Lim Seng Lee duck rice

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Lim Seng Lee duck rice, originally uploaded by sangsara.

I ate here last week and it was still as good as when my family used to visit on a regular basis over a decade ago. These days they’re closed on Sunday, inexplicably, which is a bit of a bother as there never used to be anything else of interest nearby to make up for going down on a Saturday night.

The new West Coast Plaza mall has just now opened though, so that’s not too bad. I picked up a copy of Apocalypto on DVD for about $15 and had some coffee from the Seattle-based Tully’s company, which has just opened two outlets here in Singapore. I think the other one is at Far East Square but can’t be sure.

Lim Seng Lee Duck Rice & Porridge
38 South Buona Vista Road
Tel: 6475 9908

HungryGoWhere users have given them a 5.8 score, which I think is ridiculous because they are at least an 8 by hawker food standards.

Broadband Speed Comparison: Singnet vs Starhub (SCV)

For a brief period of time, I will be having both Singnet and Starhub broadband services in my home, so I thought it would be fun to run speed tests and see if I’ve made the right decision in switching (I shan’t say from which to which).

Both are 8Mbps plans, with Singnet promising up to 512kbps of upload bandwidth, and Starhub only half of that, at 256kbps up to 768kbps after a recent free upgrade. Their prices are comparable. I connect to both via Wi-Fi, although my Starhub connection uses WEP and my Singnet uses WPA. It’s supposed to make a slight difference, but I don’t expect it will matter much because speedtest.net results tend to vary within a few minutes of each other (I’ve run tests consecutively and seen very different results – generally if it doesn’t make sense [like upload speeds coming very close to download speeds], I’ll run them again and take the higher one). It’s not an exact science but I hope the data will be useful anyway.

Note: Starhub product literature mentions that a “speedboost” is provided when visiting certain partner sites, which accounts for exceptional download speeds in some cases, like the Asian results. I’ve left these in because I chose global test servers at random, so all’s fair. Unless of course Starhub partnered these sites specifically to optimize their speedtest.net results. Just saying.

11:30am to 12 noon
(Singnet results before Starhub)

EUROPE

London, UK

Stockholm, Sweden

Dusseldorf, Germany

Singnet vs Starhub: 9251kbps vs 7809kbps
Morning European Winner: Singnet

ASIA

Yokohama, Japan

Taipei, Taiwan

Hong Kong, China

Singnet vs Starhub: 6826 vs 16490
Morning Asian Winner: Starhub

AMERICAS

San Francisco, USA

Washington DC, USA

Denver, USA

Singnet vs Starhub: 9954 vs 10900

Morning American Winner: Starhub (just barely, and only because of a “speedboost”)

LOCAL

Singapore

Morning Local Winner: Starhub

Overall Morning Winner: Starhub

——–


2pm

I’m switching to Numion.com for this test. It loads a mix of popular websites in a bunch of inline browser frames to measure your “real-world” browsing speed, as well as a regular download/upload test to gauge maximum speeds.

My custom settings for this are: English language sites only, from Singapore, the UK, and the USA. It runs for 30 seconds instead of the default 15.

Singnet:

Download speed: 5,643.80 (705.47) 100%
Upload speed: 533.31 (66.66) 99%
Surfspeed inside Singapore: 253.82 (31.72) 51%
Surfspeed average (worldwide): 152.05 (19.00) 100%
Surfspeed outside Singapore: 145.01 (18.12) 100%
Latency: 619 milliseconds

Starhub:

kilobit/sec (kilobyte/sec)
Download speed: 5,029.70 (628.71) 89%
Upload speed: 743.02 (92.87) 100%
Surfspeed inside Singapore: 627.27 (78.40) 100%
Surfspeed average (worldwide): 237.16 (29.64) 100%
Surfspeed outside Singapore: 225.17 (28.14) 100%
Latency: 798 milliseconds

Starhub wins at surfing for now, but it’ll be interesting to see what results are like during the peak evening hours. When it comes to overall maximum throughput and latency though, Singnet actually takes this one. That might be of some value to gamers and people using P2P systems.

Edit: I just ran the Numion test again for Singnet and this time it managed 987.87kbps for “Surfspeed inside Singapore”, against the previous 253.82kbps, and beating Starhub’s 627.27kbps. The latency for Singnet jumped to 1000ms though. Once again, it just shows how you can’t rely on these tests too much.

—-

7:00pm-7:30pm

I ran another batch of speedtest.net tests, but decided that their tests are flawed and fluctuate too much. At some points, running the same country’s test will route your data through another ISP/host in their network, leading to dissimilar results (I did not take note of these hosts’ names, so could not be sure that I was comparing Singnet & Starhub on equal ground. Numion’s methodology makes more sense.

9pm Numion Test

Singnet:

kilobit/sec (kilobyte/sec)
Download speed: 4,897.72 (612.21) 85%
Upload speed: 511.97 (63.99) 69%
Surfspeed inside Singapore: 757.11 (94.63) 39%
Surfspeed average (worldwide): 143.31 (17.91) 57%
Surfspeed outside Singapore: 136.94 (17.11) 61%
Latency: 667 milliseconds

Starhub:

kilobit/sec (kilobyte/sec)
Download speed: 2,594.75 (324.34) 45%
Upload speed: 743.45 (92.93) 100%
Surfspeed inside Singapore: 1,933.16 (241.64) 100%
Surfspeed average (worldwide): 251.39 (31.42) 100%
Surfspeed outside Singapore: 217.54 (27.19) 97%
Latency: 745 milliseconds

Singnet wins again on maximum speed/latency, but loses out in surfing speed. I’m not sure if this has something to do with my Starhub going through a dedicated 3com OfficeConnect router while Singnet goes through the provided 2WIRE brand integrated ADSL modem & wireless router.

Anecdotally, I’m seeing better perceived performance with Singnet, with YouTube and GameTrailers.com videos starting to play almost instantly.

9:20pm

Downloading the demo for Aquaria from Ambrosia SW’s FTP server. Singnet gives me approx 50kb/s, while Starhub is fluctuating between 15-30kb/s, with more time spent between 15-20kb/s.

1:00am

I wanted to do a test at 11pm, but couldn’t spare the time. Anyhow 1am isn’t too bad, most people have gone to bed, leaving it the domain of students, gamers, and the unemployed (power users).

Singnet:

kilobit/sec (kilobyte/sec)
Download speed: 7,177.84 (897.23) 100%
Upload speed: 529.72 (66.21) 71%
Surfspeed inside Singapore: 896.36 (112.04) 46%
Surfspeed average (worldwide): 130.76 (16.34) 52%
Surfspeed outside Singapore: 115.63 (14.45) 51%
Latency: 4030 milliseconds

Starhub:

kilobit/sec (kilobyte/sec)
Download speed: 5,124.30 (640.53) 89%
Upload speed: 738.49 (92.31) 99%
Surfspeed inside Singapore: 952.79 (119.09) 49%
Surfspeed average (worldwide): 166.38 (20.79) 66%
Surfspeed outside Singapore: 157.93 (19.74) 70%
Latency: 787 milliseconds

I don’t know what’s up with Singnet’s latency calculation, it’s probably faulty or a sign of the 2WIRE modem’s inability to handle opening 40-something http connections at once. Pinging individual servers reveals a much lower number, like 190ms (google.com) or 214ms (twitter.com).

We’re now at the end of the day, and I’m not sure how to read these numbers but I can say Singnet feels as fast as or faster than Starhub for regular surfing. Starhub’s ping times aren’t so great for gaming (but conventional wisdom has always held that DSL is the better choice), but if you visit a lot of Asian/local sites, their speedboost partnerships may be reason enough to put up with high pings and time-of-day-specific slowdowns. Starhub’s recent upgrade to 768kbps upload speeds (on the 8mbps plan) is also very attractive, and I’d like to see Singnet raising their upload caps in the near future.

Your milage will vary, especially since Starhub’s speeds are dependent on location and neighborhood activity. My area isn’t very densely populated, so the Starhub results don’t look too bad at all against the horror stories I’ve heard. If I could choose to keep either one, I’d take Singnet for being more consistent throughout the day and having better response times, but would feel a little sore about having lower upload speeds. I don’t feel that Starhub’s better surfing speeds on paper make a big difference in real world usage. For example, I just loaded the entire front page of the New York Times in about 3 seconds, minus the ads.

Singapore Biennale 2008

Container structure for the 2008 Singapore Biennale

20081105-IMG_0536

Aliens and the Supreme Court building

The half-shipping container, half-Parthenon structure above is one of the venues for this year’s Biennale (sadly ending this weekend, and completely neglected by myself for the past two months). One of the exhibits inside is an expression of the perfect city in a series of sketches and wood models of observatories. Something like that.

The aliens posing next to the Supreme Court building can be seen at City Hall. A couple more photos in my Flickr stream.

News Roundup: 6 November 2008

From this morning’s cursory glance through the Straits Times (print edition).

  • Burger King has finally brought the Quad Stacker to Singapore. I never understood the point of marketing a burger called the Quad Stacker, and offering wimp-out options like a Double or Triple variation. Locally, these are being called the “Bold Stacker” (2 patties) and the “Brave Stacker” (3 patties). If you want to eat like a (fat) man, you also have to have swallow your pride and self-respect by saying “I’d like a Ballsy Stacker, please.” Imagine that.

    As of today, I’m publicly offering my services to any company about to make a stupid marketing move. If you have even the smallest iota of doubt about a name, promotion, slogan, or ad that you’re about to debut, please call me. I might not even charge you, depending on how much I like your brand. Burger King, I adore you. We could have avoided this. Call me.

  • Starhub has conceded that they won’t be able to sell the iPhone here by year’s end after all. You may remember back in July when it became clear that Singtel had won the rights to local distribution, and would be part of the second wave of some twenty-two countries to get the iPhone in August. At that time, M1 and Starhub released statements that they were confident of offering the device by the end of 2008, despite the unlikelihood of this. Apple’s global deployment follows an easily discernible pattern. For those we’ve seen so far, deals were made in each country with single or multiple telcos before a coordinated roll-out with many territories beginning sales on a common date. That is how it was done on the 22nd of August, and again on the 26th of September. The fourth phase begins tomorrow, on the 7th of November, for countries such as Botswana and Croatia.

    In no case that I am aware of has Apple ever opened up distribution in a country where the iPhone was already available from a single telco, to multiple telcos. If multiple telcos were not awarded iPhone rights from Day One, it is unlikely that agreement will change until the global roll-out is complete. Singtel may also have paid for exclusive rights lasting anywhere from 6 months to 2 years, but may not be able to discuss it. That M1 and Starhub expressed confidence to the press whilst still in discussions with Apple – as they reiterated today, saying that talks were still on, but Apple had their own priorities – was incalculably foolish. One does not court Apple by doing anything but follow the rules, secrecy being one of the tacitly understood, and not speaking on its behalf being the most important.

    M1 was probably never going to get it this year after their CEO put his foot in his mouth about the iPhone not being a 3.5G device. I suspect Starhub executives were well aware of their slim chances, and only made an open show of bravado to prevent sales and stock prices from slipping. I’m not sure if that’s illegal, but it should be. Either way, they deserve a couple of Ballsy Stackers.

  • Some guy got elected President somewhere. I think Iran or Pakistan.
  • The Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) has started enforcing a dress code for its students, and few are happy about it. If you were thinking suits, ties, and cufflinks in the heat of a Singaporean summer, you’d be quite wrong. Instead the school only asks that students not dress like complete sluts (the very definition of a Pyrrhic victory) and fishmongers (I like fishmongers as people). Slippers, singlets, short shorts, mini-skirts, cheap dye jobs, and bermuda shorts form most of the listed fashion crimes.

    To come out and say it, I think this was a move long overdue. I’m very disappointed that the NUS & NTU, our two most prominent universities, have not taken similar steps. They discourage sloppy dressing, but do nothing to prevent it. I am appalled that the Singapore Management University (SMU) has no stated dress code whatsoever. This is just a colossal embarrassment for the ideals of higher education.

    Yes, it should not have to be enforced. Yes, people should be free to decide on their own. But those decisions should start and begin with the realization that it is not respectful of your own purpose, your field of expertise, your parents, your tutors, and your country (even if you are a foreign student) if you can’t put on a pair of pants and wipe the drool off your face before attending classes at a university. We’ve always subscribed to a philosophy of heavy-handed, artificially accelerated social evolution (engineering, even) here in Singapore. We’ve turned things around from a time where spitting, urinating, and sleeping on the streets have gone from commonplace sights to reviled acts of antisociality. If we hadn’t done so, one might argue, foreign investments and economic growth may have eluded us for far longer. We should not be, and likely are not, ashamed of this. Asking students of a management institute or university to put some proper clothes on is not something to suddenly be surprised or upset about. And it should not have to be enforced.

    Unless it’s a degree mill or those students just don’t give a shit about learning. Hey, I’m just sayin’.

Avenue Q at The Esplanade

I wasn’t expecting to thoroughly enjoy Avenue Q last weekend, in part because it had been hyped to me as being extremely funny, and when your marketing is all about how you’re a naughty adults-only take on a children’s show, the likelihood of being genuinely, naturally funny is diminished. Fortunately, those expectations were lowered the night before when a friend said it was enjoyable, but not as funny as he’d been led to believe. In my opinion, that is how one should head into the show. Expect to have a smile on your face, but not to laugh (unless you find any mention of homosexuality to be funny, like some others at my seating).

My initial expectation was that the actors/puppeteers would be invisibly clad in black, like Kuroko stagehands in Japanese theatre, but they stood alongside their puppets and emoted in sync. If a puppet character was confused, it would show in the body language and on the face of his handler. This peripheral vision trick worked really well, and indirectly lent the felt and fabric actors an emotional presence.

In the end, I was impressed by the Filipino cast’s performances (excellent female lead Carla Guevara comes off two years as Miss Saigon in London), the familiar set design, novel stagecraft, and great songs. It didn’t really matter that most songs weren’t as funny as the famous ‘The Internet is for Porn’, but they were still clever enough and definitely memorable for being so casually dark. Closing number, ‘For Now’, only offers a half-hearted promise of hope where others might be inclined to wrap on a high. Everyone’s a little dissatisfied with life, it says, but swallow your pride for now. When things are going ok, enjoy them for now. George Bush too, it commiserates, is only for now.

Pick-up lines from the SDU

Singapore’s Social Development Unit (SDU) is a sort of government-funded dating service to help those who have spent their lives putting academic achievements and other forms of personal enrichment before relations with the opposite sex. Or, as they say, people who just want to make more friends. It sounds a little weird that a country’s government would run an outfit like this, but I suppose part of it might be motivated by a sense of guilt.

Growing up as a teenager in the 90s, I clearly remember just about every authority figure, mainstream media outlet, Aunt Agony column, parent, and teacher sharing the view that so-called Boy-Girl Relationships (or BGR, as was the sickening but popular term) were only to be pursued once one had completed higher education. The most important thing, it was said, was to graduate and have oneself a safety net before allowing the opposite sex a chance to derail your life. The subtext was that this denial-of-self was only patriotic, as we were a fledgling nation always on the brink of being swallowed by the odds, and every last one of our degrees was needed to avert disaster. The fabled Lazy Grasshopper had become a Drop-Out Lothario.

Our government has always erred on the side of caution when it comes to assuming that most people know what’s best for them, and I sympathize completely, but intervention is historically marked by unforeseen consequences. Who knew that biological instincts could be dulled by neglect? In any case, I don’t know the SDU’s success rate, but I do know they have a quarterly publication called “Duet” filled with well-meaning articles like the one below.

iPhone Emporium: PocketGuitar

PocketGuitar
$0.99
iTunes Store Link
Attractiveness to females when performed below a balcony: Zero
Essentiality: Absolute

Ok, so I can’t play the guitar. But that’s really no reason not to buy what is essentially 6 guitars, a couple of amps, and several effects pedals for 99 cents. YouTube has a few amazing examples of what’s possible in the hands of masters, but even now, creatively crippled as I am, I’m having a pretty fun time annoying my girlfriend with wannabe punk rock riffs while she’s driving. If that’s not worth a dollar I don’t know what is.

Apple App Store’s release dates flawed

I’ve just discovered that iPod touch/iPhone apps in the App Store (as displayed in iTunes) are tagged with incorrect release dates, which renders viewing apps by ‘Release Date’ criteria completely broken. I’m accustomed to checking for new apps each day by browsing the store in such a manner, but it seems I’ve missed a number of releases I was waiting for because the newly released apps were backdated and appeared out of order.

I think the so-called release dates shown might actually be the dates that the apps were submitted for approval and listing.

Evidence: Spore Origins, a highly awaited game that was released on Sept 8 following the Sept 7 worldwide release of its PC/Mac version, has a Sept 5 release date. At present, one must navigate back 25 pages of the Sort By Release Date view to locate it – a blockbuster game released yesterday. Ditto for Real Football 2009, which was just demoed at the Let’s Rock iPod music event.

Time on my hands

I took an unserious vow yesterday never to talk about technology again, but I think now that it might be fun to see how long it can last. Apart from this brief mention that I am blogging from my iPhone to see how easy it might be to write something longer than a text. So far so good, but I wish I had smaller thumbs, or at least transparent ones.

Am currently reading Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, and so far it has been an absorbing and marvelous 140 pages made up of Dickensian coincidences, foreshadowing, and the most stoic and infallible fictional hero since Jesus. I kid, I kid.

It’s easy to feel the machinery moving beneath the surface of the plot and its dramatically convenient developments, but that takes nothing away from the craft of Rand’s writing, which is frankly quite fucking good (‘fucking’ is a word I just had to type, so my iPhone can learn some proper English). One friend has described it as a sort of guilty pleasure at times, likening its passionate moments to a Danielle Steele novel. Of course, as a man I have no idea what that might involve, having never read anything naughtier than Penthouse Letters, D.H. Lawrence, and the Peanut Butter Kamasutra. I have this theory that women only read books for the sex, but had best keep it to myself.

The last two days have been quite pleasant for reading in the late afternoon, and I have been taking advantage of this at the nearby Starbucks. Back in my student days, there was quite a stigma attached to sitting in a cafe reading some voluminous tome all alone, but I am happy to report that society barely bats an eyelid at this once you have put on weight, grown a beard, and begun to bald. Regardless of what you hear, life does get better with age!

The downside to sitting in a coffeeshop all day is of course having to put up with coffeeshop talk. I think I may soon be reaching my limit for tolerating my fellow man. Yesterday I had to endure a young army recruit expounding the benefits of using 2 fingers to apply camouflage paint on the face over the prescribed 3 fingers to a friend who listened with complete awe and attention. It seems 2 fingers gives greater accuracy and a more pleasing appearance over the “bullshit” triple digit technique. Any day now I expect to overhear sewage workers discussing favorite colors of boots to wear to work.

Singtel iPhone unable to connect to Twitter

Approximately 80% of the time, my Singtel iPhone is unable to connect to twitter.com or refresh my tweets view in Twitterific (which uses the Twitter API). This only happens when connected to the internet via 3G or GPRS. If I connect via my own WiFi network, Twitter works whenever the whale isn’t flying.

Either something is wrong with the DNS resolution over on their end, they’re blocking twitter (which makes no sense to me; it’s not the highest traffic application), or something much worse. Whatever it is, I am getting seriously pissed off.

At long last

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photo.jpg, originally uploaded by sangsara.

I got an iPhone last night after 5 hours of queuing at the launch event. Which was nothing really, considering that I’ve been waiting 592 days since the first iPhone was announced last January. It’s just not worth getting unsupported Apple products, so I never got one on the black market. And now at last! Carried home in the obnoxious little Singtel paper bag you see above, I have an iPhone and it’s really freakin’ sweet.