Month: August 2016

this morning out and about in Malaysia

In the past an early visit to Tesco (they are open 0800 to 0100) for grocery shopping found much stock lacking, particularly in the fruit and vegetable section.  Thus we haven’t been shopping early.  At 8.30 this morning they actually were a pleasure to shop at.  Plenty of stock, no queues to weigh vegetables, no queues at the checkouts, and very few fellow shoppers  to dodge.  Oh, and easy to park, (in their woefully designed parking area.)

When we were at Tesco a couple of weeks ago we were accidentally overcharged, and we didn’t notice it until we got home.  Being RM24 it was not worth the petrol and time to make a special trip, but on showing the receipt today, Tesco refunded the amount with no fuss whatsoever.

I will normally walk down from Tesco to Straits Quays for Starbucks coffee, but as I didn’t have much time this morning, and only McDonalds was open, I bought a large coffee there, for RM4.20  Then I noticed that (until 11am) there are free refills.  In which case a small coffee for RM3.55 would have made sense.  I won’t eat their “food”, but I noticed that for RM5.50 you got coffee and a breakfast wrap, and for a little more, other choices. Chicken is so cheap in Malaysia that perhaps their chicken products are not made from floor scrapings, but nevertheless, I stuck to the not very good coffee.

Driving to Tesco at that early hour I was quite disappointed to find the traffic quite heavy, even though I was going in the opposite direction to George Town. Can’t wait for the new roads to be constructed and Penang’s ordinary streets returning to quiet peaceful places.

Anyway, while at McDonalds I read the local free newspaper, the Sun, and found a few interesting things.

the free daily

the free daily


I fell for it - I thought they meant water getting into the submarines

I fell for it – I thought they meant water getting into the submarines


This story has spread well. Can we also opt out of illegal and legal government surveillance?

This story has spread well. Can we also opt out of illegal and legal government surveillance?  After a previous terrorist attack France instituted total electronic surveillance of citizens.  This didn’t stop further attacks.  Which means that total surveillance should be dropped because it doesn’t work, and privacy should be restored.  Or that they knew about the attacks and let them go ahead.  Which means they are corrupt, and shouldn’t be doing the total surveillance on their citizens anyway.


KL seems bad, Penang not so bad, probably because of all the rain recently

KL seems bad, Penang not so bad, probably because of all the rain recently.


I liked this ad

I liked this ad

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

It’s been raining quite a lot again, almost every day.

New pumpkin vines are growing more and more, and as it’s passion fruit growing season now, they are doing so.

In fact, there are over 15 passion fruit maturing on the vines, and I picked the first one the other day

first ripe passion fruit of the season

first ripe passion fruit of the season

"cold storage" passion fruit plant

“Cold Storage” passion fruit plant

many passion fruit are growing

many passion fruit are growing

torch ginger

torch ginger – you can eat the shoot coming out on the left – just pick and eat

torch ginger

torch ginger


rosemary growing well from cutting


parsley – not happy with sun, but a bit happier with lots of rain


basil – growing well from cuttings

mock orange seeds are ripe

mock orange seeds are ripe – birds come to eat them

mock orange seeds are ripe

mock orange seeds are ripe

mini pumpkin

mini pumpkin

first full size pumpkins growing

first full size pumpkin growing


limes are growing well

And that’s all that’s new this month.




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 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.  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.