Thursday, July 26, 2012

Alternatives of US-based GPS satellite navigation

The usage of global satellite navigation system has become more and more important nowadays, from military to civil uses. For example, location based service (LBS) in smartphones has high level of reliance on it.

The current global satellite navigation system used by most of us are depending on the Global Positioning System (GPS) of US NAVSTAR, which has 24 to 32 satellites in operation. The actual number of operating satellites varies from time to time due to maintenance and/or replacement, but the minimum in operation in any time is 24.

GPS has been operational since 1978, and made globally available since 1994.

Due to political, and more importantly, millitary reasons, some other nations have also developed their own global satellite navigation system as alternative to the US NAVSTAR's GPS.

These include the Russian Global'naya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (Global Navigation Satellite System, GLONASS) which is currently supported in iPhone 4S. GLONASS has been operational since 1995, but fell into disrepair after the collapse of Soviet Unoin, and was later recovered and restored in 2011.

China is developing a regional navigation system called BeiDou (北斗导航系统), which has 12 satellites and will implement for Asia Pacific region by this year (2012). They have plan to further expand it into a global navigation system by 2020, under a project called Compass. By that time, BeiDou system will have 35 satellites in operation.

The European Union also developing their own Galileo positioning system, but seems like they are facing some progress delay due to financial issue.

Indian is also developing the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System (IRNSS) with 7 satellites, mainly for their own use.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A family vacation trip to Cherating, Pahang

My family has spent a vacation in Cherating, Pahang recently. It is a nice getaway place at East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia for urban person to take a look at the beauty of nature in the rural part of the country.

We stayed at The Legend Resort, which has an average outlook, but pretty modernly renovated rooms. From the number plate of the cars parked there, it is observed that majority of its guest are from urban area especially Klang Valley.

We booked our room from Internet. We've browsed through the famous hotel reservation websites and group coupon websites, and surprisingly found out that the cheapest rate we could get is actually from the hotel's official website! We stayed at Grand Deluxe Seaview room at the price of RM2xx per night only, and the seaview (photo taken from balcony of the room) is quite nice.

The Legend in Cherating has large swimming pools, as well as long sandy beach. There are many small crabs on the beach...

... and we are warned that there are jelly fishes in the sea. We saw some dead jelly fishes on the shore.

The food in hotel's restaurant is expectingly expensive, and there are many nice and cheap Malay food around, and a Chinese restaurant right at the junction where you turn in from the main road to a small road leading to The Legend Cherating.

In a small village several kilometers at the North of The Legend, there is one Hafiz's Cherating Activities which provides one-stop sight-seeing service around Cherating. To look for En. Hafiz, locate for this signboard in the village.

That night, we've gone for fireflies watching trip and also turtle watching trip.

En. Hafiz is a friendly and nice person who is very knowledgeable about the Cherating River and the Mangrove Forest Researve area along the river. The fireflies are residing in the mangrove forest. Before we got on the boat to watch the fireflies, Hafiz has done a presentation about the information of fireflies, their habitats, life cycle, etc.

Hafiz has learnt a tactic to attract the fireflies to fly near to us by using small torchlights to imitate the fireflies' communication signal. It is really a fantasy experience to have hundreds of fireflies coming to us from the mangrove trees at the river side, and later send them back to the trees. However, use of camera and handphone is forbidden as the light from the device will disturb and cause annoyance to the fireflies, so no photo taken during this amazing trip.

The turtle watching trip was guided by rangers from the Cherating Turtle Sanctuary. The location was at an open beach near Kemaman, some distance away from Cherating village.

When we reached there, a turtle was half-way laying eggs in a hole it digged. It is a green turtle and its egg is about the size of ping pong ball.

That turtle laid 137 eggs that night. It burried the eggs, and the rangers digged them out to bring to the sanctuary for hatching.

The yellow one is actually a ping pong ball brought by the ranger for explanation purpose.

The rangers brought along 3 baskets of 1 day-old baby turtles (about 200 of them) for us to release to the sea.

Off they gone into the sea, remembering this seashore. They will come back years after, when they grown up later, to reproduce and lay eggs at the same beach where they left that night. However, most of the turtles might not be able to survive due to predators and natural challenges in the sea.

We have gone to the Turtle Sanctuary the next day. It is located next to Club Med Cherating. There are 2 adult turtles there, and several small turtles.

The next day, we actually planned to go for snorkelling trip to Snake Island with Hafiz, but we missed the time.

We gone back to Cherating River in Hafiz's day-time mangrove river cruise that evening. It is the same river we watched the fireflies the night before.

During the cruise, we also travelled into a branched small river, where many small animals can be seen.

The crabs in the mangrove forest are very colourful. We saw red and blue crabs there.

During the 2 hours river cruise, beside the crabs, we also encountered with monitor lizards, mud suckers, monkeys, snakes, birds, insects,  etc. It was really a nice experience.

On the way back from Cherating, we've visited Kuala Gandah Elephant Sanctuary near Temerloh, hundred over kilometers away. It is located at the end of a small village, quite some distance away from the main road.

After the retreat, now we are back to urban life. I think we shall revisit Cherating again in the future. It is a wonderful place.

Friday, July 20, 2012

RIP Dr. Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

News reported that Dr. Stephen Richard Covey (1932-2012), author of the best-selling motivational book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (over 20 million copies sold worldwide), has just passed away due to residual effects of an April bicycle accident.

Covey is the founder of Covey Leadership Center, which in 1997 merged with Franklin Quest to form FranklinCovey Co. Today, FranklinCovey has offices in hundred over countries as global consulting and training center in the areas of strategy execution, leadership, customer loyalty, sales performance, school transformation and individual effectiveness. Covey is also a professor at the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University at the time of his death.

Beside The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey is also the author of the following best-selling books:

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families
  • The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness
  • The Leader in Me
  • The 3rd Alternative
  • First Things First
  • Principle-Centered Leadership
Below are the 7 habits of highly effective people as listed by Covey. Read his book for full detail:
  • Be proactive
  • Begin with the end in mind
  • Put first things first
  • Think win/win
  • Seek first to understand, then to be understood
  • Synergize
  • Sharpen the saw

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Updated HTC Incredible S from Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) to Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, ICS)

Right after Google released the latest Android version 4.1 (Jelly Bean) last week, finally the last version of Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, ICS) with Sense UI 3.6 is now rolled out to HTC Incredible S smartphones.

The OTA (Over-The-Air) 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich, ICS) with Sense UI 3.6 for HTC Incredible S smartphone has been made available to Malaysia yesterday (18 July 2012) morning, a few days after its roll out to European region.

You can manually check for the update now, or wait for the automated update alert appear on your HTC Incredible S smartphone sooner or later.
The download process with probably take half an hour or more, and the updating process will take another quarter hour or more.

After successful update, I manually restarted the phone 3 times, and it is now operating faster than before (while it was on Gingerbread), showing its improvement in this new version.

The following are observed in the Android ICS for HTC Incredible S:
  • A new launch bar which you can put in 4 most commonly used app, and in the center is the "All apps" icon. This launch bar appears in every of the 7 Home Screens. The quick launch icons in the Lock Screen follows the 4 apps you put in this launch bar.
  • The stock Camera app has been improved.
  • Widget of some apps is now resizable, including Folder Organizer and Business Calendar that I use.
  • Facebook for HTC Sense has been taken out. FriendStream now has to use the official Facebook app to access to my Facebook account.
  • Network usage info (both mobile and Wi-Fi) can be displayed in Settings > Usage. This is in direct competition with some 3rd party apps like 3G Watchdog.
  • The items in Quick Settings list is now lesser, and you can no longer find Wi-Fi and GPS toggle switch in the list. You will need one more step, to tap on the icon to the right of Additional Settings bar to reach the Wi-Fi toggle switch in another list. The GPS toggle is even deeper inside the Location setting.
  • Memory usage is observed to be lesser compared with previous version of Android.
  • Now can do screen capture by pressing the physical Power and Home buttons of the phone together.
  • Calls is now accessable to People, Groups and Call History directly.
  • Added many Developer Options inside the Settings.
  • The buttons of stock Calculator app now has too big font size.
  • The white background of stock Battery widget make its text hard to see.
  • .....
This Android ICS for HTC Incredible S smartphone is really a major upgrade from Gingerbread. Have fun!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Yahoo website hacked, 450k+ user information exposed

A MySQL database in Yahoo Voice (formerly known as Associated Content before being purchased by Yahoo in 2010) was just hacked using SQL injection, and its MySQL variables, together with 450k+ user information in database dump, is exposed to Internet by someone claimed as D33Ds Company.

Soon, somebody has analysed the database dump using a tool called Pipal, and revealed the top 10 most commonly used passwords to be:

  • 123456
  • password
  • welcome
  • ninja
  • abc123
  • 123456789
  • 12345678
  • sunshine
  • princess
  • qwerty
The result of the findings is posted in Pastebin.

Nowadays, password is commonly used as credential to authenticate users accessing web-based and/or mobile-based services in the Internet. As a user, beside not using password that are easy go guess (by human or by computerized program), we also need to assume that the website might not be putting enough security measure in storing our information in their server. Therefore, it is advisable to use different password for different website. If one is compromised, at least the rest are not badly affected.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Welcome to the era of negative interest rates

Don't be surprised when one day, you realise that the bank will charge you interest (instead of paying you interest, in common sense) for the money you deposit with them.

This has already gone real in certain financial institution in the USA and in Europe. Even some new bonds recently issued by the government of some countries in those regions are having negative interest rate.

Well, when a financial institution impose a negative interest rate, it sends a clear message to its depositors to withdraw their money from that institution and deposit to other competitors who still offering normal positive interest rates, or to use the money for consumption or invest in other kind of investment instruments that might not be as safe as the money market but also provide higher potential of growth to the money, or to keep the money at home in your personal safe.

Why a financial institution wants to force you to withdraw your money from them? Probably because they have too much idle cash on hand, and the investment situation is really bad, and the interest rate is really low (in low interest situation, their profit margin to lend out the money is low).

No matter how, be prepared for the day to come to you.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Your smartphone will be your personal assistant: Apple Siri & Google Now

A few years ago, Apple acquired Siri, and this artificial intelligence (AI) product is now part of the iPhone 4S launched last October 2011. It includes functionalities to make it a virtual personal assistant that we always bring along.

Recently when Google announced the next version of Android, Jelly Bean, they promised us with  Google Now, which is a search-centric, voice-powered digital AI personal assistant to compete with Siri.

We can anticipate one more interesting function in our smartphone in near future, which is a personal assistant who knows about our time schedule and proactively alert/remind us on upcoming appointments, and knows our interest and hobby and provide useful suggestion/answer that match with our interest.

It will also learn the detail in the air-ticket that we purchased, and able to kept us updated with boarding information, latest departual/arrival time schedule, the weather at the destination, etc.

It will be able to remind us about the birthday and anniversary of our family members and close friends.

When we are on the road, it will alert us on possible traffic jam ahead, and suggest for alternative route.

Nowadays, a smartphone is already very much more than a phone that we use to make call and send SMS. The revolution will continue with more and more features and functionalities added in.

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