Broken Fruit

So two Saturdays ago (yes Sunday came afterwards), when I was trying to show off a Youtube video, my Macbook Pro crashed hard. It wouldn’t boot Mac OS, although it could boot Windows after about 10 minutes, and with a 30-second delay on every mouse click. It was time to test Apple’s service.

I brought my computer in on the following Monday. The diagnosis was either a faulty hard disk or faulty cable. It turned out to be the hard disk so they replaced it and (kindly) returned the old disk in case I ever needed the date on it. But the repair cost was horrendous: £144 for the replacement of a hard disk and service charge! Absolutely ridiculous. Luckily I bought the extended warranty (Applecare Protection Plan, because “extended warranty” doesn’t sound fancy enough) so it was all free.

But the best part: they called me up two hours later to pick up the laptop, even though they said it’d take a few days. :D Awesome service time, I’m glad someone spent 15 minutes quickly changing the hard drive.

But of course, in the world of computers, problems keep on arising. First problem: since it’s a new disk, every bit of data was wiped. Luckily I had backups of my Mac side, so that was fine, but my entire Windows system was wiped completely. I lost all ~200 replays of SC2 :(

And of course, as a gamer I had to install Windows, or else I might fall ill from boredom. As I put in the Windows DVD, my DVD drive began to rebel. It started making a ‘whirrrrrrrr whiiiiiirrrrrr WHIIIIRRRRRRR whiiirrrr…..’ sound which then repeated every 10 seconds for 5 minutes. It also refused to eject the disk until it finally gave up and stopped whirring, whereupon it spit out the disk and complained about how empty it was.

Thing was, it wasn’t empty, as it was perfectly fine on other laptops. So I spent the entire afternoon trying to install windows without actually using my DVD drive, first by trying to use other laptops’ DVD drives to remote install, and then trying to install by ripping the image file and using Parallels or VMware Fusion. I must have wasted at least four hours and after I gave up my Sunday went from OK to bleh.

So today I went to the Apple Store again and they replaced the drive in an hour, after telling me it would take several days. Oh, and they would have charged me £94 if it wasn’t under warranty.

I don’t know what to say, Apple. On the one hand, you fix things so quickly that I can’t help but admire your efficiency. On the other hand, you would have charged me £238 for two really simple repairs. And your hardware failed me twice in a week.

E-mail

Gmail does a really good job of blocking spam. But it has failed me today >:(

Dear Sir,

We are working with North-based local miners’ of gold. We‘re looking for very different buyers of gold (Au-metal) which is available for immediate and outright sale to any serious buyer(s) or agent; or partners.

From late last year’s mining activity; we have available for sale:

Commodity: Aurum Utallum (Au)

Form :    Gold Dust

Purity :    92.7% Minimum Value

Fineness  : 22+ carats

Origin :     Sierra Leone

Price :      $18,500 per kilo

Assay : Final Assay to be made at and by Buyer’s chosen Refinery and this value will accepted by both Buyer and seller.

If you’re interested, we’re ready and willing to sale and enter into long term business relationship / partnership for mining or constant supply agreement.

We offer Au Metal – Gold (Dust). We are working with the local people and assure our buyers/ agent/partners of steady supply of at least four (4) times in a year supply; and as such we can comfortably enter long term supply contracts with any buyer / agent/ partner.

We’re open to options and conditions for fair and open business transaction, get in touch with us if you’re interested and needs more details.

Contact us for more details regarding condition of sale /partnership / supply contract respectively.

Waiting to hear from you.

Thanks

Yours faithfully,

E.F. Bobor.

So. If anyone needs gold dust… yeah.

One Life Ago: Other Stuff

[Part of the series of posts: One Life Ago]

There’s been quite a few other happening in the three weeks after SPM. For my own chronicling purposes, I’ll be writing about the slightly more mundane things here.

Just before SPM I got my driving license! Unfortunately SPM arrived and so did any hope of me driving. Well, after SPM my father let me drive his Golf GTI around, as long as he was sitting in the front seat. I’ll be frank, I was quite nervous at first because it’d been so long since I drove in the test, and a Golf is quite different from a Kancil. Like the indicator signals are on the left instead of the right, and the accelerator and brake pedals are about ten times more sensitive. I pity anyone who rode with me (that’s everyone in my family :/) that time, for they surely had a bumpy ride all over the place.

In those three weeks I drove around the neighbourhood. It’s liberating 8D. I finally got to drive myself, and that freedom is just exciting. Sadly now that I’m heading to the UK I can’t drive for two years until my ‘P’ license expires. Sigh.

My father was nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. He didn’t win, the guy from Sapura Holdings (which is about 20 times bigger than every other company nominated) won, but at least I can tell everyone that my dad was one of five nominees for being awarded an award for being good at selling stuff. Datin Frieda, chairwoman of Cempaka Schools, was there for the woman Entrepreneur award and she won (the only other nominee owned a small textile company I think). Good for her :D

All dressed up :D
Time to go! It's a nice tuxedo.

My dad + his friends.

One funny story, only for those Cempakans who know what I’m talking about. Cempaka had at least two tables at the extremely formal dinner at the hotel, but everytime Datin Freida showed up on stage or on video, the adults at the tables would do the Tepuk Cempaka. It’s great to see the enthusiasm at such a formal occasion :) (Clap-clap clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap-clap, clap-clap).

My family is soon moving to a new house! Currently I live in Duta Nusantara, a nice cosy gated community. We’ll soon be moving to a bungalow about 5 minutes away in Damansara Heights.  It’s so much bigger than my current house…

Funnily, it turns out that Datin Frieda owns the neighbouring house. I guess you never really escape from her.

I have a laptop now! 2.8 Ghz Intel Duo Core, 500GB HDD, 4GB RAM 15-inch Macbook Pro. It’s made of awesome and win.

Another story coming up: when my dad went to Bangsar Shopping Centre, he found out that a Apple store (Mac Studio) was opening there that day, so he booked the mine and my sister’s laptops there before the store actually opened. When we returned there at 2pm, the outside of the store was filled with people waiting in line for free iStuff. Then later the opening ceremony started for some reason, there was a lion dance before Christmas, since Chinese New Year is obviously nearby (2 months is near right?).

Now imagine the narrow corridors of BSC, with the really loud Chinese gongs they use for lion dances, and then remember all the people waiting for the store to open. Not fun, but we already booked the laptops so we had to wait. But the lion dance went on and on with no end in sight (much like this blogpost actually…) and after about half hour, one of the employees actually let us in to pick up laptops. This means that we were literally the first customers into the store, and best of all about a hundred people watched us go in, buy some computers, and leave before the opening ceremony finished. Probably the closest I have ever felt to being a celebrity.

(Boring technical stuff ahead)

Somehow they made a silly mistake and gave me OSX Leopard instead of Snow Leopard. Those idiots >:( So we had to go back and they actually gave me the upgrade CD, with no licensing limits on it. Hah! If anyone wants a free upgrade to Snow Leopard when I come back from the UK, tell me and I might be able to help :D

Also, my dad bought Windows 7, which after wrestling with video drivers for a while, finally managed to play TF2. I think my life is complete.

One Life Ago: Screamyx

[Part of the series of posts: One Life Ago]

Terrible fail.

Sometime shortly after SPM finished, my internet connection went down. You might remember from a previous post, our Streamyx failed epicly for a long time. I even mentioned that it was likely that the connection wouldn’t last very long. Sad to say I was completely right…

The day after SPM the Internet went down but I was out the whole day so I didn’t really care. The next day I called Streamyx to complain and they opened a report. I have to say that they probably have the most annoying customer service I have ever experienced. Let me show you a typical method of talking to them:

  1. First you have to call them up. You will be redirected to a automated calling system.
  2. Once you navigate that, you reach a “Customer Service Representative”. They will ask you for your username, then confirm your name and telephone number.
  3. Then you tell them your complaint. “Oh my internet is down and I can’t access any website.”
  4. Troubleshooting time. They will ask you to check your IP configuration, check your DSL light on the modem, ask you if you have an alarm system, flush your DNS, try a direct connection from your computer to your mode. My computer is located upstairs and the modem is located downstairs to I have to run up and down all the time to check on the modem and computer (this was before I got my laptop).
  5. They will tell you that they are resetting the port. Please turn off the modem and wait 15 minutes, then call back if it still doesn’t work.
  6. I turn off the modem and wait. Then I turn if back on and watch as the internet invariably continues to not work.
  7. Call them up. Get redirected to their automated system.
  8. Talk to the different Customer Service Representative who knows nothing about your problem. Give username, confirm name and telephone number.
  9. Tell them your complaint and tell them that you’ve gone through all the troubleshooting steps and resetted the port and the internet is still down.
  10. They will set up a report. They tell you that it will take two working days for them to fix this, and that they will contact you after two working days.
  11. Also, after questioning them, apparently they don’t work on public holidays and weekends.
  12. Curse as today is Thursday, tomorrow is a public holiday and the next two days after that are weekend days.
  13. Suffer without internet for days. Call intermittently and repeat steps 7-9 each time. They will tell you that it will take two working days to fix.
  14. On Monday call them up and repeat steps 7-9 and get reminded that it will take two working days.
  15. Ask them if they will call us to inform us of the progress. They assure you that their technicians will call after two days.
  16. Wait. Repeat steps 7-9 again several times on several days.
  17. Let Wednesday and Thursday pass without any call from the technicians. Let your mother call them up to chase them and push them by alternating between threatening their jobs and lives, and insulting their ability (or is it inability?) to think.
  18. At some point, they will transfer your mum to their supervisor (called “Level 2 support”). He will be unable to do anything except call the Streamyx technicians to chase them. Remember that you must go through the process of telling them your details each time you call.
  19. Accidentally miss two calls from Streamyx technicians because you are at a doctor’s appointments. Worry if they will call back and if they will come to your house that week at all.
  20. Let the second weekend arrive and pass without any hope at all. No Christmas internet.
  21. Despair horrendously.
  22. Blame Streamyx for everything wrong which happens in your life. Including, but not limited to: deaths, natural disasters, bad luck, accidents, strange occurrences and illogical events.
  23. Call them up and generally insult them (my mother is good at this). It’s the easiest way to relieve the stress caused by taking 10 minutes to get through the automated system and low-level technicians.
  24. Memorise every single customer service script. It’s easy after you hear the same excuse for the 20th time.
  25. On Monday, be completely ecstatic when some technicians come to your house while nobody is home and “fix” some wiring outside the house.
  26. Despair again when you find that Internet is slower than dial-up. Slow as in “it takes 10 minutes to load up the main page of Facebook, and about 30 seconds to load up the Google front page”.
  27. Spend about 30 minutes investigating router settings and determining that (technical stuff ahead): your 1Mbps connection for some reason only shows up as a 384kbps connection, which isn’t even true since that would still be pretty fast.
  28. Call up Streamyx, give username etc. Reach a  Level-2 supervisor who actually is quite helpful and knows his way around technical stuff. Let him realise that for some reason the idiot technicians somehow configured our connection.
  29. He says that if he tells the technicians now (it’s 10pm) they should only take about an hour to reconfigure. Be happy and hopeful that this might all be over soon.
  30. Wait an hour, reset the connection and watch Facebook load. Slowly. Very slowly.
  31. Sleep.
  32. Wake up.
  33. Reset the router and check. Despair a little.
  34. Call up Streamyx again. Again. Tell them everything. Sigh a lot.
  35. Hours later, find the Internet suddenly working at normal speed.
  36. REJOICE.

So, that’s my story. I’m very sorry if you actually read through all that.

What did I do without Internet access? I practised driving to nearby places with Wi-fi access. In that two week period I went to Starbucks and Coffee Bean more times than the rest of the year. At least I got to check Twitter and Facebook and keep up with what was happening.

At least I now have a handle on Streamyx time. It’s a simple rule: “Two days” means “Eleven days” and “One hour” means “Twelve hours”. Such is the Malaysian way of life.

The True Story of How David Archuleta Came to Sri KDU

[subtitle: Confessions of a Hero/Villain]

-mid-2009 or so-

David Archuleta came to Sri KDU. THE David Archuleta (DA), the winner of American Idol (halfway round the world), came to a small (ok, maybe not so small) school in the middle of the country right above Singapore.

How did this happen? It’s a long story. But I can say, it was probably my fault.

First off, some organisers paid good money to Archuleta’s agents to come over to Malaysia. Then these organisers sold rights to many companies to give away exclusive tickets to people in exchange for promotions which bring in lots and lots and lots of money and publicity for the companies. Ka-ching, $_$ and all that. One of these companies was hitz.fm.

Hitz.fm had a great idea! Why not send DA to a school? Run a contest to see which school wins, and free publicity rolls in! Nice idea!

They made a webpage for it. The contest was quite simple:

  • Register for an account
  • Choose your school from a list
  • Answer 10 questions about DA correctly
  • Your school gets 1 entry!
  • Repeat for further success!

Mrs. Chan, our principal, was/is a devout fan of DA. She called up an assembly to tell every student in school to vote for DA to come to Sri KDU. To rephrase, our principal told every student to go online to win a contest so that a celebrity singer would come to our school. Somehow, she had also managed to print out about, say, 200-300 small slips of paper with all the answers to the 10 questions to help us students answer correctly.

I was quite bemused, but hey, it’s worth a shot to get a celebrity to come over right? Especially since I can now brag, forever, that David Archuleta came to my school. So I went online, registered an account and voted. Nothing special.

But what really caught my eye was that there was absolutely no protection from automated voting.

Chanced are, if you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ve seen one of those little images where there are letters which are bent strangely and distorted like mad. These are called CAPTCHAs. Basically they make sure you’re not a robot so that you don’t make 1000 accounts or do something 1000 times unless you’re actually doing it manually.

Without any Captchas, the voting is ridiculously easy to automate. Using iMacro, I set up a macro. A macro is a recording of actions, for example, this macro’s instructions was to:

  1. Go to the website.
  2. Choose the correct school from the list.
  3. Click on the 10 correct answers.
  4. Click vote.

All this is really, really easy. You just have to click record, do the actions manually yourself, then click stop.

Now, if you hit the play button, it goes through the list and votes. If you fill the “Repeat” box with a number, say, 100, then it repeats it 100 times.

I was triumphant when I voted 100 times in about 2 minutes.

And that was that. I could so easily destroy this contest. If I set the repeat to one million times, I could leave it overnight and pretty much ensure that Sri KDU wins. But my conscience tugged at me. How could I deprive the other schools of getting DA to their school? It’s not fair, right? Maybe some other true fans of DA were voting right now, every hour, slaving away to get a chance to meet DA?

Well screw them, why didn’t they think of this?

But there was another problem which prevented me from voting a million times. I was worried that if hitz.fm saw a million votes for Sri KDU they’d be so surprised that they would just disqualify KDU from the contest. That would suck, every DA fan in school would hate me, and Mrs. Chan would probably… well let’s not go into detail about that.

I finally decided not to bother voting. Instead I told a friend about this method, then I showed him the exact steps involved. There’s nothing worse that a secret unshared. (The friend was SY. I don’t know if I should involve his name or not, so let’s leave it at that for now.)

SY told CF about this, and together they made 20,000 votes. When they told me I was something like:

:O

o.O

Well, the day finally arrived. DA came to our school. The entire event should be summarised in another post, but here’s a quick reminder of the concert:

In total, there were 65,700 votes. From a school of about 1200 students, and that’s including primary and secondary. I heard that the method spread to a few other students and some people in the IT department as well. In any case, I read somewhere that there were about 100,000 votes total, which means that we voted almost twice as much as every other school combined. Haha.

Why post this almost half a year after he left Malaysia? I’m only posting this because of ego. It’s quite likely that my experimentation caused David Archuleta to come to my school. Wooo. That’s a story I can tell my grandchildren.

To Sri KDU-ens: Thank you, thank you. You’re welcome.

To hitz.fm: Please, perhaps you might want to look into some ways of stopping automated voting? Also, don’t you find that 65,000 votes just a little suspicious?

To other schools out there: Sore luck. Be smarter next time. :P