For company and country

November 2010 was Amazing Thailand month for me. I spent 10 days in Bangkok. Quite a long stretch. But I did not get to see much of the city. It was hard work, 0900-1800 every day, except Sunday. This, coupled with the fact that the hotel was a good many kilometers outside the city, made me only see the city proper from the taxi – from the airport and back to the airport.

Then came December 2010. It was a hectic month. For  one week at the beginning of the month I and a colleague found ourselves in Busan, Korea. Our flight there was just several tense days after the North fatally shelled one of the South’s border islands, resulting in retaliatory shelling by the South, and the North counter-retaliating with threats of more on the way should the then coming South Korea-US military exercises were to proceed.

We did NOT want to go to Korea. We asked the boss’ views of the situation (read – please boss, tell us don’t go) , but the boss said “well, Busan is in the south of the country, quite far from the hot spot..should be OK”. Little comfort to us. The boss might have chosen to not remember that Incheon airport was effectively near the border with the North…

At KLIA airport we prayed hard that a miracle would happen – that Malaysia Airlines would cancel the flight on their own accord or upon advice by the government. But nothing of the sort materialized. Despite the tense situation between the two Koreas, the flight to Incheon was full.

Anyway, we made it to cold Incheon then to freezing and foggy Gimpo and finally arriving in Busan at the cold but still beautiful Haeundae Beach. Five days later we bundled ourselves on the earliest morning flight out of Busan to Incheon and 3 hours later were safely cocooned on Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-300 back to Malaysia.

Scarcely one week home, I was out again – to Shenzhen, China, for another week. Similar to Bangkok and Busan, the Shenzhen trip was no joy. It was daily morning-till-night work.

It is now January 2011. And I had thought this would be a peaceful month where I could spend quality time with the family on terra firma here in Kuala Lumpur. But today I and another colleague were told that we were required to go to Vietnam later this month. For company and country….

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The thing I like about jogging around the perimeter of the neighborhood playground is that I can abort the jog anytime I want. If I so decide, I would only be at most 250 meters from the starting point.

The perimeter distance is 500 meters. I normally do 8 laps around the playground in 32 minutes. The speed is nothing to phone home about, it is just slightly higher than a fast walk. Nevertheless, that gives me 4 km of cardiovascular exercise every morning. The jog plus the cool down flexibility and strength routines afterward take a total of 45-50 minutes.

Even though every time is a struggle against self, it feels really good afterward. When I arrive at the office’s basement 2A car park 10 minutes before my flexible clock-in of 9.00 am, I can effortlessly walk the stairs 4 levels up to the elevator on Ground floor. In fact the feel good effect lasts for the whole day.

This routine is disrupted whenever I’m away on trips. No more playgrounds. But then there would be the hotel’s gymnasium or fitness center’s treadmills. I’m equally at home on those machines. I wish I had done this much earlier than when I started 17 months ago in June 2009.

But I suppose starting late is better than not starting at all. And I treat every day as a challenge. And I keep reminding myself of the pearls that a wise teacher once gave me – success is the progressive realization of worthwhile predetermined personal goals. And one of my goals is to consistently do the workouts so that I could reclaim the fitness of those many years ago, and in the process be at peace with myself, able to do all my duties, and still have reserve energy for the unforeseen….

Posted in My Reflections | 2 Comments

Fiber to the Home

On March 24, 2010 TM launched UniFi, its much-awaited High Speed Broadband service. According to TM, UniFi is a combination of “Uni” signifying togetherness and camaraderie, and “Fi” symbolizing fiber optics.

For residential customers, UniFi offers a bundled triple-play service of high-speed internet, video and phone. For internet, the speed choices are 5 Mbps, 10 Mbps or 20 Mbps. For video, it is IPTV, delivered on a separate 8 Mbps channel, and consisting of TV channels, Video on Demand and Interactive Services.

Service delivered would depend on the type of building the customer resides in. For houses, it would be optical fiber all the way, in what is known as Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) architecture. For high-rise building such as apartments and condominiums, the fiber runs to the ground floor of the building, and then connects to the customer’s premises via existing in-building copper cabling, in what is known as Fiber-To-The-Building (FTTB)+Very high speed Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) configuration.

On March 24, I was in Busan, South Korea (see here, and here) eagerly following the launch online. TM’s website was congested, so I could not get updates from that site. Instead, I got an almost real-time information of the launch on Twitter.

It was exciting. I could literally experience UniFi in Busan. Not the Malaysian UniFi, but the Korean high-speed internet which gave me glimpses of what UniFi could deliver. I consistently experienced aggregates of 5 Mbps or more downloading movies! One of the movies I managed to locate and download was Splash, a 1984 movie I watched 3 times (!) at a cinema in Perth, Australia, when I was a final year Electrical Engineering student at UWA suffering from examination blues.

Was my home in UniFi coverage?. Seemed to be that way. At launch, we were informed that premises in 4 areas of Klang Valley were covered by UniFi – Subang Jaya, Shah Alam, TTDI and Bangsar. I was confident that my home was in one of the 4 areas because way back in November 2009 I saw TM contractors laying fiber optic cables around my neighborhood and terminating them at newly constructed roadside cabinets. Talking to them, I gathered that their target was to complete the works before Eid Adha which fell on November 27, 2009. Additionally, I observed a new black cable with yellow stripes being strung on poles in the lane behind my house.

However, that was not meant to be. Even though the physical infrastructure was all there, the service was not yet available. That was it, until the morning of July 19, 2010, ten days after I had registered online,  I received a phone call from TM UniFi Centre informing me that UniFi was now available in my neighborhood.

In the afternoon of the same day, July 19, I went to the nearest TM Point outlet, and signed the required papers. Actually I did not need to do that, i.e. go to TM Point. After confirming that my house is in a UniFi area, I could have simply phoned TM UniFi Centre, told them that I wanted to sign up, and they would have given me a date for installation. During installation, TM staff would bring the necessary papers for me to sign.

Considering that UniFi service involves equipment more expensive that normal phone service, I found the new phone-in option by TM to be very refreshing and very welcome change. However I still prefer the old fashioned way. There’s nothing like holding a copy of the order form in my hands, to assure myself that I was really on my way to UniFi…

On July 30, 2010, the date of the appointment with UniFi installers, I took a one day leave from work. Actually I took two days – one day to prune a guava fruit tree behind my house which had grown too big that the fiber and copper cables in the back lane were partially hidden in the branches; and another day for the UniFi installation.

Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) Network Diagram. Each house is served by a single lighted fiber with downstream and upstream data being transmitted on different wavelength on the same fiber.

A typical TM UniFi wiring at a landed house.

A TM UniFi technician at the Fiber Distribution Point (FDP) on a telephone pole in the backlane of my house.

Inside the FDP box. The blue things are passive optical splitters. I was the first customer to be in this box, and I believe the first in the neighborhood to be optically connected!

The optical fiber drop cable in a 500m-length drum.

The cable was a local product, newly manufactured 3 months ago in April 2010

Two of three UniFi technicians, with the optical cable drum.

Preparing an optical connector for the Fiber Distribution Point box.

Stringing the optical drop cable from the FDP box to my house.

Structure of the optical drop cable.

Actual drop cable used by UniFi. 2 optical fiber cores, smaller than a needle, about same size as a human hair. The fiber type is Single-Mode.

Preparing optical connector for the Fiber Termination Box (FTB).

The FTB installed at the back wall of the house, its cover taken off. We can see fiber from the FDP coiled inside, terminated to a connector. Fiber going into the house was not yet done when this picture was taken.

Cable from the FTB was terminated at a Fiber Wall Socket (FWS) in the living room. This picture was taken from the net.

A UniFi bag brought by the technicians. It contained test equipment, or so I thought.

High Speed Broadband, on the other side of the bag.

The bag contained these four UniFi customer premises items – IPTV Set-top Box, Optical Network Unit (optical modem), Router and a DECT cordless phone; not test equipment as I had earlier thought.

All connected, tested and ready to go : cordless phone, optical modem, router, IPTV set-top box and its infrared remote controller.

TM-branded Huawei GPON Terminal. I call this an optical modem. The white cable at the top right is the fiber connected to the Fiber Wall Socket.

Back of the optical modem. From Left to Right: Optical cable, LAN cable to router, telephone cable to cordless phone, power cable from AC adaptor.

Underneath view of the modem. It is a Huawei EchoLife HG850a GPON Terminal.

D-Link DIR-615 Wireless-N router.

Back of the router, Left to Right: Antenna1, Red LAN cable to IPTV Set-top Box, LAN cable to optical modem, power cable, Antenna2.

Huawei IPTV Set-Top Box EC 2108E.

Back of the IPTV Set-top Box, Left to Right: Red LAN cable from router, Component Video sockets, Composite Video socket, Audio sockets, power cable. There are also sockets for S-video, HDMI and USB.

Underneath the IPTV Set-Top Box.

AC Power Adaptors for the 4 UniFi customer premises devices.

Channel mosaic screen of UniFi IPTV HyppTV service.

Second page of the HyppTV channel mosaic screen.

HyppTV Video-on-Demand screen.

HyppTV Interactive screen.

HyppTV Interactive Flight Information main screen.

Detailed flight information. This screen showed international arrivals at KL International Airport.

Internet speed test using a local Kuala Lumpur server. In this instance I got 4.96 Mbps download. The service I signed on was 5 Mbps. Impressive.

Internet speed test using a Los Angeles server, located 8,800 miles (14,162 km) away. In this instance I got 4.09 Mbps download. Very impressive.

My Streamyx ADSL modem and router. I would be terminating this service soon, after 7 years being a Streamyx customer since June 2003. I started with 384 kbps then upgraded to 512 kbps, then finally to 1 Mbps. I was very satified with the service, and it would be sad to say goodbye.

TM’s skilled and friendly UniFi technicians – Rusli, Syazamir and Rizani.

Posted in My Journeys | 43 Comments

Across Australia in 4 days, Part 5: The journey begins

Previously on Across Australia in 4 days:

Prelude: An Adventure About to Unfold
Part 1: Before the Journey
Part 2: Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Part 3: Sydney Landing
Part 4: Face to face with the Indian Pacific

Sat 3 Oct 2009  1:50 pm

The Indian Pacific locomotive at Sydney Central Station

I noticed several people checking something with the train staff at a makeshift counter at the head end of Sydney Central Station’s Platform 2 and 3. I went there, and saw that the train staff had a passenger list. I pulled out my seat booking paper which I had printed back home in Kuala Lumpur, and with a bit of apprehension, gave it to one of the Great Southern Railway (“GSR”) lady staff manning the counter.

The Indian Pacific seen from Platform 2

I had half-expected my name not to be there. But I was pleasantly wrong – my internet-booked seat checked exactly with GSR’s printed records. Internet technology. You could book a seat from anywhere in the world, and when the time came for the actual travel, you could be reasonably sure that your name would be in the passenger manifest. I felt good that I was (and still am) partly instrumental, albeit minutely, in making that happen, with my involvement in sub-sea optical communication networks.

Sat 3 Oct 2009  2:00 pm

The Indian Pacific crew in splendid green, grey and gold outfit

I was on Platform 2 with a group of fellow travelers experiencing the on-platform welcome and boarding briefing by the train manager. Present with him were 10 or so smiling and cheerful-looking “train hospitality assistants“. The manager informed us that the Indian Pacific was a long train and had to be split into two halves at the station to fit the platforms as well as to ease boarding. The half that was on Platform 3, with the two locomotives, would be pushed back and join that on platform 2, making a long train of 700 meters length. Good thing they split the train that way. Otherwise the poor people assigned to the front cars would have to walk more than half a kilometer to their seats!

Fellow travelers, on the more expensive Gold Service

Red Service fellow travelers

Indian Pacific Red Service, car R

Me with my next-3-nights-home-on-rails

Sat 3 Oct 2009  2:20 pm

Seat 35 Aisle

At the end of the car were toilets - a Gents and a Ladies

View from the rear of the cabin

View from my seat. At the front end were two unisex shower cubicles. Fresh towels were on the left-side overhead rack

Finally. I entered the train at Red flagged car S. My seat was in the adjoining car R, number 35 on the aisle. Red fabric seats with light green leather head cover. The seats looked to be bigger than an airliner economy seat. Maybe as big as a business class seat. That was encouraging… Overhead, there were dual layer luggage racks – the upper one was wide and held in place by a series of sturdy-looking stainless steel cantilevers bolted to the walls of the car. Obviously the rack was meant for bigger and heavier bags, while the lower rack was one half as wide, for laptops and small items.

Sat 3 Oct 2009  2:30 pm

A Chinese-looking man joined the car, and occupied the seat next to me, 36 window. After some talk, got to know his name, Wilfred, a Perth resident who had migrated to Australia from New Zealand and was originally from Kuching, Malaysia. Small world!. Wilfred was on board the Indian Pacific with his wife and son, who both occupied the seats immediately in front of us. From our brief conversation, he was really keen on solar power. Wilfred and family was on their way back to Perth after spending several days in Sydney. And guess what, they were returning to Perth on the Indian Pacific after crossing over the Australian continent on the Indian Pacific as well! Adventurous folks! And I thought I was an adventurous guy….

Sat 3 Oct 2009  2:55 pm

The train started to move. In was on time. Dead on. That debunked those very negative reports of Indian Pacific on the internet…

Posted in My Journeys | 2 Comments

The tire

I was in Sungai Buloh, a town at the northern outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, to meet my two NGO colleagues. The three of us were planning for a 3-country Middle East whirlwind discovery tour sometime next month.

After finishing our short discussion on the itinerary and preparations for the trip, we made our way back to Kuala Lumpur via the Sungai Buloh-Kepong road and the Damansara-Puchong Highway.  I was playing sweeper, patiently trailing my colleagues who were driving a Toyota Innova MPV and a Mitsubishi Storm EVO 4WD. Just before the Penchala Toll Plaza, I overtook both vehicles and left them queuing at the toll gates, while I negotiated the curves of the toll-free motorcycle lane around the perimeter of the toll complex.

Less than 2 km away I exited the highway and entered the hilly Penchala Link, glided through the 700-meter long, widest Malaysian highway tunnel, into Sri Hartamas, Bukit Kiara and Damansara.

The bike’s twin-cylinder 535 c.c. engine purred smoothly, with a pleasant  whistling sound emanating from the V-twins entering my AGV helmet. I felt like riding the whole day, on and on, until the sun sets. But reality put a brake to the reverie when I arrived at my office. Oh well, riding off into the sunset would have to wait 🙂

Emergency repair. The Bridgestone Exedra G702 rear tire, punctured and worn, being taken off, at the nearest bike shop to my office.

After parking my bike, I walked to the building’s cafeteria at the end of the basement 2 parking lot and got myself a can of chilled winter melon tea, take-away. Passing my bike on the way to the elevator, I noticed something odd about the rear tire of the bike. Closer look revealed that the tire had lost pressure, and the wheel had descended 3 inches closer to the ground. It was 1.00 pm, still 5 hours to go before office closing time. If I left the bike as it was, I would have trouble going home that day. Better hold off enjoying that chilled winter melon tea.

The sturdy 15-year old Virago XV535S with the rear wheel taken off. The nail which punctured the tire was duly located and pulled off, and a new inner tube installed. The worn Bridgestone tire remained on the wheel while I made my way to a bike shop which had stock of similar tires, 8 km away.

After putting back on my jacket, helmet and gloves, I rode the bike to a petrol station 300 meters from the office. Attempts to pump some air into the tire did not achieve anything. The tire remained flat.

Ignoring the flat tire, I gingerly rode the bike in medium traffic to the nearest bike shop about 2 kilometers away. It was quite a scary experience. The rear of the heavy 200-kg all-steel bike wobbled alarmingly around curves. I half-expected the bike to fall to the side at one time, but alhamdulillah that did not happen, and I made it safely to the bike shop.

The rear wheel was taken off the second time, 30 minutes later and 8 km away at a second bike shop, in Jalan Sentul, Kuala Lumpur. A new tire was selected and installed.

The bike shop catered to smaller bikes, but luckily they had in stock inner tubes suitable for my bike. I enjoyed my chilled winter melon tea while waiting for the job to be completed.

After the wheel was taken off the bike, I realized just how worn out the tire was. It needed replacement – fast. Today. Now. I could not afford to wait another day. The center of the tire had worn so much that it would take only a short nail to drive in and puncture the inner tube.

The new rear tyre being put back to the bike.

After paying RM38 for the inner tube, I rode the bike 8 kilometers into Kuala Lumpur to my regular bike shop in Jalan Sentul.

The shop did not have in stock the Bridgestone Exedra G702 I had for my rear wheel. There was a Pirelli City Demon which I had once used for the front wheel, but the size the shop had for rear use was too small.

The old Bridgestone on top of 3 smaller bike tires.

The shop supervisor then recommended to me a made-in-Taiwan Kenda Challenger K657 H-rated, said to be safe up to 130 miles per hour. That was equivalent to 209 km per hour, which was about 60 km/h less than rotation speed for a Boeing 747-400 aircraft !!.  That was high speed enough for me. I never exceeded 150 km/h on the bike anyway.

The single tire and inner tube cost me RM408. Quite hefty compared to a small car’s tire cost, but less than the cost for a higher performance bike tire.

With a new tire and tube, the bike felt more agile than before.

Maybe I should now seriously consider the riding- into-the-sunset idea. The bike had new, reputable tire. And the engine had been renewed after the recent overhaul.

A solo 544-km ride north to Padang Besar, near Thailand’s southern border with Malaysia, would be a welcome change amidst Economy-class trips around Asia-Pacific….

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The consultant

A shepherd was herding his flock in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of the dust cloud towards him.

The driver, a young man in a Broni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses and YSL tie, leaned out the window and asked the shepherd… “If I tell you exactly how many sheep you have in your flock, will you give me one?”

The shepherd looked at the man, obviously a yuppie, then looked at his peacefully grazing flock and calmly answered “sure”.

The yuppie parked his car, whipped out his IBM ThinkPad and connected it to a cell phone, then he surfed to a NASA page on the internet where he called up a GPS satellite navigation system, scanned the area, and then opened up a database and an Excel spreadsheet with complex formulas. He sent an email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, received a response.

Finally, he prints out a 130-page report on his miniaturized printer then turns to the shepherd and says, “You have exactly 1586 sheep.

“That is correct; take one of the sheep.” said the shepherd. He watches the young man select one of the animals and bundle it into his car.

Then the shepherd says: “If I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my animal?”.

“OK, why not.” answered the young man.

“Clearly, you are a consultant.” said the shepherd.

“That’s correct.” says the yuppie, “but how did you guess that?”

“No guessing required.” answers the shepherd. “You turned up here although nobody called you. You want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked, and you don’t know crap about my business

…… Now give me back my dog.”

Posted in Selected Articles | 1 Comment

On the run

Today was my first day in office after spending last week in Bandung, Indonesia.

6.45 am was a normal time that I left home for office for the past 2 months. But today, 6.45 am found me donning my running shoes instead, and at 6.50 am I was at the neighborhood playground warming up before starting on my customary 8 round 30-minute jog along the perimeter of the grounds.

Sparkling morning dew on the grass blades at a USJ playground

It was an exhilarating feeling to see the vista of morning dew as I plod along, creating a trail in the undisturbed grass. To savor the red glow of morning sunrise. To drink in the sight of clear blue skies. To breathe in the unmistakeably fresh  cool morning air.

After the aerobics phase of the workout, a 15-minute routine of strength and flexibility exercises followed that before I walked home for a refreshing shower.

Sunrise and blue skies

At 8.00 am I sent my son Adam to his kindergarden, before proceeding to office. In spite of the heavy traffic in Subang Jaya and the very heavy congestion on the Federal Highway towards Kuala Lumpur, I arrived at the office, 24 kilometers away, scarcely 30 minutes later.

The revived Virago, at a rest stop during a post-repairs test run from USJ to Batu 3 Shah Alam, then through heavy evening home traffic on the ELITE Highway to Cyberjaya, then return via the LDP Highway. All toll-free !

Today was the first day that I resumed riding my venerable bike to the office, after a 2-month break (See here, and here)

I could have taken an easy way out. Abandon the 15-year old 535 c.c. bike. Buy a new one. Maybe a brand new 650 c.c. Kawasaki ER6F.

But I chose to weather the storm. I chose to stay faithful. And the sense of accomplishment of successfully plowing through the difficulties made me feel really good.

To me, the tidy sum expended making the bike roadworthy again, and the eternity of time spent waiting; was worth every Ringgit and every hour.

On the Run at the edge of Cyberjaya

I am free again.

Free to resume my morning work outs before going to work. Free from being trapped in the morning and evening rivers of traffic. Free from road tolls. Free from the increasingly exorbitant car parking fees at the office. Free to leave office late and yet arrive home in good time for the Maghrib (dusk) prayers.

Freedom is priceless.

I could run anywhere I want. Anytime I wish.

Anyone want to join me ?

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I’m back home.

My CMOY headphone amplifier. Built in 2007. Lost in Bandung, Indonesia in 2010.

The return journey from Bandung was uneventful, except that unlike my other trips before this, my CMOY headphone amplifier did not make it back home with me.

The reason – a rookie AVSec personnel at the airport had shown an inordinately keen interest with the amplifier.

I had earlier passed his grilling at the side of the X-Ray scanner by demonstrating, on his request, that the thing was harmless and did what it was supposed to do and nothing else.

His colleague manning the scanner then shook my hand and gave me a non-visible signal on my palm, and remarked “kantung itu masih berisi, Pak?” (Indonesian for “the pocket still got something?”), to which I replied “Hampir habis Pak, berbelanja di sini” (“Nearly empty, shopping here”).

After complying with the kantung guy’s directive to leave the CMOY’s 9 volt battery behind, I was then let off to go up the stairs to the Departure room.

Then several minutes later the AVSec rookie came up barrelling straight to me and asked that I took my belongings – laptop bag, SLR camera bag and a Kartika Sari Bakery plastic bag containing 2 local brownies cakes; and follow him downstairs. The other passengers looked at me perplexingly. I felt like a fugitive.

He took me down to a room. I prepared myself for the worst. I felt like I was in real-life episodes of Robert Ludlum or Clive Cussler thrillers. The room was full of CCTV monitors.

The AVSec guy then quizzed me again, and then called another of his colleague, this one in plainclothes batik shirt, who seemed to be an expert but unprofessionally used my Maglite Solitaire flashlight to microscopically probe the innards of the CMOY. He did not say much. Then the AVSec guy pulled off the batik-clad guy away from me and whispered something. This was done not once, but twice!

I then informed the AVSec that the amplifier had gone through Indonesia’s biggest international airport Soekarno-Hatta in Jakarta and the smaller Padang’s Minangkabau airport in Sumatera, as well as airports all over the world, without any problems.

I meant the airports in Sydney, Perth, Manila, Caticlan, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Changsha, Incheon, Busan, Singapore, Taipei, Paris Charles De Gaulle, Los Angeles, Stockholm Arlanda, Newark and Washington Dulles, which had all seen the CMOY; but I did not rattle off the names to him so as to to preserve his dignity.

Nevertheless, he stubbornly still ruled that the amplifier was not safe for flight.

The amplifier was not the only item in my laptop bag that he was keenly scrutinizing. He painstakingly inspected my Dell laptop’s power brick, my Seagate FreeAgent 500GB 2.5 inch external disk drive, my collection of USB wires and flash drives – and strangely enough, my Parker ballpoint pen refill. Again and again.

I understood the underlying messages readily enough, but I chose not to outwardly show my understanding of them. I played along.

And the casualty – my CMOY amplifier, which I had to leave behind, reluctantly, with the AVSec guy.

In spite of the sadness I felt great. I had shown to the AVsec and the kantung guy that I was not about to give in to their messages.

The loss of the CMOY was a blessing in disguise.

My three CMOY headphone amplifiers. The 3rd CMOY was detained at Bandung Airport on May 7, 2010. The 2nd CMOY was lost on Jan 20, 2007 together with my baggage during flight from Washington Dulles to Newark Airport, USA. The 1st CMOY is still with me.

I had been planning for several months now to build a new CMOY, using my newly-learned technique of making etched circuit boards without using photo-sensitive blanks or acid-resistant pens. I would still be using Ferric Chloride to etch the copper-backed circuit board though. And the technique to transfer the circuit pattern to the copper is quite novel and elegant in its simplicity.

I already have the necessary components to rebuild the CMOY – Burr-Brown Texas Instruments Op-Amps, electrolytic and metallized polyester capacitors, metal film resistors, toggle switch, stereo mini jacks, power indicator LED, stereo volume control, all-copper circuit board, ferric chloride chemical compound, laser printer, acetone, etc. What I need is time.


In the meanwhile, goodbye to my 3rd CMOY amplifier. May you have a long life, wherever you now are.

Posted in My Journeys | 3 Comments


Indonesia AirAsia's well-travelled Boeing 737-300 at Bandung, upon arrival from Kuala Lumpur

I’m here in Bandung, Indonesia. At the local airport yesterday afternoon my luggage appeared on the single carousel quite early compared to the other travelers. But there were X marks all over the bag. I was really sure that at the airport check-in in Kuala Lumpur 3 hours earlier the marks were not there. My traveling colleague remarked that they looked uncannily like the marks chalked by Ketua Penyamun’s (Leader of the Thieves) sidekick in the P. Ramlee’s classic movie Ali Baba Bujang Lapok. I felt quite apprehensive.

Terminal building of Husein Sastranegara International Airport, Bandung

And sure enough, at the green Customs lane, I was asked to step aside and requested to open the bag. No problem. The officer immediately picked up a hotel shoe bag containing my jogging shoes and socks. She was clearly looking for something in there, but did not find anything interesting.

My bag, which had traveled with me in 2009 to Sydney, then across Australia on the Indian Pacific train to Perth, and also been to Changsha, China; with telltale white X beacon marks upon arrival in Bandung, Indonesia

She then picked up and opened my neatly boxed travel computer speakers. Fine. Just a pair of cute high-fidelity small-sized speakers. Then she pointed to my Malaysia Airlines toiletries bag. No issue. Only my toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clipper, trimming scissors, hair comb and hair cream were in there.

A signboard at the Arrival side of the airport terminal

Then her attention shifted to another toiletries bag. Errr.. this one might need a bit of an explanation. The bag contained a long nose pliers, a cutter pliers, a Swiss knife clone, an electrical test pen, a roll of electrical insulation tape, a roll of 10-mm masking tape, a short length of insulated wire and a tiny box of sewing needles and threads. A kind of mini toolbox.

But lucky for her, she did not ask me to explain those items. If she had, I would have spent several minutes rambling on my reasons for the items and telling her that I never leave home without them. A sort of survival kit for me. Those items had proven their worth on my trip to Jakarta a year ago, when I found that my laptop computer’s power adapter wires had became frayed, causing intermittent energy supply to the laptop. I split open the wires and re-spliced them using some copper strands cannibalized from a power extension cord I brought along. I did not have an electrical insulation tape then, but luckily I had a roll of surgical tape in my first aid bag, so that saved my day and enabled me to use the laptop for the rest of my stay.

I was let go by the Bandung airport customs officer after that.

In the taxi, the driver told me that security at the airport had been tightened after the interception of a luggage bag containing contraband drugs just a couple of days before. So that explained the bag search.

A Linksys wireless router on a wall outside my room, providing full-strength connection to the world

At the hotel we found that our names were not in their reservation list! A phone call to our host revealed that he had booked us into another hotel down the road. A case of small miscommunication. In the waning daylight, we hauled our bags by the roadside, and 15 sweaty minutes later walked into the lobby of the correct hotel. It later turned out that the incident was a blessing in disguise – the hotel chosen for us by our host was much nearer our meeting venue, and just across the road from a major shopping center with a supermarket, a departmental store and most importantly, a food court…

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Wrong Person

I’m afraid you’ve got the wrong person. I don’t remember knowing anyone named Nordin and I am not from SMS Terengganu…….

That was the opening line in an email I got 2 days ago on April 27, 2010.  The email came in reply to the one I sent out several days before, trying to locate another of my long-lost school friend.

My heart sank. Oh no, not another wrong person. I’d hit the same wall before, about 2 months ago, when a Facebook name I sent message to replied that he was not who I thought he was…

Reading on, I came across the paragraph that made my day – “Just kidding…of course I remember you. Memang lama betul ye.. I think the last time kite correspond, masa tu you were still studying in Australia and I had just came back to Malaysia, I think. Good to hear from you and sorry lambat balas your mail. I was travelling and not easy to keep up with email when travelling.

I was very happy. That email was from my school friend Long Suhaimi, who I’ve not heard from for the past 25 years. And for that I’m grateful to his brother Long Ahmad Zulrushdi, who I had found, quite by accident, to be working in the same company as myself, and who had given me Long Suhaimi’s email address.

November 1978, SMS Terengganu. Long Suhami and myself, with 4 of our classmates in front of an unfinished mural painting at the side of the school assembly hall.

1977 SMS Terengganu. Form 4 Science 4 class photo. Our class was last in terms of numbering because it was formed late, to fill a vacancy, using imported (bright?) students from various schools in Terengganu. As a result, our class became something of an outcast before finally being accepted later in the year by other “original” students. Cikgu Noraini Nordin was our class teacher

1978 SMS Terengganu. Form 5 Science 1 class photo. The bulk of the class consisted of previous year’s Form 4 Science 4 students, who had managed to make our way to the number one class.  This was our final year at the high school before we went our separate ways. Our teachers were all here, including class teacher Ms Mary Paul. Ms Paul wrote for me a glowing testimony letter, which was partly instrumental in getting me to Australia well ahead of the publication of results of Malaysia Certificate of Education examination.

A testimony authored by Ms Mary Paul, my 1978 class teacher at SMS Terengganu, Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia

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