Friday, March 28, 2008

MacBook Air hacked in 2 minutes!

According to what I read, the MacBook Air, running OSX 10.5.2 was hacked in 2 minutes using a Safari vulnerability. This goes to show that what I've been advising my friends are accurate.

Rule #1, never use the default browser that comes with your operating system (e.g. windows, mac) as your main browser.

You can always use the browser on and off but you should never use it as your main browser. I have no idea why the trend nowadays is to keep bundling things together. The security risks goes up tremendously when you bundle something like a browser into the operating system, and you make "enhancements" to it such that programmers can easily "manipulate" some system level settings.

This itself is already a big risk. A browser should never ever be able to manipulate any settings in the operating system. This should be the first rule and it should never have been broken. ActiveX is one such big vulnerability. With regards to the Safari vulnerability, there has been no news so far but Apple has acknowledged the hack (and the problem). I'm still wondering how did Safari managed to allow hackers to gain access to the Mac. I do not remember any Safari specific codes that allows system access. Hmm....

Anyway, till now I'll still recommend my friends to either use Firefox, or Opera as your main browser. I still do.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Cityview @ Boon Keng only 1/3 taken up

Updated 5 April 2008: Cityview is only 1/3 taken up. 250 units out of 700+ units.
Updated 7 April 2008: City is now 2/3 taken up. 500+ units out of 700+ units.

Why am I not surprised that out of 3000 applicants for Cityview, the places are still not all taken up. The reason is very simple. Its because its HDB.

To get a HDB, you'll need to earn not more than $8,000 in your household. The figure is meant to keep HDB affordable to the general masses, where their median income is about $2,300. However, when you start seeing figures like $700,000 for a HDB flat, something must be wrong.

I have previously did my calculations in this post so I will not repeat it again. I feel that the current government agencies have truly lost touch with the original mission of their respective boards. HDB's original mission and objective. LTA's original mission and objective. Is $700,000 affordable?? $600,000 for a 4 room HDB flat?? Seriously, why someone would buy a $350,000 3 room HDB flat is beyond me.

HDB should not in the first place come out with DBSS. Why on earth would someone get a DBSS, and not a private apartment? They should have modified the Executive Condo (EC) scheme, which incidentally cap household income to $10,000.

Now they are re-opening the balloting again. They said that Tampines DBSS has sold all after they opened the balloting for the second time. However, they neglected to mention that Tampines DBSS highest price was only $450,000 for a 5 room flat, $250,000 lesser than Boon Keng DBSS 5 room flat! I would say Boon Keng next balloting will also be a disappointment.

I do not think that Singaporeans are that rich. Even if they are rich, they're also hit by the household income cap limit, so they are unable to get a unit. DBSS?? Another failure by HDB. Why don't they just concentrate on building affordable housing and stop doing these antics??

Anyway, as expected, latest news is that only an additional 250+ units were taken up after the second balloting. 200+ units are still left unsold, and I would say it will still be left unsold.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Inflation is up 6.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2008:
January: 6.6%
February: 6.5%

Again the news reported the inflation in a "positive" way. Compared to last month, inflation is up 0.5%. However compared to Feb last year, it is up a whopping 6.5%! But do not forget... February was a very short month. Recreation and Others jumped up higher compared to last month.

Inflation should be persistently higher for the first half of 2008, before gradually going downwards due to the higher base inflation in the last half of last year. Inflation will definitely be more than 5% for year 2008.

With the current economic growth for 2008 tipped to be below 5% this year, this is one of the rare times where inflation is higher than economic growth. Not good at all. I just hope that this does not become common.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Why is Singapore electricity pegged to the price of oil??

The latest inflation news is that the electricity tariff is increasing by about 5.5%. The electricity tariff is pegged to the price of oil, which has been increasing explosively for the past few years.

Aside from the unreliability of the calculation of electricity bills, there's another big problem. According to the Singapore Energy Market Authority (EMA), 80% of Singapore's electricity demand is generated from natural gas. The question is why is the price of electricity not pegged to the price of natural gas, but to the price of oil?? Although natural gas prices are related in the long run to oil prices, it does not follow closely to the price explosion. Furthermore, we have a much more liberal market in the natural gas market that will keep prices down.

Therefore, the million dollar question is why is the price of electricity pegged to oil instead of natural gas??

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Household Savings Rate 2007 by Country

Household Savings Rate 2007 by Country

Australia 0.5

US 0.7

UK 2.7

Japan 3.0

Korea 4.0

Italy 7.3

Poland 8.8

Slovakia 9.5

Germany 10.4

Spain 10.6

France 12.8

China 24.0

Source: OECD, NBER

Feds are beating a dead horse!

Like a clockwork, the Feds have reduced their lending rate by 75 basis points, as expected by the market. Sometimes I wonder why do they need to go through all the meetings since the rates since to be decided by the market anyway. It serves no purpose. Market demand this, and they give in to it.

Everyone says inflation is secondary to the economy. From a business point of view, I would say control inflation, and the economy will rise because it will be cheaper to do your business. Some say I'm a contrarian, or even idealistic. However, I'm just simply looking at things from a business point of view.

With higher inflation, it becomes a game of who can sustain the most losses. Sure, you lower the borrowing rate so people can borrow, but it makes no difference. The game changes... Its no longer differentiation of business by service level and innovation, but sustainability of the business and maintaining the minimal service level. To me, it seems like it will become a vicious cycle. Previously customers might get a certain product, with a couple of freebies thrown in. Now, they get the product only, and it costs higher. If I'm the customer, I will never buy it if I'm not in great need of it.

Economics fundamentally is all about businesses. Its not all about numbers and economic theories. Even the theories are also based on a hypothetical world where everything is bright and beautiful.

With these kind of cuts, I would say the tipping point has come. Demand will slow. Growth will retard. The bubbles growing now in the commodities area will burst due to the sudden realisation of the change in demand. USD will lose its place as the reserve currency causing it to further dive. Only the bare essential sectors will have any hope now. That would include transport, telecommunications, food and beverage, health and utilities. The countries now will suddenly think that exciting their domestic consumption is no longer a bad idea. Interest rates will start to dive to excite consumers to spend.

Of course this is just a hypothetical conclusion I have made. But judging from the way the Feds react, I'm really worried that this will come, and the dreaded S word. Stagflation.

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

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saying No

I quote from the Slice of Life:

Make "no" the first word out of your mouth so that others can see there is no hesitation or doubt. Remind yourself that they'll respect you more for being so definite.

Think through your fears about their possible reactions. Be rational about them. Don't let the fear of what they might think of you force you to do something you don't want to do.

Use a clear, assertive style: no ifs and buts, no excuses, no apologising. Thank the person for considering you for the request; say you are flattered and honoured.

And don't feel as though you have to find solutions to their problem; don't dwell on it afterwards or feel responsible for their problem.

Reclaim the time that's rightfully yours.

I would feel that there's a problem if the first word that comes out is no. Reason is that once you say No, your brain has already shutdown. You have stopped thinking of a solution, and I think this will retard your own growth.

Instead, the first thing you should do should be to think through the problem and see if its worth saying Yes. Not all things are worth saying Yes.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude

I quote from the Slice of Life:

Developing a thankful attitude goes a long way toward developing a more resilient and appreciative self. Here are a few ideas for spreading the attitude of gratitude. Think about the whole process. When you receive anything, be it a child's drawing or an expensive gift, focus on how much time, effort, and thought went into the gift. Taking the time to realize how much work, caring, and thought a person has given you is a wonderful way to deepen your appreciation of both the giver and the gift.

Realize that each day is a gift. There are so many things that we take for granted. Many times we don't realize how much we actually take for granted until tragedy strikes. Take your loved ones, for example. Do you regular take time to appreciate them? To show them how much you love them? Remember, they won't be around forever.

And lower your expectations. If you keep expecting things to be in your favour, you'll be thwarted by the many things that will be unfavourable. You'll focus on the negative until you become an irritable, unpleasant grouch. But when we quit expecting the world or people to give us things, we can become more focused on enjoying the gifts that do come our way.

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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

SMRA Interest rate

As expected, the actual SMRA interest rate is lower than the 4% guaranteed. The average SGS 10 year bond rate is 2.75%. The SMRA should be 3.75%, but due to the 4% floor rate guaranteed, its still 4%. If you have less than $60,000 in your CPF, you'll get an extra 1% (5%).

Take note though that the SGS 10 year bond rate is going to go very very low. For this year, I think it hit 2%! This is ridiculous. Lock-in your money for 10 years and you only get 2% interest, when inflation is 6.6% for Jan?

I was also wrong about the floor rate. The 2.5% floor rate is fixed for all accounts. That means even though CPF SMRA formula is 10 years bond rate + 1%, the floor rate is still 2.5%! The government really "saved" alot of money this time! And all the talk about caring about our retirement?? Yeah right...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Time for inflation mouse to speak again

It has been some time since I've talked about the Feds rate cut. Main reason is because I've been disillusioned by the "inflation mouse". All that tough talk about reigning inflation is nothing more than talk. It has been 6 months since the first of the rate cuts by the Feds. The market now speaks of its so-called "effectiveness".

Granted that this problem should not be solely thrown at the Feds. The US government must take a bigger role in this. All this cutting of rates is no use! Whether its a cut of 50 basis point, or 25 basis point, or 75 basis point, it makes no difference. The housing problem has blown up, and the US government should step in and do something about it. Admit that its a policy problem and resolve it. If there are really so many sub-prime borrowers, the US government should really start thinking about why did it happen. By law, arrange some debt repayment scheme for the borrowers. For once, the US government should start finding these people jobs and not making war everywhere.

If the Feds continue their rate cuts, USD will soon lose their status as the reserve currency. When that happens, the Feds will never be able to undo the damage done to the economy and there might even be a replay of the great depression.

Like I said last year, this year is going to be very interesting indeed.

Anger Management III

I quote from the Slice of Life:

But you do need to find out how best to manage your own anger. What triggers it, how does it manifest itself, and what are the consequences? Writing about your anger can help you gain valuable insight into what anger does to you and how you should deal with it.

When you have a strong reaction to a situation, writing about it can help diffuse the pressure. Remember to include a detailed description of your strong feelings including the facts of the situation. Remember to use as much space on a page as you can when you scribble. Continue to scribble until you feel tired or relieved. If you feel calmer and more lucid after all this scribbling, then this exercise is for you.

Actually, this is the main reason why I started this blog. After reviewing what I've written, you can sometimes get a clearer idea on why it happened, and sometimes, it might cool you down. Sometimes, it makes you more angry. :)

Anyway, it's quite useful to track the changes in my thinking as time goes by, and at the same time, I'm trying to use it to control my stress level. So far, the former objective is met, but not the later. Oh well... :p

Music is still the best remedy for me.

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

Changes to SRS from 1 Oct 2008

  1. Employers will be able to contribute directly to the SRS accounts of their employees, and get the full tax deduction on their contributions.
  2. Previously, members could only contribute until the statutory retirement age of 62. Now, the 10-year withdrawal period will only begin when they make their first penalty-free withdrawal. Effectively, the age limit for members to make SRS contributions have been removed.
  3. Individuals without earned income in the previous year will now be allowed to contribute to the SRS in the current year

For members who are aged 62 or above on 1 October 2008, there will be a one-off transitional concession for them to take advantage of the new rules. Those who have already started making penalty-free withdrawals or closed their accounts can still contribute to the SRS - as long as they do it between 1 October 2008 and 31 December 2008. However, point 2 still applies.

Contributions to SRS will still be capped at $11,475 annually for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents, and $26,775 for foreigners.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Switching to a Mac?

It's the time of the IT Show again and people has been asking me about the Mac, and how different is it from a normal Windows machine.

In simple terms, if you only do the following:
  1. Check Emails
  2. Surf Net
  3. Writing Office documents

The Mac will suit you just fine. In fact, you could just get a Mac, and download some open-source software, and you're on your way. Some of the open-source software I use include:
  1. Thunderbird (email)
  2. Firefox (surfing)
  3. NeoOffice (Office)

You can use Safari to surf the net but my advise is to get Firefox. Many websites do not support Safari and Safari does not really follow the W3C standard that accurately. The way it caches stuff is another problem.

The advantage of a Mac over a normal Windows machine:
  1. Easy to use (subjective)
  2. Lesser viruses written for the Mac
  3. Machine does not get slower and slower until you need to reformat or defrag.
Read up on my Mac (Tiger) tips to find out how to make your life easier on the Mac.

If you need to play games though, you will need to buy an additional Windows license to install on your Mac. Suggestion is to play the games using Bootcamp, and not under some virtualization software. The virtualization software will slow your game down. Previously, I was aiming for a MacBook Pro because its graphics card is powerful enough to play nice games. :D

Anyway for the Mac, either you love it, or you hate it. For me, I'm somewhere in the middle. I can use it, but I'm not religious over it. Somethings are done better, on a Windows XP Pro. (I still don't like Vista)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Be Crazy!

I quote from the Slice of Life:

Here's a simple fitness routine for your brain:

First, always be ready to soak up information. Read, listen to, and watch what you can, even things that initially do not interest you. Your mind is able to absorb much more than you may imagine and all this information is sure to be useful in future. Also, the more you know, the more likely you'll want to know more... your natural sense of wonder will seek more and more knowledge.

And don't worry about not being to remember everything. Much of this information will not be top-of-mind but you can trust your brain to fish it out of the depths when you need it. Also, you don't necessarily have to commit everything to memory - when you come across something interesting, clip it and keep it! Maintain a scrapbook, electronic or otherwise, full of articles, pictures, quotes, and so on that you can use to invigorate your creativity later.

Next, consistently engage in creative activities. What are creative activities? Well, anything that gives your grey matter a little nudge and jiggle - writing, taking photographs, trying out new words, new ways of doing things, journaling, poetry, even doodling! Just don't let your mind remain idle for too long.

And try something new every day! Don't stick to the usual, tried and tested, well-trodden path. Explore a new part of your city, spend an afternoon in a museum, chat with a stranger. Open up to new experiences around you!

Finally, don't be afraid to be a little crazy. The great thinkers and innovators of history of all been thought to be mad at some point in their lives. Well, some of them probably were clinically insane, but that doesn't change the fact that their ideas were new and exciting and probably of much potential use to humankind. So be a little abnormal, step out of rhythm for a while, see things from the most absurd vantage point you can think of. Who knows... creativity might just be sparked!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Edit HTML Code using TextEdit

As someone who is partially using the Apple MacBook to develop systems, I wonder why I could not edit HTML code with TextEdit. For a time, I was using vi to edit HTML code until I found out that TextEdit do support it.

Do the following to enable editing of HTML Code:
  1. Run TextEdit
  2. Goto TextEdit > Preferences
  3. Click on the Open and Save tab
  4. Under the header When opening a file:, check Ignore rich text commands in HTML files
  5. Exit

That's all to it... Now whenever you open a HTML file with TextEdit, you see the code instead of how the HTML page suppose to look like.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Means Testing for Singapore's Restructured Hospitals

Updated 5 Mar 2008: A note of the calculation of monthly income

Monthly Income

of Patient

Class C Subsidy

for Citizens

Class B2 Subsidy

for Citizens

$3,200 and below



$3,201 - $3,350



$3,351 - $3,500



$3,501 - $3,650



$3,651 - $3,800



$3,801 - $3,950



$3,951 - $4,100



$4,101 - $4,250



$4,251 - $4,400



$4,401 - $4,550



$4,551 - $4,700



$4,701 - $4,850



$4,851 - $5,000



$5,001 - $5,100



$5,101 - $5,200



$5,201 and above




  • Patients who are economically inactive will receive full subsidy (65% for Class B2 and 80% for Class C) unless they live in property with Annual Value exceeding $11,000. The latter will receive subsidy at 50% (B2) or 65% (C).

  • Subsidy for Permanent Residents will be 10%-points less than citizens of equivalent income level.

  • Calculation of monthly income includes all your bonuses and allowances. Rule of thumb is to take your annual income including all bonuses, and divide it by 12.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Guitar-like instruments in an orchestra

I've just went to watch the PA Youth Chinese Orchestra in Esplanade, part of the Beautiful Sunday concert. Overall a good performance. Quite professional. :D

I realised though that they faced the same problem as the guitar ensemble. Guitar-like instruments are soft instruments. When the Pipa, LiuQin, or YueQin sections are played together with the Cello, Double Bass, or even the Erhu, they are drowned out (I do not even want to mention the flutes). I could see the Pipa has some interesting runs, but I couldn't hear a thing. It was such a pity. Even at parts where I know they are having some kind of solo, I could only hear maybe the LiuQin where they are doing some strumming, but not the Pipa. The PAYCO only has 2 condenser mikes on top to capture all the sound though. That might explain why I can't hear a thing from the plucked instruments section.

However, this is exactly the same problem facing the guitar ensemble when we try to add in other loud instruments. Looking from the recorded pieces wave patterns, sometimes I see some super loud instrument that disrupts the wave patterns causing the guitar sounds to be drowned out. I'm not an expert at miking but I would think they would face the same problem too. Increase the mike's sensitivity and the loud instruments will cause that funny humming feedback sound. I also notice that high frequency instruments, like the flute or the Alto guitars, seems to get picked up by the mikes very easily, so the sensitivity cannot be too high too. Translated, a high frequency instrument cannot share a mike with a lower frequency instrument (e.g. alto and prime). The Alto will be picked up, but the Prime will not.

So far, I can't think of any solution to resolve this miking problem. If its an all plucked instruments orchestra, it will be far easier to mike up, which is evident from the recorded pieces I see. The wave patterns are much more normalised, with no weird spikes.

But then again... I do not know if what I'm seeing in the wave patterns is the same concept the sound engineers use to mike up a performance. Hmm...

Back to PAYCO's performance. Maybe I'm not a fan of chinese orchestra music. The first half an hour was okay for me, but towards the last half an hour, I found it a little draggy. Maybe its due to the cello and erhu's sound. Listening to it for 1 hour is the max for me though. :D

Just Ask

I quote from the Slice of Life:

For instance, if you go shopping, and you don't ask about the item you're buying in detail, chances are, you'll end up buying something that doesn't suit you. What about when you're in conversation with a group of people and someone says something you don't quite "get"? Do you ask for an explanation? Or do you stay quiet because you don't want to appear foolish? How many times have you assumed something wrongly, and ended up looking pretty silly anyway because you didn't know, and didn't ask?

We can only learn by asking. Nobody knows everything. We all know and accept that. People won't think you're foolish - chances are, they too were unsure about the same thing but were also afraid to ask. They'll warm up to you because you appear more earnest and well... more human!

Like I always say, the only stupid question you have is the question you did not ask. :D

Saturday, March 1, 2008

CPF-Life Refund vs No-Refund

I refer to the post here on CPF-Life. It's more or less confirmed that the CPF Board is taking the recommendations of the committee. I finally have some time to compare the Refund vs the No-Refund options for CPF-Life based on the CPF Payout calculator.

Using an example of a Male, with $67,000 in CPF:
Refund 65: $645/month
No-Refund 65: $689/month

The difference is only $44/month! The problem is that by choosing the No-Refund 65, you will be sacrificing 100% of the $67,000 with no options for refund for the annuity premium, just for a measly $44/month. Based on this calculation, I'm sure the same group which projected the budget deficit for 2007 is the same group which projected this return.

This is totally ridiculous. I run the risk of losing $67,000 (No-Refund means my beneficiaries will not get this amount) all for an extra $44/month. The benefits do not add up at all! $44/month only adds up to about $1.50 per day. Saving $1.50 a day is not a problem to all of us. Just drinking plain water will do the trick.

Although I still have a long way to using this benefit, based on the information that is currently available to us, I would think a No-Refund 85 would be the best bet.

The standard package would be Refund 80, which will pay out $604/month. The annuity premium will amount to $16,235 (x) , and $50, 765 (y) will be in your retirement account. For the calculation of your estate, the premium refunded will only be (x - the payouts given out), plus the amount left in $y (this is refunded regardless of the plan chosen).

The estimated premiums and monthly payouts for $67,000, Male, are:
Choice of
LIFElong Income
Minimum Sum
LIFE Payout Start Age LIFE Premium LIFE Monthly Payout MS Payout Start and End Age MS after paying LIFE Premium
Refund 65 (R65) 65 $67,000 $645 N.A.
Refund 70 (R70) 70 $43,961 $638 65 to 70 $23,039
Refund 75 (R75) 75 $27,508 $622 65 to 75 $39,492
Refund 80 (R80) 80 $16,235 $604 65 to 80 $50,765
Refund 85 (R85) 85 $8,707 $583 65 to 85 $58,293
Refund 90 (R90) 90 $4,023 $558 65 to 90 $62,977

For No-Refund 85, the payout will be $597/month. The annuity premium will amount to $7,463 (x), and $59,537 (y) will be in your retirement account. For the calculation of your estate, it will only consist of the amount left in $y.

The estimated premiums and monthly payouts for $67,000, Male, are:
Choice of
LIFElong Income
Minimum Sum
LIFE Payout Start Age LIFE Premium LIFE Monthly Payout MS Payout Start and End Age MS after paying LIFE Premium
No-Refund 65 (NR65) 65 $67,000 $689 N.A.
No-Refund 70 (NR70) 70 $42,641 $676 65 to 70 $24,359
No-Refund 75 (NR75) 75 $25,767 $653 65 to 75 $41,233
No-Refund 80 (NR80) 80 $14,594 $627 65 to 80 $52,406
No-Refund 85 (NR85) 85 $7,463 $597 65 to 85 $59,537
No-Refund 90 (NR90) 90 $3,290 $566 65 to 90 $63,710

At first glance, most would choose the standard package. However, one should not forget the power of compounded interest. For your retirement account, your beneficiaries will get back all the money, plus the interest generated. Using an example of 4.5% average interest for the retirement account, $59,537 would amount to $92,459.14 for the period where your money is locked-in at 55 years old, to where your payout will start at 65 years old (10 years). Thereafter, a fixed amount will be withdrawn from your account. However, one must remember that at this point of time, the account is still generating interest. The amount left in your retirement account would be far more than the $7,463 that you'll stand to "lose" for the annuity premium.

If one is more worried about leaving behind more for your children, then the No-Refund 90 would be the way to go.

The amounts mentioned here is as of 1 March 2008. Knowing the Singapore government's constant tweaking mentality, the plan might be tweaked again. If I am 55 years old now, I would choose the No-Refund 85 over the standard Refund 80. But that is just me. :p
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