Saturday, December 17, 2011

Transport woes in Singapore

Lucky Tan made sensible comments about our transport woes. He pointed out that it is not fair to blame the woes on Saw Phaik Hwa or even the Minister Lui Tuck Yew. I agree. The problem is more deep rooted and we need to give time and resources for the problem to be solved. Blaming does not help.

I wish to pose this problem - to people who are knowledgeable about the problem. If you were the CEO of SMRT or the Minister for Transport, what would you do to deal with this challenge?

Issues faced by Open Net company

I read in the newspapers that IDA is reviewing the performance standard of Open Net - due to delays and other customer issues. Do you have experience with the installation of Open Net at your home? Was it a good or bad experience?

In my case, I was quite confused with their documentation and procedures, and could not get through to their hotline. I believe that their cumbersome procedures and customer handling contributed to what is already a logistic challenge. Please share your views on this matter - so that I can write to the board of Open Net with some suggestions on how they can handle the challenge better in the future.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Flowchart of Taxi Booking system

Here is the flowchart of the taxi booking system. The app (for customers and taxi drivers) can be downloaded from the App Store (iPhone and iPad) or from Android Market (Android phones).

Prepaid data plan

I needed a pre-paid data plan. I bought a Starhub card for $17 and got SMS, talk time and 100 MB of data, It expire in 30 days. I only needed the data plan, so the SMS and voice seemed was quite wasteful. Is there any cheaper option?

I used a prepaid data plan in Jakarta. It offered 700 MB of data for about SGD 10, but also expire in 30 days. It seemed that the data plan in Jakarta is much cheaper - which is surprising!

An excellent website: Association of Banks in Singapore

Most organizations make it difficult for the public or their customers to contact them. I was delighted to see a notable exception today, the website of the Association of Banks in Singapore. I was able to get the e-mail address of the association easily, as follows:

Add caption
I was also able to view their council members and top management. This is what a website really shoul dbe - to make it easy for the relevant information to be obtained easily and quickly. Congratulations to ABS  management!

Reply to IDA - Wireless@SG

Dear Mr. Rai

I refer to your reply in the Straits times regarding Wireless @SG. My friend (a tech expert) helped me to  install the app that allows auto-login to Wireless@SG. It did not seem to work in many places, so I gave up.

I suggest that IDA should remove the need for login (as I have suggested), rather than continue the existing difficult practice. Do listen to the views of the public. Here are the views of the people who responded to this posting in my blog and in Facebook.

Request for assistance or advice

I receive request for assistance or advice regularly. I wish to remind the people who need my help to read this FAQ.

Business Times: Planned CDP revamp

Planned CDP revamp raises many questions

ACCORDING to a recent news report, the Singapore Exchange (SGX) is looking at allowing stockbrokers access to clients' Central Depository (CDP) accounts so that dealers and remisiers can see just what stocks their customers have at any one time.
To be sure, when this does materialise, it would be a step in the right direction, one that is arguably long overdue since it would help brokers tailor their advice and guidance to customers, especially those from the retail sector.
As SGX chief executive Magnus Bocker said when revealing the plan, the existing system is outdated and out of sync with developed markets so an upgrade is clearly needed.
However, several questions present themselves, the most obvious being why such a seemingly important and overdue revamp should take as long as three years to implement.

Read the Business Times for the full story

Company Inbox for E-mail

Most people send their letters to a company at its mailing address. A staff opens the letter and sends it to the appropriate person to handle it.

We are now in the age of e-mail. A company should have allow the public or its customers to send their e-mails to a common inbox such as This inbox should be display prominently in the company's contact information - preferably next to its mailing address. A staff can view all e-mails coming to this inbox and forward it to the right person (similar to what is done in the physical world).

By making it convenient to the public, there will be less mail sent to the mailing address and more mail sent to the e-mail mailbox. This will reduce the work for the staff of the company (who can handle e-mail more easily compared to physical mail).

Tan Kin Lian

Nobody wants gold now

Gold has fallen sharply during the past few days. Nobody wants to keep gold now. It used to be the asset that "cannot lose". This story shows how difficult it is to speculate in the market.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Business Times: Hearing of Morgan Stanley lawsuit adjourned

A LAWSUIT brought by Morgan Stanley in Singapore's High Court is now in limbo after a US court ordered it to stop trying to thwart a suit by Singapore Pinnacle Notes investors in New York.

A High Court hearing yesterday on the US investment bank's application for an anti-suit injunction was adjourned to Jan 16 after Morgan Stanley requested more time to appeal US District Judge Leonard Sand's ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

'As things stand now, Morgan Stanley did not proceed today because of the injunction issued against them by the New York federal court,' said Siraj Omar of Premier Law LLC. Mr Omar has been retained by several Pinnacle Notes investors to represent them in Singapore.

Read more in The Business Times

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

ASP.NET Developers and Mobile platform developers

Salary: $2,500 to $3,500
We wish to look for ASP.NET developers who knows VB.NET or C#.NET, MS SQL and MySQL. Knowledge of database administration will be an advantage.
We also need developers who have experience on mobile platforms (Windows, Apple, Android).
Candidates must be Singapore citizens and permanent residents and have at least two years of experience in the relevant platforms. 
We have many exciting developments that are shown in and 
If you join us, you have the chance to be involved in many exciting projects and the opportunity to learn new and innovative methods. 

Send resume to

iPhone projects

I have projects on iPhone for developers. If you are interested in these projects, please send e-mail to Please indicate your experience on iPhone app development.

Tips on Financial Risk Management

Read this article

An innovative idea - transcribing

I download an app on my iPad2. It allows me to dictate a long message and send it for transcribing. At first, I thought that the transcription would be done by machine, and I would expect some mistakes due to bad pronunciation. The transcription was perfect - to the letter.

I realized that the transcription was probably done by a human being. The service provider probably used well educated people from low cost countries to do the transcription, rather than develop an intelligent software. After all, the human mind is probably the most intelligent software that can be found!

This service provider has adopted an innovative approach. He realized that the highest value in the chain is to transmit the message to the right person, rather than to develop an expensive, intelligent software.

Many of the innovations in life can be done through a low cost, effective way - instead of spending a lot of money on hardware, software and consultancy. This is my message to our government and business leaders to respect low cost, effective solutions. Please avoid spending too much money, which can be avoided.

Malls ask for personal details

I saw this letter in the Straits Times Forum. We need to have some regulations to identify the acceptable and unacceptable practices. This is the job of Government and cannot be left to the market. We need a Government that recognizes its duty and care for the well being of the people.
Letter in Straits Times Forum
BY SPENDING at least $200 on the same day at Parkway Parade mall, shoppers are entitled to redeem an umbrella at the customer service counter.
Happily, I joined the long queue but was puzzled as to why it took about six minutes for each customer to redeem the gift. When my turn came, I found out the reason.
First, I had to produce my identity card and my particulars were scanned into a computer.
Next, I was asked for my cellphone number, which was keyed into the computer as well.
Why does the mall require a customer's identity card details and cellphone number for redemption of such a small gift?
If it is meant to avoid abuse, a customer's receipt is already stamped 'redeemed' once he obtains the umbrella, so asking for personal and contact details is redundant.
The Government is right to introduce the Do-Not-Call registry to protect the public against nuisance calls.
But the management of shopping malls and security guards are too liberal with their requests for personal and contact details. Their actual intentions are hard to ascertain, and this can lead to abuse.
Francis Cheng 

Business Times: Suit over Pinnacle Notes takes a turn for Morgan Stanley

US judge orders investment bank
to drop 'vexatious' S'pore court action
A legal battle involving a group of Singapore investors of Morgan Stanley's failed Pinnacle Notes reached a fever pitch after the US investment bank resorted to what a federal judge deemed 'vexatious' means to block their case from proceeding in New York.
US District Judge Leonard Sand on Monday ordered Morgan Stanley to drop its 'vexatious' Singapore High Court action to stop 18 Pinnacle Notes investors from pursuing their lawsuit outside of Singapore to recover US$154.7 million in investment losses.
Morgan Stanley, whose application for an 'expedited' anti-suit injunction is due to be heard today in High Court, may be forced to withdraw its Singapore action because of Monday's ruling.
If the bank refuses to drop its Singapore case, it may be held in contempt by federal court in New York, lawyers said.
Morgan Stanley yesterday declined to comment on whether it will drop its Singapore action, but said it 'respectfully disagrees with the (federal) court's ruling.'

Read the Business Times for the full story.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Avoid investing in buy-back guarantee

If someone approaches you to buy gold bars with an attractive rate of interest and a buy-back guarantee, you have to reject it. Here is the reason why:

Morgan Stanley ordered to halt lawsuit in Singapore

It is strange that the US courts are looking after the Singapore investors by ordering Morgan Stanley not to take action in Singapore court to thwart the class action taken by Singapore investors in US courts. Why is the law in Singapore not protecting the interest of Singaporeans who have lost $160 million of savings after being sold bad financial protections?

Quote from Lucky Tan's article:
o who was the counter party that made from all the losses from Pinnacle Notes? Morgan Stanley...the same investment bank that sold these notes to investors. Now you see why they want to avoid fighting the lawsuit in USA. In the US the authorities took up the hard work of investigating the banks, gathering evidence and suing the bank to recover investors' what did our 1st world govt do for Singaporean investors? ...These Singapore investors were left to fend for themselves against a powerful investment bank, they had to get their own lawyers, fork out their own money and do every thing themselves to get some justice. Where are the men and women who say they have to be paid well to serve the people? 
In Singapore,  according our ex-MM  - they went in with their "eyes open" and signed on the contract so there is no case. This feels like an  over-simplification of justice,,,and a case that cannot be won in Singapore has more than a fighting chance in USA.

Move to e-mail for business letters

Many government agencies and business organizations continue to rely on physical mails for their transactions. Each day, we receive a lot of mail from these organizations. They come with stacks of junk mail from marketing organizations. It is quite difficult to sort out the genuine mail from the marketing mail. 

There is the possibility of using the Internet to send out business mail, instead of physical mail. It can be sent to an e-mail address of the customer. But, many organizations are reluctant to do so. Even those that are willing to take this step have to contact their customers individually to get their consent. This is too troublesome.

It would be nice if the customer can register their NRIC and email address, and that all business organisations can refer to this register to send their business letters in soft copy to this e-mail address. But, there is no law that make this possible, and no government agency (e.g. M of Communications, IDA or Ministry of Law) is willing to take the lead.  As a results, we continue to over-rely on sending of physical letters to the homes.

See the stack of mail that I receive every few days. It is troublesome to handle these mail, especially when they come together with the junk mail. I have often overlook some of the important mail, due to this outmoded form of communication.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Minimum wage in San Francisco City

America believe in the capitalist system. Yet, they have a decent minimum wage. Here are their reasons for a minimum wage. Singapore should follow and implement a minimum wage. The argument that this will drive away jobs does not hold water.

Arabian palace - Jeddah

I went to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to attend a business meeting. It was held in a former palace that is now managed by an international hotel. The interior furnishing of this palace is luxurious.

Customer service - the Singapore way

I received this letter from the management company of my condominium. It reminded me that my payment was overdue and interest rate would be charged to me.

The letter provided a telephone number that I could call. I have called office before on their telephone number, and faced the following experience frequently:

  • The line was busy
  • Nobody pick up the call
  • The person who pick up the call does not handle the work and has to look for another colleague 
  • They usually don't call back
I searched the letter for an e-mail address (such as but most companies do not have this simple facility. Their staff have individual e-mail but they do not have a company e-mail! I also looked for a fax number, and it was not provided.

It is easy for businesses to improve their customer service, by doing some simple things, such as the following:
  • Provide a company e-mail adderss (such as
  • Provide a fax number. They can sign up with Starbub Pfingo to get a virtual number and the fax will be sent their designated email address.
  • Answer their telephone calls, take a message and get someone to call back.
  • Put these simple contact details in their "Contact Us" page. (Most companies do not provide them!) 
I hope that businesses will do something to improve the quality of customer service in Singapore. It is easy to implement, and is not costly. The quality can improve tremendously.

The Old Testament - solution

Here is the revised table with some of the facts corrected. It now showed that the flood occurred in the year 1591, shortly after the death of Methuselah. Lamech died 5 years earlier. All the descendents of Adam before Noah, died before the flood. So, the ages of birth and death stated in the Bible are consistent. Great!

The Old Testament

Here are some interesting facts taken from the first few chapters of the Bible. Adam (the first person created by God) died at the age of 930 years. Each of the descendants had a shorter life span (with a few exceptions). When Adam died, seven lines of his descendants were still living. The next line of descendant was Noah, who was the person who built the Ark during the great flood. Noah was 600 years old when the flood occurred - so that was in the year 1551. But, if the flood killed all living creatures except those in the Ark, how was it possible that Methusaleh and Lamech died many years after the flood? Perhaps, some Bible scholars can point out where I was wrong!

Year of birth and death are measured from the year that Adam was created!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Confusing online form

I wanted to find out the charges for accessing data in the various countries under the Conexus mobile alliance (of which my mobile operator, Starhub, is a member). I could not find the information in their website

I went to the "Contact Us" page and was presented with this online form that asked for 9 items of information. I entered the essential information: i.e. category, e-mail address and content. I got a strange message "invalid format". It seemed that they required my telephone number as well. I provided it, and it went through.

I wonder why designers of online form make it so difficult to use - and mislead users with more fields that are really needed?

Free WiFi service in Taipei

My friend worked in Taipei for the past three years. He told me that free WiFi is accessible all over the city, including the mass transit trains, while on the move. It is a seamless operation, moving from one WiFi hotspot to another. This seemed to be way ahead of Wireless@Sg. I like to ask for confirmation from other people who have used WiFi in Taipei. Is this a correct description?

Find better ways to make payment

I used to pay conservancy fees for my apartments using GIRO. For some reason, the GIRO stopped.  I received a reminder letter including interest charges. I had to make payment to the management company in the old fashion way - write a check and send it by mail. There was no convenient way to make an online payment.

My friend told me that when he first entered USA in 15 years ago, 99% of people make payment by check. Today, Americans hardly make payment by check, as there are many convenient ways to make payment online.

My friend in China told me that he does not use the check at all, as there are many other convenient and low cost ways to make payment.

Singapore used to be far ahead in the use of technology, but today, we are way behind many countries. We are outdated and expensive. When businesses and banks have to incur the heavy cost of administration, they have to add the cost to consumers. This is why cost of living and of doing business in Singapore is now very high.

Who is responsible for this sad state of affairs in Singapore? Should the blame go to IDA (who is responsible to encourage the use of information technology) or the MAS (who supervises the banks) or the Ministry of Law (who writes the law to enable change to happen)? In Singapore, we have the culture of pointing fingers around from one agency or another - so many changes cannot happen.

There is only one party that is responsible for all of these agencies - the Singapore Government. I hope that our leaders in the cabinet will be aware that changes have to be done.

Property measures in Singapore - Lucky Tan

Read Lucky Tan's views about the property measures in Singapore

Russia's ruling party loses majority in Parliament


Question: will this happen in Singapore in the future?:

Exemplary service by SIA supervisor

This is an example of exemplary service provided by a customer service supervisor at the airport. It shows what can be done, when employees are allowed to use their judgement and take the initiative.

Simplify online form

I wanted to find the email address of the customer service manager of Singapore Airlines. I could not find it in their website. I looked for "Contact Us" and it was not available. I looked for "Enquiry" and was given this form that contained about 15 fields to be entered.

Why can't Singapore Airlines simplify the feedback form and ask only for 3 fields - name, email address and content? It seemed that they forgot about the poor customer who has to go through a lot of hassle. (By the way, this is the pattern in the online forms of countless other big organizations!).

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