29 January 2008

Diagnosing My Slow Internet Connection

I have been rather busy lately and have not been actively blogging. Read on and you'll know why.

Two years ago, I signed up with Starhub's MaxOnLine (a local ISP). At the same time, I also installed home wireless networking. This required the connection of a wireless broadband router which sat between the modem and one of my PCs. (The PC was connected to the router by a cable. However, if I like, I could also choose to go completely wireless, i.e. all PCs connecting wirelessly.)

For some service packages, the Linksys WRT54G router (photo above) was bundled as a "free gift" by MaxOnLine at that time. However, I had to buy my own router as I was already given a "nearly free" desktop PC. I decided to buy the same model of router because I thought it would be the most suitable one for MaxOnLine. Otherwise Starhub wouldn't have bundled it, right?

After some trial and error (more of the latter than the former) I eventually managed to set up wireless networking successfully. Don't pray pray, okay? I even secured my network with 128-bit WEP (Wireless Encryption Protocol) although I might not know exactly how it worked.

Ever since then, I consistently experienced difficulty in loading some websites regardless of which PC I used. Some of the problematic websites were:

1. Wikipedia e.g. the bicycle page;

2. Blogsites hosted by Wordpress. (That explains why I didn't visit Wee Kiat's and Laokokok's blog as often as I would have liked to);

3. My hotmail account;

4. Youtube videos

Oddly though, I had no problem accessing other websites. For example, my Gmail account was alright. Blogs hosted by Blogspot could also be displayed normally.

I was really at my wit's ends. I tried asking relatives, friends, colleagues and yes, even IT sales people for advice. Some people told me it could be due spyware or viruses which had infected my PCs. Others said it could be due to my aged PCs, my ISP or the website itself. Yet others told me it could be the fault of the router or modem.

I recently got a "nearly free" laptop when I recontracted my MaxOnLine subscription for another 28 months. I also bought a new Compaq Quad-processor desktop. Immediately after setting up the laptop and desktop, I tried accessing the problematic websites. Yes, the problem was still there so it could not be due to viruses, spyware or a slow PC.

So I decided to call the MaxOnLine hotline 1633 for advice. The automated answering system said something like this:

"If you are calling us because of a problem connecting to the Internet via a router, try connecting directly to the cable modem, by-passing the router. Power off and on the modem and try again. If you could access the Internet this way, then the problem could be due to your router. You may want to contact the router's vendor for further technical assistance."

Following the instructions, I tried again. Indeed, the problem went away. So it must be the fault of the router.

I googled for more information on the router and found this very useful Linksys Customer Help Site. After searching further, I arrived at this relevant page.

I tried adjusting the security setting of the browser and the MTU values for the problematic websites as well as opening the port for secured websites but all to no avail.

At the bottom of the page, it said that if all the above didn't work, I should upgrade the firmware of the router. That I did and voila, the problem was solved!

20 January 2008

Can You Live To 100?

Chun See's mention of this phrase 回头已是百年, literally meaning "when you look back, you are already 100", in this blog entry is indeed timely.

You see, I just came back from the 100th birthday celebration of my paternal aunt. The celebration was held at a posh Chinese restaurant on the 33rd floor of OCBC Centre. Below is the beautiful night scenery of the city as viewed from the restaurant. It is certainly no mean feat that Singapore managed to achieve this level of development in just over 40 years.

This bit of information is especially dedicated to my friend Walter - yes, there was sharksfin on the menu and there was no MC Hammer(head) to give my bowl of sharksfin to. So I not only touched the sharksfin but I ate it. Shucks, now I am wrecked with guilt.

I remember more than 40 years ago, my aunt was a peddlar selling cloth in a Chinatown backlane. My mum brought me to her stall one morning. Her colourful wares, wrapped tidily around paper rolls (for 5-foot-wide cloth) and flat wooden frames (for 3-foot-wide cloth), were placed neatly on a groundsheet on the floor. She had no dearth of customers. Aunties would drop by her stall to buy a few yards of cloth to make their own clothes like many families do in those days. When the day is over, she would load all her cloth on a rickety cart and then push it to a nearby place where she would store them for the night.

She was married to my 7th uncle who passed away a few years ago at the age of more than 90. In comparison, my father who ranked 8th in the family died in 1993 at 82 while my mum joined him 10 years later at 83. Even then, I consider my parents to have lived fairly long lives. Yet, if the government's proposed annuity payout from age 85 onwards should go through, even my parents would not have lived long enough to benefit from it.

Let's face it. How many of us can expect to live till the grand old age of 100?

Centenarians like the "110-year young" Teresa Hsu and my aunt are more the exception rather than the norm. Singaporeans born between 1995-2000 can expect to live till only 77 years' old. Okay, it might have gone up to 80 by now but that is still a long way off 100.

MM Lee, who is turning 85 this year, recently revealed his secret for a long life - stay mentally and physically active as one ages. I would like to add some rather obvious points which MM Lee himself has made at one time or another, i.e. have a healthy lifestyle - eat carefully, exercise regularly and sleep properly.

I don't mind living to 100. But besides having a long life, the importance of having a good quality of life cannot be overstated. It is no use being alive but spending your days bedridden or immobile.

Do you think you could live to 100? And how would you like to live it?

11 January 2008

Hamish Brown's 5 Colourful Things

Hamish Brown is one of the radio DJs whom I admire. He is humorous and professional (well, usually). I love to listen to his "five things" every morning at about 7.50 am while driving to work.

Yesterday morning, he had "five things Confucius say". Gosh, my memory must be failing me because out of five things, I could only remember two. Which two? Well, I shall not make the mistake of repeating them here as this is a family blog. If you are interested in them, visit this page and look for the two sayings starting with "foolish man give wife grand piano..." and "panties not best things on earth..."

Do not be mistaken. I am not complaining as I am not so uptight. In fact, I had a good laugh yesterday morning. I thoroughly enjoyed the jokes which I find quite harmless. Now I have one more thing to admire about Hamish Brown - his guts.

Yes, I know that the Internet has far far worse content than that. But somehow, national radio is different. It has a "radio programme code" which must not be breached. After all, wasn't Mediacorp fined $5,000 recently for Fly Dutchman/Glenn Ong's "sex talk"? A few years ago, Sheikh Haikel was even fired from his job at Perfect 10.

Let's see if Hamish Brown's 5 colourful things will get him into trouble this time. I certainly hope not as he was only repeating what is available widely on the Internet. But then on the Internet, the surfer chooses to visit those sites, just like you've chosen to come and read my blog. (By that, I am not saying whether my blog is desirable or not. The reader makes that judgement.) So it's strictly a personal choice - if you don't like it, you can always choose not to read it - the same principle which I apply myself.

However in contrast, radio contents are pushed down to the listener before he/she has a chance to switch the radio off or switch channels. Moreover, radio reaches a very wide audience - both young and old, men and women, open and conservative. The contents presented on radio (and TV) intrudes into our personal space, whether we like it or not.

Do tell me your opinion about such jokes being aired on national radio. Do you approve or disapprove?

05 January 2008

With Oil Prices Hitting US$100 Or More Per Barrel... (1)

Pek Kio Food Centre at Blk 41A Owen Road does not have a turtle soup stall but it is one of my favorite food centres.

(Pek Kio means "white bridge" in Hokkien. Probably in the olden days, there used to be a bridge painted in white in this area. Since in the vicinity, there is a Cambridge Road, Pek Kio's English name could very well be Cambridge. Therefore it follows that if you studied in Cambridge University like our MM did, you would have graduated from Pek Kio University. Hahaha... oops, sorry I digressed.)

I had breakfast there this morning. Food sold in this food centre is cheap and yummy. Take for example this carrot cake stall:

I don't know what secret "good spice" the cook puts in his carrot cake but it certainly got the people queueing for his food:

With oil prices hitting US$100 or more per barrel, one wonders how on earth he could keep his prices this low, especially when he uses so much oil:

With prices so low and carrot cake so tasty, who needs to make his/her own carrot cake?

But you better hurry. A few years ago, the old owner made an attempt to retire. There was a young man (his son?) whom he taught the skills and secrets to frying carrot cake. The young man took over the stall for a while but business obviously suffered (because there was no queue). Next I knew, the old man was back at the stove.

If eating carrot cake is fattening, frying it is obviously not:

It sure looks like fatty pork, doesn't it? But I assure you that it is not half as oily and only half as unhealthy.

01 January 2008

Review Of SeaStars2007 Music Album

As someone who does not know tempo from rhythm from beat and tone from treble from pitch, I feel very honoured to have been invited by Ivan to review a music album which he created with Adrian. As both of them have full-time jobs, making music is only their hobby and this album is their maiden effort.

My involvement in music is strictly limited to being a casual listener and even so, only of certain genres. I listen mostly to pop, especially old 60-80s Chinese and English songs that I grew up with; fusion like those by Shakatak; and contemporary jazz by Quincy Jones, George Benson and the like.

Initially, I could not download the songs from the archive so Ivan emailed me the files. After some fumbling, I finally got my MP3 player loaded with the 9 songs from the album and played them in my car.

First impression is that the music sounded very much like the chill-out or spa music CDs which I bought some time back - very soothing and easy-listening.

However, like most music of this type which I have listened to, some consecutive stanzas of the music sounded so much alike that it is as if they are repeating themselves like a broken record. In addition, some tracks ended rather abruptly. If there was a consistent gradual fade-out of about 10-second duration, the endings would have been smoother.

Perhaps it was to make the recordings sound instrument-like rather than synthesized (using Garageband?) but the guitar "squeaking" (right term?) on Track 3 - Starfish at 1m:15s was overdone. It sounded rather jarring and irritating to me. If not, it would have easily been my favorite track (same as Elaine's choice). I also particularly like Track 7 - Once Upon A Star, a beautiful piano piece. Track 9 - Seabreeze is another very nice track that has an oriental flavour to it. It has instruments that sound to my untrained ears like er hu and cymbals in it.

The background sounds of children's laughter, waves, seagulls and dolphins are all very cleverly well-blended with the music. They are not over-powering and do not distract the listener from the music itself. The listener is immediately "transported" to the seaside, especially when he/she closes his eyes and concentrate on the music.

Overall, the album is worth listening to even if it is not free. It is certainly much, much better than the only CD which my colleague keeps playing in his car - Gregorian Chants. Perhaps it is his strategy to put off people like me from taking free rides in his car. Hmm... maybe I will burn a copy of SeaStars2007 for him. The album is licensed under Creative Commons am I right, Ivan and Adrian?