Monday, May 18, 2009

Google Maps Malaysia Launch

I had the opportunity to attend the Google Maps Launched of its localised service in Malaysia last week. The venue was in this nondescript place called No Black Tie, famous as a destination for Jazz fans. It has been a while since Ive been there, and when I was, it was in their previous venue around the corner. Thats how long ago. So when Google Malaysia (Thanks Hanson) invited, I was happy to go.

I dont normally attend functions like this, considering that I have better things to do. However Im a real big fan of Google Maps, as it has saved me many a times before on my Blackberry with GPS while looking for difficult to find addressess, avoiding traffic jams and lately keeping tabs of where other people are with Latitude. I certainly would like to see this service to improve.

The bunch of invitees were basically the same Barcamp.my and MyOSS dudes. Met up with @ditesh, @aizatto, @angch, @bytebot, @seanx2, @yclian and @cerventus, @limyh, @arzumy and other folk. Considering there were so many twits, Im surprised that there was relatively little hash tagging using #mymap / #mymaps during the event.

Thanks to @surianee for taking this picture. More pics and blog entry here.

The event started off with the Google folk giving the intro ("Reaching out to you guys" spiel) with a buildup to more exciting stuff. Unfortunately Mr Murphy just had to show up, and killed ALL internet connections. Perhaps it was because of the 41 laptops trying to connect at once, or because #streamyxreallysux, but it was very unfortunate, because being an internet launch the event really depended on a fast and stable connection.

Fortunately there was much Google love abound, and most of us have seen what Google Maps can do. So when Andrew McGlinchey and Vinny encouraged us to "imagine", it wasnt very hard to extrapolate what they really meant. Maybe it WAS planned after all. Oh, @pamelafox's Mario Cart (demo'ed in foss.my08) was way better than their car driving demo.

Here were some of my questions which I planned to ask, of which some were answered.
  1. Why does maps.google.com assume you are in the US? The Googlers at the event showed that if you use maps.google.com.my, it will default to Malaysia showing both East and West Malaysia, but surely they could do better? Why is this an issue? Geo IP has been around for ages. Deduce from the IP address, and take the map to the closest City with the appropriate zoom levels. Wikimapia does it already.
  2. The Googlers were expecting to get questions from the intertoobs, and posted this URL: http://tinyurl.com/noblacktie for people to post questions, and vote on which one to ask first. Unfortunately the moderator.appspot page isn't mobile device friendly. @alphaque had trouble with it (maybe that was a good thing) and my BB wouldnt render the page as well
  3. There is a small version discrepency between BB and S60 devices for the Google Maps mobile client. No big deal, all the features seem to be there.
  4. It seems the FOSS Image slicer which was mentioned is this Command Line program by Ian Stevens described in this blog post "Unix command-line tile cutter for Google Maps" - or download the shell script here. May use this in my future mind map presentations.
  5. I asked Andrew directly when the Browser Based "My Maps" feature will be integrated with the Google Maps Mobile Client. He must have misunderstood my question, because he went on about how creating maps in My Maps is a desktop experience, and not suited for the mobile. Plus you could email the created map. I corrected him that the emailed map is actually an image file, and its really not very useful. All we want, as a killer feature, is to have our "research" on how to get to somewhere done on the desktop with the appropriate markings to be synched with our mobile device. That is infinitely more useful. He finally/hopefully understood and gave the stock answer that the Google team would be looking into it.
Overall, it was a good event. It definitely could be alot better with regards to the internet connection. No Black Tie is a nice setting. Certainly a better change to the standard Hotel fare, where the location itself is forgettable. The staff upstairs at NBT was attentive and curteous and even offered refills. Food was minimal, no thanks to plate overloaders (you know who you are), but solved with a trip to the Mamak down the road.

Its good that Google is finally making itself heard in Malaysia. Their products certainly have a good fit to any Malaysian company as any, and hopefully they will expand out here too. That is of course if Malaysia makes sure broadband just works ...


yk

More info from Colin.

Official Pictures here. Spot the "Kawaii" Camwhorer.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Random Pictures #2

Here are more strange pictures from around KL between the months of March and April 2009.

Somewhere in Melawati, by this dumpsite (which obviously has a sign which says dumpsters will be prosecuted), was this strange juxtaposition of beauty and rubbish:
Which prick keeps peacocks nowadays anyway? Some MJ wannabe?

Driving through the Middle Ring Road, approaching Damansara - yes, everywhere is "Damansara" nowadays, even though its more like Puchong/Kepong/Jinjang. A new sign appeared below the Smart TAG, and it asks for volunteers to test out some MILFs. Or did I read wrong?
The dude in the DMAX seems dissapointed.

In a Factory Outlet Store, there was this reject of a shirt. I wonder what the vendor was thinking when they ordered 50 cartons of these lame yellow "SCO" shirts.
The seagulls look so OpenOffice.org 2.0. And what does "So Cal" mean? iCal? Fail.

This restaurant seems to be trending with the theme of the season. I wonder if they serve pork? from Mexico?
Next door is "Pneumonia Drive Thru".

An addendum to my "Secure Eateries", although its not about security, nor is it about eateries, this new shop in Sri Rampai seems promising to us geeks:
How does it work? Do they trade in IPs of open terminals to log in? Well, Ive got bad news for their business: Ctrl-Alt-[F1-F6] gives users free terminals! What is the furniture for? Whatever the case, they certainly dont install Windows there!


yk

Monday, May 04, 2009

MyNPL ISSC 2009 - Feva Division as 1st Runner up

Having picked up paintball only about 3 months ago, I'd never have thought I'd be involved in a major tournament anytime soon. It all started when my cousin introduced me to a bunch of new but really keen paintballers who practise in a field very close to where I live. They only started late last year, but have since invested significantly in purchasing all the gear AND electronic (meaning: fast) markers ("guns"). They were keen enough for weekly sparring practises which was good for me. Learning the ropes, and how to handle the field.

Our first action as a team was in a mini, unofficial tournament in KKlub Kombat Zone, which is where we normally play in. We played as team "Feva Rookies" and came 3rd: a podium finish, but it has to be told, there were only 4 teams participating. So it really wasnt that amazing a feat. We won a Kombat Zone ceramic mug, and a whole box of 2000 pellets to share. Team Marksman Alpha won the tournament then.





Then I asked if we were going to try out the MyNPL International Super Seven Championship to be held on the 1-3 May. There was general interest, but until the last week of the deadline, the consensus was that we were not ready in using the regularly sized fields. Kombat Zone is approximately half the size.

Surprisingly, I got a call from Gilbert, our team Manager one night to submit our details. He pulled everything together and registered us for the tourney. Not only that, eventually he managed to get "Bro" Ariffin (+6019-312088) from Kombat Zone to sponsor our team! Thus the team "Feva Division" was borne.

So after pouring over the Field layouts which was available online, and a 2 hour team meeting, we thought we were ready for the grueling 3 days of the ISSC.

On the 1st of May, we arrived early in the morning, registering and checking out the area. Because we were mere Division 4 (or "Young Guns" division), we had to share a canopy with two other teams. It was rather cramped. The Division 1 teams were already at each other in Field 1, while the Division 3 teams were at Field 2. We had to wait till 12pm for our first match.

We didn't do too well. But we didn't do too bad either. There were only 10 teams registered in D4, and one didn't turn up. So we only had to beat one team to stay in the competition for the knockout stages starting with the Quarter Finals. We lost 3, won 2, drew 2 and won by default 1. This gave us the preliminary position at #7.

At least we made it to the next day!

Personally, I had a great time at the later part of the day. I was trying things I learnt observing the more experienced teams exploited throughout the tournament. How they waited in the snake, moved back and forth the knuckles avoiding the pellets. I played about 3 games in the snake and was quite comfortable.

However I didnt move too much, just around the first and second knuckles only. This position however had access to a large part of the field. The centre back, carwash, spike and hammer was always available for picking off. I also managed to hit someone on the left mid can in one game.

Unfortunately for the Quarter Finals (final 8), we were up against the 2nd best team called "Infidelz". Only started a year ago, they are already "D4 veterans" having competed in two other MyNPL tournaments, reaching podium placements then. They did extremely well in the prelims, and perhaps due to the fatigue at the end of the long day, we managed to draw with them (I took out someone on the break, and traded out with the snake player.)

So for Saturday, the Quarter finals is setup as the best of three. No points, either total elimination or capturing the flag within the time period.


This is when Verat "Conquest", our team captain, architected an ultra high risk and aggressive plan of running down the field and taking the enemies out by surprise. The Ultimate Feva move. So we tried it out on the first game of the Quarter Finals against the technically strong team Infidelz. I ran down the left Dorito side with markers blazing.

Unfortunately halfway down, my bolt jammed. As I looked down to pull it back, I got hit squarely in the mask. Henry too was out, with similar problems with the mechanical house marker. I was walking back dejectedly to the dead zone, thinking it was the end of the plan. Then I noticed our right flank making great progress with Gilbert "Aquaman" cleaning up the last remnants of Team Infidelz.

We pulled it off! It was really fast, no more than 45 seconds. Super aggressive, Feva style.

The second game was slightly less quick, but aggressive nevertheless. We won that too. With two wins, we managed to knock out the mighty Infidelz!

Unlike the grueling 1st day where we had to play 8 matches, Saturday had only the Quarter Finals scheduled. So, for the Semifinals, we had to wait one more day.

I spent the rest of Saturday sleeping.

On Sunday, we arrived at 7am to get ready for our first match against team "X-O Dust." They did extremely well in the preliminary rounds, and rose as the favourite, amassing 597 points with 6 wins. They did well in the last MyNPL event in Johor reaching the Quarter Finals.

We didn't expect to progress further, but were determined to put up a fight.

I sat out the first game, with Mervyn "Blaze", our import from Team Marksman / Dangerouz Dragonz / Werdna Kids fame, covering the Doritos side.

We decided to storm the enemy again, and managed to do it in style: We wiped them out without dropping a player.

The second game I managed to be part of the action. The plan was to push aggressively as well. I made it up to the 50, but got shot out. Fortunately SanRise took my lane and sneaked into the wedge to pick off the players who thought that it was already clear. Then we started dropping players, and it was a brilliant move by the lone Conquest who moved up the snake tape to methodically take out 2 bunkered guys, and finally trading out with their last player. This meant the game ended as a draw!

I was out of the third game as well, and watched on helpless as our team got thrashed. It was XO Dust payback for the first match by wiping us clean with all 5 of their players remaining alive. So with a Win, Draw, Lose scoreline, it only meant the nerve wrecking One-on-one decider!

We chose SanRise to represent the team. He calmly stayed in the center back can while the XO Dust player moved swiftly up the field. He finally settled on the Hammer, and snapshot behind the Dorito. It was a thrilling minute which felt like 30 while team Feva huddled looking on. Then the Marshall's keen eye spotted a small splatter on the XO Dust players lower left leg and shouted "Ouuuttt!" and we cheered!

We were actually through to the Finals!

The time was about 10:30am and the Finals for all divisions would only start at 1pm. This meant a long time to wait out. We had an early A&W lunch and relaxed by the players paddocks. The weather was not as hot as Friday, and we had more room since the other teams who did not make it vacated their spots.

We also had to think about the new field. Field 1 was played by the Div 1 and Div 2 teams. Over three days, this meant that it was literally covered with paintballs. The amount of paintball pellets used is really quite extraordinary. This also makes it very slippery to run on.

We had a look at the field, as the marshalls allowed us to walk it. The snake side was extremely exposed with very few bunkers covering it. This put a damper on any fieldwide aggressive moves.

Our opponents were team "Destructo". They too did not expect to advance this far, and only qualified the prelims one place above us at #6. They were only formed 1 weekend before the tourney. So it was a match up of the underdogs. They however had an excellent snake player who was deft, sneaky and deadly.

So our first game, we played defensive. We bunkered in, forming a rough W. Ultimately with less planning and understanding of the field, we didn't choose the right bunkers and were easily picked off from the sides.

With not much to lose, we decided: its Feva Time. Aggressive play for the second game. Having to cover the snake side, this meant I had to run down a very exposed area of the field. It meant certain death, but it would be a small sacrifice for my other team mates to pick off the distracted and disoriented enemy. It worked, with our last player Aquaman again deftly clearing up the debris. Fortunately for me it didn't hurt too bad.

With the scores even, we could either play aggressive or defensive. We decided to go all out. Unfortunately this time, pulling the same trick twice against a smart team did not work, and we were shot out as fast as the last player ran down the 50 yards. As I turned out of the field crossing the tape, their Left Back player accidentally shot through my mask splattering paint into my right ear. Im still picking out orange paint from my ear.

So it was unfortunate that our aggressive play did not work the last time, but it did provide results for the other times we used against unsuspecting teams. In the long run, nothing beats traditional tactics and building skills in bunkering, snapshooting and team placement. These are skills which we will build up over the weeks and months ahead, but at least we know the fear we can instill in the hearts of our opponents with the Feva aggression.

As a first time tournament, the result of 1st Runner Up (or 2nd place) is really out of this world. It was beyond our grandest targets, and we were truly happy with the result. Not only do we get to get some silver medals, we got some Redz harnesses from Werdna Hol and a team prize of RM1300 cash which really is quite good.

So to my teammates at Feva Division; Mervyn, Gilbert, Verat, Kevin and Henry its been an honour, thanks for the experience and well done!
And thanks to Kombat Zone for the sponsorship. More pics available at Verat's Gallery.

Paintball is fun.

yk

[Updated: 18 May with ResidentEvilChef Foo's excellent pictures]

Official Results
More Pictures: cybertrooper2001


And the Official Photographer for ISSC, ResidentEvilChef, Desmond Foo: