Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Microsoft Vista

Woohoo, Vista is going to be released tomorrow. In case anyone is wondering which version to get, the following is the definitive guide! (Click picture to enlarge, from Joy of Tech.)

Anyway, I built a Core 2 Duo system last month, and paid more than $200 for Windows XP Pro. They'll send me a Vista upgrade in supposedly 6-8 weeks, and I'll need to pay a postage fee of $27...

Update(!): Vista arrived on Feb 4th. So far everything looks fine and loads very quickly, the Help system has been greatly enhanced, and the interface has been improved, with the exception of the presentation of the programs list that appear after All Programs is selected. I prefer the old, more 'chaotic, but usable' presentation. Drivers are not out yet for some components, which I find quite incredible given the fact that the Beta has been out for months...

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Sony Ericsson Z610i

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
~Arthur C. Clark
To keep my mental health in a more manageable state, and also to provide sufficient scaling in the years to come when my phone number would probably be distributed of hundreds of young people, I decided I needed to get a new handphone. My first preference would be an SE phone, due to the superior user-interface design (:P) of the SE phone I got last year. Angie happened to be free so we went to a downtown Singtel shop. I'd already done research on the Internets and decided to get the Z610i.

It was only when the Singtel guy inserted the battery that I experienced what Clark meant. The last time I had that feeling was then Steve Jobs did the 'expanding movement' with his thumb and forefinger to zoom into a picture in his iPhone.

For the Z610i, the magic is in the organic light-emiting diode (OLED) display at the front of the chassis. I knew that Sony had already used this in their little MP3 thingies for quite a while already, but I hadn't seen the actual product before. The display looks like surreal little pixels floating inside the glassy plastic. Magical.

The display shows the clock and other information. The icon that looks like the contour lines of a rounded hill represents 3G reception. I have no idea why. If you play music, the display changes too...

The finishing of the chassis is wonderful too. A reviewer describes it as having the 'the look of a drop of mercury over a pebble'. This seems just about right. I remember what mercury looks like from science classes, and the metallic finishing looks almost exactly like it. Then again, it's actually plastic, not metal. Reminds me of the 'is the metal chassis of the Palm Zire actually plastic?' debate years ago.

Sony Ericsson is an interesting company to watch. They were almost goners a few years ago before joining up with Sony. And then suddenly they were making great phones that had the design, the UI, and the backing of quite solid manufacturing materials; my impression is that the plastics they use were better than the competitors. (The materials used for the Z610i is quite out of this world!) And they've been doing really well recently. Anyway, this phone is available for students at $99, supposedly until Feb 16.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Stop The Presses! EP 2

Welcome to another installment of STP. (EP 1 here.) Today we're looking at the 'foreign talents' issue. Two days ago, Channel News Asia reported on the Singapore Perspectives 2007 seminar organised by the Institute of Policy Studies. One article that was published was entitled 'Middle class wage stagnation could lead to social instability'. On 11 January, a snippet from the article read:
... However, economists are asking who this growth is for. The income of the bottom 30 percent of the population has fallen. What is more worrying is the fact that the majority of Singaporeans in the middle class has only seen about a 1 percent increase in nominal income in the last 5 years. It is not just Singapore - economists say stagnant wages is a global problem, and the chief reason for this is globalisation. India and China are introducing a large pool of skilled and unskilled labour to compete with the labour forces of industrialised countries. Singapore is susceptible to this because of its open economy. 123,000 jobs were created last year and economists estimate some 70 percent of these jobs went to foreigners. [1]
The very next day, the article was amended and it read:
...Singapore is susceptible to this because of its open economy. Manpower Ministry data shows that 124,000 jobs were created last year and 45 percent of these jobs went to foreigners.[2]
To say I was flabbergasted by this would be my understatement of the week. So I found a link to email the Editor.
Hi there, I would like to ask something about the article "Middle class wage stagnation could lead to social instability" by Pearl Forss, found here. In this article accessed today, I found that the article says that "Manpower Ministry data shows that 124,000 jobs were created last year and 45 percent of these jobs went to foreigners." However, in some internet circles, it seems that other people who have accessed the article yesterday saw the words "123,000 jobs were created last year and economists estimate some 70 percent of these jobs went to foreigners." Example here. This is an overestimation of almost 56%. I wonder if there was an error in the earlier, or later copy. Which should be the correct statistic? This is an important story and a lot of people would be interested in the figure. Kudos to your team and Ms Forss for reporting it; I haven't seen it at other newspapers yet. ;) Best regards, Jeffrey Yen
I just got a reply.
Dear Jeffrey Yen, Thank you for writing in. We were informed that our earlier web story had an error regarding data on employment of foreigners. We have amended the story to reflect the information as shown on TV news last night. You may view the video clip which is linked in the web story here: We apologise for the error. Thank you again for your support of Best regards, xxx (Newseditor)
While it would be unfair to harp on a genuine error, (and there's really nothing wrong with a correction in that scenario), I wonder if there's a more interesting angle to this. If we look at the original article [1], we see the word 'economists'. If we look at [2], 'economists' is removed and 'Manpower Ministry data' added. Could it be that what we have are simply two sources saying different things? The 'economists' might refer to the folks presenting at the IPS seminar. They have some numbers they crunched on their own. But there might be other numbers available, from, say, the Ministry. Anyway, the IPS website still contains the 'incorrect' version of the CNA report. If anyone attended the IPS, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. ;) Update (!): I had originally missed the email address of Pearl Forss, the reporter (which was shown in the news video), which was why I emailed the editor. I should have emailed her first to get the real story. Here's her reply. :)
Hey Jeffrey, The economists at IPS estimated that 70 percent of jobs created went to foreign workers, if we include PRs. Ministry of Manpower statistics showed that 45 percent of jobs created went to foreign workers, not including PRs. But the economists did not have exact estimates, while the Ministry of Manpower did, so we went with the latter figure. =) thanks for watching.
45-70% of new jobs went to foreigners? Hard-hitting stuff...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Blog Is Being Monitored!

I just realised that someone out there has been keeping tabs on this blog! There was a story on a few days ago about defibrillators, and the person managed to dig out a first-aid article I wrote last year, and did a trackback! Whoever you are, I'm very interested in the circumstances that led to you putting up that trackback. (I'm fascinated with journeys of hyperlinks on the Internets.) Please leave a comment, thanks! ;p