Sunday, 26 February 2006

Whose bike is it anyway?

I read a story of a guy who complained to his friend that his car key doesn't work, even after he turned it upside down, jiggled it through the keyhole and forced it to turn. His friend finally knocked some sense into the guy when he showed him that he was actually trying to open the wrong car.

This reminded me of another story that happened my matriculation days. Back then most of us were pedestrians and public transportation users. My friend A was one of the few who had his own bike.

One day another friend, B, came to A asking to borrow his bike because he needed to go somewhere quite far. Without much hesitation, A handed B his key and asked B to be careful. It was morning.

In the afternoon, as A was coming back from lunch, he saw his bike exactly where he had parked it. A's mind began to wonder, did something happened to his bike that B had to borrow someone else's or take the bus instead?

Evening come, and A waited for B and an explaination. And not long after that B arrived and handed back A's bike key. A was surprised to see B acting as if nothing had happened. He however decided to keep calm and asked B nicely why he didn't take his bike.

I did, said B. A said earlier he saw his bike unmoved from the same place he parked it, at the corner of the parking lot.

That corner? I thought your bike is on the other side of the parking lot!

It turned out that B had mistakenly ridden all day long on someone else's bike that was coincidently startable with A's bike key.

Tuesday, 21 February 2006

Burned by a burning fox

My last weekend was spent on doing something entirely unexpected: restoring my Firefox browser. It caught an unknown bug on Saturday and on Sunday I was reconstructing my previous settings piece by piece.

I use Firefox for many things, other than for browsing the web. I've customised Firefox to become my webmail client, my online dictionary and encyclopedia and for doing some other stuff including for listening to BBC Radio 4, occassionally.

I started the process by tracking down my bookmarks, and luckily Firefox makes periodic backups of them. I found the latest one, 'bookmarks-2006-02-19.html', and made a copy of it. It's actually the list of all my bookmarked websites in HTML form, which is something nifty because I can carry it in my USB drive can open my bookmarks from any computer using any browser.

Next was to track down the extensions (add-ons) that I used to customise my browser. To my surprise, I realised that I've installed over 40 kinds of them. Made a list and sorted them into esssential and under consideration. Ended up with a final list of 18.

I uninstalled the old installation, deleted the Profile folder in the Documents and Settings folder and launched a new installation.

I was happy at the moment. I thought I was well on my way to restoring everything as it was before. Until, I realised that I've been using Firefox for keeping my online passwords. All my passwords for all my emails, my forums, my online services like Friendster, Blogger and others. Cold sweat broke on the my previously dry forehead. I realised that I was on a verge on a very serious problem. My long list of saved password was gone.

I wanted to kick myself for being too lazy to remember my passwords. But given the limitations of the design of my legs, I tossed the idea aside and started racking my brain for a way out of this mess.

One thing I learn about troubleshooting computer problems is that the Internet is your very good friend. And alhamdulillah, I found a very good advice at one Mr. Kenneth Hunt's blog (thank you very much), based on the article at MozillaZine Knowledge Base. Without much fuss I managed to find and copy all my password-related files and copied them into the new installation.

Lesson to be learnt here:

Never become too dependent on your browser or any kind of software. If you want to be dependent on any software, don't just pick one. Pick two or more. That way if one crashes or becomes unavailable, you'll still have options.

Remember the 3 most important things about sensitive data: backup, backup and backup. Your passwords, contact information, confidential documents, etc., you never know when you might lose them.

Not my idea of a wonderful weekend, but I learnt a lot.

Sunday, 19 February 2006

PCPlus and animefringe

2005 left and took with him two items from my monthly reading list: PCPlus Malaysia and animefringe.

Not all computer magazines are written equal. That's why at most I only grab one computer magazine a month.

PCPlus Malaysia is the local version of the UK monthly. It covers mostly what other magazines of its kind do (feature articles, hardware, software, news), but with a slight difference in the humour department. Not in the ha ha, ROTFL kind of humour but more of the subtle, hidden gems in between lines that pops up when you least expect it. Not very surprising considering that it hails from the land of Brit.

There's something to be loved about Brit humour. It's often less calculative, formulaic or culturally driven than the typical US humour we get in many sitcoms. Brit humour leans towards being witty, spot-on imitation of life and because of this it may not appeal to every people. They don't shy away from the ugly truth or the mundane. Old ladies obsessed with biscuits and tea, sensitive punk rockers or even dodgy-looking MPs, no one is safe from their target.

The magazine's shining edges are Masterclass (tutorials on stuff like video editing, PC case modding, Perl programming, etc.), Helpdesk (technical Q and A) and the unmissible Mailbox (there's often some good stuff from the senders and the editors here). The UK-style of writing requires a bit of getting used to but reading technical stuff sprinkled with a dash of witticism certainly makes it more interesting.

But the thing I'm going to miss most about it is the bundled CD. Unlike other magazines, PCPlus CDs are often loaded with full functional software (freeware, previous versions, free versions or open source) instead of just demos or trial versions. Demos and trial versions have time and feature limitations, which is why I believe a free version like the ones offered by Winamp and ZoneAlarm is a better deal. Fully functional free versions are made available alongside the purchasable full version for users who can afford them.

PCPlus Malaysia exited the market somewhere in the third quarter of last year.

A labour of love by a band of anime and manga aficionados, this online-only publication has been a staple diet of many fans including yours truly. animefringe made its debut on January 2000 and released its final issue last December.

The site is a joy to read, thanks to its clean layouts and a highly accessible navigation menu. Packed with reviews, previews and interviews, animefringe also offers a look at many things that make up the whole anime/manga culture (conventions or cons, original soundtracks or OSTs, Japanese culture, etc.). It deserve high points in my book for not only covering popular titles but also give due attention to the lesser known ones.

The articles are well written, with enough pictures to give readers a good idea about the stories. You don't have to be highly knowledgable about anime/manga to understand the content, but it sure would help. I admit that I felt lost when I first discovered it, but crazed fans like me don't let things like that stop us.

I am indebted to the writers there for helping me to discover some of the best animes that would appeal most to my liking. They helped me to check out Osamu Tezuka's Hi no Tori (Phoenix) and Urasawa Naoki's Monster, among other things, titles which seem to escape the knowledge of many.

The final issue of animefringe also includes a special feature called Curtain Call, parting notes from the editorial team and previous contributors to the magazine. Reading it was a misty eye moment for me, as I truly wished that the final issue was nothing more than a very early April's Fool joke and come January I would be sitting at my desk with the month's issue right on the screen before me.

To the folks at animefringe, I thank and congratulate all of you for an effort well executed. It's time for everyone to move on to others things, and for me to find other items to fill in my monthly reading list.

Sunday, 5 February 2006

Bento milk tablets

This really takes me back to my schooling days. I didn't know they still make these. It been years since I last saw one. Found them at my cousin's wedding, part of the bunga telur gift that was handed out to the guest.
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