Monday, December 31, 2012

Finally some truth in the 3G coverage

I have never believed that the telcos in Singapore have 99% coverage because so far, I've never experienced such coverage since I moved to a 3G phone.

Personally, I do not care how the telcos measure their coverage because the 3G disconnect that I experienced on my phone is real. And don't give me the sales talk that it's because of many factors like my phone's components. I've tested it in an area where the 3G coverage is strong and I've encountered no such problems. The problem only comes when I'm moving around with a 3G connection.

This kind of problems will only occur if you do not have sufficient backend infrastructure to support the number of users logging into the 3G network at a given location. This has nothing to do with the phone's capability.

It's very easy to test out the 3G coverage. Enable your 3G network and disable automatic network connection. Just walk around see how many times your 3G network is disconnected. Then you will find that the telcos' claims of 99% 3G coverage is just a dream.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

How to attain happiness, freedom and peace of mind

I quote from Peyton Conway March:
There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life - happiness, freedom and peace of mind - are always attained by giving them to someone else

You can find happiness, freedom and peace of mind through other means, but it is of no assurance that you will find them. Reason is simple. Sometimes in your pursuit, you forget the reason why you're doing it and you end up losing your way, and causing yourself and maybe even others sorrow.

Slow down, and think it through. You may see better once you've done that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Inflation is up 3.6%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2012:
January: 4.8%
February: 4.6%
March: 5.2%
April: 5.4%
May: 5.0%
June: 5.3%
July: 4%
August: 3.9%
September: 4.7%
October: 4% 
November: 3.6% 

Transport and Housing are leading the pack, rising by 6.2% and 5.2% respectively year on year, moderating downwards compared to September's inflation. As mentioned previously, inflation moderated due to the holiday season, but it seems that it moderated more than what I expected.

Looks like this year's inflation rate should come around 4.5%, within MAS estimates. This year has been an eye opener for me because my estimates have consistently been way-off the actual numbers. Unfortunately, unless there is a reduction of my current workload, I might not be able to have time to re-look at the reason behind it.

Anyway, wishing everyone happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A new age has begun, the green age I hope

The last day of the mayan calendar has come and gone on 21 Dec 2012. I only noticed one big difference on the night of 21 Dec 2012. It was hot! 22 Dec 2012, supposedly the start of the new age in the Mayan calendar, which I believe is the start of a much warmer Earth.

Currently all the developing and developed countries do not seem to take climate change seriously. Some countries are using the excuse that climate change is not man-made so there is no need for any action. Personally, I think that's a very sorry excuse. It's akin to saying that there is a drought, and the water pipe is leaking, but there is no need to fix the water pipe because the drought is the main reason for the lack of water.

Since many developed countries are having problems with their budgets because of overspending, this is the best time to introduce a new tax to bring in revenue for them. It's carbon tax. This tax is very important because it will be the number 1 reason why companies even bother to develop green products.

Reason is very simple. Companies have no incentives to design and develop green products because by nature, pollutive products are much simpler and cheaper to produce. Carbon tax will offset this low base by bringing it on-par with the green products.

Why should the government "benefit" from this carbon tax? That's because in the end, it's easier for them to manage, police and monitor the companies to ensure that they are taking the carbon threat seriously. For example, if there is a factory near your residential home spewing chemicals into the air, do you think you can do anything about it, or the government has the power to make a difference? The answer is obvious.

Seriously, I'm of view that there is not even a need to get a consensus. Get the majority of countries to introduce carbon tax, and you start from there, giving tax rebates to each other. Too many cooks spoil the broth so when you see something that is workable, go for it first.

Someone has to take the first step, or the world governments will prefer the outcome in the movie 2012?

Merry Christmas

Monday, December 24, 2012

Just fall over the cliff

Looking at the happenings at the States, I was thinking that they should just fall over the cliff so as to speak. The politics is horrendous.

Closing unnecessary tax deductions do not assure increase in revenue. Anyone who has hired a tax accountant so that they can pay less tax will know the truth of it. They will just adjust the amounts accordingly. It's common sense that any increase of revenue over this move is akin to plucking numbers out of thin air. Translated. They have no plans to bring in more revenue at all, and they choose to turn a blind eye to companies keep records amount of cash in their bank accounts.

After reading a number of articles talking about the fiscal cliff, I realised that the States has a unique sense of "democracy". The political agenda in the house seems to indicate that the majority speaker of the house will not bring any bills to the floor if the party does not support it.

Is that democracy? If it is true democracy, the majority speaker should bring up the bill if the majority of the people in the house wants it to be heard, regardless of which party they belong to. However according to the article that I read, this is not the case.

No wonder they are in deadlock over the fiscal cliff. In fact, I agree totally with President Obama that if they fall over the cliff, it's the Congress's fault. Their political positioning for the next presidential election is too obvious and everyone can see it.

Just fall over the cliff and be done with it.

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

Friday, December 21, 2012

Do not breed routine

I quote from James Galway:
Running through things because you are familiar with them, breeds routine and this is the seed of boredom

When you get bored, you become disinterested, and things always happen when you're in that kind of mood. Change your routine, no matter how small the change is, once in a while. It helps to keep your sanity.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

To be green means keeping the COE prices high

Updated 20 Dec 2012: Realised I missed out mentioning out how to keep the COE prices high

Before anyone shoots me for this subject title, I will like to highlight that this is backed up by facts. At least according to the article that I've read.

The reasoning is quite simple. You should have encountered traffic jams in Singapore almost everyday, and while you're in a traffic jam, your car is still burning litres of petrol even though you're stuck, and the car may not be moving at all. Do you know that burning 400 litres of fuel is equivalent to each megawatt that a coal plant that runs for an hour generates, assuming an average of 2.5kg of CO2 output is generated per litre of fuel? Now consider this: An entire city paralysed in traffic gridlock may exceed 40,000 litres of petrol burned every hour. So how much CO2 are you polluting the air in a traffic jam?

You're actually better off building coal plants to generate electricity than to let traffic jams happen in your city. I don't see many people voicing concerns over traffic jams because I don't think they see the problem of the CO2 generation when the car engine is running, even though it may not be moving.

So logically, to reduce the car population in Singapore, the COE prices will have to remain high to prevent the car population from going too high, most probably through gradually reducing the number of COEs until Singapore can afford to increase the road capacity. I feel that the carbon rebate that the government is initiating is good for the environment. This I feel is a form of reverse tax to those cars that are cheap, but pollutive to the environment.

For the betterment of Earth, I think we must try to reduce the CO2 emissions that we generate everyday. Every little bit helps.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Foreign workers will gradually leave Singapore

Looking at the trends from the other countries, foreign workers will gradually not come to Singapore to work because they can get higher pay elsewhere.

According to some articles that I read, job agencies have said that skilled labour workers now prefer to work in Europe, Japan and South Korea over Singapore for work because they get many times more for the same position.

I think that Singapore companies will need to wake up to the fact that cheap labour is over. Scope of work will need to be re-designed in order for the companies to survive. Frankly, if foreign workers still come to Singapore to work even though they can get higher pay elsewhere, I think you really need to look into the reasons why are they coming here instead of places where they can get much higher pay.

Things always happen for a reason, and the reason may not be to your advantage.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Focus should no longer be on the processor speed

It seems to me that gradually, processor speed is no longer a big concern in any device. The reason is clear. There is no longer a monopoly in the platform for the devices and therefore, higher processor speed does not necessary mean that it's faster.

Let me explain. There are many parameters that affect the speed of the device, and the most important aspect that affects the speed is the operating system. Therefore you can have a very fast processor speed but if your operating system is not efficient, your device may be slower than another device, running another operating system, that has a slower processor speed.

Consumers can no longer use the processor speed or even the memory to determine if the device will be fast. The only way is to test out the speed is to test it on those test pieces when you walk into those stores.

Unless the devices are running the same operating system, do not use the processor speed or the hardware components to determine how fast the device may be. It will be of no use to you and it will most probably be not accurate.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Simple rules of life

I quote from Lao Tzu:
In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don't try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present. 

Just a thought. Other than applying this to us, shouldn't the government function base on this principle?

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thank you

Time flies and it has been slightly over 5 years since I started blogging. I was not really into blogging until my then girlfriend, now wife, persuaded me to "try it out".

What started out as an outlet for me to share my thoughts, hobbies and ideas have evolved to what you are seeing today. I would have never imagined that so many people, close to 400,000 to-date, will be interested to hear my rambles. To all you folks, thank you...

I always try to make some minor tweaks here and there along the way. Must be the techie inside me speaking. Recently, I finally decided to try out the Facebook fan page. If you are interested to follow my blog, just like my page and you will be notified whenever there are new posts to my blog.

I have also started putting some high resolution photos into the Facebook page for sharing, and every now and then, I will also start posting things that will be exclusive to the Facebook page. Some things are more easily shared through Facebook posts. 8)

Anyway, thank you all and wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy 2012!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why do we need a retirement age?

Recently I've been reading articles that were discussing about the upcoming increase of retirement age from 65 to 67 in Singapore. Somehow after reading it, it dawned on me that the point on increasing the retirement age may be because the government is trying to get more workers into the workforce by getting the older folks to work in their twilight years.

I firmly believe that if the work environment is employee friendly, there is no need for even a retirement age because at this age, there are already almost no companies that are still using the pension scheme. In fact, regulations is only needed to prevent against discrimination of workers based on gender and age. No matter how much you push the retirement age, if the bosses are not employee friendly, people will rather not work for them, regardless of the age.

What's the use then of this retirement age? Is it only to govern the release of the CPF monies back to us? If that is so, what don't we give the control back to us, the citizens? For example, it can be mandated that the annuity starts from age 65 onwards, and all the lock-in, conversion of the special account to retirement account etc are executed based on this age (for e.g., work the milestones backwards from this age). Citizens have the option to change this age, but this will affect the annuity payouts depending on the change. All the CPF board needs to do is to release annual statements indicating the estimated payout based on the current monies in the CPF accounts. Won't that be easier? Do away with this so-called retirement age.

In summary, if you are able to fulfill the job scope and it doesn't cause any unnecessary duress, it doesn't matter if you're a guy or girl, or your age. Therefore, this retirement age becomes unnecessary. Isn't that what meritocracy is all about?

What is happening to our values?

I just saw a small kid that should be no more than 7 years old, insisting to be allowed to urinate in public, near the drain area. The mum actually relented to the boy's request. I thought we are way past that stage in Singapore.

I wonder if our relentless focus on so-called growth is leading us to a society where we care about no one else except ourselves. Is that what we want? Is the so-called growth more important than our values?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Standby bug in iOS 6.0.1

Recently I realised an interesting bug in the iOS 6.0.1 on my iPhone 4S. In essence, if you are updating or downloading apps in the AppStore, and exit out of the AppStore, your iPhone will not standby.

I noticed it because I have a habit of updating or downloading apps, and exiting the AppStore after that. I will then leave the phone to do my own stuff. Many times I found my iPhone very hot because the iPhone did not go onto standby even after all the apps have been updated or downloaded. So far this is the only instance I have discovered this bug.

Solution is quite simple, Turn off your screen after you're finished with the AppStore. The downloads and updates will still continue.

Hope this will be resolved soon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Supertree Gove @ Gardens by the Bay

Updated 13 Dec 2012: Added the Supertree Grove during the night

I visited the Supertree Grove at the Gardens by the Bay during one of my free days to take a look how that area looks like. In case you are not sure what is the Supertree Grove, take a look at the picture below.

The Supertree Grove is situated in front of the dragonfly lake as shown, and it's to the right side of the domes at Gardens by the Bay. The OCBC skyway is at Supertree Grove which you can take a look in the picture below.

You can purchase the OCBC skyway tickets at the small pavilion below, and I believe it's cash only. The lift to access the skyway is next to the pavilion. If you're unsure, just ask the friendly cashier at the pavilion. :) You can see the OCBC skyway (yellow in color) in the pictures below.

As shown above, the skyway gives you a bird-eye view of the Marina Bay Sands hotel at one end, and the Gardens by the Bay at the other end. The skyway is quite affordable though so you might want to visit the skyway as the first stop so that it gives you the view of how big Gardens by the Bay is.

Just to give you a little teaser that it is worth visiting the Supertree grove at night. Below is a picture of it at night. Amazing isn't it?

Have fun...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Health, Contentment and Faithfulness

I quote from Buddha:
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship. 

Something that we need to always keep in mind, least we forget the reason why we are working jobs for most of our lives. We need to go back to the fundamental reason of why we need a job. Do not delay contentment because certain things can only be done when you're young.

Most importantly, do not build your happiness on top of others and depriving them of it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Any way to reduce dust generated from Construction?

Singapore seems to be in a state where there are always construction everywhere. As a result, the dust generated by the construction is everywhere. You just need to open the windows for a few hours after you clean the house, and you can see a fine layer of dust settling on your sparkling floor.

Is there a way to mandate the construction companies in investing in technology so as to reduce the amount of dust generated in any type of construction? I do accept the fact that there is a need for construction due to various reasons but I think that our needs should not be sacrificed as a result of that. Dust particles can cause health problems, especially those with respiratory issues and pollution, not to mention the mental stress to all homeowners because the constant cleaning of the house will not result in a clean house. Air-con is expensive for your information.

There should be mandated dust control measures for all types of construction for the benefit of all citizens. Limit clearing areas, physical barriers, watering sprays are some of the more common dust control measures, but I don't see it being implemented. Yes, dust control measures are not cheap, but who says keeping yourself healthy is cheap.

We're already facing issues at work, and when we're back home, we're faced with a dust issue. Is cost more important than personal health and well-being?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Result of over reliance of foreign workers

What does the recent illegal strike from foreign workers from SMRT Buses Ltd tell you about Singapore? We are over relying on cheap foreign workers and the foreign workers are beginning to realise that fact.

In one of the interviews with one of the workers who went on strike, he went as far to admit that they know that if a significant number of them do not go to work, it will cause a public outcry as the public transport service level will be affected. This is evidence that they have knowledge that their actions will cause a disruption and they went ahead to do it because they wanted disruption.

Even the cause of the strike is not justified. They are paid, they just had an increment albeit lower than others, but they wanted more. Seriously, if they were seriously mistreated by SMRT, I would have said that the strike is justified, but this is not the case. The fact is that they had an increment outside of the contract clauses, and they were not happy with it. So they organised an illegal strike to express their unhappiness.

A message needs to be sent with regard to this kind of action and the rule of the law cannot be influenced by any outside influence. I believe Singapore does not want the case where all services are disrupted because employees choose to strike over any reason. Can you imagine yourself going to work or play, but unable to do so, because some employees choose strike over some reason and blockage the area that you need to pass through?

This over reliance of foreign workers have been evident since we open the floodgates years ago. In the name of keeping costs down, companies are allowed to "import cheap foreign workers" and make increasing profits, at the expense of service levels. Sometimes they even use the "cheap foreign workers" as justification that Singaporeans salaries are too high. Our employment act does not help protect our workers because it is far too generic, letting companies get away with employment contract clauses that are too beneficial to the employers and not the employees.

All workers, regardless of citizens, PRs or foreign workers, need to be educated on the powers of the employment act, and what are the avenues available to us if we have problems. Sufficient teeth must be in the act so that a strong message is sent out to employers that they need to be fair to us. It's already well known in the world that Singapore workers work one of longest hours in the world, and one of the least public holidays gazetted too. No wonder our fertility rate is low. We're all too tired when we reach home, or we're working our butts off after dinner.

First step must be taken to stop this, and the update of the employment act to better protect all workers is the correct step.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Productivity by getting employees to do more the way to go?

Seems like finally the newspapers are reporting what has been an open secret in Singapore. Most of the productivity gains that you see in Singapore are as a result of bosses getting employees to do more, or hiring of cheaper foreign workers, instead of investing in technology or streamlining of processes in order to achieve higher output. Getting employees to do more without an obvious increment will only give the company a bad reputation and you can be assured that the company will have some form of reputation amongst the job seekers.

With the tightening of foreign workers quota, many SMEs are now having trouble filling up positions within the company to even fulfill current orders, let alone expansion. Is hiring more workers the only way?

Coming from the technology perspective, it really depends. I do not deny that there are certain industries such as the food industry, that has heavy reliance of workers. Like it or not, to make good food, you need people. Machines can assist you in certain things, but not everything. You invest in a machine to create your food product and you may loose some of your competitive advantage as there may be a drop of quality as a result of removing the human touch.

However, I believe most work can be improved upon by using technology. It's just that bosses are too wary of the power of technology and prefer the tested way of doing business. For example, I have talked about Sakae Sushi use of technology in a post here which I believe helped them in their manpower crunch with regard to service staff.

I think it is time now to invest in other ways of doing business because like it or not, citizens have come to realise that we exist in this world not because of money. Our purpose in life has always been our loved ones, family, and I find it extremely disturbing that people are delaying interaction with their loved ones so that they can earn lots of money, and buy inanimate objects as a form of "love" to their loved ones. Is that the way?

Next is protection of PMETs which I hope the government will seriously look into it. I do not buy into the argument that PMETs do not require protection from the law. Like it or not, market will always try to get away with anything that will help them make more profits. If the law is not there to set the boundary, exploitation of employees, regardless of PMETs or other type of workers will exist.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Joy of achievement

I quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt:
Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.

Happiness also comes from the sense of fulfillment, the sense of joy when you complete whatever that you're doing successfully. That sense of achievement is difficult to replicate, and in the end you will find what you've been through worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stop focusing on the marks for PSLE

Personally, I've always wondered what is so special about the PSLE such that the results show the total marks that you score for all your subjects. All the results thereafter only show something equivalent to the Grade Point Average (GPA).

Why must we be so fixated on the marks that the kids are getting? Isn't it enough to know that they got A, or A+? Why can't PSLE follow the same GPA system as secondary school and tertiary education?

Even when I was young, I never thought much about the number that I got after PSLE. Now, I don't even care about that number. However, it seems that many parents are fixated now on this magical number, and for what reason I've absolutely no idea.

I'm not very old but I think that to everyone, childhood is one of the best memories that anyone can have. Why do we want to fill our childhood with memories of going to countless tuition classes or enrichment classes? Why can't we fill it with family bonding time, family excursions, or just normal conversations?

Are exam results so important?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

It's time to put a ceiling for the cost of HDB flats

I was reading an article that recommended putting a ceiling in all sales of HDB flats. I do agree that this should be the way to go for a very simple reason. HDB flats are meant to be affordable.

HDB flats are public housing and were created to enable all Singaporeans to be able to own a flat. Therefore, if you use that as the principle, HDB flats should not be priced in a way that is not affordable to Singaporeans, but still allow Singaporeans to be able to fund their retirement, and allow them to purchase another flat after the sale of the HDB flat.

One of the thoughts I have is to put a hard ceiling on the cost of all HDB flat sales, pegged to a certain percentage above the valuation of the HDB flat so that the price of HDB flats will not runaway. For e.g., there can be a rule that HDB flats cannot be sold beyond 150% of the valuation of the HDB flat.

Pegging it to a certain percentage above valuation have a couple of advantages. Most important is that whoever who sells the HDB flat will still be able to afford to get another flat so that they can have a roof over their heads. Why we peg it to the valuation is based on the assumption that valuation of the HDB flats will be fair and transparent, and reflect accurate sentiments in that environment. Pegging it to a percentage above the valuation is to reflect certain situations where the location and renovation of the HDB flats do translate into higher value of the flat, in addition to the size of the flat.

At least pegging it to the valuation will prevent runaway prices. I'm still a firm believer that since HDB flats are meant for all Singaporeans, it should be kept affordable so that young couples need not always have to purchase BTO flats as the resale flats are out of reach of most young couples (not including those couples with rich parents).

Setting this ceiling will put the pressure off new flat and instead allow young couples to be able to purchase resale flats. This aligns with the principle of HDB flats. Personal thought though...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Inflation is up 4%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2012:
January: 4.8%
February: 4.6%
March: 5.2%
April: 5.4%
May: 5.0%
June: 5.3%
July: 4%
August: 3.9%
September: 4.7%
October: 4%

Transport and Housing are leading the pack, rising by 7.5% and 5.6% respectively year on year, a decrease compared to September's inflation. Inflation seems to have moderated slightly due to the slight decrease in the price of oil I presume. However, other items in basket are seeing an increase compared to the previous month. This might be short-lived though as Thanksgiving and Christmas has gone or almost upon us. That means discount time.

My second-half estimates are way off again. Guess I need to find time to analyse why. Maybe my day job is getting into me. Anyway, this month's inflation should be slightly lesser than 4%. Looking at the current trend, looks like MAS inflation estimates may be true after all.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Technology makes a difference in people's lives

I quote from Barack Obama:
I want us to ask ourselves every day, how are we using technology to make a real difference in people's lives.

It is not common to see people in high positions knowing that technology is something that can help make a real difference in people's lives. I've long heard of people in high positions refusing to even attempt to understand the technology, calling it complex, and cutting the costs that keeps the technology alive, not knowing that it is the competitive advantage that keeps the organisation ahead of others.

Let's hope more of such people will go up the top management.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stop focusing on business. Focus should be on the employees

Many governments have been focusing on giving breaks to businesses in the hope that whatever breaks given will filter down to the employees. So what's the result? Record amounts of cash being kept by the businesses because they do not believe that pushing these savings to the employees will help them. May or may not be true, but if you look at the situation in the long run, I always believe that treating your employees right will lead to a virtuous cycle which will have a positive effect on the economy.

I personally believe the US election results do show that the US citizens are tired of breaks given to businesses which do not filter down to the people. They have chosen someone whom they hope will create policies that will force businesses to act instead of keeping record amounts of cash. Translated, cash given to businesses must come with conditions and there cannot be any assumption that businesses will do whatever is right. Based on our history, we make most of our wrong moves in times of uncertainty. This definitely qualifies as times of uncertainty.

Frankly, I believe most companies will not do whatever that is right for the society because the fundamental reason why a company is set up is usually to make money for the owners. It's like asking a listed company to price their products fairly because it is used by everyone in the country. Why on earth would they do that? That company will definitely be very happy because its in the situation where they are monopolising the market. They can price it in anyway that they want and people will still have to buy their products. Price their products fairly? Like real. Unless they are a non-profit organisation.

Policy makers need to re-think on how to stimulate the economy. It must be grants given with conditions, and the conditions must aid the citizens. After all, it is public money.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reverse Psychology may help

I still don't understand why some people think all of us are interested in whatever games or songs that they are playing and they want to blast it out loud within the train or bus, letting all of us hear it. If you don't have earphones, then switch off the sound. It's called basic courtesy.

Maybe we should practice a bit of reverse psychology. If someone blasts out any sound or music without ear phones, it is definitely correct to assume that the person wants to attract attention. Therefore, we should go close and stare at the device that is making the noise. Blocking the person's view is recommended otherwise it is difficult to see what's the game or music that is being played on the device.

Well, they want to attract attention right? Reverse psychology at work.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Leaving to market forces will never help

I was reading an article on R&D and in it, it opined that when companies are left to their own devices, they would do less R&D than is optimal even though it will ultimately benefit the company in the long run. It's one of the main reasons why credit is given when companies do R&D.

However, this opinion does sets me thinking. If the government needs to give credit for companies to do something that is actually beneficial to them in the long run, how can the government then say in the same breath that leaving it to the market forces will achieve whatever outcomes that are optimal for the society.

Just by taking the public transport everyday, it's quite obvious to anyone that in order for things to be in order, there must be some form of intervention, in terms of fines to discourage bad behaviour, or even benefits to encourage good behaviour. Like it or not, when humans are left to their own devices, they will usually take the easiest way out.

I never believe in leaving to market forces as the market will mostly seek to benefit themselves, and not to society as a whole. Pity though.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Power vs Responsibility

This thought suddenly pop into my head one day when I was heading to work:
With power comes great responsibility, but how about those that were given great responsibility, with no power?

I'm sure that somewhere in your life, you would have encountered such a situation where you're entrusted with great responsibility to make sure a particular project is a success. However, you're given little to no power in order to push it through because like all complex projects, no one will listen to you if you have no power.

What happens then? The blame is on you if the project is a failure, and the top people may even conveniently ignore the fact that it's because the lack of their participation that caused the project to fail.

Pity but that's how life goes... We can only try to avoid such situations.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Virtualisation is still a big minefield

Whenever I go to seminars where they talk about how virtualisation will help businesses cut down costs, and allow their staff to Bring Your Own Devices (BYOD) which increase productivity, I always have to resist the urge to speak out and ask them one important question... How much does that software cost?

For those who purchase enterprise software, I'm sure many are aware that nowadays, vendors seem to be gradually changing their licensing model for their enterprise software because they realised that the virtualisation take-up rate is actually reducing the number of licenses being bought by businesses.

So what do that they do? They create complicated licensing mechanisms which in the end, translate to higher costs for customers. For example, I heard of a licensing model where they charge based on the blade server processor cores instead of the number of cores that the particular virtual machine is using.

Yes, you're hearing it right. That means if you are using a blade server with 16 processor cores, operating one virtual machine with 4 processor cores running that particular enterprise software, you end up paying for 16 processor cores even though that particular software is only using 4.

Not only that, you have to pay more if you have enabled the failover feature in most virtualised environment because they tie your licensing to that particular blade server. Therefore, if your virtual machine failover to another blade server, you need to pay for that particular blade server configuration in addition to the normal blade server you're using.

Sounds crazy? You bet... I think there is going to be a backlash for those customers using virtualisation and who knows, people might either start going open source (which doesn't have all these crap), or go back to physical servers.

Counter productive but with this kind of restrictive licensing model, they've taken out all the benefits of owning a virtualisation environment. Pity...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Big companies are not putting too much attention to IT

I was reading an article that was talking about big fortune 500 companies being hacked and them keeping very quiet over it. To top it off, that particular fortune 500 company didn't know that they were being hacked until someone else informed them.

Personally, I think too many companies just take IT for granted and prioritised accessibility over security. Not only that, they feel that if anyone knows basic computer knowledge, they are good enough to manage the whole computer infrastructure. When I hear of such cases, all I could do was shake my head.

Yes, you may think that IT is not important. It's too complicated. It's too complex. Hey but like it or not, IT is important and have been used extensively by many big companies to improve productivity. What happens after they improve their productivity? They forget all about security. Putting all the intimate information of your business into your IT environment and conveniently forget all about the security. I liken it to renovating your house very nicely but forgetting to build a front door with a locking mechanism.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Another take on the lightning connector

Everyone has been complaining that Apple has switched to the lightning connector because they want to make more money and force everyone to change their devices to the newer ones.

Yes, I believe that they could be one of the reasons why they do it, but I believe that this is not the reason why Apple did it. Think about it. A whole ecosystem was built around this connector that was unchanged for almost 10 years. What other reasons would Apple have to disrupt this whole ecosystem?

Personally, I find that the reasons could be as easy as the position of the headjack. Yes... It sounds a bit anal but you can try to analyse the way you use the iPhone. For e.g., if you have a habit of putting the iPhone in your pocket, you will usually position it such that the iPhone is facing downwards. If you have your earphones plugged in, you will need to position the phone awkwardly in your pocket.

It makes sense that the headjack be positioned at the bottom but if you look at the bottom of the iPhone, you have a problem. There is not enough space below to position the headjack and the speakers all at the same place. Therefore, the only possible way to move the headjack down is to either shrink the connector, or make the iPhone bigger.

You might ask why not make the iPhone bigger like the Samsung phones. Well, if the phone is any bigger, the phone will be rather uncomfortable if you put it in the pocket. I tried putting the Galaxy Note II and the S3 and I don't quite like the way it is hitting me when it's in my pocket. Furthermore, playing with the screen size in any way will cause problem to their hundreds of thousands of apps in their AppStore and may cause problems in the way all the Apps will be displayed within the iPhone. Needless to say that the bigger the screen size, the more expensive the phone will be.

Therefore, the only least disruptive way for Apple is to shrink the connector instead of increasing the screen size. To keep the costs down, they have to make sure all the devices use this new connector so that they could keep the cost down through volume manufacturing.

Well, this is just personally why I think Apple did it, other than the fact that it is quite cool that you can connect the lightning connector any way you want, unlike the 30-pin connector where you can only connect it in one particular manner. Now you can actually put the iPhone in your pocket naturally, and the earphones will naturally go out of your pocket towards your ears.

It could be that Apple wanted to make more money though. Just something to think about...

Friday, November 9, 2012

Where we stand at times of challenge and controversy

I quote from Martin Luther King, Jr:
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.

When we review our actions when we are at times of challenge and controversy, do our actions make sense, or do we fall into a nervous wreck?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Neglect of backend infrastructure

I was reading about a hospital evacuation in New York and it came to me that what caused the evacuation is similar to situations I see elsewhere. An apparent neglect in backend infrastructure that powers everything in the business. Electricity went out in the hospital when Hurricane Sandy hit New York, and their backup generator failed. Blame was placed on the outdated backup power system powering the hospital.

Likewise in other businesses, you also see a similar scenario. People rather spend on things which they can visually see or touch, such as marketing campaigns, packaging, latest medical equipment, etc. They tend to not remember that there are certain critical equipment that is powering up your whole infrastructure, and since it is out of sight, it is out of mind.

Critical infrastructure such as the backup generators, power systems, network connectivity for the building, servers powering up your applications, and of course, the applications itself that aims to help improve productivity within an organisation. All these are usually considered backend. People tend to ignore them because they are things that are not visible to everyone, and mostly taken for granted to just work. In fact, some may even want to ignore it on purpose as it is not easy to understand the technology that powers such infrastructure.

However, ignore it at your own peril. Why? Just ask yourself. If the email happens to stop working in your organisation, or somehow you are unable to connect to a system to approve an urgent request, is it because of bugs in the systems, or is it because you fail to invest sufficiently in your backend infrastructure to ensure the lights are still on?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My reasons why NYSE closed

NYSE closed and stopped even electronic trading when Hurricane Sandy hit New York. Many questioned why the electronic trading has to stop. Well, I guess they don't really understand about computer systems.

I believe nowadays, people have been spoiled, no thanks to Google because it seems that regardless of rain or shine, access to Google just seem to work. No one bothered to question why so they just assumed that it should be easy, since Google is "free to use".

I do not know the real reasons behind why NYSE closed but based on my experience in the technology industry, I can hazard some guesses.

Power - I believe power should be a major concern and one of the key factors in closing the electronic trading because multiple scenarios could happen when Sandy hits New York. Yes, most data centres have backup generators, and backup UPS but just think about this for a moment. How long does UPS last? Maybe a couple of hours, but UPS is just meant to be there so that you can safely shutdown the systems. How about backup generators you might ask? I will then ask you what does backup generators get their power from? Fuel? Connection to another powergrid? What happens if Sandy cuts both of them?

If there is no guarantee on consistent flow of power to the systems, proper risk management dictates that you should shutdown the systems because you will not want to encounter data corruption in your system.

Connectivity - Even if you can assure yourself of the availability of power, you also need to think of the connectivity to the systems itself. How do people connect to systems you might ask? Well, the same way you connect to the Internet at your house, through wire (yes, it is much more efficient than any mobile connectivity).

No one can guarantee that the connectivity will be available when Sandy hits New York. If the flooding is bad, the salt water may reach the connectivity lines and corrode it, causing corruption to the data that is being transmitted. This can be at the data centre end, or at the customers' end. No one will know, and it is extremely difficult to pinpoint where's the problem. Again, it's data corruption.

Service Level Agreement - Now with all being said, do you think NYSE is able to guarantee the service level availability of the system? If anything goes wrong, do you think that they will be able to marshal the resources to get people to fix it in the agreed timeframe? Do you know that the penalty for not meeting the service level agreement can be quite severe?

From the risk management perspective, it is definitely safer to shutdown all the systems and allow trading to resume when Sandy passes by New York, which was what they did. I think many people do not really understand the amount of effort done by engineers at the backend, ensuring that everything is working as intended.

That's why people say that ignorance is bliss.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Gangnam Style in our lives

I admit... I was one of the first few people who saw the gangnam style youtube video before it became a sensation in Singapore, and my first impression? I didn't know what was so appealing about it except that the dance is pretty unique. After it became a sensation, I still don't quite understand why, except again because of the dance.

Finally, when I was reading an article with regard to South Korea, I begin to realise why it is so popular. It seems that I would only understand why it is so popular if I understand Korean.

Apparently, Psy has a subversive message within the video that talks about class and wealth being false gods. Everywhere, it seems that people are coming to the realisation that gross domestic product gains doesn't necessary result in commensurate gross domestic happiness. This comes back to the fundamental objective of why do we want gross domestic product gains. Does class and wealth translate to happiness?

Is what we are doing now translating to happiness in our life? Happiness in how we are living? Happiness on just being alive? Do we even know the answer?

Friday, November 2, 2012

People and Leadership are most important

I quote from Steve Case:
And I'd say one of the great lessons I've learned over the past couple of decades, from a management perspective, is that really when you come down to it, it really is all about people and all about leadership. 

People and leadership are the 2 most important aspects of any business or organisation, but most of the time I do not see the focus on these 2 and in fact, I see politics driving away the very talent that makes the business prosper. Pity...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Flower Dome @ Gardens by the Bay

The Flower Dome Conservatory at the Gardens by the Bay, where the entrance is on the same floor as the ticketing area, does not look like much at first glance. In fact, if you have visited the Cloud Forest initially, you will feel that this conservatory does not seem like much. You might want to take a look at this Dome first so that your expectations are not pushed up too high. :)

Take a look at the picture below on what greets you the moment you step in.

Personally, I think it is a mistake to show trees/plants from the cactus family the moment you step in. The impact, is just not as great as the waterfall you see at the Cloud Forest. :)  The area is quite big and all the pretty flowers are actually "downstairs" as you can see from the pictures below. As I went during the Halloween period, you can see quite a few pumpkins too around the dome. :)

As you can see from the pictures above, there are quite a number of resting areas for you if you are a little tired after all the walking. The area above are mostly trees/plants from the cactus family, but still there are some cactus flowers blooming. I've not seen a cactus flower before though so it was pretty interesting for me.

Anyway, I've grouped all the photos I've taken in the Flower Dome below. Do note that the flowers below are the more interesting flowers. Enjoy...

Do note that if you want to re-enter the dome, you can request for the staff at the exit to stamp your hand so that you can re-enter, valid for the day only. Have fun...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cloud Forest @ Gardens by the Bay

The Cloud Forest is one of the must see conservatories in the Gardens by the Bay for a very simple reason. Just look at the picture below. :)

Yes, this will be the sight that greets you upon entering the Cloud Forest. The Cloud Forest conservatory entrance is one level below the ticketing area. Just take the escalator down and you should see the entrance on your right.

 Pretty cool isn't it? Actually, you're more wet than cool when you enter the conservatory as there always seem to be a mist of water surrounding the conservatory. This waterfall is about 7 stories high and yes, you can go up all the way to the top, walking at the suspended passageway like you see in the picture below.

The pathway within the conservatory is pretty straightforward. You will need to take the lift up to the 6th floor, after which you will climb up a flight of steps to reach the 7th floor. There is a small pond upon reaching the top, where you can see a number of flowers that usually grow by the water, similar to the picture below.

From the 7th floor, you will traverse down the "waterfall" using escalators. The conservatory is quite uniquely designed, and there were times I marvel more at the architecture, than the flowers itself. You can take a look at picture below for a bird's eye view of the conservatory. Pretty neat isn't it?

Upon going down, you will also encounter an area where you see a lot of crystals. Whether it is real or not, I'm not too sure but there is some write-ups throughout the area where explanation was given on how crystals are being formed. There are also mirrors everywhere, and I can't resist taking the picture below using the mirrors to show off some of the crystals. :)

You will see some of the more beautiful flowers upon reaching close to the ground floor. This is the area where I feel like it may be a scene right out of Jurassic Park, as you can see from the pictures below. The Cloud Forest I feel is beautifully landscaped, and I really enjoy how the flowers are being positioned around all the mini waterfalls and small streams.

Now, for some pictures of the more unique flowers which I've seen within the Cloud Forest. Personally I spent about 2 hours inside, but more so because I was admiring the architecture and the flowers. :) It's a good place to stay for some time, and it is quite cooling. Enjoy

Do note that if you want to re-enter the dome, you can request for the staff at the exit to stamp your hand so that you can re-enter, valid for the day only. I will post more photos of the Flower Dome later. :)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Going to Gardens By the Bay

I finally had a chance to visit Gardens by the Bay last week. Gardens by the Bay is surprisingly accessible. I arrived via the MRT, alighting at Bayfront MRT station, and exiting the station via Exit B. Once you exit out of the station, you will see Gardens by the Bay on your right. A rough location of the MRT station vis-a-vis Gardens by the Bay can be found here.

If you're interested in visiting the 2 cooled conservatories, the ticketing area is near the 2 conservatories. You will need to cross the Dragonfly lake, which you will see upon exiting the station, via the dragonfly bridge. The Supertree Groves and Super Leaf are also visible from the station as you can see from the picture below. If you notice carefully, there is also a bridge suspended in-between. That is the OCBC Skyway. Do note that this attraction is separate from the conservatory, and is at the other end of the garden.

After crossing the dragonfly bridge, just walk towards the 2 cooled conservatories which are quite visible even from this distance. You will pass by many of the small mini gardens which you can visit free-of-charge, and at your own pleasure. My advice though is to visit the 2 conservatories first and wait for the weather to be cooler before visiting the outdoor gardens.

You should see a scene like the picture below upon reaching the first cooled conservatory.

If you follow the pathway, you should see the ticketing area as shown in the picture below.  When I was there, they opened another ticketing area at the other end for cash payment only. You can only purchase the tickets for the 2 cooled conservatories though, for that cash payment queue only.

The garden cruiser is the vehicle you see on the right hand side. There is not much information on the garden cruiser but based on what I observed, I believe that this cruiser will bring you a tour around all the free gardens around the area, with a running commentary by the friendly driver.

The Gardens by the Bay does occupy quite a big area as you can see from the picture below. You may need to allocate more time if you hope to visit all the gardens. I was however quite tired after visiting the 2 cooled conservatories. Up to you on how you want to schedule your visit. :)

There are also a couple of eateries around the ticketing area, and at the 2 conservatories so you should not go hungry. The souvenir shop is also located near the exit of the 2 conservatories, and personally, I think it is reasonably priced.

I will post a little more on the Cloud Forest and the Flower Dome conservatories later. You can find more information about the Gardens by the Bay here. As the pricing information differs if you're locals or tourists, I think it will be better if you refer to the website for more details.

Is the visit worth it? I let you draw the conclusion. :)
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