Wednesday, April 30, 2008

ERP Parking Woes

With regards to drivers having problems with their IUs (In-vehicle units), they are not alone. I’ve had my fair share of problems too. Though mine doesn’t happen when i pass through the ERP gantry. So far, all the time when i drive my car into some restricted zone during ERP operating hours, money gets deducted from my cashcard in the IU without any trouble.

I only experience problem whenever i park in car parks that use ERP parking. I can’t exit the car park smoothly as the car park gantry scanner has difficulties detecting and scanning my car’s IU and the cashcard in it. This is despite the fact i always make it a point to keep as far right as possible, right next to the kerb, to maximise the gantry scanner’s ability in picking up the IU with the cashcard inside, in my car. Nonetheless, i have gone through many frustrating experiences time and again where the scanner is not able to pick up my IU and i have had to reverse and forward my car several times before the scanner is finally able to detect, scan my IU and deduct money from my cashcard.

So much for cashless car park payment. In such cases, it would be faster to have a human being to act as a cashier to collect the parking charges from each driver that either enters or exits the car park. Of course, such manual laborers are becoming more and more rare these days. All in the name of automation, much like our driver-less North East Line MRT trains.

I’m all for ERP parking as i do think it is more convenient than having to tear parking coupon(s) and constantly having to worry about not tearing enough coupon(s), thereby resulting in a parking warden dropping by your car to issue you a summon. You can park for as long as you want, without having to worry about parking wardens. Only need to make sure your cashcard has sufficient balance for the scanner to deduct the parking charges from it.

It would be good if operators of ERP car parks would do more to ensure their scanners are able to detect IUs accurately and quickly and deduct the correct amounts from the cashcard each time a driver is exiting the car park. So that he doesn’t need to reverse and forward his vehicle at all, to get the scanner to pick up his IU.

Parking in town is certainly more and more about burning a hole in your wallet these days. I parked at Cairnhill Place just two days ago and was charged a hefty $5.50 amount for parking for slightly over 2 hours. Yup, Cairnhill Place charges $2.00 for 1st hr, $1.50 for next subsequent 1/2hr from 7am to 4.59pm from Monday to Friday.
TODAY Wednesday, 30th April, 2008
Cashcard Troubles?
You're not alone, with more drivers reporting woes at ERP gantries
By Ng Jing Yng
THE next time you drive past an Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) gantry, make sure the IU in your car holding the CashCard does beep.
For, a growing number of drivers here are having problems with their CashCards, according to inspection centres and drivers who spoke to Today.
Drivers who fail to get their CashCards read at the gantries will be issued with notification letters by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), requiring them to pay up to $10 each time.
Drivers who have had this problem before told Today that they initially thought it was due to a faulty in-vehicle unit (IU).
But when they sent the IUs for a check at vehicle inspection centres, they were told the problem lay with their CashCards, which are issued by Nets.
Common problems include faulty microchips on the CashCard after being exposed to heat for more than four hours, rust on the microchip and also accidental scratches on the card when a driver takes it in and out for carpark payments.
Today also understands that the problems do not lie with just a particular batch of CashCards - some drivers who bought their CashCards two years ago experienced problems similar to those who bought theirs recently.
Lawyer Mr S Lazim, 40, encountered his first CashCard problem at an ERP gantry three months ago.
Technicians at Vicom, the car inspection and testing centre, later advised him to keep two cards with him at all times to prevent scratches when taking the CashCard in and out of the IU unit.
But despite having a CashCard solely dedicated to the IU, he still had problems as he was driving past the ERP gantry at Prince Edward Road on Monday morning.
"If you want to have a system, make sure its foolproof and not let consumers bear the inconvenience," said Mr Lazim, 40.
Driver David Woo, 58, said he has no problems with the fact that Nets will start charging road users for a $5, non-refundable fee from today for their CashCards, which can last for up to five years.
"If the card is able to last me for the next four years, paying five bucks is reasonable, but now the quality is questionable," added Mr Woo, who had received two notices from the LTA due to CashCard problems in the past two months.
He now buys only the black-coloured version of the CashCards, which are said to be the hardier version.
The CashCard woes have also found their way into forums dedicated to motorists, such as My Car Forum.
One user, "Octaviafan", advises other motorists to keep separate cards for carpark payments while "Mavvy" told drivers to avoid some shopping centre carparks that are known to easily cause scratches on the card.
Checks with some inspection centres indicated that the CashCard problem is something they deal with daily.
At the STA Inspection centre, the number of CashCard cases seen by its technicians has risen from around two in the past to eight cases daily.
However, some drivers believe that the figure could be higher because there are those who would rather pay the fee imposed by the LTA rather than go through the trouble of getting their vehicles inspected to confirm that their CashCards were the source of the problem.
In response to Today's queries, the LTA said CashCard error incidents comprise only 0.
004 per cent - or about 300 cases - out of the ERP transactions each month.
According to the LTA, given the increase in the number of ERP road users, more problems are likely to crop up.
However, it will work closely with Nets if there is indeed an increasing trend of CashCard-related problems.
Relief may be in sight, though, for drivers with CashCard woes.
Come year end, they will have the option of making ERP payments through credit cards and contactless smartcards, such as the ez-link cards.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nokia 6300

I can't use my Nokia 6300 handphone anymore. Not the usual way like everybody else does anyway.

I get migraine headaches whenever i press the handphone against my ear to talk. Talk about my head being hyper-sensitive to the handphone's radiation.

Now i can only use it to SMS and take pictures and play MP3 songs over its loudspeaker. And if i want to call someone or answer someone's call using the handphone, i have to turn on its loudpeaker and position the phone at a distance away from my ear to prevent the radiation from giving me headache.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Change Handphone Company And Keep Old Number

At long last, we can switch our mobile phone service provider without changing our mobile phone number. Wonderful, don't you think?

Sony-Ericsson W950i

TODAY, Thursday, 17th April 17, 2008

"A SEA change" is what Mr Leong Keng Thai believes full mobile number portability will bring to the local telco industry. And the Infocomm Development Authority's (IDA) deputy chief executive is not alone in expecting a shift of power towards consumers now that a key barrier to switching between operators has finally fallen.

As it stands, Singapore is well on its way to having a fully-liberalised telecoms market. Subscribers already have their pick of more than 25 mobile pricing plans from the three major telcos, and mobile subscription prices have dropped every year since 1997 - from $47 a month for a basic plan, to as low as $20 today.

Could plans become even more attractive now?

With its 5.8 million mobile phone subscribers, the Republic has a penetration rate of 127 per cent. Hong Kong has a mobile penetration rate of 152%.

Mr Leong said the IDA did an extensive study on "all" markets, and Hong Kong showed the highest annual churn rate - the percentage of subscribers that port their number from one telco to another - of 15%.

Hong Kong has five mobile network operators and in the past year, these averaged over 110,000 portings of mobile numbers each month. In total, over 1.38 million numbers were ported last year.

If such figures are any indication of what might happen here, then it is fair to expect the three telcos - SingTel, StarHub and M1 - to offer more competitive prices and plans, in an effort to retain or sway subscribers in an already saturated marketplace. SingTel has 41 per cent of the market, while StarHub and M1 trail with 31 and 27 per cent, respectively.

But consumers expecting a price war in the long run might be disappointed. Mr Quek Peck Leng, SingTel's executive vice-president (consumer), said: "Offering the best value through all our various offerings and providing the best possible service experience have always been our top priorities. Ultimately, it does not make sense for us to engage in a destructive price war and destroy value."

Mr Foong King Yew, a research director from Gartner, said: "It has happened in Australia, Hong Kong, Korea and Japan - there will be an increase in the churn rate for the first 12 to 18 months. This will stabilise eventually."

Mr Adit Harinasuta, StarHub's head of services and solutions, said: "We do not foresee full mobile number portability having a significant bearing on customer churn. We believe that cultivating loyalty will be a key focus for all operators."

Mr Foong expects telcos to "go into product or service bundling and offer handset subsidies" to offset the attraction of consumers being able to switch operators without the hassle of changing numbers. SingTel already bundles broadband, mobile phone and pay-TV services with its mio service and StarHub does a similar bundle with its Hubbing concept.

M1 has matched its competitors by offering per-second billing and savings for subscribers with multiple accounts. "Carriers will strive to hold onto their existing customers with more focus on service packaging. But I don't expect them to be draconian in their tactics," Mr Foong said, referring to the concern that telcos might impose more drastic penalties for contract termination.

As barriers are lifted for consumers, the IDA hopes new players will come in. Wireless broadband providers or Voice-over-Internet-Protocol providers could provide mobile voice calls routed through the Internet, it said.

But the odds are against new entrants.

"The market is very mature, and stacked against new entrants because the existing players already have service and product bundling, and post-paid contracts are already in place," said Mr Foong. "New entrants have to come up with something compelling or disruptive."

This is not impossible.

Japan - where prices for voice calls have been traditionally high - has seen an industry shake-up thanks to daring price moves and better product offerings.

No 3 mobile operator SoftBank has intruded on the turf of market incumbent NTT DoCoMo, by bringing prices for voice calls down. Its advertising campaign even featured a zero-yen tagline for its mobile service. KDDI, another smaller player, has lured subscribers with better mobile handsets and being first-to-market with multimedia download services.

It would be wise, perhaps, for the big telcos to keep their ears close to the ground in their battle for market share, as consumers are likely to demand more competitive prices and innovative services.

Ms Laura Khng, a public education executive, said: "I can't wait to switch. Ultimately, I want lower prices, but if they want me to stay with them, they may need to offer better loyalty rewards and cooler products.

"Consumers are better informed these days. It's easy for us to compare and spread the word around when there's a good deal. The operators should take heed of that."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Amazing Chinook Pilot

This photo was taken by a soldier in Afghanistan of a halo rescue mission. The pilot is a PA National Guard guy who flies EMS choppers in civilian life. Now how many people on the planet you reckon could set the ass end of a chopper down on the roof top of a shack on a steep mountain cliff and hold it there while soldiers load wounded men in the rear? Impressive, don't you think?

Monday, April 07, 2008 website down

Argh. Haven't been able to search for location of places at since last Wednesday, 02nd April, 2008 due to some copyright infringement lawsuit case. So dependent on, it's frustrating not being able to access this super-useful website.

Got to use Singapore Land Authority's website instead for the time being.

Monday, 07th April 2008 TODAY will stay alive
By : Jinny Koh and Sheralyn Tay
SINGAPORE: They have it all mapped out.
At a meeting on Saturday after it lost its case in the High Court, shareholders of Virtual Map (VM) decided to continue running its website. They also decided not to refund the parties VM had fined for unauthorised use of its maps.
These decisions came after the company's appeal against the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) over copyright infringement was thrown out last month.
VM managing director Firdhaus Akber said the website,, will be up and running again this week, but he declined to say exactly which day. And he would not comment on how exactly VM will go about putting the maps together without falling afoul of copyright infringement again.
At the meeting, two key topics were debated. There were the strength of public hostility towards the company — VM had fined or threatened legal action at about 500 businesses — and if the site is still a worthwhile investment.
Since it was taken offline last Wednesday, more than 2,000 users have appealed for it to be put back online, said Mr Firdhaus, who also said that "only a small minority hates the company".
"We understand it is painful for them," he said. "If there is anything we can do to lessen their pain, please inform them to contact us. But we will not refund any money as the monies have gone back into building better products and services and the running of the site."
So far, no one has demanded that VM refund the money it collected from its previous lawsuits, he added.
As to whether those parties are entitled to do so, copyright lawyer Siew Kum Hong said it was a "tricky" issue that is dependant on the terms of the settlement.
In cases such as these, the "alleged infringer" should have gotten a warranty agreement from VM that says it is authorised to grant a license to them to continue using the maps, said Mr Siew, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP).
But he pointed out that now that VM has been found guilty of infringing the SLA's maps, VM could be found to be in breach of that warranty because it did not have the right to grant the licence in the first place.
As for the possibility of the SLA going after the parties who have been using VM maps, the NMP said they can then turn to VM to compensate them or indemnify them.
"It is legitimate for these companies that were previously sued by VM to feel ripped off," said Mr Siew. "Even if the settlement agreement did not specify that VM is authorised to grant these licences of use, it is likely that this can be implied and if they wanted to, they could go after VM."
- /so

Thursday, 03rd April, 2008
Popular online map website down for days after losing appeal
By Asha Popatlal, Channel NewsAsia

The commonly used online map website , run by Virtual Map , has been down for the past few days.
This development came about just after Virtual Map lost its appeal against the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) over a long-standing copyright feud over online maps last week.
A spokesman for Virtual Map told Channel NewsAsia that shareholders will be meeting in a few days to decide on the long-term direction of .
Channel NewsAsia understands that one of the options may include removing Singapore maps from its website, which currently provides maps of Malaysia and Indonesia as well.
But for now, Virtual Map hopes to bring the site back up shortly, with new maps that the company has been working on.
The company also plans to submit an application to the Court of Appeal in a final attempt to reverse the latest court decision. - CNA/ac