Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Malaysia Salary Guide 2008/09 from Kelly Services

I have been waited for this for quite a few months.

Kelly Services published their hardcopy of Malaysia Salary guide 2008/09 around June 2008, but the softcopy only made available on their website yesterday.

You might notice that the figures in this guide is comparatively lower than those published in the ZDNet Asia IT Salary Benchmark Survey 2008 and Robert Walters Global Salary Survey 2008. One probable reason I found out is that Kelly Services' Malaysia Salary guide focuses on executives with less than 5 years of working experience, hence we can't expect the figure to be too high. In the guide anyhow, a Lead Electrical Engineer with 7 years of experience gets a salary range from RM5,000 to RM15,000.

Click here to download the Malaysia Salary guide 2008/09.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Benefits of having smartphone

I wrote about "Choosing a mobile phone" last week, and I've chosen the Sony Ericsson P1i, which is a feature rich PDA smartphone that has been around in the market for more than a year and is still a hot pick for many people. I believe now is a good timing to buy it, as its price has dropped for a few hundred ringgit since its launch, and has been stabilized and maintained over than past 3 months.

This is my first smartphone, and I find it very interesting compared with the traditional mobile phone. If you are a technology savvy who like to explore, modify and hack around the phone, then smartphone is your choice.

When I got the phone (supposingly for the Malaysia/Indonesia market), I found that Chinese was not supported by its original firmware. The first thing I did is to replace its firmware with the Singapore version with Chinese support. And now, it can read and write Chinese in SMS as well as all the installed applications. Its touch screen handwriting recognition now can recognise Chinese writing too!

Beside this, other benefits of smartphone over traditional phone include:

  • There is no limit to the contacts information (only limited by available memory). Traditional phone has fixed limit on number of storable contacts.
  • There are a lot of applications in vast variety available (free and non-free) for its OS, and the number keeps on increasing as development is continuous. Traditional phone is very much restricted to Java based small applications/games only.
  • You are able to modify (mod) and extend its existing features, such as adding the cool Touchlight function with its camera light. This feature is available in some other mobile phones, but not in the original specs of P1i. There also exist mods to the camera to add more function (such as continuous shots) and enhance the photo quality.
  • You are even able to explore and hack into the Symbian OS file system, tweaking it for faster and better performance.
  • You are able to upgrade the applications that come with the phone to a newer version.
  • You are able to add plug-in to its web browser, such as enabling the capability to display flash animation.
  • ...
Well, if you are not keen on mods and hacks, and will probably use your phone as-is without installing additional application too, then the benefit of having smartphone to you is probably having bigger memory for contacts/SMS/MMS etc. If you like mods and hacks, you can find quite a lot of such discussions in various Internet forums about your phone.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Choosing a mobile phone

Nowadays mobile phone has evolved into an integrated electronic gadget with lot of features and capabilities making it more than just a phone. It is of course good to have everything in your phone, with the richest feature, the latest technology, the finest capability, the longest battery life, ... with everything "in" and perfect.

Unfortunately, such phone doesn't exist. Mobile phone are designed to be strong in certain area, but secondary or weak in some other domain. There exist phones that are close to perfect, but always come with a skyrocking price tag that might be even higher than a brand new PC computer.

From the personal finance perspective, it is advisable to get a mobile phone with all the features that we really need, and forget about those features that are good to have but seldom or never use. Then, among the features that are required, we identify them according to importance to our need. This will help us to choose the most suitable model for us, and without wasting money in features that we will never use.

Here is my way in choosing a new mobile phone.

Firstly, I'll look into the features that I need:

  • 3G - Am I ready to pay extra in monthly bill for 3G usage? Am I always need to use the phone to check emails or surf Internet? Do I have a need to make video calls?
  • EDGE - Am I a Digi subscriber?
  • Wifi - Do I prefer this way to connect to Internet rather than using 3G? Is my home and office equipped with Wifi access point?
  • Bluetooth - Am I buying a PDA phone or Smart Phone which will frequently interact with my computer? Does my computer support bluetooth? Am I necessary to use a bluetooth headset?
  • Camera - Do I just need a basic camera or a high resolution one in the phone? Do I prefer to take pictures with my digital camera or with my phone? Is flash important? Do I need the phone to be my "torchlight"? Is autofocus, night mode, zoom, etc. important?
  • Screen - Do I need a high colour and big display for watching movies, see pictures, surf the net, use GPS, ... etc. or I just need a normal screen?
  • Video capture - Do I really need this feature?
  • Speaker - Will I use my phone as MP3/MP4 player?
  • FM radio - Will I use the phone to listen to radio?
  • TV receiver - Will I use the phone for TV, such as getting the news?
  • Keyboard design/layout - Am I often sending SMS? Can the keyboard facilitate for faster and easier typing?
  • Java - Do I plan to install additional applications or play games other than those come with the phone?
  • Touch screen - Do I really need this feature?
  • Stylus - Is this my preferred way which is faster for me to write, draw and manipulate the phone?
  • GPS - Do I really need this feature?
  • PDA functions - Do I need a sophisticated calendar or just a basic one? Will I use the phone as convenience device to take notes (or I still prefer paper and pen)? Is there occasion that need me to open and work on MS Office files with the phone?
By getting the answers for the above, I should have a clearer picture of what kind of phone do I plan to buy. This should help me in shorlisting some brands and models that suit my needs. Then I'll look into my preference for:
  • Design - what design I like? Big screen, flip, twist, bar, block, ...
  • Size - what size I like? slim, compact, normal, PDA style (bulky), ...
  • Memory - how much internal memory? Do I need the phone to support for external memory card?
  • Weight - everyone love a light weight phone.
  • Battery - how long can the battery last for standby, talking, online, playing video, using apps, ...?
  • Price - how much am I willing to pay?
Until this point, I will be able to choose the mobile phone I'm going to buy. If you are also planning to buy a new mobile phone, hope that this can give you some useful guides.

10 questions to assess your job satisfaction

Are you happy in your job? How satisfied are you with your career? Do you agree that employees are happiest and most satisfied when they consider themselves fully engaged in their roles in the company?

Well, what could be making you to have such a good feeling? The 10 questions below can help you to perform a career audit and assess your job satisfaction. Ask yourself:

  • Is the company capitalizing on my special talents?
  • Does my supervisor have my best interests at heart?
  • In the past six months, has my supervisor honestly evaluated my performance?
  • Am I receiving challenging assignments at work to help me grow professionally?
  • Do I have a mentor guiding me as I move up through the organization?
  • Do I have friends at work in whom I can confide?
  • Is there a career track to get me where I want to be in five years?
  • Does my work give me a sense of higher purpose?
  • Are my coworkers trustworthy and committed to excellence?
  • Am I receiving the training I need to do my job well?

If you are an employee, the assessment above will help you in clarifying your career prospect and worthiness; If you are an employer or a human resource personnel, the assessment above can give you some clue in improving employee's relationship and hopefully reduce turnover rate; If you are a job seeker, don't be shy off to find out the answers from your potential employer.

If most of your answers to the above questions are "no" but you are still staying with your company, perhaps you are one of those not-so-happy employees who hang around mainly because of the 11th point: remuneration.

(Source of the above 10 questions are from Allyhunt, an executive sourcing company in Malaysia)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

We are only liable for max RM250 after credit card lost or stolen

Do you know that pursuant to Sections 19 and 26 of the Banking and Financial Institutions Act 1989, Bank Negara (Central Bank of Malaysia) has issued a Credit Card Guidelines in March 2003 to all credit card issuers. The Guidelines were intended to promote active consumerism and consumers’ understanding of credit card usage and protecting their interest as card users.

Any party who fails to comply with the guidelines may be found guilty of an offense punishable under Section 104 of the Act.

Here is what inside the guidelines say:

  • Clause 13.2: "the cardholder's maximum liability for unauthorised transactions as a consequence of a lost or stolen credit card shall be confined to a limit specified by the issuer of the credit card, which shall not exceed RM250, provided the cardholder has not acted fraudently or has not failed to inform the issuer of the credit card as soon as is reasonably practicable, after having found that his credit card is lost or stolen."
  • Clause 13.3: "where the amount imposed on the cardholder for unauthorised transactions due to loss or theft of the credit card is in excess of the maximum liability limit, the issuer has to prove that the cardholder has acted fraudently or failed to inform it as soon as reasonably practicable of the loss."
  • Clause 13.4: "the issuer shall ensure that the cardholder is not held liable for any unauthorised transactions charged to the credit card after he/she has notified the issuer verbally or in writing. The issuer shall take imediate action upon notification by the cardholder to prevent further use of the lost of stolen credit card."
In layman terms, it means that if your credit card is lost or stolen, and you informed the bank immediately, the bank has to suspend your credit card at once. You are only liable to a maximum of RM250 caused by unauthorised use of credit card after you found out your card was lost/stolen and before you report it to your bank. If the bank wants to charge for more than that, they need to prove that you were negligent in handling your credit card and/or didn't report the lost/stolen immediately. Once you've made the report to the bank, either by phone or by fax or any other means, you are no longer liable for any amount charged to your credit card thereafter.

You should remember this information to protect your rights and benefits, just in case (touch wood!) anything bad happened to your credit cards.

Malaysian household monthly income distribution

The pie chart below indicates the Malaysian household monthly income distribution. The information is sourced from MP Amirsham’s reply to Dr Michael J Devaraj's question during a parliament assembly in July 2008 recently.

The root source and period of the statistics is not provided, and the number of households surveyed is also not available. It is believed that this information should be not before 2004 and not later than 2007.

Which group do you stand in the pie?

If the same piece of information is represented by bars, it will now look like this:

And according to another survey done by the Statistic Department for the Economic Planning Unit recently, the Malaysian average monthly household income is RM3686, which falls in the RM3-4k group.

57.8% of the families are below this group, and 29.3% are above it. This shows that the families fall on the average is actually have a higher position than the median in the distribution, as the median falls in the RM2-3k group.

This mean majority of the households are at the poorer side of the income group, forming a triangular distribution graph (if you break up the RM5-10k bar into intervals of RM1k as in other bars, you should see the triangle clearly), but the income of the richer side is so much that it is still able to pull up the average income figure.

Now, can you sense the "M"?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

EIU published IT competitiveness benchmarking report 2008

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU, a leading research and advisory firm under The Economist Group that publishes various famous business publications such as The Economist, CFO, etc.) has just published a white paper namely "How technology sectors grow: Benchmarking IT industrycompetitiveness 2008" sponsored by the Business Software Alliance (BSA).

To produce the report, they have performed in-depth studies and ranked 66 countries based on the following 6 categories with a number of indicators in each of them:

  1. Business environment for the IT industry
  2. IT infrastructure
  3. Human capital
  4. Legal environment
  5. R&D environment
  6. Government support for IT industry development

Compared with the same studies done last year, here are some of their findings:

  • Taiwan has risen from 6th to 2nd in the overall index based primarily on its strong performance in the R&D environment category, and particularly in patents.

  • Japan has suffered the steepest dropamong the index countries—from 2nd to12th—also largely due to changes in its R&Dand patents scores.

  • South Korea also fell from 3rd to 8th affected by patents scores.

  • Canada has risen from 9th to 6th placethanks mainly to improved performance inthe area of human capital development.

  • Israel has advanced from 20th to 16ththis year thanks to stronger scores in IT infrastructure and in the area of governmentsupport for the IT industry.

  • Germany has fallen from 16th to 19th place due primarily to the change in measuring patents, as well as toslower growth of R&D funding.

Three Asian economies have made it to the Top 10. They are Taiwan (no. 2, just trailing the champion US), South Korea (no. 8) and Singapore (no. 9). Malaysia ranked no. 36 overall (same position as in 2007), and ranked no.8 among the 17 economies in the Asia-Pacific region.

(Click image to enlarge...)

Click here to read the full report of "How technology sectors grow: Benchmarking IT industrycompetitiveness 2008".

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Intel launched 6-core Dunnington processors

Intel has just launched their 6-core Dunnington a.k.a. Xeon 7400 processor, which is designed to dramatically improve the performance of virtualization applications, and comes with

This new processor is
Intel's first to use a dedicated level-3 cache, and able to boost performance by 50 percent compared to the 4-core Tigerton a.k.a. Xeon 7300 processor.

Dunnington is socket-compatible with the Tigerton, and both of them are designed to be used in machines with four or more processor sockets. There are also optionally scaled down 4-core version of Dunnington processor with a cheaper price tag.

If you are dealing with virtualization and high performance computing, this will be a very good news for you.

HP to chop off 7.5% workforce after merger with EDS

There is news that HP is going to lay off 7.5% of its existing workforce, which is equivalent to more than 24k headcounts, as part of its merger plan with EDS. So the concern that I blogged about exactly 4 months ago in the article of "HP to buy over EDS for about US$13B" has come to reality.

Employees from EDS are expected to bear the brunt of the cuts, and half of the jobs cuts will be in the US, with finance, human resources and legal departments expected to be affected. This mean that the "damage" will be minimal in their Asia-Pacific offices.

Hope that Mark Hurd is making a wiser move than Carly Fiorina this time.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Improve Windows Systray clock with the free LClock

LClock is a very lightweight Windows 2000/XP Systray clock replacement that consumes very minimal memory and system resources, ideal to make the clock in the Systray looks much better and with additional features such as nice calendar display with a single mouse click.

This free program is developed by Ying Han, originated from the idea of Thrawn's .NET systray clock program. It is a modified (stripped down) version of Kazuto Sato's TClock Light.

It not only displays the time in Systray in a configurable and much nicer way, and also will pop up a nice calendar with a just single mouse click on it. It also features a simple alarm system configurable by clicking on the calendar. The calendar reminders show up in a pop-up window when triggered and can be scheduled to be repeated at different intervals.

With LClock, you can have a much better clock and calendar application in your Windows 2000/XP.

The latest version of LClock is 1.62b released by September 2004.

Click here for more information about LClock.

UltraVNC 1.0.5 released

Glad to know that the long awaited UltraVNC 1.0.5 is finally released, 2 years from the last stable version of 1.0.2.

When I was managing the MIS department of my ex-company, where my technical support team needs to support multiple retail outlets in remote locations, UltraVNC is an excellent tool the team uses for remote support and troubleshooting from HQ without needed to travel for onsite support. It saves a lot of time, money and effort, and helps to solve the problem for the user within a short period of time after the issue was raised.

UltraVNC is a powerful client-server remote control software derived from the famous Virtual Network Computing (VNC) software. With UltraVNC, you can see the desktop of a remote computer as if you are sitting in front of it, and control it with your local mouse and keyboard via the computer network.

There are 3 remote control technologies popular in the market of remote control software:

  • Independent Computing Architecture (ICA) designed by Citrix Systems is proprietary. Practical products conforming to ICA are Citrix’s WinFrame and Citrix Presentation Server, which usage is charged by license.
  • Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) designed by Microsoft is used in Terminal Services or Remote Desktop.
  • Virtual Network Computing (VNC) designed by AT&T is released as open source and is platform independent. There are clients and servers for almost all GUI operating systems including Windows, Linux/BSD/Unix (X-Window), Mac OS, and also for Java. There are even clients that run in web browsers. Most free remote control software are based on this technology.
UltraVNC includes a number of advanced features, making it unique among the various flavors of VNC variants, including:

  • Special graphics mirror driver to facilitate ultrafast remote controlling experience.
  • Multiple authentication methods, including integration with Microsoft Windows Logon
  • Data Stream Encryption Plugin to securely encrypt all data sent between the UltraVNC server and viewer.
  • Possibility to send Ctrl-Alt-Del to the remote server, useful to logoff user, shutdown or restart remotely
  • Text chat window for user between the server and client to communicate directly.
  • Drag-and-drop style remote file transfer between client and server.
  • Auto reconnection support
  • Multiple monitors support
  • Repeater to use UltraVNC viewer behind a NAT router.
  • NAT to NAT connector for connections between UltraVNC viewer and server behind NAT routers without any router modification.
  • UltraVNC SC (SingleClick), a customizable mini UltraVNC server that doesn't need any installation for on-the-fly usage.

UltraVNC is free and open sourced, released under the GNU General Public License.

Click here for more information and download of UltraVNC.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

WD-40 can help in removing road tax sticker

Our road tax sticker is pretty sticky, with a layer of adhesive that glue it firmly onto the windscreen. When it is time to renew the road tax, many find it difficult to peel off the existing sticker without leaving stain of glue and/or small pieces of the sticker.

I found that WD-40 is pretty useful in helping us to peel off the existing road tax sticker from the windscreen cleanly, without leaving any stain or residue. Just gently peel off the sticker as usual, and don't worry about the adhesive and residue that is hard to remove. Then, spray some WD-40 onto a piece of dry cloth, and wipe them off from the windscreen. Now, you will have a clean space to put on your new road tax sticker.

Besides, I have V-Kool tinted on my windscreen, and I found that this WD-40 (sprayed on cloth) will not harm the tinted film, and hence this method is safe to use on tinted windscreen too.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

IT & Handphone Price Crash @ Digital Mall (3 days only)

The Digital Mall in Petaling Jaya is having an IT & Handphone Price Crash promotion this weekend 5-7 September 2008.

Original Sony Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung handphone sets with original warranty are selling at a few hundred ringgit cheaper than normal retail price, and many are packaged with free 1GB memory card. IT products on sale including Samsung colour laser printer, Garmin Nuvi, Playstation 3, etc.

In addition, a total of RM20k cash vouchers are given out daily during the event for purchases above RM100, RM500 and RM1,000.

For more detail and the promotion price list, click here.

hMailServer the decent free mail server for Windows

There are plenty of free and open source mail server solutions in the Linux and Unix world which based on Postfix, and there are also standalone suite such as Courier, Zimbra, etc.

However, most mail server solutions in Windows world are not free. Among those which are free also always lack in features. hMailServer, created by Martin Knafve, is a decent one in the Windows world, which is free to use and also provides all of the important functionality you need to run your own e-mail server. Initially it was open source and licensed under GPL, until recently its Version 5 is now closed source (source code no longer available) but is still provided free of charge to use.

hMailServer supports open email protocols such as IMAP, POP3 and SMTP, which makes it compatible with most email clients available, including webmail such as SquirrelMail. Among its features are:

  • Multiple virtual domains
  • Domain alias
  • Multilingual
  • Quotas
  • Antispam
  • Antivirus (with ClamAV)
  • Auto-reply
  • Rules and filtering
  • Attachment blocking
  • Retrieval of messages from external POP3 accounts
  • Built-in backup
  • Mirroring
  • Multihoming
  • Scripting
  • .....

If you are from the SME/SMI sector, looking for an email server solution to be installed in a Windows platform, hMailServer is a solution that is worthwhile for you to seriously look into.

CakeFest the CakePHP conference

The 2nd CakeFest in 2008 will take place in Buenos Aires, Argentina this coming 2-5 December 2008. The conference will feature both English and Spanish spoken talks.

Organized by the Cake Software Foundation, CakeFest is a programming conference with a strong focus on CakePHP. CakePHP is a rapid development framework for PHP scripting language that provides an extensible architecture for developing, maintaining, and deploying web applications. Using commonly known design patterns like MVC and ORM within the convention over configuration paradigm, it reduces development costs and helps developers write less code.

Click here to pre-register for the CakeFest conference now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

If you experience slow Internet access, OpenDNS can be your remedy

Recently, I experienced slow Internet access both from my office and home. Even the Google search page also took a long time to load up. However, the "ping" and "traceroute" results to external sites seem to be normal, this made me suspect the DNS service of TMNet, the ISP.

Then I tried to change to use the free DNS service from OpenDNS. Woolah! My Internet access speed finally come back to normal.

If you are facing the same Internet access speed problem, you might also want to give OpenDNS a try. Just go to this website: https://www.opendns.com/start and click on Computer, select the operating system you are using, and there is step-by-step guide to help you make use of OpenDNS service. If you are connecting to Internet using ADSL, and your computer is configured to automatically get its IP address from the DHCP service in your ADSL router, then click on Router, select your ADSL router's brand and model, and follow the steps for the DNS configuration.

Hope that your slow Internet access problem can also be solved by OpenDNS too.

Hint: Click on the "Older Posts" link to continue reading, or click here for a listing of all my past 3 months articles.