Monday, January 31, 2005

(e)Learning Day

Our company (indocisc) has a new initiative this year, learning day. We set a day that we learn together. The idea is that we teach each other about technology (or anything actually). This IT field is moving so fast that we cannot learn by ourselves efficiently. We have to jump-start each other with topics that we know.

Topics that we have done are: typesetting with LaTeX (I did this), VPN (Hargidi did this), Certificate Authority or CA (Andhi did this), routing (Andika did this, although it wasn't scheduled formally), and RCS/CVS (Maman is going to do this today). All of these were (are) done with hands on.

Now, the difficult part is that we have two offices in different cities; Jakarta and Bandung. We decided to use Yahoo Messanger to do the communication. Experiments were done on Linux-box(es). Everybody must have remote access to those boxes through ssh. (Since we got VPN going, these Linux boxes are inside our LANs.)

We tried using voice through Skype, but the quality was not acceptable. When we use skype personally, it works great. Maybe in the conference setting the bandwidth was taken by our communication. We tried to use skype one way, that is only the presenter can talk while the rest listen. Anyway, we'll explore more on this. (We already exploring other tools.)

So far, we were happy with this Learning Day. It's informal, so it's fun. The not-so-fun part would be editing the chat to make it easier to read. We then put this edited version on our intranet portal. (We joke around quite a bit during the chat.) This setup maybe only works for small company such as a 10-person company like ours.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Computer to FM transmitter

I have quite a number of audio collections in tapes, CDs, LPs, DVDs. I am starting to convert my tapes to MP3s. I rip my CDs into MP3s. I can then hide my tapes and CDs in a cupboard. They are still accessible though. My audio collection is now sitting on my harddrive.

Now, if I want to listen to music I have to sit in front of my computer. Many times it's uncomfortable. Sometimes I want to listen to my collection in my bedroom. The small boombox in my bedroom only takes audio CDs. Samething with the stereo in the living room. Then, there's this carstereo problem. My cars have cassette tapes. (I know I should get a CDs instead. I did that to my other car.) So, occasionally I recorded songs to a blank tape. Well, to do this I have to bring my stereos in the living room to my PC. Basically, it's a hassle. What to do?

I thought what if I get a USB-to-FM transmitter. That way I could transmit my collection to any stereos in the house. Or I can bring my notebook to my car, attach the FM transmitter, and play the songs from the notebook through the FM receiver in my car stereo.

The idea of using USB is that it gets the data in digital form, so that the quality only drops in the FM transmitter. So I searched the Internet and found a number of such devices. (Many of them seem to point to LineX.)

But then, if I get a USB-to-FM transmitter, it only works one way; from computer to stereo. This is too restricted. Another thing is I couldn't bring my portable CD player to my car and use it to broadcast the songs through the FM receiver since the CD player doesn't have a USB port. I think I should get a portable FM transmitter instead. This way, I can still transmit from my PC (through Line-Out) and I can do the other way around. I can play tapes from a stereo and use an FM receiver on my PC to record it (say with audacity, and convert them to MP3s).

What do you think?

So, now I am searching the Internet for a portable FM transmitter. Any recommendation? Notes: remember that I live in Indonesia. Some internet-stores wouldn't accept credit card payment from Indonesia due to the high risk of creditcard fraud.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Playing with drupal

I've been searching for the "perfect" content management system for our group (company, to be exact). I need something that can be used for internal communication, write books (reports) together, and something fun to play with. Originally (long time ago), I played with phpnuke. But unfortunately, it has too many security holes. Although I was going to use it for intranet site, I still don't want to keep track of security holes.

Then I found drupal. It looks like what I needed. So I installed a drupal's debian package. It was not the latest version. I played with it for a while. The learning curve is steep! That was a while ago.

Yesterday, I decided to give it another stab. But this time I grabbed the source and installed it from scratch. You know, it is easy. In fact, it felt easier than before. Maybe because I have played with it before. It is still difficult to use, but I am more than ever convinced that this is the program that I am going to use. (Many friends suggested I use wiki instead, but I decided to stick with drupal. At least, for now.)

One of the things I like about drupal is the design is elegant. (Can't explain it, but I just feel it.) I then grabbed different themes for it and started playing with them. Right now I haven't had a chance to look into the code. I am just playing with the configuration, which is done through a web browser. I am a text-oriented person. I don't like using graphical GUI to configure things. But for some reasons, I like drupal's web-based configuration. It's not slow and kind of nice.

Well, I wasted ... correction, invested, two hours playing with drupal. It's now running in our intranet. I know I am going to have fun with this.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Free Windows XP Theme?

I got tired of my default Microsoft Windows XP setting. So I decided to get a new theme. Here's the story.

The first thing to do is to look at preinstalled themes. None, unless you call the "Windows classic" is a theme. The next step is to search the internet. What would be the proper Google's keyword? I used several keywords and got several Windows XP Theme. Some of the themes look ok. I really want to get a Mac-like theme. But, there's a problem.

Apparently, all the good themes I found are either not-free or require additional software (which is not-free). It's not like I don't want to pay. (Well, it is.) But, having worked with Linux and other FSF/GNU software changed my preference. I want to use free software. So, I came empty handed. I wasted 2 hours for all of this.

Well, I just have to go reboot the machine and use Linux if I get bored with the theme. (I have fluxbox, blackbox, afterstep, (and even plain twm), KDE, and Gnome - and there are different themes for them too.)

As a side note, I am still having a problem installing Mac-like theme under KDE 3.3 on my Debian sid. I was also told that if I want to have a Mac-like environment, I should get a Mac instead. It is true that I am thinking of Mac Mini. But then, I don't know if I can change its "desktop theme" :) I don't know how difficult it's going to me. Last time I used a mac was like 8 years ago.

Can you suggest a good desktop theme?

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Liberation of 2.4 GHz in Indonesia

It's official now. Directorate General of Post and Telecommunication has officially liberated 2.4 GHz in Indonesia. (Does anybody have the official announcement?) I still don't know the implication. Whether we will have (yet another) 2,4 GHz war or not is something to be seen.

A while ago I wrote an opinion article in InfoLinux magazine saying that the lack of regulation will create "tragedy of the commons". It has happened a couple years ago when warnet (warung internet = internet cafes) in Indonesia started to use 2,4 Ghz. Interference was a big problem. (And everybody started installing power amplifier.) It was a "wireless-wild-world" situation. Let's go west ...

Saturday, January 15, 2005

technorati tag

I mentioned about technorati a while back. Now, they came up with a "tag". Not sure what it does, but here is a tag on or . Let see how it does ...

[... this is an experimental page, like the rest of blog universe ...]

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

How to test programming capability?

[I wrote this on Jan 3rd, 2005, but never had a chance to make it online. So here it is.]

Well, I started my academic gig this new year with an exam. I guess, at 7 AM, our class is one of the first to do exams in this university. My class is "Foundation of (object-oriented) computer programming".

This class is not really a true-strict object-oriented programming. It is taken by second-year students in EE. The first year teh students take what I think basically a review of high-school topics; like physics, math, chemistry, and biology. All students, regardless of their departement, take these classes. So, my programming class is their first formal course on programming.

Unlike CS students, we don't have plenty of time to teach programming. There are other topics to teach in a limitted time. We don't want to make students stay longer than what they should. So, we have no option but to pack the programming material into one semester course. We have to teach them algorithm, logic, data structure, and the syntax of a language.

We picked C++ as the language to teach. I know that Java is hot. But, unfortunately the majority of EE-related topics still need C or C-like programming ability. [It's no coincident that JoelOnSoftware has an article that support this: Advice for Computer Science College Students. Although this article is focused on CS students, it's still valid for EE students. I found Joel's article after I wrote this piece.]

As I expected, the quality of the students varies. Although we have "the cream of the crop" of Indonesian students, they come from different background. You'll get different results; from excellent to just barely pass the exam. (Judging from previous class.)

On top of that, how do you test programming capability? How do I grade students in my class?

I always believe that programming is not only a science, but an art as well. I don't want to dwell on this issue. It's a topic on its own. I'll write on this later on. Back to the original question, should I just test the science aspect of programming? Meaning, if they can answer the question or write a program that gives the correct output then they pass. Or should I also consider the style? But then, it won't be objective.

Tell me what you think!

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Company - Family Trip January 2005


On Jan 4th-5th 2005, our company (indocisc) had a family trip. Actually, it was started with a meeting: 2004 evaluation and 2005 planning session. Then we went to visit this place where they make tea. It was fun. Look at the happy faces. Well, that was before we took a tea walk. (Pak Andika was missing - he took the picture. Pak Maman was also missing in the picture.) Posted by Hello

Friday, January 07, 2005


This is the infamous picture about me being caught. Go get the latest Komputer Akt!f magazine. (Magazine snapshot taken by Koen) Posted by Hello

Monday, January 03, 2005

The things I hate right now: milking Aceh for popularity

As if the news of Quake and Tsunami dissaster in Aceh and surrounding areas is not bad enough, I have to watch / see / read people trying to become heroes. Not, I am not talking about those people who are actually do something helping the victims without trying to be popular. No, sir! They are usually unknown, faceless. Sometimes, all they can do is pray and pray they do. God bless you folks.

I am talking about those who milk this situation to gain popularity. We know who you are. You want your name (group name, affiliation, or what have you) be known. Yes, we know who you are. We know that you're in for the popularity contest. Get heck out of the way! You are taking resources from people who are really in need.

There have been news about high-rank people, celebrities, and the like (unfortunately, including news persons) who are flocking the disaster area. They are taking planes, places, water (and other limitted resources) from people who are really in need. Some people could not leave Aceh because they have to wait for available resources. This makes me sick. But, there's nothing I could do.

I just wish that I was wrong about all of this, that you are really want to help the victims, and that the victims benefit from you being there. If that's the case, I offer my apology. Show me that I am wrong. Please ...

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Earthquake & Tsunamis hit Indonesia!

On December 26th, 2004, a huge earthquake (9.0 on the Richter scale) hit Aceh and surrounding areas. The epicenter of the quake was in the ocean. The quake was then followed by tsunamis which then hit the surrounding area as far as Srilanka and Maldives. The effect was devastated! More than 100.000 were dead, of which 80.000 were from Indonesia. We are shocked, dazed, and sad.

I created a page for this at http://myindonesia.org/quake-tsunami/index.html