No, it’s not your regular bus cheaters who tap their EZ-link cards way before they alight. It’s not those who try to pretend that they have tapped (personally, I have seen a bus captain asking an ACS boy in Mandarin to tap his card; the boy looked blur as sotong – sorry, I digress). In fact, it’s not even Singapore that I am talking about, but our friendly neighbour – Malaysia.

You see, a friend of mine got cheated of his bus ticket and was led to this crappy bus that isn’t what he paid for for his journey back to Singapore from Kuala Lumpur.

The modus operandi is simple. The cheat goes up to the unsuspecting victim, pretends to check their tickets, holds on to their tickets while leading them to some cheapo bus, pays the bus driver and goes off with the bus tickets. The unsuspecting victim will think that the cheapo bus – unlike whatever they thought they paid for – is the bus for their trip home. Meanwhile, the cheat touts the tickets to unsuspecting buyers.

Repeat cycle for as long as they want on the same ticket.

Unfortunately for my friend and his buddy, the latter gave chase and was thrown onto the ground. All effort to stop the cheat failed and he ran away. The buddy is now in hospital while my friend… is thankfully attending his meeting.

Malaysia boleh! BN boleh! Everything boleh!

Ed: I thought I read a Straits Times article on something similar except that there was no mention that it was a bus ticket cheat. I can’t seem to find that article any more. If you happen to have read it or remembered where it was, do leave me a comment here. Thanks!!!

A man in suspicion of becoming the next JI leader in Singapore has been arrested and detained under the Internal Security Act. He was thought to have met Osama bin Laden earlier and have attended the same training facilities that trained the bombers who carried out the Sept 11 attacks.

However, even with his arrest, one cannot do away with the fact that the previous JI leader, Mas Selamat, had escaped being on toilet break. With him as the precedent, it is unlikely that any newcomers will ever get to experience a toilet break again.

Yes, it was a toilet break too many.

A SINGAPOREAN earmarked to be a future leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah has been arrested under the Internal Security Act for his involvement with the regional terror group.

Rijal Yadri bin Jumari had been schooled in JI madrasahs overseas, sent for terrorist training in Afghanistan and even met Osama bin Laden.

The 27-year-old met the Al-Qaeda leader several times while attending training at Camp Farouq in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

The Camp is the Al-Qaeda’s premier training facility that is said to have trained several bombers who carried out the Sept 11 attacks on the US in 2001.

Rijal’s capture comes two months after the announcement in January of the detention of two JI members. Both men were aged 26.

But unlike the duo who were self-radicalised, he did not appear to have strayed into terrorism independently through reading extremist propaganda on the Internet.

In making the announcement on Sunday, the Ministry of Home Affairs said Rijal was working with foreign JI elements at the time of his arrest to revive the terror group’s network.

He was arrested last month ‘with the cooperation of regional authorities”, it said in a statement that did not elaborate on how or where he was caught.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 23rd March 2008

Taiwan’s presidential contender Ma Ying-jeou from Kuomintang (国民党) became the official President-elect after winning 58% of the votes. He will officially take over from outgoing President Chen Shui-bian of Democratic Progressive Party on 20th May 2008. This change of Presidents will see more than just paper work as both Presidents have different visions and methods of running the country. While President Chen is pro-independence – resulting in raised tensions across the Taiwan Straits, President Ma has promised no change in current status quo for the next 5 to 10 years. What is means is an opportunity for China and Taiwan to work things out. China has promised that as long as Taiwan is not pushing for independence, it will continue to working closely to improve bilateral ties.

The stepping down of President Chen will also submit him to legal prosecution for various allegations including corruption. He was not tried earlier citing Presidential immunity. However, this will change on the day that he steps down.

All eyes are on President Ma now as many are awaiting forward-moving policies that will benefit Taiwan and the people as a whole. Many are hoping for reforms that will help them cope with the ever rising cost of living as well as getting a corrupt-free nation. Even then, there are still claims that the KMT is corrupt and Beijing-friendly – although the latter is likely to help in bilateral ties that could help Taiwan economically.

TAIPEI – TAIWAN’S opposition candidate Ma Ying-jeou surged to a landslide victory on Saturday in a presidential election dominated by concern over the economy and hopes for better ties with China.

‘This is a victory for people who hope for change and openness and reform,’ he told his jubilant Kuomintang (KMT) supporters after trouncing ruling party chief Frank Hsieh by around 17 percentage points.

Soft-spoken and Harvard-educated, Mr Ma has promised to work for closer ties with China, including a peace treaty to put an end to decades of hostilities, and to revive Taiwan’s own stuttering economy.

The vote has been closely watched by Beijing and Washington for signs of a new approach in the flashpoint region after eight years of recurring tensions under outgoing President Chen Shui-bian.

Final official figures released by the election commission showed that Ma won 58.45 per cent of the vote, with Hsieh on 41.55 per cent.

‘This election result is not a personal result, nor a victory for the KMT, it is a victory for all Taiwanese people,’ Mr Ma said.

‘Your voices are heard. People have the right to demand a better life. Only change can bring hope, only change can provide opportunities.’

At almost the same time, Mr Hsieh was admitting defeat in a speech to his own despondent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) supporters in Taipei.

‘We accept defeat. It’s my own defeat, it’s not the defeat of the Taiwanese people. Please don’t cry for me,’ he said.

Mr Ma will formally take over on May 20, when Mr Chen steps down after serving a maximum two terms in office.

KMT supporters sang, danced and let off firecrackers as they partied in the capital Taipei and elsewhere.

Mr Ma’s victory gives the KMT overall control of the nation, as they had also crushed the DPP in parliamentary elections in January on the back of an economic malaise and weariness at the strained relations with China.

Soochow University professor Liu Bih-rong, who specialises in cross-strait relations, said the landslide was unexpected.

‘The election result shows Taiwan has grown into a more mature democracy,’ he said, predicting relations with China would improve at a faster pace.

‘It shows that the Taiwanese people have given the KMT the mandate to open direct links and push for the one common market with China.’

After casting his ballot earlier in a Methodist church building in Taipei, Mr Ma had vowed to normalise trade and investment relations with China.

China still claims Taiwan for itself and has threatened an invasion if it declares independence, confining the US-allied island to a murky limbo of de facto but unrecognised sovereignty.

The two have had virtually no direct links since the island split from the mainland in 1949 after a civil war.

‘I have always said that, if I get elected, I will engage the mainland on many issues, but I will protect Taiwan’s identity and also its security,’ Mr Ma said.

Mr Ma has been more aggressive than Mr Hsieh in proposing a radical overhaul of economic ties to allow Taiwanese companies access to the vast mainland market, while permitting Chinese investors to pump funds into the economy here.

The island is the world’s 17th largest economy, mainly on the back of its information technology sector, but is losing jobs and investment to mainland China, while incomes are stagnant.

Mr Hsieh also favours closer ties but is more cautious, warning Ma’s plan may engulf Taiwan with Chinese money and labourers.

China’s military crackdown in Tibet also allowed Mr Hsieh to attack Mr Ma’s plan, but it appeared to have cut little ice.

Separately, two referendums on joining the United Nations failed to muster enough turnout to make them valid, with less than 36 per cent of voters making the effort to cast their ballot.

The referendums were controversial because Taiwan lost its UN seat in 1971 to China, which has blocked its 15 attempts since then to rejoin. — AFP

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 22nd March 2008

It’s no surprise that most (mid-ranged?) hotels are fully booked with all the events coming up and air travel made affordable (and I thought there was rising fuel surcharges). This is a far cry from the times of SARS when hotel rates were hitting rock bottom and no one wanted to stay in them. In fact that was one of the best times for the locals to enjoy the luxury of high-end hotels.

Nowdays… you can forget about even spending your weekend there on a tight budget. Even the up-market hostel at Emily cost more than Pan Pacific. Sigh.

The alternative would of course be holiday chalets like Costa Sands, Sentosa Beach Resorts or maybe even Bintan and Batam – if you don’t mind the occasional seasickness that might come with it.

TOURISM numbers are at a record high – Singapore welcomed 883,000 visitors in January, up by 6.9 per cent compared to the same period a year ago.

But not everyone is celebrating. The hotel room crunch has worsened, say travel agents, and those most badly affected are tourists who stay at mid-priced hotels.

Business travellers and top-tier tourists can stay at five- or six-star hotels and budget travellers have their pick of no-frills hotel chains such as Hotel 81 and Fragrance Hotel.

But for tourists who are willing to fork out $150 to $230 a night, there is just no room at the inn.

Travel agents say mid-priced hotels such as Windsor Hotel in MacPherson Road, The Elizabeth Hotel in Mount Elizabeth, Allson Hotel and Hotel Royal @ Queens in Victoria Street and Lion City Hotel in Tanjong Katong Road are fully booked most of the time.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 21st March 2008

What goes up but doesn’t come down? No, not hydrogen or helium balloons, but anything that is related to fuel. SIA has announced an increase in fuel surcharges – just barely 3 months after its last increase in December 2007. Increasing surcharges is an addictive act – once you get past the first one, the rest comes easier.

And this is one thing that no budget airlines can stop because… it is really a different market.

SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) will increase its fuel surcharge for all flights from March 26 due to escalating jet fuel prices recently.

The increase in surcharges of between US$4 (S$5.57) and US$7 will apply to SIA and SilkAir flights.

On regional routes, the surcharge will go up from US$26 to US$30 per sector, for flights between Singapore and Asean countries.

For flights between Singapore and gateways in the United States and Canada on a single-sector basis, it will be up from US$123 to US$130 per sector, and on all other flights, it will be from US$75 to US$80.

‘The new surcharge is subject to official approval in some markets, and some local variations may apply where regulatory approvals dictate,’ said SIA in a statement on Thursday.

‘The adjustments will offer only partial relief of higher operating costs arising from increases in the price of jet fuel.’

The airline said it will continue to monitor the price of jet fuel and keep the application of the fuel surcharge under active review.

The airline last raised its fuel surcharge in December

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 20th March 2008

Simply Jean was invited to the showroom of the BMW Hydrogen 7 which is being showcased in Singapore since March 7. The exhibition is located in a futuristic, glass-and-steel pavilion located at the corner of Beach and Ophir Roads and opens daily from 9am to 5pm till March 23, when they will move on to other parts of Asia.

DSC03566

First impression of the BMW Hydrogen 7 was that it was similar to any other BMW 7 series in that it matches the aesthetics of the latter that gives the same feel and look of the superior sleekness of a BMW. However, beneath the metallic body unveils an entirely different architecture of the fuel system. The BMW Hydrogen 7 is a part-hydrogen, part-petrol machine that runs 200km from a full liquid hydrogen tank and hits 500km on a full petrol tank. The liquid hydrogen is stored in a thick steel cylinder that’s been crash tested against weight, impact and temperature. The result of using hydrogen is that only water is produced instead of Hydrogen. In fact, BMW even bottled up the water to give it to their guests at the showroom.

DSC03482 DSC03486 DSC03489 DSC03490 DSC03498 DSC03503 DSC03509 DSC03557

Images from Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Back of the distinctive BMW Hydrogen 7, the liquid hydrogen tank, the 12V engine, the hydrogen refuelling valve, the steering with push-button to switch to hydrogen and back, the sleekness of the back wheel, the BMW Hydrogen Power illuminator, and Hydrogen 7 brand

Safety is one of the top consideration in the design of the BMW Hydrogen 7 – just like how LTA implemented the recent taxi rule in the CBD. As such, any vapour that is given out during combustion is channel through 2 valves – one at the roof of the car and another at the bottom – in case the car topples. Locks at the door are translucent with LEDs that blink should hydrogen leakage be detected within the car. In such a situation, all windows will automatically wind down.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 is powered by a 12V engine and has both hydrogen and petrol lines. The maximum torque of the car is modified so that there will not be an obvious jerk when the car switches from hydrogen to petrol or vice versa. This option is available either through the push of a button at the steering or when hydrogen or petrol runs out – during which, an automatic switch is triggered.

The test drive along Beach Road was good and comfortable and the switch from hydrogen to petrol and vice versa was only noticeable through the sound of the click of the valve. This 7 series, like it’s petrol-based cousin has good handling and shields passengers from noisy roads. In fact, a decent conversation went on despite a bus and a lorry rambling on its side. As this is a foreign registered car, the GPS system wasn’t activated. If you weren’t being told that it’s a hydrogen-hybrid, you probably can’t tell the difference.

DSC03545 DSC03517  DSC03519 DSC03526 DSC03534 DSC03533 DSC03536  DSC03539 

Images from Left to Right, Top to Bottom: Front of the distinctive BMW 7 series, the back passenger LCD panel, the control knob for the back passengers, the flushed side handles, the top light and control panel for back passengers, the flush-hidden mirrors, comfort and control by the door, and the BMW Hydrogen 7 back view

However, because we didn’t really have a chance to drive the BMW Hydrogen 7 at top speed, I can’t comment on the car’s ultimate performance. However, given the track record of BMW’s, there’s no doubt on what it can do.

The BMW Hydrogen 7 is committed to making clean energy a reality. By working with organizations to provide the basic framework and architecture for producing and supporting clean energy fuel, BMW hopes to make hydrogen fuel a reality for consumers.

A warm welcome to everyone who’s joined us today at School of Information Systems @ SMU, Seminar Room 2.4. Do feel free to drop by if you are around the area. Today, we have an interesting company showing us cool stuffs and we will be covering Architecture of a Web 2.0 Enterprise PHP application, Unified Communications Project as well as touching on PHP basics.

8:00pm: First, we have Vikram Rangnekar who is from Voice Route that specialises on VoIP in open source. Voice Route started off in the US in 2005 and they are curringly in USA and Singapore. There are currently about 600 customers including Verizon and Motorola and strategic partners such as Starhub. The Druid OSE is also available online where people can download and peruse.

Today, they are going to present a demonstration on how their product work.

The software interface to control the phones that are plugged in is simple to use and supports various protocol such as that from Cisco. Some of the features include a dial pattern Wizard, which is able to collect numbers and "send it off to somewhere". There is also scheduled routing which is useful for conferencing. The hardware also works with off-the-shelve hardware trunks and automatically configures the trunks when plugged in.

In addition, there are standard features that include call records – for missed, received and dialled calls, standard reporting, and a unified mailbox that connects other IM protocols as well. For call routing, there’s call forwarding and this feature called "follow me", which allows callers to "follow" the users. There’s also some blocking features that will allow you to block your ex-girlfriend from calling you (hey!).

As the control panel is web-based, users are able to log into the server to control the various aspects of the hardware. As this is open source code, it’s very active in that there’s constant changes to the software.

Coming back to the slides…

Vikram presented an evolution of the web application, which he timed from Web 10000 BC to Web 1.0 and finally to Web 2.0 – that encompassed AJAX, Comet, Flex/Flash and so on. For Druid OSE, they actually make use of a lot of the Web 2.0 stuffs and PHP as Middleware – which is used to serve the data structures. They also make use of Json/JsonRPC for making calls such as "getting a list of names" or "getting a lot of numbers" from the server.

He also touched on the online recreation of the desktop application, which generally comprises of dynamic content, providing a familiar feel and behavior and a responsive interface. The application (Druid OSE) is also data driven and hence uses structured data.

In the aspect where PHP as Middleware, there is an SOA Architecture (service oriented architecture) between UI and PHP, which call PHP methods from the UI – and these methods return Json serialised data structures. The application also makes use of pass function arguments instead of $_POST. Most people are familiar with $_POST but the team prefers to call the functions directly. 

The Druid team also has a philosophy that helps them keep their code clean – by keeping PHP code and HTML code separate. They use something called the "Dojo" which is some Javascript UI framework. By using this method, the Javascript code actually "re-renders" the PHP code within the HTML code through class calls in DIV tags that keeps the HTML code clean.

Vikram is moving into the development of Druid modules by using the internals of the auto-attendant module and unified mailbox as examples. He’s now logging into the server through PuTty. There were questions from the floor if the team actually developed the hardware. In actual fact, the hardware is actually done by another company and they are responsible for the application within the box. Vikram also showed what components that are running within the box which includes IMAP components.

Where the code is concerned, there are actually 2 aspects to the code – a community open source as well as a customer-required code core which is not available to the open source community. This is essential because these are specific needs to a customer. It is not intentional for the customized code to be closed but rather a necessity since it is their specific and separate need.

On a closing note, the Druid team is very familiar with Dojo and they’d like to thank Dodo (http://www.dojotoolkit.org), Dovecot, Jabber2, Qugga and Asterisk for their works. More information may be found at their website, http://www.voiceroute.org, on facebook Voiceroute Open Source as well as IRC at #druid on irc.freenode.net.

8:48pm: The previous session has overran a little because the interest in this was a little underestimated – for more questions, you may send your questions to Voice Route. Following up, Miccheng will be covering the topic on whether PHP is for WIMPS. Yes, are you a wimper? We are now moving from a topic on open source to closed source. 70% of PHP developers run on Windows because it provides a familiar "My company runs on Windows Servers" GUI environment. In fact, ASP and PHP can co-exist.

There is a weak link in IIS and PHP. The first option is that IIS is a multi-threaded (high concurrency) server, and we can run it there. The second option is to have it as a PHP-CGI "one request per process" module. The best solution so far is the use of FastCGI which is still essentially "one request per process". However, there is a performance improvement from 40 RPS to 1600 RPS. Latest tests with native response caching/ kernel output caching an go up to 6000 RPS (which is not verified yet?).

The recommended configuration is Windows Server 2008, IIS 7 with Fast CGI, Mod Rewrite Pro, MySQL 5 and Zend Core 2.5. There are more resources, a list of which will be available on the PHP Meet up website. There’s a demostration on http://miccheng.homeip.net:81/. (Quick, go do a DOS attack!).

However, it is still recommended for hardcore developers to make use of Linux and Apache, since PHP has better performance on native Linux and Apache without having to go through a "middle" IIS. There will be some free stuffs given out later if you fill in your feedback forms later. =)

9:08pm: Break time! We’ll be back shortly =)

9:38pm:  Welcome back to the PHP Meetup! Now we have Adrian Quek from Ablewise. Those who were there at the Facebook Garange will recognise him. They are currently setting up their workstation that runs on Ubuntu, but are currently trying to fix it properly. Miccheng is giving a brief up on what’s to come. From next month, the PHP meet up will resume on the second Wednesday of every month so that it will not clash with the Linux meet up that is just a few doors away now. They meet every 3rd Wednesday of the month. Coming up, we have Michael Lim from Comiqs, which was Techcrunch’ed. Also, we have Choon Keat from Ruby Brigade who also produced Shared Copy which was also Techcrunch’ed.

There’s now a call out to the core team, which includes Jean who is currently mute and also a call for volunteers. If you would like to sponsor, you may also contact Miccheng who will give you a shout out during the meet ups. There’s also going a planned conference this year, somewhere in October and there’s a need for volunteers. If you would like to help out, you may email Miccheng at miccheng@php.com.sg. You may also spam him.

There’s also a shout out to The Indulge Restaurant which is at the basement @ the Cathay and basically Miccheng is just killing time now.

There’s a conference planned for May for iPhone for iPhone app developers. Anyone who is interested may also email Miccheng or Bernard Leong from SG Enterprise.

Now that Adrian is done with the preparation, he’s going to give an introduction to Image processing with PHP. Originally, he’s using Ubuntu with Apache and GD Library. He’s showing a rough guide for GD2 installation, but generally most of these instructions are available on like. There will be some GD2 demos, including Captchas (anti-bots verification), and resizing, copying and cropping pictures.

The code is really small, but I believe that if you email Adrian, he’d be glad to email you the codes. However, just as you might be disappointed that you can’t get to see any demos, we guys at the floor also can’t see anything because Murphy’s Law just kicked in – anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

There are a few functions that are being used for Captcha including imagecreatetruecolor, imagecolorallocate, imagefill, imageforntheight, imagefornwidth (size range is 1 to 5), imagechar, and imagesetpixel. For image resizing, copying and cropping, the functions are imagecreatefromjpeg, imagesx, imagesy, imagedestroy and imagecopyresized.

Due to the lack of demo, there will be (expectedly?) less questions – but despite this, the short presentation was very fun and easily understood. He’s also agreed to try a Windows version in the future. It’s ok Adrian, all of us forgive you. =)

10:04pm: Lucky draw time! There’s going to be 2 copies of Windows Server 2008 and a PHP book to be given away – which is won by DK! Taiko! =( Goodnight everyone and thanks for joining us in this wonderful session. =)

Yup. Fans of Mariah Carey, stick your hands up! Okie… maybe it’s a sign that I am from a different generation or planet, but someone has sung one of this songs and it gives great insights to what Mariah Carey can do – she sings not only in English. Yes, if the lyrics were anything to go by, it proves the point.

Enjoy the music video. =)

Kevin’s blog got hacked. I didn’t manage to get a screenshot, but it’s hacked by some "Net devil" who apparently "came in peace" and damned some country along the way. It’s strange that there’s been a spate of blogs being hacked. Another site was also hacked last week through a WordPress 2.3.1 exploit – so everyone who’s on that version should quickly upgrade to the latest version of WordPress.

And while you are doing so, do back up often. It’d be of use – unless of course you are on very good terms with your web host, then make sure that they back up often for you too.

3 fellows have been sued by their "parent company" for moonlighting – although it seems like there is more than meets the eye (and no, it’s not about transformers!). This caught my eye because moonlighting is quite prevalent in the software industry. While some programmers may hold full-time day jobs, the nature of the low pay (it’s a relative thing) may lead some of them to take on additional "simple" jobs outside office hours. Such jobs usually bring an addition $200 to $1000+ depending on the scope and duration of the job.

Some people have the perception that what they do outside office hours is their own problem, however, not every company thinks so. Some companies even stick their head into whatever part-time studies that some of their employees may be taking and question their necessity for it. The reason being – they are afraid that whatever they are doing outside office hours may take up their time and concentration during work. Moreover, overtime work is a given necessity in most IT jobs. If you don’t work till at least 8pm or 10pm, then you are not working hard enough and you do not deserve that 1/2 month bonus at the end of the year.

Unfortunately, unless you are some world-changing programmer that can code efficiently and effectively, the company usually does not believe that you have spent enough time in office. Sad isn’t it? At some places, it’s even frowned upon if you leave on the dot.

Anyway, upon reading the article in greater depth, it seems to be more complex than just simple moonlighting. However, it does serve as a reminder that your company can and may take legal action against you for moonlighting – to the extent of terminating your employment.

A WELL-KNOWN architectural firm has sued three interior designers for moonlighting.

Ong & Ong Architects argued that the three breached their employment contracts by doing so. It seeks a court order to stop them from using confidential information.

It also wants to know how much they made in profits via their alleged moonlighting.

But the defendants – Ms Rachel Yee, Mr Leslie Seow and Mr Ridzuan Sarbini – countered that they were not employees of Ong & Ong.

Ms Yee and Mr Seow said they were in a profit-sharing business venture with the firm and are counter-claiming about $230,000, which they say is their share of the profits under the joint-venture terms.

Mr Ridzuan argued that he had been seconded to Ong & Ong as part of an agreement.

The case opened in the High Court yesterday. Ong & Ong’s lawyer, Senior Counsel Philip Jeyaretnam, said that its chairman had approached Mr Seow, who was a partner with Ms Yee at a small interior design firm, Six Planes & Partners (SPP), in 2003.

This was part of a plan to acquire small companies and hire specialists so that the firm could provide integrated services, the court heard.

Mr Seow and Ms Yee signed employment letters, were paid fixed salaries and given leave entitlements and benefits, including Central Provident Fund contributions, said Mr Jeyaretnam.

He said Ms Yee and Mr Seow had agreed to stop doing business under the SPP name, but a deal was worked out to allow their firm to continue to exist so it could collect the money it had earned earlier.

Mr Ridzuan, who was with SPP then, was hired by Ong & Ong in March 2004, he said. Mr Jeyaretnam charged that the three provided services on their own and used the firm’s resources for these activities.

The three, represented by Mr Adrian Tan, denied being employees of Ong & Ong. Mr Seow and Ms Yee contended that, under the business venture, they were not prohibited from doing work under SPP.

They claimed the plaintiff had breached an agreement to pay them half the profits from interior design services, and accused it of infringing their copyright by passing off SPP’s works and awards as its own.

Mr Ong, the second son of late president Ong Teng Cheong, who founded the firm in 1972 with his wife Siew May, was the first witness.

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 18th March 2008