Borneo (Orangutan) Adventure

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine mentioned that they wanted to go to Borneo, and I was quite interested in going to Mongolia (which I have been for what seems like ages now!). Anyway, another friend of mine just came back from the Galapagos and we had a chat last week about places to go and after making the necessary arrangements I’m now going to Borneo in March 2008.Orangutan image

The Borneo trip is on the Malaysian side and is actually in support of the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre. There are a number of activities planned and I plan to do every single one of those including cycling, jungle treks, rafting, canopy walking, etc

There’s a lot that has gone wrong and is going wrong in Borneo. From the forest fires, palm oil plantations, logging, etc. Some of these are illegal activities but some are not such as the disastrous initiative when farmers were encouraged into the area by the Indonesian government. The forests and their biodiversity are being devastated. I fully understand the economic pressures faced by the locals. It’s not going to be something that will be easy to fix.

I decided that I wanted to help as well as satisfy my need to travel. So the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre got my vote with the Borneo Orangutan Adventure Appeal. I hope to raise some awareness with my friends and colleagues and perhaps reach out to a larger audience through the Internet. As you may know I am a keen hobbyist photographer (see my Antarctica photos from last month) and I intend to produce photos that highlight the richness of Borneo but also, at the same time, bring to people’s attention the situation regarding the plight of the orangutans and the forests.

I just hope my other friend doesn’t get upset that I’m off to Borneo! It’s something that just happened and I couldn’t pass it up. I’m still planning to do Mongolia later on this year…the year is still young so still lots to do!

People. Let’s be careful out there. The planet needs us.

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved

Great music, Zune and iPod

There’s a lot of really good music being given airtime by a number of UK-based radio stations such as London’s “Capital Radio”. I do also listen to a lot of classical music, blues and some jazz through Internet-based radio stations but I did want to say something about some songs that I particularly liked at the moment. And why not!

OK, here we icon

  • Relax (Take IT Easy) – by Mika
  • Chasing Pavements – by Adele
  • Superstar – by Lupe Fiasco
  • Rockstar – by Nickelback
  • Valerie – by Mark Ronson with Amy Winehouse (I like anything with Amy Winehouse!)
  • Run – by Amy MacDonald
  • Sun Goes Down  – by David Jordan – fun
  • Ride It – by Jay Sean
  • Homecoming – by Kanye West
  • Carry You Home – by James Blunt (also “1973” is still being played!)

Check them out! 

Next problem. My dilemma is regarding the purchase of my next MP3 player to replace my Sony MP3 player which has hit maximum capacity on its 20GB drive. I was thinking of getting an iPod but the lack of a built-in radio receiver put me off. The new Zune MP3 players from Microsoft do have FM radios built in and the units do seem to have some very good reviews. They look kinda cool too. Unfortunately the Zunes are not officially available in the UK and if I need to use the Zune Marketplace then I need to be a bit creative with my Internet set up to access the Zune Marketplace from the UK. Also, the iPods have a huge array of accessories available. Dilemmas! I think that I’d also lose any option of getting the Zune customised with those graphics on the back of the units. The word on the street is that the Zunes will be launched in the UK in Christmas 2008! I don’t think that I can wait that long even if we do get new and improved Zunes by that time! I’ll try and get myself an 80GB Zune. Unless anyone has a strong objection!

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved

IE8 and standards mode switching

I read a recent IEBlog entry and was quite interested in the problems that the IE team were facing with regards to the various rendering modes and standards compatibility with different IE engines and in particular the one being developed for IE8. Their greatest concern was to define a method of ensuring that IE8 users wouldn’t suddenly see “broken” websites due to that websites use of particular html/CSS/JavaScript hacks used to work around the various non-standard rendering modes of  previous IE browsers (prior to IE8).

Ivory TowerI also read the A List Apart article and this basically discussed the problem-solving decisions and recommendations made by the joint-working teams of The Web Standards Project and Microsoft. All very interesting stuff. But then something strange happened. A number of articles began appearing at various websites which were highly critical of the proposed use of meta tags for switching standards modes. But these articles were not persuasive in their arguments. No, these arguments were not arguments. They were vitriolic statements and without real logic or support. The fanaticism against the proposed meta tags for standards switching in IE8 was just amazing. The fanatics even went after the well respected CSS expert Eric Meyer regarding his article where he provided his perspective on the use of the proposed meta tags. It was quite sad actually. Eric Meyer has written follow-up articles on his website regarding the way he was treated.

I really have no idea why people behave this way but I’m sure someone has studied the parallels with religious fanatics! I think the proposed meta tags are a good idea and I’ll adjust my code accordingly. It must be emphasised that we do not live in a perfect world and people need to remember this. My own code is mostly xhtml 1.1 compatible but there are a few non-standard tags employed by my automated navigation html authoring software and it’s so useful that I decided to keep them, and I’m also aware that I’m not serving the pages as proper application/xhtml+xml and have used the default text/html MIME type (yes, it’s tag-soup!).  In fact I’m not sure that I would do so even if all the code did validate.

The thing is…IE and Firefox all render the pages correctly (I don’t care much about Opera these days as they’re not particularly unique/useful these days, and I don’t have access to “proper” Safari yet). And this is important to me. I know that practically everyone out there will see the pages more or less the way I want them to see them. I’m not being lazy. There is a lot to do out there. When IE7 was in beta I used it to test my modified code so that correct rendering was achieved in IE6, IE7 and Firefox. And so I was prepared when IE7 was released formally into the wild. But just think of all that “legacy” code out there especially at the larger sites. It WILL take a long time to update code to take advantage of IE8 but, in the mean time, most rational people are aware of the critical need not to disrupt the user experience or cause loss of business to commercial websites. I think meta tags are the way to go. I’m no expert, but brains bigger than mine have looked at this and there does seem to be consensus forming that we need to go forward and that the use of meta tags is possibly the one with the least pain.

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved

WM6 ActiveSync Error 0x8503001c – solution found!

My main desktop is running Windows Vista Ultimate 32-bit with Office 2007 Pro. I also have a Windows Mobile 6 (WM6) device…an O2 “xda Orbit” which is based on the HTC Artemeis.

For synchronisation I’ve been using Vista’s “Windows Mobile Device Center” WMDC and at some point I had upgraded this to WMDC 6.1 but I’m not sure when though. All was working.

Recently I found issues that when I tried to synchronize my WM6 device that synchronisation with Outlook 2007 would not occur and, instead, the synchronisation would just sit there for ages and not do anything. But I could still explore the WM6 device and run eWallet synchronization so I was sure that the partnership settings were correct. I did the obvious thing and ended the partnership and then created a new one. Nope, no quick fix here!

I tried looking in all the obvious places but I couldn’t see what was going on. I even restored my WM6 device from a backup going back several months but that didn’t fix anything although it proved to me that my back-up procedures for my WM6 were working!

I then thought that perhaps Office 2007 was corrupted or misconfigured. I then ran Office Diagnostics but no problems found. I tried the “repair office” tool but this tool couldn’t run as certain files couldn’t be found. I even tried to add/subtract various Office components through the Office 2007 CD but that still didn’t run properly as, again, certain files couldn’t be found. So I uninstalled Office 2007, and then reinstalled Office 2007. Well, synchronization still wasn’t working.

My next step was to uninstall WMDC 6.1 and then reinstall it. That didn’t cure the problem. I now wasn’t sure what to do. So I went back to my WM6 device and looked at the ActiveSync application. I noticed that ActiveSync had logged an error. It reported an error number 0x8503001c. This turns out to be an important number…

I did a quick search on Google for 0x8503001c and found a number of people also getting this error message. A lot of these sites actually weren’t very useful as the solutions offered didn’t work and which I’d already tried.  But one site had an article which was useful. In fact it was perfect. The solution is simple. Uninstall WMDC 6.1 and then install WMDC 6.0. Yes, that worked! I would recommend that you reboot Vista after each uninstall and install of WMDC just in case there are any components that require a reboot to be activated but I have no evidence for this. At the present time WMDC 6.0 (for 32-bit Vista) can be downloaded from the Microsoft download link.

This is a known problem and Microsoft need to get their finger out and fix it so that we can use specific bits of additional functionality that WMDC 6.1 + offers.

I hope that this article helps anyone else that is experiencing this problem.

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved


Skeptico has an article that Quackometer is being sued again. Skeptico has a valid point that Quackometer’s domain hosting company or ISP is a bit of a chicken…or is that a lame duck?

I’ve certainly seen a lot of fakers in my own industry and it’s funny, when I’ve called them on something technical and they get found out, that they get really defensive and then abusive! Ethics don’t mean a thing to them.

The Bad Science Forum has an article on this too.

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved

Mars movies

A few years ago I saw the sci-fi films “Red Planet” and “Mission to Mars” which both came out around the same time. I have to admit to being disappointed when I saw them. Cectic has a great comic on this which kinda describes how I feel.

 Movies 'bout Mars

It may perhaps be a bit too harsh to blame the science advisers as the blasted script writers need to take most of the blame. Nevertheless, the comic is funny!

Future of music – my vision!

A device, whether mobile or fixed, such as a laptop, a mobile telephone, a desktop, etc which is used (as one of its functions) to receive “radio” stations from the air (using radio techniques such as VHF/FM, DAB, etc) or “streamed” such as from an Internet connection over xDSL, WiFi, etc. Such a device, using automatic user-matching preferences, or through manual intervention by the user, flags a received song/tune/audio which then actions the device to immediately (or stored later for such action) to access a relevant music download site such that the flagged song/tune/audio track can be purchased (or made available free of charge) and downloaded to the device such as to allow the user to playback the downloaded track at any suitable time.

A simple scenario. Basically, you’re listening to a traditional radio station or Internet radio station on your 3G/WiFi smartphone/MP3 player and you hear something you like. You press a button and the device goes to iTunes or other site and the track gets downloaded to your device. Instant impulse purchase! The device (or even the music store) could also determine that you like that particular type of music or that artist and it could provide recommendations for further purchase.

This is my vision of the future and it doesn’t take any leap in technology as all the buildings blocks are already there. And I’m sure that the idea isn’t that novel as it’s just a trivial and perhaps obvious example of putting such blocks together. I think Apple could put such a system together very easily using the iPhone (but perhaps with a 3G upgrade!). So the rest of you companies out there, wake up and smell the coffee…you’ve got a lot of work to do! And with GPS built-in such a device would be a real killer! Location based services are going to sky rocket but that’s the subject of a different article.

I want now!

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved

Internet at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

A few weeks ago I spent a few hours waiting for my plane at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. As most of you know it’s a big modern airport. However, as far as I was concerned, for such a big and modern airport it was sadly lacking in something that I would have considered essential…proper sit-down areas where you can use a PC and log onto the Internet.

I’ll tell you what they did have:

  • Wireless (WiFi) Internet access for those of you lucky enough to have wireless mobile devices.
  • A strange VDU terminal stuck up on a wall for Internet access and for which you have to stand to use.

Where were those areas where you can just buy a pre-paid card or pay by the minute like those Internet Cafés? A place to just sit down. A place to relax and look at your paperwork, etc.

The environment at the airport was just so sterile. I didn’t like it. Atlanta shouldn’t feel proud with this airport. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is possibly the worst of the modern airports I’ve been to. What a waste!

Copyright © 2008 Kulvinder Singh Matharu – All Rights Reserved