Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Toshiba R830 laptop SSD retrofit upgrade

August 20, 2012 3 comments

My Toshiba R830 laptop weighs 1.43 kg. Pretty good mobile laptop with an i5 processor. The specs are pretty decent, with 6GB of RAM, a decent video card and more importantly a CD drive at that weight!!! Full HDMI, VGA and USB 3.0 ports. My only gripe was that the hard drive was a bit of a let down with only 5400 RPM. Furthermore a friend of mine dropped my laptop and it was acting up. Instead of buying a new laptop with a new HDD. I spent £130 to get a Samsung SSD 830 with 256GB capacity.

It is the standard 2.5-inch SSD that will fit most laptops. Double check first if in doubt. The Samsung SSD comes with a USB transfer cable and Norton Ghost to mirror your existing hard drive. As with good practice, I restored my HDD to its factory setting. It is never advisable to replace your HDD by just copying it as a mirror image to a new HDD and swapping it out. Your operating system will be unstable. However, my laptop did not come with a Windows installation CD. Most laptops now ship with a hidden restore partition that is not accessible and which contains all your installation files. In order to get around this problem of having a fresh Windows installation on my new Samsung SDD, this is what I did:

It is advisable to backup all your files or just use Dropbox!

Step 1: Restore my laptop to factory setting from its original HDD.

Step 2: Use Norton Ghost to mirror the entire HDD (together with the restore partition) onto the new Samsung SSD using the USB cable provided.

Step 3: Replace the HDD with the SSD. And power up. This is relatively simple, just unscrew the back panel of laptop. Unscrew the HDD and remove the cable. Replace it with your new SSD and reattach the cable and screw everything back.

Step 4: Power up with your new SSD and Windows 7. Mine loaded fine, I could proceed to reinstall all my software and Office suite. But using the restore partition, I again reinstalled a fresh copy of Windows 7. This will create a stable system as the OS is installed on a fresh location in the SSD.

Now it takes me seven seconds to boot up Windows 7 and even less time to shutdown. Everything is a breeze. I can now open multiple applications and windows with no noticeable delay. Everything is instantaneous. My battery life has also improved, albeit marginally. I also do not have any problems with sleep, and hibernation with this new solid-state drive. I cannot imagine going back to a normal HDD.

Lastly, what do we do with our old HDD? I got myself a USB 3.0 HDD housing/caddy

Put the original HDD inside it and connect the USB 3.0 cable. Since my laptop already has a USB 3.0 port. Now I have the original 320 GB HDD as an external drive with USB 3.0 support. Even at 5400 rpm, transfer of huge video files is extremely fast.

Zynga IPO to raise $1 billion dollars

December 4, 2011 Leave a comment

Games maker Zynga is hoping to raise $1 billion in tough market conditions with an IPO price of $8.50-$10 – giving it a valuation of $7 billion.  Zynga is offfering 14% of its float or 100 million shares, which is higher than most tech companies.

Lead underwriters Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs have an additional option to sell 15 million shares. Like Groupon and LNKD, I expect downward pressure on the price when the cost of shorting becomes feasible. If you are one of the lucky few who got in early through private placement it may be time to cash out!

It’s worth noting that a fund raising in February this year valued the company at $10 billion.

I cannot for the life of me understand why any ‘ethical’ investor would invest in a company that generates the bulk of its profits from the sale of virtual goods. (We are NOT talking e-commerce here.) Does it play a socially benefiting role?? We need more clean tech or bio tech!!! Game makers like Rockstar, which makes the highly successful Grand Theft Auto series, actually make money from selling games! Virtual goods are on another level!  How productive?

Retail investors should ask themselves: “Can I live in my virtual farm in Farmville when Fannie Mae repossess my home??!?”

For a copy of their IPO prospectus click on the link below:

Zynga IPO Roadshow Prospectus


Zynga IPO Roadshow Prospectus

High Frequency Trading vs Behavioural Finance

April 26, 2011 5 comments

*The following post has been edited for clarity from an essay I wrote.

I recently became a voracious reader of finance-related books. Being academically inclined, I would often refer to the original source, and many times contacted the authors directly when I needed further clarification. I found that most authors responded warmly. My relatively simple task of learning about ‘company valuation’ and ‘financial forecasting’ grew into a path of self-discovery. ‘Valuation’ led to ‘CAPM’, which led to ‘Modern Portfolio Theory’, which begat ‘Rational Expectations Theory’, which begat ‘Game Theory’ and ‘Efficient Markets Theory’, which led me to ‘Behavioural Finance’[1] and so forth.

Google Scholar and became my best friends. Consumed by finance, I devoured every book and article I could find on the subject. Seeking the source, the man who started it all, I rummaged through the literature all the way back to Professor Edward Oakley Throp. Many regard Professor Throp as the ‘Godfather of Quants’ ̶ the first academic who used his applied mathematics skills in probability theory to beat the casino game of blackjack. Not content, he eventually took his skills to the biggest ‘casino’ of all: Wall Street, where his early work in warrant pricing paved the way for modern quants. I was mesmerised. Most people probably have not heard of Professor Throp, but they might have seen the Hollywood movie Bringing Down the House/21 or read the book. It is a true story based on the MIT blackjack team who took on Vegas and won. In the game of blackjack, cards dealt are not replaced. In mathematics, this is known as conditional probability. As the shoe (deck of cards) gets dealt the probability of the remaining cards can be established with greater confidence, tipping the usual 0.5% to 2% house edge into a positive edge for the players. Professor Throp was the first to exploit this and published his first ‘mathematical proof’ that the game blackjack was in fact beatable in the book Beat the Dealer. His work paved the way for subsequent MIT blackjack teams and also led to the growth of quant finance where academics took their research skills in applied maths to Wall Street. To this day, blackjack remains the only ‘beatable’ game in a casino, but casino operators have made it increasingly harder by using more decks and shuffling the decks (or shoe) more often. You may wonder why would casinos allow a game where it is beatable and still make money? Well, it is the allure of people who think they can beat blackjack by card counting (and don’t) that makes it worthwhile for casinos to keep that game. This is an interesting behavioural and psychological phenomenon. Even an experienced player playing perfect basic strategy gives up 0.5% on every hand. It takes a truly professional team to tilt the game in their favour. Even then, the player advantage is also minuscule and to make money, they have to play a long time (or leverage up) assuming they don’t get thrown out or chew on some knuckle-dusters first.

When I read Inventing Money by Nicolas Dunbar[2] I knew I had found my true calling.  Perhaps it was the allure of a career that combined elements of my love for physics and psychology with academia that drew me to the financial markets.

Today, as a ‘local’ (proprietary trader) on the NYSE Liffe and Eurex, I primarily trade as a speculative arbitrageur in Euribor futures and German two-year notes (Schatz). Trading as a liquidity provider, I employ a market neutral strategy in which my positions are usually hedged. However, such market-making strategies are the strength of black-box trading techniques such as High Frequency Trading (HFT) and algorithmic trading. Their stochastic models and execution are far superior to any human trader, and they can operate simultaneously in many different markets. I believe that proprietary traders like myself will therefore be redundant within five years.

Algorithmic trading now accounts for more than 60-70% of trading volume on the NYSE. This trend is set to continue as programme trading is also gaining a strong foothold in the futures and currency markets. The Bursa Malaysia (and other emerging markets) presents significant opportunities for such endeavours as these ‘virgin’ markets begin to embrace and incorporate more complex financial derivatives. Trading volume in the Bursa Malaysia is still primarily dominated by three (not profit-orientated) government-linked funds that operate through brokers known locally as Remisiers. Furthermore, CME Globex has recently offered to cash-settle Malaysian crude palm oil futures, paving the way for growth in this arena. (And the recent trend in major Financial Exchange consolidation represents another opportunity altogether.)

Behavioural finance relaxes the rigidly rationalist assumptions of financial economics by incorporating principles from psychology, anthropology and sociology into standard models of financial markets. Herein lies a conundrum. Implicit in the advantages of algo/programme trading system is the belief that human emotion is thoroughly eliminated. But imagine a universe where programme trading has come to completely dominate all aspects of our financial markets. Asset pricing is determined ‘rationally’ by computer models. Algo traders no longer design systems to capture minute mispricing anomalies arising from the fragility of humans  ̶  after all, in this universe there is no such need as humans are no longer active participants in the markets. It is a case of machines against machines. It necessarily follows that ‘behavioural finance theory’ may be ineffective in such a setting.

Both as a student of behavioural finance theory and as a trader watching and participating in the same markets increasingly being dominated by algo trading, I sometimes feel like I have a front-row seat at a ‘train wreck’ waiting to happen.  Hurtling down the fibre optics tracks is the train of data emanating from the co-located exchange servers of algo trading groups. Standing in its path since the 1990s is the research in behavioural finance by Professor Robert Schiller and Professor Richard Thaler, among others.

What would happen if, or when, our financial markets were thoroughly dominated by algo trading? Would behavioural finance be rendered obsolete? Would it spawn a new field of study known as ‘algo finance theory’ that perhaps incorporates AI and neural networks? Would the new ‘algo finance theory’ do unto ‘behavioural finance’ what ‘behavioural finance’ did to the ‘efficient markets’? Will efficient market theory rise like a phoenix from the academic ashes again once the machines take over completely (since algos are ‘rational’ and ‘more efficient’)?

The May 2010 flash crash put the media spotlight on the esoteric field of HFT.  Having spoken to HFT academics and practitioners, I’ve learned that many believe behavioural finance is a moving target  ̶  algo finance will never kill herd behaviour completely. Due to the time scale of HFT, the total dollar amounts are relatively small. HFT scalpers are already all over the Forex market, yet when the US employment figures or interest rate figures are released, the market goes ‘bonkers’, just like it always did. Instead, lower frequency computer trading (where the money stays on a trade for a long time), whether it’s human or computer, can drive the real changes in long-term price. For example, the Black Monday crash in 1987 (when HFT did not exist) was exacerbated by portfolio insurance strategies that used programme trading. Programme trading triggered stop-loss orders, which led to a downward spiral.

I want to bring all these strands together in research that will use the recent financial crisis, the flash crash of May 2010, the explosion of HFT, and the rush for Ultra-low latency Direct Market Access, among other factors, to explore the potential for growth of algorithm trading in emerging markets and the academic as well as investing opportunities that might result. No other subject piques my interest more.

[1] I was already familiar with works by Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and Daniel Ariely, having studied psychology at college. However, revisiting their work from a completely new behavioural finance perspective was like rekindling an ‘old flame’.

[2] Inventing Money is the lesser known but more technical book covering LTCM’s demise (the other being When Genius Failed).



Groupon vs Facebook vs Google: The Rush for Multibillion dollar valuations.

April 5, 2011 13 comments

Back in the 2000s, Google was the darling of Silicon Valley. Social networking was at its infancy. It was fragmented with Friendster, MySpace and a few other niche players. If we imagine ourselves a couple of years back at the pre-Facebook era, Google was so dominant that, to the ‘uninitiated’, it was synonymous with the Web. (Some of you nerds might be saying, “Wait a minute, I was thinking AltaVista, Excite, Lycos, Yahoo!, FTP and Bulletin Boards on my superfast US robotics 14.4kbps modem”. I said a few years back, not freaking time-travel.)

Google, the Pre-FB years….
I, like most people then, did not think Google would be eclipsed quickly. Instead of creating a portal-like destination on the World Wide Web, Larry Page and Sergei Brin, both Stanford PhD dropouts, sought to organise and index the World Wide Web. Due to the explosion of information on the web, it was originally a cluttered place and users had no real way of finding the information they wanted with ease. Page and Brin devised a method of ranking search results by relevance. How would they know what was relevant? Bearing in mind search engines were not new then and Google was not the first, in fact far from it. How would Google distinguish between quality information and junk? Page and Brin reasoned that by ranking the results of the query in the order of the number of links linking back to that page, Google was presenting its users with results that other website/users have referenced – therefore the more ‘linkbacks’ a site has, the more relevant it would be. Hence the higher it would rank. It made perfect sense, as quality information would attract more people. Sort of like the same concept with academic citations and ‘wisdom of crowds’ or crowd sourcing. (Disclaimer: SEO has evolved greatly since those early days.)

Google’s superior search ranking algorithm helped direct users to the right place. In exchange for that free search service, Google opted for text- (only) based advertising that relates to the user’s search query – Pure Genius. Google went against the prevailing trend of banner advertising, flashy images and animated GIFs that were quickly polluting websites during the early days of the World Wide Web. So they built a money-generating machine and, for a long time, most people were unaware that Google was in fact the largest ‘advertising’ company in the world. The rest is history. Google’s clutter-free website still stands today as a testament of how successful their model is.

Facebook’s exponential growth
Along came Facebook. MySpace and Friendster already had millions of users. In a business of critical mass, that can and often results in an unassailable lead. Facebook kicked off with the premise of ‘exclusivity’ and relevance. In order to sign up, you first had to be a member of that particular school/college with the right email domain address. It became a platform for its users to find out what their classmates or dorm friends were up to. I mean come on: ‘Pokes’, ‘Relationship Status’, ‘Sending Sheeps’, and ‘Status Updates’ (newsfeed was to come later) – that was pure genius on Zuckerberg’s half!!!

While most of my friends were still on Friendster and MySpace (you know who you are), I had already defected to Facebook. Two years ago, I wrote about Facebook – why it deserves its valuation and more and why Google should be afraid. Everything I said has come to pass. For reasons as to why Facebook’s advertising monetisation is superior to Google’s read my earlier post.


Facebook really only came to dominate our daily tech news in 2008, when it crossed the 100 m user threshold. At the same time MySpace (which Murdoch paid $580m for in 2005 – Ouch!) was at its peak. Murdoch even tried to play a white knight in the Microsoft-Yahoo! struggle by proposing to merge MySpace into Yahoo! and save Yahoo! from Microsoft as long as Yahoo! agreed to value MySpace at >$10 billion. (Yahoo! was not that stupid.)

Facebook’s valuation grew exponentially. In terms of the sheer speed of its growth as a tech company, Google was eclipsed. I’ll be honest, I never thought Google would be unseated so quickly. I knew it would be unseated maybe 10-20 years down the line, but NOT in such a short space of time.

Just when I thought the rush for multiple billion dollar valuations cannot come any faster than Facebook, along comes Groupon. I mean c’mon: talks of a $25 billion IPO valuation within two years?? I am just in awe. Like Facebook, which fended off a $1billion takeover from Yahoo! in its early days, Groupon turned down a $6 billion offer from Google when it was two years old! (Groupon almost failed before it stumbled on its current business.)

Groupon is a spinoff from The Point, which started life as a fund-raising site. It used a “tipping point model” whereby a threshold amount has to be crossed before there was any ‘deal’ – a feature that forms the premise of Groupon today.

You know why I like Groupon more than I like Facebook? Because of its simple Win, Win, Win business model. What is the Win Win Win I am on about? We first have to dissect the already simple Groupon business model.

You sign up to Groupon and you receive daily geo-located deals that are offered at cutthroat prices. The offers only last for 24 hours. Advertisers can afford to slash their prices on Groupon because of the volume of business it can generate in return. You on the other hand leverage your buying power by joining forces with hundreds or thousands of other buyers made possible by Groupon. In short, Groupon provides economies of scale to both sides of the value chain – Buyers and Sellers. Groupon magnifies the retained value for everyone.

I mean, how else would a freaking tiny Fish Pedicure business in London generate over 2000 paying customers in 24 hours? Sure, Groupon takes a cut. But it is great business for the vendor and great for the customers because they pay a fraction of the original price. Groupon has leveraged the power of economies of scale for the individual. Groupon users collectively have the purchasing power akin to large businesses and they enjoy a huge discount in return. Customers are happy with the bargain. Groupon is happy for taking a cut of the revenue. The businesses are happy because they enjoy more volume than they can cater for.

It is a Win for the consumers, a Win for Groupon, and a Win for the supplier (advertising business in this case).

Now that is a winning business model! How many business models can actually proclaim that? Look around you, how many businesses can claim that they are not ripping their customers off AND not twisting the arm of their suppliers AND instead are beneficial to them both AND YET still make decent money for itself?

It is the simplicity and effectiveness that amazes me.

In addition, Groupon takes this further. It encourages you (the user) to help it advertise by giving you credits towards your next (already wholesale discounted price) purchase. Once you have bought a discounted item/service from Groupon you have the chance to get your friends in on it. And with every friend you recommended that makes a purchase, you get free credits. It is an ecosystem that feeds on itself. With enough credits, you literally get freebies!! This is as close to a free lunch that you will get on Wall Street or any street for that matter.

Like Facebook and Google before it, “We want to know what our friends are doing”, “We value their recommendations more than plain vanilla advertising”. This emerging theme of “wisdom of the crowds” appears dominant across all three Google, FB and Groupon business models.

And now for the financials… Facebook already has a $70 billion valuation if Secondmarket figures are to be believed. But Groupon is talking about a $25 billion IPO this year at just two years and three months old!!

I will spare you the financial modelling details on how analysts justify those figures. One thing for sure is that the assumption of revenue growth must keep pace with projections. According to WSJ, Groupon is “projecting that the company is on pace to make $1 billion in sales faster than any other business, ever!”

Are we talking about a mania? A tech bubble all over again?? Well, it is always and only a bubble in hindsight – never in foresight. Because given what we know now and based on the funnymentals (uh I meant fundamentals), we would avoid the bubble if we knew it was a bubble! DOH!

From the tulips mania in 1600s to the South Sea bubble in 1720, up until the housing bubble in the 2000s – it was never a bubble until it burst. To quote the greatest stock operator that ever lived –

“There is nothing new in Wall Street. There can’t be because speculation is as old as the hills. Whatever happens in the stock market today has happened before and will happen again” – Jesse Livermore 1877-1940.

I have been raving about Facebook’s valuation. However, I think that Groupon might be slightly ahead of itself (just a tiny bit).

One thing that concerns me with Groupon is the fact that is snapping right at its heels. Although you could argue Facebook came from way behind to trounce MySpace. Secondly, perhaps more importantly, unlike Facebook, Groupon does not have that ‘stickiness’ factor. I would hazard a guess that most of you who read this probably spend more time on Facebook than any other site on the Internet (including Google)!!! Groupon on the other hand, you get in, get your shit and get out.

I would go way out on a limb here and say Groupon’s rush to IPO is to cash in on what they ‘know’ is a replicable model. In other words, Groupon, and other social buying sites are cannibalising each other (even though they have created this new ocean for themselves). Plus, both Groupon and LivingSocial advertise on Facebook, thus driving up ad prices, which will only benefit Facebook.

Strategy wise, Facebook seemed to have really positioned itself to capture and monetise the migration of our social lives onto the Internet. Then again, Google’s success was a black swan, so is Facebook’s and now Groupon’s. I look forward to the next big idea…

UPDATE: I have always maintained that the next big tech company will be one that facilitates the migration of our lives onto cyberspace. When pundits were saying that Facebook was just another Friendster, MySpace or Bebo and MSFT overpaid, I knew they were wrong. I argued that if Zuckerberg wanted he could literally incorporate Skype, EBay or payment services into Facebook. Facebook can do to Amazon and EBay what Apple did to everyone else. Like Google’s vision statement of organising the world’s information, I think Facebook is quietly positioning itself to organise our digital social lives. The latest upgrade on Facebook takes us one small step closer. It has combined chat with email to facilitate our evolving online communication preference. It has a history of all our chats, emails, places, friends, status updates and whatever you care to put on it. It literally owns your social life! Furthermore, Zuckerberg is young and savvy enough that he does not have the corporate America image (yet), so if China friends Facebook all bets are off…

Update 2: As of August 2011, I have now turned around and think Groupon’s biggest mistake is to turn down an offer from Google. I would short Groupon all the way to zero if they ever went public. Great concept, poor execution.



Facebook’s $ 50 billion dollar question

January 18, 2011 6 comments

I posted an offhanded remark on a Wall Street Journal article regarding the Goldman Sachs – Facebook deal and it received a lot of recommendations. As such I am reposting it on my blog.

When a firm gets to a certain critical mass, governments take interest. If the SEC is not doing something about it, rest assured the EU is waiting. We’ve seen Bill Gates take on the government and lose, the same with Google. Now it is Facebook’s turn.

Facebook is doing a much better job as repository of data and information on citizens than governments who traditionally held that role. The Head of FBI knocks on Zuckerberg’s door because Facebook’s database is better than the FBI’s. Think about it, we have this little booklet called a passport and when we travel we get little stamps on them at certain checkpoints in a country. This will prove where you’ve been. Facebook not only knows where you’ve been, it has pictures of you and your friends, what you did, what your thoughts were at that moment. Those of you who have used ‘Facebook Places’ will know that Facebook even has up to date information on your location, your status update, and possibly what you are thinking of doing next. This information is stored ‘forever’ and can be accessed at the speed of light! And the beauty of it all – it knows this information because YOU uploaded it!

I can easily see $100 billion valuation within 36 months; it is in a blue ocean in terms of growth potential. Remember, buy the rumour, sell the fact.

Being the last of Generation Y (same age group as Zuckerberg), we are one of the last generations who remember life before the Internet. And as a full Web 2.0 generation, I know of a simple litmus test that can justify the $50 billion valuation right now. How much time do I spend on Google? An awful lot; it is indispensable. How much time do I spend on Facebook? Answer: a lot more time than I spend on Google. Not because I have to, but because I want to. It may not say much about my generation, but it says a lot about ‘Facebook Effect’.

On a side note, Goldman Sachs went down one notch in my book. They are no longer the smartest guy in the room considering how they handled the Facebook deal. GS is blaming investors for the leak and investors are blaming GS for the leak. It is ironic that GS did not see it coming. After all, Facebook and Zuckerberg’s mantra is about empowering people and encouraging us to SHARE information…

With regards to their current sky-high valuation of $50 billion and stratospheric price-to-earnings ratio, consider this – before Facebook came along, Google was the number one advertising firm in the world. That’s right, it is Google, not some Madison Avenue firm. Google’s genius in terms of monetisation was its ability to sell adverts based upon our search query. It had the critical mass and it was the largest search engine. Advertisers pay a premium to ensure that their adverts reach their targeted demographics. Google’s analytics can provide pretty accurate information about its user even though most of it is guesswork. Over time, Google built a database of its users’ surfing habits and tailored the adverts accordingly. Therefore, advertisers continue to pay a premium for this.

Now consider Facebook. Facebook knows exactly who you are, your age, your background, the school you went to, your music taste, your likes and dislikes, your interest groups, even your vocabulary and etc. How? Because you TOLD it. Unlike Google there is no guesswork involved. This is an advertiser’s dream! If you wanted to advertise only to women in Timbaktu between the age of 23 to 55 who herd goats, supports Obama and listen to Metallica – technically, you can.

So in terms of Facebook’s ability to grow and monetise this, if the past is any indication of the future and Google became what it is now primarily through ad revenues, then there is no reason why Facebook cannot hit $100b within the next 36 months. Facebook has already overtaken Google as the most visited site in the US. Only three years ago, who would have thought Facebook would hit every important milestone faster than Google?

When the Web arrived in the early 1990s, it went mainstream. The number of people on the Internet exploded, from 2.6 million in 1990 to 385 million in 2000. Facebook went from nil to 600 million users in about half that time…

More than a year ago I wrote a post on Facebook. Everything I said has come to pass. Remember when Zuckerberg turned down $1 billion from Yahoo, everyone said he was crazy. When it was valued at $10 billion by Microsoft, everyone said MSFT grossly overpaid. When it was valued at $25 billion by Russians everyone said the same thing – overpriced!. Now at $50 billion everyone is saying the same thing AGAIN, yet investors are throwing money at it like there is no tomorrow. My guess is when it hits $100 billion everyone will still be saying the same thing.

Remember the cardinal rule of Wall Street: Buy the rumour, sell the fact

See also:

UPDATE: Two months after this blog post was first published, Secondmarket valuation of Facebook exceeds $70 billion (so much for 36 months.)

Update: On Facebook IPO with a $100 bn valuation my ‘call’ proved to be true. I shorted Facebook, got filled at 41!!, took profits at 38, thinking Morgan Stanley would support the IPO price. They didn’t and it crashed without me. I shorted again in low 30s, held it all the way to 18. When asked when I would stop shorting Facebook, I replied 17-18, which really meant that is when I am taking profits. This again came true. I think FB really should be 12-15; investors are unwilling to cut their losses so it will take time to get there. It will be volatile, but in the low double digits is where I peg FB (as of Aug 2012). However, due to margin of safety, I won’t short above 20 and this was my trade of the year… everything worked to plan. If only I had a way of getting in early, I would have rode it all the way up and shorted it all the way down…

My workstation

June 16, 2010 7 comments

My current workstation:

Alienware Aurora ALX: Liquid cooled – i7 920 Processor, 6 GB RAM, 160GB Intel Solid State Drive, 2 X 500 GB HDD,  Dual Graphics Card (2X 1GB ATI Radeon 5890) driving the four primary 22 inch displays.

Backup computer: Core 2 Duo 1.86 GHz, 4 GB Ram.

Macbook and Ipad!

Once you get an iPad, you’ll never go back

May 28, 2010 1 comment

A while ago, I wrote about my first MacBook experience. Today I got my iPad. In fact I got two of them! Both are the high-end model, 64 GB Wifi + 3G at £699 a piece. The UK nationwide launch for the iPad was at 8am today.

Last week, I thought of pre-ordering it through the Apple website but was told by the online chat staff to expect delivery some time in June. Instead of waiting, I thought it would be a good opportunity to attend my first ever Apple product launch. Two days before the launch, I was talking to the staff at my local Apple store (Churchill Sq, Brighton) regarding the logistic issues and chances of me securing myself an iPad on the day of its release. I was advised to come early, very early – well before 8am. The Apple store and shopping centre normally open at 9am, but they were set to open one hour earlier for precisely this reason. It was a great idea as about 100 people eventually turned up.

I arrived at 6.30 am and there were about 20 people there already. I gathered the first person arrived around 3 am! The queue built up gradually and the Apple staff turned up at 7 am to address the throng of Apple fans. One hour to go….

I actually felt embarrassed. I never thought I’d be one of those die-hard Apple geeks. If not because of the fact I promised my brother in Malaysia I would get one for him, I would have just bought it online instead. It would be at least another month or two before it is available in Malaysia.

7.30 am – There must be about 80 or some people by now. Some school kids in uniform turned up. They had an exam at 9 am. I doubt they managed to get one before their exams.

7.50 am – We were ushered into the shopping centre in blocks of ten to prevent a mad rush. The entire shopping centre was still closed. We felt like school kids.

8.00 am – There was a camera crew and a countdown at the Apple store. There must have been about 30-40 Apple staff on-site as well. I must say I was rather impressed with how well organised Apple was. Chatting to the staff while waiting in line, they mentioned that they have learned through experience with the various product launches they had before the iPad.

8.15 am – Everyone was cheering when the first customer walked out with his iPad.

8.25 am – I walk away with my two iPads.

Talking to other Apple fans there, I gathered that Apple is known to deliberately create an impression of scarcity to further hype up demand for its products. Apple forbids any of its premium resellers to accept reservations and any of its staff to comment about stock levels of the iPad. Apple even threatened to ‘mystery call’ resellers posing as customers willing to pay a premium to reserve an iPad and any reseller caught in breach of agreement would risk losing its license


The contents of the box are rather light. The iPad itself, a USB cable, a power adapter, and a small manual/booklet. That’s it.

The official iPad case from Apple itself! It fits rather snugly and had decent reviews from the Apple US website.

I only had a chance to review the Wall Street Journal iPad app. After all, the iPad’s intention is to replace newspaper and books. I must say I am impressed. The layout of the screen is exactly identical to the paper version. When the articles and videos ‘come to life’ and I can interact with it via the touch screen, it sure feels a little like Tom Cruise in Minority Report. It is definitely something I can get used to in minutes. I can save articles of interest for review later and browse through previous days’ editions.

I won’t waste time covering other functionality aspects of the iPad as I am sure there are plenty of other sites out there that did a great job.

So what is the one thing I love most about the iPad?

Honestly, the one thing I like most about my iPad is the fact that I can really lie down on my bed and browse the Web, watch videos etc in comfort! You can never really do that with a laptop. It is just difficult with that flip-up ancient thing resting on your chest or lap whilst you lie in bed. With the iPad it is a dream!

Finally, I am sure a lot of you will be asking about the 3G version’s micro SIM card. The micro SIM card is just a cut out version of a normal SIM. If you have precision cutting tools you can make a micro one out of your regular card.


My new workstation

May 7, 2010 1 comment
Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

Once you go Mac, you’ll never go back

February 19, 2010 1 comment

I’ve been meaning to write about this for some time now but never got round to doing so. Late last year, I finally decided to take the plunge. I bought myself a MacBook. In fact, I actually bought an Acer laptop but decided to take advantage of my refund policy and exchanged it for a MacBook.

As one of the many millions of iPhone users, like many, the phone was my first exposure to Apple. I’ve always been a Bill Gates guy. I use a lot of third party software that was (during that time) only available on PC. Moreover, I am certified in Microsoft products (MSCA). I was aware of the user friendliness of Apple computers and the ‘apparent’ buggy Microsoft operating systems, however that was not enough to persuade me to even try out Apple. The problem was, in hindsight, I never had any major problem with Windows. Well, I had plenty of problems, I just managed to fix them and as a lifelong Microsoft user, I did not have a frame of reference (I have dabbled in Linux) … until I started using Macs.

The latest generation of Macs run on Intel processors. With the use of special emulation software (Parallel Desktop), you can install Windows on it.  Windows will run concurrently (in a window or in full screen mode) on your MacBook. Furthermore, you can seamlessly transfer files between the two systems. That way, you can run whatever software is only available on Windows (however, most software worth a damn also come for Mac nowadays, unless the developer is living in the 90s). I believe Microsoft Windows runs better on Mac hardware! It seems Apple has hit the homerun with their latest generation of Personal Computing devices.

Secondly, it is worth mentioning I bought the white MacBook  (MC207B/A), which is the entry model. Since I am not into gaming or intense power hungry multimedia application, I thought that would suffice. After a few months of use, I noticed a crack on one of the edges. I Googled this and apparently it is a known, though not widespread, problem. I was very careful and always put my laptop in its case (Tucano Second Skin) when not in use. I took it to an Apple store and they promptly changed it for me. Yeah!! Replaced it with a brand new one! No questions asked! This was many months after I bought it and it was only a hairline crack. Plus, I did not buy it from Apple directly. [Remember I bought an Acer first and exchanged it?  I bought mine from the high street (Comet for my UK readers)]

I was clearly impressed with their service and I was later told that Apple is aggressively pushing to gain market share and they take such issues seriously.

Yes, there was a learning curve, but Apple simply makes better products and its software are way better as well. The Word processor Pages and spreadsheet program Numbers are in my humble opinion easier to use than MS Office.  Plus you can easily save and export to Microsoft users. Anyone who has used Macs will tell you the same. I do not know of anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time on both and yet still favour Microsoft.

Microsoft is living proof that the best is not always the most widely used. The imperfections of our world are rife with those examples (namely the QWERTY keyboard). The keyboard that most of us type on now was designed to slow us down. Yes! When it was designed during the typewriter days, the keys were arranged in such a way to slow down our typing speed to prevent the typewriter from jamming.  The Dvorak keyboard is much faster. To give you an idea, most of the fastest typists in the world use the Dvorak keyboard. The average person types at 30-60 words per minute on the QWERTY. Barbara Walters, the world’s fastest typist, attained speeds of 200 words per minute on a Dvorak keyboard. Typing errors are also alleged to be less frequent on the Dvorak keyboard. However, since we have moved on into the electronic age, the leftovers from the industrial age seem to have stuck with us. A classic example of the worst being in prevalent use. Microsoft is another example. Call it whatever you want, first-mover advantage, monopoly, being in the right place at the right time, etc. The reason we use Microsoft now is purely because everyone else is using it too.

I am not bashing Microsoft; I have been their biggest fan since God knows when. I am still a big fan of Billy Gates too, despite the fact that I now realise he has profited an awful lot from selling substandard products (I still admire his work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)

What more can I say? I am already thinking of swapping my desktop (which, by the way, is a Windows 7 powered five-screen command centre set up) for a Mac powered one.

Yes, I am a convert – a lifelong Microsoft/PC user and loyal fan now on the other side. I’ve even signed up to be notified of the release of iPad. Rest assured I will be one of the first ones to get that too. Apple simply makes better products, period.

Plus it is the ‘cool’ factor as well.

If you are going to get a new laptop, I wholeheartedly recommend getting a MacBook. Apple also runs free training courses, which will help you get up to speed with its system and products. These courses take place almost on a daily basis in most Apple stores.

Microsoft is in for a hard time, as they are losing out to Google on the Internet front and at the same time having its OS business eroded by Apple. In pure business school speak, if I were to apply Porter’s competitive advantage model on Microshaft, I would say at they rate they are going, they’ve got nothing except the war chest of cash they have amassed from over a decade of monopoly. For social media, I’d go Facebook, for Internet search, I’d go Google, for personal computing devices, I’d now go Apple. Microsoft is in every business but does not seem to excel particularly well in any of them. Their main cash cow is still Windows, which is bundled with new PCs, and their Office/business suites. Before, the only reason we used Microsoft is because, well, we didn’t really have a choice. But now we do!! With Macs! Obviously it is too early to predict the demise of Microsoft, but it is safe to say its heydays are over.

To conclude, once you go Mac, you’d never to back!


Categories: Technology Tags: , ,

Free News vs Paid News (Microsoft, Google, News Corp)

November 23, 2009 1 comment

Question: What happens when an industry is losing revenue and two giant companies are trying to outdo each other?

Answer: The consumer suffers and ends up paying for it.

The digital news landscape is changing fast, with Rupert Murdoch now deciding to charge for online news content. The media mogul’s News Corporation, the firm behind papers from the Wall Street Journal to the Sun (UK), is planning to stop Google from indexing its news websites.

You may ask, “What’s the problem?”  After all, the newspaper industry is suffering from declining print and advertising revenues as increasing media consumption is taking place over the Web, so certainly it makes sense for newspapers to charge for their content.

The problem is, as with everything else in life, nothing is ever so cut and dried. Throw Microsoft in the equation and things become interesting. The software giant’s search engine Bing has been playing catch up to Google ever since… god knows when.

Microsoft has been having discussions with News Corp, where the software firm will pay the news company to stop Google searching and indexing its news website. The desired outcome would be that Microsoft’s search engine Bing would be the place users will turn to for news – and if Google wanted to retain that kind of news content, it would have to start paying. It seems clear that Microsoft’s interest will also hurt Google’s margin.

This suspicion was confirmed when the Financial Times reported that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.

What is clear is that Microsoft and News Corp are united against the idea that Internet news should be free. Microsoft is willing to offer money to publishers to switch allegiance and News Corp is prepared to use legal means to prevent Google ‘stealing’ news.

However, if Internet users decide that Microsoft Bing’s results are biased because of alliance with news providers, they will be more reluctant to switch from Google and the plan could backfire.

In the words of James Harding, editor of the Financial Times, “We are setting out to rewrite the economics of gathering and delivering news…”

Harding likens the culture of free (news) to that of the music industry, which (according to him) has been all but destroyed (by P2P/piracy). Well, if the music industry is any indication of where the news industry is heading, then I am sure Harding himself would realise the concept of ‘free’ will never be completely stamped out. Just take a look at the amount of Internet traffic that is generated from P2P downloading. The ‘culture of free’ is still rife and there is nothing the media companies can do about it.

Nevertheless, I have always subscribed to the notion that whatever has value is worth paying for (this includes good quality news and information). But I cannot help but feel we, as consumers/users, are being seriously short-changed here.

Before: We had good ‘unbiased’ search results from Google and we had free news
After: We have ‘biased’ search results from Microsoft, and we pay for the news.

Go figure!

DWTC says: Competitive advantage is never sustainable. Rival companies will always find ways to chip away at your success. Google’s USP of being able to deliver accurate unbiased search results will be undermined if Microsoft was to have its ways. Do not be surprised if we one day see ‘pay per search’ on Google. DWTC is hoping Google will one day foray into news industry so he can cancel his Wall Street Journal subscription.


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