Thursday, February 8, 2018

Is it another "upgrade" turning in to "outage"? - SingPass, CorpPass services back online after hours of 'intermittent access'

Source: CNA

Remember a few days ago, Singpass putting a notice saying that on 6th or 7th they're doing a maintenance activity. Now, this.

I have little doubt in saying that the most likely case is "some" unexpected code or config making the upgraded system not so stable or offering some "unwanted" feature :)

We've seen in many instances (remember OCBC, Singtel, M1...) the avoidable outages causing failure. Blame it on the cloud or some "component" or "environmental factors" or whatever, these are simply avoidable with a clear fall back plan and detailed testing. 

Singpass/Gov services are probably the best in the world but these are serving Singapore, where we always want to best ourselves simply and not to sit on our past laurels. So tighten up and time to review some of the past actions.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Online prices vs Offline prices. Singapore is getting expensive...

A friend of mine visited from USA and his first reaction is. How bloody expensive this place is?  I was quite surprised to hear, as my experience has been quite fine with Singapore and in fact I found US, AU, EU far more expensive based on my travel.

I started comparing prices and then realized few things.
  • Offline prices (neighborhood shops) offers the cheapest prices for groceries. For example, Fresh Milk which you can get for $5.20 is sold at NTUC, Giant online, Redmart & Cold storage for $5.70 (Yeah, all offering the same discount of 65 Cents from the list price of $6.35)
  • Vegetables, Onions, Potatoes, Nuts etc are often cheaper at the market
  • Some goods may be cheaper online (especially plumbing, electronic accessories) 
Now, another interesting thing is the food/groceries. I do not know if it is because of food delivery services or simply because of the cost of doing business but the cost of food more than doubled in the last three years. Agree, the inflation remained stagnant or lower but the food inflation is horrendous.

Based on Singstar information the CPI of food excluding food services in 2007 was 77.7, and in Nov 2017 it stood at 105.244. So in 10 years, we are talking about ~ 35% increase ??? Am I right here?

I wish I am not but it looks like it's real :|

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Doki - Dumbest watch in the world with a expensive tag

Probably this is the dumbest smart watch I ever encountered but with a hefty price tag. Few reasons.

  • Not flexible at all. All activities must be done in their own eco-system
  • Default 10 min interval update (you can zoom down to 5 min periodic update) but it doesn't work unless you open + press refresh manually. 
  • Not possible to export the tracking details or location points
  • No google maps but an overlay with Doki own interface (which sucks by the way)
  • Text messages - Just one way. You can't read anything there because Doki hides it and no SMS interface
  • Alert area (Geo-fencing) - Doesn't work at all
  • Updates: The software crashes almost all the time. App on iPhone - ridiculously buggy too.

I am thinking of a "compact smartphone" for tracking purposes. I prefer google maps, location history then periodic updates which doesn't work or let me see it only on a phone

Grab & Uber Unfair practices with Cancellations

Today, the uber driver canceled after 12 minutes. I was rushing for a meeting and kind of pre-booked (uber does the current booking with scheduled time) and I waited at the pickup point for 10 min (Uber showing 6 min arrival time) and called the guy. Right after my call, the driver cancelled the trip and uber started to re-book again with 14 min pickup duration.

Now the worst part is when I try to cancel the trip, Uber threatens me that they would charge $6 for canceling.

Just yesterday a grab driver @ Mandai accepted the booking ( i was at Bishan) and asked me to cancel ??

Did you guys realize neither grab or uber has an easy way to reach them? Be it Customer care number or grievances?

Uber used to clearly show the "canceled" trips but now they only show "charged" trips. Which means if the driver cancels the trip, you shut your mouth and no way for you to feedback.

Grab is useless when it comes to customer care or service. They just work based on cheap prices alone. 

Friday, January 5, 2018

Artificial Intelligence on Phones... ?????

Source: Gartner & TelecomAsia

Well, I don't want my phone to decide
  • Which app to use for payment (I love the freedom of using credit card or cash or whatever I wish at that point of time rather than my phone buzzing me to use Visa or Apple Pay based on some short-term promotion promising instant benefit which can be mid-term or long-term negatives)
  • Which app to use for maps ( Waze or Apple or Google Maps depending on what I wish or which place I am)
  • Listening to all conversations (this is a big no-no for me. My government might be listening to protect me but not my phone listening and storing data on the phone so it can provide some questionable benefit)
  • My emotional state (I may be pretending to be happy but I don't want a device to tell me I am not or I am)
  • Profile me as old music addict ( I am having problems with Apple downloading unnecessary songs or Netflix recommending totally unrelated shows.. So stop it)
  • Change Photo/Camera settings ( I choose when to use Video or Slow-mo. Not the phone)
  • Restrict me what I can see or what I can listen.
What I want my phone to 
  • Provide me good quality "listening" experience to myself and other parties
  • Give me extended battery
  • Remove unnecessary permissions to Apps based on their behavior.
  • Enough battery to last a day+
  • Standard Interfaces so I don't have to spend a fortune every "upgrade"
In a nutshell, stop trying to "improve" my experience but please improve Vendor (Apps, Device Manufacturers or OTT App behavior.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Networth or CAGR or IRR or "Net Saving Rate"?

Over the holiday period, the most common topic among the friends is $. Whether it's Earning or Saving or Spending. One interesting topic was to measure "how good" are they with $.

The most common measure appears to be Networth (guess seedly, moneysense and other local bloggers are doing a good job). It is simple, yet a strong measure to show how good are you with net savings or investment :)

But my view is the one need to measure the Net Savings Ratio after the net worth. Calculating net worth simply doesn't mean you are doing great. For example, a 30 years old person making 50,000 per year may end up with 100K net worth while a 40 years old person making 200,000 may end up with 400K net worth. In this case, I want to be the first person rather than the latter.

So I proposed a small table which tabulates the net-worth - earnings - and ratio. Now add it over the years and you can see the cumulative savings ratio over a period


Networth Total Income Net Saving Ratio
 $10,000.00  $20,000.00 50.00%
 $50,000.00  $40,000.00 125.00%
 $150,000.00  $80,000.00 187.50%
 $140,000.00  $145,000.00 96.55%
 $200,000.00  $265,000.00 75.47%
 $250,000.00  $405,000.00 61.73%
 $300,000.00  $545,000.00 55.05%
 $320,000.00  $755,000.00 42.38%
 $485,000.00  $945,000.00 51.32%
 $653,209.15  $1,157,000.00 56.46%

This ratio can show you how good you are with Savings, Investments & overall financial situation :)

FYI, I am lookig at > 70% as "good"

Putting the blame or fault on others..A grumbling post in the new year

Why can't companies accept the fault instead of trying to put the blame on something else? Why can't the firms even try to give additional information so customers can make an informed choice? I do agree and accept a one-off incident or something that's reasonably beyond their capabilities. After few bad experiences with CITI bank, I started to notice the nitty-gritty details and below are some examples.
  • Airline announcements:
"Due to the delay in incoming flight, your flight will be delayed by 30 min. We apologize for inconvenience"

I am very sure the airline does know that the flight is going to be late based on the departure timings, mid-air positions or simply some basic estimations. Why can't the Airlines broadcast an SMS or WhatsApp earlier? 
  • CITI Bank
Seriously? This is your "APP" and "SYSTEM" which sucks big time and stop putting the blame on bad internet speed.

Why can't you simply state that the App sucks and Customers have no choice but using it? or go back to Web-based version?

  • HSBC
This is another great company with decades-old systems. I don't think I need to say more. Just use HSBC websites or Apps, and the messages will make you crazy. But their customer care (telephone) is probably the best among the foreign banks in Singapore (at least the priority one)

Primary-1 Schools, Bus arrival times, Smart Watches, Trackers and paying for Data SIM.

Happy new year & Happy Re-opening of schools.

With the schools beginning, it's happy & sad feeling. Your little ones are all grown up to enter in Primary-1 but at the same time looking at Singapore primary school system, and the super long hours you end up having sleep fewer nights.

The schedule from the school & Bus as follows:

  • 06:20 --> Bus pickup
  • 07:30 --> School start time
  • 13:30 --> School end time
  • 14:30 --> Bus drop off.
Now one can see almost 2+ hours wasted in transport and making the "school" almost 8 hours which is a typical adult work duration. 

Did I say the school is 2 km from my home? 

Anyway, the wastage is due to the kiasi mentality of us and doubt I can change this anytime soon. But will continue.

Trying to solve one major issue which is the bus arrival time (in the first two days it's between 13:45 to 15:20). So ended up buying a smartwatch with 3G capabilities.

For the SIM card, what we need is a simple Data SIM with >1GB/Mo volume and doesn't need any fancy stuff. 

After comparing postpaid SIM only contract plans, MultiSIM options and prepaid I ended up going for M1.

My criteria is simple. Lowest possible $/Month

M1 Prepaid card costs $15 to buy and comes with 2GB data valid for 120 days. That's ~ $4/month

This is a one-time cost and that can easily cover first 3-4 months to give the tracker a try.

For the monthly recurring cost, I am thinking of two options. One is to go with a 300MB topup which costs $5/Month of simply get a new SIM card :)

30-Day Data Packs
+ 30-Day Free Incoming Call!
+ 30-Day Free Incoming Call!
+ 30-Day Free Incoming Call!

I wish, TPG telecom or some new TELCO can come up with plans as "add-ons" to enable multiple SIM cards for tracking purposes. Be it Kids or Elderly or simply a tracker..

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Redmart - Disappointed and guess no longer the niche player in the market.

I have been using Redmart for a while and I like them for their web interface, and schedule. From 2012 to now I guess I must have made more than a hundred orders with them and have no bad experiences with them till beginning of this year.

Around CNY this year, couple of my orders were "delayed" and that's a minor issue. But then around middle of this year the items delivered were of terrible quality. I can see Brown Rice with some insects, and delivery of different brand items. My most recent order was few days ago and less than half the goods were delivered. The delivery person comment was he wasn't sure but he could only see the items in the warehouse. So another call to Customer care and the lady could tell me immediately that other box containing goods was damaged at warehouse so they didn't send it out.

Information availability: great; Informing customer: can be improved.

So what's the point of knowing something when one could easily take a simple action? If they used the information to inform me earlier, I could have waited for another day or pick another time slot to get the comlpete order. Now the lady on the phone sounded nice, but her KPI appears to be close the case first, so her answer was "the pending order is ~ 20, and I would give $5 voucher". Seriously?

Anyway, I passed it and now looking seriously at Fairprice or Honestbee or dei (the new little india one).. Let's see

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Need a radical change of mgmt, thought process to succeed. Not buying larger fleets but using them is critical.

Source: CNA

The morning news which caught my eye is the nes Comfortdelgro acquiring majority share in Uber car rental subsidiary in Singapore.

It is very unfortunate and not really a win for CDG (also for Uber which I would talk a little later) as this essentially gives CDG a larger fleet and fastly depreciating asset base. The whole idea of new generation service is being asset light. Unless CDG is trying hard to make the books looks good, I don't see a real reason why they went for it. Or is it Uber who made this happened by pushing CDG to a corner? No idea but all guess work..

Now, for Uber this is bad too. It essentially tells me that Uber is losing it's battle against Grab. This is the last fortress uber can't afford to lose but it appears the bastion is cracking. As shared by some other bloggers, analysts the market leader is no longer Uber but Grab. Be it the publicity, or quick to market or localisation of offers; Grab essentially made Uber to lose the market. IMHO, I still see Uber being the better one with some what good customer care, and they are more focussed on passenger. The App is years ahead, and routing of drivers is far better. Unfortunately ease of getting a cab as well as price is where Grab is winning. Well, all lies in the take5,4,3 / save5,4,3 offers which Grab is extremely generous these days. 

The loyalty part for "office workers" is pulling some crowds to Grab as well. I could hear some canteen conversations while visiting city area :) It's just like the miles game. So no wonder Grab is favourited there. 

I am not sure how it ends up but for CDG this is not going to be good. Sad to see the best taxi company thinking that it could continue with it's old expertise, and lay on it's laurels for the future.