Saturday, November 28, 2015

LTA officer fighting with Uber driver

LTA officer fight with Uber driver

The news can be read here (Suspended LTA officer caught fighting Uber driver on camera arrested by police, Straits Times).


I don’t see a victim here. Both are at fault. The Uber driver was confrontational and the body language and first response (e.g. immediately punching to the officer in retaliation) after being punched suggest that the 59 years old are hot headed too. If he had been younger, the one lying on the ground being kicked on the rib would be the LTA officer.


Next, the officer is “rude”?


Sometimes, we don’t really know how to distinguish between “rude” and stern. Being stern and strict can be mistaken as being “rude”. Similarly, security guard at certain buildings sometimes appear RUDE which is puzzling because they are supposed to be friendly-but-assertive in their job.


Even if the LTA is “rude”, it would be foolish to confront the officer just because you are upset with his attitude. That foolishness caused one arrested and another one missing a tooth.


That’s what happens when we let our temper reign.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Singapore Yu Sang fish got “GBS”

MOH and NEA have advised the public not to consume raw fish dishes using Song (or Asian Bighead carp) and Toman (snakehead fish) in this news report (Traces of GBS found in raw fish samples: MOH reported in Channel NewsAsia). That is because traces of Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria has been detected in some samples.
Later, when I went to the kitchen to get water, I told my wife that Singapore “Yu Sang” fish has got GBS. She looked at me puzzled. 
I repeated, “Don’t eat Yu Sang because they got GBS”. She gave me a similar puzzled look.
I laughed out loud when she explained to me later why she had looked puzzled. This is what she thought I said.
Singapore Yu Sang Fish got 'GBS'

Singapore beggars on the rise?

Gullible and clueless are the “generous” people who forked out money to pay beggars on the street who displayed limbless but abled bodies. Some are the elderly. According to Ministry of Social & Family Development (MSF), beggars can sometimes get S$100 to S$200 in just a few hours (Begging an “easy way out” for some S’poreans, Straits Times). That is still the status quo, but when more beggars are joining the begging game, that lucrative pie will be diluted even more. By then, with more competition means that most of them will have to up their ante by crafting innovative means to move people emotionally to pay more.
Fortunately, Singapore is a place that will not allow a child to be manipulated to beg. Countries where children are being FORCED to beg have only these gullible people to thank for putting them into such predicament. In some parts of the world, children are kidnapped and maimed so that they can be DISPLAYED to earn easy money for syndicates. All thanks to people who like to fork out money the easy way. Example, Siem Reap Milk Powder Scam in Cambodia, child beggars on Malaysian street, and Slumdog Millionaires the movie that depicted thesad reality in India where children are kidnapped and maimed to beg for money. Did paying child beggar alleviated their poor condition? No!
When I see people giving money to beggars, I don’t see them as caring individuals. Rather, I see them as clueless about helping people. They are akin to parents who give sweets to crying children.
Lately, on TV there have been commercials highlighting the 8th ASEAN Para Games 2015 depicting our athletes who braved daily challenges to achieve their dream and representing Singapore in the Para Games. To me, they have already won. The commercial touched me so much because by seeing their happy, proud and dignified faces made me humbled by their achievements.
However, I can’t say the same to seeing beggars making themselves looked undignified and sprawled out on pavement with extended hand and the sad look. 
There are also the visually impaired who are made to sit in a corner the whole day begging. The caretaker who brought these people there just leave them at the place to beg daily. Is that living? Worst is when I see them staying there until late at night at 8 to 9 pm. Did the caretaker took the money and spent it on happy hour and forgot about their care?
For those who resisted begging, but instead learnt new talent/skill to show in street performance (which required annual license), I salute you. Examples are:
  • Visually impaired lady who played musical instrument. I am more supportive of her than the rest. She is independent and talented. She used to play only the Tambourine but she later learnt how to play the harmonica.
  • An old man who played the Chinese instrument called Erhu. He is worth supporting.
Now, I used to see only one beggar at the MRT station where I travel to work. Today, I am seeing at least three.
  • One who held a card saying that he had “Osteoporosis”. He used to hold crutches but now he is travelling in an electric scooter. I doubt that he knows what osteoporosis means. He is just 30 to 40 years old without any sign of osteoporosis, except that he bandaged his leg. If he had written “fracture”, that would have been more convincing.
  • A man with amputated legs sprawling out on the walkway.
  • At least two ladies with tissue papers.
  • Another obese man on electric scooter.
Begging is illegal in Singapore. You can apply for a license to perform on the street but you can not beg. However, a loophole in law had produced the so called “Tissue Paper” aunty/uncle who are now technically “not begging”. Loop holes are what encourage people to misuse it and thus, we are getting more “Tissue Paper” sellers in Singapore.
When the government tried to discourage the practise by imposing a S$120 licence, Singaporeans made a hoo-ha. Well, that means Singapore will have another attraction to talk about by travellers, apart from Durian and the food. Versatile usage of tissue papers, e.g. from chopping for seats to begging. 
I guess if begging gets out of hand, the government will surely intervene. We wouldn't want people to get hooked up to begging. 
Just a thought.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Getting a laptop in Singapore? What to look out for?

Whenever I am set out to look for laptop, I am never prepared. The thing that I took into consideration first was always price, CPU performance, and RAM. Most times, the acquired laptop would last me more than 5 years while one time it only lasted a year.
I have a Samsung notebook that I am still using for > 10 years. It can no longer support most of the software in use today, but is can still permit playing yesteryear games and doing some MS Office 97.
This particular notebook elevated my impression on Samsung product. I have another netbook and ultrabook from Samsung. Both never disappointed me so far. In our household, we have NEC Versa notebook and it is still working. However, NEC design was bad. the wiring from MB to LCD got severed when the notebook was repeatedly flipped open and closed. I had to disassemble the machine to notice the severed wire and get replacement cable to replace it. I did that DIY as the 2 years warranty was over.
Acer TravelMate was a bad experience. The machine constantly burns up whenever in use for a duration of time. It crashed after less than a year. A visit to the Service Centre suggested that the MB was dead. The tech guy suggested that I top up few hundreds to get a newer and better version. I adamantly declined since I didn’t want to invest further on a brand that didn’t do a good job in the first place. After the MB change, the LCD kaput after few months later. Fortunately it was the backlight problem and EBay again solved my problem. I scoured for the right inverter and got it delivered to me. DIY to replace that part. A visit to any store would have requested that the whole LCD be replaced, which would have cost S$200 or more as compared to S$20 to 30 for the inverter.
Now, after 3 years of using the current Notebook from Samsung, it is time to get a new Notebook that will support most of the current software in use. I am still a MS Windows supporter. Although, I have dabbled with Linux, Mac and Android, I think MS Windows is still the choice for me.
Criteria for the next machine:
  • Processing speed. Intel is best, AMD is good and affordable. A review of processors at ComputersShopper and TechRadar. I would want one that is power efficient and “cool-headed” (not burning up with fever).
  • RAM. Slots and maximum RAM available for upgrade.
  • HDD. Now there are two main types, spindle-type/mechanical HDD and solid state SSD. The latter is like a thumbdrive/flashdrive storage, only better. The spindle-type HDD makes noise and if dropped, it will damage the mechanical parts, whereas SSD will not. Talking about that, a salesperson at Challenger did that demonstration for a colleague to make that point! I was an accidental observer. SSD is faster than HDD but SSD is expensive. Soon, there will be light-based memory to take the spot of SSD. Probably then SSD will cost less. The capacity of SSD/HDD isn’t very important (as long as most software/games can fit into it comfortably). A 1 TB should be safe, while 500GB is no complain. Cloud storage is the way to go nowadays with their great sync and RAID function allowing better protection of our precious data. For example, Dropbox charges approx. USD10 per month for 1TB to USD15 per month per user/team for unlimited storage.
  • Graphic and sound should be above average.
  • Additional features: USB-A, mini- and micro-USB ports are going obsolete, there is a newcomer in town and it is USB-C. However, I still don’t like the feel of USB-C. Similar to USB-A, mini- and micro-USB, they jut out like a patient wearing intravenous (IV) cannula on an arm which is easy to accidentally shift the connection (Fig. 1). Thumbprint security feature is a joke. Longer battery life is a must (at least 6 hours). Screen size should be > 10.1” diagonally. Should have desired preloaded software, e.g. OS, MS Office, Brand’s additional bundled software, etc. Noise level tolerable (without internal cooling fan making aeroplane turbine sound). Trayless DVD writer. Don’t get Blu-Ray Disc (BD) ROM because a 25 GB BD disk is very expensive (at a range of S$0.50 to >S$1.00 per piece. If you get an equivalent 1 TB, it is about 40 pieces BD. That will cost 40 x S$0.75 = S$30.00 (for comparison 1TB “rewriteable” external HDD is at S$85.00). Moreover, BD is rare in Singapore. Bluetooth, HDMI, and network port are must. Touchscreen is okay but not necessary. Built-in webcam. Wireless connection should dual band at both 2.4 and 5 GHz (e.g. 802.11ac) but not necessary because a  dual band wireless adapters are selling at S$20 to 40 on EBay.

USB-C vs IV cannula
Fig. 1 USB-A, mini-, micro-USB, and USB-C all share the same bulky plug that jut out precariously like an IV cannula.

Friday, November 6, 2015

What happens when your online accounts are compromised?

Well, the first immediate thing I tried was to call IT helpdesk. Alas, I had no contact number readily available to call them.
When I did find out the contact number via GOOGLE, the Helpdesk was only available during office hours! That took me by surprise. Does it mean that our accounts shouldn’t be compromised after office hours and especially on weekends, else we are at the mercy of hackers? Fortunately, most servers will have their own workable “compromised account detector” and without fail, most compromised accounts will be inactivated.
Now, what about other online accounts such as Facebook and email services? Have we got the solution to a potential problem of having these accounts hacked/hijacked?
  • Facebook. If your account is believed to be compromised, be sure that you have internet access. You can go to Report Compromised Account.
  • Yahoo account. Go to Yahoo! Password Helper. Then select “My account may have been compromised”. Follow the instructions. Note that Yahoo adopted 2FA and had special security feature for different apps in smart phone.
  • Google account. Go to Account recovery form. Then select “I’m having other problems signing in”. Follow the instructions. Google had also adopted 2FA.
  • Banks. All have adopted 2FA.
  • Paypal. I am not comfortable with lack of 2FA feature here. Anyway, if account is hijacked, go to Can’t log in. Choice the right option and continue. If you prefer call, then the number is +6565104650 (weekday from 8 am to 10 pm while weekends from 9 am to 6 pm). Paypal had not adopted 2FA.
  • Online shops. Not so dangerous as payment is normally via credit card or paypal UNLESS you reuse the same password everywhere.
  • Twitter. If your account has been hijacked (i.e. password deliberately changed), then request a password reset to retrieve your account. New password will be sent to your email address, unless that information is also altered. See help page. You can go to Support for hacked account. I think Twitter and other service providers will anticipate that sometimes password reset is impossible especially when information pertaining to email and contact could also have been altered by the hackers (a case study). In that case, personally contacting the help support team will be needed but validating your ownership will require competency of the service provider.
Most of the online accounts in Singapore, especially government services are adopting a two-factor authentication (2FA) type of login. This is way better than having to demand users to frequently change passwords every 6 months! Password is way too obsolete because it can be guessed by automated login attempts using differing permutation of characters. The only exception is when login is made extra difficult for supercomputers to figure out, e.g. answer simple question about random archived Google Images that only HUMAN can do, else wait for 10 min before attempting next login. That will surely take ages to figure out.
I dread to think that my company would have a one password to access all staffs’ information. That would be disastrous because personal information, contacts, emails, records and whatnot will be accessible by just one compromised password! I think a good practice should be to segregate services into separate services with sensitive information having a much more difficult requirement to access, e.g. 2FA or via assigned safe IP addresses (well, at least the IP address should be from Singapore and not somewhere in Ghana).
Another way hackers can gain into our accounts is by exploiting the reporting account compromised. It happened when Paypal and GoDaddy played a part in helping a hacker take control of GoDaddy account. First, call Paypal agent to get the last four digits (seems like no harm) of credit card (note that the Paypal agent is human who has access to all your sensitive information; so when he/she errs, that will allow the hacker to gain and you to lose). The hacker called GoDaddy and said that he can only remember the last four digits of the credit card, and voila! instant gain of access to the account. Both Paypal and GoDaddy erred in human factor!
A word of advice would be to shun away email providers that have bad security feature. Don’t keep credit card detail with half-baked service providers that don’t have 2FA feature.