Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Barack Obama could be fittest US president ever

At 47, Obama sure doesn't look his age, and he's buff. He places great importance on physical fitness, and tries to work out at least six days a week! More details in this Washington Post feature:


As Duties Weigh Obama Down, His Faith in Fitness Only Increases
Quote:
>>Obama has gone to the gym, for about 90 minutes a day, for at least 48 days in a row. He always has treated exercise less as recreation than requirement, but his devotion has intensified during the past few months. Between workouts during his Hawaii vacation this week, he was photographed looking like the paradigm of a new kind of presidential fitness, one geared less toward preventing heart attacks than winning swimsuit competitions. The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games.<<


Now, I had to qualify the headline to say "fittest US president". For the fittest head of state, I don't think anyone can beat Vladimir Putin, the Prime Minister of Russia. He was also the country's former President and a former KGB agent. At 56, he looks about as young as Obama, and is in great shape for his age. Plus, Putin holds a 6th Dan Judo Black Belt. If Obama and Putin were to go mano-a-mano, I'd put my money on Putin.
So, if the leaders of the two largest superpowers can find the time to exercise and maintain high levels of fitness, then there really is no excuse for anyone else. I am inspired by Obama's and Putin's discipline and commitment to fitness.

Happy New Year to all, and may you have a healthy and fit year ahead!

Photo credits: Hawaii Magazine; RIA-Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service/AP Photo

Friday, December 05, 2008

Identity Register for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Malaysia

The NRD (National Registration Department, or Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara) website FAQ is full of hilarious grammatical errors and Borat-like language. There are waaay too many gems on that page, so I'll just reproduce the whole text here. All errors are from their website:

1. What is NRD's website?

NRD website is abbreviation to official web National Registration Department. NRD website make major world to information and national registration department service through Internet.

2. Why this website been created?

Latterly, information and service majority National Registration Department has been prepared by online and NRD website been created to provide convenience to the public find information and service that are provided.

3. Whom were allowed surf and use this website ?

Generally, this website could be achieved by all society. However, there were some information and service that need registration.

4. What is privacy policy for this website? Am I been recorded or not?

All access and your use up on this website shall not be recorded. To further information, please visit to 'Privacy Policy And Safety Policy' in bottom of each page.

5. What method for I contact National Registration Department?

You can contact us:-
Public Relations Office
Tel: (redacted)
Fax: (redacted)

6. How should I sent my feedback to Goverment Agencies?

You can fill form in the division "Public Complaint System" In NRD website. It would be channelled to the divisions relating.


(Thanks for the tip, Medaline.)

Update: A screencapt for posterity

Update Dec 9, 2008 : The webpage has been removed. Good thing I made a screencapt.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Excel 101: Add/Remove carriage returns in a cell

I keep running into people who insist on using MS Excel to create tables. This is a fairly common situation in Malaysia, AFAIK. Now, I'm referring to just plain text tables for things like timetables, schedule lists, address books etc - there are no calculations or formulas involved.

For such tasks, one should obviously use MS Word instead of Excel, because Word has far superior table generation and manipulation capabilities. Plus, text entry is a whole lot easier when you use Word tables.

I suppose some people just don't know any better, or maybe it's because Excel already has all those nice little boxes up on screen. Or maybe they just don't have Word available. Anyway, everyone has their own preferences, and every company has their SOPs, so I'll just go with the flow.

The main problem with using MS Excel for tables is that text entry can be a real bear when compared with the proper tables in MS Word. For instance, let's say you want to insert carriage returns to create new lines within a cell, for things like three-line street addresses. It's not immediately obvious how to do so; if you press the Enter key after the first line, the cursor will just jump to the next cell. Here's the solution:

If you want to add a carriage return within the same cell, press ALT-Enter instead of Enter.

Removing a carriage return is more straightforward. Just place the cursor on the next line and hit Backspace - just like in Word. But if you need to remove all carriage returns in a spreadsheet which has hundreds or thousands of cells, then you should use a macro. That's beyond my capabilities, but you can find answers by Googling this phrase (include the quote marks):

"remove carriage return" in cells excel

Please folks, don't ask me Excel questions. I don't like Excel. I never learned to use Excel because I'm a wordsmith (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it). So, if you want to generate text-only tables, please, please use Word instead. Data entry is a lot simpler and straightforward with Word tables, and modifying the tables is a snap. Plus, Word is an actual word processor, so you get a lot more text formatting options.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

BlackBerry Storm Downgraded to Depression

I didn't write that headline, though I wish I did. It is (was?) the link headline from the main NYT page to David Pogue's review of the BlackBerry Storm. However, the actual review page uses this headline:

No Keyboard? And You Call This a BlackBerry?

Which is a shame, because the first headline was better; it goes straight into my Headline Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Manufacturers unleash shrinking ray at consumer products

Ever felt that your groceries or cleaning products have been running out faster lately? Well, maybe you're not imagining things.

LA Times : On store shelves, stealthy shrinking of containers keeps prices from rising (Nov 9)
"Quantities of peanut butter, soap and other products are reduced to keep up with rising costs. Shoppers may not know they're getting less for their money."
Note this is happening in the United States, where there is comparatively more consumer awareness, and greater consumer activism than in other countries. I'm quite sure many Malaysian manufacturers are planning to use these sneaky tactics, or have already done so.

New "improved" Skippy bottle, now with money-wasting dimple! On the left is the 16.3 oz jar, while the one on the right is 18 oz. Both jars are the same size.

Photo credit: AP

Friday, November 07, 2008

The next President of the United States

The Boston Globe has a fabulous photo gallery of Barack Obama, covering the days leading up to, during, and just after election day. These are fairly high-res pictures:

The next President of the United States

Check out #27 by Emmanuel Dunand of AFP. It has obvious 'Aaawww' appeal, but it also nicely encapsulates the Obama presidential campaign. I predict a Pulitzer nomination. #11 looks like a movie scene.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Thursday, October 30, 2008

M'sian ISPs' fair usage policies, P1 Wimax gotchas

Vincent Chow has done a good job of tracking down the "fair usage" policies of our local ISPs. These are basically the bandwidth caps (limits) that may be enforced by our ISPs. Folks really need to read the fine print before signing up for services. So far, there hasn't been widespread enforcement of these caps, but the ISPs have a legal right to do so because you've agreed to the T&Cs.

Read his post here:
Comparing Fair Usage Policies among Malaysian ISPs

In a related issue, I was checking out the terms and conditions for P1's Wimax service, one of the first available in Malaysia. A couple of "gotchas" stood out:

1. If you want to use the Wimax service beyond the 50km radius of your registered address, you'll need to pay an extra RM10 a month. P1 calls it "Nationwide Access Service". I call it a roaming fee.

2. Bandwidth is capped at 20GB a month, which includes both upload and download usage. That works out to about 667MB a day, if you want to use it every day. Not quite enough for people like me, but it's still better than Maxis' and Celcom's plans.

Previously:
Celcom's so-called unlimited 3G broadband has a 5GB cap

Monday, October 13, 2008

Windows Live Messenger ports and URLS

If you're having trouble connecting with Windows Live Messenger (WLM, or formerly called MSN Messenger), it could be a firewall or proxy has not been configured to let it through. Refer to this MS article for the ports and URLS used by WLM:

Network ports and URLs that are used by Windows Live Messenger
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927847

The list cuts both ways, of course. Syadmins can also use the info to block WLM, or block certain WLM features such as File Transfers.

Previously:
Direct link to Windows Live Messenger
Block Ads in Windows Live Messenger

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Digi Prepaid: Reload RM100, valid for a year

I have a love-hate relationship with cellphones, leaning more toward hate. I'm not the chatty type; I only make a few calls every week, and usually, it's other people who want to call me. So, prepaid accounts are a great deal for users like me.

The problem with going prepaid, of course, is the credit validity periods. Any credit you reload will eventually expire, so you could end up snowballing credit if you don't use it up. For example, at one point, I had accumulated RM90+ in credit, but I could not use it unless I kept reloading. I'm a Digi user, so I called up their cust service to see if I could turn my existing credit into talk time. They said it's not an option for prepaid users. This BTW, is a fairly common policy among cellphone service providers, and it is meant to 'encourage' you to switch to postpaid.

Fortunately, I decided to poke around the Digi website and I found out about their Reload Validity Promo, where if you reload RM100, it will be valid for one year. Yup, valid for 365 days! Normally, a RM100 reload would be valid for 120 days (4 months). So now I don't have to worry about my credit expiring, until September next year.

If you want in on the Digi promo, you need to hurry though, because it ends on Tue, Sept 30. I believe Maxis has a similar promo.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Made in China = Toxic Product?

The "Made in China" brand seems to have become synonymous with "Toxic Products". We've got to make sure Malaysian food manufacturers don't follow this pattern, and tarnish the "Made in Malaysia" brand.

From The Australian:

China's tainted food scandal a lesson for foreign firms
"The Chinese Government is not feeling too much heat from the global financial meltdown. That's principally because it has something much hotter at home to worry about: the collapse of confidence in its $22 billion a year dairy industry, an issue also prompting hurried self-examination among foreign investors in China."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

JVC AV29/25/21 series TV manual

Just got a lightly-used JVC TV from a relative, for a good price. It didn't come with a manual, but I found one online. So I'm re-posting it online for the benefit of other owners. The manual covers the following JVC TV models:

AV-29BS26, AV-29BX16
AV-29MS26, AV-29MX16
AV-29MX56, AV-29MX76
AV-29SS26, AV-29SX56
AV-29SX76, AV-25MS26
AV-25MX16, AV-25MX56
AV-25MX76, AV-21BS26
AV-21BX16, AV-21BX16B
AV-21MS26, AV-21MX16
AV-21MX56, AV-21MX76

Available at - http://viewer.zoho.com/docs/aU0vj

You can view it in your browser, or click on the "download" link. BTW, it is being hosted at the Zoho Viewer website, which is a great place for sharing PDF, Xls, Ppt, Rtf, and Word files. They can also host OpenOffice and text files.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Celcom's so-called unlimited 3G broadband has a 5GB cap

Celcom's 3G Broadband, which is advertised as "unlimited broadband", has a 5GB cap. Dunno whether it is strictly enforced. But the policy is listed on their site, so if you signed up without reading the fine print, then you can't really complain.

Their 'fair usage policy' is laid out over 10 pages using Flash. You cannot copy the text or resize it.

Check it out yourself at:

http://www.celcom.com.my/cep...band/index.html.
Look for the 'fair usage policy' link.

I find it amusing that they regard 5GB / month as "extremely high usage". In that case, they should not be advertising it as "unlimited". Here's a screencapt of their policy:


See also:
M'sian ISPs' fair usage policies, P1 Wimax gotchas

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Malaysia's next top politician

In light of recent developments in Permatang Pauh, I'd like to propose a new reality TV show:
Not bad for about 5 minutes of Photoshopping. Though I still need to track down the exact font, and tweak the tracking and kerning. The font I used for the top line is just Arial (stretched out), while the font for the bottom line is Bauer Bodoni.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Oh, The Huge Manatee!


OK, I have a weakness for good (bad) puns. Atrocious ones, even.

So I'm in awe of this combo verbal and visual pun. This one really made me laugh out loud, and then I immediately felt ashamed for laughing. It was reportedly first posted in Something Awful's Photoshop Phriday, though I can't find the exact posting.

Those of you who have a sense of history will get it right away. I think most people will recognise the original image, but may not know the significance of the words.

Here's a hint: Herbert Morrison

Anyway, this whole "huge manatee" business is not just an Internet meme. Here's an actual report of a huge manatee, from the NYT in 2006:
Massive Manatee Is Spotted in Hudson River
Certainly a missed opportunity for the obvious dream headline.

A bit of googling reveals that the phrase appeared as early as 2003. It was an episode title for something called the "The Gavin Crawford Show".

For related humour in poor taste, The Onion also had a spoof of the "Hindenburg Announcer Guy".

-Credz to Boing Boing.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wi-Fi Mythbuster: Do *NOT* disable SSID


Wi-fi users are often advised to disable or hide the SSID (Service Set Identifier, or simply, the network name) of their routers as a security measure. This tip appears in numerous web pages, books, and magazines. It even shows up on the websites of wireless product manufacturers.
The idea behind disabling SSID is to make your wireless router “invisible” to hackers and other malicious users.

It's been repeated so often that many people just assume it is true. So it has become the tech equivalent of an old wive's tale, you know, like not swimming for an hour after you eat, or you'll get cramps and drown.

Unfortunately, merely disabling SSID is ineffective as a security measure, and any active wi-fi router can be revealed quite easily. Free tools like Netstumbler will display all active wi-fi routers, regardless of whether their SSID is hidden. Worse, disabling SSID can actually degrade network performance.

The SSID myth was actually been debunked for years. No less than Robert Moskowitz, senior technical director at ICSA Labs warned against it as far back as Dec 2003, in a paper titled “Debunking the Myth of SSID Hiding” (PDF file).
“Efforts to hide the SSID are at best half-measures which lead to a false sense of security and to a degradation of wireless network performance.” Moskowitz wrote.

Microsoft also advices against disabling SSIDs, as evidenced by these two pages from its TechNet website — “Non-broadcast Wireless Networks with Microsoft Windows”, and “Non-Broadcast Wireless SSIDs: Why hidden wireless networks are a bad idea

So, you should merely change your router’s SSID, and not disable it. Also implement other security measures such as enabling WPA encryption (don't use WEP), changing the default router password, and filtering by MAC address.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Greek chorus birdz denounce ur hubris

Sometimes you just need some LOLCats/LOLBirds to put things in perspective:

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't waste money on "premium" petrol

Now that petrol prices are so high, who can afford to buy “premium” or “high-spec” petrol any more? But does premium petrol provide any benefits in the first place, and is regular petrol “low grade”? In Malaysia, regular petrol is sold at 2.62/liter, premium at RM2.70/liter, while high-spec petrol such as Shell V-power goes for RM3.00/liter or more.

The bottom line is, unless your car manual specifically mentions it, there is no need to use premium petrol. And regular car engines do not benefit from it. Even cars like Porsches will still run fine on regular petrol (see the USA Today article below).

Cecil Adams, who writes “The Straight Dope” column, tackled this issue as far back as 2004:
What's the difference between premium and regular gas?
http://www.straightdope.com/columns/041008.html

A USA Today article from 2003 also covered this ground. The writer quotes oil company engineers and technical experts from car companies:
Why use premium gas when regular will do?
http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2003-07-30-premiumgas_x.htm

More recently, a Scientific American article from Jan 2007 provides the last word on this topic:
Fact or Fiction? Premium Gasoline Delivers Premium Benefits to Your Car
The sub-heading is: “Exploding the myth that premium gasoline delivers better performance in the average automobile”. The writer quotes a mechanical engineer at the California Institute of Technology, and a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Here are the best quotes from these three articles:

“Using high-octane gas in a car designed for regular accomplishes little except more rapid combustion of your money.” - Cecil Adams

There is "no way of taking advantage of premium in a regular-grade car," - Bob Furey, chemist and fuels specialist at General Motors.

... for standard cars on the road today, purchasing premium gasoline is simply paying a premium for a fuel that delivers no added benefits. "If you think you need it," Green (MIT chemist) says, "you're being very eccentric."

In a related issue, my pal Riggy, who blogs about motoring, notes that higher octane petrol requires more processing at the refinery, and thus, has a higher environmental impact. Brendan I. Koerner covered this angle in Slate:
The Premium Premium: Is high-octane gas bad for the environment?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

No coverage for you

I have to applaud the local media for their great (if belated) display of backbone. Parliament's administration recently banned journos from entering the lobby, citing "security reasons". This is an important area for the press because press conferences are held here, and journos also have the opportunity to approach ministers and MPs directly to get comments. This week though, the area was cordoned off with red tape, and security guards were stationed around the perimeter. Yup, literally red tape.

In response, journos boycotted almost all press conferences, and photogs downed their cameras. They even snubbed the PM's and deputy PM's press conferences! This would have been unimaginable during the Mahathir era.

I fully sympathise with these journos and photogs because I've had the misfortune of covering "garmen" events before. Many ministers and deputies have a condescending, even hostile attitude towards journalists. Even in the rarefied field of IT journalism, everyone hates to cover "minister events".

Also, Parliament is one of the toughest beats for journos. Not only do they have to deal with deadline pressure and stiff competition, they have to get the story absolutely "right" and "perfect" because Parliament stories get a lot of scrutiny. Plus, they need to deal a lot with spin doctoring, backtracking, and "after the fact-ing", as in "what he really meant to say was...". Sometimes, a journo is even accused of misquoting or mishearing a minister, even though the statement is on tape, and clearly audible.

Sin Chew Daily executive editor-in-chief Kuik Cheng Kang said it best - “Reporters are there to do our jobs, not celebrate birthdays. Please do not punish us for working.”

(Pic credit: The Star)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Petrol up 40%


Well, it's finally happened. The govt has removed most (all?) of the subsidies for petrol and diesel.

These subsidies were unsustainable anyway, with as much as RM40 Billion (with a B) paid out last year. That was money not being spent on infrastructure development, healthcare, education, public safety or agricultural programmes.

All kinds of money-making schemes arose as a result of these fuel subsidies, particularly smuggling or reselling. Economists would call this "arbitrage". Worse, we (the taxpayers) were subsidising the Thais, Indonesians, and Singaporeans, who earn more than us.

Anyway, here's what you need to know:

Petrol
From RM1.92 to RM2.70 (up 40.6%)

Diesel
From RM1.58 to RM2.58 (up 63.3%)

Take note of those percentages, because business owners will have to pass on these costs to consumers.

I'm a bit more fortunate than others, because I get around mostly with my kapchai (low-cc motorcycle). A full tank for my kapchai, which lasts 3 days, used to cost me about RM5.30. Now it'll cost me RM8.00. I expect kapchais will become more popular after this.

Plus, I hope there's a push for more fuel-efficient vehicles and also alternative-fuel vehicles.

(Image ganked from Waleska Alsieux's blog.)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Better not to be a bagman

Picking a name for a company brand is never easy. But really, folks need to do a bit more research into the words and phrases they use in their company and brand names.

For instance, I came across a store called Bagman in the newish Jaya33 shopping centre in PJ. This is the one near the old Jaya supermarket (R.I.P.)

For me, the word "bagman" has negative connotations. Or maybe I've just watched too many crime movies and TV programmes.

Princeton U's Wordnet defines bagman as:

(n) travelling salesman, commercial traveler, commercial traveller, roadman, bagman (a salesman who travels to call on customers)

(n) bagman (a racketeer assigned to collect or distribute payoff money)


Wikipedia has a longer definition, and it is pretty much what my idea of a bagman is:

A bag man (or bagman), also known as a delivery boy or running man, is a person designated to collect money in a protection racket. Originally the term applied only to Mafia members collecting for mob bosses, but the term later spread to use in corrupt police precincts where a foot patrolman was the designated "bagman" to pick up and deliver bribes from the local mob(s) to the precinct captain. In many cases, the bagman receives a fraction of the money collected and acts as "insulation" to protect higher-ups from exposure or direct prosecution. The term can also be used for a person who performs small tasks for the Mafia, such as chaffeuring, transportation of goods, or even shakedowns.

The term is also used pejoratively to describe fundraisers for political parties and employees of the IRS.


Now, I'm sure the company produces quality bags. Still, I would rather not go through customs /immigration with a bag labeled "Bagman". Even if you could ignore its association with the underworld, the word still has a "delivery boy" connotation; which high-level executive would want to be seen carrying a "Bagman" product? The company's tagline is also quite amusing, as you can see below (pic links to their website).


Here's another profound quote from their site, under "Message from CEO":


Previously:
Granfalloon

Monday, April 14, 2008

The greatest ad ever

Folks in the advertising industry often cite Apple's 1984 ad as the greatest TV commercial ever (full ad available on Google video). But nooooo... they are sadly mistaken. This ad from the Ivory Coast surely deserves the honour. It features Super Timor, a bug spray.

video

Transcription (in French, thanks Mireille!):

(Aïe)
Ne tuez plus les moustiques avec des claques sur vos joues !
(Aïe)
Des claques sur vos cuisses !
(Ouyouyouille)
Des claques sur vos bras !
(Aïe)
Super Timor est là !

Super Timor est encore plus fort, avec sa nouvelle formule.
(Super Timor)
Le temps de sentir l'odeur Super Timor,
(pchiiit, pchiiit)
les insectes sont déjà morts !
(Super Timor)

Super Timor, avec sa nouvelle formule, vraiment, vraiment plus fort !
(Super Timor !)
(Super Timor !)
Le numéro un.

English translation (thanks Google translate, et al):

(Aee)
Don't kill bugs anymore with slaps on your cheeks,
(Aee)
Slaps on your thighs,
(O yo yo)
Slaps on your arms;
(Aee)
Super Timor is here

Super Timor is even stronger With its new formula
(Super Timor !)
Just a whiff of the Super Timor odour,
(_Spray sounds_)
and the bugs drop dead !
(Super Timor !)

New formula Super Timor; Much MUCH stronger !
(Super Timor !)
(Super Timor !)
The Number One.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Election Day 2008

Election Day 2008, Sect 17 PJ school.

Came across this couple who took time off to vote, on their wedding day. Certainly a day to remember.

If you didn't vote, what is YOUR excuse?

I didn't get their names because I was shooed out not long after by the cops. Apparently, you need a permit to shoot pix within a polling station!

Anyway, best wishes to the new couple, and I hope they have a great future. I'm hoping too, for a great future for Malaysia.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Windows Vista: Don't buy yet, price cuts announced

If you're planning to buy Windows Vista, wait a while more because Microsoft recently said it would slash prices on retail boxed copies of Windows Vista. No word yet on Malaysian prices.

Here's a sample of pricing I got from Thundermatch on March 29:

All prices in RM. Some of those prices are eye-popping, especially for Vista Ultimate. Who pays RM1,295 just for an OS?

Analysts are already saying the price cuts won't solve Vista's problems and slow uptake:

Price cuts don't get to heart of Vista's problems
Microsoft's Cheaper Vista: Don't Bother
Vista price cuts show how much trouble Microsoft is in

My hope is that Vista price cuts will also force down the price for Windows XP. So even if you're not buying Vista, you might still want to wait. Another thing to look out for is the prices for OEM (system builder) versions of XP and Vista, which are already lower than the retail boxed versions.

Direct link to Windows Live Messenger

Lately, Microsoft has gone the way of Adobe, and has implemented annoying installer stubs for their downloads. For example, if you want to obtain Windows Live Messenger 8.5 aka WLM 2008, there is no direct download link from Microsoft. Instead, you first need to download something called Windows Live Installer, which will attempt to install toolbars and enable other "please send me spam" options.

I really don't understand why companies try to alienate users like this. It's such a clear indication that they want to serve the interests of their advertisers, and their own interests before yours. Plus, it is also a waste of bandwidth and time.

But fear not, I'm going to show you how to bypass this Windows Live Installer rubbish, and get your own standalone WLM installer:

1. Download the WLM .exe file from Microsoft's Windows Update servers via this link. The version listed here is Windows Live Messenger (8.5.1302.1018). You can save it with any name you like, but retain the .Exe extension. This Exe file does not work; if you launch it, nothing will happen.

2. You will now need to extract the MSI (Microsoft Installer) file from that Exe file. You can do this with XN Resource Editor, a free program. It's just a quick download, about 1.2MB. You can either choose the installer version, or not. The program doesn't care where it is installed, and it can just be run as is.

3. Launch XN, and load the .Exe file using File->Open . Expand the BootStrapPayload tree, then expand the MSNMsg.Msi tree. You should see only one entry - Language Neutral. Right-click on Language Neutral and click on "Export Resource". XN will ask you for a filename. On my system, it suggested "MSNMSGS.MSI", which was fine by me. You can save it with any name you like, but retain the .MSI extension.
4. And voila! you now have your very own WLM 8.5 standalone installer. Just double-click on the MSI file to launch, and it'll work just like earlier installer versions. If you have problems launching MSI files, you may need to download and install Windows Installer 3.1 first.

Raymond.cc lists a slightly different method for getting a standalone installer. Basically, it's the time-honoured tactic of fishing out .Msi files from the Common Files folder. However, his method involves running Windows Live Installer, which I am trying to avoid. On the other hand, Raymond's method saves you from mucking around with XN Resource Editor, or any other util. But I like mucking around with XN Resource Editor.

Anyway, there you have it, not one, but two methods for obtaining a standalone installer for WLM.

Note: I got the direct WLM link from another site, but the page has been listed by TrendProtect as "may be unsafe", so I'm not going to link to it.

Update, Aug 18, 2008: In certain cases under Windows Vista, the installer does not display any dialog boxes or provide any other indication that it has worked properly. Don't worry though, WLM has probably been installed correctly. Just check under Start->All Programs->Windows Live.

Previously:
Direct link to Adobe Reader (Acrobat Reader)
Block Ads in Windows Live Messenger

See also:
Windows Live Messenger ports and URLS

Monday, February 25, 2008

Direct link to Adobe Reader (Acrobat Reader)

One of the major annoyances about Adobe Reader, which I have written about previously, is that Adobe insists that it can only be downloaded from its own servers. This note on Tucows summarises the problem:

The Adobe Acrobat Reader download is just an installer. This installer will lead to a much larger download that includes the Reader as well as the Yahoo! Toolbar and Adobe Photoshop Album Starter Edition. These items will download, however, upon installation you can opt-out of them.

The installer stub will force you to download unwanted toolbars and programs. Plus, it also installs Adobe Download Manager (ADM), which I do not want or need. Worse, ADM has a critical security hole, which even Adobe admits to.

Fortunately, the folks over at The Software Patch have figured out the latest direct FTP link to the Reader download:

http://www.softwarepatch.com/graphics/acrobatreader7.html

As I write this, the link is:
ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/win/8.x/8.1.2/enu/AdbeRdr812_en_US.exe

If you obtain Adobe Reader via this link, you won't have to install ADM or other useless stuff. But this link will become outdated when there is a new version, so check back at The Software Patch for the latest. BTW, they host many other patches, upgrades, service packs and hardware drivers too.

Maybe he's a phantom voter

Sometimes, the jokes just write themselves.

The Star: Body found in bus ferrying Umno supporters

"Perhaps he was just dying to vote."

"They'll just sign up anybody these days."

etc.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Linux kernel creator hates cellphones, doesn't carry one

Computerworld recently caught up with Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux kernel, at Linux.conf.au, an annual Free and Open Source Software conference held in Australia.
Other than the usual "what's next for Linux" type of questions, writer Andrew Hendry uncovered this gem: Linus Torvalds hates cellphones, and doesn't carry one.
Hendry was probably stunned when he found out, because what he had actually asked was:
"Do you have Linux on your mobile phone?"
To which Torvalds replied:
"I don't even have a mobile phone! I hate phones in general because I'm the kind of person that when I work I want to concentrate on my work and if somebody calls me that completely destroys my concentration. I hate phones because they just disturb you, and mobile phones are even worse because you have them with you all the time, so I don't do mobile phones at all."
Actually, Torvalds does own a cellphone, but only because it was "one of the early Linux mobile phones" which he got for free, and he does not carry it around or switch it on.
I'm sure most of you can appreciate the irony of an über geek god who does not carry a cellphone. A bigger irony than say, a tech journalist who really hated cellphones and only bought his first cellphone last year (*Ahem).
Anyway, I couldn't have said it better myself. Mr. Torvalds, I applaud you for resisting what most be constant pressure from your family, friends, co-workers, et al for you to get a cellphone.


This Boston Globe article from 2005 explored "tech refuseniks":
Giving up on gadgets: 'Tech refuseniks' junk their cellphones, handhelds
And, from last year, a posting on The Wired Blog (of all places) titled "Ten Reasons To Throw Away Your Cellphone". Meanwhile, MCMC stats indicated that cellphone penetration in Malaysia was 80.8% in Q3 last year, while another research firm said global cellphone penetration hit the 50% mark (or 3.3 billion people) in November last year. It's probably higher now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Block Ads in Windows Live Messenger

After holding out for years, I've finally installed Windows Live Messenger (formerly called MSN Messenger). Now, I've always been a big fan of Pidgin, an open-source chat client, but it turns out Pidgin may not be fully compatible with the MSN chat network.

In the past few weeks, I've missed a quite few MSN messages while using Pidgin, without even realising it. Some people thought I was ignoring them, or was staying silent. And apparently, Pidgin either does not, or cannot access stored (missed) messages from MSN's servers.

I'm sure Microsoft is to blame for this (see below), but sorry to say, my need for reliable communications overrides my support for FOSS (free and open source software). But I'll continue to use Pidgin for all the other chat networks.

One reason I've put off using MSN, I mean, WLM is because it is a closed-source program, like most other MS products. It's not even one of those so-called Microsoft Open Source products.

Another big turnoff for me is the MSN chat network itself, because it uses the Microsoft Notification Protocol (MSNP), a closed protocol. In fact, just creating a 3rd-party app which works using the MSNP is a notable achievement, because it requires reverse-engineering and packet-sniffing. Kudos to the developers of Pidgin, et al for coming this far, but again, sorry to say, my priority is reliable communications. It appears no 3rd party has fully deciphered the latest version of MSNP, now at version 15.

Anyway, back to WLM. After the download (about 18MB) and installation, I fired up the program. Right away, I was assaulted by ads and a cluttered interface full of tabs and icons. *Sigh* Pretty much what I expected from Microsoft. I would note that the Pidgin installer is only 11MB, and the program contains no ads, has a clean interface, and supports all the major chat networks, not just MSN.

Certainly a stark reminder of why I like Pidgin. Jeez, what the hell is all this crap on my screen? So of course, I immediately googled for tips on blocking WLM ads. My options were mostly patches and ad blocker programs. A closed-source patch for a closed-source program? No thanks.

Then I remembered the old trick with the HOSTS file, which involves redirecting ad server addresses to 127.0.0.1, i.e. your own PC. This results in the program or web browser not being able to load ads.

What you need now is a list of Microsoft's ad servers, and conveniently, someone has already compiled one at the TrustedReviews forum. So all you have to do is add the following lines to the bottom of your HOSTS file:
# Windows Live Messenger ad servers
127.0.0.1 rad.msn.com
127.0.0.1 global.msads.net
127.0.0.1 rss.video.msn.com
127.0.0.1 ads1.msn.com
127.0.0.1 rad.live.com
127.0.0.1 specials.uk.msn.com
The HOSTS file actually just a text file, so you can open it with Notepad or any other text editor. Yes, the file is just called HOSTS, with no extension. In XP and Vista, it is normally located in C:\WINDOWS\system32\drivers\etc. You should create a backup first, in case something goes wrong.

Once you've added the MS ad servers, you can see the results almost immediately. Just minimise and restore the main WLM window (contact list). WLM may throw up an error message about being "unable to execute script", and may ask you whether you want to run any more scripts in the future. Just click No. All the ads should disappear.

BTW, the HOSTS file can also be used to block other Net annoyances. From the MVPS website:
"You can use a HOSTS file to block ads, banners, 3rd party Cookies, 3rd party page counters, web bugs, and even most hijackers. This is accomplished by blocking the connections that supplies these little gems."

Next, I wanted to get rid of useless tabs, popups and other "MS partner" crap. I quickly disabled something called "Windows Live Today"; its only purpose seems to be to generate popup ads. You can turn it off in Options->General->Show Windows Live Today...

And finally, I didn't like all the useless tabs and icons that were polluting my contact list. You can turn these off in Options->Tabs, then check the "Hide tabs" box.


So here's the final result. As you can see, WLM just displays a generic WLM banner if it cannot connect to its ad servers. No more pop-ups, and no more scrolling, blinking, flying crap:

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Facebook = Granfalloon

Earlier last year, Emily Yoffe wrote a humorous column for Slate titled Fiftysomething, Facebooking, and Fabulous! with the sub-heading, "Last week I had zero friends on Facebook. Now I have 775."
Although it has some "old-fart-discovers-new-tech" content, it also has many witty observations and anecdotes about Facebook, and about friendships.
I learned a new word from the column - granfalloon, which Yoffe used in reference to having too many Facebook friends and being in Facebook groups/networks. Other writers have also used the word to describe the sometimes-superfluous networks formed by users on social networking sites like MySpace and LinkedIn.

From Wikipedia:
A granfalloon is defined as an imagined community, that is, a group of people who outwardly choose or claim to have a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless. The most common granfalloons are associations and societies based on a shared but ultimately fabricated premise.

What a wonderful word, and could there be a more fitting description of Facebook?

It is interesting to note that granfalloon isn't even a new word. It was coined in 1963 by Kurt Vonnegut (RIP), in his novel Cat's Cradle.

Full disclosure: I've recently updated the Wikipedia entry on granfalloon; I added the part about social networking sites.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

"Personal friend" is the new FWB

It's unfortunate that despite all his accomplishments, Dr. Chua's lasting legacy may be the creation of a new euphemism - personal friend.

Since this concept of "personal friend" may be new to some Malaysians, I would like to point everyone to the casual relationship section in Wikipedia (warning: has some rude words).

A friend opined that "personal friend" sounds like an oxymoron, but I disagreed, because the two words are not contradictory. "Personal friend" would be a type of redundancy, or more accurately, a pleonasm (the use of more words than necessary to express an idea clearly).
Now he may have questionable morals (and grammar), but I still think the formerly honourable minister should have gone out with a bang.
Instead of the initial "I will not resign" statement, he should have reenacted that famous scene from Gladiator, and snarled at everyone:
"Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!"

;-) :-p

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Nero micro and Nero lite

I've always liked Nero Burning ROM, but the past few versions have become really bloated.
This hasn't resulted in big improvements in Nero Burning ROM, which has stayed virtually unchanged. The problem is, Nero AG insists on distributing it with a whole bunch of other stuff I do not want.

A quick check on the Nero site shows that the main installer for the latest version, Nero 8 weighs in at a whopping 179MB. And that's not including help files and template files, which are separate downloads. In fact, the retail version of Nero 8 now comes on a DVD-ROM.


I've been wishing for the good old days when the Nero installer was under 20MB. Apparently, I am not the only one who feels that way; someone named Klass Nekeman has produced Nero Micro, a very stripped down version of Nero Burning Rom.

The Inquirer
covered this unofficial installer back in February:
"Nero Lite" and "Nero Micro": smaller sometimes is better
The subheading is "Third party installers created to fight fatware".

Fatware
. I really like that word.

The article is actually about Nero version 7 but, the same fatware problem persists in version 8. I was pleased to find out there is a Nero 8 Micro is available at this site, it is also produced by Mr. Nekeman. Nero 8 Micro is only 20.0MB; the Nero installer hasn't been this small since the early version 6.0 days.

Other than the main Nero program, you only have a choice of installing audio plug-ins and videoCD support.


Note that this is not a "crack" or "keygen" - you still need a serial number for Nero to work. The author does not promote piracy at all. He's just fighting fatware. If all you really want is Nero Burning ROM, then Nero 8 Micro is the way to go.