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First Class

Today is the first class of my distance learning Diploma programme. I woke up early this Sunday morning, go for my usual 2KM jog and left for UiTM's INTEC (INTernational Education Centre) in section 17 Shah Alam around 7:30 AM.
I got there around 8:15 AM and I was greeted with a long queue leading to the INTEC campus. This is what happens when everybody arrives at the same time. I bet the people around this area is already accustomed to this scenario every weekend. Note to self: next time come earlier!
Half an hour later I finally made my way into the place and miraculously found a parking spot which was a long way from my classroom. I got a free lecture from the security guard when I asked him where U block is. He said I should have asked earlier at the entrance.
I arrived fashionably late for my first class (U230). What's more I had to find my own chair and sit in the corner because there's not enough table and chair for everyone and the classroom was rather small to begin with. There's one air-conditioner unit in the room but we can hardly feel the cool breeze even with the 2 fans blowing at top speed. I miss my good old UPM halls and classrooms. They were much more comfortable.
Class is about and hour and a half each with four class each Seminar (meeting) and we'll have like 5 of them each semester. The lecturers are generally nice and experienced except for one which I find quite a bore interesting. I thought I got all my books and notes ready since yesterday but apparently I left all my books at home and I only realized it halfway to Shah Alam. Too late to turn back, I went into class today with nothing but my little red notebook.
We learned a thing or two in class today but most of the time the lecturers used this first class to get acquainted with the students. We had to introduce ourselves like twice today. Everybody has a story to tell. Some are married with children, many are single. 3 of us works as policemen, many works as librarians. Some came from nearby Klang and some came from as far away as Penang, Kelantan and Johore for this course. Some got a second chance to continue their studies just like me. During lunch hour, I crashed at my sister's place just 2KM away in Jalan Betuk to rest and have some lunch. She teaches at the Special Education school next door.
Our first seminar today ended just before 6:00. Check-it-out! My new student card! Now I can watch movies for half price again. Harry Potter anyone?

Anybody have any idea how I can connect to INTEC's Wi-Fi system?

Weekend escapade in Manjung

This weekend we've decided to take some time off from the hustle and bustle of city life and made a trip to Linda's sister's place in Manjung, Perak.
Friday evening, we left home ply through the north-south highway due north. From the Bidor exit we head to Teluk Intan and then straight to Manjung. Driving at night, the road is relatively clear of traffic but the down side is I get real sleepy towards the later part of our journey.

It took us nearly 4 hours to get from here to Manjung. I took a wrong turn at the LDP exit and went to Kepong instead of Sungai Buloh. It's been a while since I last went to Sungai Buloh hence the mix-up. We arrived in Manjung in central Perak around 1:30 AM. I dozed off immediately upon arrival.
This is Shafy Hani my not-so-little 2 years old niece. She reminds me of one character of that popular children's show. Hmmm.
And this is her little sister Shafy Qasif, slightly over a year old. Look at that adorable eyes!
Later that Saturday morning we went to the Teluk Batik beach nearby for a little picnic and barbecue. Adam was all so excited and eager to get to the beach, he's been wearing that float since in the car.
But this is the furthest he went into the sea. Mia had no problem dipping and splashing in the water though. I swam in the water for hours until my skin wrinkles.
We had nasi kerabu and some superb barbecue chicken for lunch made by my sister in law.
In the evening, we visited Lumut town so that the women folks can have a little bit of shopping.
We also stopped by the beautiful Lumut waterfront to enjoy the cool evening sea breeze and watch some kids shuffling and a family performing some impromptu line-dancing! Apparently that's the in thing for the people in Perak right now.

The next day, I spent the whole morning sleeping to rest my aching & tired body. Linda was really happy to get to meet her sister, parent and her nieces and also get to eat loads of durians this weekend. I don't like durian that much but I do love those cucur durian which I had two plates for breakfast this morning.
On the way back we used the regular Teluk Intan - Kuala Selangor trunk road. Traffic was surprisingly smooth today. We got home safe and sound nearly 4 hours later, tired but definitely happy.

My iPhone Review

Although the Apple's iPhone is arguably one of the most popular mobile phone in the world, it's take up in Malaysia is relatively low. In my office for example, the most common brand for mobile phones would be Nokia, followed by Sony Ericsson, a few Motorola and HP iPaq and then 1 or 2 Samsungs. Only 2 people own an iPhone in my office, one is me of course.
Yes the price for an iPhone used to be really steep when they were first introduced about 2 years ago but they have come down considerably since. For a used first generation iPhone 2G 8GB, you can have them for as low as RM1100 and RM1700 for a second hand iPhone 3G 8GB a at your local auction website (Lelong). But if you've got a lot of cash to spare, you can always get the original iPhone 3G from Maxis for as low as RM2450.
I bought my iPhone for RM1300 at Low Yat Plaza in KL. The original price was RM1200 set by the shop there but since I paid half using my credit card, the jacked up the price to RM1300. Yeah that's a bit expensive but after they threw in a cover, USB sync cable and an earphone I bought it anyway. Plus they also upgraded the iPhone software to the latest iPhone 3.0 OS.
If you buy the iPhone somewhere else other than Maxis, they're probably unlocked and jailbroken version. Meaning they've been hacked using a certain hardware (like TurboSim,RebelSim or UnlockSim) or software (like Pawnage or Redsnow) to make them usable with other carriers aside from Maxis (or the original carrier from the country of origin).
Hardware unlocked iPhones are somewhat cheaper but you might not be able to use certain functions on the iPhone. Even worse than that is, you will experience all sorts of malfunction on your iPhone over time. Horror stories include melted SIM trays, sporadic network signal loss, total shutdown of the phone others. No exaggeration here as problems like these are reported all the time. This is why you are advised not to purchase a hardware unlocked iPhone.
Software unlocking is much more safe and reliable and most iPhones you find in the Malaysian hand phone market is modified this way. Unlocked iPhone will enable you to use other carriers (other than Maxis in Malaysia for example). It is advisable to check your future iPhone before purchasing them of course. To check if your iPhone is truly unlocked and is not a fake factory unlock, look up on the iPhone under Settings. You should find a few important settings such as Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Carrier and Fetch New Data. Fake unlock iPhone units will have the 'Carrier' item missing.
The difference between an authorized iPhone from Maxis and an imported & unlocked one is obviously, the price and the warranty. iPhones other than the one bought from Maxis will probably be an unlocked & jailbroken and won't be covered by the official warranty from Apple. Therefore if anything happen to your phone, your own your own son. Nevertheless you shouldn't worry too much about that because I'm sure they are many mobile phone shops in KL and elsewhere who are perfectly capable of fixing your unofficial iPhones.
And why does the iPhone is sold for as low as 99 dollars in the U.S? Simple, they're subsidized by the carrier (AT&T) and the customer is bound with a 2 years contract. This means while the initial price for the iPhone is really low, their customers end up paying a lot more for the iPhone on the long run. It's the same here in Malaysia with Maxis although we're a bit lucky because we can opt not to subscribe to the phone plan and use the prepaid (Hotlink) plan.

When I first used the iPhone, it just totally blew me away! Forget everything you know about a mobile phone. The iPhone is the phone for the future. Compact, small and slick design, multi-touch screen, camera, iPod, e-mail, web-browsing, WiFi and thousands of cool apps. From iPhone 2G to iPhone 3GS, no other manufacturer can produce a mobile phone as popular or as successful as the iPhone. Nokia, Palm, Samsung, HTC you name it, they're all still playing catch up with Apple and the iPhone. I've only used the iPhone for 2 weeks and I'm totally loving it!
1. The Home Screen featuring some of the basic Apps and functions.
2. Threaded tex-messaging with MMS, copy and paste and text forwarding with the latest software update.
3. E-mail setup is simple and really user friendly and the iPhone supports popular web-based e-mail clients such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and also Microsoft Exchange.
4. Typing on the virtual keyboard is a real pleasure.

With the absence of a physical keyboard, the iPhone implements a virtual keyboard on the touch screen. It has automatic spell checking and correction, predictive word capabilities, and a dynamic dictionary that learns new words. The keyboard can predict what word the user is typing and complete it, and correct for the accidental pressing of keys adjacent to the presumed desired key. The keys are somewhat larger and spaced farther apart when in landscape mode. Touching a section of text for a brief time brings up a magnifying glass, allowing users to place the cursor in the middle of existing text. Using the virtual keyboard was a little awkward at first but I quickly got the hand of it after a few hours although I sometimes keyed in the wrong alphabet whenever I typed too fast especially for the letter I and O.

The iPhone features a fully functional Safari web-browser where you can browse any regular websites. Web pages may be viewed in portrait or landscape mode and supports automatic zooming by pinching together or spreading apart fingertips on the screen, or by double-tapping text or images. The only downside though, the iPhone supports neither Flash nor Java.

1. View any websites with HTML,XHTML,XML or PHP.
2. Double-tap or pinch your fingers to zoom in the text.
3. Fully compatible with secured websites (https) and online banking.
4. Cannot upload images from Blogger though :(

The Maps application is one which I find particularly useful especially on the road.

1. Find your current location which is correct up to 1KM radius.
2. Show direction between any 2 places complete with traffic information (in some cities).
3. Turn by turn navigation to your marked destination.
4. Switch between regular street map and geographic map.
5. Find the nearest shopping malls, cinemas, banks and other types of business with just one click.
6. Find and discover just about any places in the world!

The iPhone and iPhone 3G feature a built in fixed-focus 2.0 megapixel camera located on the back for still digital photos. It has no optical zoom, flash or autofocus, and does not support video recording although the jailbroken version can record video using Cycorder. The iPhone 3GS though has a 3.0 megapixel camera, with auto focus, auto white balance, and auto macro (up to 10 cm). It can also record VGA video at 30 frames per second.

These are some sample unadultered photos taken with the iPhone. Not too bad but it can be better.

The iPhone syncs and connect to your PC or Mac mainly through the iTunes software although there are several other methods for connecting to your iPhone other than that. You can backup and restore in case anything happens to your iPhone, download music, video, podcast, audiobook and apps with the iTunes. Be warned though if your iPhone is unlocked and jailbroken, clicking the Restore button will restore your iPhone to it's original unlocked and non-jailbroken state. Something which I learned the hard (and expensive) way.

To be able to listen or watch music and video on the iPhone your music file must be in either MP3, AAC or WAV format while only MPEG4 (mp4) and H.264 file formats are supported for video playback.

The iTunes Store is your official source for App download for the iPhone. There are over 50,000 apps to choose from, free or paid. If you can't decide which app to download, check out the Top Paid and Top Free apps section. Once you purchased or downloaded an app from the iTunes Store, it will be stored on your hard drive and then synced to your iPhone. Even if you accidentally deleted an app from your phone, you can always re-install them again from iTunes.

The iPod app turns your iPhone into a full-fledged multimedia player. You can play music, video, audiobook and podcast on your iPhone.

Video playback on the 320×480 pixel screen is quite good and clear compared to my previous Nokia E61i phone.
And the best part is you can drag the timeline to any part of the movie you want and you can resume playback right from where you left it.

Other useful default app supplied with the iPhone includes:
1. Voice Memos to record voice, music or any sound.
2. Get the latest figures from the stock market using Stocks.
3. Standard and scientific calculator (landscape mode).
4. Take notes and sync them with Microsoft Outlook.

Apart from the App Store in iTunes, you can also browse the App Store (1) right from your iPhone. Sign in to your Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger, GTalk or Skype account and chat with your friends using Fring (2). Calculate your BMI on the fly with BMI_Calc (3) and jot dot your to-do list using To Do's app (4).

The iPray app is the perfect companion for all Muslims out there. Get the latest prayers time according to your location, find out the Qibla direction and remember important dates in the Islamic calendar. Most of the prayer times in iPray are correct except for Isha which is off by a couple of minutes.

1. Take snapshots, write to-do lists, record audio whenever and wherever you like and sync them to your desktop computer and also the web using the Evernote app.
2. Translate to and from over 40 languages using iTranslate.
3. Re-align that crooked shelf with iHandy level bar.
4. Massage your tired legs with the My Vibe vibrator ha ha!

Heard a really catchy song on the radio but you have no idea what's the song title or who the artist is? Download Shazam and let this app analyze the song that's playing on air (1), compare it to their huge database (2) and display the artist and song title plus links to buy them online or watch the video clip on YouTube. I've tried Shazam with over a dozen songs and so far it has been 100% correct. Unfortunately Shazam only supports English and International artists and songs only (at least for now). Shazam is not available at the Malaysian iTunes Store but you can download it via Cydia if your iPhone is jailbroken.

The Facebook app is a must have for all you Facebook loving members out there. Update or read the latest news feed, notification, browse photos and access your Facebook inbox straight from your iPhone (1) & (2). Chat with your Facebook friends live (3) and upload photos straight from your iPhone (4).

Twitter users can download one of the many Twitter related apps available on the iTunes Store but I personally prefer using the free Twiterrific app to do all my tweeting (1). Tweet and upload photos straight from your phone (2) and find out the closest Twitter user near your location and even tweet straight directly at them (3).

Unlike my previous Nokia E61i phone, the iPhone doesn't come with any bundled office productivity suites and you'll have to buy something like QuickOffice for USD12.99 to do your Word, Excel and PowerPoint editing. Nevertheless I have found the Documents 2 Free here to be the next best free Word & Excel editor you can download from iTunes.

Of course, any modern mobile phone will not be complete without a host of games to download and play. Well the iPhone brings realistic-looking 3D games with superb graphic straight to your screen. Download from thousands of free and paid games from the App Store (1). Race a Ferrari on the streets of Paris with Ferrari GT (2), blast from your NOS-equipped care in Fast & Furious (3) and play the classic Pole Position racing game on your iPhone (4).

1. Learn to play on a virtual piano with FingerPiano.
2. Have fun bowling with iBowl. Throw the ball by swinging the iPhone like a real bowling ball!
3. Play virtual hockey with your fingers with Touch Hockey.
4. Destroy enemy aircrafts in iFighter.

More addictive games you can play on your iPhone:
1. Build skyscrappers and whole neighbourhood with Tower Bloxx.
2. Burst them bubbles in this addictive Bubble Town game.
3. Highlight hidden words in Scramble.
4. Relive the classic arcade game Galaga on your iPhone.
5. Re-arrange alphabets to spell out words in Twisty Lite.
6. Play the highly popular and cute but rather perplexing game Tamagotchi.

Unlocking and jailbreaking your iPhone via software is done using several programs such as Pawnage, Redsn0w, Yellowsn0w and Installer. One of the more popular jailbreaking program out there are the ones created by the Dev Team including Redsn0w, Yellowsn0w and Ultrasn0w for the original iPhone, iPhone3G and iPhone 3GS respectively. If your iPhone is jailbroken, you probably have Cydia or Ice installed so that you can download 3rd party apps other than from the official Apple App Store. There are hundreds of 3rd party apps (mostly free) that you can download from Cydia and amongst my favourites are Cycorder (video recording), Shazam (audio recognition), Train Sim (game), File Viewer, Make It Mine (change your carrier text), iBluetooth (transfer files via Bluetooth), Tether (share your iPhone Internet connection), eBook (pdf viewer) and SBSettings (fast settings toggle).

How to own an iPhone and not become poor!

An original iPhone is usually tied with one authorized carrier and they usually come with a data plan so that you can fully utilize the e-mail, browser and various web-based applications on the phone. The iPhone uses either WiFi, 3G, EDGE or even GPRS to connect to the Internet so if your phone doesn't come with a data plan then prepare to pay a fortune in your monthly bill. When I first used the iPhone, I saw my prepaid credit virtually flying out of the window. I lost around 20 ringgits in just 3 days when the iPhone uses GPRS to connect to the Internet, sync my Inbox and also through various apps in the iPhone and worse even when my phone is idle.

So I Googled around and found out one way to stop the iPhone from using GPRS, EDGE or 3G altogether and it is by using SBSettings from Cydia. Sbsettings let you customize iPhone themes, re-arrange the default icons and give full control over many of your iPhone's most important settings such as 3G, EDGE, Location Services, WiFi and Bluetooth. You can turn any of those settings on or off with just one click using SBSettings.

For Maxis prepaid and postpaid users in Malaysia though, there's one more setting you'll have to tweak to stop the iPhone for using the Cellular Data. You will need to have another carrier's SIM card (like Celcom or Digi) to make this tweak a success. First insert the non-Maxis SIM card into your iPhone. Then go to Settings > General and finally the Network settings page where you can see the Cellular Data setting but don't click on it yet. Here, insert your Maxis SIM card and finally click on the Celullar Data setting. There you will see some information such as APN, username and password automatically provided by Maxis because they are now the official carrier for the iPhone in Malaysia. Erase these settings and enter some gibberish texts such as abc or xyz or whatever into each and every setting and just to be safe, do the same for the MMS settings as well. This had ultimately stopped my prepaid credits from going down the drain and I can happily use my iPhone without worry again.

Although some might not agree with me but I find the iPhone to be the most amazing and incredible phone I've ever used so far in my life. Once you get to use an iPhone, you won't see all other mobile phones the same way again. Yes the iPhone is quite expensive especially for the original and new ones but if you're thinking of purchasing a phone for over a thousand ringgit, you might want to seriously consider getting an iPhone. Trust me you won't regret it.

Good as it is, the iPhone is far from perfect. Here are some of my grouses about the iPhone:
1. No native video recording for iPhone 2G and 3G
2. Cannot make and receive 3G calls
3. Low speaker sound (I pricked the holes in the speaker to make them 40% louder)
4. Non-replaceable battery
5. Rather short battery life, especially when your iPhone is upgraded to version 3.0. So far my iPhone's battery won't last a day with heavy use (games, Internet, iPod) especially so since it is a second hand unit. In standby mode, it can last slightly over a day and a half.

Currently you can get the original iPhone 2G and the upgraded iPhone 3G only in the Malaysian market although the iPhone 3GS has just been announced by Maxis today. iPhone 3G is pretty much like iPhone 2G except that you can use the high-speed 3G Internet access, come with a built in GPS and better casing and the software and hardware is a lot faster. The iPhone 3GS is even better with more powerful processor, 3.2 mega-pixel camera, video recording, voice control, magnetometer (compass) function and a smudge-resistant (oleophobic) screen.

Sports Day

Today was sports day at Adam's kindergarten. It was his first ever sports day. Some time last week we found him practising something all by himself. And when we asked him what's he's up to, he said it was for the sports day.
We came as early as we could that Sunday morning. The programme starts around 8:30 and it has just started when we got there. Adam quickly got in line with his yellow group. The other two was red and green.
So he was actually practising for this really complicated marching manoeuvre all this week. His yellow team won first prize too in this category.
Some of the other parents who made it to the sports day. Attendance was pretty good with the parent's tent fully occupied during the event.
And the games begin. First was the balloon-popping event. They just had to flock together like that one while blowing the balloon (so cute!). Adam had a tough time filling up his balloon so his Mom had to give him a little boost (like blowing & popping the balloon herself ha ha!).
Next was the throwing the hoop in the cone game. Adam's team did really well in this one but the red team won because they had the least members (you cheaters!).
After that it was time for the throw the bean bag into the hoop game. Adam's team lost this one as well.
There were also several games for the parents to take part in. We sportingly signed up for almost every game that they asked us to join in like the running in the gunny sack race which my wife participated in.
And she got the prize for 5th place in the race although she was adamant she actually got 3rd place! I guess this photo-finish showed she was right all along. Hmm, I smell something sinister at work here. Maybe these ladies were secretly plotting for your downfall ha ha.
I joined in a few games too including the run one-legged race which I got 2nd place. The other dads were no match for the (ahem) fit me except for the guy with the cap. He beat me just by a fraction of a second. I suspect he practiced for this race for months because he looked so prepared. Hah.
Finally it was time for the prize-giving ceremony. The yellow team got (surprise-surprise) last place. Well you know what son? Winning isn't everything. It's the competitive spirit and teamwork that counts. Next time we'll kick their sorry asses.
Just look at their proud faces displaying their hard-earned trophies. Standing in the middle is their headmistress, Mrs Rozinah.
Linda got 4th place in the guess the number of sweets game. She was extremely proud of herself.
Since we took part in most of the games and everybody wins something, we took home a bundle of prizes today. They're mostly tupperwares really, how thoughtful.
Adam and friends had a really good time at the sports day today and we the parent had loads of fun too. I must commend the kindy for organizing this. Next year we should hold this games at a much bigger venue like Bukit Jalil stadium maybe, no?