Nokia Lumia 800 & 710 – First Impression

It has been a while since I last attended a Nokia’s media event for the bloggers.  My personal schedule seems to be in conflict with Nokia’s calendar lately for some reasons.  I have been anticipating Nokia’s next generation smartphone.  Suffice to say, I am happy to be able to make it for the Lumia event held last week – a first in the region.  We went through a lengthy demo of what the new Windows phone can do.  And we spent some quality time with the product managers and other Nokia professionals as we experienced the Lumia 800 & 710.  So what’s my first impression?  Read more to find out!

Form Factor

A phone’s design is important to me.  It is a statement of who I am.  I use an Android phone for the simple reason of not wanting to be like every other mobile phone user in Singapore.  Lumia 800 is sophisticated, and beautiful.  It has a smooth, one piece body that slightly curved onto the screen.  The design is breathtaking, like no other.  Lumia 800 comes in three colors: black, cyan, and magenta.  For a sharper looking design, I would strongly recommend cyan or magenta.  If you are a music lover, you may consider getting the Nokia Purity Stereo Headset or Purity HD Stereo Headset by Monster.  One is for in-ear style, and other one is for on-ear.  Monster has created headsets for Apple iPhones.  It is good that Nokia gets them to design not one, but two for theirs too.

Lumia 710 is the entry level Windows phone.  I asked if Lumia 800 is considered as Nokia’s new flagship and they said no.  Price-wise, I would expect Lumia 800 to be below the flagship products of other platforms.  Hence, whatever I get to say here, do take cost as a consideration.

Lumia 800’s screen size is 3.7″.  For those of you (like me) who are used to 4.2″+, it could be quite an adjustment if you switch to this new Nokia phone.  For Apple users who are used to 3.5″, Lumia 800’s display area may seem OK.  Lumia 800 has a lower resolution compares to other top end smartphones.  And it weights 142g, almost as heavy as an iPhone.  It is 20% heavier than the Android phone I am using.  Does weight matter?  Personally I prefer a lighter phone.  But 99.99% of the local users who use iPhone may say nah.

Windows OS and Nokia Unique Offerings

I must admit that I am not that familiar with Windows OS on a mobile phone.  The Lumia 800 seems responsive.  Then again, almost all new phones are responsive before they are loaded with apps and contents.  So I have no idea if Lumia 800 will remain as responsive as days go by.  I know for sure my single core Android phone is crawling at this moment.

The design of Windows OS is pretty clean.  There is a wall of tiles for the widgets.  And swipe to the next screen is a list of applications.  If you are familiar with Nokia phone, you will find yourself at home.  Both Lumia phones have Nokia Drive with turn by turn voice navigation as well as Nokia Map.  Free, for more than 100 countries.  However, in order for Nokia Drive and Nokia Map to work, you must have data access.  This could become quite costly when you are overseas.  Because turning on data access usually means that you allow other applications to access the Internet on the go.

Lumia phones come with Nokia Music application.  A 192kbps MP3 track free of DRM costs around S$1.29 from the Nokia music store.  Does this sound enticing to you?  The price seems about right, if purchasing music online is your cup of tea.

And it does come with Whatsapp, free.

Unlocking the phone can be via a numeric password pad (like iPhone).  It does not have a pattern unlock (like Android).  Locking the phone is via a physical button positioned naturally on where your index finger is when you hold the phone upright (not sure how it will be like for left-handers).

Social Networking

Nokia Lumia phones combine Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn feeds, chat and SMS message in one conversation.  I seldom social network these days, only on Google+.  And I am told that Lumia does not interface with Google+ as of now.  I must be an odd ball because majority of the active social networking users I presume spend much time with Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  I can imagine majority can continue to do just that with the Lumia phones.

Web Browsing

Do you often browse full sites on your mobile phone?  I do.  And I find that for some of my favorite websites, when I double tab onto the screen for the default zoom (that does auto page wrapping), the fonts can be tiny.  Maybe I am used to a large screen size and a higher resolution, it can be quite straining to the eyes when browsing the Internet on the Lumia phones.  I am not a fan of further zooming onto a webpage and having to scroll left and right constantly to read each line.  I strongly suggest trying it out if you are heavy on web browsing.

Under the Hood

Recently I have visited Hong Kong.  From the old man I met on the street, to my own cousin, dual core phones seem to be the in-thing.  If I am to buy a phone today, I too would prefer a dual core processor (and a large screen would be good).  As for the Lumia 800 and 710, they are both equipped with a 1.4GHz single core processor.  Do you multitask often?  If not, this should not bother you.

This phone is fitted with a 8Mpix Carl Zeiss camera with LED flash.  16GB internal memory.  It is pretty decent in today’s standard.  Of course, iPhone has the 32GB and 64GB version.  But that may cost more.

What about Other Stuffs?

With limited amount of time, there are areas that I am unable to cover.  Can Lumia extract the contact list from my Android phone via Bluetooth as promised?  What is the collection of Apps like for the Nokia market (I can’t live without Internet Radio these days)?  Are the Apps affordable?  Can the battery last for a day?  These are some of the questions you may need to further investigate if you are serious about wanting to buy this phone.

Singapore National Youth Orchestra – A Musical Chemistry

We’ve missed the previous media invite on the LANXESS SYNO Classic event due to our Spanish commitment.  And they are kind enough to invite us for the main event that took place yesterday at Esplanade, an event coincided with the JP Morgen Corporate Run that caused half of a highway in town to be sealed off.  We were forewarned about the anticipated traffic condition so as the clock struck EOD (end of date) at work, Cynthia and I made haste to our Singapore’s very own theater by the bay.  I love the architectural design of Esplanade.  It cost – if I remember correctly – 650 million dollars to build.  I thought that was a lot of money.  Years later, the integrated resort next door cost billions to build.  That is Marina Bay Sands.

“A Musical Chemistry” is mainly performed by Singapore National Youth Orchestra (SNYO).  The program involves a short piece by Richard Wagner, which to be frank, I have not heard of before last evening.  A piece by Tchaikovsky – Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 25 – which I love to death.  I can easily hum the notes from beginning to end.  We have Lara St. John as the guest lead violinist.  Deep inside, I was hoping that someone from within SNYO would take the lead position.  That would truly speak for the quality of the orchestra.  But I can also understand that as a public event, having an international master such as Lara St. John would help to attract the crowd.  I am not too familiar with the violinist scene.  The only violinist I deeply respect is Hilary Hahn.  Lara St. John’s approach to Tchaikovsky’s concerto is unique, in a sense that she devours the music supplied by the orchestra and pours her personality into the music.  Her phasing and timing is significantly different from the traditional recordings that I am familiar with.  In a way, I did struggle a bit to see how this free spirit performance gelled with the structure provided by the orchestra.  One audience during intermission commented that she felt exhausted – in a good way I suppose – watching Lara St. John performed on stage.  In the contrary, I was totally absorbed into Lara’s own world and was yarning for more.  During the meet the artist session, I asked if it was her first visit to Singapore and she replied that this trip is her second.  Her first visit was to the Zoo.  And I said to her, you should come back to Singapore one day and perform for us.

Then there was the world premiere of a piece written by Darrell Ang, the musical director of SNYO.  It is called “Fanfare for a Frazzled Earth”.  Something to do with caring for environment.  It sounds modern (it has to be) and contemporary with lots of complex dialogs between the instruments.  I am a more classical kind of person and have always been struggling with understanding a modern piece of musc.  This piece sounds lively, almost like a celebration.  It is shorter than we have anticipated.  That left me wonder how beautiful it would have been if he could expand the piece into a full fledge symphony.  Last item of the program is Symphony in D minor by Cesar Franck.  A Dutch composer I have not heard of.  I may explore on his other works later.

Last evening was an emotional evening.  Because I was once played in Hong Kong Youth Orchestra.  I would say, the standard of SNYO is really high.  When I heard and saw the entire orchestra playing and moving in unison, that brought back fond memories.  During the intermission, Cynthia commented that such feeling must be exhilarating.  And I replied that in real life, the orchestra spends much time repeating short segments of the music, usually stripping down the individual or a subset of instruments.  To that extend, once an orchestra pastes all the parts together and plays, that feeling is exhilarating.  However, that short moment of spiritual joy only happens through months of practice, a few bars at a time.  That makes such moment more precious I suppose.

Upcoming Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, neo, and PLAY

Xperia arc

This blogger event could not have come in a better timing.  Cynthia took over my Xperia X8 because she has ‘accidentally’ soaked her old phone that I bought for her with water, inside her gym bag.  X8 is good as an entry level Android phone but we are looking for something with a more executive outlook.  When the folks from Sony Ericsson unveiled the upcoming Xperia arc (together with two other new models), I was instantly in love.

Xperia arc features a pure black screen, noticeably striking when on standby.  It makes the rest of the smartphones that have a dark grey screen looks less appealing and somewhat dated.  Xperia arc is slim.  At its thinnest, the phone measures at  8.7 mm.  The screen size is 4.2 inches, which I believe is one of the largest in the smartphone category.  Xperia arc scores very high on the form factor.  But what about the multimedia offering?

During the video playback demo session, arc was put side-by-side with Sony Ericsson’s current high end model, X10.  Because arc employs Sony’s BRAVIA technology, looking at the same video, arc produces more crystal clear picture and the image looks vibrant and brilliant.  In terms of image and video capturing capability, with an Sony’s Exmor R technology as well as an aperture of 2.4 (quite possibly one of the lowest I have seen), this phone supposes to shine under low light condition.  I have tested the evening shots on top of Esplanade and I am pleased with what I have seen.  Perhaps I can share some live images with you once I get hold of one.  Xperia arc has a 8.1 megapixel camera that comes with HD video recording capability.  Not the highest I have seen.  But not too low either.  I suspect Exmor R technology should be able to boost the image quality.  Sony, after all, makes cameras as well.  This phone has a HDMI output.  I don’t see much use to it.  But if you need it, it is there.

Xperia arc will be launched with the latest Android for smartphone version 2.3.  Although I am not fanatic towards the version of the operating system (I still yet to see that huge different between 1.6 and 2.1 besides that animated screen, it is certainly not like an upgrade from Vista to Win 7), it is good to see that Sony Ericsson has fixed the perception issue.  Now, I am keen to see if they can keep up the platform update for their existing Android models.

Quite honestly, the moment I plugged my personal earphone onto Xperia arc was the moment when I said to myself, “Woah, this is the one”.  I am much impressed by the music playback quality.  It is a class on its own.  You have got to hear it for yourself.

Xperia arc will be available in Singapore in Q1 this year (which is just days away!) in two colors: Midnight Blue and Misty Silver.

Xperia neo

Xperia neo is very much similar to Xperia arc, in terms of technical spec.  Hence, I would not repeat here.  Xperia neo is more compact.  It has a screen size of 3.7 inches instead of arc’s 4.2 inches.  And it also has an unique design, equally ergonomic in a different way compares to arc.  At launch, neo will have two colors – Blue Gradient and Red – and is going to be available in Singapore Q2 this year.  It should be priced below Xperia arc.  By how much?  We have to wait and see.

Xperia PLAY

For the avid gamers, the above image would mean something dear to your heart.  I have heard the rumor of such release a while ago.  I was trying to get a confirmation from the PR company that handled Sony Ericsson’s account.  But you know how marketing team works.  It is all hush hush.

Xperia PLAY combines both PlayStation gaming experience with the latest Android platform.  PLAY is the first PlayStation certified device.  It does not come with the BRAVIA technology (color vibrancy is less of an issue as far as gaming is concerned because video games by default are designed with vibrant colors).  But it has a better graphic processing system.  On paper, it delivers a 60 frames per second gaming experience with minimal power consumption.  I have tried out a racing game on the 4 inches screen.  Pretty good experience.  I was hoping to try out some fantasy role playing games but did not have a chance (not sure if there is one).  At launch, PLAY will be preloaded with: Sim 3,  FIFA 10, Madden NFL 11, Star Battalion, Bruce Lee: Dragon Warrior, and Crash Bandicoot.  On top of that, more than 50 game titles will be available – for purchase I suppose.  I have seen the list of games.  It looks diverse.  Surprisingly, I do not see Final Fantasy, or any fighting games that I can recognize.

When will PLAY be out?  Q2 this year, in Singapore.  In black, and in white.

Got a question?  Drop me a comment!

Peranakan Museum – A Trendy And Happening Boutique Museum In Singapore

Picture this with me.  Across the road, you have found the entrance to a museum.  It is your first visit.  Outside the museum, there are stalls crowded with curious shoppers, genuine shoppers of all ages.  Stepping inside, the high ceiling hall is brightly lit filled with youngsters dressed in trendy clothing socializing with one another, all appear to be having a good time.  But that is not the first thing you notice.  In the center of the hall, at the reception area, a band is performing for the visitors.  Lively music moves your feet.  And you wonder: Is this a museum?  Some watch the band’s performance.  A line of human traffic constantly moving up and down the stairs on either side of the main hall that leads to different exhibition halls.  And if loud music raises your eyebrows, once you walk into one of the exhibition halls, such as the special exhibition “Ramayana Revisited”, the volume of the live music fades away.  Soon, the things that capture your senses are the artifacts and their descriptions.  Old people, young people, not-to-old people, families, friends, and couples – all having a good time.  And soon you conclude: What a lovely way to spend an evening at the Peranakan Museum.

Cynthia and I were invited for the museum’s open house event.  We have been to a few events organized by the Singapore museums and this must be the liveliest of all.  Before we got a chance to make our own bags (see photos below), we were greeted by Ms Barbara Fras, the Assistance Director of the Programmes Department who took the time to introduce the museum to the bloggers.  Peranakan Museum may seem small but it has attracted 200,000 visitors a year, of which majority are from within Singapore.  The museum does have an interesting cross-cultural collection of artifacts (part of the museum’s collection is now being exhibited in Paris) as well as a good line-up of fun events that prompt visitors to return.  I think the make-a-bag session is a great idea.  We get to keep the bags as souvenirs.  What a lovely to keep a piece of our memory at home in a tangible way.

Peranakan Museum’s website can be found in here.  The museum is located at 39 Armenian Street.  You can check out the upcoming events at their website.  To enjoy the discounted admission charges, you may wish to visit on Fridays between 7pm to 9pm (S$3 for adults).  Below are some of the photos we have taken during the event.

David Archuleta, And The N8 Launch Event By SingTel And Nokia

Looking back, I think it was the little disagreements that glued Cynthia and I to American Idol.  Cynthia supported Elliott Yamin and I, Katharine McPhee.  We would debate for days that (a) I was not staring at McPhee’s boobs and mesmerized by her look and (b) I thought McPhee really sang well and sang really well.  But who would have thought that Hicks would beat those two?  Have you checked out the latest Christmas album by McPhee?  Even Cynthia agreed with me that she has a good voice, finally.  Season 6, I supported Jordin Sparks and Cynthia, Blake Lewis.  It was a dull season.  Nevertheless, you know how that season turned out.  In the following season, we have David versus David.  I think Cook rocked and Cynthia was in love with Archuleta.  Again, it was my shoulder that Cynthia cried on.  And then something happened in season 8.  Both of us supported Adam Lambert wholeheartedly.  And our hearts were shattered into millions of pieces.  Really?  The idol of the idol did not win?  We have boycotted American Idol since then.  The morale of the story?  I think I have a better chance to pick a better singer than Cynthia.

Ha!

OK.  Jokes aside.  One fine day, a media invite arrived at my mailbox.  It was on a Sunday.  Normally I would think twice because of this work-blog-life balance of mine.  Weekend is a time to do something very personal, may or may not be blog-able.  Before I hit that tentative reply button to that media invite, Cynthia exclaimed, “Can I come?!” and I went, “Erm … your were in love with Archie like 2 years ago.  Are you still a fan?”  I guess her undying love to Archuleta is as strong as mine to McPhee.

The event was organized by SingTel and Nokia for the launch of the Nokia N8 mobile phone.  Our hosts were Muttons (hilarious Singapore DJs) and David Archuleta was there to sing us 5 songs in an acoustic setting.  He does have a great voice, especially on stage.  Cynthia was in high spirit and so were the ecstatic fans in Zouk.  His new album “The Other Side Of Down” was released very recently and the fans already know all the lyrics!

We had Japanese food near Zouk and made it home in time for the final race of F1.  What an eventful weekend.  Here are a few photos to share.

Let Me In – Quite Possibly The Greatest Vampire Love Story Of All

“Let Me In” is not a typical vampire movie, quite possibly something you have not seen before.  That is if you have not watched the original Swedish film “Let The Right One In (2008)”.  We can debate if this is a horror film or more like a thriller later.  For the film characters that are of 12 years of age, “Let Me In” is more mature than any other vampire flicks in recent years.  A vampire romance story does not have to have cliché dialogs.  And “Romeo and Juliet” kind of fantasy is just as timeless.

But don’t let me mislead you.  This movie does have tons of creepy moments, many may not be of supernatural in nature.  A little bit of blood and gore.  Innocent dies.  The theme is dark, with zero morale compass.  It is however emotionally griping.  And it also has a great thriller storyline.  While you may be able to guess more or less where the story is heading, the story is still full of intense yet subtle moments that something may go wrong.

A little boy Owen lives with his mother undergoing a divorce with his father.  In school, Owen gets bullied often.  At home, since his mother is drunk most of the time, he has spend much of his evening time observing his neighbors with his telescope at home, or spending time in the courtyard covered in snow.  One day, a young girl moves into the building.  Soon, the two become friends.  That begins the story of a human boy and a vampire girl.  Kodi and Chloë perform well in this movie.  “Let Me In” does not employ a lot of special effects.  It does not have to.  Quite a few key scenes are shot in the perspective of one character leaving the rest up to the audience’s imagination, which is more powerful that laying out the scenes and throwing in more special effects in my opinion.

I am a fan of the role-playing game “Vampire: The Masquerade”.  Not all vampires have to be charming and glamorous.  “Let Me In” does it in style with a rather unglamorous vampire.  Below is a quote from Stephen King.

LET ME IN is a genre-busting triumph.  Not just a horror film, but the best American horror film in the last 20 years.  Whether you’re a teenager or a film-lover in your 50’s, you’ll be knocked out.  Rush to it now.  You can thank me later.

Personally, I think “Let Me In” is more a thriller than a horror.  Cynthia has zero tolerance to Asian horror movies but she can take “Let Me In” just fine.  Perhaps American horror is not meant to be scary but rather, creepy?  This movie should appeal to both non-horror movie goers (unless you faint seeing blood … I know one of my friend does) as well as to horror movie fans.

“Let Me In” will be released in Singapore on Dec 9.  On a side note, Cynthia and I have attended the movie preview session at Shaw Preview Theatre.  It was quite an experience as it was our first time at that venue.

The Housemaid – More Than Just A Korean Erotic Thriller

I remember seeing the movie poster of “The Housemaid” when we were in Hong Kong.  Back then, we picked a Spanish film to watch instead.  I am surprised.  More often than not, films get released in Singapore earlier than in Hong Kong.  When Omy.sg sent me a media invite to preview the movie, I eagerly said yes.  I love watching Korean movies.  More so, I love watching Jeon Do-yeon’s performance.  “You Are My Sunshine” still breaks my heart every time I think about it.

“The Housemaid” is the type of film that the ending may disorientate you.  And I am sure there are more than one way to interpret the story.  Without giving out spoilers and if you do watch this film, pay attention to the seemingly irrelevant beginning and the bizarrely surreal ending and see if that warrants a valid connection.  There are details such as the housemaid’s burnt mark (that was not explained), her mother’s tomb (what about her father?), and some seemingly out of the sort one-liner dialogs – all of which that may or may not contribute to the story, entirely up to your interpretation.  For me, I love this aspect of the movie.  Having said so, I could imagine if one is to ignore these bits and pieces of seemingly irrelevant details, the thriller itself may not be as compelling.  Because of the lack of resolution in almost all fronts.

“The Housemaid” is a drama that takes place mostly inside a very rich household.  A family needs a young housemaid (hence Jeon Do-yeon) to help out with the housework and the upbring of the family’s young daughter.  A young and pretty wife who is pregnant with a twin.  A young and handsome husband who possesses of chest muscles that even I admire (from a bodybuilding point of view!).  And there is an old housemaid who keeps things running smoothly inside this gigantic house.  Later on, the mother of the young wife also comes into the picture.  The plot centers upon how these characters interact with one another, love and hate one another.  Solid acting, I enjoy watching.  And as for the sex scenes, I think they are artistically done (albeit a bit comical in parts).  Pretty much like the rest of the movie.  Jeon Do-yeon plays the role of an innocent and good hearted housemaid.  Trust me.  You will feel for her.

“The Housemaid” will be opened in Singapore this Thursday (Nov 11).  Below is the trailer.

Red – It Is A Fun Watch, And There Are Malkovich, Willis, And More

The movie preview took place at Bugis Shaw.  And it has been a while since we hang out in that area.  Cynthia bumped onto her colleague while I to mine.  Small world it is indeed.

The story of “Red” evolves around a team of ex-CIA agents who are now being targeted by the CIA.  The first half of the movie develops the why and the second half focuses on the resolution.  I prefer the part on plot development because that got me thinking on the overall motive.  This movie is filled with lighthearted and fun moments.  Classy I must say, a bit to the crazy end.  I would not have in a million years imagined Helen Mirren wearing a long evening gown firing big machine guns at people.  Then we have John Malkovich who in his unique twisted and quirky way doing the things that you probably would expect but not imagine doing.  Bruce Willis is now 55 and he still looks great on screen, in his usual cool.  He must be one of the most acted hero in recent film history.  And there is Morgan Freeman whom I wish he has more air time.  Oh, it is fun to watch Mary-Louise Parker on screen too.  She plays the role of a pension fund customer service agent and has nothing to do with the CIA.  Somehow, she gets swept into the plot and the amazing thing is, she games for it (and the more amazing is, I am buying it).  Whenever she drops out from the plot, the plot seems to get a little bit dimmer.  Perhaps it is also because she is the only younger one – in relative term of course – in the team.  There is also a fair bit of romance in “Red”, which makes it different from other films of similar genre.

“Red” will be released in Singapore on Nov 11, 2010.  Check it out if you are into a fun movie, especially if you are a fan of the leading actors and actresses.

Building A Smarter Planet

This evening, we discovered a new stall inside Thomson Plaza food court selling Thai food, advertised as “Gourmet Thai food”.  Gourmet-ness is relative.  But inside a food court that sells hopelessly tasteless food, this new stall has way exceeded my expectation.  Over dinner, towards the end of a sumptuous gourmet meal , I recalled that I had a gourmet Penang food in the office’s canteen this afternoon.  It was a one day only food festival.  In a suburb like where I work, variety in food is a rarity.  Many in my office complain about eating the same food every day.  I am OK with that.  I have high endurance.  Whenever I look at the same dish every afternoon, I think about my dog in Hong Kong.  He too eats the same food every day.  He never complains.  And he eats with unparalleled enthusiasm.

Cynthia and I are both working in the banking industry.  Naturally, many assume that we talk about work, after work.  The answer is quite the opposite.  I hardly know what she does and she certainly has no clue what I do at work.  Over dinner, I shared with her my lunch story with my usual healthy dose of enthusiasm, “I had Penang Laksa, Penang Char Kway Teow, one Penang dessert, and a glass of pineapple juice.  And it only costs $6!”  $6 is a lot of money, especially when you are working in the suburb.  I often pay below $4 for lunch, which includes a main course, a serving of fresh fruit, a cup of yogurt, and at times, a bowl of soup (depending on special promotion).  But today was special.  It was suburban Penang food festival.

Of course, my meal today did not come from Thailand or Penang (Malaysia).  Nor did my food produced entirely locally, if at all.  Where does my food come from?  Shall I care?  Does Singapore inspect all the foods that enter our border?

I think not.

That brings me to the intend of this post: Building A Smart Planet.  Last week, I have attended a blogger event hosted by IBM.  Building A Smart Planet is a global initiative on how to build a smarter planet by instrumenting the world’s systems, interconnecting them, and making them intelligent.  IBM has shared many ideas and case studies with us.  And I am sharing a highlight of some of the materials that speak to me.  If you wish to know more, head over to the IBM Smarter Planet Website.

  • The world’s electrical grids today are incredibly wasteful, due to inefficiencies of managing a dynamic global network of energy supply and demand.  Because of the lack of intelligence in balancing or monitoring power flows, the annual wastage is enough to power India, Germany, and Canada for the entire year.  The solution?  Introduce an intelligent utility system that can be linked to the global power sources.  Use the power of analytics to produce insights that empower individuals and businesses, utility companies, governments and societies to make informed decisions on how energy should be supplied and consumed.
  • Due to accelerated urbanization, in 2007 and for the first time in history, the majority of our population lived in cities.  That places strain to the world’s traffic.  In US, 3.7 billion hours are lost every year to people sitting in traffic, 2.3 billion gallons of fuel are burned needlessly.  That translates to $78 billion per year.  Piecewise improvement to the road system no longer works.  We have to look at the relationship across the entire system and all the touch points, including how the people and the cities live and work.  In Stockholm, a dynamic toll system based on the flow of vehicles into and out of the city has reduced traffic by 20%, deceased wait time by 25%, and cut emissions by 12%.  In Singapore, controllers receive real time information through sensors to model and predict traffic scenarios with 90% accuracy.
  • In the past, food on our tables came from the local farmers.  Today, we depend on a global web of growers, fisheries, packers, and entities that process our food, distribute our food.  How can we ensure that the standards for quality are consistent when only a tiny percentage of those foods are inspected when they cross our borders?  Did you know sixty years ago, we could create a calorie of food with less than half a calorie of fossil fuel?  Today, a single calorie of food bought from a supermarket requires 10 calories of fossil fuel to produce.  Hence, supply chain efficiency is important.  In Norway, one of the largest food suppliers uses RFID technology to trace meat and poultry from the farm through the supply chain to the store shelf.
  • Imagine a smarter healthcare system with better interconnectivity and sharing of quality data between the doctors, patients, and insurers.  Real-time information such as patient records is analyzed and turned into actionable knowledge.  We should be able to own our medical records.  Moving away from paper records translates to reduced medical errors and improved efficiencies.  A public healthcare service in Spain has built a regionally integrated system that allows patients to visit any health centers knowing that the doctors will have their up-to-date medical record.  The result?  Lower healthcare cost and better care to the patients and the community.
  • Did you know that it takes 700 gallons of water to make a cotton T-shirt, 2,000 gallons to make one gallon of milk, and 39,000 gallons to make a car?  In the last 100 years, global water usage has outpaced the rate of population growth by double.  Global agriculture wastes 60% of the 2,500 trillion liters it uses each year.  Municipalities lose 50% of water through leaky infrastructure.  One in five people today still lacks access to clean and safe drinking water.  United Nation predicts that nearly half of the world’s population will experience critical water shortages by the year 2080.  The solution?  Use technology to monitor, measure, and analyze the entire water ecosystem – from rivers and reservoirs to the pumps and pipes in our homes.  Smart metering for the individuals and the businesses helps to raise awareness and empower demand management.
  • What about urban crimes? Instead of merely responding to crimes and emergencies after the fact, what if we could analyze, anticipate, and working to prevent them?  Sounds like a science fiction?  Here are some examples.  New York police commanders use analytics and visualization tools to see crime patterns as they are forming.  The city’s Real Time Crime Center system is capable of querying pieces of information to uncover previously unknown data relationships and points of connection.  The result?  A 27% drop in crime since 2001.  New York is now ranked as the safest large city in the US.  In Chicago today, 911 dispatchers have access to video from surveillance cameras citywide with advanced analytics built to assist the operator with potential “eyes-on-the-scene” in the vicinity.  Right services can be dispatched in time.

To bring us back to local context, what does a smarter planet mean to you?  What can be done to your country in that regard?

External Link: IBM Smarter Planet Website

Time To Choose A Powerful Security Suite – Norton Internet Security 2011

After installing the new Norton Internet Security 2011 into one of my computers at home, I opened up my web browser to rearrange my toolbars.  The moment I stacked one of the toolbars onto the Google toolbar, I have received a notification from Norton saying that the downloaded file is likely to be safe.  But wait.  I did not download a file, did I? It turns out that Google toolbar has behind the scene downloaded an executable.  If not for Norton, I would not have known.  Another time, I was downloading a video driver from a trusted source.  After the download is completed, I have received a warning message from Norton saying that the file may not be safe.  Very few people have downloaded and used the file, it said.  That was strange.  I went ahead and started the installation.  True enough, the file was corrupted and could not be used.  Norton knew it before I did.

You may be able to relate to this.  Every now and then, one of my friends would pop me an instant message with some suspicious links, and then go offline.  Or those emails I have received from my friends with dubious subjects.  These are the signs of accounts being hacked.  I would, of course, contact my friends by phone and ask them to do something about it.

I suppose what I am trying to share is that the threats are real and there are many things that happen behind the scene when we are connected to the Internet.  Through casual chats with my friends as well as a survey hosted in my website, I learn that all of us have had negative online experience one form or another.  And one of the greatest fear is to have our online identify stolen.  When asked how then to prevent ourselves from being the victims of the cyber-criminals, some think that having a firewall is good enough.  Or when a padlock icon that indicates a secured website is shown, it is safe (it is certainly not so, please remember that).  One told me that by avoiding to connect to the Internet unless absolutely needs to, the risk is mitigated (which is not, because the operating system and applications need to be updated regularly).  Some feel that they can judge whether or not a website is safe to open (well, even reputed websites can be hijacked).  And etc.

My question back to some of you would be: Why go through so much hassle trying to be safe?  Why not get the best protection out there to safeguard your online identity and personal digital assets?

The Facts and Data

With so many products in the market today, which one should you have?  I would recommend Norton Internet Security.  But don’t just take my word for it.  Have a look at the Passmark Consumer Antivirus Performance Benchmark (2011) dated 30 Sep 2010 and decide for yourself.

I have always enjoy attending Norton’s blogger events, hearing all the juicy stories and the behind-the-scene actions as Norton battles with the works of the cyber-criminals.  David Hall, the regional product and marketing manager from Norton was present in the event.  And I have always admired his enthusiasm and he being able to talk for hours and hours in the topic of cyber-protection.  This time, he brought along a briefcase full of credit cards acquired in one of the illegal underground circles in Europe.  You will be amazed by how easy and cheap to buy a credit cards of stolen identities, he said to us with a huge grin.  In Singapore, the top 5 cyber-crimes are: computer viruses or malware, online scams, phishing, social network profile hacking, and online credit card fraud.  71% of Singaporeans do not expect cyber-criminals to be brought to justice.  It takes an average of 24 days to resolve a cyber-crime and the costs on overage is S$1,660.  It is up to us to change this.  Get ourselves protected is one.  Report to authority is another.

Norton Internet Security 2011

If you are an active subscriber for the 2010 version, all you need to do is to right click onto the Norton icon on your system track, and select “Check for New Version”.  You should be able to update to the new 2011 version free.

So, what are the differences between the 2010 and 2011 version?  To be totally honest with you, I have computers that run on different editions of Internet Security, 360, and Gaming Edition so much so that I got a little bit disoriented on the subtle differences.  The 2011 version still progressively scans my computer when I am away from keyboard, still receives pulse updates constantly behind the scene, and checks the files against a reputation mechanism built by the Norton community (see below).  It still consumes very little computing power and when I run my games, Norton enters into silence mode.

What I do find therapeutic to look at is the new world map that blinks (see below for a cropped screenshot).  When I click onto a region in the map, a ticker appears underneath to show live data on the number of threats blocked by Norton.  I can also switch the ticker into the detail mode and look at those strangely named viruses and malwares.  This world map is so wonderful that next time when I get to meet David Hall, I would suggest to have it expanded into a full screen to see all the actions in glory.  They should have Norton TV too, as part of the awareness program.

Additional Useful FREE Tools

OK.  If you have read this far, you deserve to have some rewards.  During the blogger event, David Hall has shared with us some of the free tools out there for the online community.  And here they are for sharing.

  1. Norton Power Eraser – If you think that you (or one of your friends) have become a victim of a cyber-crime and the security suite of your choice is not able to remove it, you can download the Norton Power Eraser from here.  It will help you to solve the problem.  This is a reactive measure.  I still recommend you to have a good protection all the time.
  2. Norton Safe Web (for Facebook) – If you are a Facebook user, it is worthwhile to install this application.  What it does is to scan all the links posted by your friends on your wall and news feed and protect you from accidentally clicking onto any unsafe sites.  You can enable auto-scan too.  I do just that.  You can search for this application within Facebook.
  3. Norton DNS – If you wish to protect your home network at the router level, you may consider using the Norton DNS.  Although I have two computers at home, I have a lot more home devices that are connected to the Internet.  What Norton DNS does is to protect all the home devices.  You may download the tool from here.  There is a FAQ section to answer your queries.

As always, drop me a comment here if you have any question.  I am happy to help.