Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hauck Shopper 11

As usual, all Hauck strollers come with pictures only instruction manuals. So while it may take you longer to get up and running, it is not that difficult either.

The Hauck Shopper is considered lightweight at 7.6 kg and a travel system when combined with a Hauck Zero Plus car seat or a carry cot.

Attaching the car seat is simple - lay the backrest flat - which makes it suitable for infants by the way, lift up both the catch on the side of the stroller and the car seat be 'dropped' in until it locks. The front bar needs to be fixed on when attaching the car seat. The seat can also be removed if you only use the car seat. Both the front bar and seat need to be removed when attaching the carry cot though.

The stroller feels very light and is effortless when pushed, thanks the big wheels at 18/19 cm. Lifting it up kerbs is pretty effortless too.

The seat at the most upright position is pretty reclined, so you many not be able to use the shoulder harness if your kids love to sit up straight. Adjusting the seat recline angle is through the strap mechanism which is not that difficult to use though I prefer those with step recline instead.

Canopy is big but too short and high to provide much cover. While you can protect your child from the rain with a rain cover, you cannot do much to protect from the harsh sun. There is no window for you to view the child while pushing too.

The cup holder and tray is useful when out for a long time for those occasional drinks and snacks, so does the back pocket.

Folding up the stroller can be tricky for those with short hands. Getting it right sure does take a lot of practice even for someone who is 1.7 m tall like me. It could be made easier with a handle lever, just like the Mothercare Mino as the folding concept is pretty similar.

To make folding easier, the brakes, which are very easy to operate by the way, needs to be engaged. One thing to take note when folding up the Shopper is to lay the backrest flat. This is illustrated in the instruction manual but is not specifically mentioned that it needs to be done. If this is not done, the two seats catch at the side of the frame will dislodge.

The stroller is still considered bulky when folded as it can only fold flat downwards. As the front bar touches the ground each time the stroller is folded, it is best to remove it or hold on to it while folding, to avoid it getting stained.

Overall this is a good stroller minus the few setbacks.

You can view the video here

Light when pushed and easy to manourver
Width is suitable for big children
Easy to engage and release brake
Big basket, with pocket for easy access.
5-point harness.
Suitable for infants.

Front bar touches the ground when folded
Folding can be tricky
Size when folded is still bulky
Seat and basket can only be hand wash


Weight - 7.6 kg
Measurements folded (max.) - 90 x 49 x 35 cm
Measurements built- up (max.) - 94 x 49 x 103 cm
Handlebar height - 103 cm
Length of seat and back rest - 15 x 44 x 71 cm
Seat height - 47 cm
Seat width - 32 cm
Removable plastic wheels
Wheel diameter (Front) - 18 cm
Wheel diameter (Rear) - 19 cm
Swivel and lockable front wheels
Adjustable backrest - (104° to 156°)
4 step adjustable footrest
Detachable front bar
Detachable canopy
Big shopping basket with access pocket
Combinable with car seat and carry cot
Detachable and washable fabric
Soft-fix brake
5-point harness system
From 0 month to 15 kg

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Double strollers: What are your choices?

This is not a review of double strollers but rather a guide on how to shop for one which gives you the most bang for your buck.

I am expecting a second child so I started looking for double strollers and one thing that is common of all double strollers is that they are expensive.

There are a lot available here locally. Brands like Peg-Prego, Quinny, Stokke etc are aplenty but when you look beyond that, you will see how we are actually being restricted to just a small pool of them as compared to what is available out there overseas.

If you cannot find anything you like locally, then you have to consider ordering one in. Even if what you like is available locally, ordering them in can actually save you a bit, maybe even up to 1/2 the cost. For example, the Phil&Teds Navigator is selling around $1.6k in an online store here. You can ship one in for $800.

Facts about ordering online.

1. It will definitely be cheaper ordering them from the source or origin of the manufacturer. For example, Graco, which made in US will be cheaper if you order them from there.

2. Many online stores do not ship them internationally which can be frustrating as some of them have really good deals. Try browsing through Tesco and you'll get what I mean.

3. Shipping rates can balloon up the total cost making them more expensive than local set.

4. Practically no warranty.

5. GST will be levied on orders exceeding SGD400 in total, including shipping etc.

So how you do know if it is worth it to buy from overseas and where do you start shopping?

The first thing you should do is find the origin of the manufacturer. For example, Jane (pronounced Ha-ne) is  from Spain and Hauck is from Germany. Do take note that almost everything is made in China though.

Once you find that out, you can start to find online stores from that country. If you have no clue whatsoever, two best source that I can think of is Amazon and eBay.

For eBay, if the manufacturer is from a European country, go to eBay UK. From there make sure you choose the option "European Union" in your location filter. This will include all the available items by sellers in Europe. It is easier this way than shopping at the localised site itself as everything will be in English.

If the seller in eBay do not specifically state that they can ship internationally, you can try to contact the seller and ask if they can ship the items here and what rates will be like.

If you know someone living abroad, you can have your item delivered to them (as shipping is normally free to the same country) and ask for a favour to have them ship the item over. However, from my experience, this normally cost more but still, do make the comparison with shipping them directly.

Some sellers have their own website outside eBay. If they do, you can ask them directly, out of eBay. The reason why is because in eBay, they will not be able to exclude the VAT from the price (which can be as much as 19% in Europe and 20% in the UK) if the item is not shipped to a European destination. So if the item cost 300€, you will save about 50€, which is about SGD$80.

As mentioned, shipping can negate all the cost savings, so make sure you get the correct shipping rates and factor that in your final cost.

Some stores accepts payment by PayPal which can be a good thing as they provide buyer protection in the event the item was not delivered or different from what is described. Sellers or stores may also give you further discount if your make the payment through PayPal. Just take note that when paying through PayPal, change the conversion option from PayPal to Mastercard/Visa. PayPay conversion option will usually end up higher.

You may also want to buy insurance for your purchase. All costs needs to be totalled up and once that is confirmed, convert them to SGD (include another 7% (in SGD) for orders about SGD$400 as levied by the ICA. Payment of the GST can be found here) and compare the cost with the ones available locally to see if it is cheaper.

Happy shopping!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Proposal for HDB to revert back to queue system

This is a proposal to HDB to revert back to the queue system instead of the current balloting system for the sale of flats.

Current balloting system has been a source of consternation among buyers for the lack of transparency and unpredictability. There are many cases where applicants were not successful even after many attempts. Having more chances is negated as balloting is still dependent on the luck factor.


1. To kick start the queue system again, interested parties will have to register with HDB within a stipulated period of time for the initial phase of queue number allocation.

2. After the cut off date of the initial phase, all registrants will be put to a ballot where a queue number will be permanently assigned to them.

3. Those who registered after the initial phase will be assigned a permanent queue number based on the first come first serve basis.

4. Registrants with a queue numbers can opt to participate in any future sales launch where priority is given based on the queue number.

5. Registrant who do not participate in a sales launch will automatically move up the priority list for the next launch, based on his queue number.

6. Queue number can be revoked if chances to book a unit are not accepted.

7. Those who had their queue number revoked will need to register for a new queue number and join at the back of the queue.


1. When there is a sales launch, all applicants with a queue number can register their interest within a stipulated period of time.

2. After the registration cut off date, HDB will publish the list of applicants who registered in order of their queue number and demarcate those who has 100% chances of getting a unit (based on number of available unit) and those who do not.

For eg,

Available number of unit - 10
Registered applicants (in order of queue number) - 1, 3,4,5,6,8,10,11,12,15,16,17,19
Group A (applicants with 100% chances) - 1,3,4,5,6,8,10,11,12,15
Group B (applicants on waiting list) - 16,17,19

3. Applicants in Group A can choose their unit and priority will be given based on their queue number.

4. Applicants in Group A who do not book a unit at the end of the exercise will have his queue number revoked.

5. Once the list has been published and registered applicants informed accordingly of their grouping, another stipulated period of time will be given to those in Group A to book a unit.

6. Number of applicants to be placed in Group B can be fined tuned based on statistics.

7. Applicants in Group B has to the choice to opt out of this exercise at this point of time and still retain their their queue number.


1. Selection process will continue as it is now

2. Any applicant who choose not to select a unit after he have accepted the offer to select will have his queue number

3. Available flat can then be offered to those on the waiting list.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Natural way to cure kidney stones

Just would like to share my experience as someone who had kidney stones.

First of all, a brief recap.

I had a horrible pain on my right lower back about a year ago. It was so bad I was on all fours and almost tearing. I had my wife rub Cajuput oil which did provide some relief before the pain goes away. It happened few times before I decided to see a doctor. He diagnosed that I had kidney stones by doing a simple test of punching my right middle back with moderate force which send me almost screaming in pain.

I was referred to a urologist who ordered an X-ray on me and confirmed a stone in my right kidney. I was scheduled for a lithotripsy procedure but did not go through it I experienced no more pain until recently, which is about a year later.

This time, I had difficulty and discomfort when peeing. I also experienced random sudden sharp pain in my right groin area. The doctor made a similar diagnosis and the urologist confirmed after an X-ray that the stone has gone down to my bladder and just at the end of the urethra. I was scheduled for a scope the next day where I will be put on general anesthesia and they will try to crush the stone by sticking a uretaroscope up my urethra (ouch!). However, when I got back home, I managed to purge it out without even realising it along with all the excruciating pain.

Before I go into how I managed to purge the stone out, I would like to list out some of the early painless symptoms I can recall.

1. The need to urinate more often than usual even though water intake regime do not change.
2. Unable to completely discharge urine. There will still be droplets leaking after you have zipped up.
3. Pinkish, thicker or cloudier than usual urine (abnormal colour)

All the above are sign of urinary disorder. For males, the most common reason for having a disorder is either due to STD or kidney stones.

If you really have kidney stones, you may experience some of the infamous excruciating pain such as

1. If you have belly and/or side back pain, you may have kidney stones in your kidney.
2. If you experience sharp pain in your groin, you may have stones in your ureter making its way down to your bladder
3. If you feel horrible burning sensation at the start and the end of your pee, you may have stones in your bladder.

All the above may be accompanied with chills, fever, nausea or vomiting.

So what did I do to help me pee the stone out?

When I experienced the symptoms the second time, I drank a lot of citrus fruit drinks like lime, lemon, all types of berries, grapefruit, orange etc on a daily basis, hoping that it will help by either making the pain go away and eventually peeing it out. However, after about a month, I gave up to the pain and made an appointment with a urologist.

After I got back from seeing my urologist, I decided to give it one last attempt to try to purge the stone naturally. I squeezed all the juice out of a lemon and drank it as it is. I then drink at least two cups of pure grapefruit juice from Natural Florida. After that I drank as much water as my stomach can take.

As expected, after a while, my body reacted and signaled the need for me to urinate. As I was tired of going in and out of the bathroom just to painfully expel just a small amount of urine at a time, I sat on the water closet and urinate as and when it felt like it. As I was sitting down, I had to hold my penis to point it downwards so my pee will go into the bowl.

It was the third or fourth time I had to urinate with so much pain that I suddenly feel that my pee just gush out  and it was not painful. It was then that I realised I actually peed the stone out. I fished the stone out of the bowl. and there it was this coral like stone measuring 12mm x 6mm.

While I do not know what actually help me to purge the stone out, I believe the grapefruit helped a lot and here's why.

Potassium citrate helps to dissolve the stones and according to this NCBI article, grapefruit has the highest citrate content. A separate study also concluded that grapefruit actually helps.

However, other websites says grapefruit increases the risk of kidney stones, so it is best to check with your urologist as there are many types of stones and not all react the same towards to citrate. Also, some may not be able to handled high level of citrate in their stomach.

Hopefully this article will be of help to anyone out there suffering just like I did. If you experienced any  urinary disorder, try increasing your water intake. And if it still do not go away, it is best to have it checked out.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Doorstep Luxury and Yamato Transport TA-Q-BIN

I ordered something online from Doorstep Luxury on Saturday and receive a confirmation on Monday morning that the item will be delivered on the same day from 12-5 pm. Considering that they are closed Saturday, that is considered fast. Impressed so far with their service.

So I called my wife and told her to stay home to receive the item. I was lucky I got her before she was about to go out, or so I thought.

They engaged Yamato Transport, TA-Q-BIN as the courier and I was given a tracking number. The item was stated as unregistered when I checked so I called them up and was told that since the item was picked up just a while ago, the tracking number will only be entered into the system after 2 pm. That means that there is no way I will receive the item before that, not until the item is keyed in into the system for delivery.

It also meant, my wife will be wasting two hours for nothing. So why did Doorstep Luxury states that the delivery will be from 12 pm onward when it is definitely not going to be delivered before 2 pm?

The item stayed as unregistered all the way from then to 3:30 pm so I called again and was told that it was already assigned to be delivered and will arrive before 5 pm. Why was it not in the system?

I checked again and by then it states to be delivered with a timestamp 2:56pm. So that means they did not register the item into the system until I called to ask.

The item was finally delivered at 4:40 pm.

I am not an unreasonable customer. As long as I am informed, I will be ok but if I were to do all the work of finding out what is going on, that will piss me off.

So if you plan to order anything from Doorstep Luxury, it is best to drop down their store or be prepared to wait 5 hours. Else, if you are in a situation like me, you should call to arrange for another date for the delivery.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

SMRT Mandarin station name announcements

I emailed LTA the following on the 16th of November this year

I took the North South Line today and noticed the bilingual announcements made in English as well as Mandarin each time the train approached a station. I would like to question the rationale for this change. 
Who are the targeted commuters of this new change? As far as I know, Singapore's main education and working medium is in English, and primary education is compulsory, therefore it is impossible that locals do not understand the simple English announcements that has been used since the day our trains start operating. 
If the targeted commuters are the older generation of locals who may not understand English, why was this change not done earlier? It it impossible that they lose their grasp of English as they grow older. It is also impossible that this change was not technologically possible before this. 
If the targeted commuters for this change are for the foreign workers and new citizens, are the figures that huge that it warrants this change? In that case, what are the figures like and are their understanding of English that bad that they do not understand simple English, like station names? 
Also, why are only the Chinese foreigners and new citizens being accommodated? Why not Telugu or Hindustan to accommodate those from India as well as Vietnamese, Tagalog and Thai? 
Appreciate a response.

And this is their reply, 11 days later.

Our Ref : LTA/VTL/PTR/TR/F20.000.000/4139
Date       : 26-NOV-2012
Tel         : 6553 5955
Fax        : 6553 5279

Dear Sir,   
SMRT Announcement
FEEDBACK NUMBER: 20121116-0348

We refer to your email of 16 November 2012.

We will like to share that the move to have the names of stations announced in Mandarin is part of a trial by SMRT which was implemented recently. As they have regularly received public feedback and suggestions to announce station names in Mandarin, they decided to adopt commuters' recommendations as it is a service improvement that would benefit passengers who rely on announcements during their journey.

SMRT have taken into consideration the request for the announcement of station names to be in the four official languages of Singapore, namely, English, Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. During their review, they found that the pronunciation for most station names, with the exception of Mandarin, sound similar when pronounced in English, Malay or Tamil.

We acknowledge the concern for announcements to be made in multiple languages and we will keep this in mind during future review.

Yours sincerely,


Sunday, November 25, 2012

HDB: Jan 2013 BTO pre-launch analysis

HDB has released information on the upoming Jan 2013 BTO.

For Ang Mo Kio BTO, it is near the confirmed future Mayflower MRT station of the Thomson Line

For Choa Chua Kang BTO, it is near the possible future Brickland MRT station of the North South Line.

The rest of the BTOs are far from any MRT Stations although they have some other attributes that may be attractive to buyers

For example the Hougang BTO is near the riverside and facing the Punggol Park so some units will have good unblock views. It is actually on the fringes of Sengkang and very near the KPE.

Yishun BTO is also near Orchid Country Club therefore some units will have good unblocked views too.

Tampines BTO is far from most except for Tampines Ave 10 which makes getting to the PIE and TPE easier.

Kallang/Whampoa is not near any MRT stations as well. Both the NSL and NEL are just as far. However it may be attractive to those who prefer staying near town.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Official Android 4.2 Jelly Bean update for Nexus 7

It is out. So hit that update button.

The first change you'll see is when you wake the display up. It shows a highlighted boxes, one with an add sign, just beside the clock, indicating that you can add another widget for the lock screen. The digital clock looks a little different too with the hours bold.

The analog clock looks prettier too. Minimalistic yet modern and pleasing.

It might just be me but the app menu is nicer too with the icons seems to stand out as the black looks darker.

And when the keyboard is activated, you can immediately try out the 'gesture' typing as shown. From my little time with it, I feel it is easier than Swype.

First impression so far is positive coupled with a much more responsive system

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Renovation: HDB Household Shelters

Nobody wants it and everybody hates it but like it or not, all HDB BTO flats will come with a household shelter. Only question is what can you do with it now that you are stuck with this so called wasted space as it cannot be hacked away?

Depending on where the location of the shelter is, it can actually serve some useful purpose. Below list out all the possible use of the space.

Location - near main door entrance.

You can turn the household shelter into a closet where you store all the footwear,  jackets, bags, umbrellas and all the things you often use when you step out of the house.

If you have kids, this can also be a good place to store the stroller(s) as well.

If your unit is small, then having a few spare fordable chairs will come in handy when you have a gathering. The chairs can be hung up nicely in the closet until there is a need for them.

Location - along the walkway to the rooms

Even though there is already a service yard, that area will most probably be wet making it not suitable to iron your clothes. So turning the household shelter into a central dry utility room would be practical especially if you have grown up kids who do their own ironing. With a central dry utility room, you do not have to bring the iron and ironing board in and out from room to room each time someone needs to use them or each room having their own iron and ironing board.

You can also store items like bedding, sheets, towels, pillow cases or even winter wears. Practically anything related to fabric. This saves you the precious space you have in your closet with the ever decreasing size of the rooms.

If you have babies, this will be a good place too to store stock of diapers and what not for those who like to buy in bulk.

Ikea's Gorm storage solution are cost effective for this purpose, as shown below.

Picture courtesy of

Location - kitchen

Obviously, the best use of this space is to turn it into a pantry for all those things that you do not actually need to store in the kitchen cabinet itself. This includes stocks of canned/boxed/bottled food, packs of rice, garlic, onions etc. It is a life saver especially if your kitchen is small where it is not possible to have a big kitchen cabinet. It also helps to keep those things away and not spoil the look of your nifty kitchen.

Again, Ikea Gorm is suitable for you to create yourself a pantry

To store or not to store?

At the end of it all, what matters is how you use the space. Keeping it clean, tidy and organised is what actually counts. Don't treat the space as a dumping ground to store stuff for dust to settle.

On a side note, how do you know if the things you keep are a necessity? When it has never been used for more than a year, it most likely never will. Having an annual spring cleaning, normally before a festive season is a good way to throw unused junk out of your storage space.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Adult acne

I am not an expert but I just want to share my experience with whoever is facing it right now because it can really be demoralizing and a cause of low self-confidence and not to mention lots of sleepless nights

Just a short history. Throughout my teenage years, I had flawless skin. Then in my early to mid 20s, I had some small bumps here and there. I assumed it was because I rode a bike then. I guess my skin is a little more sensitive than most so the dust, the exhaust fumes etc on the roads clogged up my pores and resulted in pimples. I was a lazy guy who don't bother about my skin so much so it kind of served me right. Still it was manageable and nothing that affected me that much.

It was only in my late 20s that I experience an acne outbreak. It was really that bad that my face was full of big, red and painful pimples. Forget about looking bad, the pain from the breakouts itself can get really unbearable. I cannot forget how often I had to change my pillow covers because I'll wake up most mornings with them blood stained unless I sleep on my back all night. It is also a must to have tissues all the time because the pimples can just pop anytime and blood will ooze out. It was that bad. Did I felt like crap? I sure did.

Not to scare anyone out there but adult acne can happen to anybody for many reasons. So if you have flawless skin, be thankful and take care of it.

So back to me, my face now is way better. I still get approached by those skin care specialists each time I pass by them at the stores. I know it isn't perfect now but they do not know how glad I am that I cleared the worst stage of it. Sometimes when I see those with similar condition as I used to have, I feel like telling them how I managed to clear mine but then, I wouldn't like if a stranger does that to me too.

So let's get into the reason why pimples pop out. To the best of my understanding, this is how it goes.

Our face cannot be too dry. When that happens, our natural body mechanism will react and produce oil (sebum) to moisturise our skin. That is why sometimes your skin is oily. It's normal and it is not because you ate too much of this or that. The oil is produced because it had too. However, some people produce more than others.

Now, the problem occurs when too much of it is produced. The oil itself is not the actual problem. Problem is when there is too much it, the chances of your face trapping dirt is higher. Since you face is sticky with oil, dirt will stay put. If you do not clean your face fast enough, dirt can get trapped in your skin pores. When that happens, the oil produced through the pores will have no where to go and this is the reason why bumps appear. The bumps are actually accumulation of dirt and oil. If not rectified, it can be infected with bacteria and resulting in pimples.

Some think that because their face is oily all the time, washing often is good. It's not. The more often you wash your face, the more it will react. Dry skin, more oil. It does not solve anything. In fact it can get worse, with your face thinking it's too dry most of the time.

Key to maintaining an oil free skin is to prevent the oil from being produced too much and at the same time maintain the level of moisture in your skin. Face not dry, less oil. It is as simple as that.

So the first thing is to get a cleanser that do not dry your skin too much. For this, you have to try out and find the one that works for you. God knows how many I have tried and finally got one that works for me. Then get face moisturizer that will fool your skin and stop it from producing oil. What you get is moisturised skin and less oil. That itself will slowly help in preventing breakouts.

Drinking a lot of water helps too. How to know if you lack of it? See your lips. If they are dry, then chances are your face is dry too. Remember, dry face, more oil. Your face don't feel dry don't mean you are hydrated. It could be that is it covered with oil!

For those with really bad acne eg vulgaris, you will need special medication that will kill the germs residing under your skin, so see a doc. Try not to get them to prescribe you with medication that you need to take orally but rather those that can be applied externally. Oral medication usually have side effects, sometimes long term and irreversible. My doc prescribe me a lotion called Aknemycin which I applied twice a day. It dries up the skin (it had to, to kill of the germs) so you have to avoid the sun because it prevents oil from being produced too. Dry skin out in the sun is bad. If you work out in the sun, then use it only when you go to sleep. After about 4 months of usage, without fail, my big, red, painful acne are gone.

Now I am left with scars which possibly can be repaired with other form of face lotions. So far I have not found any that suit my skin, even after spending a lot.

For my daily face wash, I use T3 Acne Care Cleanser. It don't dry up my face too much. I wash my face twice a day. Once when I wake up and once before I go to bed. For those pimples that come and go, I use T3 Pimple Gel 1st Outbreak. Two days and it's gone. Other pimple gel simply don't work.

Like I said, try everything and stick to the one that works for you. Some get rid of the pimples but leave your face sore. Those are bad. I don't use moisturiser anymore but I do keep a pack of blotting sheets all the time to wipe oil off my face. I try to drink lots of water, especially in the morning. Two big glasses of them.

So if you have a similar problem, there is something you can do about it. You just need to work hard finding the right products for you.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

HDB Loan Calculator

This file does a pretty accurate calculation of your HDB Loan, provided you key in the correct information in the blue cells. If you have not obtained your HLE, assume the full amount for the moment.


Take note that the maximum loan period is 25 years or until you are reach 65 of age, whichever is lesser.

The interest rate is based on the current concessionary rate of 2.6%. This rate is adjusted every quarterly, in January, April, July and October each year. Current HDB market interest rate is actually 3.38%

The file gives you 4 options

1. Calculate by loan period with a maximum of $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA
2. Calculate by loan period without any amount parked in CPF-OA
3. Calculate by desired monthly payments with a maximum of $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA
4. Calculate by desired monthly payments without any amount parked in CPF-OA.

You can choose to see either with maximum $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA or without for the loan breakdown.


The option of having a maximum of $40,000 (combined) parked in CPF-OA is included because the first $20,000 in each individual CPF-OA earns extra interest of 1% making it a total of 3.5%, which is higher than HDB 2.6% interest rate. It means you are better off keeping that amount to earn that extra interest, if you can afford to*. Look at the calculated actual interest paid to make the comparison of having any amount parked or not.

Although the extra 1% interest goes into your Special Account and you will not be able to use it for other purpose except for retirement, it goes into meeting your Minimum Sum later on when you retire. That means, there is more of your Ordinary Account to draw out from when you reach the age of 55.

Having a maximum of $20,000 in your own CPF-OA on standby will also come in handy if you are unable to service your mortgage when there are no contributions to your CPF-OA for a period of time due to lost of income etc. The number of months that amount can help you out will be

Amount parked / monthly installment = number of months you are covered


To know if you need to top up in cash on top of your monthly CPF-OA contribution to pay for your monthly installment, take note of the table below. All you need to concentrate on is the amount credited into your Ordinary Account (as highlighted in blue). If the amount is lesser than your calculated monthly installment, it means you have to top up the difference in cash.

Take note the percentage decreases as you grow older so if your income do not increase as you age, it means you have to top up more after every stage in the table. So take note if you plan to max out your monthly installment using your monthly CPF-OA contribution.

The file provides an estimate of the monthly cash top up that you may need to make.

Age (Years)
Contribution Rate
(for monthly wages ≥ $1,500)
Credited into
Contribution by Employer
(% of
Contribution by Employee
(% of
Total Contribution
(% of wage)
Ordinary Account
(% of wage)
Special Account
(% of wage)
Medisave Account
(% of wage)
35 & below1620362367
Above 35-451620362178
Above 45-501620361989
Above 50-551418.532.513.59.59.5
Above 55-6010.51323.51229.5
Above 60-6577.514.
Above 656.5511.5119.5

 If you are a first timer, you may not have the luxury of  maintaining any amount in your CPF-OA as it will be emptied when you apply for HDB loan.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Simpang New Town

Looks like URA is finally going forward with the plans for Simpang New Town which was put on hold till Punggol New Town is fully developed. Since plans for Punggol have already been announced, Simpang development can finally start.

The area between Sembawang Road and Yishun Industrial Park A is already cordoned off to make way for upcoming HDB BTO projects. It remains to be seen whether HDB will group this BTO as part of Simpang or Sembawang.

Those who are planning to apply for new BTO in either Sembawang and Yishun can consider waiting till the next HDB sales launch as the November 2012 sales launch do not include this Simpang BTO in the list. One good reason is because a new MRT station between the current Yishun and Sembawang stations will be built. This will be the missing N12 in the current MRT stations map.

The location of the station will most likely be where Canberra Link, Yishun Ave 2 and Sungai Simpang Kiri intersect, right in front of the upcoming BTO, as that is the equal distance between NS11 and NS13 stations. 

Those staying along Yishun Ave 7 in condominiums like Yishun Sapphire, Yishun Emerald, Eight Couryards and One Canberra and HDB housing block 165 to 175 will also benefit.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Baby: Strollers - Mothercare Mino

We bought this stroller while we were in London in June. We went there thinking that we will not need a stroller for our 8 months baby boy. We sure was proven wrong.

Mothercare Singapore just recently brought this range in, so we were probably the only one here using it when we returned from the trip back in June this year.

Anyway, the main reason why we bought this was because it was reasonably priced, practical and met our needs. We do not want to spend too much on something we just need for a few days. We thought that we would use it just for the trip and sell it when we got back. In the end, we kept it and it became our favorite stroller (as compared to our Hauck Turbo and Capella Harmony).

As far as weight is concerned, this stroller is very light at 6.9 kg. Cannot get any lighter than this. And even though it is light, it is stable as the CG is low due to the low position of the seat.

It is practically folded just like most umbrella fold stroller except it also folds in half length wise, making it very compact and very small when folded. Folding mechanism is actually easy but you need to get the hang of it. Locking the rear wheel first is kind of a must to make it all easier.

It comes with a 5 point harness which is easy to fix and fully adjustable to meet the growing needs of your child.

What I like the most about this stroller is that the handle height is perfect for me who is 1.7 m tall and the rest of my family members who are shorter than me. Our experience with other strollers is that we often kick the rear wheels. None of that with the Mino.

The seat comes with a fully adjustable reclining mechanism that allows you to set at any angle you want. Not my favorite as it can be cumbersome at times but many other brand/model, even those expensive ones, adopt a similar mechanism as well so I guess it all boils down to preference - between fixed number of positions or any angle you want.

The seat is made of plastic-like material that is easy to clean. May not look comfortable but our boy has no complaints.

As with other strollers, the calf rest can be adjusted down when you child grows taller; the hood covers only the top just like most umbrella fold strollers (but it does come with a raincover though I am not sure if local set comes with one too) and the back cover can be folded for better ventilation.

So on a nutshell

Very lightweight
Very compact when folded
Easy to maneuver
Handle height is just perfect
5 point harness
Considerably stable

Basket not accessible when seat is fully reclined.
Folding mechanism needs a lot of getting use to.
Seat recline mechanism can be hard to adjust.

Do we recommend it? Despite the setbacks, this is still recommended.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Renovation: Water Heaters

Getting heated water to your bathrooms nowadays is easy and affordable, depending on your needs and which method you choose. Most common method is by simply installing a POU (point of use) instant heater and you'll be showering in heated water in no time. However, a POU instant heater can only supply heated water to a specific area (for example the shower area) and you'll need one for each bathroom. If you need heated water from your sink, you'll need a centralised heater as a POU heater cannot perform this function (which will be explained later). You will also need the appropriate piping which can be costly, depending on the type of house you have and of course mixer taps (with hot/cold water inlets) Newer HDB flats where the wiring and piping are concealed already has the necessary piping taken care of. Same goes with most condominiums and landed properties. For older HDB flats however, there are no other options but to lay additional piping for heated water coming from the heater. Unless you are a plumber or have the necessary tools, you'll almost certainly need to call one to do the job. Once the necessary piping is available, all you need to do is to install a centralised heater and you'll have heated water in shower area and from the sink. Contrary to popular belief, there is actually more than one type of central heaters you can opt for. Most commonly used are the storage heaters where it is basically a heater with a tank to hold the heated water. The other type is a tankless instant heater that heats the water up as you use it. If you are wondering if the tankless instant heater is similar to the POU instant heater, you are not far off. The working concept is similar - which is to heat the water as water flows through it. However, you cannot use a POU instant heater as a central one because the POU heater is activated when water flows into the heater while the centralised one is activated when water flows out. That means you will need an on/off tap to supply cold water to the heater while it gets heated up and out from a hose etc. You cannot re route the heated water to another tap as then you will have to turn on two taps which will make it ridiculous So which is a better solution? To tank or not to tank? A storage heater is normally bulky, therefore can be unsightly and is also inefficient as it 1. heats the water up even when not in used to maintain the water temperature. This means you have to turn it on all the time or have it turned on for some time beforehand to allow it to heat the water up. Obviously the latter is not convenient. 2. heats up the whole tank regardless of the amount you actually plan to use. 3. can run out of heated water if the supply in the tank runs low as you are using it. Think of the electric thermos and you’ll get the idea. A tankless heater on the other hand is way smaller, therefore not that unsightly, and more efficient as it is turned on only when being used. This means, you can turn the main switch off when you are not using it and back on when you need to. If you think that it is inconvenient, then you just leave it on and it will only consume energy for the LED indicators which is negligible. There are two types of tankless instant heaters - one is electric and the other is powered by gas. You can install the electric tankless heaters almost anywhere you want but for one powered by gas, it can only be installed in an open area like the service yard. This effectively makes the gas heater not an option if it needs to be installed in the bathroom. Even if it can, having to lay gas piping into the bathroom can be costly and unsightly and even be impossible, due to the location of the gas pipe and the bathroom.

If your service yard adjoins to your bathroom (where the central piping inlet is located), then you can install a gas central heater in the service yard and extend the hot water pipe to bathroom. You have to drill a hole though so be careful that you do not damage any concealed piping as the cost to repair it will be astronomical. You have to also lay gas piping to the service yard. Check out City Gas for their range of gas heaters.

If your service yard is not adjoined to your bathroom, then an electric tankless heaters is your best bet. One such example is the Bennington C600. It is small and considered affordable at approximately $280. 

Take note that a tankless central heater is not a perfect solution and here's why. For one, it is not absolutely instant. Depending on the location of the heater and the length of piping it has to go through before it reaches the outlet, there will be a delay. However, this applies to any centralised heaters as well. So if you have never used a centralised heater before, this is expected. You will also see a drop in the water pressure. For most cases, this should not be an issue as no one uses boiling water in huge flow unless they want to scald themselves. So most likely, after mixing with cold water, the pressure should be just right, at a temperature most people use to shower or wash up. However, if it is an issue for you, it can be easily remedied by changing the shower heads or installing water saving devices onto the tap which will increase the pressure accordingly. Though it may be an inconvenience and even additional investments, the savings (both electricity and water) later on should make up for it. Whichever type of heaters you decide on, you may want to have heated waters in the kitchen or even the service yard since you already have a centralised heater. However, as far as I know, HDB flats with concealed piping do not extend to the kitchen and service yard. In this case you have, again, three ways to go about it. 1. You can extend and lay additional piping from your central water heater to the kitchen. This option saves you the cost of another heater but make sure that
- the piping works does not cost more than the heater 
- piping works are not unsightly. 2. Another way is to install another heater near the outlet to minimise any exposed piping. If you only need heated water for the kitchen sink, you can actually install it under the sink as show below

A storage heater is too big in this case therefore only tankless heater is possible. Since gas tankless heater cannot be installed in confined spaces like the cabinet under the sink, an electric tankless heater is the only option. In this case, the Bennington C600 will again be suitable. Though it will cost you another initial investment, this can be justified if: 1. Additional piping will cost just as much 2. Additional piping cannot be concealed and will look unsightly. However, do take note that you may need to lay a new wiring to support a higher ampere rating depending on the heater you choose. The Bennington C600 on a 13A socket can only run at mid power (3kW). It runs at a max of 4.5kW and requires a 20A socket. All the above options depends on the cost and aesthetic results. So below is a summary of all the available type of heaters

Heater typeHeatingComments
Point of use (normally called 'instant heater')ElectricalPros: Simple to fix without the need for expensive piping
Cons: Needs one for every outlet
Centralised Storage (normally called 'storage heaters)ElectricalPros: No drop in water pressure
Cons: Bulky, inefficient power usage and not on-demand.
Centralised Tankless (or called multipoint heaters')ElectricalPros: Small, efficient, available on-demand
Cons: Drop in water pressure
Centralised Tankless (normally called 'gas heaters')GasPros: Similar to its electrical cousin.
Cons: Similar to its electrical cousin. May need to connect to an electrical point for ignition. Can only be installed in a non confined space. Additional gas piping required.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Motorola Atrix 2 ICS

Update for Asia Pacific is released today. All I can say is that it is awesome!

Hit the update button!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Installing and Configuring Citrix XenApp 6.0 Fundamentals

Citrix XenApp 6.0 Fundamentals

System Requirements

  1. Citrix XenServer 6.0
  2. Citrix XenApp 6.0 Fundamentals (XAF6)
    1. With Hotfix Rollup Pack 1 for Citrix XenApp 6 for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2
  3. Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard Virtual Machine (for XenApp)
    1. without XenServer Tools installed
    2. without Service Pack 1
    3. with .Net Framework 3.5.1 Roles
    4. with Remote Desktop Services (Remote Desktop Session Host and Remote Desktop Licensing) Role
    5. with Internet Information Services (IIS)  Manager Role
  4. Windows Active Directory Domain Controller (DC)
    1. with Certificate Authority (CA)

Installation Procedure

Preparing host machine for virtual machines

  1. Install XenServer 6.0

Creating a Windows Server VM (for DC)

  1. Install a compatible Windows Server operating system that can act as an Active Directory Domain Controller with hostname DC

  1. Launch dcpromo and configure domain

  1. Install and configure DHCP
    1. Configure scope to issue DNS pointing to DC’s IP address

  1. Install and configure CA

Creating a XAF6 VM

  1. Install Windows Server 2008 R2 (without SP1) with hostname XAF6

  1. Join domain as a member.

  1. Request for Web Server certificate from DC CA using CA Web Services at https://CAServer/certsrv

  1. Enter Name with server FQDN
  2. Download and install server certificate into Local Computer > Personal folder
  3. Download and install CA certificate into Trusted Root Certification Authorities

  1. Install .Net Framework 3.5 Role

  1. Install Remote Desktop Services (Remote Desktop Session Host and Remote Desktop Licensing) Role
    1. Configure Remote Desktop Licensing

  1. Download and install Citrix XenApp 6.0 Fundamentals trial.
    1. Enter a valid email address during registration to receive the license code

Configuring XAF6

  1. Trial License Allocation
    1. Login to MyCitrix (or create a new account if you do not have one)
    2. After login, go to: My tools>Choose a Toolbox>Manage Licenses>Allocate.
    3. Select the Don't see your product? link located at the top right corner of the Allocate web key page.
    4. Enter the license code(s) displayed above in the Find your license dialog box and click Continue. When the Host Name warning page displays, select Continue.
    5. Enter the actual server hostname
    6. Download the license file
    7. Launch Citrix XenApp Quick Start > Licensing and install the license

  1. XenApp Agent to accept SSL
    1. Launch IIS Manager and edit Bindings for Default Web Site to add https port 443 with server certificate downloaded earlier selected

  1. Publishing Applications
    1. Install applications on XAF6
    2. Go to Publish Applications and choose the application to publish.
    3. Select the users to publish the application to

  1. Publishing Printers
    1. Install printer(s) on XAF6
    2. Go to Publish printers and choose the printers to publish
    3. Select the users to publish the printers to

Friday, May 4, 2012

Panasonic air conditioner

I recently purchased the following Panasonic System-3 Inverter air conditioner.

Indoor unit - CS-C9NKZW
Outdoor unit - CU-3S27MKZ

Having owned a Daikin and a Sharp before, I cannot help but compare them with the Panasonic. There are a few things that matters to me when it comes to air conditioners. Apart from the obvious, which is the power consumption, features like timers and automatic modes are important to me.

I will touch on the Daikin and Sharp a little before I go on to the Panasonic.


I do not remember the model but the Daikin was reliable if I remember correctly. It did not breakdown during the 6 years of operation. There was nothing that stands out feature wise that I can recall though.

What I don't like
- power consumption was on a high side
- auto mode switches the unit on and off.
- compressor was noisy.


I like the Sharp. It was pretty quite, fast to cool and very easy to operate. I mean really easy. There is nothing on the remote control that will confuse you. The PLASMACLUSTER is awesome. As a smoker then, my room did not reek of odours commonly associated with a smoker.

What I don't like
- power consumption was on a high side.  
- compressor broke down twice during the 8 years of operation.
- compressor was pretty noisy.


The Panasonic has some cool features. 

It has movement and heat sources detection feature that automatically adjust how it cools the room when set to either ECONAVI or AUTOCOMFORT mode. I seriously could not tell the difference between these as I am not able to experience any difference at all. According to Panasonic

"When comfort is your priority and energy-saving is your concern, press the AUTOCOMFORT button. AUTOCOMFORT Examines, Evaluates and Executes based on the same 3 key factors* as ECONAVI and looks after your comfort with an additional factor, High/Low Activity Detection."

Panasonic illustration of the difference between the two is of no help either as you can see from the images below.

While both are cool features, it can be an inconvenience as it take quite a while for the unit scan the surrounding before it starts to cool the room when the unit is turned on with ECONAVI or AUTOCOMFORT mode. In fact, it is a bit too long for me sometimes. It cools the room pretty quick once it when actually starts.

It also has its own version of Plasmacluster called nanoe-G technology. While I am able to scientifically prove anything, I think the effect is pretty similar, judging from how the room smells afterwards.

The horizontal airflow vents are not static and can be set by the remote and can be set to automatic as well.

In terms of noise level, both the condenser and the compressor are pretty quiet.

What I don't like
- on/off timer is based on actual clock time and not duration.
- takes sometime to start cooling when the unit is turned on with ECONAVI or AUTOCOMFORT mode
- unit on and off when fan is set to auto mode.


I am going to touch more than the two features that I depend a lot on.
I use the off timer all the time. I normally set it to turn the unit off after a certain number of hours during the night when I go to sleep, which I find easier than having to set it to turn off at a specific time.

On the Panasonic, the on/off timer is based on the clock set on the remote. It is also a based on preset times, which means it is fixed and not flexible, unless of course you change the settings again. While you can have multiple on/off set times, I still find it useless unless of course you leave home, return back and sleep at the exact same time each day.

Not only the Sharp has something similar, it has another form of timer based on time difference which I find to be more useful and practical. It is so simple to use that I just need to press one button, which is the off timer button to activate the off timer in multiples of 1 hour. If I need to set it to 2 hours, I just press it again and so on for something longer.

Fan Auto Mode

When the fan is set to auto mode, it will switch the indoor unit on or off when the room temperature reaches the set temperature regardless of other mode is on. This upsets the comfort level, ranging from momentarily to quite a while, defeating what, for example, the AUTOCOMFORT mode is supposed to provide.

I feel that the Sharp auto mode for the fan is better. When in auto mode, the unit do not turn on or off. Instead, it adjusts the fan speed and cooling power accordingly. When the room temperature reaches the set temperature, the fan speed and cooling power is set really low, maintaining the comfort level at all times. When the room temperature increases, the fan speed and cooling power increases accordingly.


So do I recommend the Panasonic? Well if the two features above are not important to you, then you may like the Panasonic. It has cool features like ECONAVI and AUTOCOMFORT and almost everything can be set, including the horizontal louvers, giving you the freedom to set it to what best suits you.

The Panasonic also really saves energy. I used it at least 12 hours a day and my bill is around $200 including all the other services.

By the way, Panasonic was installed by contractors appointed by Courts, where I purchased it. Compared it those installed by Gain City contractors for the Sharp that I had previously, I think the latter did a way better job.