Monday, April 30, 2012

MSAM 2012 in Sabah recorded historic attendance

Malaysian Unit Trust Week (MSAM 2012) spread its wings to East Malaysia for the second time - this time in Sabah - and maintained the theme "Investment For 1Malaysia".

Location: Likas, Kota Kinabalu & live broadcast by RTM

The nine-day Unit Trust Week from April 20 - 28, 2012, organised by PNB, was also participated by heavyweights like Malayan Banking Bhd, Sime Darby Bhd, I&P Group Sdn Bhd, UMW Holdings, Chemical Company of Malaysia Bhd, Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd and national car maker Perodua. 

 Welcome to MSAM 2012

During the opening ceremony on Friday, April 20, visitors stood a chance to win a Toyota Hilux Double-cabin while, on the closing ceremony on Saturday, April 28, visitors could expect to be lucky enough to win a Ford Fiesta 1.6L Sport, Modenas motorcycles, laptops, iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. Happy ending, all prizes being won by some lucky visitors. Not me.

I visited the exhibition on the opening day and I must say the tents setup and the way the organiser set the booths were done in such a professionally manner. I think it must've taken a lot of planning, energy and money to stage such event. Apart from the big opportunities to win cars, almost all exhibitors held some sort of contests and activities for visitors to take part and win something.

One of the modded vehicle on display - Perodua's Infinite concept car.

Since 2000, there have been 12 similar MSAMs but this one will be remembered as the one with the highest recorded visitors attendance. Well done PNB for attracting more than a quarter of a million visitors and bravo to the attending Sabahans.

Previous locations and attendance at MSAM:

1) PWTC, Kuala Lumpur                       - (2000 - 60,000 visitors)
2) Kota Bharu, Kelantan                        - (2001 – 190,000 visitors)
3) Alor Star, Kedah                               - (2002 – 160,000 visitors)
4) Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur       - (2003 – 85,000 visitors)
5) Kepala Batas, Pulau Pinang              - (2004 – 200,000 visitors)
6) Seremban, Negeri Sembilan              -  (2005 – 155,000 visitors)
7) Kuala Terengganu, Terengganu           - (2006 – 250,000 visitors)
8) Kuantan, Pahang                              - (2007 – 202,000 visitors)
9) Ayer Keroh, Melaka                         -  (2008 – 249,000 visitors)
10) Johor Bahru, Johor                          - (2009 – 156,000 visitors)
11) Kuching, Sarawak                           - (2010 – 187,000 visitors)
12) Ipoh, Perak                                     - (2011 – 177,000 visitors)
13) Kota Kinabalu, Sabah                     - (2012 - 268,787 visitors)

“The figure in Sabah is the best so far with 268,787 visitors. The figure also surpassed our initial target of 200,000 visitors,”  - PNB Group chairman Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tablets - the solution for heavy schoolbags?

School children carrying heavy schoolbags is not something new. But with the flawed education system (that's what I think) - rather than to just 'sufficiently' equip children at early age - these kids end up having to shoulder a lot of physical weight alongside mental pressure of being fed with too much information/knowledge too early.

During our days, we had to walk for a couple of kilometres to school but lugging just half the weight that today's children have to carry. I can't recall seeing anyone at school having to bend to balance the weight on their backs.

World cheapest tablet, Aakash. Image:

Late last year, India came out with an idea to "help tens of thousands of low-income students connect to the digital world" by introducing the cheapest tablet, the Aakash. Priced from US$35 to $45 (RM106 - RM137) with option to buy an upgraded $75 variant, this is one tablet that could be affordable to many Malaysian students.

Will using tablets solve the heavy schoolbags?

Like many others, I have a school-going child in a Chinese medium primary school and the burden she carries on a daily basis can be as heavy as 10kg - 12kg. That could constitute 20% to 25% of her body weight which is not healthy at all. To some extent I think the use of tablets/computers in schools could be a solution to ease the heavy burden of carrying textbooks. 

I must be quick to point out that there are several issues that need to be factored in if tablets are to be allowed in school, but that's beside the point and is for another discussion.

There are some tablets in the market that one can buy for less than US$100 such as the Velocity Micro Cruz, Maylong Universe M-250, Wonder Media, Ainol's Novo7, Pan Digital, Nextbook Android, etc. Surely, someone or some corporations can bring down the cost and patent a low-price tablet specifically for students. The shear volume will take care of the profitability issue when it is adopted by the relevant ministry.

I agree with  Mobile World magazine editor, Kasmhminder Singh's contention that  instead of giving students RM100 each, as what happened during the recent government drive, it would be more useful over the long term to look into how tablets could become the new textbooks.

Tablet could be locked so that it is not possible to install games easily, and it can go online to only authorised sites and networks. Compress the bulky text books into e-book versions like the apps in iPads and Tabs. Book publishers can still collect fee every year when the text books are loaded into the tablet. 

Jane E. Brody discussed this quite interestingly in her article, Heavy Backpacks Can Spell Chronic Back Pain for Children; give it a go, it's a good read.

So, let's throng the electronic stores and grab one right now?

It will happen sometime, perhaps in the near future. It is not a question of 'if' but rather 'when', so, while waiting for that to happen, do what can be done now. There are some good backpacks that will transfer perhaps two-thirds of the weight to the hips via a padded belt and good design.

An example of this is the SPI ergonomic backpacks. Google to find out more about it. It is more expensive and not stylish or typically used by children in their early teens, but they are designed to reduce problems with carrying weight on the back. We bought one of these for our daughter.

Within the next 10 years or so, many schools will start adopting the use of electronic school bags. I'm convinced.

Could lightning be used as a source of energy (RE)?

In my previous article, I was talking about harnessing energy from the blowing wind. We do that by putting up wind turbines or mills.

How about lightning? Can we harness its seemingly huge amount of energy burst into something useful, so that we get a sustainable source of energy?

Lightning strike captured from Suria Sabah shopping mall - Dec 21, 2009

The answer is no, that's at least for now. In future - and I mean not in the near future - who knows, someone could just pop up from somewhere and come out with the big idea.
With around 16 million storms worldwide each year, plus a typical lightning bolts unleashing around 500 million joules of energy, lightning certainly looks impressive! But despite the big number scientists say that all it does is power up an equivalent of 2 households for a day. 

Why so? Because lightning doesn't produce energy. The massive sound and lights you see in the sky is just a process of 'transferring' energy. The energy you could get from the lightning is less than the energy it would take to create some sort of massive negative charge to produce energy.

You can further read here, but to make the story short, as a source of reliable energy, lightning is hopeless. You'd better be worrying about avoiding a lightning strike, than to spend your precious time trying to harness it to provide electricity for your home.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wind turbines as RE source

Apart from solar PV, wind mills and hydro-electric are the other two Renewable Energy sources that interest me. They offer different kind of challenges but could also be very rewarding.

I mentioned in my previous article about Sabah's good potential in harnessing energy from wind by putting up wind turbines offshore on its northern tip. Recently, a local company thought that Sabah could be the beneficiary of its RE initiative in testing the viability of vertical wind turbine power generator.

Daily Express - April 25, 2012

Apart from Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu, Sabah has the right geographic factors to generate enough wind for wind-turbine projects that can be worked out between corporate bodies or private investors and SESB.

Pernec Corporation Berhad, one of the exhibitors at the popular MSAM 2012 currently on-going at Kota Kinabalu Sports Complex in Likas, told the media that it is planning a further discussion with SESB on a possibility of using vertical axis wind turbines as an alternative renewable energy source. One of the RE industry solutions offered by Pernec is wind turbine. Pernec claims that its wind turbine emits low noise and can generate between 300W and 25kW; most suited for windy and coastal areas or islands.

The company also provides environment-friendly solutions for our everyday needs such as power (solar PV), lightings (LED), refrigeration & air-conditioning (green HC refrigerant), as well energy saving and conservation through efficient energy management system.

Wind turbines

Coming back to wind turbines, in Hawaii, there have been complaints from residents staying nearby wind farm. It was reported that the noise from the wind turbine blades is very loud and sometimes intolerable. Hawaii government is currently actively  perusing RE initiatives, particularly wind farming, to reduce it dependence on fossil fuel.

Pernec claims that the company's turbines emit  low noise, so, it is very interesting to find out how they make this possible. But looking at the highest capacity of 25kW, noise level may not yet be an issue. Vertical construction may also play a part in keeping noise level in check.

The company is believed to be planning a pilot project on vertical axis wind turbine in Sabah and if this materialises, SESB should take it seriously. Not just because it helps in preserving the nature but also the possible long term profitability of such venture. 

Let's harness energy from 'thin air'.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Complain to SESB boss directly

Tired of having to write a letter of complaint or finding it troublesome to ask your local print media to highlight your grouses in their Hotline page? I bet you are.

We want everything simplified and done in a super fast and effortless manner these days. Who wouldn't. Especially so when you are dealing with one of the basic necessities in your daily routine - power supply. A couple of months ago I bumped into this stumbling block when trying to highlight my 'problem' with the utility  company, Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB). In its website, the 'Contact Us' link only allow you to send a short SMS-type correspondence or feedback. There are 3 types of feedback - Enquiry, Suggestion, and Complain.

My experience

I had a lengthy explanation to make and it was in the form of an official letter. The system doesn't allow this. I ended up typing sms-text with the hope they will understand it and to come back to me ASAP. You may ask why I didn't just pick up the phone and call? Let's just say I have my reason for that.

Anyway, today's Daily Express carried an article about SESB's new website and it went on to say that starting Tuesday (that would be yesterday, 24th April 2012), consumers especially the registered users can now channel their complaints and grouses through the website that has an email system that will directly go to the MD.

The MD, Ir. Abd Razak Salim said, "I will be able to monitor the problems faced by consumers and can follow-up the complaints personally. At the same time, I can also forward and liaise with the concerned divisions in the agency to look into the grouses, effectively".

Old method of interaction

The following is the previous sole method of contacting SESB in writing via electronic. Not really an elaborate way and certainly not  interactive. You can see it here.

Simple feedback Form, still in use today, if you so prefer.

I tried sending enquiry through this method and the system returned some sort of error message. I ended up editing my message short enough in an attempt to fit the system requirement. Still, no luck. Maybe not my lucky day.

It keep 'saying' that message is Too Long.

Okay, cut the crap! How to contact SESB via e-mail?

Forget about the short message way of sending feedback. You can contact them through e-mail: That's at least what is available in the website after scouring through (with some difficulties). I hope this is the mail address that would go directly to the Managing Director.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The air you breath in a Plane - Stale or Fresh?

Do you travel a lot? If yes then you might be interested to know if the oxygen level in the plane is sufficient for you, and for everyone in it.

Or most importantly, is the air that we breath in a plane 'clean'? Can you pick up a bug while in a plane cabin?

Opsss! That's not the runway.

First of all, the air in the cabin is not sealed in. Fresh air is continuously introduced during the flight. A plane’s jets are already sucking in and compressing huge volumes of air to burn with the aviation fuel. Some of this is diverted for the passengers to breathe. Because the compression heats up the air, it must first be ducted around the wings to be cooled down.

The air already in the cabin is passed through high-efficiency hospital-grade HEPA filters to remove bacteria and viruses and then mixed 50:50 with the fresh air from outside. The excess cabin air is vented through valves to the rear of the plane to keep the cabin pressure constant.

So, not as bad as I thought?

The air in the plane’s cabin is completely replaced around 15  to 20 times an hour, compared to about 12 times an hour in an office building. But the most important thing is controlling the temperature and removing contaminants.

The oxygen that all the passengers breathe is lesser by 1% compared with the fresh oxygen entering the cabin. So, yes, not as bad as you think.

Further readings:
1) How is aircraft cabin air recycled during flights?
2) Airplane air
3) Science focus.

Unique code: 4VF4BCX5XUBE

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sabah Fest 2012

Welcome to the colourful SABAH FEST 2012.

Image: Sabah Tourism

Sabah Fest is the largest cultural event among the many of Sabah's multicultural attractions and for the first time this year the event will be held at the newly-opened 600-capacity Auditorium, Kompleks JKKN Sabah , Mile 2, Jalan Penampang, Kota Kinabalu from 3rd - 5th May 2012.

What to expect

1) Cultural  extravaganza  which  will  take  place  outside  the  venue to offer visitors a  complete  cultural
     a) Handicraft-making demonstrations by local experts
     b) Traditional music shows and dance performances
     c) Sampling of variety of traditional foods

2) The main highlight which will be the cultural performances, showcasing the Adventures of  
    Ngarayang, a dynamic, smooth-talking barter trader and his irresistible tales on the diverse
    West Coast ethnic groups he had encountered throughout his barter trade trips.

Storyline of the Adventure of Ngarayang

The story line is scripted in such a way to showcase the authentic, age-old dances, rituals and ceremonies of the Bonggi of Banggi Island, Dusun Kimaragang of Kota Marudu, the Lotud of Tuaran, the Bajau of Kota Belud, the Bruneian of Southwest Sabah, the Bisaya of Beaufort and the Dusun Tatana of Kuala Penyu.

A young adventurer named Ngarayang meaning ‘trader’ plied the west coast of Sabah bartering and distributing a variety of goods much sought after by the coastal communities. He was gifted with a charming look and a flair for story-telling. He captivated his audience wherever he went with wonderous stories of his travels and tales of cultures he encountered.

On one of his legendary journeys, the charms of a beautiful princess captured his heart, and while tales of mystical rituals, captivating dances and mesmerising music in a land of exotic people and cultures fascinated him, his heart yearned to see his princess again.

To find out what happened to Ngarayang in the end, come and find out for yourself.

Traditional dances and rituals

The followings are scheduled to be showcased beginning 8.30pm  by about 400 local performers from their respective areas, during the cultural extravaganza:

1) The Bonggi with their Adat Bebalang and Tabadak dances,
2) The Dusun Kimaragang with their Pinakang dance,
3) The Lotud donning the Sampangan cloth in their colourful and elaborate wedding ceremonies,
4) The Sama (Bajau) with their Runsai Cagayan,
5) The Dusun Menggatal Kuntau (martial arts),
6) The Brunei Zapin Jamilah,
7) The Bisaya Liliput dance and Bubu Mengalai ritual,
8) The Dusun Tatana Bakanjar (martial arts) integrated with the Moginum (drinking) ritual and dance called Sayau Loyop.

If you've noticed, these ethnic groups reside in the West Coast of Sabah.

Similar to the Sabah Fest 2011 at Sutera Magellan, there will be no entrance fee for visitors visiting the exhibitors booths. For the main show, tickets are priced at RM30 and RM50 per show. The building is said to be conforming to the green building guidelines, so, let's visit the new National Culture and Arts Department auditorium this May.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

1 in 5 of enquiries from Germany intrested in Renewable Energy

Malaysia-Germany RE800

Malaysia has a good working and education relationship with Germany and in fact the Feed-in Tariff for Renewable Energy in Malaysia is in some ways adopted from the one implemented in Germany.

Malaysian-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MGCCI) is one of the entities that ties the two countries in economic matters. Each year MGCCI receives about 2,000 enquiries from Germany and out of this, 20% expressed interest to participate in Malaysia's RE business. The remaining 80% were involved in traditional businesses, mostly in green-related and energy efficient ventures.

MGCCI General Manager Thomas Brandt said in Malaysia biomass was currently the cheapest form of RE and had the highest availability in terms of renewable energy resource. But there were still few major barriers in developing biomass technology extensively here.

Barriers to development of biomass technology

1) Lack of information in using biomass as an alternative to generate electricity
2) Risk probabilities associated in applying new technologies and financial concerns
3) FIT rates at 42 to 45 sen per kWh was unattractive to plantation firms

If Brandt is taken for his words, FIT rates of between 50 to 60 sen per kWh for a span of 21 years should be a more attractive proposition and there would be better participation from plantation companies in Malaysia.

Renewable Energy Fair - "Intersolar 2012"

On the card, there is a business trip to Germany by Malaysian companies in June 2012 and this could be use by Malaysian renewable energy players to learn or benchmark their current practices on the R&D of solar and green technology in Germany.

Germany is hosting the world’s largest solar trade fair “Intersolar 2012” in June, and a business match-making together with a visit to a famous solar power plant atop the highest mountain in Germany are some of the programs in store for participants. Intersolar 2012 will be the world’s largest gathering of manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, utility and service companies in the solar business.

The Green Mechanics says: I wouldn't have a lot of complaints if the government spend some tax-payers' money to send delegates to a conference such as this one. But it must ensure that there are beneficial plans and actions following such visit.

Friday, April 20, 2012

New iPad (iPad 3) Price - Malaysia

Official pricing for the new iPad (iPad 3) for Malaysia has been released today, Friday 20th April 2012, by The initial prediction via extrapolation in my recent article overstated the prices by a small margin. But that made this official price release more of a good news than a bad one.

The following is the snapshot of's iPad page for everyone's record. You can also go to their website and order online. There is an ordering lead time of 5 to 7 business days.

Source: apple-store/my

It stated in it's advertorial that this gadget is 4G LTE capable. While the specification is true, 4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the United States, and on Bell, Rogers, and Telus networks in Canada. Not in Malaysia.

Nevertheless, if our cellular network infrastructure can handle a bandwidth of up to 40Mbps, then you can still get a pretty fast surfing experience. Even the current wireless speed of 7.2Mbps is at 'best effort'. I rarely get more than 4Mbps on my Maxis broadband.

Update @25 April, 2012
Mobile phone shops and retailers are selling the new iPad at averagely RM300 more than the published figures on My personal observation for Kota Kinabalu prices are as follows (both black and white colours are similarly priced):

iPad / WiFi + 4G / 16GB - RM2,199.00
iPad / WiFi + 4G / 32GB - RM2,499.00
iPad / WiFi + 4G / 64GB - RM2,799.00

Note: Most outlets offer free smart cover, leather or other material of equivalent cost, and screen protector.

Update @1 May, 2012: I finally received my unit, a 32GB Black WiFi+ 4G, for RM2,340.00. Not a very fair pricing, IMO, considering the published price of only RM2,199.00 at apple-store/my.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

New iPad (iPad 3) Launched in Malaysia and compared with iPad 2 and Galaxy Tab 7.7

This is a scheduled entry in anticipation of the New iPad (iPad 3) launching date in Malaysia. As what came out in the mainstream media, launching of the New iPad in Malaysia is Friday, 20th April 2012.

Based on historical data of its pricing and referring to US and Singapore prices the followings are probable price structure for the new iPad. I stick to my earlier comparison and estimates in the previous article about the new iPad.

Let's see if this materialises:

iPad2 (RM) New iPad (RM)
WiFi 16GB     1,199.00     1,599.00

32GB     1,499.00     1,899.00

64GB     1,799.00     2,199.00
WiFi +4G 16GB     1,599.00     1,999.00

32GB     1,899.00     2,299.00

64GB     2,199.00     2,599.00

Note: Prices for iPad2 are current actual. [Update: get the latest updated New iPad prices here]

A brief comparison between the New iPad and Galaxy Tab 7.7, the latest  under Samsung's offerings:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Warning Against Energy Saving Devices

If you haven't heard yet about Energy Saving Device (ESD), it refers to the small 'black box' aimed at reducing domestic power consumption. Marketers claim that such devices can save 20% to 40% of energy resulting in lower electricity bill.

Does it really work, or is energy saving a mere myth?

If you are referring to domestic households my answer is NO! It doesn't work. At least not as per what's advertised. Equipment, machines, gadgets, black box, or whatever they may call it and sold as ESDs had capacitors, which improved the power factor (PF) and reduced the electrical current flow. But the electricity bill will be based on how much power was consumed.

The PF is the ratio between the power required to run a machine compared with the power originating from the utility supply, e.g., TNB, SESB, Sesco. The slight drop in current flow shown in the device often lead the public to think that it equates to a lower electricity bill.

What it does is:

1) improve the power factor,
2) lower the current (normally starting current) flow slightly for a moment depending on the size of the load in relation to the capacitor in the ESD.

As a domestic consumer, you are not significantly affected by both of the above. You do not need to improve your power factor at home as the utility company will not penalise you for lower PF. For the record, TNB requires that all (only) industrial consumers maintain PF at their premises at 0.85 or above.

At the most, you would probably save 1% to 3% but definitely not 40% as claimed by some ESD marketers. Energy saving devices are known to have been sold for around RM200 to RM400, depending on its usage capacity. However, there are also version that are sold at RM1,000 or above.

I have one at home

Out of curiousity, and wanting to find out what's inside the small black box, I purchase a certain ESD for RM250 not too long ago. I don't support such claim, and I didn't expect to save from this but I just need to get the 'feel' of it and to see how the gadget would look.

I will share the picture, here later.

Read the rest of the news piece from Bernama
'Consumers warned against Energy Saving devices'

KEPALA BATAS, April 17 (Bernama) -- Energy Commission Regional Head for Penang, Kedah and Perlis, Ir Md Zakuan Ibrahim has advised the public not to buy energy saving devices which promise to save power consumption by 40 per cent.

The devices which have been sold widely recently, do not live up to its claims and the commission has also retracted its recommendation on the device three months ago.

"The recommendation issued by the Energy Commission is only in regards to safety, not in terms of reducing power consumption. The device confuses consumers as it only allows savings of between one to five per cent, and not 40 per cent," he told reporters after a programme with Penang community leaders.

He said the device, which has been in the market for 10 years, is not a controlled item under the Energy Commission and has no specific legal provision should consumers be cheated.

However, Md Zakuan said the Energy Commission can take legal action through the Consumer Protection Act under the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry (MDTCC).

So, they are all big fat liars?

I would say not totally.

There are also those that are specifically manufactured for large industrial applications. Of course, in this case, the design is more complex and are suited for specific energy reduction objectives. Industrial applications are more of a solution package, where they are offered as a system rather than a single small 'magic' gadget.

They can be in the form of inverters, power factor capacitor banks, etc., to cater for different purposes related to energy saving. This should not be mistaken for the domestic applications where saving generated is not documented.

For further readings, see what Datuk Peter Chin (Malaysian Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water) posted in his blog about ESDs.

Monday, April 16, 2012

British OGN to create 1000 wind farm jobs

This is very interesting. The British government is giving out grant for a company willing to venture into something new, creative and at the same time create job opportunities.

Already for sometime now, we know of at least two areas in Malaysia where wind is blowing at speed viable for tapping of electricity 'from thin air'. These are Kudat/Banggi in the northern tip of Sabah and Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu. Pulau Perhentian (Besar & Kecil) are two resort islands but building some industrial scale wind turbines, if carefully crafted, should not ruin the beautiful scenery and serenity of these places.

Offshore wind mills. Image: Skynews

The rest of the news @The Independent
The Independent, April 13, 2012

LONDON: British engineer Offshore Group Newcastle (OGN) announced on Friday that it would create up to 1,000 jobs after receiving a government grant to help build offshore wind farms.

OGN said in a statement that it had been handed a grant worth $1.02 million (£640,000) to help stimulate employment prospects in Tyneside, northeast England, where the group is based.

The firm said it will build a prototype steel-jacketed foundation at its site in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, starting later this year. The foundation structures will be designed for large wind turbine generators in waters over 30 metres (100ft) deep.

"OGN has received a vote of confidence from the Department of Energy and Climate Change for its move into offshore wind technology," it said in the statement.

"And the northeast economy shares in the benefit with the creation of up to 1,000 long term jobs."

Malaysian perspective

If wind farm is too costly to erect in the mountainous terrains of Malaysia, we should consider building them offshore. Never shut down an idea until a detailed study is carried out. Allocate some grant and ask someone willing to do the study to be given the money.

Japan is doing it now in the waters near Fukushima following of the recent catastrophic tsunami and nuclear reactors failures. Also, in the northern island of Hokkaido, a large scale solar PV farm is already in the pipeline.

The week that was

In times of adversities, reaching out to God is what you do. God answers you by (against all odds) opening the way for your wife to reach you quicker than you can imagine. That's what happened to me last week.

Last week wasn't the most terrific one if one care to summarise.

This post is to remind myself that everyone, including myself, can get into trouble anytime, anywhere, in a blink of an eye. That I should never take safety for granted and that if it can go wrong, it will. This is also a milestone of sort, for the wrong reason.

I think God gave me a fatherly slap on my wrist, but at the same time made His presence felt. My wife was there and I felt loved.

Who speaks the most languages

People may want to learn other languages because they want to learn about others and their cultures. Some for self gratification and some for recognition. I speak 3 languages - English, Malay, Kadazan/Dusun - and a couple of other dialects, if you can call those languages.

I read an article recently that there are people who speak and understand more than 100 languages, and it got me thinking how'd they do it, and what drove them to take the trouble to learn those languages. Anyway, to answer the question of  who rather that why, here it is:

There may be more that are not documented, and depending on how how high we set the bar of fluency, Ziad Youseff Fazah is the man. Ziad Fazah, born in Liberia, brought up in Beirut and now living in Brazil, claims to be the world's greatest living polyglot (multilingual) with a total of 59 languages (the wikipedia's figure of 58 is a bit outdated).

He has been 'tested' on Spanish television, and was reported to have failed to understand beginner-level phrases in some widely spoken languages. [image from: Languages@Lighthouse]

However, there are others (people no longer living) with more languages and dialects such as Cardinal Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti. Cardinal Mezzofanti, born in 1774, spoke 38 languages and 40 dialects. Meanwhile, the 10th-century Muslim polymath Al-Farabi was said to know 70 languages. The German Hans Conon von der Gabelentz, born in 1807, was cited to have researched and published grammars of 80 languages.

The record, though, probably belongs to Sir John Bowring, Governor of Hong Kong from 1854 to 1859, who was said to know 200 languages, and capable of speaking 100. Bowring was an English political economist, traveller, miscellaneous writer, polyglot, and the 4th Governor of Hong Kong.

Now, I want to hear him (Ziad Fazah) speaking in Malay and Indonesian languages.

Friday, April 13, 2012

7.5MW Solar Farm in Thailand

Sonnedix Group and First Solar have announced in February 2012 the completion of works on the Nakhon Ratchasima solar farm in the Khorat region of north eastern Thailand. The 7.5MW photovoltaic plant, based on First Solar's cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules, will meet the annual electricity needs of more than 5,100 homes.

Image: Sonnedix solar

A Buddhist inauguration ceremony at the power plant. Image: Sonnedix solar

The solar power plant, one of the biggest in Thailand (as in February 2012), was built by Sonnedix with support of Assyce Fotovoltaica and Ch. Karnchang Group using around 95,000 of First Solar's innovative CdTe thin-film solar modules.

Nakhon Ratchasima Solar Farm 

Sonnedix is a global solar power producer whose management has a track record of more than fifteen years in Asia. The project in Nakhon Ratchasima is its first to become operational in Thailand and is understood to serve as its strong base for developing and building utility-size solar farms and large rooftop solar power plants.

Covering around 20 hectares, the Nakhon Ratchasima Solar Farm can supply enough electricity to meet the annual needs of about 5,100 average Thai homes. It is expected to generate more than 10.5 GWh of clean, green electricity per year, offsetting carbon dioxide emissions of more than 6,500 tons a year.

The project in brief

Solar farm size/capacity: 7.5MWp (DC)
Farm area:                      Approx. 20 hectares
Approximate supply to:  5,100 average homes
Location:                        Nakhon Ratchasima province, Thailand
Solar modules:               cadmium telluride (CdTe), F280 from First Solar
Inverter:                          Ingecon 500 HE TL from Ingeteam
Transformers:                 Tirathai
Amount of CO2 emissions avoided: Approx. 6,500 tonnes/year 

Interesting Venture by Thai government

The completion of the solar farm shows the commitment of the Thai government in reducing fossil fuel dependence and greenhouse gas emissions. This project is also touted to have the smallest carbon footprint of any current PV technology. 

This is a combine effort and partnership of Sonnedix Group, First Solar and the Thai government. Another partner, a Spain-based Assyce who carried out the engineering, procurement and construction on the project showed that Thailand is prepared to work with foreign companies to speed up the growth of its Renewable Energy program.

What about Malaysia?

Where is Malaysia in terms of implementation of the solar PV works to generate solar energy? Compared to Thailand, we are 'crawling'. In terms of producing solar modules, we are currently the world's third, just behind Germany and China.

Is Malaysia intending to be the major producer/manufacturer of Solar PV modules but not generating solar energy itself?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Kedah Sultan Installed as King

HIS Royal Highness Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah of Kedah was today installed the 14th Yang di-Pertuan Agong in a full traditional ceremony at the new Istana Negara in Jalan Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

Image from: Laman web rasmi Istana Negara

The royal is the first Ruler in the country to be installed King for a second time, under Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy.At 84, he is also the oldest Ruler to ascend the throne. Tuanku Abdul Halim was proclaimed as the 27th Sultan of Kedah on July 14, 1958 and was crowned officially on February 20, 1959, in the state palace.

During his first reign as Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Halim presided at the handing over of duties as Prime Minister by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra to his successor Tun Haji Abdul Razak Hussein, father to the current prime minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

Tuanku Abdul Halim is a caring, humble and gentle Ruler who is loved by his subjects and is known as the Ruler with a “people's heart”. Tuanku Abdul Halim had his early education at Sek Melayu Alor Merah and Sek Melayu Titi Gajah before continuing his studies at Kolej Sultan Abdul Hamid in Alor Setar which was the first English school in Kedah.

Upon leaving the college, Tuanku Abdul Halim enrolled at Wadham College, Oxford, and obtained a Diploma in Public Administration and Social Science. On his return home in 1955, he joined the Kedah Administrative Service and was attached to the Kota Setar District Office before moving on to serve at the State Treasury. [source: The Star]

Old Istana Negara (old palace). Image source

New Istana Negara (new palace). Image source

List of Yang di-Pertuan Agong

The following Rulers have served as Yang di-Pertuan Agong:

Source: Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Wikipedia

Daulat Tuanku.

200MW Solar plant planned in Hokkaido, Japan

The Japan Times reported recently that telecommunications pioneer Softbank is planning to build 200MW solar power plant on the Northern island of Hokkaido. This, when realised, will dwarf all previous photovoltaic installations in Japan. Softbank is reported to be negotiating with the Hokkaido Electric Power Company over prices for the electricity.

Image by Solar Frontier in pv magazine

Just a couple of months before the new Renewable Energy feed-in tariff (FIT) system comes into effect on July 1, it has been reported that Softbank subsidiary SB Energy plans to build a 200 MW plant, over 480 hectares, near an industrial district in the city of Tomakomai, on the south of Hokkaido.

SB Energy has announced that it will establish solar power plants in other parts of Japan, but the Hokkaido plant will dwarf the others. The Japan Times reports that a plant near Kyoto is set to have a capacity of 4.2 MW, Gunma (2.4MW) and in Tokushima (5.6MW).

FiT rates out in July 2012

The final rates for the FIT has yet to be established but initial figures indicate that they may be at levels which could make installations quite profitable. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) reported that returns for photovoltaic investments could be as high as 44% to 51%.

Softbank and Hokkaido Electric are expected to announce a construction schedule and the final capacity of the facility when FIT rates are finalized.

What to learn from this?

As at end-March 2012, Japan's Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco, has shut down its last operating nuclear reactor. PV Magazine reported that Tepco shut down the number six reactor at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world's biggest nuclear power plant. Since the Fukushima disaster, Japan's 54 reactors have been still, due to public safety concerns. Tepco owns 17 reactors and provides approximately 45 million people with electricity. 

Japan is moving towards cleaner sources of energy while trying to minimise its dependance on nuclear power, if not totally eliminating it. Japan may be rich and our resources will never be able to match theirs. 

But if we plan and focus on our goal of reducing carbon emissions by 40% comes 2020, we may be rewarded with more percentage of RE in our national power generation mix.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Day 32: It's all over?

Almost 2 weeks ago I posted about Manchester United's turning point when they overtook City for the first time after playing catch up for so long.

Still 7 games to play, Roberto Mancini has all but waved the white flag in the English Premier League title race after his Manchester City side went down 1-0 to Arsenal at The Emirates.

EPL Table after 32 games. There are 6 more games to play and 18 points up for grab..

With Manchester United beating Queens Park Rangers 2-0 at Old Trafford earlier at lunchtime, City fell 8 points behind their rivals and needed to win at Arsenal.

But they failed to react and fell to a stunning Mikel Arteta strike three minutes from time. They also had mercurial striker Mario Balotelli sent off shortly afterwards for a second bookable offense.

It looks increasingly likely that the title is staying at Old Trafford for a record 20th time.

What an achievement that would be. Go United!

Solar PV Powers the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

That's right.

The Brazilian government is working toward embedding solar modules and other sustainable technologies to its stadiums for the upcoming football World Cup

At the start of 2012, 10 of the 12 host venues for the 2014 World Cup had applied for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status. A world-wide recognition promoted by a US-based Green Building Council. That means installation of the Building Integrated Photo Voltaic (BIPV) on the roofs of the stadiums.

The ten venues are Belo Horizonte, Brasília, Cuiabá, Curitiba, Fortaleza, Manaus, Natal, Recife, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The most famous of all will be Mané Garrincha stadium in the capital Brasília, which organisers hope will become the first football stadium in the world to achieve LEED Platinum status, the highest level attainable.

Enjoy the view of Mane Garrincha Stadium, Brasilia:

 All photos are belong to worldcup2014directory. Visit them for more info on other stadiums.

Industry figures predict that solar panels embedded in roofing could become a standard feature of stadia in the near future as the new wave of building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) gains credibility in the world of big money sports.

Much attention has been given to Qatar’s plans for state-of-the-art solar stadiums that helped the Gulf state win the right to host the 2022 World Cup. The Brazilian government announced in September 2011 that all 12 tournament stadiums would be expected to achieve a minimum sustainability standard.

For Mane Garrincha Stadium

Renovation works are due for completion in December 2012 and the roof of tensioned canvas will feature an array of PV panels with capacity to generate 2.5 MWp. This is sufficient to generate at least 50% of the stadium’s energy needs during peak periods, while at other times excess energy will be fed into the national grid.

Report says that the construction costs could eventually surpass R$900 million (US$486 million), up from the R$688 million ($372 million) official estimate. However, drop in operating and maintenance costs will result in annual savings of around R$7 million ($3.78 million) after completion, and it will provide a legacy for 50 years or more.

Other venues

  1. The revamped Maracanã stadium in Rio is to have a ring of solar panels on its roof.
  2. The Estádio Governador Magalhães Pinto will have a roof with up to 1.5 MWp of solar panels.
  3. The Pituaçu Stadium in Salvador, which will be one of the training venues, will have a 403kWp solar PV system on its roof.
  4. The Pernambuco Arena in Recife will will feature solar heating to supply energy to the changing rooms, toilets and kitchens.
Soon, other stadiums will reveal solar energy plans soon, as well.

In comparison, in 2009 Taiwan inaugurated the world’s first 100% solar-powered stadium, featuring 8,844 panels which generate 1.14 GWh annually. Surplus energy from ‘Dragon Stadium’ is sold by the Taiwanese government.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

What's the biggest man-made hole in the world?

It depends how you measure it. The Chuquicamata opencast copper mine in Chile has the greatest volume of excavated earth (roughly 9 billion cubic metres) but it’s a ditch rather than a hole.

Bingham canyon, in Utah, is the deepest at 1.2km but it was a canyon to begin with so not all of it is man-made.

The Mir diamond mine in Siberia is the deepest ‘proper’ man-made hole. It’s 525m deep and 1,200m across. There’s a no-fly zone above it because the downdraft created by the hole had caused several helicopters to crash. [sciencefocus]

Image source: Sciencefocus

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Malaysia 51st Happiest Nation in the World

Recently the United Nation released the 'World Happiness Report' at its headquarters in New York and if UN's yardstick is to go by, Malaysia would be the world's 51st happiest country.

Not that bad considering there were altogether 156 countries surveyed in this report.

Malaysia 51st happiest nation

Among the factors considered to 'measure the happiness level of the countries' were:
1) materialistic prosperity of individual
2) individual's general disposition
3) level of contentment with basic aspirations

Malaysia was ranked second in Southeast Asia, behind Singapore (ranked 33rd globally). Other SEA nations surveyed include Thailand (52nd), Myanmar (74th) and Indonesia (83rd).

Top three rankings go to the rich Scandinavia countries:
1st - Denmark
2nd - Finland
3rd - Norway

Other notable mention:
United States (world's richest nation) - 11th
Japan - 44th
Iran - 84th
Syria - 106th
China - 111th
Togo - the 'least happy' country.

So, where would you like to live (if it was up to you)? Denmark or Finland? Then again, it boils down to individual good mental and physical health, job security, stable family and someone to count on that could be more important than mere wealth.

Be content and always give thanks.

Friday, April 6, 2012

ASEAN Energy Awards 2012

Title: ASEAN Energy Efficient Building Competition and ASEAN Energy Management Competition

Coordinator: SEDA Malaysia
InvitedOwners/managers of buildings and factories in Malaysia
Deadline: Report must be submitted before 11th April 2012

Who to Contact: Scroll to the bottom of this article, or visit SEDA Malaysia website.

The Competition is divided into five (5) categories, each of which are detailed in the following table:
(Note: Guidelines and Forms can be downloaded from here)

Interested Building Owners or Building & Factory Managers are invited to participate and report must be submitted BEFORE 11 April 2012 (Wednesday) at:

The AEA 2012- Secretariat
Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA Malaysia)
Galeria PjH, Aras 9, Jalan P4W,
Persiaran Perdana, Presint 4,
62100 Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Phone : +603-8870 6198 Fax : +603-8870 5900
Contact Person: Ms Sazlinda Ayu Arshad (

Further information on this competition can be obtained from

FiT in Sabah has been suspended

This is to recap that the FiT implementation in Sabah has been suspended except for Small Renewable Energy Power (SREP) Programme projects which reached commercial operation date by Dec 31, 2011.

What is FiT

A feed-in tariff (FiT) is a rate of money paid by the government to homeowners or organisations to generate their own electricity through small-scale green energy or renewable energy installations. In Malaysia, renewable resources covered by the FiT includes biogas, biomass, small hydropower, and solar PV.

TNB/SESB to pay grid-connected RE producers. Image: Kolopis Main Intake substation (PMU)

Why the suspension in Sabah?

I read about this in Business Times few days ago whereby SEDA chief executive officer Badriyah Abdul Malek said "It would be justifiable for the Sabah Government to contribute to the RE Fund, following the suspension of FiT implementation there," in a press interview.

I dug for a little bit more and found that earlier in March 2012 The Star reported the same. This means the suspension could have been imposed no longer than 2 months back.

From the few press reports, I can only deduce that the suspension was due to Sabah not contributing to the RE Fund set up by the government when the FiT was implemented in December last year. Sabah government appealed for a delay in RE Fund collection as it would be too taxing on consumers here since electricity tariff has just been increased by about 15% in July 2011.

No contribution, no benefit so it seems.

The eligible SREP I mentioned earlier covers only 5 green power producers as they are already operating commercially, as of December 2011. Total power generated by these RE entities is 36.5MW.

On the same token, the rumoured JV between SEC and SESB to build solar farm mentioned in my article Cypark and TNB signed Renewable Energy Power Purchase Agreement, will not metarialise after all. This is somewhat turning into a sad ending.

We can still participate in the FiT

What we can do is simply contribute to the Renewable Energy (RE) Fund. The heavy energy users in Sabah has not yet been levied for the energy consumed and as it was the State Government who appealed for delay of the RE Fund collection, it is just fair that the same government shoulder the obligation to contribute.

As per the Chief Minister's recent 2012 budget presentation Sabah seem to have a lot of money in its reserve coffer. Use it.

As SEDA CEO mentioned, it is not fair that only industry players (heavy energy consumers) in Peninsula Malaysia are being levied but not consumers in Sabah.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

EU Carbon Tax: India bans its airlines from paying

Some call it carbon tax. Some call it green tax. I call it save-my-butt tax. Period

Not too long ago China barred its domestic airlines from complying with the European Union's scheme to impose charges on carbon emissions from flights to and from Europe.

Not an AirIndia plane. Just one of AirAsia's during my recent trip.

Last month (March 2012) India joined China to resist the so-called green-tax scheme. For the record many other countries, including the United States and Russia have opposed to the charges.

The purpose of the tax, according to EU is to cut emmission by 20% by 2020. EU has 27 member countries. I think what it will do is it will lift the EU economy by collecting carbon surcharge from whoever make a stop in the European countries and it will at least help some who are in economic crisis.

As to how exactly such tax reduce the emissions of carbon, I don't understand. Could it be that the plane would reduce the amount of fuel consumed when the plane get pass EU's airports? Or will the tax monies be put to make the plane to be smarter by burning fuel more efficiently? It's just perplexing!

China plus India is quite big but if the US also ban its airlines from paying such taxes, that would be quite substantial!

Read the rest of the news
New Straits Times, 23 March 2012

NEW DELHI: India has barred its airlines from complying with the European Union carbon tax scheme, joining China in resistance to plans that have caused a backlash among the EU’s trade partners. The European Union imposed a carbon levy on air travel with effect from January 1, but no airline will face a bill until 2013 after this year’s carbon emissions have been tallied.

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told parliament on Thursday that “the imposition of carbon tax does not arise” because Indian airlines would simply refuse to hand over their emissions data.

“Though the European Union has directed Indian carriers to submit emission details of their aircraft by March 31, 2012, no Indian carrier is submitting them in view of the position of the government,” he said.

India’s resolution to boycott the scheme follows China’s decision last month to prevent its airlines from complying with the EU directive. The two Asian giants have attacked the EU scheme, calling it a unilateral trade levy disguised as an attempt to fight climate change.

According to a so-called Moscow declaration adopted last month by countries opposed to the tax, governments have decided on a list of retaliatory measures to be taken if necessary, including banning their airlines from participating.

It also allows governments to take tough retaliatory measures against EU carriers and aviation companies and impose their own taxes on EU airlines. The 27-nation EU has said the carbon tax will help it achieve its goal of cutting emissions by 20 percent by 2020 and that it will not back down on the plan.

It claims that the cost for the airlines is manageable, estimating that the scheme could prompt them to add between 4.0 euros ($5.50) and 24 euros to the price of a long-haul round-trip.

Industry insiders have expressed concern that the scheme could spark a trade war between the EU and the countries opposed to the tax. The chief executive of European plane manufacturer Airbus, Thomas Enders, called for a “freeze” on the EU plan Thursday, saying that it would otherwise cost the sector thousands of jobs.

“Delay it, freeze it for one or two years,” he said according to Dow Jones Newswires, arguing that the scheme “will do nothing but induce strife... retaliation and counter-retaliation.” Earlier this month the head of the Airbus parent company EADS said Beijing had already begun to block purchases of Airbus planes by Chinese companies in reaction to the dispute. -- AFP