail -d lo@user.com.my

The Web UI gives this error: =====

An Error Has Occured
The following error occured while trying to process your request:

sendmail: invalid option -- d
sendmail: fatal: usage: sendmail [options]
14269: [02/13/2006 16:46:08] Delivery agent returned exit code 64:
/usr/sbin/sendmail -d lo@user.com.my

This was described in my post to the newsgroup. Unfortunately for me no one answered this cry for help, until another user found the same problem. I emailed him, and he found a solution:

postfix sendmail implementation doesnt know the "-d" parameter. It is
defined in the configure.pl script of the cgi.

replace the -d with a -- and it should work :)


In detail:

In the directory where the cgi scripts for the WebUI for dspam are held:
e.g. /var/www/html/dspam/configure.pl

edit the line which has
$CONFIG{'DSPAM_ARGS'} = "--deliver=innocent --class=innocent " .
"--source=error --user %CURRENT_USER% -d %u";

to:

"--source=error --user %CURRENT_USER% -- %u";

The reason why its obscure is because there is no mention of 'sendmail' nor any indication that these params will flow to sendmail.

Anyway, now it works, so False Positive emails in Quaranteen can be released
and forwarded to individual users as per advertised.

yk.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

UUUHHHGGG-rrrrRRR! HHHurrRRRRRRRRn hhhh!!

Haha, a great blog by Chewie!

http://rrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnhhhh.blogspot.com/

Lots of thought provoking posts.
You'd never think that he could be so eloquent...



btw, Wookies come from the planet Kashyyyk.
If they can only enounciate words by inhalation,
how is it that they can pronounce the name of
their home planet at all?!

Try it!

yk.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Lamer

I was walking around KLCC before Christmas and I saw this display in Isetan.
The kerning was definitely wrong which severely destroyed any value this brand enjoyed.

Lamer

Anyway, La Mer is suppose to mean "The Sea" in French,
as used by Nemo's "Beyond the Sea" and Lost.
which brings us to this amazing discovery I found today.

I did a search, and found "google book search" to try.


I clicked on it, and there was this scanned image of an old
french dictionary with the relevant text highlighted! Amazing!




not so lame after all!

yk.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Postfix...


Spent the day wrestling with Postfix.

Ive finally gotten it to do what I need, and at the end of it all, it certainly is a cleaner approach to handling emails than sendmail.

Now Ive been using sendmail for many years and Im quite comfortable with its settings. However its syntax can get a little daunting.

With Postfix, things look alot 'simpler' but full featured as I have yet to find a function which it cant do.


The reason why Im looking onto Postfix is because sendmail cant seem to pipe emails through dspam before dispatching to its virtual users.

Postfix can.

Im using the webmin interface for Postfix and its quite full featured. It automatically calls a 'postfix reload' whenever a map is updated. However it doesnt have access to the master.cf file, so that still has to be done manually.

yk.

Saruman the Leet


You've read The Darth Side, now a chance to read about the innerworkings of yet another evil megalomaniac: Saruman the Leet.

The premise is that he's back from the dead, atoned for his sins, and is now trying to be good. Also he's a wizard in both senses of the word: magical and technical. Lets see how long he can last being 'good'.

yk.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sendmail and Webmin settings.

Note to self:

To get webmin to config sendmail config files,
make sure that the "Sendmail M4 base directory" is correct.
the default is "/usr/lib/sendmail-cf"

For Redhat configs, its "/usr/share/sendmail-cf"

yk.