dirty water

For months and months the local utility company had been doing drainage and water supply works. They finished a few months ago now. We have our house water filter cleaned every eight months, and weren’t so surprised to find it filthy, presumably with the dirt from the works.

dirty water

dirty water

However, on checking since the cleaning the other day, the water is still dirty. I am glad we have the filter!

Queensbay Mall

I’m just back from a rather unsatisfactory visit to Queensbay Mall.  My visits there become less and less frequent.

In some ways it’s improving.  They are updating the toilets, which is long overdue.  The updated ones are nice.  And now you can use your Touch and Go card to pay for parking, which is more convenient.

However, it seems you can buy very little there now that you can’t get in the Pulau Tikus / Tanjung Bungah area.

I thought Ace Hardware had the largest range of harddware, but of course, at a price.  Today I wanted a corded electric drill with keyless chuck.  Asked the manager, who mentioned mainly electric screwdrivers before scuttling off to hang around elsewhere.  Not convinced  I would get any service if I had any problems after buying, I just gave up.  Instead, a combination of local hardware stores and Mr. DIY now seem better.

Digital Match used to have the widest, if still very limited range of IT products.  This time they had fewer.  They don’t have Blu-ray writers anymore.  When I was interested in buying one I asked where the writeable Blu-ray disks were – they didn’t sell them, or even know where I could buy them.  No wonder they couldn’t sell the Blu-ray writers. So they don’t anymore.  Would you buy a car when there was no petrol for sale?  Thunder Match in Gurney  (or Komtar / First Avenue) is better now, I think, but still no Blu-ray writers there.  If you want advice on IT matters, then Swispak, in Komtar / First Avenue) is best.

I did find a robot shop, but unfortunately it was just robot model toys for children, not real robots.

My consolation prize was a peanut sesame bun that used to be sold near Tesco, but now I can only find on the 3rd floor at Queensbay.  And still, the 3rd floor hawker centre has a wide range of meal choices.

It used to be, and may still be, that a company would first open their shop in Queensbay, and if the concept worked, then perhaps open in Gurney Plaza or Gurney Paragon.

But I am afraid that nothing much attracted me today.  Back to online browsing.

ramblings on IT

I started this a few days ago, and everything changes so fast in IT I’d better just post it.

Evernote changed their policy, telling us a couple of months ago that we could only have it now on two devices, or we would have to pay a monthly subscription. I find an app that I can use for notes, that syncs over all devices with the app useful, partly because I have an automatic backup, partly because the data is all in one place, partly because for a longer note I can type easily on a PC, but refer to it on another device like a phone, and that I can use it for anything – photos, voice etc., although 99% of it for me is text. So I found a program that would migrate it to Onenote, and while it imported everything it left it in a jumble that took a while to sort out.  But once I’d done that and I configured Onenote to suit me, and that was it. I did look at other apps, but Google Keep for some reason doesn’t sync all the time, and others didn’t seem to suit me so well.

This done, and it was actually reasonably painless, I uninstalled Evernote on all but two devices.  But I haven’t actually used it since at all.  Then today I receive an email from Evernote, who have probably noticed a dramatic fall in usage:

When we announced changes to Evernote Basic recently, many of our longtime customers had questions about the way devices are counted. We’d like to clarify some common misconceptions:
Access anywhere with Evernote WebEvernote Web does not count against the Basic device limits. If you’re near a computer with a web browser, you can get to your notes and notebooks.
Take it two at a time — Feel free to install Evernote on as many devices as you like. If you’re on a Basic account, you can log in from up to two devices at a time. Need to switch devices? Just log out from one and log in on the other.

Now, if they’d told us that in the first place I probably would have stuck with it.  But it’s too late now.

Onenote, being Microsoft, of course could change their policy in the future.  Earlier this year they reduced the free storage on Onedrive, from 15GB to 5GB.  If you requested in time you got to keep the 15GB, and I managed to do this.  I just found out in time when I noticed it in a PC magazine.  Who knows if I will catch such sudden policy changes in the future.

Starting soon Microsoft will offer Windows 10 Enterprise as a subscription service,  costing USD$7 per user per month.  28 months of subscription would be the equivalent of a permanent licence. Do they want to do this for consumers?  Almost certainly.  Will they?  We hope not, if it is forced upon us.  They say it’s the price of a cup of coffee and a donut.  Today so far I would have used probably at least 20 different programs, in the three hours or so I’ve been using my PC, tablet and phone. Well, if you add up all the (non-Microsoft) programs you use regularly, say 15 or 20 cups of coffee and donuts, soon we’re talking real money.   Mass migration of consumers to Linux Mint or Ubuntu, which would hurt Microsoft’s enterprise customers?  I should ensure my next computer has the specifications and components common enough to be able to run Linux.

Windows 10 Anniversary Update has been on my PC since Saturday. I did a blog on upgrading at the time.  It fixed a couple of problems I had that were Microsoft problems anyway – the start menu not working, and Onedrive not sync’ing, for example.  And it’s a bit faster – that will wear off in time.  Generally it works pretty much the same, and nothing different is that important to me.  I will have to go through the security settings again to make sure they haven’t been reset.

So I have been browsing PC magazines recently.  They are all enthused about IoT (Internet of Things).  I’m not.  I believe that electromagnetic radiation is bad for us, and we should limit our exposure.  We can withstand some without symptoms, just as we can air pollution, but we shouldn’t be increasing our dependence.  With IoT devices being largely wireless, I can’t see this as good.  There is a technology that uses the light spectrum for networking, and I believe this is harmless, but it relies on no barriers to work – it can’t go through walls and so on.  But IoT seems to be either WiFi or Bluetooth, with possibly ethernet in some cases, although I haven’t noticed it.  So now we have smart light bulbs that allow hackers into your home network – so IoT presents a security nightmare too.  All to do something I don’t really care about.  I can actually wait until I get home to turn on the aircon, or make coffee – I don’t need to have them start remotely so when I get home they are all ready for me.  Aircons have timers anyway – which I don’t really use.  Maybe there is some killer app which will make it all worthwhile.  Until then I will let it get cheaper and more reliable, and perhaps never get it at all.

For years I have had great hopes for fibre.  I read may years ago that all the knowledge of mankind, digitised, could go down a fibre optic cable in 3/4 second, or something like that.  About three years ago Telekom Malaysia dug up our street (and cut the electricity cable – hmm, no maps for utility lines?) and installed fibre.  Since then I regularly asked them when we can access it. They tell me, in six months time.  Like free beer tomorrow, tomorrow never comes.  A couple of weeks ago I asked again – ah yes, about six months.  Really, the future should be fibre to the premises everywhere, with low powered wireless connections, minimising radiation, covering the short remaining distance to the devices.  I turn wi-fi off at night, but I wish I could have it only on in bursts when needed.  If it could sense incoming data, then turn on and transmit it, and similar for outgoing data, and then go back to sleep.  Using the light band when possible… While my PC connects through ethernet, my phone or tablet can’t.

Bluetooth 5 will soon be out.  I hope it’s more reliable than Bluetooth 1 -4, which I only really got to work for connecting a keyboard to my phone or tablet, for headphones (before I figured this wasn’t good for my health), to speakers, and a couple of other things.

Passwords are being denigrated – we should apparently use biometrics.  Well, I am not keen. Once your finger print, iris print or whatever is compromised, it is compromised for life.  Once you use it, it’ll be uploaded anyway,  so you’ve lost control. Two factor authentication like we use for banking online is better.

Drones have been around for quite a while, and are quite cheap now.  But I have yet to see one in Penang.

Then there are chatbots. e.g. on https://www.chatbots.org/ The Flowerchecker bot could be useful. Less so the future president – DonaldDrumpfBot.

How about Backpack PC’s?  It makes sense if you are tethered to your PC for VR, and the PC is on your back – if it has a decent battery. One example, HP Omen X.  I hear Intel has gone one better and incorporated everything into the VR headset.  Not much info on this yet, but it makes sense.

And foldable / rollable screens could be here as early as next year.  Interesting.

Before you sign a contract, you should, of course, read it.  And you are actually going to wet-sign with a signature. But clicking “agree” to Terms of Service  whenever you install an app it is not practical to read them, as they are deliberately, it seems, made very voluminous and difficult to read.  I would argue that this doesn’t really form a contract as you can’t reasonably be expected to read such material, for reasons stated above, and also given what I will say in the next sentence.  A study from 2012 found that it would take you about a month every year to read all the privacy policies for every website the average person visits in a year.  The way companies have deliberately made it difficult and very time-consuming to read, with terms often unfair, and thus created a culture of non-reading of these terms surely negates any claim to be a proper contract.

So far I’ve managed to avoid  using a VPN, but dire warnings of free Wi-Fi at coffee shops etc. being hacked means I really will have to.  The one that interests me most is USD$40 per year for use on five devices, so not so bad.

Driveless cars?  So many things to avoid – other cars, buildings, footpaths, pedestrians, road signs, roaming children and pets.  I would have thought that pilotless flying cars would be much easier, as there are only other flying cars and drones to avoid.  They’ve had flying cars for over 20 years, and if mass produced the price would be affordable for many now.  No more congestion, as flying is 3D, where driving is 2D.  When you arrive the car flies off and parks somewhere.  Fuel consumption is also similar to cars, especially as there are no congestion wasting traffic jams or traffic lights.

I recently heard about subscription boxes, which are mystery boxes of stuff that can be sent to you one off, or monthly with an annual subscription.  They are themed, so you can choose food, gadgets, comics etc. etc.  The last thing I need is more stuff, but the concept of this sounds fun.  http://www.expatgo.com/my/2016/06/14/monthly-subscription-boxes-malaysia  is a site for Malaysia.  If you subscribe to one abroad, you may of course, be subject to customs charges.

And finally, I put Google Duo on my phone – but I don’t know anyone else with it yet.  It’s a video phone app, but with no fuss, and immediacy just like a phone. Just call, someone answers, and they are there.


this is the progress they have made

Gurney Wharf Project progress photos No. 6, 18th August, 2016

The Gurney Wharf project started at the end of February, 2016, which so far is manifested as putting a fence along Gurney Drive. So I will photograph progress from the same standpoint – in front of Bali Hai, which is around the middle of Gurney Drive.

Not much seems to be happening.  Just dumping some gravel on a sea-barrier.

from Bali Hai

from Bali Hai

from Bali Hai

from Bali Hai

from Bali Hai

from Bali Hai

lants growing well

plants growing well

sometimes the gates are unlocked

sometimes the gates are unlocked

this is the progress they have made

this is the progress they have made

this is the progress they have made

this is the progress they have made




Installing Windows Anniversary Update

Windows anniversary update came out right at the beginning of August. It will automatically upgrade your computer at some stage quite soon,  if it has not already done so.  If you have plenty of room on your system drive, probably C Drive, this blog is not useful for you, as you shouldn’t have problems.

However my hard disk has very little remaining space, so it will not succeed. My C drive is 27 gigabytes and there are only about 2 gigabytes of free space. I had to jump through hoops to upgrade from Windows 8 to Windows 10 last year for this reason.   The strategies I had to use to increase the space on C drive include the obvious: delete unused files and junk files,  empty the recycle bin and uninstall programs. I also removed the page file from C drive and just had a page file on D:  Drive. Eventually I managed to get enough space so that it could be installed with the aid of a USB drive and the D Drive for extra working space.

In November there was a large update, where I had to use the same tricks.  I managed to create about 3.5GB of free space on C Drive, and that sufficed.

So this time tried to use the same strategies as well. The most I could get was 4 gigabyte free, with the pagefile from C eliminated. But I found that the installation failed every time due to lack of memory. So I had to move the page file again on to C Drive so that the installation had enough memory to continue.

In slightly more detail:


I backed up data from the PC to an external drive so I couldn’t lose it if everything went awry.  Then I made as much space as possible as detailed above, including moving the pagefile off C Drive.  There was 4.63 GB available.


I ran the update program from the settings menu, which downloads a file (Windows10Upgrade28084.exe), which I ran,  but it wouldn’t upgrade as it needed more space.


I is simply not possible to make 16GB of free space.  I downloaded the MediaCreationTool from Microsoft, and on another computer with plenty of space ran the program to install the installation program onto a USB drive.  I booted to this program on my PC, but while this would allow a clean installation of the new version, I would lose all my programs and settings.  I had to run it in Windows to keep them.

So I ran the setup that was on the USB drive in Windows.  Not enough space.


I tried again, and this time managed to get to this screen.


I chose to allow it to also use D Drive for space.


But then the PC asked to close some programs that were open, which caused it to abort the installation.

On another try I reached this screen again.


I allowed it to use D Drive again.  All programs were closed.


The next screen.


And it was on the way.  I went for a walk expecting it to be ready when I returned. But  part way through it failed again.


By now i figured it was a memory problem.  So I put the pagefile back on C Drive, even though this reduced the space on it to less than 3 GB.  I went through all the same steps again, and this time got further, to this screen below.



This took over an hour until it stopped at a login screen and waited for me to log in.  Then it continued below.


Finally a while later I got to log in again, and it was finished.  It had taken over six hours of messing around.  Many temporary files were left on the PC so that it was possible to undo the upgrade and return to the previous version.  But I had less than 1 GB on the C:  drive, so my PC asked if it could delete these files, and I agreed.  So now C Drive has 3.26 GB free space with pagefile.  This is a slight improvement on the space I had after cleaning up but before removing the pagefile.

Thus, the major difference this time was that memory, that is the virtual memory provided by the pagefile, was crucial to the successful upgrade.

Power banks

Power banks appear pretty popular in Malaysia.  It’s one of the few IT  consumer items that don’t require a hunt to find.

Finding that my mobile battery doesn’t last out the day anymore – possibly because I have taken to installing many widgets which save me time, but drain the battery quicker – I thought I would just go and buy one from a store.  No research necessary. A salesperson should be able to point me in the right direction, because, after all, it’s just a battery. It can’t be too complicated.

The salesman asked me if weight was an issue, and as I didn’t worry, and wanted to be able to make a few charges, I ended up with a 20,000 mAh Cager.  I asked the charging time of this, and was told 8 hours, which seemed OK – overnight, for example.  It had LCD lights which indicated the charge, which was handy, and two USB ports for charging two devices at once.   It seemed OK.


charging it up

So at home I decided to test it. First by fully charging it, and then by charging my tablet and phone as many times as I could.  This is when the problems started to occur.  It took over 24 hours to charge.  Then it only charged my tablet twice, and my phone once before it was totally discharged.  I tried again, thinking it might be just because it was new, but the second time it took 26 hours to charged, and provided about the same number of charges for my tablet and phone as before.  The website was consulted.  Charging 7 – 8 hours, and efficient charging of devices with not much lost.  My tablet battery is 4,800 mAh, and my phone 3,000.   So two tablet charges and three phone charges should be possible – especially as you usually recharge when they are down to 10 or 15 %.  The web site also noted that the charging rate of one of the USB ports was faster than the other, but which was which?  It wasn’t labelled on the device.

But checking some websites people were writing that because of losses due to heat etc. you might only get 80% of the specified charge.  That would be 16,000 mAh.  Different from the manufacturer’s web page.  Even so, all I was getting was about 12,000. But the real killer was the 26 hours charging time.  So back to the store I went to exchange it.

As a result I thought of what I needed in a power bank:

  • 8 hours or less charging time – so better to have two smaller power banks than one larger as each would charge faster.
  • Two USB ports for charging two devices at once
  • An LCD display with actual number showing percentage of charge left
  • Something on the power bank which indicated which port was the more powerful one

The store told me that Pineng brand was the best seller. The salesman hadn’t told me that.  I exchanged the faulty Cager for two 10,000 mAh Pineng power banks, but I had to pay a bit more in addition.  These fulfilled my requirements, and testing at home I found the charging time about 8 hours each, and charging capacity reasonable.

In the end it all worked out OK, and all I did was waste a bit of time.

So, what I must do in future is to research beforehand, no matter how simple the device, if i don’t have any knowledge about it.

Growing stuff on hot concrete – gardening in tropical Penang – what’s growing in July 2016

It’s been raining quite a lot in these few weeks.  Perhaps on average every second day.

The main thing that’s happening is old pumpkin vines are dying down, new pumpkin vines are growing, and as it’s passion fruit growing season now, they are doing so.

new pumpkin vines growing

new pumpkin vines growing


These passion fruit seedlings pictured below I transplanted in April are now growing tall – many of them several feet tall.


passionfruit seedlings - some had come from compost, and the ones in the brown pot from germinating seeds

passion fruit seedlings – some had come from compost and I replanted them, and the ones in the brown pot from germinating seeds

I subsequently bought some huge passion fruit in Cold Storage, ate most, but germinated some of the seeds.  These I transplanted into the garden last week, in several spots.

passion fruit seedlings

passion fruit seedlings in one spot

And I have got one passion fruit, green, but full size – so early in the season!

first passion fruit of the season

first passion fruit of the season

And there are also a couple of tomato plants that have come up out of the compost.

tomato plant

tomato plant

No real change with other plants, so it’s been another quiet month.