Wednesday, February 29, 2012

CIOs, business first, technologists next.

I was reading a techrepublic blog here on the topic of CIOs place in an organisation. I fully agree that the CIOs should always put business first. However, to fulfill the role of CIO, they definitely need to be a technologist. Layman terms, the CIO needs to know what the technical team is doing.

The CIOs are in a unique position where they are a bridge between business and technology. That's why it is not a very easy post. If the CIO only focuses on business, then it's likely that some business decisions being made do not take into account the limitations of the technology infrastructure or even the technology itself. Budget wise, there might also be an issue because if you're not familiar with technology, it's very easy to under budget for purchases. That's the least of their problems. How about not mitigating the risks? DRP? BCP?

However, a technologist that do not understand the business operations is also not recommended. Focus on technology does not help the business bottomline. IT is just a means to an end. Enough said.

But then again, how many companies actually have a true CIO? Hmm...

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

802.11ac coming soon end 2012 or early 2013

Seems like the next Wi-Fi standard--802.11ac may be coming soon at end 2012 or early 2013. These include faster aggregate connection speed of over 1Gbps as well more power savings when used on mobile devices. 802.11ac also operates in the less-used 5GHz frequency band.

I'm currently using Wifi 802.11g to inter-connect all my devices and my devices usually suffer from connection issues. Slowness, weakness in signal strength, etc. Not surprisingly as I've seen more than 10 wireless networks in my area and I'm not sure how many cordless devices are surrounding my area. I've also built systems using purely Wifi to communicate and I've also encountered such signal issues due to the spillage of signals from surrounding areas, and I was just transmitting text and limited images.

Will operating on a different frequency help? I doubt so because once the 802.11ac standard becomes more common, it will still clog up that frequency. Will it be more stable? I doubt so. That's the inherit problem with wireless technology, and I do not think it will replace wired connections.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Free Bus Service if MRT breakdown? How?

Recently it was reported that free bus services will be provided at certain points nearest to the affected stations in the event of an extended MRT service disruption. I didn't hear the part on how the bus providers though will find out who are the passengers that are affected by the service disruption. Definitely not everyone who board the buses at those bus stops will get free bus services.

The only way that I know that the bus providers can identify which passengers are affected by the service disruption is through the ezlink card transaction logs. So what does this mean? It means that you need to pay first, and later claim back from the control station.

So now you know why the providers agree to this. It's quite likely that for those who take the bus services, they will not bother to claim back because it will most probably be only a few cents (not even a dollar) due to switch between MRT and bus services.

I rather that the MRT shouldn't breakdown in the first place.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Do not set high standards everytime

I quote from Yousuf Karsh:
I've also seen that great men are often lonely. This is understandable, because they have built such high standards for themselves that they often feel alone. But that same loneliness is part of their ability to create.

Sometimes, it's good to stop applying high standards to everything that you do and see how some people look at certain things. You might get a fresh aspect to a situation.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Inflation is up 4.8%

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2012:
January: 4.8%

Housing and Transport are once again leading the pack, rising by 9.5% and 3.5% respectively year on year. Inflation is almost higher across the board. I expected the Transport inflation to drop but I did not expect the overall inflation to be higher than expected. I will need to analyse what I have left out as it is the first time that I'm attempting to forecast inflation at the start of the new year.

My forecast will not be that accurate until I figure out what did I missed out but February's inflation should be higher than January. Most probably around 5.5%.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Finally they are removing the vertical pole at the doorway but ...

Finally the authorities are removing the vertical pole at the doorway of the MRT trains. I guess it is because the people are in-charge are finally taking the train on a frequent basis and are observing what is causing the congestion at the train doors. It is very common to see people coming to the train, going to the vertical pole and leaning against it, and refusing to move from it. It gets worst if the person has a big luggage or stroller.

However, the authorities should not neglect one aspect of the problem. The drivers. Those who take the trains on the frequent basis know that for SMRT trains, the closing of the doors of the trains are not consistent. Sometimes, the signal for the closing of the doors will immediately sound after the doors open. These small little things must be ironed out before this extends to the other trains as the passengers will take a slightly longer time to get out of the train if they are deeper within the train.

I hope the next improvement they will make is to improve the signage at the station itself so that it is obvious from within the train which station you're at. The digital signages within the train malfunction quite often and its near impossible to see which station you're at from within the train.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Do universities really know what is happening on the ground?

Recently there was a hoo-ha over insensitive remarks about other religions and communities that were being distributed around the university campus. The spokesperson added that as far as they know, this is the first time that such an incident of this nature has taken place.This really shows how little they know what's happening at the ground.

Maybe they should really get someone listening to such meetings or maybe listening to what's happening in the canteens. Long time ago, just by sitting in the canteens, you can find some stranger actually sitting beside you and start talking to you. As they talk, they will start talking about religion and will start indirectly saying not so nice remarks about other religions.

It was already happening over 10 years ago, and I'm sure other people have encountered it. Correct?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Direct Benefit for Households in Budget 2012

I am only highlighting some of the more direct benefits (non-business related) to households. Looking at the benefits to businesses, you can see the general direction that the government is heading is that businesses should evolve to make use of the skills of the locals. On the other hand, they are also providing productivity packages to the companies in order to encourage them to train their workers. There is also a renewed focus on low-income and elderly Singaporeans and making the rebates a permanent feature within our budget that I have mentioned in this post here finally happened.

The benefits in this budget again does nothing in enhancing work-life balance for all Singaporeans. All the benefits are mostly in monetary terms. There is still no definition of how the productivity is to be measured. Labour Productivity (average output per worker-hour) should be emphasized instead of general productivity. Labour Productivity will show the true picture that the increase in productivity is not due to the exploitation of workers. This is sadly, not mentioned.

Anyway, below are some of the more direct benefits to households:
  1. Increase CPF contribution rates of older workers and self-employed persons from 1 September 2012 (average of 2.5% increment for workers aged 50-54, 2.0% for 55-59, and 0.5% for 60-65)

  2. Earned Tax relief is doubled to $6,000 for workers aged 55-59 and $8,000 for workers aged 60 and above from YA2013.

  3. Elderly Singaporeans aged 55 and above who sell their existing flats and move to 3-room and smaller flats or Studio Apartments will receive a Silver Housing Bonus of up to $20,000 per household ($15,000 cash; $5,000 CPF).

  4. The Lease Back Scheme (LBS) bonus will be increased from $10,000 to up to $20,000 per household ($15,000 cash; $5,000 CPF), and beneficiaries may cash out the proceeds after setting aside the prevailing Minimum Sum in their Retirement Accounts.
  5. All patients in community hospitals will now qualify for government subsidies. The middle income group will receive the largest increase in  subsidy rates, getting a subsidy of 20% to 50% when they previously did not receive any.

  6. Subsidies for nursing homes, home- and community-based care will be increased. Two-thirds of Singaporean households will now qualify for subsidies.

  7. Provide a $120 grant per month to help lower- and middle-income families who may prefer to hire a foreign domestic helper to care for an elderly member at home (if the senior cannot perform three or more Activities of Daily Living, or has severe dementia).
  8. Absorb GST for all subsidised patients using ILTC services. This will include community hospitals, nursing homes and home-based care.

  9. Provide a one-off Medisave top-up to all MediShieldinsured Singaporeans. This will benefit more than three million Singaporeans.

  10. All families with a gross household income of $2,500 or less, or a per capita income cap of $625 will qualify for MOE Financial subsidies

  11. Enhance and extend Student Care Fee Assistance Scheme to help more lower-income families with a monthly household income of up to $3,500

  12. New and permanent feature in the tax system: GST Vouchers (Cash, Medisave, U-Save), which will provide continuing assurance of a fair system of taxes and benefits.

For more information on the budget 2012, you can visit the budget website here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Is that why we don't like repetition?

I quote from Peter Cushing:
There are all sorts of reasons why I don't do much work in the theatre, the main one being that after two performances I feel I've given all I can. I hate repetition, I really do. It's like asking a painter to paint he same picture every day of his life. 

Is that the reason why some like to job hop or do different things? Due to repetition? Something to think about.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why not use NFC as a discount card?

Personally, I'm not sure why is there so much focus on using NFC as an alternate payment method. Recently there was a problem with Google Wallet where the PIN number can be cracked. Doesn't give much confidence to payment using smartphones.

Smartphones, even without the NFC chip, is already plagued by battery problems. Just imagine that you have an NFC chip inside your smartphone and you ran out of battery when you're about to pay. I've written more about this in a post here. That was why I thought about using the NFC card for another use. Discount card.

My idea for a discount card using NFC card is quite simple. Just imagine you have a unique identifier that is encoded within your NFC card. The merchant scans the NFC card and checks the national database to get your name and face which will positively ID you. Why the need to check the national database? In the event your NFC card is lost, just report it and another unique identifier will be issued to you and your previous NFC card will be "cancelled". Using that ID, all your loyalty points will be retrieved from the merchants' systems.

Advantage? A single unique identifier (not your NRIC) will be used to identify you for all the merchants. No more holding on to so many discount/VIP/loyalty cards. Just your NFC chip will identify you. Convenient for you and savings for the merchants as there is no more need to create their own card.

Disadvantage? Branding will be diluted for those merchants who use their cards for that purpose. A minor inconvenience for customers as they will need to inform the national database if they lost their NFC card. There must also be a way to register the NFC card to the national database.

Sounds like a hassle for a discount card? Yes it does, which brings me back to my main gripe. I still don't know what's the use of NFC.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Managing People is an art

I believe few know that it is actually not easy to manage people. In fact, most companies are just interested in how fast the employee is able to fulfill their KPIs and how much revenue the sales can bring in. However, they tend to neglect on the management of their staff. The mentality of most are the same. Someone else can do your job. Take it or leave it.

I find it very interesting that companies can spend a great deal of time and money in employing the right staff but never put much thought in ensuring how to keep them. Respecting and paying employees well for good work is both the right thing to do and helps in reducing employee turnover and associated costs. The indirect benefits include word-of-mouth advertisement of the company as an employer of choice and raising the level energy and creativity in the employee. How do you do that? Mostly in effective management of your employees. How many are able to do it? Not many judging from the job-hopping trend over here.

Many mistaken management of people by just leveraging only on the compensation.Compensation to an employee is more than just a paycheck. It is also about signaling to the employee about his or her value to the organization. Managing people is definitely an art, an art that few people have.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Promoting Green vehicles through COE

I disagree that it is not possible to promote green vehicles by using the current COE quota system. Under the current Green Vehicle Rebate (GVR) scheme, owners of green vehicles can enjoy the following rebates:

Electric and Petrol-Electric Hybrid Vehicles (GVR applicable until 31 Dec 2012)
  • Rebate equivalent to 40% of the vehicle's Open Market Value (OMV) for electric and petrol-electric hybrid passenger cars, 
  • 5% of the vehicle’s OMV for electric and petrol-electric hybrid buses and commercial vehicles, and 
  • 10% of the vehicle’s OMV for electric motorcycles. 

CNG and Bi-fuel (CNG/Petrol) Vehicles (GVR applicable until 31 Dec 2011)
  • Rebate equivalent to 40% of the vehicle's Open Market Value (OMV) for CNG and Bi-fuel (CNG/Petrol)passenger cars, and 
  • 5% of the vehicle’s OMV for CNG and Bi-fuel (CNG/Petrol) buses and commercial vehicles.

Why don't the government just extend this rebate to the price of the COE? By doing that, it is still staying true of the objective of using the COE quota system to control the number of vehicles on the road, and yet encourage the use of green vehicles on the road, thus greening the Singapore environment. This will also send the correct message to the public that the COE system is not for the purpose of collecting revenue but it is truly to control the number of vehicles on the roads, and in this case, the type of vehicles.

This will definitely promote the use of green vehicles in Singapore because like it or not, Singaporeans are forever cost sensitive. WIIFM.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Grow and to Share

I quote from Rabbi Harold Kushner:
The purpose of life is not to win. The purpose of life is to grow and to share. When you come to look back on all that you have done in life, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you have brought into other people's lives that you will from the times that you outdid and defeated them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Buildings should manage the flood situation, not only the canals

There were many comments and suggestions to resolve the flood situation that crops up every now and then due to the worsening thunderstorms hitting Singapore these past few years. One of which I think is very important and will help in the controlling the flood situation is to reduce and delay run-off at the buildings with structures such as storage tanks, rain gardens, roof-top gardens and porous pavements.

The concept is very simple. Before the building is built, it is most probably originally a piece of green field and serves as a rain garden. I've written more about rain gardens in the post here. Therefore, that should be partly the reason why the area never had floods before the building is built. The water is most probably retained within the field.

The developers should at the very least ensure that the building on the land will not affect the nature surrounding the building. Therefore, creating the structures to control the run-offs as a result of these thunderstorms will help in alleviate the flood situation and developers or land owners should not push all the blame to the canal that is used for the whole of Singapore. In fact, if we really want to go into the details, I'm sure the run-off is lesser if the area was still a piece of field.

Be respectful to nature, and it will respect you too.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Skip Esplanade MRT to go to Marina Square

I'm done waiting for the Circle Line trains. If given the chance, I will avoid Circle Line at all costs. For those who are waiting for the trains at Circle Line, you can do a simple experiment. Look at number of minutes where the next train will arrive, and activate your stopwatch function on your watch or on your phone. You will realise that your stopwatch function may be faster than the time you see at the Circle Line.

Anyway, if you want a faster and more predictable journey to Marina Square, just alight at CityHall MRT station follow these steps
  1. Take the escalators up towards Raffles Shopping Mall
  2. Take the escalator down near the Starbucks on your right
  3. Go straight, following the sign indicating Esplanade MRT, and keep to your right.
  4. Take the escalator near the MPH to go towards the underground link that will link you to Esplanade MRT
  5. Upon reaching Esplanade Xchange, just go straight and you will reach Marina Square Basement link.

Time taken? Personally, I took less than 5 mins to reach Marina Square Basement from CityHall MRT control station. Definitely faster than the "6 mins" I have to wait for the Circle Line train.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Higher standards required for service staff

Recently, I've noticed a trend where a lot of shops are hiring service staff. However, it seems that many still do not understand it's not the quantity but the quality that is most important. One example of this is when I was eating in a particular eating establishment.

The shop doesn't  look any different but I did notice that the staff serving us were not the same people I've seen previously, and obviously not local. The problem came when one of the staff met a what I would term as a "difficult" customer that couldn't make up his mind, changing the order several times. This should not be a problem if you're proficient with the language. The problem? The service staff wasn't proficient in that language, resulting in the wrong order keyed in. The customer was nice enough not to tell the service staff off and accepted the food offered, but I think he will never visit the shop again.

I think it's time the shop owners need to understand that the service staff is after all your frontline staff. The initial touchpoint of all your potential and repeat customers. Don't train them well, and you will leave a bad impression on the customer. First impression is always important. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Imperfection is okay, but...

I quote from George Soros:
Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes.

Being wrong is normal. However, if you know that you're wrong and yet persist in doing it in that way, then you might as well not do it at all.

Try, Learn, and Do it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

iPhone now checks the AppStore frequently

It seems that at least for iOS 5.0.1, the iPhone seems to be checking the AppStore very frequently, even though it is not initiated by the user. Even though I did not tap on the AppStore, the AppStore seems to know what are the new updates for the Apps in the iPhone once there is a data connection (2G or 3G),

Personally, I prefer if there is a way to disable this as the 2G and 3G signals are not reliable and if the AppStore constantly tries to call back to see if there are any Apps update, the iPhone will use up its resources to scan all the Apps to see if there are any updates. Moreover, using the 2G and 3G signals when the signals are fake (meaning that there's a signal but there's actually no data connection) will drain your battery.

I wonder if Apple will disable this stupid feature. Anyway, I still do not understand why Apple took away the feature to disable 3G. The 3G signals are horrible and I encountered situations where the SMSes came in late and the calls are garbled.

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