Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Does the people in Congress know the trouble they are in?

Seriously, when I see people make comments like this, it makes me wonder if they understood the gravity of the situation facing the US now. I quote from Bachmann:
It isn't true that the government would default on its debt. The treasury secretary can pay the interest on the debt first and from there we just need to prioritize our spending

This is seriously a very simplistic way of looking at the problem. For anyone who has did contract management of a certain amount, you will know that payment is usually based on certain milestones, and it may cross one or more years. The figures may change depending on the type of milestone payment and your cash flow will differ from year to year. For example, a $2 million contract may result in someone paying $0.5 million for the first year, and $1.5million the next. A typical contract usually only pays upon completion of service.

Using the above example, if the US government paid $0.5 million last year for this contract, they are obligated to pay $1.5 million this year. Using Bachmann's example, that would mean the US government could only afford to pay $0.5 million this year, which means that the US government would have defaulted on its obligations. Default on its obligations may involve damages depending on how the contract is worded.

The ratings agency should downgrade the US government's credit ratings right now to force them to act.

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Enable IPV6 for WinXP

We have ran out of IPV4 IP addresses and it should not be news to you that we should get ready for IPV6. Surprisingly, Windows XP does support IPV6. The only catch is that it does not come in pre-installed.

To enable IPV6 on Windows XP, just do the following:
  1. Login to windows as Administrator
  2. Goto command prompt by going to Start > Run and type cmd
  3. Type netsh interface ipv6 install

That's it... Your Windows XP will be IPV6 after typing this command.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Focus on your goal and your direction will be clear

I quote from Anthony Robbins:
Goals are a means to an end, not the ultimate purpose of our lives. They are simply a tool to concentrate our focus and move us in a direction. The only reason we really pursue goals is to cause ourselves to expand and grow. Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it's who you become, as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals, that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment. 

Focus your energies towards your goal and your direction will be clear. You'll never reach your goal if you lack focus.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tech Bubble coming again?

Linkedin and Pandora have recently been listed in the US and I would have thought that the lessons of the dot com bubble would have been learned and remembered. Instead, the IPOs for these 2 companies went through the roof.

At one point, the PE ration of Linkedin was in 4 digits. Pandora has never made a profit all these years and yet the IPO could be priced beyond it's initial price. Have people forgotten the fundamentals of a business?

A bubble? Looks like it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Inflation is up 4.5%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2011:
January: 5.5%
February: 5.0%
March: 5.0%
April: 4.5%
May: 4.5%

Housing and Transport are once again leading the pack, rising by 8.1% and 7.5% respectively year on year. As indicated in my previous post, the inflation was similar to last month. The only major difference to last month's inflation is that the Housing and Transport inflation has switched. The housing inflation for May implies that April's housing inflation was brought down mainly by the rebates given from the budget.

This month's inflation may reach closer to 5% as the high price of commodities will spike up the inflation.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

To succeed. try harder than anyone else

I quote from Dean Karnazes:
I wasn't born with any innate talent. I've never been naturally gifted at anything. I always had to work at it. The only way I knew how to succeed was to try harder than anyone else. Dogged persistence is what got me through life. But here was something I was half-decent at. Being able to run great distances was the one thing I could offer the world. Others might be faster, but I could go longer. My strongest quality is that I never give up.

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Concentrate on the households earning between 8,000 to 12,000

I hope that the Minister of National Development is not serious in increasing the $8,000 household income limit for HDB flats. The reason is very simple. Now the demand is already far higher than the supply of HDB flats. Imagine what will happen if you increase the household limit now. The demand will increase exponentially.

Based on the statistics that he highlighted, more than half of the first-timers applying under the Fiance-Fiancee Scheme have a median age of 27, while the other married first-timers have a median age of 34. Based on the first-timers median age of 27, you can also see that there may be quite a few couples that could only afford a HDB flat when they are around 27 years old. A BTO flat usually takes about 3-4 years before it is built, which will result in a median marrying age of 30-31 years old.

If the objective of the government is for couples to marry younger, then the household income ceiling should still remain at $8,000. Instead, the supply of the HDB flats should be ramped up until the first-timers median age drop below 27 years old. I feel that the median age of first timers is a good indicator of affordability for the general population.

To address the other market group being priced out due to the amount of COV required, I would suggest that the government ramp up other types of flats to tame the market prices. I suggest the following:
  1. Start building executive flats again and increase the household income ceiling for these flats to $10,000. This will in a way help tame the prices of DBSS.
  2. Increase the number of DBSS flats.
  3. Increase the household income ceiling for EC flats to $12,000 and increase the number of such flats.

The above will help address the other market group who is more affluent and able to afford more than the typical Singaporeans. Policies can also be created in other areas to tame the demand of HDB flats, which I have written in a post here.

The key is to isolate and address the concerns of that particular group, and not rock the other groups in the process. I personally believe the median age of the unmarried first-timers is a good gauge of how affordable HDB flats are. I feel that increasing the household income ceiling will only worsen the problem.

I hope they can look more deeply into this problem.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Centrale8 @ Tampines

Updated 21 Jun 2011: Added confirmed pricing

After almost a 2 years break, a new DBSS site is finally launched at Tampines Central no less. I will not repeat what I have written in my other posts on DBSS. You can refer to my Parc Lumiere post here, The Peak post here, my Natura Loft post here, my Park Central post here, and my CityView post here.

DBSS @ Tampines Central has been named Cantrale8, and is located at the junction of Tampines Ave 5 and Tampines Central 8. It's next to The Premiere@Tampines. The confirmed pricing and configuration are as follows:

3 room61-62 sqm
(182 units)
from $397,000 $389,000
$510,000 $445,000

61 sq m: A/c Ledge (1 sq m);
Living Room w/ Balcony (7 sq m)

62 sq m: A/c Ledge (1-2 sq m);
Living Room w/ Balcony (5-6 sq m)
4 room83-84 sqm
(348 units)
from $531,000 $511,000
$683,000 $592,000
83 sq m: A/c Ledge (2-4 sq m);
Living Room / Master Bedroom w/ Balcony (8 sq m)

84 sq m: A/c Ledge (4 sq m);
Living Room / Master Bedroom w/ Balcony (10 sq m)
5 room108-109 sqm
(178 units)
from $685,000
$888,000 $778,000
108 sq m: A/c Ledge (4 sq m); Small Dining section;
Living Room / Master Bedroom w/ Balcony (12 sq m)

109 sq m: A/c Ledge (4 sq m); Small Dining section;
Living Room / Master Bedroom w/ Balcony (12 sq m);

You can take a look at the floor plans here. The unit comes with kitchen cabinets with solid surface counter top, kitchen sink, cooker hood and hob, built-in wardrobes and air-conditioning to all Bedrooms only, built-in toilet vanity cabinet to master bathroom and common bathroom, and clothes drying rack. The flat is very small compared to the normal HDB especially the kitchen from the floor map as about 8 sq m to 16 sq m are used by the a/c ledge and balcony, depending on the type of room chosen. I've also checked the map and it's about 700m from Tampines MRT. The downtown line is still non-existent. The closest shopping centre I can see is at Tampines Central which is about 500m away.

You can find more information of what you need to know at the following that is linked from Sim Lian:
  • Documents required here.
  • Application procedures here.
  • Terms and conditions here.
  • FAQ here.

The CityView post includes some of the calculations I did to see if it fits into my affordability matrix. After revising the amount based on the new $10,000 ceiling 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. That's what I term as the safety limit.

Regardless of the amount that you can loan up to, paying $765 $667 psf for a 3 room HDB DBSS flat is out of this world. Furthermore, I've not even excluded the obscene amount of space used by the aircon ledge and balcony.

One word. Avoid.

Update 1: The confirmed pricing does not make this any better. They have revised the top price closer to my safety limit but if you look at the pricing of The Peak @ Toa Payoh, you can see that it doesn't justify such a premium. The Peak has a bigger apartment, cheaper, and is in a better location. I will still avoid.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Implementers of NFC mobile payment seem to have forgotten about usability

Every now and then, I will hear people talking about the next big thing, Near Field Communications, otherwise known as NFC. In summary, it's a technology for wireless payment, and it seems to be specifically targeted for the mobile phones. The current implementation that I heard requires you to use a specific app in the phone that will authenticate the payee.

People assumes that since I'm in the technology line I will be quite interested in it. On the contrary, I think that NFC technology may not take off because of the usability issue. I can think of 3 big reasons why this is so:
  1. What happens if your mobile phone runs out of battery when you wish to make your payment? The app will not be able to run and you will not be able to authenticate yourself
  2. What happens if you have no data signal at the payment location? It's quite common that there are blackspots in certain areas of the country where you cannot even get 2.5G data signal. My guess is that the NFC authentication app will not be able to function without a data connection.
  3. Do you know that people lose their mobile phones more often that the credit card?

However, I am able to think of one area where NFC will take off. Loyalty cards to get discounts! :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Project Managers are more effective if they have the background

Many project manager related courses talk about why it is not a pre-requisite for project managers to be trained in what the project is about but I respectfully disagree with it. Reason is quite simple. A project manager that is trained in the work that is going to be done is far more effective than one that is not.

Having managed projects that require interaction with a number of parties, it's quite common to see cases where the parties' own interest will be put above the project's interest. Therein lies the advantage of having a project manager that is trained in the project work. They are able to spot these discrepancies and remind the project team on the purpose of the project, and bring them back in line.

Imagine one who is not trained in the type of project work being done. It's quite likely that the project manager will rely on other parties to feedback on the project specific risks and I'm not sure how the project manager can also feedback on the reasonableness of the schedule.

However now with all the trend of being "productive", I hope that this point is not lost on the employers.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Priority Pass? Looks more like Quality of Service.

Singtel has just launched a new "Priority Pass" at no additional charge for SingTel’s 7.2Mbps and 21Mbps mobile broadband plans. Those under this pass will allow priority for their data traffic when the network is heavily loaded, thus ensuring smoother streaming and downloads.

However, SingTel claimed that as it has continuously invested in its network to provide more capacity, the introduction of Priority Plus does not affect the broadband experience of users of other plans.

I find the above paragraph a little weird because based on logic, if you put some customers on higher priority, the others will be on lower priority and thus the broadband experience will be affected for better or for worse.

Let's say if you're continuously investing in the network, then there is no need for this Priority Pass because your network should catch up with the broadband experience of the plans that are being offered.

Weird logic. I believe it's more likely that they practice prioritisation of traffic based on the price that you pay for the plans. The higher the price that you pay, the higher the priority. Oh well...

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

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't say it if you're not willing to be responsible for it

I quote from Earl Wilson:
If you wouldn't write it and sign it, don't say it. 

Now in this Internet and social media era, people have to take note that you have to be responsible to whatever you've written or said. This fundamental rule seems to have been forgotten, or people are ignorant that the Internet is never anonymous.

Be responsible, and you'll be respected.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Redefine yourself to move forward

I quote from Patrick Warburton:

I do believe that we have the opportunity to continue - I repeat myself over and over again with this - to redefine and reinvent ourselves and as long as we do that, then I think we've got some pretty good odds in our favor, because we're not always presenting the same thing. 

Redefining yourself will help you in moving forward when you feel stuck in your current situation. Problems may result due to you representing yourself in a certain way. Redefine yourself and the problem may disappear. However, don't redefine yourself too many times. You'll have an identity crisis. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Windows 8 Demo

Windows 8 looks like what HTC did to Android. To me, it seems to look similar to HTC Sense UI, where they put an interface on top of Windows 7. The funny thing is if you try to use Office, you'll get back the familiar Windows 7 interface.

I think that an interface designed for the keyboard and an interface designed for a touch-screen tablet will be different because they are both designed for different inputs. The interface that uses the keyboard and mouse for the primary means of input will be designed quite differently from an interface that uses your fingers. It's not ideal to have both these interfaces coded into the same application because it will cause the application to be over-bloated, reducing performance. Moreover, the way you execute the functions will most probably be different if you use a keyboard and mouse, or by using your fingers. The type of functions also differ.

Anyway, Windows 8 do look quite different. Until I get to touch an actual Windows 8 machine, I think its too early to say how it will be like. Below are 2 videos of a Windows 8 Demo:

Windows 8 Demo Part 1

Windows 8 Demo Part 2

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

iCloud preview

iCloud was also announced in Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) 2011.This will replace MobileMe. iCloud basically stores your music, photos, apps, calendars, documents and more in the cloud, and wireless push and sync the information to all your Apple devices.

You will automatically get 5GB of storage space free upon signing up for iCloud. Your purchased apps, music, books as well as your Photo Stream (photos) do not count against your 5GB so it should be more than enough. This information can be stored in the Cloud and can be restored back to your device.

The following are the information stored in the cloud:
  1. Purchased music, apps, and books
  2. Photos and videos in the camera roll
  3. Device settings
  4. App data
  5. Home screen and App organisation
  6. Text and MMS messages
  7. Ringtones
Upon getting a iCloud account, you will get a free account. Your calendar can also be updated to the iCloud and can be shared with other iCloud users. Your entire address book is also stored in iCloud and can be synced to all your devices.

iCloud will also be available in the fall of 2011 (September to November 2011). It will most probably be available at the same time as iOS 5.

iOS 5 preview

iOS 5.0 was announced in Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) 2011. Surprisingly for the first time, no new iPhone hardware is being announced in WWDC. To me, I believe it's due to the Japan's disruption that may have changed Apple's plans in introducing a new iPhone. Oh well, no one will know except for the Steve Jobs.

iOS 5 will be available in the fall of 2011 (September to November 2011). iOS 5 will be available on the same devices as iOS 4. Below is the summary of some of the key new features of iOS 5:
  1. Central Notification Centre
    All notifications in one place. Swipe down from the top of the screen to enter Notification Centre. The notifications will also appear in the lock screen.

  2. iMessage
    Free WhatsApp, but it only works for Apple devices. However, it seems that it only works in 3G and Wifi, not 2.5G.

  3. NewsStand
    iBooks for magazine and newspapers app subscriptions

  4. Reminders
    Finally a To-do list for the iPhone. Not only does it have due dates, it also tracks the location. For example, you may want to trigger a reminder when you leave a certain location.

  5. Twitter directly from Safari, Photos, Camera, YouTube, or Maps

  6. Camera
    Use your camera directly from the lock screen, using your volume-up button to snap a photo. Use also grid lines, pinch-to-zoom gestures, and single-tap focus and exposure locks to compose a picture on the fly.

  7. Enhanced in-built photo enhancements
    Crop, rotate, enhance, and remove red-eye without leaving the Photos app

  8. Safari Reader and Reading List
    Safari Reader displays web articles sans ads or clutter so you can read without distractions. Reading List lets you save interesting articles to peruse later

  9. Independence for all iOS devices
    You no longer need a computer to own an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. Activate and set up your device wirelessly, right out of the box with iCloud.

  10. Format your text in your Mail
  11. Year view on iPad and Week view on iPhone and iPod touch in your Calendar
  12. Wi-Fi Sync
    Wirelessly sync your iOS device to your Mac or PC's iTunes over a shared Wi-Fi connection
  13. Multi-tasking gestures for iPadUsing four or five fingers, swipe up to reveal the multitasking bar, pinch to return to the Home screen, and swipe left or right to switch between apps.

Anyway, it's also not clear what features are not available on the iPhone 3GS. My only gripe. Why the multi-tasking gestures for iPad are not available for the iPhone? :(

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Household Per Capita Income is a better gauge

Currently, household income is being used as a gauge for distributing any "goodies" to Singaporeans every budget year. However, I find that the usage of this measurement indirectly caused a problem. Singaporeans are now choosing the type of HDB flats based on the "goodies" they may receive from the budget. The kiasu mentality has set in.

Therefore, I feel that the best way to "throw one stone at 2 birds" is to remove this measurement for household goodies. Instead, Household Per Capita Income is a better gauge of the household income and should be used instead. Basically, household per capita income will measure the income based on the number of people in the household for the particular flat. For example, if your household consists of 2 people earning a total of $5,000, the per capita income will be $2,500.

This will remove the incentive for couples to choose the HDB flat size based on the goodies they are able to get, and to even out the demand for HDB flats. This measurement is also more fair as it takes into account the number of the people being supported by the household income, especially useful if you have school going children or your parents stay with you.

I do not see the point in tiering by the annual value of your house because it is not the correct representative of your income. I do not have the statistics for household income, but I believe that based on the information collected, the government should not have any problems tiering the goodies. A simple goodies tier can be as follows:
  • $800: $0 - $1,000 per HDB household capita income
  • $600: $1,001 - $2,000 per HDB household capita income
  • $400: $2,001 - $3,000 per HDB household capita income
  • $200: >$3,000 per household capita income (others)
  • +$100: NSF

Something to think about...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Singpost should do a BPR exercise

I was at Singpost on saturday to send a registered article and the familiar snaking queue was there again. While queuing, I could see several problems with the process that caused this queue.

The main problem is with the collection of registered articles or parcels. As these are only delivered during office hours, it is next to impossible to successfully deliver it to anyone as most homes are empty during that period of time.

There are 2 ways to cut down this queue. First is to extend delivery time of such articles or parcels to 8pm everyday. I believe this will allow majority of the people to make arrangements to be at home for the collection. At the same time, they can also extend the operating hours of the post office to 8pm to facilitate working adults to collect their items after work. Singpost could follow up with a call to check with the recipient if they are in at that time. This will optimise the delivery for the postmen.

Next is a separate queue for this collection at the post office. For the post office that I went to, the person will need to walk back to the delivery room to find the article or parcel, wasting valuable time. To shorten this process, they can emulate the medicine dispensary / laundry shops where the queue is situated at / near the delivery room.

I was also analyzing the process of sending a registered article and find that it can be greatly improved. Very often, the people who are sending these items are not aware of the procedures to follow so to make it seamless, one should model the process on these procedures. There should also be minimal duplication of information filled in.

For example, there is a form that needs to be filled in for sending of registered article and for some weird reason, they only give it to you at the counter. They should emulate the bank where such forms can be filled at a dedicated form counter before you even join the queue.

At the counter, all that needs to be done is to verify the information and key it in a system. The reason behind this is because I noticed that you will need to write the recipient address several times, wasting time. By keying it into a system, you can print out the information as many times as you want.

During the period where the person is keying in the information, you can also take the opportunity to find the box or letter to contain your registered item if needed. I noticed that the setting up of the box to contain your parcel takes some time too, and you may also need to secure it with scotch tape.

I guess Singpost should do a business process re-engineering (BPR) exercise to optimise their processes and improve the efficiency. I've seen some unnecessary repetitive work done while I was in the queue for half an hour.

Shorter wait = Happier customers and employees.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Magical "Shift" Key

It seems that Windows like the Shift key quite a bit, and it's most commonly used to stop some process/program that is triggered automatically.

The most commonly used is to prevent CDs/DVDs from autoloading when it is inserted into your machine. To do that, just hold down the Shift key after inserting your CD/DVD.

The other not so commonly used is to stop your programs from auto-loading after login. To do that, just hold down the Shift key after keying in your password to your user account. If your machine auto-logins and doesn't have a password, then I guess you have to time your Shift key. This is useful if you have an auto-loading program that crashes/slow-down your machine.

Hope this helps.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Japan is going to mandate building solar panels on rooftops of all new buildings

This piece of news brings back memories of what I've talked about back in 2007 in one of the forums. I was lamenting the fact that Singapore, despite being smack down near the equator, has not taken advantage of its position to research on solar panels on rooftops and make buildings energy sufficient.

One of the reasons I heard of not going into solar power is due to our cloud cover. However, do they know that Germany, despite being a typical cloudy country, is one of world's biggest use of solar power and they have villages equipped with solar panels that produce more energy that they use? In fact, I believe with a light sensor, you can position the panels such that it gets maximum efficiency throughout the day. You can read more about the Germany's push towards solar energy here.

The sad fact is that it took a very big earthquake and a nuclear meltdown for Japan to make this decision. Singapore fortunately has already embarked on this initiative but it seems to be half-hearted. More work and research needs to be done before we're truly self-sufficient in energy. I just hope that we can be a leader in this, just like our home-grown Hyflux.

New Bid Size & Forced Orders on Jul 4 2011

SGX has came out with a new bid size & forced order spreads that will be effective from Jul 4 2011. Does it result in savings for investors? Personally I don't think so. The new bid size may result in more transactions being executed but savings for investors?

Anyway, new information as follows:

Securities (excl. exchange traded funds)

Price Range (S$)Bid Size (S$)Forced Orders (Bids)
Below 0.200.001+/- 20
0.20 – 0.9950.005
1.00 – 1.990.005
2.00 – 9.990.01
10 and above0.01

Debentures (excl. loan stocks and bonds)

Price Range (S$)Bid Size (S$)Forced Orders (Bids)
All0.01 or 0.001
as determined

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