Welcoming 2009/1430H

2009 is very near, and I am writing this post earlier for the fear of getting arrested before 2009 actually comes. 1430H arrived yesterday. Happy New Year!!

2008 was a very good year with a new job, new son, and new house purchase. The new year of 2009 is supposed to be the best new year for me and my family but it seems that now the house next door is going to spoil it for me. As I have previously mentioned in my previous post they are making so much noise that I feel really miserable. It’s gonna be the worst new year for me and my family.

On the good side, my report to MPSJ about the unbearable noise has been recorded and I have received the usual “your report has been received and is being processed for action” note.

If I manage to avoid arrest, I hope I will be a better man in 2009. A better father and husband, a better Samaritan, a better Muslim, a better Malaysian, a better employee, and a better human in general. There is no specific resolution for me except to put a strike to the word nicotine on the tag line (to be super honest removing the word nicotine has been on my mind for the last several years). And oh yes, who does not want to be a millionaire?

Take good care people and enjoy life. I hope all your wishes come true in 2009. Happy new year, and thanks for being my reader.

Shop Jusco or Carrefour

I have been doing groceries shopping alone for about 20 days now, and I have always done it at Jusco. However today since I had to pick up my spectacles from Focus Point I went to Carrefour instead. There were several differences between Jusco and Carrefour and to tell you the truth I prefer Jusco.

My personal opinion is that Jusco seems to have a better environment and it’s cleaner. Plus, service is very much better than Carrefour.

When I arrived home today I realized that the cashier scanned the large promotional pack (6 x 4) of Season’s Chrysanthemum tea as separate 6 packs:

carrefour-seasons-pricescan

When it should be at the promotion price of RM12.99 (I wasted RM6.57):

But I guess it was an honest mistake. I hate it but they are still human. It’s also partially my fault for not checking everything (my excuse is that I was dizzy wearing the new glasses).

Comparing prices I found out that the price of Mamy Poko New Born (pack of 52) differs significantly! Since I bought 3 packs at Carrefour I wasted RM14.76 compared to buying them at Jusco:

However if you’re a cranberry juice lover like moi, you’ll find that the price is cheaper by RM2.00 in Carrefour. So if you’re looking into buying bulk let’s say for a party you should head to Carrefour:

Carrefour:
Carrefour

Jusco:
Jusco

I Can’t Take This Noise Anymore

With a baby 20 days in age, the holiday season should be wonderful for my family but it has been totally wrecked by the sound of hammers, drills, and whatever they use for renovation next door. I realized today how stupid the MPSJ approval process must be, without any consideration of peace for the neighborhood. Dust pollution is one thing but the sound pollution is really really bad. Everyday I feel like taking the machete and cut off the limbs or head of the workers.

When I say next door it means next door with a shared wall. US people would call this a condo while Malaysians generally call it terrace or linked house.

I feel that before MPSJ approves any application they should make it compulsory for the local neighborhood to give proper approvals.

I called the Jabatan Alam Sekitar (JAS) = EPA in USA and they said to call the local city hall. I called MPSJ (city hall) hotline for help, no answer. I emailed them, no answer. I finally sent them a fax but I doubt I will get any fruitful results. The people really have no place to turn to when these kind of thing happens.

If we can, we would have run away somewhere else and if there is no baby I would have gone out somewhere. Anywhere to get peace rather than this noise. This audio file was recorded earlier today and I placed the microphone near my son’s head on the baby cot.

God, please help me have more patience otherwise I might just end up in prison for murder. And son, please forgive me I’ve exhausted my options.

Adding More Sidebars to WordPress Themes

WordPress keeps being updated but your themes rarely change unless you’re a theme developer. I wanted to add a leaderboard but I was delaying because I am too lazy to add any custom code to my theme. Silly me I forgot that I have already added an extra “sidebar” when I developed the theme for this website. So all I had to do was paste my code to a text widget and save.

I know we are actually misusing the sidebar via the “dynamic_sidebar” and “register_sidebar” API. It’s fairly straightforward but you do need to have a sense of position in your layout (you need to know where the leaderboard needs to appear).

First we add the sidebar in the /wp-content/THEME/functions.php:

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register_sidebar(array(
	'name' => 'Leaderboard',
	'before_widget' => '<div align="center">',
	'before_title' => '',
	'after_title' => '',
	'after_widget' => '</div>',
));

I think the options are self-explanatory but if you’re confused do ask. One important thing for me is the name – it will be displayed in the widget control panel so it would help to use a descriptive name.

The next file(s) to be edited depends on where you want the new “sidebar” to be located and how the theme are made. A simple standard is that if you want it to be included in all page you just edit /wp-content/THEME/header.php

dynamic_sidebar('Leaderboard');

Normally these are the file name convention used by theme developers:

  1. page.php – pages
  2. single.php – single posts
  3. search.php – search results
  4. index.php – the main page

Enjoy!

On Property Purchase and Money3

As some of you might already know I bought a property in August, and the banking procedures were dragged until September where RHB Bank suddenly wished to change the loan amount. My agent, agent S was a 22 year old mobile agent I found through word of mouth. She was not helpful because she didn’t really know what she was selling, and I suspect she is new in the field. Right now I realized how dumb I am not to realize with that age she must be a fresh graduate. (I have nothing against fresh graduates in other fields but I do think experience is critical when it comes to money related matters).

I was afraid that RHB bank will impose the 1% penalty to me because I wanted to cancel the loan (how can I proceed there is not enough loan amount!?) so she gave me her best advice – keep quiet so that the bank will cancel the loan. And I did just that and got off the wagon without having to pay any penalty. I also immediately looked for other options.

Al-Rajhi was fast, they contacted me immediately after I filled in the web form but too bad they currently don’t provide loans for properties under construction although the property was 90% completed back then.

And then I contacted Money3. They were also very fast and with the network they have with banks they were able to assess my loan requirements and made several applications. Agent K was helping me with everything and he was very professional. OCBC Bank approved my loan in September and it was time for signing the offer letter but agent K was not available because he was on paternity leave. Agent J took over and it was overall a pleasurable experience as he handled everything for me.

Everything were excellent until it was time for the MRTA (Mortgage Reducing Term Assurance). He was also an AIA agent and tried to sell the Wholelife package (payable yearly) to me which was quite a good package as I will be able to break even and get some profit after ~15 years. He was stressing on how important to get an insurance otherwise OCBC will not be releasing my funds. If the bank does not release my funds on time there will be interest to pay to the developer. When he first prepared a quote, I had to pay ~RM3600 yearly but when he called me back in early November it was at ~RM4969 so I told him I want to look for other options. He said that is not possible, the bank will block my funds. He never called me back until today.

I made the ultimately correct decision when I decided to call OCBC directly and I was told that OCBC does not have any requirements for me to have the insurance. It was optional! So agent J lied to me in my face. At that moment I lost all my respect for the guy. When OCBC released the funds to the developer it was proof that agent J was lying.

I realize the importance of MRTA and I was planning to take it via OCBC itself or using Prudential but I suddenly went busy. I will do that soon.

Back to the RHB issue, it was such as a waste of time and money. For instance agent S took RM10 for account opening and never returned it (she called me afterward telling me I had to open a current account because of the facility I requested). RHB bank penalized me RM20 for closing the current account earlier than 3 months. The lawyers charged me RM160 for the cancellation. That’s already RM190 there not including my gas cost for traveling. And the worst case of all is that the developer is now charging me with ~RM4280 for the late interest fee (period between when RHB approved my loan until when OCBC released my funds). I have already sent them an appeal to remind them my case and can only hope that they can consider exempting the fees.

That’s it people, my only advice is to find the right people (agents) and even if you find a good one please avoid trusting them 100% as when it comes to money people will try to trick you. In the RHB case I do blame agent S and the bank itself and in the Money3 case I don’t blame Money3 but the agent himself for being an as***le. And if you’re wondering, you don’t pay Money3 for the services. The bank pays them commissions.

Anonymous Cowards

Anonymous coward – this is the default user name that is displayed on Slashdot for users who wishes to post comments anonymously. It’s really an appropriate term. Why would you want to be anonymous if you really believe what you’re talking about?

I am mainly disappointed with people who are promoting racial tension in Malaysia. If you really want to do it then you will need to be prepared for ISA (Internal Security Act).

Remember the road sign issue between Teresa Kok and Khir Toyo? There was a website that reported all sort of racial news called pembelamelayu.com and there was actually a police report lodged against this site. It was only after the police report was made the site was brought down.

I somehow have a feeling that I may probably know which group is behind the site, but who knows I might be wrong. This proves my point that there are many anonymous cowards who likes to talk but not take responsibility. I can’t provide any prove and I don’t have any further details about the website so you don’t need to contact me to ask for any details. Ask yourself one question – if someone is hurt mentally or physically as an outcome from the things you write in your blog are you willing to take the responsibility and guilt? Only write if your answer is YES.

Same goes to those who have been hanging pig heads all over the place in Melaka. What the hell??? If they really believe that it’s the correct thing to do, stand there and wait after hanging the pig heads. Of course they will be arrested but then again it’s what you are fighting for why be afraid?

Right now we can’t be sure who hung those, it might even be a member of the committee against the building of pig farms – just to increase tension. Who knows?

Although I don’t necessarily agree with all blog writers such as Raja Petra or the others who have been arrested before, there is only one thing I respect the most – the willingness to go out with their own name and not be anonymous cowards.

I am neither a political writer nor a political enthusiast but I do read (and watch) the news. And I hate racism. Why can’t we learn to live together?

Anyway the point here is that if you really believe what you are talking about (and fighting for), use your own name instead of dumb aliases or being anonymous. Take responsibility. Period.

OCRopus and Tesseract Binaries

After I wrote about Ocropus and Tesseract in July, I received 4 requests for the binaries. Two requested using the comments and two requested via email.

The truth is that it ain’t easy to upload files that big because my upload speed is 1/4 of my download speed. It’s worst today (see the previous post).

However since I promised to upload them here they are, uploaded in rapidshare. I am avoiding to use my hosting bandwidth just in case these become too popular.

Downloads:
Tesseract binaries e7c90901a896eb44ffb500d4e8831bdf
Ocropus binaries c46466b7626436d797425f09e5b2fc7f

To install Tesseract you only need the normal make installed:

$ tar xfvz tesseract-2.01-compiled.tar.gz
$ cd tesseract-2.01
$ make install

To install Ocropus you would need Jam. Download and install it.

After jam has been installed:

$ tar xfvz ocropus-0.2-compiled.tar.gz
$ cd ocropus-0.2
$ jam install

Please take note that this is an old version of Ocropus (0.2) there is a new version available (0.3.1). The same goes for Tesseract (2.01 compared to 2.03). I simply have no time to work on the new version and I am not going to use it for my OCR related personal project.

And oh yes… please remember that since these were compiled under Cygwin you will definitely need to run them with Cygwin DLL due to dynamic linking.

I don’t have any guarantee or support whatsoever for the files, and you are using them at your own risk. These are NOT official builds.

Enjoy!

What Happened to My Upload Speed?

For quite some time I have been working from home with no difficulties, and I am happy with the speed. Sometimes I even have 3 or 4 terminal service windows open, juggling between them to complete my tasks.

However this morning when I tried to utilize my Nortel IP Softphone 2050 to call my boss for the weekly 1 to 1 meeting the software kept crashing on me. It was the same case when I called my cell as a test.

And so I decided to poke around everything and digging up stats for my home network. Do you know what I found? I found out that my upload speed has been capped to 64kbps. What the hell happened? Rebooting the modem didn’t help.

Here is a screen capture from my AM300 router:

I am too old to rant too much, and I am too tired to give them a call just to have them go through the usual routine of plugging and unplugging.

This is the moment where I really pray that a better service would be introduced. I am truly tired with TMNET’s incompetent service. This is a low class service. And because it’s government linked we have no choice. Two of the Internet giants are both government linked. I am sad.

Break A Leg

One fine day, I accidentally switched to the movie Outsourced on HBO. I decided to see what’s it about. It was a fine movie about real outsourcing situations in India and it was quite fun.

I really enjoyed the last scene at the airport when the American manager is sending off the Indian manager he recommended to China.

American: Break a leg!

(Indian manager looks confused)

American: (smiling) It means good luck.

Indian: Oh! Then I hope both of your legs get broken!

This is what my team mates in the States was concerned about when I told them we used to watch Cheers during our childhood. They asked, what about the language? They don’t mean English but captions or phrases like this.

Well, it’s what makes the world colorful 🙂

More Than 48 Hours Offline

It has been a while since I spent time at home without going online. As a matter of fact I don’t remember at all when such an event has occurred before.

48 hours is strictly speaking, because 50 hours ago I did check my Gmail for 5 minutes. The truth is that I have not gotten online since Sunday. So this is it, the only thing that can prevent me from getting online is the little guy who revealed himself to the world on the Eve of Aidiladha 🙂

And I am online right now just to check out some forms and making sure that all that is needed has been paid. I am going to stay and work from home most probably until February. However I’m gonna stop by the office for a while tomorrow to send in some documents.

Oh yes BTW I’ve got to mention that I had the best experience at JPN (National Registration Department) Putrajaya on the 10th. It took me less than 30 minutes to settle the registration. That is really really cool and deserves a good mention.

It’s a totally different world for me now… exciting and scary at the same time. Wish me luck!!!

Thanks a lot for all the text, instant message, and email messages. I’m sorry if I missed to reply some.

I am not sure when I will be able to get online next and update this site but I will try to find time.

Gmail Stickers!

I was casually browsing the Official Gmail Blog this morning and saw that Gmail is giving away free Gmail stickers. The only thing you need to do is to send a self-stamped envelope to:

Send me some Gmail stickers already
P.O. Box 391420
Mountain View, CA 94039-1420

For International requests, we need to send the envelope along with a International reply coupon.

Unfortunately for me and other Malaysians, Pos Malaysia does not sell IRC. Yes, I called them at 1 300 300 300 hotline and they said they don’t have the service. Bummer! I am so disappointed!

I wonder if Google accept cheques or deduct some from my Adsense account already!

Google @enstek

From conversations I had with my colleagues at work, and from other friends I heard that Google is going to have presence in Malaysia, specifically at @enstek in Sepang. It’s a new flagship area opening its wings to tech companies from all over the globe.

Is this really true? In some stories I even heard that construction work has started at the site. I would really appreciate it if anyone could point me to the right direction. Googling doesn’t help as the keywords are too common.

From my point of view, Google presence is definitely welcomed in Malaysia. There will be new job opportunities and I know for sure people will jump with joy and try their best to penetrate the company. As for me, I don’t think I am well qualified yet to work with a gigantic company like Google. But who knows… I don’t have a crystal ball to show my future.

What about you? Will you try your luck if Google starts recruiting in Malaysia?

This Is Not SPAM

Since the past 2 weeks I have been receiving funny and annoying emails that start exactly like this:

And each of them is actually promoting different programs: i.e. easy money, forex investments. Translation:

Don’t these idiots know that when they start sending unrequested emails to multiple recipients at the same time, it’s considered SPAM?

So if I see one of them and kick them I can say: “I am not kicking you”.

Starbucks Sizing System

I was watching HBO when one of the short sections in between the movies were aired. It was about the new movie “Role Models”. I have always wondered why Starbucks have the sizing system “Tall” (small), “Grande” (medium), and “Venti” (large). It’s plain weird.

Interestingly Danny Donahue (played by Paul Rudd) mentioned this directly in the movie:

LMFAO. “Congratulations, you’re stupid in 3 languages.”