Say hello to high-speed fiber optic Internet

Last time I got my self a good-paying job, I indulged myself on a brand new car. This time I've toned down a bit and bought myself fiber optic Internet only. The Internet to me is one of mankind's greatest achievement. It made the moon-landing appears like an elementary school project. It's effect on me and billions of people around the world is incredible and far-reaching. I can go on life without TV, video games or perhaps food for a day but without the Internet, I would be lost.

Ever since I was introduced to dial-up Internet when I was 18, I've become deeply attached to it. When I first got my first wireless broadband 5 years ago, it was crappy at best. Maxis made such a mess of my Internet experience that I wish I just had dial-up again instead. The service was slow, they got disconnected all the time and the data cap was ridiculously low at 2GB per month. Then I changed to Celcom broadband which was a huge improvement from Maxis. Celcom is more reliable, their connection fast and stable and their nationwide coverage is the best. After some times though, I find that their 5GB data allocation to be insufficient. I dare not watch too many YouTube clips for fear of depleting my monthly quota. But even after much care and due diligence on my data volume, more often than not I usually finish up my 5GB after 20 days. That sucks but it's all I can afford at that time.

When I was out of job for a while, I can't even afford Celcom broadband at 68 ringgit per month. But since I can't live without the Internet, I bought myself Celcom's Instanet - their prepaid Internet plan. RM50 for 1.5GB a month is shit compared to my previous plans but it's a whole lot better than nothing. At least I still got Internet at home and only reload my prepaid Internet whenever I can afford and not tied down to a contract. Today though, since I've got myself a proper job again I've decided to reward myself with a proper fiber optic Internet connection - TM's Unifi. I applied for Unifi online at their website by filling up a simple form and two working days later, they sent a Unifi installer to my place. The installation process took less than 2 hours, maybe because I live in an apartment with centralized cabling so they only need to run a cable from my telephone jack to the modem. But the point is, 2 hours later my fiber optic broadband and HyppTV connection are all up and running. Very efficient. One more thing, TM doesn't seem to mind the fact that I owe them 600 ringgit and my name is blacklisted by the telco's database. Celcom doesn't seem to mind either. Maybe only Maxis and Digi doesn't want my money cause every time I try to register with them they declined saying my name is blacklisted. Your loss.

RM150 per month might sound a bit pricey but for heavy Internet user like me, it's worth every cent. First, it comes with HyppTV which comes with over 30 decent channels than I can choose from from Al-Jazeera to Nat Geo HD to Champions League football. For once, I can watch TV rain or shine unlike Astro previously. HyppTV is so good that I decided to end my Astro subscription altogether. Who needs Astro when I can watch pretty much everything from YouTube, live-streaming website or download movies and TV series from peer to peer web services? I don't have sports channel on my Astro anyway and last week I get to watch live streaming of an English premier league game in the comfort of my living room again. Websites such as LFChubs provides several different links to streaming video of my favorite football club every single week. With HyppTV and Unifi, I save like 70 ringgit on satellite TV. That means my Internet bill is only RM80 per month for 5MB bandwidth and unlimited download if I subtract RM70 savings on Astro and the sports channel. A bargain I must say.

Apart from that, Unifi also comes with free land line connection and they throw in a free dect phone as well. I can call TM fixed line numbers nationwide for free using that line which is even more savings on my phone bill. Oh did I mention, the first month's bill is also waived at the moment? So you see, getting Unifi is probably the best decision I've made this year. For a self-confessed Internet addict like me, high-speed fiber optic broadband Internet is God-send. Today I can watch every video clip on the web without worrying about my data cap and download everything I feel like from the Internet. Previously I would save every interesting video clips or even photo galleries with Instapaper and watch them later when I got access to a fast and unlimited Internet connection (usually at Bujal's place). It's sad, I know but I don't exactly have any other choice.

So guys if you're planning to upgrade your Internet experience, I would recommend something like Unifi. Forget 3G or LTE, they're just expensive and the download volume is often limited. Sure it's not mobile like 3G broadband but Unifi users can always logon to free TM WiFi available everywhere in the cities. Sure some of you might not like TM for their monopolistic nature but if customers like me profits from it, why not?

High speed fiber optic Internet at home. My life is complete. I could not ask for more.

Okay maybe a MacBook Air.

or an iMac.

And a proper kitchen.

KL 112

The Himpunan Kebangkitan Rakyat (People’s Uprising Rally) or simply KL 112 was organised by political leaders from Pakatan Rakyat and non-partisan members of various civil society groups as a final showcase of election issues before the 13th general election is called by June. After going to the last Bersih 3.0 rally and experiencing the fun of being shot with tear gas and running aimlessly on the streets of KL, I actually look forward for this kind of rally again. So I made plans with several of my Twitter friends to meet up in KL to take part in this historic rally.

Anticipating traffic gridlock and roadblocks, I took the LRT at Bukit Jalil and got out at Masjid Jamek station in downtown KL. There were noticeably less police presence this time around since it is now not illegal to have public gatherings (it was illegal before, shocking I know). Nevertheless they still decided to close off Dataran Merdeka (Merdeka Square) for whatever reason which only they know. I guess they didn't get the memo that this rally was to be held at Stadium Merdeka about a mile away.

So what was this rally all about? It is basically to highlight all the people's issues and grievance against the government, be it clean and fair election, stopping Lynas, Felda public listing, petroleum royalty demand, free ISA detainees, woman's right and more. This is our last chance to do so before the general election somewhere between March and June this year.

I was joined by my Twitter friends which I just met once before at Central Market and made our way to Stadium Merdeka.

So these are some of the people's grievance - phantom voters and giving out ICs to foreigners.

Oil royalty demand.

United against animal cruelty (aww so cute).

Fair and free election and rising living cost.

Unanswered love for Lisa Surihani.

Looking for long lost friend and national football matters.

Or just goofing around and having fun.

The crowd was huge but peaceful and orderly. It warms my heart to see the carnival-like atmosphere as rally-goers of all race and backgrounds come together for a cause. Unlike UMNO's General Assembly which were telecast live for a week on TV, these people were not paid to come here. Instead they all spent their own money, energy and time to come here today. After seeing all this, I truly believe we had a good chance of having a new government later this year, God-willing.

Had the government allowed us to assemble peacefully 4 years ago, all the tear-gassing, water-cannoning, police brutality and violent arrest would be so unnecessary. KL 112 proved that the people is mature and capable of gathering in a civil and disciplined manner. Businesses in the city thrived from all the extra visitors to KL today and since KL is already jammed 5 days a week, another day of traffic doesn't make that much of a difference.

The 30,000 capacity, open seating Stadium Merdeka was packed to the brim with people of all races, gender , walk of life and they travel from all over Malaysia to show their displeasure of the ruling government.

My generous estimate would be 45,000 crowd at any one time in the stadium, 10,000 more outside the stadium and if you count the visitors coming and going the whole day they would add up to around 400,000 people.

Ibrahim Suffian of Merdeka Center noted that apart from showcasing the capability of organizers this rally also shows the enthusiasm and energy of the forces opposing the government, underlining the fact that the coming polls contents will no dount be the toughest that the ruling coalition will face in its history.

As we entered the stadium, I got separated from my friends and the huge crowd rendered the mobile phone network useless. So after listening to some speeches and touring the stadium, I decided to go home around 3:30 PM. This time around there were no long queue for train ticket, no running away from tear gas, water-canon and brutal police forces. For once I can walk gleefully to the train station (which was not closed) to make my way home.

Although I kind of miss the smell of tear-gas in the evening, I still can't forget how dreadful it was. Thankfully we had none of that this time around. KL 112 was truly a resounding success. UMNO-owned TV3 station spun the news later tonight and called it Shamsidar rally after Azmin Ali's wife and focused on the few dozen people bringing kids to the assembly. Seriously, they could not go any lower than that. It's no wonder I stopped watching Buletin Utama years ago.

Asus Nexus 7

Last year due to unfortunate consequences, I lost possession of both my notebooks. No it's no due to theft or robbery but for some other reason. So being a life-long computer geek like I am, it is inconceivable for me to live my life everyday without a mobile computer of some sort. I must have at least a tablet computer for myself. The Apple iPad quickly came to mine, especially the affordable iPad mini selling in Malaysia for just under a thousand ringgit. However around December last year, the iPad mini just arrived on our shores so the demand for that tablet was incredible so much so that they ran out of stock within hours. And since I can't wait for the 2 weeks delivery time plus I don't have a credit card any more for the online purchase, I decided to get myself an Android tablet instead.

There's virtually dozens of Android tablets in the market today. Finding a quality one which gives value for money is quite a challenge however. So after much research I set my sight on the Asus Nexus 7. A flagship 7" Google tablet made by Asus. When looking for an Android device be it a smartphone or a tablet, always look for the Nexus model (such as Asus Nexus 7, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, LG Nexus 4) since they were developed closely with Google. Among the benefits of a Nexus branded device is that they comes with stock Android OS with no nonsense manufacturer UI like Samsung's TouchWiz, HTC Sense or Motorola MotoBlur. A stock Android OS is always the first to get the latest update from Google, is fast and responsive and doesn't take so much storage space.

It took me less than a day to decide on Asus Nexus 7. I wish I could wait for the iPad mini to come in stock but alas, the RM700 price factor is just too irresistible. I save about 299 ringgit for Nexus 7 instead of iPad mini. The one that I bought is a 16GB WiFi only model. It doesn't come with any memory card slot and there's only one lousy front-facing camera which is meant for video chatting not taking pictures. For the 3G model, I will have to fork out another 400 ringgit at that time.

Performance wise, the Nexus 7 is powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor which is quite fast and energy-efficient. With moderate use (one movie, Internet browsing and social network) the tablet lasted the whole day. App selection-wise, the Android marketplace (Google Play) has over 700,000 apps to choose from which is not as many as Apple's App Store but quite sufficient to make you spoilt for choice. Furthermore, most of my favorite apps that I have on my iPhone like Instagram, WhatsApp, Springpad, Twitter, Foursquare, Evernote and Dropbox is also available in Google Play so that's another pull factor to switch to Android.

The Nexus 7 is my second encounter with an Android device. My first encounter was unfortunately with Samsung's Galaxy Y smartphone which was shitty all around and made me hate Android the first time. Nexus 7 however is a different league altogether compared to Galaxy Y. The OS is awesome, the screen is big and the overall experience is really satisfying. Moral of the story here is: never buy cheap Android devices with small screens. They're horrible and totally not worth it despite their low price point.

What I like about the Nexus 7. The screen is big, well 7" is definitely not huge but just right for me. 10" is too big and I don't really want to carry a big-ass tablet everywhere I go. The processor is fast. Up until today, I am yet to find an app or a serious game that it can't handle. Even graphic intensive games like Modern Combat 4, Real Racing 3 and Need for Speed runs smoothly on the Nexus 7. Asus really did one heck of a job with this tablet.

I love Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean). The user interface is clean and smooth and the black blue Holo theme is beautiful. There's no lag between transition and the animation is quite delightful. I like the stock Android keyboard. It's fast and the size is just right. No Swype nonsense for me. I prefer the good old QWERTY keyboard.

My favorite browser, Chrome came standard with Nexus 7. I love how it syncs with Chrome on my desktop and also my iPhone. In fact one of the advantage of Android devices is seamless integration with most Google products; Chrome, Blogger, Calendar, Contacts, Gmail, Drive, Photos, Keep and many more. There's no iTunes to sync and backup all your apps but there's a record of all the Android apps you've ever purchased or installed in the Google Play website so re-installing them on any Android devices is just one click away. I like the simplicity of the drag and drop USB connection between Nexus 7 and my PC. Whenever I want to watch a movie, I just copy and paste them in a folder in my Nexus 7. If the stock Android player can't play it, there's always VLC media player which can play just about anything. If I wanna read an ebook or a PDF file, I'll just have to open my preferred ebook reader (such as Aldiko) and my Nexus 7 will turn into a nifty ebook reader and I'm set for hours of reading pleasure.

So far I have only highlighted the good points about Nexus 7. As awesome as this tablet is, it is not without a few shortcomings. As with other Google's Nexus line, the Nexus 7 only have on board fixed storage space and no slot for external memory cards. So if you bought a 16GB model, you'll be stuck with that capacity, not unlike the iPhone or iPad. I hate the fact that this tablet doesn't have a decent rear-facing camera. The 1.2MP front-facing camera is shit and you don't want to Instagram anything with that shameful camera.

Another point for contention for this Android device is the complexity of the rooting process. While I can jailbreak my iPhone with just one click, I had to jump through hoops and install a couple of drivers to root my Nexus 7. Even after all that and 3 times trying I am yet to successfully root my Nexus 7. I don't know whether I did something wrong along they way or Google put in a secret code to stop me from rooting my device, the point is I can't root my tablet and get all those wonderful apps and games. The rubber-like back cover is good for my grip but I still much prefer a solid steel or aluminium back like that of an iPad. I think it's downright ugly, the back cover although I managed to forget all about it after some times.

Apart from that few downsides, the Nexus 7 is overall, an excellent tablet that is a worthy competition to the iPad. It has just about the right size for me (7 inch), it's blazing fast, lightweight and mobile and features a decent battery life, quality built and definitely value for money. While it won't replace a notebook altogether just yet, a compact tablet like the Nexus 7 is suitable to bring along for trips and vacation where you don't want to burden yourself with a bulky notebook and worry about it's security along the way.

It's also cheaper than the iPad although the lack of rear-facing camera could be the deal-breaker as of today since the competition (iPad mini) is in stock albeit 299 ringgit more expensive than the Nexus 7. Still, if you don't mind not having a decent camera on your tablet, the Nexus 7 would be just right for you.

At the time of writing, I still can't afford to get myself a proper notebook so my Nexus 7 is indeed my current laptop replacement. Although this tablet survived a few 'drop tests' courtesy of my children with barely a scratch, I bought the Asus-made Nexus 7 sleeve/cover anyway for protection for RM98 at Low Yat Plaza. A separate wireless Bluetooth keyboard is an essential companion for any tablets if you're a serious writer (blogger) like me or you just love to write stuff on your tablet. Sure, the standard virtual keyboard works great but just with any other tablets, it'll hog almost half the space on your screen and you won't get to see much of what you are writing. A decent Bluetooth keyboard like the Rapoo model that I have here costs around RM80 on the market. So a wireless keyboard and a stand with your tablet is the perfect companion for budding writers or part time blogger like me.