Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do not be fooled by the extension of ezlink replacement exercise

If you have not changed your ezlink by today, you better rush down and do it now. Although LTA has just announced that they have extended the free one-for-one free replacement exercise to October 7, buses / trains will only accept the new ezlink cards starting from tomorrow (1 October); the old ezlink cards cannot be used.

Translated. If you have not changed your ezlink card by today, you better prepare lots of coins (if taking bus) or prepare to buy one-way ezlink cards.

I'm not sure why LTA has chosen to announce this piece of news today as this may lead to confusion. Some people might think that the deadline has been extended even for using the ezlink which isn't the case. If this was announced tomorrow, then it will be much more appropriate.

I'm half certain that there will be confusion tomorrow due to this announcement.

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

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recreate the Show Desktop icon

I believe some of us have deleted icons by mistake. However, if you have deleted the Show Desktop icon, you will not be able to get it back easily. Luckily, Microsoft has actually provided instructions to re-create that icon.

To re-create the Show desktop icon, follow these steps:
  1. Goto Start > Run, type notepad in the Open box, and then click OK.
  2. Copy and paste the following text into the Notepad window:
  3. On the File menu, click Save As, and then save the file to your desktop as "Show desktop.scf". The Show desktop icon is created on your desktop.

That is it. You can drag this icon to where ever you want it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Good judgment and bad judgment

I quote from Barry Lepatner:

Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.

Many of us do not understand the irony. Very often we need to fail first before we can become successful. Even if we can absorb all the best practices being passed down, somehow the lessons will not sink in unless you've experienced it yourself.

Is that the irony of life?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sight Reading still sucks!

Yesterday's practice just highlights the fact that my sight reading skills have deproved dramatically, especially when it goes above 60 crotchet beats. Sadly, I'm not surprised by my "results" since I could only squeeze in about 1-2hours of personal practice time a week. Judging that I'm already averaging around 6 hours of sleep everyday including weekends, I still have no idea how to squeeze in more practice time to improve on my skills.

Just for fun, I've searched among my posts (that's one thing good about having an online blog) and realised I've written a post back in 1 Jan 2009 that highlights 2 points I wanted to concentrate on for this year:

(1) My house (as planned)
(2) My guitar (ummmmm)

I guess that my 命 is to work like a horse. Next month having performance at Esplanade again. Judging from the selection of pieces, I better find some time fast.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Why are Cloud Computing Vendors creating native smartphone apps

Just read an article just now that announced NetSuite has launched an iPhone App that talks to their cloud computing services. That's nothing new and should be expected due to the popularity of the phone. There was a comment there though that questions why cloud computing vendors go for native apps instead of mobile browser based apps.

Based on my experience with upper management, they like applications that look nice and at a glance gives all the information that they need. To do that consistently over all the mobile phones is extremely difficult due to the different screen sizes and browsers. Anyone who has coded multi-browsers applications before will know the real pain. Furthermore, this kind of app could break anytime and usually do not have much eye candy due to the multi-browser support.

Native apps allow more control over the UI (more user friendly) and more importantly, you could store images that are used frequently directly in the app, thereby increasing the speed and response of your app! That I feel is the main reason why cloud computing apps or any apps that provide a web-based mobile experience should go for native mobile apps.

Native apps can improve the usability and response of your application, if coded properly of course. Don't you think so?

Thursday, September 24, 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%
June: -0.5%
July: -0.5%
August: -0.3%

Health Care and Clothing and Footwear is once again leading the charge, rising by 2% and 1.7% respectively year on year. Housing costs decreased the most for the month of August (-1.6%). However, something of note is that transport and communication inflation has narrowed to -0.4%, an indication to me that the oil price is normalising.

No change to what I've highlighted in my previous post. This trend will continue on to end of the year.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Get an alert if you hit the CAPS lock

Have you ever hit the CAPS lock by mistake without realising and typed a whole paragraph in uppercase? Windows actually has a setting that will trigger a BEEP when the CAPS lock is hit. To do that, just do the following:
  1. Goto Start > Control Panel > Accessibility Options
  2. Under the section ToggleKeys, check the option Use ToggleKeys
  3. Click on OK

That's it. Now when you enable the CAPS lock, a high pitch beep will sound out. Hit the CAPS lock again and a low pitch beep will sound to signal that the CAPS lock is off.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Checkpoint Review 2009

It has been quite some time since I've switched to an area that is very different from what I've been doing since I started work. Did I regret making the switch? Not really. Various reasons why I've decided to move but one of it is the desire for knowledge. The desire to know what's happening on the other side. The desire to know why sometimes things are being done that makes no sense to me.

So did I learn anything? In a way, yes. I understand now the thought process that happens for every IT project from initiation to post-support. I understand why previously some customers behave the way they did when certain types of situations occur. Most importantly, I also understand that I would never gain this knowledge unless I've switched.

I know that it is not easy switching the way I did but I've under-estimated the amount of effort needed for the job switch. Every single day I'm learning something new and my brain is being taxed to the maximum. In fact, almost everyday I'm totally drained out from work and I would fall sleep the moment I touch the bed. Working almost 48hours a week doesn't help my eye bags.

Several times I thought of giving up but I guess I'm pretty stubborn. I would be transiting to another new project soon. Hopefully I will be able to adapt to it better than the previous project that I've been doing. In every job, good colleagues are the ones that keep you going.

Will do another checkpoint review next year. Hopefully I would have then successfully adapted to the new job scope.

Monday, September 21, 2009

0.5% ?? Put yourself in their shoes

First of all, I would like to state that I am not a property agent and that I am writing this because I find that it's a little unfair if I put myself in the agent's shoes. The subject in contention? Commission for property agents. Yes, now I think you understand why I declared first-hand that I am not a property agent.

Today I was reading the newspaper and someone mentioned that the person in question does not want to pay the agent 1% commission for the property transaction and instead, wishes to pay the agent only 0.5%. I do not know the whole history of the transaction but putting myself in the agent's shoes based on the information I read, I find a 0.5% commission laughable.

Seriously, if I was a property agent and someone offers me a 0.5% commission for doing a property transaction, I will ask that person to "fly kite". Why would a property agent run around and manage the whole transaction, including the necessary paper work and co-ordination for a measely 0.5% commission?? Let's take a simple 4-room HDB flat's value at $300,000. A 0.5% commission is only $1,500! Why would a property agent do so much work for a measely $1,500?

The problem with the market now is that no one is governing the property agents and this will inadvertently introduce rogue agents that will "spoil the market" so as to speak. In the end, both the consumers and agents will lose out because there is a lack of clarity on the rules. You have a association that gives out guidelines on governance. Come on... Unless its mandated my law, human nature will prevail. Or the Singapore nature will.

To resolve this once and for all, governance should be established for the property agents and clear rules communicated to both the agents and the consumers. I find it quite laughable that transactions worth at least 6 digits are not governed. This is taking the free market theory to the extreme.

With greater clarity to the rules, both sides will benefit. The agents will know their scope of work and exactly how much they are paid for the work done and consumers will know what they are paying for and could budget accordingly. Till now, I still have no idea on the "obscure" rules governing property transactions. I only know that the norm for commission is 1% - 2% and that you need to pay stamp duty.

That's clarity for you.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Attitude towards Life

I quote from Norman Vincent Peale:

Any fact facing us is not as important as our attitude toward it, for that determines our success or failure. The way you think about a fact may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. You are overcome by the fact because you think you are.

Recently I have been undergoing some major changes in my life and I find that attitude is a very important aspect in any success or failure. In whatever you attempt, always start off with the attitude that it can be done. It doesn't guarantee success, but it does help in keeping your focus on getting the job done.

But... That is assuming that it can be done in the first place. This works well with objectives that is not lofty in nature. Do not set yourself for failure by setting targets that you know is out of your reach.

One step at a time...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Microsoft feeling the heat from Apple

Microsoft is definitely feeling the heat from Apple. Nowadays, I've seen more and more people (at least in Singapore) using Macs. Microsoft might have realised that they cannot enjoy the same type of margins in yesteryears so they recently announced that UK students can enjoy a USD29.99 upgrade price for Windows 7. This would be followed by students from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Korea and Mexico. The offer is rumoured to end on Jan 3, 2010.

Will this help Microsoft? Personally I do not think students care much about whether it is Vista or Windows 7. To me, the marketing is all wrong. You do not tout a product name to the younger generation. Branding may work in the fashion industry but I do not think it's as effective in IT. Will people rush to buy a new HP laptop just because HP announced a new model? I don't think so. So why would people rush out to buy a new operating system, and risk losing your files, settings, etc ?

To top it all up, the "special offer" is not available to any countries in Asia! Yup. Singaporeans do not get this offer. Still do not understand why their pricing model is so complicated. Oh well...

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

Service is the Key for Cloud Computing

I have seen people writing about how cloud computing will benefit them and it came to me that different people see cloud computing differently. Recently, I've seen one article justifying cloud computing because tech professionals work on more than 1 machine in a typical week. To me, that's one of the weirdest reasoning I've seen for cloud computing.

To me, the concept of cloud computing has to been seen as a "solution package". The vision for cloud computing should be a one-stop shop for services that businesses need when they need it. Fees should be charged on-demand. Therefore, cloud computing will not serve the needs of every kind of business functions. It will most probably excel in areas where services are not needed for day-to-day operations, but required maybe once a month for example. The key word here is services. Not talking about the number of servers. Not talking about integration of software APIs. They keyword has and always been services.

Therefore, using the example from the first paragraph, that person does not need cloud computing. A high-powered workstation/laptop that runs multiple virtual machines could also easily resolve the problem.

Recently, the US government has started a cloud computing initiative and I felt that initiative is what cloud computing truly stands for. A one-stop shop for services. You can refer to their site here for more information.

All in all, cloud computing has been veering to the direction that I've been talking about all along. Private clouds. That is where the "game" will start, in my opinion of course.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Bandwidth costs affect cloud computing adoption?

Some time back, I read an article that says the bandwidth costs are limiting the cloud computing adoption for enterprise. I disagree with that line of thinking.

Reason is quite simple. If you have a killer app for cloud computing, no matter what you'll find a reason to justify the cost of moving to the cloud.

Drawing an analogy from the iPhone, do all of us normally have data plans? I don't think so. I've never even used MMS because I do not see the point in sending pictures over SMS. However, if you do an informal check with Singtel, I believe that their data plans take-up rate has soared. Why? Because the iPhone platform encourages the development of killer apps, and that in turn gives more consumers reasons to get the iPhone.

Currently, I have not seen that happening for cloud computing. I still think that cloud computing is a very interesting concept for on-premise deployment. For public clouds, I cannot really think of a killer app that would persuade a business to move their IT operations to the cloud.

Personally, I just think that it is too dangerous in terms of security and IP.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

802.11n Wi-Fi standard finally approved

The days of Draft-N is finally over. 7 years after the idea was conceived, the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard is finally approved. With speeds reaching over 300Mbps, it would be the first time in Singapore where the wireless router will be faster than the subscribed ISP speed. :)

According to the Wi-Fi Alliance, most, if not all, of the existing Draft-N routers can be upgraded to the final specification via a firmware update. So for all those existing owners, look out for the firmware update. For those who were waiting for the 802.11n standard, look out for the new routers based on this standard.

For me, I'm just wondering if the next iPhone will support the 802.11n Wi-Fi. Hmm...

Why the hoo ha over the removal of the IAS and IOL??

I don't understand why some people are making such a big fuss over the removal of the Interest Absorption Scheme (IAS) and Interest-Only housing Loans (IOL). In fact back in Jan, I've already written a post about IOL and how unfair it is to the debtor because you will be forever paying that same amount.

Both the IAS and IOL promotes speculation as it allows you to speculate beyond what you can afford, causing the housing prices to appreciate beyond the means of a typical Singaporean. If you look at the recent spike in property prices, you won't even know that you're in the midst of the worst recession since the great depression. Basis of the price hike? None of course. So what happens if the value of the property drops drastically? Who will suffer? No prizes for guessing who.

On a slightly different note, I also strongly believe that the authorities should not allow the cash over valuation (COV) amount to be loaned. Why? Same reason as above. It increases speculation, causing housing prices to appreciate beyond its true value. Using an analogy, why would you want to pay $3 for a can of Coca Cola when you can get it for $1.20 from a vending machine? In fact, why will you want to loan $1.80 to pay for the Coca Cola?

COV will most of the time revert back to its actual valuation because in the end, it's all about supply and demand. You cannot run away from that.

Monday, September 14, 2009

How to kill multiple processes using one command

Have you ever faced the problem where you want to kill multiple processes all at one shot due to some problem (i.e. iexplorer.exe )? Previously I thought the only way is to go to the task manager and kill the process one by one. Actually, you can kill all the processes using a command in the command prompt.

Identify the process first by typing tasklist in the command prompt to list all the Image Names.

To kill the process, just type taskkill /im |Image Name| /f /t in the command prompt (e.g. taskkill /im iexplorer.exe /f /t).

That's it... It will kill all the processes with that image name, and any child processes that were started by it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mastering Change

I quote from Brian Tracy:

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you.

Controlling your attitude and reaction to whatever that happens to you. I believe that's the key in controlling your reaction to anything that happens. However, that's easier said than done and I believe that it can only come with experience.

I guess what we can do is to always keep this thought in the back of our heads and try to apply it whenever we can.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Cloud is not synomous with the Web or Internet

I have read some time back that some people link the cloud with the web and internet. Reason given was that previously the cloud was used in network diagrams to indicate the Internet or Web. Therefore, cloud computing should be public.

Well first thing's first. Things are always changing, especially technology. Computers used to be as big as a flat, but now they can be as small as your hand phone. Likewise just because the cloud was used previously to indicate the Internet or Web, that doesn't mean that the definition of the "cloud" must always be that. Using the example of the carriage. Previously carriage mean horse carriage. Now, it can be train carriages, or rail car carriages. I think you get the drift.

Like it or not, cloud computing must cater for businesses that wish to have more security for their applications and data. Reason is quite simple. Increasingly, technology is used as a crucial differentiating factor in running businesses. Heard of Goldman Sach's powerful computers and software that are used to do flash trading? Do you think Goldman Sach will put this technology in a public cloud? No way.

Why are people so against private cloud? That's because I guess they think that there's no business opportunity in private cloud. What's stopping someone from buying a bunch of servers and virtualising it? Well, Cloud computing goes beyond virtualisation. Amazon has started the first step in recognising private cloud and providing services to cater for it. More will follow soon I hope.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

MAS first part response as a result of Lehman fiasco

Apparently, MAS has a 2 part response to the Lehman fiasco. MAS has just released the first part of the response to feedback on the proposals to:
  • promote more effective disclosure, including the introduction of a Product Highlights Sheet, new ongoing disclosure requirements, and restrictions on advertising and marketing materials;

  • strengthen fair dealing in the sale and advisory process, including enhanced requirements for the due diligence of new products and the advisory process, restrictions on sale without advice, and restrictions on bank teller activities;

  • introduce the concept of a complex investment product and enhanced competency requirements for representatives selling complex investment products; and

  • introduce a cooling off period of seven days for unlisted debentures.

The list of responses are quite long but the following are some key points which I felt was important in preventing the Lehman fiasco from happening again:
  • To impose ongoing disclosure obligations for unlisted investment products. Information that is likely to materially affect the price or value of an unlisted investment product would be considered “material changes”.

  • To impose requirements for semi-annual and annual reports on unlisted investment products with tenures of 12 months or longer. Guidance for the format will be issued for consultation in 1Q 2010.

  • To require issuers to make available, publicly and regularly, bid or redemption prices of unlisted investment products. Requirement to disclose bid or redemption prices does not constitute an obligation on issuers to provide an exit mechanism for investors.

  • Marketing and advertising materials would be considered “fair and balanced” if they are clear and easily understood by the audience being addressed; set out clearly both the potential upside and downside of the investment; highlight prominently the risks of the product; do not give the impression that an investor can profit without risk; do not present information in footnotes if such presentation would cause difficulty to an investor in understanding the product; and do not omit any material information if the omission would cause the marketing and advertising materials to be misleading.

  • Marketing and advertising materials should not suggest that the product is, or is comparable to, a bank deposit; or there is no or little risk of the investor losing his principal or not achieving the stated or targeted rate of returns. Footnotes must also be in a font size of at least 10-point Times New Roman.

  • To prohibit the use of the term “capital/principal protected” and any other derivative or form of this term in all disclosure documents, and marketing and advertising materials.

  • Allow for tellers to refer customers to representatives for the purchase of investment products only when the customer has approached the teller with an explicit request for information on investment products; To ban incentives for tellers’ referral activities.

  • Both new and existing representatives to be required to pass the new CMFAS module for complex investment products before they are allowed to sell complex investment products.

The second part of the response will come near end of the year. Well, at least MAS is doing something about it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Windows 7 may really provide better battery life

CNet Crave has recently reported that Boot Camp 3.0 (Snow Leopard) running Windows 7 can achieve the same battery life as Snow Leopard itself. This verifies the rumors that Windows 7 is better in power management, but requires the appropriate drivers.

The irony... Apple creating good device drivers such that Windows 7 can have a battery life that is as good as Snow Leopard. :)

No matter. The ultimate winner is still us, the consumers.

Side note. It seems now that you can read Mac OSX partition from the Windows partition in boot camp. Although it's read-only, it helps a lot in sharing files across different operating systems.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Discover yourself through Challenges

I quote from Bernice Johnson Reagon:

Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.

We're always constantly discovering things about ourselves that sometimes we do not even know exist. These discoveries may present certain challenges as it differs from the norm. Overcome it, and you'll find yourself looking at a new path that may enrich your life further.

Now, about those challenges I'm facing now. Charge!!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

SMRA 4% Rate Extended Till Dec 2010

Our Manpower minister has announced that the 4% floor rate for the Special, Medisave and Retirement Accounts (SMRA) will be extended till Dec 2010. Originally, it would have expired by the end of this year.

If not for the extension, based on the yields of 10-Year Singapore Government Securities, the SMRA interest rate will only average around 3.4% (including the extra 1%, excluding the extra 1% for the first $60k). In fact, the interest rates would have went down to 3% at around 1Q to 2Q 09.

By right I shouldn't be dissatisfied with this news. However, it seems that this "pegging rule" only goes to show that the SMRA interest rates will definitely go below the minimum 4% without the floor rate in effect.

Why do you want to introduce the pegging rule if you very well know that the citizens will definitely prefer a floor rate of 4%? I believe the reason for this pegging rule is to allow the rates to follow the market. However, it seems that whenever the rates go below 4%, Singapore / global economy is usually in some sort of trouble, and thus the government will most probably step in to keep the floor rate.

I do not believe that there would be a situation where interest rates go down and no country is in sort of trouble. Highly unlikely.
So why introduce the SMRA pegging? Why not abolish it and replace it back with the floor rate since most probably the government would maintain the floor rate when times are bad?

I guess only time would tell us the answer.

Shifted my Nuffnang Ads to the main blog page

I have shifted my Nuffnang Ads back to the main blog page to test out the response speed (previously it was quite slow). If anyone encounters any slowness when loading the blog, drop me a comment here and I will re-evaluate it again.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Exchange your EZLink card by 30 Sep 2009

How time flies and it is now September. One of the things to take note in the month of September is our EZLink cards. Why? That's because after September, the old ez-link cards cannot be used for travel on public transit.

So if you have not yet exchanged your EZLink card for the new one, do it now! Do not wait until the last minute. However, card holders may still get a refund on any remaining value in their old cards up to 12 years from the date the card is first encoded for use. But still... That shouldn't be the reason for the delay.

The following are some information which I think people might find useful about the EZLink card:
  • The old EZLink cards have a $3 travel deposit "hidden" within the card. The new EZLink cards will no longer have a travel deposit, so you will be able to see the $3 reflected in the card value.

  • For travels on MRT trains, you will need a minimum of $3 in your new EZLink card.

  • For travels on buses, you will need to have in your EZLink card the minimum fare to travel from the point you have boarded to the last stop. The maximum EZLink fare for normal bus rides (excluding the special buses like express, premium, night owls, etc) is $1.65 as of now. You can refer to the respective buses website to find out information on the maximum fares.

  • When you tap your EZLink card onto the reader and the green and amber lights flashes (normally only the green light will light up), that means you have less than $5 in your EZLink card.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Virtual Private Cloud

Looks like Amazon may have an answer to the biggest problem I see in cloud computing. The issue of security. Amazon is trying out something new called the Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) that in summary allows the Amazon Web Service to have a secure VPN bridge to the customer's enterprise architecture.

In short, that means the core enterprise data can still reside with the customer, but the application and presentation layers will be handled by the cloud. This makes sense to me because very often, it's the application and presentation layer that handles much of the load. The cloud will enable the customer to use the cloud and yet keep the core data under their control.

However, this may bring about a problem for the cloud computing vendors. How do you ensure you meet the performance KPI if you have a portion of the architecture that is not under your control? If there is a performance degrade, how would the vendor know if its a problem with the capacity of the cloud, or the customer's own data center that the cloud application is extracting information from?

A simple solution to this problem will be that there's no such performance KPI for this particular setup. But still... This Amazon service is currently a limited beta. Who knows. They might think of a way to measure such a KPI.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Using RFID to measure service level

Seems like recently RFID has found another application use. Service level KPI. Apparently, the postal agencies will be using RFID tags (most probably passive tags) to track the service level of the mail delivery. Each RFID tag will cost about USD0.30, and will be used to track the target for delivering upon the publicized domestic mail standards.

The business process should also be quite simple. Just stick the RFID tag to the mail, tag the RFID unique identifier (uid) with the mail, and you're set to go. The central system will store all the tracking information so that reports can be churned out for the management. The postal agencies will most probably be storing all the mail processing dates to identify the areas for improvement.

Previously when I was in touch with what's happening in the RFID area, I know that there are certain types of passive RFID tags that do not store any information. All it does is to "broadcast" the RFID uid. I'm not sure if they are using this technology, but this type of tag would be quite useful in tracking service level, and I believe it should be cheaper too.

Till now, I'm still think that RFID should only be used in the logistics and supply chain business areas. That's where storing information in the RFID tags make sense. Otherwise, I do not see the point of putting so much information in the RFID tag when all I need is a uid.
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