Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Most popular Accidental Discoveries - 10 of them

It's been 75 years since a scientist accidentally discovered a new wonder material: Teflon. To celebrate, Focus looks at nine other fortunate discoveries, from text messaging to viagra to superglue.

Here are the top 10:

1) Teflon

Teflon was first created by a scientist named Roy Plunkett who was toying with CFC gases to create a new refrigerant. Plunkett stored cylinders of a gas known as tetrafluoroethylene (TFE) in dry ice so they wouldn’t explode in the lab, but when he came to use the gas, he discovered waxy, white flakes in its place.

This new substance was incredibly slippery and stable, resistant to heat, water, acid and pretty much everything else he could throw at it. It wasn’t until French engineer Marc Gregoire worked out how to bond it to aluminium that the first non-stick pan was produced and the brand Teflon soon followed.

2) Microwave oven

During World War II, Percy Spencer was a senior engineer for Raytheon, a defence contractor supplying radar equipment to the US military. In 1946, he was working at MIT's Radiation Laboratory to develop a more powerful magnetron – the vacuum tube at the heart of radar devices – when, standing in front of one of his test models, he noticed that a chocolate bar in his pocket had melted.

Intrigued, he tried holding a bag of unpopped popcorn up to the device – and so the microwave oven was born, with Raytheon’s industrial-sized 'Radarange' going on sale the following year. It’s now the saviour of many a tired 9-5 worker looking for a quick evening meal.

3) Viagra

At first, Sildenafil seemed to be a promising new drug for heart disease, including angina. But when it was trialled at a Swansea hospital, male test patients reported an odd side effect: unexpected erections. Marketed as Viagra in the late 1990s, the drug became a massive hit for Pfizer.

Image credit: SElefant

4) Synthetic dye

At the age of 18, William Perkin was working as a lab assistant in London. He’d been tasked with coming up with a new way of producing quinine, an expensive antimalarial drug. In 1864, after a failed attempt, he noticed a potent purple sludge at the bottom of one of his beakers.

Rather than throwing it away, Perkin tested it, soon realising he’d created an artificial dye that was more vibrant than anything from nature.

5) Pacemaker

We've all done it: reached into the toolbox and pulled out the wrong instrument. In Wilson Greatbatch’s case this simple mistake resulted in the invention of the first practical implantable pacemaker.

Greatbatch was actually trying to make a circuit that could record fast heartbeats, but when he inadvertently pulled out a 1-megaohm resistor instead of the 10,000-megaohm resistor he’d intended to use, the finished product pulsed for 1.8 milliseconds, stopped for one second and then repeated.

It was the unmistakable rhythm of a heartbeat at rest. The first successful pacemaker was implanted in a 77-year-old in 1960, who lived for 18 months after the device was inserted.

6) Radio astronomy

Both the origins of, and greatest discovery by, radio astronomy were accidental. Karl Jansky was an engineer investigating interference in telephone lines. The errant signals were found to come from celestial objects, and radio astronomy was born.

Three decades later, radio engineers Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were also investigating a stubborn hiss. What they’d found was the last fading echo of the Big Bang, now known as Cosmic Microwave Background radiation.

7) Text messaging

In 1987, European bureaucrats set about drawing up a new technical standard for mobile phones. Fully digital cellular phones were being designed, and the officials wanted a system that would work across the whole of Europe, all in the spirit of European co-operation and harmony.

Written into the script was a tiny detail that enabled telecoms engineers testing the system to send short messages back and forth between themselves, to help manage the mobile network. But consumers soon discovered this ‘Short Message Service’ (SMS), and, to the immense surprise of the phone operators, loved it. We’ve been texting ever since.

8) X-rays

In 1895, physicist Wilhelm Röntgen was busy in his University of Würzberg lab investigating the properties of cathode rays. Suddenly he noticed a flicker on a barium platinocyanide screen. Surprise turned to shock when he saw a skeletal hand.

Some mysterious emanation was passing through the air – and through his flesh, allowing his bones to cast shadows on the dimly glimmering screen. X-rays – the 'X' stood for their unknown nature – were soon replicated in laboratories around the world. Within two decades, X-rays found extraordinary medical applications.

9) Saccharin

Surely one of the most important rules in chemistry is to always wash your hands. Luckily for the sweet-toothed among us, Constantin Fahlberge didn’t adhere to strict hygiene codes back in 1878.

After trying to create new derivatives of coal tar in his laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, USA, he went home to eat his dinner, which he found to be unusually sweet.

In an interview with American Analyst, a leading scientific journal of the time, Fahlberge told a reporter that he immediately ran back to his lab and tasted the contents of every evaporating dish and beaker till he found the sweetener now known as saccharin.

10) Superglue

During World War II, Harry Coover, a chemist at Eastman Kodak, was head of a team that was trying to concoct a clear plastic that could be used to create transparent gun sights.

One unsuccessful attempt created a gloop that simply stuck to everything it touched – an experience that’ll be familiar to anyone who's ever spilt superglue on their hands. They had created what’s known as a cyanoacrylate.

Produced by John Agar, a Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies at University College London. Original post here. Images, too, were sourced from the same page.

Selamat Hari Pahlawan: to all Heroes of Malaysia and the unsung ones, too

Hari Pahlawan (Heroes' Day) is the day we remember the sacrifices that our military men has made to make our nation what it is today. The Malaysian armed forces fought against the guerrilla communist in the early years of independence, together with many others - we remember today as unsung heroes - in our struggle against the communist terrorist.

In conjunction with the Heroes' Day on July 31, 2013, I have some pictures of one of the war memorials (taken sometime back) located in Petagas, Sabah, where Sabah government and the descendants of the fallen heroes hold a memorial ceremony every year.

 Petagas, Kota Kinabalu

 Petagas War Memorial was built in 1946 and the first memorial service started in 1948

 Mausoleoum containing the plaque that tells the story

One of the plaques. Make a visit and read for yourself.

You can also read about Petagas War Memorial, and other memorials in Sabah here.

"Selamat Hari Pahlawan"

SEDA Malaysia releases 500 kW of solar PV for individuals

Typical grid-connected rooftop solar PV system.

Date of release  : 30th July 2013
Quota size          : 500 kW
Category            : individuals

Putrajaya (Tuesday, July 30,  2013): In response to the individuals' demand for the FiT for solar PV, SEDA Malaysia has released another 500 kW of solar PV quota for the individuals today. This will give opportunity to about 120 homes/individuals based on installation size of 4kWp.

In an announcement on its official website, SEDA Malaysia said it will monitor the quota especially for the individuals on regular basis and release quota on the premise of RE Fund allocation.

Loans for home Solar PV systems

In the previous article, I wrote about the loan for financing your home solar PV system. Margin of financing is up to 90% with tenure of up to 10 years.

Now that the quota for individuals has been released, it is time to grab the opportunity.


August 5, 2013:  SEDA Malaysia released 500kW of solar PV for the individuals

August 1, 2013: SEDA Malaysia released 900 kW of solar PV for the individuals

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Malaysia, France to venture into new areas of Renewable Energy,Transportation and Biotech

A couple of days ago, French Prime Minister visited Malaysia, marking this country's importance as France's trading partner. In fact, Malaysia is France’s second largest economic partner in ASEAN and there are some 260 French companies here.

A welcomed piece of news to Malaysia's green initiative is that, both nations are looking forward to venture into new areas of cooperation, including Renewable Energy.

Malaysia and France to strengthen existing ties. TheStar photo

"My visit is also to look for new opportunities for French small and medium entrepreneurs to come and explore the possibility in Malaysia, particularly in the field of infrastructure, information and communication and sustainability city."
- French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Malaysia, France to strengthen existing ties

Malaysia and France have agreed to strengthen existing cooperations and explore new ones in a move to boost the bilateral ties of both nations. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said both countries were on the same page to explore new cooperations in the fields of renewable energy, biotechnology and transportation.

"We look forward to receiving more French companies in Malaysia," he told reporters after a one-hour meeting with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault yesterday.

Najib added his counterpart Ayrault had reassured Malaysia that deep understanding and the partnership between both countries would continue in the field of defence.

Malaysia also looked forward to receiving some of the acquisition that the country had made including the A400M aircraft and EC725 helicopters, said the prime minister.

On palm oil, Najib said Ayrault had told him that there would be no new tax on palm oil and it would be treated on the same basis with other vegetable oil in France.

Sourced from NST:

5 simple ways to prevent food poisoning

Different individuals have different level of tolerance to food contamination. For example, while having lunch together, your colleague may get food poisoning while you feel perfectly okay. I've suffered from the worst case of food poisoning in the past.

Cook-it-yourself Japanese foods at Suria Sabah, K.Kinabalu

We are not going to discuss how and why some people are more at risk of getting food poisoning while others don't. Our purpose of sharing this is to prevent as much as possible, food poisoning.

Why do we get food poisoning

With Malaysia being a heaven for good food ( and I really mean it), we are prone to suffer from the occasional effects of food contamination. The cause is food-borne microbes, or their toxins, that are present in the food you eat, which can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal cramps and fever.

We are as likely to get ill from food prepared at home as the ones we eat outside. Unfortunately, there isn't a way to spot bacteria on food but we can take some simple steps to prevent or reduce incidences of food poisoning. Here are five simple ways that can be done by anyone:-

1. Wash your hands thoroughly

Keep your hands as clean as possible when handling food. Cross contamination can happen when the cooked food that you are handling comes into contact with raw meat and poultry. Thus, you should wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, most especially when handling raw meat, eggs and seafood.

2. Separate raw meat from ready-to-cook foods

Keep raw meat away from ready-to-cook foods such as salad, fruits and bread. These foods can become contaminated when come into direct contact with raw foods or the drippings from raw foods. If thawing in the fridge, always cover raw meat and store it on the bottom shelf to avoid the said problems.

3. Keep your fridge below 5°C

Foods need to be chilled at the proper temperature to stop the food-borne bacteria and organisms from growing. Any level of temperatures between 4°C and 60°C will encourage them to grow rapidly, so always check that temperature is below 5°C. Do not leave refrigerated foods sitting out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

4. Use different chopping boards for raw food, vegetables and bread

Harmful microbes can easily transfer from raw foods to other foods, most especially when it comes into contact with anything they touch like worktops, plates, knives, utensils and cutting boards. It is recommended that you use separate boards for raw food, vegetables and bread. This will prevent cross contamination from occurring.

5. Cook food thoroughly

The best way to kill off bacteria is to cook food all the way through. Certain foods like poultry, pork, beef and eggs should be cooked completely until steaming hot. Many of the nasty organisms thrive in these foods while raw, so cook meat until it is no longer pink inside, and the egg yolks and whites are firm.

Source: WiseGeek, NHS UK, through Mylaunchpad
Photo by: de engineur

Is there a height limit that skyscrapers can be built to?

With the shrinking space to build more buildings, the logical thing to do is build taller. But is there a limit to how tall can you build one?

Twin Towers
At 452 metres high, Petronas Twin-Towers in Kuala Lumpur stand among of tallest buildings in the world. Photo by: de engineur

Yes, there are many limits. The heavier a building, the stronger its foundations need to be. In turn, that’s limited by how deep it’s possible to excavate and the land available to accommodate the building’s footprint.

Even the slenderest designs need larger bases as they get taller. Another factor is the speed of the lifts. People on the top floor don’t want to take all day to get up there.

But in cities with limited amount of space, people will find ways to try to set the limit higher and higher.

Ref: Sciencefocus

Sunday, July 28, 2013

5 ways the Google Translate mobile app can help you big time

If you are traveling to foreign lands on your own, the mobile app called Google Translate would come handy and it could prove to be the little app that save the day.

 Especially true with some languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; it becomes trickier because you might not know how to enter those foreign characters into your device for Google Translate.

Google Translate app can help you in 5 cool ways:
  1. Translation offline
  2. Speak into your phone
  3. Handwrite
  4. Camera input
  5. Save favourite phrases

1) Offline Translation

Once enabled, you can instantly perform translations offline. While the smaller size of the offline models has more limitations than their online equivalents, on the latest update of the app, you can now carry the world’s languages right in your pocket anywhere you go.

 Just select the [Offline Languages] setting in the app menu, then download offline language packs for whichever languages you will need for your next trip away from home.

2) Speak into your phone

Simply pull out Google Translate, change the setting to Conversation mode, and speak into your phone. The app will read the translation out loud. You’ll be chatting away with your interlocutor in no time.

3) Handwrite

When you don’t know how to say what you want translated, and you don't know how to type it, just to write it. Use the Handwriting Icon and draw in the black space.

APAC languages supported: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malay, Filipino, Vietnamese.

4) Camera input

When everything else fails, try the app's camera-input support for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Just tap the camera icon, snap a picture of the text, and brush your finger over the part you want translated. It also works for vertical text for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

Brush your finger over the text you want translated.

5) Save favourite phrases

Save commonly used phrases into Favorites in your Translate app, simply click the star by the top of the translated text to save the translation in your Favorites for easy access next time.

Further reading here

Saturday, July 27, 2013

First 100MW from Kimanis Power Plant to come on stream in March 2014

Last year I wrote about Kimanis RM1.5billion gas-fired power plant in the district of Papar.

On his busy schedule to get himself up-to-speed with the goings-on in the power supply issues in Sabah, Minister Dr Maximus Ongkili gave us a hint of when we will have better and more stable power supply in this part of the country.

Dr. Maximus (wearing hat) says that will happen in March next year.

Sabah can expect more stable power supply in March 2014

The power generation capacity in Sabah's grid is expected to be more stable when the Kimanis Power Plant (KPP) project comes on stream next year. 300MW of electricity is expected to be generated in stages beginning the first quarter of 2014.

The power plant consists of 3 generating blocks and each block generates 100MW of power. So far the completion of works has reach about 96%.

"Completion of delivery on the Kimanis Power Plant is by end of this year but the first 100MW will be channeled in March next year and the other two blocks with about 200MW will be generated in July as the deadline."
- Datuk Seri Dr. Maximus Ongkili, Minister of Energy, Green Technology and Water.

I suppose the reporter is trying to say that the installation works at KPP is scheduled for completion at year-end but due to some technical issues that need to be addressed, the first 100MW will only be channeled in March next year.

Effect on SAIDI (System Avegare Interruption Duration Index)

Last year, SAIDI target for Sabah was 490 minutes per consumer for which SESB said was achieved. This year SESB targetted 450 minutes of downtime per consumer, and I feel that a modest 40-minute improvement is very marginal.

But with the completion and operation of the Kimanis Power Pant next year, the utility company is expecting to achieve  SAIDI of below 300 minutes per customer.

If you take Penang or Johor as benchmarks, you will find that the SESB's SAIDI figures above are not impressive at all. Look at the following achievements by some of the states in Peninsula Malaysia (2011):

( 2011 )
 (minutes per customer
per year)

Lower SAIDI is better. Source

World's wind turbines to generate more than 300 GW power by year end

The global wind energy sector will soon mark a major milestone: industry figures show that by the end of 2013, wind turbines will be generating more than 300 GW of power.

That's the equivalent of 114 nuclear power plants, says Reuters, which is reporting the latest figures from the European Wind Energy Association and the Global Wind Energy Council.

Wind power moving towards 300GW mark this year. Image credit: The Telegraph

Active wind farms across the globeImage credit: Greenchipstocks

As Brazil, China, Mexico and South Africa add turbines, the figure represents modest growth compared with a year ago, when the overall total capacity was just over 280 gigawatts.

"Worldwide installed wind power will exceed 300 gigawatts of power capacity this year," Peter Sennekamp, media officer for the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said, citing figures compiled by EWEA and the Global Wind Energy Council.

Europe, which has led the world on wind, still represents around a third of all capacity, with more than 100 gigawatts, but its growth has been stalled by uncertainty as financial crisis has meant abrupt changes to subsidy regimes.

The European Commission, the European Union's executive, has supported the idea of harmonization of subsidies across the European Union and said it will publish guidelines before the summer break in August.

The most heated debate has been in Germany, ahead of elections in September, where the cost of energy and progress of implementing the nation's Energiewende are election issues.

Heavy industry has attacked renewable subsidies, arguing they add to costs and damage competitiveness, especially when the United States benefits from cheap shale gas.

Representatives of the renewable industry say they are working to produce energy that can compete economically with traditional sources, which would lower political risk.

They say they have made progress on onshore wind and solar, but for the huge scale of offshore wind, a technology still in its infancy, subsidies are essential, probably for the rest of the decade.

Wind energy executives note conventional fuel sources have long benefited from support in the form of tax breaks for oil and gas and government help in disposing of spent nuclear fuel.

Source: Reuters

Friday, July 26, 2013

Diesel shortage getting worse in the West Coast

I blog about unleaded gasoline prices around the world recently, here.

I expressed my support for review of the fuel subsidy policy towards cheaper car prices with un-subsidised fuel trade-off. In a sudden twist of event, we quickly found ourselves panicking over shortage of diesel in the West Coast of Sabah.

I travelled up north yesterday and intended to refuel on my way, along Tuaran Road only to find myself completely disappointed as the first two gas stations on my route  have ran out of diesel early in the morning. Note: There seemed to be no problem with petrol supply - RON 95 and RON 97.

I demand an answer, too. An immediate one!

 The second gas station without diesel. "Sir, please come back tomorrow. Early morning"

Long queue near Tuaran township. Managed to refuel here.

At one of the stations, I was asked to come back early the next morning as they have "just ran out of diesel" moments ago. Mind you, it was only 9.30am and I am not sure how early would I need to come to queue up. They expect me to bring along my pillow, perhaps!

Reason for the diesel shortage

People speculated about the real reason behind the shortage as it is not the first time we have such problem concerning diesel. Speculation or not, someone has to answer and act quickly before the people start thinking that you are a lame duck.

Here is what some think the reason behind it:

  • Limited amount of subsidised diesel. The Domestic Trade, Consumerism and Co-operatives Ministry only allowed a fixed amount of subsidy for a particular company to sell their diesel in a year, and once the subsidy is used up for that year, the oil company will be forced to continue to sell their diesel on a non-subsidised basis.
That means the company is actually subsidising for the consumers. Therefore, the oil company will rather not sell more because they will lose money.
  • Possible abuse. The subsidised diesel is being bought to feed the industrial uses. The price of the industrial use diesel is much more expensive than the subsidised domestic use diesel. It is a no-brainer, there is big profit in selling the domestic use diesel to the industrial users.

TheGreenMechanics: The ministry concerned cannot put a blind eye on the issue because it is real, and it is not just some complaints from the opposition parties. I am directly affected as I travel quite a lot in my job and a dry tank does not help at all.

Please help!

Friday's Gone Green: Solar powered F1 car?

I wish.

But Formula 1 has never been associated with energy saving. In fact these machines are petrol drinkers, plus, they are the biggest producers of piercing noise, you can hear them kilometres away from the actual sports arena.

"Yeah, I'm in pole position!". Image credit: US Solar

A solar-powered golf buggy would be more like it.

But I'm pretty sure the legendary F1 driver, Michael Schumacher and the current champion Sebastian Vettel would be impressed with a solar-powered pinnacle car.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Malaysia GreenTech Awards 2013 - nomination opens now

For those who have been promoting Malaysia's green agenda for while now, this is your opportunity to get the recognition you feel you are entitled to.

                                           Submit your nomination now!

The Malaysia GreenTech Awards 2013 is organised by Malaysian Green Technology Corporation (GreenTech Malaysia) to honour Malaysian-based developers, industry players, financial institutions, primary and secondary schools as well as members of the media that have played a catalytic role in driving the nation’s green agenda.

Held for the second consecutive year, the Malaysia GreenTech Awards 2013 aims to recognize endeavours that have positive and sustainable impact on Malaysia’s overall socio-economic landscape in the following five categories:

  1. Developer Awards: Development, construction and management of projects, townships or building that have incorporated green technology.

  2. Industry Awards: Adoption of green practices in business operations and processes amongst industry players, across sectors.

  3. Financial Institution Awards: Financing of green projects and initiatives.

  4. School Awards: Instilling sustainable green practices and increasing environmental awareness amongst primary and secondary school students.

  5. Media Awards: Advocacy and promotion of nation’s green agenda.

The Malaysia GreenTech Awards is endorsed by the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water (KeTTHA) and supported by REHDA, FMM, SIRIM, CETREE and MPI and other sector renowned organisations.

The award ceremony will take place on the 12th October 2013 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. The closing date for submission is on 30th August 2013.

Interested parties can submit their Nominations Form online here, or contact GreenTech Malaysia at Tel: 03-89210806.

The Green Mechanics:
Cool! I would like to see the efforts by a school in Penampang (SM St. Michael) getting due recognition. They have, for the past few years, continued to promote environmental awareness amongst its students, including installation of the 5.4kWp Solar PV system on its roof.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nokia Lumia 625 is an affordable 4.7", 4G LTE smartphone

Nokia has unveiled its latest addition to its smartphone line-up - the Lumia 625.

Its screen size of 4.7" and dual core 1.2GHz processor reminded me of my newly acquired Samsung Galaxy Win (Grand Quattro), I purchased for RM999 (£204). It is the largest Lumia to date.

Nokia Lumia 625, 4.7" Screen, LTE connectivity

Lumia 625 is targetted for the lower end of the market and looking at the specifications, you will quickly realise that you cannot expect too much from this device. For a low-priced 4G LTE eqipped smartphone, you can expect better specs on Samsung's Galaxy Express which is priced at RM999 currently.

Nokia's Lumia 625 is expected to be retailed at £204 (approx. RM999).

You can choose 5 colours for the back plate

Specifications of the Nokia Lumia 625

BODY        Dimension: 133.25 x 72.25 x 9.15mm
                 Weight: 159g

DISPLAY   Type: LCD touchscreen, Gorilla Glass 2
                 Size: 4.7", WVGA 480 x 800 pixels (201 ppi

MEMORY   Internal storage 8GB, 512MB of RAM
                 Card slot: micro SD

                 HSPA+ and 4G LTE connectivity
                 With Wi-Fi b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 + LE
                 GPS + GLONASS for positioning

CAMERA   Primary 5MP
                 Secondary (front-facing - VGA)
                 1080p video

                 Operating System: Windows Phone 8
                 CPU: 1.2GHz, dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip

BATTERY - 2000mAh

Release date: September 2013
Nokia's Lumia 625 will be available starting the third quarter of this year in China, Europe, Asia Pacific, India, Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. There is no launch date yet for North America.

Both Lumia 625 and Samsung Galaxy Express are equipped with 4G LTE connectivity and use 1.2 GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4 chip. However, Galaxy Express has a better display ( super AMOLED), bigger RAM (1 GB), lighter, and better front-facing camera (1.3 MP).

You have to see and feel the slab to tell if the Lumia 625 is comparable. I've seen and fiddled with the Galaxy Express and I think specs-wise it beats the Lumia 625 all the way. Let's see.

Focus group to address power woes in Sabah

This is a move that should give you a bit of a reason to cheer up. The government will form a focus group to monitor and advise on the implementation of electricity supply projects in Sabah.

It's essentially a committee that will report to the Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister on matters relating to the planning and implementation of electricity supply projects in the state.

Composition of the focus group:
  • Dato’ Seri Mahdzir Khalid - Chairman
  • Energy Commission representative
  • Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) representative 
  • Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) representatives
  • 7 Barisan Nasional backbenchers from component parties in Sabah.

The terms of reference (TOR) of the focus group:
  • to monitor closely the development and implementation of power generation, transmission and distribution projects, particularly those approved under the Tenth Malaysia Plan, 
  • to study the electricity tariff,
  • to look at SESB’s turnaround.

The other agencies that will be involved include the Economic Planning Unit and Public Private Cooperation Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department, Finance Ministry, Infrastructure Division of the Rural and Regional Development Ministry, Sabah State Economic Planning Unit and Sustainable Energy Development Authority.

“The government is committed to addressing the electricity woes in Sabah and the formation of the focus group will step up the efforts.”
- Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili

The minister said various measures would be in place within the next three years, which are expected to ensure sufficient electricity supply for Sabah for the next decade.

Sabah's current electricity supply status

Sabah’s installed electricity capacity is at 1,344MW and available capacity is about 1,100MW while demand is at 870 to 950MW, with a reserve of between 20 MW and 100 MW. The available capacity is lower than the installed capacity due to contingency for planned power outage and forced outage.

TheGreenMechanics' 2 cents:
I agree with the notion that, for us to address Sabah’s electricity woes, every party has to cooperate and be rational. While the rakyat can cooperate by willing to wait and stretching their patience to the limit, those given the power/trust to manage the situation would also need to show urgency.

AND for once, please avoid giving excuses when you cannot fulfill pledges.

More readings here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

UMS launches Green Office Awareness campaign

A couple of years back, I attended a public briefing by SESB on the proposed construction of coal-fired power plant in Lahad Datu. During the business matching presentation, an officer mentioned that Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Kota Kinabalu campus is the single biggest energy consumer in Sabah.

So, this campaign is actually overdue but it's good that they have decided on things, and went ahead with the commendable effort.

UMS Vice Chancellor, Dr. Mohd Harun launching the Sabah Green Campus Office Awareness campaign.
Image: Daily Express

Attitude shift

It's attitude and practice that matter! For a campus with hundreds of air-conditioned room, and with so many structures that use massive amount of energy, the most important 'parameter' that the higher learning institute needs to address is the people's attitude towards energy conservation.

A 'simple click' on the power switch as you leave the lecture theater or tutorial room can make a whole lot of difference. You can make the difference today!

"Through the Green Office Awareness campaign, it is hoped that UMS citizens can change their attitudes that can help save energy in the workplace.., that this attitude change can help reduce daily operating costs in energy consumption in the campus and through this environmental sustainability, demonstrate an exemplary commitment to environmental conservation"
- Prof Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah, UMS Vice Chancellor

Green Office Awareness Campaign by UMS (Extracted from Borneo Post, July 23)

KOTA KINABALU: Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) has taken another step towards becoming a reference centre in environmental conservation among higher learning institutes (IPT) in the country.

The university yesterday launched a Green Office Awareness Campaign, as part of a five-year strategic conservation plan it adopted in February this year, which will make it the first campus in Malaysia to achieve ‘EcoCampus’ status by 2017.

Vice Chancellor Professor Datuk Dr Mohd Harun Abdullah, when officiating at the launch held at the UMS Chancellory Building, said the university is fully ready to embrace environmental values and elements in all aspects of its daily operation.

The objective of the awareness campaign, he said, was to put greater emphasis on smart management of energy and other resources in the campus.

“We strongly believe that UMS as an IPT should be responsible in promoting and enhancing knowledge and awareness on environment protection, especially among its campus community. While we prosper economically, sometimes, we don’t realize that the use of modern technology such as air-conditioners could contribute to pollution and global warming. As such, it is our hope that through this campaign, we will be able to inspire a change of attitude in everyone in UMS, towards better managing and utilizing energy,” he said.

He added that smart consumption of energy and resources is not only in tandem with the university’s effort in environment conservation but will also help reduce operation cost significantly.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Petrol prices around the World, and Malaysia - July 2013

Many of us have been complaining about the price of petrol in Malaysia and there are numerous calls for revamp of the fuel subsidy policy. We say that, as an oil producing nation, Malaysia should be at a position to offer its citizen a lower petrol prices, just like those in Arab countries.

I found this unleaded gasoline price comparison when I visited Cikgu Tehramuan's blog and decided to share it here for our reference.

Note about the source ( The data are drawn from a variety of sources including official government materials, oil companies, online resources specializing in gas prices, and others.

Petrol prices in Malaysia, compared with other South East Asia nations and major economies:

Among South East Asian countries, Brunei is cheapest with Malaysia coming in second. It is most expensive to refill your tank if you are driving in Singapore.

Global comparison of unleaded petrol prices:

Figure 1 & 2: World's unleaded gasoline prices, July 2013

You pay almost none in Venezuela while it is hard to make ends meet for the the average drivers in Turkey. You can tailor this according to the currency of your country by visiting MyTravelCost.

The Green Mechanics 2 cents'

Even so, I think there are still a lot more to be desired in the fuel subsidy policy in Malaysia. One thing that is obvious is that, car prices are extremely high here. It is like you are paying an up-front amount of money to subsidise your fuel for the next 10 to 15 years.

I would rather have un-subsidised fuel, and I get to purchase my car at half the current price. That way, I would be the one managing the way I spend on gas, such as, how much I travel, when to drive and when to use the public transport, etc.

If I can buy a Toyota Altis or a Honda Accord or a Nissan Teana at less than half of the current price, then yeah, why not!

Source: MyTravelCost

Saturday, July 20, 2013

5 Tips for Securing Your Wireless Network

My friend is a System Analyst and he administrate our IT network at enterprise level.

The networks, depending on location, vary from small, localised system to wide virtual interconnection between offices and premises miles away from each others. So, this article might be of interest to him and I'm sure he and many others can benefit from some of the ideas presented here.

Typical clients of a wireless router. Image credit: ConceptDraw

I found that some of them are pertinent to my situation but they could be essential to other professions.

Five pointers or tips to wireless network security:

1. Security practices are essential for wireless networks of all types.

Strong encryption—preferably use WPA2. An eavesdropper can pick up wireless signals from the street or a parking lot and break older security algorithms like WEP in minutes using tools readily available on the Web.

Complex passwords. Cybercriminals can use cloud computing resources to test millions of passwords in minutes, so wireless passwords should be 10 characters or longer and include numbers and special characters.

Unique SSIDs. SSIDs are part of the password used for WPA2 encryption. Hackers use“rainbow tables” to test common SSIDs, so administrators should pick unique network names (but not ones that identify their organisation).

VPNs for remote access. Virtual private networks are essential to protect communications from mobile employees (who can put a VPN client on their devices) and remote offices (which can use economical, point-to-point VPN connections).

Employee education and published policies. Employees need to be educated on secure networking practices. In companies with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, this includes acceptable uses of personal devices for company business.

2. Provide controlled access for Guests

Uncontrolled access to wireless networks is a common security issue. Often, customers,suppliers and other office visitors are given IDs and passwords that provide perpetual access to internal networks. Stories abound of contractors whose passwords remained valid for weeks or months after they moved on to other employers.

Some organisations address this problem by providing a separate guest network with limited access to core IT systems. This approach addresses the issue of transient guests, but it is expensive and not always useful for contractors and long-term guests.

Another approach is to find tools that restrict guest and contractor access to appropriate periods of time and place limits on their activities.

3. Manage multiple access points in Central Offices

Deploying and managing wireless access points can be time-consuming. Large offices and campuses may require many access points to cover all office areas, conference rooms andmeeting spaces used by employees. Multiple wireless networks for different groups and for guests can add to the work.

A best-case scenario is to find tools that do not require specialised knowledge or a long learning curve, so the work can be done by network administrators rather than wireless networking specialists.

4. Manage access points in Remote Offices

Providing technical support to remote and branch offices is also a challenge. Constant travel is rarely an option, and it is difficult to work through remote personnel, particularly if no local IT staff is available.

Administrators need to find tools that allow them to deploy, monitor and update remote access points from a central console.

5. Integrate wireless traffic into the Network Security Infrastructure

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting wireless traffic as an avenue to penetrate enterprise networks. They are exploiting:

· The growing number of remote and mobile workers. 
· Home computers and mobile devices that lack the endpoint protection tools.
· Bring-your-own-computer policies that limit the control that companies have over the selection and configuration of mobile devices.

To prevent wireless traffic from becoming a major threat vector, enterprises should ensure that wireless traffic flows through the full network security infrastructure so it can be scanned for malware. Probes and attacks can also be detected.

Source: Tech @TheStar

Friday, July 19, 2013

Comparison of Samsung Galaxy Grand, Galaxy Win/Quattro, Galaxy S3 mini, and Galaxy S4 mini

While looking for a replacement of my second handset, I narrowed my search down to the Galaxy series and I am particularly looking for one that is in the mid-range. My main cellphone is an Apple iPhone, so, it is ideal - at least for me - to go to Samsung for a complementary set.

Galaxy S4 Mini has just been released this month and it is too early to tell if the street price would be in the range of RM1,299 to RM1,399. Recommended retail price (RRP) is RM1,599. Anyway, this has been included in the Table purely as a bench-marker for the mid-rangers.

The Galaxy S4 Mini is the toned-down version of Samsung's latest flagship, the Galaxy S4.

On my radar are the Galaxy S3 mini (a bit dated now), Galaxy Grand, and Galaxy Win (also sold as dual-SIM Galaxy Quattro) - all in the price range of RM999 - RM1,099.

: :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :       : :

*UPDATED July 19,2013*

I checked few outlets out and found that there is another great contender, a Non-Samsung-Waranty unit (not by Samsung Malaysia) called Samsung Galaxy Express. Released quite recently in March 2013, I compared that, specifications-wise, it is pretty impressive.

I would say it beats both the Galaxy Grand (I9082) and Galaxy Win/Quattro (I8550) as well as the Galaxy S3 mini, by a small margin. The Galaxy Express is equipped with 4G LTE and Super AMOLED plus, 4.5" display.

At City Mall in Kota Kinabalu, the Galaxy Express is retailed at RM999.

Problem is that, in Malaysia it is not listed in the Samsung Warranty list (it is on AP Warranty) and to me this is a deal breaker. The retailer told me that the camera and display are covered with only 3 months of warranty. Being an AP set, the labour charges per visit/check is RM100, plus RM400 for faulty display and RM100 for faulty camera.

I gave it a pass and choosed Samsung Galaxy Win/Quattro (I8552) instead. It was released in May 2013 and I paid RM999 for it. I will need some getting used to with this one. The set is covered by Samsung warranty and I should be in good hands for the next 1 year.

First impression: It's a bit big with 4.7" display compared to my main handset, the 3.5" iPhone 4S. Nothing near the iPhone in terms of performance, speed and user experience but good enough as a second handphone set. It will be slotted with Celcom SIM to complement the Maxis Surfmore75 on my iPhone.

Verdict: If one asks me which of the four similarly priced mid-range Galaxy phone would I choose, I'd say Galaxy Express, followed by Galaxy Win (also known as Galaxy Grand Quattro).

Figure 1: Comparison table - all of them comparable, except for the higher priced S4 Mini.

First impression is that, the latest offering (Galaxy Win/Quattro) is exciting as new releases would normally offer some features that belong to the current higher-end version.

I called up few local retailers and the prices are still negotiable if you go there in person. My hunting will begin this weekend. The Galaxy Grand looks tempting but the S3 Mini might win it in terms of overall features. We shall see.

Please stay tuned, this page will be updated in due course.

The Beetle goes green!

Go beetle! Go!

The ever popular Volkswagen Beetle goes literally green with a re-sprayed body and a purposefully worded caption. Not that The Green Beetle is related to The Green Mechanics, but I like the sound of it and it feels right having him on here on Friday's Gone Green section.

Not really sure if driving it around is a 'green' idea as it might have efficiency issues as it age up and travel many many miles.

** On a side note, over 21 million of Volkswagen Beetles have been manufactured since 1938, making the rear-wheel drive configuration the longest-running and most-manufactured car of a single design platform, worldwide.

New model sells from RM179,888 (approx $56,300) in Malaysia (1.4 TSI), while it's as low as $19,995 in the United States (2.5L).

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Maxis network and coverage not improving!

This may seem like generalising things and hence unfair to Maxis but in my particular case, this is true - Maxis 3G network and coverage is not improving. At least not in my area in Penampang.

Before anyone start accusing me of trying to put Maxis in bad light, let me put the record straight - I have 3 accounts (or package subscriptions) with Maxis, i.e. Surfmore75, Maxis Value for iPad, and Mobile Broadband with modem.

I have terminated my TM Streamyx unlimited access earlier this year after deducing that Maxis is able to cater for my broadband requirement.

"No Service" - This was the time I made inquiry and complaint to Maxis Customer Care. 18-7-2013

Celcom 3G - The other telco shows 3G network with fair signal level. See top-right of the display.

Another screen capture 16 minutes later after contacting Maxis. Sorry buddy, no 3G for you!

At the time this article was posted (1.45pm), my iPhone was still showing signal of 1 bar and no 3G connectivity. This is despite having done all the tests/settings mentioned by the Customer Services officer on the other end of the line.

Not the first prolonged hiccup

I have experienced similar poor network coverage before and made similar complaint. It was on June 28, 2013. I was told at that time that Maxis was carrying out some upgrading works on the telecommunication tower, or their equipment, or something to that meaning. My wife, who is also a Maxis customer suffered the same "No Service" treatment by the supposedly better-then-your-competitor telco.

I have to put this in record as I may need to refer to the dates later if needed be.

TheGreenMechanics: I'm just a small ant and I couldn't possibly hurt the giant telecommunication company by switching to DiGi or Celcom, but as a customer I will do what I think is right for me in due course.

BTW, Maxis Customer Care number is 03-7492 2123

10-year plan to address blackouts in Sabah

Frustrated people post in their social network page that every month there are 10 to 20 blackouts in their area of residence and this has been happening for many, many years already.

With several power plants due for operations in a couple of years' time, it should take the Federal Government less than 10 years to fully address this issue, no matter how complicated the situation at SESB is.

10 years is way too long, but 'some plan' is better than nothing! Newspaper clipping - DE, 17-7-2013.

What we hear more often is that IPPs in the West Coast are having hard time maintaining their equipment, and Power Plants in the East Coast are delaying the full commissioning/operations of their long-delayed-temporarily-installed generators.

So, the assurance that "any financial requirement would be approved, if justified" is much welcomed! Come on, you guys!

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Energy Minister says 10 years is needed to tackle perennial power failure issues in Sabah

Kota Kinabalu: The Federal Government has set a goal to address Sabah's infamous blackouts within the next 10 years, said Energy, Green Technology and Water Minister, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili.

He said the Prime Minister had directed him to solve the problem in Sabah and that any financial requirement would be approved, if justified.

The tariff collection by Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) was only sufficient to cover 80 per cent of its operational cost and the rest was being subsidised by Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), he said. "But for how long can this go on?" he said at the breaking of fast with the media and orphans in Promenade Hotel here Tuesday.

Power seepage, according to him was about one per cent in Semenanjung but in Sabah it was about two per cent which translated to about RM50 million being lost.

Dr Ongkili said the Federal Government had been doing its best to reduce the System Average Interruption Duration Index (SAIDI) in Sabah and had spent about half a billion ringgit in the past three years for the purpose.

In Sabah's case, he said the issue of power generation, transmission and distribution must be addressed in order to reduce Saidi.

For power generation, he said the Federal Government had to re-strategise its planning when the proposed coal-fired power plant project in Lahad Datu was scrapped after seven years of debate.

Among the issues that needed to be addressed to improve distribution of power was the fact that about 80 per cent of Sabah's cables being open cables are not coated, meaning it might take just one curious bird landing on the power cable to cause a major power disruption.

- Source:

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How many cows can you fit in a Wira?

Answer: 3
And they were to be joined by 3 other passengers (or rather thieves).

The equally burning question would probably be "How do you put 3 cows in a Wira?"
To which the thieves would perhaps answer : "Open the boot, shove the cows in, and close it!"

But this is no joke. It really happened. Read on to find out....

In you go! The thieves managed to put in one of the cows in the boot. Photo credit: The Star

Thieves tried but failed in their attempt

BUKIT MERTAJAM: After knocking out three cows using tranquillisers, three men shoved the animals into a Proton Wira in Sungai Lembu here in their grand theft plan.

The thieves, in their 20s, had used a blowpipe to sedate the animals, which were fenced up in an oil palm estate, at about 1am on Friday.

A witness, who declined to be identified, said he saw the thieves struggling to put the unconscious cows into the car which was without the backseat. He quickly alerted the voluntary patrol unit in the area.

At the same time, one of the three men had gotten into the car and driven away, while the other two hopped onto two motorcycles and followed from behind.

“As they were about to reach the main road, the patrol unit arrived and tried to stop them.

“The driver rushed out of the car and hopped onto one of the motorcycles and fled,” he added.

Villagers later took about three hours to free the dazed cows from the car.

A police spokesman said the cattle owner had lodged a report, adding that the three men were suspected to be involved in other cattle theft cases in the area.

Source: The Star Online

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Spanish wind power industry on the decline?

Spain ranks as number 4 globally in terms of installed wind energy but has dropped to 7th place in terms of new projects, according to the Global Wind Energy Council.

For many years, Spain has been a paradise for renewable energy producers with generous incentive and government support. But since 2009 the government has slowed down the development of one of the green energies - wind power - with various regulatory measures.

Blades manufactured at Gamesa’s factory (outside of Spain) in Ebensburg, Cambria County.
Photo credit: Nextcity

A case in point, Spain's Gamesa, which is among the industry's world leaders, cited "regulatory uncertainty, the persistent economic crisis and financial problems in the sector" as reasons as it laid off 606 of its 4,800 staff in Spain and closed two blade factories in recent months.

"Of the 43,000 jobs we had in the wind industry in 2009, there are only 23,000 left" - Sergio de Otto, Fundacion Renovables (Renewables Foundation).

When you outgrow the local market, go global!

For the likes of Gamesa, and any other green energy producers for that matter, it is not the end of the road.

Gamesa markets its products in more than 50 countries, with Mexico, Brazil and Indiabeing key markets. Ten years ago, the company sells 90% of its renewable energy products locally. Today it is the exact opposite - 90% of sales come from abroad.

TheGreenMechanics: Putting things into perspective, our national cars have outgrown the local vehicle market, so, it's time we venture globally. But first, we'll need a world class cars to begin with. An 'okay' product with artificially protected home turf is definitely not enough.

Read more here

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Living on snowy land? There is huge potential for cold climate Wind Energy

So you think nothing grows in the snow? Wind turbines sure do. As people continue to research, new innovations will surface -- and innovation does grow in the snow!

According to Science Daily, nearly 50 GW of wind energy will be built in cold climates over the next 5 years, an increase of more than 70% since 2012. Cold climates have denser air and higher winds, making them ideal for wind power.

Wind farm in the snow. Image credit: Planet Save

Cold climate wind energy showing huge potential

Wind energy capacity is growing rapidly in the cold climates of the world. According to the latest forecasts, between 45 and 50 GW of wind energy will be built in cold climates by 2017, which would mean an increase of as much as 72% since the end of 2012 and investments amounting to approximately €75 billion.

"There has been a lot of talk about the potential of offshore wind power, but the market for cold climate wind energy is more than 10 times greater. We already have the tools to harness the potential of cold climate wind energy cost-effectively, while offshore wind energy is still at the research and development stage."
- Tomas Wallenius, Research Scientist from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

VTT has conducted the first ever study into the feasibility of building wind turbines across the globe in areas where cold climate and icy conditions place special demands on wind turbine technology. In addition to Scandinavia and Canada, these areas also include parts of Central Europe, the United States and China.

The VTT study has been incorporated into the BTM World Market Update 2012 report (Navigant Research 2013). Cold climates represent encouraging potential for wind energy companies because of their sparse population and favourable wind conditions.

These areas experience higher winds in winter than in summer, and the density of cold air increases production capacity. However, turbine blades are highly susceptible to icing.

Although icing causes production losses of 3-10 per cent per year, losses can be reduced with the help of anti-icing systems.

You can read further at Science Daily

Hawaii power companies to deactivate oil plants, ramp up Renewables by 2016

After a year of research and deliberation, three major Hawaiian power companies are now putting up plan to deactivate a total of 226 MW of oil-fired generating units, convert remaining baseload plants to cycling duty, and substantially ramp up use of renewables by 2016.

Indeed a great move by the utility companies.

Renewable energy projects in Oahu, Hawaii. Image credit: UCS-USA

The Hawaiian Electric Companies serve 95% of the state's 1.2 million residents and in the next 5 years plan the followings:
  • To deactivate the Honolulu Power Plant and two of four units at Maui’s Kahului Power Plant by 2014, 
  • To deactivate two units at Oahu’s Waiau Power Plant by 2016,
  • Also includes Hawaii Island’s Shipman plant, which has already been deactivated and will be retired in 2014,
  • To fully retire all units at Kahului Power Plant by 2019. The oil-fired units make up 14% of the utility's owned generation.

Focus on renewable energies

The companies will instead accelerate development of utility-scale renewable energy projects, including solar and wind. Plans include:
  • Increasing the capability of utility grids to accept additional customer-sited renewable generation, especially roof-top photovoltaic systems, 
  • Developing smart grids for all three companies,
  • Installing smart meters for all customers in 2017–2018, 
  • Automating grids, and developing utility energy storage systems.

Hawaii's renewable portfolio standard requires that the companies meet 15% of net electricity sales with renewable power by 2015, 25% by 2020, and 40% by 2030.

The three companies met a record of 13.9% of generation with renewables in 2012 i.e., installing 111 MW of nameplate utility-scale wind that year. By the end of this year, the companies expect to meet 18% of generation with renewables.

Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) also plans to convert or replace generating units, which have not been deactivated, to use “cost-effective, cleaner fuels,” including renewable biomass or biofuel and liquefied natural gas.

Source: Power Magazine

Thursday, July 11, 2013

US joins 10-GW solar PV club

The United States now has more than 10 gigawatts (GW) of installed solar PV capacity, joining Germany, Italy, and China — and it's just getting warmed up, according to new calculations from NPD SolarBuzz. And watch for the next 10-GW Club member that's fast approaching.

Regional distribution of the U.S.' 10 GW of installed solar PV. (Credit: SolarBuzz)

Solar PV installations in the U.S. totaled 1.8 GW through the first six months of 2013. That isn't quite at the midpoint of SolarBuzz's forecasted 4.3 GW for the entire year, but that's still the expectation because the majority of the U.S. solar market should be realized in the second half of the year.

With the 10-GW milestone in hand, the U.S. solar PV market isn't looking back. SolarBuzz expects the market to hit 17 GW by the end of 2014, representing 80 percent growth over 18 months.

What's driving the U.S. solar market

  • Individual state support schemes
  • U.S. residential solar demand continues to surge, and third-party-owned solar residential in particular
  • System pricing declines, especially driving the utility segment
  • System price-points for utility-scale solar at $2.14/W and residential systems at $4.93/W

Worldwide outlook

Worldwide solar PV demand reached 15 GW through the first six months of this year, roughly a 9% increase from a year ago, and cumulative solar PV installations are about 116.5 GW, according to SolarBuzz. In each scenario, more than 60% comes from four countries: Germany, China, Japan, and the U.S.

In cumulative capacity only Japan is close to them, and Spain and France are distant at around 4.5 GW and 4 GW respectively. In the second half of this year, China and Japan should account for nearly half of the solar PV demand all by themselves.

Japan, which is having a stellar 2013 for solar PV, is catching up fast behind the U.S. in solar PV capacity and could top 10 GW cumulative in the next couple of months.

What's driving the Japanese market these days is the non-residential feed-in tariff, which is helping the utility segment really take off.

Further readings: Renewable Energy World

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

8 energy hogs in your home - What are they?

While I don't necessarily agree with the use of the term 'hog' here, it is necessary to illustrate the miscellaneous energy loads (MELs) in your home. These are the electrical appliances that use up way more than their fair share of energy.

I read the article and it surprises me that fan is one of the identified energy hogs. I thought leaving 10 fans switched on the whole day uses less energy than turning a single  2.5HP air-conditioner on for 8 hours.

*Size of bubble represents annual energy consumption (AEC) in TWh/year. Source: GTMedia

Surprising 8 energy hogs

GreenTech Media reported a finding by American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, which listed the following eight technologies in the home that are due for an energy efficiency makeover:-

Televisions. Even though your television has gotten slimmer, it is a growing part of energy use in your house. More than half of homes have at least three televisions. New TVs, such as LCD and LED models, are more efficient, but they are also usually larger, which offsets efficiency gains.

Set-top boxes for cable or satellite TV service. The energy use continues to climb with the popularity of DVRs, which require the box to be active for more times of the day.

Personal computers. More efficient active and sleep modes as part of Energy Star standards have made some gains, but increasing numbers of laptops and tablets mean that many of us are more plugged in more often.

Video game consoles. Like personal computers, video game consoles have gotten more efficient over the years, but they have also gained in popularity and are used for a lot more, and many are left on all the time.

Ceiling fans. Overall ceiling fan energy use is going up and is expected to increase through 2030. ACEEE estimates savings of 84% are possible if current fans were all replaced with the best available technology.

Microwaves. Even if you only use the microwave for popcorn, it can still suck up a lot of energy in standby mode.

Monitors. Standalone computer monitors have gotten more efficient in recent years, but usage has outstripped the gains. Since 2006, computer monitor usage has increased about 35%.

Cordless phones. This includes all rechargeable electronics -- including everything from cordless and cellular phones to electric toothbrushes and power tools. The cordless phone continues to be responsible for about half the energy consumption amongst rechargeable electronics in homes.

Read more at GTM (link provided above)

New EPF members may only withdraw at age 60

If you are working in the private sector, or if you are contributing to the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), this would be of interest to you.

The Borneo Post, Thursday, 20-6-2013

To all new contributors, nothing has been decided yet; this is just a proposal if it worries you. But personally, I think the withdrawal should be made flexible once a contributor reaches age 55. He/she has been planning all his/her working life for things to 'happen' at 55 so, let him/her have it her way for once.

New members may only withdraw at age 60

The Employee Provident Fun is considering new ruling that new contributors only be allowed to withdraw their savings after the age of 60 instead of the current 55.

Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Ahmad Maslan said this was one of the proposal being mulled over in light of the minimum retirement age being increased to 60 effective July 1.

Currently, contributors can still withdraw their EPF savings at 55, either as a lump sum, monthly amounts or a combination of both options.

This flexible withdrawal scheme would enable contributors to obtain a fixed and consistent income for a long period amidst worries that their money would be exhausted within few years.

"However, no decision has been made on this proposal yet," Ahmad said after a working visit to EFP the day before.

EPF chief executive officer Datuk Shahril Ridza Ridzuan said any change would only take place after th EPF Act had been amended. He said members could still contribute to the fund despite the retirement age being extended to 60.

He said contributions for employees remains at 11% and 12% (13% for those earning less than RM5,000) until the employee reached 60. As of March 31 this year, EPF has 13.69 million members and 509,139 employers. - The Borneo Post

Monday, July 8, 2013

Free street solar chargers in New York

This is a joint effort pilot initiative by several companies. It provides free solar mobile charging stations at selected locations in New York City where the public can charge their phones, tablets and other mobile devices.

The charging 'tree' is about 12.5-foot high. Photo credit: AT&T

Specification and features

Solar panel            : 3 x 15-watt solar panels
Battery                  : 168 watt-hour, Lithium ion pack
Charging capacity  : Up to 6 devices for several days without exposure to the sun.
Power outlet          : 5V, max output 2 Amp
Socket                  : Old and new iPhone power plug, micro-USB
System providers   : Funded by AT&T, solar panels technology by Goal Zero, designed by Pensa.

The pilot project is intended to provide a sustainable, green solution for mobile charging.
Photo credit: AT&T

All major mobile devices will be supported through multiple connectors at each station, and an integrated battery will allow for charges even during nighttime. Photo credit: Engadget


First, there's this security issues with regards to would-be thief lurching, but this is something the service provider needs to address; together with the local/city authority.

Secondly, it's probably impractical to wait there to recharge your mobile device battery completely, but if you have a few minutes to spare, it'll be very handy while you are out there taking a walk or chatting with friends.

Nonetheless, this is something our town council or city hall can replicate here in Malaysia. In fact there's already pilot project in Kota Kinabalu city to build a Green Taxi Station that provide essentially the same as what AT&T offers in NYC.

Source: AT&T,

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Personal-sized hydroelectric power generator you can bring anywhere

This invention reminds me of the small gasoline generator we used when spending a weekend at one of the electricity-deprived areas in Sabah.

Speaking of creativity, you can turn water into food, weapon, house, or you can turn a falling water into electricity. One such creative use of  falling water is the following small-sized hydroelectric power generator.

Powered purely by water, this generator can produce about half the power of what your typical 600W gasoline generator is capable of.

Cappa, the 250W generator, is ideal for mobile applications

The concept behind the blade

The developer, Ibasei shows how the ultra small hydroelectric generator is placed in a small stream

As long as rainfall continue to fill streams and rivers, water can be a renewable source of energy.

Compact hydropower generator

Japanese company Ibasei has unveiled a new idea in hydroelectricity generation; a turbine that can be placed in virtually any fast moving stream or river to generate small amounts of electricity for immediate use or as a charging station. Called the Cappa, it resembles an engine on a jet aircraft and can be easily placed into a location in just minutes.

The idea behind the Cappa is that not all hydroelectric systems need to be huge, and they don't have to plug a river or be situated at an optimal location either. Instead, any spot where the river narrows causing swift movement of the water can be used.

The Cappa is put in place by fashioning a couple of spans of some sort across the river or stream to form bridges. The turbine is then lowered into the water and held in place by the frame resting on the span. Once in the water, the Cappa goes to work without any further ado.

For water running at 2 m/s the turbine will generate about 250 W of electricity. Placing five of them in a stream could conceivably produce up to a 1 kW (allowing for control losses). To increase the efficiency of the turbine, engineers have tailored a diffuser that causes water flowing over the blades to move faster.

Suitable applications

The Cappa was developed for a variety of purposes, from use as in-place generators at outdoor parks to emergency backup systems, particularly in the event of a flood. It can also be used as an alternative to gas powered generators that people use when the electricity goes out.

TheGreenMechanics' two cents:

This is essentially a venturi tube with a propeller in its' throat. With a design like that, it is easy to duplicate at a much lower cost. Add a mesh screen on the front of it and you would take care of the debris that could have surely hit the blades.

The downside, however, is that at a price of a compact car, (say, Myvi @RM35,000 or US$11,000) many would give this a pass. 'Tree huggers' would love it but the cost would be too prohibitive.

Kudos to a bright idea though, it opens up a lot of possibility for the folks in the interior.