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By Date: August 2005

Coffee addiction not so bad after all!

According to an article on Independent Coffee can be considered a health food. It is high in antioxidants even more than apples or tomatos. So next time I sit at Starbucks I can righfully tell: "I just have my anti cancer agent".

Update: Paul Benhaim draws a very different picture. In a summary of the book "The coffee blues" he brandmarks Coffee as a dangerous drug. Seems another item to let go.

Posted by on 30 August 2005 | Comments (2) | categories: After hours

About storms and compassion

In the current article on MSN about the Hurricane Katrina Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, said: "We’re talking about in essence having — in the continental United States — having a refugee camp of a million people".  Whatever you believe in, this is a good time to pray for the people affected. While there won't be the number of casualties as during the Tsunami in Asia, all who suffer deserve our compassion --- and a blood donation as Rocky suggest.
I wonder how long it will take until someone claims that New Orleans was the resurrected Sodom and that its destruction was higher will.  

Posted by on 29 August 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Linux Desktop

The best of all my wifes is changing jobs, so she has to return the corporate PC. Until she might get a new one I have to provide access.
Earlier trials with unconventional computing (we tried mobile Firefox/Thunderbird on a memorystick) have shown, that she has a hand getting around.
So we decided to put her on Linux. The big question now which one: Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Suse, Knoppix, AsiaNux or...?
Any opinion appreciated. And Yes, Wine/Notes is a must.

Update: I struggled with a number of distributions, luckily all of them provide live CDs, so the effort was download, burn, slot in the CD.
This is what I tried:
  • Inside Security Rescue CD 3.14: A Linux squeezed on a credit card CD. It can read NTFS even if XP doesn't do it anymore. It found all drives, all partitions, the right graphic card resolution etc. Since it's a rescue CD this was only a test.
  • Kubuntu 5.04: While it gets all the rave I wasn't so happy. It prompted for my graphic card, which is a show stopper for a normal user. Also I couldn't figure out how to format/mount my second harddisk. Another point of grievance: I couldn't figure out how to increase the refresh rate from 60Hz to something higher, so the screen was quite flickering. The software selection on the other hand was quite complete featuring the usual suspects: Firefox, Thunderbird, OpenOffice and all the K* apps.
  • Ubuntu 5.04: The installation worked smoothly, no prompt for graphic card. I liked evolution. However both issues from Kubuntu (Graphic card, hard disk) remained.
  • Simply Mephis 3.3.2: Following a link from linuxdesktop I found SimplyMepis. Seduced by the praise I tried it. Quite nice: the live CD also allows you to install it on the PC. It is based on Debian/KDE. The usual suspects are there and Choi Fong uses Kontakt for eMail now. It also found all harddisks and allowed me to format the second one. Connecting to my XP machine and back works fine. After setting my monitor type to generic LCD1024x768 (in a simple menu) I could set the refresh rate to 70Hz. The only drawback I encountered so far: Getting a little adventurous I checked the box "use the original NVidia drivers". They were downloaded and screwed up the settings. The system wanted to go to 1280x1024 which made the old and trusted 15" LCD scream. I fixed that by temporarily using my 17" to reset the setting. Alternatively I could have used text mode, but my VI is still limited and Midnight Command (The Linux resurrection of Norton Commander) is not installed by default).
So far so good. I'm sure with a little more RTFM I would get all of them working properly. However I switched off most of my IT brain to make sure a NDU* could handle that. Seems Linux is getting there.
Notes/Wine installation is still pending.
*NDU = normal dumb user

Posted by on 29 August 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: Singapore

Blog on the run

I managed to get mo:blog working with BlogSphere. Since I commute to work, I expect my blogging frequency to notch up a bit. Here in Singapore cars are prohibitive expensive (a typical family van without gimmics can easily set you back USD 50-70k until it's standing in your parking lot) and public transport is cheap (1h on the train is less than USD 2), so commuting is the logical choice. One hour in the train anyway would take you one round around the country/island.
Stay tuned for more MRT* blogging.

*MRT = Massive Rapid Transit = the name of our national train network.

Posted by on 29 August 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Technology

Insights into NotesSax Parser

I was working on a project that needs to import XML. Since the files could become rather big I opted not to use DXL but the NotesSAX parser class. When you are a Lotus Script die hard without much exposure to other languages the SAX parser has a "very first" for you: definition of event handlers. For those VB.NET, C#, Java and other buffs it's nothing special.
The nice thing about SAX parsers (compared to text parsing): they fix the character set for you. For example the snippet:
<company> Peter &amp; Pan</company>
 will arrive as a StartElement event, a series of Character events and one Stop event. The NotesSAX parser actually will deliver 3 Character events! Since the &amp; is an encoded entry, the text will be split into 3 and delivered as "Peter " "&" " Pan". Nota bene: there are leading and trailing spaces you can't trim. Typically you would create a steering object, that keeps the state where in XML stream you are and write out your text on a Element (either Start or End) into whatever you want to write to. I'll post some sample code for the Excel project soon.

Posted by on 22 August 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

IBM blissfully absent - PACE2005

Friday and Saturday the National Infocomm Competency Centre ( NICC) was hosting PACE2005. Pace stands for "Promoting Accreditation, Competency & Employability". In short it was a conference cum exhibition about the IT industry and its jobs. All big training institutes were there, some of the higher education and quite a number of IT firms. Various awards were given out and a cute 7 year old girl was proclaimed the youngest Microsoft professional in Singapore.
The IT firms participating were: Sun, Microsoft, Red Hat, Novell, Oracle, CheckPoint, BusinessObjects and Iomega.
IBM was blissfully absent. Maybe I'm getting it wrong, and caring for the next generation of passionate users isn't important, however I was quite disappointed. There is so much cool IBM technology around but IBM (at least here) fails to create excitement among the IT professionals of tomorrow.
I talked to some of my training friends, they said demand for Lotus training is non existent, however my recruiter friends see an increasing demand for Lotus know how, which leads to a painful gap, that Microsoft is exploiting: "See you can't get Lotus people, why not migrate to our offerings" -- and they are right (at least here).
Where is that "Singapore's coolest RCP application" contest?

Posted by on 19 August 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Singapore loves its pee!

Pee is one of Singapore's big success stories. Not only that we operate a succesful water reclamation facility called NEWater. We also managed to turn pee into power for laptops or mobile phones. So you'll hear soon in the bar: "Give me another beer, so I can recharge my phone".

Posted by on 17 August 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore