We have not explored other service providers (Vodafone?), but according to Popagandhi, this is probably one of the better deals, considering that you now pay Rs. 15 instead of her previous Rs. 20 per day. You have to take into consideration that we got this deal in Hyderabad and may not be applicable in your area.

We had a Lenovo laptop, a Nokia 3G phone (the E65/E66 range would be good, although it should work for all 3G/EDGE/2G phones) and bought a prepaid Airtel SIM card. If you would like to work with a Mac, you may refer to Ross Barkman’s Scripts for Nokia 3G (EDGE/UMTS) Phones, otherwise, you will just need to install the latest version of Nokia PC Suite before you come to India (or at least have the installation copy).

Getting the Airtel prepaid card

You will need the following documents ready:

  1. Your passport and a photocopy of it (in India, they may also refer it as a Xerox or a Xerox copy; they mean the same thing)
  2. Your visa and a photocopy of it
  3. Your NRIC for verification of your permanent address and a photocopy of it
  4. 2 recent passport photographs (35 x 45mm will do)
  5. A local address
  6. A letter from your hotel/apartment management committee/friends/family stating that you are staying with them at the local address; for hotels, you will need a letter with a letter head
  7. A utility bill (or a photocopy of it if you can’t bring one down, but preferably the original if you can)

Next, you would need to fill up 2 forms:

  1. A foreigner application form
  2. A prepaid card application form

Then, you need to pay the following:

  1. About Rs. 90 for the SIM card
  2. About Rs. 360 for the activation and initial top up
  3. We are not sure how much each top up unit is, but we will find out soon and update

To apply, you need to go to either an authorised Airtel shop or the Airtel Headquaters in the state that you are in. For Hyderabad, there’s one at Splendid Towers along Begumpete Road (some spell Begumete without the last “e”). They usually open at 10am and close around 8pm.

Turning on your Internet access

You will need to do the following to get your Internet access turned on:

  1. Send an SMS to “52121” with the text “Internet ON” without the quotes
  2. You will receive 3 SMSes informing you that the Internet access costs Rs. 15 a day and that you need to have at least Rs. 30 in your SIM card to access the Internet
  3. If you are using an unsupported phone, you may call 121 for assistance. At the time of writing, you have to press “2” for English and follow the instructions. Listen for the keywords: Internet and Laptop. When you speak to the operator, try to speak in short sentences, and in proper English. Keeping out “lah”, “lor”, “har?” will be a good idea.

Accessing the Internet on your mobile phone

Accessing the Internet on your phone should be quite an easy task, taking for granted that most phones that support web browsing should also come with an in-built web browser. If not, we would recommend the Opera mini browser. Remember to check if your phone has Java installed. It might be useful to have it too.

  1. Your phone should be able to search for operator services. You will see “Airtel Live!”, “Airtel Live! MMS” and “Mobile Office”. Select Mobile Office to get online; if all else fails, select “Airtel Live!”. If you are using a 2.5G (EDGE) phone, you should see “Airtel Live! GPRS”. “Mobile Office” doesn’t seem to exist in EDGE phones.

Accessing the Internet on your laptop

We are not sure if there’s Nokia PC Suite for Mac, and we definitely do not have any other phones with us; and having said that, it’s best to get your phone software installed. Most phones and laptops should come with Bluetooth, although we are also aware that Infrared is becoming less common nowadays. You should be able to connect your phone via Bluetooth to your laptop. For Nokia PC Suite users, it is quite straight forward:

  1. Connect your Nokia phone to your laptop (either through USB cable, Infrared or Bluetooth)
  2. Open your Nokia PC Suite
  3. Click on the icon that says “Connect to the Internet”
  4. A “One-Touch Access” window should open
  5. Click on Settings
  6. Select the modem (in my case, it’s “Nokia E65 Bluetooth Modem")
  7. Click next and select the network operator from the list. “Airtel India” is there
  8. Confirm the settings
  9. Other information you need may include:
    1. PPP service provider: airtelgprs.com
    2. Username: guest
    3. Password: guest
    4. Primary DNS: 202.56.240.5
    5. Secondary DNS: 202.56.230.5
  10. Get connected =)

We tried the above settings with a Lenovo U110 and Nokia E65 over Bluetooth and to the best of our knowledge, this works quite well. Coverage is intermittent sometimes, but works well most of the time. We got downgraded to an EDGE connection usually, but if you have Google maps installed on your phone, it’s just wonderful. There is also no limit on data and access is over 24 hours. The validity of your card is probably for about 30 days, but you may wish to consider keeping it alive by purchasing top up cards. Auto-roaming if also available on all pre-paid cards and so you may consider using it back at your home country – although this will deplete all your credits almost immediately. =)

Have fun!

Just when we thought Day 2 was bad. Day 3 was… exhausting. I didn’t want to use any extreme terms because it has nothing to do with HICC, HGM nor India. I guess a combination of flight fatigue, long hours and running about contributed to it. Everything was like Day 2, except we were a little more adventurous today. We took the shuttle service out to the Hi-tex entrance where we tried to get a cab back to the hotel. Vijay of Katriya De Royal had kindly agreed to help us get the SIM cards under his name (if we were unable to get it under our names) and we were to go back to the hotel to find out how things go.

Now, when we were at Hi-tex, we had a lot of 3-wheelers coming to us and asking where we wanted to go. For some reason, they didn’t understand us and we showed them the hotel name card (always remember to get a hotel name card, and if possible, draw out the surrounding roads and buildings, hint: google maps) and they sort of figured out.

Then, they didn’t want to go by the meter and offered Rs. 200 for the trip back. We negotiated and got Rs. 150, which seemed reasonable if the trip was about 20km (it turned out to be shorter, but it’s alright) (update: it turned out that it should only cost us Rs. 80 for the trip back; sigh, we got radished again). Another group managed to get a proper cab and we realised later that it cost them Rs. 170. Well, perhaps that’s because of the aircon, but it was quite fun being driven on a 3-wheeler without doors and windows of any sort.

When we reached the hotel, they thought that we wanted to go to the airport and asked us to get back onto their cab. We tried explaining to them that we only wanted to return to the hotel but they insisted that we should get back onto their cab so that they can drive us up the slope to the airport buses. We passed them Rs. 150 but they returned Alice the money! Haha… we didn’t know what was happening but we needed to get out of there back to the hotel. Apparently, the hotel concierge helped us explain to them and we thought we saw the hotel chasing them away. So we asked the hotel what happened but they insisted nothing was wrong.

I hope we didn’t cause anyone any distress. =(

Anyway, we got our SIM cards under the name of Vijay (and he was on night shift) and someone else passed the cards to us. We were so grateful for us because it meant that we would be able to get online soon! Whoopie! So, we started worrying about how we can get back to the HICC without being chopped like the radish head.

We saw a normal cab (Tel: 43434343 to get a cab from Easy Cabs in Hyderabad, they do 1/2 day and 1 day chauffeur driven services to anywhere; 40km for 1/2 day and 80km for full day, additional Rs. 15/km and Rs. 100/hour extra if you exceed either the distance or time or both, and this is one of the cheapest we found on Day 4, rates start from Rs. 700 for 1/2 day and Rs. 1400 for 1 day) and was looking for the driver when we saw a whole group of 3-wheelers drivers coming our way. They wanted to charge us Rs. 300 for the trip back to the HICC, but considering that we paid Rs. 150 for the trip from Hi-tex back to the hotel, and that the distance from Hi-tex to HICC is really short, Rs. 300 is a radish price (henceforth used to represent an overprice). Thankfully, the taxi driver came back and agreed to run on meter for our trip back to HICC. The trip turned out to cost us about Rs. 220, about Rs. 80 cheaper (approximately S$2.60 cheaper).

Back at HICC, we followed Popagandhi’s guide to getting online for 20 rupees a day, which we found to be a little outdated. The instructions didn’t work out the way it should be, but here’s how you should go about getting your Internet activated:

  • Instead of sending an SMS to “567” with the text “GPRS”, you should now send an SMS to “52121” with the text “Internet ON”. You will receive 3 SMSes informing you that your request is received, activated and valid.
  • If you are using a 3G phone, you should select “Mobile Office” as the access point. The other 2 should be “Airtel Live!” and “Airtel Live! MMS”.
  • The charge for 1 day of Internet access is now Rs. 15 and it runs for 24 hours exactly from the time of activation. I think you only need to activate it once. If not… just send the SMS again.
  • How do you know if your request is activated: You will get an error: “Unable to connect” on your phone when you attempt to surf the Internet.

Following Popagandhi’s steps, we will be dedicating one post on it later. Many thanks to her for writing that guide, without which, we will be paying Rs. 1300/day for Internet access at HICC. That works out to be almost S$50. Ouch!

Dinner was at Taj Krishna Hotel and it was, again, buffet style. There were 2 sections – one for chairs, speakers and invitees and another for students. Now, Alice and myself and the entire organization representing all the countries are known as delegates, however, so are the students; and we got ushered to the open air free-for-all buffet area. Not that we mind it at all, but it was so crowded with all the tables occupied that we thought that the organizer of the event could have done a better job to ensure that there should at least be sufficient seats. Moreover, it was supposed to be a “banquet” but then again, it was most probably a cultural shock after all. The food turned out to be really good and I guess that’s what’s important at the end of the day.

Eventually, another delegate realised that we were supposed to be seated inside (so another question is – why the segregation from the students?) and we went in for an entire evening of Indian song and dance. Most of the important people seated in front were happily dancing away, but I guess the most of us were too tired to move. I didn’t have much appetite for dinner and Alice had just 1 plate of food (she usually takes about 5 to 10 plates). It’s probably the hormones telling the body that we need rest and lots and lots of sleep. =P

Oh, did I mention that we made a short recording of the dance? =) You might need to lower your speaker because we were seated right in front of the speakers with the loud music blasting away in our ears. Yes, the ears were still ringing went we left the place.

When we finally reached the hotel, I got to bed and just knocked out, while Alice continued playing with the DSLR and trying to figure out why her focusing were all out.

Almost everyone woke up feeling extremely tired. It was straight to the conference venue for all of us, so unless you would like to hear more about what is being covered during the convention, there’s nothing much to write about. Of course, we had our own mini adventure when we decided to go back to the hotel with the coordinator.

She had to go back to check out to return to Jakarta and we decided to check out the Airtel shop to get the local 3G SIM card. See, we had the guide to getting online for 20 rupees a day (which we later found out to be… ahem, outdated because they changed the President and the government [apparently]). However, today was a Sunday and the only place that was opened was the Airtel Headquarters at Splendid Towers along Begumpete Road. So, we hired our own taxi (this 3-wheeler, which we don’t know what it’s called) to the HQ which is about 3km away. The starting rate was Rs 12 and we ended up paying about Rs 25 because the driver didn’t have change for it. It showed Rs 23, but we sort of suspected that the only way they can get extra money is to deny the passenger of any change. Thank goodness we had small change else we will be paying Rs 100 for it (that will be about S$3.30).

So, we went into the HQ thinking that we will be connected to the rest of the world finally… but we were sooooooo WRONG!

Apparently, the government had changed (either that or their President had changed) recently and new rules were laid to ensure that no terrorists will lay their hands on these SIM cards and get away with bombing some buildings. Instead of the photocopies of NRIC (for address), visa, passport and lots of forms to fill up, now we have to have a photo provided, the above documents, even more forms to fill up, and a letter from the hotel that you are staying at with their utility bill. This is quite incredible and we are perhaps, appreciating the fuss-freeness of our Singapore government. *do I hear applause?*

Oh yes, we will be writing our new guide to getting online in India for 15 Rupees a day. =P

Anyway, we got the forms, went back to the hotel and asked if they could help us with it. We were told to ask them in the evening when we return to the hotel from the convention.

Come evening, we had to attend an… ahem, meeting where the coordinator got bashed for apparently messing up the trip. We thought that was quite uncalled for because everything turned out quite ok in the end. Moreover, we thought that she is quite a nice person and the scolding that she got was totally not necessary.

Digressing a little, the cappuccino at the convention centre (HICC) was quite nice. You should try it.

Anyway, we had several discussion on how everyone in the board room should be helping each other in the long run despite the huge amount of bureaucracy that accompanies any projects. Nonetheless, we made some good contacts which we will be working on in time to come. That probably means more travel, like cowboycaleb, just that… I am not sure what he’s doing in real life.

Dinner was a quite evening at the hotel’s restaurant, which we thought was really cheap! Rs 250 excluding tax per person for a buffet dinner! Yes, we know that that is quite expensive in local terms, but for us, it works out to be less than S$10. Yes, what our lab mates told us – that we can live like a king (or queen for that matter) in India. The only thing is whether we can get a job that pays the same in Singapore terms.

After dinner, it was nights out for many of us. Indeed, it was really a long day as everyone recalled the bashing that went on in the board room. Again. It was really uncalled for.

Breakfast was provided and through our conversations with the coordinator, we found out that there is Wifi in each rooms. The user ID is your room number and password is kdr<room_no>. I am not too worried about revealing it because the signals are unlikely to "escape" from the hotel.

Food was spicy but good. I particularly like the Medhu Vada with some spicy gravy. The prata was also great, although they probably call it by other names. The cornflakes with milk tasted familiar and so did the toast, which will be great for people who are not used to the local food. For a Singaporean who had been exposed to various cuisines of food, this is definitely familiar taste.

We waited for a while after breakfast before being "shipped" to the Centre for Cell and Molecular Biology for a presentation and a tour of the institute. This was followed by a visit to IICT (which I can’t really remember what it stands for now). While at the CCMB, we were shown a professionally done video which introduced their institute and the technology harnessed. What surprised me was the way they run the institute, where everyone is known by their first name and titles thrown out of the window. The center is also ran 24×7 with support staff (admin and tech staff) on 3 rotational shifts and transport provided. Scientists and students are free to come in any time they want and to leave when they feel like it. Ultimately, they will be gauged based on their work from which they will be graded.

We had a tour of the facility and if they really shared all their resources within the various groups within the institute, it would relly be great. Such things are almost unheard of in Singapore because so much bureaucracy exists within the school that it’s some times just not possible to get hold of any facilities even though there’s a need. Talk about counter productivity.

Lunch was provided after the presentation at IICT. It was local fare, but apparently made less spicy. Alice thought it was rather spicy although i thought it was quite alright. The dessert was quie sweet and tasted like a small round cake the shape of a golf ball soaked in condensed milk and served with lots and lots of maple syrup.

The trip to the Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC) was an F1 race in itself (videos to be posted later). Apparently, the right of way is directly proportionate to the size of the vehicle (excluding trucks? which seemed to get horned at everytime). The car we were in, a 7 seater which is briefly "escorted" by 2 government vehicles, zig-zagged in and out of traffic like how Lewis Hamilton would to overtake his competitor – at high speed. Potholes were everywhere and avoiding them requires lots of skill and knowledge of the road. Occasionally when the roads get jammed, the car goes onto the sandy areas of the road and moves forward. Actually, everyone does that so I guess it’s no big deal. We also saw that "horning" other drivers as you go along is also something that seems to be usual practice. At times, we saw funny looking signs at the back of vehicles that says "Please horn". Hmm… is there something that we are missing?

When we finally arrived at the HICC, we realised to our horror that we were not registered for the event! Apparently, the Indian coordinator, Mr Nitesh, didn’t register us and a long negotiation started with the organizer of the event to get us into the opening ceremony in time. After hours and hours of waiting, we finally got our invitation card to go in. It seems like the basic unit of measure of time in India is 5 minutes and it seemed to last for hours. The 5 minutes seemed like infinite time.

We also realised that we were charged for airport transport even though we didn’t get it. Apparently Mr Nitesh thought that the event organizer would arrange for it and the event organizer didn’t know about it. In short, it’s just a jungle out there. Attempts to get him to commit to refund us for the airport transport was also futile until we brought in our own coordinator to intervene. For the uninitiated, here’s how it works. First, he will be busy. Then, he can’t find the main person. Then, the office is closed/phone is engaged/phone has low battery/he is on the line (rotate and reuse where applicable). Lastly, either party will give up first (unlikely to be him) and the matter is solved. =) Simple, isn’t it?

Such people give the nation a bad name for hospitality.

The event lasted till night following which dinner was also provided. We had to queue for a plate with a coupon that was given with the registration pack. Well, the invitation card does not include the coupons for all the meals at the event and the manager at the event was kind enough to provide us with the plates after we explained to him the problem. Effectively, we cut the long queue. Oops! Sorry….

Dinner was quite rushed because we had to rush for the bus which leaves the convention centre at 8pm, after which, we would have to find our way back (which we tried on Day 2). It. Was. Not. Fun.

When we reached the hotel, everyone was quite dead beat and we had to wake up for the transport to the convention centre at 5am because breakfast only starts at 7am and we had to leave by 745am. At least drinking water was provided and there wasn’t the brown water that we hear so often coming out from the tap. The television… was a 42” LG TV. Then again, the hotel rate was quite expensive… =(

It was quite a rush as we scrambled to get our air tickets confirmed. Yes, apparently our flights had just been confirmed even though the names for the conference had been submitted at least a month ago, if not more. Nonetheless, we managed to get our tickets after calling up the ticketing agent a few times in Jarkarta, who will be handling Alice’s air ticket and at least 20 ticketing agents for my tickets. The organization ended up only sponsoring 1 ticket in the end while another organization agreed to sponsor the other ticket through a reimbursement process. I have a feeling I will have to wait till Christmas before I will be able to get any cent back.

Through all our planning and load reductions and planning, we still ended up with a 15kg load on my side and a 12 kg load for Alice. We don’t really know what went wrong, but that seemed to be an overkill for a 6 day trip in India.

We met up with Nicole to hand her the tickets for the Chevrolet F1 party event that she will be covering here, which also ended up as a send off session. That was when we realised that we forgot our Lonely Planet India book – which is almost like our bible when we head for overseas events. We made the mistake of assuming that the books sold within the checked in area would be cheaper, but we were WRONG. Not only did the books seemed to be of the same price, the book that we were looking for was sold out! Of course, we ended up scrambling everywhere for the book before finding a copy at the bookstore just in front of our boarding gate.

It was almost an uneventful event until we realised that we didn’t make arrangements to meet the coordinator at the Hyderabad Airport. A quick check on gmail, thankfully, revealed her full name from which we asked the boarding counter to check if she was on the same flight. Thankfully, she was checking in while we were at the counter and it was quite a huge relief.

The  flight to Hyderabad was quite alright. We were told horror stories about how the entire cabin would carry the scent of coconut oil and hair gel… well, that’s all WRONG too! The flight on SQ438 was very pleasant and we thought that the cabin crew were very attentive too! So much for the rumours that Singaporean passengers were treated second class, although I tend to believe that it’s a one off case (or perhaps a couple of one-offs).

The in-flight entertainment was nice, although I was a little disappointed that there was no screening of The Simpsons. I ended up watching the Police Story starring Jackie Chan and The Terminal starring Tom Hanks instead. I didn’t manage to finish the second movie, but I thought it was a little laggy.

When we arrived at Hyderabad, we realised that the queue that you are at at the immigration counter does not necessarily mean that you would be served by that counter. People were shuffled everywhere so that some queues can be cleared faster. I waited at my queue with no less than 3 people cutting into my queue through a controller standing at the head of the queue.

I didn’t face any problems at the immigration counter, but most of us were enticed into shopping at their Duty Free shops. The only thing that prevented me from getting anything was the consideration that my bag would really be overloaded. From here, we moved on to the baggage lanes where we waited… and waited… and waited till the cows came home – and they did! Without our bags.

Apparently, the airport understands the meaning of Fragile baggage and unloaded our baggage separately! That’s the first time that my fragile baggage had been unloaded in this manner and I thought it was really great service, unlike most airports that just throgh our bag onto the conveyor belt – fragile or otherwise. Alice definitely had a bad experience with Tiger Airways. It’s either the airlines or the airport (our prestigious Budget Terminal) and I hope the airport do realise that Budget Travelling does not equate to budgeted service. I am so ashamed of telling people about our Budget Terminal. The handling was just terrible.

Anyway, I digressed.

So, we met the coordinator at the airport and we happily hitched a ride with her to our hotel. We were suposed to be staying at Katriya De Royal but we ended up going to Katriya Towers and Resorts. We got another cab to the hotel finally but that was not the end of our horror. For some reason, our reservation was never keyed in event though the travel coordinator in India charged our credit card for it. Worst, he had been uncontactable for the entire week or 2 up to the event. It’s quite a pity that things are handled this badly.

Luckily, we managed to get hold of him in the end and got our rooms. Time of check-in? 1:30am after an hour ride from the airport and 45 minutes of contacting the India coordinator,

And it’s going to be a long day the next day.

This post is made on the Lenovo U110 – a great lightweight notebook to bring with you everywhere (you may however need a solid state hard disk for the bumpy roads in India). =)

The Chevy Night Race Party

Events September 29th, 2008

Had the privilege to attend the Chevy Night Race Party @ Gotham Penthouse. Boy, was I excited, cause there was a live screening of the F1 Race.

This is how the tickets look like…

There were 2 tickets, and that means I could drag invite a partner along!

Guests at the event were given a complementary photo of themselves and their partners… 🙂

Apart from that, there is this lovely booklet featuring Chevy Cars 🙂

No prizes for guessing that the Chevy Camaro is Bumblebee in the movie Transformer.

The ticket holder was used to exchanged for the door gift, as well as the tickets were lucky draw coupons. 🙂 There was a guess the F1 Winner contest, and I did tipped Massa to win (but unfortunately, it was a total screwed up race for him). Terence tipped Hamilton to win, but alas, he got onto the podium, finishing 2nd runner up. So neither of us made it through to the lucky dip.

DK and partner were present too 🙂 and its been quite an evening for the 4 of us…

A mini “F1” race was organized, where the remote controlled cars are driven, in a bid to clock the fastest time. Of course, 1 winner did eventually emerged from the competition. (Was very distracted as I was watching the live screening of the F1 race)

Last but not least, prize giving session! Too bad I didn’t win any…

One of the guests receiving the prize. 🙂

Overall, the event was a blast. 🙂 I’ve watched the inaugural night race with my fellow friends, in the midst of food and drinks. What more can I ask for? 🙂

Thanks Clarence (Earth9) and Chevrolet for the invite to this event.

Two of your… ahem, favourite authors =P are away for a mission in India, and it’s quite regrettable that we are only able to post this up because Internet access here is less than ideal. =( We will be away till next Thursday and in the meantime, you will have your other favourite SJ author, Nicole, to cover the events in Singapore for you. She will be covering the F1 race party tonight organized by Chevrolet. Oh man, what a sacrifice… then again, we are in an F1 race of our own while we are away.

Alice and myself are currently away in Hyderabad, India to attend and cover the 13th Human Genome Meeting, a four day event held in the high-tech city of India. This is the first time that we are covering an event in India and we are prepared for some cultural shock. Meanwhile, we will be updating our trip as as soon as we get our Airtel SIM card.

And do stay tuned for Nicole’s covering of the F1 race party by Chevrolet!

I laid my hands finally on the delicately crafted Lenovo IdeaPad U110 that was couriered from Lenovo a few days back. I didn’t want to rampage through the bag on what’s inside because I wanted to do the customary unpacking photos. So, here you are. The. Unpacking. Photos. On. A. Crumpled. Bedsheet. =P

DSC_8820

This is rather unglam, so I will change it at the earliest possible moment.

I am currently out with the IdeaPad and it seems that I would have to get some software installed before it is ready to hit the roads. Some of the things that I can’t go without will be:

  • Microsoft Office – it seemed to be installed but it asked for my licence key… hmmm…
  • Microsoft Visio – need it to make all my flow charts and presentations
  • Adobe Creative Suite 3 – for all the photo editing stuffs
  • Windows Live Writer – to blog on the road
  • Windows Live Messenger – to chat on the road
  • DivX + AC3 filter – to watch movies on the road
  • Nokia PC Suite – to connect, backup and be hooked onto the 3G network

Yeah, I guess that’s about it since they already have Norton installed in it.

My first experience with the IdeaPad was electrifying. Literally. Apparently I was able to feel the “current running” on the touch pad, which was rather strange since everything should have been grounded properly. The colours on the flushed screen was radiant and the keys were such a darling to type on. I am also a big fan of touch pads and it’s a nice surprise to have them squeeze in one in the IdeaPad. 

I have not tried the speakers but I have read reviews that it could do better. I am not sure about the battery life yet but at 99%, it still continues to charge and I am not sure if it is bad for the battery in the long run. When all the software are installed, I guess that’s when the real test will come. =) Also, the battery seemed to have contributed a fair bit of weight to the notebook because the IdeaPad is almost feather light without the batter, although this probably doesn’t make any sense. There are some minor aesthetics which are excellent – such as the hidden panel above the keyboard, the LED lights below the screen as well as the intricate design of the laptop, however, there may still be some small parts that need getting used to – like the position of the Fn and Ctrl keys. Yeah, minor stuffs, but the other author at Simply Jean loves it (she’s an IBM fan).

So, while the software is being installed, we are appreciating the nice shiny face, the rubbery texture of the bottom and the smooth reflections on the keyboard.

Do stay tuned.

Singapore, perhaps well-known for having one of the most complicated taxi fare and perhaps going to be known as the land of surcharges, has imposed on a new taxi surcharge specially for the coming F1 race this Saturday. Yes, you hear me right! They are going to implement a $5 F1 surcharge… no, not for the passengers to get a taste of F1 racing by the taxi driver, but to attract taxi drivers into the areas.

Common logic would have said that were passengers are, taxi drivers should logically go there to pick up passengers. However, there’s the issue of traffic jams and taxi drivers may find this unappealing since the opportunity cost is very high should they be stuck in a jam. The surcharge is meant to attract the drivers to pick up passengers in the F1 area but some are thinking that the effort is not worth the extra $5.

In Singapore speak, it’s “you give me money I also don’t want because I will be stuck there for ages”. Again, it’s little surprise on how the taxi companies think that money will solve all problem. Speaking of which, “eh, diesel price is at S$1.665 liao hor, get rid of the stupid diesel surcharge leh!”.

More firms impose levy

But drivers, commuters and shops lukewarm to move for race weekend

By Tessa Wong

MORE taxi companies are imposing an extra surcharge in the Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix area during the coming weekend.

Comfort DelGro, which operates the largest fleet here with Comfort and CityCab taxis, said it will be charging $5 extra to pick up passengers in the area surrounding the Marina Bay street circuit this weekend.

Its spokesman declined to give further details, saying that it would release further information in the week.

Smart Taxis also said it would levy that charge, with the same timings and locations as SMRT.

On Saturday, SMRT announced that its taxis would be charging an extra $5 surcharge to pick up passengers from 14 locations in and around the F1 track.

It will apply only from 10.30pm to midnight on Friday (practice) and Saturday (qualifying), and from 9.30pm to midnight on Sunday, the night of the race.

An SMRT spokesman said it decided to impose the surcharge after discussions with its drivers. She said it expected an increase in demand during that period and the surcharge is meant to attract drivers to that area.

Premier Taxis said it is still considering whether to levy the surcharge while Trans-Cab was uncontactable at press time.

Only Prime Taxis said it would not join in. ‘This is our contribution to our customers,’ said its managing director, Neo Nam Heng.

The surcharge is likely to affect customer traffic a little, said retailers and food and beverage operators in the area. Many of them are already resigned to the fact that there may be lower customer traffic due to road closures.

‘I don’t think it will be very busy. It will be hard for people to go in and then they will still have to pay more to get out,’ said Linus Victor, an employee at Harry’s Bar at Suntec City.

Cab drivers interviewed said the surcharge is unlikely to entice them to seek customers in the area, as they anticipate traffic jams.

‘Yes, there will be people taking taxis, but is it worth it to go in there and just pick up one passenger for $5? I don’t think so. It’s so troublesome,’ said Joseph Chia, an SMRT cab driver.

Comfort cabby Tan Hung Song added: ‘It depends on the situation. I may not go in unless I receive a booking.’

Locals called the surcharge ‘inconvenient’ and said it might deter them from taking taxis or even entering the area.

‘It might be annoying and unfair for people who happen to be in the area and are not attending the F1.

‘If I were there, I would just take the MRT home, or take it to Orchard and take a taxi from there instead,’ said fashion communication lecturer Ginette Chittick, 31.

K. Chong, a communications executive in her 50s, said she would vote with her feet.

‘I will avoid the area if I have no business there. For shopping and entertainment, I can go to other places.’

twong@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Ang Yiying

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Breaking%2BNews/Singapore/Story/STIStory_281232.html

Article extracted on 22nd September 2008

There are risks in every investment, but to have everything zero’d out is an investor’s nightmare come through. DBS High Notes 5 investors, consisting of mostly clients of DBS’s priority and elite banking unit, DBS Treasures, have been informed that they may potentially lose every single cent there is in their investments. DBS has also confirmed that they have informed their High Notes 5 clients, who invested from the thousands to the millions, of their possible loss. It is believed that this is tied to the Lehman Brothers’ file for bankruptcy.

Investors in this product had been guaranteed a 5% return every year for 5 1/2 years, some of whom invested for their retirement. While it is not understood why an entire investment product can be brought to its knees from the downfall of the Lehman Brothers, DBS has reiterated that the product never came with a promised 5% return and that they will investigate accordingly. This was however, no comfort to the investors.

News of this is shocking as just barely 1 year ago, the financial industry was still hot and many were rushing in as brokers and investors. The brokers could have been over-confident of their product and bravely sold it with a promised return. This unexpected outcome, however, showed again that investments without sound research and advice may just be as risky as jumping blinding into the market.

Let’s just hope clients of DBS Treasures will still remain as clients of DBS Treasures after this event.

DBS High Notes investors at risk

Bank warns they may lose entire stake in Lehman-linked product

By Francis Chan

SOME local investors of a product linked to bankrupt investment giant Lehman Brothers have received late-night phone calls from DBS Bank warning them that their entire stake may be wiped out.

The investors have their cash in a product called DBS High Notes 5 that the bank offered wealthier clients last year. It came with a promised annual return of about 5 per cent.

But Lehman’s collapse on Monday means the product will be unwound and investors may only get a portion of their investment back – or none at all.

One 52-year-old customer told The Straits Times: ‘I received a call from my relationship manager late Tuesday night. He told me that…my investment may amount to zero.’

The man had invested $50,000 – savings he had earmarked for retirement.

A customer in her late 40s said: ‘My relationship manager called and told me to be prepared to receive a letter from the bank…[it] would say something to the effect that my investments in products like High Notes 5 may be totally gone.’

She invested $50,000 and US$30,000 (S$43,000) in two separate transactions.

Investors are mostly clients of DBS’s priority banking unit, DBS Treasures.

The product – DBS High Notes 5 – is a 5-1/2 year structured product linked to eight underlying shares, including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, Macquarie Bank and Lehman.

Customers who invested in Notes 5 said they were sold on the relatively high 5 per cent annual payout by DBS. But now they just want their money back.

‘What we do not understand is: How can the fall of one bank cause our funds to just vanish when there are seven other stocks within the product that are still trading?’ said a man whose elderly aunt invested $50,000 in DBS High Notes 5.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the largest single investment made on High Notes 5 was $2 million, although this could not be verified by DBS.

DBS confirmed that it took immediate action to notify customers once it learned of Lehman’s chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.

‘As soon as the news broke we immediately started communicating…to our retail investor customer base,’ the bank said in an e-mail reply to The Straits Times. ‘We are very concerned and understand the anxieties our customers face as they wonder what will become of their hard-earned money.’

DBS said the Lehman collapse has triggered a ‘credit event’ and the bank called for a redemption of the notes on Monday.

It said unwinding of the product has begun and it will be at least 30 business days before clients learn of the final payout. But DBS also confirmed that investors in High Notes 5 may – ‘in the worst-case scenario’ – not get back their entire principal amount invested.

The product’s prospectus also indicated that in a credit event such as bankruptcy, the notes ‘will be terminated and the investor will receive zero payout’.

The bank said the product does not contain a guarantee that the principal will be protected. It also told The Straits Times it would ‘fully investigate’ claims by some customers that High Notes 5 was in fact sold on such a promise.

Meanwhile, UOB and OCBC Bank said that though some customers have invested in Lehman-linked products, the volume was ‘modest’ and ‘negligible’.

‘Since news of Lehman filing for Chapter 11 broke, we have taken a proactive approach in updating clients on the latest developments,’ said UOB’s spokesman.

OCBC’s spokesman said in an e-mail that its securities unit has advised customers to wait for updates from Lehman.

franchan@sph.com.sg

Source: Straits Times Interactive, http://www.straitstimes.com/Prime%2BNews/Story/STIStory_279646.html

Article extracted on 19th September 2008