Where were you during Bersih 3.0?

It's an open secret that elections in Malaysia are not very fair or clean. If anybody said otherwise they are either brainwashed BN supporters, blissfully ignorant, naive or just delusional. For starters the electoral roll is marred with irregularities such as deceased persons and multiple persons registered under a single address or non-existent addresses. Postal ballots are not transparent, the opposition didn't have fair access to the government controlled mainstream media and public institutions such as the judiciary, attorney-general, MACC, police and the Election Commission didn't act independently and impartially in upholding the rule of law and democracy.

It took me two Bersih rallies to finally get my lazy ass to the 3rd one. Previously I've been only giving a running commentary from the comfort and safety of my home. This time I thought I wouldn't forgive myself if I missed Bersih 3.0.

So a week before the planned rally, I contacted my Twitter friends and we made plans to go to the party together. I felt much more confident this time since the government for once didn't go all out and declare war on the rally-goers. Instead they just wash they hands off and let DBKL take all heat. A day before the Bersih 3.0 they were granted a court order to declare Dataran Merdeka off limits to the public the next day. Which is ironic because Dataran Merdeka, translated literally to Independence Square is now not really independent or accessible to the people anymore.

I started off around 10:30 that fine Saturday morning. My wife like any other normal wives had her fair share of reservations about me going there. It's not like she's against Bersih per se, she's just worried about my safety. Still after much assurance, I convinced my wife that everything would be okay and I should come back around tea.

Since I expect most of the road leading to Dataran Merdeka or KL in general will be closed, I took the LRT to get to my destination. From Sri Petaling, I can already see a lot of yellow-clad people alighting the train. When I got to the Masjid Jamek station in downtown KL around 11:00 AM, the streets were already filled with Bersih participants. The atmosphere this time was generally calm and peaceful. People were just loitering around with many making their way to the cordoned off Dataran Merdeka.

I made my way leisurely to Central Market which was to be our meeting point. Along the way I stopped by the Bar Council building to say hi to the Occupy Dataran campers who were inspired by the Occupy Wall Street and similar movements in the west.

Most of my friends were already camped in front of Restoran Yusoof right next to Central Market when I got there. Whoever said that Bersih would disrupt business and cause untold loss others should see how most open food establishment made a roaring business from the sudden surge in visitors.

By only 11:00 am there were already an estimated 10,000 people on the streets surrounding Dataran Merdeka with many more rally goers arriving and making their way from various parts of the city to the square.

Unlike last time also, the police were well behave and stood in groups to watch. Well at least that's what they did initially.

From Central Market we made our way to Dataran Merdeka. At least we tried. By noon, the crowd was so huge it was nearly impossible to move any further than the Masjid Jamek LRT station. Besides the Dataran was surrounded with razor wire and large number of cops anyway so there's no point going there.

So we hang around Masjid Jamek area most of the time. That day there were no Malays, Chinese, Indians or any other race. That Saturday we were just Malaysian demanding our right for free and fair election.

The atmosphere was jovial and calm throughout much of the rally. People were chanting bersih-bersih and hidup rakyat and sometimes interluded with reformasi and stop Lynas. By the 2:00 o' clock there were at least 100,000 people on the street, that is by a modest estimate. Some say they're between 150,000 and 250,000 of crowd all over Kuala Lumpur. Whatever the number is, they're definitely not just 25,000 like they claim on TV. The crowd was so huge that by the time of the actual sit in was supposed to start some of us had only standing room.

The rally stayed peaceful even after the politicians started to show up. Some insisted that we must not let politicians hijacks this Bersih rally but I disagree. Without this political parties and their followers, we wouldn't have such a large turnout. Say what you like but Bersih is about politics and we need the politicians to make it happen.

Around 4:00 PM the first signs of violence started to show. Suddenly the crowd started to walk away from Dataran Merdeka and from a distance I can see thick white tear gas smoke billowing to our direction.

While the crowd started to run away from the square, I was busy taking pictures and video recording of the surrounding. It wasn't until minutes later than I started to feel the full effect of the tear gas. My throat hurts and my eyes hurts even more. It felt like somebody sprayed pepper straight into my eyes. I did prepare myself with a pinch of salt from home but unfortunately that didn't help much. And since I've ran out of water, I didn't have anything to wash my eyes or my face.

Lucky for me a few of my fellow demonstrators offered me some salt and water to help ease the pain. I didn't know whether to eat or rub the salt to my face so I did both which seemed to work.

By this time I was completely separated from my friends which I met earlier. Most of the 100,000 strong crowd started to disperse and make their way home after the first dozen canisters of tear gas fired. Some stayed to either watch or show their defiance against the cops. I know better than to hang around any longer so I made my way to the nearest LRT station.

The Plaza Rakyat station next to Pudu Sentral was completely packed with people. The ticket counter queue was a mile long so I thought I'd go take the train instead. The cops apparently were enjoying themselves tear-gassing the dispersing crowd and I can definitely feel the dreadful effect of the gas in the air around Kotaraya and Petaling Street. I tried to board a train at the Pasar Seni station but I found out they were still closed just like Masjid Jamek. So I had no choice but to walk another mile to the Kuala Lumpur railyway station.

There I had to queue for another half hour just to buy tickets. When my turns come, the ticketing machine could only accepts coins but lucky for me a stranger just behind me offered his coins for me. About 45 minutes later I made it safe and sound to the Serdang KTM station where my wife came to pick me up. Next time remind me to top up my Touch n Go card before I join any rallies again.

It was not until I was on board the train that I found out about the ongoing violence in the city center. Maybe Anwar or Azmin was guilty for instigating the crowd to breach the cordoned off area. Maybe it was some special branch officers who broke into the fence, we''ll never know. Whatever it is, I still think they shouldn't have closed the area in the first place. Had they allowed us to sit in peacefully in Dataran Merdeka, those unnecessary violence wouldn't have happened. Another thing, 98% of the rally goers were completely well-behaved and peaceful so there's absolutely no reason why the cops need to beat up those harmless crowd senseless. You should watch some of the video going around Youtube of police brutality. It's sickening.

One more thing, throughout the 4 hours rally, I couldn't get any data connection at all on my smartphone. Rumors had it, the cops had some sort of frequency jammer turned on at the vicinity to block out mobile Internet. Either that or all the local telcos decided to go down mysteriously at the same exact moment which is rather fishy to me. Whatever it is, somebody really didn't want any live coverage of the rally to go out that day, including those police brutality.

Despite being marred by violence towards the end, I must say Bersih 3.0 rally was a resounding success. This rally succeeded in calling Malaysians of all races, believes and age towards a common good cause. I'm convinced all 100,000 people who came out to the streets that day have made up their mind on who to vote during the next general election. What's more just think of the number of people - friends and family members that they'll influence along the way.

Whatever it is I for one thing am very proud to be part of this historic event. If one day my kids or grandchildren asks me where were you during Bersih 3.0? I would proudly say that I was amongst the 100,000 being tear-gassed by the BN government. Yes maybe the government would still turn a blind eye and our pleas fall on deaf ears but I still believe in the power of the people. If the first Bersih rally helped to bring about change in 5 states and swept the country with a political tsunami just think about what these 2 recent rallies would help to bring. Maybe I won't get to see the effect of Bersih any time soon or in the near future. Heck maybe I might not see the effect in this lifetime but hopefully they will come eventually. I did all this so that my children doesn't have to do this. I don't mind if BN or any other political parties win the election. I just want them to win it fairly.

Hotel Seri Malaysia Kuantan

Hotel Seri Malaysia is a well known and established hotel chain in Malaysia.

They offer a nice and comfortable accommodation for guests at a really affordable price.

Unlike regular hotels, the Hotel Seri Malaysia chain are built more like apartments than high-rise towers with minimal facilities.

The one that I stayed offers standard and family rooms for RM140 and RM160 respectively. The family suite has one queen-sized bed, another singles bed, air-conditioned, cable TV and a bathroom.

They also include one free breakfast buffet at their cafe for 3 guests.

Apart from that, Hotel Seri Malaysia also have the usual meeting and seminar rooms at a really competitive rates too I'm sure.

Of course you can't expect a 5 star service or facilities from a nearly budget type, 2 stars hotel. You get what you pay for here. But if you're out of town and in need of a nice and affordable place to rest, Hotel Seri Malaysia might just be the perfect place for you.

Sara Thai Kitchen

While holidaying in Kuantan last week, a chanced upon Sara Thai Kitchen situated along Jalan Gambut in the middle of town.

This restaurant received numerous favorable reviews on Foursquare so I felt compelled to check it out.

First up was green chicken curry. I have my reservation for weird-colored curries so with that in mind I find this one not to my liking. Different people has different taste I guess.

The chicken Tom Yam was okay. Perhaps if it was spicier or hotter it could taste better but we had the kids in mind when we ordered.

Apart from that we also ordered some omelette and fried calamari. The calamari was to die for.

The restaurant is easy to find, the atmosphere is relaxing with imported Thai music in the background and the staff is warm and friendly. One thing I noticed though is the presence of "beware of snatch thief" posters all over the wall which is a bit unnerving. It's like we expected a snatch thief to barge in and rob us in broad daylight at a moment's notice.

Overall I think Sara Thai is a decent place to eat with your family. The food is good and the price is quite reasonable. Most meals starts from RM5.00 onward. Sara Thai Kitchen is located right in the middle of Kuantan along Jalan Gambut.

How to get started with free Google Apps

How would you like to get 10 free personalized Gmail emails free using your own domain? Google Apps offers powerful messaging and collaboration apps such as Gmail, Google Docs, Googla Calendar, Google Sites and many more 3rd party apps for your personal and business needs. It's an alternative to popular established productivity software like Microsoft Office or Outlook, Lotus Notes and similar apps.

Unless you work in the IT field or you're a hardcore geek, not many people realize that Google also offers a free version of Google Apps. This version offers some of the cool features of Google Apps for Business like Gmail, Google Docs, Googla Calendar, Google Sites and many more. The one thing I love most about Google Apps is that I can create up to 10 free Gmail-based emails using my domain name, for example admin@afifstore.com, help@afifplc.com and so on. All you need to have is your very own registered domain name and to sign up at Google Apps free page. To begin just click the big Get started button.

First step enter you registered domain name.

You can choose between Express and Custom setup. For beginners I would recommend the Express setup since it's much faster and less complicated.

Now you will have to prove that your actually own the entered domain. There's several ways to do this but most of them requires you to have a domain name plus a web hosting service. If you don't have any web hosting plans or a server of your own, you'll have to verify your domain by adding a TXT record to your domain's configuration.

After copying the DNS TXT record provided previously, login to your DNS Management control panel like the one provided by Exabytes above. Add a new SPF (txt) record and paste the TXT record generated by Google apps in the address field.

After that Google Apps should automatically verify your domain name.

Next you'll need to setup your Google Apps.

This is the boring part but the good news is you can just click next until you're done.

Finally click on the Organization & users tab to create your Google Apps username and personalized email address. Now you're done. The cool thing is you can login to your Google App email address at your regular Gmail login page and set them up for access using email clients like Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird or your smartphones. Plus you also get the standard 7GB + infinity email space just like any other Gmail users.

Google Apps, especially the free one is a great if you like to have a free but powerful messaging and collaboration tools for your family or small business. You get 10 free email address and some worthy alternative to expensive collaboration software like Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Office all for the price of one domain name. Reliability-wise, you can't get a more reliable email provider besides Google with a proven 99% uptime rate.I bought my .com domain for just 15 ringgit earlier this year during a promotion from Exabytes and the average market rate for domain renewal in Malaysia is around RM68.00 a year.

I would really recommend Google Apps for everyone especially if you need to have a personalized .com email. Standard market price for email hosting is quite expensive so for 68 ringgit a year it's a bargain.Sign up for Google Apps now here. Also check out Exabytes should you need to register a new domain today.

How I store my stuff in the cloud

Cloud storage is a place where you can store your digital files and data online. There are literally dozens of popular cloud storage online such as Dropbox, Box.net, SkyDrive, 4Shared, Mediafire and many more. They differ in price, storage size, bandwidth and the extra features given with each package. Cloud storage is a great place to store your data and files especially those important ones. Most of them gives you a couple of gigabytes free storage space and a safe and reliable place to store your stuff.

My premier and favorite cloud storage would be Dropbox. You can install it on Windows, Mac, Linux and most popular smartphone OS. I love the way my files sync seamlessly between all my machines and the speed that they updates. Apart from that you can also access your files stored on Dropbox from their website which happens to store old or deleted versions of your files in case you changed your mind. Dropbox gives you 2GB of free space for starters but you can gain up to 10GB more free space using their referral system. Just refer Dropbox to your friends using your private referral links and once someone started using Dropbox using that link, both you and your friend gets 250MB free storage space. I've been doing this for so long that I now have 9GB of free space with this cool referral system.

My second preferred cloud storage provider is Box.net. At first I didn't like using Box.net much because they won't let me sync files on my computer without paying for their Premier plan. Then after they gave me 50GB of free space for using the Box.net iOS app, I changed my mind and uses Box.net to store all 8GB of my music files online. That said the lack of desktop sync is still a bummer.

While Dropbox and Box.net is good for storing small to medium sized files, I usually store most of my large-sized files on Microsoft's Skydrive. First of all they give a generous 25GB of free storage space and I can upload up to 100MB file in size there. I use Skydrive to backup all of my digital photos, computer drivers, software and archived office documents. Skydrive is accessible through a browser, iPhone and Windows Phones although you have to have Silverlight installed on your desktop browser first. All you need to use Skydrive is an email address so sky's the limit.

Otixo does not provide you with any cloud storage but this nifty little website allows you to access, view, upload and download all your files from many popular different cloud storage provider from the same place. Otixo supports Dropbox, Box.net, SkyDrive, SugarSync, 4Shared and Google Docs just to name a few. Bare in mind though, Otixo has a bandwidth limit to how many files you can upload or download at a given time so you might not want to use it to store very large files.

Apart from that I also use a number of other popular cloud storage provider like SugarSync, Mediafire and 4Shared. SugarSync is similar to Dropbox or Box.net but somehow I often had problems deleting unwanted files from my account and that proved to be quite frustrating hence why I don't use it so much. Mediafire and 4Shared are two of the most popular web-based cloud storage provider out there. In fact there are countless web-based storage like those two but I don't really trust most of them to store my files or sensitive data plus for all you know they might shut down or disappear next week. Reliability, security and established names are among the top priority in choosing your personal cloud storage apart from the obvious space and features of course. Why Google Docs is not mentioned here? Well first of all they gave you a measly 1GB of space and second, they are only accessible from a browser. So until a worthy Dropbox-like app comes Google, I only use Docs mainly to store my office documents.

Storing all your important and sensitive files solely on your computer hard drives is not really advisable. Your data could be gone in a second from faulty hardware or malware attack. Therefore apart from offline external hard drives, cloud storage is the way to go for keeping all your files safe, in the cloud.

National Science Center

National Science Center located in Damansara Heights (Bukit Damansara) is one of those place that I pass by a few hundred times while going to work but didn't have time to visit.

Of course visiting this place all by myself would be a crime especially without bringing my kids.

The admission fee is just RM6.00 for adults and half price for kids. Not so long ago they have this promotion where you enter for free. Today though you'll have to pay.

We were greeted by aquarium tunnel which made it into the Malaysia Book of Records somehow. Remember, this was before Aquaria KLCC come to be.

You get to see and do many fun scientific stuff which would fascinate bot children and adults alike. Quite similar to Petrosains in KLCC if you've been there.

The National Science Center is a good place to bring your children where they can experience and learn science in a fun and engaging way. The place itself is quite large with 4 levels of exhibition to stroll through. My advise is pack your own lunch since it could take the whole day to see everything. There is a small cafeteria next to the entrance but the menu choice is rather limited.

Overall I think for 6 ringgit, the National Science Center is worth a visit. Not as flashy or cool like Kidzania which charges RM55.00 for a kid to pretend to be grown-ups for a day but quite okay.