Taiwan Earthquake Disrupts Internet Access

If you reside in Asia and are having problems with your Internet connection, chances are good that it’s due to the recent earthquakes in Taiwan.

According to this report from Bloomberg (Japan), the earthquakes have disrupted Internet access all across Asia:

Singapore Telecommunications Ltd. Southeast Asia’s largest telephone company, and Hong Kong’s PCCW Ltd. said Internet service in Asia slowed down after three earthquakes hit southern Taiwan yesterday.

What you can do

I’m currently on Singnet Broadband (in Singapore), and am finding Yahoo! to be one of the few sites that I still have good access to. It is probably the best source of news at the moment.

The localised version of Google (http://google.com.sg in my case) appears to work as well, but only intermittently. Google News works fine, but the links (since they’re mostly based in the US) don’t always work.

For now, just stick to local or localised sites, which have servers based in or around your country. Hopefully the Internet will be back to normal soon.

Meet Your Maker

I was just going through random “friendster” sites when I came across a profile of a girl that had under the “Who I want to meet” heading, “God”.

This led me to wonder if she ever got confused when a baddie in a Hollywood movie held a gun up to the hero’s head and said, “prepare to meet your maker”.

Would she — if in the hero’s place — say, “I’d love to”?

Merry Christmas!

It’s Christmas again! Saying that last Christmas feels like it was like just yesterday may have been cliched to death, but that’s just the way I feel. Last Christmas certainly doesn’t feel that long ago. Has a year really passed?

I’m sitting here, looking at one of my presents from last Christmas (a vibrating massager thingy), given to me by my sis; it looks still looks brand new, like it could have been just given yesterday. I have to admit that I haven’t used it as much as I should have (it being expensive and all). I remember using it lots in the beginning, but as the novelty wore off, I used it less and less, and eventually I stopped using it altogether.

UnChristmas?

This year is one of the most unChristmasy of recent years. My family would normally put up a small Christmas tree, completely with lights, underneath which we place our gifts. This year though, the tree never went up, and we prepared no gifts either. This fact hadn’t really hit me until this afternoon, when I realised that “tomorrow’s Christmas!”

I do find it quite a pity. I love exchanging wrapped gifts and being surprised by its contents. It’s also nice to see the expression on the faces of people you love when you give them something, watch them unwrap it, and see them pretend to be excited as they exclaim, “wow!” or something to that effect.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to you all, and may you have a blessed new year ahead too.

— Donn

UPDATE [25 Dec 20006]
Christmas is just about over, and I what I have found about this Christmas is that almost everybody I know seems to be out of the Christmas spirit.

I think that the rains leading up to this occasion might have dampened spirits quite a bit, and people are generally feeling down and gloomy.

Or perhaps Nietzsche was right in proclaiming, God is Dead.

But then again, on the third day He rose again.

Two sides to every story. Ho ho ho.

Why MyMall.Sg Will Not Work

mymall.sg has been making its rounds on Singapore TV lately, and this entry is just to say: it doesn’t work.

What is mymall.sg?

It is a new marketing platform based on a combination of two mediums: television (TV) and the web.

A splash screen showing a “keyword” will appear at the end of a TV advertisement affiliated with mymall.sg. A voice-over will announce to you to “go to mymall.sg now” and “type in the keyword”, so that you can “find the best bargains”.

Sounds simple enough. Now, how could this not work? Let us count the ways…

The Keyword Problem

First of all, there’s a problem inherent in having their site usable only if a visitor has a “keyword”. People who don’t have this keyword will not be able to use the site at all.

They’re expecting people to (a) write down the keyword; (b) memorise the keyword; or (c) have a computer at hand so they can immediately type in the keyword.

Most consumers, especially those who watch TV, are lazy. Lazy people generally don’t do (a) or (b), they won’t write down or memorise the keyword. They’re most likely do (c), use the computer and watch TV at the same time. Here’s a rhetorical question for you: how many adults do you know simultaneously use the computer and watch TV?

The adults I know who watch TV are just hoping for a way to just tune out of the work day; they don’t want to think at all about anything, they just want to sit down, relax: to stone in front of the TV. And you expect them to memorise or write down a “keyword” that is not guaranteed to be useful?

So, if we stick with (c), we’re looking at the younger people, who are the most likely to simultaneously use the computer and watch TV (despite protests from parents for them to “do one thing at a time.”)

Small Market

That’s a pretty small market to conquer if you ask me.

Add to that that mymall.sg advertisements happen only every once in a while, and we’re looking at a few hundred people, probably tens, out of tens of thousands of viewers, tops. In other words, a potential response-rate of say, 0.1 – 1%.

Target demographic found, let’s see what they’re selling

Now that we have found that there are tens to hundreds of teenagers and young adults who might visit mymall.sg and actually type in a keyword, let’s see what deals these people have.

I have seen only one advertisement so far, that of OG.

OG is a departmental store, selling generally clothes and household items. It appeals to women in their late twenties, early thirties, up to, say, early fifties. This was probably not OG’s best choice of marketing channels. Thumbs down

I asked my 14-year-old brother, who watches way more TV than me. He told me he has seen a few more: Harvey Norman, Sony Walkman, and Royal Umbrella Rice.

Harvey Norman is an electronic store. From personal experience their main customers are young adults, twenties to thirties, buying electronics like TVs, computers, washing machines and the like. Again, like OG, these people are too old for this marketing channel. It must be said, though, that they do appeal to the younger crowd in their carrying of smaller and cheaper gadgets like shavers, MP3 players and mobile phones. Thumbs undecided.

Sony Walkman needs no introduction. They probably hit the sweet spot with this marketing channel. Target demographic: tech-savvy, multi-tasking students and young adults with some cash and a high propensity to spend it. Thumbs up.

Royal Umbrella is a brand of white rice. All I can say is, “WTF?” I mean… WTF? This is so totally wrong that I don’t know where to begin. Wrong demographic, wrong product. “Wow! Who would have thought? The greatest, wildest bargains on white rice, now online!” Thumbs down, down, DOWN.

And that is why, ladies and gentlemen, mymall.sg will not work.

Update: 11th July 2007

Much as I had predicted at the start of the year, MyMall.Sg has disappeared. This concept was doomed for failure from the start. There just wasn’t enough motivation for people to use it. How was the concept sold to its target consumers? Who were its target consumers?

Remembering Passwords

In this article, I will teach you a password memorisation technique that will allow you to write down your passwords, put them where everyone can see them, and yet have no one able to access your accounts (except yourself, of course)!

Using this technique, you will no longer have to deliberate if a password is memorable, nor use identical passwords from site to site “so I won’t forget”.

This password memorisation technique is fun, and it helps stir your creative juices! Itching to know more aren’t you? Well, itch no more, read on and learn!

Passwords, Passwords, Everywhere

Like the billions of users of the Internet, you probably have tens of passwords to remember. There are passwords for your email (multiple accounts, of course: home, office, junkmail, messenger), del.icio.us, Internet-banking, messenger, some online magazine subscription… and we’re not even getting started!

The way most of us will deal with these passwords is to have the same ones for every account (which is a major security risk, but we won’t go into that here).

Well, using the same passwords for many sites is actually very convenient. But unfortunately, some passwords are “numbers-only”, some require “6-8 alphanumeric characters”, some “at least 5 characters in length”; so, we can’t use the same passwords all across the board, not forgetting it’s a major security risk as well.

Just how can we deal with all this?

Write it Down

I propose that you write these passwords down on a piece of paper, and paste it right on the side of your monitor. Before you scream “what the f***? That’s a bloody security risk!”, read on.

Using (Simple) Encryption

Let’s say you open a gmail account, and you want the password to be “2pigeon0”. Now, you have to encrypt this password, to make it unreadable by others, and only readable by you. Once you have encrypted it, you write it down on the piece of paper.

Encryption doesn’t have to be complicated, though it can be. One of the most simple encryption methods would be moving each letter back one letter of the alphabet. So, if your password was “bcd”, after encryption it’d be “abc”. Simple, right?

Creative Encryption

Encryption is a creative process, and the more creative you are, the more enjoyable the process will be.

I know of a man with one of the most ingenious methods of encryption. A word-loving man, his encryption method involves the use of his beloved Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, sitting atop its own stand next to his computer.

The following encryption method is adapted from him.

Encrypting Words

In the password we picked, the word “pigeon” is a main part of it. I look up the word “pigeon” in the dictionary, and note down the page number (158). Next, I look up the position of the word on the page. In my case, it is the third word from the top (3).

On the piece of paper, I write down these numbers: “215830”

If you’re wondering how I got those numbers, maybe the following schematic might help:
[2][page number][position on page][0] => “215830”.

The number “2” at the start, and “0” at the end are arbitrary numbers, added to increase the password’s complexity (and therefore its strength).

Encrypting Numbers

If you have a page which is “numbers only”, all you have to do is reverse the process.

In the previous example, my encrypted password was “215830”. But if I needed a “numbers-only pin”, my encrypted password would be “2pigeon0”, which would translate back to “215830”.

Due to the password being made up of entirely numbers, differentiating the “page number” from the “position on page” will be a problem; where does the page start (“is it page 15, or 158?”). To aid readability, we might add a number “0” after each part. Therefore, the end result would be “202580300”.

Again, here’s the schematic:
[2][0][page number][0][position on page][0][0]

Infinite Possibilities

Of course, this is just one way of encryption (albeit a very elaborate one).

You can (and should!) devise your own creative way of encryption; the possibilities are endless. The gist of it is to write down an encrypted form of your password on a piece of paper. All you need to remember is your method of encryption.

When choosing your method of encryption, remember this: the easier it is to encrypt/decrypt, the weaker the password; the more elaborate and complex it is to encrypt/decrypt, the stronger it is.

You just have to choose along the continuum of security and convenience. But while you’re wondering how much security we can get away with, remember, the best hackers are on the net; people walking around our desks generally aren’t going to be able to crack any code, (that is, unless you work at Google).

Have fun!

On the Lack of Ambition

The old man walked up to me and asked, “what would you do if you could do anything, anything at all, and knew you couldn’t fail?”

I looked at him, thought for a bit, and shrugged.

He looked at me with a curious eye. “How can you not know?” he asked. “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”

My face was blank. I really didn’t know.

His face, at first fatherly, grew intense; he demanded an answer.

“I would just live, I guess.”

“Just live, boy? Just live? Have you no goals? No aspirations? Have you not thought about your purpose here on Earth? Have you no ambition?”

I could find no answer.

His brows furrowed. “With an attitude like yours,” he said, “you will never amount to anything. You will die a statistic. Just another one of the billions of souls who have walked the Earth and left no mark.”

His faced relaxed a little, then he continued, “Is that the way you want to die? A statistic?”

I thought about this a moment, smiled, and said, “sir, if I died a statistic, I wouldn’t live to regret it.”

He grew furious and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. Pulling my face close to his, he said, “Boy, do you not understand? It is people like you — apathetic, selfish people like you — that have made this world such a horrible, horrible place.”

“Sir, what have I done?” I asked, feeling terribly maligned.

“Nothing, boy. Absolutely nothing.” And he walked away.

Rich Dad Poor Dad

I once borrowed the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki from Wilson sometime back in 2001.

Though I found the book interesting, it left me with quite a number of questions, especially regarding the integrity of the facts stated.

For example, “if ‘Rich Dad’ is so rich, just who is he, and why haven’t we heard more about him from other sources?” (yes, I know, not all rich people live their lives in the spotlight, but after this book came out, surely he had no choice? Wasn’t anyone else curious? Why weren’t there any interviews with him about the book?)

Another thing that bothered me immensely was Kiyosaki calling his biological dad “Poor Dad”. Asians not estranged from their fathers typically do not call their fathers “poor”. I know I‘d lose some sleep if my son wrote a best-selling book that called me “poor”, and started calling the neighbour’s dad “dad”.

But of course, he’s a best-selling author, and I’m not, so who am I to argue? Millions of people couldn’t be wrong, could they?

I thought this way until I came across this page called John T. Reed’s analysis of Robert T. Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

From the page:

As to the whereabouts of Rich Dad—at one point, Kiyosaki tells Smart Money that he died in 1992. Poor man.

Later, he says Rich Dad is still alive, but a reclusive invalid. Uh huh.

Later, he tells Smart Money that Rich Dad was a composite of several persons.

Finally, he gets angry at Smart Money. “Is Harry Potter real? Why don’t you let Rich Dad be a myth, like Harry Potter?”

I never heard of John Tweed before this. I had thought him to be one crazed reader taking his jealousy to the extreme. It was only after I read the page where he addresses the jealously issue (people wrote to him calling him jealous of Kiyosaki), that I felt he had some credibility.

On that page he also gives some (rather detailed) background information on himself as well. (Of course, even with what he says, I’m pretty sure there’s a tinge of jealousy in him; he is human, after all, and a non best-selling one at that.)

John Tweed’s analysis is really, really long, and starts off feeling like a pointless rant; but it gets better towards the end, where he starts explaining his reasons behind his scathing remarks. I especially liked the part where he wrote about how people “got hurt” by Rich Dad Poor Dad.

This man is doing damage. I got an email from a surgeon. Her 17-year-old son read Rich Dad Poor Dad and now does not want to study or go to college. He just wants to get rich and believes Kiyosaki’s pitch that education is a waste of time. He now puts down and criticizes his mom for not being richer. I never knew a surgeon who was fighting the pigeons for something to eat. And this particular surgeon says she finds her profession extremely rewarding in non-monetary ways as well.

All in all, I wouldn’t say that I wouldn’t totally not recommend the Rich Dad Poor Dad book — it did get me interested in personal finance, if anything due to the positive, upbeat way he wrote it — but keeping in mind that the book may contain many elements of untruths sold as truths, you’d better have more than your normal share of salt on this one.