Tim's Blog

23 September

KL Monorail - Hahaha!
We have the most politicized public transport system in the world.

A few weeks ago, the KL City Monorail system was launched on the National Day, not by some popular celebrity, but by the Prime Minister, one of his last public duties as the out-going PM.

This beleagured system has been so compromised by political bad-mouthing and tit-for-tats that the management of the KL Sentral train station had no choice but to refuse its request for a platform at the station, despite KL Sentral touting itself as the centre of public access in KL. Whoever they are, they've made KL Monorail a laughing stock.

And people are talking.

Take for example this episode:

Conspicuously present on all the KL Monorail rides are five uniformed ushers. Ushers, I repeat, ushers. xThey hang around outside the pilot's door, glance over his shoulder and chat endlessly into their walkie-talkies about the latest football scores. Why do they need five ushers for a train that's only TWO cars long, I asked one of them.

"Passenger safety, sir."
"You mean this train is unsafe?"
"No, sir."
"In case
terrorist lagi bomb?"
"No, sir. Passenger safety, sir."

Whatever reason they have for being onboard, Larry, Moe, Tom, Dick and Harry were in no position to hurry the train along. It moves at the pace of a snail with two joints up its ass, it stops for a full five minutes at every stop and the time between trains is 12 minutes. With only a dozen stops on the line, that would mean that the KL Monorail has no more than eight active trains. Eight?! Ha!

Here's the kicker: the Monorail operates only BETWEEN peak periods. That's right. It starts AFTER 9.30am and ends its service BEFORE 5pm.

This isn't a train service. It's a geriatric bus route operated by a narcoleptic.

Why have a train system at all that works at such ridiculous hours and at such a ridiculous pace, despite having been in planning and construction for several years and was so high-profile that only the Prime Minister himself could open it?

We're left with the most Malaysian of all reasons: To save face by disguising that the project's funding had been cut so drastically and whatever was left had gone into so many dubious accounts that they had nothing left to operate it properly.
03:23:26 PM - timyang - No comments

22 September

New! Improved!
Used to be that the naming convention for household cleaning products eluded ever not so delicately to their efficacy and benefits of having things so clean they would make a cat jealous. As if the purchase choices people make are based on the strength of the fluids contained therein and not "My, oh my, what a lovely shade of blue!"

In any case, if you look carefully enough as you are shopping at Carrefour, that menacing bastion of French superiority in all things supermarket-ey, you'll find on one of their elegantly apportioned shelves a most curious product named Glassex.

It is an invention of a fevered mind that must have also squeeked out the slogan, "Glassex - Gets your windows orgasmically clean!"

Of course, if it really had had such a slogan, its biggest customers would be all the old kampung men who'll probably be slopping generous helpings of it in their evening mug of tongkat ali and pickling themselves at the same time as putting funny thoughts in their heads about the dog next door.

A similar thought had occured to Thor, a bookshop-owning friend of mine, who yesterday afternoon yelled to his wife upon picking up a bottle of Glassex for the first time.


02:55:52 PM - timyang - No comments

21 September

Not another Talk like a pirate day post.
No seriously it isn't.

But the local pirates of the VCD variety have been pulling out all their old stock since the Home Office decided to tell the Malaysian Recording Industry to fuck off. Since the announcement of the new enforced lower prices, my VCD vendor tripled the number of his display cases to move the stock faster.

He's brought out some really cool stuff like some Charlie Chaplin shorts, and some of my older favourite movies like Mash, Das Boot and Sneakers. But Das Boot for some reason is perpetually on the sellers list, despite the fact that it's not your typical thriller - it's in German, it's three hours long and everyone dies in the end. Oh damn, didn't mean to say that out loud.

Seems like the pirates are trying to shift more VCDs before the new prices take hold. Surely their market would dwindle, but as long as the government-sanctioned VCDs are censored, higher-priced and six months too-late-to-the-shelf, there will always be a strong market for VCD pirates.

Go pirates, go!!! Arrr!!!
03:51:03 PM - timyang - No comments

Interesting CSS
This is interesting. Jeffery Zeldman's page has long been tableless. But I'd never noticed before that it doesn't "crush".

My main problem with CSS is that I've always found that tableless websites tended to have it's elements jam against each other when windows are re-sized, creating a most gruesome effect. Tables on the other hand don't when you specify the width in absolute terms.

I have to study this more on Monday. Also on the list to have a closer look at are some new CSS dropdown menus that have been floating around recently as well as a purportedly pure CSS pop up. But these apparently don't work in IE because of a browser bug.
03:38:35 PM - timyang - No comments

17 September

The phone call
Ricky Lee, the CEO of Twogateways.com, called me earlier today to clarify a few things about Twogateways that I wrote yesterday.

We had an agreement that Twogateways has more facilities to protect and provide for the businesses than they do for the freelancers. The Twogateways team is concerned that it takes chickens to lay eggs. And Ricky impressed upon me how difficult it was to find that balance between the two.

The only way this website is going to be a success is with more job postings. And the businesses want assurances. Fair enough, I thought. And the way they get it is through the quality of the freelancers. The prices that Twogateways charges freelancers is one method. Unfair as it sounds, it will weed out those who aren't hungry enough or successful enough to gather enough money money to invest in Twogateways. The management is of course generally assuming that there is a correlation between ready cash and ability.

The good news is Twogateways is aware of that assumption and Ricky is experimenting with what he calls "sponsorships". ie, full-verified accounts for those who approach him and have excellent portfolios and credentials. If you're good enough, he says, you don't have to pay a cent to be a full member of Twogateways. And that makes perfect business sense -- by attracting quality freelancers to meet Twogateway's quality clients. All you have to do is get through Ricky.

Bringing business in is well and good, but freelancers also want assurances, I said. That's when Ricky revealed that Twogateways currently has a kind of case-by-case vetting system for businesses who post and they do have a policy of removing job posts of those who are just experimenting with Twogateways and aren't genuine. The rating system is well-considered, but it does have a fundamental flaw that makes it absolutely useless. Freelancers never, never, never give past employers bad ratings, no matter how badly they've been treated -- have to be friends with everyone, right?

I assured Ricky that I honestly thought that Twogateways is providing a much needed service. That is obvious enough. But that still won't stop the vast majority of freelancers (who are poor and casual) from feeling alienated by Twogateways' pricing policies. Whether Twogateways likes it or not, talk like that will be around for a long time. And they have to address it more aggressively at some point.

Some of the ways might be more broadbased ear-to-the-ground PR techniques that gets Twogateways out there and on everyone's lips and shows the desires that Ricky and his team have. For example headhunting at graduation day (a great technique all the politicians know) to gather more quality young freelancers together to form a core group. That way you'd also know the sort of people who are in the workforce. Or for the professional class, organising RM10 business lunches for businesses and freelancers to meet and exchange cards under the auspices of Twogateways. It isn't very costly, Twogateways will get some press and it allows freelancers to believe that Twogateways is also concerned with their needs.

Something for everyone.
10:01:35 PM - timyang - No comments

16 September

Twogateways.com... and how to abuse it
I've always liked an idea of a website for freelancers being set up in Malaysia. Many many many people have spoken about it at various forums over the years, but no one has made it successful because of marketing problems.

There just wasn't enough money or credibility to get businesses to post on them.

In comes Twogateways.com with dollops of both. It's run by Ricky Lee, formerly the CEO of Iberhad. And it aims to bring both Malaysian freelancers and businesses together for mutual benefits.

It has a .net backend, which didn't make a good first impression on me since .net isn't cross-browser compliant and I use Mozilla. But the website is still work in progress. Links from the About pages go to the wrong pages. The search engines don't work. I created a test account for Agonus and searching for that came up empty. And the website is still reletively new so the project database needs filling up.

It's free for businesses with jobs (called Service Buyers), which is great for them. It's like Ladies Night every night for them. Unfortunately this allows (and in an inethical Malaysian environment) practically encourages businesses to string freelancers along. The rating system helps to a certain extent. I tried to get more information on this, but their About Section on the ratings system goes mis-directly to their About Payment page.

It's also great for freelancers who aren't certain of how to price their services by starting bidding wars on Twogateways to see how much people would charge for a job. But it's still work in progress and the job posting engine is down, but I intend to use it very extensively for this purpose in the future.

It is however not free for freelancers. You can post jobs for free as businesses. But you're pretty much hampered if you don't fork out the RM195 to Twogateways for a more prominent and elaborate listing. Without that you can kiss any chance of you getting a job. No one is going to want to give a job to someone they know nothing about. Although it's not linked to any part of the website currently, I had a sneak peak at plans from the marketing director of Twogateways that they're planning to charge freelancers RM995 for the privilege of getting "verified" by them and therefore get a prominent posting

And that's the problem I find with Twogateways. It's more geared toward businesses and moneyed freelancers. The marketing director told me "if you are a freelancer, and you are not earning more than 4k a month, then it's best you don't be a freelancer." Tough talk for someone who isn't a freelancer. Kind of like saying: If you're just a casual freelancers, please don't waste Twogateways' time. You can't pay us. We don't want you. Although please feel free to fill up our database and make us look useful.

You'd have to basically get a few people together to post as a group to get jobs. It's a good idea for small enterprises to do that. Actually it makes more sense for small businesses rather than individuals to post on Twogateways anyway. Job providers would prefer doing business with other businesses anyway and if you're a lean mean and hungry enterprise, you can meet their job price too. It beats the hell out of the individual freelancers so that after a while they give up and go away.

Great! More jobs for me! Kick the damned casual freelancers!

(But wait, do I really want to spend so much time on a website where any Tom Dick and Harry can post jobs just for the hell of it? What a fucking waste of time!)

So here's what you do: don't pay Twogateways a single cent.

Troll the projects database and look for the company name then call directory help at 103 and get the phone number and call the company directly. Cut out all your competitors. Let those who paid the RM995 grind their teeth. Why not? They were fools to have paid Twogateways anyway.

Yeah, yeah, it's abusing the system, but talking to the marketing director of Twogateways, he revealed that Twogateways is so solvent that it can run for three years on zero income.

So feel free to abuse the system for the next three years.
03:16:16 PM - timyang - No comments

14 September

Overheard on the radio today
DJ: And now for I shall play a song for you by Indiana Jones...
Singer: ... Why why why Delilah... My my my Delilah...

I can see it now: his next album will be called Indiana Jones and the Lost Tomb of the Panty-Throwers.

Oh wait a minute.

Dear lrod.

What am I doing listening to a radio station that plays Delilah?
09:01:17 PM - timyang - No comments

13 September

Learned three new Unix commands today
chmod -R 777 *
Changes the permissions of all the files in a folder to all read/write/execute. Got all the comments working again.
chown -R username userdirectory
chgrp -R groupname userdirectory
Gives a user the authorisation over a directory with the default permissions of a group.
unix == -¢¢
05:02:24 PM - timyang - No comments

Special hosting offer
Incidently, my hosting company is has a new hosting offer.

Until 30th September, just email me and tell me how much space you want and how much you'd like to pay for it and I will honour that offer. I'm not kidding. However damn much space you want for however much you want to pay, I will give it.

I've got tonnes of space on my server and it's a cool way of getting free word of mouth. Tell everyone.

(Of course the offer doesn't include the domain and the account only stays open for one year. But it would be useful if you have need for lots of short-term storage. No pirated softwares, music or movies are allowed.)
03:54:34 PM - timyang - No comments

Everything sucks
Everything has become quite topsy-turvy in my life for the past month. I've had to move the office to Taman Tun. And just about everything sucks.

I'm trying to take on copywriting work to make ends meet. Fortunately, there's a new service in Malaysia modelled after Elance.com and it's called Twogateways.com.my.

I've also tried to move this blog first to Movabletype then to MT's open source alternatives -- B2/Wordpress. But the new Blogger interface makes it impossible.

MT gets confused by Blogger's title portion of the template and jams the first five words of every entry to form an ad hoc title. I have over 700 entries from the past three years and that's too damn much to clean up one by one as Ryan tried to do when he imported from Blogger to MT. And B2/Wordpress jams in the middle of the import from Blogger because of a MySQL error.

I'm waiting for the next versions of these softwares to try again.
03:51:07 PM - timyang - No comments