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New Netplace

30/05/2107

Well I finally had to get rid of the old pc: its 3D rendering was so spotty it was giving me a headache, and it's just too wierd transmitting in 2D into a 3D meetroom. So the new one has a proper 3D imager, and all the latest gadgets.

It has an integrated personal chip reader, which of course also means that I can now connect to the worldnet from home - which is why I'm staring this new netplace today. To get it registered and allowed access, I had to take it to the Electronic Ministry to get it tuned to my chip, a long queue and rude officials - as per usual - but it was relatively painless. So no more public net access points for me! :-D I was so sick of having to go there whenever I wanted to do some research for my studies.

It's strange to think how people used to just go on the net with no controls at all, it must have been like being invisible and taking the maglev to work - making faces at the guards and peering at people's vidreaders. My grandfather once told me how he had been obsessed with girl in his school, so he had opened his own netplace, and had pretended to be a woman to try to make friends with her. And it worked! No one knew who he was and netmates believed he was a woman. But it worked too well, and he never dared tell the girl, for fear she'd get angry at him... :-P

New Acer Notebook and Windows Vista

Since I left my old job, I had to buy a new notebook. I have used Compaq and HP for the last four years, but frankly kept having niggling problems that prompted me to look elsewhere. Cost is also an issue, and looking around I found that the best price/quality option for the moment is an Acer Aspire 5580 (specifically, 5584). When I buy a computer my basic principle is to get the best specs possible: I want it to last 3-5 years, so it has to be 'future-proof'. So, the Acer 5584 has what I was looking for: Intel Core 2 Duo, DVD writer, Bluetooth and Vista Premium; it also has a large hard drive (120GB), a webcam and 1GB of RAM. The recommended retail was RM3888, and I got it down to RM3488 on cash terms. It comes with two 512GB sticks of RAM, but I wanted 2 GB, so I had to trade in them to get two 1GB sticks for RM200. Total: RM3688 (USD 1088).

So far so good, though it doesn't seem massively faster than before: a restart is quiker though... I am used to a 15" screen, so this one (14.1") is significantly smaller. No one seems to do 15" anymore, and 15.4" wouldn't fit in my backpack (which may not be a great reason I agree...).

I wouldn't have gone for Vista yet if I could have avoided it, as there are sure to be some compatibility issues and the like, but so far it's fine (touch wood!).

Here are some comments:

Games: Microsoft has finally gone beyond the same old games it's been using for years. There's chess, mahjong (of the clear-the-pairs-of-tiles kind), 'Ink Ball' (an interesting one, where you draw lines to bounce coloured balls into the right holes, though it is kind of fiddly with a laptop touchpad), and "Purble [not 'Purple'] Place" which has three simple games designed for young children with cartoony graphics and characters to guide you.



The much-vaunted 'Aero' system looks nice but doesn't really add much functionality. Basically you can cycle through the windows open on your desktop - like the Alt+Tab system, but with actual pictures of the content of the windows.

Happily, my Microsoft Natural keyboard, and trusty old A4 Tech wireless optical mouse, connected via an old USB hub (iBox MiniDock), installed and worked seamlessly. I was kind of expecting to have to get new drivers/hardware :-) Continue reading "New Acer Notebook and Windows Vista"

B.U.M. 2007 - Some thoughts

The Bloggers United Meeting (B.U.M. 2007) was held last Saturday. It was described as:
"a social and networking event with a preliminary brainstorming session between the 4th & 5th estates to embrace and engage the blogging phenomenon in Malaysia... An event in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day on 3rd May." (B.U.M. 2007)

There is a full list of other related posts here: so I don't have to collate them myself :-) Thanks to whoever did that!

It was a very interesting event, with informative talks by a variety of experienced bloggers and journalists who shared their experiences in relaxed atmosphere. A big thanks to the organisers!

One of the questions that came to me was - what defines a 'blogger'? For example, Rocky Bru gave an update on the National Alliance of Bloggers (All-Blogs) and said that "all bloggers" can become members, so I wondered - does that mean I can open a blog today and become a member tomorrow? Or do I have to have had a blog for certain time? Do I need to have to have regular postings too?

It seems to me that an important aspect of the public debate surrounding blogs at the moment (with the MSM and the (Malaysian) Information Minister criticising blogs as unreliable) also relates to a definitional issue - what defines a 'journalist'? Does s/he have to work for, or be published in, a recognised news organisation? Or is it the published material itself that defines the journalist?

When an article is published in a newspaper, we can be reassured that it has gone through at least one level of checking - so we tend to trust articles written in newspapers to the extent that we trust the institution of the newspaper itself (or TV News, or whatever). Anyone can write whatever they want in a blog, it's true, but Marina Mahathir made a very pertinent point when she said that comments "balance out bias": this works to a large extent in blogs, if someone writes something completely inane, there is likely to be someone who will come along and criticise it.

On the other hand the blogger can delete/deny any comments they want. In addition, I think that people tend to cluster around blogs that reflect their own opinion: so anyone who is attracted to a blog because of its content, will tend to find themselves in the company of like-minded people, thus reinforcing whatever opinions they have.

[Some more anthropological/methodological points in the extended post... click below] Continue reading "B.U.M. 2007 - Some thoughts"

The flowering of prosperity

Qumqats, or kumquats, are used during Chinese New Year as a symbol of prosperity: apparently the word sounds something like "gold" in Cantonese, and the bright orange colour resembles gold (incidentally, this is a typical example of so-called "imitative" or "sympathetic" magic: i.e. something is believed to affect other processes in the world due to its plastic properties, another example would be the phallic-shaped asparagus that are believed to be aphrodisiac).

Anyway, I have a kumquat tree which I bought for RM12 about three years ago: it never amounted to much until I transplanted it from the pot to the ground, and now it's flourishing well and measures about a metre high.

Here are photos demonstrating the different stages of the flowering and development into fruit.

The bud...


which then develops into a flower - here you can also see a caterpillar (sneakily disguised as a bird dropping) which will gobble down much of your leafs unless you remove it...
Continue reading "The flowering of prosperity"

Middle East nightmare scenario #5682

--This is an old post that didn't travel over into this blog: originally posted 4 Dec. 2006--

A read of these two articles, one by a “senior security adviser” (Sherwell) to the Saudi government, and another from the Sunday Telegraph has suddenly given me a glimpse into a possible, hellish and bleak, future of the Middle East.

As Iran says, “The kind of service that the Americans, with all their hatred, have done us – no superpower has ever done anything similar” (Sherwell). The Americans got rid of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and have placed the Iraqi Shiites on the throne of Iraq; now Iran is well placed to extend its influence all the way to Syria, which is an ally by convenience, and into Lebanon – where the Shiites are in the ascendance too.

It’s important to remember that Al-Qaeda and their ilk hate Shiites almost as much as the Americans, which is why they get on so well with the Sunni/ex-Baathist insurgents in Iraq. Also: let’s not forget that the Wahhabism of the Saudi state is also resolutely opposed to Shiism.

Ironically, if the neo-con plans laid out in the infamous PNAC are to be believed, Iran was actually one of the main targets of the whole exercise…

Now: we see that America is going to have to pull out sooner or later and leave the mess they made of Iraq behind them. They will try to find some face-saving device, but it will happen.

If the articles are correct in their analysis, they will find themselves choosing between Saudi Arabia and Iran. They will probably choose Saudi Arabia because: it is an ally, they buy lots of oil from it, and it is less belligerent towards Israel.

So, expect covert funding of Sunni groups, etc. etc. And further strengthening of Al-Qaeda/Wahhabi groups. There will have to be a ‘rebranding’ exercise of ‘terrorists’ to cast the shadow over Hezbollah etc., as ‘terrorists’ who attack Israel. I’m curious as to how long it will take before they manage to take the spotlight off Al-Qaeda somehow… OK I’m probably being too cynical there, but there will have to be some glossing over of the fundamental differences between these two strands of radical Islam; and the same ‘terrorist strongholds’ the Americans have been attempting to pound into submission will suddenly become victims of brutal aggression by Shiite ‘terror groups’…

**********

Obaid, Nawaf. “Stepping Into Iraq”. Washington Post. 29 Nov. 2006. 4 Dec. 2006 http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article15768.htm.

PNAC. “Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century”. 2000. 14 June 2006 http://www.newamericancentury.org/publicationsreports.htm.

Sherwell, Philip. “Saudis and Iran prepare to do battle over corpse of Iraq”. Sunday Telegraph. 2 Dec. 2006. 4 Dec. 2006 http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article15797.htm.

Net Neutrality

--This is an old post that didn't travel over into this blog: originally posted 27 Nov. 2006--

To be honest, I didn't pay much attention to this issue before; probably because, as Danah of apophenia notes, I didn't (don't?) really understand what it's about. Which I should, shame on me.

Anyway, she wondered how to make the issue more relevant to Mr. Joe Smith out there, and one of the commenters came up with this example which hit me... well the comments page is not displaying, so I'll say what I can remember: something about wanting to phone for your local pizza delivery store and being told that you'll have to wait two minutes to be connected to your local pizza store, but can get connected immediately to Pizza Big Brand if you want.

Another analogy might be: imagine a highway with many cars, at rush hour everyone goes slower, but everyone can use it in the same manner. The highway operator charges everyone a flat rate to use the road. Then one car who has paid for 'priority routes' (or something) comes along, preceded by escort cars that force everyone to clear one lane to let this car speed by, meaning everyone else will go slower.

You can also see a short informative film on YouTube

Part 2 also available Continue reading "Net Neutrality"