Friday, June 29, 2012

Change your thinking by changing your circumstances

I quote from Adlin Sinclair:
You are the embodiment of the information you choose to accept and act upon. To change your circumstances you need to change your thinking and subsequent actions. 

Do not blame others for circumstances that you have the power to change. Laziness can become a habit.

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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Thinning trees due to ezlink implementation for buses?

Recently I've been noticing that the trees have been thinning, especially the trees near the roads. The reason why my attention was diverted to the trees is mainly due to the very hot weather. Previously, I recall that the trees used to block the sun from reaching the concrete floor, which resulted in a cooler environment. Nowadays the weather has been getting hotter and hotter, and I've noticed we have lesser trees to shield us from the fierce sunlight.

Why the trees are thinning? For some reason, one thought came into mind. The buses. The buses I believe are using GPS to detect their current location to calculate the fares to be paid by ezlink. The problem with GPS is that if there are obstructions, the accuracy of the GPS will be affected. This will cause problems in the calculation of the fares.

Are the trees thinning more than usual so as to improve the GPS accuracy of the buses? Hmm...

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

User experience should always be the main point

I know that certain technologist focus more on the functionality and features than user experience. Since I started going on the technology path, I've always try to put user experience as the main point in any design that I make for the very simple reason that if the user experience is not easy to understand, no one will know how to use your function.

Simple concept, but very difficult to implement. The problem with simple user experiences is that to the end user it might seem very natural , but the problem is that thinking of such an interface actually takes a lot of research and sometimes, programming effort to make it effortless for the user to execute the function. The user may think its actually very simple to do, without realising that a lot of backend functionality is being done without their knowledge.

Simple user experience. Looks easy, difficult to do, and under appreciated by users. The sad life of a technologist.

Inflation is up 5%

Updated 23 Aug 2012: Realised that the calculations are wrong. Updated the numbers

These are the Singapore inflation rates for 2012:
January: 4.8%
February: 4.6%
March: 5.2%
April: 5.4%
May: 5.0%

Transport and Housing are leading the pack, rising by 9.2% and 8.2% respectively year on year. Inflation was generally weaker than the expected 0.1% to 0.2% drop that I've estimated, which I believe was mainly due to the housing rebates that were distributed. Transport was the only sector that buck the trend, no thanks to the every high COE prices that seems to defy gravity. I always wonder who are the ones who are willing to pay $50,000 for one piece of paper that is valid for only 10 years.

This month's inflation may be slightly lower by 0.3%-0.4% compared to May due to the recent Europe crisis affecting prices across the board, the drop in oil prices. July is a crucial month to determine if the downward trend will continue. All eyes are now on Greece, Spain and Italy.

Monday, June 25, 2012


In the recent turn your screen off day, there was mention of a new phenomena called Phonestacking. The idea is quite simple. Before a meal with friends or family, everyone stacks the phones face down in a pile in the middle of the dining table. Before the meal is over, I believe there will definitely be cases where phones will start to vibrate or ring. The first person to crack and check their phone has to pick up the bill for the entire table.

Cool right? Good way of getting people to pay for your meal! :)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Self Worth

I quote from Sydney Madwed:
Poor is the man who does not know his own intrinsic worth and tends to measure everything by relative value. A man of financial wealth who values himself by his financial net worth is poorer than a poor man who values himself by his intrinsic self worth.
Not everything needs to be measured in terms of financial net worth.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Competition and Creativity cannot co-exist

I have been interested in the topic of creativity recently and have been reading articles on it. Apparently, someone believed that a competitive spirit can sometimes inhibit the creativity that it requires, which I fully agree.

The reasoning is simple. Creative people usually do not follow the crowds. They seek out so-called blank spots on the map, and instead of being the fastest on the well beaten route, creative people move through "wildernesses" nobody knows. In a competitive landscape, it's extremely difficult to create value because in order to create value, you need time that a competitive environment won't give you.

In summary, the competitive landscape undermines creativity and thus innovation. And everyone knows that innovation is the key to a successful company.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Use RFID to track shopping carts

Recently I was reading about NTUC losing their shopping carts to inconsiderate shoppers who do not bother to carry their own trolley bags and choose not to return the NTUC shopping carts.

One relatively simple way is to install all shopping carts with RFID sensors and to put such sensor gates at the entrances/exits of the supermarket. If the cart leaves the supermarket, which can be detected through a network of RFID receivers, a loud alarm will be sounded. At the exit, there can also be a counter selling trolley bags for shoppers to purchase if they wish to purchase something to help them carry their groceries.

Seriously, just because you're shopping at the supermarket doesn't give you the right to take the shopping cart away from the supermarket and deprive other shoppers from it. With this sensor, you may not even need to install the device that requires someone to slot in a $1 coin in order to take the cart.

It's time to send a message that taking shopping carts away from the supermarket is an unacceptable behavior that needs to be stopped.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Central control system for all trains

I was taking the train one day when I suddenly thought of the show called "Unstoppable". No, I was not thinking about the runaway train but more of the central control station that controls all the trains running at all the different railway tracks.

I'm not sure if that is the norm in the United States but if there is such a central control system in Singapore, it would solve the main problem where we arrive at the station on a connecting train/LRT only to see the train departing, and the next train coming in only after 6 mins. It's one of the daily frustrations that we encounter everyday. Having this central system will help control all the timings of all the trains running in the rail network and to time it such that trains are in the station just in time to catch the next group of passengers that are arriving from the connecting trains.

I just find it super irritating to arrive at the connecting station only to find the train pulling away. It's even worse when you the connecting lines are operated by the same company. Don't you?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Clarity & Goals

I quote from Rene Daumal:
It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content... it must also have a goal and an imperative. Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble and from babble to confusion. 

It's not enough to be clear. Clarity without a goal will lead to confusion. Something to take note in our everyday life.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Do you know what is a weblog?

I think many do not know that a blog is actually a short for weBlog, which is an online diary where people would keep a running account of their personal lives. Why would people want to keep an online diary?

Personally, the reason I do this is because I feel that whenever I try to write something that I'm thinking about, it forces me to re-think on the topic and sometimes, I end up not writing that post because the very act of putting my thoughts to words make me re-think my stand. An online diary that allows comments will also help you to learn because someone might disagree with your thoughts and the reason is very valid.

Personally, I follow strictly to this definition and I've so far resisted attempts to focus my blog on a particular subject. That is not my main objective. My objective is to share and to learn, and hopefully I will continue on this path. Searching though my past thoughts can sometimes be very entertaining too. It shows how my thinking has evolved throughout the years. :)

Here's to blogging.

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Singtel 2 GB limit is just an excuse

Recently Singtel has announced that new/re-contract plans starting from 1 July will have the 12GB data limit reduced to 2GB data limit for its cheapest data plan. The extra charges per GB will also be revised up soon. According to Singtel, this is to eliminate data-hogs who log on to the network for a long time and take up bandwidth simply because they know they have a high cap.
Seriously, is reducing the bundled data connection the only way? Of course not. It seems like after trying a priority pass on their broadband which I've written about here, they have given up on using Quality of Service (QoS) to regulate the phone data network.

The 2GB limit will not help Singtel because of the fact that very few of us actually track the amount of data that our phone is using. Period. Who will go into the settings to find out how much data that the phone is using? Furthermore, I believe the problem is more like there are insufficient base stations to service the number of people using smart phones. For those smartphones using AGPS (a.k.a fake GPS), if you can find that your phone is telling you that you're somewhere far away from where you are, most probably the base stations around your area is overloaded and the smart phone is confused on your actual location. Very common to see this if you're in the central area.

Personally, this reduction is a PR nightmare for Singtel and instead, they should try to implement QoS in their network. Put higher priority for connections to websites and email servers and seriously, put out a separate tier for those people streaming or downloading movies and images. It's no use penalising everyone when it's this group of users that are most probably using up your network bandwidth. They should target this group of users and charge them extra if they want the QoS to be removed.

Exodus from Singtel to other telcos? Yes. Definitely. My hope is that the other telcos don't think that this will resolve their problem. It seems that Starhub has followed Singtel and has reduced their data plan cap to as low as 1GB on the same day Singtel announced their changes. Problem is I don't recall seeing this piece of news until it was reported recently. Now I guess M1 is the only one left standing. As I recall, they were the first who introduced the 12GB cap. Let's see it they will follow suit.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Be careful when you click on the "Like"

In Facebook, I think many of us do not spare a second thought before clicking on the Like button. It can be something that you truly think is good, or something that is quite lame and you just like it for the fun of it.

Well, apparently somewhere in the terms of service that you agreed when you register with Facebook, you agree to participate in advertisements that Facebook will push to you. So how does that relate to you clicking on the Like button? It seems like companies can pay Facebook to automatically push out product post/images that you "Like" automatically to your wall. It will seem like it is being endorsed by you.

So be careful before you click on any "Like" button. Who knows. You might be endorsing something that you thought is quite funny.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Role of technology

Below is something that I read of the role of technology in any organisation, which I hope everyone should take note.
While technology cannot, and should not, make decisions for us, it can help us make better decisions. But the best decisions will always be the ones tempered by good judgement. Good judgement should distinguish between efficiency and effectiveness.

Application systems have no judgement; they only do things that we tell them to do, or designed them to do it. Application systems do not have intelligence (at least not yet), just efficiency. The system is just as smart as the one giving them the requirements (assuming no bugs of course).

Just do not understand why some people think that they can do wonders.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Agile or Hierarchy?

Recently I've been reading about SCRUM and Agile methodology and the uses of it in large organisations. No, I'm not talking about software development but in terms of whether the organisation can adopt this methodology as a culture.

Let me explain. Typical companies are hierarchical. Top-down approach is the norm and as a result, you have to go through several layers just to get approval to start a new project for example. Agile methodology will help to streamline this process and make the time-to-market more efficient.

For example, let's say you have several product lines. You can have product managers in-charge of the different products and they report directly to the CEO or Assistant CEOs. These product managers will hold the role similarly to the Scrum Masters, accountable for removing impediments to the ability of the team to deliver the product. The product team itself will be cross-functional and there's no such problems such as this my scope of work, that is your scope of work, etc.

The example given is for a technology company but there's nothing preventing this to be applied to other types of organisations. The advantage of such a set-up is that the goal is so much clearer to the team, and most importantly, it's a shared goal. It flattens the hierarchy so any changes or problems will and can be reflected earlier.

This does have its drawbacks. The team members have to be cross-functional and that by itself means that there may be difficulty getting such skill sets, and retaining them. However, you can't eat the cake without buying it. It's like project management. Cost, Schedule, Resource is linked like a equilateral triangle which affects the quality. You give some, you lose some. That's life.

So far I've not yet worked in such environments. Pity.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Culture of company attracts employees

Recently a lot of companies are lamenting that they have problems attracting employees to work in their company. My personal opinion, it's a 2-way street.

Let me bring up an example in the technology arena. Do you hear Apple, Google or even Microsoft having problems hiring people? Other than the salary, I firmly believe that it's also the company culture that matters to someone who is joining the company. I think that in this era, salary is no longer the only overriding reason for someone to join a particular company. The culture of the company, the career roadmap for the employee, the opportunities presented to the employee; they now matters to the employees and to some, they're even ranked higher than the salary offered.

SMEs may not have the "firepower" to offer the same salary benefits, but they do have the flexibility to offer other benefits such as flexi-work hours and shorter career roadmap to name a few. Sometimes, these matter more to certain people and who knows, these may be the type of employees you want working for you.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Implement COE, HDB style

I think the recent COE prices only shows one of the disadvantages of such a quota system. It benefits the rich compared to the everyday man because to them, the COE prices do not matter in their purchases while to others it might be a means of livehood.

Therefore, it's time to implement the COE, HDB style. What does that mean? Every Singaporean should be entitled to one COE based on the going price. If you need more than one car, you'll have to borrow less for the 2nd car, and have an excess charge on top of the COE price. For example, let's say you already have one car and you're buying an additional car, you have to pay a 40% downpayment in cash, and you need to pay 10% extra on top of the COE price that you have bidded for.

Implementing this will also reveal if the taxis are unfairly affecting the price of COE and if a separate category should be created just for them. Delaying the cut in COE is not resolving the root cause of the problem.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Be comfortable with uncertainty

I quote from Eckhart Tolle:
When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possibilities open up in your life. It means fear is no longer a dominant factor in what you do and no longer prevents you from taking action to initiate change. The Roman philosopher Tacitus rightly observed that ‘the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise.’ If uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfectly acceptable, it turns into aliveness, alertness and creativity.

I especially like this sentence, "the desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise". Is this a sign for me? Hmm...

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