Thursday, June 26, 2008

Don't roll your eyes at this

From Tech News

Today • Friday • June 27, 2008


Rolling your eyes to turn up the volume of a portable music player and tapping your fingers to turn on a DVD player are among technologies Japan’s top mobile carrier is testing for “wearable” gadgets.


In one version, sensors and chips inside headphones detect the electrical current produced by movements of the wearer’s eyeballs, said Mr Masaaki Fukumoto, executive research engineer at NT DoCoMo.


NT DoCoMo believes wearable control technology will be adapted for mobile devices that download music, play video games and allow users to shop online and keep up with their emails.


In a demonstration, researcher Hiroyuki Manabe wore a giant headset covered with wires to show how computer graphic lines in a monitor connected to the headset darted wildly whenever his eyes moved. He turned up the volume on a digital music player by rolling his eyes and he jerked his eyes twice to the right to fast forward.


The new technology may also enable cell phone cameras to read bar codes used in Japan to get product information, or to download music and coupons when the user simply looks at the codes, researchers said.


Mr Fukumoto showed a wearable mobile phone shaped like a ring about the size of a ping pong ball. When a wearer sticks his fingers in his ears, the sound travels as vibrations through his bones and into his ears, where it is heard as sound again. Another iteration of the technology appears in a wristwatch that can detect the wearer’s thumb and forefinger tapping together to work as a remote controller for such gadgets as a DVD player.


The days when wearable technology looks like fancy cumbersome space-suits are over. The latest look is everyday and inconspicuous, blending into the routine, Mr Fukumoto said.


But when such technology will become real products, if ever, is still unknown, he said.


You will never be lost again

From Technology

Today • Friday • June 27, 2008


Location-based applications for mobile phones are going to be a really big deal




LOCATION-BASED applications for mobile phones seem to be the next big thing after social networking websites. Dr Vint Cerf, one of the famed “fathers of the Internet” and Google’s chief Internet evangelist, told the local press on a recent visit that he was a big believer in investing in the geographical indexing of information and making it useful for people.


“The idea of having information relevant to where you are is hugely appealing,” he said. “It’s tremendously valuable to find out what you can do nearby.”


It’s no surprise that quite a number of top applications developed for Google’s upcoming Android platform for mobiles are location-based. Apple chief Steve Jobs is also a believer, saying at the launch of the GPS-capable iPhone 3G phone that such services are “going to be a really big deal”.


Location-sensing technology in the form of Global Positioning System (GPS) is becoming a more common feature, even in mid-range phones from the likes of Nokia. GPS-device maker Garmin has also developed a touch-screen mobile phone — the nuvifone — wrapped around the concept of location-based applications.


Faster connectivity with 3.5G and WiFi hotspots also allow phones to fetch data from the Internet and overlay it onto virtual maps, creating useful mash-ups on the move.


Here’s a showcase of new applications for mobile phones that exemplify the advantages of location-based services.




Whrrl is a location-based application that helps users find nearby retail establishments and places of interest using a phone with location-mapping features. What makes it useful is you can access reviews and recommendations associated with these places.


Say you have a date at your favourite Italian restaurant but realise it is fully booked when you arrive. You can scan your location using Whrrl for other restaurants and pick one nearby with the highest ratings from your friends or other users. Whrrl also provides contact details so you can call the restaurant to check if they have empty tables. Nifty, no?


Whrrl uses Google Maps and overlays coloured orbs on the map to show you where your friends have been or plan to go to and the ratings they have given. This is a cool way of sharing experiences so you know what to expect the next time you waltz into a restaurant.


Although the service is available only in the United States, you can access similar local mashups like the mobile version of HungryGoWhere ( on your phone. The next version of the Singapore-based Digital Concierge 2Go mobile application that will be out next month will also help you pinpoint nearby restaurants and retail outlets.




We chanced upon Enkin when Google’s senior director of mobile platforms Andy Rubin dropped by the Singapore Google office last week and showed off applications on its upcoming Android platform.


Enkin allows you to search for a location ala Google Maps, but it also allows you to zoom in on your real-time location. It overlays data and graphics on the live video feed from your mobile, and labels and tracks the landmarks that appear on your screen, letting you know if you’re headed in the right direction. It’s like looking through a magical magnifying glass to find your way around.


Enkin does this by using a camera phone, GPS and an electronic compass (a rare but upcoming feature for mobiles), mashing up reality and maps. A novel way of navigating, it’s much easier than tracking a dot on a map.


Enkin is still in the early stages of development, but its take on navigation was enough to make us go “wow”. It’s so futuristic that we’ve seen its features only in concept videos of 4G mobile devices from Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo.


Words can’t describe how cool this application is; watch the video on its website to catch it in action.




Imagine if Facebook could map out where your friends are. That’s what Loopt’s mobile application does, engineering serendipity by keeping you in the loop so you don’t miss a chance to connect in real life.


So, the next time Jennie updates her status on Loopt and if she’s having a coffee at a cafe nearby, you will be able to see which cafĂ© she’s at and ask her if she wants company.


Loopt provides the user with a “social compass” with detailed maps that show where your friends are and what they’re up to. You can send messages and photos, along with your location. It would be easier for them to share their experiences and for you to visit where they have been since it’s been conveniently mapped.


And for those with privacy concerns, the application allows you to cloak your location or choose to show it to a few select friends.


Even if your friends aren’t on Loopt, the service has a Facebook application that allows you to keep your contacts there updated on where you are and what you are up to as you update your location on your mobile phone.


Loopt is limited to the United States now, but you can expect more location-based services being mashed up with social networking such as brightkite ( and the Google-owned dodgeball (


Earlier this week, Nokia acquired a tech start-up called Plazes which helps you track your friends on a map.


And there’s local startup ShowNearby ( Apart from providing you with driving directions, it plans to have a mobile application that replicates Loopt’s functions by the end of the year.


ShowNearby tells us that it will be using cell tower triangulation technology, which is less accurate than GPS, but which works indoors as well.


You will be able to scan your location for the nearest events or check whether your friends are nearby, allowing you to message them and see whether you are within walking distance.


Dates with Dad


Today Friday • June 27, 2008


By Dr James Dobson


I’m sure you’ve heard the old story about the father who said that giving his daughter to the man she loved was like giving a beautiful hand-made violin to a gorilla.


I think all dads feel that way about their little girls, and maybe for some very good reasons. Sometimes, it seems that courtesy and respect have been replaced by hostility towards women.


Pornographic material, for example, typically depicts women in degrading and dehumanising poses. And a favourite theme of R&B music is the abuse and disrespect of women. Now, predictably, this attitude is even evident at times in the young men who date our daughters.


There’s an approach to this problem that I like. A father in northern Virginia has allowed his seven-year-old daughter to start dating. But here’s the catch: He’s always the date. Every few months, he takes her out to eat or to a movie that she wants to see. And during the course of the evening, he treats her as a gentleman should.


That way, when she’s old enough to start dating other guys, she’ll know what to expect from them. I think dads should also model courtesy for their boys, by treating their mothers with respect every day in the home. This attitude won’t go unnoticed by their children.


The bottom line is that there’s a right and wrong way for a man and woman to relate to each other. The key ingredient is respect. Let’s teach our best to our boys and girls.

Put away that PSP and pick up a book

From My News, Home







IT STRUCK me earlier this week while jostling with the morning crowd on the MRT train on the way to work.


In the past few months, I’ve witnessed scores of commuters busy with one activity: Pounding away at a sleek PlayStation Portable (PSP), Nintendo DS or a similar hand-held gaming console.


A young, smart-suited executive whose fingers dance over a console, oblivious to the world around him; a teenager in school uniform hooked on her tiny screen. And that kid, hunched over his tiny machine while completely ignoring his distraught mother.


While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with playing these games per se, my concern is that Singaporeans appear to be developing a fondness for such gadgets at the expense of a valuable tradition: Reading.


So, what’s happened to reading a book?


As a child, I would faithfully carry a book with me wherever I go, be it an Enid Blyton or a Hardy Boys title.


En route to a relative’s place or to a shopping mall, I would whip it out whenever I felt bored on the bus or train.


With my vocabulary gleaned from years of reading the Famous Five or Stephen King, my grasp of English improved tremendously – if I may say so myself.


Till this day, I still remember my first book, The Town Mouse And The Country Mouse, one of Aesop’s fables, which took me a painful week to finish – and the amazing joy I had after reading it.


How many of you still remember your first book?


Oh wait, a more appropriate question would be: How many of you remember the last book you read?


As videogames take up our commuting time, our books are left to languish on the shelves and collect dust.


Of course, I’m not asking everyone to boycott game consoles. I do understand why some people prefer hand-held gaming consoles to books once in a while.


After a hard day’s work, some may just want to let their minds relax with a good game of Puzzle Bobble or Zelda. In fact, if I had enough money, I would buy a PSP myself for entertainment.


However, it would never, under any circumstances, replace my first love – books.


I used to get so immersed in a book that I would miss the stop on my way home from school (resulting in an unforgettable ordeal, at age seven, lost in Chinatown with no money for a cab – but that’s material for another column).


I fear that children grow up not knowing classic books that inspire many, while adults add playing with yet another gadget to their arsenal of mind-numbing activities.


I can just imagine French writer Alexandre Dumas flipping in his grave as The Count Of Monte Cristo is remembered by most as a good Hollywood movie, rather than an excellent novel.


At best, working at that console improves your motor skills.


But at its worst, it can be a terrible distraction and take time away from more rewarding pursuits such as, well, reading.


A stab of a button on the console may give you that momentary thrill, what with its dizzying, moving pictures and vivid colours.


But it pales in comparison to the life-long impact of a good book. Reading is ceaselessly educational and inspirational. A great read can take you places you never dreamt possible.


So the next time you find yourself on the train staring at your shoes, don’t turn to that gaming console to pass the time.


Pick up a book.


From My Say, My Views in 60 Seconds



THE Government’s plan to allow cyclists to share footpaths with pedestrians has received much feedback. But the authorities may wish to rectify some of the existing problems first.


Some footpaths are so narrow that it is not possible for both cyclists and pedestrians to use them at the same time. Cyclists also need to equip their bikes with lights and a warning bell.


And, most importantly, cyclists need to give way to pedestrians when they are on the footpaths – and not the other way round.


Mr Ishwar Mahtani



From My Money

My Biz in 60 Seconds


HONG Kong is set to launch its first commodities exchange early next year to capitalise on China’s growing demand for oil and other raw materials, officials said yesterday.


Working on the move? Beware who's eavesdropping on you

From My Money



Sneaking peeks at documents of others in public common, survey in Britain and US shows


EXECUTIVES who often work on the move or in public places had better be more discreet about their business conversations and documents.


A survey in Britain and the United States, released last week, found that eavesdropping in public places was common.


Information exchanged during supposedly private business conversations were also used by others for their own advantage, according to survey findings.


Conducted by flexible work solutions provider Regus, the survey found that 67 per cent of Britons had listened in on someone else’s business conversation while they were in public places.


Americans were also guilty of this act – 59 per cent of those polled did just that. Besides eavesdropping, the habit of sneaking a peek at other people’s business documents in public places, such as while on the train, was also not unheard of.


Nearly two out of five British professionals (35 per cent) and 34 per cent of Americans surveyed said they had caught sight of other people’s sensitive company documents.


And the shocking thing was that 13 per cent of Britons and 19 per cent of Americans said they were able to use the information overheard for their own business purposes.


The study of 1,000 respondents also revealed that remote working had led to a growing culture where business was conducted in strange and, sometimes, inappropriate places.


Almost half of travelling British executives spent at least half a day per week working in a public place.


They also faced the dilemma of needing a private place to make phone calls or work from their laptops.


One in six had resorted to working from public toilets, while slightly more than half did so in pubs and bars.


A large number of them (65 per cent) used busy restaurants as their mobile offices.


Said Mr Kurt Mroncz, the UK sales and marketing director of Regus: “From a dangerous lack of privacy to difficult and absurd working environments, business travellers are often put in impossible positions as they try to carry out their professional role.”


The survey findings also reflected a significant vulnerability in British corporate security, said Mr David Porter, head of security and risk at Detica, a business and technology specialist.


“The growing tide of professionals expected to work ‘on the hoof’ is putting the UK’s prized corporate intellectual property, trade secrets and deals at risk,” he said.

Revolving skyscraper

From My News, World



DUBAI, the playground of the rich, has a new prestige project. A shape-shifting luxury condominium called Dynamic Tower. The 420m-tall building features 80 apartments that spin at voice command around a central column. Each apartment will take between one and three hours to make a 360-degree rotation. Architect David Fisher, who presented the project in New York on Tuesday, said the energy-self-sufficient skyscraper should be completed in 2010. Buyers will have to fork out up to US$36 million (S$49 million) for a 1,200 sq m unit.



Singaporeans to have most number of PCs in Asia by 2012

From My News, Home





SINGAPORE is expected – within four years – to be tops in the Asia-Pacific region for having the highest number of personal computers (PCs) per 1,000 population, says a research survey.


The findings are from a recently released research conducted by American information technology research and advisory company, Gartner.


The article was quoted on the website of Computerworld Singapore.


The research also found that the number of PCs installed around the world had reached more than 1 billion and this number “will grow by about 12 per cent annually”.


It is estimated that by 2014, the number of PCs will double what it is currently.


Accordingly, Singapore is expected to hit the three million mark for installed PCs this year. That is tantamount to 672 PCs per 1,000 population.


That number is expected to surge to 4.5 million PC units by 2012, equivalent to 948 PCs per 1,000 population.


However, despite the sharp increase in installed PCs, the PC usage growth rate is predicted to slow.


According to the article, this is due to “Singapore’s status as a mature market”. Currently, such mature markets make up 58 per cent of installed PCs.


But Gartner estimates that it is the emerging markets that will dominate the world’s PC market share.


Mr Georg Shiffler, Gartner’s research director, was quoted as saying: “We expect per capita PC penetration in emerging markets to double by 2013. Rapid penetration in emerging markets is being driven by the explosive expansion of broadband and wireless connectivity in these markets.”

One bag too many for McDonald's delivery

From Ground Zero

Citizen Journalism in Action



A STOMP contributor spotted this McDonald’s delivery rider carrying two delivery bags in Bukit Panjang.


“Isn’t it dangerous for him to be doing that?” he wonders.


Stomp contacted McDonald’s and this is its reply: “At McDonald’s, safety has always been of paramount importance to us.


“With regard to the situation highlighted to us, we have since carried out an investigation and reminded the relevant restaurant manager and rider of our one-bag policy while riding.”


McDonald’s added that it will monitor the situation and do periodic spot-checks.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Electricity tariffs to increase for third quarter

From My News, Home



ELECTRICITY bills look set to increase again for the Singapore household – and you can blame it on the soaring crude oil prices.


From July to September, households will pay a record-high 25.07 cents per kilowatt hour (kwh) – a rise of 4.98 per cent from 23.88 cents per kwh in the second quarter.


This latest increase means that families staying in one- to five-room HDB flats will pay $1.24 to $5.03 more a month in electricity bills.


Some Singaporeans my paper spoke said that they are biting the electricity bullet.


Said research analyst intern Ms Carol Koh, 22: “We try to cut costs by not using air-conditioning.”


Ms Koh stays in a five-room HDB with her parents and they keep their electricity bills to as low as $120 a month.


Domestic or low tension electricity tariffs are reviewed quarterly by SP services, a subsidiary of Singapore Power.



Once upon a time in Singapore

From My News, Home



A BRAND new record for the “most number of kids aged 12 years and below contributing to a story in one location” has been set for the Singapore Book Of Records. For more than 10 weekends, aspiring kid authors have contributed a section to a flowing story from where the last contributor left off.


Resignation Letter 3...

Verbose and Formal… touching, eh…?