Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Black Bird Of December - Asian Koel

Asian Koel

While growing up at the place where I now live, the only black bird that I know of are Crows. I get to see these Crows almost everyday when they fly, as they still do now, from South to North in the mornings and in the reverse direction come evenings, squawking as they fly slowly up high overhead.

These days, there is another rather big black bird, a migrant bird in fact, that comes visiting only in the month of December - 10th December to be exact for this year. They are the Asian Koel. I think they are quite common in the coastal areas. But up to about 30 or even 20 years ago, I don't think I have ever heard or even seen one before. I wonder why and when did they decided to move inland?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Map Of Old Greentown, Ipoh

I have searched and I could not find a map of OLD Greentown (Ipoh, Perak) online. I do have 2 partial maps of Greentown from Shell and Mobileoil (circa 1960) but they were no good simply because they were incomplete. Someone did give me a 1959 contour map of the Ipoh district earlier this year but I could not reconcile this map with what I know. There were no road names (which make things harder) and for about half of Greentown the roads were not properly drawn. Just some blocks on the map to denote 'houses' and I have to resort to guessing where the roads/lanes are - and I got myself confused.

Old Greentown

My only resort then is to draw the map myself. And with a little help from here and there, this is the result of my attempt: a map of OLD Greentown that I knew and grew up in during the 1970s and 1980s. Do click on the map below to view in full size.

Map Of Old Greentown (Click to enlarge)

Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Returning Bee-Eaters

The Bee-Eater birds, they are back in Ipoh, Perak. Like the Brown Shrikes, they are migratory birds too. Out of the 4 species that have been known to exist in Malaysia, I have only spotted 3 so far. It seems that the high-wires in front of my house is their favourite roosting place, probably because of the many flowers that everyone has in their front-yard. More flowers mean more insects and that is the best place to look for food. They can usually be seen in the afternoons between 2 pm to 4 pm.

Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eaters

A Pair Of Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eaters

The first to return was the Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eater. They were first spotted on 17th October 2014. Prior to this, they were last seen on 20th May 2014, based on the time-stamp on my photographs of them. I wonder if they have migrated elsewhere as I have not seen them in recent weeks. Maybe back North as it has been reported that they do not go further South than Ipoh in the Malaysian Peninsular.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

RavenPlus: Spell-checking And The "Save" Button

The Spell-Check Dialog Box In Raven/RavenPlus

Here is another quirky behaviour in the editor window in Raven/RavenPlus. Similar to my previous post on "drag-and-drop", this problem will also only be apparent if the first thing that is done after opening an existing blog post for editing is a spell-check, or when we do a spell-check right after saving our blog post while editing. If one or more words were "replaced" via the "Spell Check" dialog box (by clicking on the "Replace" or "Replace All" button and thus modifying the blog post), the "Save" button on the toolbar remains disabled. To enable the "Save" button, what I used to do was to insert and then delete a blank space. But that can't be right, and it should not be happening in the first place.

Friday, 31 October 2014

RavenPlus: Drag-And-Drop And The "Save" Button

Drag-And-Drop In RavenPlus

It is almost a year since I started using Zoundry Raven/RavenPlus and I have noticed that there are a handful of quirky behaviours within the editor window. These are not showstoppers. I can still compose and post my blogs successfully, but I find them annoying - a thorn in my side.

Below is just one of these peculiarities in Raven/RavenPlus, and how I fixed it. This problem will only be apparent if the first thing that is done after opening an existing blog post for editing is a drag-and-drop, or when we do a drag-and-drop right after we saved our blog post - the "Save" button on the toolbar remains disabled despite the modification.

Friday, 24 October 2014

First Month Of Freedom

A Serama Hen - 6 Months Old

Some time during the month of March 2014, only a single egg hatched out of a total of 3. Since that time, it had been a routine for me every morning for the last 6 months as I had kept the Serama hen and its chick in captivity. At around 8 AM everyday, I will, without much hassle luckily, move the single chick and the hen into a different cage which has ample space for them to roam, scratch and sand-bathe in my backyard. It had been so routine that the chick and hen seemed to know what to expect when they see me coming every morning. That is until one fine sunny morning about a month ago when I finally set them free; a taste of freedom for the 'chick' for the first time.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

RavenPlus: Where Did My Just Added "Category" Go?

It has been approximately a year since I started using Zoundry Raven. In my opinion, it is definitely the best offline blog editor that I have ever used. More recently, I have been customising Raven (which I now call RavenPlus) and tailoring it to meet my own needs. Hurray for making Raven open-source.

Something Peculiar

I still remember the quirkiness the first time I added a new "Category/Tag" (also called "Labels" on Google's Blogger) in Raven. Adding the "Category" is quite straight forward in the Raven editor - no problems there. After successfully publishing my post with the newly added "Category", everything looked to be in order when I viewed the blog post via a web browser.

I did not suspect anything amiss until a few days later when I tried to reuse the "Category" that I have added in Raven in another blog post. To my surprise, I could not find it in the list of "Categories" in the "Categories" tab, under the "Configure..." pull-down menu in the Raven's editor. But curiously, when I clicked on the "Tags" node on the "Account Navigator" sidebar, all "Categories" are listed, including the missing one.

Poking around, I later realised that for any "Category" that I have added via Raven, they are only available for use in the original blog post in which it was created. I was dumbfounded. Not surprisingly, this happens in RavenPlus too, since it shares almost 99.8% of the code with Raven.

An Undocumented Step?

But luckily I found something within Raven that can overcome the above mentioned shortcomings. I stumbled upon this discovery quite by accident actually, while going through Raven's log ("Tools -> Background Tasks" in the main window).

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Brown Shrikes - They Are Back

A Brown Shrike In My Front Yard

Without giving any sign, they, the Brown Shrikes, left sometime around the month of March. None was seen during my count for the MY Garden Birdwatch that I did in the month of June for both years, 2013 and 2014. But now, with winter approaching in North Asia, this migratory bird is back in the Malay peninsular.

Monday, 22 September 2014

One Of My Hen Turning Rooster-Like

Serama Hen - Then (insert) And Now

As far as I could tell, it was a normal Serama hen when it was hatched. When it reached maturity it laid eggs and even went broody at times, just like the other hens. There was nothing out of the ordinary. That was until the beginning of this year when I noticed a change in this particular hen - the pattern and colour of its feathers began to transform. I did not give it much thought at that time as it was not sick, nor was it acting in any bizarre way, but at the back of my mind, I did find it odd. None of my other chickens had ever changed their plumage before.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Disabling Google+ Comments On Blogger

I should have given it more thought before enabling Google+ comments on my blog. The problem with this feature is that once enabled, a Google+ profile or page is required before any comments can be made on my blog. Anonymous and non-Google+ user comments are disallowed. With Google+ Comments enabled, I would expect some future comments to be loss as I actually have a few Anonymous user comments on my blog itself. This is definitely something that I do not want.

I spent something like 2 hours looking for a way to disable Google+ Comments on my blog. The answer is actually there at Google+ Comments FAQs but unfortunately it is not that obvious to me. A separate heading on "How to remove Google+ Comments on Blogger" in the FAQs would have been a much better idea.

Monday, 18 August 2014

A White Cactus Flower

White Cactus Flower Taken At About 8am

My family did not plant cacti for their flowers. As a matter of fact, we did not even know that they produce flowers until about a week ago when we had one. A big white gorgeous flower measuring about 3 inches across. It must have been our lucky day. As the morning progressed, the flower began withering. By the following day, it has completely wilted. This seems to suggest that the full bloom must have been at night (we missed that since we did not know), a few hours before the picture above was taken.

Friday, 1 August 2014

My Collection Of St Michael's Institution Exercise Books

I wonder, do people actually collect exercise books, especially of those that are from one's former school? Well, I certainly do not. But I am beginning to wonder now if I should. Most household do not give a hoot to them come the end of the school year. Most will be discarded and there is certainly no exception at my home. However, for one reason or another, a couple of these exercise books from my former school did survive. They were not all kept at the same place. So when I gathered them together, I realized that I have quite an interesting collection - historical items from my old school St. Michael's Institution, Ipoh (S.M.I.).

Not all of these exercise books were mine. Some were my brother's, and for the more recent ones they were given to me. In all, what I have now is a collection of S.M.I. exercise books that span something like 43 years. They date from 1970 till 2013, and are all of the same size, measuring 16.5cm x 21.0cm. Off my memory, I can recall the 40, 80 and 120 pages for the plain/blank, single line, double line and square line used during my school days.

I only have vague knowledge on the history of some of these exercise books that were used before 1970 and also after 1985. The simple reason is: I was not there in school. Please correct me if you find any inaccuracies by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Setting The Language Option In Gimp 2.6.9

I really should be using the latest version of Gimp, version 2.8. But unfortunately, I do not have the bandwidth to download the installation file. Thus I have to settle with Gimp version 2.6.9, for the moment, which is about a quater of the size of version 2.8.

Upon firing up Gimp version 2.6.9 after installation, the first thing that greeted me was a flashscreen and a user interface in my local language. I would very much prefer using Gimp in English. But like I have mentioned in my previous blog post, I have a need to set my regional location to "Malaysia" as otherwise I will have problems tuning in to my local TV stations with my K-World PCI Analog TV Tuner with VirtualDub.

Here is what I did to configure my Microsoft Windows PC so that Gimp will startup in English ("en_us" in this case):

Saturday, 21 June 2014

My Contribution To The 2014 MY Garden Birdwatch Survey

Birds Not Spotted During Survey

This is my third year of participating in the MY Garden Birdwatch Survey. There are actually more species of birds in my neighbourhood than what my bird count shows. I know because I was keeping tab, and capturing with my digital camera sometimes, on the variety of birds since the last survey in June 2013. Hoping to get the result that best depicts the variety of birds within my neighbourhood, I counted twice this year: on 7th June 2014 between 7:45am and 8:15am, and on 8th June 2014 between 12:30pm and 1:00pm. But unfortunately the birds have other plans. They seem to come around at different hours of the day, and for some only on certain months of the year.

Below is the count that I did on 8th June 2014 which I submitted to My Garden Birdwatch as my official count. I find the results to be more or less the same as last year's.

Monday, 9 June 2014

RavenPlus: Javascript Error With Amazon Affiliate IFrame Ads

The Error Message When Viewing A Blog Post Containing Amazon IFrame Ads

I never had this error message before. This only started happening about 2 weeks ago. A dialog box will appear as show above for my blog posts that contains Amazon Affiliate IFrame ads in RavenPlus. This error message will appear 'n' times if I have 'n' number of Amazon Affiliate IFrame Ads for any particular blog post. The Amazon ad still gets displayed correctly though, but this error message is annoying.

To prevent this error messages from popping up, what I did was to disable Javascript in Internet Explorer (IE). RavenPlus WYSIWYG editor is actually a Microsoft COM based object that is borrowed from IE and embedded into RavenPlus, by the way. To disable Javascript in IE:

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

RavenPlus: Source Code For Version 1.0.503

RavenPlus - Source Code

I think I am required to distribute the source code for RavenPlus as required by GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE Version 2, the license under which Zoundry Raven is distributed. So, I have uploaded the source code for RavenPlus version 1.0.503 to my Google Drive and it can be downloaded here.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Living Stream's 1978 Interview With Bro Ultan Paul

The Front Cover Of "The Living Stream" 1978

I just found this 1978 copy of "The Living Stream" within my home recently. I must admit, I have completely forgotten about it and now, I can't even remember how I got it. "The Living Stream", by the way, is a magazine that is published, once every two years by the 6th Form Arts Council of the St. Michael's Institution (S.M.I.), Ipoh. I think they are only distributed to the Arts Stream students in the Upper Secondary in S.M.I., which makes this a mystery as I was in the Lower Secondary in 1978.

When I flipped through the pages, I seem to have some recollection of the cartoons depicting life at S.M.I. back then. But I don't think I have actually read the rest of it, which is a pity actually as there is an interview with Reverend Brother Director, Bro. Ultan Paul about the history and background of S.M.I. that is not found anywhere else, as far as I know - not even in the pile of school magazines, "The Michaelian", that I have. Hats off to the 1978 Editorial Team of "The Living Stream" for filling this void.

Below is this interview, conducted by Denise Teh Swan Teen and Choong Mee Yong, both of Lower Six Art 2 1978. See what you think. There are some typos. So, my corrections are in brackets and in blue.

There is no mention of a tunnel of any kind by the way. With all that piling in the school hall at that time, is building a tunnel possible?

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A High Climbing Snake

A Snake Suffocating A Sparrow

Many birds will come flying around when it is feeding time for my ducks and chickens. This usually happens at around 11AM everyday. Not much of an eventful occasion, except for one fine sunny morning on 23rd April 2014. A fluttering sound caught my attention, and when I look up, I saw a sparrow with its head trapped between the jaws of a slender greenish/yellowish snake with dark shades. The snake must have launched a surprise attack from the hollow section of the pipe that makes up the orchid stand. With the snake's tail firmly gripping onto a bolt, it is impossible for the sparrow to escape. I would have never imagined that this is possible - a bird with maximum mobility being caught by a creature that has no limbs and slithers on the ground. This is a first for me.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Little Heron Makes An Appearance

A Little Heron On A Durian Tree

And there it was, resting on a branch of my durian tree one late morning last month, March 2014. The time was about 10:30 AM. I caught sight of it by accident actually while I was in the house. It was totally unexpected. It just stood there quietly on the branch.

Standing at about 1 feet tall, this bird, a Little Heron, is one of the largest bird that I have ever seen in my garden. As far as I could tell, it was alone as no other bird of this species was spotted.

This is actually my second encounter with a Little Heron. The first was a month before this on February 2014, also in my front garden. Back then, it was perching on the telephone wire above my front gate. I cannot be sure if this is the exact same bird though.

A long legged bird with a long beak would suggest that this is a waterbird. Its natural habitat should either be a mangrove swamp or a wetland. But my house is in the suburbs of Ipoh city. And I have lived in this neighbourhood all my life and this is the first time that I have seen Little Herons in this area. I do wonder if this has something to do with the local drainage system that has, in my opinion, turned into mini jungles at certain sections. The drains were not like this before but only in recent years.

The Same Bird But From A Different Angle

This bird was aware of my presence while I was taking these photographs. Most birds would take flight, especially when they see me pointing a camera at them. Little Herons, though, seems to be unperturbed, even while I was plodding around them, looking for the perfect angle for the perfect shot.

These pictures were taken while I was standing at about 15 feet away from the bird with my compact camera. My camera was set to 16MP with maximum optical zoom at 5x. I think they turned out quite alright, for an amateur photographer like me.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

RavenPlus Version 1.0.503 - A Fix For "Empty Blog Content Upon Posting"

My last blog post actually had empty blog content upon posting. I never had this problem before since I started using Raven some 5 or 6 months back. And neither did this problem occurred after I made modifications to Raven, that is until the last blog post.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

RavenPlus - My "py2exe" Build Of Zoundry Raven

Since there has been no development with the offline blog editor Zoundry Raven (Raven) since 2008, I have been fixing and customizing Raven to fit my own needs for something like 8 months now. I am no expert in the Python programming language (I only have less than 8 months experience). But luckily I find the Raven's Python source code to be quite easy to follow and understand. I have a background in computer programming, by the way.

RavenPlus - Running Under Windows 7

Since the beginning of February 2014, I have been trying to package my customized version of Raven into a MS Windows .EXE executable so that it can be run like any other Windows program without the need of installing the Python compiler or any other libraries that Raven requires. After trying for something like 3 weeks, I have finally succeeded.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Downloading BBC WS "Top Of The Pops" With "rtmpdump"

rtmpdump - Downloading In Progress

I would have preferred if I could download it off the BBC's Podcast web-page but unfortunately I can't. Below is the command that I use to download the BBC World Service radio programme "Top Of The Pops" to my desktop computer, thanks to the software rtmpdump.


rtmpdump.exe -r "rtmp://wsondemandflash.bbc.co.uk/ondemand/mp4:48502/worldservice/css/latest/topofthepops" -o "topofthepops.flv"


Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Zoundry Raven: Getting Raven To Work With MS Internet Explorer 9

Zoundry Raven (Raven) version 1.0.375 (and 1.0.500, if you were to compile from the source code) is only good with Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) version 5.5 to version 8. Raven will NOT work after an upgrade to IE version 9 (IE9) on Windows7 .

There are two things that I noticed when I launch Raven after the IE9 upgrade:

  • In the main window, under "Blog Post Summary" I noticed that what got displayed was mal-formed. All blog posts starts with the word "ZoundryDocument", which shouldn't be there. Also, there were no pictures or formatting of any kind - when there should be. They look just like any plain unformatted text document.

    Mal-formed "Blog Post Summary" With IE9 Installed
  • Editing an existing blog post is not possible. The "Zoundry Error" message

    "Error: 'NoneType' object has no attribute 'tagName'"

    gets displayed, multiple times, when the WYSIWYG editor window is launched.

    The Error Message When Trying To Edit A Blog Post With IE9 Installed

The Fix

I have just spent the last couple of days going through Raven's source code, trying to find a fix after this upgrade to IE9. And luckily, the fix is actually quite simple. All that is needed to be done is to just delete a single character in the file "mshtmlcontrol.py", found in the directory zoundryraven-read-only\Raven\src\python\zoundry\appframework\ui\widgets\controls\advanced\mshtml.

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