Saturday, June 23, 2012

Self-portrait, the techno way

Here is a self-portrait that I took this afternoon. On my right hand is a remote trigger for my camera. A half-press on the button causes my camera to focus on me, while a full press triggers the shot. An Eye-Fi SD card in my camera transmits the image to my Samsung phone in about 3-4 secs, which you can see me holding it up on the other hand.
I took about 20 shots this way without moving from my spot.

Friday, June 22, 2012

We are the cause of it all?

I received a circulated article titled "We are the cause of it all", in reference to the sociopolitical situation in Malaysia. The following extract sums up what this article is all about:

"Our economy has been sluggish and in recession for two decades now. While times were good, we could make up for the corruption of our country. But now there is no more leeway for such activities. Our corruption must stop. And let us not just point at our politicians, although they have much to answer for. Let us not just point at our policemen, as easy as they may be to target.

"It was my silence that has brought us here. It was your silence too. It is our silence that has made this land groan under our feet. We are the cause Malaysia suffers. We are the reason our rich and poor divide widens. We are the reason we practice a civilised, governmentally endorsed racism. We are the reason our rainforests are dying and smog blankets our atmosphere. We are the reason so many of us do not return to our own country and instead hope to live in foreign lands
."

Here is what I think
I don't agree with the proposition that it was our silence that caused all the problems the writer mentioned. It is like blaming our own carelessness when our house gets broken in. Or like blaming our own stupidity when we get conned by a con artist. Or blaming ourselves for going out when we get robbed in the street.

While our silence made it easier for those who want to harm us, our silence is hardly the cause of it. Where I live (in Australia), I do not have grills on my doors and windows. Yet the probability of a break in is negligible. If the writer's line of thinking is correct, my house would have been broken in many, many times by now.

The fact that Malaysia deteriorated to its present state today is not caused by our collective silence. Start looking at the perpetrators of crime and injustice! To use the above analogy, they are the "burglars" who have broken into our once peaceful neighborhood. As we start barricading our houses, these criminals simply become more devious. As they get more and more daring, they progress into operating in broad daylight. Before long, they become a law unto themselves, openly doing what they please. Our silence did not breed these criminals.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Should Greece have voted out of the Euro?

By voting to stay with the euro and complying with austerity measure, Greece will face widespread unemployment and other hardship due to budget cuts. More crucially, however, what is really saved are the lending banks, not the future of the Greeks. The way I see it, the bailout of Greece is actually a bailout of the banks in Germany and France. The banks (mostly privately held, I presume) will stand to lose a lot if the euro collapses. So the clever governments of Germany and France choose to use its taxpayers' money to save Greece, in order to stabilize the financial system based on the euro, so as to benefit those in high places (which most likely includes themselves).

Of course, this is no bailout for Greece. Think of it this way. If a man owes the bank a lot of money and is insolvent, the bank stands to gain nothing if the man declares himself a bankrupt. Assuming the man is still capable of earning an income, the bank would want to keep him alive so as to recover as much money as it can. Yes, give him just enough to stay alive and make him pay back 90% of his income each month. He will be denied any luxury - austerity measure. Isn't this exactly what is going to happen to Greece?

In the business world, when a company is insolvent, the logical thing to do is to declare bankruptcy and then start business again as a new entity. But if the bank is allowed to take over as administrator, the bank's sole intention is to recover as much money as it can, even at the expense of running down the company. Isn't this the same fate facing Greece now that it has voted to stay with the euro?

In summary, the winners are the fat cats in Germacy, France, and Greece. The losers are the taxpayers in Germany and France and the hoi polloi in Greece.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Multifunction printer or copier?

We often see the word multifunction "printer" being used, but it is an understatement to call a multifunction printer a printer. Perhaps the more accurate word should be "copier", but that word is now widely used to mean a photocopying machine.

Here is why I think a multifunction printer should be called a copier instead. The function of a multifunction printer is to print, scan, copy, and (sometimes) fax. Printing is simply making a hard copy from a soft copy. Scanning is making a soft copy from a hard copy. Faxing is making a remote hard copy. It is all about copying, so why do we keep calling it a printer?

Perhaps not to confuse it with a photocopier by calling it a copier, how does multicopier sound to you?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pocket, a read-it-later app

There are many apps which allow you to identify articles for later viewing. A much-touted one is Instapaper, but Pocket is a good free alternative. Basically these apps allow you to download articles for later reading in offline mode.

Pocket is cloud based. The Pocket cloud stores all your articles for you, so you don't have to worry about losing anything. Once you have set up an account with them and have installed the Pocket app on your mobile devices (yes, more than one), or on your Mac or PC, you can view the same article/s on any device. For example, when you are browsing on the web you just have to click the pre-installed "Pocket" icon on your toolbar. The article will be saved to the Pocket server in the cloud. You can then read it on your mobile device. Likewise, as you read something on your mobile device in a wi-fi area, you can save it to Pocket and read it later.

What I like most about Pocket is the way it handles the stored article. In the images below, the first image is what you normally see when opening an article on a website. The second image is what you see when you open it in Pocket (less clutter). The third view is article view. It is clean and highly readable. You can change font, font size, spacings, brightness, and background color. This is pretty much what a basic e-reader would do.




Saturday, June 9, 2012

A bright app for a smartphone

This app is no flash in the pan.  A simple torch app (or "flashlight", as the Americans would have it) is something everybody should install in his smartphone. I can remember many instances when I would have found a torch light to be very useful.

When I was young, I lived in a part of town with no street light. I used to walk home under the moonlight, treading carefully on a narrow path and simply remembering where all the uneven surfaces were. A torch app in a smartphone would have been very, very useful indeed.

A few years back I installed an LED sensor light at the entrance of my house because it was too dark to see the keyhole. I even considered getting a little torch to attach to my key chain just for that purpose.

I can think of many reasons why a regular torch light would be very useful to have, but not critical enough that many people would be bothered with it. But a torch as an app in the smartphone? That would be a bright idea indeed. Think of the time when you were on a holiday somewhere, and you just needed a light at night to go to the bathroom. Or driving in the middle of nowhere when your car breaks down.... Or when you needed to check the map..... 

"Flashlight" is the name of the app I have just installed on my smartphone. While some similar apps light up the display screen, this app uses the LED flash instead. using the LED flash is better, because I don't feel good about my display being stressed to excessive brightness (whether rightly or wrongly). So go and install this app on your smartphone. You'll thank me for it one day.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

MyNetFone on Android mobile

I have used MyNetFone quite successfully over the last few years as my main home phone to make external calls. My phone bills are under control and the call connection and quality has been satisfactory. However, installing it on a mobile has always ended in a flop..... until now.

I called MyNetFone helpdesk this morning and was advised to install Sipdroid app instead of MyNetFone app (which only worked on older versions of Android, I was told). Sipdroid is fantastic! there are a lot of features, for e.g.
1. I can call up numbers from my address book
2. I can set preferences for voice quality
3. I can record calls automatically to SD card
4. I can make video calls even (I haven't tried that)
5. In the US you can integrate with Google Voice and make free calls entirely.
6. I can set connection preferences (such as using Sipdroid whenever I within wifi range; I don't subscribe to 3G)

Sipdroid works with any mobile phone if you know how to set it up. I don't. But here is how to set it up if you have signed up for a MyNetFone account.
a. Install Sipdroid app on your mobile.
b. Once installed, open Sipdroid and press on menu button and go to Settings>>SIP Account.
c. For Authorization Username, enter your MyNetFone number. Then enter Password (both given when you register with MyNetFone.
d. For Server or Proxy, enter "sip00.mynetfone.com.au".

Exit and start calling. It is that easy!