Monthly Archives: March 2007

Misteri Sains

Banyak orang yang sudah merasa lelah, jemu, atau juga jeri dengan dogma. Banyak kemudian berpaling kepada sains, yang menawarkan logika yang cenderung bebas emosi dan obyektif. Beberapa kemudian menemukan ketenangan disana. Beberapa mungkin kemudian menganggap kebenaran pada sains sebagai suatu kebenaran yang lebih benar daripada kebenaran lainnya.

Kenyataannya, banyak juga “fakta” di sains yang sebetulnya masih belum terbukti. Bahkan yang sudah “terbukti” pun kadang terbukti keliru total di kemudian hari, atau paling tidak perlu direvisi.

Atau, kemudian ditemukan bahwa ada dua (atau lebih) kebenaran.

Satu contoh; air membeku pada suhu 0 derajat celcius. Ini adalah benar.
Namun, ternyata kemudian ditemukan bahwa air juga bisa membeku jika dialiri listrik — dan kemudian ditemukan bahwa air juga bisa membeku pada temperatur di atas suhu didihnya.

Sains memang sangat menarik, antara lain karena sains justru membawa lebih banyak pertanyaan daripada jawaban pada setiap penemuan. Seperti penemuan gravitasi, sejak “penemuan”-nya oleh Sir Isaac Newton, seluruh efeknya telah dipahami dengan baik. Tetapi, apakah gravitasi itu? Mengapa bisa tercipta gravitasi? Bagaimana caranya gravitasi bisa bekerja seperti demikian? Semuanya belum ada jawabannya.
Jadi, dari satu penemuan, kemudian muncul paling tidak tiga pertanyaan baru. Loads of fun 🙂

Masih sangat banyak hal-hal lainnya yang kita ketahui begitu saja tanpa betul-betul dipahami.
Mengenai massa, kita tahu massa dari setiap zat. Namun, mengapa massa dari zat X adalah sekian? Kenapa bukan sekian?
Atau konstanta – ada banyak konstanta, seperti kecepatan cahaya; yang kemudian menjadi salah satu pondasi paling fundamental dari fisika. Tapi, mengapa kecepatan cahaya adalah 299.792.458 meter/detik ? Kenapa tidak 300.000.000 m/dtk ? Atau 453.567.130 m/dtk ? Tidak ada yang tahu jawabannya.

Jadi, pada saat ini sains adalah seperti mobil. Kita adalah pengendaranya, dan kita sangat mahir mengendarai mobil itu. Tapi jangan tanya bagaimana mobil bisa berjalan, bagaimana cara kerjanya 🙂

Sains is very fun indeed.

Open-source bug hunt

Setelah berjalan selama satu tahun, Open Source Hardening Project telah berhasil menemukan banyak bugs di berbagai proyek open source. Paling tidak 6000 bugs telah dikoreksi, dan kini semakin banyak proyek open source yang di audit oleh proyek ini.

Para pengguna software open source bisa menikmati tingkat keamanan yang pasti makin meningkat & bisa dibuktikan secara jelas. Sementara dengan solusi proprietary / tertutup, customer hanya dapat berpegang kepada klaim & janji-janji dari vendor.

Satu alasan lagi untuk mempertimbangkan pemanfaatan solusi yang open.

Macintosh Plus

Saya sangat tertarik ketika menemukan bahwa kini sudah ada emulator Macintosh Plus, dan cukup mudah instalasinya – bahkan bisa dijalankan dari Flashdisk. . Setahu saya, ada banyak aplikasi yang bagus di platform ini. Salah satu yang ingin saya coba adalah HyperCard, untuk mengenalkan anak-anak ke computer programming.

Proses instalasi berjalan dengan cukup lancar. Dalam waktu yang tidak terlalu lama, di Ubuntu telah berjalan Macintosh Plus dengan memory 4 MB dan hard disk 1 GB 😀

Awal proses instalasi :
Macintosh Plus - instalasi awal

Up & running. Perhatikan bagaimana di komputer keluaran tahun 1986 ini sudah ada perhatian untuk orang cacat, fasilitas sharing file via network (bahkan fasilitas monitoringnya juga), dan bahkan special effects – ketika window di maximize / minimize maka ada efek zoom nya :
MacPlus - up and running

Rencananya nanti disk image yang dihasilkan akan saya sharing disini. Stay tuned. Atau mungkin sudah ada yang selesai membuatnya? Share lah 🙂

Open Source = National Security

Dari berbagai argumentasi yang saya sampaikan kepada para client, tentang mengapa sebaiknya mereka memilih solusi yang open, salah satunya (terutama client pemerintah / departemen) adalah security.
Pada solusi yang open, antara lain kita dapat melakukan source code auditing, sehingga kita dapat yakin bahwa software tersebut memang aman, dan tidak ada “titipan” dari pemerintah asing.
Hal ini sulit (kalau tidak bisa disebut mustahil) dilakukan pada software tertutup / proprietary.

Dan ini bukan hanya khayalan / fantasi saya saja. Kasus seperti sabotase pipa gas Rusia adalah salah satu kasus yang paling spektakuler.

Namun, yang perlu dicemaskan adalah kasus-kasus yang low profile, atau tersembunyi. Seperti, pencurian data-data rahasia secara diam-diam. Dan ini, lagi-lagi, bukan hanya skenario khayalan, namun sudah terjadi secara rutin dengan adanya Internet — ada beberapa mafia identity theft yang secara rutin mencuri data-data pribadi Anda dan kemudian menjualnya di black market.
Bagaimana kalau yang tercuri ternyata kemudian adalah rahasia negara? Pastinya akan dapat dijual lebih dari mahal dari detil kartu Visa Gold, yang dihargai sekitar US$ 100 di black market.

Mudah-mudahan dengan pertimbangan ini (dan lain2nya), maka pemerintah kita akan semakin bersemangat untuk go open.

How Iraq’s Trillion Could Have Been Spent (and other links)

Can You Say $1,000,000,000,000? That’s the current cost of Iraq’s invasion, and it can easily ended up more than double of that.

Let’s see how that amount of money can REALLY improve the ordinary American’s quality of life, and/or others :

…note that the annual budget for the Department of Education is about $55 billion, which puts the price tag for Iraq at about 18 EDs. Just a few of these EDs would certainly have put muscle into the slogan “No child left behind.”

A… time analogy is illuminating. A million seconds takes approximately 11.5 days to tick by, whereas a billion seconds requires about 32 years. Fully 32,000 years need to pass before a trillion seconds elapse.

Another way to get at the $1 trillion cost of the Iraq War is to note that the Treasury could have used the money to mail a check for more than $3,000 to every man, woman and child in the United States. The latter alternative would have an added benefit: Uniformly distributed and spent in this country, the money would have provided an economic stimulus that the war expenditures have not.

Alternatively, if the money was spent in an even more ecumenical way and a global mailing list was available, the Treasury could have sent a check for more than $150 to every human being on earth. The lives of millions of children, who die from nothing more serious than measles, tetanus, respiratory infections and diarrhea, could be saved, since these illnesses can be prevented by $2 vaccines, $1 worth of antibiotics, or a 10-cent dose of oral rehydration salts as well as the main but still very far from prohibitive cost of people to administer the programs.

Of course, … (these) isn’t quite appropriate when trying to come to terms with the more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed, the 20,000 wounded, and the number of Iraqis killed and wounded. The latter number is staggering, whether you subscribe to the figures put out by Iraq Body Count or those published in Lancet or to other even higher estimates.

While at it, we must not forget Cheney the Joker, who might be seem to be funny with his comment below; although somehow I suspected that he actually meant it from the bottom of his (bottomless) heart :

Of course, some might argue that the $1 trillion expenditure in Iraq has made us both more secure domestically and more respected internationally than ever before. Perhaps as many as a dozen people agree with Cheney’s recent hallucinatory comment that “we’ve had enormous successes, and we will continue to have enormous successes” in Iraq.”

John replied :

At times, it seems that the nightmare and expense of these enormous successes will continue for the next trillion seconds.

Well said, John.


Drinking Lighter Fluid, Eat Chicken McNugget : If you’re feeling crazy sometime, try eating McDonald’s Chicken McNugget. It’s like drinking the lighter fluid, only tastier.


According to a new study, alcohol & tobacco is worse than drugs.

Quoted :

Tobacco causes 40 percent of all hospital illnesses, while alcohol is blamed for more than half of all visits to hospital emergency rooms. The substances also harm society in other ways, damaging families and occupying police services.

“This is a landmark paper,” said Dr. Leslie Iversen, professor of pharmacology at Oxford University. Iversen was not connected to the research. “It is the first real step towards an evidence-based classification of drugs.”

Jangan mencari kebahagiaan

Banyak orang yang mencari kebahagiaan sejati dengan berbagai cara, namun, seringkali malah menderita hidupnya. Seringkali yang didapat hanya kebahagiaan sementara, atau semu.
Narkotika, dugem, alkohol, kesenangan pribadi, dan berbagai candu lainnya; cenderung justru menghancurkan pada akhirnya.

Lalu saya menemukan quote dari Nenek Eleanor yang bagus ini :

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.

Kebahagian sejati bukan tujuan, tetapi adalah hasil sampingan (dari pekerjaan lainnya).

Apa “pekerjaan lain”-nya itu? Salah satunya mungkin adalah ini.

Ada banyak lagi quote bijak lainnya dari ibu yang satu ini. Selamat menikmati.

What is to give light must endure the burning.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect.

Friendship with ones self is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift should be curiosity.

In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.

It is not more vacation we need – it is more vocation.

It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Only a man’s character is the real criterion of worth.

Understanding is a two-way street.

When life is too easy for us, we must beware or we may not be ready to meet the blows which sooner or later come to everyone, rich or poor.

When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.

Women are like teabags. We don’t know our true strength until we are in hot water!

You can’t move so fast that you try to change the mores faster than people can accept it. That doesn’t mean you do nothing, but it means that you do the things that need to be done according to priority.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’

Jumpa Blogger @ CiWalk

Pada tanggal 18 Maret kemarin ini saya berjalan-jalan ke Cihampelas Walk (CiWalk) lengkap sekeluarga. Tujuannya selain untuk rekreasi, juga untuk bertemu dengan beberapa kawan-kawan blogger yang sedang / berdomisili di Bandung.

Untuk perjalanan yang cukup jauh ini, perlu sedikit trik agar anak-anak merasa lebih nyaman. Mengingat perjalanan saya sendiri ketika kecil ke kampung (pulang basamo 1984?) – tempat duduk belakang Panther saya turunkan, lalu dialasi dengan papan kayu tebal, kemudian ditutupi lagi dengan kasur yang agak tebal.
Sepanjang jalan anak-anak bisa bermain-main di bagian belakang dengan nyaman, walaupun kemudian justru adik saya sendiri (Arief, 10 tahun) yang sibuk bertanya, “Cileunyi masih berapa kilometer??”, “Padalarang masih berapa kilometer??”, “Pasteur masih berapa kilometer???” – dll, dst 😀 cape deuhh…

Mengenai tol Cipularang; tol ini termasuk yang paling berbahaya di Indonesia. Pertama, banyak jalanannya yang bergelombang. Seringkali banyak mobil yang dengan seenaknya berganti jalur untuk menghindari gelombang tersebut, tanpa memberi tanda sebelumnya sama sekali. Juga, menghantam gelombang tersebut dalam kecepatan tinggi dapat menyebabkan Anda kehilangan kontrol kendaraan.

Lanjut….. Continue reading Jumpa Blogger @ CiWalk

Pornografi & Anak Kita

Kemarin ini ada beberapa acara menarik di sekolah anak sulung saya (kelas 4 SD), yaitu pengenalan sex kepada anak, dan kemudian juga ada seminar untuk orang tuanya. Pada acara seminar saya diwakili oleh istri karena sedang berhalangan.
Pada acara yang untuk anak sekaligus diadakan sebuah survey. Setiap anak diberikan kuesioner dan jawaban mereka dikumpulkan serta dianalisa.

Biro psikolog yang mengadakan semua acara ini ternyata sudah cukup banyak melakukan ini di berbagai sekolah dasar Islam lainnya juga. Hasilnya cukup mencengangkan — lebih dari 50% anak-anak yang di survei telah mengenal pornografi dalam berbagai bentuknya.

Sebagai contoh, ada seorang anak kelas 4 SD ini yang menuliskan, “Bagaimana caranya agar penis dapat terus berdiri dalam waktu yang lama ketika melakukan hubungan sex ?”.
Jelas hal seperti ini belum ada manfaatnya sama sekali bagi mereka, namun pada kenyataannya pada saat ini pikiran mereka telah didominasi (kalau tidak bisa dikatakan terobsesi) oleh hal-hal yang tidak berguna seperti ini.

Tidak ada satu pihak yang dapat disalahkan sendirian dalam hal ini – baik sekolah maupun orang tua sama-sama memiliki keterbatasan. Karena itu pihak sekolah hari ini kembali mengadakan pertemuan orang tua murid membahas hal ini, sekaligus menyepakati sebuah rencana kerja bersama untuk mengatasinya.

Kembali ke masalah tersebut – anak-anak mendapatkan input negatif ini dari berbagai media. Baik dari TV (sinetron yang mengobral seksualitas wanita, sumpah serapah dan perkataan senonoh, dll), Playstation, VCD, dan bahkan komik stensilan porno. Input negatif ini kemudian tersebar lebih lanjut di sekolah ketika mereka bersosialisasi dengan kawab-kawannya.

Pornografi adalah suatu hal yang tidak sehat, menjerumuskan (cenderung addictive), bisa merusak mental, merusak kemampuan bersosialisasi; apalagi ketika yang terekspos adalah anak-anak.

Seperti yang telah dikutip pada sebuah posting sebelumnya :

Porn is a trap – it feeds the pleasure centers of the brain, devalues the humanity of the person being used for that pleasure, and damages people’s ability to relate to one another in a healthy way. Real relationships are not self-focused, but must have a significant component of other-focus or they don’t survive.

Mari kita berusaha sekuat tenaga agak anak-anak kita tidak menjadi korbannya.

Kilas balik: Hidup tanpa TV

Ketika kami sekeluarga pindah ke Bintaro beberapa waktu yang lalu, momen ini kami manfaatkan untuk mencoba merasakan hidup tanpa televisi. Waktu di Birmingham sebetulnya juga sudah mulai mencoba eksperimen ini; TV masih ada, namun aksesnya sangat kami batasi. Hanya acara anak-anak, dan itu pun tertentu saja. Sebagai kompensasinya kami menyediakan berbagai activity kit/toys, pilihan film yang cukup banyak di video, dan satu komputer untuk setiap anak.

Kini kami ingin mencoba menghilangkan TV sama sekali dari rumah kami. Apa yang kemudian terjadi ?
Berikut ini adalah beberapa kesan yang kami rasakan dari eksperimen ini.

Keakraban antara anggota keluarga : Hubungan kami terasa menjadi lebih baik lagi. Tidak lagi ada kejadian anggota keluarga yang marah karena merasa terganggu ketika sedang menikmati acara TV favoritnya. Sering ada komunikasi yang hangat antara anggota keluarga. Anak-anak kami menjadi lebih dekat dan tidak ragu-ragu untuk menceritakan berbagai hal & curhat kepada kami.

Lebih banyak waktu bebas : Biasanya, setiap hari ada beberapa jam waktu di keluarga kami yang diambil oleh TV. Tidak terasa lama ketika itu, namun ketika TV menghilang, kami baru menyadari bagaimana satu hari jadi terasa lebih panjang. Jadi ada lebih banyak waktu untuk mengerjakan berbagai hal. Sehingga tidak perlu lagi terburu-buru mengerjakannya (dan tidak lagi mengalami berbagai masalah yang terjadi karena ketergesa-gesaan itu).

Rasa tenang : Hidup jadi terasa lebih tenang. Tidak lagi ada perasaan gelisah, seperti “aduh nih sinetron XX habis pas lagi tanggung! duh minggu depan lama amat, sudah gak sabar mau nonton lanjutannya nih!”.
Rasa tenang juga didapat dari kebebasan seperti tidak adanya rasa cemas takut lupa / terlewat acara favorit, dst.

Kreatif & aktif : Anak-anak kami terlihat menjadi lebih kreatif dan aktif. Mereka senang menjelajah lingkungannya bersama kawan-kawannya. Kebetulan lingkungan sekitar masih cukup asri dan masih banyak perkampungan di dekat cluster kami. Setiap anak kami sediakan sepedanya masing-masing.
Kreatifitas mereka juga menjadi lebih jelas. Sarah sudah berkali-kali membuat comic strip. Anisah ketika sakit justru asyik membuat kerajinan tangan untuk adiknya. Aminah (2 tahun) sangat senang menggambar. Hasil karya mereka semua sudah terlalu banyak dan ada beberapa yang jadi terpaksa kami buang (note to self: beli album & lemari untuk penyimpanan).

Kehilangan acara TV favorit ? Tadinya kami kira kami akan sangat kehilangan berbagai acara yang ada di TV. Tapi ternyata setelah melakoni ini, kami tidak merasa kehilangan apa pun. Tanpa terasa kami jadi bisa lebih menikmati berbagai hobi dan kegiatan yang tadinya sulit untuk dilakukan karena kekurangan waktu.
Kalau kami kebetulan sedang mampir ke rumah kakek & neneknya anak-anak kadang saya memang menonton Discovery channel, tapi santai saja dan tidak ada rasa kehilangan ketika kemudian kami kembali ke rumah kami sendiri – mungkin karena sudah ada sangat banyak situs-situs Internet (seperti DamnInteresting.com, HowStuffWorks.com, dll) yang tidak kalah menariknya.
Lagipula kini sudah mulai ada seperti AntaraTV.com – kita jadi bebas mau menonton yang kita mau; bukan apa yang kebetulan saat ini sedang ada di TV kita.

Hemat waktu & sakit kepala : Ada banyak acara televisi yang sangat tidak pantas untuk ditonton oleh anak-anak, namun tetap disiarkan pada waktu-waktu mereka bangun & berada di rumah. Ada kenalan kami yang rajin mengawasi acara yang ditonton anak-anaknya – namun luput beberapa kali saja, dan anak-anaknya langsung dapat menirukan berbagai contoh yang tidak baik dari acara-acara tersebut. Jadi tidak boleh luput sama sekali.
Kami tidak dipusingkan dengan hal-hal seperti ini, and can concentrate on things that matters instead.

Secara ringkas demikian. Sejauh ini kami merasa sangat puas, dan merencanakan untuk terus meniadakan TV dari rumah kami.

Beberapa catatan : Awalnya yang keberatan justru pembantu kami. Namun setelah kami komunikasikan dan beri pengertian, sekarang dia juga sudah senang saja tanpa TV sehari-harinya. Malah jadi bisa lebih sering bersosialisasi dengan kawan-kawannya.

Tentang komputer: sekarang komputer tidak lagi ada untuk setiap anak; karena dari pengalaman kami ini ternyata cenderung menjadikan anak egois. Dengan 2 komputer di rumah untuk 4 orang anak, mereka jadi terpaksa belajar berbagi dan bersabar.
Awalnya jelas mereka berkelahi dan ribut berebutan menggunakan komputer 🙂
Tapi dengan trik jam, maka mereka jadi bisa bergilir – sekaligus jadi belajar membaca jam sejak usia dini. Trik jam adalah cara dimana mereka sendiri yang bersepakat mengenai jatah pemakaian komputer, contoh: “umar main sampai angka 6 ya, trus kakak sampai angka 9, lalu sarah sampai angka 12”.
Dengan ini, kita juga tidak pusing menengahi mereka, karena mereka bisa menyelesaikannya sendiri. Jadi juga sekaligus mengajari mereka untuk mandiri dan memiliki inisiatif.

Sekilasan

TV seperti pisau – dia adalah alat yang bisa sangat bermanfaat, atau sangat merusak. Pendapat kami pribadi, pada saat ini, kebanyakan TV di Indonesia lebih cenderung berdampak negatif. Dengan adanya alternatif seperti VCD, komputer, dan tentu saja lingkungan sekitar kita; maka sejauh ini kami tidak merasakan masalah dengan ketiadaan TV di rumah kami.

Demikian sekilas kesan kami, semoga ada manfaatnya.

Commodore is back

Commodore was part of the home computing revolution back in the 80s. Their C64 was a big hit back then, because of its low price and high capabilities. C64 owners were enjoying their games in the fast hardware-accelerated graphic and high quality sound from its 3-channels sound chip. The sound chip was said to be so good and produces unique sound, it has quite a dedicated community, and even a special product based on it.

Another phenomenon on the 80s was the demoscene. I think it’s safe to credit C64 for starting this.
These guys produces stunning graphic demos, by pushing the hardware to maximum and utilizing undocumented features. These demos are usually accompanied by no less stunning music. The music is so good, I’ve read news where they’re plagiarized for commercial artists’ songs.

C64 isn’t only good for games though. About 10.000 applications were available for it, including business software. Quite impressive for a console-like computer.

The next of Commodore’s success is Amiga. Its main edge over the competitors are various custom co processors – a chip for each task; graphic, sound, etc. This enable Amiga to perform much better than others, sometimes spectacularly so. This machine was way, WAY ahead of its time; there’s still communities based on it. A lot of famous artists / public figures are keen Amiga users. And many TV series / movies are utilizing Amiga for its production.

Then Commodore went bankrupt. I don’t know the details, but it seems that Commodore wasn’t able to market it effectively, and got lost in the competition over PC makers. The loss was mourned by many.
Several attempts were made to revive it, but none made it as a world wide success. Now, a bunch of people are giving it a try again with Commodore Game PC.

Commodore XX is its current top of the line.
Featuring : Intel® Core™2 Extreme Quad-Core processor QX6700, ASUS® P5N32-E motherboard, 4GB Corsair® Dominator memory, and 2 (two!) NVIDIA® 8800 GTX SLI graphics cards. True to its Commodore roots, it’s also preloaded with a C64 emulator, containing more than 50 classic games.

Commodore was known as an innovative company, and the new Commodore is continuing this tradition with the C-Kin. Currently there isn’t anything really stunning in its choices, but I’m sure overtime we can expect some awesome designs making its way to the C-Kin collection. Also C-Kin may not seem to be much of an innovation, but one can hope that this is the start of a torrent of wonderful ideas from the new Commodore.

The PC scene is getting more and more interesting nowadays. I’d like to be among the first to welcome the comeback of Commodore.

Cure for Lupus ?

One can hope – and this latest news from La Jolla looks very interesting indeed.

Quoted from http://www.ljpc.com/pressrelease/0308_07.html :

SAN DIEGO, MARCH 8, 2007 – La Jolla Pharmaceutical Company (Nasdaq: LJPC) today announced positive interim antibody results from its ongoing double-blind, placebo-controlled randomized Phase 3 trial of Riquent® (abetimus sodium), its drug candidate for systemic lupus erythematosus (“lupus” or “SLE”). Analyses of interim antibody data indicate that patients treated with 900 mg or 300 mg per week doses of Riquent had greater reductions in antibodies to double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) than patients treated with 100 mg per week or placebo. The results showed a significant dose response when comparing all Riquent-treated patients to placebo-treated patients (p < 0.0001), and each Riquent dose group to the placebo dose group (p < 0.0015 for 100 mg, p < 0.0001 for 300 mg and 900 mg).

A conference on this was held on 8 March 2007. Thankfully it’s also available as a Webcast here.
But click quickly since they’ll made the Webcast available for several weeks only.

About Riquent :

Riquent is being developed to specifically treat lupus renal disease by preventing or delaying renal flares, a leading cause of sickness and death in lupus patients. Riquent has been well tolerated in all 13 clinical trials, with no serious Riquent-related side effects identified to date. Riquent’s only known biological activity is the reduction of circulating levels of anti-dsDNA antibodies. Increases in these antibodies are associated with an increased risk of renal flare. Although clinical benefit has not yet been proven, Riquent treatment has significantly reduced these antibody levels in all clinical trials where they were measured.

What is SLE (Lupus) anyway ?

Lupus is a chronic, potentially life-threatening autoimmune disease. About 90% of lupus patients are female, and many are diagnosed with the disease during their childbearing years. Approximately 50% of lupus patients have renal disease, which can lead to irreversible renal damage, renal failure and the need for dialysis, and is a leading cause of death in lupus patients. Latinos, African Americans and Asians face an increased risk of serious renal disease associated with lupus. The current standard of care for lupus renal disease often involves treatment with high doses of corticosteroids and immunosuppressive drugs that can cause severe side effects including diabetes, hypertension and sterility, and may leave patients vulnerable to opportunistic infections. To date, no lupus specific drug has been approved in the U.S.

The experiment and tests on Riquent has gone for 10 years though, and I have no idea how long it’ll be so before it’ll be available for sale. If you want to be kept up to date on this, you can register on their press release update service.

We have several of our friends suffering from Lupus, and it is a very distressing problem to those who have it. Hopefully someone will find this information useful.

High-load Website (WordPress) Optimization : IlmuKomputer.com

Mr. Romi, founder of IlmuKomputer.com (IKC), yesterday asked me to help optimize this website. A bit about IlmuKomputer.com, it means “Computer Knowledge”, and contains a lot (and I mean it) free high quality computer tutorials.
As you can easily guess, the website is very popular. On peak hours, it’ll usually become overloaded, and will become unresponsive.

I’m only too happy if I can be of assistance to IKC’s team in their good cause. So I started working on it with help from one of my staff, Yopi.

Turned out that what we’ll be doing will be very different with what most others do. Anyway, IKC is a very popular website (and “slashdotted” daily, by leechers), so what works for most others doesn’t work for us.

The Bottlenecks

A bit of background – IKC uses WordPress as its CMS. It’s a very nice CMS, and makes your life easier. I’ve used WP myself since version 1.5.x. However, being database-based, there are a lot of points within its a WP-based infrastructure which can become a potential bottleneck. So if your website started to become popular with this CMS, you will need to start optimizing it.

After examining the situation for a while, it’s clear that MySQL was THE bottleneck. Output of top shows it using at least 8 times of CPU time than other service. Mr. Romi also told me how it kept on falling down on peak time.

Apache (and PHP, since it’s compiled as Apache module) is the next one; with each of its process using more than 10 MB of RAM. This may seem insignificant at first, but multiply that by (potentially) 150 processes – and you’ve got quite a memory hogger here.
Also CPU-usage wise; I’m quite surprised to see that each incoming request will cause the particular process’s CPU usage to spike to more than 50%.

Initial actions

I asked Mr. Romi to increase the size of MySQL’s internal cache size. He did, but the machine still fell down in daily basis.

He has also implemented caching on the app server (PHP) by way of wp-cache plugin. Still no joy too.

The Edge

I decided that we need to go straight to the “edge”, and stop the load there.

I proposed that I setup Squid in HTTP Acceleration mode. This way, most of the requests won’t even touch Apache, much less MySQL. Squid will bear most of the load, but since it’s very efficient, it should be able help a lot in making the website perform better.

Since I’ve got a few things to do myself, I asked Yopi to setup Squid in our test machine.
I just gave him pointers now and then, yet he managed to finish testing the setup and implement it in IKC’s server in just about 3.5 hours.

Then I showed him “tail -f /log/squid/access.log”, and we watched in amazement on how quickly the TCP_MISS lines are changing to TCP_HITs.
After about 12 hours, I increased the cache_mem size, and the TCP_HITs are slowly changing to TCP_MEM_HITs.

The result

Squid is working as we expected.

Average server load dropped from 30% plus to about 3%. While squid’s CPU usage increased from 0% to an average of only 2%. A very nice trade off.

After about a month, I checked the website’s logfiles, and saw some very nice numbers — traffic to IlmuKomputer.com has doubled ! Needless to say, Mr. Romi is very happy with it.

I also found that everyday there will be people downloading the contents using crawler software – such as Teleport Pro, wget, etc. I asked Mr. Romi if he’s got problem with it, and he says no. It is his mission to spread knowledge for free after all. So I let these leechers alone.

Come to think of it, it’s possible that these crawlers are the ones causing IKC server to fell down at peak hours. Example, Teleport Pro is able to download 10 links simultaneously at the same time. Then once any of it is finished, it will instantly start download the next one. When all 10 downloads access the database, and many crawlers at the same time, not many servers will be able to stand up to it. It’s like being machine gunned wearing just a simple leather cloth. If you have had the experience of having your website linked from Slashdot or Digg, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

In this case, squid acted as a thick titanium armor, and taking most of the hits for your server. I suspect now the number of crawlers has increased than before, but it shouldn’t be a problem.

MySQL is a bit strange though. Sometimes its CPU usage can be as high as 160%. Thankfully this is very rare, so it’s probably just some internal clean-up routine.

One day, after happily watching the low load on the server for a while, suddenly everything froze. Even my SSH connection. Attempts to reconnect to the server failed.
After a while, I was finally able to connect again. Looking around, I noticed there’s some sort of bandwidth limiter daemon running on the server. After consulting with Mr. Romi, I killed it. The problem stopped.

Happy ending ?

I’m still monitoring the server as we speak for glitches. For example, squid seem to hang from time to time. This can be caused by anything from bad memory to problem with specific hardware configuration; so for now I’ve setup a cronjob which will restart it in certain intervals.
It seems to help, so I can troubleshoot the problem in peace.

Anyway, I’m sure that with the increased availability, even more people will visit the website (Ed: confirmed!). Then at some time in the future, we may find the server overloaded again.

In that case, there are still many things which we can do to keep IKC up & running in just one server :

  • Coral-ize internal links : Coral is a global cache with servers all over the world. It has proven to help people with overloaded servers to lighten their load (when slashdotted, digged, etc). With the Coralize plugin, all of your internal links will point to its Coral cache.

    Actually, for most people, this may be the easiest and the best step they can do. I can setup Squid because IKC has its own dedicated server. Not everyone does, I personally also own a (shared) webhosting account. Coral CDN (Content Distribution Network) is a very nice & easy solution to us. It’s rarely mentioned though, so here you go.

    If you’re not using WordPress, you can still utilize Coral CDN easily ! Just append .nyud.net:8080 to your links. For example, if you access http://harry.sufehmi.com.nyud.net:8080, you’ll actually access a Coral server, serving a copy of my website from its cache.
    I did say that it’s very easy, didn’t I ? 🙂

  • RAM Upgrade : This will enable Squid to have bigger memory cache size, therefore increasing its effectiveness significantly.
  • Roundrobin Edge servers : If the load is so high that even Squid is overwhelmed by it, then we can implement a cluster of Edge servers. People can volunteer their servers and have it act as the edge server for IlmuKomputer.com.

    The incoming requests are spread over the edge servers by way of Roundrobin DNS feature. It’s not the best way to do it, but it’s very easy and the cost is almost nothing.

  • Use lighttpd : Apache is a rather heavy webserver. I personally like its (amazing) flexibility (there’s a reason why it’s called the Swiss Army Knife of Webserver), but at times you’ll need something else. From my experience, lighttpd + fastcgi is very nice alternative to Apache + PHP. The features are now quite similar to Apache’s, but it’s much more lightweight. Its community is also quite helpful and happy to help a newbie within reasons. Recommended.
  • And many other ways

Last, we’d like to say thanks to Mr. Romi for giving us the opportunity, it was very interesting ! Hope IKC will become even more successful in the future, therefore benefitting even more people. Well done pak.

Allah & Setan

Selama ini kami mencoba mendidik anak-anak kami dengan menganggap mereka sebagai kawan kami. Juga kami mencoba untuk tidak menghalangi kreativitas dan imajinasi mereka. Terutama jika mereka bertanya, maka kami akan berusaha untuk menjawabnya; walaupun kadang pertanyaan mereka itu susah banget untuk dijawab.

Salah satunya adalah pertanyaan Umar kepada istri saya beberapa hari yang lalu. Selama ini kami memberitahu dia bahwa Allah swt adalah suatu entitas yang sangat baik, dan Setan adalah entitas yang sangat jahat.
Kemudian suatu hari dia bertanya; “Ma, kenapa sih Allah kok ngebuat Setan? Kan setan jahat, ma?”

Ketika Helen menceritakan itu, saya bengong. Anak umur 4 tahun bertanya seperti itu?

Ini biasanya adalah argumentasi anti Tuhan yang disampaikan oleh para atheis; jika Tuhan = baik, mengapa dia menciptakan setan (yang jahat/jelek). Berarti tidak mungkin Tuhan = baik.

Hah… Umar sudah bisa bernalar sampai demikian 😀 tapi supaya yakin, saya pastikan lagi ke istri saya. Jangan-jangan dia bercanda. Tapi ternyata tidak, dia tetap tersenyum (dan bukan tertawa lepas seperti kalau dia berhasil mencandai saya).

Holy wow.

Anyway, setahu saya pada awalnya setan itu tidak jahat. Sama seperti manusia yang pada awalnya baik & bebas dari dosa. Namun, sama seperti manusia, Allah memberikan kebebasan memilih kepada setan. Berbeda dengan malaikat yang tidak mungkin bisa membantah perintahNya sama sekali. Dan dari beberapa literatur, setan pernah mencapai derajat yang cukup tinggi.

Namun, “hanya” karena rasa sombong, maka dalam sekejap semuanya itu hilang. Setan langsung tercampakkan menjadi makhluk yang paling hina.
Sayangnya, alih-alih bertobat, justru setan tetap bertahan dengan gengsinya. Malah minta umurnya diperpanjang sampai hari Kiamat, supaya bisa balas dendam. Halah…

Jadi kalau menurut saya, Allah tidak menciptakan setan sebagai makhluk yang jahat. Setan menjadi jahat karena pilihannya sendiri. Sama seperti manusia, yang bisa memilih, apakah dia akan menjadi manusia yang baik kah, atau yang jahat? The choice is ours.
Selama kita bisa memanfaatkan nikmat akal dengan baik, dan menghindari dari nafsu seperti sombong, gengsi, dll; maka insyaAllah kita akan selamat dunia dan akhirat.

Argumentasinya sih masih bisa dilanjutkan terus, seperti definisi jahat, hikmah dari kejahatan setan, dst. Tapi saya stop dulu karena saya ingin memeluk Umar, dan berdoa mudah-mudahan dia terus demikian; selalu bertanya dengan kritis, tidak taqlid buta begitu saja, Amin.

Powerbook without battery

After using it for several weeks, I noticed that my PowerBook’s battery capacity has decreased sllightly. Where it used to be able to run for about 2 hours and 15 minutes after a full charge, now it rarely able to stay on for 2 hours.
I’ve been guilty of running it for hours while plugging it to the power socket though.

Then I thought, let’s see if this thing can run without battery, just like my previous laptop (Lifebook). So I rebooted, then while it’s on the logon screen, I turned the battery lock *plop* there goes the battery, and the laptop is still running happily.

I’ll still buy a spare battery later, but now I’m no longer in any rush. Very nice.