Category Archives: tech

Rediscover what makes Chinese New Year special with Google

Chinese New Year is a busy time of the year for Singapore.

A look at the top related searches on Google shows just how busy: Singaporeans are planning celebrations with traditional treats like “Pineapple tart”, “Yusheng” and activities like “Chingay 2014”.

Most Searched Chinese New Year Related Searches in Singapore
1.    Chingay 20142.    Pineapple tart recipe3.    Abalone

4.    Horse

5.    Feng Shui 2014

6.    Chinese New Year

7.    Chinatown Singapore

8.    Lunar calendar 2014

9.    Yusheng recipe

10.  Egg tart recipe

 How many of these search terms did you contribute?

In between cooking for the big family reunion, visiting relatives, and stuffing lucky red packets, preparing for Chinese New Year can feel overwhelming. Google has launched an interesting microsite with lots of tips and tricks to help with the preparations at Google.com/ChineseNewYear.

Here are some tips for how you can use Google as you ring in the year of the horse:

●        Reunion meal prep: Google Search is the first place many turn to for recipe ideas. But let’s say you don’t like certain ingredients, like chives in your dumplings—you can type in [dumplings recipe -chives], and you can take those out of your results. After you’ve picked a recipe you like, you can keep track of all the ingredients you need to buy with Google Keep, which is a bit like sticky notes for your phone. Not sure how to fold dumplings? Search for videos by expert chefs on YouTube to brush up on your cooking technique. You can also share your recipes with friends and family on Google Docs.

●        Visiting relatives: Visiting three relatives in one day might seem daunting, but it’s not a problem if you have Google Now set up on your Android or iPhone. Google Now will automatically remind you of when you need to leave so you can beat the traffic and get the best routes, either by driving or by public transportation. If you’re driving, Google Maps will give you turn-by-turn directions spoken out loud so you can focus on the road ahead.

●        Send greetings abroad: Greet your friends and family face to face, even if you can’t be in the same room. Google Hangouts allows you to have video conversations with up to ten people at the same time, so you can chat to your cousin from Australia and your aunt in Canada all at once.

●        Remember those magic moments: Back up the photos you take on your phone using Google+ Auto Backup so you won’t ever lose those photos again.

Happy Horse Year everyone! I am looking forward to better luck, better fortune and more rewarding experiences in the year ahead. 🙂

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A Year in Singapore Search: Google’s Top Searches of 2013

Yesterday, Google announced its annual Year End Zeitgeist, a look at 2013 through the collective eyes of the world on the web, offering a unique perspective on the year’s major events and hottest trends based on Google searches conducted in Singapore.

So what got Singaporeans buzzing online in 2013?

The Southeast Asian haze grabbed attention and headlines this year, as Singaporeans searched for information about the phenomenon by looking up the latest PSI readings, facts about haze particles, and preventative masks. Singaporeans also kept an eye on other local news and events, including Singapore’s bird flu readiness, the investigation into American engineer Shane Todd’s alleged suicide, and news of local actor, Huang Wenyong’s death from lymphoma. Another celebrity death to make waves in Singapore was that of movie star Paul Walker, who died suddenly in a car crash in November.

Basketball is here to stay among Singaporean sport fans with the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Miami Heat, and the Dallas Mavericks emerging on Singapore’s most searched sports teams for the first time. The nation continued to follow international football favourites as well, with Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur all making the list, along with local team LionsXII.

Ever gadget- and bargain-savvy, Singaporeans searched for key dates for events like the 2013 IT Show, COMEX and the Great Singapore Sale. The nation also indulged its love for food—especially its sweet tooth—with searches for traditional treats like Kueh Bangkit and Snow Skin Mooncake, and contemporary favourites like Rainbow Cake, Leche Flan and Nutella Blossom, spiking on the trending recipes list.

Short trips and weekend getaways remained popular as Legoland Malaysia, the first Legoland theme park in Asia, came in as the top travel destination for Singaporeans for the second year in a row, along with Hong Kong, Penang, and Bangkok, cities famed for good food and shopping. On the whole, however, holidaymakers preferred to relax under the sun with well-known beach destinations such as Bali and Langkawi snagging 5 out of the top 10 travel hotspots.

Google spokesperson Sana Rahman said: “Google’s year-end Zeitgeist is a cultural barometer showing us what quickened our national heartbeat and drove our curiosity in 2013.”

As someone is online 24-7, I couldn’t agree more. Online trends often mirrors what goes on in the real world and sometimes give clues and insights on human behaviours.

Trending

Searches

1.       PSI Singapore

2.       Harlem shake

3.       Little India riot

4.      Anonymous

5.       N95 mask

6.       Malaysia election

7.       Deepavali 2013

8.       Gwiyomi

9.       Boston

10.   Tampines accident

People

1.       Paul Walker

2.       Cory Monteith

3.       Huang Wenyong

4.       Nelson Mandela

5.       Gordon Ramsay

6.       Margaret Thatcher

7.       Lea Michele

8.       Jennifer Lawrence

9.       Rowan Atkinson

10.   Tom Hiddleston

Songs

1.       Wrecking Ball

2.       Gentlemen

3.       Blurred Lines

4.       Counting Stars

5.       Clarity

6.       Royals

7.       Get Lucky

8.       Thrift Shop

9.       Road

10.   Heart Attack

Movies

1.       The Conjuring

2.       Pacific Rim

3.       Despicable Me 2

4.       World War Z

5.       Man of Steel

6.       Iron Man 3

7.       The Great Gatsby

8.       Gravity

9.       Oblivion

10.   Warm Bodies

What is…

1.       PM 2.5

2.       Gwiyomi

3.       Twerking

4.       Obamacare

5.       Lymphoma

6.       OOTD

7.       Hail

8.      Mastectomy

9.       Gluten

10.   H7N9

How to…

1.       Rap

2.       Harmonize

3.       Cycle

4.       Twerk

5.       Paint

6.       Beatbox

7.       Factorise

8.       Crochet

9.       Deadlift

10.   Blog

Gadgets

1.       iPhone 5s

2.       Samsung Galaxy S4

3.       Samsung Note 3

4.       iPhone 5c

5.       iPad Air

6.       Nexus 5

7.       iPad Mini 2

8.       HTC One

9.       Sony Xperia X

10.   Xbox One

Recipes

1.       Shepherd’s Pie

2.       Kueh Bangkit

3.       Lasagne

4.       Snow Skin Mooncake

5.       Nutella Blossom

6.       Rainbow Cake

7.       Chicken Wings

8.       Beef Steak

9.       Leche Flan

10.   Cornflake Cookies

Most Searched

Travel Destinations

1.       Legoland Malaysia

2.       Bali

3.       Hong Kong

4.       Maldives

5.       Bangkok

6.       Taiwan

7.       Bintan

8.       Langkawi

9.       Krabi

10.   Penang

Local News

1.       Bird Flu

2.       Shane Todd

3.       Huang Wenyong

4.       Kovan

5.       Khaw Boon Wan

6.       Flood

7.       Singapore haze

8.       Singapore property

9.       Tey Tsun Hang

10.   Singapore riot

TV Shows

1.       Running Man

2.       Game of Thrones

3.       Breaking Bad

4.       Suits

5.       Naruto Shippuden

6.       The Big Bang Theory

7.       The Heirs

8.       The Voice of China

9.       The Walking Dead

10.   We Got Married

Korean Stars

1.       Kim Jong-kook

2.       Super Junior

3.       Girls’ Generation

4.       Hyuna

5.       Park Shin-hye

6.       Yoon Eun-hye

7.       Lee Min-jung

8.       Gary Kang

9.       Jo In-sung

10.   Jang Geun-suk

Events

1.       Singapore F1

2.       IT Show

3.       Australian Open

4.       COMEX

5.       PC Show

6.       Standard Chartered Marathon

7.       Wimbledon

8.       Sundown Marathon

9.       NATAS Fair

10.   Great Singapore Sale

Sports Teams

1.       Arsenal

2.       Manchester United

3.       Liverpool

4.       Chelsea

5.       LionsXII

6.       Tottenham Hotspur

7.       Houston Rockets

8.       L. A. Lakers

9.       Miami Heat

10.   Dallas Mavericks

Sportspersons

1.       Cristiano Ronaldo

2.       David Beckham

3.       Jeremy Lin

4.       Roger Federer

5.       Wayne Rooney

6.       Oscar Pistorius

7.       Rafael Nadal

8.       Jose Mourinho

9.       Thiago Alcantara

10.   Andy Murray

on Mobile

1.       PSI Singapore

2.       SGX

3.      Weather

4.       Arsenal

5.      Manchester United

6.      Liverpool

7.       iPhone 5s

8.      Restaurants

9.      Running Man

10.  Samsung Galaxy S4

To see more information about Google Zeitgeist across the globe, use interactive data visualizations and to watch Google’s annual video, visit google.com/zeitgeist.

What is Google’s Year-End Zeitgeist?

Google reveals the Internet “Zeitgeist” (German for “the spirit of the times”) through an exploration of the over one trillion search queries received each year. In addition to the Year-end Zeitgeist, which highlights the top trends of 2013, Google also have several tools that give insight into global, regional, past and present search trends. Google Zeitgeist tools can never be used to identify individual users because Google relies on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur over time. These tools are available year-round for us to play with, explore, and learn from at google.com/zeitgeist

TOP 10 Most Viewed YouTube Videos in Singapore (2013)

As we approach the end of 2013, YouTube did a recap of the top ten local videos enjoyed on their channel over the past year.

Humour it seems, topped the list.

How many of the videos in the top ten list have you seen?

1. Ylvis – The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) [Official music video HD]

2. Gangam Style – PSY (Jayesslee Cover)

3.”Beauty And A Beat” – Justin Bieber (Alex Goot, Kurt Schneider, and Chrissy Costanza Cover)

4. Ah Boys to Men 2: THE JOURNEY (making of)

5. 16 Types of People at Sentosa

6. 11 Reasons Why Singaporeans Complain!

7. Singaporean Gentleman (Psy- Gentleman Parody)

8. 17 Types of Singaporean Couples

9. Telekinetic Coffee Shop Surprise

10. 10 TYPES OF GIRLS IN SINGAPORE CLUBS

On Anonymous declaring “War” on Singapore PAP government – Note from a regular IT dude

This post is contributed by a friend of mine, Wei Kiat, who is a regular IT dude. He has some interesting perspectives to share on the recent Anonymous and Messiah saga. If you found what was written here useful, do share this post to stop the fear-mongering:

1. Fear Mongering & the State of things

There had been a number of cyber attacks over the past few days by someone who calls himself “Messiah”. The attacks sparked panic island-wide, with people fearing about a “cyber” doomsday where everything would magically stop working and the whole island in chaos. I thought it would be prudent to set the records straight, to help layman understand what these attacks actually entail and to prevent the spread of needless panic and fear. Cases of blind-leading-blind when it comes to attacks and its implications are too rampant.

The usual disclaimer:

1) I’m not an IT security professional or a white or black hat hacker, merely a programmer, IT consultant & entrepreneur. If I have made any factual mistakes, please kindly feedback and I will rectify them.
2) The following are my theories. Many of my assumptions on the capabilities of Messiah I do not know as facts. I may be wrong. Please take it with a kilogram of salt.

Now, let’s consider Messiah’s technical capabilities.

2. Messiah’s Technical Capabilities

2.1 The Difference between “Web Systems” & “Internal Systems”

In other to understand what really went on behind cyber attacks over the past few days, for the sake of simplicity, let’s divide computer systems into two main categories, web systems and internal systems. By “web systems”, I refer to all the servers and systems behind an organization’s website. By “internal systems”, I refer to mission critical systems used by an organization for their day to day functions. For example, LTA’s website is on a “web system”, LTA’s traffic controller system is an “internal” system.

The attacks over the last few days all involved web systems, which are easier targets for attack because these systems are more public while generally having weaker security mechanisms. There is no sign that Messiah was able to gain access to any internal systems to date. Fear-mongers have been preaching and misleading people in thinking that as an example, if LTA’s website got hacked, our traffic lights will stop working. That is simply not the case, and Messiah has not yet demonstrated his ability to carry out ”infrastructure crippling” attacks. Sad to tell you, but ERP will still continue to work even if LTA’s website is down.

2.2 Understanding attacks on “Web Systems”

To help layman in understanding the nature of attacks on websites, let’s imagine that every time you type in a URL on your web browser, a tiny truck comes out of your computer (a web request), look up the destination on street directory (a DNS server), drives to the warehouse (website server) to pick something up (the actual website) and bring it back to you (website loads on your screen).

To attack a website, the attacker can either prevent your tiny truck from ever reaching the factory while leaving the factory untouched, or enter the factory to shut it down (a.k.a hack into the server.)

Attacks over the past few days can be categorized into two main types: defacement attacks (when the website got vandalized, such as Straits Times’ Blog) and service availability attacks (when the website becomes inaccessible for a period of time, such as the supposed hack on government websites).

2.2.1 Defacement Attacks

A very strange pattern emerged. It seemed as if only sites running open source CMS (content management systems) and/or or cheaply outsourced were defaced. For example, only the blog section of Straits Times was hacked, because out of the entire Straits Times site, only the blog section uses an open source CMS. Hacking into a CMS involves gaining access to either (1) the CMS admin dashboard or (2) the web server. The CMS admin dashboard is a simple system that allows non-IT personnel to update the content of a website. Hacking into the CMS admin dashboard does not mean the hacker has complete access the entire web server.

Gaining access to CMS admin dashboard is easy. For open source CMS solutions, exploits are always discovered and published, in order for security fixes to be written and distributed in a very short amount of time. However, most solution vendors in Singapore hand off CMS to their clients immediately after project conclusion, and seldom advice their clients to do constant upgrades, opening huge opportunities for attack. Many CMS admin dashboards also use the same default username, such as “admin”. In most cases, such accounts are shared among different staff, so to help everyone in remembering the password, plain english passwords are commonly used. It is then easy to use a simple dictionary attack to hack. Dictionary attack simply involves using a program to try different passwords at high speed. Given enough time (days, months, years, centuries), any account could be hacked this way.

From the very specific targets of attack (only open source CMS sections of a website were hacked i.e. Straits Times Blog, and only websites using open source CMS were hacked i.e. CHC website), I think it is safe to conclude that Messiah did not attempt or did not have the necessary skills to hack into an actual server.

2.2.2 Service Availability Attacks

How about supposedly bringing down a couple of government websites as well as Straits Times, Stomp and Hardwarezone (all owned by SPH) for a couple of minutes? For this post, let’s assume the government websites were down because of a cyber attack, not a “scheduled maintenance”.

Server hacks are hard to recover from if there’s damage done. Looking at how fast we recovered from those attacks, it is possible to speculate that the servers were never actually hacked. Using the tiny truck analogy from above, the attacker simply prevented your tiny truck from ever reaching the factory (so when you try to access a website, it could not load). Two common methods are known as DoS (denial of service) and DNS Spoofing or poisoning.

Denial of service attack is an attack that doesn’t require much skills. To prevent your tiny truck from reaching the factory (connecting to the web site), the attacker simply had to send millions of tiny trucks to the same factory at the same time so that the highway became so congested your truck couldn’t get through.

While I am not too familiar with DNS poisoning, DNS servers are like street directories. DNS poisoning attack messes up the directories, causing your tiny truck to lose its way and can never reach the factory.

Let me repeat, both DoS and DNS poisoning attacks do not involve actual hacking (e.g the factory in the analogy above was never compromised). There is no need to infiltrate any government or SPH servers to execute these attacks.

2.3 What does this say about Messiah?

In summary, Messiah was only able to breach certain web systems; he was not reported to have breached any internal systems. In cases where web systems were breached, Messiah was only able to do so via the CMS. He was never able to hack into the actual web server. For websites that does not use weak CMS, he simply did a service availability attack. This doesn’t sound like someone who is an extremely skilled hacker as proclaimed in the video.
Conversely, the skill-set required for the attacks we have seen so far are very different from those crazy hardcore attacks we have seen Anonymous do on news reports. I am speculating that Messiah may not even be from Anonymous.

3. What’s next?

I think Messiah will continue looking for easy exploits among high profile websites, and when he or they can’t hack, they will simply do a DoS or DNS poisoning attack to make a statement.

I trust the security capabilities of our government sites, and I still believe that unless there are different hackers who join today, our data on government servers and infrastructures will remain safe.

As an average Joe, I don’t think there’s much to fear about these attacks because:

1) As concluded above, Messiah doesn’t seem competent enough to actually compromise important servers
2) Once again, “web systems” and “internal sustems” are different. Hacking into LTA website does not equate hacking into LTA. Your traffic lights will still work. They are different things.
3) Assuming that even if he or they have the ability, there is no reason for Messiah to try to gain unauthorized data, or to abuse or leak them. The youtube video called for support from Singaporeans. There will be more haters than supporters if such things happened.
4) The attacks so far are more in line trying to “make a statement” than to retrieve or leak any sensitive data. This trend may continue.

Hope this post help provide some insights into the confusing world of cyber security, and to maybe help with allaying the fear and reducing confusion after all the blind-leading-blind articles that have been popping up lately.

That said, organizations and individuals should remember to always exercise prudence and preemptive diligence when it comes to security. Cyber attacks are very real and may strike you when you least expect it.

TOSHIBA Canvio Portable Hard Drive @ COMEX 2013

Can you guess what this beautiful gadget is?
Can you guess what this beautiful gadget is?

Are you heading to the Comex 2013 IT and consumer electronics exhibition this weekend?

If you are looking to purchase a portable hard drive, do check out the TOSHIBA Canvio portable hard disk. This is the latest external hard disk coming from trusted electronics brand, TOSHIBA and you will receive a free pouch, exclusive only for purchases at COMEX.

Here are some pictures of my 1TB TOSHIBA Canvio Slim II Portable Hard Drive (S$129) in metallic black with the free pouch:

My TOSHIBA Canvio, still in the box with the free pouch
My TOSHIBA Canvio, still in the box with the free pouch
Unboxed, unwrapped
Unboxed, unwrapped
The free pouch
The free pouch

Key product highlights include:

  • Ability to clone and restore your computer easily with NTI Backup Now EZ full system backup in case of a PC crash
  • Include Pogoplug software (worth USD$29.95) for PC/Mac, allowing you to access files in your hard drive anywhere from your tablet or smartphone
  • Free 10GB Cloud Storage
  • Password protection for your hard drive
  • Customise your backup to selected folders and files
  • Automatic backup scheduling
  • Works with both PC and Mac (with included NTFS driver) for data storage

I love the slim build and metallic finish. It almost looks too beautiful for a hard disk! Fyi, the 500GB Toshiba Canvio won an internationally acclaimed reddot design award this year. 

Home-brewed goodness with NESCAFÉ Dolce Gusto

I got a NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® Melody Automatic in my home a few months back. Other than gourmet coffee, the machine can also brewed a variety of 15 assorted beverages like lemon tea and peach tea.

It is also able to dispense drinks that are hot or cold!

The machine has integrated into my family life and routine. My two year son loves it the most.

Even though Asher is too young to drink tea or coffee, he loves to see the Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic at work. I taught him how to operate it and it has become his hobby to make coffee and tea for everyone who visit our house.

See how easy it works:

Every time someone visits, he will approach the guest and ask “你要喝茶吗 (Do you want tea)?”

Asher picking out which tea or coffee to serve to our guests
Asher picking out which tea or coffee to serve to our guests

Every morning when I wake up, he will ask me: “ 爸爸,你要喝咖啡吗 (Dad, do you want coffee)?”

Preparing iced peach tea for me
Preparing iced peach tea for me

In the afternoon or in the evening, he will ask me if I want tea.

A two-year-old can operate the Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic
A two-year-old can operate the Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic

Sometime, I will be “pressurized” by Asher to drink up to three cups of gourmet beverages a day!

Asher watching the machine
Asher watching the machine

I like the simplicity of the Nescafe Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic. It is so easy to use that even a two year old boy can operate it (disclaimer: it doesn’t say so on the manual. Asher makes beverages with the machine under our supervision to ensure he do not get scalded or upset the machine).

Tada! The drink is ready!
Tada! The drink is ready!
Love the froth
Love the froth

The capsules used to be also available for sale at limited places, but they are now available at NTUC supermarket which makes it very convenient for replenishing. You can also order the capsules online. 

On a hot day, I appreciate a frothy glass of iced peach tea or iced cappuccino:

 

On rainy days when I want to snuggle in at home with a hot cup of latte macchiato or mocha:

 

On mornings when I need to perk up, a shot of espresso will do the job.

The Nestle Dolce Gusto Melody Automatic is one machine with many functions, enriching our lives in so many ways. 🙂

All about the machine

The NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® stands above the competition as the only single-cup coffee machine which delivers a professional 15 bar pressure, guaranteeing a perfect cup and fine milk froth every time. It prepares each drink variety, Hot or Cold, in a matter of seconds. The NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto® coffee machine comes complete with a 2-year warranty from KRUPS®.

This unique machine combines the expertise and history of NESCAFÉ® coffee making with innovative KRUPS® know-how, engineering and technical perfection.

All about the capsules

The innovative easy-to-use capsule system, exclusive to NESCAFÉ® Dolce Gusto®, is specifically designed to ensure that each cup of coffee you make is fresh and contains only the best Arabica roasted coffee. The airtight capsules optimise the extraction pressure for each flavour variety, delivering the best coffee quality, texture and milk froth!
Capsules are avaliable at retailers near you or via their Online Shop.