Saturday, January 31, 2009

25 Random Facts About Me

The below facts about me are numbered but are not in any specific significance.
  1. I have a wonderful partner.
  2. I am left-handed.
  3. I have perfect eyesight despite staring in front of a computer more than 10 hours a day.
  4. I have a military class 3 driving license.
  5. I once managed to stay awake and alert working on a project continuously for up to 5 days.
  6. I prefer web development to application development but I am currently in the latter.
  7. I have flown on both Apache UH-1H and Chinook.
  8. I have hydrophobia.
  9. I am helpless when it comes to designing and drawing.
  10. I eat almost anything.
  11. I keep track very closely on my daily expenditure.
  12. I keep myself abreast with financial, sports and technology news.
  13. I am still using Windows XP and have not moved on to Vista.
  14. I sleep on average 5 hours daily.
  15. I can eavesdrop and engage in a separate conversation all at the same time.
  16. I can never understand why people go for luxurious items despite themselves knowing they are living beyond their means.
  17. I sleep without a blanket.
  18. I see time and money as equally important.
  19. I have difficulties recalling song titles even though I listen to radio 5 days a week.
  20. I can forget movie plot hours after walking out of a cinema.
  21. I rely heavily on Google and Wikipedia.
  22. I have traded many items through forums and teletext but am yet to try eBay.
  23. I never own any walkman or mp3 player because I find them not necessary.
  24. I always wanted to own a web domain but yet to own one after years of dreaming.
  25. I don't wear a watch.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Base Location for Gears Running in Firefox

Windows XP

%USERPROFILE%\Local Settings\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\%FIREFOXPROFILE%\Google Gears for Firefox\

Windows Vista

%USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\%FIREFOXPROFILE%\Google Gears for Firefox\

Ubuntu Linux

~/.mozilla/firefox/%FIREFOXPROFILE%/Google Gears for Firefox/

The cleanest way to delete offline files would be through the Gears settings dialog, which in Firefox is at Tools -> Gears Settings.

Common Interview Questions on ADO.NET

The below are some common interview questions on ADO.NET. Answers are provided in the link shown near the end of this post.
  1. What are the two fundamental objects in ADO.NET?
  2. What is the namespace in which .NET has the data functionality class?
  3. What are the various objects in Dataset?
  4. Can you give an overview of ADO.NET architecture?
  5. What is the use of data adapter?
  6. How can we force the connection object to close after my data reader is closed?
SQL Interview Questions - ADO.NET [via]

First Official Description of GDrive

Last year, I made a post on the possibility of Google coming out with GDrive. Now, the likelihood of this dream come true is nearer.

Read on the below link to find out.

GDrive provides reliable storage for all of your files, including photos, music and documents. GDrive allows you to access your files from anywhere, anytime, and from any device - be it from your desktop, web browser or cellular phone.

First Official Description of GDrive [via]

Google Chrome Spoof to be Safari to Get Past Hotmail

Google Chrome spoof itself as Safari to get past Microsoft's online email service, Hotmail. The reason for doing this is because Hotmail barred the competitor’s browser from entering by checking the user agent. The latest update offered by Google Chrome resolved this issue by a workaround - changing its user agent to Safari.

In my opinion, Microsoft's slowness in recognizing Google Chrome browser is unfair. I think Microsoft will react soon after Google has now stepped in with a workaround. This matter is now blown big and is known to many.

Google Chrome Spoofing User Agent at Hotmail [via]

Looking for SCS Members

I am looking for Singapore Computer Society members. Anyone out there?

Gmail offline: A guided tour

Quite a comprehensive article on how to use Gmail Offline.

Gmail offline: A guided tour [via]

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Offline Gmail Gets Synchronized?

From Google Groups,

We try to download your most recent conversations along with any conversations that seem to be important (regardless of their age). We also try not to dowload uninteresting conversations. This process is done heuristically and as with any heuristic can and will miss things. We'll continue to tune things up, but more importantly, we'll eventually provide a UI that will allow you to change the settings. Here's a sketch of how these messages are selected:
  • Synchronization is based on the date of conversations. The system estimates a period of time to cover (at least 1 week in length) that results in approximately 10,000 messages being downloaded. For an average user, this means Gmail will end up downloading several years of mail.
  • Additionally, we'll download any conversation marked with a label that contains less than 200 conversations, has at least one conversation that has been received in the last 30 days and also has at least one conversation that's outside the estimated time period. For many users, this list of labels will include Starred and Drafts.
  • Finally, the system determines a list of labels to exclude conversations from being downloaded. For example, Trash and Spam are always in this list, along with any label that contains mostly unread conversations (unread count greater than 99%). So, we won't download a conversation if it contains only labels in this list. A typical Trashed message will not be downloaded, but a Trashed message that contains the label "alpha" will.
At this time, there's no way to customize which of your labels are synced, but we're working on it so stay tuned.

Watch the Final Gmail Collaborative Video



Watch the final Gmail collaborative video [via]

Ten Years of Google

The below video highlights some of the most interesting services released or acquired by Google in the past 10 years.

Google Gmail Goes Offline

As announced on Google Gmail Official blog,

Today we're starting to roll out an experimental feature in Gmail Labs that should help fill in those gaps: offline Gmail. So even if you're offline, you can open your web browser, go to gmail.com, and get to your mail just like you're used to.

New in Labs: Offline Gmail [via]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Unjustified Jump in Food Prices during Chinese New Year Season

I was completely stumped on Chinese New Year's Eve when I paid for my lunch. I bought economical rice from a stall I hardly visit because the food aren't as nice as tne one I usually frequent. Many stalls were closed for business that day.

I understand and expect food vendors to raise food prices during the Chinese New Year period, however, the economical rice stall decision to increase by $1 is just ridiculous. A $2.60 pack of rice would cost $3.60. I asked them to justify for the more than expected increase and the answer I got was "Chinese New Year".

Chinese New Year is suppose to be an occasion whereby many celebrate. Now, food vendors simply take advantage of this joyous occasion and increase prices to increase profit margin.

If the reason for an increase is boss having to pay extras to workers to work during this period, I understand. But, any increases should be moderated. An increase of 38% for a plate of economical rice is certainly too much.

To add on, I feel a notice of an increase in prices must be clearly displayed to consumers. As for my case, I only knew it when I questioned why the $3.60.

I certainly feel this is unethical and unfair to consumers.

Market's outlook? Element-ary, say feng shui masters

Business Times - 26 Jan 2009

Market's outlook? Element-ary, say feng shui masters

Geomancy consultants foresee Singapore stock market recovering in third quarter


By CHEW XIANG


CHUCK out the ratios and balance sheets. Unlike traditional stock market analysts - who got 2008 all wrong, anyway - the methods of the masters are more mysterious.

'I can't really explain it to you, but I can show it to you. It's based on calculating and psychology,' says geomancer Jason Chng.

Geomancy masters such as Mr Chng believe in the Chinese art of feng shui - that the universe is made of five elements, and that fortunes can be predicted by manipulating the environment with certain techniques.

The pleasing thing, for stock market punters, is that feng shui is able to offer far more specific calls than research houses can with their complex mathematical models. 'Feb 4, there will be some climbing back. It's a fire month, fire will support the shares,' says Mr Chng.

Sean Lui, senior consultant for World of Fortune, says there will be a 'major event to spark the local market in Q3'.

'There will be a sudden jump, it's a very exciting quarter based on past history.' He advises punters to bet on 'any Earth-related stock: chemicals, petroleum, property', since it's an 'earth' year.

And for the same reason, marine and shipping-related stocks are bad news, because they are linked to the opposing 'fire' element, he says.

Mr Chng agrees. 'Property stocks are very good this year but property prices will be terrible,' he says. He favours CapitaLand among the listed real estate plays. 'It's a good buy,' he says. 'I just saw today (Friday) it fell a lot, so it's good to buy now. Ship building is no good.'

Ang Kian Cheong, a feng shui consultant, also says a third-quarter (or autumn) recovery is likely. Spring and summer will be largely flat for finance, but agricultural stocks are to be favoured - the Earth theme, again - while 'wood' related companies should be interesting.

Wood companies are those in services, he says, as well as those dealing with paper and transport. SMRT Corp on Friday said net profit for its third quarter to Dec 31 rose 7.6 per cent to $41.2 million.

And 'metal' firms aren't bad either this year, Mr Ang says. That means cars, aeroplanes and electronics, which will be music to the ears of Creative Tech, which has just announced its biggest quarterly loss for eleven quarters.

The masters BT spoke to did not restrict their visions to the stock market. '2010 will be a very volatile year for the whole world economy,' says Mr Lui. 'Plenty of people will in one night move from success to bankruptcy.' Meanwhile, he predicts there will be a 'big storm' in Singapore politics in 2009.

Mr Ang says China will start tanking around mid-year. 'In the summer, their economy will start moving backwards, and that will affect Asean.'

Also, 'Thailand will see a very big crisis'; 'America is very bad now, but should recover in early 2010', and Mr Obama is going to be a great president, Mr Ang says.

You read it here first.

More Signs of a Google Webdrive

Is Google really going to release Google Webdrive soon? I hope they will!

More Signs of a Google Webdrive [via]

Windows 7.0 Final Nail in the Desktop Linux Market’s Coffin?

Below article discusses if the new upcoming Microsoft's operating Windows 7.0 is going to be a final nail in the desktop Linux market's coffin.

I am a Microsoft supporter.

Linux keeps dying [via]

History of the Internet

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Public Transport Operators Mull Possible Fares Reduction

At least for the first time in my memory, I am hearing local public transport operators are considering a possible fares reduction. Details will be made known by end of February. This unexpected positive news came after the Singapore government unveiled an unprecedented $20.5 billion budget.

The government announced in its Budget Statement it is giving a 30 per cent road tax rebate and a special tax waiver for taxis that are not hired out. In my personal opinion, the move by transport operators to reduce fares has to come if not many will be questioning the commitment of SBS Transit and SMRT towards providing national service to public.

I have an article published on Channel News Asia with subject "Public Transport Council to reduce bus and train fares". I find the title of the article incorrect and misleading. I recall an article with the Chairman of the Public Transport Council (PTC) saying it's not within our power to force operators to give concessions and that's up to the operators. PTC can only encourage operators to continue to be generous with transport cuts. So why the title of PTC to reduce bus and train fares this time?

Public Transport Council to reduce bus and train fares [via]

Friday, January 23, 2009

Directory Listing Web Application in VBScript

I just came out with a quick and "dirty" method to perform simple Directory Listing. I mention "dirty" because it is in VBScript and thus will work only on Microsoft Internet Explorer.

<html>
<head>
 
<title>Directory Listing: Copyright © Loh Hon Chun</title>
 
<script language="JavaScript">
<!--
    window.defaultStatus = 'Directory Listing: Copyright © Loh Hon Chun';
//-->
</script>
 
<style>
a { color:#707070; text-decoration:none; }
a:hover { color:#000000; text-decoration:none; }
 
body {
    font-size: 9pt;
    color: #2F4F4F;
    FONT-FAMILY: Arial;
    margin-top: 20px;
    margin-left: 50px;
}
 
h1 {
    font-weight: bold;
    font-size: 18pt;
    font-family: Verdana;
    color: #BC8F8F;
}
 
.header {
    font-weight: bold;
    font-size:10pt;
    font-family: Verdana;
}
 
.displayMsg {
    font-weight: bold;
    font-size: 12pt;
    font-family: Verdana;
}
 
.errorMsg {
    color: #FF0000;
    font-weight: bold;
    font-size: 12pt;
    font-family: Verdana;
}
 
</style>
 
</head>
 
<body>
 
<h1>Directory Listing</h1>
 
<script language="VBScript">
<!--
Function RecurseFolders(thisFolder)
    Set objFolder = objFSO.GetFolder(thisFolder)
 
    Document.Write "<span class=""header"">" & objFolder & "</span>"
 
    For Each objFile in objFolder.Files
        Document.Write "    <a href=""" & objFolder.Path & "/" & objFile.Name & """>" & objFile.Name & "</a>"
    Next
 
    Document.Write ""
 
    If Not objFolder.Subfolders.Count = 0 Then
        For Each objSFolder in objFolder.SubFolders
            RecurseFolders(objSFolder)
        Next
    End If
End Function
 
 
Dim objFSO, objFolder, objFile, objSFolder
Dim folder
Set objFSO = CreateObject("Scripting.FileSystemObject")
 
folder = InputBox("Please enter directory")
 
If objFSO.FolderExists(folder) Then
    Document.Write "<span class=""displayMsg"">Generating listing for <a href=""" & folder & """>" & folder & "</a></span>"
    Call RecurseFolders(folder)
Else
    Document.Write "<span class=""errorMsg"">Not such directory <u>" & folder & "</u></span>"
End If
'-->
</script>
 
</body>
</html>

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Memo to Employees On 5,000 Employees Job Cut

Below is the text of sent to all Microsoft's employees by Chief Executive Steve Ballmer email to employees on Thursday. It is to explain the rationale behind a need to layoff 5,000 employees.

From: Steve Ballmer
To: All Microsoft FTE
Subject: Realigning Resources and Reducing Costs

In response to the realities of a deteriorating economy, we're taking important steps to realign Microsoft's business. I want to tell you about what we're doing and why.

Today we announced second quarter revenue of $16.6 billion. This number is an increase of just 2 percent compared with the second quarter of last year and it is approximately $900 million below our earlier expectations.

The fact that we are growing at all during the worst recession in two generations reflects our strong business fundamentals and is a testament to your hard work. Our products provide great value to our customers. Our financial position is solid. We have made long-term investments that continue to pay off.

But it is also clear that we are not immune to the effects of the economy. Consumers and businesses have reined in spending, which is affecting PC shipments and IT expenditures.

Our response to this environment must combine a commitment to long-term investments in innovation with prompt action to reduce our costs.

During the second quarter we started down the right path. As the economy deteriorated, we acted quickly. As a result, we reduced operating expenses during the quarter by $600 million. I appreciate the agility you have shown in enabling us to achieve this result.

Now we need to do more. We must make adjustments to ensure that our investments are tightly aligned with current and future revenue opportunities. The current environment requires that we continue to increase our efficiency.

As part of the process of adjustments, we will eliminate up to 5,000 positions in R&D, marketing, sales, finance, LCA, HR, and IT over the next 18 months, of which 1,400 will occur today.

We'll also open new positions to support key investment areas during this same period of time. Our net headcount in these functions will decline by 2,000 to 3,000 over the next 18 months. In addition, our workforce in support, consulting, operations, billing, manufacturing, and data center operations will continue to change in direct response to customer needs.

Our leaders all have specific goals to manage costs prudently and thoughtfully. They have the flexibility to adjust the size of their teams so they are appropriately matched to revenue potential, to add headcount where they need to increase investments in order to ensure future success, and to drive efficiency.

To increase efficiency, we're taking a series of aggressive steps. We'll cut travel expenditures 20 percent and make significant reductions in spending on vendors and contingent staff. We've scaled back Puget Sound campus expansion and reduced marketing budgets. We'll also reduce costs by eliminating merit increases for FY10 that would have taken effect in September of this calendar year.

Each of these steps will be difficult. Our priority remains doing right by our customers and our employees. For employees who are directly affected, I know this will be a difficult time for you and I want to assure you that we will provide help and support during this transition. We have established an outplacement center in the Puget Sound region and we'll provide outplacement services in many other locations to help you find new jobs. Some of you may find jobs internally. For those who don't, we will also offer severance pay and other benefits.

The decision to eliminate jobs is a very difficult one. Our people are the foundation of everything we have achieved and we place the highest value on the commitment and hard work that you have dedicated to building this company. But we believe these job eliminations are crucial to our ability to adjust the company's cost structure so that we have the resources to drive future profitable growth. I encourage you to attend tomorrow's Town Hall at 9am PST in Cafe 34 or watch the webcast.

While this is the most challenging economic climate we have ever faced, I want to reiterate my confidence in the strength of our competitive position and soundness of our approach.

With these changes in place, I feel confident that we will have the resources we need to continue to invest in long-term computing trends that offer the greatest opportunity to deliver value to our customers and shareholders, benefit to society, and growth for Microsoft.

With our approach to investing for the long term and managing our expenses, I know Microsoft will emerge an even stronger industry leader than it is today.

Thank you for your continued commitment and hard work.

Another Inspirational Speech by Obama - Whistle Stop Train Tour


The White House - The Whistle Stop Tour [via]

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Singapore Budget 2009

Minister for Finance, Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam, delivered the Budget Speech for the Financial Year 2009 in Parliament on Thursday, 22 January 2009.

More information on the budget can be found here.

Singapore Budget 2009 Website [via]

Comments on Finance Minister Tharman Speech Delivery for Budget 2009

This year's budget was delivered by Finance Minister Tharman. For the past few years, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was also the Finance Minister, was responsible in delivering the budget. I would like to make some comments on Tharman's speech delivery by comparing the two speakers.

Though this year budget is unprecedented and massive, with a total of $20.5 billions allocated for and of which $4.9 billions are tapped from the sacred reserves, Tharman's speech was rather monotonous and boring at least in my opinion. Throughout the an hour and a half speech, it was more like a read aloud story telling for Tharman. My opinion of him was concurred by two of my colleagues.

In comparison, PM Lee usually can connect well with his audience. He sometimes cracks a joke or two to lighten the already serious setting. Listening to him for an hour and a half was never a problem.

The above is purely based on my own personal assessment.

How to Disable Windows AutoRun Feature

The National Cyber Alert System of US-CERT (part of the Department of Homeland Security) recommends the following registry setting:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\IniFileMapping\Autorun.inf to "@SYS:DoesNotExist"

AutoRun is the feature through which the attachment of new drives to the system can run programs on those drives automatically as long as file autorun.inf is found. This file is usually hidden and can pose security problems if automatically run program is malicious.

CERT Weighs in on Windows AutoRun Flaw [via]
Microsoft Windows Does Not Disable AutoRun Properly [via]

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Modules to Take This Semester (Finalized)

After 2 weeks of school, I have decided to drop one module and concentrate on just two. Two is the orm for part-time students into their first semester.

The module I have decided to drop is "Knowledge-Based Systems". The reason to drop this module is largely due to time factor. The two modules I am sticking with are "Integration of IS and Business" and "Information Technology Outsourcing".

Life still goes on after all.

AIG to NOT Renew Sponsorship With Manchester United

US insurance giant AIG have announced that they will not be renewing their sponsorship of Manchester United when their current deal expires in 2010. Reports also suggest the company are trying to negotiate an early end to the deal.

This news is much anticipated since AIG had lost billions of dollars in this economic crisis. They were close to bankruptcy if not for massive cash injection by the government. With an end to the sponsorship, GBP19 million dollars can be saved annually.

Already, Manchester United is looking for fresh sponsors to replace AIG. Will there be more such cases?

Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta

Microsoft has unveiled Windows Internet Explorer 8, the latest version of the world's most popular web browser. Download the preview version of Internet Explorer 8 today.

Windows Internet Explorer 8 Beta [via]

S R Nathan Congratulated 44th U.S. President Obama in the Middle of the Night

Moments after Barack Obama was sworn in as the United States 44th President, Channel News Asia reported Singapore President, S R Nathan, wished to congratulate Mr Obama for being the new President. In Singapore time, it was already after 1 am. I must say I am impressed by the quickness exhibited by Singapore. That's very efficient isn't it?

HSBC Rating Downgraded by Societe Generale

As the United States swore in its 44th president, the market plummeted under the weight of the continuing financial crisis. Europe-based banks led the decline after Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) warned of a massive annual loss, and HSBC Holdings (HBC) was initiated with a "sell" rating at Societe Generale.

I knew it is coming.

MTI Revises Forecasts for 2009 GDP Growth to -5.0 to -2.0 % and CPI Inflation to -1.0 to 0 %

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced today that Singapore’s GDP growth is likely to be -5.0 to -2.0 per cent in 2009, lower than the -2.0 to +1.0 per cent growth range it had forecast on 2 January 2009. The forecast for inflation in 2009 is also revised downwards to -1.0 to 0 per cent.

MTI Revises Forecasts for 2009 GDP Growth to -5.0 to -2.0 Per Cent and CPI Inflation to -1.0 to 0 Per Cent [via]

Inauguration of 44th U.S. President Obama Reminds Me of Martin Luther King "I have a dream"

The inauguration of 44th U.S. President Barack Obama Reminds me of great Martin Luther King "I have a dream" speech. I myself have read and studied of his legendary speech from my U.S. History elective lecture during my University school days.

Martin Luther King "I have a dream" speech in text extracted from American Rhetoric.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

    My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

    Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

    Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

    Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

    Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

    Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

    Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

    Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

    Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

    From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

        Free at last! Free at last!

        Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Government Sector to See Pay Cut

Political appointment holders and civil servants to see drop in total annual salaries this year by 20% instead of the earlier announced 19%. This cut should consider removing bonuses and not reduction on the monthly salary to minimize impact. Civil service sector is Singapore's single largest employer.

The Minister-in-charge of the Civil Service Teo Chee Hean said the MR4 salary for 2009 will now be S$1.54 million, a drop of 20 per cent compared to 2008. Salaries at SR9 will now be S$351,000, a drop of 12 per cent compared to 2008. This is in line with the Trade and Industry Ministry's latest gross domestic product growth estimate of 1.5 per cent for year 2008.

Salaries of political appointment holders and civil servants are linked to economic performance. The above mentioned numbers may be adjusted again depending on how year 2009 performs.

Current economic situation is indeed very gloomy. I hope those affected will be able to cope with the cut. It is still uncertain if government-linked companies (GLC) will follow.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to Be Next Victim?

It looks more and more likely Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to be the next big financial company to either go under or get fully nationalised. The loss RBS is going to incur looks incredibly massive.

RBS May Post 28 Billion-Pound Loss as Crisis Deepens [via]

Hopeful for U.S. President-Elect Obama

All eyes are on the incoming U.S. new President, Barack Obama. Much is expected of him from not only the United States, but also from the rest of the world, for him to deliver the necessary changes to address on two fronts - the battered economy and the Middle East situation.

Mr Obama has many times emphasized that change is coming, however, he also stressed the effects will not be quick and the road to recovery will take years. The road ahead is bright but definitely is not going to be short.

Being over hopeful and anxious for results to happen overnight can be disappointing. We need to be patient too see fruits.

What Does Democracy Means?

With U.S. President-elect, Barack Obama, Tuesday's inauguration ceremony, the world leader is set for change. Mr Obama is U.S. first ever blacks to be elected into the Presidency office. It has been over 400 good long years since the emancipation of slavery by the great Lincoln.

The below is an interesting article on the topic of "Democracy". Just what does that term mean?

During the home-run to the U.S. Presidency 2008, I read with amusement various quarters online talking about waiting for a 'Singaporean Obama' to come to the rescue of Singapore.

The fact is that if the situation in Singapore were that dreadful, we most certainly would not sit back and wait for the 'messiah' to come to our rescue. Rather, while waiting for the 'Singaporean Obama' to appear we would have got down to start paving the way for his messianic appearance in all its glory, and so begin right now to set the Democratic process going, hadn't we?

The point I'm driving home is that Democracy in America and the West did not just happen with the wave of a wand. And Democracy as it is practised in America today is only 40 years old, though the U.S as a Nation was founded on July 4, 1776.

I may also add that in the run-up to the recently concluded U.S. Presidential Election, there were many who harboured doubts that finally, the majority of white American voters would really vote for an African-American. And the fact that they in fact did was what caused that 'spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion' and euphoria, all of which no doubt contributed to making the November 2008 American Presidential Election a historic occasion of momentous significance.

Just as Rome was not built in a day, so a Democracy as it is understood and practised in the West cannot be established overnight. Now why do I emphasize the point about 'Democracy as it is practised in the West? The explanation is provided by the many other countries in the world that also subscribe to Democracy. As a concept, Democracy means different things to the different leaders and peoples of the world.

The late Chairman Mao Ze-dong also believed in Democracy. To Chairman Mao, Democracy meant 'freedom from foreign domination and exploitation, freedom from hunger and disease, and the opportunity for the Chinese people to build a just and caring society where the principle of "From each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs" might be implemented. [In this instance, some people might justifiably say that Mao was more of a romantic than a political reformer. But let me not digress and distract you, the reader.]

Then again in America, the staunchest proponent of Democracy in the world, capital punishment is still carried out while in other Democratic countries like Australia, that form of punishment is considered inhumane and a blatant transgression of the very principles of 'human rights' considered as the very essence of Democracy by the great majority of Australians.

Our very own Republic of Singapore also believes in "a Democratic Society based on justice and equality... ...", and a society where every citizen is expected to contribute according to his ability and will be rewarded in direct proportion to his contribution. So who has the right to dictate what Democracy should mean for this whole world?

The point here really is, that Democracy certainly cannot be a 'one size fits all' system of governance. For it to work effectively and meaningfully, it has to take into consideration differences in situation and circumstances, differences in terms of religion and culture, and the individual country's natural endowments, particular needs and constraints.

Democracy is by no means a manual of instructions or even a set of guidelines to follow for the establishment of a just, humane and an equitable socitey where all its citizens, without exception, are equal before the laws of the land. Democracy entails a process over time to attain to full maturity.

Also, Freedom is not a birth-right but a privilege to be earned. And until one understands that one's freedom to smoke as and when/where one likes , one must also take full cognizance of another's freedom to be able to breathe unpolluted, fresh air, we have quite some steep slope to climb before we reach the peak of our endeavour.

Indeed for Democracy to succeed one needs to understand that the moment one chooses to be a member of a community for security or protection, and for a more meaningful and an enriching life, one must be prepared to surrender a measure of individual rights and freedom for the greater good of the community of which one is a member.

Indeed there is no Democracy anywhere on this planet that grants its citizens unbridled freedom. For when this happens CHAOS takes over the reins from Democracy and the outcome is lawlessness and mayhem. For sure, Democracy does not confer on the individual the right to do the wrong.

This leads us to the all-important question of educating the people for the successful implementation of the Democratic model as a form of governance. And as educating the people is a time-consuming process and in direct relation to the rate that a people is capable of learning, so to that extent is the implementation of the Democratic process facilitated or hindered. In other words, the speed with which Democracy may be implemented will be depend upon a people's capacity for learning.

The message here is that evolution over revolution is the civilized route to take in our aspiration to bring about the changes that would enhance the overall well-being of our people. Evolution takes time at the same time as it takes people through a process of learning. And it is precisely this learning process that is so crucial to the success of any model of Democracy.

Revolution, on the other hand, brings about the possibility or opportunity to bring about change overnight without the people at large necessarily knowing how to go about helping to formulate and implement the change(s) that they seek.

The choice as to the route to take must by now be clear for those who cherish peaceful and sustainable change.

Ho Cheow Seng

18/01/2009

DEMOCRACY [via]

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Google Gmail Upcoming Features

CNET reported some new upcoming features lined-up for Google Gmail.
  1. More Themes are coming--including ones designed by you
  2. No iPhone Gmail app in the works
  3. Video chat is capable of HD
  4. The contact manager will be getting an upgrade
  5. Attachment sizes could go up
Inside Google's Gmail: What's next? [via]

Gmail Labs New Feature: Send & Archive

As part of Google's plan to improve Gmail, Gmail Labs added a new experimental feature. They call it Send & Archive. This feature adds a button to the compose form that lets you send a reply message and archive the email conversation in a single action.

Like before, you will need to Enable them before you can use it.

New in Labs: Send & Archive [via]

Amazing Close Up Video of US Airways Flight 1549 Crash Landing Into the Hudson River

Here is amazing raw video from various surveillance cameras of the US Airways Flight 1549 crash landing into the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. All 155 passengers aboard the plane survived in what is being called "Miracle on the Hudson."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Freight rates sink to zero as trade dives

Zero freight rates explains why shipping lines are in difficult times.

Business Times - 16 Jan 2009

Freight rates sink to zero as trade dives

Analysts say it's a desperate measure by shippers trying to recoup some costs

By VINCENT WEE

(SINGAPORE) For the first time since records began, container freight rates from Asia to Europe have hit flat zero. Apart from signalling just how dramatically trade has collapsed, the move smacks of sheer desperation as the lines try to recoup whatever revenue they can, industry players say.

Lloyd's List had earlier quoted shipping executives as saying that many lines are now charging shippers a freight rate of US$0 plus the bunker adjustment factor or the cost of bunker.

'They (the rates) have already hit zero,' Charles de Trenck, a broker at Transport Trackers in Hong Kong, was quoted as saying. 'We've seen trade activity fall off a cliff. Asia-Europe is an unmitigated disaster.'

'The report is quite accurate and it shows that the shipping lines are in a desperate situation,' the Singapore National Shippers' Council (SNSC) told BT. However, SNSC pointed out that in many cases other charges such as terminal handling charges and other surcharges are not included in the all-inclusive price the lines charge and that some of the lines are trying to recover some revenue through these other charges.

For example, sources said that within the last few days Maersk has increased terminal handling charges from China ports by over 20 per cent. Others like French line CMA-CGM have imposed a US$23 per container surcharge on freight going on ships through the Gulf of Aden. This especially affects shippers using the Asia-Europe trade lane because the bulk of the cargo goes through the Gulf of Aden.

The freight rates are determined by market forces and therefore have to fall in reaction to these, said SNSC, but it pointed out that the lines are still trying to get whatever they can by arbitrarily imposing extra charges. The low-rate environment looks like it will be a prolonged one and the survival of individual lines will depend on whether they have sufficient cash to sustain themselves.

'The situation is very bad for the liners and is perhaps one of the worst seen so far,' SNSC said. Since they have already cut as much capacity as they can so far, they are now trying to move as much volume as possible to fill empty slots.

In that sense, some of the lines' non-contract customers may be subsidising the others because of the abundance of space on vessels. By way of illustration, one industry player said that it's like taking on a fourth passenger just to fill the taxi in exchange for helping out with petrol costs.

'We don't think it's sustainable but it's really a structural change that has never happened before and it depends on how long you consider a situation to be sustainable,' said another shipper.

Underlying the slump, of course, is the disastrous trade data from some Asian countries. Korea's exports fell 30 per cent in January compared to a year earlier. Exports have slumped 42 per cent in Taiwan and 27 per cent in Japan, according to the most recent monthly data.

Even China has now started to see an outright contraction in shipments, led by steel, electronics and textiles.

Plane Crash Hudson River But All Safe After 5 Minutes

A US Airways Airbus A320 made an extraordinary emergency landing in the Hudson River on Thursday after suspected of being hit by a flock of birds. The accident happened just 3 minutes after take-off. ALL 155 passengers including crew members were rescued. None was injured except one with two broken legs.

I learnt of this extraordinary news from TV early this morning. What I saw was incredible! How could an aircraft stay afloat on water for few minutes? Seeing passengers standing on its two wings, waiting for rescue is an unbelievable sight. According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, all were rescued after 5 minutes of crash landing.

Just look at the incredible rescue effort!

The as calm as a cucumber hero is Pilot Chesley (Sully) Sullenberger.

All on US Airways plane are safe -- within 5 minutes of crash landing [via]
Experts credit safe landing to airliner's pilot, crew [via]

More photos here [via]

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Modules Likely to Ballot For

My part time Master programme in National University of Singapore, School of Computing (SOC), has begun. In proper, the programme I am enrolled into is "Master of Computing", in IT Project Management (ITPM) discipline.

I plan to take a total of 3 modules this semester - 2 from ITPM and 1 from Computer Science as an elective.

ITPM Modules

CS5251 - Integration of IS and Business
CS5259 - Information Technology Outsourcing

Computer Science Modules

CS4244 - Knowledge-Based Systems

My first week in (SOC) as a Master student is excellent. The credentials and industry experience exhibited by the lecturers are simply just too impressive. 2 of the 3 lectures are taught by CIO of Starhub and CIO of NTUC, and the third one is by an experienced professor.

I hope to learn from the lecturers and from the many working professionals in lectures. I do hope time management can be better improved on my side.

Apple Steve Jobs to Step Down Until End of June

Early this month, the chief executive of Apple, Steven P. Jobs, announced that he was being treated for a “hormone imbalance” that had caused him to lose weight, but that he would still be staying on as head of the company.

On Wednesday, Steve Jobs announced to Apple employees he will step aside until the end of June due to medical reasons. Tim Cook, the chief operating officer at Apple, will take care of Apple's day-to-day operation. Is Tim Cook set to be Jobs' successor?

Apple's Jobs to Step Down for Health Reasons [via]

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Vulnerabilities in SMB Could Allow Remote Code Execution

Three vulnerabilities in Microsoft Server Message Block (SMB) networking protocol were patched in a single update today by Microsoft. Two of the three are classified as critical and the third as moderate.

Microsoft recommends all users to apply this security patch immediately.

Vulnerabilities in SMB Could Allow Remote Code Execution (958687) [via]

Carol Bartz Joins Yahoo! as Chief Executive Officer

Yahoo! has announced Carol Bartz as its new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) after the Jerry Yang step down months ago.

Carol Bartz is a veteran technology executive who was most recently Executive Chairman of Autodesk.

Carol Bartz Joins Yahoo! as Chief Executive Officer [via]

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Wish List for Budget 2009

Coming 22 Jan 2009, the Singapore government is set to deliver Budget for year 2009. This date is a month earlier than usual in view of current difficult economic conditions.

Budget 2009 is expected to help SMEs and companies to ride through the storm to save jobs. Some analysts predict tax discounts for corporates so employers can send employees for training. Cash handouts, if distributed, should help lower income families most. However, the Singapore government has cautioned Singaporeans not to be over reliant on cash handouts.

I do have my own wish list for this Budget 2009.

I wish individual income tax can enjoy the same 20% discount just like last year.

I wish cash handouts to be distributed, with most consideration on lower income families, and at the same time not neglecting middle income families.

I wish public transport fares to be lowered or at least freeze for the next 2 years.

I wish full time tertiary students to pay the same rates as JCs students.

I wish CPF contribution by employer not to be lowered. If lowered, this will put more stress on house owners who are still paying house loans.

I wish the current S$8,000 ceiling to be eligible for a HDB flat to be raised. This ceiling has been unchanged for donkey years, not tracking inflation rates. Raising it will allow more middle income families to be able to purchase a flat.

I bet many share similar ideas like me.

New EZLink Card Marketing Gimmicks

EZ-Link started issuing the new ez-link cards on 29th December 2008. These new ez-link cards adheres to the new Singapore Standard for Contactless ePurse Applications (CEPAS) that can be used for LTA’s new e-payment system for public transport.

EZLink markets this new card as
  1. No Deposit Required as compared to the original EZLink card
  2. 1 for 1 exchange for the new card with the old one at NO COST
In my opinion, the marketing strategy used is a gimmick.

Old Card

Deposit Value: $3 (refundable)
Card Value: $5 (non-refundable)

New Card

Minimum Balance: $3 (refundable)
Card Value: $5 (non-refundable)

Minimum Balance of S$3 is required for MRT travel. This minimum balance requirement is not required for bus travel but balance should be enough to cover the trip fare from the point a commuter board the bus to the END of the bus route (even if one wishes to alight earlier). If minimum balance is not enough, no payment will be registered and cash payment has to be made for the travel.

Since a minimum balance is required for new cards, isn't it the same as the deposit value requirement used for previous cards? Since the card value for new card is equal to the old one, of course exchange of cards is free of charge.

Somali pirates drown as they flee with ransom

Six Somali pirates who hijacked a Saudi supertanker last November drowned with their share of the US$3 million ransom when their boat capsized as it left the vessel. Is this retribution?

Somali pirates drown as they flee with ransom [via]

Windows 7 Beta Download Extended to 24 Jan

The Windows 7 team has decided to extend the download of Windows 7 beta to 24 Jan. The 2.5 million download limit is also removed.

I know many of you have had issues with the Windows 7 Beta site over the last 24 hours. As you may have noticed the download site has been up and running smoothly since this morning. That said, we apologize for the inconvenience that it caused some of you.

Due to an enormous surge in demand, the download experience was not ideal so we listened and took the necessary steps to ensure a good experience. We have clearly heard that many of you want to check out the Windows 7 Beta and, as a result, we have decided remove the initial 2.5 million limit on the public beta for the next two weeks (thru January 24th). During that time you will have access to the beta even if the download number exceeds the 2.5 million unit limit.

Thank you for your enthusiasm, interest and willingness to beta test. It has been great to see the positive early reviews and feedback. As you know, this is a beta product. We are working hard to get Windows 7 ready and right. Your input is a critical part of that process. Thank you!

Here’s where we stand [via]

Finally Got My Windows 7 Beta Product Key

After a day of delay in making Windows 7 Beta public by the Microsoft, Windows 7 beta download is back live again and I got the product key finally.

Originally, Microsoft only allowed TechNet subscribers to download via this link. Now, they just setup a second link for all to download.

If you use the TechNet link, you should see the below.

Follow through the instructions as listed on the page and hopefully you get your Product Key. You will need a Windows Live ID.

Very likely, you will see a "Page Not Found" error when you try to get your Product Key. I recommend you use the below 2 links to get your Product Key. You may need to refresh several times just to get the right page you want like below.

32-Bit key
https://www.microsoft.com/betaexperience/scripts/gcs.aspx?Product=tn-win7-32-ww&LCID=1033

64-bit key:
https://www.microsoft.com/betaexperience/scripts/gcs.aspx?Product=tn-win7-64-ww&LCID=1033

After you got the Product Key, you may proceed downloading the over 2GB Windows 7 beta disc image. I recommend you download using the direct download link method. I also strongly recommend you use one of the download manager software around in the market, e.g. Free Download Manager, to resume download in case it fails halfway through.

Download the Windows 7 Beta 32-bit version
Download the Windows 7 Beta 64-bit version

Windows 7 Beta Still Unavailable for Download

Still, download of Windows 7 Beta from TechNet is still unavailable. This is the place where you can get license from. A visit to the TechNet page still give me the same result, which says Microsoft is still trying to resolve the overwhelming demand. Microsoft did not offer a new schedule for delivering the beta of Windows 7.

For anxious Windows 7 Beta fans, direct download link for Windows 7 Beta is still available.

Microsoft postpones Windows 7 public beta [via]

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Spam Comments Will Not Be Published

Dear readers,

It is to my observation that I have been receiving spam comments in response to my postings. These spam comments are mainly for advertising and marketing purposes.

I will NOT publish such spam comments and so, there is no point making such irrelevant comments on this blog.

The Dumbest Gadget of CES 2009

PC Magazine reported the dumbest gadget of CES 2009. I agreed with both hands up!

Cell-Mate is the gadget mentioned. It is a piece of metal and Velcro that actually clips your cell phone to your head. It is designed to allow you to answer phone calls (hands-free) without using bluetooth.

From their website, they promote the device as below. I thought it is lame enough and worthy for a post.

Never settle for sub-par reception. Never worry about charging your Bluetooth headset. Never risk your safety trying to sync your headset with your phone while driving. All you have to do is answer your cell phone and place the Cell-Mate on your head.

Enough of this good-not-to-have gadget, these guys even use a free GoDaddy website hosting provider to host their website. including the embedded GoDaddy ads at the top of the page. Web page fail, product fail, lifestyle fail. It is not that expensive nowadays to get a website up "decently". Be professional!

New EZLink Card No Deposit Not True

The new EZLink card in circulation now says there will not a deposit. However, there need to have a minimum balance of S$3 for MRT transport. As for bus transport, this S$3 minimum balance is not required but do take note it is the responsibility of commuters to have adequate balance for the bus ride they are taking to avoid unnecessary hassle and embarrassment of paying balance in cash. Isn't this minimum balance requirement equivalent to having a deposit? I thought the original idea was at least better than this one - No balance on screen means top up.

It is understood a total of 8 million EZLink cards are currently in circulation. A minimum balance of S$3 means a total of S$24 million in custody. That is a huge sum of money! I wonder how EZLink or the Singapore government uses our money.

How Stupid Do You Think I Am? No, Seriously... [via]

Google Changes Favicon Again

Just last year, Google changed its favicon. Now, Google takes that tradition to year 2009 and changes its favicon.

In my opinion, the new icon looks ugly to me. I still prefer Google's very first original favicon. The icon has gone from bad to worse each time they change.

Google’s New Favicon (Again) [via]

How to run a legal copy of Vista for 120 days without activation

Hint: You have to 're-arm' the OS with a little-known command

slmgr -rearm

How to run a legal copy of Vista for 120 days without activation [via]

Direct Download Link for Windows 7 Beta

Though Microsoft has pulled off Windows 7 beta download and temporarily stop giving out the promised 2.5 million licenses, it is still possible to download Windows 7 beta.

Download and get the respective variants of Windows 7 beta as a disk image below. They are the same beta (build 7000) and will run just fine for 30 days without the license key. Do note that the Windows 7 Beta will be only available in one edition, which is roughly equivalent the Ultimate edition of Windows Vista. Also, another important thing to keep in mind is that the Windows 7 Beta will expire on 1st August 2009.

Download the Windows 7 Beta 32-bit version
Download the Windows 7 Beta 64-bit version

If you are still keen on getting a license from Microsoft, continue trying out this download page from TechNet until they resolve the overwhelming demand problem.

Windows 7 Beta Download Pulled Off Due to Overwhelming Demand

Microsoft has just pulled off Windows 7 Beta download due to overwhelming demand. I am still trying to download the official Windows 7 Beta release.

To download, follow here.

Thanks for your interest in the Windows 7 Beta. The volume has been phenomenal -- we’re in the process of adding more servers to handle the demand. We’re sorry for the delay and we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience.

Unable to Download Windows 7 Beta

Download link for Windows 7 Beta is out. However, there is just no way to download Windows 7 Beta with my PDA. It's just too bad my laptop is not with me.

Will I still stand a chance when I finally get hold of my laptop which is in more than 8 hours time? My guess is chances are slim and 2.5 million downloads could all have already been taken.

Friday, January 09, 2009

NUS School of Computing Welcome Tea

I just attended this evening's NUS School of Computing welcome tea for Master of Computing students.

From next week onwards and at least for the next 2 years, I will be much busier, coping with a full-time day job, freelance and this part-time Master degree.

Back to the welcome tea, I counted a total of approximately 14 students in my specialization - IT Project Management, and approximately 30 for the other 2 specialization - Computer Science and Information Security. Students come from very diversified background. I managed to find students from countries like Iran, Morocco, India, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Vietnam, China and Indonesia. So far, I see only one fellow Singaporean. I guess many Singaporeans are not as keen as foreign students in such event.

I wish myself all the best.

In Support of National Library Board Latest Policies

The National Library Board (NLB) has just announced 2 new policies. They will come into effect from 1st April 2009 onwards.

First, borrowers with outstanding fines will not be able to borrow any items unless they pay up. The NLB estimates a total of $7.5 million fines remain unaccounted for. On February, the NLB will send out mailers reminding borrowers with outstanding fines to pay up. I strongly urge such irresponsible borrowers to pay up.

Second, the current 50 cents fee charged for every item renewal will be removed. However, policy of each item can only be renewed once still remains. This is implemented in view of readers' feedback that they need more time to finish reading books they borrowed.

I am supportive of the new policies. They should promote responsible borrowing behaviour.

Google Chrome 2.0 Pre-Beta Out

Very quickly, Google has announced Chrome 2.0 Pre-Beta with several new features are added. Since this is a pre-beta, there is seriously no need to install unless you are geeky enough to try new things. As expected from a beta version, there are bound to be some bugs.

Google Chrome 2.0 Pre-Beta [via]

How to Get Your Windows 7 Beta 1 on Friday

As said yesterday, Microsoft will make Windows 7 Beta available for public download and it's FREE! However, it is understood it is not completely free after all.

Windows 7 Beta 1 will be made available for a limited time during the day on 9 January 9 2009. The download link will be available on the Windows 7 page. As demand for the free beta is expected to be overwhelming, it will only be made available to the first 2.5 million people. Before downloading, registration is required to get hold of a product key.

How to Get Your Windows 7 Beta 1 on Friday [via]

Times Are Bad and Even US Porn Industry Are Asking for Bailout

In this current tough economic conditions, many industries are not doing as well as compared to previous years. This also applies to the porn industry. The US porn industry has requested for a multi-dollar bailout to garner some energy into the adult entertainment industry. One argument the US porn chiefs used is in difficult economic times, Americans turn to entertainment (adult) for relief.

Hard times for US porn industry [via]

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Microsoft to Release Windows 7 Beta for FREE Download on 9 Jan 2009

At the current CES 2009, Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer, announced Windows 7.0 Beta will be available for public download on 9 January 2009. Microsoft promises that the Windows 7 will have faster startup and shutdown times, fewer security alerts, and will provide better power management leading to improved battery life on laptops as compared to the disappointing Windows Vista.

Microsoft Releases Windows 7 Beta as a Free Download [via]

Singaporeans to Work and Work Until 65 Years Old

It seems like the Singapore government is to increase official retirement age and lock CPF monies withdrawal soon. Even if one manage to enjoy self-declared early retirement, he is unable to withdraw his own money locked in his CPF account. Where is the logic?

I pity Singaporeans (including myself).

S'poreans urged to adjust to longer lifespan by working longer [via]

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ultimate List of Free Windows Software from Microsoft

The below post publishes a list of FREE Windows software from Microsoft.

Ultimate List of Free Windows Software from Microsoft [via]

Monday, January 05, 2009

Apple's Steve Jobs Losing Weight Due to Hormone Imbalance

The chief executive of Apple, Steven P. Jobs, announced on Monday that he was being treated for a “hormone imbalance” that had caused him to lose weight, but that he will be staying on as head of the company.

Apple’s Jobs Discusses Health Problem [via]

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What Courses Should I Take?

What courses should I take? I will come out with one by this coming Friday.

The Crunchies 2008 Awards Open for Voting

The 2008 Crunchies is an annual competition and award ceremony to recognize and celebrate the most compelling startups, internet and technology innovations of the year.

The winners will be announced live at the Crunchies award ceremony on January 9 in San Francisco.

The Crunchies 2008 Awards [via]

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Five Best Media / Video Converters

LifeHacker shares their five best media converters.

Five Best Media Converters [via]

Friday, January 02, 2009

Singapore Economy for Year 2008 Revised Downwards

The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced today that it expects the Singapore economy to grow between -2.0 per cent and 1.0 per cent in 2009, lower than the -1.0 per cent to 2.0 per cent range it had forecast in November 2008. This revision is made after a poorer than estimated fourth quarter (Q4) GDP. Q4 2008 GDP contracted 2.6% as compared to the same quarter in year 2007.

Looks like Singapore economy is getting from bad to worse.

MTI Revises 2009 Growth to -2.0 to 1.0 Per Cent [via]

Two Years of Financial Mayhem

Below is a series of events that had happened over the past 2 years that lead us to the current global financial crisis. These events are compiled and extracted from The Business Times - Two years of financial mayhem, published on 2 Jan 2009.

Business Times - 02 Jan 2009

CRISIS TIMELINE
Two years of financial mayhem

Since the start of 2007, the world's biggest banks, insurers and mortgage finance companies have collectively reported US$1.01 trillion of asset writedowns and credit losses and slashed 240,000 jobs - more than half of them in the US. Below is a timeline of the key events as the financial crisis unfolded. Compiled by CONRAD TAN

February 2007: In an early sign of the trouble ahead, London-based banking giant HSBC warns on Feb 8 that provisions for losses on its US sub-prime mortgages could exceed analysts' estimates by 20 per cent, reaching almost US$11 billion.

July 2007: Two hedge funds run by US investment bank Bear Stearns collapse on July 17 under the weight of losses from investments linked to US sub-prime mortgages, despite attempts by Bear in June to save them.

August 2007: Bear Stearns co-president Warren Spector is ousted on Aug 5. On Aug 9, France's largest bank, BNP Paribas, halts redemptions on three funds heavily invested in sub-prime mortgage-related securities.

September 2007: The Bank of England provides an emergency loan to UK mortgage lender Northern Rock on Sept 14, triggering the first run on a British bank in 140 years.

October 2007: Swiss bank UBS and US bank Citigroup reveal huge losses on investments linked to US sub-prime mortgages on Oct 1. On Oct 19, US stocks plunge on the 20th anniversary of Black Monday in 1987.

On Oct 30, UBS confirms a third-quarter net loss of 830 million Swiss francs (S$1.11 billion) after writing down US$3.6 billion on its sub-prime mortgage exposure.

The same day, US investment bank Merrill Lynch says its CEO Stan O'Neal is leaving, a week after the bank reported writedowns of almost US$8 billion.

November 2007: Crude oil prices hit a record high of more than US$96 a barrel on Nov 1 after an unexpected fall in US oil reserves. Swiss banking group Credit Suisse writes down US$1.9 billion and reports a 31 per cent drop in Q3 net profit.

On Nov 4, Citigroup chairman and chief executive Chuck Prince is forced to step down. Three days later, US investment bank Morgan Stanley announces a US$3.7 billion hit from its exposure to sub-prime mortgage securities.

On Nov 16, UK's Northern Rock announces the departure of its chief executive Adam Applegarth and most of its board.

On Nov 26, UK-based HSBC says it will provide up to US$35 billion in funding for two of its off-balance-sheet investment vehicles and move them on to its balance sheet to prevent a forced sale of their assets.

The next day, Citigroup announces a US$7.5 billion capital infusion from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority to shore up its battered balance sheet.

December 2007: UBS writes down a further US$10 billion and, on Dec 10, announces a 13-billion Swiss franc injection of new capital from the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) and a strategic investor from the Middle East.

Morgan Stanley becomes the first Wall Street firm to predict the US economy is likely to slip into a mild recession in 2008.

US commercial bank Washington Mutual says it will quit the sub-prime lending business, cutting 3,000 jobs.

French bank Societe Generale announces the US$4.3 billion bailout of an off-balance-sheet investment vehicle. Its move follows similar rescues by HSBC, Standard Chartered and Rabobank since end-November of so-called structured investment vehicles or SIVs to avoid the forced sale of SIV assets as market prices plunge.

On Dec 19, Morgan Stanley sells a US$5 billion stake to China's new sovereign wealth fund, China Investment Corporation, after revealing a Q4 loss of US$3.59 billion due to US$9.4 billion in mortgage-related writedowns.

On Dec 24, Morgan Stanley's Wall Street rival Merrill Lynch announces a US$6.2 billion fund-raising from private investors, including an injection of up to US$5 billion by Singapore's Temasek Holdings.

January 2008: Oil prices start the trading year on Jan 2 by setting a new record, rising above US$100 a barrel for the first time. On Jan 8, US stocks plunge amid speculation that Countrywide Financial, the country's biggest mortgage lender, may be forced into bankruptcy.

Jimmy Cayne, CEO of US investment bank Bear Stearns, says he plans to step down. Three days later, Bank of America says it will buy troubled Countrywide for US$4 billion.

On Jan 15, Merrill Lynch receives a US$6.6 billion capital injection from foreign investors including the Kuwait Investment Authority, Japan's Mizuho Financial Group and the Korean Investment Corporation through the sale of preferred shares.

Citigroup announces a US$12.5 billion injection of new capital to shore up its balance sheet from investors including Singapore's GIC, which pumps in US$6.88 billion. Citi says that it lost US$9.83 billion in Q4 2007 due to writedowns of US$18.1 billion.

Two days later, Merrill Lynch writes off US$11.5 billion of bad debt and reports a Q4 2007 net loss of US$9.8 billion.

On Jan 21, stock indices worldwide tumble as panic grips investors. In Singapore, the Straits Times Index plunges 6 per cent. The US market is closed for a public holiday, but the plunge in equities elsewhere prompts the US Federal Reserve to slash its benchmark interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point to 3.5 per cent in an emergency move one week before a scheduled policy meeting, to relieve pressure before US markets reopen. Eight days later, on Jan 30, the Fed cuts rates again, by half a percentage point to 3 per cent.

On Jan 24, France's Societe Generale shocks financial markets by unveiling a loss of 4.9 billion euros (S$9.85 billion) due to fraud, saying it will have to raise 5.5 billion euros to shore up its capital due to losses related to US sub-prime mortgages. The rogue trader responsible for the losses is later identified as Jerome Kerviel.

February 2008: The UK government formally announces its intention on Feb 17 to nationalise Northern Rock after failing to find a buyer for the troubled mortgage lender.

On Feb 19, Credit Suisse reveals US$2.85 billion of losses on structured credit positions due to mispricing, caused in part by some of its traders inflating the value of investments in mortgage-backed securities. On Feb 28, insurance giant American International Group (AIG) writes down US$11 billion of mortgage securities and reports its worst-ever quarterly loss.

March 2008: The US Federal Reserve leads a group of the world's largest central banks in a coordinated effort to inject at least US$200 billion of fresh liquidity into money markets in North America and Europe on March 11, just four days after the Fed announced a separate US$200 billion intervention.

On March 13, Carlyle Capital, a London-based bond fund affiliated with US private equity firm The Carlyle Group, goes bust after last-minute talks to renegotiate financing terms with its lenders collapse.

The US dollar slides against other major currencies, falling below 100 yen for the first time in more than 12 years. Crude oil hits a record US$111 a barrel and gold exceeds US$1,000 an ounce for the first time.

On March 14, the US Fed extends an emergency loan to investment bank Bear Stearns through its rival JPMorgan, after Bear's access to liquidity suddenly dries up. At this point, Bear, which was not a commercial bank, could not borrow from the Fed directly. Two days later, after a weekend of frenzied talks, JPMorgan says it is buying Bear for US$2 a share in a deal backed by the Fed. The price is a 93 per cent discount to Bear's last traded price of US$30 on March 14 and values the company at a mere US$236 million.

The Fed cuts its discount rate by a quarter of a percentage point to 3.25 per cent, two days ahead of a scheduled policy meeting on March 18, to prevent a run on major banks when markets reopen on March 17. Still, stock markets in Asia and Europe plummet on March 17 on fears that the sale of Bear Stearns at a massive discount could mean that other financial firms are also in serious trouble. The cost of insuring against default on corporate bonds soars, while the US dollar sinks to new lows against other major currencies.

Gold rises to a record US$1,030.80 an ounce, while US crude oil rises to a new high of US$111.80 a barrel. US stocks plunge at the start of trading as worries spread about the health of other financial firms such as Lehman Brothers, but recover by the end the day.

The next day, the Fed cuts its benchmark interest rate by three quarters of a percentage point to 2.25 per cent, the lowest level since December 2004. Although traders had expected a full percentage-point cut, the reduction sparks a surge in US stocks. The rise is helped by stronger-than-expected earnings reports from investment banks Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers.

On March 24, JPMorgan raises its offer for Bear Stearns to US$10 a share from US$2 and agrees to finance the first US$1 billion of any losses associated with the target bank. The new offer values Bear at some US$2 billion.

A week later, on March 31, US Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson announces a broad overhaul of Wall Street regulations, creating a set of federal regulators with authority over all players in the financial system. Lehman Brothers says it will raise at least US$3 billion of new capital to shore up its balance sheet.

News spreads that Swiss bank UBS is expected to reveal further writedowns of up to US$18 billion and seek a capital increase of about 13 billion Swiss francs later in the week. Citigroup unveils a sweeping restructure of its global business, separating them into four regions and breaking out its credit card business from its broader consumer banking segment.

April 2008: UBS chairman Marcel Ospel says on April 1 that he will not seek re-election at the Swiss bank's annual shareholders' meeting on April 23. The bank warns that it expects to lose a net 12 billion Swiss francs in the first quarter due to further write-downs of US$19 billion on its US investment holdings. It also says it will make a 15 billion franc rights issue to boost its capital.

On April 8, the International Monetary Fund warns that total losses and write-downs in the financial sector from the credit crisis could reach US$945 billion. The next day, oil futures reach a record US$112.21 a barrel in intraday trading and end at a record closing price of US$110.87, after a surprise drop in US oil inventories.

On April 10, the Chinese yuan rises to a record 6.99 against the US dollar, crossing the seven yuan per US dollar mark for the first time.

The Monetary Authority of Singapore effectively gives a one-time boost to the Singapore dollar to fight rising inflation by re-centring its undisclosed policy band for the trade-weighted Sing dollar or S$NEER at the prevailing level - widely believed to be near the top of the previous tolerated range. The Sing dollar rises 1.8 per cent to a record 1.3567 against the US dollar. Since MAS's previous statement on Oct 10, 2007, the Sing dollar has gained 7.4 per cent against the US dollar.

Rice prices exceed US$1,000 a tonne for the first time on April 17 as panicking importers scramble to secure supplies, worsening disruption already caused by export restrictions in Vietnam, India, Egypt, China and Cambodia.

Citigroup's chief executive Vikram Pandit says the financial group will slash its cost base by up to 20 per cent. Merrill Lynch says it will cut 4,000 jobs after suffering a US$2 billion Q1 2008 loss, bringing to almost 40,000 the number of jobs lost at financial companies since the onset of the credit crunch.

The next day, Citigroup says it suffered net loss of US$5.1 billion in Q1, its second consecutive quarterly loss, after writing down almost US$16 billion of soured investments. Citigroup also says it will cut 9,000 jobs in the next 12 months.

Oil futures close at a record high of US$116.69 a barrel as news about pipeline sabotage in Nigeria pushes up prices. On April 22, the UK's Royal Bank of Scotland unveils emergency plans to raise £16 billion (S$33.3 billion) through a £12 billion rights issue and asset sales. The rights issue is Europe's biggest to date.

Oil prices reach a record US$118.47 a barrel amid strong demand from China, attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria and concerns about the outlook for supplies from Saudi Arabia.

May 2008: America's AIG says on May 9 that it suffered a record net loss of almost US$8 billion in Q1 2008 due to massive writedowns on credit derivatives and losses on its investment portfolio. The insurer says it plans to raise US$12.5 billion in new capital. Standard & Poor's and Fitch both downgrade their ratings of the company.

Crude oil futures close at a record US$125.96 after climbing as high as US$126.25 a barrel during the day. On May 22, oil futures reach a new high of US$135.09 a barrel in intraday trading after repeatedly breaking previous records earlier in the month.

Swiss bank UBS, one of the worst affected by the credit crunch, launches a 15.97-billion franc rights issue to cover its losses on assets linked to US mortgage debt.

June 2008: UK bank Barclays announces a plan on June 25 to raise £4.5 billion from foreign investors including Qatar Investment Authority to bolster its balance sheet.

July 2008: Oil prices reach an all-time high of just over US$147 a barrel on July 11. In an emergency move on July 13, after a weekend of desperate negotiations, the US Treasury and other government agencies say they will provide liquidity and capital support to US mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which account for almost half of the outstanding mortgages in the US. The share prices of both firms had plunged the previous week as investors feared that falling US house prices and rising defaults on mortgages would drag them into bankruptcy. The same day, US mortgage lender IndyMac Bank collapses, the second-biggest bank failure in US history.

On July 15, stocks in Asia slump as news emerges that some of the region's biggest banks had billions of dollars invested in debt securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

August 2008: In a settlement with US regulators over the latest scandal to engulf Wall Street, Citigroup and Merrill Lynch announce on Aug 7 that they will buy back a total of up to US$20 billion in bonds known as auction-rate securities from investors, after some claimed that they were misled by the banks' advisers.

A day later, UBS agrees to buy back US$18.6 billion of auction-rate securities to settle charges of misleading investors over the securities.

Other banks including JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Wachovia Corp soon follow with their own settlements. Shares in American International Group (AIG) plummet on Aug 7 after the insurer reports a loss of more than US$5 billion on mortgage-related exposures.

Shares in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plunge further after both report multibillion-dollar quarterly losses. Fears grow over the fate of both firms, as well as that of Lehman Brothers, which is trying desperately to raise cash from investors in China and South Korea. Oil falls to US$115 a barrel.

On Aug 12, UBS announces plans to separate its wealth management, investment banking and asset management business units, after reporting a fourth straight quarterly loss and massive withdrawals of funds by clients. UK chancellor Alistair Darling warns on Aug 30 that the country faces its worst economic downturn in 60 years.

September 2008: The US government takes over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Sept 7 in one of the biggest bailouts in US history after a weekend of frantic talks, reminiscent of the dramatic attempt to save Bear Stearns in March. Investors' fears turn to the four remaining independent Wall Street investment banks - Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs - as well as insurer AIG.

After days of searching frantically for a buyer, Lehman files for bankruptcy protection on Sept 15, while Merrill agrees to be taken over by Bank of America for US$50 billion, capping Wall Street's worst-ever weekend.

On Sept 16, financial markets worldwide plunge into chaos. The US government announces an US$85 billion emergency loan for AIG to save the insurer from bankruptcy, in exchange for a 79.9 per cent stake in the company.

As news of Lehman's collapse and the extraordinary takeover of Merrill spreads, markets in everything from stocks and currencies to credit derivatives strain to cope with the fallout.

Stunned investors flee equities for government bonds and gold, while interbank lending rates jump to record levels as banks jealously hoard cash, causing credit markets to seize up.

A day later, HBOS, the UK's biggest mortgage lender, is taken over by Lloyds TSB in a £12 billion deal after a run on HBOS shares. Stocks worldwide continue to gyrate wildly. In Russia, trading is halted indefinitely by regulators.

On Sept 18, central banks worldwide inject US$180 billion of US-dollar liquidity into money markets in a desperate bid to lower interbank borrowing costs and calm financial markets.

The next day, regulators in the US and UK ban the short-selling of shares in financial companies, blaming it for recent declines in financial stocks. News emerges that the US government is preparing a plan for a mass rescue of the financial sector.

On Sept 21, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last surviving independent investment banks on Wall Street, receive emergency approval to become commercial banks, to avoid the fate of Lehman and Bear Stearns. Australia, Taiwan and the Netherlands join the US and UK in announcing restrictions on short-selling to prevent investors from betting that stocks will decline.

On Sept 24, Hong Kong's Bank of East Asia faces a run by depositors after rumours spread that the bank has liquidity problems. Its shares plunge. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority says it will provide full liquidity support to the bank, if necessary.

In the US, the Fed increases its swap lines with other central banks, adding Australia, Norway, Sweden and Norway to a list that includes the European Central, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan.

The next day, Washington Mutual is seized by regulators and sold to JPMorgan Chase for US$1.9 billion, making it by far the biggest bank failure in US history to date. A bailout plan for the financial sector is mired in doubt as US lawmakers argue over details including safeguards over the use of taxpayers' money.

On Sept 28, US policy-makers announce a tentative deal that will allow the US Treasury to buy up to US$700 billion in troubled assets from ailing banks.

In Europe, banking and insurance group Fortis is bailed out by the Belgium, Dutch and Luxembourg governments. The next day, US lawmakers reject the bailout plan by a narrow margin, throwing financial markets into disarray. The Dow Jones index plunges a record 778 points or 7 per cent, while the S&P 500 index falls 8.8 per cent.

Wachovia agrees to be bought by Citigroup in a deal backed by US regulators. UK banking group Bradford & Bingley is bailed out, as is Iceland's third-largest bank Glitnir, while the German government announces plans to rescue Hypo Real Estate, one of the country's biggest banks.

On Sept 30, Ireland's government guarantees deposits and debts at six financial institutions after Irish banks suffered the biggest one-day fall in their share price for two decades on Sept 29.

Central banks worldwide again flood interbank markets with money. The overnight US-dollar London interbank offered rate or Libor, the rate that banks charge one another to borrow US dollars, jumps to 6.9 per cent from 2.6 per cent a day earlier, the biggest-ever one-day increase.

European bank Dexia is bailed out by the Belgian, French and Luxembourg governments.

October 2008: US lawmakers approve the sweeping rescue plan aimed at saving the financial sector. Stocks in the US fall after the vote is announced on Oct 3, ending the week with their worst performance since markets reopened after the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Economic data shows the US labour market lost 159,000 jobs in September, the biggest decline since March 2003.

Central banks pump more money into the banking system, lowering overnight Libor. But three-month Libor rates for interbank loans in pounds, US dollars and euros continue to rise. The spread between three-month dollar Libor and three-month US Treasury bills reaches record levels as investors seek the safety of US debt and shun lending in the money market.

US bank Wells Fargo makes a surprise offer for Wachovia, trumping Citigroup's earlier deal to buy the bank. Two days later, on Oct 5, the German government guarantees savings in all German bank accounts to avert panic after a rescue plan for Hypo Real Estate collapses.

The next day, the Danish government guarantees all bank deposits in Denmark.

On Oct 7-8, Iceland's government formally seizes its three biggest banks - Kaupthing, Landsbanki and Glitnir - as the entire country teeters on the brink of economic collapse. On Oct 8, central banks in the US, Canada, UK, eurozone, Sweden and Switzerland cut rates simultaneously in an unprecedented joint effort to stabilise financial markets and to lower borrowing costs. China also lowers interest rates.

The UK government announces plans to pump up to £250 billion into the country's largest banks, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB and HBOS, to boost their capital, and provides a further £250 billion in guarantees for new debt issued by UK banks.

Days later, on Oct 14, the US government decides to use the first US$250 billion of US$700 billion in bailout money - originally intended for buying troubled assets from banks - on a similar plan to buy direct stakes in banks in an attempt to restore confidence to the financial sector.

On Oct 15, the Dow Jones index fell 7.9 per cent - its biggest percentage fall since Oct 26, 1987 - as new data shows the US economy slipping into recession. The next day, the Straits Times Index slumps 5.3 per cent, extending its two-day decline to 8.3 per cent.

After trading ends on Oct 16, the Singapore and Malaysian governments say they will guarantee all bank deposits, following similar moves by governments elsewhere, including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand.

Switzerland's government announces a sweeping rescue of its entire banking sector, including emergency cash infusions from the public purse for UBS and a toxic-asset dump for removing troubled assets from banks' balance sheets.

Despite the unprecedented efforts to calm financial markets, stocks worldwide continue to fluctuate violently as the damage from the credit crisis spreads to the broader economy.

Analysts grow increasingly worried that the three biggest us carmakers - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler, which have suffered from plunging sales amid a weakening economy - could collapse, causing hundreds of thousands of job losses and triggering further chaos in financial markets.

On Oct 24, The Straits Times Index suffers its biggest one-day fall in almost two decades, ending one of its worst weeks in recent memory. The stock benchmark plunges 8.3 per cent - its biggest percentage drop since Oct 16, 1989 - to finish the week with a staggering loss of 14.8 per cent.

On Oct 29, the US Fed extends temporary swap lines to Singapore, Korea, Brazil and Mexico to ensure sufficient US-dollar liquidity in the respective banking systems.

A day later, the Fed cuts its key interest rate to one per cent from 1.5 per cent.

November 2008: On Nov 5, Barack Obama wins the US presidential election. The next day, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warns of a global recession in 2009 as the outlook for the world's biggest economies deteriorates further.

The IMF extends a US$16.4 billion emergency loan to Ukraine on Nov 6 to shore up its economy. Later in the month, the IMF approves emergency loans to Iceland on Nov 20 and Pakistan on Nov 25 to stabilise their economies.

On Nov 7, DBS Group says it will slash 6 per cent of its work force or some 900 jobs by the end of the month, as it reports its worst quarterly performance since the end of 2005. Two days later, China announces a four-trillion yuan (S$840 billion) stimulus plan to spur economic growth. On Nov 17, Citigroup announces plans to slash some 50,000 jobs worldwide, aiming to reduce its headcount to 300,000 'in the near term' from 352,000 at the end of September.

On Nov 23, the US government announces a US$20 billion rescue plan for Citigroup after its shares plunge more than 60 per cent in a week.

On Nov 25, the US Federal Reserve says it will inject another US$800 billion into the economy. A day later, the European Commission unveils a 200 billion euro plan to spur economic growth.

December 2008: The US National Bureau of Economic Research confirms on Dec 1 that the US economy is in a recession that started in December 2007.

On Dec 4, Credit Suisse says it will slash 5,300 jobs or 11 per cent of its global work force by the middle of 2009, as it warns of massive losses from its investment banking business. A week later, Bank of America says it will cut up to 35,000 jobs after its takeover of Merrill Lynch.

On Dec 9, the yield on three-month US Treasury bills fall below zero for the first time in history. Yields on other US government securities also reach all-time lows as investors, desperate for safe havens ahead of the year, become effectively willing to pay the US government a fee to safeguard their money for later.

The World Bank warns that international trade volume is likely to contract in 2009, for the first time since 1982.

On Dec 11, Bernard Madoff, a US money manager based in New York, is arrested after confessing to running a US$50 billion Ponzi scheme. The news sends shockwaves through the global financial community as investors ranging from hedge funds to wealthy individuals scramble to estimate their losses from the biggest fraud in history. On Dec 16, the Fed slashes its benchmark interest rate from one per cent to a range of zero to 0.25 per cent, the lowest since records began.

Three days later, Japan's central bank cuts rates to 0.1 per cent from 0.3 per cent, as the government warns that the economy will stagnate in 2009.

In the US, the government agrees to lend up to US$17.4 billion to its biggest carmakers - General Motors, Ford and Chrysler - to keep them afloat until early 2009.

On Dec 22, DBS Group warns that its net profit is expected to slide further in Q4, as it announces plans to raise some S$4 billion in new capital through a rights offer.

On Dec 30, the US Treasury injects US$5 billion into GMAC, the financing arm of General Motors, and lends another US$1 billion to GM to be re-invested in GMAC. The government bailout extends the ability of cash-strapped GMAC to lend to car buyers, which it hopes will boost sales of ailing US carmakers.

Source: Various news reports, bank statements

Two years of financial mayhem [via]

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