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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Best of 2008

2008 has come to an end. How much has been accomplished this year? Is this a meaningful year? Thankfully most of my memorable activities are archived in my blog. You can visit it at... Oh wait, you're already there.

1. Started A Blog

Actually this blog was started on the 29th of December, 2007, near midnight. Not exactly 2008, but close enough.

At first the interval between posts are rather inconsistent. I wrote when I had inspiration. I wrote when I was bored. I wrote when there were things to be written. Starting in June, I adopted the format of writing two new posts per week, and this has resulted in about 7 to 9 posts per month for the rest of the year.

2. Visited Singapore Zoo...

... the day Ah Meng passed away. My sister and I were shooting wild guesses at which Orangutan Ah Meng was (we didn't know about her death until after the visit), but apparently she moved on while we were lining up for our tickets.

3. Graduated from College

After two years or six semesters in TARC, I've finally graduated with a diploma in my hand. Though it wasn't the most enjoyable part of my life, it was no doubt memorable.

4. Entered University

University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus is arguably the most beautiful campus in Malaysia. I didn't come here to enjoy the sights though.

5. Played Piano by Ear

Me playing Rick Price's Heaven Knows.

Actually this isn't something new for me. I've been doing it (or trying to do it) since secondary school, but with little success. It was 2008 that saw me succeeding in producing a few songs acceptable by human ears.

6. Cooked Something...

... other than instant noodles and fried eggs.

7. Clogged Toilet Bowl...

... twice. Once in my hostel, another time at home. I think I ate too much high fibre crackers and wholemeal bread.

8. Started Jogging

In TARC, my only cardiovascular exercise was spending 20 minutes at the cross trainer. It was in September that I started jogging around the Nottingham Lake weekly.

9. Re-picked Badminton

It was quite sad, having no one to play the only sport I like with. Thankfully I joined UNMC Badminton Club and participated in badminton workshops to help me catch up with the sport again.

And yet I still don't have a badminton partner =(.

10. Picked Up Linux

And still using it. All the photos taken by me are edited in Ubuntu's GIMP before being published online. Most of them only have the seal watermark added, though, and only few have other tweaks worked on them.

So that's it! I managed to list 10 breakthroughs for me this year. So I can doubtlessly say that, yes, 2008 means a lot to me.

I personally dislike the idea of celebrating the need of obtaining a new calendar, but happy new year, everyone!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas is When...

... I wish I could never grow up.

I mean, who wouldn't like getting free presents every year? This, plus all the red packets we get for Chinese New Year, ah, I just envy Peter Pan.

I actually went to MidValley before Christmas to get myself a toy.

Imagine that. I travelled for one whole hour. Just for the toy.

For myself.

Well to save myself from feeling too bad about it, I got some groceries there too. Oh, I also bought some dinner from Carrefour MidValley.

So what was the toy? Well, it's colourful, it's addictive, it's fun, it's rotating...

A Rubik's cube.

Don't tell me you've never heard of it before. I am quite happy with me I managed solve all of it but the last four corners by myself. But before you go like "it's your parents' age's toys!" or "it's a toy for nerds!" or "so childish!", watch the next toy I got this Christmas.

This is colourful, addictive, cute, fun, rotating...

A clockwork dancing figure.

It is just so amusing! Watch it in action!

Just screw, screw, screw it up, and watch it move it move it! Thanks a lot for the toy!

OK sometimes I just hope I don't know who me.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Vid: Santa Claus is Coming to Town

If you happen to be among the lucky few who have received a winning "lottery ticket" asking you to come to to redeem your prizes, don't be crestfallen.

Right below is a video of me playing Richard Clayderman's Santa Claus is Coming to Town, an extra early Christmas present for all of my readers!

Richard Clayderman is a French pianist, widely known as the Prince of Romance. His version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town is included in one of his latest albums (not including recompilations of old songs), A Christmas Wish, and is definitely my favourite song of the album.

I have a feeling that my readers won't like this Christmas present and my site will get vandalised by Boxing Day.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Early Sights of UNMC

After finishing a paragraph with the word "Conclusions" as its heading, I saved my document and looked at the clock. Dang! It's already 4.18am. With less than four hours to sleep, I decided to take a walk instead of catching forty (or less than forty) winks.

And lucky thing I did.

It was a clear, cloudless night. I walked to the Nottingham Lake and sat by the bench. The air was cool, and the wind whooshed past my ears. Cool, gentle breeze. Perfect weather for a midnight stroll.

That was simply a wondrous feeling. The stars had never been brighter. For the first time in my life I finally understood why it is impossible to count the number of stars. I never knew there were so many of them! The sky was like a deep sea, with the sea floor endless in sight. I felt like if I could fly, I would drown in the sky.

And who would get to enjoy this feeling, except night shift security guards, the lonely lighthouses, and midnight owls?

So I sat there, listening to my ageing MP3, playing romantic songs like Can You Feel The Love Tonight?, Stars, and Heaven Knows. The loud silence of the night really revealed the real quality of my headphones - the details were perfect and the effects astounding. Yes, no whooshing sounds of the ceiling fans, no humming of the air-conditioner, no buzzing of car engines, just the splashing of the Nottingham Lake fountains and the occasional quacks of the ducks.

Someone once told me, "Owl, let me tell you something my father told me. Look at the stars. The great bloggers of the past are up there, watching over us. So whenever you feel alone, just remember that those bloggers will always be there to guide you. And so will I."

Or something like that.

Some souvenirs - photos of UNMC at dawn.

Central Teaching Block at dawn.

G' morning ducks!

The ducks shed their feathers.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

I Bet You Didn't Know

I bet you didn't know that...

... owls can't move their eyeballs in their sockets.

... some owl's can't hoot at all.

... some owls have asymmetically located ears.

... owls have two front and two back facing toes on each leg.

... I was lying to you.

OK, I wasn't.

PS - University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus is still missing in Google Maps.

Monday, 15 December 2008

3D vs Pirates

It's amazing to see Malaysians fill up cinemas at a time like this to watch an animation about a dog.

1. Malaysians aren't really pet lovers. You should see how people treat their pets. One of my friends just blogged about her neighbours and their pet rabbit.
2. Most of us think we are too "grown-up" for cartoons anymore (when the fact is the direct opposite).
3. Cartoons are relatively short compared to blockbusters. 90 minutes versus 3 hours! For the same price!
4. It's Christmas, and people are asking for some wrappies from everybody else.
5. It's easy to get the ever-s0-cheap *ahem* CDs!

But then again Disney managed to attract a lot of attention to their Bolt thanks to their Disney Digital 3D. Everybody wants a piece of it like it's Angelina Jolie's thongs. Why? Simple - the experience can't be recreated at home. Yet. Unless you have Angelina Jolie at home, of course.

The point it we are still far away from recreating a 3D experience at home. Heck, general Malaysians aren't even ready to embrace HD yet.

Ah see? You don't even know what HD is, right?

So enjoy, Disney, Universal, Sony Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, etc etc. You've finally found a fool-proof way of defeating pirates. Ho, ho, pirates!

Until somebody comes up with a 3D home theatre, that is.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

ABC for Nerds

A is for Avogadro's number
B is for Bernoulli's Theorem
C is for calculus
D is for differentiation
E is for exams
F is for fail
G is for gravity
H is for Hooke's Law
I is for imaginary numbers
J is for journals
K is for knowledge
L is for Laplace Transform
M is for mathematics
N is for Newton
O is for Oxygen
P is for probability
Q is for QED
R is for Rubik's cube
S is for statistics
T is for tuition
U is for university
V is for vectors
W is for Wikipedia
X is for variable
Y is for Young's modulus
Z is for zero

Special thanks to my friends who have inspired me on this post =D. ABC for all!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Things I Learnt about Wedding Dinners

Things I learnt about wedding dinners
1. Those who talk business are either the employees of the restaurant or are bosses of their own businesses
2. Everybody tries to look good, but the bride and groom will always look best
3. People applaude the wedding couple's entrance because it means food will be served soon. People stand up not to look for the couple, but to search for waiters
4. If the guests finish the wedding cake, it means that the restaurant's food sucks
5. Never ever sit directly beside the couple's entry path if you don't want your food covered with confetti
6. If you ever get bored, remember that we get to do mobile blogging
7. ALWAYS check the tap of the toilet before emptying your bladder or bowel - you don't want to find the toilet out of water, your hands full of waste, and expensive food out there waiting for you at the same time

Monday, 1 December 2008

The Darkest Black Friday Week

Before I start this post, I'm just going to say again that I need a camera phone. Wasted so much energy and time to fetch my camera just for this post. Please appreciate my effort and read this post carefully. And now you know what to get me this Christmas.

Don't start laughing too soon yet. This post will be a very grim one.

As you have surely known, nearly 200 people died in the Mumbai terrorist attack last Wednesday, two days before Black Friday. I watched the news in horror as I tried to swallow my breakfast early last Thursday.

But we don't have to go that far to find violence.

Last Wednesday, all University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus (UNMC) students received the following email.

* * *
Sent: Wed 11/26/2008 5:16 PM
To: All Students; All Staff

Dear all,

I am sorry to report that 4 of our students of Indian descent, have been attacked in what appears to be a case of mistaken identity.

Men in 3 cars have attacked 2 International students in Forest Bar with machetes and then it seems that the same three cars stopped a student car on the way to Broga and slashed 2 other local Indian students.

I strongly recommend that students stay away from Bars in the Semenyih and Broga areas until these criminals have been caught.

If anyone has any information regarding these brutal events, please contact me or Azlan as soon as possible.

Paul Boardman

Director of Administrative Support Services
The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

* * *

No, this is not a December Fool's Day joke. Forest Bar, as stated in the email, is located just 10 minutes' walk away from where I stay. And the incident actually occured at 5, in the evening.


Many other emails followed, including notices to hold an urgent meeting between staff and students in an attempt to reinforce the safety of students, notes assuring students that the security around the campus has been doubled, and updates on the injured students.

Sunday. We received the official news of one of the victims' death from the Students Association (SA) President himself.

* * *
Sent: Sun 11/30/2008 3:18 PM

Hello guys,

I regret to inform you that one of our fellow students who got attacked at forest bar some days back has suddenly passed away this morning.

He is a final year student of the Faculty of Electrical & Electronics Engineering


The Executives of Student Association is declaring 1st of Dec,2008 a day of mourning of our beloved brother,friend,coursemate and colleague and would like you to know that we have also made a request to the management to declare it lecture free day so we can mourn for him but we are still waiting for their response.

Please be informed that there will be black ribbons distributed in student association building(Main Entrance to the building) between 9am & 11am tomorrow so we can show our beloved one that we miss him and we do love him.

All clubs and societies activities/events to be held tomorrow will be cancelled and we apologise for any inconviniences this will cause you.


Douglas E.T
SA President
* * *

I arrived at school today (Monday), to find many of my classmates wearing the said black ribbons on their arms or wrists. I immediately felt ashamed of myself for picking a red shirt that day.

A representative giving out black ribbons at the SA building.

I later got one of the ribbons myself. It is not much, but I hope this means something to my fellow coursemate. He was even my senior!

White drapes were also put up at certain points of the schools, including the busy SA bridge and guardhouse.

Visitors to the SA building also paid respect to him.

All of a sudden the atmosphere around the campus changed. The birds aren't chirping that merrily. Nobody felt like feeding the ducks any more. The security guards seem less cheerful and more serious at doing their duties. Students living off campus are careful where they thread and shot backward glances every few steps. Even the clocktower's chimes sounded more like those of a church holding a funeral to me, for the first time in three months.

Even more emails were sent and received. All co-curricular activities are cancelled for 1st of December, and all academic lectures on the 5th postponed.

For all UNMC students trying hard to suppress their glee, keep in mind that the lectures will be replaced at a later date.

Anyway, let's hope that other than these trivial things such as cancellation of activities and postponing of classes and such, the death of one fellow UNMC student will bring significant and permanent difference to the campus and people around here. Changes I see now such as heightened security, more interaction between people of different races, nationalities, and religions, and greater care of one self's safety are welcome, but are they here to stay forever?

For the deceased, rest in peace. For my living friends, take care. It's a wild world out there.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

The Age Between Childhood and Adulthood

You know you're in it when

1. You cut your acne during your morning shave
2. You can neither fit into children's nor adult's clothes
3. You now love what you used to hate, which you used to love, and you hate what you used to love, which you used to hate.
4. You started to give attention to what you used to ignore. And you ignore what you so passionately pursued.
5. The end product of cleaning up your room consists of more and more hair - and a lot of them are thick and curly.
6. You start to make arrangements for life after school, yet isn't really prepared to leave school life yet.
7. You sing a different song everyday.
8. You visit a blog owned by someone aged between childhood and adulthood.
9. You spend more time on Facebook than reading your email.
10. You are tempted to write something on teenagehood before hitting the age 20.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Free Windows Apps I Use II - Multimedia

What's a computer when you can't even get your MP3's working? What's the 17" monitor for when you can't use it to watch your favourite movies?

A computer for playing games, duh!

But still, a gaming computer is no match against a gaming and multimedia computer. Here, I talk about free multimedia applications I use and love.

1. Audio - Nullsoft Winamp

One of the two looks of my Winamp. Its colour can be changed.

Winamp is the world's second most widely used media player, losing the first spot to Windows Media Player (grrrr). Nullsoft argues that they produce better software than Microsoft, because "Null", ie nothingness, is infinitely smaller than "Micro", a millionth.

Winamp Classic. Very resource friendly, usually consumes less than 5MB RAM.

Perhaps the signature of Winamp is its Classic spectrum visualiser. It is one of the earliest media players to include a "peak" sign in their visualisers. This feature is now shown by many other players. Better looking visualisations are available as well.

Some people prefer more aesthetically pleasing visualisers, and Winamp offers dozens of these.

One Winamp feature I particularly like is its ability to associate with global hotkeys. Global hotkeys are special keystrokes that will be recognised by an application any time, regardless of active window opened.

Global hotkeys settings.

For example, if I'm halfway through playing Red Alert 3, and I want my Winamp to skip to the next track. I don't have to pause the game, jump back to Windows (rather buggy one too), select Winamp, and click "next track". All I do is press Ctrl + Alt + B, and voila! Of course, these combinations can be changed, and multiple keys can be assigned for a single command. What's more, if you have music dedicated keys on your keyboard or laptop, they can be used as well. Winamp responses to those keys by default.

Replay Gain results.

The second feature so important that prevents me from migrating over to Ubuntu Linux is its Replay Gain. You know the awful times when a song is too soft, and you turn on the volume for it, and then the next song so loud that it could wake your deaf grandfather? This uneven volume can be made even by calculating the Replay Gain. Just select the "too loud" and "too soft" tracks, and select "Send To Calculate Replay Gain". After saving the results, you will never wake your grandfather up unintentionally again.

Never, ever tell me Winamp is unable to support lyrics.

Some people argue that they need a media player that displays lyrics, and Winamp doesn't offer that. Well, it is true that Winamp doesn't offer it by default, but it is fully customisable beyond its skins - plugins can be installed to give Winamp extra functions. A plugin called "Minilyrics" automatically downloads and displays lyrics when a song is played.

Many people with thousands of songs prefer Winamp because of its fantastic library management. There are even better library plugins available. Even without the plugins, the functionality of Winamp is so endless you'll be dead before I can even finish briefing you about them.

I don't say that Winamp is the best media player out there - iTunes is rather user friendly as well. Foobar2000, developed by an ex-programmer for Nullsoft, is also widely customisable. I personally am too used to Winamp it's too late to change my mind, but seriously, I don't care what media player you use.

As long as it's not Windows Media Player.

2. Video - Media Player Classic (MPC) Homecinema and K-Lite Codec Pack

Everybody experienced this. We have a movie in our computer, but somehow our default media player, Windows Media Player, couldn't play it. Then we get freaked out - it could play this .avi file perfectly, and played the other .avi file upside-down (seriously, I encountered this several times), and for another .avi file, it couldn't open at all.

I suggest you opt for an all-in-one media player rather than one that gives you a false sense of reassurance.

In that case, try using K-Lite Codec Pack. It is so full of all sorts of codecs that you have no problem playing any audio or video files at all. From anything as common as .avi and .wmv to extensions so unusual that would surprise you.

Check out the selected format - it's called "ratdvd"!

It can handle everything. Anything at all. Videos from Youtube. Homemade videos made using Windows Movie Maker. Videos recorded from your exotic cellphones. Uncompressed formats directly from VCDs, Video DVDs and Blu-Rays. Videos are all played in a player bundled with the installer called Media Player Classic (MPC) Homecinema.

Media Player Classic playing a flash file.

What's more, MPC's interface is so simple, you would wonder why televisions and stand-alone DVD players sell so well in the first place. Add that with the wide array of functions included, you'll be selling your TV set tomorrow, with a complimentary copy of the K-Lite Codec Pack as free gift.

Oh, and you can take screenshots of your favourite videos too. Just how cool is that?

Screenshot of my favourite cartoon character, captured using MPC Homecinema.

OK I think nobody is reading this anymore. Gone watching videos... XD

See ya next time.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

KTM - The Sky Has Fallen In!

KTM Komuter is probably best known as the first transit system in Malaysia.

Introduced back there in 1995, it now becomes an important part of public transport in Klang Valley, linking major towns and cities such as the port town Klang, industrial state Shah Alam, Capital of Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, and satellite city Petaling Jaya. The KTM route even stretches out of KL and Selangor area to Seremban.

That's very long. Just like Malay names compared to mine.

Being the backbone of Klang Valley's public transport, it is only natural if Keretapi Tanah Melayu Berhad (KTMB) continuously upgrade their services to better service the people.

For example, new stations and extensions are being introduced for the past two years. Future stations are included in the route map on some trains, covered up by yellow adhesive tape.

Future stations, covered by tape.

When these stations are open, passengers will have links to places such as Ipoh and Batu Caves.

Secondly, the trains are also being refurbished. The refurbished trains have a different seating plan, specially designed to maximise capacity.

Although at times I can't really tell whether a train has been refurbished or not. It's not that the jobs were badly done, it's just that the trains get older faster than you can fix them.

Thirdly, stations are being upgraded as well. Many stations are now disabled-friendly, and shades have also been added to shield customers from sun and rain.

But there was one change which made me scream "the sky has fallen in!!!"

KTM Komuter passengers are actually starting to line up.

YES! You read right. They actually lined up before boarding the trains in KL Sentral station. I mean, for other transit lines, such as RapidKL's Putra line, passengers line up automatic. But KTM's passengers never do that, until recently.

I'm not lying! Check out the following picture.

No! I didn't ask all of them to line up so that I can lie to my blog readers!

KTMB had been trying very hard to control the uncivilised behaviour of their customers in busier stations such as KL Sentral and Mid Valley. Police guards have been introduced few years back with little effect. How did they achieve victory this time?

KTMB have this notice teaching us how to queue. Sweet.

The idea was simple. They drew guide lines on the floor, showing passengers where the doors of the trains will open. There are three different configurations for KTM Komuter trains, so three different sets of lines are drawn in different colours.

A few minutes before the train arrives at the station, an announcement would be made, telling passengers the configuration of the train. Something like "The train to Pelabuhan Klang will be arriving in 5 minutes. Please queue at the blue line."

Sight at KL Sentral KTM Komuter platform. Note the many coloured arrows and lines on the floor.

It was amazing passengers actually obeyed them. Don't get what I mean? Imagine seeing your dog play piano. I'm sure the people at KTMB are feeling as if they've taught their cats to swim.

But of course, upon arrival of the trains, everybody still crowds forwards anyway, squeezing their lunch out of their intestines.

So much for lining up.

But I'm sorry if they lined up and see this notice.

It says: doors out of order, please use the other one.

After being shepherded for so long, you realised that the door wouldn't open. Maybe they should have focused more on refurbishing the trains.

Thank you KTMB!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Confession: I Am Not Straight

I have a confession to make.

For this whole time, I've been convincing myself that I am normal. I've been too afraid to accept the truth. I've been doing all sorts of research online, finding proof.

I wanted to talk to my friends and my family about it, but I just couldn't pick up my courage. Speaking to them would mean giving in to the truth, something I had been avoiding, and spread my fears among my loved ones too.

I've even considered consulting specialists, hoping they can explain my doubts and share my worries, hoping they would give me some final rays of hope before I succumb.

But after so many years, I've decided to come out of the closet, and tell the world that I am not straight.

Sometimes, I just can't help but feel that life is unfair. Of all person, why do I have to be the one?

It is just so painful to see the my classmates, hugging their loved ones openly during lectures. Would my condition deter me from having such relationship?

It just hurts my heart when someone points at me and say mercilessly, "you are not straight". Nobody even pities me anymore. Nobody understands me. Nobody is here for me.

But then again, why would I let it bother me?

I mean, life is short. Why would I waste the few decades of my precious lifetime, and worry about that small "glitch" of mine?

After all, it is my own damn fault anyway.

It all started fifteen years ago. When I would ignore my parents advice to maintain a healthy posture. I would sit slouched on the coach, watch TV while lying down on the sofa, and do homework with my head resting on the table.

If only I knew the consequences of those small actions. If only I could appreciate being straight. Such small actions have caused a major catastrophe in my life.


Oh sorry, I mean my back isn't straight. Hunched, in other words.

What were you thinking?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Learning From Mistakes

Well, as they say, if people can't set an example for you, learn from their mistakes. So what are the lessons we should be learning from everyday blunders?

1. Forgetting to pay

Mum used to forget to pay for our food from time to time. I don't know, maybe she meant to teach us some valuable lessons here. For instance, "how to ask your companion to foot the bill". Or "how to tell the cook you didn't enjoy the food". Perhaps even "how to have your last supper before someone have your head for breakfast".

2. Leaving things behind

Forgetting things behind is rather common for everyone. Thumb drive in the computer room, keys in the car, everybody forgets. Just see how Britney Spears so oftenly leaves her brain at the rehabilitation centre, prompting her to go back to retrieve it.

3. Use of incorrect grammar

Yes! This can be so embarrassing. Just because of that one word, the meaning can be so entirely different. For example, dad once told me to pass a message to mum: bring the tortoise out, the smaller one. OK, we do have two tortoises at home, but I never knew that one is smaller than the other. And I was supposed to ask mum to bring the tortoise out to dad. It was after much questioning that I realise he meant the small and cute tortoise plaster statue.

Why can't he make more interesting mistakes? Like asking me to "bring the girl out", for instance?

4. Kitchen Chemist

Cooking is just like conducting a chemistry lab experiment. You throw in two everyday ingredients, and the next thing that happens can be either one of three possibilities. One: a miracle. Two: nothing. Three: disaster.

Similarly to the scientific counterpart, more disasters happen in cooking than nothingness, and more nothingness happens than miracles.

Ratatouille: everyone can cook. Yeah, but the outcome is not necessarily food.

And there you go. Moral of the story - Britney Spear's brain is removable. Cool!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Free Windows Apps I Use - Computer Management

I recently realised that that are few Windows applications that I love so much that they constantly convinced me to log on to my battered and buggy version of Windows XP. These applications are so greatly built that I would embrace the many errors and bugs XP gives me just to gain access to them.

And what's more, these programs are free. Let's start on some.

1. Computer Management - CCleaner, Defragmenter, Recuva

So you've accidentally deleted a file you need from the Recycle Bin. Whoops! That was my photo of a naked Bill Gates. Panic not - Piriform Recuva is there to help you.

The program consists of a simple user interface to guide you through. The steps are simple. Select and scan the drive where the file you want to recover was deleted from.

Click on the scan and the program will look for deleted fils on the selected drive.

Scanning in progress.

The entire scanning progress usually doesn't take longer than a fraction of a minute. When the scan is complete, a list of deleted files will be presented. Type the name of your file in the search bar to filter the results.

Deleted files whose names or paths have the worth "desktop".

Now all you have to do is to tick on the file you want, and click "Recover...". And tada! Naked Gates is back.

Please take note that chances of recovering the files are not guaranteed. One thing about Recuva is that the entire program only consists of a single .exe file. You can copy the file into your USB drive and directly run Recuva there.

The next Piriform application is useful too. So you haven't been defragmenting your computer often. OK, your hard disk may be terabytes in size, which means defragmenting the whole volume would take hours at a time. Instead of doing that (and risk overwriting your deleted files and prevent their recovery), why not select the files you want to defragment?

One way of selecting which files to defragment is by seeing how often those files are used. For example, defragmenting your browser or music player may help accelerate the speed of these programs (although it may not be noticeable at all).

Upon opening the Piriform Defraggler, you'll be presented in an interface which reminds you of Windows Disk Defragmenter. Just select a drive, and click "Analyze", and it will start looking for fragmented files.

The Defraggler interface, showing the list of fragmented files.

So now all you have to do is to tick the files to defragment, and click "Defrag Checked". Tips: shift and control click combinations can be used here to to select multiple items.

Handy, isn't it? Of course, you can set it to defragment the entire drive if you want.

The final one from Piriform, my favourite, and also the one that propelled Piriform to fame, is the Piriform CCleaner. This program is a complement to Windows's Disk Cleanup, just like Defraggler to Disk Defragmenter, and I seriously recommend this to everyone.

CCleaner scans for "expired" files in your system, which can be deleted without you noticing any difference at all. These files include your browser's cache (or Temporary Internet Files, if you're a stubborn Internet Explorer loser), Recycle Bin, Prefetch data, cookies, etc. If this is the first time you execute this process, expect it to easily clear up hundreds of megabytes of space in a go.

Before hitting the Analyze button on the interface, you have to select which files you want to clear. A wide selection of files come preset, and this list can be further updated. One note though, I suggest you untick the "Menu Order Cache", "Tray Notifications Cache", "Window Size/Location Cache", and "User Assist History" options (check the screenshot below), as clearing these caches will cause Windows to lose certain memories such as how windows are placed, and the way your start menu is arranged. It is perfectly safe to tick everything under Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox, if you have bookmarked all of your frequently visited sites, which I recommend.

Scan finished - list of files to be deleted shown.

Another feature of the CCleaner, which is more useful (although more dangerous) than the first, is its ability to scan and clean the registry. Cleaning up of registry is vital, as a messy registry will severely affect the performance of a computer. Most intermediate and advanced computer users delete useless registry entries by using the Windows Registry Editor (typing "regedit" in the "Run..." command), but this process is tedious and risky.

CCleaner makes this process as easy as three clicks. Click one - click on the "Registry" tab on the left. Click two - click "Scan for Issues" button at the bottom. Again, first time users, don't be surprised if you see hundreds or even thousands of issues. Click three - "Fix selected issues". Don't worry - the third click won't immediately clean up your registry - you'll be asked if you want to back up your current registry first, which I suggest you do, as it doesn't take more than a few kilobytes of space. What's more, detailed information about each registry entry will be shown afterwards before they are actually deleted.

Seven issues - I run this regularly.

After deleting the entries, restart your computer. You will notice that your computer now runs significantly faster than before. If you encounter any problems stemming from the registry cleaning, you can always undo it by click on the backup file you created, which will restore all deleted entries to the registry.

One side note: cleaning up the registry has also helped me fix a few of the many bugs Windows XP gives me.

Disabling the auto-startup features of programs can serious boost your computer speed.

Under the "Tools" tab of CCleaner, you get options to further speed up your computer by uninstalling programs and stop certain programs from starting up when you boot your computer. For example, disable the program "msmsgs", as it is the Windows Messenger nobody uses nowadays. This, combined with Windows's System Configuration Utility ("msconfig" from "Run..."), helps me keep my notifications area clean and tidy.

My notifications. Wifi, volume, battery/power state, antivirus, firewall, and CPU usage. Turning off Wifi and Task Manager reduces the notifications count to 4.

So you see? Free applications can be great. You don't have to risk getting caught for using pirated copies of computer softwares at all. As Piriform puts it, the best software is free.

I will put up more of such applications in the near future. If you'd excuse me, I have a prank to play on Bill Gates...

Friday, 7 November 2008

I Miss The Days

I miss the days when my parents take charge of all of the troubles I caused.

And yet I appreciate the fact that I now fix troubles more than causing them.

I miss the days when I could sleep soundlessly without worries.

And yet I appreciate knowing that I have a meaningful day to fulfill tomorrow.

I miss the days when a simple toy could get me occupied for hours at a time.

And yet I appreciate knowing the many meaningful ways the same amount of time can be spent.

I miss the days when the roads were paved out wide and bright before my eyes.

And yet I appreciate having my fate at my own hands nowadays.

I miss the days when money was of no concern to me.

And yet I appreciate the driving force this important resource has given me.

I miss the days when I could get anything by shedding tears and tearing my vocal cord.

And yet I appreciate how meaningful earning things by ourselves is.

I miss the days when arithmetic was 123 and languages were ABC.

And yet I appreciate the vast amount of knowledge I've accumulated to this day.

I miss the days when I wished I would grow up quickly.

But now I want to savour every moment I have.

So that I have more things to look back to in the future.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

There's A Thing In My Pocket

There's a thing in my pocket.

It gives me endless entertainment on the go. Music, movies, videos, you name it. Loneliness and boredom is never a problem again.

It grants me a steady flow of internet access. Anywhere I go, I'm not afraid of getting out of touch with the world.

It is a map. Not just a map. With it, I can assure you that I'll never get lost again.

It is a communicator. A phone. A messenger. My friends and family are not a second out of reach.

It is a fashion accessory. Or a piece of art. Whichever it is, it never runs out of style.

It is my conscience. My companion. My guardian. My friend. With it, I'm never in trouble.

It is my advisor. My inspiration. My deity. I've never felt more confident with it in my pocket.

It is valuable. Coveted. Priceless. Anyone will trade anything for it.

It, is money.

It is not one thing, it is many.

But then again I may not have it in my pocket for long.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Vid: Heaven Knows - Kiasuism

After some long wait, I finally produced another play-by-ear piano post. The video below is of me playing the Rick Price song Heaven Knows.

Recalling my first piano post, I was quite eager to compare myself with other play-by-ear pianists, so I played one of Jay Chou's songs, uploaded it to Youtube, and asked my friends to comment on it.

The Singapore National Anthem soon followed, while for the Malaysian National Day, I recorded Negaraku on audio.

After that I got requests to play the theme songs from Forrest Gump and Titanic. I gladly tried them on the piano, and feeling satisfied with myself, I went to Youtube and searched for similar videos.

My goodness. There are so many better versions around. I immediately threw mine aside.

I have to admit that I showed signs of Kiasuism here. Of course, nobody wants to be embarassed, but I think my versions aren't bad enough to embarass me.

I seriously need to fix this flaw. I can't live like this! This is agonising! It's excruciating! It's torture!

But then again, I'm not the only Kiasu ones around. Let's see... Who enrolls for tuition classes for their December holidays? Who registers for over 11 subjects for their SPM (Malaysian O-Levels equivalent)? How many people decided to continue studying after leaving secondary school?

How about those who immediately take their driving tests the very day they turn 17? Those who even preordered their cars before even passting their tests?

Those who got the very best cellphones even if they don't even know how to use the phonebooks? The Rolexes on their hands that glitter and shine under the Malaysian sun? The silver earrings that ring louder than windchimes with every single step of their Prada shoes?

Those who got wedding rings prepared before even meeting their partners? Those who got their new houses before they get engaged? Those who got babies before even married?

Erm, on second thoughts, I think I'm fine.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

How to Transport a Glass Jar - Fashion Crime

I committed a crime so serious that I deserved to be put into jail for the rest of my life.

It all started one fine day when I decided to try cooking pasta (namely Macaroni) in school. I got a bag of Macaroni and a jar of pasta sauce.

Damn the sauce. I was so happy that it was contained in a glass jar when I bought it. It is easy to identify a good jar and a bad one. The latter is in millions of pieces, see. So I took a jar in one piece, paid, and went home.

Prego Fresh Mushroom Pasta Sauce!!! My sis's gonna love this.

It was until at home that I realised I was too clumsy to carry it all the way to school. I looked around, and spotted another jar. A plastic one. Perfect.

In one swift motion, I wrapped the jar in a plastic bag.

Then I filled the bottom of the plastic jar one one of my shirts.

That should make a good cushion, I thought. Then I wrapped the jar with another shirt, and stuffed them in.

Tada! The jar is now protected from all sides, except the top. Here goes the last shirt.

Voila! It is now invincible. Now I replace the cap.

Wow. No one can even tell I have a pasta sauce in the jar. Now it's safe from impacts as well as robberies.

The journey to school was good. I almost forgot that I had the jar in my bag and swung my luggage around clumsily as usual.

Well I said I nearly forgot because I didn't. I could hear my three shirts' muffled screams all the way to school.

"This is misuse!"

"We're meant to be displayed on your chest, not stuffed in a jar!"

"I'm stretched to my seams!"

I could almost hear the host of FashionTV asking to lock me up for fashion crime. And that's for a guys' underclothes. Imagine, say, Oprah, doing this to her Pradas.