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Saturday, June 30, 2012

craving Community

We all do, whether we say it or not. Its interesting that the way humans were designed for connection. Think about it, when you hold someone’s hand and grip it by interlocking fingers, the hold becomes extremely hard to break. Taking things a little further, even the continuation of the human race depends on connection. Setting aside the physical, even in the psychological arena, humans are dependent on connection. Why do people experience heartbreak after ending relationships? How many cases of suicides, depression and anger happen because people didn’t have others who were there for them?

The question is, why do we have such a longing for people around us? Somewhere along the line, everybody sort of figures out that in life its just better to be with people than it is to be alone. It just feels right, but why?

I think its got plenty to do with our spiritual needs as human beings. One thing that’s been constant throughout the ages is this continuous search for validation. We always search for validation from our peers or just people in general. Why do you think up and coming music talents upload videos of themselves on YouTube? Why do you think we like to tell our friends about something new we bought, like a gadget, car, music album and whatnot? We’ve figured that somehow, experiences are just better when shared with others.

Even the most prideful and arrogant people know this. How much meaning can a man who loves to boast derive from buying the fastest sports car with no one to tell it to? What’s the point of having the hottest girlfriend if there’s no one to be jealous of you?

I think in spite of this, individualism seems to prevail so much more today. I think a lot of us claim to be part of society, but only do so in a very superficial way, which I largely credit to the success of mobile communication and online social networks. The thing is, a lot of people are still lonely because we have our own ideals of how our friends should be based on our preferences and it builds this wall around ourselves, preventing those who may not like the same music or those without the same fashion sense or cultural background from being a part of our lives.

Unfortunately, doing that sort of limits us and prevents us from experiencing friendships better than we can fathom. Its a realisation that I’ve come across recently. I think in a passive way, in the past I think I’ve passed on a lot of friendships I could’ve made because of my hopes and expectations on people. In the end, what happens is that you do end up alone, in spite of a sea full of people out there. 

I can’t say that I’m all that great with people now either. Frankly, I still struggle between the introvert and extrovert parts of myself, which of course affects how I am with people. Maybe its my own nature of being a very ordinary (not very exciting) person, but sometimes I feel its just so difficult to hold more than a 10 minute conversation with someone (which is something I sincerely hate about myself, but it’ll get better).

I think that when we try, we can avoid isolating ourselves and discover that there are people not too different from us, when we throw away our lenses that are tuned to our own preferences our lifestyles.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

the Surface

Everybody’s been writing off Microsoft from the mobile computing world for several years now, and rightly so. It hasn’t been able to give a single quick response to iOS and Android, and lost out on an thriving market as a result.

However, we all knew from the announcements, together with the developer and consumer release previews of Windows 8 that they would make a serious attempt to enter touchscreen computing. Just this month, Computex 2012 revealed a bevy of prototypes of touch based devices for Windows 8 from companies like Acer and Asus, with the latter even showing off an all-in-one PC that runs both Windows 8 and Android Ice Cream Sandwich (click here). Windows 8 tablets designed very similarly to the Asus Transformer were also on show (click here) and gave everyone a taste of what’s to come at the year end.

At this point, I believe most consumers including myself are taking a wait and see approach with Windows 8, because it isn’t proven at this point. As it is, it isn’t even released yet, but we know a fair bit about it thanks to Microsoft’s not-so-subtle marketing in 2012 through various announcements and showcase events at IT tradeshows, conferences and so forth.

Then today, Microsoft revealed to the world that it broke its conventional practice of leaving Windows devices to the hands of OEMs by showcasing its very own Microsoft branded tablet: 


Surface.

Two versions of the Surface will be released, one running Windows 8 Pro (x86 architecture) and the other Windows 8 RT (ARM). Previously announced for RT but confirmed further by today’s announcement is that Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 will be bundled together with the Surfaces running on RT for free. That’s certainly a big plus point for those who want to view and edit Microsoft Office documents without losing their original formatting and so forth. That is even made easier by the fact that the Surface comes with a USB port. I think most of us still carry external storage devices with documents we want to work on without relying solely on cloud-like services.

In the image above, that blue keyboard you see is actually the Touch Cover, with acts just as the Smart Cover does for the iPad, but takes it up a notch by functioning as a keyboard too.

The kickstand you see is not part of the cover, but an actual part of the Surface itself. 


MicroSD and a USB port sits on the right side of the Surface.

The Surface is a pleasant surprise as its very thin. The RT version of Surface is 9.3 mm thick, slightly under the new iPad’s 9.5 mm specification. The Windows 8 Pro version however comes in thicker at 13.5 mm. Surface for RT weighs in at 676 grams, the other Surface is heavier with 903 grams. The new iPad wins the weight game no doubt, although just 24 grams lighter than Surface for RT.

Personally I don’t think the weight makes it a loser, considering the fact that it contains a number of pretty useful ports that include USB, microSD and the like.

In my opinion, having a tablet that’s thin but dense is slightly more ideal than something that’s too light. Then again, its all about preference. Some may prefer the lightest thing possible, so to each his own I’ll say. Its interesting to note that most of the tablets out there that are more lightweight don’t come with USB ports (which I personally think makes tablets even more useful and makes data transfer a lot more convenient) offered on the Surface and most of the Windows 8 tablets showcased at Computex 2012.

The Touch Cover is not the only cover option available as Microsoft has acknowledged not everyone may appreciate a touch keyboard by coming out with its own Type Cover. 



As you can see, the Type Cover is a bit more conventional as you’ll feel the keys sink as you type in comparison to the Touch Cover. Several write-ups have said this is the pick for those who may prefer a more tactile keyboard. 



The Surface is enclosed within a casing Microsoft’s labelling VaporMg, which is made of magnesium, making it a sturdy and inflexible product. Tech writers that have had a hands on with the Surface are impressed with the kickstand which they say seem to be a solid quality component, which speaks well for the VaporMg I suppose.  

These are the specifications made available by Microsoft for the two versions of the Surface:

Surface for Windows RT tablet
  • Processor: NVIDIA Tegra-based ARM chip
  • Weight: 676 grams
  • Thickness: 9.3 millimeters
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType HD capactive touchpanel
  • Battery: 31.5Wh
  • I/O: microSD, USB 2.0, Micro HD Video, 2x2 MIMO antennae
  • Software: Windows RT + Office Home & Student 2013 RT
  • Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand
  • Capacity: 32GB / 64GB
  • Availability: "Around" the Windows 8 launch (fall 2012)
  • Pricing: To be determined
Surface for Windows 8 Pro tablet
  • Processor: Intel Core i5 (Ivy Bridge)
  • Weight: 903 grams
  • Thickness: 13.5 millimeters
  • Display: 10.6-inch ClearType Full HD (1080p) capactive touchpanel
  • Battery: 42Wh
  • I/O: microSDXC, USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, 2x2 MIMO antennae
  • Software: Windows 8 Pro
  • Accessories: Touch Cover, Type Cover, VaporMg Case & Stand, Pen with Palm Block
  • Capacity: 64GB / 128GB
  • Availability: "Three months after" the Windows 8 launch this fall
  • Pricing: To be determined

I admit, I am rather excited about the potential of Surface, because from my first impressions, this is a tablet that just makes sense. Its rather minimalist in a lot of ways, yet is still able to serve up most functions you’d expect from a laptop, or even a desktop. This is one product I’ll definitely be looking out for this Christmas.

For a more thorough look at it, check out this video Engadget posted that has the full reveal of the Surface from the Microsoft team (hint: skip to 11.40 to get straight to the introduction of Surface by Sinofsky, although watching the earlier parts will help you understand a more about Microsoft’s history in developing hardware).

Microsoft Surface Event @ Los Angeles


Photo Credits & Sources:
Engadget
Microsoft

Saturday, June 09, 2012

string Run

Last Friday, I finally sat down to change my guitar strings. Many months have passed since I last put on a new set of Elixir’s. It was about time as my strings were very rusty. It was actually quite hard to slide down the frets. It wasn’t that bad before, but in the last few weeks it got a lot worse and I finally decided to change them.

I took out a new set of Elixir Nanoweb series strings I bought in KL a few weeks before and I was all set. Having not changed guitar strings for a while, I couldn’t remember the correct technique so I watched two YouTube videos I’d discovered a long time ago. Following instructions I changed my sixth string perfectly and I continued with the fifth.

While doing that, I forgot to pull in an extra centimeter of string beyond the length between the bridge and the tuning post. If you don’t know, he reason that’s done is to allow for the string to stretch as it loses tension over time. For some reason, I was a little stubborn to leave my mistake as it was and tried to make one more loop, which led to this: 



I was absolutely furious. I think anybody who knows how much Elixir guitar strings cost will know how I felt. Nonetheless, I continued to change the last four strings, which I did without snapping any of them. Even so, I was absolutely incensed about the fifth string. That’s when Friday’s adventure begun.

I actually had it all planned out. Since I needed to go out to buy a new packet of strings, I thought I might as well have lunch while while I was at it.

I drove down to Melaka Raya, parking close to my favourite eatery there, and if you’ve been reading this blog lately, you’ll know I put myself down at Wok & Pan for lunch. Right after I went over to Ice Music Paradise, and it was closed. At first I thought, maybe they’re just a little late to open. It was about 1.30 then, and they open at 1.00 p.m.

Then I thought, what if the owner decided to close in conjunction with the public holiday? I mean, it was an off day for me too, which is why I was free to go out on Friday afternoon.

I left and drove around a bit hoping to find another place without any luck. Eventually sighing and stopping my car by the road, I tried to call someone if they knew where I could find a place selling what I needed but she didn’t pick up. Then I texted someone else to ask the same thing and he replied but I had no idea where the place was.

Then, I did something I should have done in the first place. I actually drove all the way back home and searched up for music instrument stores online and found three others than Ice Music. I took down the addresses and armed with my GPS, off I went.  

It was absolutely incredible, the first one I went to; City Music was closed. I found the second place, Daniel, but they just had to run out of stock. The lady said, “Come back in two weeks.” I didn’t have two weeks, so I’d have to continue searching (though I did get my Dunlop guitar polish from there). Then, I couldn’t even find the last one, so I was resigned to defeat.

The reason I was so desperate to find it there and then was because I might have to use it on Saturday. I actually thought of rushing down KL on Saturday morning, get one from a music store in One Utama and drive all the way back down to Malacca.

However, before I gave up and settled on doing something crazy like driving down to KL just to buy six thin bronze strings, out of a little desperation I tried seeing if Ice Music was open one last time.

Driving down the road, my mind went , “Please God, please God, please God, please God, please God please…..”

Twenty minutes later, I was on my way home going, “Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God, thank you God,” with a cheeky grin on my face.

I left my house at 12.45 p.m., by the time I started changing that one string, it was almost five. Imagine that, an entire day for a single piece of string.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

prayerful Faith

Last Sunday there was an event for Global Day of Prayer (GDOP) and I went, which is funny because if you had asked me just a couple of years ago, I might have opted to sleep instead really. I guess I surprised myself by being up for it this time.

If you’re wondering what GDOP is about, its simply a day set aside just to pray for the nation, as a whole body, joining churches from different backgrounds and denominations.

I think what I was very happy to see was a group of people who care about Malaysia, who care enough to pray for it. They didn’t come to pray to condemn the nation for all its ills but to bless it, which I think is an incredible attitude and one people need in their work or opinions about Malaysia. 

Among the things we see happening in Malaysia and around the world is an increasing amount of people who are angry, who are dissatisfied, who are trying to reach justice but are disappointed by the people in power. At the same time some of these people themselves aren’t so innocent either. With a spirit of contempt and condemnation, they may try to throw everything they have against those who have done them injustice but fail to deliver a real solution. Yet, there are those who truly want to see righteousness prevail but are heavily challenged by men lacking integrity and maybe even those who are fickle minded that only support good causes when its trendy.

Needless to say, its complicated. Its just complicated.

As far as Malaysia is concerned, everybody is well aware of the looming elections and it will probably be an important part of her history, but who can people really trust to lead the country? While it is more than obvious there’s dissatisfaction with the current authority, it doesn’t seem so clear how an opposition led party would run the nation either, not to mention the consequences and the after-effects of an opposition win (after all Malaysia can’t clean itself overnight and neither would a losing party go down without a fight).

Not only that, conflicts and internal arguments are familiar within both major political parties, neither is clean of impurities. I clearly remember chatting with someone who said that probably at the end, we’re not really voting for one party who’s that much better than the other, just trying to pick out the lesser evil of both. Whether that’s true or not, Malaysia still has to go to the polls soon and I’m sure at the back of our heads we’re wondering what happens next?

With so many factors and variables to consider, the only thing that people are sure of is that everything is uncertain.

You see, at the end of the day, as the pastors mentioned, the future of Malaysia does not lie in the hands of a single political party. In all that is happening and that will happen; we know that God is over all.

That is why, that night, we didn’t pray for a particular political party to win the elections, but we did pray for righteousness,truth and justice to prevail in Malaysia. We prayed for God to put into power people of integrity, people that would shun sin and serve the nation genuinely.

Not focusing solely on the nation’s leadership or political arena; we also prayed for more fundamental issues, including a restoration of relationships in this land.

You see, there’s a saying out there that goes something like, ninety percent of problems in the world are caused by people. If we look at a lot of the dissatisfaction and dissent among each other, it really boils down to our relationships with one another.

For a myriad of reasons, Malaysia is a very divided nation. Just looking at it skin deep we can already see the nation divided by race, caused not just by the law, but even by cultural norms of past and present that lead to different sorts of prejudices. Even without ethnicity, society is split further when we have people who are richer or more affluent than others. Don’t we know those who are poorer or of middle income that have some sort of grudge towards the wealthy? Searching even deeper, I dare say that even within the family unit, there is also division. There are many, many broken relationships in our society.

That’s why that night we prayed for God to be above all those relationships to heal the relationships that have been strained or broken. I believe God can and will work to heal relationships that will break through racial divides and all forms of prejudice and racism. We also prayed for God to bring restoration of relationships in families.

After praying through many things, the pastors eventually closed the night by reminding everybody that in praying, its not just about uttering words and requests, but also living out our faith and blessing the nation with our own lives. What’s the point of praying for integrity if we ourselves engage in corruption?

In believing God for all these things to happen, we also need to understand that God works through us, which is why we need to have the right attitude and the right posture, not just the right words.

I believe that God will move if we continue to pray, continue to have faith in Him and continue to make an effort to bless our nation, in the homes, schools, offices and everywhere else.

Keep working, keep praying, keep believing.