Friday, July 29, 2011

Is Mac Mini being positioned as a SME server?

The latest Mac Mini configuration may be puzzling to a few since they completely took out the optical drive. Other than the aesthetics portion, I believe there are a few reasons why Apple did it.

First and foremost is that Apple is trying to nudge people to go online and download their software instead of using CDs/DVDs/Blu-rays.It's good for them because it will
  1. increase the usage of their AppStore
  2. slightly decrease piracy unless there's a loophole around the AppStore
  3. encourage users to use all the software that comes by default on the Mac
The other reason is that I feel that they are positioning the Mac Mini as the server of choice for SMEs. The Mac OSX Lion has elements of the Mac OSX server operating system within. In fact, I call the Mac mini the shelf rack server because you can put it on a shelf rack in the data centre. Furthermore with the increasing usage of USB thumbdrives which can also be configured to boot up, CDs are becoming increasingly redundant. Anyway, it's not often that you will need to install an application on the server. Most of the time, it's just on and it just needs to be functional.

The last reason is that they do not want the Mac Mini to canabalise sales from the Apple TV. Without the optical drive, the Apple TV may  a better choice for a digital media player.

The funny thing though is that Apple Stores in Singapore rarely sells Mac Mini, and definitely not at their discount fairs. I wonder why...

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Press and hold it there

There are quite a few hidden features in the iPhone which is not quite obvious at first glance. One of the most "common" hidden feature is "Press and hold it there".

Why is that so? Basically, hidden options may appear if you press on a particular option and hold it there. Below are some of the key hidden features that I've found in the iPhone keyboard if you press and hold it there:
  1. Globe: Direct hot key to the different languages that you have installed on your iPhone, including your emoji.
  2. .com: Allows you to choose other "dots" like .sg, .us, .org, etc.
  3. 0: Allows you to choose 0 (degree)

You can try to see if this extends to the other features offered by the iPhone. Who knows... You may find something interesting.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Be wise and your life will be more fulfilling

I quote from Buddha:
Good men and bad men differ radically. Bad men never appreciate kindness shown them, but wise men appreciate and are grateful. Wise men try to express their appreciation and gratitude by some return of kindness, not only to their benefactor, but to everyone else.

Take a step back once in a while to help others and you'll find your life more fulfilling. Pay it forward.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Inflation is up 5.2%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2011:
January: 5.5%
February: 5.0%
March: 5.0%
April: 4.5%
May: 4.5%
June: 5.2%

Transport and Housing are once again leading the pack, rising by 10.4% and 8.8% respectively year on year. The inflation was even higher than I expected from my previous post due to the relentless inflation spike. Inflation is up across the board except for Communication and Healthcare.

Inflation will most probably drop only slightly below 5% for this month as I spied some stalls starting to raise their food prices by 20 cents, and COE prices are still quite high. Even now, the price of commodities is going up even though the USA is showing signs that they are going to cut demand due to their big deficit.

So what if the US defaults? Hmm...

Monday, July 25, 2011

A bug in iOS 4.3.4?

Did anyone noticed that other than the security patch, there seems to be something wrong with the AppStore app. I'm not sure if it is due to the launch of Lion but recently, I have problems downloading my app updates. I need to confirm the update twice. Hmm... I hope the new iOS5 will not have this issue.

Some other changes that I've noted for this iOS 4.3.4 upgrade other than the security patches:
  1. The antenna seems to be "stronger" after the upgrade, translating to a better battery life
  2. Most of the time, it takes longer to load pages using 2.5G/3G. Not sure if it's the telco's problem or the iPhone's problem
  3. It's 200MB larger than the previous iOS 4.3.3, but I do not see any noticeable differences in features. However, I did notice that the speech recognition is more accurate and who knows, maybe this 200MB increase has to do with the upcoming over-the-air iOS updates.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sengkang Floating Wetland

Updated 21 Aug 2011: Added a map of the area in case you're unable to find the wetland.
Updated 13 Dec 2011: Added a map of the area from OneMap. 
Updated 15 Apr 2012: Change heron to waterhen. 
Updated 30 Jun 2013: Added more pictures of wildlife at the wetland 

I've managed to visit the Sengkang Floating Wetland over the last weekend. Unfortunately, I only arrived there in the early evening so photo opportunities are quite limited. Quite difficult to take photos in the low light environment.

The Sengkang Floating Wetland is located at Sengkang Riverside Park, situated alongside Sungei Punggol. The park is home to a unique water feature, a constructed wetland that collects and filters rainwater naturally through its aquatic plants. The wetland also doubles as a wildlife habitat. The constructed wetland attracts many mangrove birds into the park such as purple heron, collared kingfisher and little tern. It's actually near the Anchorvale Community Club (landmark). Below is the map of the area from Google Maps. You can refer to another map here by Onemap.

View Larger Map

Below are some of the photos that I've taken of the surroundings of the Sengkang Floating Wetland.

Picture of Sengkang Floating Wetland

Bridge to the other side of the Sengkang Riverside Park

Another angle of the Sengkang Floating Wetland

Zoom up picture of the floating wetland

Below are some of flowers that I saw around the wetland.

There were a few birds flying around and I believe one of which is the kingfisher. Sadly, it's too quick for my camera. May be due to the lighting though. Only got a couple of photos as they were quite still.

A small bird (little tern?) playing with flowers

Waterhen walking around

The dragonflies are pretty quick but I managed to catch one resting on a branch. I believe it is the Red Scarlet.

Resting dragonfly

Preparing to fly as the wind was quite strong

Dragonfly resting on another blade of grass
Close-up shot of a dragonfly reading for takeoff
Big bird, on small tree. :)

One of the smaller birds hiding among the leaves

Another white bird escaping the heat

I will update this post if I'm able to visit it again when it's brighter. I was trying my best to take the picture of the kingfisher but it's quite difficult.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Keep in mind why are you working

I quote from Douglas Pagels:
Sometimes it's important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it's essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.

Always keep in mind why are you working. Do not get lost in the process.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Enacting Paternity Laws may help to improve job market

Other than increasing family bonding time, I feel that enacting paternity laws will also help to improve another aspect of the economy, the job market. If you observe what happens when your female colleagues go for their maternity leave, it's quite usual to see a temporary staff being hired to take over the job scope for that duration.

How does this help improve the job market? Very often many job seekers are unable to sell themselves, but they are in actual fact quite efficient and talented. Having this temporary arrangement will help these group of people to get more "airtime" and allow employers to unearth their talents. I've seen this happen to some of the female temps that came in.

By enacting paternity laws, not only do you help the guys take care of their loved ones during this critical period, it will also help others gain exposure in the job scope that they may not have the chance to do, be in a new hire or a internal transfer.

The main reason to enact a paternity law is of course that guys should have the right to take care of new borns, but it helps that there are other supporting reasons for it. So when will this happen?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Is a duopoly more efficient than a nationalised transport company?

I believe that the newspapers have been quick in dishing out the news of the upcoming transport fare review. Seems like I was quite close to my prediction on the transport fare hike amount in my post here. I'm still of view that a nationalised transport company is definitely more efficient than a duopoly as written in my post here.

However, if the situation in Singapore is no longer a duopoly, then it may be a different case. How about letting private bus players get into the play here? I'm sure if they are allowed to use the bus stops and provide services to complement the routes by the duo private transport companies, this will send a message to them to buck up on their service.

As long as we do not have a competitive transport market, a nationalised transport company will be more efficient than the duopoly, not forgetting that the Singapore government bodies have been fairly efficient in their operations.

Look at the other Asia countries. Look at who owns them. Look at how efficient they are. Think again.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why not a beauty contest instead of an auction?

I've always wondered why our government land sales are not based on a beauty contest instead of an auction. In case you're not familiar with the term, beauty contest is where you judge the sale based on a variety of factors, be it quality or monetary instead of just awarding to the highest bidder (known as auction).

Selling the government land using the beauty contest method has many advantages as it forces the developers to think more in terms of what they are going to build, than to see who can cough up the most money. This will also help smaller developers too as they can show how innovative their designs can be.

An example of a beauty contest for HDB land that I wish may happen:
Submit a bid and detail the following in the proposal:
  1. the maximum sale price for each type of apartment that will allow the buyer to complete the purchase using 35% of $10,000/month for a period of 20 years.
  2. the size of the proposed apartments and reasons supporting the design
  3. the quality of finishes and energy conservation aspects of the design
  4. the proposed date on the completion of project

Won't that be nice? Don't think it will happen though.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Negative real rate of interest is encouraging credit growth

I was reading about the real interest rate in the Economist and it struck a chord on the problems of the current global economy. In case you're not sure what's the real interest rate, it's the interest rate adjusted for the expected erosion of the purchasing power due to inflation. Like Singapore, many countries around the world have negative real interest rates since the global recession in 2008.

Negative interest rates have been associated with fueling faster credit growth and inflation, and judging from Singapore's blistering growth of 14.5% last year, Singapore has all the signs of an overhearing economy. I estimate for the year of 2011, the inflation rate may hit at around 4.5% to 4.6%, an increase of almost 2% from the year 2010. Not only that, our credit growth rate has been making headlines if you have read the news on our property prices.

If this continues, the outcome that I can see is a vicious cycle. Credit growth will grow by double digits fueled by the super low interest rates, driving up inflation. This does not translate into wage growth due to the "productivity drive" that is being encouraged here, and the profits are fueled more by credit than innovation. Pricing of common necessities will start to rise to uncomfortable levels.

Growing at such a breakneck speed will result in growing pains. The only solution that I can see is for the interest rates to increase to reduce the negative real rate of interest. This will restrict credit growth and inflation, giving the economy a breather to take stock on what has happened for the past year.

Will this happen? Not that I can see as long as increasing the GDP is the KPI for the government. High inflation for this year? Most probably, and the increase of electricity bills is just a start.

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

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Focus on the end result

I quote from Lance Armstrong:
Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever. 

In everything that we attempt, pain may follow depending on how challenging the task is. If your goal is important enough, focus on the end result, and not the journey. If you quit or did not even attempt, the pain of not achieving your goal will stay with you.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Transformers 3 has redeemed itself

Surprisingly, I thought Transformers 3 was quite a good movie in spite of my negative experience watching Transformers 2 and some negative comments that I've read about this movie. Or maybe it's because my expectation was low in the beginning?

Anyway, it seems that a lot more thought was put into Transformers 3 and nearly everything that I was upset about in Transformers 2 which I detailed in a post here did not reoccur. In fact, I love most of the transforming scenes where they have finally filmed in as panned out. Sure there are still a couple of battles that are zoomed in but they are far slower than the battle scenes in Transformers 2. The battle scenes are in fact watchable and some really a joy to watch. I also like the way they tried to combine the old footage of the moon landing with the new scenes that they have filmed.

I've noticed certain jumps in the story so I would expect they have cut some of the scenes out (how did the 4 autobots get captured for example) due to the length of the movie (2 and a half hours?). Maybe it'll come out in the DVD. Anyway, some of the transforming scenes are pretty neat, especially when they transform with someone in the vehicle. It's worth a watch.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fireworks at Floating Platform@Marina Bay

Our National Days will always end with a bang, fireworks that is. As it was a pre-preview of the National Day, I was relieved that there were at least some fireworks in this pre-preview. This is however the first time that I've tried taking pictures of the fireworks, and I tried to take it without a tripod / monopod. Well considering I was with my family, I'm sure I'll get skewered if I left my seat to setup my tripod at some weird location. Anyway, you can read more about the National Day Pre-preview at the Floating Platform@Marina Bay here.

Since it'll be suicidal to take pictures of fireworks using slow shutter speed without a tripod, I have opted to use Aperture priority instead so that the fireworks do show up in my pictures. I did not anticipated that there is so much smoke though. Judging that I was right in front, I should have guessed as much that this will happen.

Anyway, the fireworks for this year's National Day parade looks a bit ... ... crowded? Not sure if it's due to the pre-preview (rehearsal?) but I find that the fireworks are just appearing all over the place. Generally, I would have thought that the fireworks would be shot at a certain direction but in this case, it happened all over the place, even beyond my peripheral vision. To top it off, they even shot one or two fireworks in the middle of the National Anthem.

Anyway, I hope the fireworks will be more organised coming National Day. At the very least, it should be shot all in the general direction. Below are some of the better pictures that I've managed to take without a tripod.

Now you don't see it

Now you do

Where am I suppose to look?

Distracted by these 2 bright balls and neglected the rest

Ditto for this picture. Didn't realised that there were other fireworks being shot

Only managed to catch the tail-end of the fireworks burst

Ditto for this picture

At least I got some of the burst

Finale I think. A lot of smoke though. :(

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Random shots around Floating Platform@Marina Bay

View from the floating platform with Marina Bay Sands in the backdrop

View of the Singapore Flyer

Marina Bay Sands

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Total Defence at Floating Platform@Marina Bay

The trend of all the recent National Days is that it will not be complete without showcasing Singapore's total defence, which will include our Civil Defence Force, Army, Airforce and Navy. In fact, it has evolved to look like something out of those shows you see in the fun theme park. You can read more about the National Day Pre-preview at the Floating Platform@Marina Bay here.

Below are some of the quick shots I've managed to take of all the action at the pre-preview of the National Day.

One of the new navy boats I presume

Seahawk in action

Looks like the coast guard to me

Doing some fancy maneuvers

Chinnok deploying divers

Apache in action

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

LIONS in action at Floating Platform@ Marina Bay

It's a bird

It's an UFO

No, it's the Singapore LIONS at the pre-preview of National Day


You can read more about the National Day Pre-preview at the Floating Platform@Marina Bay here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

National Day Pre-preview at Floating Platform@Marina Bay

I've managed to get a ticket to watch the National Day Pre-preview held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay. I've decided to classify this post as "Singapore Attractions" because our National Day celebrations have evolved to look like one of the shows that you can catch at those major fun theme parks around the world.

This year's National Day will be held in the backdrop of an almost completed Marina Bay Sands. The theme? Musical. There will be 5 acts in total for the show. As this is a pre-preview, I believe some segments of the shows are missing. I was there at around 4pm but the show did not start until 6pm. Well, at least I had the front row seat.

I've been to the National Day parade many years ago at the National Stadium. Sad to say is that I felt that at that time, there was a much better atmosphere and you could feel the vibe in the air. At the Floating Platform@Marina Bay, the atmosphere somehow couldn't match the National Stadium. Maybe it's just me.

Anyway, happy birthday in advance Singapore!

Happy Birthday Singapore!

The parade will not be complete without the hosts for that evening. They are Gurmit Singh, Suhaimi Yusof (a.k.a Avatar), Belinda Lee and  Denise Keller. Denise Keller may be standing in for Jean Danker though as Denise's name is nowhere to be found in the booklet provided in the fun pack.

Suhaimi was too far away for me to take a decent picture. I did manage to catch the rest though.

Gurmit Singh singing
Denise and Belinda trying to move the crowd

No Singapore National Day will be complete without the 21 gun salute. I was surprised to find that they actually floated the guns near to the Floating platform. But then again, I didn't manage to catch the National Day on TV ever since it was moved away from the National Stadium. The march-in was pretty interesting as they came in from the back and the front. Below are some of the pictures I've taken of the parade itself.

Preparation for 21 gun salute
the parade contingent
Singapore flag fly pass
No fancy formation for the fighter jets though. Straight fly pass
21 gun salute in action
Shooting in progress. :)
After the parade, it's time for the night segment. There are a total of 5 acts in this night segment. The 4th one was quite long though. As it is night time and the pace was quite fast, I've only managed to take a couple of shots below.

Finale of one of the acts
Lasers in action, with the flyer in the backdrop
Looks quite ordinary? That's because I took some segments out or the post will be super long. Will post them soon.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rain Gardens is the solution to flooding?

I feel that one of the reasons why we have seen widespread flooding in certain areas in Singapore is due to the rapid deforestation due to the sale of land for building of properties. The trees and plants at those patches of land help to absorb the heavy rainfall, and in essence act as a "rain garden".

Rain gardens, essentially sunken areas filled with plants to collect surface water, is able to absorb the rainfall and prevent overflooding of drains and sewers if they are big enough. It's used in other countries where it's used for storm management.

Now with the rapid removal of these patches of land, our "storm management" has been greatly reduced, thus leading our drains and canals to be overloaded. Reinstating these rain gardens will not only help to control rainfall management, it will also bring back areas where families can gather for sports and kite flying. A place for de-stressing.

Hopefully the respective town councils and/or government will consider bringing back these "rain gardens".

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