Kindle Voyage : A really short review

Has it been five years already, since I first started using a Kindle? Amazing how so many things have changed in this time frame. I had a USD259 Kindle 2 in Feb 2010, then upgraded to a much cheaper USD139 Kindle 3 later that year.

Both were very imperfect e-book readers, hampered by the technologies of 2010. To be honest, I haven’t used my Kindles much in the past few years as the iPad, and later the iPad mini took over the e-book reader function. What I really couldn’t tolerate was the low contrast, low resolution (167 ppi) and dull grey e-ink screen of those Kindles.

Continue reading Kindle Voyage : A really short review

Why and how to buy a UHD TV

This is not a great time to buy a new television for your home as the industry is in transition from the old full HD 1080p standard to Ultra HD (UHD) standard, otherwise also known as 4k TVs.

But if you’re like me, whose faithful Samsung HDTV died after six years of service and it needed to get replaced, you would still have to figure out what type of TV to buy. I learned a lot of things when I was TV shopping back in June and am finally putting down my learnings here for people getting all confused about 4k, UHD, Full HD and all that jazz.

TV-buying is not as easy as buying a PC or a smartphone, so here’s the crash course.

Continue reading Why and how to buy a UHD TV

Please stop wasting our public money

giftpack

For a couple of years now, I’ve been increasingly annoyed by the poor use of taxpayer dollars by the Singapore government for frivolous or impractical things, while cost of living continues to shoot up and everyone is unhappier than ever with the state of things.

Today I read a news story which really took the (50th birthday) cake. Continue reading Please stop wasting our public money

Thoughts on Fitbit and activity trackers

I recently started using a Fitbit Zip activity tracker because I was intrigued by this whole idea of doing 10,000 steps a day to keep fit. At S$78 (before the Challenger member 10% discount), it’s not cheap but it’s not expensive either for a tiny pedometer that comes with Bluetooth wireless capabilities and built-in user account.

To be clear, it’s not like I need a pedometer, because I already jog regularly two to three times a week and I watch what I eat most of the time. I weigh myself daily now with a Fitbit Aria scale that logs my weight to my personal account and I can always study my weight variations anytime on my phone or PC.

But once you pique my curiosity and it involves tech and fitness, I just have to try it out to gain an understanding of what other people are raving about. Continue reading Thoughts on Fitbit and activity trackers

Garmin Forerunner 620 review

I recently wrote my first article for Geek Culture, a fantastic blog site for us tech pseudo-nerds and gaming fans. It’s a review of Garmin’s latest flagship running watch, the Forerunner 620.

If you’re serious about running, you’re probably already using a GPS running watch to track your weekly progress. And if you’re a geek, I would wager you are also wondering if somebody has fixed the various technical shortcomings of your current watch.

Issues like heavy weight, ugly looks, bulky size, inconvenient battery charging, short battery life, limited data displays, slow GPS lock-on to poorly designed websites, I’ve experienced all of them in the past four years since I started using different wrist devices to record my runs.

That’s why when Garmin first announced its latest flagship running watch – the Forerunner 620 – the geek in me sat up and noticed. From paper specifications alone, the watch appears to have been designed to fix most of these niggling issues. Even with its high price (USD449 with the improved and advanced Heart Rate Monitor, more on that later), it seemed too good to be true.

Check out the rest of the review here. Since I bought the watch, it had better be good, and hence my review is going to be pretty obvious.

Losing Weight: Technology Can Help

copymysports

Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch
Garmin Forerunner 210 GPS watch

For those who aren’t on my Facebook, I’ve decided to make my book “Anyone Can Lose Weight” free instead of USD1.00, and you can download it from this page. At the same time, I’m going to post more blog updates on weight management as this is still a learning journey for me and people keep asking me new questions which make me think “Hmmm, that’ll make a good blog post”. What’s really encouraging is that more people I know are starting to count their calories or at least rein in their eating habits, and they’re seeing pretty quick results. Losing weight isn’t a tortuous process, just read my book (which is really an edited compilation of my earlier blog posts) to find out how.

I’m a geek by nature and when it comes to weight management, it’s only natural that I seek out the latest technology to make it easier and more fun.

Obviously, you can lose/manage your weight without spending a cent at all (remember to buy new running socks though!) but it’s interesting how technology has advanced in the past few years to enable weight monitoring on a daily basis, across different platforms (PC, smartphone etc) in an increasingly seamless way. Remember what you’re about to read is purely optional, and is really catered for the geeky folks out there. Continue reading Losing Weight: Technology Can Help

The Tuition Problem nobody wants to solve

Dear Voices Editor

I refer to the Today report “MPs call for closer look at private tuition industry” (Today 17 Sep 2013)

It was a disheartening story for parents of primary school children to read.

While the original question posed by MPs in Parliament was focused on whether teachers are leaving the Education Service for more lucrative careers in the tuition sector, the replies from Senior Minister of State Indranee Rajah was a disturbing indication that the Ministry of Education doesn’t consider the tuition industry to be a critical issue.

Like it or not, it’s time for policymakers to stop ignoring the Tuition Problem if we are to improve the education system in Singapore. Continue reading The Tuition Problem nobody wants to solve

A Gear Shift For The Car Population

This post first appeared on the Breakfast Network.

It was Budget Day and many carrots were handed out.

But most folks I know zoomed in on the two new rules for purchasing new cars:

1. The new MAS rulings for car loans, capped at 60 per cent for OMV less than $20K, and 50 per cent for OMV more than $20K. Car loans are now capped at a tenure of five years.

2. The new tiered Additional Registration Fee (ARF) which increases the tax on luxury cars by up to 180 per cent, versus 100 per cent for low capacity car models.  According to Today: “The ARF for cars with OMVs up to S$20,000 will remain at the current 100 per cent, but two more tiers will be introduced for more expensive models. The next S$30,000 of the OMV of the car will attract an ARF rate of 140 per cent, and any value beyond S$50,000 will attract an ARF rate of 180 per cent.”

The knee jerk reactions came Fast and Furious :

– Car dealers opening their showrooms till midnight for one last desperate lunge at buyers. The question is how many impulse buys were there last night? Once again, it looks like more car salesmen are about to lose their jobs as more buyers are squeezed out of the market.

– On any Facebook stream, you can see two clear reactions: “It’s about time!” vs “Another policy to favor the rich!”. It’s also obvious who is cash-rich and who isn’t, based on the comments.

– Speculation among the more car-savvy folks on how much the COE will drop due to this. Personally, I’m guessing 20-50 per cent drop over six months as the market of buyers shrink. The question is: Of the people who are interested in spending over $200K on a new car, how many of them are cash rich?

Don’t be hating me okay… but I think the Gahmen’s latest measures on tiered ARF tax and cap on car loans are logical and sensible ways of controlling the car population.

Some may think that this favors the rich, but not really, since the rich are taxed more on luxury cars now. Sure, it’s not going to stop a millionaire from buying his Porsche, but it does make the average Joe looking to buy a BMW think a bit harder about his purchase.

The latest policies favor the financially prudent who know how to accumulate cash for a rainy day. For too long, people have forgotten the virtue of saving cold hard cash, relying instead on loans and credit, and spending more than their means. Even if the COE price doesn’t drop much, at least this is sound public policy that will appease those who have been unhappy about the current COE system and have been asking for alternatives (which have been soundly rejected by the Transport Ministry repeatedly).

It also sends a very explicit message to young people just starting out in their careers that owning a car is not a given, but a luxury item. The 2000s were a period when COE prices were low (I got mine at under $5,000 in 2009) due to wrong projections of COE deregistrations, and many young people could afford cars then. Since then, there have been one corrective action after another by the authorities to reverse the over-supply of COE in the market, and this looks like the most potent move yet.

More interestingly, the latest move on capping car loans comes from the Monetary Authority of Singapore because it wants to “safeguard against borrowers defaulting on their repayments” and encouraging financial prudence.

Now how many people have defaulted on their car loans recently? That would be a newsworthy number to know. If the number is low, maybe the G folks should just say it straight: “We don’t want you to borrow money for a car you can’t afford.”