On Polling Day: The Power is Yours

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I was just reading DK’s post on what you are doing on the night before polling day, and this message popped into my mind.

There are a couple of references to the video above. In this new millennium, the demographics of Singapore is as diverse as the global origins of the Planeteers, regardless of where we come from, on this very day, we call Singapore home. And thus, with our powers (votes) combined, the power is ours.

It is for us to decide if history will be made in the 24 hours time, or will history repeat itself. As such, I sincerely hope that each and every person going to the polls tomorrow is not going to be frivolous with his/her vote. Though you might think that how can your single vote affect the outcome, this is a case of collective power, each and every vote on Polling Day matters. To borrow an old chinese analogy of a single chopstick vs a bunch of chopsticks, it is a time for us to either stand united or fall divided.

I shall end this post with the following 2 videos. Come 8am on Polling Day, your vote will decide the headlines on 8th May 2011. Stick with the Status Quo, or Vote for Change, which will you choose? Remember, The Power is Yours!




Being realistic this #sgelections

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I would like to begin this post by stating that whatever is written here is just the two (or maybe less) cents worth of an average Singaporean.

For the past fourteen years, I never got to vote because of the electoral system here in Singapore. As such, I thank the opposition in this General Elections for giving most Singaporeans a chance to go to the polls. I feel sympathetic towards the voters of Tanjong Pagar for the walkover in their GRC. Especially after the last minute MP change fiasco by the incumbent.

I attended my first elections rally on the first night after Nomination Day, and my second, 4 nights after that when the NSP team came to my constituency. It gave me the chance to evaluate the party and candidate running for my constituency against the ruling party. With the reach of the internet, I was also able to catch the rally speeches online by the various parties, both PAP and the opposition.

With Polling Day only 2 days away, my take away from Nomination Day till now is as follows,

First and foremost, there is no doubt that Singapore has achieved what it is today because of PAP. For the past 45 years, they have gotten most of the policies and formula right. And frankly, this track record is pretty hard to beat. As such, I believe that on Polling Day, PAP will return to power quite convincingly. However, PAP have interestingly sidestepped and avoided the major gripe that I have, which is what the opposition refers to as accountability. How does the government account for the 8-months bonus that the ministers got after all that has happened in the past couple of years? I don’t think that a simple apology during a rally is sufficient, especially with the severity of the issues. If the ministers’ pay is pegged to the private sector, I believe that when something goes wrong, they should act like senior management in the private sector. I am not saying that the ministers in question should resign, like what Tony Hayward did during the BP spill, but they should at least not be entitled to the bonus, which should be based on performance.

Secondly, the incumbent MPs have taken the opposition candidates to task for only turning up during the last few months leading up to elections. It seems to be a case of pot calling the kettle black. What I would like to know is why do most PAP MPs start doing their walkabouts and rounds during this period too? Where were they during the past 5 years? Where were they when my constituency was a walkover during the last elections? To me, the weekly MPS do not count as that is one of the responsibilities of an elected MP. In addition, I think that for them to push the opposition for concrete plans for the various constituencies if they are elected is quite unfair. Other than Hougang and Potong Pasir, the town councils for all the other constituencies are currently run by PAP. Therefore, without knowing what they are inheriting, it will be impractical for them to commit on what they can deliver.

Thirdly, as voters, to quote Uncle Ben from Spider-man, we are given great power, and with that comes great responsibility. Collectively, we have the power to decide the direction that Singapore will take in the next 5 years. This is non-trivial as some outcomes, regardless of how remote the possibility, might put Singapore into chaos. Hence, I hope that everyone going to the polls this Saturday take this responsibility seriously and evaluate the individuals or parties running in their constituencies and their ability to represent us in Parliament. We should not be influenced by all that is happening in other constituencies such as the various hot seats, or comments online, and be frivolous with our votes since we will not be able to affect the results elsewhere.

Finally, it has been mentioned by both PAP and the opposition that this is a watershed election for them. This might be true to some extent, and how the outcome this Saturday shapes the political landscape of Singapore remains to be seen. For me, I think this elections will determine the role of social media and the internet in future elections. In the past week, we have seen how the internet was used to disseminate election information to the masses, ranging from real-time comments on Facebook and Twitter, and rally speeches from various party being posted on YouTube. Thus far, majority of the comments online have been critical of the incumbent, ranging from the mishandling of various events to the skyrocketing prices of public housing. It will be interesting to see how much of this online frustration and chatter actually constitutes to votes for the opposition in the next 48 hours.

A small part of me is envious of the voters in the various group-representation constituencies which pit cabinet ministers against the A-teams of the various opposition parties. It is quite exciting to go to the polls knowing that your vote will decide not only if an office holder gets re-elected, but the fate of 3-5 other candidates. However, I am mostly thankful that for my maiden trip to the polls, I am in a single-member constituency, and my current MP is not an office holder. I have the luxury of weighing what my current MP has done for my constituency against the possibility of the opposition candidate bettering that.

I will end this post by reminding anyone who is reading this that your vote is SECRET, as long as you do not disclose it. The following video puts this message across very nicely.

Nearly Lost…Thank God for Google Latitude!

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Was feeling under the weather yesterday. Had a sore throat and the nose was drooling all the way. As I was leaving the office building, SBS service number 63 (SBS 2606 R) pulled up at the bus stop just outside the building. I decided to hop onto the bus rather than hoof all the way to RedHill MRT for my usual commute home by train. Since it was only the first stop from the terminal, the bus was pretty empty, so I plonked myself in the 3rd right seat from the back.

Feeling sleepy, I placed my phone in my right pocket with my portable harddisk. Fell asleep halfway through the ride back to Kallang. When I woke up, I was just one stop away. In my haste to alight, I didn’t realize my phone fell out of my pocket.

It was only when I wanted to check mobileiris for the next bus for my transfer that I notice it was missing. I panicked and ran after the bus for a few hundred metres. In retrospect, it was a really silly thing to do given the chaotic traffic in the Geylang area. When I realized it was futile to continue the chase, I stopped at a payphone and frantically called the wife. As I was ranting and panicking, she calmly ask me where I was and asked me to walk to Aljunied MRT where she could pick me up in the car and continue the chase.

After she picked me up, while I was still ranting on how careless I was, she asked me to check the bus route via mobileiris. It was then when I realized that I had Latitude turned on in Google Maps on my N97. The wife and I keep Latitude turned on for convenience. With it,  we need not update each other on our whereabouts. I started Google Maps on the wife’s N97 and viola! I was able to track the location on the bus.

Based on the current location of the bus at Macpherson, we decided that the best place to intercept the bus was at Eunos. We drove to a bus stop along Jalan Eunos and ahead of the bus and waited for it. Thanks to the positional accuracy of Latitude, we didn’t have to wait too long for the bus.

As luck would have it, two buses of service number 63 approached the bus stop one after another. Thankfully, the models of the buses were different, and I remembered that the bus that I rode on was the older Volvo model. It was the 2nd bus and I boarded it. As the services were bunched up, the 2nd bus had only 3 passengers.

I immediately dashed to the seat and found my phone in the crevice between the seat and window of the bus. All this while, the guy opposite the aisle was staring at me. Come to think of it, I must have looked pretty weird, dashing to the seat and searching high and low for something. Anyway, I was simply overjoyed and relieved to have recovered my phone.

So thanks to Google Latitude, the wife’s levelheadedness, and a bit of luck, this episode has a happy ending.

Another Weekend Fiasco with OCBC

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I thought my last run-in with OCBC was bad. Apparently, I thought wrong. Two months have lapsed since my last purchase at OCBC and I have paid 2 installments on my Simmons purchase.

While shopping at Marks & Spencer in Plaza Singapura on Saturday morning before the boy’s music class, the wife spotted a pair of waterproof leather boots that was ideal for her use during our Japan trip at the end of the year. As the outlet did not have the size that she wanted, she got the staff to reserve a pair at Centrepoint for collection on Sunday. The year-end trip is with the in-laws, so my wife decided to bring her mum along the next day to see if she would also fancy a pair.

On Sunday, we made our way to Centrepoint. While the wife and mother-in-law were shopping, I decided to deposit some extra cash in my OCBC Savings account, in case I needed to top-up my credit card account, based on my previous experience. I walked over to the OCBC branch in Orchard Point to deposit the cash.

As anticipated, the total purchase price after shopping will exceed the limit that I had on my OCBC Robinsons Card, I tried to top-up my account via Internet Banking, as I did previously. After trying for 15 minutes and getting several “Service Not Available” messages on the Internet Banking site, I had to resort to topping up via the ATM at Orchard Point.

After the top-up, we proceeded to make payment for the purchase. To our surprise, the credit card purchase was declined. We requested the Marks & Spencer staff to try both my main card and my wife’s supplementary card again, but the transactions were declined.

Hence, I called the OCBC hotline and spoke to a customer service officer named Aidi. He checked on both my accounts and verified that the deposit I did, and the top-up I performed was reflected in my accounts. Puzzled, he had to check with his credit card department to understand why the transaction was declined, and asked if he could call back once he got to the bottom of the matter. Reluctantly, I agreed.

10 minutes later, he called back and explained that while the accounts reflected the top-up, the amount was not available until a batch run was processed. For those unfamiliar with such systems, a batch run is basically done to reconcile accounts. When I requested to know what time the batch run will be performed, he told me it was only done end of day. He told me that if I wanted the purchase to go through, I had to request for the Marks & Spencer staff to get a manual approval. To his credit, Aidi stayed on the line and waited for the manual approval to be done. Kudos to the Marks & Spencer staff for their patience and understanding too, throughout the whole process till the manual approval got through.

Based on these two incidents that I experienced, I have many questions to “Ask OCBC”. Since all the accounts are within the bank, shouldn’t the transfers be real-time? Why is there a need for an end of day batch run reconciliation? Why was this top-up different from my previous top-ups?

I suspect that my questions will go unanswered, as I previously suggested, “Ask OCBC for what?”

Going Prepaid with Virgin Mobile in Australia

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Just came back from a great trip from Melbourne. Will blog about it more with photos in the coming week.

After getting my N97, iPod Touch and upgrading my phone plan with M1 to an iPhone Lite plan, I’ve been so used to being online anytime and anywhere. I wanted the same accessibility during my trip.

Did some research on Google and found a promotion by Virgin Mobile where an extra 1GB of data is given on each prepaid card purchase or recharge. The promotion is till end August. What luck!

So during lunch on the first day of my trip, I made a quick detour to Elizabeth Street to buy a Your Cap 19 SIM Card Starter Pack. The instructions that came with the pack was pretty sparse, so I had to call the Customer Service. The CSO was friendly and patient and helped me through the registration process over the phone. She even told me I could use the prepaid credits to make IDD calls. One thing to note though, to register you will need a local address and land line on hand. The CSO informed me that I can use the hotel details to register since I was a tourist. When I was done, she informed me that the line will be activated within an hour.

After a few hours, I was still not able to access the Internet or make phone calls, not even to the Customer Service hotline. I had to resort to using my M1 line to call.  The CSO, I think his name was Mika, was very helpful. Apparently, my account had zero balance. This was the reason why I could not make any calls with the SIM card. He activated the account on the spot, and told me to check. As I had to swap my SIM card, I asked him to call me back in 5 minutes, and he obliged.

I still had issues accessing the Internet, and when he called back, I highlighted it to him. After doing some checks on my account, there was an issue with the pack I bought. It seems the prepaid mobile number that came with the SIM doesn’t match with the starter pack. He proceeded to log a case for me and told me I had to either fax or email the details on the starter pack and my receipt (Thank goodness I asked for one). He also credited $3 into my account for me to get by. I had to wait until I got back to the hotel to email the details, and by then it was after office hours.

When I tested it the next day, I was able to access the Internet via all the usual channels, FaceBook, Hotmail, Twitter, FourSquare, etc. Not too sure how much data I used in all, but I was able to access the Internet for the rest of my trip. I also managed to make about 25 minutes of IDD calls back to Singapore during my trip, which was an unexpected bonus! Access in Melbourne and outside the city was quite ok, unlike some of the reviews I read which said that signals outside the city was bad.

With the additional 1GB data promotion, this is definitely a worthwhile deal if you need mobile data access. Too bad the promotion is till end of August. I doubt they will make the additional data permanent, but I seriously hope they will revise their plans to provide more data.

Pros:

  • additional 1GB of data (till end August 2010)
  • able to make IDD calls with the call credits
  • friendly and helpful Customer Service

Cons:

  • additional 1GB of data (till end August 2010)
  • Lack of in pack instructions and details for registration

Forum Article on Toto Jackpot

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Just read this article on the ST Online Forum. Was surprised that such letters are published, albeit online.

In it, the writer actually wrote about why there is a discrepancy in the jackpot for this Friday’s draw (23rd July 2010).

He argued that there was no winner in the Monday draw, which had a jackpot of S$3.3m, so the snowballed prize should be S$5m. This, together with this Friday’s GSS Jackpot of S$5m, should add up to S$10m, not the S$8.3m that Singapore Pools estimated.

Come on, they have auditors for such lottery draws, ranging from 4D to Toto and Singapore Sweep. I’m pretty sure they would have notified Singapore Pools if the jackpot was estimated wrongly. Seriously, have we really run out of things to write about and publish in the forums?

That said. I bought my Toto tickets today, at the Singapore Pools just beside the clinic, while waiting to see the doctor.  Have you bought yours?

Good luck to everyone! Huat ah!

Do Away With Installations. Go Portable!

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Last week, I saw a friend’s post on FaceBook announcing her switch to Chrome because it can be installed without admin privileges.

I suggested that she used portable apps which doesn’t even require installation. I also provided her with some instructions on how to get Adobe Flash working on portable Firefox and Chrome and she had the fully functional browser that she was looking for.

I’m quite surprised that portable applications remain fairly unknown despite their ease of use and portability. Perhaps it’s because Microsoft have us all trained with the mindset that installation is the only way to get applications working on Windows. That coupled with the fact that default Windows installation is with full admin rights make application installations seem like the natural thing to do.

Portable applications (or portable apps, as they are more commonly known) are applications that have been modified to run separately from the underlying Windows OS and store application settings and data in files rather than in Windows registry. This takes away the reliance on Windows and makes the applications self-sufficient and portable between various Windows machines. PortableApps.com is the goto place to find all apps portable. It has a full online community dedicated to make applications portable.

I started using portable apps more than a year ago when I had problems with Windows on my laptop which was running rather slowly, probably due to the clutter from the installed applications. I searched online for standalone applications that does not require installation and found PortableApps.com.

Now, I carry my apps, such as Firefox (with all my favourite plugins and extensions), gVim, 7-zip and OpenOffice around with me on my portable harddisk and USB flash drive. On my office laptop, I have Firefox, putty, Chrome and Thunderbird running off the harddisk for better performance. Because they are portable versions, I can archive and backup my emails easily by simply copying the data directories. At home, apps like XnView and mplayer are run off my network drive on my home machines for viewing photos and videos.

Another thing I like about portable apps is the ability to maintain multiple versions of a particular app on a single device. Currently, I have 3 versions of FireFox on my flash drive. I normally use Firefox 3 for normal browsing, but I use Firefox 2 occasionally at work to access legacy webpages. And I’m testing out the new Firefox 4 beta, and loving it! It also makes upgrading a breeze, all you need to do is download the new version, click on the .exe, and select your present application folder to unpack and upgrade. All this done with your data intact! Do make sure that the application is not running when you are upgrading though.

The freedom of being able to carry the applications I prefer around and using them on any USB-enabled Windows machine is great. Although being portable does mean that the applications have slightly bigger footprints and might run a bit slower than their Windows-integrated counterparts, I think it’s a fair compromise for the convenience they provide.

Pros:

  • No installation required
  • Convenient to use
  • Portable on removable media like flash drives and USB harddisks
  • Maintain different applications versions in separate directories
  • Upgrading is a breeze

Cons:

  • Slightly slower
  • Not all applications are portable
  • Bigger footprint

Instructions to get Flash working on Firefox Portable and Chrome Portable:

  1. Download Firefox Portable or Chrome Portable
  2. Extract the browser application to a directory
  3. Download Flash installer from http://fpdownload.macromedia.com/get/flashplayer/xpi/current/flashplayer-win.xpi
  4. Use an archival software like 7-zip Portable to open the package
  5. Copy the files, flashplayer.xpt and NPSWF32.dll,
    • For Firefox: into the Data\plugins directory
    • For Chrome: into the App\Chrome-bin\Plugins directory (might need to create the Plugins folder)

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