Archive for November, 2006

November 29th, 2006

Follow the money

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Over the weekend, I learn an acquaintance was recently recruited (together with the rest of his team) to join a new hedge fund by Goldman Sachs.

The package he got was nothing less than amazing, in the millions per year. Considered he is probably one of the mid-level guys offered from his team, you could imaging what his peers or boss is offered.

Although they are paid a lot more than many of the listed companies executives, such pay package is not really unusual for Goldman Sachs. Afterall, if the team can manage a 50% yearly return on more than US$1b fund, they more than deserved it.

Warren Buffet once said that Wallstreets is probably the only place that US$1m is considered tips.

What is unusual is that such pay are normally exclusive to Americans and Wallstreets bankers, it is coming to Singapore (or Asia in general) but still within the Ivy League clique. A retired banker friend said that such pay is unheard of in his time. Not in the dotcom days and definitely not before that.

One reason for this is obviously the money is flowing to Singapore and Asia. Serious lots of money.

As money flows here, fund managers (esp. those who can managed good returns using OPM, other people money) is going to pay very well. Where money flows, the economy will follow. Follow the money, follow the growth.

Anyway, congratulation to my friend. Wish him all the best in his new job at Goldman Sachs.

1 Singapore government has provided excellent system for funds to operate out of Singapore.

2 Seriously for those who complains about widening income gaps in Singapore, how do you narrow the income gap between someone who has an MBA from Havard managing US$1b fund and another who has an ITE diploma? Thats the new reality in Singapore now.

November 28th, 2006

Dear Celcom

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celcom-4am-voicemail.JPGDear Celcom,

I know I have voicemail.

But do you have to set your system to call me every 15 mins? At 4am in the morning? Just so to wake me up to see a 3 missed calls from my own number? And to taunt me a few more times before I gave up and clear the voicemail (music tone??? wtf!)…only to find I cannot go back to sleep. (wtf! wtf!)

Your voicemail service is to help me take a voice message when I am not available. And for me to retrieve the message when I am available. It is not an excuse for you to call me every 15min (for a music tone no less!), and definitely not at 4am in the morning.

So beloved Celcom. Get a freaking clue and fixed your bloody system. Stop calling your customers 4am in the morning.

Yours Sincerely,

A very pissed off customer.

November 27th, 2006

Making money from virtual money

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Saw this on slashdot today: Chinese student arrested after making 150 million yen selling items for online RPG

Wang Yue Si, 23, came to Japan on a student visa in April 2004. He started selling items such as weapons and currency for online games through an Internet auction site in April this year, without obtaining the appropriate residency status…

Police suspect that Wang has sold a total of 150 million yen in virtual items and sent more than 100 million yen to China. (Mainichi)

The title focus on the student being deported after making US$1.3M. I think the real story is the fact that someone can actually made US$1.3M buying and selling virtual weapon and currency in online games.

Incidently, Blizzard step up its effort to ban farmers and sellers in the world of warcraft recently. A friend also informed me that Chinese game-farms are also seeing lower yield from their investment; an average account gets banned in a month as compared to 3-6 months before. This means they have to recreate an account and re-level a new character to level 60, wasting 10-12 game time.

The result is that the price of the in-game currency jumped nearly four fold, from US$50-60 per 1,000 gold to over US$200 per 1,000 gold now. The virtual black market is exactly like real black market, increase in policing only increase the black market price but never kill it.

I related this to Joi in the game over the weekend and he replied “Blizzard should just “legalized” it”. I agree.

November 25th, 2006

WiMAX … where it is headed?

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It is a strange morning to wake up and to read the following two news:
Lack Of telecom infrastructure drives WiMAX adoption in AP; and
WiMAX Will Not Dominate in the Short-Term, Analysts Say.

Arent analysts fun? One say “Yes yes, WiMAX will grow in AP” and the other say “No no, WiMAX wont happened until 2010″. If you are confused, fear not, I will add to the confusion and say “Both are right!” :-)

There are several business case for Mobile WiMAX. Broadly speaking, (1) ADSL/Cable replacement and (2) personal mobile broadband.

When most people think of broadband in Asia Pacific, they generally look at Japan, Korea & Singapore and then forgot that for the rest of the developing countries in Asia Pacific, most if not all are struggling with broadband pentration. Therefore, as an ADSL/Cable replacement or competitor, Mobile WiMAX is a pretty good alternative.

But when you look at the more advance countries where ADSL is cheap and in abundance, there is a trend that users are using internet where-ever they are, on the train, on bus etc. Japan definitely leads the thrend here and in this personal mobile broadband game, the short time is likely to be win by the mobile alternatives like HSPA, Ev-Do etc.

However, most of the mobile operator are still voice centric – most of the 3G operators are on R5 which is still a voice/data hybrid network, leaning towards voice more. Therefore, as personal mobile broadband subscriptions grows, it is not certain the existing mobile technology is going to support a large number of subscribers since it was never planned as such. So while the short term personal mobile broadband looks bad for Mobile WiMAX, the long term is a different story*.

So I guess it depends which market you are after and in which country. This is why I am not so gungho on Mobile WiMAX in countries like Japan, Korea, Singapore but spending most of my time in Malaysia and Indonesia instead.

*My personal take however is that mobile technology is likely going to evolve and embrace OFDMA. It is going to be more WiMAX-like which will compete with the pure Mobile WiMAX we see today.

November 22nd, 2006

Internationalizing the Internet

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A couple of news caught my attention today. With the impeding Microsoft IE 7 support of IDN, the industry has renewed its interest in IDN. Already, CircleID is buzzing with articles on IDNs in the last couple of weeks and various commenters noted that IDN registrations is expecting to go up. Look no further, it is going up. My visit to CNNIC last month confirmed they have increased the Chinese Domain Names registration by a significant portion to 300k registrations. At a prenium price (20 USD a name), Chinese Domain Names is generating as much revenue for CNNIC as the English domain names (a lot more but a lot cheaper too).

But what catch my attention is this wonder article written by Geoff Hutson on Internationalization of Internet. It is definitely a great summary covering various events surrounding IDNs.

Just two note:

1. On DNAME, I wasnt a big fan of using DNAME. I think ICANN is misguided that the DNS infrastructure cannot support too many TLDs and that using DNAME adds a level of complexity than it needs to be.

A label is a label, does not matter if it is on the 2nd level or the top level. If we dont use DNAME on 2nd level, I dont see why we need to use DNAME on the top level.

But I wont stand in the way for ICANN to experiment with DNAME IDN TLDs. Any little step forward is a step forward.

2. The article didnt mention RFC 4690 : Review and Recommendations for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs). It covers a great deal of the technical complexity of IDNs, what we know works and some of the potential technical pitfalls we are concerned with in the existing system.

I wrote to Patrik and John a few weeks ago and here is what I said:

I agreed with issues raised in the doc, many of them are already
well-known before the original set of IDN RFCs was publish.

However, I think it would make sense for the system to implement a bit
longer to see whether the problem mentioned is real or just a
theortical possibility. It might also hurt the IDN progress if IETF
undertakes a review at this moment in time, as more likely then not,
implementors will then wait for the completion of the review before
further implementation gets done.

Other the minor disagreement with the timing, I applaud the work done
on RFC 4960 :-)

Patrik replied to say they have taken the timing into consideration so I left it as that.

November 21st, 2006

Buy and Forget strategy

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3 years ago, I learnt a small lesson on the investment principle of Buy and Forget. One of things I learnt from Warren Buffet is to consider every stocks you buy or sell as if it is the last transaction you do in the next 10 years. (Go sailing for 10 years before you return, or something like that).

Of course, I dont have that kind of patient. In fact, I used to twiddle my portfolio every few weeks (if not every day). But then I keep remember this lesson and decided to do a little experiment a year ago. On 19th Nov 2005, I made a few adjustment to my portfolio and I didnt login to my E*Trade account for exactly one year.

Here is how I did:

snp-nov2006.JPG
Read the rest of this entry »

November 20th, 2006

Nation-wide Free High speed WiMAX for United States

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A few months ago, a friend (who requested to rename nameless) forward me a website called M2Z. It was already covered by GigaOM, and Tom Evslin.

It was a application for 20Mhz of spectrum on the 2.1Ghz (2155-2175Mhz), nation-wide to roll out a free high speed broadband wireless access in United State (see their application). Before you write this off as another wannabe, this is brain child of Milo Medin, founder of @Home in 1995, and John Muleta, the former head of FCC’s Wireless Telecommunication Bureau. The backers include the top names on Sandhill Road, Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers, Charles River Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.

Their goal is to provide 512kbps wireless broadband to 33% of the US population by 3rd year, 66% in the 5th year and 95% by the 10th year. Looks like they are giving ClearWire the competition they need.

But an email conversation with the unnamed friend recently remind me about this proposal as well as some of the questions I had.

1. Why 2.1Ghz? I can understand that 2.3Ghz and 2.5Ghz is practically gone in United State but still, 2.1Ghz is reserved for 3G expansion for many countries. I think they are going for a uphill battle.

2. 20Mhz, is probably just sufficient for a decent wireless broadband roll out. Some would even argue we need 40Mhz to be safe, using 10Mhz channels on n=3 configuration with 1 channel on reserved.

3. I suppose 512kbps is probably the reasonable speed they can do on 5Mhz channel (given they are asking for only 20Mhz). But could you possibility imaging we still using 512kbps 10 year from now? But then again, having broadband is better than no broadband at all for many parts of US so maybe they have a case.

Anyway, good luck to M2Z. I hope they got what they asked for (or better, more than what they ask :-)

ps: I am willing to bet they have a higher chance after Bush leave office. :-)

November 19th, 2006

No more one more year!

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Had a long coffee chat with a former colleague from IDA yesterday. It was nice to know whats happening with the team as well the usual corporate gossips. It is even nicer to confirm one of the work I started is indeed going places, not just to the Cabinet (and PM was there :-) but also COPS (Committee of PS) as well as the ultra-elite Pyramid Club1. And as expected the 20min timeslot given was not enough and as usual, a lively discussion :-)

Hearing these stories makes me wonder if I should have left IDA in the first place. I missed all the fun!

Just before meeting this colleague of mine, I was meeting with an investment banker whom I recently know as we are working together on a project. So we were just trading histories and I blurt out “I spent 3 years in IDA…but I think it is one year too long”. He gave me a suprised look and said “You dont like IDA?”.

No, I absolutely love IDA. In fact, leaving IDA is one of the hardest thing I had to do in my career. “There is no better place for a technologist like me to work in Singapore. Tracking technology trends is a hobby and doing it as a living is even better. Not only that, it gives me opportunities using technology to make a difference to the society (hopefully for the better).” still remains true. Making it harder was the fact I had nothing to fall back to. Essentially, I am resigning without knowing what I am going to do next. (It has to do with a promise of staying back until my replacement is found but no longer than that)

Yet now that I taken that step into the unknown, I realized I should have done so earlier. Like the story of “Who moved my cheese”, the journey of the seeking is exhilarant, the savour of the new cheese even more.

Looking back, it was the same experience when I resigned as CTO of my previous company. I had an extremely well-paid senior management position. I left without anything to fall back and after several months, I landed in IDA, with a paycut no less. But I was having so much fun in IDA that I told myself, “Damn, I should had done so an year earlier”. Not that I wasnt having fun either in my previous job.

Sincerely, I enjoyed all my jobs. I would not have taken a job that I know I dont enjoyed in the first place. Each of them is challenging, pushing me to higher and most of all the experience is valuable. But as fun as it is, as challenging as any work is, once is fun, twice is okay, thrice is boring and if remains the same, become monotonous2. Eventually I will find myself dragging myself to work.

Thats when I know it is time for me to leave.

The only problem is I always waited one year too long to leave.

So no more. This is a promise that I pick up the courage and be true to myself. No more dragging myself to work and feeling life sucked out of me. When I know it is time to leave and if it is the time for me to leave, I shall leave, as soon as possible.

No more one more year.

1 You wont find info about the Pyramid Club anywhere on Net. It is an exclusive invite-only club that comprises of the whos and whos in Singapore from both public and private sector. I had a mentor who was once a club member.

2 Don’t get me wrong, there are many many people who likes predictable work. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If anything else, I am the odd ball. Thats just me.

November 15th, 2006

Indonesia BWA Spectrum

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Two days ago, the Indonesian regulator issued an interesting whitepaper: Penataan Spektrum Frekuensi Radio Layanan Akses Pita Lebar Berbasis Nirkabel (Broadband Wireless Access/BWA). You can download the PDF here but it is all in Bahasa Indonesia.

The whitepaper clarify a lot of confusion over the spectrum plan in Indonesia (from 1.5Ghz to 10.5Ghz) as well as the next step for different blocks as well as the timeline. More important, it also describe the procedure for the pending 2.3Ghz allocation in Feb 2007 (See Section 5, Seleksi Pita Frekuensi BWA 2.3 GHz). Particularly of interest is this paragraph

Kriteria penyelenggara yang diperbolehkan mengikuti seleksi, dibagi atas 3 (tiga) kategori, yaitu KATEGORI A, KATEGORI B dan KATEGORI C,
yaitu:

Kategori A, penyelenggara jaringan telekomunikasi yang memiliki
infrastruktur telekomunikasi serta telah memiliki penomoran pelanggan dan fasilitas interkoneksi, yaitu …

Salah satu prasyarat utama untuk pemenang lelang pada kategori A adalah dikenakan kewajiban untuk memberikan fasilitas esensial jaringan seperti tower maupun fasilitas esensial lainnya kepada pemenang seleksi kategori B dan kategori C.

I am not well versed in Bahasa Indonesia but basically this is what it says. 2.3Ghz will be allocate in 3 category. Category A is basically refers to the incumbent operators. (Category B is other existing licensee and Category are new entrants). And get this, the winner of Category A (ie incumbent) is mandated to share towers, facilities etc with Category B and C winners!

Not only it even out the allocation so that it is not dominated by the incumbent, it basically comes with infrastructure sharing :-)

November 13th, 2006

More FON and giving them away

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fon-base-station.JPGSince I blog about FON two week, I got some enquires about whether I could get some for them too. Sadly, as mentioned, they dont shipped to Singapore yet. So a few days ago, I decided to email my friends at FON. Well, they replied and send me a box of 20 FON routers. It just arrived today (thanks :-)

For those who dont know, FON allows you to share your broadband via wireless in exchange for a cut of the revenue (‘bill’ model) or allow you to use others broaband for free (‘linus’ model).

I counted that after giving them to friends and the handful who asked for it, I probably still have 10 left over. So I am giving them away for free* in Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. If you are interested, drop me an email at james@seng.sg.

* Condition: You pick it up at a place of my choosing. Bloggers will have priority.

Update 14th Nov: I just notice the FON price went up to 30USD. But yes, I am still giving it away since they gave me for free. I still have 5 sets.