Friday, April 13, 2007

SingPass goes down - what's up?

Finally gathered in one place all the information I needed to file my income tax, and went to the IRAS web site only to be greeted by the following:

SingPass login is temporarily unavailable, please login using IRAS PIN.
We apologise for the inconvenience caused.

myTax Portal is jointly developed with Accenture, NCS, Avanade and Microsoft.

It is nice to see the people responsible so clearly identified when a major system fails. So IRAS, Accenture, NCS, Avanade and Microsoft, what is going on?

For those not familiar with Singapore's government computing environment, SingPass is a national ID and password system. It is used as a common authentication point for accessing all secure services provided by the Government.

Having SingPass go down is inconvenient at the best of times, but this is April 13, and there are only two days left to file income tax returns. The income tax system has become so dependent on SingPass and electronic filing, that individual taxpayers are no longer issued tax return forms or tax info from their employers. It is all online, and only online.

What is interesting about the error message is that it suggests using an IRAS PIN instead of the SingPass.

Great idea except that in it's letter to taxpayers this year, IRAS states
"IRAS will not be sending any paper return or IRAS PIN to you this year"

So IRAS, what is plan B?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Singapore - En bloc Behaviour

The building I live in has been sold en bloc, and the countdown clock is ticking. As a tenant, I do not benefit from the supposed riches that have been created, rather I lose my home and have to find somewhere else to live.

Other commentators have painted a pretty bleak picture of what happens once the official sales date takes place. In our case, things have started declining even before the official date. What was a well maintained building is now plastered with posters and leaflets ranging from real estate advertisements and financial planning seminars to transcendental yogis offering to help newly rich owners avoid the temptations of sudden wealth (presumably by giving the wealth to them).

When I queried the guards as to why they were suddenly permitting outsiders to post ads on the walls and in the lifts, I was told that the "management" had given instructions.


This is not going to be pretty.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Freezing Hell

I had to wait until after April 1 to post this, or nobody would believe I was serious.

Hell froze over last month.

I am now the slightly bemused owner of an Apple Macbook.

As someone who owned the first Osborne computer, and who happily built PC's running CP/M and DOS, Apple has always been the computer equivalent of Scientology - a cult with lots of publicity and scary, rabid fans.

So why the trip to the dark side?

With the switch to Intel, and the availability of virtualization software, the distance between a "normal" computer and an Apple has dropped to insignificance. It is now possible to run a mixed environment on a single machine, which eliminates the main pain point of losing well understood applications. If you have something that only runs under Windows, it is possible to maintain a Windows virtual machine and still run on the Apple.

Which is all good and rational, but I didn't really need a new notebook, and it is an Apple.

My only excuse is that as an IT professional, I need to stay current with technology, and the damn things keep showing up at work, and people keep asking questions. So it was professional curiosity. Yeah. That's it. Professional curiosity.

So what is the upside of owning an Apple?

Well you get to belong to the cult. Your equipment is all white. The "out-of-box" experience is definitely better than a Wintel machine. It has the best Wi-Fi connect process I have ever seen. It connected to my existing Windows-based network without a problem and I was able to access files on my NAS. The screen really is impressive. The thing actually seems to work OK.

The downside?

It is heavy. It is white. You belong to a cult. The Macbook throws off enough heat to fry eggs. You have to click an eject button to remove a USB drive or the file system gets trashed. To buy accessories, you have to go to Apple stores, and your friends might see you. It doesn't actually do anything I can't already do on my "normal" computers.
It is an Apple.