Sunday, January 30, 2011

Malaysia’s Dumb Politicians Strike Again

The city of Kuala Lumpur orders that, started from next year, all restaurants in the city must provide Wifi service for their patrons. According to the mayor, this decree is in line with Information Technology vision for the nation’s capital.

That sounds like a great idea. Just imagine, I can walk into a kopitiam (Chinese traditional coffee shop), pull out my Motorola Xoom (a.k.a. iPad killer), and read Facebook updates. But wait a minute, kopitiams in KL have just increased the price of drinks in January, 2011. Will the operators use the Wifi order as another excuse to hike the price again? I can foresee that a cup of coffee will cost RM1.60 next year. In any case, kopitiams are not air-conditioned. When mercury rises to 33C, I doubt I want to spend more than an hour there.

Or, imagine that I am meeting my fellow bloggers for the first time in Dragon & Phoenix Chinese Restaurant. As soon as we are seated, Witch immediately snaps photos with her iPhone 5 and uploads them to Facebook; Panda Foong tweets with his Samsung Galaxy Tab; and Tekkaus tracks the latest English Premier League updates with his Blackberry Playbook. The so-called Bloggers’ meeting turns into Internet session…

There is a common problem among governments of Asia – they think they know what is best for the people and what is best for the businesses. The fact is, not all eateries in KL need Wifi service. Such service incurs additional operational cost, and ultimately it is the consumers who bear it.

CEOs of Celcom, DiGi, Maxis, P1 and YTL are probably feeling uneasy with the Wifi order too. The mobile carriers have invested billions of ringgit in infrastructure, but must now compete with mamak stalls.

If restaurant operators believe that Wifi service will help them attract customers, they will certainly provide it. The governments should keep their hands off businesses. Let the market decide!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Friendship, Facebook-style

Last year, I joined a portrait photography event. At the end of the session, the model asked each of the photographers to add her as a friend on Facebook. I complied.

A few months later, I visited her Facebook page. She already had more than a thousand ‘friends’, and had reached the limit set by the social network. She opened a new account so that she could continue to add friends.

I bet, as a ‘friend’, I mean nothing to her…

(I think Facebook has since raised the limit of friends a member can have.)

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Probably because I uploaded some pictures of models to Facebook, a couple of young girls whom I never knew had wanted to befriend me. Should I confirm them as my friends?

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I posted a question on Facebook: “What is XXX?” I was hoping that someone could clear my doubt. In the end, nobody bothered to answer.

I came to this conclusion:

You can post whatever you like to Facebook – barring something deemed offensive such as nudity – but your friends are too busy to pay attention.

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Friend requests – I don’t know them wor

Sunday, January 23, 2011

An Attempt on Food Photography

As a shutterbug, my interests are in landscape and portrait. Food photography is an area I am weak in. To be fair, my gears aren’t so great for this type of shooting – no macro lens, no image stabilization (IS). Anyway, having come across so many mouth-watering food photos on the Web, I decided to give it a try…

The first three pictures below were shot next to the window of a restaurant. Due to the ample sunlight, I managed to take these pictures without firing the flash:

The next picture was shot away from the window, and flash was fired:

How do I rate my own photos? 5 out of 10. I need to try harder, maybe getting a lens with IS.

All shots were taken at Fun Taipei Café (趣台北)in SS2, Petaling Jaya…

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Giveaway (2011)

I am clearing my bookshelf. Here are some books to be given away. If you are interested please drop me a message…

The City and the Stars
by Arthur C. Clark (famous science fiction author)

Beyond Belief
by V. S. Naipul (Nobel laureate)

Phra Farang: An English Monk in Thailand
by Phra Peter Pannapadipo

不丹,深呼吸: 山景。雪國。梵音

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recycle with Tzu Chi

Tzu Chi, the Taiwan-based group, is famous for providing reliefs to needy people. Less known to public, though, is its efforts in promoting environmentalism.

In Malaysia, Tzu Chi collects used stuff for recycle purposes on the third Sunday of every month. One of the locations they operate is SS2, Petaling Jaya. I went there recently to hand over my old clothes. At the same time I also snapped some pictures for sharing online…



Old computers and electronic products…

Education materials (mostly in Chinese)…

So, do you have old clothes or outdated computers for recycling? Send them to Tzu Chi.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Kopitiam – a question of Cost & Price

The ‘cartel’ formed by the kopitiams (traditional Chinese style coffee shops) in KL and Selangor has decided to raise the price of drinks starting from January 2011.

A glass of coffee is now priced at RM1.40, up 20 sen from last year. A bowl of noodle is about RM4. So, a simple breakfast at kopitiam costs more than RM5, which isn’t so much cheaper than a breakfast in McDonalds’.

For the record, the breakfast set of ‘2 piece hotcakes’ plus coffee in McDonald’s comes to less than RM5. Better still, in the Golden Arches restaurants, you get cleaner environment, air-conditioning, free coffee refill and free Wifi. You can even pick up a copy of The Sun newspaper in certain outlets.

The kopitiams justify their price hike by citing the increase in material cost. I am sure McDonald’s cannot escape the inflation too, but it somehow manages to keep the price steady. In fact, McDonald’s lowered the price of the breakfast sets in 2010. Also, bear in mind that kopitiams hire lots of low wage migrant workers. Employees in the Golden Arches outlets are predominantly Malaysians.

Two words explain why McDonald’s is able to keep the price low: cost cutting. This is something traditional kopitiams must emulate, if they want to stay competitive in the coming decade. Consumers have choice…

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Selling Books Online

As a shutterbug, I bought dozens of books on photography over the last few years. My book shelves exploded, so I decided to sell some of them online.

1st attempt – Internet forum

My first attempt to sell online was accomplished through a photography forum. I asked potential buyers to make payment to my bank account. I then mailed the books to them. I managed to sell a couple of books. However, some people preferred to do COD (cash on delivery). That is, they wanted to meet me, see the books, then make payment. I didn’t entertain their request. My experience told me that many people would be late for appointment. Not to mention the expenses on gasoline and parking.

2nd attempt – Facebook

Having sold several books on Internet forum, I turned my sight to Facebook. I posted information of the books on the social networking site. To reach wider audience, I asked my friends to post the link on their respective page. Unfortunately, my second attempt was a complete failure. No even a single person enquired.

I have no experience with eBay. Perhaps it’s time to give it a try. Can someone please share your story?

By the way, Poslaju is quite expensive. Are there cheaper alternatives?

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This is one of the book I managed to let go. With the picture of a hot girl on the cover, it was snapped up in no time...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Tips for your Java Tour

In my 6-day Java tour, I spent about 2,200,000 Rp (~RM780 or US$245) on Indonesian soil. I feel guilty for being kiamsiap (stingy). To compensate for that, I am going to do a free promotion for this fascinating destination.

Public Transport or Tour Group?

When I was in Java, I traveled mostly by public transport. But in areas not accessible by public transport, e.g. Bromo and Ijen, I did join tour group. Taking public transport can be slow, and sometimes one has to bargain with the service provider. The advantage is that you get to experience the ‘real Java’. (Remember the crowded mini bus from Probolinggo to Ngadisari?)

If you want a hassle-free vacation, your better bet is to join a tour group right from your country. The downside is that you will lose some degree of freedom.

A compromise is to hire a driver at soon as you set foot on Java. This way, you can travel fast and still retain freedom to choose. However, whether you can trust the driver is a big question mark.

Money Matters

Money changers are hard to come by in Java, but you can withdraw cash from ATM with your credit card.

Phone Call & Internet

4 or 5-star hotels should provide Wifi, and you can make calls right from your room. If you stay in budget hotel, try to look for wartel and warnet. There were people selling prepaid SIM card at Surabaya Airport.

Should you go Kawah Ijen?

The 3km hike to Kawah Ijen can be taxing. So, should you go there?

When I was on my way back from the crater, I saw many Westerners in their 50s or 60s going up the hill, some with the help of walking sticks. Is the trip too tough? I will leave it to you to answer.

Note that descending should be easier than ascending, if it is not raining. If it rains, the dirt path can be slippery.

Java Time

Java time is GMT+7, or one hour behind Malaysia’s. Sunrise is 5~5.30am in Surabaya and Malang; sunset is 5~5.30pm. By 6pm it’s all dark.

Night owls from West Malaysia must adapt to local timing. If you wake up at 8am, you miss half the fun.