Thursday, December 31, 2009
For $49, I wasn't having very high expectations of the EN391TV. After trying it, I must say I would be happy to recommend it to anyone without a media player at home. It is very easy to use, it can play most of the formats I have (primarily ISO, JPEG, MP3, AVI, MPG, WMV, etc, etc), and the video quality is as good as played from my MVIX player, although JPEG looks over-saturated and could do with some tweaking on the TV display. It doesn't have a cooling fan, so it is completely silent.
It's so simple to use that I didn't even have to refer to the manual. To transfer files, just connect to the computer using USB cable. The computer immediately recognizes it as a hard disk. To connect to the TV, just use the RCA cables provided. Switch it on, and it shows you all the files you have. Click on any to play. If it is a music file, it will pay music. If it is JPEG, it will go into a slideshow, and so on. PLAY, PAUSE, STOP, FF, etc, are all there on the remote, but you can also operate it without the remote using the buttons on the docking station itself. Left on the computer, it can be used as a swappable hard disk. Or take it with you on a trip and you don't have to carry all your individual CD's or DVD's. It even has a built-in SD card reader to play your photos. I will not ditch my MVIX player for this one because the MXIV is conveniently networked to all my computers, but I will be perfectly happy to use the EN391TV media player.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
From personal experience in managing software projects, it is very clear to me that Myki is far from ready to launch. There are just far too many un-met deliverables, the most critical of which is that the touch system on unwired transport (trams and buses) do not work properly. This is no small matter. In project management practice, the touch system would be considered critical enough to warrant testing right at the beginning of the project; i.e., at least 5 years ago.
If only 20% of commuters use trains only, while others use a combination of train, tram or bus, then common sense says Myki cannot be considered close to being ready when it is only useable on trains-only for now. From reports of test runs to top up tickets at the train stations, the failure rate is typical of software in an "alpha" run. "Alpha" testing is carried out when a software is newly written. After the obvious bugs are ironed out, then the software is released for beta testing to uncover more subtle bugs. In the case of Myki, the system looks like it is at alpha testing stage. It is a software developer's suicide attempt to try and release a software under such conditions. Even beta testing is done under carefully guarded conditions before it is deemed ready to launch. To have an idea about beta testing, think Microsoft and Windows releases.
As for Transport Minister Lynne Kosky, her answers to the press only show how unfamiliar she is with the project. Either she is too busy with other ministerial functions, or the Myki project is not high enough on her list for her to be too intimately informed of its progress. It is no wonder the project keeps slipping; the project appears to have taken on a life of its own. As stakeholders, Premier Brumby and team should have held tighter reins on Myki's progress, with periodic reviews on milestones and key stages. Looks like the only string they are capable of pulling in this case is the public purse string.
Monday, December 28, 2009
Fastpack 200 is just the right size and the right design for me. I can carry it as a backpack. I can have fast access to the side pocket. The general compartment above the camera compartment is useful to carry anything on a day trip, or to carry more gear (like chargers, flash guns, filters, or even a back-up camera). I took it to a wedding yesterday. Left on the floor, I could access the top compartment easily. When following the guests around, I could carry the bag on one shoulder and fast-access the side pocket to grab my camera. Plus, I still have lots of room left over for future acquisitions.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Anyway, back to Boxing Day sale... I decided to go to two places yesterday with my son who simply loves shopping. First, we went to Chapel street. It was a pleasant experience. The shops were nice upmarket ones. They were not crowded and there was no shopping frenzy. The discounts were genuine. If ever there was I time I wouldn't mind shopping for clothes, this would be THE time and THE place to go.
Next, we headed for Chadstone Mall. The cars going there were backed up more than a kilometer long. Inside the mall it was as crowded as a fun fair. You'll find the same shops here as in Chapel Street, but vastly different crowd. Department store like Myers and David Jones were like giant flea markets. While Chapel Street was a pleasant experience for me, Chadstone Mall had the opposite effect. Unless you already had in mind what you wanted to pick up, I suggest you stay away from a Boxing Day sale at Chadstone. I did manage to part with some money on a few good buys, but it was mostly in Chapel Street.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
The public sector typically comprises essential services (although many countries have privatized a large portion of this, often to the detriment of the public). As such, it is my personal opinion that public sector employees should not be allowed to go on strike if it means crippling the smooth running of a public service. The government, and therefore civil servants, hold a monopoly in all essential services. To turn this monopoly into a bargaining chip for pay rise demands is just holding the public hostage. To be fair to civil servants in Australia, the condition of service has become very "private sector-like", hence it is not surprising that the same private sector malaise (e.g. strike actions) also affects the public sector.
The postal service is a very important public service. Before the advent of the internet, it was the primary means of communication for every single person living in even the remotest part of the country. Even now this role is still very important. Nobody should be using his privileged position, as a civil servant with monopolistic power, to hold the public hostage at any time.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I do not have an iPhone but I have a Symbian phone that essentially does the same thing. After some time, I found that I do not really need many of the apps I have installed. After all, there is a time for everything. If I want to look up a restaurant, I find it better to sit in front of my computer before setting out, rather than drive out unprepared and start seeking out a restaurant on my phone. If I want to go somewhere unfamiliar, I would google it on my computer before leaving the house, rather than having to rely on a GPS.
Having said that, it is handy to have certain apps to carry around with you. I love being able to look up the dictionary just about any time when I need to. I love having the calculator handy. I love being able to take notes on my voice recorder. I love being able to read an electronic book or play some games when I have some time to kill. All these functions exist simply as apps in my smartphone. I think smartphones are here to stay for those who are tuned in to this technology. For those who are not, here's a tip: you can get a perfectly decent mobile phone for anything between AUD$40-80, instead of shelling out more than AUD$200 for a smartphone that will only confuse you with all kinds of unnecessary features.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
As a way to fight graffiti vandalism, I suggest that local councils display a phone hotline at all places where graffiti writers are prone to strike. This should be in a prominent position where passersby can see from a distance and where it is out of reach of the graffiti writer. Hopefully this will send a strong message to would-be graffiti writers and discourage them from carrying out their acts.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I think the government can do better. If we are really interested to cut down on fuel consumption, why not encourage the use of a smaller car? Nissan used to have a marvelous model called the Sunny which was very popular in Malaysia about 30 years ago. It was about the size of today's Corolla. It had big bumpers for direct front and rear impact. This car was truly the people's car: it was cheap to buy, cheap to run, and cheap to maintain. And it almost never gave any problems. So why are the big car makers making big-engine cars, only to improve the efficiency by a third? A Nissan Sunny would have cut down by two thirds the fuel consumption without any fancy technology. Better still, a motorized bicycle would run circles around a car and save on road congestion and parking shortages. Yet the government is silent on all these ideas.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
That is not all. Consider also:
1. Optus charges 80c per min plus 35c per flagfall. TPG charges in 30sec blocks at 40c per min and 35c per flagfall. If you call for less than 30 sec, Optus takes from you $1.15 while TPG takes from you $0.75.
2. If you are on TPG broadband service, you just pay $15 to get the $19.99 plan. Compare that to Optus' $49 for more or less the same amount of calls!
3. In TPG mobile, you can download data (i.e web, email) at 5c per 10kb, which will be counted towards the $300 worth of calls. In Optus, you will have to sign up separately for this service and pay over and above the cap value.
4. TPG has no contract. You can terminate any time. Furthermore, in TPG you can check your usage call-by-call online, anytime. In comparison, Optus provides you a convoluted bill at the end of each month which is extremely difficult to interpret. I often find dubious charges in Optus bills that are difficult to comprehend.
Forget about "free phone" offers from Optus. You can work out for yourself that it is not free. If you are interested to change over to TPG and start saving on you mobile bills, here's a tip: you can use any Optus-locked or Virgin-locked phone on TPG Mobile without having to unlock the phone. Oh by the way, you cannot use Blackberry on TPG Mobile. I was told by TPG that you cannot use iPhone, but on the internet forums I found that it can be done. More research required on iPhone.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Look at what happens if such a system does not exist. Malaysia is a good case in point. In Malaysia there is a virtual absence of systematic training and assessment for vocational work. The quality of work is generally poor as unskilled workers undercut skilled craftsmen by offering much lower prices. Therefore the career path for vocational work is shunned and viewed with disdain. Instead, everyone tries to get a university degree. This results in a gross oversupply of university graduates, who become underemployed and whose careers aspirations are seldom fully met. With a fast growing population, Malaysia is missing out on the opportunity to create a service industry that can certainly contribute towards the GDP.
As people became more and more materialistic, they allowed mammon to take over, in the name of capitalism (with controls given to Big Business). This is based on the over-simplified supply and demand theory. The supply and demand scenario is probably best exemplified by the new blockbuster movie called "2012" where one has to pay 1 billion euros to buy a place on the modern ark which is built to withstand the physical annihilation of planet earth. In a very capitalistic country, one's education and wellbeing depends on the ability to raise money.
A theocratic country is one where the country is governed by religious teachings. Unfortunately that too can be a problem if the religion teaches hatred and encourages its people to destroy anyone of another religion. Only God knows that human beings are not able to govern itself properly. The reason is simple: God gave mankind dominion over the earth, but He did not give mankind dominion over one another. Check with your pastor.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Back to the nagger... just observe the person doing all the chores at home. Occasionally, he or she feels that it would be good if everyone chips in to do his part. That is love in action, isn't it? But no, as soon as a suggestion is made, everyone says "you like to nag", without sparing a thought for the parent or the spouse who does all the work. I say love the nagger; your nagger is not your servant but somebody who loves you and cares for you and deserves your respect.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
I said to my friend that Ernie just has a different value system. My friend disagrees. He says if the table were turned around, he is sure Ernie would feel equally mad. This is where my friend got it wrong. My friend's value system is: don't do to others what you don't want others to do to you. Ernie's value system is: "what's YOUR problem, mate?" Pray that you do not meet many Ernies in your life because it is exasperating; you simply cannot deal with people who cannot make a commitment and keep it. Ernie just keeps giving my friend a new excuse each time he fails to keep his last promise... and then goes on to make a new one.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Time passed. I grew up and traveled to many places in the world. The people I met were different. The world out there was not filled with the same gentle people I knew and admired. Returning to the tropical paradise, I was even more alarmed that the gentle people I once knew have been replaced by greedy, callous, and corrupt people that I never knew existed before. In their drive to enrich themselves, they have polluted and destroyed the environment. Through corruption and mismanagement, they empty the public coffers. The utopian world of free public health care is slowly replaced by privatized hospitals. What used to be quality education is replaced by poorly run and sometimes dubious institutions from primary schools to colleges and universities. A peaceful society now lives in barricaded houses with hired neighbourhood security guards, numbed to escalating crime, and harassed by the very people who are there to serve and protect them. A tropical paradise, like the Garden of Eden, has disappeared.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Tonight at the camera club my appetite for a good sensor is further increased. Ron Cork showed pictures taken on his Europe trip. The pictures taken in low light at high ISO strongly convinced me that the crucial factor in today's camera lies in the sensor. Technology has blurred the gap between cameras on things like shutter lag, image stabilization, and ease of use. Lens technology is nothing new and you'll always get what you pay for. Gimmicks like face recognition, water proofing, and ultra-zoom are just that: gimmicks.
The distinguishing feature lies in the sensor. I believe even the sensors used in the best DLSR's today are still evolving. In the D700, it has reached a point where you can take most pictures in low light condition without using a tripod (there you go: less gear to carry on your holiday. Just make sure you have a very fast lens, though). I mean good pictures and not grainy ones you get when you bump up the ISO in a cheap camera. I believe there will come a time when one can shoot in any lighting condition without using a tripod or a fast lens. It is unlikely that such a super sensor will be cheap or available soon, I think it is better to get a fast lens as my next acquisition, instead of chasing after a dream camera. It is like buying a computer. You only buy the fastest processor to suit your needs at that time. As I am still learning how to shoot well, I think I could live with my humble D90 for some time yet. I could do with a fast lens though, and I think I'll forget about getting a point-and-shoot camera now, no matter how good the successor to Panasonic LX3 or Canon G11 comes long. Someday I'll go after the best-in-class sensor. Just not now.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
I know I am just making a mountain out of a molehill here. I hope all my children will be smart enough to recognize that gambling is an addiction and an antisocial behavior. No one should be motivated to gamble, even if there is such a thing. In life we are sometimes motivated to take a gamble but to gamble for the sake of gambling.... isn't that a costly indulgence?
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
The rice cooker is indeed a great marvel of kitchen productivity. When I was small, I used to cook rice in a wood fired stove. I had to light the fire, keep it going until the rice is cooked. Then I had to remove the wood so that the rice doesn't get crisp. Cooking rice was a chore then. Now it is just a flip of the switch. Even tried cooking rice over a gas burner? It isn't any easier.
Like our parents, the humble rice cooker is always there when we need it. We often forget that it is ever there, except when we want to scoop rice out of it. It never breaks down; it never fusses. We often fail to appreciate what it does for us, just like how many of us fail to show appreciation to our parents. Yes, it could do with a little more respect too.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Here is the difference. When you use Photoshop, you work with Layers. You cannot master Photoshop without mastering Layers, and without mastering the various Selection tools. Both are not easy to master. Lightroom does not require you to work with Layers or the Selection tools, which is a big relief. Indeed, for someone familiar with photo editing, it can be learned in one sitting. In Lightroom all the adjustments are made on one layer. Since there is no Selection tool in Lightroom, you cannot do cut-and-paste. For such graphics work, one can seamlessly migrate over to Photoshop and continue working on the image.
Next, I can quickly make slight adjustments to those that need a bit of tweaking to get it right, such as a bit of cropping or exposure adjustment, etc. I can even copy the adjustments made on one picture and apply it to any number of others. This is particularly useful when you need to adjust the white balance of pictures shot under artificial lighting.
Finally, when I have sorted out all the pictures I want to keep, and made adjustments to those that need correction, I can compress all the files to the size I want and "export" to my archive. At the same time, I would cherry pick those good enough to be placed in my gallery for public viewing.
Lightroom must have been designed by photographers because the thoughts that have gone into designing the software fits the needs of photographers very well. I am delighted by two things in particular: 1) if you shoot Jpeg and Raw at the same time and you import these into Lightroom, it automatically lets you edit in Raw. When you delete, you can delete both Jpeg and Raw at the same time; 2) when you have done all the preliminary work in Lightroom, you can still continue to do more fancy manipulations using Photoshop if you so desire.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
For the first time since I bought my tripod, I really appreciated taking that along on an outdoor shooting. There were many instances when I had to open up the aperture, thereby causing a reduced shutter speed, and I did not have to worry about camera shake. I guess the alternative is to pay a lot more to get a brighter lens. There you go, buy a tripod if you are tight on lens budget!
I brought along my camera stand, studio umbrella, and two flash guns. I actually had a chance to use them when we were shooting portraits because someone forgot to bring along the club's light stands and we had to improvise using whatever we could lay our hands on. I also got to do off-camera flash shooting in a few outdoor instances.
My computer was also put to use. I was one of only 2 people who brought a computer. I used it to show a few people how to use Adobe Lightroom. It is a great software and it is growing fast on me. It was pure delight to be able to share it with other enthusiasts and seeing the excitement on their faces when they see what they can do as well.
What I also brought, but didn't put to use was my Expodisc, which would have been absolutely ideal for the rain forest hike for which we drove off-track for 25km and hiked 1km just to see the Ada Tree, which is a 300yr old mountain ash. It was not possible to get the correct white balance in that environment without the Expodisc. I left it behind in the 4WD when started the hike to the Ada Tree.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Here's what I have learned from my trip, photography-wise. Firstly, I realized that to get the most out of shooting, I should not strive to take pictures with competition in mind. I should set myself free to take whatever pictures I feel like taking. That way, I will enjoy taking photos, and I find I am more successful in getting some shots that I really liked. On this trip, I did just that and I really enjoyed myself. In the last club outing to Cranbourne, I was trying very hard to get good pictures and I ended up with nothing. Also, I did not enjoy myself at all.
On camera gear, I looked at the various cameras everyone brought. They were all either Nikon or Canon. I must say I am happy with my choice of Nikon D90; comparing with what others had, the D90 is truly a midrange camera. Quite a few were using D700's and 5D Mark II, Nikon's and Canon's flagship products, but I am really satisfied with mine because I believe I won't be able to get much more out of the more expensive cameras than from my D90. I am also very happy to have chosen Nikon because of the ease of doing off-camera flash with the built-in commander mode. This is something Canon doesn't have ... yet?
I am also happy to have really got the most out of my polarizer and my tripod. Both were put to good use with effective result. Previously I was only using the polarizer to get a bluer sky, but now I can appreciate how it can also give me a richer colour by removing reflections from leaves and trees; certainly a great accessory to have on a very sunny day. As for using a stand, I learned to be more critical of even tiny camera shake, and that's where a tripod comes in. One member showed me what to look for when checking image sharpness at 200% view.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
In doing a comparison, one should look at how much services he gets for the amount of tax he pays. Although one pays less tax in Malaysia, I feel that when everything is added up, an Aussie taxpayer gets more out of the system. I won't delve into this quantitatively. The point I want to make in is that while we complain about high taxation, we should not forget that Australia is quite a socialist country in the sense that there are a lot of benefits going to the disadvantaged, the poor, and the old. Australians enjoy free medical care and highly subsidized education, plus a host of other benefits such as child care, youth allowance, family benefits, unemployment benefit, etc. What we should do in Australia is to ensure that the politicians do not steal these benefits away from the people while still maintaining high taxation.
Sunday, October 18, 2009
I can speak from experience now that it is not the camera that matters, but the lens. An entry level DSLR would be good enough. I had to struggle with my kit lens, where the maximum aperture starts from f3.5, and increases to f5.6 at maximum zoom. Whenever I zoomed out, the maximum aperture reduces, thereby slowing down the shutter speed (making it hard to hold steady). A constant f3.5 short zoom lens would have been ideal for the portraits session. Actually, a lower cost prime lens would be sufficient for home use because you can move back and forth towards the model, but when you are with a crowd, it helps to be able to stand in one spot and zoom in or out. Finally, I should have brought my monopod to better steady my hand while pushing to the limits with my lens.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
It might appear that I have suddenly mastered the art in one class. The truth is, taking portraits requires a lot of practice. Knowing how to set the camera correctly takes but a moment to learn. Setting up the props and lighting is also not difficult. These are all "knowledge" stuff. The "skills" part takes years of practice to hone. Telling the model how to pose so that the picture turns out nice and pleasing is not something that happens by chance. The instructor explained how he positions the hands, tilt the face, etc. Once this is done, all of us in the class just kept shooting to our hearts' content and the pictures all came out nice.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
We must recognize that asylum seekers will always be around. People all over the world hope to escape poverty or danger in search of a better life. The countries that are able to provide refuge have a moral responsibility towards all humanity, but it is impossible to throw the door wide open. Yet to keep it tightly shut will certainly attract criticisms at home or abroad.
Without joining the debate on asylum seekers, here's what I think the government should do. The US actually has a lottery system that we can emulate. While tightening the rules on asylum seekers to discourage illegal entry, the government can still give such people an avenue of hope by conducting a migration lottery every few years. Eligibility can be controlled by specifying how many people from which targeted countries will be accepted. That way, the country can adopt much harsher illegal entry policies without reproach.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
1. Open an image, then go to the Channels window. Select the channel (in grayscale) that gives the most contrast.
2. Go to Image>Calculations. Choose Source 1 and Source 2 to be the same selected channel and choose the Blending option that maximizes the contrast. Set the Result to New Channel (Alpha channel).
3. Hit Ctrl L (shortcut for Image>Adjustments>Levels) to make adjustments to further boost up the contrast.
4. Use the paintbrush to paint the image, or eraser to erase undesired parts of the image. The idea is to be able to paint in the area that will be used as a mask later on. The hairy parts, which are difficult to paint accurately, should be made automatically black by the preceding steps so that not much painting is involved.
5. Without making any selection, but with the Alpha channel still active, hit Ctrl I (shortcut for Image>Adjustments>Invert) to inverse the selection from black to white if necessary. White is what will be used for mask later on.
6. Hold Ctrl and click the Alpha channel to make the selection for mask. Now reactivate the RGB channel and deactivate the Alpha channel (i.e. the "eye" icon). Go back to Layers window and you will see the selection you have made.
7. Alternatively, you can click Select>Load Selection and choose the Alpha channel to reload the selection to be used as mask. Use Ctrl J to copy and make a new image minus the background (if desired).
8. Now you can copy and past the selection to another image. To further improve on the parts of the hair that is not well defined, use Burn tool to darken. (In newer Photoshop, use Refine Edge).
9. Alternatively, if the hair is light in colour, try converting to Lab colour mode and use the channels to paint the background black, instead of the subject black. The technique is the same.
Back home, I simply followed the instructions to wet the affected areas with a concentrated mixture of detergent and water. After soaking for 5 mins, I put the affected clothes into the washing machine to wash again, using the Napisan in place of regular detergent. I am glad to say my confidence in the detergent ads have been renewed. All the stains disappeared like magic.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I just wonder how she might have felt being asked those questions. Was she offended that somebody noticed she's African? Did she feel the questions had racial undertone? She must have been asked those questions a thousand times; did she mind talking about it for the 1001th time? Were the questions condescending? I don't know if she was even sensitive about the questions, but I thought it proper not to make any remark until or unless I knew her better. How would you feel if you were the African lady?
Friday, October 9, 2009
When he was in the army in Africa, he woke up one morning feeling on top of the world. The sun was shining and he was simply feeling great. His sergeant told his team that they have to walk to a certain place. As they were walking they suddenly got a call to freeze and stay where they were. They were told they had entered a minefield. Napoleon said that at that moment, he felt that what started as a great day had suddenly turned horrible in an instant. "My friend," said Napoleon, "you can say it is a great day, but you'll never know when something bad is going to happen next." I agree with Napoleon. No matter how fortunate your circumstances today may be, things can just change in an instant. You'll just have to anchor yourself in God.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
The "Develop" module is what I love about Lightroom. It truly simplifies all the tasks a photographer would typically need to do on a digital image. There are no "layers"; which I say is the life and soul of Photoshop, and the bane of one trying to learn Photoshop for the first time. Instead, all changes are done virtually on one page and can always be completely reverted back to the original. The best part of all is that it can be learned fairly quickly, so that the photographer can stick to shooting pictures without having to master Photoshop as well. Having said that, it is only fair to say that Photoshop is still the king of digital manipulation, so don't expect Lightroom to do everything.
Do you realize what a privilege it is to be able to walk freely in the park in a free country? For me, to take a walk in the park is to savor freedom, and to remind myself how lucky I am to be here in Australia. When I was a young boy, I used to imagine that people in developed countries spend a lot of time enjoying nature and the wilderness. Now that I am here, I want to do that as much as I am able to, for as long as I can.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
First of all, I like the simplicity. I want to be able to maintain my online album with minimum fuss. Picasa does that for me. There are three things you have to do to use Picasa: a) sign up for a free account; b) download and install Picasa on your computer; c) choose the folders on your computer to upload and synch with Picasaweb. That's all the hard work. From that point onwards, whatever you add or delete from the assigned folders on your computer is synchronized almost immediately to the web gallery.
Typical of Google, the user interface of Picasa is pleasingly useful in a simplistic way. It gives me an alternative way to open up my picture folders without navigating through a lot of irrelevant folders. There is an option of either dealing directly with your folders or assigning "albums". In Picasa terminology, albums are like pseudo folders. You can assign pictures from various folders into one album. I prefer to deal with real folders, though. With real folders, when you manipulate the files outside of Picasa, the same will be seen when you open Picasa. This looks like a petty detail, but I think it is very important. I don't like all the "file missing" prompts one gets when a cataloged file is unwittingly moved around (which happens when you use programs like Photoshop Lightroom or ACDSee) .
As for editing and other features, you'll have to check out for yourself. All I can say is, they are very useable. Picasa in my opinion is great for people who want to store pictures on the web without actually doing anything once your have enabled the synch mode on selected folders. It is also great as an alternative way to view your photos without navigating through a bunch of irrelavant files. To see my work-in-progress Picasa album, go to: http://picasaweb.google.com/howyitmeng
Monday, September 28, 2009
Yet Peter was not always the picture of bravery we see here. In Matthew 14 we read that Peter trusted Jesus enough to step onto the water, but soon got scared and began to sink. Matthew 14:29-31: "... Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" "
Perhaps an more even poignant example of his lack of bravado was his denial of Jesus even after Jesus had told him that he would deny Jesus; not once, but three times. When Jesus was arrested and charged with blasphemy Peter was terrified and tried to slip away. Matthew 26:73 says "After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away." Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly."
If someone of so little courage can in the end stand up for his conviction even after his mentor is gone, I cannot think of any greater demonstration of faith. Moreover, every one of the apostles stood up and died for their belief after the resurrection. Not a single one escaped persecution; not a single one caved in.
The apostles were certainly men of great conviction. Every single one of them, after the resurrection of Christ, faced severe persecution. All, except Apostle John, died violent deaths. Not a single one of them chose to surrender their faith but they chose to give up their lives. This is a great testimony of their strong conviction.
Few of us ever face a problem in life half as severe as the apostles faced. Yet we complain that our cross is too heavy to bear. Shouldn't we stand up as brave soldiers of the cross? Do we so quickly forget what a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear? "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" as the bible says in James 1:2-4.
Today I feel my burden weighing heavily on me, so I am writing this as a reminder to myself, and not to preach to you something alien to me.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Basically Australia is trumpeting its success in overcoming the global recession of 2008. In terms of GDP, yes. According to Ross Gittins, this is done at the cost of increasing the population (through migration). Bigger population, bigger consumption and bigger demand for labour. All this adds up to a greater GDP, but not necessarily GPD per capita. In fact, GDP per capita contracted 1.5% in the last 15 months, and has fallen in three of the last five quarters (according to reports).
This is where I find myself having mixed feelings. On the one hand I am a beneficiary of Australia's generosity in accepting migrants. Yet once here, I know that continued high rate of migrant intake will only dilute the quality of life for which I am here. This is clearly explained by Ross Gittins in his article. Politicians and businessmen will continue to pretend that high migrant intake is good. The former is interested only in getting re-elected, while the latter is only interested in getting higher profit. So who is watching our for the welfare of the country? Generally speaking, the answer is nobody. I only hope that I am wrong.
When an old man died in the geriatric ward of a nursing home in country New South Wales, it was believed that he had nothing left of any value.
Later, when the nurses were going through his meagre possessions, They found this poem. Its quality and content so impressed the staff that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital.
One nurse took her copy to Melbourne. The old man's sole bequest to posterity has since appeared in the Christmas editions of magazines around the country and appearing in mags for Mental Health. A slide presentation has also been made based on his simple, but eloquent, poem.
And this old man, with nothing left to give to the world, is now the author of this 'anonymous' poem winging across the Internet.
Cranky Old Man
What do you see nurses? . . . . .What do you see?
What are you thinking .. . . . . when you're looking at me?
A cranky old man, . . . . . .not very wise,
Uncertain of habit .. . . . . . . . with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food .. .. .. . . . . and makes no reply.
When you say in a loud voice . . . . .. 'I do wish you'd try!'
Who seems not to notice . . . . .the things that you do.
And forever is losing . . . . . . . . . . A sock or shoe?
Who, resisting or not .. . . . . . . . . . . lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding . . . . . .The long day to fill?
Is that what you're thinking? . . . . . . Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse . . . . . . you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am . .. . . . . . As I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, . . . . . . as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of Ten . . . . . . . with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters .. . . . . . . . who love one another
A young boy of Sixteen . . . . . with wings on his feet
Dreaming that soon now . . . . .. . . a lover he'll meet.
A groom soon at Twenty . . . . . . . my heart gives a leap.
Remembering, the vows ... . . . . . that I promised to keep.
At Twenty-Five, now . . . . . .... . . . . I have young of my own.
Who need me to guide . . . . And a secure happy home.
A man of Thirty . . . . . . . . .. My young now grown fast,
Bound to each other . . . . . . . With ties that should last.
At Forty, my young sons .. . . . . have grown and are gone,
But my woman is beside me . . . . . . . to see I don't mourn.
At Fifty, once more, . . . . . . ..Babies play 'round my knee,
Again, we know children . . . . . . . My loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me . . . . . . . . My wife is now dead.
I look at the future ... . . . . . . . . . . . . . I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing . . . . . . young of their own.
And I think of the years . . .. . . . . And the love that I've known.
I'm now an old man . . . . . . . . . and nature is cruel.
It's jest to make old age . . . . . . . look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles .. . . . ... . . . . . grace and vigour, depart.
There is now a stone .. . . . . .. . where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass . . . .. A young man still dwells,
And now and again . . . .. . . . my battered heart swells
I remember the joys . .. . . . . . . . .. . I remember the pain.
And I'm loving and living . . . . .. . . . . . . . . life over again.
I think of the years . all too few . . . . . . gone too fast.
And accept the stark fact . . . . . . . . that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, people . . . . . . . . open and see.
Not a cranky old man . Look closer . . . . see . . . . . .. . ME!!
Saturday, September 26, 2009
That's it, this is a must-have device for one of these people:
1. those who need a pen input device for Photoshop, like me.
2. those who want a better input device than a mouse, like me.
3. those literally in pain from using a mouse (repetitive stress syndrome), like me.
Go out and get one. I recommend the Bamboo Fun range. Choose the smallest pad. It is cheaper, takes up less space on your table, and you can move your cursor faster across the screen. Only a graphics artist has any need for anything larger than the smallest tablet.
Friday, September 25, 2009
I believe that that point in a person's life is the apex of the feeling of being rich. You'll never feel richer than when you get your first pay. Very soon after that you will be mired in utility bills that you have raked up yourself, car installment, house mortgage payment, insurance, tax, repair and maintenance, traffic offenses, and buying things you don't really need but want. And social entertainment... you can't be a loner. Then you get married and have children... more expenses... No matter how much more you earn thereafter, you'll never again get that same feeling of being superbly.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Corel Painter actually lets you draw or paint digitally, as well as automatically transforming the picture for you. This is where the fun begins. The picture shown here is half painted by Corel Painter and half by me using digital brushes and ink on a computer screen. Now that I have tried real digital painting and real oil painting, I must say the Corel Painter software does quite an amazing job of emulating the real thing! You can choose the brush type, different media, as well as applying wet or dry paint, etc, etc. (Photoshop has Brushes too, but I haven't tried that yet)
Monday, September 21, 2009
1. Sale authority.
This is a legally binding contract that outlines the sale of your house through the appointed agent. Take note: 1) there is no set industry-standard for the agent's commission; 2) the seller is liable for advertising expenses even if a sale doesn't happen; 3) it is illegal for the agent to underquote the seller's reserve price.
2. Vendor's statement (or Section 32).
Typically prepared by a conveyancer or solicitor, it must be complete and signed by the seller. Take note: prospective buyer must receive a complete and signed vendor's statement or else the contract of sale would be void.
3. Contract of sale.
Verbal offer is not binding. A contract of sale identifies the buyer, seller, particulars of the property, settlement date, deposit amount, sale value, and which chattels to go with the house. Note that: 1) buyers can request a sale to be subject to finance approval, sale of their own property, or building inspection; 2) buyers have a cooling off period of three business days (can back out subject to a small penalty), unless the property is bought within three business days of a scheduled auction or if they took legal advice before signing the contract. Auctions can have no cooling off period and no attached conditions.
1. Real estate agent's commission: 2.5% of $440k = $11k
2. Variable commission: 5% for amount over $400k = $2k
(note: that's a whopping 7.5% in total for the $40k "extra")
3. Advertising cost: 1.5% (for signboard, online listing, print ads, etc) = $6.6k
4. Building inspection (if required) = $1k (say)
5. Legal costs (vendor statement, auction contract, etc) = $1k (at least)
6. Exit fee from bank for outstanding mortgage = $1k (say)
Total = $22.6k, which works out to 5.1% of $440k. In addition, if you buy another house to replace this, expect to pay about 5% in stamp duty. That makes a grand total of roughly 10%, excluding moving costs and the cost of hiring temporary props to make the house look more attractive to the buyer.
The bottomline: everything above is negotiable; but not after you have signed any papers. So negotiate first!! Don't be fooled into thinking that the rates are non-negotiable.
Friday, September 18, 2009
It was quite by accident that I came across this software, which comes bundled with the Wacom tablet I bought primarily as a mouse replacement for my computer. After much research I was ready to part with AUD$139 for a Bamboo Wacom tablet as advertised. Instead I got the better Bamboo Fun tablet instead, and it comes bundled with Corel Painter. So here I am, an overnight digital painter!
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" (He presumes that eternal life is obtained by doing good things)
17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. (Jesus did not answer his question directly. Instead he tells him that it is not what we do, but what we are that is important. Are we good? Only God is, because ultimately we all fall short of God's standard) If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
18"Which ones?" the man inquired.
Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother, and 'love your neighbor as yourself."
20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"(He still thinks he can earn his way to heaven by doing good)
21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."(1. Jesus implies that the young man could do even better by getting rid of his possessions; 2. Jesus did not tell him that if he got rid of his possessions he will qualify for heaven. He only said that he can exchange earthly treasure for heavenly treasure; 3. Not just giving away his wealth, but next to follow Christ. That is what the young man must do if he wants to go beyond what he has been doing)
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Obviously Jesus knew his heart well. The young man has done all the praiseworthy things, but in his heart he still holds on dearly to his earthly treasure.)
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
26Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Jesus says it is impossible for man to save himself)
Monday, September 14, 2009
I picked up this tip from a photography magazine. It is just a simple task. To include one of the ready made borders, you simply add the border as another layer to the opened image in photoshop. Then select "Lighten" or "Screen" and the image will appear with the predefined border, as shown in the example here. It does add a bit of character to the image, doesn't it?
When I started my working life after graduation in 1982 the service industry was run on pen and paper. In fact the personal computer was only in its infancy with the Apple IIe only starting to make its mark. In those days (in Malaysia) most people had only three household utility bills: water, electricity, and telephone. Nowadays in Malaysia many people subscribe to pay TV and broadband, in addition to the other three utilities.
At that time, each utility bill could only be paid at the utility company's outlet. We had to wait in a long queue to pay each bill before running off to the next place. It was a blessing that traffic and parking were not such a colossal problem as it is in Malaysia today. Nowadays people can choose to pay all their bills through the internet, or to pay different bills at just one location. It is funny isn't it, that even as computerization has made life easier and supposedly freed up time, we all still live terribly busy lives, don't we?
Thursday, September 10, 2009
I admit it; I am not cut out to be a fighter. A writer I might be. It takes a lot more effort than just reporting to the authorities. I would rather not start something that I can not see through to the end. If any of my readers feel motivated to do so, he is welcome to pick up on the case.
That is not to say we should resign to accept status quo. Ferdinand Marcos was toppled by people power, harnessing the SMS of their mobile phones to rally the nation. If we do likewise using the internet or email, we can amass unprecedented strength in number to fight any social injustice. "The pen is mightier than the sword" rings true once more. Or shall I say, Mighty Mouse to the rescue!