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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Altar Girls

The Cathedral in Penang finally allowed girls to serve as Altar Girls. This is the first time I have actually seen this happen. I do not know if this is a common practice so I did a search and found that it is not common. It is strange that at age of equality between the sexes, we still see many areas where only male or female are allowed.

It might be a minor change but I am sure that such practice can be a shock to conservatives. Since I have not heard of any protest, I guess it is acceptable to all in the parish. 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Papa John, I Tried but You Disappoint

Since discovering Papa John’s Pizza, I tried making it one of the food outlets to visit when in Kuala Lumpur. However, after two visits, I have decided that it will not in our list of places to visit. Here is my experience.

We visited the first outlet at Berjaya Times Square in our previous trip. During the trip, we signed up for the B Card. The card is a local loyalty program covering many food outlets. The service provided in the outlet was decent, however, when I asked about the promotion that was shown in front of the outlet, none of the workers in the outlet knew anything about the promotion. Why would you put a large banner without knowing anything about it? I just asked out of curiosity but was not very happy with the response.


This week, we decided to make another visit to Papa Johns. This time it was at the outlet in Sunway Pyramid. The main reason was to claim the birthday treat that seen in the B Card newsletter. However, when I asked about it, I was told that I had to bring a printout to claim the treat. It would have been a simple matter of having a few forms available at the outlet or having a printer to print those forms but neither was available. Since it was a 6” pizza, it is not really a great loss. We decided to have our lunch in that outlet and ordered one of their set meals. However, when the meal was served we found only four breadsticks instead of six shown on the picture in the menu. The service provided at the outlet was poor. The waiters and waitresses were not very enthusiastic.

I thought the whole idea of having promotions is to improve customer satisfaction and a few simple steps would have made me a repeat customer but instead I am not happy and will not visit them again. Too many businesses do not know how satisfy the customers!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life is Precious


Three weeks ago we came across a body of a young man who just committed suicide. He was a 24 year old engineer. I do not know why he committed suicide at such a young age. However, he fail to realize the anguish his death has to his family and those who loved him. Imagine the amount of sacrifice a parent has to go through to pay for his further studies.

Sometimes when we are lonely and have no one to talk to, our mind starts to wonder and ending it seems to be the easiest thing to do. This is especially true when we are also faced with other problems like owing money or being rejected by someone we are in love with. At that moment, everything is all gloomy and sad and we just want it to go away. I felt like that for a moment while in college. At that moment it was very tempting to end it and call it quits.

The best movie to illustrate how a person can have impact to others without realizing it is the 1946 movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

I recently came across an article of someone whose life fell apart but managed to bounce back. It took her seven years. Seven years may seem like a long time but seven years is a short time if we compare it to a typical lifespan of ninety years.

Each of us are provided with the tools not only to survive but to flourish. It is up to each of us to find out how to develop ourselves and reach our full potential.

Suicide is not the answer, the ending is too abrupt, you cannot let your life story to end so suddenly!

Friday, December 13, 2013

OCBC Titanium Cash Back Changes

cohdra_100_4264.JPG
By cohdra
(Morguefile)
I received a notice with my last OCBC credit card statement that they are revising the cash back rate from five percent in selected categories (and one percent for everything else) to a flat one percent for everything. As part of the change, they removed the cap of RM 50 per month cash back. What is not mentioned in the announcement was whether they are changing any other benefits for the card. The bank also removed another benefit of reimbursing the GST with an annual spending of RM10k and above.
 
Based on what I read on the Facebook page for OCBC, many customers are not happy with the change. Several customers threatened to cancel the card and encouraged others to do the same.
 
Based on my spending, the cash back will be substantially lower since my monthly cash back is well below the RM 50 limit with very few exceptions. However, based on what I know about other cards, the cash back is still one of the best in the market. Many of the other cards provide higher return but has terms and conditions.

One option for getting a higher cash back is to upgrade to their World MasterCard which has a 1.2% cash back rate. However, that card comes with a RM388 annual fee (waived on the first year). The additional 0.2% cash back will not be enough to offset the annual fee.
Although I am disappointed with the changes, it is expected, I have seen reduction of cash rebates by other companies as well, the last one was Smiles loyalty card. The deal was just too good to maintain.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Microsoft Still Have Competitive Edge

I have used Libre Office and Google Drive for most of my work at home. However, there are times I find it necessary to return to Microsoft to get things done. The alternatives do not seem to be able to get the right functionality.

SkyDrive Excel ribbon


I do not know if this is due to pattern or because the developers of alternatives do not know how to do it. The one option is the ability to copy and paste banking data and recognize the balances as numbers instead of text. Google Spreadsheet can’t do it, Libreoffice also failed. The balance column consist of the currency sign, in my case MYR and the comma delimiter. I found two products that recognize them instantly and both products are from Microsoft. They are Microsoft Excel and Skydrive version of Microsoft Excel.


The Skydrive version of Office provides very little functionality compared to Google Drive but this is one function that works well.


I also found that Microsoft provides me 50 Gigabyte for free compared to 15 Gigabytes from Google. However, Google do not count document created in its native format against the 15 Gigabytes. I do not know if they will change that policy in future but this offsets the difference between the two options.


As for the comparison between Libreoffice vs Microsoft Office, I am still a lot more comfortable with Microsoft Office. The interface is more intuitive. This could also be due to the pattern restriction.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Call to Action

Recently I came across a call to keep healthy by walking 10,000 steps per day. Initially I thought it was relatively easy to achieve. I decided to give it try. I have a pedometer but decided that since I have my phone with me most of the time, I might as well get an App to make my phone a pedometer.
Widget Screen

I looked at a few apps but found AccuPedo to be the one most suitable for me because of the following reason:


  1. It provides both steps as well as a calorie count.
  2. It has a widget which makes it easy to switch it to pause mode. You need to do that when driving in order to avoid counting the movement of the car as steps.
  3. The battery usage on my phone is minimal.
  4. It counts my steps with minimal intervention from me. I just need to make sure that the phone is in my pocket when I walk around.

After trying this for a few days, I found that I only managed to exceed the 10,000 steps threshold when I ran on my treadmill. I used the nike plus app at the same time as the accupedo since it is running as a service in the background much like all other services on the phone. Sadly, the nike plus app failed after my run so I did not have my last run recorded on my nikeplus record but the run/walk was recorded in the AccuPedo.


10k step count
It looks like all the information is recorded locally on the phone. I am using the free version and from what I read some functionality will be disabled after 30 days unless I upgraded to the pro version. I will wait and see what happens once the 30 days expire.

From what I have seen so far, I do an average of 5000+ steps in a day when I am working. Will need to see how many steps I do during the weekend or when I am on leave. However, I found that if I just walked, I am not able to increase my heart rate which helps with my migraine.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Whole Brain Thinking

Recently I attended a training on whole brain thinking. It is provides an interesting way of understanding why people behave differently. It explains the difference in the preference in thinking. The brain is divided into four color codes - Yellow, Blue, Green and Red.

Blue

Goal Oriented
Facts Based
Quantitative
Yellow

Holistic
Future
Intuitive
Green

Process Driven
Organized
Red

Emotional
Social

The thinking preference usually sets in after the age of 18. Once we reach the age of 18, our preference usually does not change. Based on our preference (what makes us happy), we can usually tell which is our color preference. Most of us have have a preference combination but there is usually one trait that is our strongest.

Even though we each have a preference, being able to address the different preference will help us communicate better. For example, if you are communicating with a person with a blue preference, you need to provide lots of facts and figures.  The simplest way to remember in the following diagram below.

What
Why
How
Who

Since it was only an introductory course, only the concept was introduced. However, I can see the potential of applying this to improve the effectiveness of my communication.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Indecision on Fitness Band

The last time I looked for sportsband was back in 2009 when I was training to be the fastest man (i.e. the fastest marathon runner). In order to use the sports band, you had to have a Nike+ sensor in your shoe. Nike shoes had cavities to insert the sensor but Nike shoes were not suitable for me. Unfortunately, I lost the chip sensor 2 weeks after I purchased the set. I continued to use the sports band as a watch but the quality of the LED was lacking. After a few accidental pressure of the display, the display was no longer usable - most of the display turned black.


Recently, I noticed my colleague using BitFit Flex. I decided to check the number of sports band (now known as fitness band) that are now available. The new generation of sportsband uses the sensors similar to the ones in smart phone. They do not need the additional chip sensor and are able to track activities beyond running. I looked at the alternatives and found the following:


  • Nike Fuel
  • BitFit Flex
  • Jawbone Up
  • Basis Band
  • Misfit Wearable


Based on what I found, BitFit Flex is the least expensive of the lot. However, there is a new product from Fitbit called BitFit Force. It has a few new features compared to Flex - time display and altimeter. It is also slightly more expensive compared to Flex.


The latest product that looks promising is Amiigo. The company managed to raise $580K funding, exceeding their goal of $90K. With all the options, I am still undecided and here is why:


I am able to do all the measurements using apps on my Android phone. I use Nike+ free app to track my running. There is an app by Azimio to measure my sleep. This is easily achievable since the sensors used in the band are similar to the ones used in the smart phones.


I see a few benefits of the band over my phone:


  1. Battery life. Using the phone to track my sleep uses more than 50% of my phone battery.
  2. Automatic recording. Using multiple apps means the information is scattered in multiple places. Nike+ stores the information in their website but sleep information is stored on my phone.
  3. Tracking other activities. Only my runs are tracked with Nike+. The bands will track more but it will still not track everything, some activities like push ups would not be tracked.


So is it worth paying between US$100 to US$500 for the convenience?


Another interesting gadget being developed is the Push Fitness Band.currently seeking funds in Indiegogo.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Get Rid of the Task Killer

This is a follow up from my last blog posting. It turned out that the HK Video Note 3 phone had a bad motherboard which had to be replaced.

As for the 9.9 inch tablet, it recently became corrupted and would not start. After the HK Video screen, it just stayed on the screen with the word Android on it. That was recovered by the person at the store by pressing on the power and the - volume button to restore the OS on the tablet.

After recovering the tablet, I decided to take a closer look at the default configuration of the tablet and found that it comes with a task killer installed and is rooted. I suspect that most of the issues I encountered is the result of the task killer killing critical processes in the background. As mentioned, I encountered issues where core applications failed and could only be recovered by resetting the tablet to factory mode. I am not sure if effect of the task killer is due to the fact that the table is rooted or because of the OS version. I did not see such dramatic effect on my phone running on Android 2.3.5.

I noticed that applications continue to run in the background and the quickest way to terminate them is to select the multitask button and sliding them out. This will free up memory and cpu usage by these applications. This is probably the safest way to terminate applications in Android without killing critical background processes. The one click button provided on the Asus Fonpad only works some of the times, sliding the applications from the multitask button is more reliable. This button was introduced in Android 4.0. I used to terminate the background processes when I used Windows Mobile 6.1 and found that I helped make my phone more stable, so for now I shall practice this.

There are times you encounter pop-up telling you that some google processes has stopped running and prompts you terminate them. A quick way to fix this is to use the application setting and click clear data and allow Google to repopulate the information. These applications are listed under All category. The ones I cleared in the past are:

  • Calendar Storage
  • Contacts Storage
  • Gmail

As for Google+, you can just uninstall and then reinstall the app from Google Play.

The last item I have not verified is whether using apps2rom and apps2sd will affect the stability of the tablet. Apps2Rom only works with rooted devices and allows you to move core application (such as Gmail) updates back to the rom

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why Pay Premium for Android Devices

Image courtesy of  phanlop88
/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I recently decided that Android operating system is now mature enough for me to get a cheap alternative for tablets and phones. Ten inch tablets are all more than RM 1000/-. The exchange rate is US$1 = RM 3.25.


In order to test my theory, I bought three devices. They are:


  • 9.9 inch tablet from HK Video (‎AM10D1B‎) (RM 699).
  • 5.5 inch phone from HK Video - also known as Note 3 (RM 599)
  • 7 inch phone pad from Asus (RM 699)


UI

All three devices came with Android 4.1.x installed. Quite often those using HTC phones and other branded Android phones and devices complain about how the HTC Sense or third party UI weights down on the devices. However, when I started using the above devices, that was the first thing I missed. I preferred the keyboard that came with HTC Sense UI instead of the keyboard in HK Video.


Android 4.1 had a lot of added features compared to the Android 2.3 on HTC Desire HD.


Battery Life

Battery life on all three devices were better compared to what I was getting on Desire HD. Asus provided the best battery life with about six hours of gaming and browsing, followed by the 6 inch tablet and the 5.5 inch phone.


Memory

The main reason why the HK Video devices cost so much less is due to the amount of RAM provided. The 9.9 inch tablet came with 1 Gbyte RAM, the 5.5 inch phone came with 512 Gbyte RAM and the Asus came with 1 Gbyte RAM.


Moving the applications from the main memory (RAM) to the other built in memory is manual. Again Asus does a better job at this.


Camera


The camera provided by all three devices are of low resolution (1.3 Mega Pixel). The HK video units came with front facing camera as well but as far as I am concerned the resolution is way too low.


Reliability


I had to reset the 9.9 inch tablet at least six times to factory mode. I encountered frequent failures where the core applications such as Calendar, Gmail stopped working. After my last reset, I accidentally chose the wrong timezone. I was unable to change it without resetting the device back to factory mode.


The HK Video phone is now at the shop because the touch screen stopped working. This happened once before but recovered by itself after a few days.


The Asus unit is much more reliable. I have not had much trouble with it.

Usage


The 9.9 inch tablet is used mainly to read emails, calendar invites, facebook and Google Plus. The 5.5 inch phone is used more for gaming and alarm. The Asus is used more for gaming and YouTube.


Dimension


The 5.5 inch phone is way too bulky to comfortably bring around. The 9.9 inch table is fine but I am not able to use it in the office since it is not able to connect to our Wifi.


The Asus is a bit big as a regular phone but is thin enough that it fits great on the car dashboard, as a GPS device.


Others


HK Video now has phones that match the dimension for Samsung S4 and Note 2.


Conclusion


It is still worthwhile to pay the premium for Samsung, HTC and Asus. Those devices are still more reliable compared to their cheap alternatives.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Feel Good Movies

The following are some feel good movies I recently watched on Youtube

Undercover Angel is a touching story of a man who had to baby sit a cute girl who turned out to be his daughter. The daughter in turn helped him become successful.



Christmas Angel. A romantic story - telling about a man who do good deeds without any expectation of return to atone for his past and how he identified someone to continue his work.



It's a Wonderful Life. One of my all time favorite Christmas movie




Though None go With me. Sad and touching story







Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Interviewer's Note

Careers Books

In my many years as a manager, I have interview hundreds of candidates and hired some. Interviews and identifying candidates who are suitable for the position you try to fill takes time.

Some positions are more challenging than others. The few things that I look for in identifying the right candidate are as follows:

  1. Can the person do the job?
  2. Does the person have the right attitude?
  3. Can I retain the person within my organizations?

I remember hiring a woman many years back. She was a top scorer from her university and very capable. Unfortunately for me, the job I had her for was not challenging at all. After a few months, she found that she was wasting her time with us and left for another company. Based on her drive and capability, I am sure that she is very successful now.

In another case, I had an impressive interview with a candidate. He brought his notebook and gave a presentation of a web page he created. After hiring him, we found that he had difficulty gathering requirements from the users and delivering results. Later I found two issues with my selection.

  1. His university major did not match what we do.
  2. I failed to test his technical skills.

Interviewing skills consist of both art and science. Parts of it can be learned but others will come through experience. My success rate has been pretty good so far but I find that there is still a lot to be learned. The most challenging part of the interviewer is to identify hidden signs during the interview.

An excellent series on interviews can be found here.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Copy and Paste Character Set

secondaryeffectofteachingEnglish.jpg By puravida
One of the labs for Google Calendar known as flair has stopped working. Flair is great to add pictures and symbols on your calendar entries to make it easy for you to differentiate the events or highlight specific events.

One alternative proposed in Google Group question on this problem is to paste image characters directly in the calendar event.

This can be easily done using characters from this site. All characters are found in this page.

Here are a few examples of image characters found on the site:

☃☎☂

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What Makes Us Bad Investors - a good reminder

I recently came across the following presentation in fool.com. It is a good reminder of how to approach investment.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Google Maps Navigation Is Now Available in Malaysia

I just found out that Google Maps Navigation has been enabled in Malaysia even though it is not listed as the list of countries with this feature enabled. The version of the application I have on my phone is 6.14.4 but I am running it on Android 2.3.5.



Personally though, I prefer Waze. This is why I prefer Waze over Google Maps Navigation:
  1. Waze uses less data compared to Google Maps.
  2. Waze provide more information - other Waze users lets you know of traffic jam, obstacles etc.
  3. The voice on Waze sounds better.
  4. You have more options and configuration in Waze.
I read in another article the features of Waze is already incorporated in the application in some countries. I just have not seen in here in Malaysia.