Sunday, December 28, 2008

Spend within your means

With the recession looming, there are many ideas floating around on how to survive through the recession. However, some of the ideas going around are actually detrimental to the economy recovery. The top most idea that was floated around:

Save as much money as possible until the economy recovers

However, this is one of the worst possible action that one can do during a recession. One has to remember. How does the economy function? It's a buyer, seller relationship. Why do we have jobs? Because some needs our services, or products that we create. Why do we have salaries? That's our payment for the services rendered, or products produced. This is the economy.

So what happens if you ask people to save as much as possible? People get retrenched. Period. There will be no buyers in the market, and left are all the sellers. Prices will be driven downwards (deflation), causing people to lose more jobs. Industries will be shaken up, and consolidated, leading to more jobs lost. The skills that you have acquired will be rendered useless. Depression will set in, causing the downward vicious cycle to spiral even deeper.

Just that simple selfish thought can cause this amount of damage that will inadvertly cause your own misery. And because this thought is the "easiest" way out for most, the herd mentality will follow, where everyone tries to do it. Singapore will be gone. Period.

Nevertheless, given the current climate, it's obviously not prudent to spend like no tomorrow. The key is to spend within your means. Spend when you can afford to. Pay down your debts when you can so that you have less liabilities. Contribute when you can.

Keep the economy going if it is within your power. The effects will reach you eventually.

If you still intend to be lazy, then I'll encourage you to read books about the Great Depression from the library. That will be the conclusion if you take the easy way out.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Inaccurate reporting in Today?? (CORRECTED)

Updated: 27 Dec 2008: 3.1million barrels is for crude oil

Just read in Today that they mention that oil prices fell to USD35 even though there was a decline of US inventories by 3.1million barrels.

However, that is not what I read in Bloomberg and Reuters. According to Bloomberg, it fell because there was an increase of 3.34million barrels for US gasoline inventories. Distillate stockpiles also climbed 1.81million barrels. What decline are they talking about??

This year I've heard of at least 2 grossly inaccurate reports. One was by the Chinese newspaper with regards to the white tiger fiasco, and now this.

With such inaccurate reporting, can I still trust what the Singapore media says?

Update: The decrease of 3.1 million barrels of oil is for US crude oil inventories. However, the increase of US gasoline and distillate stockpiles more than offset the reduction because in the end, no one uses crude oil.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

VirtualBox 2.1 does not support VHD again.

I wonder if it's the trend that Microsoft products are never compatible with any other software. The latest VirtualBox 2.1 now prevents me from even adding my VHD file. Some header problem.

I know it is VirtualBox's problem because that same VHD file worked (for a short time) with VirtualBox 2.0.6. Anyway, I have given up trying to make VHD work with VirtualBox until the next version comes out.

There's also still a problem with the Network Adapter if you have 2 adapters configured for the same VM. I usually have 1 NAT adapter, and 1 Host adapter. I've only enable 1 at any time, but somehow, Windows XP keeps detecting that there is 2 and it keeps trying to connect to the disabled adapter. It's just a little irritating for it to keep connecting to an adapter that's disabled.

On a side note, the Mac version has improved and now VT-x/AMD-V is supported again. How do I know? Because my Windows XP on VirtualBox started to slow down, and my Mac is a little faster when VirtualBox is on. If you want to speed up your VirtualBox, just do not enable VT-x/AMD-V in the settings.

Saving and restoring snapshots are still quite fast. Now I have a habit of not even shutting down my VM. I just close the VM to save the current snapshot. :)

One thing to note before you upgrade your VirtualBox, is that to make sure to shutdown all your VMs before updating. Otherwise, your snapshots will be invalid after the update. I've made the same mistake every single time I updated VirtualBox. :(

Now... If only the VHD problem is resolved.

Inflation is up 5.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2008:
January: 6.6%
February: 6.5%
March: 6.7%
April: 7.5%
May: 7.5%
June: 7.5%
July: 6.5%
August: 6.4%
September: 6.7%
October: 6.4%
November: 5.5%

Food and Housing is leading the charge, rising by 6.9% and 15.7% respectively year on year. One thing that I did not expect is that food, and recreation and others went down by almost 1% compared to last month. It just goes to show conditions can change drastically in 1 month.

Judging from the current economic conditions, inflation will be around 6.6% for the year 2008, down from my earlier estimate of 6.8% here. If it persists, we might have deflation for the first half of the 2009. Good or bad? Depends...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

My file and umbrella weights 1.4kg

Mich was remarking to me that my CC-150 wasn't that light. Refer to this post here for the pictures of my CC-150. I could have swore that it is much lighter than my hard case.

Well, I've just changed my case back to the original CC-150 after a mix-up due to a loose screw and for the fun of it, I weigh my guitar case and compared it with my hard case.

Weight of hard case with guitar: 5.1kg
Weight of CC-150 with guitar: 3.6kg.
Weight of CC-150 with guitar, music file and umbrella: 5kg

So my music file and umbrella actually weighs 1.4kg! If you use percentage, it increases the weight by almost 40%. I wonder if it is my music file. So Mich, yes... The umbrella and my music file does matter in the weight calculation. :D

The weight of the hard case is also without my standard barang barang like music file and umbrella. Usually I have to bring an extra bag to contain those items.

Anyway, hard foam guitar case does not mean that it only contains foam. Due to the "screw loose" problem, I've realised that the whole guitar case is actually backed partially by wood. Therefore, it's actually quite solid and could withstand knocks. I guess that's why it is called hard foam.

All in all, I find the guitar case ideal for people who doesn't have their own set of wheels.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

One people, one nation, 16 town councils??

Read another article today that they are going to toy with the suggestion of giving more autonomy to the town councils. One of the example they gave was USA, where different states have some level of autonomy.

Singapore is already a small enough country, and yet now they want to split Singapore into 16 portions. Some of the examples given of the pros of this system I felt is destructive in the long run.

For example, let's say one of the town councils say that all their residents felt that they should not have worker's dormitories in their area. After which, all the town councils will most likely say all their residents do not want to have worker's dormitories in their area (hypothetical). What will then happen? In the end, where will it be built? Or will it be somehow pushed to the opposition wards? What happens if one of the town councils say that the industrial factories should not be in their area? Push it all to IDR?

In fact, if we learned from the current situation where nobody actually knows what the town councils are investing in, there should be more oversight to ensure that the town councils are in-line with the guidelines. It should not be the case that when a crisis happen, everyone goes into damage control mode.

Singapore should be working towards a common goal. We're small enough as it is. Let's not be further sub-divided into 16 parts. Everybody plays a part in the overall progress, not apart. Decentralisation is an over-hyped word and used carelessly by many. The government should always provide clear and transparent leadership, with an overall plan on how things should be. The respective councils will then follow these guidelines and implement the policies.

Remember our National Day song. "One people, one nation, one Singapore". It's not "One people, one nation, 16 town councils".

Renewable energy investment will accelerate

Again I see an article with a tinch of biasness in the reporting. It's like asking someone who operates a food stall whose food is the best. Obviously they will say theirs is the best.

This instance is about energy investment. I counted no less than 2 articles today talking about the cost of oil and how it will lead to a reduction in investment in both oil and renewable energy. I was thinking, what the... What do they mean by oil and renewable energy? It's oil investment. Full-stop. In fact, I think renewable energy now will accelerate as the governments in the world will want to stop relying on an energy source that does not depend on demand, but depends on the price that it will fetch.

Reason? When they look into the problem, they forgot one most important point. Oil investments depend on your location. If you have the resource, you have the power to invest in oil. Using Singapore as an example, no matter how rich she is, she could never invest in oil because the simple fact is that Singapore has no oil.

Renewable energy is vastly different. Even Singapore's small outlying islands like Sentosa can invest in renewable energy. Recently, it finally went into Singapore's head to invest in renewable energy like solar panels because they finally understood that it has its benefits.

Most importantly, self-reliance in energy. Singapore has learned the hard way with regards to the supply of water and now Singapore is the leader in desalination technology. Why not in solar panels?

Next is the portability of solution. Some renewable energy investment like solar is not reliant on any form of natural resource except for sunlight. And sunlight is free and limitless, depending on your location.

Last but not least is the economy. Let's say Singapore becomes the leader in production of efficient solar panels. The export volume will be substantial.

All those talk about solar energy not being efficient is just people trying to talk down the technology. Just remember... The first generation of the car travels slower than the horse carriage. Look at the car now. F1 anyone?

There are other types of renewable energy like geothermal but I feel that solar still has the biggest potential. Some time back I've talked about solar panels on roof tops and this year, it has actually happened in Singapore and US. Now it's also being installed on top of cars and most recently, a ship. Efficiency of solar panels can only be improved.

Oil still has its usefulness but some people just like to hype up the importance.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mistakes are the foundations of success

I quote from Albert Einstein:

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.

Simple, and to the point. Do not be afraid of making mistakes. Learn from it, and do not make the same mistake again.

Success will come when we earn it through the mistakes we make in achieving it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

High Tech Shavers

This is a weird post but I can't help but marvel that now, even shavers look so high-tech, and gadgetty. I've just got a Gillette Fusion, and I can't help but admire the way it is packaged. In fact, after looking at the packaging, I might mistaken it for some instrument that is meant for the space shuttle. :)

Anyway, below are some of the photos I took of the shaver so you'll know what I mean:

Shaver with the holder

Detached blade holder from the bottom

Futuristic carrier for the shaver

What are the ministers' salary benchmark to

Updated 17 Dec 2008: Salary benchmark is based on base + bonuses

For some reason or another, it went into my head to search around for the elusive formula which is used by our government to peg their salaries to the private sector.

This is what I've found out from PSD:
  • For the benchmark data, only earnings of Singapore citizens, Singapore Permanent Residents, and Malaysians working in Singapore are included.

  • The benchmarks are based on Principal Earned Income which has been taxed. These consist of earnings from the individual’s primary source of employment and include monthly salaries, bonuses, stock options, partnershipfees and commissions. Unearned and passive forms of income, such as dividends, rent and interest, are excluded.

  • Stock options are included in the salaries of the top income earners. However, the gains from stock options vested each year are discounted by 50%. This means we only take half of the stock option gains in the current year, as current year income. This is because the amount of stock options are usually accumulated over a few years, and the gains may be quite large. Taking the total gains would cause incomes to escalate, and is not a good reflection of the actual earnings.

In fact, according to PSD in end 2007, these are the following base monthly salaries:
  • President: $119,520
  • Prime Minister: $115,920
  • Minister/Senior Permanent Secretary: $59,760
  • Entry Superscale Grade: $18,240
  • Member of Parliament: $13,710

Using the example of the prime minister, his base annual salary will be less than $1.4million, not the floated $3.87 million, which will be his salary + whatever bonuses.

Now the million dollar question is... Which pay got cut? The base? Or just the bonuses? What other extras are there in the salary?

Sometimes I do not understand why the government like to shoot themselves in their own foot.

Visit Rhinestic's Knick Knacks @ Etsy for handmade goods and supplies!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Little Information on Singapore Electricity Tariffs

I was reading a forum article today that was "admonishing" people that EMA's website has all the information about how they calculate the electricity tariffs.

So for curiosity sake, I went there to take a look. After reading for about 1 hour, I'm still clueless on the number 1 question in my mind.

What's the breakdown of Singapore's electricity tariffs and how is it calculated every 3 months?

In fact, the only linkage I have on the breakdown of the electricity tariffs was at SP Services. Even then, it's solely inadequate. According to SP Services on the electricity tariff:
  1. 60% of the cost is pegged to fuel prices.

  2. 80% of Singapore's power generation use comes from natural gas

  3. Natural gas is pegged to fuel oil prices. As tariffs are set in advance for the next three months, the tariffs are pegged to forward fuel oil prices. Forward fuel oil prices are the actual prices which the oil market trades for fuel oil deliveries for a future period.

  4. Electricity meters are read once in two months and estimated in between. Any over- or under-estimation is adjusted when the actual reading is obtained.

  5. Readings will be estimated based on the last two actual readings. The difference in the actual meter readings gives the actual consumption over the two-month period. Daily average consumption is derived by dividing the actual total consumption by the number of days during this period. The daily average consumption multiplied by the number of days in the month gives the consumption for that month.

That's it! That's all the information I can gather from clicking around for 1 full hour, and it's not even at EMA's website.

Transparency of our electricity tariffs?? Like real.

Happiness II

I quote from Helen Keller:

Happiness cannot come from without. It must come from within. It is not what we see and touch or that which others do for us which makes us happy; it is that which we think and feel and do, first for the other fellow and then for ourselves.

The key point is the part about what we think and feel and do. The choice is yours if you wish to be happy or not. The choice is always yours whether you wish to be happy or not.

Always look on the bright side of life. Da da, da da da da da da.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Household saving rates going up for many countries

Based on the OECD latest forecast, I can see that out of the 20 countries listed, only 2 countries will have a slightly lower household saving rates compared with 2008. The rest are mostly significantly higher.

United States is estimated to have a household savings rate of 1.6% for 2008, and forecasted to raise to 2.8% in 2009. Some of the biggest jumps I see in the 2009 estimates is Norway, where it jumps from 2.0% to 5.2%, and Australia, where it jumps from 1.4% to 3.5%.

Note that 10% savings rate is actually what's recommended for the bare minimum.

This is the current household savings rate for 2008 for the top 5 and bottom 5 countries from OECD:
France 12.7
Switzerland 12.6
Austria 11.8
Germany 11.6
Ireland 10.6
Norway 2.0
United States 1.6
Australia 1.4
Denmark -1.9
Finland -2.7

Feeling tired

I'm really feeling very tired. Most of the responsibility is weighing on my shoulders. I'm really tempted to give up right here, right now.

I'm not in the position to decide.
I cannot influence the decision to be made.
I'm in no position to deliver based on the resources I have, and the timeline given.

No one is listening to me that to deliver, you really need to apply PMI 101.
Quality, Time and Scope is a triangle. When one increases, the other will correspondingly increase. That's the very basic! And yet...

This is the worst Dec I ever had in my life. I'm just so tired.

Why Singapore no fiscal stimulus?

I still do not understand the logic behind Singapore in not giving a fiscal stimulation to the economy. They kept emphasizing on the leakage but there's some important points which they miss out.

If we're given vouchers to buy goods and services, they are in actual fact preventing unemployment because the companies will be able to clear away their inventory, and yet keep people employed.

If we're kept employed, there won't be problems of people not being able to make their mortgage payments and our necessities. Most of us will just need to scale down on our luxuries.

Forget the leakage... It's no more about leaking money out but in keeping people employed. If people are employed, people still have the power to spend. Just by providing help to the businesses is not enough.

If I have 100 boxes of goods in my warehouse, that means somehow I have to sell it. It doesn't matter how much tax breaks you've given to me. I will need to sell it to pay my suppliers. Period. Just by giving tax breaks to businesses will do nothing to help the economy.

The problem has to be attacked from 2 sides. One side is to help the business to keep the cost down. The other is to help them clear their inventory. It's only with a "combo-attack" will then businesses be able to tide over 2009.

The game is just all about keeping people employed. That's it.

If the upcoming announcements are all about reducing business cost, then I can safely say 2009 will be a very bad year. -2%? Very likely that it'll be much worse than that.

Never rely on the market. Rely on yourself.

Denigrate the work of others to glorify one's own achievement

I quote a section that struck out to me from today's ST Forum:

Denigrate the work of others to glorify one's own achievement

This is somehow the trend in Singapore. I've seen so many instances of this where people like to bash others down, and put themselves up high in the limelight. What's the reason for that?

I do not see any benefits of doing this. In instances of true leadership, your actions speak louder than words. People will know you by your actions, and not through your self-promotion. One good example is our ex-President, Mr Wee Kim Wee, also known as our People's President. He is popular through his actions, and not through "talk".

Define yourselves through your actions, and not through words. Talk is cheap, very cheap.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Inflation easing? Look again

Just now I read a CNA article where an economist said that inflation is easing. I was thinking, "Did this guy ever read the local news?".

Just this week (or last), there was an article that was describing the rise in price for some of the foodstuff in our supermarkets. The minimum rise I saw was 15 cents. So what inflation easing?

I think this person forgot that we import most of our foodstuffs and products. Therefore when our currency weakens, imported foodstuffs become more expensive. Note that foodstuffs occupy about 23% of our CPI basket. Yes, oil prices are down but our electricity prices are still sky high until next Jan. I still see inflation rate for November and December hitting above 6%.

Inflation easing? Yeah right... It's barely easing, and not as much as what some previously predicted.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Removing obstacles

I quote from Scott Adams:

I'm slowly becoming a convert to the principle that you can't motivate people to do things, you can only demotivate them. The primary job of the manager is not to empower but to remove obstacles.

After reading this quote, I've realised that I do follow its principals. Long before, I believe that the word "empower" is the most overused word. I believe that centrally, the management needs to know what is the direction and way to go. After which, they should remove obstacles blocking that direction in order for the organisation to move forward.

Empowering usually does not allow the company to move in 1 direction. Too many cooks spoil the broth. In the end, you'll find that you're making detours to your destination. Or worse still, you find that you've reached the wrong place.

Confirm the direction that you're going to take, and steer others towards it by removing or avoiding obstacles blocking that path.

Much ado about Mac malwares

Recently, the debate of Microsoft vs Apple has been rekindled again. Now the subject is on malware. As usual, the Microsoft side says see, Mac can have malware, so its not fundamentally secure.

The funny part is how do you know if the OS is fundamentally secure if you have not used it in the first place?

I use both Microsoft and Apple machines and I am not a fanatic for any of them. However, I have to agree that out of the box, Apple machines (Mac) are much more secure than the Windows machine, at least pre-Vista. I've not used a Vista machine yet so I'm unable to comment on it.

Why is the Mac fundamentally secure? The reason is that it truly allows delegation of authority to the normal user account. In layman terms, that means that if you're using a non-administrator account, it allows you to install programs using a normal user account by asking you to key in the administrator password once. This works for all the programs for the Mac.

One thing I always gripe about Microsoft is that they have so many versions of the same operating system, but only the more expensive ones have the basic security needed. For example, only Windows XP Professional allows the Power User accounts. Even then, if you need to install software, you'll still need to re-login as an administrator for most programs. The normal Windows XP Home does not even have this basic security. It's either a normal user or an administrator, and some programs do not work in the normal user account.

Now back to the topic of malware. Recently there has been news the Mac has malware. I was wondering... So? The malwares for the Mac actually either:
  1. Requires the hacker to have physical and login access to the machine, or
  2. Requires the user to install some software in the machine

I mean come on... Any operating system will have malware for the above 2 points, even UNIX systems. Nowadays, malwares exist everywhere. They no longer target the OS, but they target the user. Yes... The weakest link. The gullible user. Persuade them to install some software and walla, you'll get your backdoor.

The bottom line is that to guard against malware, it has to start with the user. Do not blame the computer. It's the user who needs to educate themselves on the dangers of the Internet. The operating system can only do so much, and 99% of the reason why users get viruses and malwares is because of the user's carelessness.

I've been messing around with computers for more than 10 years, and I've never gotten a virus or malware for at least 10 years.

By the way, my Mac still does not have anti-virus installed.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Surprise announcement from OPEC? It will only worsen the situation

Read recently that OPEC is going to make a surprise announcement on Dec 17. There are only 2 surprise announcements I can think of:
  1. The cut in oil is double the estimates by "analysts"
  2. Russia or some other country has joined OPEC

Either case, will it help to shore up the oil price? Yes. Temporarily. However like I said earlier, they cannot fight against the world. US lost half a million jobs in November alone. Car makers are cutting models, closing plants. Shipping almost came to a standstill. Orders for the O&G industries are being canceled. Singapore itself might have the worse decline in her short history for the 1Q 2009.

In the best case scenario, this effect will only provide a base for the oil price. In the long term, the whole world will learn to wean themselves away from their addiction to oil. Public transport infrastructure will be improved to discourage car ownership. Green energy will be the new buzz word.

Withholding supply to shore up prices will only work when the consumers have the ability to pay. That's the key. Now with companies closing down every week, banks being seized every quarter, whatever OPEC can do will only hasten the downward spiral. In the end what happens? Consumers will consume less, and they will hasten their revenue decline.

For those countries which are very dependent on oil revenues, they will not obey the quota once they realised they are earning lesser and lesser by the week.

Actually, the best OPEC can do right now, is to trim their quotas accordingly with no big surprises. Allow the companies to survive this tough period so that the consumers will start to consume again. If this is not done, consumers will just stop consuming. Period.

Humans are adaptable, which is why economics science has been unable to do any accurate forecasting. Situations can change drastically within a span of a month. This is what this crisis has taught me.

OPEC should start to take heed of what's happening now. Old methods do not work anymore.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Finally got the Maestro CC-150 Hard Foam Guitar Case

After hunting around for a hard foam classical guitar case at my usual haunts, I've finally settled down to the Maestro CC-150 Hard Foam guitar case. For some reason or another, classical guitar hard foam guitar cases are almost extinct in Singapore. I cannot even find a single hard foam guitar case for the classical guitar except in Maestro.

Initially I thought Yamaha at Plaza Singapura sells the hard foam guitar case for classical guitar. Upon asking them however, they said that the Gator GL-Dread hard foam guitar case is not meant for the classical guitar. If you wish to use it for the classical guitar, you'll need to put in some thing to keep the guitar in place. Darn...

Thereafter, I spied this Maestro CC-150 hard foam guitar case from a catalogue I got from Maestro at the start of the year. I was wondering if the price will drop during December, but I think this hard foam guitar case is too popular in Singapore. It still costs $99.90 and I happened to get the last one in the shop.

Basically the hard foam guitar case is quite solid, and much lighter than the hard case I bring around. In fact, it is so light that I had to double check that my guitar is in the case. My Yamaha CG201S still moves slightly when it is in the case but it is quite minimal. It's much better than the guitar cases I saw previously, when I have to wedge something in-between to stop it from moving too much.

One thing I like about the CC-150 is that I can carry it around like a backpack. I've been looking for such a guitar case for a very long time. The hard case is causing me to have a workout everytime I bring it out and I do admit that I'm getting old. :) My strength is not what it used to be. Wearing my guitar case like a backpack frees my hands for other stuff. This is especially important if you use the public transport.

There is a outer pocket that allows you to put your file. The outer pocket is quite big and I could fit both my file, and my small umbrella. Although the straps look like they are double sewed, I will still not advise putting too heavy stuff in the guitar case.

One important point to remember is that no matter what, always bring your guitar along when you are buying a guitar case. :D

Now for some pictures of my new guitar case. :)

CC-150 side view

CC-150 front view

CC-150 backview with straps

CC-150 interior, with guitar

Free Apps in AppStore

People might be wondering why I dedicate a post to it. Reason is because I find that there are too many untrue rumours that are spreading around, so I would like to put the record straight with this post.

There are many free applications (apps) in the iPhone AppStore for the iPhone 3G. Even the apps that requires payment cost maybe at most USD9.99. Even a meal in a restaurant will cost more than that.

To access the AppStore, you will need to do the following:
  1. Register for an account in the AppStore. You can opt not to put your credit card information when you register for the account.

  2. Login to the account using your iTunes.

    Reason is so that when you sync your iPhone, your account will be synced to your iPhone, and you'll only need to enter your password when you wish to download any app in your iPhone.

    If you wish to enter your account ID and password everytime you download any app in the iPhone, skip this step and ensure that you're not login to your account when you sync your iPhone with iTunes.

  3. Sync your iPhone 3G with iTunes.

Finding free apps in the AppStore on the iPhone 3G:
  1. Tap on AppStore on your iPhone 3G.

    Recommended to use Wi-Fi, as the iPhone 3G will automatically block you from downloading apps that are greater than 10MB, unless you are using WiFI.

  2. Tap on Featured.

    There are 2 tabs under Featured, New and What's Hot. You will sometimes see free apps under these tabs.

  3. Tap on Categories.

    Since the iPhone v2.2 firmware, when you tap on every category, there is a tab called Top Free. It makes finding free apps much simpler to use.

  4. Tap on Top 25.

    This is by far the most popular feature. By tapping on Top Free, you will be able to see the Top 50 apps in the AppStore.

The AppStore under iPhone v2.2 firmware is much better now, and it makes it easier to find Top Free, and Top Paid apps. You can also now view all the screenshots of the app which the author has provided.

So to all those who spread those untrue rumours, let it stop now. iPhone 3G has many free apps, and I've known of some people who downloaded more than 128 free apps on the iPhone.

Do not award to lowest bidder??

Today's newspaper talk about someone from NTUC saying not to only award tenders based on the lowest bid.

My take can be summarised in 2 words, Like real.

Not only do Singapore tenders favour the lowest bid, they try to word it such that they can squeeze in anything under the sun.

If Singaporeans are wondering why there is no innovation in Singapore, look no further. Want the cheapest, want the best, want everything.

Yeah right...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pegging of pay to pay with bonuses??

Today's papers just highlighted one important point about CapitalLand's CEO pay. According to 2007 annual report, Mr Liew earned S$1.15 million in base salary in 2007, and was paid S$5.35 million in bonuses. That means a total of $6.5million for 2007.

Does this number 6.5million look familiar? Yes... It's one of the pay that our top government officials is pegging their pay to.

I think there is seriously something wrong with this pegging formula. I will understand if they peg the pay to their base salaries, but pegging of pay to their base salaries + bonuses??? If our dear government is really good, I won't mind them having a 12 months year end bonus based on their base salaries. However, if Singapore economy is not growing, then why on earth should they still get million dollar salaries. I'm sure Mr Liew will not be earning more than 3million dollars for 2009 if the current climate persist for 2009.

From the post I've written here, their decrease of pay is just a few $100,000. Our top government officials will soon be earning much more than the private sector in 2009! Why? Because they pegged their pay to pay with bonuses, and not to their base salaries! Here we're talking about negative growth for the year 2009. Negative growth and they have a pay of $3million dollars?

I still like to bring out the example of Goldman Sach's CEO. Salary from USD68 million to USD 600,000.

That's a pay cut, and that's true leadership.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oil producing companies know that they are walking a tight rope

Everyone seems to be surprised that OPEC did not cut production last week. Not me though... That's because OPEC knows that they are walking a tight rope. For those people who think that just by witholding supply will drive up the price, well... I can say thank god you're not in the government sector dictating policy.

OPEC knows that if they cut too much too fast now, they will risk intiating a destruction of demand. Once initiated, it will be extremely difficult to arrest. Now companies are unable to get credit to produce goods. If the price of oil is artificially propped up, what will occur is that the companies will make even lesser goods, triggering a downward spiral in demand. OPEC might find themselves having a higher price, but selling less of the oil because of the drastic drop in demand.

OPEC could be waiting for the winter season to come to better judge the effects of removing the 1.5million barrels of oil. If prices continue to fall, which I expect they will, they will initiate a cut in December. Will this reduction help in the oil prices? No way... There's little you can do when there is a global recession. Can you work against the whole world? I don't think so. By cutting the production, they're only causing themselves to earn less revenue.

Based on what I can gather, it seems that the household savings rate for the United States has shot up from 0.4% in 2007 to 1.8% in 2008! Just this small jump is enough to throw the global economy into a recession. And guess what? The household savings rate will still be rising. The demand destruction is real! No longer can other countries rely on the good old US to keep buying.

And now, they have absolutely no solution because they are unwilling to find ways to excite domestic consumption.

Long ago, I've liken this current crisis similar to the Great Depression. My view is still the same. What's the great depression in essence? A global recession. Sounds familiar?

Resolve MacBook Charging Problem

Just recently, I have encountered a problem where my MacBook refused to charge its battery. When I plug in the power, the Mac OSX just gives an indication that it is connected to a power source (a plug icon), but it does not indicate that it is charging. The normal red light that the connector gives when charging, and the green light when it is no longer charging no longer appears. In fact, there is no color.

This is quite problematic for me because this means that I have a battery but it cannot be charged! Luckily, I manage to resolve it with 1 simple step:
  1. Clean the power connector and the area where the connector connects to the MacBook, with a piece of tissue

That's it... After cleaning it with a piece of tissue, my MacBook started charging again, and the light indicators are working now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Up to 19% Pay cut?? Yeah right...

Today's headlines indicate that our government is cutting their own pay, and they are deferring from adjusting their salaries. The headline screams... Up to 19% pay cut.

For the year 2008, their bonuses will be:
  1. $100 to $300 (Paid)
  2. 0.5 months AVC (paid)
  3. 1 month AWS (13th month)
  4. 0.5 months AVC
Well, this looks reasonable, considering only the 2nd half of 2008 did the world economies start to tank. They still only have bonuses that I can only dream about.

It was the mention of the 2009 salaries that caught my eye when I was looking at it at CNA. And guess what? I've just looked at the news article again and I found that the news article have been edited! All the salary numbers for 2009 were gone.

All the numbers mentioned here are salaries for 2009 that have already been cut, and reported before it got edited!
  • President: $3.14 million
  • Prime Minister: $3.04 million
  • Ministerial Grade (MR4): $1.57 million
  • Superscale grade (SR9): $353,000
  • Members of Parliament Allowance: $190,000

What pay cut??

Even the CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the most profitable banks in US (even now), will only earn around USD600,000 for the year 2008 because they opt to receive no cash bonuses, no stock, and no options for 2008. He earned USD68 million dollars last year. Now... USD 68 million to USD 600,000. That is a pay cut.

So $3 million is benchmarking against the private sector? Unless my eyes are mistaken, I do not see how $3 million is benchmarked against USD600,000. Note that Goldman Sachs for 9 months ending Aug has earned USD 4.4 billion dollars. They are still making profits (although much lesser than last year) in this kind of climate, and yet they opt to receive no bonuses! Singapore's economy is estimated to have negative growth next year. Negative growth and still having million dollar salaries??

So where is our government's benchmark now? Will they lower their benchmark since all the big time CEO's salaries are getting cut to their base salaries? How on earth are they benchmarking the private sector salaries? It's definitely not to their base salaries.

Inflation is up 6.4%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2008:
January: 6.6%
February: 6.5%
March: 6.7%
April: 7.5%
May: 7.5%
June: 7.5%
July: 6.5%
August: 6.4%
September: 6.7%
October: 6.4%

Food and Housing is leading the charge, rising by 7.8% and 16.4% respectively year on year. As expected, food prices went down and housing went way up. Housing should continue to stay high while Food and Transport will trend slightly lower.

Inflation would still trend above 6% for the rest of the year, but below 6.4%.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What's the use of cutting rates to near 0%?

All the big guys (IMF, etc) all advocate cutting the interest rates to near 0%. However, is that of any use at all when no one seems to be following the interest rates? The US interest rate is now 1%, but all their mortgage rates are above 5.5%, whether is it fixed or ARM! The only thing rate cutes succeed in doing is to stroke up inflation.

This does not resolve the problem at all. The root cause of the problem is more than interest rates. The banks are not even lending out the money because of the lack of trust.

Ironically, I think the only way to resolve this issue is to have something like the Singapore HDB Loan. Government sponsored loans that have reasonable interest rates, with reasonable credit guidelines. The old methods do not work anymore. The evidence is there for all to see, but they refuse to acknowledge it.

Once a new kid on the block start offering rates that are lower than the market rate, the competitors will usually follow. The problem now is that no one is willing to stick their neck out to jump start the economy.

Just because everyone is doing it doesn't mean that it is right. Extreme conditions require extreme measures. People might say the government is stealing the banks business but hey.. They are not lending the money out in the first place. This kind of wait and see attitude is not what we need right now.

Interest rates near 0% but no one will be lending out the money... Did a decade of 0.25% interest rate in Japan help them?

Are those guys up there blind, or so detached from what's happening on the ground?

Japan's Family Planning Measures

Finally I saw some concrete policies being made out on the aspect of family planning. Not those half-baked ones which our government kept coming out with. The ones that might truly turn the clock.

The so-called perks that our government kept churning out does not resolve the root problem. Actually, there are 2 root problems. Time and Stress. Tell me... If you go back everyday at 10+pm, and your stress level kept high because your boss kept saying you're not efficient enough, will you even think about family planning??

Obviously no... But apparently those people up there will not acknowledge this problem. You can't have your cake and eat it. Something has to give and Japan seems to have finally saw the light. The shrinking population is much more of a major concern than the so-called productivity (I see it more like kiasuism than productivity).

So what did one of the Japanese companies do?
  1. Workers are forbidden to work on weekends
  2. Must get permission if you need to stay past 7pm everyday
  3. Posted signs in office listing eight ways to go home earlier

I like what the deputy manager of Tokyo-based National Quality of Life Group said:

People are the country's resource. To sustain our standard of living it's important to stem the contraction in population.

No mention of importing the problem away... Now this is addressing the root problem.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Life Balance

I quote from Stephen Covey:

Most people struggle with life balance simply because they haven't paid the price to decide what is really important to them.

Decide now what's important to you and work towards it. It's your choice.

Know which number are you SMSing

The iPhone 3G has a unique way of displaying SMSes from your contact list. It's format is very similar to iChat. Tap on the SMS icon and you will see a list of names that you have SMSed before. Tap on the name and you will see the thread of messages you have sent before, like iChat.

The one problem I faced is that if a name has multiple mobile numbers attached to it, I will see the name appear multiple times in the SMS application. I will be clueless on which mobile number that name represents, and I will not know which number am I SMSing.

Not anymore. To know which number the name represents in the SMS application, just do the following:
  1. Tap on the SMS application, and the name of the person you're interested in SMSing
  2. Scroll to the top of the page or tap on the time at the top bar
  3. Tap on Contact Info
  4. The number highlighted in blue is the number that you're SMSing

That's it...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Apply for ESTA even if you have the VWP

My understanding is that if you need to go the United States (US) now, you'll need to apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) even though Singaporeans are in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This is to obtain a travel authorization prior to initiating travel to the United States under the VWP.

You can apply the ESTA if:
  • You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
  • You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa.
  • Your travel is for 90 days or less.
  • You plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure.

It's free, and you can refer to the ESTA website here to apply for it.

Learn how to look at your Recents List

In the iPhone 3G, tapping on Phone > Recents will allow you to access the list of people who has recently called you. Typical reading of the list would be just that this so and so person has called me at this time. Tap on the name, and the iPhone 3G will call that person. Those names highlighted in red are the calls that you have missed.

However, if you tap on the details arrow (the arrow at the right hand side), you'll see the caller details, and how many times this person has called you. What I've just realised is that this screen also tells you which number has called you.

If you have answered the call, the number highlighted in blue in this caller details will be the number that called you.
If you have missed the call, the number highlighted in red in this caller details will be the number that called you.

That is how you can get the actual number that has called you. Many of my contacts have multiple phone numbers, so this is very useful for me as I can ring back the number that has called me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

8 out of 14 PAP Town Councils have exposure to Lehman Brothers

Updated 18 Nov 2008: Added returns figures from the newspaper

I've written a post last year with regards to Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council investing our money in the stock market, in particular in Creative. Now it seems that they did not learn from that lesson and went up 1 step further. They started investing in structured products!

Holland-Bukit Panjang and Pasir Ris-Punggol town councils have invested a total of S$12 million in DBS High Notes, Lehman Brothers' Minibond Notes and Merrill Lynch's Jubilee Series 3. Other town councils such as Aljunied, Ang Mo Kio-Yio Chu Kang, Hong Kah, Marine Parade, Tampines and Tanjong Pagar also have exposure to Lehman Brothers.

It was stated that it's a small percentage of the total funds available. However other than the question on why on earth a town council will invest their sinking funds into structured products instead of thinking of ways to rejuvenate the estate or to subsidize the conservancy charges, my main question is why did the town councils have so much money? And if they have so much money, why did they use the excuse of inflation to increase our conservancy charges??

The whole idea of a town council is that its not meant for-profit. It's suppose to be a non-profit organisation since the money comes from the general public. Therefore, if there's surplus, the benefits should flow back to the general public. With so much funds available, just by putting it in a simple highest rated bonds and fixed deposits would yield a decent return.

Worst still, based on what was reported in the newspapers, the returns averaged over 3 percent a year over the last 6 years, excluding the Lehman fiasco. 3%! Investing in equities! Considering the risk premium, why on earth would you take so much risk to get a return of 3% in equities when you can get the almost equivalent using bonds and fixed deposits?? Come on... I think even Singapore millionaires can get more than 3% on their deposit accounts.

According to the newspapers, they say that they need to build up their sinking funds to replace the lifts every 28 years. Hello... I compound $150million a year with interest of 3%, I get a total of $343million at the end of 28 years. Even compounding $75million a year, I get a total of $172million at the end of 28 years! Each lift cost only at most $250,000. How many lifts do you have in a HDB block?

There should be a cap on the amount of sinking funds the town council should have. What's the use of having so large an amount if the benefits do not flow back to the general public? The famous Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council seems to have $120million in the sinking fund, based on reported 6.7% invested in the structured products ($8 million).

Having surplus is one thing, but this is getting ridiculous. Is it so hard to use the money the general public has given to rejuvenate the estate, or to reduce our conservancy charges that we must pay?

Why on earth did they have so much in their sinking funds?? Scrooge McDuck??!?!?!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

iPhone 3G Fully Charged Battery Indicator

In my previous post on optimizing the iPhone 3G battery life here, I've remarked that there is no indicator to indicate that the iPhone 3G is fully charged. I was wrong.

There is an indicator, and it's so minor that I did not notice it until now.

The picture below shows the battery indicator (a lightning bolt icon) when it's charging:

The picture below shows the battery indicator (a plug icon) when it's fully charged:

That is how you tell if the iPhone 3G is fully charged. Darn... I think I'm getting old.

Exciting Consumption

Consumption results in economic growth. The problem is, will you consume more when your future is uncertain?

This leads back to the current global recession that we're having. Almost all the major developed countries are in recession, which is going to lead to a global reduction in consumption. The high levels of income disparity will also mean that majority of the world population is going to get hit harder. The impact is as of what you see now. Not pretty...

When your future is uncertain, and there are problems with cash flow, the natural reaction is to reduce consumption. This leads to a vicious cycle where goods and services are not being consumed, leading to a reduction of jobs, which leads to more reduction of consumption, etc etc.

The only way to jolt the economies is to introduce sustainable consumption. This is easier said than done. The latest US household saving rates was 0.4%. Judging from the news, this is definitely on the way up. The minimum should be around 10%. Just imagine... From 0.4% to 10%. The impact on the reduction of consumption will be humongous.

That means those other rich economies better buck up on their spending. The world has been too reliant on the US for consumption. Exciting domestic consumption should be the way to go but most took the easiest path, which is export. Now this error in judgment has come back to haunt them.

The US cannot and will not do anything to help. They have to clean up their own economy first. It leaves to the rest of the countries. They would have to make their own country rich enough to consume goods and services, and not restrict consumption to selected groups.

Is this going to be a short global recession? I think not. I'm still of view since the start of the year that this is going to be comparable to the great depression.

Crazy with fever

I think I'm crazy. I have fever and yet I still went out just now. Now I'm feeling the after-effects.

I'm so tired...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Do something about your complaint

I quote from The College Blue Book:

If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it.

If you've got the energy to complain, use that energy to do something about it. Complaining at it for the first time is useful to put the complaint into words. After that, do something about it.

Irresponsible media reports!

Usually I will have nothing much to say against news reported in the media, but with the case of the news of 2 white tigers mauling the zoo cleaner, I feel that this time is too way overboard.

There's a distinct difference between a tourist falling down into the white tigers enclosure and being attacked by the white tigers, and a cleaner who climbed down to the white tiger enclosure, crossed the moat, took a broom and yellow bucket and waves the broom towards the tigers!

If the white tigers were provoked, their natural reaction is of course to attack. The white tigers are not at fault.

Why the editors do not have checks in place to verify the accuracy of the news report?? Even the facts are totally wrong. A tourist did not drop into the moat. The cleaner actually climbed into the moat and crossed it, and at the same time waving his broom.

It's this kind of irresponsible reporting that can get people, or in this case white tigers, killed for no apparent reason!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Is it because of the EXP45 strings?

I've just changed all my strings yesterday to the D'Addario EXP45 normal tension strings. I've been using the normal D'Addario strings previously, which costs about half as much as the EXP45.

I do not know if its the price or there's something wrong with my ears, but for some reason, I felt that with these new strings:
  1. The sound seems to be louder.
  2. The sound seems to be more clear.
  3. It seems to be easier to do runs.

The 3rd point is the weird part. Somehow, I found that my runs seem to flow better after I changed the strings. In fact, I do not think I have run so fast before with my guitar.

Hmm... Is it the strings? Or am I just too tired from work and I'm having delusions? Either case, I recommend the EXP45 strings. The sound really seems to be louder and clearer than the normal string.

Well, in a way it has to... It costs twice as expensive as the normal strings. :p Now I only have to wait for my strings to stop detuning itself. :)

Totally disagree with what the MM said

Just read today's news that MM mentioned that the investors should have kept their eyes open. If the interest rate is 1%, and they are getting 5%, there should be a catch.

The whole problem is nothing to do with if there's a catch or not! The problem is that you ask all the relationship managers (RMs) and financial advisers (FAs) to go through so many courses, which in the end becomes useless paperwork that does not count. Why on earth do you need a fact finding analysis if in the end, you're not going to take into account the findings from that analysis?? It totally defeats the purpose. You might as well just throw away the analysis!

And over here, we're talking about mis-selling. There is a whole lot of difference between someone telling me that the 5% interest rate comes with a catch where you might lose your principal, and the 5% interest rate is as safe as fixed deposit. And mind you, this is coming from a person supposedly with all the certs that makes them qualified to give financial advise. Worst still, some investors have never even seen the prospectus of the product.

As evidence on how transparent our financial sector is, only now do I know that there are 3 types of financial advice that the advisers can give you:
  1. Full Advice
  2. Partial Advice
  3. Product Advice

I thought there was only full advice. Period.

We do not even know the 3 categories of advices that we're suppose to be getting. If we do not even know this simple fact, how do we keep our eyes open?

It's like saying that we should keep our eyes open, but the danger is actually what we cannot see. Furthermore, this advise is not supposedly given by any Tom, Dick or Harry. It's given by a certified adviser. What will happen to a doctor if he/she prescribe the wrong medicine?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Print Screen your iPhone 3G

I use this more when I'm lazy to type, and I rather let the picture do the talking. :)

To do a print screen (screenshot), hold down the power button, tap on the home button, and let go both buttons.

That's it... You should hear the sound of a picture being taken. Just tap on the Photos app, and you'll find the print screen under the Camera Roll.

Nights shots are impossible to take with a compact at Night Safari

Just been to the night safari and I have again attempted, to take pictures with my compact camera. The keyword is attempted. :)

The camera I'm using is the Canon Powershot SD870 IS. One thing that I can confirm is that this camera is way better than my previous Ricoh R1V. I've attempted the same experiment with that camera and I could not capture a single animal.

The differentiating factor for all compact cameras is actually how it handles low-light condition shots. One problem of taking night shots with a compact camera is that the camera sensor is not meant for taking pictures in low light conditions. At higher ISOs, the pictures are all grainy when zoomed in. For my SD870 IS, the graininess is quite apparent when the ISO hits above 400.

Nevertheless, I've still attempted to take a few shots using my SD870 IS. I've taken over a 100 shots and the results are quite expectantly... bad. :) Most of my shots I'm showing later are all taken with ISO 800 and above.

Based on my results, I've learned a few things about night shots with a compact:
  • Set your light exposure compensation to the highest. Otherwise you cannot see a single thing. :)

  • There must be a light source. If the lights are very dim, it's no use attempting to take anything, and I do include videos.

  • The objects(animals) must be slow moving, or not moving. If the animals are pacing around, or are quite active, take a video instead.

  • Check your auto white balance. In low light conditions, I've realised my SD870 IS auto balance seems to go off balance. The colors are off, and some of the colors are overpowering.

    I've used the evaluative white balance instead for some of my pictures.

  • Use a tripod, or make sure your hands are steady. Many of my pictures are taken with a tripod, and yet it's blurred. Make use of your 2 secs timer.

  • Do not zoom in low light conditions. Period.

Is it worth taking shots with a compact at night? Not at the night safari. Lights are very dim to simulate the animals night environment, and flash photography is actually prohibited. Below are some of the shots I've taken. All without flash.

The picture below is the best shot I've taken that night:

Flying Squirrel

Cut-out of the flying squirrel photo above

I've managed to take a picture of the Malayan Tiger that kept pacing around the enclosure. How I've absolutely no idea.

Backside of the tiger

I've also taken a long shot of some animals that were lazying around. I've no idea what animal is it though. :) Below is a cut-out of the main picture that I have taken.

Cut-out from a long shot of animals lazing around

Somehow, my cat shots are better than the other animals. :)

Fishing Cats moving around

A fishing cat trying to catch fishes

Some cat moving around

Backside of the same cat moving around

I believe the following shots are of mousedeers. They are quite slow moving, so its easier to take their pictures. :)

2 of them grazing around

Another 2 mousedeers looking around

A mousedeer protecting its territory

Can you spot the leopard? :)

Where is the leopard?

The other pictures are of animals that make sharp movements. Even though the light source is slightly brighter than the rest of the animals, the camera is unable to handle the sudden movement. The result is ... blur.

Indian wolves that are hyperactive

The owl that kept looking around

Anyway, this photo taking experiment is not totally wasted. I've realised that my SD870 IS has a long shutter mode. I've no idea that its hidden at the exposure compensation setting. I wonder what other settings am I missing...

Oh yes, for the night safari, if you really want to explore the whole area, go at 730pm. I went there slightly later and by the time I left at 11pm, I've missed the tram ride, and the show. Or maybe it was because I've spent too much time trying to take pictures. :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some people just do not learn

Recently, the topic of deferred payment has come up again in the newspapers. They were advocating that the deferred payment should be reinstated due to the current crisis.

I was thinking... These people who are advocating this reinstatement are crazy!

Where did this economic crisis come about?
It's due to loose credit.

Where did this crisis originated from?
It originated from the US Housing crisis.

What caused the US Housing crisis?
Low or Zero interest rates loans for the first few years that was given out to people who cannot afford it.

In another words, the current crisis originated from deferred payment!! Now some people are asking for the crisis to come to Singapore?? If you can afford the house, you have no need for deferred payment.

Do Singaporeans really look so short-term??

Concentrate on your goal

I quote from Henry Ford:

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.

It's quite normal that one will look at the obstacles that line your path towards your end objective. However, not all obstacles will block your path. Some obstacles might look huge, but it is not blocking your way.

Concentrate on the goal. By focusing on the goal, you'll only see the goal, and the obstacles obstructing you from the goal. There is no point worrying about the other obstacles because it will not obstruct you.

Stay focus...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Patterns that only I can see

Sometimes I really feel so frustrated at myself on why people do not understand the point I'm driving at.

I have a habit of looking at things differently from everyone. The way I look at problems is not common because I look at patterns. It has however been quite accurate and effective. Problems come in certain patterns, and certain patterns have similar solutions. My problem comes when I warn people of the problems ahead. Problems that have not yet happened, but I see a high posibility of it coming true. They will naturally think I'm talking nonsense or something, and refuse to heed what I say. Then what I said happens.

The problem with this? I warn people of it because most of the time it's outside of my power to resolve it if it has went down that path. Before the problem comes, I might have a solution to it.

Sometimes I really feel frustrated on why things happen even though I have warned long ago not to go down that path. Problems do not resolve by itself.

I'm so tired... Why do I even bother.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Largest Solar Park in Singapore

Just been to the largest solar park in Singapore today at the Marina Barrage. Basically, the solar park has 405 solar panels covering 1,200sqm. It generates 70kW of electricity which is used for indoor lighting and power points within the Marina Barrage.

The park itself only covers a very small portion of the roof-top at the Marina Barrage. Just imagine if 3/4 of the roof is covered with the panels and how much energy it can generate. I hope this will kick off more instances where solar panels are installed on the roof of the buildings. I always find it a big irony that the country closest to the equator is not doing anything with all the free sun rays that is shinning on us every single day.

Below are some photos of the solar park.

Starting of the solar park

Rows of solar panels

Close-up of the solar panels

What's the use of the fact finding and analysis exercise if its not binding?

Someone has actually initiated legal proceedings against one of the banks against mis-selling of investment products. This has been a long time in the making. The crux of the matter is that, if the customer has been identified as a low-risk investor, should he be sold an investment product that's above the risk profile?

From my layman perspective, the answer is NO. The basis of this fact finding and analysis exercise is for the financial adviser to understand the risk profile of the customer and recommend a appropriate product for the customer. Unless the customer has signed a special form indicating that they know that they are buying a high-risk product that deviates from their fact finding exercise, the adviser should not have sold this product to the customer. Just because the customer has bought high risk product before is of no excuse. There can be many reasons why this customer has shifted to low risk instruments.

The problem with the financial industry here is that there's a mentality of caveat emptor, meaning "Let the buyer beware". If you're going into it yourself (meaning DIY), then this rule applies quite appropriately. However, when you have an adviser advising you, then I would say this rule does not apply. Why? Because you have paid for a service. They are providing a service and they should rightly advise you on all aspects, and should understand the product workings before recommending it to you.

For example, if I apply for a HDB flat, the person handling the sale would highlight all the important points of the agreement to me. The document that I have is of many pages, but there are some highlighted points dictating some of the more important points of the document. This is proper service.

Just because the prospectus runs into 100s of pages is of no excuse. That's what the advisers are there for. Otherwise, why are they paid commissions? There must be a certain level of professionalism when you're providing a service. Some cases is that some advisers have sold products, without knowing the full workings and risks of it.

In the case of the high notes and minibonds, some advisers have touted it to be something like a fixed deposit. The facts? It's anything but a fixed deposit. In fact, looking at the product which is a structured deposit, it's even of a higher risk than investing in shares! How can low-risk investers be investing in it? Most has never heard of "credit event". It doesn't make sense.

Luckily my financial adviser is of the good sort, and has never introduced this kind of instruments to me.

If the fact finding and analysis exercise is just a paper document, then abolish that document. If it's of use, enforce it such that its binding. From my view, since that document states my risk profile, I should not be recommended any product that is of higher risk than what it is stated.

Why? Because the adviser knows the industry, I don't. The adviser should be warning me instead. It's just that simple.

Natura Loft @ Bishan

Happened to glance at the papers few days back and realised that the Bishan DBSS is open for balloting. The difference between this DBSS and others is that there is surprisingly little information that I could find related to it. In fact, the most details that you can find is in the news highlights. Even in the QingJian Realty website here, you are unable to find more details of the DBSS. You cannot even find the pricing in their website!

I will not repeat what I have written in my other posts on DBSS. You can refer to my Park Central post here, and my CityView post here. The CityView post includes some of the calculations I did to see if it fits into my affordability matrix.

DBSS @ Bishan has been named Natura Loft, and is located at Bishan Street 24. The balloting is already opened at their website since 31 Oct 2008, and the pricing of the flats is at an average of $450psf to $570psf. The pricing and configuration are as follows:

4 room95 sqm$465,000 to $586,000Master Bedroom w/out Planter

Master Bedroom w/ Planter
5 room120 sqm$600,000 to $739,000Master Bedroom w/out Planter, study near the main door

Master Bedroom w/ Planter, study near the main door

Master Bedroom w/out Planter, study near the bedroom

Master Bedroom w/ Planter, study near the bedroom

The reason why the psf seems to be lower is due to the size of the flats. It's also touted to be an eco-friendly project, with bamboo flooring for it's bedrooms, bay windows and energy-saving inverter aircon. Planters are quite common in their flat configuration.

Similarly to other DBSS, the area includes a pavilion, BBQ pits, children's playground, fitness centre (including for the elderly), and landscape gardens. According to the map, it's just in-between Whitney Secondary School and Catholic High School. Bishan North Shopping Mall is also within walking distance.

Personally, I do not like this DBSS offering because:
  • I felt that it is a tad too expensive based on the current perks, bearing in mind that HDB flats have a $8,000 household income cap. Even though the flats are at 95sqm or 120sqm, the space is actually wasted by planters and balconies. Minimally, each configuration will have a balcony and a planter. Without the planters and balcony, the flats would have been much more worth it.

  • I do not like the location. Contrary to all the cover pictures I see for Natura Loft, it is not next to Junction 8, or Bishan MRT. In fact, according to the map, I would think it's about a 15mins walk away from the MRT. The nearest shopping mall should be Bishan North Shopping Mall.

  • It's too near to Whitney and Catholic High. Living near these 2 schools will mean that at around 7am to 8am, the roads around that area will be super congested, considering that the road leading to the DBSS is also shared by the 2 schools.
Comparably with that kind of pricing, I would prefer Park Central which is more affordable, and with better location and facilities.

I still do not understand why HDB introduce DBSS when the current executive condo (EC) scheme should have fit the role of DBSS. The household income cap for EC is capped at $10,000, which gives more room for the developers to add in frills, and for the customers to do their budget. Now, the developers are trying to differentiate their DBSS, but sometimes forgetting that there's a $8,000 household income cap.

With the current recession, I'm not surprised if it's not even half-sold. Will DBSS go towards the fate of EC? I think so. HDB should have just revamped the EC scheme.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Integrated Resorts are delayed... As expected

Saw the newspapers today saying that our 2 integrated resorts (IR) will be delayed, and will not be fully opened (partially open) by 2010. Am I surprised? Heck no... I've been expecting them to announce that, just that I do not know why did they try so long before admiting that its mission impossible.

Is it their fault? I don't think so. One thing I find in common in those delayed projects is that some customers tend to think that it's their right to delay, and not adhere to agreed timings. Not only that, they expect the vendors to still deliver based on the original agreed timing, even though their timings slip.

Why do they have this mentality? I believe its because they have the mentality that if there's not enough time, throw more people to it. I thought they should have learned by now that "too many cooks spoil the broth". Sometimes, its not the quantity problem. It's the complexity and the qualilty problem. There is always a optimal configuration, and by adding more people, you can make the problem even more complex and cause further delay, instead of helping the project. Rarely people understand that.

Worst still, some have the mentality that the vendors purposely want to delay the project. Vendors are paid by milestones, upon completion of certain deliverables. They do not get paid monthly. If the project is delayed, the pay is delayed. Why on earth would a vendor recommend extending the deadline unless they have reasons to believe that this will help the project?

Now what other projects do I see that will be delayed? Off the top of my head, one will be the broadband project, the other will be our Sports Hub project (again). SOE project will most likely be delayed too. All have something in common... Guess?

VirtualBox on the Mac now runs VHD, and supports Host Interface Networking

Updated 5 Nov 2008: Problem with compressed VHDs

It has been some time since I've installed VirtualBox on my Mac. I've written a post here on my experience previously.

VirtualBox has made some improvements for the Mac platform since then. Now host interface networking is available, meaning that I would be able to talk to my VM from my Mac since my VM has its own IP address. That would be useful if I need to run Oracle Express database for example.

The recent VirtualBox v2.04 has also just resolved the VHD problem. The previous versions of VirtualBox has a problem with VHD bigger than 4GB. I have successfully run a VHD of about 10GB by Microsoft using the latest VirtualBox. Not only that, I find that restoring snapshots seems to be quicker using this latest version. Hmm...

To use the VHD, refer to my previous post here. Under the section of Create a New Boot Harddisk, just select the VHD file instead. There was only one problem I've encountered with the VHD (Windows 2003 server). It seems that the guest additions do not work on the VHD, or it does not work on Windows 2003 server. It causes the Windows 2003 server to crash after I installed the guest additions.

Anyway that aside, it's easier now to demo on my Mac. And best of all... It's free. :)
Looks like I spoke too soon. I have tried out 2 VHDs from Microsoft on VirtualBox. Only 1 of them managed to start up. Both of them are writethrough VHDs. Once I rebooted, the Windows 2003 server gave a harddisk error. This leads me to believe that there's something wrong with VirtualBox's way of writing to the harddisk on VHD writethroughs.

Looks like I have to wait longer in order for me to use VirtualBox to demo VHDs.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shortcut to Device Manager

This shortcut I think is more for advanced users. I realised that I have to access the Device Manager quite frequently to check on some information. There is a shortcut to access the Device Manager directly, instead of going through Control Panel > System.

Just do the following:
  1. Goto Start > Run
  2. Type devmgmt.msc

That's it...

Not to stop questioning

I quote from Albert Einstein:

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity

Sometimes I wonder why the world consist of so many people who just follows blindly based on the words, but not the meaning behind it.

Innovation is also because of curiosity. Curious on why does it happen this way. Curious on why it cannot be done in another way. Curious on why your dream cannot be a reality.

If there's no more curiosity, we would all be still travelling around in horses and carts. Stay curious...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Optimize your iPhone 3G Battery Life

Updated 16 Nov 2008: Fully charged battery indicator
Updated 29 Dec 2009: Added turning off of Notifications

Finally have time to write down some of my optimization tips for my iPhone 3G battery life. With an above-average usage of the iPhone 3G (some people think I'm a heavy usage user), the iPhone will last me about 2 days on a charge. On a low volume day, it's about 3 days on a charge.

The tip is very simple. All you need to do is to turn off your 3G/Wi-Fi/Bluetooth by default. To turn it off, do the following:
  1. Tap on Settings > General > Network
  2. Turn OFF the Enable 3G option
  3. Tap on Wi-Fi
  4. Turn OFF the Wi-Fi option
  5. Tap on General (back) > Bluetooth
  6. Turn OFF the Bluetooth option

For the newer iPhone OS 3.0. All you need to do is to turn off your Push Notifications. To turn it off, do the following:
  1. Tap on Settings > Notifications
  2. Turn OFF the Notifications option

That's it. To re-enable it, follow the same steps above, but turn the option ON instead. To further save on your battery life, refer to this tip on reducing the brightness of your iPhone here.

That's the simple part. Now the explanation on why this works. Reasons:
  1. 3G is a huge battery drain on any type of phone. I have friends using Nokia and Sony Ericson and they tell me that the phone usually lasts them only about a day.

  2. 3G Network blindspots makes the iPhone 3G works harder, draining its battery life.

    This is technically how I think the iPhone works. Basically if you enabled the 3G option, the iPhone will always try to connect to the 3G Network. However, regardless of what your telco say, the 3G network coverage does not completely cover the whole area. It has its blind spots.

    The problem comes when you hit the blindspot. For example, in Singapore's underground MRT stations. Underground, the EDGE network is the strongest. If you have enabled your 3G network, the iPhone will constantly try to connect to the 3G network while you're underground, although it is unable to find a 3G network. This actually drains your battery life very quickly as it's trying to scan for a 3G network belonging to your Telco constantly, among all the other signals that's broadcasting over the air.

    The EDGE network in Singapore is more predominant, and its even available underground. Disabling the 3G option will stop the constant scanning of signals, which in turn gives you better battery life.

  3. Technically, the 3G technology promises a lot, but fall short on a few things. One of which is constant streaming of information from the 3G network while on the move.

    For example, if I'm in the MRT, its constantly moving from location to location. During its movement, your phone might have seemlessly switched between different base stations as the MRT is moving.

    The problem comes because you might be downloading something from one base station, but because you have moved out of range, the phone will connect to the next nearest base station. The telco's network would have to be smart enough to detect how much information has been downloaded to your phone, and re-route the rest of the information to the base station you're connected to now for you to continue the download.

    Now back to the iPhone 3G. Just by connecting to the normal phone network, the iPhone takes little battery power. The draining of the battery only comes when you're trying to receive data information. Therefore, the iPhone 3G only connects to the data network on a on-demand basis, to preserve battery life.

    So if you are currently now using Safari on the iPhone and downloading a very graphics intensive page, the iPhone would have to open a data connection and constantly probe this connection for data until it has finish downloading the page. If you're not on the move, its fine. But if you're on the move, the problem might come because the iPhone would be constantly trying to retrieve information from the base station because it does not detect that the download of data is completed. Sometimes when switching between base stations, the data download might be disrupted, and your Safari would be fruitlessly trying to retrieve information from the base station until Safari time-out, telling you that it is unable to connect to the network. This drains battery life, even if you're on the EDGE network!
For the reasons for turning the Wi-Fi/Buetooth off, its the same logic as turning off your Wi-Fi/Bluetooth when you're using your laptop. Without enabling your laptop's Wi-Fi/Bluetooth, the laptop battery lasts longer. Period. The explanation is roughly similar to the above.

Push notifications is something new to iPhone OS 3.0. What it essentially does is to have a small agent running in the background, constantly polling the applications servers for updates. This uses up less memory than having multiple applications open at the same time. However, this also means that the iPhone is working even though your application may not have anything to report. Personally, I disabled it because if I wish to be notified, I'll usually just open that particular application. The only notifications I need are SMSes and missed calls. Likewise, I've also disabled (switched to Manual) the Fetch New Data in Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars for the same reasons.

This is based on my own observations on how the iPhone might work. Therefore, I adjusted my usage to optimize the battery life. This is what I've done:
  1. My iPhone 3G perpectually is always on EDGE signal as most of the time, I am on the move with the phone. Since EDGE signal almost covers the whole of Singapore (at least for Singtel) except for some rare blindspots, my iPhone will not have a problem connecting to a network.

  2. The iPhone 3G is best suited for burst data, meaning grabbing of small amount of information at any point of time. Example would include using RSS reader, Google Maps, or reading of emails. Therefore when I am on the move, I usually only read RSS feeds (e.g. Bloomberg), or read my emails.

    Yes, for emails, its usually working on burst mode, which actually conforms with what the iPhone is meant to do. The retrieval of email headers in Mail is not data intensive, and can even be easily and quickly retrieved even on an EDGE network, although the 3G network will make the retrieval almost instantaneous.

    I will only switch to a 3G network or a Wi-FI network when I hang around a certain area, like an office or shopping mall. This I would do on an ad-hoc basis, if I need to surf around.

    I will always try to connect to a Wi-FI network first, followed by the 3G network. Reason is because Wi-FI actually uses less battery than the 3G network for some reason. With the availability of free hot-spots in Singapore, it has becomes a habit of mine to search for these hotspots when I need a fast connection.

    Before I make my move, I will switch back to EDGE network by turning off the Wi-FI or/and 3G network.

  3. I will only connect to AppStore when I'm charging my iPhone 3G on my laptop. Downloading apps and updates from the AppStore could be quite battery draining so I will only do that when my iPhone is plugged in. Usually I will use Wi-Fi to download.

Things to note about the battery indicator on the iPhone:
  1. When you charge the iPhone, take note that the battery indicator is charged to full. The first time I charge my iPhone, I've actually mistaken the iPhone to be fully charged, but in actual fact it is not.

    The green indicator should extend all the way to the end, with no gap inbetween the green indicator and the top of the battery. Refer to the image below on how the battery indicator will look like if its fully charged.

    It would be good if the next iPhone firmware patch will provide some sort of indicator if the battery is fully-charged. Refer to this post here on the iPhone 3G fully charged battery indicator. Less observant users will always be half-charging their iPhone, because I understand that the iPhone practises rapid charging, where the last 10% of the battery will charge slower.

  2. The iPhone 3G will give off a warning if it falls below the 20% battery life indicator.

  3. The iPhone 3G will give off a last warning if it falls below the 10% battery life indicator. This is the last warning indicator.

The last time I hit the 20% battery life indicator, the iPhone actually lasted me about 4+ hours more until I reached home. Yes, I was still using it during this time. :)

Hope this helps...
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...