Friday, September 26, 2008

Annapurna Circuit GPS

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More GPS Info:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trans Gunung Benum GPS and Track

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From Bentong -> Sungai Klau -> Lata Berembun -> Camp 1 -> Gunung Bernum Summit -> Camp 3 -> Camp 2 -> Waterfall -> Camp 1 -> Kampung Ulu Cheka -> Kampung Dama -> Jerantut

Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Review: The Google Story

I thought I know almost everything about Google by keeping closely with Slashdot: How 2 smart guys from Stanford make the best Search Engine in the world and now they earn money by selling targeted text-based advertisement.

Nevertheless, the beginning of Google is still a very interesting read, and to let you peek of what kind of people Sergey Brin and Larry Page actually is. Google started in the days where Search Engine is not a big deal, and certainly not a cash-cow. Yahoo primary focus is not the search engine, where to emphasis more on portal, email and their Internet Directory. So 2 smart guys from Stanford thinks that we need a better Search Engine so that we can actually find what we wanted from the big Internet, and have absolutely no clue how to make any money yet. They started of at Stanford University using an array to cheap computers (couldn’t afford IBM’s server) to crawl the Internet and implemented the famous PageRank algorithm. gotten too famous and needed more computers (and more money to buy them) to support its web traffic, and they manage to get an Angel investor through the help of the University’s Professor to invest USD 100,000 without any paperwork nor a business plan on how to make money (just because the idea sounds interesting). Then the whole think got bigger and they need to source for millions in funding using some really smart maneuver, ended getting the money from 2 of the biggest VCs and still be in control of the company (which is really rare). Even during their IPO, the founder have this Class B shares which allow them to have more votes than ordinary shareholders just to be in control of the company. You could say they are real control freaks, but they just believed they are the best man for the job (just like the Kennedy Brothers).

A few interesting facts:
  • The Google founders are really very smart people in terms of technical knowledge (especially mathematics) and business negotiation. They aren’t just Techie, more like Genius who could make good use of their talent in the world of business and technology.
  • Google started with no business plan, just a solution to solve a problem. They only figured out the AdWord thing at a much later stage.
  • Google like to do things the unconventional ways and breaking the norm. Maybe "normal" is not a good thing after all.
  • Google always think that they could come up with better solutions in a technologist and scientific way. It might be arrogant, it work out for the better most of the time.
  • Google prefer small team for project, between 4-5 persons.
  • Google always focus on coming out with a better product or useful solution and think of how to monetize it later.
  • Eric Schmidt runs the daily operation of Google so that Larry and Sergey could focus on innovation. The founders still sign-off on new hires.
  • Google allow their employees to spent 20% of their time on projects which they like, so that talented people don’t run away with the idea and start a rival company.
  • Google’s offer free and healthy meals, free massage, free laundry, free annual ski trip, etc.
  • Google "Don't Be Evil" motto: with more power easily come the temptation to abuse or corrupt.
  • Google channel 1% of their resources for Develop Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal, RechargeIT, Predict and Prevent, Inform and Empower to Improve Public Services, and Fuel the Growth of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises
Anyway, the book is quite an interesting read until half way through, and I got bored from there onwards.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

People should not be afraid of their governments, Governments should be afraid of their people

People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. – V for Vendetta

Certain things just never change for Centuries, as absolute power will always corrupt. It is a good thing that we have Democracy, so that the people could actually choose the Government to run the country on their behalf (not to control or against the people). Though I might say that Democracy is far from perfect, but that is another story to tell.

Sometimes the Government had forgotten their role, making themselves the Master and the People its slave. When the Master found its slaves to be “disobedient”, he tries to suppress or punished its slaves, and make an example of a few of them to warn the others not to go against the Government. These are signs of desperation; that the Government is no longer for the people; but a selfish entity run by an elite group trying to protect their own interest, power and wealth.

Does the Government try to strike fear into your heart, rather than trying to win your heart? Do you hear about people going missing overnight and never to be heard ever since? Do people get punished and long gone are the foundation of justice where everyone is “Innocent until Proven Guilty”? I felt the fear, and that’s why I know something is very wrong.

All the hardworking and honest citizen ever wanted is a peaceful place to earn a living. I don’t think the commoner care much about skin colors and special privileges (except some extremist or people with political interest); there is no racial unrest unless it’s being incite by certain elite group to achieve their own selfish goal. There are no real racial issues: the Ramadan month means delicious food for all races, everyone visited the Mamak Stall, Nasi Lemak is the national food, and everyone loves the holidays due to our multi-racial communities. Yes, there are some small differences and stereotypes; but it's no big deal.

I don’t like or hate you for your colors, it’s who you are and whether you are a good man (or woman) with integrity. We really need to look pass colors and privileges. We need a country which is fair and strong for everyone, despite your colors, genders, origins, citizenships and religions. It's everyone own a fair piece of the country or find it worth preserving, everyone would want to protect it and make it better; it's our home afterall. Don't allienate us; Don't make us a 2nd class citizen; Embrace us as one big family and filled the air with love.

For the sake of our country's future, please stop being selfish and open your heart. Sometimes to love is to let go, it will make you feel better in the end as a person; holding too strongly to something which are not meant for you is painful for everyone. Having felt really "naive" after the last sentence, but the core of things are really as simple as that: it's the execution which is difficult. It's no easy being a Good man.

Does every revolution need a blood shed? How much can our beloved country sustain?

It's ironic that as a human, we would always think that we are right, and we seldom think for others. Perhaps we are born selfish, that we need to learn to be selfless. Do you think that you are right? and why is that so?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Great Workplace: Pixar

Pixar is probably one of the most successful animation house in the world (another Brain Child of Steve Jobs of Apple), and there must be some special about them. Taken from Pixar’s Brad Bird on Fostering Innovation, there are 9 (or 10) lessons:
  1. Herd Your Black Sheep – give the odd balls a chance to change the world
  2. Perfect is the Enemy of Innovation – Get the job done, one way or another: Imperfection could be perfect.
  3. Look for Intensity – does it worry you if there is no debate or friendly argument exchange in the office?
  4. Innovation Doesn’t happen in a Vacuum – Get everyone together and have a peer reviews.
  5. High Morale Makes Creativity Cheap – Err, give a inspirational speech in the locker room before the big game?
  6. Don’t Try To “Protect your success” – You must believe that you can fly (or nothing is impossible)
  7. Steve Jobs Says ‘Interaction = Innovation’ – Get out of your cubicle and start chatting a bit, just a bit.
  8. Encourage Inter-disciplinary Learning – You pick your own training?
  9. Get Rid of Weak Links – Yup, burn the black sheep!
  10. Making $$ Can’t Be Your Focus – Money can’t be the end. We use money to do something we like.

The interview is pretty alright, but I am not convinced that’s all the juices in Pixar. Of course it try to foster creativity by trying to let you create your own house (or cubicle) in whatever way you like, be it a Western Town or Hawaii Hulala. It promotes total waste of space to buy some sort of creativity.
Of course we have Pixar University which offer more than 110 courses from film making to sculpting. Everyone is encourage to devote up to four hours per week to his or her own education.

According to Catmull talks Pixar creativity in HBR piece (source: The Pixar Blog), it is basically about
  • Invest in People rather than Great Ideas – when you have a bunch of Great People together, the chemistry is bound to spark great things. Create an environment which nurture people into unleashing their creativity.
  • Encourage risk - It guess it’s the old piece of No Guts No Glory.
  • And many more about Peer Culture, Freedom & Sharing, Postmoterms and etc.
With the obvious aside, Pixar is mostly about creating an environment for great people to work together and magic will happen. How to create the creative environment? Physically office environment, Education & Learning, Interaction & Peer Reviews, and a Boss who understand what is creativity.

Great Workplace: Aeron Chair

A great workplace is made up of culture, people, policies, freebies and the eye candy: office furniture.

Joel Spolsky highly recommended the Aeron Chair from Herman Miller, which cost nothing less than USD 600 (RM 1980) for the cheapest model: the ergonomic chair with a status symbol attached.

I can’t understand what is so good about this chair, since I haven’t sit on one yet. But since it cost a bomb and almost everyone is recommending it, it must have some feel good psychological by just sitting on 600 bucks. Sure it had all sort of features and ergonomic design, but most importantly: it must look good and feel good, thus it can’t be cheap to maintain that level of brand impression. It does have some minor annoyance which some people dislikes.

So, it you want to work towards the best workplace in the world, you must have at least a dozen of these Herman Millers’ babies in the office, and I don’t mean the cheapest model.

Reviews By: FiringSquad, Office Chair Reviews, Ergonomics

Monday, September 08, 2008

Book Review: Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson

Guerilla Marketing is about low budget marketing relying on time, energy and imagination: thus very appealing for small business.

I found this book a bit boring and sounded like a text box, trying to introduce every aspect of marketing channel from TV to Internet to Brochure. It did introduce some useful tips in between like measuring the performance of the advertisement using code (to track the source of the leads, or landing page). It shows you the 100 weapons which you could use in marketing, but it really lack in depth coverage or success example which capture people’s attention. I would rather it focus on the 10 best way for different scenario and provide more example and techniques.

I stop at page 200 out of 350, as I don’t need a textbook introducing marketing channel. It sounded like the “Dummy’s guide to Marketing”, except much more comprehensive. I try t flip to the end to see if there are any hidden gems; slightly better but not actually catchy or enlightening either.

“What is marketing? The art of getting people to change their mind, or to maintain heir mindset if they are always inclined to do business with you. More than half of the marketing time should be devoted to existing customer.” – Guerilla Marketing

Cameron Highland Video (Before Charlie XPDC)



Saturday, September 06, 2008

Can work be fun?

Kenny said that work is not supposed to be fun. If it’s fun, then it’s not work. So if you are a Game’s beta tester, you are not actually playing for fun; you are playing for work.

Tang said if you turn fun into work, then it will no longer be fun. If you like dancing and dance everyday, you might find it as a chore eventually. If you like travel and be a Tour Guide, it might take the fun out.

Perhaps it’s true that if you do the same thing 5 times a week repeated over the years, it’ll become boring eventually.
  1. If the thing is boring in the first place, then there is no hope!
  2. If the thing is fun in the first place, then it might become boring eventually
  3. If things do become boring eventually, we might be thinking of a change
If everyday is a weekend, then weekend might not be that exciting after all. If everyday is Christmas or Chinese New Year, then people might not be that anxious or feeling particular happy about it.

Most of us are trying to find a job which is fun, but the downfall is that it is hardly possible for a job to be fun all the time or for a long time. We are constantly looking for new things to challenge us, thus it go against the nature of a building block: we didn’t continue to specialize or be the master of one particular thing.

Let’s say I like dancing, cha-cha dancing to be more precise. After a while I got bored with cha-cha, and then I try other Latin dance like Jive, Rumba and Samba (go through the Bronze, Silver, Gold level and etc). After 1 year, I got bored with Latin and venture off with Ballroom dancing like Waltz, Quickstep and Tango. After another year I feel like trying Rock & Roll, Jazz, Paso, Hip Hop, Flamingo and etc. After 5 years or so, I might be bored with dancing and venture into Yoga, Skating, Hiking, Cycling, Piano and etc.

The Big Question

We have a finite number of time in life, 24 hours a day, and 7 days a week. Should we specialize in something and excel at it (even enduring boredom, or lack of interest), or should be diversified and enriched ourselves, persuing other interests as well?

In terms of career or main income stream, we indeed need to concentrate and work of something for a long period in order to be successful. It might take me 3 years to build up a computer shop to be profitable, and then I got bored with the work and close it down to start a PR company. Why not keep the Computer Business, and start the PR company? It depends on the resources I had in hand: time, money and man power. It’s worst if I got bored with the computer shop before I made it. So for the name of Survival, we indeed have to make sacrifices: even though it means work and no fun :|

In terms of personal hobby and skill development, I do agree variety and diversification is better. I think someone who knows Latin, Ballroom, Jazz, Hip-Hop and all kind of dances is a “better” person than the Master of Cha-Cha and knows only Latin. Each dance has different kind of skill, techniques, styles, emotions, music which affect us in different ways as a person. We will learn more and be more fulfilled, and they complement each other. Like Programming, some people just want to be Master of Java, or just want to do Web Development. It might look good on the resume with “10 years experience in Java Business Development” in some cases, but I think “Knowledgeable in C/C++, C#, VB6/VB,NET, PHP, Ruby with experience in Business Application, Web, Game and Mobile Development” looks more impressive and diversified in most cases. Though an employer might not need that many skill-set, but he might be impressed with you; or think that you are lying ala Jack of all Trade, haha. But, we only have so much time; we still have to choose wisely how to utilize our limited time.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Microsoft XNA Game Development Framework + Xbox Live Marketplace

Free Tool + Publishing = Fun + (Money)

Around March 2004, it is already great news that Microsoft provided a free tool and framework (Microsoft XNA Game Studio) for game hobbyist to develop computer games. Though we can’t build big game with amazing graphics, but there is still room for small little fun games. Games which are not too intensive but provide 30 minutes or an hour of fun without too much worry and learning curve, suitable for working adult like me.

Yes, it’s a hobby and we can’t expect to make much money out of it; and selling games online is not an easy feat, and no publisher would entertain us (unless you sell your flash games on

So Microsoft brought in another goodie, to let amateur sell their games through XBov Live Marketplace (I was hoping 12 millions people will be able to see or know your game, and hopefully play it). I believe RealArcade did promote such game publishing mechanism before, just which it didn’t have a decent market share or garner enough attention. So if you plan to try your luck on a fun game, you actually got a good opportunity to sell them as well; getting people to play your game is another satisfaction as well.

How does it works?
  1. Download XNA Game Studio (for free), which work with Visual Studio Express (FREE)
  2. Build a really FUN game
  3. Join XNA Creator’s club (Annual free of USD 99)
  4. Submit your game, go through some peer review, get approved and start making money!

What else?
  • The price structure is around USD 2.50 – USD 10 per game
  • Usually, Microsoft takes 30% while you take 70% (paid quarterly)
  • May ride on Microsoft’s Xbox Live Network, Advertorial, Promotion (additional 10-30% fee)
  • It seems like currently it’s only available in U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, France, Italy, and Spain (no luck for Malaysia?)
  • Cannot sell FREE game at the moment (though free trial is available)
Read Me
So, if you still have the inner desire to build a game (like me), with a few months to kill in order to fulfilled a dream, here is the chance.

Alternative Platform (iPhone)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Gunung Benom: From Sungai Klau-Raub to Ulu Cheka-Jerantut

Gunung Benom is one of the great trek in West Malaysia. Though ranking just number 10, it had a notorious reputation of 30 plus small hills to conquer before reaching the top. In order to prepare myself to this trip, I have to go through 45 days of training so that I am not left behind to reach (or not) after dark, haha.

Siong Har Team join with Good Good Team this time, with a total of 27 persons. A lot of the original team at when to conquer Volcano Mountain in Rinjani, Bali; and Mei Ru deserted me to enjoy herself at UK and Switzerland.

Wake up super early to reach Siong Har place at 4:30am Saturday (30th August 2008), only to have found him still sleeping. We drive to Bentong to have Kon Lou Mee breakfast at the same shop near the market, and meet with the 4WD guys later which will drive us up to Lata Berumbum waterfall before we start our hiking around 9:30am. Too bad we didn’t even get to see the waterfall, thinking we will get back to the same spot 2 days later.

It’s a bad day for Good Good, where we fall down due to slippery rock 10 minutes into trekking, and lost a toe nail at the first campsite, and something bad happened again which I couldn’t recall what. It’s a triple whammy for him, a very bad day to leave the house. Luckily he is still as fit as ever, and can run like the wind. I got around 10 plus leeches at the beginning, but it’s no big deal. The trek is not too harsh, where I reach the campsite around 3pm. Of course some superstar would reach there by 2 or earlier. There are 2 new comers who reached 2 hours later than all of us, so we were quite worried for them. So it’s not as hard as I thought it would be, just nice; maybe it’s because my stamina is slightly better this time, and I think I carried the heaviest load which I had carried before. I feel the power, hahaha. Campsite one is pretty okay, but the path to the water is pretty narrow and slippery; and we got the tarik water. As usual, Siong Har will be busy with setting up the camp and Ah Fong busy cooking, and I try to help out whenever I can. The dinner is really superb, with chili roasted pork, duck, vegetable, soup and Lo Hon Gor for dessert. As expected, it rain again and again, flooded quite a bit. But I still had a good sleep :)

The next day is much tougher, but we got to see many Monkey Pitchers along the way, easily 30cm or more. There is a lot of up and down, and we probably crossed between 20-40 hills and conquering steep slope before reaching the top around 4pm (superstar reach at 2pm, the slowest reach at 7pm). Siong Har and wife (she join us for the 1st time) is very steady and strong, once we saw them, then they are gone again. Alvin (uncle of 55 years old) is in top shape again, and Hi Lo the Mongolian runner is like a wild stallion. Everyone just glide pass me and Ah Fong like nothing. I partner with Ah Fong this time, and I enjoy her pace and company.

The summit is not too fantastic, but nevertheless satisfying. There is a wide openness, which gives great view of the surrounding mountains, but it’s too cloudy. We have petai, salted fish, vegetable, soup and dessert for dinnerl, equally satisfying. A lot of people brought Guinness Beer (seems like the favourite), and Yong even brought Mmm Ka Pei, a Chinese strong alcohol. I had a lot of that, around 5 table spoon of it (somehow, not many are interested with it; is there something I don’t know?). It rains again, disturbing my sleep this time. Most people drink beer, eat peanuts and chit chat for quite a while that night.

The last day is the most adventurous, as we “accidentally” took a new trek which leads us to Kampung Tengah, Ulu Cheka, Jerantut (we came up from Sungai Klau, Raub). We basically did a trans and cross over to the other side of Banjaran Titiwangsa. The trek is wider, but much longer and steeper (luckily we are going down). There are 3 camp site, where camp 3 and 2 had a big plastic container as rain catchment. Might not be good for drinking, but sure is refreshing. The view is fantastic as well, with yellow label to mark all the way so that we don’t get lost easily (though still possible). We start around 8:30am and reach Kampung Tengah around 8:30om (12 hours of hiking, new record!). We have some minor argument at the last kilometer (luckily I brought my GPS along with marking on this side of the path) due to doubtful path, but we made it nevertheless. The entire Kampung Tengah only had one house surrounded by orchard, and are we glad we did see some sign of human. We had to call the 4WD guys from Raub to pick us up with a Durian lorry, and the phone line is really bad. Luckily the orchard owner who just buka puasa help us out a lot, guide us, drive us, give us some water and food, and a place to bath. We was worried about the last 2 person, which we send in our own rescue team rather than wait for the police or ranger to help find them the next morning. Luck was on our side that those guys are quite smart to read the sign left by us and manage to come out to the durian orchard before our rescue team picks them up.

The Durian lorry finally arrived to drive us back to Raub, but the bad Carbon emissions almost made we vomit on the way back. We are like illegal immigrant riding the big lorry, and luckily the police didn’t stop us. We had supper and reach KL around 4am plus.

This is really a very good experience of a life time, and I am proud of myself and thankful to Ah Fond for keeping me in Pace, and of course the leadership of brother Siong Har.

Gunung Benom, 31.4 km in 3 days, conquering 50 hills, 23 hours of journey and still alive and kicking! YEAH!

Photo Links: Yong's Multiply Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.

Google Ad Manager Review

What is Google Ad Manager?
“Google Ad Manager is a hosted ad management solution that can help you sell, schedule, deliver, and measure all of your directly-sold and network-based inventory.”

The sentence try to tell so much that it confuses me what Ad Manager actually do. Basically it is an Advertising Solution, allow you to deliver Ad from various sources on your website. You could serve Ads which you gotten directly from your client, or serve Ads from 3rd party Ads Provider; when your Ads Space is Idle (no client), you could serve Google AdSense Ads in between.

It's quite similar to OpenX, except OpenX is not hosted.

What It Is Not

I don’t think it actually help you sell Ad Space literally, where you have to find your own clients who wanted to advertise on your website. It doesn’t provide a mechanism for your clients to register online and start advertising (like Google AdWord), but it does support a Salesperson role (you hire someone) which could create the advertisement on your behalf pending your approval.

What does it Offer?

  • Inventory – This represent the Ad Space in your website. The smallest unit is Ad Slots (like Ads Unit in AdSense, specifying its location and size). One or more Ad Slots can be grouped into Placements (like Channel in AdSense). One or more Placements can be group into Ad Products, it’s like the Final Ad Product to be sold to the customer with price and cost type (CPC or CPM) specified.
  • Orders – We would place an order for the Ad Space on behalf on our client. We have normal order (directly-sold) or network order (from 3rd part ad provider). Each order (lets say the client wanted CPC ads, willing to pay RM 0.10 per click with a budget of RM 100 for September 2008) will be delivered through Line Items, where we specified how to deliver the Ads (which Ad Slot and Placements to use, time, frequency, etc). If it’s directly-sold ads, then we have to create the Creative (which is the actual Ad in the form of Flash, Image or Html).
  • Reports – It had reports for Delivery Report, Sales Report and Inventory Report. How do we prove to the client that their advertisement had work well, or achieved the targeted CPM or CPC? The Delivery can show the Impressions and Clicks by Date, Hour, Line Item, Ad Slot, but does not show which IP address and actual time of each click. The reports is only exportable to CSV and not PDF at the moment, so it might not served to be a very useful report for paying customers.
  • Admin – Allow user creations based on role such as Administrator, Salesperson, Sales Manager, Trafficker and Executive. It tracks all the Change History as well.
Relationship with AdSense
You need an AdSense account to use Ad Manager, but it’s not mandatory to serve AdSense Ads (though very convenient). Ad Slots created in Ad Manager is not shown as Ad Unit in AdSense, but Placement is shown as Channel in AdSense. If you Ad Space are unoccupied, you can automatically serve up AdSense ads. I think this is part of Google Strategy to capture publisher who had yet to serve AdSense Ads (making it extremely convenient), while still giving them the power to choose their preferred Ads source.

Why use Ad Manager?
  • If you plan to serve up other Ads besides Google AdSense, or sell your Ads Space by yourself.
  • Google provided a reliable server and free software.
  • All Ads Serving is done through JavaScript (like AdSense), so you don’t have to temper with your code too much.
Beta Warning
Ad Manager is still not very stable with some very obvious bugs at this stage; probably it’s worth waiting for a while longer.


Ad Slots, Placement, Ad Products Relationship

User Roles

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Project Sculpey: Totory Family

Found this new shop (RakanSeni) at The Gardens, which sold a bigger pack (thus slightly cheaper) of these bake-able clay.

Sculpey Clay, One Baked It Harden

Totoro Family Completed

PS: Valentine 2008