In memoriam

So many left us in the second half of 2011 and many hearts still ache for them. These obituaries were posted here or in The Biodiversity Crew @ NUS or The Biology Refugia.

Mrs Priscilla Krempl, RIP, 01 Dec 2011

Lynn Margulis, RIP, 22 Nov 2011

M Nadchatram, RIP, 21 Nov 2011

Clive Briffett, RIP, 29 Oct 2011

Steve Jobs, RIP, 06 Oct 2011

Navjot Sodhi, RIP, 12 Jun 2011

Daryl Karns, RIP, 07 Jun 2011

Eating a holiday away

Adrian, Cheng Puay and I met up for a chat recently. We headed to Pasir Panjang only to find the Indian restaurant, Rangooli, had shifted. Undaunted, we hunted them down in 505 West Coast Drive, and thankfully the food outdid the smell of new furniture.

Pasir Panjang Road sure is dirty!

We three last met during the Sungei Buloh Anniversary Walk when we retired to Khamsana at Science Park Drive for a long and delightful lunch.

Cheng Puay was recently in Penang and gave up any thought of nature hikes there, responding instead to the call of the food. In Cebu, he tucked in to five meals a day. Although street children there kept him somewhat trim, he just headed up to Melaka for more meals.

Adrian’s Penang food adventures were so good during his recent trip, that he was thinking of his next meal by the time the present one was over!

Of course the conversation inevitably turned to the workouts that must follow. So hopefully when we next meet, we will finally be cycling!

Cats in the monsoon

Lekowala has been reminding me that our desktop blogging tool, MarsEdit, makes insertion of images from Flickr very easy.

To test it out, I decided to feature an ever favourite – photos of the boys, Mr Bats, Xylo and Tiger, cosy in the warmth of their abode during the monsoon unlike the poor stray cats out there. They disappear during the thunderstorms into the cupboards and venture out when its all over.




They are bored by the monotonous landscape indoors so its time to add a box to the mix.


Ducks at Fiordland National Park Visitor Centre, New Zealand, 07 Dec 2011.

From troubles of the world I turn to ducks,
Beautiful comical things
Sleeping or curled
Their heads beneath white wings
By water cool,
Or finding curious things
To eat in various mucks
Beneath the pool,
Tails uppermost, or waddling
Sailor-like on the shores
Of ponds, or paddling
– Left! Right! – with fanlike feet
Which are for steady oars
When they (white galleys) float
Each bird a boat
Rippling at will the sweet
Wide waterway…

“Ducks” is a poem by Frank W Harvey, which I learnt in Secondary 2 – with such great fascination, I never forgot the lines. The complete poem is at

Is it time for you to enjoy a faster and cheaper hassle-free fibre connection?

Shortly after the Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network termination point was installed at home, the Open Net webpage declared my “building is ready for Next Gen NBN services.”

My M1 cable broadband contract ran out as I had timed and I switched to M1’s fibre broadband. In both cases, I had opted for the 100mbps plan, I was happy to observe that the fibre broadband connection is both faster and cheaper. M1’s prices too appear to be cheaper than Starhub’s or Singtel’s, but I find the webpages of the latter two are confusing. M1 is very clear about their fibre broadband plans:

M1 Fibre Broadband

However, what you need to know is to wait for a roadshow promotion. In November, there was the Sitex deal of $39/month for 100mbps with free installation – that worked out to a $480 discount off the current price of $59/month. mrbrown, who had signed up a little earlier than I had is still euphoric over the price and simplicity of the plan. When he saw I was on fibre as well, he remarked about his experience, “No caps, no limits, no “free” gifts or any additional services you don’t need. Just $39 for 100mbps. So sweeeeet.” He and another friend, macaddict Ivor Khong say they signed up for the $39/month for 100mbps Sitex offer at an IDA Broadband Experience store in one of the MRT stations and Esplanade Xchange, AFTER Sitex.

They both advised to sign up during a promotions AFTER the computer shows as those will have long queues and installation schedules backed up to at least a month signing up. They both walked past a non-existent queue up to the roadshow booth, and got their installations setup in less than a month.

Right now this seems to be the offer:

Of course your NGNB Network termination point has to be installed in your home and activated. It is best to plan ahead, like I did, so your current plan terminates just in time to signup for a fibre broadband plan.

You must calendar your contract termination date and act on it, because once the 24-month period is over, they revert to normal charges without informing you. In the midst of a tough semester, I ignored my calendar warning about the termination of my 2-year cable broadband contract. The next month, I was shocked to my bill of more than $100 for my cable broadband! I was cursing M1 at that point.

The other thing to note is that the guy on the phone may tell you that your home is not fibre-ready, but rely on what the OpenNet webpage indicates instead. Twice M1 phone operators told me my building was not ready to activate fibre services. We signed up at roadshow instead – for some reason, not everyone is on the same page, so be prepared to insist.

In summary,

  1. Check OpenNet webpage about your NGNBN termination point installation date.
  2. Time your current broadband contract to terminate near or before the installation date.
  3. Sign up for fibre broadband services at a roadshow but avoid the hustle and bustle of a computer show.
  4. When in doubt, just check OpenNet about your point’s status and insist if they suggest otherwise.
  5. Finally enjoy your faster and cheaper fibre connection!

Indian “Microsoft” scammers now targetting Singapore users, “we detect a problem with your pc”

2016: These scammers are still alive and doing well! See these reports from Singapore on the National Crime Prevention Council webpage, “Software Upgrade Scam“.

Scammers from Indian call centres have been active since 2008 and hit the UK in a big way last year. They are still active there, with current news reports indicate they are also active in Canada, Malta and Gibraltar (see links at end of this post). They have expanded to Singapore and Australia to cheat you of your money via credit card payment for non-existent or introduced problems. See this report of the 2010 UK campaign in The Guardian: “Virus phone scam being run from call centres in India,” by Charles Arthur. The Guardian, 18 Jul 2010.

Compliant individuals are led to download and install bogus anti-virus software from scammers websites or run a scan which installs a background application. These probably work like the myriad of flashing pop-up adverts which try to convince you a virus has been detected on your PC and to buy anti-virus software. The Guardian article confirms this:

“The computer owner is directed to a website and told to download a program that hands over remote control of the computer, and the caller “installs” various “fixes” for the problem. And then it’s time to pay a fee: £185 for a “subscription” to the “preventative service”.

The only catch: there was never anything wrong with the computer, the caller is not working for Microsoft or the internet service provider, and the owner has given a complete stranger access to every piece of data on their machine.”

Well, scammers have been trying to convince my friend Jennifer that something is wrong with her pc. Since she is a mac user, they’ve failed by the first line but she leads them on a little instead of hanging up. Her third encounter went like this:

Phone rings at 5pm.
— beg —
Indian man (again) looking for Mister.
Man: “Hello, I am Alan, calling from Microsoft Windows. We detected a problem with your computer.”
Me: “Oh good to hear from you Alan. I spoke to your colleague David yesterday.”
Man “STUNNED: erhm, David? No David mam.”
Me: “Yes, he called me yesterday. He said he is from Microsoft Technical Team. Where is he? Can you ask him on the phone?”

Man: “There’s no David mam. I am calling from Marina *** (no such address) in Singapore.”
Me: “But where’s David?”
Man: “No David mam. You can call our number. You will know.”
Me: “Ok, what’s your number?”
Man: “You can call us at 619 274 8514.”

Me: “Why so many numbers? Aren’t you in Singapore?”
Man: “This is a global number mam.”
Me: “Ok, I’ll call you. Wait for my call.”
— Hung up —

I am hoping that Alan will wait for my call and stop calling me for at least 1 month.

This was the third call she received. During the second call, she said she could hear “another voice in the background repeating the same line.” She told them then that what they were doing were a hoax, a scam, totally illegal and they could be jailed. They hung up quickly.

The rest of us are wondering why she gets so many calls. Phone number from which database, or are they just flipping the phone book?

Another friend Laurence, now Down Under, is more than happy to receive such calls. The conversation of his second call went like this, he says:

A “man from PC Support” told me that my Windows PC was acting up and needed immediate action to rectify it.

I said okay, to get the ball rolling. He perked up, probably hoping to ask for my credit card details next before offering ‘tech support’. But then I said,

“I spoke to your manager a week ago. He arranged for two colleagues to take my PC back to the office. What is the status of that case?”

The “man from PC support” said, “Oh, that is impossible.”

I insisted, “No for sure I spoke to them, Amitabh Bachchan, his manager, and his colleagues Sanjay Dutt and Hrithik Roshan are supposed to fix my PC!”

Stunned, he hung up.

For the uninitiated, the three names mentioned are Indian actors.

In case you needed to know, Microsoft says, “We do not send unsolicited email messages or make unsolicited phone calls to request personal or financial information or fix your computer.”

These scammers have been active since 2008 and Microsoft had been accused of being slow about taking responsible action. Finally in September, this year,

“Microsoft has finally ejected an Indian company which was one of its “Gold” partners from the scheme after deciding it was taking part in a “fake virus” telephone support scam.

But Microsoft has been criticised for slow action, after one IT consultant said he had been trying to bring the activities of Comantra, based in Kolkata, to its attention for more than six months, and says that the US software giant has been warned about similar companies’ actions for at least 18 months.”

Read “Microsoft drops partner accused of cold-call scam,” by Charles Arthur. The Guardian, 22 Sep 2011.

A British IT consultant who complained to Microsoft says in that article,

“”These scammers don’t have any scruples … they target vulnerable people by calling during the day, when you’ll get retired people or carers who won’t know what this is about, and who will be taken in if they’re told the call is from ‘Microsoft’ or ‘Windows’.”

I am now wondering how well these guys are doing with unsuspecting Singaporean PC users. Not everyone is a savvy about these things. In August, The Straits Times reported that “1 phone scam reported every other day in Singapore” and these kidnap, lottery and impersonation scams made off with $2.6 million in 6 months!

So spread the word, it’s the best defense against these clowns and if you’re up to it, waste their time imaginatively and keep them on the line. I’ll pick up my phone more hopefully this holiday.


  • “The ‘Microsoft phone scam’ simply won’t hang up,” by Patrick Steen. Which Conversation (UK), 4 November 2011 [link].
  • “Watch out, there’s a PC scam about,” by Scott D’Arcy. The Wiltshire (UK), 14 Dec 2011 [link].
  • “Police warning over ongoing internet scam.” The Southern Reporter (UK), 19 December 2011 [link].
  • “RGP warn of ‘Microsoft phonecall scam.” Gibraltar Chronicle, 16 Dec 2011 [link].
  • “Delete those suspicious e-mails or hang up phone,” by Claudia Calleja. The Times of Malta, 19 Dec 2011 [link].
  • Police warn of computer scam.” Brant News (Canada), 20 Dec 2011 [link].
  • “Scammers targeting local residents,” by Scott Howard. (Canada), 21 Dec 2011 [link].
  • “1 phone scam reported every other day in Singapore,” by Tham Yuen-C & Kimberly Spykerman. The Straits Times, 23 Aug 2011. [link (subscription required)]