DBS/POSB iBanking down as people try to check their accounts.

First, let me start off by saying that shit happens.

Working in the I.T. industry all these years has impressed upon me this hard truth. That being said, many unscheduled downtimes have often been blamed on shit happening.

Most of the time, it’s human error.

So the initial backstory for this current saga is that ATM cards were allegedly cloned and money was withdrawn from these accounts from an ATM in Malaysia.

Unsurprisingly, most people will be wanting to check their accounts to see if they were affected or if they’re like me, just for kicks.

Now let’s be clear. I don’t really blame DBS for this. While I am not so clear and thus not so confident about DBS’ I.T. security measures, this sort of thing could happen to any bank.

What I am curious about though is why DBS has decided to turn of their iBanking service.
2012-01-06 - DBS iBanking down...

The DBS iBanking service is not world class and has daily scheduled maintenance periods in the wee hours of the morning. But why would a company that is constantly advertising it’s online functions be unable to cope with demand?

Just some disorganised thoughts from me is all.

UPDATE:
DBS now says that two compromised ATMs in Bugis Junction are the cause.

Grace Fu manages to contradict herself.

Just to be clear. This is not a news article.

I don’t like to write news articles because like The Straits Times, I do not like to hold back my bias.

After chancing upon yet another mrbrown post and after a cursory look in the online circles in Singapore, it became apparent that a certain Grace Fu has been making waves in Singaporean cyberspace.

Apparently, the PAP member (since 2006) decided to post a short lament on her facebook page. Seemingly unaware that the anti-PAP stalwarts have been gunning to attack the weakest pack members, she brazenly declared the recent pay cuts (if you can even call it a cut) to be a step in the wrong direction.

So how does a politician who draws an annual pre-bonus wage (from just her ministerial job) that would take me 50 years to make, manage to, stoicly declare that money was not her motivation for joining politics, then discontinuously conclude that the pay cuts would deter anyone considering political office, all while bravely whining about the drop in her standard of living despite her million dollar paycheque.

What probably happened was she started writing the post in typical government fashion, trying to establish itself with the moral high ground – how money doesn’t matter, before realising that with the pay “cut”, she could no longer afford to treat Tin Pei Ling to Kate Spade bags and so she decided to backtrack but forgot to hit the backspace key. And before any white dick decides to cry slander, this is obviously satire. How sad is it that we live in a country where politicians are so anal that they effectively make it illegal to publicly disagree with or complain about them.

To be honest with you, a politician who considers serving the nation and its people a disruption is not worth listening to. And just how much is this Bachelor of Accountancy (Honours) and Master of Business Administration accredited MP’s family spending every year to feel such a drastic change in their standard of living? Let’s not even bring up comparisons with the every-Singaporean.

There’s a fine line between daring honesty and arrogant stupidity.

In the words of Mr Brown: “I think sometimes, the most gracious way to respond to a hot topic like a ministerial pay cut is not say anything at all, lest you make people say Grace FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU!!!”

UPDATE:
Some morons have decided to play the envy card. Let me tell you honestly. I don’t really care about what I get or what I have. Throughout my entire life, my philosophy has been if we suffer, we suffer together. If we enjoy, we enjoy together. In lieu of that, all I care about is fairness. If what I deserve and what you deserve differs greatly, then kudos for all of us for getting ‘justice’.

Both you and I can argue about many other points, comparisons with other governments and countries and how officially increasing your pay could be considered a form of corruption but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

The key question remains, does our government deserve such rewards. My answer is ‘not really’. What your answer to this question is will determine your stance. Ignore everything else and just ask yourself that. Then we can argue about the finer details.

In any case, this is how the recent pay ‘cuts’ should have been handled by the MPs.

And a little post-script. If serving the country deserves great financial rewards, all NS personnel should be well paid. Yes/No? lol.

The Singaporean Way, quite literally.

It has come to my attention that there are many dipshits out there who will vote in such a way that should the opposition fail, they would appear to have offended no one. Let me tell you.

Don’t be a fucking moron.

If you vote with your heart, either way, I will have respect for you.

If you treat your votes as insurance plans, secretly disliking the situation but “supporting it” with your votes, like those bloody collaborators and informants during World War II, then I hope you die a painful death. I can appreciate those who need to bend over backwards but I utterly despise spineless cretins.

The Singaporean way has long been to “let someone else do it”. I’ll cover my own ass while I send my troops out into the field. If they survive, I’ll crash their party, if they die, then they probably misunderstood my instructions.

If you are one of these morons who thinks that “I’ll vote for insurance since everyone else will be voting opposition anyway”, then you let me know, we will cut ties now because as far as I’m concerned, you can go fuck yourself.

Uniquely Singapore

Too hot to handleWe don’t like the sun

sighWe don’t like foreigners

Photo by furibond (flickr) [nbnote]License: CC-By-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)[/nbnote]

We like to be nagged

By Terence Ong (Wikimedia Commons) [nbnote]By Terence Ong (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons[/nbnote]

The gender confused are our national symbols (The Merlion)

 

ERP Gantry
Photo courtesy of: dee kay dot as gee (http://blog.dk.sg)

World’s First Integrated Electronic Congestion Tax

 

Photo by David Hagwood [nbnote]Copyright <a href=”http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/560″>David Hagwood</a> and licensed for <a href=”http://www.geograph.org.uk/reuse.php?id=137363″>reuse</a> under this <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>Creative Commons Licence</a>.[/nbnote]

You need a Certificate of Entitlement to own a car. Which costs…

 

Photo by Henryleonghw [nbnote]License: CC-By-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)[/nbnote]

Most of us live in government flats which are getting smaller yet more expensive

 

Photo by CaptainHaddock [nbnote]License: CC-By-SA-2.5 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/)[/nbnote]

To operate any powered/motorised vessel, even a small sampan/gondola or even a jet ski, you need a license

 

The current political party that forms the almost entire government has won the Gold, Silver and Bronze medal in our General Elections since 1963
A government that has envisioned building a sea wall around Singapore.

[nbnote print=”true”]

Why I still work with them…

One of my professions (and skills for that matter) is audio engineering. What that means is I sit (sometimes stand) behind a mixing console at events and make sure everything and everyone sounds good.

As a freelancer, I work with many companies but as with most freelancers, there is one staple company that ends up providing a majority of the work, sometimes due to rapport, sometimes due to simple economics or supply and demand, but mostly a combination of the two with one taking precedence over the other whenever it’s suitable.

My staple company happens to have a huge supply of jobs while having a limited supply of freelancers because of some issues with their work methodology so many a freelancers avoid using this company as their staple. I on the other hand am fairly easy going. As long as justice is served and everything is fair, I am happy to suffer with you. This has been a long standing practice of mine which has enabled me to take a lot of shit and still remain happy. Most employers know that as long as it’s within my threshold, you’re safe. A small few went barely over the line and did not live to tell the tale (metaphorically of course).

Just the other day, I was doing a show for my staple company and ended up with a parking fee of just over $50. This, although not close to a majority of my cut, was nevertheless a significant bite into my pay for the day. I called up the boss and asked him if there was anything we could do. The first thing he asked me was “cialat cialat one (is it a particularly heavy issue)?” to which I replied “Yea, it’s 50 bucks.” to which he promptly replied and told me to file a claim with their clerk.

It’s the little things that really make me happy and because of this simple gesture, I will continue working for them for the forseeable future. Most would not even consider this a privilege but a right. Perhaps in a perfect world, it is. But this is not a perfect world and it’s the little things that we do for each other that counts and makes a difference. The boss of that particularly company did not even bother with excuses and instead ended up stretching out his hand to help before even checking to see if I may have inadvertently pulled him down as he tried to help me up (imagine the classic pulling out of the mud movie scene, where the heavy guy in the ground ends up pulling the lighter samaritan onto him).

So as they cover any exorbitant expenses incurred from working for them, so I continue to go the extra mile to make their clients happy, including bringing my own  expensive (mostly) gear.

It’s not so much a ‘you scratch my back and i’ll scratch yours’ scenario. Instead, if their backs are itchy I’ll scratch it for them, confident in the knowledge that I can count on them to help me scratch mine if ever the itch is unbearable.

For all their faults, I find this old school moralistic honour and honest pride to be very desirable so may God Bless them.

p.s. I couldn’t find a good way to end this post but I guess it’s pretty symbolic in it’s relation to my working relationship with them.

Navigating Singapore

When navigating Singapore there are multiple options ranging from free, paid and overcharged.

Before I started driving everyday I had the time to check out the possible routes using the various online navigation sites like Google Maps, onemap, the infamous streetdirectory.com and a few others.

Once I quit public transport and started driving everywhere I went, I found that I was short on time as I began to fill up my schedule with the voids created by driving. Ironic since private transport is supposed to free up my time (which it did, only for me to fill it up again).

Back then, I was still serving National Service. I discovered that google maps would install and run on my non-camera Nokia e51. The phone was small enough that I could hold it in my hand and drive with no risk to anyone’s safety. The downside was that the data charges were high as each google map tile was downloaded. There was also no turn by turn voice navigation.

Navit
So I began to look for other ways to navigate Singapore. One of the things I discovered was a little program called Navit. It mainly uses the maps from openstreetmaps.org.

OpenStreetMaps is a very interesting project that allows users from all over the world to edit the world map. It’s free as well. The API is well published, as is the methods of updating the map.

The problem with Navit is that it requires you to compile the map into a single file. This is usually great if you’re going for a long trip without an internet connection but it sucks really bad if you need the latest maps the moment they are available (like in everyday life). This is where Navit fails spectacularly. Every time the map is updated you’ll need to recompile and download every single tile for the region you want, then you have to transfer it to your device.

Navit, however, is not a total loss as it does have the ability to route you to your destination without an internet connection. It does this via the compiled file that you have provided as aside from the map tile images, it also contains the raw data associated with that sector. This raw data contains actual waypoints and data about each road, what type it is, whether it’s one way or what type of buildings there are in the area. This is simply beautiful and is fairly ingenious. This ability to read the raw data also means that it can provide true turn by turn navigation.

This also unfortunately means that Navit relies heavily on the accuracy and completeness of the map. So in this regard, it’s not really Navit’s fault that it cannot provide proper navigation, at least not in my area. The other upside is that it also runs on linux so I have it on my laptop.

MGMaps
Another option is MGMaps. This is a particularly popular navigation choice for Nokia phones. It allows you to use either a compiled file or an internet connection to download the latest maps when needed. At the time, as I have mentioned, mobile internet connectivity was very expensive so I opted to use the compiled version. With an affiliated standalone program, you could automatically download maps from OpenStreetMaps, Google Maps, Yahoo Maps and a few more. At the time, Google Maps was way more complete compared to OpenStreetMaps so I downloaded that. The great thing about MGMaps is that while the visual data may be from one source, you can specify which online routing service you wanted to use to do the actual routing. It would then overlay the route from your routing source over the map source of your choice. This involved some data charges but was still way less than downloading tiles on the go. Occasionally you would see some quirks though as the route went over areas with seemingly no roads or it would lead you in a big circle because the routing service had not been updated with the latest roads.

Unfortunately, despite the huge compatibility list available to MGMaps, there was no turn by turn voice navigation implemented and the developers said that there wouldn’t be any time soon.

Nokia Ovi Maps
I then discovered that Nokia had a little program called Ovi Maps which was very much complete and furthermore, allowed offline turn by turn voice navigation! With my homework done, I went through all the motions of updating my phone and tweaking settings which would have voided my warranty only to find that it was not worth the effort. For some reason I was double incensed that my father’s Nokia E52 (remember that I had the E51) was able to run it all perfectly.

Android
By this time I had begun to tire of my non camera Nokia (especially since Ovi Maps would not run on my phone) and being a linux fanboy, I was itching to lay my hands on an Android phone. I did my homework as best I could and as far as I could tell, Android supported navigation.

So I went out and bought one only to discover that the inbuilt Google Maps did not have turn by turn voice navigation. What really ticked me off however was to find that voice navigation and lane avoidance was not supported in Singapore. I mean, from what I saw, all the data was there – the step by step navigation option was able to do everything that I wanted in voice navigation, except say it out loud.

Of course, I had now purchased a handphone plan which bundled a whopping 12GB of free data for only $10 extra a month so the only stumbling block that was left was the voice.

Fyi, I also noticed that for some reason Google Maps on Android in Singapore would occasionally route me to a false destination. Twice I was been routed to the wrong building, once it was on the other side of the island (which I noticed but ignored in deference to my perception of Google’s awesomeness) and thrice I was sent to the wrong end of a road which is completely insane!

The good thing about Android though is it’s market which boasts a myriad of free ‘apps’ and I was soon able to try out many different navigation options.

OsmAnd
Being an el cheapo, I finally settled on the free OsmAnd (you can also find it via the Android Market). It too used OpenStreetMaps. This sweet little ‘app’ was able to download maps on the fly and cache them and also provided a true turn by turn voice routing service!

The turn by turn notices were a bit slow (telling me to exit when almost past the exit) and could use some tweaking and the definition of roads is a bit unclear (especially with roads which diverge but remain parallel for some time) but since it used OpenStreetMaps, I knew I could edit the maps to be more accurate and complete! With that I was sold! It has it’s quirks but remains one of the best, and most importantly, a very tolerable app.

Some drawbacks include having to manually redownload tiles which have been cached (for updated map views). It also relies on an online routing service (itself using OpenStreetMaps) but is able to provide simple offline navigation when not in range of a network. It’s search function also leaves something to be desired as it requires you to know where your destination is (the road, the unit number, the building name, etc). If heading to an unknown destination, I usually google the location of my phone and then furnish the details to OsmAnd.

I’m now working with a Singaporean group that aims to improve the accuracy and level of detail of the Singapore map in OpenStreetMaps. Unfortunately, I seem to have joined the group after it had dissolved by default via absenteeism. I have however managed to provide a fairly complete map of my area. I have completed Simei (including all buildings except “landed” property) because it is the smallest estates in my area. I’ve begun working on Tampines now and it should be complete within the year. This will significantly improve people from the other side of the island (or indeed overseas) to navigate to this area. Unfortunately, it does nothing for me as I typically drive to the other side of the island, which is not complete.

OpenStreetMaps
The great thing about OpenStreetMaps is that it really has set the place for you at the table and offered many “doors” for you to contribute. For example, you can edit the map via it’s web interface or via a downloadable program (PC, Linux, Mac and even Android phones!). If you don’t have time to edit the maps yourself, you can also simply record your GPS tracks and upload it to the server. Other people will then use your tracks to trace out the roads on the map. It’s really that simple. If you have a lot of computing power but are very poor with mapping or have no GPS device to store GPS tracks, you can offer your computer to the cloud. This means you download a small program to your computer and whenever you’re computer is doing nothing, you can run it and it will download the updated map data so that it can generate/render/draw the nice map tile images that make up the map.

Whatever your inclinations, do your part by upgrading your area. Upload your tracks if you don’t have the time. Render the map tiles if you’re computer isn’t being utilised fully! Other people have helped you, so it’s nice if you can help them. This is the power of the open source community!

Those following this site, yes, I know about the eye in the sky thing. Like I said, technology is not inherently evil. Like every tool ever made, invented or discovered, only the people using it defines what it is.

The eye in the sky

Ah… but for technology.

The adage as old as.. er… recent times, says that “Technology makes it easier for us to be miserable.”

Many from my generation would consider the first step towards high tech misery to be the widespread adoption of the mobile phone. It made communication that much easier but made our personal and private space equally if not incalculably smaller. Then they added the camera which made it easier for busy blue collar workers to moonlight as peeps and perverts. The white collars already had this technology, which they called money. Management had what they termed “Rights that came with the territory”.

We also discovered that our current locations could be tracked through our mobile phones. To be honest, I found that it was an acceptable side effect of the technology. What was annoying though was that we found this out from watching the movies. [nbnote title=’Feds push for tracking cell phones’ url=’http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html’]http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html[/nbnote]

In buildings, cameras started monitoring every door and elevator. Soon thereafter, the rooms started filling with ceiling mounted cameras covering every angle, although the budget conscious users used the one-camera-one-mirror alternate approach.

In Singapore, cameras started popping up on the highways in obscene quantities. Mounted on street lamps, their frequency would sometimes increase to 1 camera per street lamp on certain “key” roads. Concerns grew as people began to notice these cameras in ever increasing quantities. Naturally, the number one concern was if the cameras were installed to catch speeders. The official claim is that it is used to monitor traffic conditions. It also claims to create a safer ride but that is, quite frankly, one of the most unintelligent statements I have ever read, but I digress.

Cameras in every room and building. There used to be an unspoken rule that if no one saw you do it, you didn’t. I am speaking about actions that would appear rude if done in public such as picking your nose or scratching your ass. With everything you do being recorded, every single “mistake” can be replayed to indict you. Celebrities know this fact very well. The dichotomy is that of course there are legitimate concerns which may warrant such devices. Security being number one on every list. To that I paraphrase:

‘He who sacrifices liberty for temporary security deserves neither’ – Benjamin Franklin.

The Singapore Government has now put forth a dichotomous upgrade plan for our Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) toll systems, affectionately known locally as (Every Road Pays) in the guise of progress. This involves utilising GPS systems to track vehicle locations and routes (tracks) to provide a ‘pay-per-use’ system of [congestion tax (not road tax, ownership tax or vehicular tax which are related but not relevant here)].

Donella A Meadows in 1972, in The Limits to Growth said, “Technology can relieve the symptoms of a problem without affecting the underlying causes. Faith in technology as the ultimate solution to all problems can thus divert our attention from the most fundamental problem — the problem of growth in a finite system — and prevent us from taking effective action to solve it.”.

I don’t have a problem advertising my location but I do have a problem being tracked. If I can’t turn it off, if I don’t have control over my own privacy, I get tetchy. Some may misinterpret that as stemming from some deep seated antiestablishmentarianism but the fact is there are times when I don’t want to be found. For all it’s inherent fallibilities, the human ability to bend rules, weigh the consequences and interpret their validity is what has made made progress in the world possible. So for anonymity to suddenly go to a completely inescapable situation of visibility is a shock on many fronts.

Putting aside the obvious privacy concerns and cost of upgrades to the taxpayers (including funds used in implementing the ERP in the first place), this system is wide open to abuse. In a country where the IC number (Identification Card Number) is the primary means of identification, one wonders how long it will take for the entire eco system to turn Orwellian. Like all systems of government, the only real situation where any form of control (excluding general restrictions) on freedom is valid is where the ruling government or monarch is benevolent. However, in this modern world, there are none as even the most benevolent leaders sometimes have to compromise in order to maintain balance.

Perhaps we could take a page from California where the “cash card” is not tied to a person. Instead, it is only tied to an account with the registration authority. As long as credit is stored in the account, everything goes smoothly.

With this current system of ERP (which I am not a fan off either), all one needs to do is avoid the tolled roads to avoid the congestion charges. It takes up much more time due to the placement of the current ERP gantries but if one is in no rush, then one could save money. If this GPS ERP scheme is taken up, will I be racking up the taxes everytime I move my vehicle? What if I am only driving back and forth on a rural street to say, help a friend move his house? Will I not be charged at all if I park my vehicle all day? If there is no place where I will not be tracked, will the charges eventually rise?

Perhaps the thing that worries me the most is the infrastructure that will have to be in place for this GPS ERP to take effect. How long will it take until a faceless man behind a desk is only a click away from finding out my exact location whenever he pleases.

Very Orwellian indeed.

Further Reading:
http://asia.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=10654
http://topnews.com.sg/content/21179-singapore-s-first-satellite-built
http://www.sirent.inlis.gov.sg

References:

  1. http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10451518-38.html ^

SingRish 101

Just as there is a clear distinction between slang and faulty language, so is there a difference between broken English and Singlish.

As Singaporeans, we tend to take the shortest and most efficient route to where we want to go. As such, our national language – Singlish – may appear weird to some.

For example, if one were to say “I am going to the toilet” in the Queen’s English as it were, in Singlish, that would be spoken as “Go toilet”. Verbs (am) and the preposition (to the) are no surprise when we’re trimming the fat but the pronoun (I)? The confusion may stem from the fact that Singaporeans tend to always be aware of context in speech. So we always know who’s going to take a dump. In an extreme (though not uncommon) example, one would need only gesture in any direction whilst saying “toilet” to get the message across.

Conjunctions are generally dropped in favour of slight pauses or use of vocal tunes, adverbs are overused and split infinitives are not uncommon (although I am pretty sure most do not realize that they are doing it), adjectives are simplified and tend to be chosen from a very very small pool of words.

Like Cockney Rhyming Slang, I feel that Singlish is but a natural progression of language. As English was created from a myriad of other languages, so hath Singlish been created. While certain shortcuts may break the rules of English, only time and posterity will determine if it is truly a “new” language.

To honestly be (heh heh), I am neither a language expert nor casual observer. I (only) write (only) to get my message across. I am therefore truly Singaporean. Had I not been a Singapore citizen that previous statement would probably have been more profound.

Anyway, it’s time to stop introducing intentional grammatical errors or faux pas to cover unintentional ones and get on with a universal language. Peakchers!

The below is not Singlish. It is Singrish (with an ‘R’). It’s our equivalent of Engrish.

[cc lic=”by-nc-sa” version=”3.0″ port=”sg”][/cc]

[cc lic=”by-nc-sa” version=”3.0″ port=”sg”][/cc]