Friday, September 28, 2012

Perfectly Imperfect

I quote from Steve Maraboli:
We have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Each snowflake takes the perfect form for the maximum efficiency and effectiveness for its journey. And while the universal force of gravity gives them a shared destination, the expansive space in the air gives each snowflake the opportunity to take their own path. They are on the same journey, but each takes a different path. Along this gravity-driven journey, some snowflakes collide and damage each other, some collide and join together, some are influenced by wind... there are so many transitions and changes that take place along the journey of the snowflake. But, no matter what the transition, the snowflake always finds itself perfectly shaped for its journey.
I find parallels in nature to be a beautiful reflection of grand orchestration. One of these parallels is of snowflakes and us. We, too, are all headed in the same direction. We are being driven by a universal force to the same destination. We are all individuals taking different journeys and along our journey, we sometimes bump into each other, we cross paths, we become altered... we take different physical forms. But at all times we too are 100% perfectly imperfect. At every given moment we are absolutely perfect for what is required for our journey. I’m not perfect for your journey and you’re not perfect for my journey, but I’m perfect for my journey and you’re perfect for your journey. We’re heading to the same place, we’re taking different routes, but we’re both exactly perfect the way we are.
Think of what understanding this great orchestration could mean for relationships. Imagine interacting with others knowing that they too each share this parallel with the snowflake. Like you, they are headed to the same place and no matter what they may appear like to you, they have taken the perfect form for their journey. How strong our relationships would be if we could see and respect that we are all perfectly imperfect for our journey.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Inflation is up 3.9%

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%

Housing and Transport are leading the pack, rising by 8.7% and 6.7% respectively year on year, an increase compared to July's inflation. Inflation is also up across the board compared to July. Somehow my calculations (which I did not reveal in my previous post) seems to be correct now. I guess I will try to find time to find out how come I missed July's inflation by such a large margin.

Inflation should be around 4.5% for the year instead of 5% which I have indicated earlier. I will try to figure out why my July calculation is so far off.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

iOS6 Maps, Singapore Perspective

There have been a lot of complaints on the iOS6 Maps in comparison with the Google Maps that were available previously. The most obvious complaints were that the transit routing feature and the traffic update feature are not available. The routing mechanism (for driving) also works in mysterious ways as it seems to like to avoid the expressways, and there are no ways to change that setting. However, every cloud has a silver lining.

The maps are much more detailed than the google maps, showing several of Singapore's popular landmarks, and I had no problems with the searching feature of landmarks within Singapore, including our train stations. What surprises me is that Apple Maps automatically cache certain parts of the Singapore map offline. I'm still not certain how the caching mechanism works though. I activated the Maps app by mistake when I was offline and I was surprised that it was able to show my location on the map. Zooming in and out was also not a problem when I was offline.

I guess this is useful if I am overseas. I will test this the next time I go on holiday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

3 types of people that block the door

After taking the MRT for more than a decade, I've identified 3 types of people who will selfishly block the door and refuse to make way for people to get in, or get out of the train.
  1. Kiasu - Just want to be the first one to get into the MRT, and the first one to get out.
  2. Kiasi - Afraid that they are unable to get out of the MRT (even though it may be an interchange and a lot of people will be going out), they will block the MRT door so that they can be the first one out.
  3. Self Centred - Withdrawn into their own world, usually with a pair of headphones, their usual modus operandi is to slowly stroll in, stop at the door, look around slowly for a place to sit or stand, then decide to turn around and stay near the door. Any "excuse me" will be ignored by the ultra loud headphones that are around their ears or temporary deafness.

So how do we unblock such people without degrading yourself to their level? No idea... Maybe "public shaming" may help.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Secrets of a long and fruitful life

I quote from Ann Landers:
One of the secrets of a long and fruitful life is to forgive everybody everything every night before you go to bed.

Nursing a grudge is very time consuming, and unhealthy. Let go, and you will find yourself leading a better life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Disappointing iPod Nano

Looks like the new iPod Nano looks now more like the iPod Mini now. I'm disappointed because the dream I had for the iPod Nano which I have written in the post here will not be fulfilled now.

However, I still do not understand why Apple increased the size of the iPod Nano. This product now seems neither here nor there. Apple already has the iPod Touch as the music player, and the iPod Nano is suppose to fill in the niche area for small music players. Increasing the size of the iPod Nano don't really make much sense to me.

Pity... I was all ready to get the iPod Nano if they include those features I wanted into it. :(

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

99% 3G coverage??

Recently I was reading about the LTE vs 3G coverage of Singapore Telcos and I read with disbelief that they touted that Singapore has 99% 3G coverage. Personally, I question the way they calculate 3G coverage.

It's very easy to do a simple test. Enable your 3G connection on your smartphone, and take the MRT from Jurong East to Bishan. This route is above the ground so we discount the interference we may encounter when we go into tunnels. I traveled this route at night and there were countless occasions where my iPhone 4S dropped back into EDGE (non-3G) throughout the journey. When it was on 3G, there were several occasions that it could not even load a simple page like Google.

Is that called 99% 3G coverage? I seriously wonder how they calculate the coverage. Just because there is a base station covering that area doesn't mean that there is coverage. For example, if your base station can only support 200 users, but at any point in time there are 2000 users, is that considered full coverage? I thought Singapore is strong in mathematics.

If LTE is not fully covered in Singapore and we're paying a premium for it, what are we exactly paying for?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Inculcating the habit of returning the tray is not that easy

Recently there were talks on inculcating the habit of returning the trays to the tray return station in Singapore. However, they seem to leave out what I feel are some of the important points which is critical in inculcating this habit into everyone in Singapore.

The most important point is the size of the tables in all food centres. I'm sure all of us encountered situations where we bring all the food onto the table, and start to remove the trays so that we have space on the table for all the food. That is the crux of the problem. If you need a tray to bring your food to the table, how would you bring your food to the tray return station without the tray? Furthermore, a lot of the food served in the food centres cannot be eaten cleanly (e.g. chicken bones, etc). If you can eat your food with the tray, it is very simple to just return the whole tray when you're done.

Next, the efficiency of the cleaners are also very important. I have seen many cases in food centres where the tray return station is piled high up with trays that were returned, such that there is no space for any more trays to be deposited. If you have encountered such a situation, will you still return the tray?

Last but not least, the spacing between the tables also play a part into inculcating this habit. Will you bring your tray to the tray return station, situated right in the middle of the food centre, if the food centre is full and there is no clear path to the tray return station?

Instead of looking at only enforcing this habit, they should focus more at what will make people return the tray back to the tray centre, which may include reconfiguring the food centre. There is no cheap way.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Shape your own future

I quote from Elaine Maxwell:
My will shall shape the future. Whether I fail or succeed shall be no man's doing but my own. I am the force; I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice; my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Maintainability is always a problem

I was reading about the train breakdown at NEL when it struck me that few actually worry about the maintainability of things that they build. IT projects especially have this problem due to people thinking that software can be customised to do anything.

Let me explain... Software can be customised, and if your software is bespoke and designed correctly, customising the software should not be a problem, assuming of course that you have a decent IT team. The problem comes when your software is a product, and it has a defined framework where the software can be customised. Many users do not seem to understand that the framework exists for a reason, and push vendors to customise it beyond what it is capable of.

Software products have a defined framework for a reason as products usually have roadmaps that may result in additional features being introduced throughout the lifetime of that product. Furthermore, there may be security patches or bug fixing patches to the product.

If you have customised the product beyond the defined framework, it is likely that the patches or additional features introduced will cause problems to the software.

Software vendors who know this will refuse to customise it beyond the framework to ensure the software is maintainable throughout the lifespan of the product. Those who don't, will please the customer, but cause the project many problems throughout the lifespan of the product, and jacking up the cost beyond the initial budget.

So who cause this problem where something becomes difficult to maintain? One should always focus on the objective, and not on the looks unless it is critical to your objective.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creating value from Information

Creating value from information is now the new rage. How do you create value from information? One of the ways is through analysing the current information that you have in a different way. Some call it business analytics. Google has been doing it all the time, and it's one of their main business models.

The fact however is that in order to do that, you will need people with the correct technology skills to advise the business or implement the technology to assist you in analysing the current information that you have.

However, the problem now is that not many people recognise the usefulness of such analytics and how it can help them. It doesn't help that many people think that IT should be cheap, and shun such technologists or software to help them derive more value from their business. Yes, business analytics is not easy (special skill sets are needed), so it is not cheap.

If you think it is easy, you can try formatting all your business information into excel, defining all the different worksheets according to the different work that you do, look through every single data inside, and use pivot tables to try to generate different views of your business and the trends. This is not business analytics but it is the very basic thing that you need to do in order to proceed further.

I think not many people know that technologist or people working in the technology line (may not be all) work to create value from information. They are misunderstood as people who talk in a language that is difficult to understand (like lawyers but they don't get paid as much as them), and therefore to be ignored, and thus don't seem to generate any value in an organisation.  Business analytics is just one example of a technology being used to create greater value.

It's also not all about making sure your software or application looks nice and cool, but its about deriving value from what you're using, and making sure that you get the most value from the software or application that you built or purchased. Yes, not many people know that making the user interface all nice and cool may mean that you can never upgrade your software again because you customised it too much.

Well, I think that's also the reason why not many people remain in the technology line. I've been in the line for almost 10 years. Wondering how much longer I can remain in it while remaining sane. Sometimes it gets super frustrating when you're doing your best for your customers or bosses, and yet unappreciated and receive nasty/sarcastic comments.

This is the life of someone in the technology line. :(

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Monday, September 10, 2012

No such thing as work-life balance

With all the recent emphasis on work-life balance, I like to say to all that there is absolutely no such thing as work-life balance, but there is something called employee's rights.

Think back... Why all the emphasis on work-life balance? That's because there is a tendency for employees to work longer and harder than what they were contracted to in the first place. Let me focus on 3 things that employees are usually "exploited" on, which affects our family time and bonding.

There is always something in your contract that states the working hours, but yet there will be another overriding it to say that you have to finish your work. There is no protection for employees if the employer choose to load you with a lot of work where you will end up working your heart out and then, considered as an "average" worker because you just fulfilled the tasks that were assigned to you. Fair?

Next, number of leave days. The law is very silent on the number of days that a employee can get for leave, and the definition of leave days. Why must the employees remain contactable during leave days? Why must employees go back to work when you're on leave to work on "urgent" tasks that no one seemingly can handle when you're gone, and yet you're paid like a normal worker? Some contract staff are also not given leave days even though they work exactly the same number of hours as permanent staff. Fair?

Last but not least, taking leave. How many employees are stuck in a case where they are the only person doing the job due to "productivity" and they are either stuck with a sense of responsibility which means they are hesitant to take leave, or their leave request gets rejected. Encashment of leave? Nope, no such thing for employees even though by mandating this, it will ensure employers will take care of the employees' welfare and ensure that they have sufficient staff for their business operations.

The key is not in work-life balance. It's in the protection of any basic workers rights. Personal and family time is important in an healthy life and in the cut throat market, you cannot expect all companies to give sufficient personal or family time unless it is mandated by the government.

That's the hard truth, at least to me. Sad isn't it?

Friday, September 7, 2012

At least I tried

This quote is something that came to my mind when going to work:
I do not have answers to all the problems in this world, but at least I tried.

I guess the stress is getting into me, but at least I know I tried, regardless of what others think.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Role of the government

Recently there has been many articles about the government's way of doing things, and what they should or should not be doing. I quote Abraham Lincoln:
The legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not so well do, for themselves.

I believe what he said simplify what the government should or should not do. They are elected so that they are able to listen to our problems and attempt to find a solution to it. They are able to do more than us because they are in essence more "powerful" than us. Using the example of a fund manager vs a retail investor. The fund manager is able to aggregate funds from all the investors to invest in products that require a higher capital, something that a retail investor might not be able to do. The government acts the same way.

Previously, there is a lot of discontent because the government seem to not attempt to find a solution to our problems. In fact, the ministers on some occasions push the blame back to us and did not try to even find a solution to the problem. The fundamental reason why we elect a member of parliament is so that they could represent us when governing the country, taking into account our feelings and suggestions. Just because other countries are having the same problem doesn't mean that you do not even attempt to find a solution to it.

The ministers seem to have learn after the election and are finally taking our problems seriously, trying to find a solution to it. Personally, I would advice to give them some breathing space. No matter how much they are paid, they are still human. Solutions to difficult problems do not drop down from the sky.

If they show the effort in finding a solution, be understanding to them. Or better still, recommend solutions to them so that they could review the feasibility and help to resolve the problem. Who knows. You may have part of the solution and your idea may trigger a full solution to the problem.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It's time to use the CCTVs for other purpose; smoking

Recently, the government has announced that they will be installing CCTVs in selected estates to deter high-rise littering. With the installation of such CCTVs, the authorities could also look into something else other than high-rise littering; smoking near the windows.

With the installation of such CCTVs and these CCTVs seem to be powerful enough to detect cigarette butts, I believe that it is time to enact the law to ban smoking near the windows within the flats.

The reason is very simple. When you smoke near the window, the smoker may not be aware that the smoke is actually blowing into another household. If anyone within that household has respiratory problems, the smoke will cause complication to that person. Closing the windows will stop the smoke from coming in but that means that the house will be poorly ventilated. Air-conditioning is also not cheap, unless the smoker wants to pay for the household's air-conditioning bills to have the privilege of smoking near the windows.

The other problem is the cigarette ash. Some inconsiderate smokers will also dump the ash outside the window, not knowing that this ash can blow into someone's house. I've already encountered burn marks near my kitchen window because an inconsiderate smoker insist on smoking near the kitchen window.

I'm fine if the smoker wants to smoke within the house, with all the windows closed. That's their privilege. Do not disrupt other household's lives because of your habit. Anyway, we all know smoking is bad for health, and second-hand smoke is even worst.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Android Printer may present new opportunities

Samsung recently announced that they are using Android to power their printers. This is nothing new as back in 2010,  I've already thought HP would have done it using WebOS, an OS similar to Android, and I written about it in a post here.

Putting Android in printers got me thinking of other nice-to-have functions in printers. One idea I thought of is something that all enterprise customers wish they have; OCR. For example, if the printer is powered by Android, it would be possible for the printer to do automatic optical character recognition (OCR), and translate it to a word document / ODF / copyable PDF document, and send it to you via email. Or better still, you may even be able to scan a document, sign the document from the printer console, and the printer will PDF both the document and the PDF, and send it off to the recipient.

Won't that be great? Just a simple act of buying a printer will give you OCR, and the ability to convert some documents (not all of course) to a writable format. Android is powerful enough to do such features, and may even be able to talk to real application systems by sending any faxes or documents directly to the system automatically instead of through a mailbox.

Possibilities are endless. Security however will be another issue though. Hmm... I wonder if Samsung will do it, or HP will think of something. HP is after all a leader in printers for a long time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fair to bring more choices to consumers by copying other people's work?

Samsung has again accused Apple of limiting consumer choice by suing them to stop the sales of Samsung Galaxy S III. I'm not able to understand the rationale behind their thinking because based on what I have read, it seems to them that copying a patent without giving royalties is valid as long as it gives consumers more choices. So by nature of that argument, it would also seem that pirated DVDs/software are legal because they do not limit the consumer choice.

I was involved in creation of products previously so I know the pain of someone taking your work, copying it wholesale, and saying it's their innovation. No matter how simple a product look like, it does not override the fact that many man hours have been put to create it. You may not even know that the product may be the 20th version and took years of hard work because it just looks simple to use.

Simple to use, not easy to do. The simpler it is, the harder to do.

Let's use an example closer to home. I believe some people at work also have encountered this kind of situation where you worked your heart out on a particular deliverable, only to have the person rubber stamping it with their approval taking it as their own work and not crediting you or compensating you for the work done. The deliverable might look simple but you have put in hours/days/months/years of hard work for it.

Now do you think it is still fair?
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