Sunday, 29 May 2005

I hoped it wasn't true

My mother called me from her office last Friday afternoon.

"Have you heard about anything, around the neighbourhood?" I was at home then.

"No, I don't think so. Why?"

"Word is Pak Ad passed away."

Passed away? Pak Ad, or real name Saad, was a dear neighbour to all of us living in the taman. A retired RISDA staff who later made a living a handyman. A few years earlier, he had a heart operation.

"I'll go see. Are you sure?"

"That's why I asked you to go see. Call me back as soon as you find out."

As I got myself ready, I realised I was in one of those moments. Moments when there is an uncertainty (and usually it's a bad one) where you hope very hard that it isn't true. I made my way to Pak Ad's house hoping the news to be wrong. But I couldn't. As a believer in God as the controller of fate, I tried to convinced myself that whatever happened, whatever awaits me at my destination that evening, are His will.

And He willed Pak Ad to join Him on that day. He willed Pak Ad's heart to fail just after his finishes his Friday prayers. Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

When I arrived at his house, some of the neighbours were there already. I got the news from them, confirming Pak Ad's demise. I took out my handphone and called my mother.

"Ibu? Yeah, it's true. Pak Ad passed away earlier this afternoon."

We all lost Pak Ad that day. His family lost a father, husband, brother and grandfather. We the neighbours lost a kind-hearted and soft-spoken friend. I personally lost an elder who often took the time to talk to me and advice me whenever he could. For that I cannot thank you enough.

My prayers and istighfar for you Pak Ad. Al-Fatihah. May Allah bless you, grant you forgiveness and place you among the pious and the steadfast. Amin.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Eager about Eiger

Earlier this month, Microsoft announced that it is currently working on a Windows XP version that can run on older computers. The project, codenamed Eiger (did I hear somebody said Tiger? Hehe.) is a slimmed-downed, "Server Centric Computing Client" version of XP that is aimed at customers who wants to upgrade to XP but cannot afford to upgrade their hardware. Eiger is also said to come with Service Pack 2, an important security update for XP.

Most Windows users/PC owners knows what it means every time Microsoft announces that a new Windows version is coming out. It mostly means getting a larger hard disk, more RAM and a faster microprocessor. Let's not even get started on other things like motherboard, graphic card and network standards.

If you own a computer, upgrading will probably leave a tear in the pocket. But if own and run hundreds and thousands of computers, upgrading your hardware would be a major budget bleed. In this light, Eiger is definitely good news. XP requires at least the following in order to run properly: 300 MHz processor, 128 MB RAM and 1.5 GB of hard disk space.

However, Eiger is not going to be "general-purpose". It won't run games or office applications: just the software needed for a server-based environment. recently released a list of features that Eiger might include, including another proposed project that Microsoft might work on, Mönch.

The third peak?

Interestingly, the names Eiger and Mönch are the names of mountains in Switzerland that are next to each other. The number of these huddled-together mountains are three, with the third mountain known as Jungfrau.

So far, no Jungfrau-codenamed project is annouced. But here is what I'm hoping for: a "general-purpose", Eiger-like XP client for home users, allowing them to run it on 500 MHz PCs with RAM as little as 64 MB.

Too much to wish for? You tell me.

Sunday, 22 May 2005

Present ideas

I've been busy lately taking care of many things. Including going to my cousin's engagement ceremony this afternoon.

From what I'm told, it's going to be small ceremony. My cousin, who's a year older than me, is getting engaged to a girl who lives near our house, about a 10 minutes drive away. We expect the details of the upcoming wedding to be discussed by both sides today. Somehow I feel like I'm going to peace-treaty signing.

Qui-Gon in a comfy Jediwear ensemble
My congratulations to my cousin, Ucin, on the engagement. It's going to be my first time going to an engagement ceremony as part of the 'grown up members' of the rombongan (party). If all goes well, insya-Allah, I'll have to get my cousin a good wedding present.

Maybe I'll make him a Jedi robe. That should be an original wedding gift. I have to find out how much he likes Star Wars first.

Maybe his wife-to-be is also a Star Wars aficionado. In that case: one his and hers Jedi robe set, coming up!

Sorted under:

Friday, 20 May 2005

Microsoft employs monkeys

Microsoft obviously cares about its customers' security. With many threats aimed at its Windows-based products: WinXP, Outlook, IE, to name a few, the company which is based in Redmond, Washington decides to take some proactive measures to safeguard its reputation and restore their customers' faith in their products. Microsoft researchers are now using "monkeys" to thwart any possible security threats, according to SecurityFocus .

The software giant's Cybersecurity and Systems Management (CSM) research group are building a system of virtual Windows XP computers that crawl the Web looking for sites that use unreported vulnerabilities to compromise customer's PCs. Dubbed "honeymonkeys," the virtual machines run a full version of Windows XP with monitoring software and crawl high-risk areas of the Web looking for trouble.

The larger idea behind "honeymonkeys" are "honeypots", phony systems that are set-up to look like real, functioning systems to fool and lure intruders and monitors the intruders' behaviour once they are inside.

Perhaps the message they are trying to send out is: never make a monkey out of Microsoft.

Thursday, 19 May 2005

Textile: humane HTML

Another good reason to not learn HTML. :D

A self-proclaimed "Humane Web Text Generator", Textile is a tool that makes it easy for you to create HTML source codes without having to type in the HTML tags yourself.

Textile uses its own predefines 'modifiers' to generates tags for your paragraphs, lists, links and even tables. The modifiers are actually a simpler representation of the HTML tags, but they can only be used with Textile. Textile can be used to generate HTML source codes for your blogs, forums, e-mail or web pages.

Here's a sample text that I created using Textile modifiers:
*The _Hangs_*

* Hang Tuah
* Hang Jebat
* Hang Kasturi
* Hang Lekir
* Hang Lekiu
* -William Hung-

I clicked on the 'Text to HTML' button, got the HTML source codes and pasted them here. Here's how the output looks like:

The Hangs

  • Hang Tuah
  • Hang Jebat
  • Hang Kasturi
  • Hang Lekir
  • Hang Lekiu
  • William Hung

In the simple example above, I only used the modifiers for strong (bold), emphasize (italic), unordered list and deleted text. You can click on the "Load sample input text" link to see a demonstration of what Textile is capable of. You can also see a preview of how your generated HTML source codes should look like.

After several tries, I can safely tell you two things about using Textile:
  1. Pay attention to whitespaces: the blanks or spaces between the words and lines. They affect the generated source code . For example, when using the unordered list or numeric list modifier, there should be a space between ’#’ and the list item. Refer back to the sample text with the Textile modifiers above. Notice the white space between the '#' and 'Hang Tuah'? Without the whitespace, the output codes generated is different.

  2. Knowledge of HTML is a bonus. If you know HTML, you can further change the generated sources codes according to how you want your output to look like.

Textile may not be the perfect solution to make you skip learning HTML altogether, but it's definitely a convenience. Especially if you need to generate HTML codes quickly. I used Textile to generate for the numeric list in the above paragraph and it turned out nicely.

Textile is actually part of Textpattern, an open-source content management software for websites and blogs.

Tuesday, 17 May 2005

Martin Lings passed away

Innalillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un.

Abu Bakr Siraj ad Deen Martin Lings, the author of Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, passed away recently. Al-fatihah.

I learned about this news a little late. I remember this particular book when I took Islamic studies in college. I believe his books are widely referred to in colleges and universities all over the world as well vital references for many people. May Allah reward his good deeds and grants him forgiveness.

Thanks Sunni Sister for the news.

Fuzzy story

The lick of love
I like manga (Japanese comics) because they can take a simple story and turn it into a reading experience. How I wish Malaysian comics are like this.

My latest find is Kurogo, by Sugisaku (kuro is Japanese for black). It is about a kitten's adventures in everyday life living with humans and other cats. The stories are only a few pages long, but carry a lot of metaphors that mirrors the things that we see around us. Sort of like life seen from a cat's eye view.

Thanks BNC Scanlation for scanlating this manga. The chapters are available via their IRC channel, #BNC at IRCHighway.

Sunday, 15 May 2005

Copyright law, or creativity law?

A lot of has been said about intellectual property and copyright law. People generally have some idea about what piracy and illegal download are about, but in reality, these matters are deeper that what they seem.

This article, Helping, not hindering, creativity, helps explain the basic ideas and arguments behind copyright law issues. It also covers issues like why intellectual property is different from other properties and why should the laws protecting it must be amended.

Creative Commons also provides some explanation on the legal concepts regarding copyright.

Saturday, 14 May 2005

Renovations : Episode II

Those who know me quite well are more than willing to testify to the fact that I am a fairly cerewet (fussy) person. My cerewet-ness has made me redo many things that I've worked on.

I redid my Final Year Project presentation because I thought blue was a "safe" and overused colour. I redid my homepage design 10 times, due to various "creativity clashes" (with myself!). And the reason why I don't write blog posts on a daily basis is because nearly every one of them goes through a long series of rewrites before I could finally click on the Publish Post button.

The latest incident involving my cerewet-ness is none other the revamping of this blog's layout. In less than a week, I gave my blog a second layout overhaul.

I was really going for the minimalist concept thing. I looked at the blogs by Garrett Dimon and Evan Williams, and thought, "maybe white could work." Going minimalist is about creating something beautiful by keeping it simple and being true to its function.

After the unveiling of my blog a couple of days back, a few people who are quite close to me said that I could do "a bit more" with my blog. They all expressed their opinions in different words, but they were certainly hinting at the same thing. Not the kind of reaction I was hoping for, but I understood their intention and I stuck to my decision.

On the other hand, I also didn't felt the feeling I was hoping to feel. Again, I am in another "creativity clash". That strange feeling, as well as the words of my friendly critics wouldn't leave me alone for the following days. Every time when I tried to write a post or just reading through the stuff I published or drafted, those words and feeling would come back to haunt me.

At this point, I'm willing to admit to two things. One, I'm often cerewet about the things that I'm working on and have the ability and opportunity to improve it further. I'm usually not this fussy about other things. And two, as much as I greatly dislike to admit it, I think both my friendly critics and my gut feeling were right about the layout. It isn't working out for me and it has to go. Time to bid the iPod a la mode "au revoir!"

Deconstructing Rollie

And so I rolled up my sleeves and ended up working for a whole afternoon.

ColorZilla: a life saver
First, I changed the font. I tried Bitstream Vera Sans, which looks great in Opera and Mozilla browsers but horrible in Internet Explorer (I'm not sure why). I had no choice but to go for one of the most widely accepted web font around: Verdana. And not a bad choice if I may say so myself. The font smooths out nicely and provides a good readability.

Next, the colours. It's no secret that I'm a Mozilla Firefox user and I wrote about Mozilla extensions in one of my earliest posts. For this job, I used one extension in particular, ColorZilla. It's a colour picker and a colour list/chart in one and a web designer's best friend. Looking for the colours I wanted was a breeze with this sweet baby.

I also adjusted the width for the content area which consists of the main (where the post are displayed) and the sidebar by tinkering with the layout's stylesheet. I gave them a few extra pixels to make them wider and hopefully, easier to the eyes.

My Blog Title
Remember this? No? Not at all?
Gone from this layout is the picture of the train that I used as my title banner. Although I don't dislike it any less, I wanted something that's closer to home. The new title banner above was edited from a picture I found at stock.xchng while I was searching for pictures filed under the tag "malaysia". It's a photograph shot by zora_chan in Buntal Beach, Sarawak of a storm brewing. And it's named (guess what?) Before The Storm. Thank you zora_chan for sharing this amazingly breathtaking picture.

Alhamdulillah, the layout turned out better than I had imagined. It may lost much of its minimalism goals that I set out to achieve earlier, but I've learned a lot of new things in the process. To my friendly critics, this is why I need your support and feedbacks. Your comments mean a lot to me. Thank you for sharing your views.

And thank you for that feeling, gut.

Wednesday, 11 May 2005

A reminder to myself

Yesterday, my dear aunt died. We knew that she was ill, but we didn't anticipate her demise. She was my eldest aunt from my mother's side. She was special, she was kind and she was warm to everyone.

Death is a fact of life. As Muslims and as human beings, we embrace that fact as well as the reality that this world itself is temporary. We were meant to be put on this earth to prepare us for the next world, the Hereafter.

Life is too short, they say. Many of us wander around in life without much thought about how our (already predetermined) end would be like. Would we leave this world as a person who has successfully earn the love and mercy of his/her Creator? A person who has contributed the betterment of other people's lives? A person whose absence is greatly missed by everyone, whose kind words and actions have touched countless souls?

Deaths is a part of our lives. So long as God gives us life, we are still given the opportunity to rectify ourselves. From time to time, we must look into ourselves, and ask, "what more can I do to improve myself?" More importantly, I must ask myself this question.

I cannot impose changes upon others , but I can certainly impose changes upon myself.

A departure

This morning, my Aunt Ani, my mother's eldest sister, passed away.


I would be accompanying my parent to the funeral in a few hours at her home in FRIM (Forest Research Institute of Malaysia), Kepong.

May Allah place her soul among the pious and forgive all her sins. Amin.

Sunday, 8 May 2005


Before moving from my old place to here, I decided to do some renovations. Since I'm planning to stay here for some time, I might as well make myself comfortable.

I tinkered around a bit with the layout, as you can see. I wish I could design my own original layout, but that's going to take some time and there are still many things that I haven't learned about web design. So I'll just have to be content with working over other people's work. The original layout was designed by Douglas Bowman, who runs his own design company called Stopdesign.

I purposely avoided using too many pictures and colours because I was actually trying to go for a minimalist design approach. A famous example of this design approach is the Apple iPod digital music player. The minimalist design philosophy emphasizes 2 major factors: simplicity and functionality. That, and the fact that I'm terrible when it comes to choosing the right colours for my webpage layouts.

The header section of this blog is replaced with the picture above. I downloaded it from stock.xchng, a repository of stock photos that are free for non-commercial use. I later edited it using The GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program), an open-source and freely-distributed image editing software. Yes, I love free stuff. Especially free software.

I use, an Internet bookmark sharing service, to sort out my posts according to topics. Now everyone skip the topics that bore them to sleep and go straight to the ones that don't. My thanks to Marnie Webb and the participants of this forum for this awesome tip.

The whole renovation process took me about a week or so, but I'm glad the way things turned out. Alhamdullillah. With all the work now behind me, I can finally move on to other things.

Like writing a new post. Or, go have my breakfast.

I think I will go with suggestion no.2 first.

Friday, 6 May 2005

Back where I started

(...I never thought I would be doing this... )

Hello, everyone.

Yes, I'm back here. After long thoughts and a little persuasion by some friends, I've decided to give this place another shot. While I still don't believe anybody would actually come here to read anything that I write, I plan to treat this place as my 'creativity sandbox'.

No, you'll unlikely to find anything here that will win me a Pulitzer, a Booker or a Sasterawan Negara award (or even a nomination, for that matter). Just more of the usual stuff that I used to put here. But hopefully, I've wisen up a bit since the last time and make more sense to all of you.

However, I am grateful for your visit. I thank God for giving me the chance to become better at what I'm trying to do and I hope to continue writing about things that could be useful to all of us.

Do wish me all the best. And thank you again for coming.

Late(st) news

Here's an overdue update: my homepage is now finished. Sort of. (Truth is, I don't know what else to put there.)

Selamat datang, welcome, ahlan wa sahlan!
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