Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What's wrong with retirement?

I don't quite understand why some people think that retirement will lead to a person's body to shutdown. As a result, they think that one should continue working and not have the word retirement in the dictionary.

Personally, I think that people who thinks this way do not really have much of a life outside work. In short, workaholics.

From my experience, I even have problems finding time to do what I'm interested in when I do not even have kids. Meeting up with friends for talk and games, playing my guitar and practicing different music genres, even playing computer games which I've stopped since I got married. These "sidelines" that I have also excite your brain cells and ensure that your brains are being used actively.

Seriously, I believe a person's body will only shutdown after retirement when you do absolutely nothing but eat and sleep. In fact, you do not even need to retire. You just need to do absolutely nothing but sustenance for a long period of time.

If this is really what most Singaporeans think of retirement, we have to seriously look at the life of a Singaporean. You mean work really takes up so much of their time that they have no life outside work, and when they retire, they are lost at what to do? Is that kind of life healthy?

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Beauty in Simplicity

I quote from Albert Einstein:

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex... It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Force Shutdown, the software style

I believe all of us know how to force shutdown a laptop/desktop when the application causes the whole system to hang. Press on the power button and hold it there until it powers down. However, I heard that there is another secret to force shutting it down, using Windows. Just do the following:
  1. Launch Task Manager by pressing Ctrl, Shift and Esc.
  2. Click on the Shutdown menu on top
  3. Hold down your Ctrl key and click on Turn Off.

Apparently, this will cause all the applications to shut down without saving. Not sure how true it is. I haven't got a chance to try it yet (*touch wood*).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Singapore has the 10th highest cost of living, but ...

Based on 2009 UBS Cost of Living Survey, Singapore has the 10th highest cost of living in the world (translated: one of the most expensive city in the world). Below shows the top 10 results from that 2009 survey:

5Hong KongHong Kong
8New York CityUnited States of America

However, look at this 2009 richest city by purchasing power by UBS:

6Los Angeles
8New York
34Tel Avi
41Hong Kong
45São Paulo
48Rio de Janeiro
49Kuala Lumpur

And this 2009 richest city by personal earnings by UBS:

4New York
6Los Angeles
35Tel Avi
37Hong Kong

If you look at the UBS personal earnings and purchasing power surveys for 2008, you will find that Singapore's ranking in those areas were higher in 2008 compared to 2009. It's also quite interesting that in the newest iPod survey, Singaporeans need to work 27.5 hours to buy an iPod Nano, ranked 40th in the list. First in the list by the way, only requires 9 hours of work.

So what does this signify? I believe the tables above are clear enough. We are increasingly being priced out of our own country. We're too productive?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Xserve Discontinued!

I think recently you must have heard that Apple is discontinuing the XServe. That would mean the end of rack mountable servers for Apple. Instead, people will be able to purchase Mac OS Server on the Mac Pro machines or Mac Mini.

I guess this means that Apple has finally decided to leave the corporate world. Although it is still possible that certain organisations will deploy Mac Pro workstations running Mac OS Server, it's not the norm among big enterprises. Apple may be of course making a statement that Mac OS Server does not require expensive servers in order to run, but the fact is that rack-mountable servers for some organisations is a requirement. It is however possible to put the Mac mini on a shelf in the rack but we all know how powerful a mac mini is.

The location of the servers are also important. In an enterprise context, servers are usually not easily accessible by users and most of the time, they are at most only accessed remotely. Putting the Mac Pro workstation in the data centre will only waste valuable rack space, which may increase the data centre power usage. Servers are also usually put on a different network and some are not directly accessible by users. Putting the server outside of a data centre will defeat that purpose since the server can always be accessed physically by anyone.

Therefore, the only use of Mac OS Server will be for small enterprises that do not have a "data centre" so as to speak. However, the problem I always find with Macs is the patch management. I always do not understand why each patch that is released by Apple is in 100s of MBs. Just imagine 10 users downloading the patch at the same time. Your network will be a gonner. I believe though that you can do some limited form of patch management for the iOS since it's controlled by iTunes (e.g. Multiple devices using a same machine for syncing and patching).

Anyway, my conclusion is that the Mac is built for consumers and consumers only. Pity.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Inflation is up 3.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2010:
January: 0.2%
February: 1.0%
March: 1.6%
April: 3.2%
May: 3.2%
June: 2.7%
July: 3.1% 
August: 3.3%
September: 3.7%
October: 3.5% 

Transport and Education and Stationery are leading the pack, rising by 9.5% and 3.6% respectively year on year. Other than Communication costs, all other items' inflation is once again in the positive zone and it is quite similar to September. Housing inflation seems to have reduced slightly compared to last year. Clothing and Footwear has increased the most compared to September. May be due to the Great Singapore Sale effect wearing off.

Inflation should hit around 4% for the rest of the year, a year of high inflation.

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Art of Speaking

I quote from Benjamin Franklin:

Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.

What is important to me at that point in time may not be as important in that situation. That is how I try to remind myself everyday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Finally a definition of stress@work?

Recently I have chanced across an article talking about stress at work. Apparently, the scientists defined stressful positions as those with demanding tasks and little authority or creativity. Those jobs were also tied to a 40 percent greater chance of getting any kind of cardiovascular disease.

Looking strictly at definition, do most jobs fall into the category of stressful positions?

Demanding tasks are quite common in Singapore. How often were we given impossible deadlines because the upper management does not realize that a piece of work is not as simple as that short paragraph that describes it?

Most of us are also not given much authority and creativity in our line of work. Reason being that most businesses still work on the centralized model when decision making is done at the top, and the others just execute those decisions.

Creativity is also not often found in most job scopes. If you are looking in terms of risk management, creativity is also quite often not encouraged as it may involve treading on new ground and there is no past experience to rely on. Do we have companies that create products like the iPhone that sell millions? You get the point.

Therefore, my conclusion is that we have a high chance of getting high blood pressure and heart attacks because most jobs here fit the definition of stressful positions. Don't you agree?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adora Green @ Yishun

Updated 30 Jan 2011: Some configuration details
Updated 23 Feb 2011:  Price, Unit configuration and floor plan location

More than a year after the launch of the Parc Lumiere @ Simei, there is finally news of another DBSS site, Adora Green @ Yishun. Once again, the floor plans are not available even though the online application for this DBSS will be ready first quarter next year and the ground breaking ceremony has happened. Seems like developers nowadays have a habit of delaying the availability of floor plans. It happened for Parc Lumiere.

Now that HDB has upped the household income cap to $10,000 / month, using this amount with a 35% limit on the repayment amount based on the gross salary, you can now loan up to a maximum of $771,000+ for 90% loan over a period of 25 years with a 2.6% interest rate (CPF Housing Loan), according to the CPF website calculator. Looks like Adora Green has done its sums well as it seemed to have taken into account that most people may not be able to take a loan for 25 years since the average age of marriage has been increasing steadily (You should pay finish your mortgage by the age of 62).

Anyway, DBSS @ Yishun has been named Adora Green, and is located at the junction of Yishun Central and Yishun Avenue 11, opposite the Yishun Pond and Yishun Park. Northpoint and Yishun MRT is about 700 - 800m away, and there are a number of primary and secondary schools within the 1km  vicinity. The pricing of the units are estimated to start from $450 to $500psf, higher than Parc Lumiere. Majority will be 4-room flats. The pricing and configuration are as follows (as of the information that is publicly available now):

3 room~67 sqm
(168 units)
from $310,000
Internal Floor Area: 57 sqm
Balcony & Aircon Ledge: 10 sqm
4 room~92 sqm
(510 units)
from $420,000
Internal Floor Area: 80 sqm
Balcony & Aircon Ledge: 12 sqm
5 room~112 sqm
(128 units)
from $520,000
Internal Floor Area: 96 sqm
Balcony & Aircon Ledge: 16 sqm
3 Bedrooms, 1 Master Bedroom

Configuration 1: Individual Balconies for Living room & Master Bedroom

Configuration 2: One Balcony shared by Living room, Bedroom 3(smaller) & Master Bedroom

The unit configuration is not available as of now but the five-room flats seem to come with four bedrooms instead of the standard three. The pricing has increased about $20,000 to $50,000 for the four room and five room flats. All the rooms are extremely small. Once again, I'm not sure of the current trend of having balconies. For the four room flat, the internal floor area is only 80 sqm, with large part of the space taken up by the balcony and out of all things, the air-con ledge. The air-con ledge really looks quite big to me from the floor plan.

The five room flat is split into 2 configurations, one of which has a smaller bedroom nearer to the living room that is suitable for use as a study. I like the idea of a shared balcony with the smaller bedroom, the master bedroom and the living room though. The other configuration has a smaller bedroom nearer to the master bedroom and suitable for use as a nursery or walk-in wardrobe. Another thing unique about the five room flats is that the master bedroom toilet is not next to the door.

However, the internal area of the five room flat is only slightly bigger than the current HDB 4 room flat. That means each room is super small, in my opinion. I'm unable to find details on the furnishings that come with the flat though as the information is not publicly available.

You can find more information on Adora Green, including the floor plan, from their website here.

Personally, I think flats are getting too small for anyone's liking, and I do not understand the trend of having such big balconies and air-con ledges. Looking just from the location perspective, it's a tad too far from Yishun MRT and Northpoint for my liking. I like it that it's near Yishun Park and Yishun Pond though. If you calculate the psf using the internal area, it's not quite worth it.

I will keep a lookout for more information and will update when I chance across it. The DBSS is estimated to be ready in 4Q 2013.

Update 1: (not from the official website) It seems like all units come with balconies and come ready with wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, air-conditioning and doors. Buyers are also given a choice of color scheme and most units have a north-south orientation. It seems that there are also childcare centres, eating house, shops and mini-mart right at the doorstep.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Look at things from a different perspective

I quote from Albert Einstein:

Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

If you distill the three rules of work, the common denominator is that things are never what they seems.  Look at things using a different perspective and you may find something interesting, and this need not be only applied to work.

Monday, November 15, 2010

What students are being churned out by our education system?

I find it very interesting to read this quote from a person in NTU:

When I interact with Swedish companies here, they tell me they employ Singaporeans at a more basic level because they are good at carrying out what they are instructed to do. But for higher-level positions, they hire people from Scandinavia because they are more trained to run projects.

Is this true? I recall hearing certain "complaints". The gist is as follows:
  1. The PSLE question is not fair. It is not being taught.
  2. Why do we need tuition in order for our students to score?
  3. What did the lecturer say? Is that English?

Looking at what I've heard, and what this person has said in NTU, it seems like what he said may be true. Ranking of schools is one thing, but how students turn out should depend largely on the teacher, and not how many 10 year series the student has done or which tuition centre that the person has attended.

If this is the case, why should we go to schools? We might as well just go to tuition centres and take our exams as private students.

Furthermore, I always think that exams are a waste of time. People say that exams are a way of testing if the student understood the concepts of what was being taught. So will the students know the correct answers to those exam questions? Will someone explain why those answers were chosen? Or in the end do we just get a grade point average or a grade?

Back to the point in contention. Are we only good at carrying out what we are instructed to do? There are people with good grades that are able to think out of the box but you may also want to look for people beyond the grades that you see on that piece of paper. You may be surprised.

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hong Kong has set a minimum wage. So when is it Singapore's turn?

Hong Kong has finally set a minimum wage at 28 HKD an hour. Although it is lesser than the 33 HKD an hour asked by the unions, this wage is suppose to boost their pay by 16.9% on average. It seems that Hong Kong understands that employees are the most valuable asset to enterprises, and they are trying to address the growing income gap.

Many countries already have minimum wage legislation in place, with hourly rates in New York and London set between 7.25 and 8.80 US dollars. According to Wikipedia, the following countries already have a minimum wage legislation:
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • People's Republic of China
  • European Union
  • France
  • Hong Kong (just added)
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Pakistan
  • Romania
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
  • United States

So when is it Singapore's turn??

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010

    Why so many Android App Stores?

    I don't understand why there is a need for so many Android App Stores. According to what I read, Amazon is going to set up their own Android App Store, and many will soon follow suit. The funny thing is developers welcome it.

    Looking at it from a customer perspective, I will only want to go to one place to get all my apps. Will I want to go to different AppStores to just look for a certain app? It's true that customers don't care where the app comes from, but it's also true that they will not want to go to multiple app stores to look for a single app. In fact, I think the only time where someone will make such an effort to find an app is when the app is free.

    Anyway, the fragmentation of Android is getting worst by the month. Not only you have Android handsets that cannot be updated immediately when a security vulnerability is detected, you may even be downloading apps from rouge AppStores that may have malware embedded within it.

    The funny part is, why developers think that this is a good thing?

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Why Flash and Java are no longer installed by default on Mac OS

    Apple has announced that they are no longer installing Flash and Java by default on Mac OS. Many said that Apple is trying to restrict the options presented to developers. I disagree.

    It may be one of the reasons but in my opinion, it's not the main reason. I feel that there are 2 main reasons why they are no longer pre-installed:
    1. Flash and Java do not run optimally on Mac OS
    2. Number of Flash and Java security vulnerability reports have been increasing

    Anyone who uses the Mac knows that Flash for some reason runs quite slowly on the Mac, and it uses quite a bit of resources. I have no idea why but this has been the case for some time. For Java, I do not really think it's significantly slower though. However, we all know that Steve Jobs focuses a lot on user experience and given his track record, it's not surprising that he's making some noise over it.

    The main reason I feel though is the number of security vulnerability reports for Flash and Java. Everyone knows that Microsoft and Apple are playing a number game now. Apple has always claimed that they are more secured than Microsoft. By not installing Flash and Java by default on Macs, they will indirectly reduce the number of security vulnerability reports for Mac devices on the whole, thereby making them more secured. That's also the reason they stopped doing a Mac version of Java. They do not want to waste resources fixing a product that is not theirs, and they do not want to keep patching the Mac OS over problems unrelated to their product. Mac OS patches are quite big by the way.

    I do not think that they will restrict Flash and Java from the Mac OS itself, with the exception of iOS. Flash can always be downloaded and installed and in the case of Java, if it is truly open source, someone will be able to make a version that runs on the Mac. After all, Mac is Unix based and Java can be installed even on a Linux machine. I don't see why it cannot be installed on a Mac.

    We'll wait and see.

    Monday, November 8, 2010


    I quote from Mohandas Gandhi:

    Man falls from the pursuit of the ideal of plan living and high thinking the moment he wants to multiply his daily wants. Man's happiness really lies in contentment.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Quantitative Easing is about Payback!

    When I heard the news that the Feds are again flooding the economy with USD600 billion, my first thought was that the Feds are doing it for the sake of proving to people that they are trying to do something, even though it will do nothing to help in the US unemployment rate.

    However after reading some of the comments on this Quantitative Easing (QE2), it hits me that the reason for this round of easing has nothing to do with the unemployment rate or the economy. Personally, I think it's all about payback time to the economies that control their currencies.

    What does QE2 guarantees? USD currency depreciation. Any difference between USD currency depreciating and other currencies appreciating? None that I can see.

    My belief is that the Feds are going to continue doing QE2 as long as
    1. inflation is below average
    2. economy growth is below average
    3. other countries' currencies are strictly controlled by the respective governments from following the market

    I believe the last point may be the deciding factor for the Feds. Therefore, the more you see some countries refusing to let the market decide the currency rates, well the more the Feds will continue their QE2. What can the other countries do about it? I guess none. Who wants to be the reserve currency of the world? I don't think anyone does.

    It's payback time, at least from the US perspective.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    Students think that attitude does not count in job hunting??

    I find it quite disappointing that students nowadays think that grades are everything. It seemed that based on the recent Singapore Kindness Youth Forum, they have the impression that grades take higher priority than all else, especially in finding jobs. I'm not sure who gave them this impression but this is not exactly true. Let me explain.

    I do agree that grades do take a part in the screening of the job interviewees, but attitude also plays a big part in the hiring process. In the final round of interview, it's always the way you present yourself and your attitude, that determines the result. For all those working adults, it's well known that grades may only help you in your first job. After that, your grades don't matter that much.

    I find it quite disappointing that student nowadays think that grades supersedes everything. Are our schools teaching this kind of values to the students? Are students now dragged into the rat race so early?

    That portion on compulsory community work is another area which I cannot phantom. Kindness comes from the heart. If you do not have the heart, does it matter if you're forced to do it? Isn't it better to have it as a CCA? I believe it will be more meaningful for everyone if one volunteers to do community work instead of being forced to.

    Is that how Singapore will evolve? Everything is all about grades?

    Tuesday, November 2, 2010

    What does the loss of the Chief Software Architect signify?

    This news is pretty old but most will know that Ray Ozzie from Microsoft is stepping down as Chief Software Architect. Personally though, I think this does not bode well for Microsoft.

    I would think for a company to survive, there should be someone at the helm heading the direction that the company should go towards to. In a software company, the direction is implicitly given by the Chief Software Architect through the foundation of all the products created by the company.

    With the removal of this position, I feel that Microsoft has lost their direction. That would mean that they will go any direction that the new trend will bring them. The Chief Software Architect is suppose to unite the architecture and framework so that all products will be "grown" through the base architecture.

    Personally, I think that if the product cannot be created from the base fundamental architecture, that would mean that it should be best handled separately by another company. However, this doesn't seem the direction that Microsoft is taking.

    Looking forward, it seems that Microsoft will form different divisions for the different products within the company. It may start acting as if it is a conglomerate, and no longer as a single company. Not a good direction in my opinion because lessons learned from one product cannot be applied to others due to the different architectures.

    My thoughts of course.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Effective Communication

    I quote from Jim Rohn:

    Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.

    Simply said, it doesn't matter what you know but what you do with that knowledge.
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