Archive for the ‘Malaysia’ Category

Safety in Malaysia and the external perception

I am sitting at The Pier, a Cathay Pacific Lounge in the Hong Kong airport. While I still occasionally swing by The Wing, The Bridge, and The Cabin (in that order), this lounge has become my favourite, as you can get a 20-30 minute complimentary massage, which makes the transit a lot more bearable.

Today’s interesting conversation in the massage area (it is usually quiet, but occasionally you get a chatty passenger) happened to be with a gentleman on the same flight I would be on. He was born in Kerala, but grew up in New Delhi, and spent the last four years as an expat in Kuala Lumpur. His masseuse, like all ours at The Pier, are from Nepal.

She had been to Kuala Lumpur when she was about sixteen. And her friends and her were planning on going to Kuala Lumpur in September 2015, but they are rethinking it due to the fact that Kuala Lumpur is not safe.

Hong Kong she says is very safe. She takes a bus at 4am to reach the airport at 5.30am. She thinks that Singapore is safe. But KL lately, is not safe. The expat agrees. Whether true or perception, this is going to affect our tourist arrival numbers!

As a Malaysian, I wonder how many of us are waking up to this reality? What are we going to do to fix it?

Telekom Malaysia outage, no incident report

Telekom Malaysia “broke the Internet” for a few hours on June 12. I recall I was stuck in an airport lounge in London wondering why my daily diet, bar one loaded — FT/NYT on the iPad had no issue but I couldn’t get the WSJ for offline reading. 

It was a route leak. For reference, the Hacker News thread is well worth a read (comments are particularly why you’d go there). Cloudflare had an incident report. Discussions on the nanog list. Telekoms was pretty happy with their tweet. DigitalNewsAsia reports that MCMC (SKMM) was looking into the TM outage behind the global Internet slowdown. BGPMon has pretty graphs to accompany the massive route leak.

Telekom posted a pretty quick apology. But over 2 weeks later, and there is no incident report as to what happened. When this happened in Australia, the turnaround time was 10 days – see APNIC: Leaking routes.

Will anyone be held accountable?

MH17 – Malaysia isn’t to blame

I’m deeply saddened by MH17. I haven’t gotten over MH370 yet, and I can’t imagine how all at MAS, people flying it, and everyone involved react to all of this — 2 tragedies within 6 months is truly unprecedented. This is a long piece but just remember: This is not the fault of MAS. Stop blaming them. The plane was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Why do I care? People that know me, know that I’m up in the air all the time. For those that don’t know me, last year I took over 12 trips around the Earth, and the year before that over 18 trips around the Earth (circumference of earth = 24,901 miles = 40,075 km). I’ve been doing this since about 2003, though nowadays I fly less – I just spend a lot longer at destinations.

People that know me also know I’m no big fan of our national flag carrier, MAS. I swore off them sometime in 2003 (becoming a SQ Gold loyalist then; and also a CX Diamond in 2012), and tried them again for a few legs in 2013 (London, Paris, Bali, Hong Kong, Singapore, Phnom Penh) as they joined OneWorld. I told myself that service still hadn’t improved (yes, they’re great – but when you compare them to Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines, there’s not much left to say).

Parking problems. A plane is in our gate and needs to be removed!That said, I’m a proud Malaysian. I will not forget where I was when I first heard the news about MH370 – I woke up at the Hyatt Regency Yogyakarta and was told of what had happened that Saturday morning. Messages started streaming in from worried folk all thru that week. I followed closely to see what was happening to MH370 over the entire search period, and sad to say the handling of everything was just poor – typical of the mediocre leadership in Malaysia. I still stand that the DCA chief, MAS CEO and Hishamuddin Hussein need to resign. It took weeks to release the cargo manifests, there was so much misinformation, so much confusion, and overall, it just put Malaysia and MAS in a really bad light.

Not over MH370 (we still have no idea what has happened or where the plane has ended) we are hit with MH17 (I landed in a Cathay Pacific plane in Los Angeles after radio silence for about 14 hours to text messages asking if I was ok – so turned on roaming data immediately to find out what happened in plane). MH17 is different: it is an act of terror. It is clear that MAS is not at fault at all. It was shot down.

However people are looking to appropriate blame – especially after MH370. Detractors (typically Malaysian’s angry with the current government, or “ex-Malaysians” who are now part of our diaspora) question why Malaysia Airlines flew over Ukranian airspace knowing that it was unsafe. Detractors wonder if ailing MAS was trying to save money by using the shorter route.

Here’s some news for you: MAS wasn’t the only airline using said airspace. Over 400 flights per day travel over that region including passenger jets from KLM, Lufthansa, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic and Air India. There are probably a lot more airlines that used said airspace (does anyone have a complete list?). British Airways and Qantas have changed route plans previously. Remember that this isn’t just for routes that do AMS-KUL, but also for routes that are like SIN-LHR and so forth. I’ve been flying over this airspace for a long time…

This data is all open nowadays (FT also has a good article: Downed Malaysian Airlines jet was travelling outside no-fly zone). Just ask FlightRadar24. Look at some of the graphics coming out of the NYT (very useful to understand that MH17 wasn’t doing anything wrong).

Yes, the FAA had issued warnings in April 2014. Eurocontrol said it was safe as long as people flew above 32,000ft. So the airspace was restricted but not closed. Operations departments at many airlines (MAS included) chart paths that are most optimum – this is what happened here.

 

TuakLufthansa defended its decisionto fly over this airspace:

“Every airline selects the routes that are the most energy efficient and which offer the shortest flight time, but we would never make a trade off between operational safety and cost”

In hindsight (everything is always clearer isn’t it?), people can say that aviators can refuse to fly said routes or ask the operations departments to re-route around conflict zones. Sure. That’s what everyone has done after MH17. But before, many commercial airlines were happily using this route.

Its appalling that airlines try to claim they’re safe and weren’t using the route before. Offenders include (read the thread):


Who then admitted to being wrong, and posting a corrected tweet (i.e. they don’t currently fly over Ukranian airspace).

Singapore Airlines says they’re not using Ukranian airspace any longer (read the thread).

MAS its time to learn to be better – and comebacks are the best – Singapore Airlines made a comeback from their tragic 2000 incident – SQ006. Let’s not forget the 1997 SilkAir 185 incident.

MAS, don’t give up. People, don’t give up on MAS (MH17 was at full capacity probably due to fare cuts). I’m going to try to change some routes to take on more MH flights to support the local carrier. Malaysia needs a local carrier — and that carrier is MAS. Godspeed.

Update:

Bitcoin Exchanges can’t work in Malaysia

News today: Genneva (gold trading company, launched by former Prime Minister Mahathir) Malaysia director charged with accepting deposits without a license.

So if you’re thinking of a Bitcoin exchange in Malaysia, think again. Bank Negara Malaysia obviously doesn’t think much of Bitcoin. How will you accept deposits without a license? 

Singapore on the other hand proves itself to be in the forefront of finance: treat Bitcoin like a product. Read the full IRAS statement. Singapore is about to get its first Bitcoin ATM soon.

For further reading, see the BAFIA 1989, in its entirety. Once again, laws that prevent innovation.

English rules

I just read: Unseen gap in ecosystem, and techies in their cocoons. English is brought up as an issue. 

English is the medium of communication. You can code in whatever computer language exists, but if you can’t write your weekly reports, you can’t write commit messages, you can’t write proper comments in your code and you can’t communicate with the rest of your team via email, you have failed at communication. 

Malaysians can excel if they improve their English. Period. You learn English in school but its not enough. I’ve seen Malaysian Computer Science syllabi that teaches English at university level. Apparently it is not enough. 

This is a policy decision. The government is choosing to push their agenda forward by ensuring that the people cannot converse in English. English is like teaching the man to fish. As long as you are given fish, you are going to be dependent on the ruling regime.

English is key. If you can’t get your message across, you will destroy whatever pitchdeck you have. 

So are non-English speakers are severely undervalued? No. Not even in a team of non-English coders. Let’s say they all speak Bahasa Malaysia. When they hit a problem, can they solve it by Googling it? Can they read documentation in another language and comprehend it? (Note: this is different if your team of coders speaks Russian, Japanese, Korean, etc. where there’s plenty of local language content being created).

At a previous company where we hired people from over 30 countries, and 70% of the people worked at home, what we did was pay for English language lessons for employees that couldn’t communicate in English. You were hired on the basis that you were a good coder, but you also had to complete English to be able to communicate with everyone involved.

I’ve taken this lesson to heart. Anytime I’m consulting with a company where the level of English is subpar, I ensure that the key people get tutored in the language. Not only does it help them grow, it helps in my planned obsolescence – they are empowered to solve more by themselves as I teach them more technically, and as they can now find solutions themselves as they grok the English language.

What value does Najib & his entourage bring from Silicon Valley visit?

I was alerted to the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, visiting San Francisco by a bunch of friends on a Whatsapp group I’m on. Someone took a picture of the front page of The Sun. The article is online: Najib on working visit to San Francisco, NY. There’s more: Najib to tweet from Twitter Hq in San Francisco on Monday and PM tweets live from Twitter HQ. I will dissect all this later. Bear with me as this might be long, but I think these innovation tourism trips are an immense waste of money.

Now, before you continue reading, please go and read this article from the Financial Times: Valley visitors must bring back more than the T-shirt by Richard Waters (April 17 2013). If you’re not a subscriber, Google the title and I’m sure you can find it (or just browse in incognito mode, that might work?). This is mandatory reading because it will set the tone for what I have to digest.

Najib arrived in San Francisco with his wive Rosmah. I have to ask — what is the role of Rosmah, besides to help prop up the US economy? They took their private jet to arrive in San Francisco, which can be afforded to the man that is the Prime Minister (a Boeing Business Jet, a customised 737). Najib’s purpose was to attend the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC), initiated by Najib in 2010, to transform Malaysia into a high-income economy by enhancing capabilities in science & innovation. He also toured Twitter & Google (only to meet happy Malaysians working away from Malaysia), and as Prime Minister, this is his first visit to Silicon Valley. 

Najib has 1.7 million Twitter followers, many of whom are fake. He met Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, who’s probably really happy that Najib contributes to his bottom-line. Najib was supposed to have dinner with Malaysians, but a few that I knew who applied, weren’t invited. Najib will experience the Google driverless car and Google Glass.

At this point I’m thinking none of this impresses me. 

Let’s dissect some statements:

  1. “Najib has been dubbed by many as among world leaders who is most active in tweeting.” – is he tweeting more, than he is leading?
  2. “Foreign CEOs (chief executive officers) are very impressed with his knowledge in IT (Information Technology)…he even knows more about technical stuff than some of us. He impresses CEOs and big-time entrepreneurs in a big way,” said a Malaysian official commenting on Najib’s scheduled visit to Twitter on Monday. – if only this official would state his or her name.
  3. On the significance of his first visit to Silicon Valley as Malaysia’s prime minister, the official said Najib would gain the experience of the Silicon Valley ecosytem which would help his government in the successful implementation of its transformation programmes. – How do you gain experience in 3 days? What good is looking at a driverless car or playing around with Google Glass going to do for you? Naturally, the buzzwords had to be dropped in: use data and big data analytics strategies for specific people to transform the country.

I know that they had events at The Fairmont, InterContinental Mark Hopkins and the Grand Hyatt. While I might stay at the latter from time-to-time, I also know that this week is Oracle OpenWorld. All hotel prices are about 300% what they are usually set at, as 60,000 conference attendees throng to San Francisco. 

What irked me and prompted me to write this is the fact that Najib is also accompanied by cabinet ministers and senior government officials. Say holiday with me, people.

Go back and read Valley visitors must bring back more than a t-shirt. Najib and his entourage arrived to learn the secrets that turned San Francisco into an innovation hotspot. When all these people come back to reality (read: Malaysia), they will claim a heightened state of enlightenment. However even Silicon Valley locals know that, “the chances that anything of lasting value will come from these pilgrimages are slight.” The term for this is: innovation tourism.

The article by Richard Waters cannot be truer. The stories next week will be along the lines of this:

The VIPs among them are given something to talk about when they get home, like a spin in Google’s driverless car or a chance to graze at the sushi and barbecue bars in Facebook’s free canteen.

Can these experiences turn it into lasting value for Malaysia? Can Malaysia act with speed? Can Malaysia act with meritocracy? Can one inject a sense of urgency into Malaysians? Will Najib & his entourage go away with this knowledge in 3 days?

This trip was organised by MDeC as part of the Industry Advisory Panel (IAP). Badlisham is going to tell Silicon Valley 16 years later how far we’ve come? MDeC is footing the bill for its own delegation and possibly some entrepreneurs paid their own way there.

Why is MDeC wasting money? What has happened with the IAP for the last 16 years? What has MDeC achieved in the last 16 years? I have been to an IAP meeting when I was part of Sun Microsystems – a lot of talk, but nothing came out of it. Lots of nodding heads. Lots of potentially great ideas. But it just ends at that. Ideas.

I’ve seen MDeC send delegations overseas. Fully paid trips, business class travel, plush hotels (remember, San Francisco’s hotels are at a premium this week). Not to mention great food. A few years ago, a delegation went to an opensource conference in the USA. None of the delegation were in the opensource world, yet the government of Malaysia paid for their fun. Shortly thereafter, the MDeC lead left the organisation; none of the delegates have done anything remotely opensource since then. Can you say holiday with me, people? Another delegation went to Europe, only to note that members (senior) of that delegation was going to leave MDeC anyway. Can you say holiday with me, people?

I am of the belief that innovation tourism is a waste of money and time. All this might impress the average villager but the urban population see this as an incredible waste of money.

Mark my words: nothing will come out of this trip. Sure, some companies would announce their availability of services, press releases, etc. Nothing that couldn’t have been done by the companies themselves (not requiring Najib & his entourage). Malaysia has fundamental problems that doesn’t make it like the United States of America. Cyberjaya is a pale comparison to Silicon Valley.

Any guesses how much was wasted spent on this trip? This is the same government telling you to cut back on expenses as they increase fuel prices by 20 sen a litre.


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