Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bad idea to have Separate Ratings For Different Asset Classes

Some time back, I was reading something about someone in the US suggesting different types of ratings (e.g. Aaa1, Baa1) for different asset classes. To me, that's B.S.

Reason is very simple. It boils down to the reason for the rating. It is suppose to make it easier for people to gauge the safety ratings of the different products. That is the value-added proposition of such a rating by a rating agency. What's the use of the rating if it is rated only among its own asset class? Do we care if the junk bond is Aaa1 or Caa1? To me, it's still a junk bond, and it's a risky investment. I do not care how is it rated, because the product by nature is risky.

Comparison of ratings within its own asset class is nothing special. If the role of a rating agency is not to analyse the different types of asset classes and produce a single rating standard across all the products, then I think that there is no need even for a rating.

It just defeats the whole purpose.

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

Does the Internet devalues your business?

Recently, I've read an article that claims that the Internet devalues everything it touches. I do not fully agree with this claim. I rather phrase it in another way. The Internet helps businesses find an efficient way to conduct their business.

Never before did a medium cause as much disruption as the Internet. The Internet helps to break down many barriers in doing businesses. Some examples include allowing people to:
  • relay information efficiently and timely;
  • reach a large audience from different parts of the world;
  • conduct some types of businesses without a need for a shop front.

As a result, it allows certain businesses to lower their selling price due to the lower startup/operational costs. This is different from devaluation of businesses. In business, a lower selling price does not necessarily translate to lower profits. Do you think Apple's $99 iPhone will translate to lower profits for them? I do not think so.

There will however be problems for those Internet services without a business model in mind. If you start off by offering your services for free without a business model, you're one very brave chap. Many such businesses have failed because no thought has gone into sustainability of business. The worst part is that the stage has been set for the service to be free, thereby restricting innovation due to the inability to generate revenue to sustain the "ecosystem". This even restricts other new entrants from entering that "ecosystem" because the customers are not used to paying for it.

To sum it up, I do not think that the Internet devalues any business. The key point is the way you apply the Internet to your business model.

If more customers can afford the product/service, and the company makes money in the process, why not?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Believe in what you are doing

Previously, I used to believe that if you've successfully completed a job/task, you will have a sense of achievement that will drive you forward, regardless of the hours put in. However, now I truly understand why some of us can become depressed even though you have done the job/task.

It doesn't matter if the journey is tough, or if you have easily completed the job/task. What matters most is whether you believe that whatever you are doing is aligned with your own beliefs, and your beliefs also align with the people in the same team.

If you find that there's a disconnect, that is where you will start to feel depressed because whatever tasks that are assigned to you will become a chore. You'll simple stop believing in whatever that you're doing and that the end product of the job/task is something worth looking forward to.

How to resolve that? I haven't the faintest idea.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

High Risk Group for H1N1

Read about a list of concerns that would place a person into a high risk group for H1N1. The list seems to be quite varied. There are 3 broad categories of concern:
  1. Age:
    - Very young children
    - Elderly

  2. Medical concerns
    - Pregnant women
    - Asthma
    - Chronic lung disease
    - Heart disease
    - Liver disease
    - Renal disease
    - Major underlying medical problems

  3. Immuno-compromised patients
    - Chemotherapy
    - Radiotherapy
    - Medication for long-term steroids

Just practice good hygiene and everything should be fine. We've survived SARS.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I quote from Jimmy Dean:

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.

Sometimes if life throws you a path that is seemingly blocked with many obstacles, keep your sight on the end goal and who knows, there might be a hidden path branching out that would be less treacherous. Slow and steady wins the race.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Inflation is down 0.3%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2009:
January: 2.9%
February: 1.9%
March: 1.6%
April: -0.7%
May: -0.3%

Food and Health Care is leading the charge, rising by 2.6% and 3.5% respectively year on year. I have over estimated the housing inflation previously. Not taking into account the Service & Conservancy Charges (S&CC) rebates, the inflation for housing was only 0.7% instead of my estimated 4% year on year. Other than that, the inflation rates are largely similar to April.

Going forward based on this housing inflation data, it would seems that the inflation will be hovering around this negative level until at least June. The inflation may be back to positive (still close to 0) from July onwards though.

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

Monday, June 22, 2009

No news on Windows 7 pricing

Apple has already announced the price of Snow Leopard for almost 2 weeks. Till now, there has been no news of the pricing of Windows 7. Will it be around USD29? Looking at the history of Windows 98, Windows 98SE, and Windows ME, I don't think so.

It's a lose lose situation for Microsoft. They can meet the USD29 pricing, but I'm half certain that Snow Leopard has tricks up its sleeves, which would only be unveiled in September (The Apple way). Go above USD29, and risk the customers' wrath over paying so much for "an update". USD29 is not even OEM pricing for Snow Leopard. It's retail pricing.

Microsoft is definitely in trouble.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

8 cases from 2 clusters of local transmission

It has finally happened. 2 clusters of local transmission have been identified as of today. They are from:
  • Riverlife Church (5 students)
  • NUS (3 students)

As of today, Singapore has a total of 126 confirmed cases. Once it starts to hit students, I think it's a matter of time before it spreads widely. The only consolation is that the H1N1 flu seems to be no different in severity than the common flu.

However, since there is evidence of local transmission, and it happened in a school no less, I think it's a matter of time before MOH raises the alert back to Orange. Another point to note is that one of the latest cases seem to have came from Malaysia (Tioman). That's pretty near us.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Enable Tethering in iPhone 3.0

iPhone 3.0 was widely available since yesterday. One of the most awaited feature is tethering, which generally means you are treating your iPhone like a modem.

You have the following options that works out of the box, to connect your iPhone to your computer (Requires Mac OSX v10.5.7 for Mac computers):
  • Doc connector to USB cable (cable provided when you purchase your iPhone)
  • Bluetooth

To enable tethering in your iPhone 3.0, do the following:
  1. Tap on Settings > General > Network > Internet Tethering
  2. Ensure your Internet Tethering is ON
  3. Connect your iPhone to your computer using one of the methods above.

    Note that for Bluetooth, you will need to first enable the feature in your iPhone at Settings > General > Bluetooth

That's it...

Note: Some seems to have encountered problems where they are unable to see the Internet Tethering setting. Generally, resetting the settings at Settings > General > Reset will enable you to see this option. This is assuming that you've upgraded to iPhone 3.0 through the normal iTunes update

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Only Thing I Agree With Cloud Computing

I tend to disagree with most of the cloud computing articles that I read because I felt that the articles are mostly looking at the technology, and trying to fit it into the business. However, truly successful businesses use IT to enable their processes. The investment into IT is as a result of the business needs, and not just to use the latest technology.

However, there is one point which I agree out of the many articles that I read. Open source will drive cloud computing. The reason is very simple. Costs. The focus of cloud computing are the services that the cloud can render, and the ability to scale as and when there is a need. The cloud computing operator should concentrate on the building of services, and should not worry needlessly whether an increase of 100 users will affect the licencing cost of a particular platform. (Hint: CAL)

The way to go for cloud computing is open source. The focus should be on the functionality of the services rendered, and not on those complicated user licencing costs (especially if you need to scale up) that can be set as a Maths exam question.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Price fixing for private buses??

Sometimes, I wonder what are basis for the complaints of price fixing. To me, price fixing is very subjective. This the definition from Wikipedia:

Price fixing is an agreement between business competitors to sell the same product or service at the same price.

The keyword is agreement. It seems that many take the word price fixing literally. For example, all companies sell the product or service at $x. Does that mean they are engaged in price fixing? From what I read in the news, it seems that the prices for the private bus are not even the same. So where does this complaint originate from?

If the complaint is against taxis, I will understand the logic behind it. So many taxi providers but all the same basic flag-down prices. Is that price fixing?

You can even expand this "price fixing" out to other products. All the bubble tea I've seen so far is sold at $1.50. How about $10 T-Shirts from Hang Ten, Giordarno, etc? Price of coffee? Different travel agencies selling the same package to a country for the same price? Is Retail Selling Price (RSP) considered as price fixing?

Sometimes people just have to understand that the market or the dominant company dictates the price. That's called business. That's called life.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Windows without IE

Recently due to the EU's ruling, Microsoft is finally separating IE from Windows, and may offer a version of Windows without IE for Europe. Yes... It's only for Europe, but I believe they will not offer a different version. My guess is that the Windows 7 will come with IE8 for the rest of the world, but you can uninstall it if you wish to. Knowing the patch Tuesday track record, it will be a nightmare for Microsoft to create another version for Europe.

However, I see a chicken and egg problem. How do you access the internet to download your favorite browser, without a browser? It's impossible, so as long as you have Windows, you will get to use Internet Explorer at least once. There's no running away from that.

I find that the EU ruling is focussing on the wrong area. The correct area that they should focus on is whether Microsoft has through any licencing agreements, prevent OEM manufacturers from providing other browsers in their machines.

If the answer is no, then the problem is actually not with Microsoft, but with the other browser vendors who did not negotiate with the OEM manufacturers to include their browsers in the machine setup. Granted that the OEM manufacturers will ask for some kind of concession, but that's life. If you want your product to reach people, be prepared to pay for it.

I think this ruling though will have an indirect effect. It serves as a message to the OEM manufacturers that since Windows 7 can exist without IE, you're free to install any browser you wish on Windows.

I just hope they got the message.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Aim for Success

I quote from Dr David M. Burns:

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.

Indirectly, I believe it's saying that everyone will make mistakes. To make and learn from your mistakes is normal. Striving for perfection sometimes take too much effort, which results in inefficient usage of time. The way that you do it may not be the best way of doing it. Sometimes by aiming just for success, you can learn more from the mistakes than if you did not make any.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cabby dumped 14 year old girls in deserted Lim Chu Kang

I've happened to read an article in the New Paper about a Comfort taxi driver dumping two 14 year old passengers in a deserted dirt-track in Lim Chu Kang at night.

To me, I think it's totally nonsense that the taxi driver is "afraid of the dark". You're in a taxi for goodness sake! How dark can it get? Don't tell me the taxi driver do not know that the area around Lim Chu Kang is dark at night. This is well known among all guys who have undergone army training.

The only conclusion that I can make after reading this article is that the taxi driver is ripping off the two girls!

The girls paid for a service. The service is to bring them safely to Singapore Girl Guides Association Camp at Jalan Bahtera. If you are unable to provide this service, how could you still charge for it? If you do not know the location, then you should not provide the service.

Even if you're afraid of the dark, the decent thing that you should do is to let the girls alight at the main road, or ask them to call the teachers so that the teachers can guide them to the location. Was this done? The taxi driver still has the cheek to collect payment from them!

And to top it all off, Comfort only reprimanded the taxi driver with a final warning and demerit points!!! That's totally unacceptable. Why didn't Comfort investigate why the taxi driver think that the camp is located at the end of a dirt-track? Even army camps are not accessed through dirt tracks. To me, that's the number one reason why I think this is a total rip off!

The taxi driver should be identified and fined if a valid explanation is not given. We're talking about teenagers here, not adults. If there's no deterrence, how do you ensure other taxi drivers will not do the same?

Must it lead to a serious accident before something is done about it?

Archive Data in a cloud?

Just recently read an article where a company is providing the service of putting archived data in the cloud. However, I cannot think of the rationale behind this service.

Coming from the definition angle, I do not see the advantage of putting archives in the cloud. Information is processed data. Using the example of reports, reports consolidate data from single or multiple sources into a form where it's understandable by the user. Will the user understand data that consists of codes and text? BCNF data? Not likely...

The archived data will only be useful after the application processes it. Translated... The data should reside in the same place as where your application is hosted. Therefore, I do not understand the logic behind separating the archiving service, from your application hosting service.

When we talk about archiving, we need to also take into account how fast we can get the backup services online in the event of a system failure. By using an archiving service, you will have an additional external dependency while bringing your system back online. Personally based on experience, I have more trust in a tape or image backup, then using a service backup. Anything with a human factor complicates things.

I also couldn't imagine the load on the network to archive data into a cloud. And the security aspect? Just imagine your personal identity numbers being transmitted to a cloud for storage.

So what's the business rationale behind such a service? Further outsourcing of components within the cloud? Hmm...

P.S: On a side note, the Amazon Cloud was down recently after a lightning strike at one of their data centers.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Advance Due to Irrational Confidence

I quote from Joan L. Curcio:

Advances are made by those with at least a touch of irrational confidence in what they can do.

I believe this means that to advance in anything, you'll need to go out of your comfort zone. You'll need to be irrational enough to believe that something that few think is possible can be done, and go all out to achieve it. However, you may also "crash and burn" due to this irrational act.

Step back if you feel you're burning out... No use advancing if you cannot enjoy the process and the result.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Snow Leopard will only be available in September

Updated 10 Jun 2009: Snow Leopard only supports Intel Macs

Am I surprised that they delayed Snow Leopard till September? Actually not very. The reason is quite simple. Microsoft Windows 7 will be available in Oct 22. By releasing it just before Microsoft, Apple can add in new last minute features without fear of Microsoft copying it into Windows 7. I do believe that they did not reveal everything about Snow Leopard in WWDC.

Apple has also threw down the gauntlet by the pricing of Snow Leopard. USD29 for Leopard users! I've never seen an OS which is that cheap. By releasing it just before Windows 7, you can see that Apple is in it for the kill. For market share that is. I could never see Microsoft selling Windows 7 for USD29, looking at their past history. Anyone remember Windows 98SE and Windows ME?

For Snow Leopard, I was kinda hoping that they have in-built touch-screen functionality into the OS itself, preferably iPhone touch screen technology. If such technology is in-built into Snow Leopard, I will not be surprised if an Apple tablet suddenly make its appearance in September.

After all, Steve Jobs has not said his "One more thing".

Update 1: Just realised that Snow Leopard has one hidden feature. It only supports Intel Macs. Apple is finally saying goodbye to PowerPC. Hopefully applications can take advantage of their Grand Central Dispatch.

iPhone 3GS and iPhone 3.0

WWDC 2009 has just started and the hottest news is of course, the new iPhone 3GS. It will be available for USD199 (16GB) and USD299 (32GB). As I predicted in my previous post here, the low cost iPhone is the iPhone 3G 8GB (previous generation), that will be sold for USD99 (~ SGD 145).

The new iPhone 3GS promises the following:
  • Faster loading time for messaging apps, games, and attachments (up to 2x).
  • "Tap to Focus" feature which allows users to tap an item in a photo and it will focus immediately
  • 3-megapixel autofocus camera
  • Better light sensitivity, so indoor photos look better
  • Video capture
  • Auto macro focus, auto focus, auto white balance and auto exposure for both still and video
  • Voice control (hold down the Home button) E.g. You can ask your phone, "What song is playing?" and it will tell you
  • Digital compass app
  • Hardware encryption
  • Improved battery life. 9 hours on WiFi, 10 hours watching video, 30 hours audio, 12 hours 2G talk, 5 hours 3G talk (no change in 3G talktime)

The iPhone 3.0 software (finally cut, copy and paste functionality) which all iPhone users can upgrade to free of charge will be available on 17th June. You can refer to my post here on iPhone 3.0 features. The iPhone 3GS however will only come to Singapore somewhere in July, and not 19th June.

The good news is that it seems that tethering and MMS (iPhone 3.0 features) will be supported by Singtel. Tethering will be supported by both cable and bluetooth, and it does not require any software to be installed on your machine.

The bad news however is that it's true that Singtel still holds the monopoly for iPhone 3G and iPhone 3GS in Singapore. If you want an iPhone, you can only go to one telco for it.

I guess for Singapore, more news will be available in July.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

No-Fault Motor Insurance for Singapore?

Recently, there have been articles in the newspaper talking about no-fault motor insurance to reduce fraudulent claims. So what is no-fault motor insurance?

No-fault motor insurance in the context of automobile insurance laws in the United States, Canada, and Australia, is a type of insurance in which a policyholder (and his/her passengers) are not only reimbursed by the policyholder’s own insurance company without proof of fault, but also restricted in the right to seek recovery through the civil-justice system for losses caused by other parties. According to Wikipedia:

The victim's insurance company would only pay out the claim, while the driver-at-fault's insurance company would pay out a claim and charge that party a higher insurance premium as they are now higher risk. While this may disadvantage the victim's insurance company, as the at-fault driver's insurance company can recoup the claims quicker through raised premiums, accidents happen between drivers of both insurance companies with an equal chance of drivers from both sides being at fault, so this in theory should even out.

Would this system help in Singapore context? The main problem of the motor industry now is that you can have thousands of dollars of claims from a dented bumper and thousands of dollars of "whiplash" claims, and somehow this kind of claims gets approved quite easily. To me, it seems like the due diligence for checking through the claim process is not thorough enough. Changing to the no-fault motor insurance will not make a difference.

Instead of mandating another type of insurance in Singapore, I would think a better move would be to analyse the claim processes and work on how to improve on it further. For example, how will the insurance company verify that the dented bumper really costs $x, and how will they verify whiplash claims.

I think the Singapore government though can help in that. The government could pass a law where a false declaration of motor accidents will result in a penalty (with a cap), made payable to the insurance company. Repeated offenders may be jailed for example.

With the deterrence in place, drivers would think twice before submitting inflated claims to the insurance companies. Using the concept of Singapore's 2 Ks, this would work in lowering the claims.

I still can't believe that insurance companies will accept claims of whiplash when the car only maybe has a dent on its bumper. Weird claim process.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Confirm that low cost iPhone is in the works.

Seems like Apple has announced in the US market that it plans to introduce a low-cost version of its iPhone soon. On a separate note, it has also announced that Steve Jobs will be ready to return to the helm after his medical leave.

Looks like the rumours were true. A low cost iPhone is in the works. How would they structure it though will be a mystery. Will it be something like the iPod Shuffle? An iPhone with bare minimum functionality? I have 2 lines of thought for this low cost iPhone.

The first line of thought is pretty straightfoward. Strip out some functionalities of the iPhone and create a low-cost alternative. I can think of the following changes in a low cost iPhone:
  • No Wi-fi
  • No GPS (means no Google Maps App)
  • Less than 8GB of internal memory (maybe 4GB or lower)

I was thinking of adding reducing the size of the iPhone but it is not feasible due to the minimum size of the on-screen keyboard. I do not think Apple will want to introduce the stylus to the iPhone, and I do not think they will create a brand new Apple OS for a low cost iPhone. It won't make business sense.

I also have another line of thought for a low cost iPhone. The concept is actually quite simple. Use the previous generation iPhone as the low cost alternative. This would make business sense for Apple because:
  1. They can reduce their inventories of their previous generations of iPhones and help their partners clear stock.
  2. Tap the market where users get the previous generation phones due to the lower cost.
  3. Naturally create a limited supply of low-cost iPhones.

I guess we'll know next week. Looking at the Steve Jobs news, I will not be surprised if he makes an appearance in the WWDC 2009. He might not be presenting the keynote, but he might "show face".

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Disable .Net Framework Assistant Firefox Extension

I've just read an article talking about this Microsoft .Net Framework Assistant Firefox extension. Apparently, this extension is automatically installed to your Firefox if you've updated your Windows (Microsoft .Net Framework 3.5 SP1). And guess what? This extension is not even mentioned in the list of changes that this SP1 patch affects. Talk about stealth...

Why do you need to disable it? According to Annoyances.org post here:

This update adds to Firefox one of the most dangerous vulnerabilities present in all versions of Internet Explorer: the ability for websites to easily and quietly install software on your PC. Since this design flaw is one of the reasons you may've originally choosen to abandon IE in favor of a safer browser like Firefox, you may wish to remove this extension with all due haste.

It then teaches you how to uninstall it by accessing the registry. For me, I took the easier way out as I try not to touch the registry too often. I disabled the plugin. To disable the plugin, just do the following:
  1. Launch Firefox
  2. Goto Tools > Add-ons (menubar)
  3. Click on the section for Microsoft .NET Framework Assistant
  4. Click on Disable

It will prompt you to restart your Firefox. That's it.

I wonder what else Microsoft is updating without telling us.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Windows 7 available from Oct 22

As predicted in my previous post here, the official date for Windows 7 is Oct 22. According to Microsoft, there will be an upgrade option so that their partners can offer customers the ability to purchase a Windows Vista-based PC and install Windows 7 when it’s ready.

However, there's still no news of the Windows 7 pricing, and when the upgrade option is available. Read from the grapevine that more details will be out end June. Guess maybe they are waiting for the Apple WWDC to finish before they announce anything.

For me personally, I'll rather get a Windows 7 machine than an upgraded Windows Vista machine. Reason is very simple. An upgraded machine will not be as "clean" as a pure Windows 7 machine. I'm taking about the need for speed man. :) Not only that, based on my past experience with upgrading Windows OS, sometimes you'll get funny problems that will never occur if you cleanly install your OS.

Anyway like I remarked previously, if I will get another computer, it will most probably be a Mac. WWDC is next week. Translated... That means we'll know "what's cooking" by next Tue.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Difficult Life Experiences

I quote from Ayya Khema:

Eventually we will find (mostly in retrospect, of course) that we can be very grateful to those people who have made life most difficult for us.

Never thought of looking at it from this point of view. Usually for those who made life difficult for you, the experience will leave a very big impression on you and as a result, you'll remember the details of that situation.

However, it depends on how you view the experience. It's what you can take away from that experience that makes you stronger and better. It's usually quite hard though to maintain a rational mind when you're thrust into a difficult situation.

If life is too difficult, it can and will backfire.

Monday, June 1, 2009

CPF Changes from 1 July 2009

The following changes to the CPF will be effective from 1st July 2009:
  • CPF Minimum Sum for those aged 55 years will be raised from $106,000 to $117,000
  • Medisave Minimum Sum will be raised from $29,500 to $32,000
  • Medisave Contribution Ceiling will be raised from $34,500 to $37,000

    Any Medisave contribution in excess of the prevailing Medisave Contribution Ceiling will be transferred either to the member's Special Account if he is below the age of 55 years, or to his Retirement Account if he is above the age of 55 and has a shortfall in the Minimum Sum.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...