Tuesday, June 30, 2009

IES magazine vs. Eureka from UK

In this writing, I would like to dissect engineering publication.

I got myself a copy of Eureka, an engineering publication from UK and IES magazine, publication of Institute of Engineer Singapore. My first and foremost assumption is that both publication attempts to interest people to the field engineering. My verdict: Eureka is a nice and cool publication that really triggers my thought and re-kindle my interest in engineering. On the opposite end, IES magazine is an old boring magazine that is full of advertisements.

Eureka contains articles of engineering advancement and extol the goodness and roles of engineering in life. The two magazines I have show solar powered car, new rapid prototyping method, bacterial cellulose from fruit waste, green power from compressed air, spin off examples from F1, plastic technology, etc. Those topics are the in-things. The articles and magazines are designed to look like a normal off-the-shelf magazine (not the gossip type). By showing reader that engineering is advancing and not long time dead and archeological finding, it tells them that engineers still takes part in the betterment of the world and the magazine proudly proclaim that engineers is to solve the problem of the world! That engineers have an important role to play and engineers deal with trendy stuff. That is exactly what students need to hear and to know that engineering is a field they can be proud of.

On the other hand, IES magazine is written like a journal! It has abstract, introduction, etc. etc. I am wondering why they don't call it IES journal instead. Then it has multiple times more advertisements (from NTU, from some course organizers, from some manufacturers, etc.). The articles talks about earthquake being from some other stuff, that risk management something and I can't even recall any title completely. I am wondering why Eureka can be designed more impressively without so many advertisements while IES magazine is full of advertisements.

One glance of Eureka and it gives me a good impression and I remember the title. One glance of IES magazine and I can't even remember anything but that it is terrible.

My point is that if the aim of the publications are to interest people to engineering, IES fails miserably. I feel that IES can do the following:
1. Take a look at other engineering magazine and use part of the advertisement money to pay someone to re-design the magazine.
2. Gather industrial people in engineering field and scour the engineering marvel that can be found in those organizations locally (not necessarily a local made technology, of course as Singapore gets more and more innovative, the local made stuff can take the prominence, until then anything will do).
3. Do number 2, but from the local universities.
4. Re-assess the role the magazine play, gather feedback!
5. If need more money, talk to the government of Singapore and plan a way to improve IES image and plays a part in government's attempt to make engineering cool.
6. Many more other things.

Of course ideally is for IES to bridge the engineering company and universities to once again produce engineers that are hands on and with critical thoughts and innovative!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Urinal without flushing

Went to Vivocity on Sunday and realized one interesting thing from the toilet! The urinal is said to require no water flushing since it was treated with biotechnological system! It sounds really cool and very environmental friendly especially if it does prevent the smelly part as well. Alas, I still detect slight smell and one disturbing issue... there is no mention of the so called biotechnological system. A visit to the company's website (www.redlab.com.sg) on Sunday and today shows it to be under maintenance. I surely will visit the website again to get more details. The company actually seems like one that will succeed with such a radical idea. Weird that they don't publicize themselves more openly though... Let's see in a couple more days.

Monday, 30 June - Website still under "maintenance"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Exhausting all oil and gas on earth

Green and renewable energy source is one hot topic nowadays. In US, the stimulus package has largely focus on getting more people involved in the green business area. However, the Democrats as the majority in congress also calls for energy tax to encourage more responsible energy use. On the other hand, the Republicans (now being the opposition) in US, banking on the potential hurt at the bottom line of the population having to pay extra, calls for greater oil and gas exploration and greater investment to renewable energy sources. Here, we see two opposite view of the situation. One says stop spending more non renewables, one says spend till the end.

We, being human, are quite creative and we think very well. So, normally it is the cost and benefit analysis that sways our decision. Nevertheless, cost and benefit will never manage to account for things that we cannot put exact value on, i.e. morals, ethics. In the energy debate, however, ethics and morals are quite complicated. Having less energy to spend freely means human having to survive with potentially less welfare (arguably, depending on where your "greed" level is). This could mean less morally responsible to ourselves while being morally responsible to the environment and our descendants. Which would be morally and ethically correct to side?

It is also known that human does extraordinary stuff when we are cornered. So, I would think that for energy debate, perhaps the best is to exhaust all oil and gas until suddenly we are totally out of oil and gas. Then perhaps we would be very creative. However, that would mean an extremely bad situation for those countries having winter season. Well, the solution would be to discover commercially viable renewable sources before all oil and gas are gone. Exploring and extracting more reserves would definitely mean faster exhausting, which in turn may force quicker innovation. That's a gamble and hey, I think it really suits the Republicans philiosophy so far, considering all the wars they have fought. But mind you, renewable sources are useful if the earth is not yet submerged and destroyed by global warming. If you think of the imminent rise of sea level or think a bit further than "now", perhaps you may want to consider the other end of argument.

Experts expect a certain minimum temperature rise that is no longer unavoidable, so it's not about mitigating and coping, no longer about preventing. At least in UK, the bag reuse scheme seems to be working well. But in Asia, owing to the mentality "Europe and US has enjoyed polluting to get better, it's our turn to experience the same thing", things are not so simple. After all, when you are still hungry all the time, floods are common and plantation failure is not unusual, global warming effect is not that great. In such situation, who would consider the Maldive residents having to search for another island to settle when the sea level rises a bit higher? Exhausting all oil and gases and not reigning their use will definitely fasten the bad effect but perhaps then it is a lot easier to make the argument. Again, when it is not too late to do so.

In the mean time, regardless of what other people is saying, time for me to reduce my plastic bag usage and be mindful with my electricity and water cost. It helps my bottom line at least.


Weather report from BBC looks totally different from the Asia counterparts in the equator. In those countries, I think we don't really expect any difference from looking at the weather. After all, it's always wet and shine repeatedly. We are kind of always prepared for the wet and any change of weather does not affect the temperature by much any way. While in UK, rain and shine can swing the temperature from 10 C to 23 C, a huge range of change. Wind blowing in the shining sun may mean freezing feeling in a hot sun! Well, it's still better than raining and cloudy at the same time... Therefore, if there is huge incentive in following the weather report. Any sunny days in Summer means people rushing to enjoy the day, which at times is rare to come. People will travel out of town. It would also mean that Sunday evening would ten to have congestion in the motorway.

After having been in the weather swing for a week, I really appreciate the sunny days...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer in Sheffield

Yay! Summer is here! That's what many Europeans and other residents of temperate climate is exclaiming happily. I had always thought that summer is hot and humid. Little did I realize that although summer is relatively better than winter, those two seasons are pretty much the same for tropical people! Although the sun is burning my skin today, any breeze will cause me to shivers. The temperature of air brought about by the wind feels like <10 C. A sweater made of 100% polyester is of not much a help in this case.

Weirder of all is the bright sky light at 9 pm! The ambient light at that time in Sheffield feels like 5 pm in Singapore. It only gets dark at round 10 pm. On the other hand, 4 am shows bright sky. What a short night!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Fixed my Acer laptop and I am convinced

Finally my Acer laptop is fixed on 4 June 2009. They again repaired the motherboard. Last repair on 29 November 2008 actually also has the motherboard changed! This time, at first they offered to change the motherboard for 600+ then I protested and thought they will give me better offer, but at the end they still asked me to pay 480+ to get the motherboard repair! They said they offer customer to replace motherboard before asking them to repair. Stupid part about this is that the motherboard (regardless of being replaced or repaired) has only 3 months warranty following the visit! What a funny thing....

When I collected, my first start up end up with the Welcome screen and hang system... shut down, power up.... second start up end up at the loading screen and hang... then I asked the customer service, he plugged and restarted and it's okay! Now... I don't feel confident with this laptop anymore...

Few statements from the customer service officer in Acer Service Centre I learned while collecting my Acer Travelmate 3280:
1. Laptop is like a car. You won't know when it's broken and which part it is broken. There is no guarantee that all laptop produces the same quality although same model.
Translation: Acer laptop does not perform similarly although same model. If you are unlucky, you may come back and forth for multiple faults. In my case, I saw more people with faulty and running away from Acer than not. So, no Acer for me please.

2. You should not play games in your laptop. If you want to play games, use desktop. This statement came because I said my laptop went faulty when I played game. What the officer miss is that my laptop is not exactly thouse low weight item. I purchased 3280 because I thought it's desktop replacement and after all it came with ATI Radeon X1400 in 2006. Don't tell me the fancy video card is only for surfing net.
Translation: Acer laptop is not good for playing game, regardless of how good their video card is. Said the customer service officer. Hence, don't trust Acer! Even the employee won't use the laptop for games! So, no Acer for me please.

3. Nowadays people just want to have fast machine. They do not care whether it is reliable or not since they will just buy new one when it is broken. Only machines from long time ago perform reliably.
Translation: Acer laptop is not designed to last. It will definitely get broken after the warranty is off. After all, they think all customers has money and will just replace their broken Acer machine with another machine. What they miss is that customer change Acer machine with NON ACER machine. Hence, no Acer for me please. The officer clearly said that Acer is not reliable.

I am merely reporting on statements by the officer and what I as a customer interpret. You are free to try Acer on your own and I wish you good luck. Who knows you get the best of the batch and your Acer product lasts longer than warranty. For me, I am not fancy of gambling. My ATI Radeon and system (made in 2006) can't even run Star Trek Armada II, made in 2001 with the motherboard replaced 6 months before that. In fact, I have been using the laptop in that 6 months merely to surf internet and watch movie and yet the laptop still go hay wire. So, no thanks.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Once Phua Chu Kang Pte. Ltd. was a very popular show. The main character of the show is a man called Phua Chu Kang (PCK) who speaks perfect Singlish or Singapore English (and PCK is actually Gurmit Singh, an Indian descent). Then he changed his accent and spoke better English. There was also a big hoo haa on his status as Singapore icon. Although he was generally regarded as the symbolism of Singapore folks (general folks), his one sided elevation to an icon is not agreed by some others.

Strangely though, the recent advertisement by MRT and supported by LTA put Phua Chu Kang aka PCK as the main cast with his on-screen's 'wife'. This to me, as a foreigner, indicates that PCK is indeed an icon and symbolizes the common Singaporean folks. It bedazzles me why it is so difficult to admit that PCK is indeed popular and people like him. His use to promote graciousness in public transport (train) is a clear sign of such.

I say let's admit and put PCK back to his rightful place. He may be the only clear Singapore-made 'culture' that should be preserved. At least, he is original.

Dirty Singapore

Singapore is very clean. That is always the first and foremost impression of visitors to this city state. Admittedly, the city areas (like Orchard, City Hall) are indeed clean. However, decades of foreign and elderly sweepers who clean up the mess have generated complacent populations. The heartland is mostly dirty. On my walk from my house to MRT station, I encountered void deck with torn paper. Looks like some kids got fed up with his/her notes and tore them. I saw cigarette butts here and there, paper planes in a parking lot and tissue and paper cups on the raised platform with vegetations.

People think that someone will clean up their mess so it is okay to throw them away. Indeed they can be fined but who is watching them? There is no inspector normally in the heartland and the cost of patrolling may even be higher than just getting someone to sweep and clean those rubbishes. But at times, the sweepers need someone to supervise to ensure their work quality and at times, certain areas are sweeped not every day. Hence, some times some areas are very dirty.

Indeed the country is in overall still cleaner than other countries in the world. Yet, I shuddered with the thought that this is just the tip of icebergs and rubbishes will pile up even more simply because of irresponsibility of the crowd after being pampered for decades. It is really time for citizens and residence to be engaged and involved more in caring about their environment. Simply putting up recycle bin far away and who-know-what-place and paying sweepers do not educate at all. Schools should also start with educating young children on cleanliness and responsibility. I think Indonesia at least is scoring a point in teaching civic. I still remember what it taught me even after these years!