O Captain, my Captain!

So, the see-sawing of leadership credibility of the SMRT has reached an interchange. The CEO has quit (or euphemistically  “to pursue personal interests” – a heck of a time to go do personal stuff. She was either fired or resigned or told to resign.)

“Saw has left the building. I repeat, Saw has left the building”.

In many ways, this was to happen; it was just a matter of time. All the times when there were service issues with the SMRT, it was the Transport Minister Liu that was front and center answering questions etc.  One could be forgiven if that left the impression that Minister Liu was the person in-charge of the SMRT and that there was no other accountable employee. Alas, there always was a CEO, but no one Saw her anywhere. So Minister Liu had to be the talking-head.

I thought the SMRT was a commercially run entity and a private company at that. This was the statement made by the Law minister himself.

Is the Law Minister wrong? If he is wrong, then I can understand why the Transport Minister was answering SMRT’s issues. But I think the real answer lies elsewhere.

Parts of the train infrastructure is owned by the LTA. The business of running the trains is owned by the SMRT. So, when there is an issue, whose problem is it? Perhaps both the ministers are right in their assessments.

I did my reservist duties in the SCDF. I was the company commander of the Newton MRT Station Bomb Shelter. Our SOP in converting the station into a bomb shelter includes the use of the two tracks on which the 6-carriage trains will be parked and with airflow and power fed in from the station itself. The ends of the tracks past the ends of the trains have blast doors that will be deployed to secure the whole station as a bomb shelter. In all of the shelter exercises I was involved, we never closed the doors on the tracks because the doors were mis-aligned and if we forced it to close, we might not be able to open it and trains cannot resume service after our exercise.

While it is very unlikely that Singapore will ever see a need to actually use the bomb shelters for their intended purposes, the fact that we cannot secure the Newton MRT station is a problem. I was told was the there is no clear agreement between SMRT, LTA and the SCDF as to who will bear the costs of doing repairs to align the doors. I have one caveat here: this info is probably outdated. My last ICT with the SCDF was back in mid-2005 or so, when I handed over the command to my successor. Hence it is possible that the doors have been repaired.

My intention in bringing up the issue of the blast doors has to do with who ultimately owns and is accountable for the entire mass rapid transit system.  From all the finger pointing we’ve seen so far, it appears that no one really knows, not even the Cabinet.


Good Salary Review Report

I must confess that I was skeptical that the Committee to Review Ministerial Salaries would do a fair and good job.

But, after reading their report released today, I am pleasantly surprised to see a good amount of thinking, analysis, and consideration of feedback has been taken on board.

I think the key points of being transparent about the salaries and the removal of pensions is the biggest change. Arguments about the quantum of salary will always be there as will people who disagree no matter that number is proposed.  What I like about how the committee framed their thinking centered on:

When determining Ministerial Salaries, we kept these principles in mind:

1) Salaries must be competitive so that people of the right calibre are not deterred from stepping forward to lead the country;
2) The ethos of political service entails making sacrifices and hence there should be a discount in the pay formula; and
3) There should be a “clean wage” with no hidden perks.

One of the hallmarks of Singapore is that the political and administrative service are by and large corruption free.  Having said that, the cynics amongst us, including me, have contended that it was achieved by the excessive salaries paid to the political leadership.

Let’s see if this reality adjustment of the political salaries will have any impact on the perceived corruption free status.  I suspect that there will not be any change in that.  Singapore’s ethos has been built on getting things done for the benefit of as large a group of people as possible leaving no one behind.

So, all in, I am happy with the report. I accept the report. I hope my fellow citizens will accept it as well – but only after you’ve read the report and not an executive summary or someone else’s opinion piece for pundits are a dime-a-dozen.

2012 is beginning to look like a really nice new year already!

Majulah Singapura.

UPDATE – January 5 2011:

I think that there has not been enough analysis of the salary inflation of the ministers over the years. The last salary jump, and boy was that a big jump (of almost 60% in one go – see this NYT article), means that the proposed 20-50% reduction is still not going to make it anything like what it was BEFORE 2007. Sneaky!

The report does not seem to have taken into consideration the meteoric rise of the salary over the years. What the report is focussed on is on what wage would best attract people into politics in Singapore given our constraints. Perhaps in real 2012 dollars, the quantum to be derived from the median of salaries of the top 1000 Singapore citizens wage-earners (ie, 60% of the average of the sum of the 500th and 501th taxpayer), might be a fair amount.

Let the people decide. This is, I believe, still a functioning democracy.

Public consultation on proposed Data Protection

I am really glad to see that call for public consultation for the proposed Data Protection act in Singapore.  The closing date for submission is 5pm October 25th to the Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts.

I do not yet have a position per se and do welcome comments on this blog. I will be happy to submit a consolidated feedback.

Next thing I want to see happen is the Freedom of Information Act being enacted.  I am sure when the parliament sits later this month, the Worker’s Party will bring that up since it was one of their key points in their election manifesto.






Cool tech tip

Saw this on identi.ca feed:

“@climagic youtube-dl -q -o- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zscrs94_pFc | mplayer – cache 1000 – # Watch youtube streaming directly to mplayer”

So, do yum install youtube-dl mplayer on your Fedora machines, then you can pull in youtube videos with the youtube-dl command and then pipe it (the “|”) to the video player, mplayer and watch it immediately. No need for a browser and this is really cool.

Naturally, if all you wanted was to download the youtube video and keep a copy, just use youtube-dl [URL].

You can replace mplayer with vlc as well so the one above would look like this:

youtube-dl -q -o- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zscrs94_pFc | vlc

Why bother voting for the president?

Indeed, why bother?

The President of the Republic Of Singapore is 95% ceremonial and 5% custodial. Does it matter who then the president is? Does it really matter that for the 5%, the person has to have managed S$100 million dollar businesses etc? Does it matter that the president knows exactly how much Singapore has in its reserves? Would knowing that figure make a difference? Don’t we all make daily decisions on spending and have in our minds the checks and balances constantly running? Will it not be the case with governmental spending?

The former prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, felt that it was important that the president be someone who can be a “keeper of the second key” in releasing funds from the reserves. LKY, given the absolute power his party had (and has) in parliament, pushed through the changes in the constitution to cater for an elected president with the explicit mandate (some say moral authority) to reject or approve reserve-releasing requests.

The citizens do not know how and when the government of the day requests for funds to be drawn down and for the president to agree. We hear that the unelected elected 6th president, S. R. Nathan (unelected, because he got into office unopposed because of the abomination called walkovers) approved 27 draw downs during his tenure. Did we know of these? Shouldn’t the system be transparent? Shouldn’t the Accountant General or the Ministry of Finance disclose this? Correct me if I am wrong about not knowing the many instances President Nathan agreed to release the monies.

So, if all the elected president’s moral authority by virtue of being elected by the people rests in the 5% of his role, what should matter is the 95% of his office. The president is the head of state. He represents the unifying, agreeable, approachable, almost fatherly figure for the nation.

The president represents the country to the world and is the holder of the highest office of the land. He has to be above all, accommodating of all views and be a great influencer to sooth coarse and sharp issues. He should reach out to all Singaporeans (whether in country or outside) to come to the rally call of Singapore.

As the US Naval officer of the 18th/19th century, Stephen Decatur said: “Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!” Or to put in another way, “my country, right or wrong, warts and all”.

So, likewise, the president. I recall on my enlistment day, over thirty years ago, I pledged allegiance to the President of the Republic of Singapore. When my sons enlist, they too would be pledging allegiance to the President. That means, I cannot afford to have a president who I cannot be proud of. I cannot have a president who comes across as uncouth, boorish, know-it-all and unwilling (or seemingly unwilling) to compromise.

I watched the televised statements from the four candidates last night. As I have indicated over the last seven or so days, I have been increasingly leaning towards Tan Jee Say over Tan Cheng Bock. But this last broadcast has caused me to change my mind. I am particularly thrilled to hear Tan Cheng Bock mention his wife as being part of his team and that should he become president, she will be a wonderful first lady. As my wife later noted to me, the fact that only Tan Cheng Bock acknowledged his wife and praised her was reason enough for my wife to vote for Tan Cheng Bock. Suffice to say, that gesture has also affirmed my vote for Tan Cheng Bock.

So, in about 10 hours or so, I will be casting my vote for the Seventh President of Republic of Singapore.

And the vote will be for Dr Tan Cheng Bock, President of the Republic of Singapore. And to President S. R. Nathan, thank you for your service.

Majulah Singapura.


Presidential Elections is August 27

As we get closer to August 27, it has been evidently clear to me that this presidential election will be a re-run of the general elections held in May in how the citizens of Singapore will vote.

The President Tan that will emerge early morning of August 28 will NOT be a Tony. Why in spite of all the “endorsements” from various trade unions and associations? Because none of them are endorsing him with the approval of their constituent membership.  It is the leaders of those entities that are doing it – at the behest of the NTUC Secretary General, a PAP minister himself.

While I am surprised that the newspaper group who Tony presided over as their chairman has yet to endorse him, it might just be done before polling day. Even that won’t help him to win.

Let’s look at some of the statistics of voting patterns.  GE2011 showed 40% voting for a non-PAP candidate. One GRC was wrested from the PAP. So, going into this PE, Tony can be assured of NOT GETTING that 40%. By all reckoning, there probably is a 25%-30% dyed-in-wool PAP supporters who could possibly split votes between Tony and Cheng Bock.

I would assume that those who are in Ayer Rajah constituency (now part of the West Coast GRC) who had consistently returned Cheng Bock to office would be voting for him.

From all accounts, Tony’s stint in the Sembawang GRC as an MP was not a happy one in that he would delegate his Meet-The-People sessions to his GRC-mates which means that Tony does not have the support there.

Then add the White Horse factor of Tony’s son, Patrick. Tony has not come clean (nor has his son) about how Patrick was able to get an extended disruption from NS and dubious postings to the Defense Medical and Environment Research Institute and National Cancer Center, especially during the time Tony was defense minister. Do you think that if Tony gets the presidency, Patrick would be able to show his face and not be asked about how he was able to dodge NS? Tony is not going to his son any favours by continuing to brush aside the allegations.

So, that leaves Jee Say, Cheng Bock and Kin Lian.

About Kin Lian: I think he is a smart and possibly likeable person. Yes, he did spend some years as a PAP cadre member, but I think that is all in the past and of no consequence. Kin Lian has proven his business acumen at NTUC Income. I know that there are many people in the insurance industry that have nothing but cuss words for him, but looking at someone who grew a business – even if a cooperative – it is no small task. I think his ideas of forming his own council of advisers is very laudable.  I think there is a real need to institute an ombudsman system in our political landscape and perhaps his council of advisers could be an arm of it, or may be not.

Jee Say is an enigma. He has good ideas and is forthright in stating it. He does, sometimes, come across as a bit boorish and unpolished. Perhaps the fire from the GE2011 is still burning in him. I particularly like his stand against capital punishment. That to me is reason enough to vote for him. He clearly is capable of being a good president.

Cheng Bock. Of the two Drs, Cheng Bock is probably the more likeable and down-to-earth bloke. He has a mind of his own proven over the years by being a PAP MP and poking the government every now and then. I am disappointed that he, as a medical doctor, is in favour of capital punishment but perhaps he can be persuaded. Watch these videos.

If I were to arrange the four Tans on a political scale with PAP on the left and Anti-PAP on the right as the two extremes, it would be Tony, Cheng Bock, Kin Lian and Jee Say.

The People of Singapore want a change. The status quo of the last 46 years has been great to bring the country to where it is today, but not what is needed for the future.  Tony’s tagline “Confidence for the future” fails on that count.  It is more of the same and nothing else.

So here is how I think the votes will spread:

Tony 18%

Cheng Bock 30%

Kin Lian 23%

Jee Say 29%

So, it will be a neck to neck between Cheng Bock and Jee Say. The PAP-led government will have their hands full some early morning August 28.


I had an interesting chat with a friend today. He is well connected with the establishment and what amazes me is how much he “believes in the establishment’s bullshit”. I recall a good boss of mine from years ago telling me that he would be very worried if his sales folks and engineers start believing everything marketing spins – “believing your own bullshit”.  The PAP still does not understand the reality of the ground, three months after the GE. They still think that it is BAU and believing their own bullshit.

The ground has moved and moved away from the PAP. Anyone who is as closely associated with the PAP as is Tony stands to lose. It used to be a time when anything the PAP anoints wins. That is no longer the case. Someone told me that the PAP is now the “Pariah Action Party”.


So who am I voting for on Saturday? I told my Mom to vote Cheng Bock and to tell her friends to do the same. I am still sitting on the fence between Cheng Bock and Jee Say.  I want a president I can be proud of both from a office as well as the person. I respect the office of the Prime Minister but I don’t like the person holding that post. I want to have a president that I can like. If I were to use likability as the only factor, Cheng Bock will be it.

I am Singaporean, humble and contented.

Tomorrow, August 9 2011, Singapore celebrates 46 years of independence.

The fact that we’ve been able to have 46 years of economic progress going from a relatively impoverished island of about 1.5 million people in 1965 to one with about 5.5 million today with a per capita one of the highest in the world is no easy achievement. Much kudos have to be given to the pioneering group of political leaders and their vision to make this a viable nation and to be able to rally the population to make the effort to pull in the same direction.

As a nation, we will forever be grateful to that generation – the generation of my parents. They did well and thank you.

And, as a nation, we have to move forward. We have to find the new normal. The new normal was established on May 7, 2011 when the population took charge of the collective destiny. The citizenry had cast off the yoke of fear of not voting for the political party that ruled Singapore since independence. It was a breath of fresh air and a newly found confidence in being able to do the right thing.  Much kudos have to be given to the many players – the various political parties, the social media and the general assertiveness of a well education and well-informed citizenry.

Now as we observe the 46th anniversary of our independence, it is time to reflect what does it mean to be a Singaporean. Like any other nation and nationality, we have our quirks and warts and shortcomings. But, they are ours. We will work around it, live with it, and make it ours.

One thing that cannot be taken away from us – we are who we are because we chose to be that. We will never be perfect. But we will try hard to make it happen.

We demand full and honest transparency in how this country is governed and how we will pull together both in times of hardship and prosperity.

This National Day will mark the last time President S R Nathan will be officiating as the head of state. His term in office ends on August 31st. We will be having the presidential elections on August 27th that would see a new person in office.

The Singapore President was always a figure-head who officiated at events and was a rallying point for the people.  The party in power devised a clever scheme to have the president elected so that he will have the moral authority to safeguard the substantial financial reserves that Singapore has built up over the years.  This move, while controversial, did not set up the presidency to have the far-reaching roles it could play, except to keep the ruling party happy.

On August 17th 2011, we will know who will be contesting the elections and there is a danger of a freak situation where miraculously only one person was deemed qualified. Such is the system we have that it will be a crying shame if it turns out that way. The current president was NEVER voted into office, having had the seat obtained by default because no one ran against him. This should never be allowed, whether in parliamentary or presidential elections. There must be a minimum percentage of votes in favour before being granted the office.Walkovers are an abomination of human rights and the administrative capitulation of constitutional right to vote.

So, I look forward to National Day 2011, humbled that we have been able to make what we have and contented that we have a new normal.

As Singaporeans, we can be proud to take the Pledge and sing the anthem with all our heart.

Majulah Singapura.

OSCON 2011 – Tuesday July 26

Finally, I’ve found time and motivation to attend the O’Reilly organized Open Source Convention 2011 in Portland, Oregon.

It has been many years since I was in Portland – in fact, the times I spent in Portland was when I was in school in OSU in the latter half of 1980s. Most times, I will drive up from Corvallis on a Saturday morning, go to Powell’s and spend the whole time there. I did do some hiking around the area, but it was Powell’s for me.

So, it is somewhat of a de ja vu and yet new.

I have signed up for the sessions on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday and will also be supporting the Fedora team who has a booth as well as the Open Source for America.

Tuesday’s sessions show a few HTML5 talks.  Looks like HTML5 is indeed the next new shiny thing. May be not. But it is nice to be in a techie session and actually do some coding – it is always a good adrenalin rush for me. Coding and hacking has always been.

Here’s the site the speaker Remy Sharp is using for his talk “Is HTML5 Ready for Production” – jsbin.com,  html5demos.compusher.com and responsivepx.com/. Cool stuff – he is now showing WebSockets as well. Awesome. WebSocket servers have to be node.js machines for superfast connections.

Change and Opportunity

Change and evolution are hallmarks of any open source project. Ideas form, code gets cut, repurposed, refined and released (and sometimes thrashed).

Much the same thing happens with teams of people.  In the True Spirit of The Open Source Way, people in teams will see individuals come in, contribute, leave. Sometimes, they return. Sometimes, they contribute from afar.

Change has come to Red Hat’s Community Architecture and Leadership (CommArch) team.  Max has written about his decision to move on from Red Hat, and Red Hat has asked me to take on the leadership of the group.  We have all (Max, myself, Jared, Robyn, and the entire CommArch team) been working hard over the past few weeks to make sure that transition is smooth, in particular as it relates to the Fedora Project.

I have been with Red Hat, working out of the Asia Pacific headquarters based in Singapore, for the last 8 years or so. I have had the good fortune to be able to work in very different areas of the business and it continues to be exciting, thrilling and fulfilling.

The business ethics and model of Red Hat resonates very much with me. Red Hat harvests from the open source commons and makes it available as enterprise quality software that organizations, business big and small can run confidently and reliably. That entire value chain is a two way chain, in that the work Red Hat does to make open source enterprise deployable, gets funnelled back to the open source commons to benefit everyone. This process ensures that the Tragedy of the Commons is avoided.

This need to Do The Right Thing was one of the tenets behind the establishment of the Community Architecture and Leadership team within Red Hat. Since its inception, I have had been an honorary member of the team, complementing its core group.  About a year ago, I moved from honorary member to being a full-timer in the group.

The team’s charter is to ensure that the practises and learnings that have helped Red Hat to harness open source for the enterprise continues to be refined and reinforced within Red Hat.  The team has always focused on Fedora in this regard, and will continue to do so. We’ve been lucky to have team members who have had leadership positions within different parts of the Fedora Project over the years, and this has given us an opportunity to sharpen and hone what it means to run, maintain, manage, and nurture a community.

The group also drives educational activities through the Teaching Open Source (TOS) community, such as the amazingly useful and strategic “Professors Open Source Summer Experience” (POSSE) event.  If the ideas of open source collaboration and the creation of open source software is to continue and flourish, we have to reach out to the next generation of developers who are in schools around the world. To do that, if faculty members can be shown the tools for open source collaboration, the knock-on effect of students picking it up and adopting is much higher. That can only be a good thing for the global
open source movement.

This opportunity for me to lead CommArch does mean that, with the team, I can help drive a wider and more embracing scope of work that also includes the JBoss.org community and the newly forming Cloud-related communities.

The work ahead is exciting and has enormous knock-on effects within Red Hat as well as the wider IT industry.  Red Hat’s mission statement states: “To be the catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners creating better technology the open source way.”

In many ways, CommArch is one of the catalysts. I intend to keep it that way.

As the hats get thrown into the ring

So, we now have three persons officially vying for the post of the President of the Republic of Singapore. Mr Tan Kin Lian, Dr Tan Cheng Bok and now Dr Tony Tan (no blog, not identi.ca, no twitter.com etc). The last name clash does not imply that they are related, btw.. Two of them, Kin Lian and Cheng Bok, are old Rafflesians. That alone is a big plus for me. But that alone is not enough for me to vote for either.

My set of criteria was already alluded to in an earlier post. That still applies. My sense is that only Kin Lian and Cheng Bok might pick those things up.  I am sure Tony will not. He is way too much of a PAP yes-man even though Cheng Bok was also a PAP MP. All things considered, I do not have confidence that Tony will be independent and have the guts to check the government of the day. I had that same reservations about President Ong Teng Cheong as I have about Tony, but Teng Cheong did prove to have an independent streak which did get him being stonewalled by the government of the day and was then disowned to such an extent that he did not get a state funeral. President Ong’s trials with the PAP-led government of the day could still be played out no matter who the president is. But I think the person who will fight hardest would be the ones most opposite from the PAP-led government. On that spectrum, I would put Kin Lian first and Cheng Bok second. Tony does not figure on it.

If I have to cast my vote today, June 23, 2011, it will definitely not go to Tony.  I still undecided between Kin Lian and Cheng Bok.

Mark of A Civilized Country and Society

It is really disappointing that there has to be an ongoing discussion whether the domestic helpers should have a day off on weekends. What is even more disappointing is to read some of the letters printed in the Straits TImes.  I am reproducing one of them here:

This is from June 23rd:

Jun 23, 2011

More days off may not be in maids’ interest

I REFER to the proposal by Madam Halimah Yacob, Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports, to make it mandatory to give maids a day off every week (‘Consider law to give maids a day off every week: Halimah’; Monday).

As much as employers like myself will like to give our maids a day off per week, we are concerned that it may actually not be in their interest. With four days off a month, they will incur more expenses. Many maids who have a day off a week end up not only sending less money home, and having little or no savings, but also incur debts by borrowing from other maids to cover expenses.

They may also become resentful that their pay is not able to pay for their entertainment on these days off.

Some maids may also work illegally on their days off. This puts them at risk of abuse from those who employ them illegally and also put their legal employers at risk with the law.

Sng Choon Kwee

The author is self-serving and down right obnoxious in the concern of “incurring more costs”, :”work illegally on their days off” , “resentful” etc.

Domestic helpers have a job to do and when it is done, they are entitled to off hours, and off days.  Just like anyone else. These individuals are not slaves to anyone. They are doing a job and are gainfully employed with hopes and dreams of improving their families that they are separated from in the hope that the the next generation has better opportunities.

For us to even entertain a discussion on whether domestic helpers should be given a day or two off shows that there are members and segments of this society that determines a persons privileges based on the job being done. How disgusting can that be?

Yes, my family has a domestic helper. My wife and I agreed that she should have at least one day off a week. If she takes the day off, great; if she doesn’t that fine as well. She should be able to decide. I think it is only fair. As much as I get paid time off, domestic helpers should also have that.

It is unfortunate to have to reach a point at which we have to enact legislation to enforce this. Granting a day off should be natural and would be mark of a civilised country and society.

The next Singapore president

With the elections for the next Singapore president due any day now, my decision making process will include the following considerations:

  1. That the candidate opposes the death penalty and that he would do something about it in office
  2. That the candidate will appreciate the need for a Freedom of Information Act and that the candidate will lend the prestige of the President’s office to this.

While I am fully cognizant that under the Singapore Constitution, the president’s powers are restricted to only three areas (drawing down of government reserves, barring of religious extremists and appointment of the prime minister), the fact that the person is directly elected should be used as a good enough reason to force the issue.  Yes, the government of the day will oppose it and would even start a process of removing the elected president, but if it happens, we will able to make a far more vibrant and relevant executive and parliament. The government of the day might even want to remove the notion of elected president entirely. The fact that the elected president was introduced without a referendum – basically the typical PAP style of “we know best” process – means that little thought went into it in the first place.  Then when President Ong Teng Cheong tried to exert his rights as defined by the constitution, the government of the day stonewalled him to the extent that he did not seek re-election, thoroughly frustrated by the PAP-led government.

So, now that we have an office of the elected President, I think we should make full use of that position to check the government.

Now all machines at home are on Fedora 15!

I spent 30 minutes this morning upgrading my sons’ laptops to Fedora 15. I used a Fedora 15 LiveDVD (installed on a USB) that I had created that included stuff that the standard Fedora 15 LiveCD does not because of space. Tools like LibreOffice, Scribus, Xournal, Inkscape, Thunderbird, mutt, msmtp, wget, arduino, R, lyx, dia, and filezilla. I’ve thrown in blender and some games into the mix as well.

The updates of the systems went super quick (20 minutes to first boot) and then on to Spot’s Chromium repo:

  1. su –
  2. cd /etc/yum.repos.d/
  3. wget http://repos.fedorapeople.org/repos/spot/chromium/fedora-chromium.repo
  4. yum install chromium

Following that, on to rpmfusion.org to get the free and non-free setup RPMs to get to the tools that are patent encumbered and otherwise forbidden to be included in a standard Fedora distribution.

  1. yum install http://download1.rpmfusion.org/free/fedora/rpmfusion-free-release-stable.noarch.rpm
  2. yum install http://download1.rpmfusion.org/nonfree/fedora/rpmfusion-nonfree-release-stable.noarch.rpm
  3. yum install vlc
  4. yum install thunderbird-enigmail

[Update, June 19, 2011 0050 SGT] Based on the comment from Jeremy to this post, I’m updating the instructions]

The last bit is flash from Adobe – the 64-bit version:

  1. wget http://download.macromedia.com/pub/labs/flashplayer10/flashplayer10_2_p3_64bit_linux_111710.tar.gz.
  2. tar xvfz flashplayer10_2_p3_64bit_linux_111710.tar.gz
  3. cp libflashplayer.so /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins/
  4. chmod +x /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins/libflashplayer.so

Installing a 32-bit version of Adobe Flash for a 64-bit Fedora installation:

  1. Go to http://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Flash#Enabling_Flash_plugin
  2. Installing a 32-bit wrapped into a 64-bit version
  3. ln -s /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins-wrapped/nswrapper_32_64.libflashplayer.so /usr/lib64/chromium-browser/plugins
  4. These steps should be sufficient for flash to be enabled for both Firefox and Chromium

Once done, restart your browser and you will have flash enabled.

Yes, I am aware that I’ve had to compromise and load up non-free software. It is less than ideal and I am looking forward to GNU Flash maturing as well as MP3 and related codec getting out of patent.

Printer/cups tip

Every time I update the OS on my laptops, I have to add the CUPS printer settings for the in office systems. It used to be that there was an internally usable RPM to do this, but I always thought that it was not really a clean enough solution.

So, this post is more of a reminder to myself that all I need to do is the following:

echo “BrowsePoll cups.server.domain.com” >> /etc/cups/cupsd.conf

service cups restart

And, viola, like magic, the printers get discovered and all is well. Nice.

Early thoughts on GNOME 3

I must admit, the first time I installed Fedora 15 alpha, I did it only to test out what GNOME 3 was all about. It looked like an interesting interface that would work on a tablet-like device, having used the Andriod-based Archos 10.1 for while now.

When Fedora 15 was officially launched on May 24th, I decided to move my work machine (a Dell Vostro v13) from Fedora 14 to 15.

For the tl;dr, I like GNOME 3.

Now the rest of the story:

The default background looked like a curtain from another era. I hit the right-button of the mouse to see what’s available, but nothing came up. I know I have stuff on the Desktop. How do I get to that now? By moving the mouse to the top left hand corner, the desktop “collapses” to show a whole of other things amongst them being the “search” box on the right side of the screen. I typed in “Desktop” and among other things, it came up with “Places and Devices”. Hmm. Interesting way to navigate.

One of the best uses of Fedora has been the fact that I could share my network connection with anyone. I am often in situations where I have my 3G USB dongle connected up and turning my laptop into a wifi hotspot. Alas, as I write this blog, it is not working in GNOME 3. It is one of the minor things I have to put up with now. I am hopeful that it will be reinstated RSN.

In general, I think there has be a lot of rethinking that has gone into the design of GNOME 3. I like that fact that the desktop is kept really clean. I am one of those guilty of a crowded and busy desktop. Now all of that is hidden away in a FOLDER (which is was anyway) called Desktop. Maybe it is time to retire that Desktop folder meme as well.

Now that I’ve been using GNOME 3 for about two days, it has begun to grow on me.  All of my other machines at home (and which my family uses) are all running the older GNOME and it does seem clunky and ancient.

Overall, I am pleased thus far. Just give me the means to share out my network, I’ll be productive.

My must-haves on any new Fedora installation

So, I’ve taken the plunge and gone ahead and updated my Fedora 14 to the next rev of Fedora 15. F15 comes default with GNOME 3. I am still finding my way around it, but it seems to be less clunky than GNOME 2.x. There are some minor stuff missing. I am hoping that the network-sharing part gets included in a hurry.

The purpose of this post is to document for myself, the extra apps that I include in a standard installation.

Firstly, I started the installation from a Fedora 15 x86_64 live CD. I turned on the encryption of my /home directory for obvious security reasons. I think it should be made mandatory for everyone.

Once the system was all set up, I added the following:

a) go to http://www.rpmfusion.org – set up the free and non-free stuff

b) go to spot’s repo for the open sourced version of Chrome – chromium.

c) install xournal, mutt, msmtp, wget, arduino, scribus, inkscape, audacity, libreoffice, thunderbird-lightning, thunderbird-enigmail, etherape, nmap, lyx, vlc, dia, R-project, gimp, twinkle, virt-* and x-chat

d) adding my sshtunnel alias command into the ~/.bashrc:

#setting up ssh tunnel
alias sshtunnel="ssh -C2qTnN -D 8080 username@somedomain.com &"

e) updating the network proxy to “socks, localhost, port 8080”.

Open Source Java all the way

I am really pleased to see that the IcedTea project doing so well that for all the sites that need Java enabled in the browser, icedtea is more than sufficient.  It used to be the case that I needed to download from java.com the RPMs for my installations before I could get access to http://www.dbs.com, http://www.cpf.gov.sg and more importantly, for my sons, http://www.runescape.com.

I’ve just moved to the latest Fedora 15 on my Dell Vostro V13 laptop and my well-worn practise, check that I could get access to DBS, CPF and runescape. And they all worked.

How does one know if Java is installed on the machine?

Start the browser (Firefox or chromium), type in “about:plugins” in the URL section.  On Chromium, you will see among other plug-ins, a section that says:

IcedTea-Web Plugin (using IcedTea-Web 1.0.2 (fedora-2.fc15-x86_64))

The IcedTea-Web Plugin executes Java applets.
Name: IcedTea-Web Plugin (using IcedTea-Web 1.0.2 (fedora-2.fc15-x86_64))
Description: The IcedTea-Web Plugin executes Java applets.
Location: /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.6.0-openjdk-
MIME types:
MIME type Description File extensions
application/x-java-vm IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.2.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.2.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.3.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.4 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.4.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.4.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.5 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;version=1.6 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-applet;jpi-version=1.6.0_50 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.2.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.2.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.3 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.3.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.4 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.4.1 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.4.2 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.5 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;version=1.6 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-bean;jpi-version=1.6.0_50 IcedTea
.class .jar
application/x-java-vm-npruntime IcedTea
If that section does not show up, you do not have Java enabled for the browser. In which case, in Fedora, for example, you can choose the Add/Remove Software option, search for icedtea and install it. Once the icedtea is installed, you should restart your browser in order for the browser to pick up the new plug-in. That’s it. Open source Java FTW!

From 2001: A commentary by the Roundtable on the 2001 GE

I was part of the Roundtable until it was disbanded in 2004. Given what has happened in this year’s parliamentary elections, I think it is useful to publish an article some of us from the Roundtable wrote and got published in the Straits Times on November 10th 2001.

Lack of competition will hurt PAP and nation

THE People’s Action Party (PAP) won a landslide victory last Saturday, securing 75.3 per cent of the vote – a level of support that it has not seen since 1980. Political analysts and commentators will no doubt continue to ponder over the factors leading to the overwhelming support for the party in the coming months.

But beyond the large victory margin for the PAP, this year’s General Election may well be remembered as the election which helped perpetuate two unhealthy trends.

The first is that elections in Singapore are fast becoming almost a non-event. With only 29 out of 84 seats up for grabs, only 33 per cent of the eligible voters actually got to cast their votes.

The second trend is the tendency for many MPs, especially the novices, to enter Parliament shielded by group representation constituencies (GRCs) – contested or uncontested – rather than face the proverbial electoral baptism of fire. It is almost as if they have been ushered into Parliament in privileged, red-carpet style, by merely flashing their PAP cards.

These two trends are closely related.

Elections are increasingly becoming non-events because they have become less and less competitive. Voter participation, the essence of democracy, has plunged as more and more constituencies go uncontested on Nomination Day.

In this year’s election, out of 25 PAP rookies, only seven experienced a contested election, and none in a single ward.

If this trend continues and worsens in the next election, it is conceivable that most ministers and senior PAP MPs will fall into this ‘red-carpet’ MP category in five to 10 years’ time. They will wield power without having the endorsement and legitimisation of their constituents.

What potential dangers do such ‘red-carpet’ ministers and MPs pose for the PAP and Singapore?

Firstly, these MPs may lack moral authority and the political mandate of the majority. Secondly, they may lack accountability because their constituents could not cast a vote, either for or against them. Thirdly, as politicians, these MPs are untested in electioneering and mass mobilisation. There is no opportunity for them to demonstrate their abilities to reach out to and connect with the ordinary folks.

The last point is clearly of concern to senior PAP leaders, including Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

That both PM Goh and SM Lee had to campaign heavily in Nee Soon East – a single-ward constituency perceived to be in a ‘dangerous zone’ for the PAP in the recent election – even though the incumbent MP has been there for 10 years (as part of Sembawang GRC) and holds the rank of a minister of state, seems to justify such a concern.

One wonders, too, if the scant opportunity to hone their political skills in domestic electoral contests may not affect our politicians’ effectiveness in steering the country through the treacherous waters of regional and international politics.

More importantly, will they have the political skills and rapport to mobilise the people when the chips are down?

The reasons for these trends are not difficult to discern.

With its overwhelming control in parliament, the PAP government has almost legislated the opposition into oblivion. In the space of 13 years, the electoral landscape of Singapore has been changed from one dominated by single-member wards to one dominated by super GRCs (with teams of up to six candidates).

The constant redrawing of electoral boundaries is seen by some Singaporeans to work against the opposition. Marginal wards like Anson, Cheng San and Eunos have been wiped off the political map. Election deposits have also been raised over the years; from $500 to $13,000. Six-member GRC teams would have to fork out $78,000 each, and that is not counting the cost of running an election campaign.

As the incumbent party with access to governmental resources, the PAP can wield a ‘carrot-and-stick’ approach to attract political support from a materialistic polity; the opposition cannot. A vote against the PAP would be tantamount to voting against one’s own material interests.

While the ruling party is not obliged to create a viable opposition, it is arguable whether it should have a carte blanche in creating hurdles that may deter citizens from offering themselves as non-PAP candidates for the election.

A good test here is whether the PAP will support all the measures above if it is currently in the opposition.

What can be done to address these problems?

Establish an independent elections commission: To counter the perception that redrawing of electoral boundaries often leads to results that favour the ruling party, the Constitution should be amended to institute an independent elections commission. This commission will ensure a more level playing field by ensuring that electoral boundaries are drawn on the basis of geographical and logical bases, rather than political expediency. Comprising civil servants, academia, civil society and other groups that are representative of cross-sections of the society, the commission will allow citizens to make representations.

Voter endorsement for uncontested candidates: To address the ‘credibility’ issue of red-carpet MPs, hold local ‘referenda’ for walkover candidates. On the ballot, only two options are given: Do you want this candidate or team of candidates to represent you in Parliament – yes or no? One can debate about the minimum ‘yes’ votes that the candidates must secure to enter Parliament, although to make the figure meaningful, it would have to be at least 25 per cent.

Alternatively, the Government may want to consider holding by-elections for walkover GRCs. A by-election can be an additional mechanism for the PAP to infuse new blood and also for its candidates to gain from a real contest with opposition parties. More importantly, by requiring every eligible Singaporean to cast his vote, in one form or another, it will help entrench his constitutional rights and duty as a citizen.

Smaller GRCs, and return to SMCs: Introduce smaller GRCs and more single-member constituencies (SMCs). In this election, all SMCs were contested. Smaller GRCs and SMCs are also more affordable for citizens to participate as candidates. The essence of democracy is citizen participation; GRCs should not keep ballooning in size and cost to the extent that citizens are deterred from participating in elections.

A longer campaign period: A 15-day campaign instead of nine days. The current nine-day limit is probably one of the shortest in democracies. If the PAP wants a more robust contest, it should give the opposition parties and electorate more time to debate national issues rather than to restrict it to the minimum legal requirement. The new Parliament may want to consider raising the minimum legal requirement for the campaigning period to 15 days.

Obviously cognisant of the problem of red-carpet MPs, the PM has suggested the creation of a ‘simulated’ opposition by forging a shadow Cabinet. In other countries, shadow Cabinets are formed exclusively by opposition parties to preserve pluralism and contestation as virtues unto themselves.

As others have pointed out (See ‘Building an effective shadow Cabinet’; ST, Nov 8), there are inherent limits when PAP MPs are asked to form a shadow Cabinet.

Firstly, they are peas from the same pod. Secondly, even if the party whip is lifted, how effective can a PAP shadow Cabinet be? Thirdly, any simulation remains only a simulation; it can never replace the real thing.

Intense competition is a hallmark of Singaporean life. Students are streamed, schools are subjected to rankings, local labour to foreign ‘talent’, and local businesses to the government-linked companies and multinational corporations.

Yet, the one institution that is not subject to any serious competition in Singapore is the PAP.

The absence of competition over time might well lead to a flabby party led by those who enjoyed walkovers and continue to stay in power by making the field even less level for a diminishing opposition.

Can this be in the interest of Singapore in the long run?

Exco Members,
The Roundtable

It keeps getting better!

On April 17th, I thanked Lee Kuan Yew for standing down. My thanks were really for him to completely step down from politics and to bask in the after glow of a life lived well, and a life of dedication to Singapore.

Alas, that was not to be. He did contest – not really, it was a lame walkover in the Tanjong Pagar GRC – and yesterday, he and Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong announced that they are not going to continue in the Singapore Cabinet.  They are giving reasons such as “to give the Prime Minister and his team the room to break from the past, and we want to make it clear that the PAP has never been averse to change.” Thanks. But I think if they really meant what they are saying, they should have done it BEFORE the elections. Yes, they are both politicians and will not reveal what they are thinking, but like change, sometimes it take a while.

So, now that both GCT and LKY are no longer in the Cabinet, it is no longer PG-rated.

I am sure that there will now be calls for LKY or GCT to perhaps run for the President’s post.  That would be interesting.  It would mean that they’ll have to a) resign from the PAP and b) give up their seat in parliament.

If either one of them decide to run, that would mean by-elections in either Marine Parade or Tanjong Pagar GRCs. That’ll be a good thing.

A by-election in Tanjong Pagar would give the voters in that GRC an opportunity to vote after over 20 years of being denied the right. We can then hopefully get to hear the former chief of army who essentially walked into parliament without being tested and also hear from the last-minute PAP politician who got a seat without any effort on his part.

If GCT decides to run, then the people of Marine Parade GRC can correct their mistake of having had to vote in GCT (and his coattail-cling-on Ms Tin “Kate Spade” Pei Ling).

Either scenario, it can only be good for Singapore.

Let’s look at the next big event in Singapore – the Presidential Elections.  We could see the following possible candidates:

  1. Tan Kin Lian – former CEO of NTUC Income
  2. Lee Kuan Yew
  3. S Jayakumar
  4. Goh Chok Tong
  5. George Yeo
  6. Abdullah Tarmugi
  7. Zainal Abidin Rasheed
  8. S Dhanabalan
Of the list above, only Tan Kin Lian has the non-party credentials and possibly the best chance of asking the hard questions that former president Ong Teng Cheong had to grapple with and not get an answer.
So, all is not over yet. The best is yet to come.
Majulah Singapura.

Is Vietnam blocking Facebook?

I am sitting at a lounge in Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport and connected to the wifi. Interestingly, I cannot reach facebook.com.  Here’s the dig and traceroute info:

$ dig www.facebook.com

; <<>> DiG 9.7.3-RedHat-9.7.3-1.fc14 <<>> www.facebook.com
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 15351
;; flags: qr aa rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 0

;www.facebook.com.		IN	A

www.facebook.com.	86400	IN	SOA	vdc-hn01.vnn.vn. postmaster.vnn.vn. 2005010501 10800 3600 604800 86400

;; Query time: 17 msec
;; WHEN: Thu May 12 19:11:39 2011
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 96

$ dig facebook.com

; <<>> DiG 9.7.3-RedHat-9.7.3-1.fc14 <<>> facebook.com
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 22473
;; flags: qr aa rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 0, AUTHORITY: 1, ADDITIONAL: 0

;facebook.com.			IN	A

facebook.com.		86400	IN	SOA	vdc-hn01.vnn.vn. postmaster.vnn.vn. 2005010501 10800 3600 604800 86400

;; Query time: 15 msec
;; WHEN: Thu May 12 19:12:16 2011
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 92
# traceroute facebook.com
facebook.com: No address associated with hostname
Cannot handle "host" cmdline arg `facebook.com' on position 1 (argc 1)

# traceroute www.facebook.com
www.facebook.com: No address associated with hostname
Cannot handle "host" cmdline arg `www.facebook.com' on position 1 (argc 1)
# dig @ www.facebook.com

; <<>> DiG 9.7.3-RedHat-9.7.3-1.fc14 <<>> @ www.facebook.com
; (1 server found)
;; global options: +cmd
;; Got answer:
;; ->>HEADER<<- opcode: QUERY, status: NOERROR, id: 22333
;; flags: qr rd ra; QUERY: 1, ANSWER: 1, AUTHORITY: 0, ADDITIONAL: 0

;www.facebook.com.		IN	A

www.facebook.com.	1	IN	A

;; Query time: 128 msec
;; WHEN: Thu May 12 19:18:37 2011
;; MSG SIZE  rcvd: 50

Once I turned on my sshtunnel, I can get to facebook not otherwise. Interesting.

The Singapore Cabinet is PG-rated

If the PAP leadership is serious about reforming their thinking, they need to first change the fact the the cabinet is PG-rated. The Prime Minister has his father in cabinet allegedly as a “mentor” but really. A mentor? You mean the PM can’t do the job himself with the rest of the cabinet? Add to that, why have a Senior Minister position? What real value does the SM or MM bring that they cannot do so as external, non-elected advisers? So, it appears that both the MM and SM don’t really think the PM to do his job well.

Now, let’s look at how the PAP has fared in terms of over percentage of votes since 1988:

Prime Minister	1988	1991	1997	2001	2006	2011
Lee Kuan Yew	63.2
Goh Chok Tong		 61	 65	75.3
Lee Hsien Loong					66.6	60.1

So, looking at the percentages, with GCT as PM, he manged to get the PAP overall rating go from 61 to 75.3. LHL, on the other hand, has seen steady downward trend and his latest percentage is LOWER than GCT on GCT’s first elections.  I guess, this explains why the he is a PG-rated PM.

Please read this great post as well.

Regime Change – A Uniquely Singapore Project

Singapore has shown the world how to do regime change, one step at a time. The peaceful means of doing this via the ballot box and with the engagement of the citizenry is something that will be analysed and reanalysed over and over again.

But what remains is that, while we as Singaporeans want to make change government, we are mindful that it is a longer haul process and needs to be done one election at a time. If will take us another general election before we finally get to have a government that is accountable, compassionate and grateful to the population that elected them in.

So, I reckon we can now write the book: “Regime Change, A Uniquely Singapore Project”.

Majulah Singapura!

It’s May 8th 2011 and it is a Brand New Singapore!

Good morning Singapore. Together we broke the back of the PAP with them being routed in the polls, with the Worker’s Party retaining Hougang and now winning the Aljunied GRC.

As the sun emerges, we are being blessed with the dawn of a Singapore awaken from a long drawn siesta and political apathy.

What we need to do now is to close ranks, both the victors and the losers and work for an even better tomorrow.

All this while, I’ve chosen not to get involved with my municipal and local community stuff – largely leaving it to the MPs to do the work.  I intend to change that. I live in the West Coast GRC and I want to know exactly what happens in this GRC and the best way forward is to get involved. I think there is plenty of room for local residents to engage and play a role in the community.

We have to build on the momentum of these elections. I am sure that these results will perhaps spur many a Singaporean who gave up on their country and moved overseas to consider returning. To return and help build this into a nation that we can all be extremely proud of. A nation that welcomes one and all from around the world. Although I am second generation Singapore, my parents were the immigrants of their time and we need to make sure that we continue to build up a managed and well thought out immigration policy to help build our population. Should we have 5 million people on this 600-sq-km island? Or should we have 6.5million? Whatever the number, the basis of how we should be building Singapore is by consensus, consultation, transparency and collaboration. Not by the now discredited PAP heavy-handed “I know best, if you disagree, you’ll repent” style.

Hence I would like to call out to any and all to help me build on the idea of The Open Party. Yes, it is different. Yes it is radical. But to me the ideas around how open collaboration and consensus building using all the technology is crucial.  Of course, engaging with the population in person is paramount, but so is the need to work with them cleverly. Serving the people and being in government cannot be a win-lose proposition. It has to be an all around win-win process. The Open Party will be built along those lines.

Looking at this map of the results, it looks like the heart of Singapore is where Hougang and Aljunied is. The colour scheme has the US Red vs Blue states aura, but to me it looks more like the heart is alive, red and beating and the blue areas are deprived of oxygen and are suffocating and anemic.

Quick take on what the PAP reactions would be

It is the case that the PAP’s GRC gambit has failed after over twenty years of milking it. It is also the case that MM Lee’s threats, which harp from an ancient time of fear mongering, did not go down well at all. Why the PAP continues to let MM Lee continue with his style of politics is beyond me. I am sure that no one in the PAP dares to stand up to and challenge him.  MM Lee has done his work for this country. If he truly means what he says that he is concerned with this country, he should do the Right Thing and stand down. This country will survive and flourish. No need for Parental Guidance (unless MM Lee sincerely believes that his son is still needing PG).

The PAP has done stuff that they have never done before. They actually attempted at an apology, even if it was half-hearted. PM Lee’s lunch time rally at Boat Quay last week, where he sorta-kinda said sorry, was way too little, too late. The PAP continues to ignore feedback and objections raised by the population and when they finally realized that they’ve been sleeping at the wheel (and hence the appropriateness of WP’s second driver analogy to slap the main driver awake) it was too late. The PAP thinks that their mistakes were only since 2006.  If that’s how they look at it, then they are missing out on a far bigger problem.  The concerns have been around from probably 1991 – that’s 20 years ago. The fancy formulae in computing ministers’ salaries to the prices of public housing are just two of many. When my parents bought their first HDB property in 1964 in Queenstown, it cost them S$6,200 in 1964 dollars. When they moved into a new HDB home in Bukit Purmei in 1984, it cost about S$120k or so. Twenty times more over twenty years. Did the cost of land really go up that much given that the government acquires land cheaper than what it should be at? Public housing should be made available NOT at a profit margin that puts monies into the public coffers at the expense of the buyer. The fact that Mah Bow Tan has been returned to office (and possibly back as Minister of National Development) does not augur well. Why is it that all discussions about HDB is not answered by the CEO of HDB but by the minister? Does the CEO have nothing to say? No accountability at all? There has to be clear separation of accountability and  responsibility which can only come with transparency which is what I am proposing with The Open Party.

Just as the HDB CEO maintains radio silence, so does the CEOs of SMRT, SBS Transit, ComfortDelgro when it comes to public transport.  We have to take to task all of them – and the CEO of LTA – when it comes to being accountable.

The victory of the PAP in Potong Pasir is really shallow – both figuratively and metaphorically. SPP’s Mrs Chiam lost the seat to the PAP by a mere 114 votes (7973 vs 7859). 114 votes. There were more spoilt votes cast. I am sure the PAP will now move mountains and pump newly available cash into Potong Pasir. Will that be good for the people of Potong Pasir – probably in the short-term. But for the long-term, I am sure that they’ll take the money thrown at them by the PAP and come 2016 revert to Mr Chiam’s party.

Final thoughts

I think Singapore and Singaporeans need to evolve the culture of “compete we must, but by cooperating we make greater progress”. I hope the 40+% of Singaporeans who voted for  ABP (Anyone But PAP) will not be pushed aside and ignored. The people who stood for election and lost should be welcome by the winners to work together to progress further and faster. It cannot be winner take it all. Let’s close rank and help steer the good ship Temasek forward.

Much work needs to be done for a better Singapore. 2016, here we come!

Majulah Singapura.

My 6 hour tour of duty as a polling agent

Note that I have signed a Secrecy Declaration that would require me to not mention who were at the polling station and anything about who voted for whom. The latter one is near impossible to know anyway, but it is part of the secrecy anyway.

But I think I can talk about my experience as a polling agent.  This is the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity and it was largely thanks to a some colleagues of mine (whom I would like to acknowledge, but since I’ve not asked for their permission, I shall refrain).

I signed up to help out the Singapore People’s Party – Chaim See Tong’s party – to be their polling agent at one of Bishan Toa Payoh GRC’s polling centers. I just placed my name on one that had an open slot and it happened to be Pierce Secondary School.

I arrived at the school at 7:30 am, parked outside and met with polling agents from SPP. We proceeded into the school, and we were met by some smiley police officers and when we showed them the secrecy document we had to sign off, they proceeded to let us in. Waited a bit more until about 7:45 am when the elections department staff (actually, they are folks from other parts of the civil service, such as teachers, statutory board employees, specially mobilsed  for the elections).

The way voting is done in a Polling Station is as follows:

a) Each Polling Station would have multiple Polling Places.

b) Each Polling Place is identified with something like A, B etc.  I don’t think there are more than that. A Polling Place is a space within the Polling Center that is distinct and, potentially, separate from another Polling Place in the same Polling Center. So, if the Polling Center is a school. Polling Place A could be in the school hall, Polling Place B could be in the school canteen etc.  In the case of Pierce, both were in the school canteen and next to each other.

c) Within each Polling Place, there would be polling areas labelled as A1, A2, A3 etc. So, each voter will be assigned a Polling Place and that’s where you have to queue up to vote.

d) In the case of Pierce, I was the SPP representative and chose to sit at the Polling Place A2.  My “polling agent” table was shared with a PAP representative all dressed as a MIW. We both sat across two Elections Department (ED) officials.

e) As voters come up, one ED official will check the previously mailed out Polling Card against the voters list for that Polling Place. They will counter check with the NRIC as well.

f) Once it is verified, the name is crossed out on the polling register and the ED official hands over the polling card and ID to the her partner who will then issue a ballot.

g) As the 2nd ED official tears out the ballot, he will read out the name and serial number of the voter (which is what is on the previously mailed out Polling Card). The reason for this is so that the polling agent (like myself), will be able to check a copy of the voters list that was provided to the SPP. What I did was to place a tick against the name/serial number. The rationale for calling out the name and serial number is to ensure that there are no attempts to vote twice or more by one person.

h) The voter then takes the ballot, goes to the polling booth, places the choice of candidate by putting a cross (or any mark except vulgarity) to show choice.

i) Once done, the ballot is folded into half, and placed into the ballot box. And the voter leaves.

About the ballot box

The ballot box is made out of cardboard and when I arrived at my polling agent station, the box was fully open and unsealed. I could check that the box was empty and once I (and the other polling agent) indicated that we are OK, the ED officials close-up the box, and applies specially marked Elections Department masking tape and a sealing sticker. After that, the box is ready to accept ballots. The ballot box has two slot on the top to accept votes. Each ballot box has a sticker on the side to indicate which polling place it belongs to/comes from.

So, that was what happened this morning. I ended my shift at 2:30 pm or so and handed all the “secret” documents to the SPP representative at the polling station.

What happens at the close of election, ie at 8:00 pm, is that the ED officials will seal off the voting slots, and have the polling agents sign off on the box (if they want to) and then the ED officials will transport the boxes to the counting centers.

I did not get to witness that part – the sealing and transportation though I am sure there are witnesses to it.

So, all in, it was an interesting 6-plus hours of contributing to the dawn of a new democracy in Singapore.

And finally, I think it is probably OK to mention that when one of the voters arrived at my polling place, she seemed to be rather agitated mumbling something to the EDs across from me.  All I heard was “I am so angry” or something close to that. She was given her ballot and instead of going to the booth to make her choice, she chose to walk to the ballot box directly and tear up her ballot and stuffed the torn ballot into the box! Sigh. There is nothing that you can be so angry about that can justify tearing up your ballot! Yes, it is all within your basic human right to spoil your vote, but actually taking that path is sad. Really sad.

So, we now await the results. I expect tonight to be long and nail-biting.

Majulah Singapura!

Volunteering to be an Polling Agent and a Counting Agent

I’ve signed up with the Singapore People’s Party to be their polling and counting agent for the elections on May 7th. I got back from Hanoi, and went straight to 108 Potong Pasir and waited about 2.5 hours to get my documentation signed and OKed.

All the polling agent does is to be a “lamp post” and monitor the voters as they come up to vote. Monitor in the sense that when then approach the Elections Department official at the polling center and presents their NRIC and Polling Card, that the name and serial number read out is struck off of the list of names for that polling center. Essentially to make sure that there is only one vote per person. I will be at Pierce Secondary from about 7:30 am.  I am doing the 1st shift from 8am till 2pm. Another group of people will be taking over from 2pm till 8pm.  I think SPP still needs people to help.  Do visit the link above and contact them.

I have also volunteered to be SPP’s counting agent.  I am to report to Potong Pasir by 7pm. I guess they’ll be briefing us and then sending us to the various counting centers.

I am really excited about this.  First time I’m involved in part of the process.

Majulah Singapura!

Please Don’t Spoil Your Vote

Every vote counts.

Please do not spoil it.

No matter who you vote for, what your point of view is, please only mark ONE box.

Please DO NOT leave ALL of the boxes UNMARKED.

Please DO mark ONLY ONE box.

Your vote is secret.

You have a choice.

Make a difference.

Majulah Singapura.

My Singapore

I am very, very pleased to see such an explosion of thought, care, concern, commentary and general love for Singapore pouring out in the social media. The last time I voted was in 1997. It has been 14 years. Has Lim Hng Khiang ever visited me when I was living in Gillman Heights – no, never. He did show up when invited for some function. But that was it. It did not matter to him that he never visited anyone except during the hustings, if at all.  I still come under the West Coast GRC this year and I get to vote.  I am not voting for the PAP. It will be for the Reform Party. The RP’s candidates (Kenneth Jeyaretnam, Andy Zhu, Frankie Low, Ho Soak Harn, and  Kumar Appavoo ) are much less shadier than the PAP’s (Lim Hng Khiang, S Iswaran, Foo Mee Har, Arthur Fong and Lawrence Wong).

Contrary to what the PAP would have us believe, Singaporeans are responsible, caring, creative and very fair people. Just look at the “vote without fear” video by Maruah.org. It is authentic and from the heart. It is very, very well done.

I’ve advocated the wearing of a rubber band on your right wrist (left if you are a southpaw) as you go vote. Why? It is a gentle reminder. A reminder that your vote is secret and that you are voting for your future as well as your family’s, your friend’s and of Singapore.

I love my country too much to let it continue to be badgered by a party that has lost it’s bearings. The 1st generation of leaders thrown up by the PAP did so to better a population and build a nation. The party lost its way in the 1980s when they started paying themselves enormous amounts. Being in politics and leading a nation is much bigger than “am I being compensated on some benchmark against the top earners”!

Here are the PAP ministers I will be happy to see re-elected: Tharman, George and Shanmugam. Tharman because I think he means well (modulo PAP constraints), George – mainly for his demeanor and Shan (he’s an old classmate and I think his heart is in the right place). But George will lose Aljunied. Lose because of the ridiculous GRC system that his party put into place. I can’t say how Tharman and Shan will fare. Of the three, I reckon Tharman will gain the most votes – and he could be Prime Minister one day.

The rest of the PAP cabinet ministers all deserve a drumming in votes (if they win) and ideally loss of seats. Yes, if that happens, Singapore will be in a state of shock (heck, LKY might “bring in the army”) on May 8th. But we will recover and re-build. We have to build for the future. If the WP/SDP/SDA/SPP/NSP win, we Singaporeans will be looking at them to deliver and we must help them to do the job as well. After all, we voted them in. It cannot be a vote and forget.

Majulah Singapura.

Wear A Rubber Band On Your Right Wrist As You Go To Vote

We have four days till Polling Day. Here’s what I would like to see happen.

The BIGGEST challenge with the electorate is that they are fearful of the following:

a) That the vote is not secret because of the serial numbers

b) That Singapore will deteriorate if PAP loses

I would like to have each and every voter on Polling Day wear a rubber band (any colour, any size) on the right wrist to remind them that:

a) Their vote is SECRET

b) Singapore will be GREAT little country with or without the PAP.

The rubber band is to remind the wearer to VOTE  For Themselves, for their Family, for their Friends, for Singapore.

I will be wearing a rubberband on my right wrist on Polling Day and as I walk to the polling booth at Qi Fa Primary School.

Please pass this on. We can do this. And we must.

Majulah Singapura!

Minority and the GRC

As we near Polling Day, May 7th, 2011, I think a heart to heart review of the only reason proffered by the PAP for the GRC needs to be assessed. It is absolutely degrading to have to present oneself to some committee that would endorse a person to be either of “Indian”, “Malay” or “Other Minority”.  I have not had time to check who comprises this committee, but let’s fast forward to 2030. Because of the hyphenated race indications that was introduced by the PAP-led government late last year, we will be seeing a slew of mixed up labels. Would these labels now need to be ascertained to fit into these already artificial categories? Is a Chinese-Indian an Indian, or a Chinese-Eurasian a Eurasian or a Malay-Chinese a Malay or a Malay-Indian a doubly qualified minority?

I am sure the PAP-led government has already thought through this (yes, I am giving them more credit than I should), but why wait for sometime in the future to correct the GRC rubbish and get rid of it by 2016? As it is now, the only reason for the PAP to continue to run with the GRC model is to bring in Ms Tin Pei Ling for the sole reason to prepare the ground for the 3rd generation Lee scion to enter politics. Yes, it’s conspiracy theory material.

Using the Osama factor and bogeyman for GE2011

I am sure that the PAP will use the Osama factor to frighten Singaporeans into voting for them this Saturday.  What they’ll say is that there is uncertainly now and that only they can help protect Singapore. That is NOT true. We Singaporeans have to come together and do this ourselves. We will be far better off when we have multitude voices in Parliament to help collectively move this nation forward and sail the seas of uncertainty.

Each new challenge – as with the now dead Osama and an Al Qaeda that is sort of leaderless – can be best-managed with us closing ranks behind a set of leaders who are leading because they believe in this country and not because they’ll be paid millions.

I will support a PAP candidate/minister who says that if s/he is elected and become a minister, that s/he will not accept the multi-million dollar salary and hitch it to the top earner of the bottom 20%of the society.   Then, if he really wants to do better, he will make sure that the bottom 20% move up economically.

So, let’s watch for the PAP’s use of the Osama factor and bogeyman. Call it out when you hear it.

Being too successful

I remember a conversation one Sunday morning I had with my Dad when we were living at 260D, 109 Commonwealth Crescent, Singapore 3 – I guess I was 10 or 11 (late 60s/early 70s).

I seem to recall that there was some water shortage because of lack of rains and that we had to have water rationing in Singapore. I asked Achan (Dad in Malayalam), “why can’t Lee Kuan Yew and the government just build a huge dome over Singapore so that we can keep out the sun and make rain and cool the place down and not have to worry about water shortages.” He looked at me and smiled saying that it is not easy to build a dome and even if it was possible, it will be very expensive.

Looking back at that conversation, after 40 years, I can see why I asked that.  Lee Kuan Yew and the government he led was getting things done and for a young child, it appeared to me that he was capable of doing just about anything. And I think I was right. The 1st team of PAP leaders had the right motivation and held a vision for Singapore and were able to drive it. Yes, they did abuse their power (using the Internal Security Act detaining “pro-communist” people etc). I guess the abuses were “tolerated” by both the population and the greater International community because of the realities of the geo-politics then.

The Viet Nam war, the Sukarno and Suharto antagonism with Singapore, the “domino theory”, the Chinese “cultural revolution” possibly occupied the attention of the external entities that they closed one-eye on the abuse in Singapore.  In a morbid sort of way, their nonchalance allowed the LKY-led government to push ahead with hard-nosed economic progress which in turn helped build Singapore into what it is today.

Those were the salad days for the PAP.

Those were the days Singapore was able to go past the thrusting of the nation into independence and the withdrawal of the UK forces in the Far East based in Singapore. The 1st generation of leaders from the PAP did deliver.

The steady downhill trending of the PAP, IMHO, started when they continued with their (ab)use of defamation and libel laws to essentially bankrupt many an aspiring and credible challenger. People like Dr Lee Siew Choh, J B Jeyaretnam, Francis Seow, Tan Wah Piow (although there were not all necessarily directly in the political arena at the same time) were essentially made paupers or pushed into self-exile (the latter two). Has Singapore lost out on knowing how they would have contributed to make us an even better place? I am sure we did.

When LKY stood down as Prime Minister in 1990 and Goh Chok Tong took over, I felt elated. Why? I can’t tell. It could be because GCT (while looking very much like a very favourite uncle of mine), had the human touch. He fumbled occasionally. LKY described him as “wooden”. But, wood has a nice quality about it. It bends with the wind. It is warm, it is soft. Tell me who does not like wood? GCT was and inspite of his current boo-boos is, still likable. GCT opened up dialogs with people. He wanted to hear and take note and make things that Singaporeans want.  But, GCT was caught between a rock and a hard place.

When GCT stood down and let Lee Hsien Loong assume prime ministership, I as very disappointed. LHL has nothing going for him. He is stuck under his father’s banyan tree. How does one become a true to yourself, if *ALL* your life, you’ve had to work under the gaze of your father.

In some sense, I pity LHL. He has not been able to stand on his own two feet.

He is still under PG (parental guidance) with his Dad still in cabinet (and earning just slightly less than him) and watching over all of LHLs moves – in case LHL stumbles. While I hate to use the term “tipping point”, I think we are at that precise point now (or will be on May 7th 2011). Do I want a prime minister who is still under PG? I don’t think so. Wouldn’t it be interesting if on May 7, Ang Mo Kio and  Marine Parade GRCs both go to the other parties (Reform and National Solidarity respectively), leaving only LKY as the one person in parliament who was a prime minister before and hence, taking on that role? It is a possibility.

The rot in the PAP clearly is for all to see. They have become too successful for their own good. They lost they moral bearings when they started paying themselves millions of dollars from tax-payers monies.  And when questioned about these excesses, they threaten the populace. There is no gratitude.

Yes, a lot of us Singaporeans are grateful to a group of PAP leaders to Doing The Right Thing. Gratitude, like karma, is a two way thing. And see the description of gratitude in wikipedia for a wonderful description:

Gratitude and indebtedness

Gratitude is not the same as indebtedness. While both emotions occur following help, indebtedness occurs when a person perceives that they are under an obligation to make some repayment of compensation for the aid.[9] The emotions lead to different actions; indebtedness can motivate the recipient of the aid to avoid the person who has helped them, whereas gratitude can motivate the recipient to seek out their benefactor and to improve their relationship with them.[10][11]

Gratitude as a motivator of behavior

Gratitude may also serve to reinforce future prosocial behavior in benefactors. For example, one experiment found that customers of a jewelry store who were called and thanked showed a subsequent 70% increase in purchases. In comparison, customers who were thanked and told about a sale showed only a 30% increase in purchases, and customers who were not called at all did not show an increase.[12] In another study, regular patrons of a restaurant gave bigger tips when servers wrote “Thank you” on their checks.[13]

If the PAP wants Singaporeans to continue to support them, they need to show gratitude to us and not threaten us.

MM Lee has threatened that those constituencies that vote in non-PAP members of parliament will “repent”. How disgusting is that from someone who helped bring this country to a level that we can all be proud of to continue to spew vile and garbage? He shows NO gratitude to us. He expects gratitude but is not willing to give any. Read Bernard Leong’s analysis of  MM Lee’s falsehood when MM Lee says that property prices will drop

All in, PAP’s heydays are way behind them. Just as the LKY’s coat tail hugger, Chan Chun Sing’s story (lame one at that) about how two ancient societies in South East Asia perished can be applied to the PAP. It is not Singapore that will perish, it will be the PAP that will.

News is coming in that Osama Bin Laden has been killed. Perhaps this is a harbinger that the PAP will be routed at the polls as well.

Things we should all know – that the Civil Service is independent of any political party

I got some interesting SMSes from friends about a whole lot of misconception about how the country works.

First, no matter who wins the election and forms the government, the underlying commonality is that the Singapore Civil Service will continue to function. They are the glue that keeps the machinery of government going while the top brass get replaced/renewed. If there was no Civil Service, yes, we will have a problem.

The fact that the Civil Service exists means the following:

a) The Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Armed Forces will continue to function.

b) The Monetary Authority of Singapore, Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Maritime Port Authority, Health Sciences Authority, Land Transport Authority all function.

I can go on and list all the agencies but you get the point.

Changes in the civilian leadership does not mean that these entities stop.

Here’s the SMS I received:

From a friend who lived in Mountbatten. And a very highly educated one. Singaporeans are just so stupid…… Was discussing with colleague who lives nearby. She’s worried if Jeanette wins the police and other services will slacken, then our estate property prices will fall. Sigh … Singaporeans are so brainwashed into equating PAP with civil service!

So, whoever gets to walk into Parliament after all the votes are cast and counted on May 7th, the system will continue to function. Just because there are fewer numbers of PAP MPs in the new parliament does not mean that the country will fall apart. If that was the case, we have been shortchanged. It will be like a cancer cell. A cancer cell that infects other good cells.  I don’t think the PAP is a cancer cell that the failure of a PAP candidate to win a seat would mean bringing down the system.

Singaporeans have not seen how we can all make this country better.  Too many of us have been deprived of an opportunity to decide on our collective futures. This 2011 election changes that.

Mind you, there will be the usual “freak election” sky-is-falling shrills from the PAP. Just shunt that out.

What a feeling! Welcome, post-LKY Singapore!

Thank you Workers’ Party, Singapore Democratic Party, National Solidarity Party, Reform Party, Singapore People’s Party and the Singapore Democratic Alliance for rallying concerned and committed Singaporeans to stand for the Parliamentary Elections 2011. It is a pity that we missed out standing in the Tanjong Pagar GRC. Nevermind, there will be a by-election there in the not too distant future.

Finally, after 45 years of independence, the vast majority of Singaporeans get to cast their vote.  We can finally throw out the “you-better-vote-for-me-or-else” threats of the People’s Action Party that put in the hearts of two generations of Singaporeans the fear that if they vote for any one else, they will be penalized. We will still have those people in the voting population, but I think the fact that we have a very new set of citizens (including those born on or before January 1, 1990), many getting to vote for the first time in their adult life, can only make this country better and stronger.

We are entering the post-LKY era. Yes, LKY has been able to do many things, but his ways of doing stuff was for an era that has long gone. The challenges Singapore will face will be different and his methods will not work. Unless we have fresh thinking – ie no more group think – we cannot tackle issues as rapidly as we need.

I only wish that my Dad was still alive to be able to vote in Radin Mas. At least Mom will.

Let’s show the world that this is Singapore and we manage our regime change peacefully, professionally and with dignity – all via the ballot box. Yes there will be smear campaigns, legal suits for defamation etc etc etc.  But as a nation, this is our coming-of-age election.  Forty-five years as “one nation under Lee” is enough.

So, fellow citizens. Don’t spoil your vote. Vote with full confidence that your vote is secret in the ballot box. Do share your real vote with you friends and family.  There is no shame in doing that. You have the right to put in a blank vote, a vote with all the boxes crossed or only one crossed. You can do what you please. The constitution and the UN human rights charter guarantees that. Every vote counts. Vote to make this country of ours the best country on the planet!

It’s the night before Nomination day. What’s stirring?

By noon Singapore time April 27, 2011, we will know who is standing where and how the electoral layout of the land will be. All the GerrymandeRing and self-serving attempts of the ruling party will be tested.

I’ve decided not to run in this year’s election – either as an independent, independent in a GRC or as a member of a political party. I was invited to consider joining two of them – Reform and Workers’. But I chose not to. However, if I did choose, I would have chosen the Workers’ Party.  I think both Loh Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim have changed the WP into an extremely credible one.  I have issues with political parties the way they are constituted and hence my reluctance – it’s a subject of another post. But I will be happy to help both of them – or all the others – to make sure that they sustain the momentum.  The momentum can only be good for Singapore.

If you have not already read and understood what it take to even file a nomination, it is amazingly paper intensive. See this handbook. [It is a pity that the document is not on a Creative Commons license which I think it should be.] I think the hilarious part in the handbook is the section 4.1 that says:

Local television stations will give air-time to each political party that has
fielded a minimum number of candidates in the election. The duration of
the air-time depends on the number of candidates each party has fielded.

Like we need state controlled, unfairly time-tweaked party political broadcasts to influence anyone! This is an example of where the system has been failing and failed – who watches these TV or listens to these radio broadcasts before making a decision anyway? I much prefer to get the full discussions and be a truly informed voter from the real media, not the manufactured and managed MSM. Who knows, by 2016 or 2021, it might be the PAP who, as the opposition/underdog having lost the majority party status through continued and increasing greed and incompetence after the demise of the enforcer, be shunning the broadcasts and doing everything online.

I was reading a post (original)  about the homeless living at the West Coast Park and was featured on Al Jazeera and which Dr Vivian Balakrishnan subsequently refuted to be untrue. I have a soft spot for Vivian – he runs Linux; he has a clue about technology (I can’t say that of the others in cabinet today). So, for Vivian to make the big hoohah of “video suppression” and “hidden agenda” was really unnecessary. Add to that, we have the SPH rags headlining “Singapore’s first GAY MP” etc. I think Dr Vincent Wijeysingha is a very credible person and I particularly like the rebuttal that Dr Chee Soon Juan made to the PAPsmear attempt. I hope Vivian will find it in him to admit that he made a mistake and apologises unconditionally. Let’s keep this election clean and professional. It’s OK to make a mistake and apologize.  Singaporeans understand. We may not vote for you, but we will certainly accept the apology if sincere. Come to think of it, if Vincent wants to take the cue from LKY/GCT/LHL, he can sue Vivian and his GRC members for defamation. Wouldn’t that be interesting. But I hope he will not – but he should sue SPH instead. That’ll be fun. For the record, this is was what Vivian and his team wrote:

Dear Friends of the Media

Please find below a statement which is being sent on behalf of the PAP team contesting in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC. We would appreciate it very much if you could kindly publish the statement in full, and attribute it to the PAP team contesting in the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, led by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.

Kindly call me at [number deleted] if you have any queries or if you need any clarification.

What is his agenda?

A video has been posted on the internet showing Vincent Wijeysingha participating at a forum which discussed the promotion of the gay cause in Singapore.

The discussion at the forum also touched on sex with boys and whether the age of consent for boys should be 14 years of age.

In the video, Wijeysingha was introduced as being from the SDP.

In addition to other comments, Wijeysingha stated: ‘I think the gay community has to rally ourselves. Perhaps one outcome of today’s forum would be, for those of us who are interested, to come together to further consider how we can address the 377 issue as well as further rights issues in relation to gays and lesbians.’

We believe that candidates should be upfront about their political agenda and motives, so that voters are able to make an informed choice.

The issue is not Wijeysingha’s sexual orientation. That is a matter for him.

The video raises the question on whether Wijeysingha will now pursue this cause in the political arena and what is the SDP’s position on the matter.

Vivian Balakrishnan
Liang Eng Hwa
Christopher de Souza
Sim Ann

Read Alex’s great post on this.

Happy days are ahead of us.

“Freak” election outcomes?

The PAP is repeatedly used the phrase “freak election result” when referring to them losing seats in the general election. How is that freak?

Yes, history is written by the victors and anything that does not fit into their worldview, is removed, watered-down or labelled as “freak”.

The PAP losing seats and not even making the 66% needed for them to amend the constitution is a huge plus for Singapore – not a freak situation. What we have had for a long time is a freak situation.

We have a minister on whose watch a detained alleged terrorist (never charged in court iirc) escaped and all he has done is to account for the breach, reprimand the officers who bungled and that’s where the buck stopped. He never offered to quit on count of this one major lapse. Any CEO of any corporation would have been put to pasture if something like that happened on his watch. But then again, we have a system that lacks accountability.

Read his comment:

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a community event, Mr Wong said: “Of course, the first mistake cannot be obliterated; it was there, I owned up to it, as a minister I took responsibility for it – that’s the right thing to do.”

Well, he owned up.  But did not offer anything by way of reprimand or punishment. Why is that so, Mr Wong? Your party had a person, the Minister of National Development, who killed himself, Mr Teh Cheang Wan (funnily, I can’t find direct references to it. It happened in 1986.) over some alleged corruption issue.  No, I am not asking you, Mr Wong, to do anything like what Mr Teh did. Just asking you to do the right thing (resigning would be good) and let an independent judicial inquiry on this issue.

By your reasoning, since you owned up and were not reprimanded, can we extend this to other areas as well? Anyone who is charged in court for any offence, as long as he owns up, he gets off scott free. Seriously.

When asked by reporters if residents in the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC had mentioned the escape of the terrorist, Mr Wong said: “Nobody raised a question of Mas Selamat with me, in any of these visits.”

Since no one asked you directly, I think we need to encourage those whom you meet over the next few walkabouts to then ask you.  What would your answer be? Brushing it aside, again?

A tale of two women

I have a lot of respect for Mr Goh Chok Tong. He makes mistakes and shows that he is human after all (unlike his predecessor and successor).

But this comment attributed to him:

Mr Goh explained: “Fatimah will partner Pei Ling to give good services to MacPherson and Geylang Serai. So they work as a buddy which means they have to do cross MPS (Meet-the-People sessions). Once in a month, Fatimah would have to go to MacPherson and likewise Pei Ling has got to go to Geylang Serai. This way, we have a buddy. Likewise Seah Kian Peng and Tan Chuan-Jin work as a pair. Myself, they all help me.

suggests that Ms Tin Pei Ling needs a buddy to get the job of a MP done. Yes, Ms Tin, when elected, is a newbie. Getting help is natural. But to ward off the far-less-than-positive comments about Ms Tin belies the real problem that PAP is stuck with – they cannot get people who have in their hearts of hearts the gumption and drive to serve Singapore. The PAP is reaching out to princelings, relatives of incumbents/supporters and the SAF/NTUC/some academics to run on the PAP ticket. The pool from which they can get people is very small (contrary to what LHL claims).

So, when you compare Ms Tin of the PAP with Ms Nicole Seah of the NSP, the younger woman, Ms Seah, is heads and shoulders above the older Ms Tin in terms of credibility and confidence. Both the ladies are graduates of the National University of Singapore and yet, Ms Seah is way ahead of Ms Tin in terms of maturity, confidence and being articulate. Ms Seah clearly has what it takes to become a good MP. I am sure Ms Tin has that as well, but given an either-or-choice, I’ll vote for Ms Seah. [I am sure, secretly, the PAP’s Ng Eng Heng has been taken to task for not recruiting Ms Seah (and Mr Chen Show Mao) and choose Ms Tin.] If Ms Seah’s team wins the Marine Parade GRC, I am she and the rest of her team will have to have buddies as well for they will all be newbies as MPs.  But at least, we know that.

Looking at the buddy system, is having one more acceptable for a whole group of newbie GRC MPs or for only one newbie MP in a GRC team? While, logically, it would seem that a newbie MP in a veteran group would be a the lesser of two evils, the bigger picture is that, as Singaporeans, we will be continuing to deny the growth and nourishment of a group of leaders who are NOT from the PAP. I rather pay the price of inducting a group of newbies who will be able to be guided and molded by the wishes of the people, than with a cast-in-stone attitudes of incumbents for more of the same. Yes, it is a bitter pill, but as in any form of decision making and picking choices, the perceived harder choices are usually the ones that give long term benefits. As President Kennedy said in his inaugural address:

And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

So, citizens of Singapore living in the Marine Parade GRC: Please give this country a ray of hope. Do not ask what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. While I will be saddened to see Mr Goh lose his seat, but it is for the longer term good of this country of ours and I am sure Mr Goh will agree.

Way before 2016 – The Open Party

I think Singapore will be a dramatically different place come the early morning of May 8th, 2011.  The tsunami of votes of support which will bring in ABPs into parliament would reinforce confidence in Singapore and fellow Singaporeans. The zeitgeist today is one of revolution. The Arab 2011 revolutions (Egypt, Tunisia and others in progress) and the sputtering jasmine revolution in China are inspirations for our own Uniquely Singapore orchid revolution.

I am hopeful that my fellow citizens will keep the PAP majority to no more than 57 seats in parliament (I hope not to have to update this at noon on nomination day April 27 2011). That will mean that the PAP will not have the 66% (57 / 87*100 = 65%) that they need to change the constitution and other laws. It will also mean that we will finally have a parliament that is truly accountable to the population and not one that is a rubber-stamp.

Which brings me to 2016. That will be five years from now and I am hopeful to have launched a political party – The Open Party. The TOP should build on the proven principles of the open source way, one which is collaborative and willing to trust the citizens to help build this island into a nation of people, who are proud to be called Singaporeans. The ideas behind the open source movement resonates solidly with me. I will draw on it heavily. I will be keen to meld those with ideas from the greens movements and the pirate parties of the world. The mash-up will help build a model that could hopefully see value not only in Singapore, but the whole world.

Can I invite you to join me build this vision and be part of the journey. Together we can do this. For your Singapore. For my Singapore. For the Singapore of our children. Let’s roll up our sleeves and do it.  Singapore, yes we can! Majulah Singapura.

Managing open source skepticism

I had an opportunity to speak to a few people from a government tender drafting committee on Wednesday.  They are looking at solutions that will be essentially a cloud for a large number of users and have spoken to many vendors.

I was given an opportunity to pitch the use of open source technologies to build their cloud and I think I gave it my best shot. I had to use many keywords – automatic technology transfer (you have the source code), helps to maintain national sovereignty, learning to engage the right way with the FOSS community, enabling the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and preventing vendor lock-in.

By and large, I think the audience agreed, except for one person who said “yeah, now it is open source, but it will become proprietary like the others”. Obviously this person has been fed FUD from the usual suspects and I had to take extra pains to explain that everything that we, Red Hat, ships is either under the GNU General Public License or GNU Lesser/Library General Public License.  The GPL means no one can ever close up the code for whatever reason. I am not entirely sure I managed to convince that member of the audience. In a lot of ways, this is the burden we carry as Red Hatters in explaining our business model and how we engage with the FOSS community etc.

Staking the higher ground

Now that the Singapore General Elections will be held on May 7th, the traditional political mudslinging has started in earnest. The first salvos was fired by the ruling party who, for the first time in a long time, will be losing many seats and are fearing the loss.

The ruling party has started attempts at character assassination of one of Worker’s Party’s candidates who has made his mark on the world and is now looking at contributing to Singapore. Chen Seow Mao.  Why do they do that? It has to be because the Minister Mentor has said repeatedly that no one would want to go into politics and public service unless they get paid exorbitantly. An d that if they do, they’d want to be under a PAP ticket so that they can be guaranteed victory. Because there has been no checks and balances in the parliament for so long, the ruling party did pretty much what they wanted with impunity. They’ve gerrymandered the constituencies and all of the re-drawing is done in secret and no justifications given. This is by a group of people who the current Prime Minister (who gets over S$4 million a year) had the cheek to say on Sunday April 17 at some party event:

“Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminded his audience of these key points as he launched the ruling People’s Action Party manifesto during the Young PAP’s 25th Anniversary Rally held at the NTUC auditorium on Sunday morning. 
In his opening address to senior PAP cadre members, new General Election candidates as well as government Ministers, he said,

“Never forget we are servants of the people, not their masters. Always maintain a sense of humility and service.Never lord it over the people we are looking after and serving.” 

He added, “Be as strict with ourselves as we are with others, because that is the way for us to win respect and support… However many years you may be in power, however long you may have been an MP, remember the People’s Action Party, you are acting on behalf of the people.” Looking back over the last five years, PM Lee, who is also the party’s secretary-general, said the PAP had done well and “passed the examination.” “We don’t give ourselves our own report card, but I think if people asked me, I would say, we have passed the examination,” he said. “What we can do we have done, and in a practical outcome. I think it has helped many, many Singaporeans.” Touching on the wide-ranging 30-page manifesto, titled Securing our Future Together, PM Lee said “the PAP has always delivered” and that was why the people should “trust the PAP”.

Mr Lee Hsien Loong, your statement has shown that you don’t practise what you preach. You say one thing to your “comrades” and do another. If we are indeed your masters and you claim to be our servants, you certainly do not seem to behave like that. Did you cross your fingers behind your back when you uttered those words, Hsien Loong?

If you do indeed believe what you said, and I will give you the benefit of doubt, let me challenge you to the following:

a) Reduce immediately all salaries of ministers to 1994 levels. Let’s then have a frank discussion with Singaporeans about what the increment should be.

b) Remove GRCs

c) Publish all the details of investments (failures, losses, gains) by Temasek Holdings and Government of Singapore Investment Corporation.

d) Eliminate walkovers – every person who contests in a ward has to win a minimum 25% of votes in his/her favour before gaining a seat.

e) Publish how much is being paid out as pensions to retired MPs – what is the burden on tax payers?

f) Account for why Wong Kan Seng should not be held accountable for the Mas Selamat fiasco?

Can the Master ask the Servant to do it? My sense is that you will not do any of this. Doing so will mean admitting that the party’s rhetoric and action are incongruent – which is a classic enactment of the Emperor’s New Clothes. When you surround yourself with Yes-men and Yes-women and you get the people from princelings, SAF, unions and academia, you have the worst form of inbreeding and group-think. No one will succeed challenging your policies from the inside. Even your “youngest” candidate has been thoroughly discredited for showing that she is really nothing more than a Yes Woman.

I am really glad to see that the Worker’s Party has taken the higher moral ground and I must take my hats off to Low Thia Khiang, Sylvia Lim, Gerald Giam and the others who have steered the Worker’s Party down a path of reason, conviction and fair-play.

Come May 7th, I know who I am voting for. It is for  ABP – Anyone But PAP.

Example of what’s rotten with the GRC system

This came in via an email.  Shows that the GerrymandeRrd Constituency (GRC) scheme was rotten from day one.


Mr Koo Tsai Kee, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC is retiring. I would like to offer him my heartiest congratulations.

He’s been MP for 20 years – since his maiden foray into electoral politics in 1991.

I am congratulating Mr Koo for doing what – as far as I can see – no other MP has done. This is why I find the rather toned-down announcement of his retirement and the inconspicuous reports by the media has done him a great disservice.

So, what is it that this great man has done or achieved?

Mr Koo is the only MP who has – in all of his 20 years as MP – never won a single election outright.

More remarkable is because he has never fought an election, he also has never won a single vote.

No one in Tanjong Pagar had to ! cast a single vote for him – in all of 20 years.

1991. 1997. 2001. 2006.

All walkovers uncontested.

It is indeed, whichever way you look at it, an astounding achievement.

Mr Koo has single-handedly demonstrated what it means to be a successful “Walkover MP”.

The Straits Times, in its own small and humble way, tried to pay a well deserved tribute to Mr Koo by telling us that “he has served residents in two wards in the GRC: his own Tiong Bahru ward as well as Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s Tanjong Pagar ward, where he stands in at Mr Lee’s Meet the People sessions.“

You may have stood in at MM Lee’s MPS’s but remember, its his coat-tails which you have hung on for two decades.

Even so, and just for “standing in” at MM Lee’s MPS’s, this alone deserves recognition.

Mr Koo is also Minister of State (MOS) for Defence. Which means he bags home some S$1.2 to S$1.6 million a year? At S$15,000 a month as MP ! and that insane salary as MOS, Mr Koo can retire happy – and ! very rich indeed.

Not a bad deal for not having to contest any elections ever, eh?

Well done, Mr Koo! I salute you! And I also salute the miracle of the GRC system!


Thank you, Mr Lee!

As the date to the dissolution of the current parliament looms paving way for the parliamentary elections, I would like to thank Mr Lee Kuan Yew for the years of service he has given to this country.  He and his team comprising Dr Goh Keng Swee, Mr S. Rajaretnam, Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr Hon Sui Sen, Mr Lim Kim San, Mr Edward Barker and Mr Othman Wok helped steer this country from the late ’50s through to the ’80s and set this nation on a path to be viable and successful.

All of Mr Lee’s team mentioned above, have stood down and paved the way for the next generation to take helm. The nation is waiting for you, Mr Lee.

Your place in history is assured.  You have helped along by writing part of the history yourself with your books so that part is done. I think the nation will both applaud you for that and even honour you by naming some institution (already done – Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy), or some road – perhaps Oxley Road as Lee Kuan Yew Boulevard.

But all jokes aside, this is the best time for you to retire. Your pension is guaranteed. Your place in history is guaranteed. You can now sit back and watch how this country you and your team helped shape beginning to finally flourish and excel. The evolution of the political process, the energized population who will be able to finally be counted as Singaporeans cannot but help push this nation forward.

On that happy note, thank you.  Here’s to a happy and fun retirement!

Trust, Governance and Democracy

As Singapore prepares for the announcement of the dissolution of parliament (sometime next week I think), as a nation we have to come together to see what it is that we want to see happen and what can we do to make that so.

At a technology/academia-related event in Penang earlier this week, in a conversation I was in, it was mentioned that of all the challenges they have in using some technology, the biggest was trust. Trusting that the technology they use will deliver what they need, that their “vendors” will not shortchange them etc. Trust was also about sharing knowledge across the board quid-pro-quo and unconditionally. Someone then mentioned Steven Covey’s book, The Speed of Trust.

Visiting that page, it’s interesting to see how they linked in the element of trust and how countries prosper. And that at the top end of the scale of prosperous nations, according to one metric, were three countries – Denmark, New Zealand and Singapore. These nations were tied for top spot because of “trust”. The “trust” here has to do with least corruptibility as measured by Transparency International.

It is instructive to read what comprises corruption as defined by TI:

Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It hurts everyone whose life, livelihood or happiness depends on the integrity of people in a position of authority.

While I think it is a useful and workable definition, I think it misses out on some nuances such as pork-barrel politics and dangling of carrots during election periods by incumbent politicians and incumbent political parties. “You better vote for me or else!” threats for example.

TI’s definition of corruption seems to be temporal of sorts. It only defines how entrusted power is abused for private gain of the entrusted power.  In the Singapore context, it is a given that we do not have to worry about paying off someone to get things done by government. And for that, I am immensely thankful.

But, the fact remains that carrot dangling and gerrymandering do not seem to be included in this measure as it surely will imply an element of abuse of entrusted power for private gain. The incumbent politician/party who dangles this or is able to contest in a district that was gerrymandered and thereby the process of winning the vote is corrupted. Please convince me that it isn’t corruption.

The democratic process involves the entrustment of power from a large group to a few for a period so that the few, a trusted few, will work for betterment the larger group and to be done without fear or favour.

So, when we look at how things are done here with regards to a specific instance of the running of Town Councils, the individuals who run the town councils are the MPs of the area and part of the funding comes from the government.

The Town Councils Act, interestingly, is set up, IMHO, a skewed manner especially when there are changes in the MP(s) of the council.  See Section 34. It favours the previous incumbents in helping them build surpluses that can be reinvested into the Town/GRC, which works against a new MP(s) who will see all surpluses from the previous group go into the sinking fund. This is one of the reasons, as I see it, why if a new group takes over a Town Council, they will be handicapped financially at the beginning. This is an example of how “if you don’t vote for me, you will pay for it” can be done. That is a nuanced form of “corruption”.  It does not look like it, but dig a little, and it is obvious.

So, this brings me back to trust. As Singaporeans we have marginally trusted the currently ruling party over the years and you can see how they’ve cleverly manipulated the system to make it work for them. The democratic process has been tweaked to enable governance that has little or no accountability.

Could this have been done by any other party? For sure. But that the current ruling party was able to put in these things over the years because they could do it without question (and debate) shows that Singapore needs minimally a two-party system in parliament. It is the checks and balances that will make this country of mine a great country.  Until that happens, we are on our way to becoming a banana republic.

Glad to have participated in the Cloud Workshop in Penang

I am pleased to have spent two days at the National Cloud Computing Workshop 2011 held in Penang, Malaysia April 11-12 2011. Targeted at the Malaysian academic community, it offered some insights to the initiatives that the various universities in Malaysia are undertaking on rolling out an academic cloud that is being set up with a fully accountable Malaysian identity and access framework.  I think this bodes well for their plans to push for a Malaysian Research Network (MyREN) Cloud that is hoped will be a way to encourage the collaboration of both faculty and students in sharing knowledge and learning. I was particularly pleased to have been invited to speak about cloud technologies from a Red Hat perspective as well as to introduce the audience to the various open source collaboration and empowerment work Red Hat is doing from the Community Architecture team. When I mentioned, during my talk, about POSSE and Red Hat Academy as well as “The Open Source Way” and “Teaching Open Source“, I could sense a level of interest from the audience in wanting to know more.  And true enough, the post-talk q&a focused a lot on “how can we take part in POSSE”.  Looks like it is going to be a few POSSEs in Malaysia this year! Let the POSSE bidding process begin!

On day two, I was invited to take part as a panelist with some of the other speakers to discuss the future of cloud in Malaysia and to throw up suggestions and ideas about what they could be targeting. One of my two suggestions was to first create a “researchpedia.my” as a definitive wiki-based resource that brings together the various research activities in Malaysia in the private and public universities as well as public-funded research institutions. The key is in a site that is wiki-based so that there are no unneeded bottlenecks in updates etc and helps with keeping the information current.  The second suggestion to the audience was to consider the various Grand Challenges and see if any of them are interesting to be picked upon. What is needed is to aim really high so that at least you will land on the moon if you miss. Aiming only to land on the moon may result in you landing in the ocean!

Overall, I think the organization was good. I am looking forward to the presentation materials of the speakers to be made online and to the next event!

Some thoughts about NS

I was reading some rather interesting arguments against continuing National Service as we have today.

While I think there are some nuggets of compelling reasons to discontinue the conscript army, we do have NS in both the police and the civil defence.  Those are entities that have a very different experience and opportunity that NS offers.

I *much* rather be in the SCDF – as a life saving force – than anything else even though I was both in the police as a full-time NSman as well as five years as a reservist and then transferred to the SCDF and completing my full NS obligations 2 years ago.

Perhaps my two-week stint in Banda Aceh following the tsunami in 2004 offered me a point of view that I did not have. The value of NS was clearly evident – both the SAF and the SCDF were on the ground helping and doing all that we could with the stuff we had to help a people that were cruelly impacted. Could we have done that if is not for a prepared SCDF and SAF? I don’t know. Did the NS complement in these two groups help with the preparedness? I think so. Did it help build a positive image of Singapore in Indonesia – very much so. We were no longer the “little red dot”.  We were the knight in shining armour. Yes we were. And I am proud to have been part of the team.

Cloud for Academics

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak from both a Red Hat and an open source presective about cloud technologies to the academic community in Malaysia.  

Clearly there is a lot to convey and I am hopeful that they have an appreciation that they can and are welcome to participate in cloud-related projects.  I hope that they’ve understood that projects such as Delta Cloud and related projects that they could direct their students (undergrad orgrad) to participate.  
For the benefit of all, here are some links that would be good to explore:
I was also asked about what Red Hat does for academics and was a prefect shoe-in to introduce both POSSE and Red Hat Academy.  Hopefully I will be run a POSSE in Malaysia really soon.

I have a dream

I have a dream that this nation of mine will rise above mediocrity and prove that we are people of substance and character
I have a dream that no one in this nation will be classified as poor by any metric.
I have a dream that when we stand before the world, the world will look at us and say, welcome to humanity and fairplay.
I have a dream that Singaporeans become part of the space-faring group of humans who will go beyond our planet to seek and spread humanity across the cosmos
Thank you, Dr Martin Luther King for the inspiration.

Believing in your own BS

I spend pretty much 100% of my waking hours in the IT world. A world that changes and evolves rapidly. This results in a massive amount of churn in ideas, methods and processes. Some of these see traction and light of day and become adapted.  The adoption happens with the help of a) “messaging” and b) “positioning”.  The people who do this first have to believe that it is worth their while to push the message and second to repeat it enough times to make sure that it gets sunk in.

But, sometimes, this brainwashing reaches the level of “believing your own bullshit“. The bullshit (BS in short) that your product, service, offering is so damn good and wonderful that there is no way anyone can question or challenge it.

Years ago, I was the professional services director and later CTO of a company selling technology to banks. I liked only some portions of the technology – the crypto stuff – but the rest of it was so-so. More so-so because even though it was developed on Linux environments, it was never sold to be run on that. I was placed in many speaking situations to promote the tech and talk about how wonderful it is etc. I had to do both a) and b) above and eventually began believing in my own BS. I truly disliked it. I felt unclean every time I spoke highly of the products knowing full well that quite a bit of it was high-grade BS.  The reason for it to have been BS was its development model – proprietary and all in-house. No one could inspect, change or improve it for it was all done internally. There was no external developer community, nothing.

I contrast that with what I had done post leaving that entity over a decade ago. It was wonderful that I got back to my roots – the Free and Open Source world. This is a world in which I do not have to spin a story, promise a capability or functionality to anyone. If something works, it will. If it doesn’t, let’s work on making it happen. No hidden agendas. Nothing to BS about. I sleep well knowing that I did not hoodwink anyone.

Now, let’s look at what we have seen and will continue to see in the Singapore political scene in the last few months. With parliamentary elections looming, the ruling elite have (re)started to spin their BS. Almost every one of the ruling incumbents believe it to be true – lock, stock and barrel. They are all completely whitewashed and project an image that they are credible through and through and “You, Mr Elector, do not forget that. You, Mr Elector, owe it to us to re-elect us to office. Or else, Mr Elector, watch out.”

We, as Singapore citizens, can help snap the ruling elite out of their stupor and hypnosis. By voting in non-PAP candidates into parliament, we will finally have the best Singapore we can have. A Singapore that we do not have to “believe in our own BS”. A Singapore that we can be truly proud to represent every one of us. A Singapore that Singaporeans can truly call their own.

True Leadership and The Open Source Way

I live in the Free and Open Source World. A lot of what the FOSS movement’s ethos and principles are quite core to me.  I think this webinar featuring Charlene Li is a required viewing.  Remember, this is not about technology.  It is about how you should do things, how you should be authentic and how you should consider the notion of leadership.

This is a model that applies very well in daily life, including politics. Yes, politics. If you want to gain trust of the population, openness, authenticity and honesty are very important.  Lessons from The Open Source Way are very useful and appropriate as my country prepares for the upcoming parliamentary elections (likely to be on April 30, 2011).

Great way to get a pension for life!

I was reminded when I read the Papsicle post about how we now will have two individuals who were apparently members of parliament but were never VOTED in.  Their entire ride into parliament was via the convenient administrative mechanism called “uncontested” which in common usage is referred to as a walkover.

The two who have announced that they will not be contesting (they never did anyway), are Ms Ho Geok Choo and Mr Koo Tsai Kee. They both got into parliament via the uncontested path with Ms Ho in 2001 and 2006 and Mr Koo in 1991, 1997, 2001 and 2006. You can verify these by checking the stats here.

And guess what?  It appears that they both will now qualify for some form of a life-long pension – all to be borne by the tax payer. Exactly what did these two individuals do? I don’t know. I am sure they must have done some work as an MP and I am sure someone will point it out to me.

In case it wasn’t evident, the PAP looks after their kind. The so-called pension is only for any MP who did two terms and stood down.  You will very rarely see a PAP MP stand-down after one term.  The reward for a PAP yes-man is to stay for two terms and then get a very nice pension for life! Exactly what the pension is I don’t know by Wikipedia says the following:

“Persons who have reached the age of 50 years and retired as MPs and who have served in this capacity for not less than nine years may be granted a pension for the rest of their lives. The annual amount payable is 130 of the person’s highest annual salary for every completed year of service and 1360 for every uncompleted year, up to a ceiling of two-thirds of the Member’s annual salary.[90] No person has an absolute right to compensation for past services or to any pension or gratuity, and the President may reduce or withhold pensions and gratuities upon an MP’s conviction for corruption.[91]

Nice. Really nice.

We, The Citizens of Singapore

We, the citizens of Singapore,
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society
based on justice and equality
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation.

The magic word “democratic” is in the pledge. A democratic system of politics means “of, for, or relating to citizens”. The people whom the Citizens choose to elect are there to serve the citizens.  Most systems will go back to the ballot box every few years (4 or 5) to validate the mandate.
So, how is that in Singapore, the currently ruling party is able to threaten the very people who are supposed to elect them that if they don’t, they will be penalized.
Remind me who the boss is here? The continued cockiness and outright disconnect with reality by the so-called “A Team” of the PAP is sad.
As their bosses, it is up to us to retire them at the upcoming polls.

Throwing off the GerrymandeRed Constituency (GRC) yoke as independents

If you want to run for parliament you need to fulfill the following requirements (all from Parliamentary Elections Act 218):

  • is a citizen of Singapore;
  • is 21 years old and above on Nomination Day;
  • is registered as an elector in the current registers of electors;
  • is resident in Singapore on Nomination Day and has been so for a total period not less than 10 years;
  • is not subject to any of the disqualifications specified in Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore; and
  • possesses a sufficient degree of proficiency in spoken English, Malay, Mandarin or Tamil and, unless incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause, be able to read and write at least one of the said languages so that he can take an active part in the proceedings of Parliament.

Now, if a citizen who wants to contest, she/he can contest as a member of a political party or as an independent.  What probably most people do not realize is that a group of individuals, not belonging to a political party, can come together and form a group and stand for elections in a GerrymandeRed Constituency. (Section 27a 3b)

So, if there are people who care about this country and want to work to the betterment of this country but are still not sold on doing this as part of a political party (for whatever reason), please consider forming a group and contesting to win a GRC.

Would winning a GRC by a group of independents be deemed a Black Swan event? Only by the incumbent will think so.  It will have to be good for the country as we try to shake off the yoke of dumbing down (“Oh, we can’t find enough talented people”) and show that Singaporeans know what to do and will stand up and be counted when it matters.

And by winning a GRC as a group of independents, the group will then be able to form a town council and be able to provide services and the residents and probably show that they can do a job better than any other town councils thus far.

What if it was Prime Minister David Saul Marshall?

Growing up in the 60s and 70s, I was not given much of an opportunity (not that I cared then), to really find out about the history of Singapore before Independence in 1965. Many names were mentioned – Dominic Puthucheary, Ong Eng Guan, Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, Sidney Woodhull, Jamit Singh and ST Bani. Most of them were mentioned by Dad when he would talk about how they were oppressed and eventually ousted by Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP. I was not entirely sure that when Dad spoke about them, whether he spoke because he had met them or known them.  It is unlikely that was the case, it was probably more from the events that surrounded their “falling from grace”.

The other name that used to come up was David Saul Marshall, or more than often, just David Marshall. Again, I never spent time trying to find out about his, except that he was Singapore’s very first Chief Minister and helped lead discussions with the British for independence in the 1950s. I think there is a lot to be thankful to David Marshall that even I, today in 2011, don’t do.  From all the accounts of encounters with him, I hear only good things.  That he was a person of high integrity and brilliant eloquence (which I am sure helped him in his law career).

I know I can only do this as a mental exercise: What if David Saul Marshall was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and not Lee Kuan Yew? Would Singapore be where it is today in terms of economy, etc at the expense of a credible democracy? I can’t tell.  I am sure that in an Einsteinian parallel universe, that is indeed the case and I would certainly want to find out how that Singapore looks like and feels like to live in.

But coming back to the reality I know, I am particularly delighted that there is on record a great interview done by Dharmendra Yadav of  David Marshall in 1994.

Let me quote a few very poignant statements from that interview:

“I am frankly terrified by this massive control of the mass media, the press, the radio, television, antennae, [and] public meetings. You can’t write a letter to the Straits Times; if there is a shadow of criticism, it’s not published. And the Chinese press follows suit. It’s a very dangerous position because experience proves that no one group of human beings has got all the wisdom in the world.”

In 2011, we are not dependent on the controlled MSM for anything. As citizens of this country and thanks to the Internet, we are able to seek out and find the truth and compare and contrast the version of truth the MSM puts out. Almost 20 years ago, David Marshall was warning of the danger of continuing to hand the right to rule this nation to one group repeatedly. His warning is still very relevant as we head into the 2011 hustings.

Another quote I particularly want any PAP MP reading this blog to re-read:

“You know $96,000 a month for a Prime Minister and $60,000 a month for a minister. What the hell do you do with all that money? You can’t eat it! What do you do with it? Your children don’t need all that money.”


“I never earned $60,000 a month or $90,000 a month. When I was Chief Minister, I earned $8,000 a month. Look, what is happening today is we are encouraged to and are becoming worshippers of the Golden Calf.

We have lost sight of the joy and excitement of public service, helping our fellow men. The joy and excitement of seeking and understanding of the joy of the miracle of the living the duty and the grandeur. We have lost taste for heroic action in the service of our people.”

Updating this to 2011 numbers, the Prime Minister today earns about S$3,870,000 per year (I am sure this is no longer correct – it was from 2008). That translates to S$322,500 per month, S$10,750 per day, S$447 per hour. Based on David Marshall’s quote above, the current Prime Minister earns in one day more than what David Marshall earned in a month (granted, the number is not adjusted for inflation etc).

These PAP ministers do not seem to have any form of shame or second thoughts about getting those kinds of salaries which are all taxpayer-funded.

Let’s look at what the current PM had to say at a talk he gave at the NUS on Tuesday, April 5, 2011. He tried to defend his excessive salary and when questioned about why President Obama makes less than a Singapore minister. His excuse was so lame and inane that I will just summarize it here – that.since US presidents after retirement get to make millions in speaking tours and books, it is OK for them to make less while in office! DUH!

My fellow citizens. Can we continue to let this fiasco continue for another five years? Or should we put a stop to this? We do not have to go the path of Egypt and Tunisia, but if this self-serving mindset continues, we just might have to do it in 5 to 10 years. I don’t want that. I love my country too much to want to sit idle by.

The Productivity Gambit

Perhaps the only useful nugget out of last night’s “Political Forum on Singapore’s Future”, was that all the participants agreed on the need to increase productivity.

So what do we do about increasing productivity? The 2008 paper from the LKY School of Public Policy  paper says that

“Labour productivity has been on a down trend since 2004. It has declined further in the second quarter of 2008 (-7.5 per cent), after two consecutive quarters of contraction in the previous periods (refer to Exhibit 1 in attachment). This decline is seen across all industries except for wholesale and retail trade (0.5 per cent). The contraction is steepest in manufacturing (-13.0 per cent), followed by hotels and restaurants (-8.5%), business services (-6.4 per cent), financial services (-4.5 per cent), construction (-3.4 per cent), transport and storage (-1.2 per cent), community, social and personal services (-1.1 per cent) and information and communications (-0.1 per cent).”

Yes, the paper is over two years old, but I think it is representative of the situation today.

What can we do to arrest the decline and pull it back up?  Productivity in areas of work that have “countable” outputs from factory floors etc are easier to ramp up – provide training, deploy better equipment, improve processes etc.  But with knowledge sector, it is different. The SPP paper does allude to the a series of six factors attributed to Peter Druker (“Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge”, California Management Review, Winter 1991, Volume 41,No. 2, p. 84.). But the paper does not suggest how to apply those in the Singapore context (perhaps in a future update).

So the question remains: how do we increase productivity? We have to first encourage non-conformism in the schools. Look at a kindergarten child (no, not those coming from the PAP-run centers). Those kids are very non-conformist and are constantly challenging and being generally creative.  These kids get into the public school system and the pounding and drilling begins. They lose all of that innovativeness and creativeness in a hurry. By primary 3 or 4, it is all but dead. I have seen it in my two sons. I did try to arrest the decline, and I hope I have succeeded to some extent.

This is an ongoing conversation and endeavour.

Disappointed, but not surprised!

I watched with disappointment the “Political Forum on Singapore’s Future” on TV. I think the format was so contrived that it did not offer any real opportunity for debate to ensue. Added to it, the need for commercials broke any momentum and reaffirms that the TV station was not really serious about doing a good and thorough job.

Overall, I think Tharman, Vincent, Gerald and Josephine spoke well and with credibility. But no one got into the meat of the topics and I feel the format was heavily skewed so that nothing substantive would come up.

A “C-” grade for overall value to the electorate. It just served to show that with a controlled, non-free media, no real debate can ensue..

There was no audience (what audience?), no tweets, no call-ins, zilch. Heard that this lame attempt was a suggestion from none other than LHL.

See YawningBread’s comment as well.

Tilting the playing field

I was reviewing the information at the Elections Department site on what are the terms and conditions for standing for election.

If you look at the section entitled “Registers of Electors“, it says:

“The register of electors contains, amongst other things, the following:

  • name of the constituency and its sub-division known as polling districts; and
  • particulars of the electors:
    • serial no;
    • name;
    • address;
    • sex.”

What are the “among other things”? I have just sent an email to eld_feedback@eld.gov.sg asking just that.  Hopefully it will not be a stock non-reply.

Now, if you look at another section entitled “Notice of Election“, it says in part c:

“the payment of deposit (a sum equal to 8% of the total allowances payable to MPs in the preceding year, rounded to the nearest $500).”

I am amazed that they cannot even place an actual dollar value.  Are the allowances paid to an MP (nice way of saying it instead of “salary”), such a moving target that it cannot be quantified? And why should it be pegged at anything like that? This is yet another example of how over the years, the ruling party has skewed and tilted the playing field in their favour.

My Wish For Singapore (aka my manifesto-in-making)

I thought it would be useful for me to publish my wish list for Singapore. This is a first draft. I will update this page as needed.

Singapore is my country and I want it to be the best nation on the planet.

Information and Communication:

  1. Freedom of Information Act

  3. Establishment of data.gov.sg

  5. All data created by tax payers monies will be available to all at no cost

  7. All government sponsored research shall be made available to all at low-cost.

  9. All government procurement of ICT must consider open standards/open source FIRST and any considerations of non-open source solutions do be done on a exception basis.

  11. Explicit outlawing of software patents

  13. Remove “ban” of personal satellite dishes


  1. Reduction of importance of second language in schools. Focus on Science, Math, English as tier one, Singapore/Asian history, Geography as tier two and Languages as tier three.

  3. [new April 2] Move second language to be a optional subject for admission criteria into polytechnics/universities.

  5. Full academic freedom at NUS, NTU, SMU and any other publicly funded universities and polytechnics. Full tenure for faculty.

  7. [new April 2] Waiving of all ‘bonds’ of scholarship recipients, and replacing the terms with a commitment to work in Singapore or for a Singapore-related organization (either public or private) for a period of three years following graduation.


  1. Establishment of an independent Elections Commission. The EC subsumes the current Elections Department and move out of the jurisdiction of the PMO.
  2. “Party Political Broadcasts” will be of equal time regardless of number of candidates fielded by the parties. Level the playing field.
  3. Establishment of a Constitutional Court
  4. Full webcasting of parliamentary proceedings and committee meetings all unedited and realtime.
  5. Significant reduction of ministerial salaries to reasonable levels. Remove the “magic formula”. Full disclosure of salaries of all MPs (as paid by the state; not what they also get outside/professional engagements)
  6. Remove election walkovers.
  7. Remove pensions for “retired” MPs
  8. Remove the constraints on who can run for President and reinstate the office of the First Lady
  9. Appoint a Vice President
  10. Removal of party whip and let MPs vote for what’s best for their constituents. The voting records have to be fully public and verifiable.
  11. Fixed dates for elections.
  12. Removal of GerrymandeRed Constituencies. All become single member constituencies, they way it is supposed to be.
  13. [new, April 2] Representation in Parliament of the foreign talent/workers. As long as they comprise more than 10% of the people living in Singapore, the deserve representation in the Parliament.
  14. [new April 2] Fixed and flat “election deposit” of S$1000 instead of the moving target it is today.


  1. Repeal of the Newspapers and Printing Presses Act

  3. Reinstatement of National Language in schools and the playing of the National Anthem at the start of all events

  5. Remove 3/4 tank rule. It’s unconstitutional anyway.

  7. Full free speech rights as per UN declaration of human rights

  9. To add the Access to the Internet as a basic right.

  11. [new April 2] National Thanksgiving Day: a day of recognition, expression of thanks and celebration of Singapore and Singaporeans.


  1. Introduce minimum wage

  3. Increase in government subsidies for Singaporeans at local universities.

  5. Fund and deploy electric cars systems.

  7. [new April 2] Switching all property lease lifetimes to freehold. There is no economic value in time-restricted lease schemes (99 year etc).

  9. [new April 2] Full and complete disclosure of Temasek Holdings and GIC.


  1. Strengthening of judicial independence

  3. Full and complete publication of all legal proceedings, judgments and made available to all at no cost

  5. [new April 2] Full and complete review within 48 hours of  individuals detained under ISA.

  7. [new April 2] Establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman.

  9. [new April 2] Abolishment of the death penalty.


  1. Moderate inflow of foreigners

  3. Invite former Singaporeans to consider returning home

  5. Forgive NS defaulters and start fresh

  7. Review NS to accommodate non-uniformed service option

  9. Publish numbers of new citizens in a constituency every year.

  11. Publish number of Singaporeans who renounced their citizenship.

  13. Introduce dual citizenship schemes

NASA’s inaugural Open Source Summit

I missed the live streaming of the NASA OSS Summit but it is mostly all captured and available on ustream.tv.  These are the links to the recordings:

Day One:

Day Two:

And a great post on OSDC.


Taking the higher ground

I am disappointed with the kinds of ad hominem attacks being made at the person from the PAP who is being labelled as the PAP’s youngest candidate to be introduced this time around.

It is one thing to comment on how the MSM covered her introduction with a “Ring”-like photo on the front page – the criticism is about how the MSM made the classic editorial mistake of a bad photo, and it is another to do character-assassination which seems to be what is being done. Give the lady a chance. Everyone deserves a chance. Yes, even though I will never vote PAP, I will still want to hear them out.  I am sure she has some sincerity and clearly would want to serve. She says that she has been working on the ground in the Ulu Pandan area for 4 years. Kudos to her then.

The vitriol that is being made is with regards to her husband being the principal private secretary to Lee Hsien Loong (the Prime Minister). That there is nepotism and/or cronyism in play could be a fair comment; but that is a field that is well oiled with the ruling party, so one should not be surprised.

The scenario that would will disappoint my fellow citizens will be if she is grouped in the GerrymandeRed-Constituency-scheme and that GRC does not get contested. In that case, she walks into parliament without being actually voted in.

Remember – in 2006,  only 34.27% of all voters VOTED for the PAP who went on to get 97.6% of seats in parliament! An unaccountable parliament could again be in place in 2011.

So, let’s take the higher ground. Let’s show the world that Singaporeans are fair and passionate people.  See Cherian’s post on this topic.

As the parliamentary elections approach, should I or shouldn’t I?

Many thoughts run through my mind on this upcoming parliamentary elections (or as some say, general elections).

The system we have does not have a fixed time to hold it, but has to be done before the end of the 5 years from the last elections.  That would make it by February 2012 I believe.

Now, what will most likely happen, as I have alluded to, is that the presidential and parliamentary elections will both be held at the same time (all in the interest of efficiencies not about democracy and accountability).

As the elections approach, it is interesting to see the amount of overt and disgusting coverage the local MSM is giving to the ruling party’s “newbie introductions” especially in the print MSM.  As I rarely watch local TV, I cannot comment, yet, on what they are doing.

When the Singapore budget was announced in February, there were some amounts of cash that would be provided to the citizens by way of refunds from cancelled home radio and tv tax (aka license) and car radio licenses as well as other rebates based on the type of housing. All of this is well and good – the radio and tv tax was just ridiculous. The cynical amongst us would think that these monies are being given to the electorate as a ruse to buy (some say coerce) the votes so that the PAP will win. This vote buying has been a regular feature with the same tactics undertaken in 2006.  Although the PAP will deny that it is vote buying (and “robustly” defend it), perhaps this time, the real truth slipped out.  I was surprised to see a qoute in none other than the local MSM daily

screen shot of http://www.sundaytimes.com.sg

which printed a “notable quotes” blurb on Sunday March 27, 2011 that quoted a PAP MP saying “The election should be after they get the cash, and before they finish spending it all!” (since that MSM is behind a stupid paywall, here’s a photo image of that part).

They, the PAP, have no shame. Really. Watch this ribbing by NCMP Sylvia Lim (Worker’s Party) and watch the ministers squirm in their seats.

They bulldozed through Parliament the pay hike for the Singapore president with zero debate and all they can do is to handwave the justification.

There are significant abuses of the system the incumbent government and political party has done.

We have no independent elections commission (we do not even have a constitutional court). The entity that runs the elections is the Elections Department which reports to the Prime Minister’s office. There is NO transparency on that. The ED is tasked with reviewing the electoral boundaries and in true gerrymandering traditions (which will being a tear to the eyes of Elbridge Gerry), they’ve done their re-drawing, presented it to the PMO and promptly accepted – no debate, no questions asked, no review.

Simple questions:

  1. Who comprises the electoral boundaries committee?
  2. Why is the deliberations done in secret?
  3. Why were about 20K people moved out of Hougang and a new set of about 20K moved in? Classic 101 gerrymandering.

Of course the government will have their justifications for all of this but they have shown to be afraid to share the real reasons (obviously). These are no different from many other countries whose incumbents resist a fair fight. It is just that the PAP takes it to new levels of unaccountability.

Interesting post from a non-techie moving to Fedora

A good friend of mine sent me a note about his friend’s experience in moving to a Fedora and Red Hat desktop environment.  That person is a non-techie and this is his report – all unsolicited – but posted with permission and anonymized.

I’ve installed both Fedora and Red Hat, here’s my first impressions:

1. Both Fedora and Red Hat are well designed. Because they use GNOME, both have a similar look and feel to Ubuntu. This is great as it makes for an easier transition! 🙂

2. Just like Ubuntu, after you first install Fedora and Red Hat, the system jumps onto the Internet and looks for software updates and security fixes that need to be installed.

3. With my high speed Internet connection Fedora took several hours to upload and install its initial updates.

I’m guessing with your connection that the initial update (and the annual update) will take a full day. Fortunately, during the update there were only two events that required me to click a button. Otherwise I was able to walk away from the computer and just let it do its business.

3. Red Hat took a bit less time in its initial update. I’m guessing this is because it has less software.

4. Fedora and Red Hat are identical in their look and feel. They have different applications pre-installed and, most importantly, Fedora has access more software than Red Hat does.

Red Hat is very conservative in the software it includes. I’m guessing this is because it is typically used as a secure server for business. Hence, it doesn’t offer as much end-user software.

Note the difference in pre-installed software available as seen in the attached screen shots.

5. Finding and updating software is very similar to Ubuntu. I found the package lists easier to navigate in Ubuntu, but Fedora and Red Hat are still easy.

That’s what I have for you thus far!


A great blast from the past

The recent approval to increase the salary (“privy purse”) of the Singapore president reminded me of a speech that Ms Sylvia Lim made in parliament in 2007 when the PAP government voted to give themselves a pay rise.

I am happy to pay someone well and especially for good work done. Anyone who is elected into office is accountable to those who elected them.  This is universally understood and accepted.  However, the PAP government has over the years, continued to spin the (false) justification that “it is hard to find good people to run the country unless you pay them well”. Really?

See this post by a young Singaporean (little ms kaypoh).

SMS spam

Am always tickled to receive spam via SMS.  The first one this year came on January 8th and reads as:

+353866030616: Nokia celebrated 40yrs. Your Mobile Number has won 600,000 pounds in Nokia Awards. claimcode: EMAJN.To claim your prize send email to nokia_40years@live.com

And a second one today, March 10:

+447031835929: You have been awarded 500,000 British Pounds in the 2011 Shell Intl Mobile Draw. To receive your prize, contact Dr Williams via email:shellwin11@live.com
I pity the cell phone owner who is raking up an SMS bill because the phone got compromised.  I wonder if it is a w7 phone?


Quick analysis of 2006 and 2001 Parliamentary Elections results

A lazy Sunday afternoon google docs analysis of the 2006 and 2001 parliamentary elections aka general elections done here shows the following.

In 2006, 65.8% of votes from 53.6% of all voters, gave the PAP 97.6% of seats in Parliament.

Or, in 2006 more starkly, about 2/3 of about 1/2 gives 97.6% of seats to the PAP.

Or, in 2006 and more appropriately, about 1/2 of all Singapore citizens did not get consulted at the polling station.

Five years before, in 2001, the situation was even worse. Only 67.1% votes from 33.2% voters gave the PAP 97.6% of seats in Parliament.  WOW!

Or, in 2001 more starkly, about 2/3 of about 1/3 gives 97.6% of seats to the PAP.

Or, in 2001 and more appropriately, fully 2/3 of all Singapore citizens did not get consulted at the polling station.

Minority rules win.

That’s what’s wrong with the walk-over regime of the Singaporean election process.  And, that, is a Hard Truth.

Need to look at the results from 1997 and earlier, going all the back to 1955 and run the same analysis.  It is left as an exercise for the reader to do it for yourself with the entire data set available here.

What would it be for 2011? How many citizens will get to exercise his/her human right to vote?

Will the number of people who CAN vote increase? Or will the ugliness of a walkover prevail?

Data analysis sought

I’ve extracted the stats from the Singapore elections department‘s site and set up a tabulated voting results from the very first elections in 1955 upto the last one in 2006. The data from the parliamentary elections (aka general elections) have been put up on google docs. I just wish that the elections department had the stuff out as a rss feed.
What I want to do is to look at the impact of the notion of walkover to the overall voting patterns which I think has made the majority of Singapore citizens never to have exercised his/her right to vote at the ballot box.
Not even exercising your right to vote because of some silly administrative procedure is a travesty of all that it means to be a citizen. It is an abuse of basic human rights. I want to see the elimination of walkovers which essentially means that even when there is only one person (or the abomination of a group representation constituency or GRC), they do not get the seat(s) automatically.  The candidate(s) must gain a minimum of 30% of votes in their favour. Failing to get that minimum means that the seat is vacant and a by-election has to be called.
Here’s some additional background on why we need to abolish walk-overs.
There’s work to do. Help.

A combined Presidential and General Election, perhaps?

So, the Elections Department (a unit of the Prime Minister’s Office – wink, wink), has finally re-drawn the electoral boundaries and published the demarkations.

Looks like Amma will be able to vote in Radin Mas, which has become a single member constituency after it was carved out – finally – out of Tanjong Pagar.  I just wish Achan was alive to be able to vote as well.

I am looking forward to voting in the West Coast GRC which, will have a team from the Reform Party contesting.  I am looking forward to that contest and yes, my vote will go to [watch this space].

I entitled this post as such because I think this time around, the government might call for both the Presidential and General Elections to be held on the same day.  You read it here first.

Unfiltered feed from Al Jazeera

If you are running Fedora or Red Hat Enterprise Linux, you can watch the raw feed from Al Jazeera using this script:

======>8=====cut here=============
rtmpdump -v -r rtmp://livestfslivefs.fplive.net/livestfslive-live/ -y “aljazeera_en_veryhigh” -a “aljazeeraflashlive-live” -o -| mplayer –
======>8=====cut here=============
Save the preceding into a file called for example, aljazeera.sh and change the permissions to x (chmod +x aljazeera.sh) and then you can run it as ./aljazeera.sh

Setting up the standard Andriod marketplace on the Archos 10.1

I was not a very pleased user of the Archos 10.1 ever since I got it last December.  The issue centered on the Archos supplied “AppsLib” which was not all that efficient nor useful. It would startup slowly sometimes, crash at other times, and a lot of apps that I’ve got in my Nexus One was not even available (like ConnectBot for example).  Apart from these inconveniences, the tablet is really a nice device, quite responsive and despite it’s plasticky feel, it is robust and quite well built.

The lack of the standard Android marketplace was gnawing at me for the longest time and last night, I came across a post that suggested that the XDA developers forum has a specific hack to address this. So, 10 minutes after downloading and installing the gAppInstaller, and two reboots later, the Archos 10.1 now has a pride of place and has become a delightful device to be used well.

I am not entirely sure why Archos decided not to include the standard Andriod marketplace, but I reckon this has to do with them trying to differentiate.  I think it is a huge mistake to take a path of differentiated marketplace for it splinters the ecosystem and does not leave the user in a good place.

What I would like to complete the Archos next with is a decent jacket. That is elusive still!

At some point, I’d like to run Fedora on it as well.

The magic of brand loyalty

We are all slaves to perception. What you perceives essentially drives your actions.  Yes, we can think through the issues and mitigate perceptions so that you can derive at a fair decision.

My very first mobile phone, a GSM phone nonetheless, was from Motorola that I bought in 1995 when the organization I was with insisted that management folks use a mobile phone.  My solution to this was to get a phone that was working in the 1800 MHz range instead of the 900 MHz range.  The reason was that the 1800 service from SingTel was not widely available in Singapore and I had the perfect excuse for not being reachable. But as the usage of the phone increased and as our first son was about to arrive, it became untenable that I have a phone but not usable sometimes because of coverage.

That prompted me to relook the phone and asked around to see what I should be getting.  A good friend of mine, Mathias, suggested looking at Nokia. So, I went ahead and acquired a Nokia and a new cell phone # in 1997. I don’t recall the model number, but it was a world apart from the Motorola. It had a very intuitive menu system, quite the difference from the Moto.

I was sold on the Nokia. All my subsequent phones were Nokias (except for one mistake in getting an Ericsson) and I was really happy with them. Nokia 3210, 6120 etc.  We were a Nokia family. I really wanted to get the N800 and other Nokia smart phones, but they were pricey and out of my budget range (even with mobile operator subsidies). My family was happy with the Nokias we had.  I had even helped to start the gnokii.org project in 1998.

My last Nokia phone which I still use is the E61 which is a really nice Symbian 60-based phone that works well for all I need to do.

But in 2009 or so, when Google launched their phone and was available in Singapore through SingTel, I went for it.  Google One (HTC Dream phone) worked well.  I still have it but I am not using it. As soon as Google themselves launched their Nexus One in 2010, I ordered it directly from Google and that continues to be my phone of choice.

I have been looking forward to Nokia coming out with their MeeGo phones later this year and I would have bought it for sure. It is all about both a sense of brand loyalty and being a satisfied customer. A repeat customer is such a valuable asset.  Why do we, as a family, continue with Colgate toothpaste all these years? it serves it’s purpose. We are satisfied customers. Lather, rinse and repeat.  That would have been the same thing with Nokia. But not now.

The selling out of the Nokia business by their CEO Elop to a partnership with Microsoft has killed this brand loyalty [Nokia eloped with Microsoft!].  Sure, my brand loyalty is just one person (and perhaps my family), but the backlash I am seeing across others is quite shocking.  People who use Nokia phones and were contemplating iPhones or Androids were holding out for Nokia to put out their MeeGos.

And here’s a snippet of a conversation I heard this morning in the MRT: “No, actually, there is nothing wrong with my Nokia phone. I know my nephews and nieces all use iPhone and Android phones and they make fun of me and my Nokia. I did read that Nokia was to come out with a phone to challenge Apple and Google. But today I read in the papers that Nokia will be making a Microsoft phone. You know, I have *never* seen anyone with a Microsoft phone ever. I already use Microsoft stuff in my home PC and it is so slow.  When the Nokia phone has Microsoft in it, it will be slow. For sure. Stupid, really stupid.”

It’s really hard to earn brand loyalty and is, in general, eroded gradually and does not end abruptly.  Nokia’s brand loyalty was slowly eroding in the face of Androids and iPhones. The fact that Elop has said that the platform is burning simply meant that Nokia can burn much faster instead on a Microsoft platform than with anything else. Nokisoft or Microkia or whatever abomination it will be is DOA.

Do check out this very interesting analysis of the business and Nokia Plan B.

Virtualization and the Internet

I had the privilege of speaking to a great group of network operators as part of the South Asian Network Operators Group conference held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from Jan 11-18, 2011. The topic I spoke on was entitled “Virtualization and the Internet”.

Temporary fix to StarHub’s illegal code injection

StarHub continues to do their illegal code injection into the return stream and here are four ways to you temporarily fix it:

  • Run a proxy server somewhere. By using a proxy server, you can by pass StarHub completely and their illegal code injection.  An added benefit would be that you will not be censored as well (wink, wink).
  • In Firefox, install NoScript. With NoScript, you should block anything from wishfi.com, which is the service StarHub is using to do the illegal code injection.
  • Run Tor – The Onion Routing – anonymous routing protocol.
  • If you are running Chrome or Chromium, you can disallow running of Javascript (chrome://settings, click “Under the Hood”, then click “Content Settings”, under Javascript, click on “Do not allow any site to run Javascript”. That will set up the browser to stop running Javascript and when a site needs it, on the URL line, a small box will appear and clicking on it will offer you options to allow Javascript to run per site.  Very much like NoScript does.  Not sure how this option for Chromium compares with NoScript for Firefox.

But not all of us have a means to run a proxy or a socks server, so the NoScript option would be a good solution.

You should seriously considering running Tor as well.  Helps to ensure your presence on the Internet is anonymous and helps getting past the likes of the GFC.

Update from StarHub’s code injection: It is now more than three months, and their response has been significantly less than stellar. Yes, they have privately replied to me stating that what they are doing is halal and that they checked with the IDA. They also want me to rephrase my original post about their activity being illegal.  We are at a temporary stalemate. I am waiting for them to blink.

You gotta love StarHub!

So, I had to call StarHub today to sort out a payment issue.  Dialed 1637 and their wonderful interactive voice response system requested: 1 (for English), 1 (for mobile services), 1 (to check account balance), enter phone#,7-digit-NRIC#, DateOfBirth in ddmmyyyy# and, seconds later, tells you the balance. Nice. Let’s say you now want to speak with a human. Press 0 and wait and wait and wait.

Finally, someone answers. I tell the person that I want to check on my account balance. The person then asks me for: phone number, NRIC, date of birth, and name. I get a little annoyed.

“Did I not already punch in that information earlier?”

“Yes sir.  That was in the IVR and we do not have it here.”

Sigh. StarHub fails yet again.

2010 in review

[Personal note: I moved to wordpress.com from livejournal.com because I was rather disappointed with the lack of community around livejournal.com’s code.  It not being open source did add to my decision to move. I did get to move out all of my posted on harishpillay.livejournal.com with the help of wordpress.com’s techies because my initial attempt failed. So, kudos to them.]

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 23 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 659 posts. There was 1 picture uploaded, taking a total of 106kb.

The busiest day of the year was October 11th with 276 views. The most popular post that day was Rescuing a SCO OpenServer 5.0.5 machine to run in a VM on RHEL5.4.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were planet.fedoraproject.org, twitter.com, facebook.com, Google Reader, and rdist.root.org.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for starhub leaderboard, starhub toolbar, illegal starhub box, starhub wishfi, and weblink.singapore.wishfi.com.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Rescuing a SCO OpenServer 5.0.5 machine to run in a VM on RHEL5.4 February 2010


StarHub’s illegal code injection October 2010


Automatically connecting to the Wireless@SG hotspots February 2010


More twists and turns November 2010


GPG Keysigning at FOSS.in 2010 December 2010

This is what thought leadership is an example of!

I am pleased to see this note by Michael Tiemann, President of Open Source, Inc.  As 2011 opens up, I would not be surprised to see the CPTN Holdings LLC, begin to play the game that their founders want – to go after people, groups, projects that might infringe software patents. It is universally agreed that software patents are an abomination (and by someone no less than Bill Gates). I am troubled that all of this maneuvering will continue to confuse and complicate FOSS development.

Was I fair?

I read with amusement some of the comments that people made with regards to the chat I had with the Dell Rep about acquiring a N-series machine. The chat is posted here.

Most of the comments were about how they DID NOT KNOW of this option being available which was the intent of my post, but there was a subset of comments that were clearly annoyed with their perception that I was “rude”, “an ass”, “a douchebag”, makes “us computer scientists look bad” and so on.

Perhaps I am guilty of all of the above and I would apologize to both the Dell Rep and those who voiced their objections.

I bought my very first laptop from Dell in 1996. Although it came with Windows 95, I think, I loaded up either Slackware or Yggdrasil. That machine is long gone – the LCD started peeling off and the motherboard went bad.  But the harddisk (I think it was a 500MB drive) survived and I’ve long since given it away. I then went through about 6 more Dell laptops (and oodles and oodles of Dell tower and pizza-box servers) and my current pride of place is reserved for a N-series Dell Vostro V-13 running Fedora 14. I am, indeed, a long time loyal customer of Dell’s.

With that in mind, and the nature of that engagement with Dell was about a committed customer who wanted to continue to recommend yet another Dell but with Linux on it. Having being frustrated in not finding the N-series offerings on Dell’s site, I entered the chat with an annoyed frame of mind.  No, it is not an excuse for any perceived bad behaviour, but I am a knowledgeable customer who knows about the N-series offering and getting riled about not finding it.

In any case, the intent of my post has been achieved.  Now people are better aware that they can, if they want to, acquire a piece of hardware from a reputable vendor but with their choice of software.  When you empower and engage with your customers, both you and your customer win.  Doing business is not a zero-sum game. I would encourage those reading this post to listen to Prof Michael Porter’s interview on BBC that aired earlier this week on the nature of shared value/value shared.

Let’s hope this does not escalate tonight!

I just saw a note on a mailing list that the Radio and Television Malaysia‘s website was cracked.  It looks like the site was broken into by people from kepri-cyber.org. Here’s a screenshot:

screenshot of cracked rtm.com.my page

When the page is loaded (after being warned by Chromium that the site contains malware), it plays an audio that is streamed from youtube.

Here’s the raw html:


<TITLE> HackEd By ^s0n_g0ku^ </TITLE>
// <!–[CDATA[src=’]]>–>http://sites.google.com/site/amatullah83/js-indahnyaberbagi/bintang.merah.js‘ type=”text/javascript”></script>
<img style=”transparent”width=’1′ height=’1′ src=”http://counters.gigya.com/wildfire/IMP/CXNID=2000002.0NXC/bT*xJmx*PTEyODE*OTQ*NTQ5MDYmcHQ9MTI4MTQ5NDQ4NzIwMyZwPTU2MjAxMiZkPSZnPTEmbz**YjQ*MzE2M2E*MDc*OTU*YmVm/YTc1M2QxN2VkMDQ4MCZvZj*w.gif” /><div align=”left”><table border=”0 “bgcolor” value=”#000000″  width=”1″><tr><td><a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.musik-live.net/play-music-code.php?name=Ayam_Den_Lapeh&src=yt&id=7KgvQTxXtEU“>
<img title=”Ayam Den Lapeh.mp3″ border=”0″ width=”0″ height=”0”>
http://www.longtailvideo.com/support/player.swf” width=”1″ height=”1″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowfullscreen=”false” flashvars=”&file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KgvQTxXtEU&height=20&width=315&showeq=true&autostart=true&repeat=false&shuffle=false&volume=100&menu=false&searchbar=false&backcolor=0x1E0B02&frontcolor=0x49A3FF&lightcolor=0x87B6CD”></embed></div>
<p class=”style1″><font size=”7″><center> HACKED BY ^s0n_g0ku^ </font></p>


Loe Main Laser Gue Olang Main Server

Spesial thanks to ulga, complann, nenen All Member kepri-cyber.org


<img src=”http://forum.kepri-cyber.org/images/kep.png” width=”300″ height=”250″ /></p>



It appears that all of this is in response to the use of laser lights against the football players who were playing on Dec 27 in the ASEAN Football Federations finals in Kuala Lumpur.

Here are a couple of videos showing the use of lasers:

a) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txYIBqZ7Mzs

b) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFOTKV7I0bs

Hopefully, in the second leg happening tonight will be without incident. Yeah, right!


Well, Malaysia won the ASEAN Football Federation’s Suzuki Cup by beating Indonesia in the finals with an aggregate score of 4-2 after Indonesia won the 2nd leg in Jakarta 2-1. By all accounts, the game was incident free and no lasers were deployed. Kudos to all in maintaining a level head.  It is, afterall, only a game.

Security breach of addons.mozilla.org

Thanks to Mozilla for this pro-active reporting of the security breach.  If any of you reading this blog have an account on addons.mozilla.org and have not received this note, please take action.

Mozilla Add-ons
date Tue, Dec 28, 2010 at 8:34 AM
subject Important notice about your addons.mozilla.org account

Dear addons.mozilla.org user,

The purpose of this email is to notify you about a possible disclosure
of your information which occurred on December 17th. On this date, we
were informed by a 3rd party who discovered a file with individual user
records on a public portion of one of our servers. We immediately took
the file off the server and investigated all downloads. We have
identified all the downloads and with the exception of the 3rd party,
who reported this issue, the file has been download by only Mozilla
staff.  This file was placed on this server by mistake and was a partial
representation of the users database from addons.mozilla.org. The file
included email addresses, first and last names, and an md5 hash
representation of your password. The reason we are disclosing this event
is because we have removed your existing password from the addons site
and are asking you to reset it by going back to the addons site and
clicking forgot password. We are also asking you to change your password
on other sites in which you use the same password. Since we have
effectively erased your password, you don’t need to do anything if you
do not want to use your account.  It is disabled until you perform the
password recovery.

We have identified the process which allowed this file to be posted
publicly and have taken steps to prevent this in the future. We are also
evaluating other processes to ensure your information is safe and secure.

Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact the
infrastructure security team directly at infrasec@mozilla.com. If you
are having issues resetting your account, please contact

We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused.

Chris Lyon
Director of Infrastructure Security

Interesting to see me quoted

I was pleasantly pinged by someone who said that I was being quoted in an article saying: “The best moment for me was the launch of Fedora 14 (and subsequently Red Hat (NYSE: RHT) Enterprise 6) along with the deltacloud.org efforts,” wrote Harish Pillay in the TuxRadar comments, for example. “They augur well for 2011 and beyond.”

Well, it is true.  DeltaCloud is very critical so that corporates will not be straddled with the “mother of all lock-ins”. I cannot emphasize that enough. As more entities contemplate moving more of their operations to the cloud, it is crucialthat the cloud service provider provides a fully documented means to ETC (Exiting The Cloud).

How to buy a Dell WITHOUT windows

I was asked by a friend to get a Fedora CD to her and her friend so that their children can learn to use Linux.  I suggested that I will help by shipping the Live CDs as well as spending some time (along with my 2 sons) to teach their sons how to use Linux.

Then the request came back asking where can they get a new laptop without Windows and that prompted my revisiting the Dell.com website to see if I can get a machine without ‘oze.I have a Dell Vostro V13 N-series (which came with Ubuntu preinstalled, the “N” meaning “No Windows”). So, that was what I was looking out in the dell.com site.  Search as I might, nothing showed up.  It’s amazing how well hidden the n-series offerings are.  I am very sure Microsoft’s marketing muscle is squarely behind it. 

Now, since I know that there is such as thing as a N-series laptop, I clicked on Dell.com’s “Live Chat” button and the following is the transcript of what happened. I’ve replaced the Dell person’s name with “Dell Rep”.
16:35:51 Customer harish pillay
Initial Question/Comment: h.pillay@Ieee.org
16:35:56 System System
You are now being connected to an agent. Thank you for using Dell Chat
16:35:56 System System
Connected with Dell Rep
16:36:01 Agent Dell Rep
Welcome to Dell Sales Chat. My name is Dell Rep. I’ll be your personal sales agent. How may I assist you. If you proceed to place your order online, please indicate my name, Dell Rep, as your sales representative so that I’ll be able to track your order for you.
16:36:22 Customer harish pillay
Hi, Dell Rep. Can you point me to where I can get the n-series vostro v13?
16:36:33 Customer harish pillay
i do not want to buy windows for the machine.
16:37:01 Agent Dell Rep
we do not offer n-series of the Dell system online
16:37:07 Customer harish pillay
16:37:24 Customer harish pillay
does microsoft restrict sales of n-series online?
16:37:56 Agent Dell Rep
i’m not too sure on that but V13 has being replaced by the V130
16:38:23 Customer harish pillay
ok, so I would like to buy a v130 without an OS (I will settle for freedos).
16:38:36 Customer harish pillay
i prefer the n-series v-130 then.
16:39:51 Agent Dell Rep
the V130 is not offering any Free DOS version at the moment
16:40:01 Agent Dell Rep
let me check on the availability of the V13
16:40:13 Agent Dell Rep
we do offer Free DOS offline
16:40:50 Customer harish pillay
it does not matter if it has freedos or fedora (or even ubuntu). i want to buy the machine without any microsoft os.
16:41:07 Agent Dell Rep
any particular specifications on your mind?
16:41:47 Customer harish pillay
i will be running Fedora and/or Red Hat Enterprise Linux on them. I have the apps taken care of already.
16:42:22 Agent Dell Rep
any specific hardware requirement
16:42:51 Customer harish pillay
Why don’t you focus on asking about the OS? the hardware is OK as it is.
16:43:25 Customer harish pillay
64-bit, 8G would be nice, but 4G RAM is OK. USB (3.0 would be nice), bluetooth, wifi.
16:43:55 Agent Dell Rep
please note that you may find difficulties for the correct drivers as we have not tested on the compatibility of the drivers with the OS you intend to install
16:44:13 Customer harish pillay
not that you support windoze drivers anyway.
16:44:17 Agent Dell Rep
any other hardware requirement
16:44:33 Customer harish pillay
16:44:52 Agent Dell Rep
also is this purchase are for your company or personal?
16:45:05 Customer harish pillay
does it matter?
16:45:27 Agent Dell Rep
i need to generate the quotation for you
16:45:51 Customer harish pillay
Intel Corporation WiFi Link 5100, Realtek Semiconductor Co., Ltd. RTL8111/8168B PCI Express Gigabit Ethernet controller,
16:46:19 Customer harish pillay
is there a price difference if the quote was for corporate vs consumer?
16:47:02 Agent Dell Rep
there’s no difference unless your company has a specific contract with Dell
16:47:40 Customer harish pillay
fair enough. give me the consumer quote first.
16:48:32 Agent Dell Rep
can i have your full legal name, address as well as your contact no
16:49:04 Customer harish pillay
:-). harish pillay, address
16:50:27 Agent Dell Rep
alright, let me work the quotation and emailed it to you?
16:50:40 Customer harish pillay
ok. h.pillay@ieee.org
16:50:47 Agent Dell Rep
16:52:22 Customer harish pillay
so are we done or what?
16:52:42 Agent Dell Rep
unless you’ve others to add.
16:53:04 Customer harish pillay
so the quote will be without windows?
16:53:12 Agent Dell Rep
16:55:26 Customer harish pillay
that’s fine. can you provide me with the quote that shows with and without windows?
16:55:37 Customer harish pillay
i want to know the difference.
16:55:42 Agent Dell Rep
16:55:46 Customer harish pillay
not that i want windows.
16:56:50 Customer harish pillay
are you mailing the quote now?
16:57:17 Agent Dell Rep
give me about 5 mins and i shall be able to send it to you
16:57:56 Customer harish pillay
ok thanks. i will be keeping this chat transcript and blanking out your name.
16:58:12 Agent Dell Rep
16:58:57 Customer harish pillay
the reason for keeping the chat transcript is so that I can post this to my blog stating that there is a way to buy non-windows Dell machines but one has to ask for it.
16:59:26 Customer harish pillay
so, keeping your name off the transcript is key as it is not you but your organization that is at fault here.
16:59:32 Agent Dell Rep
we do have regular request for n-series of system from time by time
17:00:20 Agent Dell Rep
we do not offer is sometimes to avoid misunderstanding from certain customers where they look for the cheapest system and only to find out that no OS was installed
17:00:33 Customer harish pillay
and I want to make it a permanent request and something that I can find from your online catalog. As long as it does not appear, I think Dell is doing the whole world a disservice and pandering to Microsoft’s monopolistic heavyhand.
17:00:33 Agent Dell Rep
we had that quite a lot previously
17:00:56 Agent Dell Rep
that’s the reason we choose to offer all with the OS preinstalled
17:01:00 Customer harish pillay
and if you explain to people, they will understand.
17:01:26 Agent Dell Rep
not all customer are as understanding as you
17:01:39 Customer harish pillay
so long as dell hides the info (or makes it hard to find), these misunderstandings can happen.
17:02:07 Agent Dell Rep
we have lots of customer who choose the cheapest and only to find out that no OS is installed
17:02:57 Agent Dell Rep
we don’t really hide the info as long as a customer request for it, we’ll be able to offer
17:03:22 Agent Dell Rep
we just limit them options online to avoid misunderstanding
17:03:37 Agent Dell Rep
anyway perhaps we may work out something in future
17:17:37 Agent Dell Rep
i’ve just emailed both quotation to you. could you please check and revert
17:23:28 Agent Dell Rep
Is there anything else I may assist you? If there’s no further assistance required, you may email me at DELL REP @dell.com shall you need further assistance / clarifications.
17:32:49 System System
The session has ended!
I have received a quotation for the Dell Vostro V13 and here are the numbers:
a) S$887.15 for the N-series
b) S$1045.79 for the same machine with ‘doze.
Hardware: Vostro V13 System Base (SU7300)Intel® Core?2 Duo Processor SU7300 (1.3GHz, 3M L2 Cache, 800MHz FSB) ULV, 13.3HDF Anti-glare LED LCD panel with camera, 4GB (1X4G) DDR3-1066MHz SDRAM, 1 DIMM500GB* Hard Drive, 7200 RPM, 6-cell Lithium Ion Sealed 30Whr Battery, Integrated Graphic CardIntel(R) Wireless Network Card 5100 (802.11a/g/n)Dell Wireless 365 Bluetooth ModuleInternal Dell(TM) Keyboard (English).
So, the Windows-tax is S$158.64. Now you know.

National Convention for Academics and Researchers, Hyderabad, India

I had the distinct privilege of attending and speaking at the National Convention for Academics and Researchers 2010 in Hyderabad on December 17 and 18 2010. The event was held at the Mahindra Satyam Technology Center, an enclave of low-rise building that helps one get away from the horn-tooting noise of a typical Indian city. The settings were a pleasant park-like environment.

I arrived at the location at about 10:30 am on Friday Dec 17 and I was greeted by the nice cool weather (I reckon with a daytime temperature of about 20C).  There were about 4 low-rise building housing the conference auditoriums.  I particularly like the fact that those buildings were named after legendary Indian centers of learning like Nalanda  and so on.  Interestingly, I am not able to located a map that shows the names of those buildings (and the Mahindra Satyam website is horribly broken when viewed on Chrome but OK on Firefox).
I participated in a few of the talks, with my own contribution during the FOSS and Education session (sadly, there are no online references to the session – the site has not been updated; probably will never be). For what it’s worth, here’s my presentation.
I spoke for about 15 minutes and touched on POSSE, TOSW and threw out an invitation to the audience (90% of whom where faculty) to consider participating in a future POSSE to be run in India and thence to help run POSSEs themselves.  All I can say is that I have an overwhelmingly positive response and I think we have our collective hands full in making this happen in 2011 in India.
We need to urgently figure out how to scale POSSEs in 2011/2012 and I am inclined to look at the TEDx model to ensure consistency, quality and value.

FOSS.in Day 2 and feeling sick! Really sick!

Day two of the very last FOSS.in started a little late for me.  I was developing a cold, a really bad cold.  The one thing I always carry with me when I travel is vitamin C.  This time, I completely forgot it (all my fault, not The Wife’s). I have found that if I take at least 1000 mg daily, when I travel, I am functioning well and given the usual timezone challenges etc, I do not fall sick.  But that was not the case this time.

I decided that I will take a slow start to day two and fortunately, my colleagues in Red Hat India had arranged for interviews with a couple of journalists in the morning.  That suited me fine.  This meeting was to be a the Oberoi Hotel at 10:30 am, I found my way to the place well ahead of time (not wishing to be stuck in traffic for no good reason).  It was good that I did this, as the cold that was developing was really getting to be annoying and I was really glad that the concierge (a Mr Amit) at the Oberoi offered me at no cost a couple of paracetamol tablets. I took that with a couple of cups of hot tea with ginger and honey and I was slowly beginning to feel better, just in time for the journalists.
All I can say is that it was nice to be able to chat with the journalists, who, thankfully, understood Red Hat and it’s business, which gave me then the time and energy to explain why nurturing and growing the open source community is just as critical and foundationally important for the long term growth of the commercial open source business like Red Hat.
The interviews were over by about noon and that allowed me enough time to fight the noon Bangalore traffic and arrive at the FOSS.in venue by 1:30 pm.  After gulping down a nice vegetarian lunch (I guess all they had there was vegetarian lunches), it was time to proceed to Hall C for the Fedora MiniConf.
I must say that I was really pleased to see a number of people (40 perhaps) who began to fill out the auditorium, which I think is the smallest of the three auditoriums a the centre.  Rahul Sundaram, the team leader of the Fedora Ambassadors in India, kicked off the session and invited Amit Shah to speak about Fedora Virtualization: How it stacks up.  I enjoyed Amit’s talk and learned a few things about kvm which was nice considering that Amit is a core contributor to KVM! His talk was followed on by Aditya Patawari who spoke about “Fedora Summer Coding and Fedora KDE Network Remix“. The contents were good but I think Aditya needs to do a little less pacing on the stage for it tends to be distracting. A key lesson from Aditya’s talk, to me, was the need to greater modularization of packages without a massive penalty in the metataging of the package system.
The third talk, IMHO, was the most fun for me. As someone who has been spending most of his editing time using vi, with the occasional foray into emacs, this talk, by SAG Arun, entitled “Exploring EMACS in Fedora – tips and tricks, packaing extensions” was indeed refreshing. I think I shall now make the $EDITOR in my machine to be emacs instead of vi!
I realized that the GPG keysigning that I wanted to run was not going to happen (as I had only gotten one participant) and that my cold, that was being held back by the earlier paracetamols and ginger/honey tea, was now coming back with a vengeance.  Added to that, I now had to catch a flight to go to Hyderabad for another event – the National Convention for Academics and Researchers. So, reluctantly, I had to cancel the GPG keysigning. The next time then!
I got into the car and arrived at the really nice Bangalore Airport and when I got out of the car, there was a clear and distinct chill in the air which caused me to shiver. And boy was I shivering.  It has been a long time since I felt that bad, and it did not help that the temperature outside was around 16C and all I had on was a t-shirt and jeans and a really bad cold.  I am not sure if the shivering was due to the cold or to a fever which I felt I was having. I managed to make my way through the customary security and checked in and found a pharmacy.  The on-duty pharmacist recommended a fairly strong medication (in the form of tablets) that contained both paracetamol and anti-histamines. All for 200 rupees. Nice. That was OK but I really wanted to know if I was running a fever and asked the pharmacist if she could just take my temperature.  What she said was that “that would be considered a out-patient and we will have to charge you”. Huh? Just the temperature, ma’am. Nothing more. I told here, “that’s fine. I will figure this out”.
As the flight I was taking to Hyderabad would not be serving any meals (hey it’s a budget airline), I figured that I better get some grub in before taking the medication and the flight. The airport’s offerings of food was nice, the environment really posh (yes, I am a sucker for well laid out airports) and it made for the miserable cold/shivering situation a lot better to manage.
The flight on Jet Airways, was on time and arrived into Hyderabad about 1.5 hours later, again on time. Nice flight, nothing spectacular.  All I could feel was that the cold was making me feel weak and tired.
I did not know what I was to experience at Hyderabad Airport – it’s my first trip there. This was a spanking new airport! What a pleasant welcome for a weary traveller. Like the Bangalore airport, this Hyderabad airport is also built
on land some 30-40 km away from the city center and accessible via a set of multi-lane highways. Nice.  Eventually, about 1.5 hours after arriving into Hyderabad airport, I was safe in the hotel and took a quick shower and crashed out. I needed to get out of this cold/flu/crappy feeling. Sleep will help.

FOSS.in day 1 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 launch

FOSS.in in Bangalore (their Xth edition and allegedly their last), started off “in true FOSS.in style” – an hour late [this was what the MC said at the very beginning and is not an editorial comment from me.]

I listed to Danese Cooper, CTO of Wikimedia Foundation, deliver the openin keynote and I did learn a significant amount of details about Wikipedia.  Here are some nuggets:
  • Wikipedia is the 5 largest site on the planet in terms of traffic
  • They have about 450 servers serving out the Wikipedia pages
  • The data center is Tampa, Florida and in Amsterday, Holland.
  • They are looking for a 3rd data center somewhere in Asia – possibly in India or Singapore (any takers, National Library Board perhaps?)
  • They have about US$20 in revenue mostly from sponsorship and donations 
  • Are fiercely independent and are not looking for help or funds that can be construed as being biased
  • Have optimized their MySQL instance as well as many other tweaks to make the site extremely responsive.  As an aside, I think they are not even using Akamai for content caching.
  • When their site goes down for any reason, they will get calls from BBC, CNN etc as Wikipedia has become a key resource.
Danese’s talk lasted about 45 minutes followed by a lively Q&A session.  Watch the video when I get a chance to post it.
The FOSS.in day 1 was a good time to connect up with a whole lot of new folks.  OLPC’s Manusheel Gupta, an independent technologist, Arjuna Rao Chavala, Wikimedia’s Alolita Sharma and Eric and a whole slew of Fedora volunteers (for the Fedora Miniconference happening on Thursday).
The next talk I attended talk “Hardware Design for Software Hackers” by Anil Kumar Pugalia.  I thought it was a good talk focusing on using only open source tools (like avr, kicad etc) to create hardware that can then be fabricated and deployed.  It was a fun talk I felt.
Took a break from all of these talks and went over to Hotel Leela where Red Hat India was holding the launch event for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6.  It was nice to see the RHI folks there. They had in excess of 1,100 registrations to attend the event and if we give a 50% attrition rate, that was still a number greater than the capacity of the ballroom.  So to a packed audience, Red Hat’s story was told in 4 parts and I think it was an overall success.
Looking forward to day two of FOSS.in

Participate in this info-comm survey

I think this survey, being run by the Nanyang Technology University and the Singapore Computer Society could use responses from across the world, not only Singapore.  So, please consider participating and making this survey results useful. Although I am not directly involved with the survey per se, I will post results from it here on this blog (and yes, I am trying to get the raw data on a CC-license).

Interesting stuff this week!

I have the pleasure of attending two interesting events this week – both in India.  

One is FOSS.in in Bangalore from Dec 15th onwards.  This is their 10th year they are running it and I must acknowledge that this is no small feat.  I had myself ran the Singapore Linux Conference in 1999, 2000 and 2001 and it was NOT easy. Perhaps I should look at running SLC again in 2011.  For FOSS.in, I will be engaged with the Fedora community in India and will be running the GPG Keysigning party.
The other is the National Convention for Academics and Research, to be held in Hyderabad Dec 16-18.  Looking at the sessions, they are all exciting and I am hoping to tap into the open source energy and interest at NCAR.  I am scheduled to speak as well at NCAR and I am hoping that they’ll update the schedule soon.

This is so clever!

When something clever, it deserves pointing out.  Google posted a video about their Chrome OS and that video had some interesting stuff aka easter eggs
What was nice is that the folks at Jamendo, which has a very large and growing collection of musicians and music that you are put out on creative commons license, figured out the easter eggs and got themselves a Chrome laptop.  Well done!

GPG Keysigning at FOSS.in 2010

I will be attending the FOSS.in event from December 15-17 in Bangalore, India.

As part of the Fedora participation at the FOSS.in, I will be running a GPG keysigning party.

This will be the first time I am running a GPG keysigning event and I am following it all on the experiences of Matt Domsch and documented here.

For the FOSS.in session, please ensure that the following is adhered to (again, adopting the good work from Matt):

How To Participate (BOLD is mandatory, ITALICS is optional):

a) You need to pre-register for this.

b) If you do not already have a GPG keypair, get one done.

c) You may choose to add your USERNAME@fedoraproject.org ID into your key pair.

d) Submit your key before the keysigning party to subkeys.pgp.net keyserver. To submit, you will need your KEYID from your keyring. Run the following command:

gpg --list-secret-keys | grep ^sec

which in my case will return:

sec   1024D/746809E3 2006-02-20

What you need to do is to take the portion after 1024D and submit that to the keyserver.

e) To submit your KEYID, you need to execute the following command:

gpg --keyserver subkeys.pgp.net --send-keys KEYID

Make sure you replace the word KEYID above with the actual key.

f) Once the KEYID has been successfully submitted, email me your key fingerprint using the following command:

gpg --fingerprint KEYID | mail -s " key" harishpillay@fedoraproject.org

Just Before FOSS.in (all the following steps are mandatory)

a) If you did pre-register (ie, your emailed me the info requested above), please print out your key fingerprint ONCE and bring it along.

b) If you did not send it ahead of time, you might have to print out multiple copies of your key fingerprint. One copy per person at the keysigning party.  I cannot confirm how many there will be but do watch this blog for that number.

c) To print out your fingerprint, you can use the tool “gpg-key2ps” (found in the pgp-tools RPM – “yum install pgp-tools”).

gpg-key2ps KEYID > YOURNAME-key.ps

will generate on one page the fingerprint of your key. This document, YOURNAME-key.ps can be viewed using evince or if you prefer convert to a pdf using the ps2pdf command.

d) Run md5sum and sha1sum on the foss-in-keysigning-fingerprints.txt file.  The file, foss-in-keysigning-fingerprints.txt will be generated shortly before FOSS.in and you will be notified by email of it’s availability. Print out the results of running both the commands and bring along that piece of paper to the meeting.

e) Bring along a government-issued ID with a photo of yourself in it. This document can be a passport, a national ID card or a driver’s license. It is very important that this document has a photo of yourself that is relatively recent and that this document is government issued.

In summary, right before the kesigning event, you will have two pieces of paper (one with your key fingerprint and the other with the md5sum and sha1sum results of the foss-in-keysigning-fingerprints.txt file).

At the Keysigning Event

Since I am asking for people to pre-register, you will find the needed files on http://harishpillay.fedorapeople.org/foss.in/. We will be READING out thees values in the file to confirm match.

Post Keysigning

Once the values are read out, you will need to do the acutal signing of keys. For this, we will use “CA – Fire and Forget” tool called caff. Caff will be able to do bulk signing of keys and will then send off email  to all those whom you have confirmed. The recipients will then need to retrieve their signed key, import into their gpg keyring and also upload to the keyserver subkeys.pgp.net.

Please watch this space for the exact time and location of the GPG Keysigning event.

Feedback/inputs into the Singapore national budget

I received a note from the Singapore government feedback unit for inputs into the next budget.  I think I will post it here rather than there for atleast I have control on what I want to say and how I say it.

I’d like to have the following addressed:

a) An honest acknowledgement of the contribution of reservists. The current scheme is cleverly masked in payouts that spread over a few years. Also the income tax deductible should be done on the net payable tax.

b) Transparency on all of Temasek Holdings and GIC investments.

My sense is that these will be ignored and deemed to be of no value by the Minister.

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 launch in Singapore

Red Hat is launching the next version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, version 6, on December 3rd 2010 in Singapore at the M Hotel, Anson Road.  It starts at 9 am.  I would be sharing the RHEL 6 overview, features and roadmap.  Sign up here.



Time Programme
8.00am – 9.00am Registration & Welcome Snacks
9.00am – 9.15am Welcome Address
9.15am – 10.00am RHEL 6: Overview, Features, Roadmap

This presentation will provide an overview of the Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 product, covering product goals, new features and capabilities, and packaging. The presentation will be useful for CIOs and IT managers who wish to learn about this new, industry leading operating platform and how it can help them achieve their enterprise computing goals.

10.00am – 10.45am Cloud Infrastructure Matters: Virtualization, Linux and more

Virtualization is the foundational technology for cloud computing, but it is also an important technology in its own right for achieving operation efficiencies in a modern datacenter. Virtualization helps organizations expand their IT capabilities and simultaneously lower capital and operational costs. We will explore key functionality and use cases for server and desktop virtualization. We will also discuss how you can build a virtualization architecture using Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization, and lay the groundwork for both internal and external Clouds using Red Hat technologies.

10.45am – 11.15am Tea Break
11.15am – 12.00pm PaaS, Present and Future: The Essentials for Building, Hosting, Integrating & Managing JBoss Applications in the Cloud

The ability to develop applications, seamlessly integrate them with existing heterogeneous environments and deploy them to a cloud infrastructure is what makes Platform as a Service (PaaS) solutions so attractive. But, the benefits of rapid time to market, increased flexibility and lower costs are not guaranteed. How you design and implement the solution is critical.

Many PaaS offerings introduce a new, proprietary application development environment. Others deliver a PaaS based only on simple developer frameworks, limiting choice and application portability. When evaluating offerings, it’s important to consider portability and interoperability in both development and deployment, support for the programming models you choose to employ, the breadth of the middleware reference architecture, and the availability of tools to assist you throughout the entire application life cycle – from development through management.

In this session we’ll cover the essential requirements for Platform as a Service, and discuss how you can leverage Red Hat’s JBoss Enterprise Middleware today to build, host, integrate and manage applications in public or private clouds.

12.00pm – 12.30pm Red Hat Training and Services: Real-World Perspectives

Enterprise businesses across a variety of industries and sectors rely on Red Hat training and consulting services to address their critical business demands. Learn more about Red Hat’s enhanced training programme, which upskills IT professionals with the knowledge and proven hands-on skills to optimize the performance of Red Hat technologies such as virtualization, cloud computing and Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

12.30pm –12.45pm Question-And-Answer Session


Eagerly awaiting the NASA press conference

NASA will be hosting a press conference on December 2nd at 1900 GMT about some important astrobiological announcement.  I for one am really excited about this and am hoping that it will be as exciting as it is being setup to be.

As a civilisation, we have to come a long, long way.  This journey has seen a lot of efforts spent on trying to answer the question of “why are we here” as well as other existential questions. As an atheist, I have no doubt that whatever we have on this planet is nothing magical, just a matter of how matter aggregates and replicates.  I think it is a given that there are innumerable other “life-forms” built on elements other than carbon.
I am hoping that this announce will be something in that vein.

Fedora 14 launched in Singapore

Fedora 14 was officially launched on November 29, 2010 at the Singapore Management University.  The event was jointly held with the launch of the Open Source Software for Innovation and Collaboration Special Interest Group of the Singapore Computer Society.

About 60 persons attended the event.  Here are some photos. The presentation I did about Fedora is here.
What the Fedora Ambassadors and I showed during the event was the following must haves:
a) Xournal – this is really useful tool to help with the mundane task of “editing” a PDF.  Many a times, I have been stuck with a PDF form that needs a simple signature.  It is criminal to have to print out the PDF, sign it and then to scan and PDF it.  Xournal should be nominated for a Green Award for Software if there is one.
b) NetworkManager‘s ability to share out the network: I used a 3G USB dongle (Bus 006 Device 003: ID 12d1:1001 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. E620 USB Modem) on the laptop that I was using for the launch.  I connected to the 3G network, then got NetworkManager to create a shareable wifi hotspot. This little capability is extremely understated. With the amount of devices around you that are wifi-capable, this ability of a Fedora machine to be able to become a wifi-hotspot is extremely useful.  Yes, you can do tethering with cell phones (atleast the Android 2.2 phones), but this being a standard capability of a Fedora box needs to be publicised.
c) Virtual Machine Manager: What demo is complete if youdo not show virtualization? And the fact that virtualization is built-in in Fedora means that you can now go about experimenting, using, breaking, fixing, updating various other systems.  This alone changes how we consume technology and how we can easily transition to the cloud.
It was an overall fun event.  I hope to see an increased participation by more folks in the Fedora community in Singapore.

More twists and turns

News is coming in that Novell is being bought out by Attachmate for about US$2.2 billion along with Novell’s “intellectual properties” (patents, trademarks, copyrights) being sold to some consortium called CPTN Holdings LLC.  For some reason, CPTN Holdings LLC does not seem to have a web presence of their own. BTW, Attachmate.com seems to be down right now (2330 SGT/1530GMT Nov 22 2010).

I can only speculate as to what the sale of the patents/copyrights to CPTN will mean.  The monies they pay out would want to be recouped which will mean that they will become aggressive in their patent litigation efforts.  I think it is time NOW to ban software patents once and for all.


Reflections of a week of ISO/IEC JTC1 meeting in Belfast

Interesting meeting and great opportunity to meet with people who to me seem to be caught in a world that has seen it’s glory days. I was asked by the Singapore IT Standards Committee to attend as a representative from Singapore. Nice to have an opportunity to represent Singapore at a global stage.

The ISO‘s and the IEC‘s baby ISO/IEC JTC1 just concluded it’s 25th annual plenary in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The meeting lasted from 9am Monday November 8th till about noon Satuday November 13th at the Europa Hotel.  Five and half days of meetings (9am-5pm daily), was needed to ensure that all of the Sub-committees (SCs) and various Working Groups (WGs) were able to update the JTC1 on what they have been able to do over that last twelve months in the various standards making activities. 
Many topics were covered.  Cloud computing and green IT were the top two areas of interest and in need for standards. It is crucial that standards are developed and these ensure that customers cannot be locked-in.  I am agreeable with the notion that the Cloud has the potential to be the mother of all lock-ins [I am not saying this because that link quotes the CEO of Red Hat (where I work), but because it is the big elephant in the room.]
International standards making has some interesting artifacts.  The entities that help make these standards (ISO, IEC, ECMA etc) have as one of their key components in their revenue model, the sale of printed documents containing the standards! I must note that not all of the standards bodies have “sale of printed documents” as a key portion of their revenue model (see IETF, W3C for example). However, the group whose meeting I was in, JTC1, is struggling with the notion of making the standards documents freely downloadable, while parent organization of JTC1 (ISO and IEC) are against it. The plenary did put up a resolution asking that JTC1 standards be kept free of charge to download (and if someone wants a dead-tree version, then pay for it). The continuing resistance from ISO and IEC in making this happen will ultimately see the irrelevance of JTC1 as a IT standards making entity. Perhaps a generational change is needed in the management and leadership of ISO and IEC for this to happen, by which time, I reckon, it will be too late.
Enough of doomsday stuff.  
I must record here that I am really pleased that as part of the outcome of this year’s plenary, there was a recognition that the collaboration tools that the JTC1’s constitutent groups use are not as good as can be.  They use some tool called Livelink (I think) and lots of conference calls etc.  The plenary resolved that they need to have better tools to help with collaboration and there was a call to set up an Ad-Hoc Group (AHG – yes these standards bodies LOVE their acronyms). Singapore, France and a few other countries and SCs offered to be on the AHG and, Singapore offered to chair it and I am happy to say that I will be chairing this global effort to improve the tools that standards-making groups can use to do their work.  I am looking forward to making this happen – I have to report back at the next plenary in November 2011 in San Diego.
I will be tapping on my colleagues in Red Hat and the greater open source community and trying to use the principles in The Open Source Way. Surely, tools like wikis, etherpad, irc chats etc can signifcantly improve the communications and collaboration.  It is quite sad to see word processor-based documents being emailed around as the basis of discussions etc.  Where is the single source of truth of these documents?
So, if anyone there has ideas on easy and robust collaboration tools, tell me. I have to convene a meeting of the AHG to look at these and I certainly want to use quality tools to make it happen. If these tools are open sourced, it will be so much better.

Standards work

Not sure how the upcoming week will pan out, but I am definitely eager to learn what are the nuances and politics that happens at the ISO.  I will be a delegate from Singapore attending the ISO/IEC JTC1 annual plenary in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

It will be a long 5.5 days and I am hoping to blog and dent about it. In the meantime, what are the fun things to do in Belfast?

Congratulations Fedora!

Really happy to see Fedora 14 unleased at 1400 GMT today. I had an opportunity today to engage with a bunch of people who are new to Red Hat and explaining to them Fedora and how Red Hat makes money.  When I mentioned to the audience that Fedora 14 is being released today, they were have a confused expression on their faces.  They did not get it.

So, there is a new version.  What’s the big deal? No, the audience did not ask – they did not know what Fedora was and how it continues to define the leadership of what Open Source software development and innovation is all about. I think I will do the needy and provide the group (whom I will be meeting tomorrow) a copy of the ISO on a thumbdrive so that they can see what this is all about!

StarHub’s illegal code injection

Some time ago, I decided to get the a cable TV set-top box from http://starhub.com. It works OK. Perhaps recorded one movie – but there is no way to extract it out so I think it has not been as useful from my point of view.

As it turns out, that service provides a “free” 1Mbps broadband access.  I already have internet access via my preferred service provider Super Internet. So, I reckoned it was good to have a 2nd line out.
I have both of my broadband links sitting on Fon spot access points running on different channels and SSIDs.  And life is good.
Recently, however, I began noticing that the link out of the StarHub link has some code injections being done on traffic that goes out on port 80. However, SSL Port 443 traffic is safe.
This code that is injected is as follows:
<!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC “-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN” “http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd”&gt;
<html xmlns=”http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml“>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Typecontent=”text/html; charset=UTF-8” />
<title>StarHub ToolBar</title>
<link href=””stylesheettype=”text/css” />
<script src=””text/javascript“></script>
<script src=”http://panel.singapore.wishfi.com/wapi.jstype=”text/javascript“></script>
<script language=”< span class=”webkit-html-attribute-value”>javascript“>
function toolbar(){
var showflag=document.getElementById(‘div1’).style.display;
function showbar(){
document.getElementById(“smsBtn”).className = “sms_bg_btn”;
// $(“#table1”).hide();
function displaybar(){
document.getElementById(“smsBtn”).className = “sms_sm_btn”;
var smsBtn,smsDIV,starHub = new wapi();
smsBtn = document.getElementById(“smsBtn”);
if(typeof smsDIV == “undefined”){
smsDIV = starHub.createHover(smsBtn,”bottom”, 80);
smsDIV.innerHTML = “http://websms.starhub.com/websmsn/widget.jsp“;
function showDiv(){
<script type=”text/javascript“>
var _gaq = _gaq || [];
_gaq.push([‘_setAccount’, ‘UA-7004405-1’]);
_gaq.push([‘_setDomainName’, ‘.starhub.com’]);
(function() {
var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl&#8217; : ‘http://www&#8217;) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
<table width=”1000border=”0align=”centercellpadding=”0cellspacing=”0“>
<td width=”77onClick=”displaybar();“><a href=”http://www.starhub.comtarget=”_blank“><img src=””77height=”90border=”0” /></a></td>
<td width=”728onClick=”displaybar();“><div><script type=”text/javascript“>/* 728×90, created 07-30-2010, ad refreshed every 10 seconds.*/</script><script type=”text/javascriptsrc=”http://weblink.singapore.wishfi.com/startjs.php?lid=1349484171“></script></div></td>
<td background=”” ><!—->
<table width=”100%border=”0cellspacing=”0cellpadding=”0” >
<td width=”160height=”90” >
<div class=”sm_barid=”div1style=”display:; z-index: 214748364“>
<table width=”161border=”0cellspacing=”0id=”table1cellpadding=”0” >
<td height=”84“><table width=”161border=”0cellspacing=”0cellpadding=”0“>
<td width=”66height=”84“><a href=”http://music.starhub.comclass=”music_sm_btntarget=”_blank“></a></td>
<td width=”66id=”sbox1onClick=”showDiv();target=”_blank“><a id=”smsBtnhref=”#class=”sms_sm_btn“></a></td>
<td width=”29onclick=”toolbar();“><a href=”#class=”Show_bar_btn“></a></td>
<div class=”sm_barid=”div2style=”margin-left:-127px!important;display: none; z-index: 214748364” >
<table width=”288border=”0cellspacing=”0cellpadding=”0” >
<td width=”66height=”84“><a href=”http://music.starhub.comclass=”music_bg_btntarget=”_blank“></a></td>
<td width=”66id=”sbox2onClick=”showDiv();target=”_blank“><!–<a href=”#” class=”sms_bg_btn”></a>–></td>
<td wid