Switched from SingNet DSL to StarHub Fiber today. Here are the Speedtest results.

Singnet-dsl-vs-starhub-fiber

We never got the theoretical maximum speed of SingNet’s 6mbps down, 512kbps up plan, so I don’t consider it to be a bottleneck for download speeds (even in the best case scenario of a Singapore-based server, it didn’t come up against the 6mbps ceiling). The StarHub fiber plan is capped at 50mbps down, 15mbps up. For international surfing, StarHub says the connection is capped at 15mbps down. I’m just happy that it’s better, and that uploads are so significantly better. It’s going to be great for uploading photos to Flickr.

I tried out a couple of moderately-seeded torrents and saw max download speeds of about 4 times higher than I used to get with SingNet. Your mileage may vary, but it’s a promising start. I think a 1.5GB image came down in about 15 minutes.

➟ Smokescreen

If I hadn’t just seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed this was possible. Smokescreen is a soon to be open-sourced technology that converts Adobe Flash content to HTML5/Javascript, in real time. It’s essentially Flash without a plugin, and it works with animation and sound just fine in my desktop Safari.

The company behind it describes itself as “an ad network” that wanted to see the richness of Flash ads come to devices like the iPad, without the need to rewrite code. It’ll be released soon, but have a look at the demos they’ve got up now with your Flash blocker on.

Link [smokescreen.us]

Google Search Trends for Singapore, 14 May 2010, 2AM

Google publishes statistics on popular web searches the same way Twitter has its trending topics. Some of this stuff stays up on the charts for days, while other vague, ungrokkable keyword combinations burn brightly and then mysteriously slip away. Let’s have a look at what’s hot now:

Far as I can tell, Habib Ali is the name of a 96-year-old “shaman” who lives in Batu Pahat, Malaysia. Why his name is trending, I haven’t a clue. Either he did something awesome or he bought it. The top result is a site that tries to explain why he’s a shaman, but it’s just stuff like not turning his back on guests, to the point of shuffling backwards out of a room. To me, that just says he’s a respectful host or he’s had some valuables stolen in the past.
A local online shopping site that lets you set up a virtual store of your own, or subscribe to a list of your favorite merchants. The company calls it building your own virtual “mall”, but I refuse to acknowledge that kind of marketing BS until someone actually pays me rent. It does have some cool social features though, like showing your friends the stuff you want to buy and asking them repeatedly if you should get them. Should I, huh? But, if only, then again, maybe, how?! It’s just like shopping with me in the real world. The ever-sunny, floral-scented Sheylara has a blog post on it.
The MediaCorp Radio DJ has done something newsworthy, but I can’t figure out what that might be. A Twitter search didn’t turn up anything either, but did you know she was at Provence in Holland Village two nights ago and has really nice legs?? Alright, I’ll stop now. I feel like the AsiaOne home page.
This has something to do with a video of a male student from Siglap Secondary School repeatedly slapping a female student across the face. Some links suggest the male student has an association with a gay dance group I’d never heard of before, called Voguelicious. What a name! It conjures up images of Glee, Madonna, Beyonce, Women’s wear floors in major department stores, shoulder pads, patent leather, and that giant Sephora store in Paris! So gay.
The name of a hot Chinese girl, what else? I think she’s a forehead model.
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Okay, that’s all! Tune in next time for more insight into what Singaporeans use this internet thing for.
Update: I posted this last night, and now I have a Jibapan ad appearing on my site. So, uh, go get started on those virtual malls!

Fear of a Pad Planet

There’s been a certain reaction to the iPad from some quarters of the tech-inclined community, inspired by the belief that the device signals a shift towards a new form of computing that old people can finally understand. That reaction has been fear and apprehension.

It begins by looking at the iPad as a better personal computer for the majority of people. After all, it surfs the web, does email, plays games, and that’s what most people do with their computers most of the time, right? Better yet, it does all of those things without a long boot-up sequence, viruses, and confusing computery concepts like a filesystem, administrator rights, directories (recently renamed ‘Folders’ for these same users), registries, multi-step installation procedures, and the list goes on. Parents will finally stop calling us for help with strange error messages, and we will forget that it was ever hard.

But if people start to prefer the iPad and its descendants to ‘real’ computers, so the argument goes, then we will have robbed the next generation of a basic foundational understanding of computers. Because there will be no tinkering in Apple’s clinical workshop, they will never see the crucial workings of a program beneath its simplified user interface, and we will not have people to build the next Google, YouTube, or Bittorrent. The iPad/iPhone were built to enable end-users to consume content, and so it must be that creativity stands to suffer.

As I wrote yesterday, I currently see the iPad as a great way to access information and interact with media, freed from the physical contraints of an iPhone’s smaller screen and shorter battery life. Apple sees it, quite necessarily, as something more*. Which is why they built iWork productivity apps and demonstrated Brushes, an application that lets the large screen be used as a drawing surface for artists.

Offering a new breed of computer to an older person and seeing them take to it with joy and wonderment, as opposed to frustration and confusion, is a wonderful image and what the industry should work towards, but just because a filesystem is obscured doesn’t mean the curious can’t get to it. One might argue that jailbreaking an iPad is no different from the things people did to their computers in the past. There will always be unauthorized tools for messing around, and one day you may even be able to write, compile, and test code for an iPad on the thing itself. I wouldn’t worry about the younger generation of hackers.

My parents online
I want to talk about two tasks I’ve observed my parents and people their age doing on their computers.

1 – My mother mainly works with email. She receives documents relating to her church activities, which she must save locally before editing and sending them out again to other members of her group. She organizes these files in folders, which are really good metaphors that she understands, and often keeps multiple dated versions.

Of course, the iPad of today can’t save email attachments for working on in the Pages word processor. One day it will. But that sort of management is bound to increase the level of complexity. Lists of documents, tags or folders, deleting and renaming, and so on. I thought of introducing her to Google Docs, which would let her work with live documents in the cloud, and even collaborate in real-time with her friends. When changes are made, instead of emailing a copy of a document to other people, she would only have to send invites to view the document online. The iPad would work well with that approach – no local storage necessary. The responsibility and blame for any complexity is passed off onto the web service provider, in this case Google, leaving the iPad’s reputation to remain spotless.

2 – My father (and other fathers I hear about) likes to download videos off YouTube for later viewing, both on the desktop and on his iPhone. These are usually music videos and funny but horrifying accidents. This requires using a program or website like KeepVid to save them locally, and then often another program to re-encode the clips for use on the iPhone.

I believe saving videos off Youtube is a copyright gray area that Apple will never touch by sanctioning an app that exists to do it. Music videos are often removed from Youtube when found to be unauthorized uploads, which might explain the compulsion to save them. But even if they stayed online, is streaming instead of saving an ideal solution? That’s a lot of wasted bandwidth, and what if they want a Taylor Swift video or two while traveling by air? Apple will never allow the Youtube app to save video and compete with iTunes sales.

Both of these scenarios and their cloud-based natures highlight the need for increased openness and cooperation on the web. If we can’t have open computing systems, then we need an open internet to take its place. My mother’s friends shouldn’t all have to have Google accounts to access her shared documents, and Youtube shouldn’t have a monopoly on streaming video just because the iPad comes with an app built-in. The widespread adoption of HTML5 video in lieu of Flash would be fantastic, and remove the need for a native Youtube viewer. Likewise, online storage accounts like the ones offered by Dropbox and Microsoft Live Mesh should be able to trade files and work together. Productivity and content creation services should have a way of talking to each other across networks.

I like Google Wave’s implementation of federated servers. You can run your own private Wave system, really make it your own for whatever purposes, but the underlying protocol can communicate with every other Wave server if/when you need it to.

If that kind of openness were applied to all other services, companies would stand to lose their ‘stickiness’, but they’d surely find other ways to retain users. Should a landscape of interoperability and sharing ever come to pass in every corner of the web, it would be to the benefit of us all. How fitting, then, if we were steered in that direction by the threat of having to work on oversimplified computers.

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With apologies to Public Enemy for the title.

* When Nintendo first launched the DS in 2004, they called it a “third pillar” to allay fears that the company was going mad and replacing its popular and very profitable Game Boy Advance series with a risky touchscreen experiment. The DS went on to become a huge hit, accelerating the GBA’s demise and eventually becoming their main handheld product. You may wish to see Apple’s positioning of the iPad as a similar play: someday it may overtake the MacBook completely.

iPhone app review doublebill: Birdhouse & Twitbit

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)

Birdhouse / Twitbit – $3.99 & $4.99 respectively


Why Pay? It starts with a free app, Twitterrific or TwitterFon for most people, and for awhile it seems like you’ll never have a need for one of those “Pro” Twitter clients that your geekier friends talk about. Reply a message here, send out a cute quote there, it’s all good. Cut to a couple hundred followers later, and you’re riding the doubt train harder than a doped up pop star with 50 concert dates to deliver. You need a little something extra to keep your edge. You ask your live-in doctor for one of these:


Birdhouse is like a Twitter ninja. A ninja who’s spent his entire life learning to unsheathe his blade, stab a man, and put it away again in under half a second. He can’t climb walls, farts loudly all the time, and is 99% colorblind as well as good ol’ regular blind, but if the man you want assassinating is right there in front of him, there’s no one else you’d sooner hire.

You can’t read tweets or search hashtags in Birdhouse. You can’t see who’s mentioning you, and you sure as hell can’t see anyone’s avatar pictures. You can’t see anyone, period. But what you CAN do is train up a hundred of your best jokes, sharpen them on the stone of Favrd destiny, and then go out to cut some motherfuckers up. The downside: if you don’t have any jokes, it calls up your ex-girlfriends to make fun of your package.


Twitbit almost didn’t make it onto my list. Its first version was a little bit like Rain Man, you know, but I won’t get into specifics because people tend to send me hate mail when I talk about the retard in that movie. Suffice to say, Twitbit showed up a little over a month ago with a single winning trick up its sleeve: Push Notifications.

For example, you could be doing something else on your iPhone, like making a kick-ass playlist of Billy Joel and Air Supply songs, but if someone tweeted “@sangsara your music library sucks, faggot! Btw I’m sitting behind you on the bus”, you’d get it immediately as a pop-up on your screen. The rest of the app was a little behind the curve until a recent update added threaded DMs, a photo browser, saved searches, and many other refinements. The result is one of the best general purpose Twitter apps five bucks could want to buy. Plus, chicks dig the fat bird on a speech bubble-egg icon.


Birdhouse Rating: B
Twitbit Rating: A

Buy Birdhouse on the iTunes App Store.
Buy Twitbit on the iTunes App Store.




Birdhouse media:



Twitbit media:



iPhone app review: WorldView Live

(This iPhone review and others like it have been moved to my new app review site, positivemachine.com. Why not have a look?)


Name/Category: WorldView Live / Travel
Price: US$2.99 (free version available)


What it does: Displays live images from thousands of public webcams around the world

If you’re anything like me or Mr. T (that is to say you have travel issues), WorldView Live is a godsend. It costs less than a can of beer on a budget airline – believe me you’ll need more than one to get through the rocky screamfests that are equatorial updrafts, at least when I’m screaming – and gives you pretty much the same results as real travel. In fact, it’s even better. You get all the sights, from the majesty of the Eiffel Tower and Mount Fuji to the soggy streets of London, without having to suffer the French, learn Japanese, or get dragged into a hen night. You won’t have your passport or girlfriend stolen by a charming local, find your luggage switched with a transvestite’s, wander down a dodgy street late at night wearing said transvestite’s wardrobe, wake up in the morning with blood running… ok, you get the idea.

The app lets you search for webcams by city, keywords, as well as GPS/map location. Some are refreshed every 5 minutes or so, while others are live feeds that update every second. WorldView’s free edition lets you see many of the static cameras, while the paid WorldView Live version adds video and other useful features like search suggestions. Webcams.travel provides the images, and can be freely accessed from any computer. In essence, WorldView Live is a $2.99 native iPhone viewer for the site, but still one worth having if you care at all for looking out your window.


Rating: A-

Buy WorldView Live on the iTunes App Store.
Get WorldView (Free) on the iTunes App Store.