August 2009

Augmented Reality

The overlaying of information on top of the physical world. The additional information is viewed through another device. The device needs to be able to determine the coordinates of a point in the real world. Markers were initially used to ‘cheat’ the system by explicitly identifying a point. Cameras are one way the device sees the world. GPS and compass functionalities are other ways for a device to ‘see’ the world.

What are the other ways a device can ‘see’ the world? The use of audio – capturing sounds made at a locale.

How to present the data? On a screen? Project it out?

During my last year in NUS, I took a module which allowed us to explore AR technologies. It has been 3 years since and now, with webcams being more obiquitous and mobile phones getting better hardware, augmented reality related software and systems might be gearing up to be the next buzzwords for 2010.

The questions are:

1. How to push data out to the physical world.
2. How to pull data in from the physical world.

I sense a change coming.

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How NOT To Beat Craigslist

Trying to build a craigslist killer:

But practical people will find his (the consultant to the newspapers) excuse almost as damning as the evidence that provokes it, for a truly excellent strategy will tolerate myriad failures in execution, while a weak strategy reveals its weakness in the very fact that it is impossible to execute correctly.

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How Craigslist Beat Ebay

Unbrand, Uncompete, Demonetize:

As long as craigslist can support its 30 employees on “merely” an estimated $100 million in revenue, there simply isn’t enough cash in this space to keep a giant-sized competitor interested over the long term. When I first saw Jim Buckmaster talk, in 2004, he described his strategy in three words: unbrand, uncompete and demonetize. His victory over eBay illustrates the paradoxical power of demonetization.

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The Secret Of Craigslist

The secret of craigslist:

By eliminating marketing, sales, and business development, craigslist’s programmers have cut out all the cushioning layers that separate them from the users they serve, and any right they have to teach lessons in public service comes from the odd situation of running a company that is directly subservient only to the public. Here’s the lesson: The public is a motherfucker.

Craig Newmark says that craigslist works because people are good, and he has stuck to this point of view without wavering. Whether you accept it as true will depend on your standard of goodness.

Yet it seems,

And just as people who run technical companies are reaching an apex of confidence in their ability to invent new forms of community based on sharing everything, craigslist still treats social life as dangerously complex, deserving the most jaded caution. Corporate isolation, user anonymity, refusal of excessive profit, glacial adoption of new features: These all signal Newmark and Buckmaster’s wariness about what humans, including themselves, might do if given the chance. There may be a peace sign on every page, but the implicit political philosophy of craigslist has a deeply conservative, even a tragic cast. Every day the choristers of the social web chirp their advice about openness and trust; craigslist follows none of it, and every day it grows.

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Incompetent SAF Leadership

I didn’t want to do my most recent reservist training because I knew there was work to be done in my civilian life. My CO (or one of his proxies) rejected my application.

I went back and wasted 3 weeks of my life.

I wasted it not because I was back doing my NS but because the training wasn’t meaningful. And for this, I blame the ‘leaders’ of my unit.

I feel people don’t get the difference between ‘important’, ‘more important’ and ‘not important’.

Let me explain:

1. The work commitments in my civilian life is more important to me than my reservist training. Does that mean my reservist training is not important? NO! Reservist training is important, work commitments in civilian life is more important.

However, from the first day of reservist, the CO of my reservist unit and dare I say, the officers and sergeants of my company gave everyone the impression civilian life is important and reservist training isn’t. But since we have to do it, then let’s just do a good wayang show and fuck off.

That, my friend, is the wrong mentality. Since we are in it, since we have to do it, then we should do it well. No compromise. No wayang.

This sense of importance, to me, wasn’t conveyed by the ‘leaders’ of my unit.

There were a myriad of reasons why my unit failed our ATEC 2. While the men of the unit cannot be absolved of blame, I personally believe that the tone was not set properly by the commanders of the unit, and the rot started at the top.

I’ll elaborate more in the subsequent posts about the last 3 weeks of my life however I would like to end with one last thought about the leadership in SAF.

During my active days, I was privileged to be under two amazing OCs, each special in their own way. I was also able to serve under a very good CO whose career success in the military is no surprise to me. I was also led in the field by a very decisive, field-craft excellent PC.

Looking at the disaster which was my unit’s ATEC 2, I have come to appreciate even more the importance of good, if not great, leaders.

Let me tell you a little secret. Despite our protestations, most of us (I’m speaking for my company) who are back in reservist, have the capacity and will do a good job for a leader with credibility, for a leader who demands much from us and , importantly, more from himself.

You (i.e. the leader) can fuck us for indiscipline. You can fuck us when we get our drills wrong. You can fuck us when we neglect TSR (i.e. training safety regulations). You can push us to walk, under the scorching sun, from 7am to 6pm with no food, only two bottles of water and a mother-load of heavy equipment.

You can do all that. IF …

If you yourself take things seriously. If your field-craft in topography and navigation is top-notch. If you yourself is clear about the objective. If when you tell me that this is the objective, THIS IS THE OBJECTIVE. If the time to take an entrenched position, is T hours, you get me there by T hours. If you make decisions decisively but with due consideration to the fact that you would make the same decision if we were actually at war (i.e. there are real bullets).

During the airing of my grievances, someone asked me if I could do better.

No, I can’t. I have not undergone the same training in OCS or SISPEC as the commanders of my unit.

But I have served under great leaders during my active days, and if the state keeps demanding my time for reservist training, then stop fucking me by making me continue to serve under incompetent leaders.

One final example:

During a parade, RSM came around and fucked the men for dirty boots. Fair enough. But he didn’t impose the same standards on officers who had dirty boots as well. The officers didn’t impose the same standards on themselves.

One final note:

I have mixed feelings about my unit failing ATEC 2. While it means we probably have to go back next year and do the same thing probably under the same incompetent leadership, it does fill me with confidence that those units which have got good results for their ATEC 2 really do deserve those results and that Singapore, while not being well served by my unit, is at least being well served by others.

For example, the umpire that was with my vehicle is precisely the kind of commander I had the honor of serving with during my active days.

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Getting Things Done

Web app Toodledo has a useful summary of GTD here:

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a method for organizing tasks so that you can focus your entire energy and creativity on completing those tasks in a stress free manner. This method was developed by David Allen in his book, Getting Things Done. The main principle of GTD is that recording your tasks in a reliable way – using a system that you trust – will free your mind from trying to remember and prioritize stuff. This recaptured mental energy can be put towards being more productive and efficient.


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Jobs For Foreigners, NS For Singaporeans


Thanks De for sharing this pic.
Thanks Lester for initially hosting it.

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Ignore This
Trying To Code

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What Happens When Your Husband Stops Loving You

This is a story of how a wife dealt with a husband who said he stopped loving her:

It’s a story about hearing your husband say “I don’t love you anymore” and deciding not to believe him.

Although it may sound ridiculous to say “Don’t take it personally” when your husband tells you he no longer loves you, sometimes that’s exactly what you have to do.

Instead of issuing ultimatums, yelling, crying or begging, I presented him with options. I created a summer of fun for our family and welcomed him to share in it, or not — it was up to him. If he chose not to come along, we would miss him, but we would be just fine, thank you very much. And we were.

And, yeah, you can bet I wanted to sit him down and persuade him to stay. To love me. To fight for what we’ve created. You can bet I wanted to.

But I didn’t.

I barbecued. Made lemonade. Set the table for four. Loved him from afar.

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Writing Posts While Serving Reservist

Reservist is a fertile ground that reaps a bountiful harvest of ideas for posts. Will be updating during this time.

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The Sweet Irony Of Overseas Scholarships

A former scholar shares:

Amidst the annual scholarship fever and the flurry of applications, what the newspaper ads don’t mention, and what people don’t talk about enough in a meaningful way, is that the three or four years spent in university can change a person quite profoundly, all the more so if that university education is conducted abroad. I don’t mean having a British- or American-sounding accent, or having visited half of Europe in one summer backpacking jaunt, or learning how to cook the food you get homesick for. I’m talking about the kind of deep-seated change that can leave a person wondering how to reconcile what her old self agreed to do, with what her new self now believes.

In my case, I got bored with English literature – once the love of my life – and picked up a second major in history. I found extra-curricular activities more interesting than my classes. I discovered that, more than anything, I wanted to work in book publishing in New York. And politically, philosophically, I found myself inhabiting a very different position, one that made it hard to stomach certain principles on which our government operates.

The sweet irony …

Reminds me of the movie ‘Annie Hall‘. Alvy Singer is the catalyst for Annie’s growth. It is this growth that eventually leads to the end of their relationship.

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NS – The Price Of Being A Male In The Glorious Nation Of Singapore

Ok. I need to get this out of my system. I have been rushing the completion of as much work as possible before I go for my reservist in-camp training tomorrow. For the next 3 weeks, I will be paying the price of being born a male in the glorious nation of Singapore. I’m rushing work that needs to be completed days in the future, work which was ‘ordered’ only days before because I won’t be around in the weeks ahead.

I applied for deferment and it was rejected. The reason ‘work commitments’ was deemed invalid because the company had time to prepare for my period away at training. How were they to prepare for it? Duplicate another resource to the team so that two people will have the same knowledge of a system build up over 1.5 years of working so that the other person can cover me when I am away for 3 weeks. Seriously? You think every company has the same sort of redundancy built into the gloriously competent SAF?

Ask the company to withhold promoting me to a higher level of responsibility and instead pass it to another individual so there will be no gap when I’m away at in-camp training?

Now, I have always maintained National Service was important and have made it a point to go back for every single training. Even training I had to go because SAF lost the records of my previous training. Yes. The SAF made me go back to do something I already did because their clerks were so ‘meticulous’ in their processing of paperwork.

I didn’t need to do any RT. I’m saying it now. I could have failed my IPPT to kingdom comes and wouldn’t need to do a single second of RT but I called up the people responsible for maintaining the RT system and told them they missed me from their records. I eventually learned the reason why I was missed and it was another ‘shining’ example of how the SAF administration works.

When I had fever, I still took the ATEC 1 tests because there was no other person to replace me in my section. Yes, so little people went back during the last training that we had a shortage of personnel that shuffling men around couldn’t even help.

I’m not saying I have been the best solider. What I’m saying is that as much as possible, I have done what was asked of me. I haven’t made it a point to go out of my way to skip training. I haven’t ‘eat snake’ during NS and reservist trainings.

I was hoping if the day comes when my outside civilian life might be impacted by training, that the people in charge would honor the implicit bargain I thought was made – I will give my best whenever I can, and you don’t fuck around with the civilian life that actually really matters.

I’m not saying that training doesn’t matter. It does. But at the end of the day, it should be recognized that some training is good to have and some is just plain wayang. I can say for the 3 weeks back in camp, I’ll probably be rushing to wait, waiting to rush most of the time, just like every other time.

On another note:

I could have applied for partial deferment and on hindsight, I am wondering if I should have. I’ll go back to camp and discuss with my superiors. The way I see it, only 1 week is really crucial during this training.

The problem with our reservist system is that a lot of the officers we have aren’t the ones we trained and lived with for the better part of 2.5 years we did NS. What it means is that there is no way for the officers to know if an individual is making a genuine request for deferment because he believes that he can’t afford the time for training or he is just trying to ‘eat snake’/malinger. If it was my old officer from NS, I am pretty sure he would know I wouldn’t have made the request unless I was sure I needed the deferment.

In this sense, I understand the difficulty for them in granting deferments to the non-hardcore cases. The hardcore cases who are out just to avoid training would berate them with requests until it is much easier for the officers to just grant the request or these hardcore malingerers would just report ‘sick’.

The irony is that the new officers demand the same loyalty from us when they themselves are unable to show the same sort of loyalty. It is no one’s fault. Both parties don’t know each other. But by virtual of rank, they can ‘force’ that loyalty.

On a final note:

I hate how patronizing foreigners and women are when I share about how much a disruption NS is. Fuck you, you understand. Don’t give me the platitude ‘I am serving my nation’ and shouldn’t complain. And while we (those who serve NS) might joke that it is free chalet with free food and exercise, we jest because we recognize what a major inconvenience reservist is and its symbolism of how much the state owns the males in Singapore (which is a lot). You (i.e. foreigners and women) don’t get the right to make snide comments about how lucky we are to have a holiday and do not need to work.

While we may be communing with nature, reservist isn’t a walk in the park.

On a final final note:

I once talked to a bunch of older guys about their reservist liabilities and it seems that their take on it is slightly different from mine. They actually looked forward to reservist training.

I think the difference arises because the SAF is now rushing us through our cycles. The higher-ups from SAF say it is to help us finish our liabilities earlier, but I believe it is really just to help the SAF save cost. When I have to do reservist training when I am in university, you don’t have to pay much for salary. So a cycle that starts when an individual is 25 and ends late in his thirties is much more expensive than the cycle which starts when an individual is 22.

Anyway, the reason why those older dudes looked forward to reservist:

1. No need to listen to wife nag.
2. No need to send kids to school early in the morning.
3. Can tell wife he is outfield and then go out with his army buddies.

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