Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

By Date: May 2006

Is OpenSource Source Software for you?

Active members of workforce like me have a romantic perception of retirement: you surrender your big stream of income to gain a lot of extra time. If you are into IT that opens the path to OpenSource. While OpenSource is free, you are very likely to spend more time to master it fully. To get started there one would need an introduction into OpenSource. Exactly this is the motivation for my talk tonight at the Retired & Senior Volunteer Programme ( RSVP).
The talk will introduce " The Open CD" containing OpenSource software for MS-Windows like: Firefox, THunderbird, The Gimp, 7Zip or Gaim. Furthermore I will talk Linux using Mepis (a Debian based distribution) as the example.
The talk is today Friday 26 May 2006, 04:00 PM @ RSVP, 75 Bukit Timah Road, #06-04 Boon Sie Building, Singapore 229833, The talk is free. Please register here: +65 6336 0640.
And see you tonight.

Posted by on 26 May 2006 | Comments (2) | categories: OpenSource

Meeting Mr. Wang

As mentioned before Mr. Wang bakes good karma is one of my favourite Singapore bloggers. Today we had lunch, since we both felt putting a face and a voice behind the mutual respect gained from blogging is a nice thing to do. Indeed very nice it was. We chatted about a wide variety of topics ranging from work, books, spirituality, politics to blogging. I asked him, whether the journalists that are "featured" in his blog are unhappy with him. I wasn't surprised, when he told me, that he knows quite a lot of them personally. Unfortunately I only had an hour to spend, since I could have listen and talked on for hours. Made my day.

Posted by on 25 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore

Fusion Pizza

Living in Singapore has the clear advantage of being a melting pot of cultures. The nicest part is the fusion of food. Yesterday we went to Pizza Walker and I had a Chicken Teriyaki Pizza. It looked a little odd to have stripes of seaweed on a pizza but it tasted quite nice. Next time I'll be more daring and have the beef Wasabi Pizza.

Posted by on 25 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore

C-Jump replies

I've dropped Igor from C-Jump a short message pointing to my blog entry about the game. Today came his reply:

Dear Stephan, Anthony, and Ernest!

To Anthony and Ernest:
For many years I was working as a computer programmer. I did like my job and even told my Boss one day that programming was fun and a little bit like playing a game. My Boss smiled back at me and asked to never tell something like that to our customers, who were paying big bucks for programs which we wrote. I hope he can now see the picture of two six year old guys from Singapore and know that there is nothing to be afraid of to say "programming is like playing a game"!

To Stephan the Geekiest Dad in the World:
At this point Anthony + Ernest = 12 years old! If you've waited till BOTH of them are 11+ to play c-jump that would be too late! Right move!

Our entire team sends our greetings, smiles and HUGE THANK YOU for being such a great customers!

Truly yours,


Igor Kholodov

C-jump Factory
346 Washington St. PMB# 224
Braintree, MA 02184

Certainly made our day! Can't wait until he comes up with a board game about object oriented programming!

Posted by on 22 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Twins

IBM loves OpenNTF

Some of OpenNTF's contributors are IBMers, so it isn't surprising, that OpenNTF is well respected inside IBM. IBM used OpenNTF DominoBBS for Lotusphere and uses OpenNTF's mail experience as a source of inspiration what to do next in the mail template. But it doesn't stop there. Even in IBM's redbooks OpenNTF is officially mentioned. Have a look at page 159 in the redbook Security Considerations in Notes and Domino 7: Making Great Security Easier to Implement.
Should we have a redbook: Guide to OpenSource for Lotus Notes?

Posted by on 22 May 2006 | Comments (5) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

Idealism and Materialism

The two forces of Idealism and Materialism seem to struggle in an eternal fight for being the true success for mankind. As a twist of irony some of the most materialistic people (think Jacob Fugger, Henry Ford, George Soros, Bill Gates etc.) turned into the most benevolent idealists (remarkably outside their respective businesses). Now Master Nishijiama offers the conclusion: Apply Buddhist practise to both and Idealism and Materialism will form something bigger than the parts: Realism.
The planet could need much more of that!

Posted by on 21 May 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: After hours

Fracture take one

We have a few danger points in our household: a bunk bed, jumping exercises with daddy, newly found cycling skills, a curiosity about skate boards. However a fall from a 35cm sofabed opened the fracture season for Ernest. A visit to the local hospital (setting us back SGD 65, including the X-rays) brought him his first plaster cast on the right arm.
Ernest with his first cast
His biggest concern now is that mummy would not let him go onto the one day camping trip with the kindergarten.

Posted by on 19 May 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Twins

Buying a new phone at Singtel's Hallo Shop

I had my grievances with Singtel before. So heading to Singtel's Hello shop on a Friday evening 20:40 (twenty minutes before they close) didn't seem like a good idea to conclude an relaxed Thai dinner. Anyway Ida needed a phone replacement and we didn't find time during the week. When you browse Singtel's store you keep remarkably undisturbed. Undisturbed to a point where you could call it neglected. There were a lot of phones on display and a rather pathetic kiosk system that didn't really help to narrow down choices. Anyway if you want to make a transaction to get a queue ticket and have to wait for the counter to call you up.
So we picket a ticket and were browsing the selection while waiting. Hint to Singtel: make it less confusing and provide a phone finder: select a model and show where it is exhibited. Also provide some good find and comparison features.
When it was our turn a young woman (salesman 8190) attended to us. She first asked if we already had a model in mind. Since this wasn't the case she helped us to narrow down the choices based on criteria she established with a few easy questions: No more Samsung (the 2 year old Samsung couldn't even associate pictures with numbers), flat design - no clamshell, good camera, 3G, big numbers and small enough to fit into Ida's hands. She used a external website (seems Singtel's own wasn't as feature rich) to compare various models. She even discussed upcoming models with us to make sure, that it wouldn't make sense just to wait a little longer. Once we narrowed our choice to 3 models she actually got 3 boxed with the original phones, so Ida could weight them and feel the keys and balance. There was quite some price span in the models, so one would expect the more expensive models would get all the praise. Not here. The sales girl used solely our criteria to match it to the phones regardless of price.
We settled on a Nokia 6280 in black. Once it was decided, despite the fact that we were well beyond closing time, she made the effort to copy all phone book entries from the Samsung (which would let go of entries only one by one) to the Nokia.
What a pleasant shopping experience. Can backoffice and support please take note?

Posted by on 18 May 2006 | Comments (3) | categories: Singapore

Take a C-Jump

Being a proper Geek-Dad I want my kids to be initiated to the dark side of computers (a.k.a. making software instead of just using it) if possible. They are now 6 years and it is time to get them started. From my own teaching experience I know the biggest stumbling block for novice programmers are basics like variables and flow of control. If one would know about if, else, while, switch, continue and break before you start coding things would be much easier.
Researching on that matter I came across the board game C-Jump. The game resembles a ski race where you move your figures down the hill throwing a dice to figure out the distance. The special effect are the instructions printed on every field. After throwing your dice you have a look and find things like x++; 6-x; if (x==4). You replace x with the number just thrown and off you go.
The game is classified as 11+ years, so trying it on Anthony and Ernest seemed a bit ambitious. So I took refuge in building up suspense. The game isn't available in Singapore, so I had to order it from the US. I showed Anthony and Ernest the website (they love to surf with me) and explained, that this is a fun game we will buy. They helped me to fill in the online order form and watched the mailbox for the big packet from America every day.

Daddy we c-Jump

Finally it arrived and I had to explain the rules. We played two rounds. After that Anthony and Ernest were eagerly explaining to Mummy how the game goes and that ++ actually stands for +1 and that switch works together with case and that nevermind if you don't have a case number because there is default.

All in all we had good fun and the board game C-Jump made it straight into my favourite games list. For seasoned programmers you can use it too, you just need to introduce a handicap in the form of sufficient beers <g>.

Posted by on 18 May 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Twins

Redesigning your Intranet

Redesigning your Intranet The Arkgroup is hosting the 3rd Re-desing your Intranet conference in Singapore. I'm speaking on "Social Software for your Intranet".

Posted by on 18 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore

Got a bike - want to travel!

My new bike

Over the weekend Anthony figured out how to ride a bicycle. Ernest needs to play a little catch up and is well on his way. Since the old bikes were quite small we got "shiny new" bikes for them (less then 45 EUR a pair). In the evening Anthony stated, much to his mothers horror: "Now that I know how to ride a bicycle, I want to ride everywhere!". Well at his age I used to ride to school with the bicycle nearly every day. Then the traffic was much less and I wasn't a overprotected (?) Singapore kid.

Posted by on 13 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Twins

20" iMac or 32" LCD TV and Mac Mini

The good old orange iMac died today and Ernest & Anthony are very sad. At the same time the old TV is due for replacement (21" CRTs are sooo last century). I now need to solve the riddle: Do I get a 20" iMac or do I get a 32" LCD TV and a Mac mini. Properly equipped both alternatives will set us back about 4k (SGD). While 32" sounds tempting the TV screen resolution is a paltry 1288 x 800 (or similar), so the 20" iMac has a clear advantage. Another point: we never owned a Playstation, XBox or Nintendo, so no signal-in jack would be required.
On the other hand, there is this, which makes me urgently want to own a PS3. (The combat section)
Anybody to share how a 20" iMac serves as a TV replacement?

Posted by on 13 May 2006 | Comments (2) | categories: Technology

Comments disabled until Blogsphere update

I'm suffering heavy comment spam attacks currently. So I had to disable comments until this is resolved. As stated before: May there grow pimples on the lower back of the spammers, so they can't sit.

Update: Comments are back. Lets see how long the new counter measure will withstand the attacks.

Update2: One of the defensive measures is to check for the HTTP referer. So if your referer is supressed (some Norton Firewall Editions do that by default) you can't post your comments here. Blame the spammers for that.

Posted by on 10 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Technology

Singapore election result reporting

Hastily stiched together, not tested properly. When you read this is might be fixed.

PHP = Potentially Harzardous Programming?
(For comment trolls: I don't think it is a question of language, but of mindset and process)

Posted by on 06 May 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Singapore

Do you prefere Microsoft or Open Source?

This is a topic of heated discussions up to a geek vendetta. Now there is a scientific spin to it. The folks at Harvard's " Project Implicit" use a test methodology where test items are mixed with value statements. First you sort a list Microsoft - Opensource with terms like: Powerpoint, Firefox, Windows, Linux etc. Then you sort a list good - bad with items like: pleasure, pain, joy, sad.
After the initial sorting the two sets are mixed: Microsoft - good, OpenSource - bad.... and the other way around. You sort again. based on speed and error rate your subconcious preferences are discovered. Go give it a spin.

Posted by on 04 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

Paypal Phish, getting damn good

This just arrived in my inbox:

It is an image with an hyperlink on the dispute transaction text to an Estonian host. It pretty much looks like a pixel perfect duplication of paypal. For a layman user difficult to spot (unless you do the magazines with the "spot-the-7-differences" a lot):
  • - Paypal sends text, not an image
  • - the hotspot is slightly off
  • - It has been send to me via BCC

May them grow pimples on their butt, so they can't sit painfree!

Posted by on 03 May 2006 | Comments (1) | categories: Gone Phisching

Better Java with Checkclipse/Findbugs

Eclipse does a good job pointing out Java syntax errors. To prevent bugs at the coding level you need to go much further. Two utilities make your live much easier here. One is Checkclipse, the other FindBugs. Checklipse runs as an extension to the Eclipse syntax checker and encourages you to write proper code (including white spaces between symbols, so "a+b" is wrong but "a + b" is OK).
FindBugs can run stand-alone (via command line, Java Webstart or Ant) or as Eclipse plug-in. It provides even more checking options.

Found via SDMagazin/Holub.

And while you are on it, why not test Websphere (unless you live in a restricted country, which SF thinks includes Singapore)?
Websphere Community Edition

Posted by on 02 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

Wild Wild Wet

While China shuts down for a whole week to celebrate workers day, Singapore like most of Europe enjoys one day off (only). Messrs. Ernest and Anthony convinced us to spend the day at Wild Wild Wet. It is a theme park around water featuring slides, a wave pool, splashes and water rides. The theme park belongs to the National Trade Unions Congress ( NTUC) of Singapore, the main union here. It looks to me like more like a social or benefit club running supermarkets, theme parks, resorts, insurance and -- I nearly forgot -- doing union work. NTUC is a child of the approach to development in Singapore. Instead of confronting corporations the unions make sure, that the dollar earned goes the extra mile.
We had a jolly good time with all the rides, despite the fact that a few were strictly off limits for Anthony and Ernest. To ensure the rougher rides are taken only by older kids (there were no grown ups there, at least after the first ride everybody was a kid again) a simple height measurement is taken. Below 1.2m the very long tunnel slides are out of reach. Anthony and Ernest vowed to add the missing 7 and 8cm until next time . Being a curious kid I tried the ride: Is is a dark purple tube that is entirely closed. The height from start to landing point is about 12 meters and it is winding like a garden hose in all directions. After the first few meters there is a sharp turn right and downwards and I was enclosed in complete darkness. I think I have a mild case of claustrophobia. My pulse started to accelerate and I wasn't sure if I should hold my breath or scream. It felt like a rerun of the birth channel: going down, longing for the light and not knowing how long it will take. After a few seconds it was over but it left a huge pile of thought to chew on. I'll see the bench for it soon.
When we came back home, Ernest uttered the quote of the day: "Look daddy, there seems to be Gong Fu lessons near our block now". He was referring to the election advertisement of the PAP someone had dropped at our doorstep with a picture of the candidates all dressed in white. More on the election at another day.

Posted by on 01 May 2006 | Comments (0) | categories: Singapore