Langkawi Trip 2009: Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

I woke up to a beautiful morning on my 2nd day in Langkawi. The weather forecast was off, it was sunny 16 outside and we were ready for our island hopping.

DSC_8124A quiet little Korean restaurant.

But first we had breakfast at a Korean restaurant just opposite the Underwater World. It’s a bit secluded because it’s not located on the main road. Food is good and pricing is reasonable.

Island Hopping

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Looking for our boat.

The term island hopping is slightly misleading because you don’t actually go hop around each and every island surrounding Langkawi. The boatman will bring you to 2 different islands, one where you can enjoy the sand and the sea and the other one is the famous Pregnant Lady lake where you get to swim in a natural fresh water lake. They also bring you out for fishing and eagle feeding.

We started with fishing first. The boatman Mimi provided us with hooks and baits. If you’ve read about my Pangkor fishing trip you’ll know that fishing requires lots of patience and a good location. Good thing is, we had a good location and we got about 8 fishes within an hour. Unfortunately photos are not with me so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Eagle feeding

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Eagles swooping down for food.

This was by far one of the most interesting thing I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of eagles came out from no where and swooped down to grab the chicken skin thrown out by the boatman. They used chicken skin because it floats on water so the eagles can see them. It was truly a spectacular sight. I will publish a video soon and update it here.

Update: eagle feeding video:

Picnic by the sea

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Slightly commercialized area offering banana boat ride.

We told the boatman that we wanted to head over to an island so we can have a picnic and swim in the sea and lie down by the beach and just enjoy the sun. So he left us at one island for about an hour and let us have our own time. One of the things that I really love to do is to just lie down on the beach and sleep.

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And that was what I did. Thanks mum for the photo!

Pregnant Maiden Lake

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Can you see the pregnant maiden? Hint: her head is on the right.

After bathing in the sea, all you want to do is wash off the salty sea water before it clings on you and makes you all sticky. So off we went to the Dayang Bunting (pregnant maiden) island. It is a 30 minutes boat ride from the island that we were picnicking on.

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Dayang Bunting is malay for “pregnant maiden”.

There’s a story behind the name of the island. It is said that someone got someone pregnant and someone’s father got angry and turned her into a mountain and the baby into a crocodile. You can read more about this here. However we were more interested in getting to the lake since it was a hot day and dipping in fresh water should be really refreshing.

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Didn’t anyone tell them the story of the Dayang Bunting?

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It’s a slight walk down to the lake.

As you can see from Google Maps here the tasik (lake) is in the island itself. It’s a catchment area for rain water and because it does not mix with the sea water, it’s fresh.

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The lake. A platform has been built so people can access the lake easily.

We took a swim and the water is indeed refreshing! The lake is deep, so you might want to use a lifejacket. Hint: bring one from your boat so you don’t have to rent one there.

Going back

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Then it was time to go home.

The boatman was rushing us because of the tide. If we don’t reach back by a certain time, we will not be able to dock and will have to wait until 10pm before we can get back to Langkawi. I didn’t realise how serious it was until I saw how shallow the water has become. We made it on time alright. Tipped the boatman and now it was time to try out Orkid Ria which we didn’t get to try because of the enormous queue yesterday. Today we were early.

Orkid Ria Seafood

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Orkid Ria restaurant, located along Jalan Pantai Cenang.

Because of the enormous queue, we assumed that the food was good. Turns out the food wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really justify the long queue. We had 9 dishes altogether.

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First 5 dishes, followed by butter prawns, sea cucumber and 2 dishes of fish.

After being stuffed, we went back to the apartment to have a quiet and relaxing evening. The difference between holidaying in Langkawi with the family is that you get to unwind at night. With friends, the party’s just getting started at the beach with booze. I prefer the former.

And great weather brings along great sunsets.

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Next: Langkawi Trip 2009: Part 3 Continue reading

Langkawi Trip 2009: Part 1

Usually for the long Hari Raya break I’ll fly back to Kuching. With 2 days of public holiday, I just need to take 3 more days of annual leave to get 9 days off. Quite a bargain if you consider the fact that I have only 16 days of annual leave per year.

However, this Raya I was booked for a holiday with my brothers, my grandmother, my mum and her sister at Langkawi. This was a holiday that was planned months ago with everything settled for me so there was no good reason not to go. And for the first time in my life, I’m flying on AirAsia.

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Landed at Langkawi International Airport, 30 minutes late.

I went to the airport straight after work so it was already late when we reached Langkawi. Got our rented cars from the airport and drove back to our service apartment. Had a late burger for supper and went to bed early for the next day.

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Gloomy weather at Kuah, Langkawi.

I had checked the weather forecast for the few days that we will be in Langkawi and the results were bad. Thunderstorms were predicted throughout the week. And sure enough, it rained on my first day in Langkawi. We had to postpone the island hopping and do something else while waiting for the rain to stop.

Perdana Gallery

The Perdana Gallery or Galeria Perdana as it is called, is located along Jalan Ayer Hangat (which also means “hot water road”). It was founded by our formal Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad and it showcases the various gifts and awards that he has received during his time as the Prime Minister. There are over 8,000 items on display, each with their description and from whom he had received it from. It was an interesting showcase, and I really enjoyed the photos section. I don’t have any photos of the exhibits, but do pay this place a visit if you have time.

Charlie’s Place

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Charile’s Place at the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club.

Weather was till very bad in the afternoon. Very cloudy and moody so there was nothing much to do. We had a late lunch at Charlie’s Place just beside the Kuah jetty.

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Mum, grandmother and me.

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Carefully metered shots.

Did some duty free shopping before heading back to the apartment to rest.

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Cows crossing.

The car rental guy did mention that we need to be careful while driving because there are cows crossing the roads. It wasn’t such a problem in the morning, but at night, it was difficult to see the cows at locations where the streetlights are out.

Artisan’s Pizza

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Artisan’s Pizza.

Initially we wanted to try out the Orkid Ria Seafood restaurant beside it, but it was jammed packed with people and there was a queue for seats. So we decided to try the seafood another day and go for pizza instead at Artisan’s Pizza.

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The pizza tastes great under white fluorescent lighting.

This beats Pizza Hut and Dominos anyday. Located along Pantai Cenang, the place is at a constantly lacking tables because it’s a small shop and they have so few of them. The good news is you can take away or use their delivery service to deliver to your doorstep.

There was a lack of suitable bars to hang out and chill so we got back and had a beer on the couch instead, praying that tomorrow will be a better day (although the weather forecast indicated otherwise).

Next: Langkawi Trip 2009: Part 2 Continue reading

Selamat Hari Raya!

I’ll be flying to Langkawi tomorrow. It’ll be my very first time taking AirAsia and I have very high expectations. Anyways, I’ll be gone for about 5 days and I doubt I will have time to go online. So see ya all next Tuesday and have a great weekend!

Selamat Hari Raya! Continue reading

CarPC Project: Installation

Sorry for the slight delay in updating. I lost a batch of photos after formatting my computer. Anyways, I managed to retake the photos so here goes.

After sitting for sometime in the living room, the CarPC was finally going to be mounted in the car. I had a 3 day weekend so I spent most of that fabricating mounts and ripping the car apart to put the PC in. It was more difficult than I had imagined.

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This was taken before I tidied everything up. If you’re standing from behind and not squatting down, the board is not clearly visible.

Mounting below the rear speakers turned out to be a pretty good idea because the speakers provide quite a rigid support for the motherboard and the power supply. Once everything was screwed down, going through bumps and potholes wasn’t a problem. Nothing was shaken loose over the course of a week that I had the CarPC in the car.

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Redesigned inverter controller v2.

I had to redesign the inverter control because the first one was giving me a lot of problems with timing issues and unwanted feedback from the motorized antenna. I also isolated the PC system and the inverter controller by using an optocoupler to reduce the unwanted feedback that prevented the inverter from properly switching off. I will upload the full schematic once I draw it out.

I also had a bit of problem with the inverter shutting down very quickly when the car engine was not running. I suspected that the inverter was not getting enough voltage from the battery. So I checked the wiring from the battery to the inverter and I realized that at full load, the drop across the fuse was 0.5volts. Obviously the contacts were not good so I took it apart and rewired it and the inverter worked like a charm. Now the CarPC remains on even when I turn off my car engine.

Initially I wanted to mount the monitor at eye level using the windshield mount so I don’t need to take my eyes off the road to use the screen. But the problem was, the monitor was so big that it blocked off a large area of my vision. Also the cabling would make the whole setup very messy. So I decided to mount it lower.

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Lilliput 7″ touch screen. The flash made the screen contrast look terrible here, but it’s actually quite readable in the afternoon.

By the way, I bought the Lilliput 7″ touch screen and I’m glad I did. Resolution is very good and the display is just brilliant. I highly recommend anyone installing a CarPC to get one of these if you are on a budget. The USB touch screen works flawlessly too.

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I mounted it just forward of the shift knob so I can access the screen without having to take my hand away from shifter.

In order to mount the screen there, I had to make some modifications to the original compartment. I drilled and secured the LCD mount using some nuts and bolts and I also drilled a hole at the back so I can feed the monitor signal and power cable in.

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Power cable and monitor signal cable going in.

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Just to give a sense of how extensive the work is.

There’s still ongoing testing of the system. The full software configuration and testing will be explained further in the next post. For now, this is how it looks like at night:

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Running Centrafuse. The blue light comes from the power switch. Bright blue means the CarPC and the inverter is running. A dimmer blue means only the inverter is running and the CarPC is off. No blue light means the inverter is off.

I managed to solve the ground loop noise problem by grounding the motherboard properly to the car. Now I have a monitor interference problem which I suspect is due to the rerouting of the monitor cable this afternoon because before this there wasn’t any. I have also ordered an op-amp so I can build a small amplifier to slightly amplify the incoming signal from the CarPC because now the volume of the CarPC doesn’t match the volume of the radio or CD player. It is too soft even at full volume. With the op-amp circuit, hopefully I can further reduce the noise interference by increasing the signal-to-noise ratio.

Update 24 September 2009: Pictures

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Here’s a photo of the setup in the morning. Running Centrafuse.

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Rectifying the “display flickering” issue.

The display flickering was caused by the 12v supply itself and not interference picked up by the video signal cable. Noise was probably introduced into the 12v line by the alternator. A temporary solution is to use a switching power supply that converts the output of the 240v inverter back to 12v. Because the switching power supply runs at a higher frequency, the flicker was not visible. A more permanent solution is to use a 12v to 12v switching converter that isolates the 12v input from the car. Again, the switching will be done at a higher frequency to reduce the flicker.

I have also finished building the pre-amp and it should be in by this weekend.

Next: CarPC Project: Software Continue reading