The Sorry State of Malaysian Computer Publications

I stopped reading Malaysian computer mags a long time ago. A comparatively recent issue of PC.com in my hands shows that it was probably around early 2006. Now normally I couldn’t be half assed to write about PC magazines, which, in my opinion, suck ass, but reading this shit recently while I was trying to remember the future and conditional tenses for Spanish just jogged my memory about exactly what I hated about mags like HWM or PC.com.

HWM wasn’t half bad. In fact, when it first started off, it was kinda respectable, and I asked mom to bring more as she got them at the office. But soon it degenerated into lunacy. Laptops, laptops, and more laptops. It seems the only kind of hardware that’s being released nowadays is laptops. And the news… God, everybody knew that kinda shit at least 3 months ago. 3 fucking months – from the internet. Star’s In-Tech wasn’t too bad either. In fact, back when they were releasing Final Fantasy IX, In-Tech posted a double page special on the history of Final Fantasy, going all the way from Final Fantasy I to VIII and eventually giving some nice angled shots of Zidane’s tailed ass. It was a blast to read, because I never heard about it before… it eventually drove me to play all the Final Fantasies through emulation – actually, I think it actually mentioned emulation… newspapers always used to post something new that you didn’t already know about, and was probably already quite controversial, like the legality of emulation – nowadays nobody knows shit about how these things work and don’t have enough balls (or brains) to write about something that the general public doesn’t already know about. The keyword emulation led me to www.zophar.net and use the emulator ESNES to play FFV. When you walked through the forests in Final Fantasy V, ESNES couldn’t do transparency so it just looked like my character’s head was sticking out of the forest. Later when I got ZSNES, which could be run in a window as well as have a GUI, I realized that wow! They had transparency back then.

Getting back to the topic. In-Tech sucks now… I don’t even remember what they’re talking about, such was the hate that drove me away from that publication, and IMO was the only thing that made The Star worth buying in the first place. Much like NST’s Computimes, The Star’s In-Tech has degenerated… no, shrunk… shriveled into an 8 page handout, full of ugly wrinkly old men shaking hands in front of a camera, with the oil on their faces blazing white, sometimes holding a big white fake cheque, and almost always in front of some kind of billboard from some kind of party you weren’t invited to. Happily, PC.com only devoted a comparatively small section to that.

Let’s look at my copy of PC.com. It’s not quite recent, a January 2006 issue, and it says ‘Version 3.0’ on the cover: upgraded issue. Hmm. In my experience it’s most usually upgraded ads. However upon turning to the letters from readers section I find that somebody already realized that those thick multipage fold in insert ads were quite annoying, and already written in about that. Let’s see what the editor says… hmm: ‘With regard to the popup and so forth (sic), these are request from our many clients and are actually helpful in reducing subscription costs to you, our most valued readers. So support the ads and get a better mag today!’ Ed. There will be more to say on whether this magazine is worth RM10, content and medium wise. Obviously, the grammar is already wrong.

Let’s jump ahead and talk about the reviews. As we all know, reviews make the heart of a magazine… but that apparently doesn’t hold in Malaysia. Supposedly, the magazines now post fine little ads for companies that pay an undisclosed sum of money to the publications, and the reviews can go on Adrian’s Rojak Pot or some other Malaysian computer site on the internet, of which there aren’t many (to that note, let me just say the mymirror.asiaosc.org has been replaced with some placeholder site like sedoparking.com – shame on you MIMOS, but then again your mirror was never that up to date). The review of SonicGear X251 consists of a paltry 25% of the entire A4 page dedicated to the product… as you can see, no hard numbers or anything objective here, just a fake wooden background (which is supposed to convey some kind of theme of some sort, but seriously just save ink and leave the background white already, your articles suck anyway) and it goes on to devote half of the 220 words written on the product to the wrapping of the speakers and profiling SonicGear, which apparently has made many speakers that rival others for the money… that’s great, but any examples please? JBL? Bose? Creative? Is Harmon Kardon a good brand, or simply one that rests on its good name, like Creative? Timothy Shim admits he does ‘occasionally listen to some classical music (ok, you can stop laughing now)’ but there is nothing to laugh about. A good recording of a classical piece can tax any sound system… besides, what does the majority of the Malaysian public listen to? Jojo (she’s hot)? Lindsay Lohan? Ashlee Simpson… Paris HILTON? Is he insulting our music tastes?

And are you sure that 50Hz to 18kHz frequency response is going to get you anywhere? I had a pair of headphones that went up to 22kHz (Long Live Audiotechnica). I swear, that really made a difference. Normal ordinary speakers hover around 18kHz. 10V AC 1600mA Power supply is, apparently, a specification. Yes, as much as my Geforce Ti4200 card has 4 TSOP memory chips, a length of x cm, a thickness of x cm, and x many capacitors, and draws 1.5V from my AGP slot. Or in that my computer’s power supply comes from a 240V AC 60Hz wall socket. Woofer and satellites all magnetically shielded… what speaker isn’t? Actually, what magnetic device isn’t? Heck, even CAT3 cables are magnetically shielded!

Let’s move on. Canon Digital iXUS I Zoom. A techy magazine, yet again, fails to do a better job than Dan at www.dansdata.com at explaining the truth behind how many megapixels a camera has (summary: more megapixels in a smaller contact area with light means more noise in your pictures! In the end, megapixels really don’t matter as much) and it goes on… about the DIGIC II processor inside this shiny new Canon Digital IXUS, obviously no one really knows much about this processor, whether it’s MIPS or whatever, and seriously, nobody needs to know, because in the end it’s just a stupid thing with hardware JPEG compression acceleration. ‘The DIGIC II processor makes for a stunningly fast startup time and higher processing speed of storing the images, a truly successful combination indeed’. Indeed. The ‘specs’ says 15 shooting modes for better choice and variety for the discerning… ahem, the discerning would never consider this kind of product.

The Asus Extreme Silencer AX700, on the other hand, is ‘not for the discerning’. The lowest end of cameras gets to be called ‘for the discerning’, while the AX700, which I can tell you is a welcome improvement over any 9600XT, is… not!? The Radeon X700 was midrange, for Christ’s Sake! ‘Definitely not for demanding users’ could only be applied to a freaking X300… a demanding user would contend that a X700 was pretty fast in its own right. A small section says TEST RESULTS, under which is a single line: 3dMark03 – 3908; Power by ATI Radeon X700 GPU… etc etc. WHAT? That’s the result of your test!? Couldn’t you have figured out what kind of GPU it was by looking at the freaking name? And what’s with 3dMark03… where’s 05 and 06? And the obligatory Doom 3/Far Cry/Halo/Quake 3/RTCW benchmarks? As you can see, only one benchmark. They even neglect to say what kind of system they tested the GPU on. No doubt when paired with a Pentium, you’d only get 100 3DMarks. When it says ‘Excellent graphics performance for a card in its price range’, they don’t compare this card to anything else in the same price range… which would probably be a Geforce 6600GT. No, the 3DMark03 is the only result they have. Sites on the internet at least give the courtesy of stating which drivers they used, which platform, which CPU, how much RAM, and in the end letting you compare with graphs with other GPUs. Doesn’t seem to work that way with PC.com, and any other mag in Malaysia. Most disappointingly, the X700 is as labeled with ‘BUDGET PERFORMANCE’ in a country which, according to my mom, eats 7300s and 6200s for breakfast.

And there’s the PDA phones. Horrible pieces of shit that occupy two halves of two A4 pages and then some, the review word count having increased to 300 as a result, no doubt, of paying some extra undisclosed sums, Personal Computer, all right, but I’ll be damned if a LG C3380 Mobile Phone could be considered a Personal Computer. It’s a MOBILE PHONE.

Then surprisingly enough, the only other internal computer component to be featured in this magazine besides the X700 and… well, that’s about it, really… is the Gigabyte iRAM!!!! Wow, a truly rare, niche product, featured in this magazine! Sadly enough, they only explained what it was, and what were the advantages of using it. Obviously, any retard that knew enough to read this magazine would already know what would be the advantages of storing something in RAM. And of course, there were no benchmarks. Just claims that ‘when the card is used in this way, starting Windows XP is simply the best’… ‘speeding up almost any application that lags from slow data access rates, even games’. Benchmarks, real, actual performance measurements, conducted by Anandtech and others, show that really, loading levels in games gets faster by <6 seconds when using iRAM, and they time XP boots to show you how much time you gain. PC.com disappoints yet again.

Let’s turn the page and HOLY FUCK GLARING YELLOW KILLING MY EYES NO MUST STOP TYPING tells me all about Atoz Computer Sdn. Bhd., and their laptops, which have little 3D people with guns standing on them for no apparent reason. They aren’t even in cool poses. A Vietnamese woman with a straw hat stands in the middle of nowhere, with a shadow that rests on the middle of nowhere, just to extricate a ‘What The Fuck’ from my mouth. It says: Free DOA Game CD with purchase of ATOZ MOBILE 1600 NOTEBOOK. Yay! Free Dead or Alive bouncing Ayane/Kasumi goodness… wait, no wait a minute,no. Dispatch of Army, apparently. What kind of grammar is that. On the right, an American GI… wielding something that looks suspiciously like a M-14 or M-16 with a mount on the barrel… with Chinese letters on his shirt appears to be saying (there’s a text bubble next to him, but there’s no arrow indicating that he’s actually saying this) ‘Get Ready For The Fearsome Combat of Your Life!’ Parbleu! I am frightened by this instance of unpolished presentation… I attach this to the game, which doesn’t even have a grammatically coherent title, and quickly turn the page. Oh, no. Two laptops greet my eyes, Mimos M260 and M270. Hey, it’s those guys who abandoned their asiaosc.org site! Hey there guys! When are you going to put your Arch Linux/Gentoo mirror back up?

Let’s have a look at the Mimos M260, which looks suspiciously like a MacBook to me. Intel Pentium Mobile processor… Timothy Shim says he has no idea why this laptop got higher than usual PCmark results than usual for a laptop of this spec… but he fails to mention the spec… specifically, how much GHz this Pentium M has (I assume it’s a Pentium M, right?) or what core it is, nor does he POST THE FUCKING PCMARK SCORE WHICH HE SAYS IS HIGHER THAN NORMAL, thereby destroying all hopes of credibility for this guy. Oh yes, my Radeon 7000 got abnormally high average fps in Quake 3 at 4xFSAA, 1024x768x32. I wonder why. Also, this Mimos M260 appears to have, according to the specs section again, ’10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN & Modem Modules’… well, as far as I can see, those RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports in the picture of that laptop there seem pretty integrated to me, and not part of any external PCMCIA ‘module’ or some such.

Take a look at the next laptop and we begin to pity Mr. Timothy Shim… he’s been reviewing all those speakers and X700s and laptops, he’s got to be frizzled out by now. And he is. The Mimos M270 is a AMD Turion powered laptop, with ATi Radeon Xpress 200M Graphics chip, which automatically implies (through the Xpress) that it is integrated, and therefore there’s an ATi system chipset in this laptop. A quick check on Wikipedia reveals that yes, there is a Xpress 200 chipset, specifically the 200M. Nevertheless, Timothy Shim, notwithstanding his lack of computer knowledge, attempts to name the chipset ‘AMD Hammer’, which as we all know was the codename for AMD’s Athlon 64/Turion, which means AMD Hammer refers to the CPU, not the chipset. He’s probably going to twist things around, seeing that the memory controller is on the Turion CPU (such is the peculiar architecture of AMD’s K8) but of course, that still doesn’t change the fact that the system chipset translates between PCI-Express and FSB and SATA calls. In his bare review, which starts out with a paragraph of fluff talking about how AMD ‘refused to lend their name to that ghastly white’ referring to the M260, which he just said had ‘a nice white finish’ before, he mentions that his software couldn’t find out what the motherboard was… evidently it was some kind of old outdated shit, like AIDA32, which hasn’t been updated for ages (note: it has since become Everest Home Edition or something, so you should try that. But careful! Everest is not free)

More laptops… more and more fucking laptops made by one in a dozen manufacturers… except of course for the IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad laptop, which comes with a 2 page spread review by somebody other than Timothy Shim…. a certain Erna Mahyuni, who demonstrates fine taste by remarking on the peculiar (and endearing, may I say… I have a T22, and although the hinge is broken and it’s got a floppy drive, the laptop’s keyboard is a work of art, as are its trackpad buttons… my current sucky VIA C3 933MHz laptop’s trackpad buttons are not hinged, but fixed, so if you press on the wrong place to click, you might just break the flimsy plastic attachment, which was just what happened last year). Nothing is spent on fluff… she talks about the Thinkpad’s security features… blablabla… things unique to this laptop only… here’s looking at the other generic laptop people… and finishes off with a suitable comment on the discrete Radeon X600 included in the laptop, which is certainly an eye-opener. No doubt Timothy got quite bored of reviewing all those 915GM laptops with puny Intel 3D graphics (remember the i740, i815?)

Skipping past all the reviews which have absolutely nothing to do with personal computers, we come to something that totally ruins my opinion of Erna Mahyuni or whatever, and certainly has nothing to do with personal computers. Something that is utterly trivial, and yet warrants more of a review than this Timothy Shim gives to his laptops. It was a review of web design, specifically, reviewing the web design of movie sites. You know, those movie sites, which, after the movie opens and it turns out to be colossal box office flop (or success, I kid, I kid) nobody cares anymore about the site and it is left to languish in oblivion? Just like those Final Fantasy VII:AC sites that opened up just before it came on and vied with each other to provide news, except when the movie came, and after that… there was no point to them anymore? That’s exactly what she was reviewing.

She ranks them based on how long their Flash based websites took to load, how much content they provide, blady blady bla, about the droll content on the websites that wouldn’t even interest a fat, bored, gossiping housewife, much less those giggling 13 year old females calling themselves ‘women’, Memoirs of a Geisha, Sepet, Sin City, Star Wars 3, Chronicles of Narnia… goddammit just watch the movies already! I cannot see in my life why anybody would care about these sites. Maybe for Pirates of the Caribbean 3. Not for this. She even compiled a table for it! Features: Login or site membership options; wallpapers, AIM icons; image galleries (please, just watch the film); games; trailers; DVDs available for purchase; alternative html site; forums; email updates; additional content… damn. She worked hard, but in the end, does it really matter? no.

The true meat of a PC magazine tries to grow in the form of Photo Bootcamp in this issue of PC.com, but sadly it’s only 2 pages, written by a certain Adrian Tung. Props for actually knowing your material, and saying something that your readers don’t already know. It’s actually useful. Saturation, Contrast, sharpness and tolerance to postprocessing are all things that any budding photographer would really care about.

Then there’s a beginner’s guide to Windows Movie Maker. I learnt how to use the program in one night while having a video project due the next day for Health Class… so I won’t read this and rag about it, because I guess some people actually do need it. This is the kind of stuff that needs to happen in PC magazines. Tips, nuggets of information, features on the history of computing, the merits of Silicon-On-Insulator, like a surprise (now what kind of stuff can we learn from the magazine this week?). Not about megapixels or ‘Hammer chipsets’ or fucking movie website reviews (they were really trying, I can tell) and tons and tons of handphones and their half-assed reviews by two people who seem to be giving their opinion instead of giving the hard, cold FACTS in the Gadgets section and a Toshiba Qosmio laptop which found itself in the Gadgets section instead of being lumped together with the other laptops for no good reason, pictures of new business events that frankly, go around all over the world; pictures of not so hot girls posing with hot gadgets with a caption that really makes us question the photographer’s taste in women… at least, a Linux/Unix primer! Something that tells us more about personal computers! What the fuck… handphones. Seriously.

And there you have it. Perhaps if I feel like it again I’ll rag on another issue or another magazine. I’m sure I’ll won’t run out of stuff to rag on, at least in the near future.

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