Monthly Archives: January 2005

RoyalMail sucks

Last year RoyalMail boasted that they now, after privatisation, able to make close to 1 million poundsterling per day; in contrast to losing 1 million per day before privatisation.

But at what cost ? Service already suffers – many Post offices (PO) has been closed down, and customers in remote areas suffers the most, where POs are enabling them to enjoy various services – taking their pensions, sending letters to loved ones, taking their benefits, etc.

And it has been sometime that RoyalMail’s staff suffers as well. There has been industrial action taken.
And even our Indonesian community suffers too – a few friends has been slaving themselves away on Christmas to get some money. They’ve been working for weeks now, sometimes even all night long. Now, some are ready to leave the country after finishing their study here.

However, RoyalMail is still YET to pay their wages.

I’ve said before that privatisation is not the magic solution to all problems, as implied by the corporate-loving Labours, and RoyalMail is just another proof of it. If the management sucks, you replace them, and threaten the new ones not to make the same mistake – not privatise the company instead. Doh.

Tips mengirim kontainer

Nyaris semua pelajar di luar negeri melakukan ritual ini – pengiriman barang via kontainer ke Indonesia, setelah urusan belajar mereka selesai.
Ternyata, packing barang untuk kontainer harus benar caranya, karena kalau tidak maka akan memakan waktu belakangan untuk membetulkan berbagai kekurangan. Beberapa tips :

  • Sewaktu packing, langsung saat itu juga lakukan hal-hal berikut ini :
    • Catat jenis-jenis barang di box ybs
    • Catat jumlah dari masing-masing barang tsb
    • Catat dimensi box (panjang x lebar x tinggi = volume mtr kubik)
    • Nomori box dengan spidol besar

    Packing saja sudah cukup melelahkan memang, lalu ditambah dengan tetek-bengek ini. Namun, ini akan sangat memudahkan sewaktu kemudian melapor ke panitia kontainer. Karena kalau tidak, maka Anda akan terpaksa membongkar kembali box-box Anda, yang sudah rapi tersusun, dan melakukan hal-hal tersebut diatas – lelahnya malah jadi berlipat-lipat.

  • Labeli box dengan menggunakan spidol besar :
    Label dengan kertas biasanya akan sobek ketika box dimasukkan ke kontainer, dan kemudian tergeser-geser dengan lantai / box lainnya. Dan tanpa label, maka barang Anda bisa tidak terantar / sulit dilacak keberadaannya.
  • Isi box sepadat-padatnya :
    Kalau ada ruang kosong di box, maka ini bisa jadi menyebabkan box kita hancur sewaktu ditimpa box-box lainnya di kontainer. Tips : Manfaatkan baju-baju Anda untuk mengisi celah-celah kosong di box-box Anda.
  • Jangan pelit lakban :
    Lakban / duct tape hendaknya dimanfaatkan betul-betul untuk mengamankan box Anda – kelilingi box Anda 2 kali, lalu lakukan sekali lagi tapi dengan melintangi lakban yang sebelumnya. Maka insyaAllah box Anda akan sampai dengan utuh / tidak terburai / hancur di tujuan.

Semoga bermanfaat.

Goodbye England

Finally, after living in UK for 6 years, it’s time for us to return back to Indonesia. Our parents are now old, so we’d like to be together with them while we still can.
Since we already got UK’s Permanent Resident status, we can always go back to UK pretty much anytime we want to anyway, should we change our minds later in the future.

But for now, goodbye England.

Problems with Tsunami Aid for Aceh

While your average John/Jane Doe donates generously and with no strings attached whatsoever – the big institutions are giving their donations reluctantly, and many came with so many strings attached, even a spider can be trapped in it.

I’ll document them in this post for your information :

  • Published as aid – but in reality, just another loan : USA was especially stingy about its aid to the tsunami victims, and only after being whipped by [ Mr. Egeland ] did they start increasing their “aid”. However, then it turned out that aid from them and several other countries are, in fact, loans. While Japan and other countries donated US$ 500 million straight away and with no strings attached.
    Another loan is actually harmful, since Indonesia is already very deep in debt, most of its budget is allocated for debt / interest payment – not for its own people.
  • Published as aid – but in reality, still unrealised / just a pledge: Another trick is to boast about one’s aid to the tsunami victim, while haven’t actually giving it out. If we looked into the Bam earthquake disaster in Iran, where US$ 1 billion was pledged but only a miniscule US$ 17.5 millions was realised, I think the victims would be better to forget about it now.
  • Published as aid – in reality; hidden conversion and/or kidnapping : Wahington Post already published that 300 orphans were taken from Aceh by WorldHelp, to be raised as Christians. This is SO wrong because (a) This is kidnapping, since Indonesian government has already forbid taking Acehnese children to outside Aceh, and (b) I don’t care about people preaching their religion to others, but when you have NO CHOICE (ie: you became a victim, taken away, then WILL be raised as Christians) then this is plain disgusting and an insult to their dead parents (which wouldn’t want to see their kids raised as non-Muslim).

If you have any more info about other disgusting acts at the time of this crisis, please let me know by commenting in this post. Help stop dishonest institutions/people from taking credit for what really is a crime, or something that they didn’t do.

Thank you.

Masalah temperatur

Kebetulan membaca artikel ini, disitu diingatkan mengenai suatu hal yang jarang dibahas – perhatikan temperatur di ruang server Anda.

Kita sudah bersusah-payah membuat server kita tahan banting dengan banyak cara – pasang UPS, RAID, prosedur backup, dst; tapi kita justru sering lupa memikirkan apa yang akan terjadi jika AC di ruang server mati ?

Beberapa server bisa shutdown sendiri otomatis, namun beberapa harus kita konfigurasi untuk demikian terlebih dahulu – kalau tidak, maka server Anda rusak karena kepanasan.

Untungnya, jika AC di ruang server mati, biasanya ada cukup waktu untuk shutdown server secara manual sekalipun, sebelum suhu ruangan menjadi terlalu panas. Tapi kalau Anda tidak tahu, tentu tidak bisa melakukannya. Untuk itu, memasang alarm temperatur adalah ide yang baik, misalnya – [ 1 ] – [ 2 ] – [ 3 ] – dll.

Tapi kalau server Anda terlalu penting dan tidak bisa di-shutdown karena ini, lebih baik Anda juga membeli AC portabel misalnya.

Sekali lagi, jangan lupakan soal temperatur, atau Anda bisa jadi akan sangat menyesal di lain hari.

TNI versus GAM

Kalau saya lihat selama ini, kelihatannya sih keduanya sama saja – TNI suka semena-mena kepada rakyat, dan begitu pula dengan GAM (saya juga dapat konfirmasi ini dari seorang kawan wartawan).

Kalau pemerintah Indonesia betul tulus ingin menyelesaikan konflik di Aceh, sebetulnya caranya mudah : buat agar para pemberontak menjadi kehilangan alasan /dukungan dari rakyat untuk memberontak.

Misal :

  • Hentikan darurat militer di Aceh
  • Makmurkan Aceh – hasil sumber daya alam sebagian besar digunakan untuk kemamkmuran rakyat, dst.
  • TNI sekedar menjaga keamanan – jangan melakukan hal-hal seperti menuduh seseorang GAM tanpa bukti sama sekali.
  • Jangan sampai ada terdengar lagi tentara menganiaya rakyat – sangat aneh, karena seharusnya tentara justru melindungi rakyat.
  • Perkuat masyarakat – dekati tokoh-tokoh masyarakat, dan bekerjasama dengan mereka untuk memakmurkan rakyat.
  • dst

Jika ini dilakukan, maka tidak ada lagi alasan bagi rakyat Aceh untuk memisahkan diri dari Indonesia.

Tapi mungkin ini agak sulit dilakukan, karena ada beberapa “invisible hands” yang punya kepentingan agar ini tidak sampai terjadi…..

Air mata saya masih akan terus bercucuran untuk saudara-saudara saya di Aceh.

Public EWS

After observing the late tsunami disaster and events around it, I think only a Public EWS (Early Warning System) will be able to protect us significantly from such thing in the future.

The problem was not because of lack of EWS – there were reports on newspapers that warning has been sent to bureaucrats around the world : Thailand, India, and probably to Indonesia as well.
However, the warning got lost in the bureaucracy – and the tsunami managed to hit the people before they even know what it was.

Therefore, there should be a similar system, but available for public. So in case of another disaster, the bureaucrats won’t cause so much death again anymore – we’ll know straight away, and can take the appropriate action ourselves.

It’s a disgrace really that we have to do this, since we already elected and paid the bureaucrats to serve us. But if we value our lives, looks like we need to take matters into our own hands.

So here’s a list of things to do :

  • Raw data is already available from [ LISS ]. To my knowledge, we can use this freely, especially since this is not a commercial venture.
  • Need to convert raw data to earthquake co ordinate
  • Need to develop a reliable algorithm to find out if the quake will cause tsunami – does the epicenter is on land or sea ? Is it strong enough to cause tsunami ? etc
  • Notifications : SMS, email, pager, efax – make this done as much as possible by the machine, to speed up the process.
  • Security : notifications should only be send after the analysis verified by an on-watch geologist. The geologist will then press the red button – and only then the notifications will be send to all over the world.
  • Need someone to manage the contacts : we don’t want everyone to subscribe because false alarm may then cause chaos. But we also want as many people subscribed as possible – not just the politicians/bureaucrats (which may prioritise a political interest over a warning). Universities and NGOs are good contact points.
  • Need to develop the system to be resilient : make it easy to run multiple servers providing this service, with automatic fail-over when the master suddenly become unavailable.

Those are the requirements that I can think of so far.

Yes, indeed we’ll need to consult a geology expert to create this system, especially to develop the algorithms. I think this would make an excellend PhD thesis *hint* *hint*

What I can offer : I have a dedicated server on USA which can be used to develop and host this service. I may also be able to join in the development soon if it uses PHP/Ruby.

If anyone’s interested, let’s get in touch and co ordinate our efforts.

Computer appliance

I have a feeling that Apple will make another breakthrough again – finally establishing computer as an appliance, with the launch of Mac Mini.

People may finally start looking at computer as yet another household appliance – just like a microwave, fridge, washing machine, DVD player, etc. People will just use it, without needing to know much how it works under the hood.

It’s good because it’ll make computer more ubiquitous, and people will be able to benefit from it. It’ll hopefully enable people to do things they were not able to do before – sell their goods online / work from home, socialize with people on the other part of the world, finding out the knowledge pools on Internet, etc..

However, if that does happen, Apple will also need to think of a way to make sure that they all stay secure, seamlessly / without burdening the users. Something like Windows Update / Debian’s “apt” facility, but making sure that it won’t break things (unlike a few updates from Microsoft). It should be MUCH easier though, because Apple is working on a homogenic environment – unlike PC’s various configurations. So it’d be a complete disgrace if Apple failed to do this.

That said, I still won’t use Apple’s computers, because they’ve had bad track records on customer service – irreplaceable iPod battery, proprietary hardware/software, etc. I don’t like being locked into a certain vendor, it makes me feel like a hostage to their wishes. (and it has happened before)
However, don’t worry, I won’t criticise your personal decisions about this 🙂 I have too much things to do.

I’d be interested to see how the PC camp will react to this though.

Rokok : cara mati pelan-pelan yang menyakitkan

Nemu berita ini tidak sengaja, jadi ingat soal rokok.

Tahukah Anda :

  • Rokok dapat menyebabkan penyakit-penyakit berikut:
    • Impotensi
    • Jantung
    • Kanker lidah
    • Kanker tenggorokan
    • Gigi menjadi jelek
    • Kanker paru-paru
    • Keguguran kandungan
    • Bayi lahir prematur
    • Bayi lahir cacat
    • Mata menjadi rusak/cacat
    • Kulit cepat keriput
    • Suara serak
    • Bisu, karena pita suara terkena kanker
    • Tenggorokan banyak berdahak
    • Kanker pencernaan
    • Kanker ginjal
    • Kanker rahim
    • Leukimia
    • Tulang menjadi rapuh
    • Menstruasi menjadi makin menyakitkan
    • dan lain-lainnya
  • zat beracun yang ada di rokok misalnya :
    • Zat-zat penyebab kanker
    • Racun untuk napi hukuman mati
    • Bahan bakar roket
    • Bahan aki mobil
    • Racun semut
    • Pembersih lantai
    • dll
  • Rokok lebih membuat ketagihan daripada narkotika !(kecuali heroin)
  • Jadi, cara termudah untuk selamat dari rokok adalah dengan cara tidak pernah mencobanya sama sekali.
  • Jika Anda berhasil lepas dari ketergantungan dari rokok – selamat ! saya yakin tidak akan mampu melakukan hal seperti itu.
  • Setiap tahun, masyarakat miskin Indonesia membakar Rp 90 trilyun / Rp,- untuk membeli rokok.
  • Jumlah tersebut lebih besar daripada jumlah pinjaman Indonesia ke IMF / Bank Dunia /dll
  • Jumlah tersebut sebagian besar lari ke luar negeri, karena para pemilik pabrik rokok banyak yang bukan warga negara Indonesia
  • Melihat daftar penyakit yang bisa disebabkan oleh rokok, sekarang bisa dipahami mengapa perokok banyak yang meninggal pelan-pelan, setelah menderita berbagai macam penyakit dalam jangka waktu yang lama. Saya menyaksikan sendiri anggota keluarga saya yang menderita seperti itu, dan sangat menyedihkan melihat penderitaan yang dijalani oleh keluarganya selama bertahun-tahun.

    Masih ingin merokok ? Mudah-mudahan tidak lagi.

    Oracle versus MySQL

    There have been a quite good discussions regarding Oracle and MySQL in [ this ] particular Slashdot post.

    Clearly, in terms of high-end features, MySQL is FAR from matching Oracle.
    Example, this is the shortest paragraph that quite nicely explains what Oracle really is. It’s just too mind-boggingly different.

    Howeever, MySQL is more popular due to being available for free and good enough for most people. Which I have no problem with, in fact I’m using MySQL myself.

    If you’re interested in more comparisons, then click here.

    A note on database portability (since I was involved heavily on this topic for months) – even though this poster said that moving from Oracle is the hardest, in reality, I suspect that pretty much all database migration is painful. I’ve migrated a few apps which uses MySQL to Oracle, one of them actually already used ADODB – yet there were still problems that made me pull my hair.
    MySQL broke quite a few ANSI-SQL standards – although to be fair, I imagine that Oracle extended quite a lot of them instead; so that if you have apps optimized for Oracle, then you’ll experience hell if you want to migrate it.

    Back to the topic – the right way to compare Oracle / MySQL / whatever is not just strictly from performance / feature-set. If you do it this way, be prepared to be nastily surprised.

    For example, the potential problem of going with Oracle are quite a lot as well.
    First, you may encounter problems with its complex licensing scheme. Second, you need a highly skilled Oracle DBA specialist to be able to fully utilise it – jack-of-all-trade like me just won’t cut it. Third, if you think Oracle is expensive, the support cost may deter you from actually purchasing it (not buying support contract is plain suicide). Etc.

    If those still doesn’t stop you from buying Oracle, then here’s a tip to make it easier on your budget.

    In the end, the right way to compare (database) software is by comparing it against your own criterias / needs / requirements. Any other way, and you may be disappointed later in the future.

    The Bastards

    Sorry for the very strong words as the title of this post – but I just got news from my friend who is a journalist in Aceh; she told us that GAM / Aceh Rebels just robbed them, and took the money which will be used to buy food for the starving refugees.

    Can you believe that ?!!

    To all people who still think GAM / Aceh Rebels as caring-for-others freedom fighters – you can forget it now.

    Grr… this has ruined my day completely.

    Apache versus IIS

    I post this because I remember when I was in a meeting with several managers and other techies regarding a requirement to host an IIS-based web-application. The corporate standards for 5 years have dictated no use of IIS for external-facing web-services.
    However, this particular application is specifically coded to run on IIS, and it’s meant to be publicly available over the Internet.

    I started the meeting saying that, contrary to popular belief, IIS can actually be hardened to be secure enough to serve on Internet now. I can see rather shocked faces of people in the room, seeing this statement coming from an Apache “specialist” and open source advocate.
    But that’s the truth as I know it, and I think nobody would benefit by hiding it.

    However, the problem with IIS nowadays lies somewhere else :

    • Cost: Another popular belief is that IIS, being bundled by Windows server, is free. This can be very untrue. So far I’ve found 2 scenarios where using IIS may cost you dearly; for commercial webhosting, and when used to authenticate Internet users against Active Directory. And this may change (God knows for better or worse) in the future if Microsoft feels like it.
      Apache doesn’t and won’t cause you to suffer from these things.
    • Dependencies: I must admit that Microsoft is doing such an excellent job on getting their developers happy and make most of them uses Microsoft products. This is because Microsoft has made it easy to do so, and hard to do otherwise. However, this means that an IIS-application will be, most of the time, dependent to other Microsoft products – Active Directory for authentication, MS-SQL for database server, Exchange for email, and so on. So if one day you’re offered an IIS-application at a bargain price, examine again – it may require you to deploy a plethora of other products, that may cost you an arm and a leg.
    • Support: The dependency issue (see above) brings another issue – support. When you buy IIS and got Active Directory/MS-SQL/Exchange/etc as well; you need to ask yourself, do you have the staff to provide support to those products in case of problem ? If you don’t, then when a problem occured, then it will be you that’ll be under fire from the users – not Microsoft.
      (technical support ? obviously, you still think that paying thousand of dollars for silver level support will enable you to solve all problems in your mission critical apps in minutes – sorry, that’s not the case. Not even in hours in many cases. Yes, I’m being grim, or should I say realistic instead)
    • Security : Hey, didn’t I said that IIS6 is secure now ? OK, so IIS6 isn’t so full of holes like IIS4/5. However, when a hole is found, can you expect Microsoft to promptly patch it ? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. It’s already known that it may take even years sometimes for Microsoft to close a severe security hole. It doesn’t really give you a peace of mind, especially when you know that there are tools available in the underground communities that exploits this.
      Apache, and other open source software, on the other hand have been known to patch their security hole very quickly, sometimes in hours.
    • Lock-in : Miguel de Icaza and his Mono team does a stellar job making sure .NET is available on other platforms – not just Windows. However, the Windows lock is still there – a few months ago I was evaluating a .NET application, and found that it won’t run on Mono because it depends on an ActiveX component. So do be careful.
    • Security : Hey, again ?! Yes, I’ve seen cases where the security administrator wants to significantly secure the IT infrastructure by replacing the browser with alternatives (such as Firefox) – but can’t, because some critical IIS-applications tend to require, guess what, Internet Explorer.

    I think there are a few more problems with IIS, but I’m very tired at the moment so that’s it for now. Hope it helps enlighten someone else out there.

    MySQL tuning

    I’ve been notified of “Too many connections” errors lately (thanks to logcheck), and I just realized that I think I’ve missed a few emails from Yahoogroups.

    So looking around, I found out that MySQL’s table_cache was set to 64, and max_connections at 100. While table_cache really should be (max_connections * N), where N is the max number of tables that may be in a JOIN operation at anytime.

    No wonder that, when checked with mysqladmin -p status, table_cache always peaked at its maximum.

    table_cache has been raised to 512, and the server is running happily now.

    For those who suspect that they need to tune their MySQL installation, here are 2 good links :
    [ Tuning MySQL ]
    [ Tuning MySQL 4 ]


    Uncle Scrooge

    Bill Gates of Microsoft loves to be seen as the generous Uncle Bill. However, his true self was revealed recently. We had the biggest, most destructive natural disaster in decades – and Uncle Bill, the richest man in the world, can be only bothered to donate US$ 3 millions.

    Compare this to Mr Schumacher, who donated US$ 10 millions straight away.

    I think I’ll be watching F1 more often now then buying Microsoft software.

    Source: [ Wikipedia ] (see near bottom of the page)

    Multi-function device

    I’ve been interested in and looking for an ideal multi-function device for years now, partly because it’ll enable me to work anywhere anytime, without getting bogged down with big & heavy equipment.

    The Treo 650 looks most interesting now, especially after a series of hacks which increased its capabilities significantly.

    However – at this form-factor, I’ve found they’re still not powerful enough, because Li-ion (at that size) simply still doesn’t have enough capacity to power a more powerful processor, for an acceptable length of time.
    Various wireless features (bluetooth, WiFi, GSM, etc) also suck on batteries like babies on milk bottle.

    So after years of waiting, I must concede defeat, and will forget my dream for now – until a much better battery technology become mainstream.

    The Real US Gov’t

    US gov’t likes to be seen as the generous and caring Uncle Sam. However, they true self was revealed momentarily, when the tsunami disaster hit Asia a few days ago.

    When nations are donating vast amount of aid and money, US gov’t donated less than even Sweden.

    Only after Jan Egeland, Norwegian UN undersecretary, criticised them severely, then US gov’t suddenly increased their donation and moved their troops into the disaster area.

    Now US troops are among the most efficient helper in the area, but that won’t happen without the smack from Egeland. For that, Mr Jan Egeland, please accept my thanks on behalf of Aceh people and other victims – and we sincerely hope that Mr Bush’s wrath on your statement won’t cost you anything too dearly 🙁

    Arafat’s billions

    Many people sympathetic to Palestinians plight have long suspected Mr. Arafat’s motives. It seems that we’re correct after all, if the news [ here ] and [ here ] is true.

    Now let’s hope that someone that truly care about these poor Palestinians to be able to help them solve their decades of misery 🙁