From The Economist, September 13, 2007:
But they can’t take it.
So the European Union smacked Microsoft by upholding the 605 million US dollar fine against the company.
US officials and others comment about how this ruling may actually stifle innovation and bode ill for other technology companies.
The EU antitrust chief is upset by the criticism.
Anyway, who was this original antitrust investigation (started in the late 1990s) helping? Oh yeah… they were trying to defend RealNetworks and Sun Microsystems. REALNETWORKS?? Come on people, was that company ever good for the consumer? I think they were the originators of bundling spyware, crapware, and adware into their RealAudio player.
From Straits Times, September 18:
“Surprising jump in new home sales last month
Private property sales up 25%; most were less pricey ones away from central area
By Fiona Chan, Property Reporter
SALES of new private property homes made a surprising jump last month, despite August being a traditionally slow month for property deals.
Home buyers seemed to brush aside the usual worries over buying property during the Chinese Hungry Ghost month – considered unlucky – which falls in August this time around.
In fact, they bought 25 per cent more new homes last month than in July.
And in a departure from previous months, most of the homes sold last month were less pricey ones away from the prime central area.
Indeed, mid-tier and cheaper private properties in suburban districts are being touted as the next big thing in the market, said property consultants.
Last month’s sales were boosted by strong response to cheaper developments such as The Parc Condominium in West Coast Walk and Soleil@Sinaran in Novena. Together, these two projects sold 1,053 units, or 61 per cent of all new homes sold in the month.
In all, developers sold 1,720 new homes last month, according to the latest figures released by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) yesterday.
This compares with 1,381 deals in July and 1,150 in June, when the URA began tracking such data.
Of the new homes sold last month, almost half went for $1,000 per sq ft (psf) or less. There were 820 units sold in this price range last month, double that of July.
The number of pricey homes that cost more than $2,000 psf also plunged. Only 86 of these homes were sold last month, compared to 370 in July.
In general, price growth of new units was ‘muted’ in August, said Ms Tay Huey Ying, director for research and consultancy at Colliers International.
She added that despite the rise in new home sales last month, overall home sales still fell compared to July.
This was mainly due to a decline in secondary market sales, or re-sales of existing homes, she said. All things considered, total home sales dropped 36 per cent last month from July.
Sub-sales – which are re-sales of uncompleted homes and used to gauge property speculation – also fell by about two-thirds, she said.
Ms Tay attributed the fall to the Hungry Ghost month as well as the US sub-prime mortgage crisis, and said that ongoing credit woes may slow home sales this month too.
But she and other property experts agreed that market activity might pick up again in the last three months of the year, with a number of new launches in the pipeline.
The recovery is likely to be led by a long-awaited upswing in suburban home sales, said Mr Ku Swee Yong, director of marketing and business development at Savills Singapore.
He noted that prices of entry-level condos have already risen and will set new benchmarks in the months to come.
‘Last year, the market was defining mass market condos as those below $600 psf,’ said Mr Ku. ‘But now, we are moving out of that. Already in August, only 5 per cent of condos cost less than $750 psf, and soon, most new launches will be above $800 psf.’
The emoticon turns 25 years old today.
From Straits Times:
“Prof Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11.44am on Sept 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humour and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly.
‘I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-),’ he wrote. ‘Read it sideways.’ The suggestion gave computer users a way to convey humour or positive feelings with a smile – or the opposite sentiments by reversing the parenthesis to form a frown.”
Natural selection at work.
From Straits Times, September 15, 2007:
“Tsunami alert draws crowds to beach
IN HARM’S WAY: Curious hordes of onlookers waiting along Gurney Drive in Penang, apparently to see if a tsunami would hit the coastal area. — PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK
KUALA LUMPUR – SCORES of curious Malaysians rushed to the beach to see a possible tsunami, despite a warning to stay away after a massive earthquake hit neighbouring Indonesia.
A photo in The Star, a local newspaper, on Thursday showed a large number of people standing along a promenade in the northern resort island of Penang, apparently waiting to witness a tsunami.
The report prompted a minister yesterday to urge people to stay away from the beach.
‘Don’t gather at the beach when the tsunami alert is issued,’ said Deputy Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Kong Cho Ha.
‘When we tell people to move away from the shore, some people purposely go to the shore to have a look. This is something that the people should not do,’ he said.
The promenade was one of the areas struck by the December 2004 tsunami when 3m-high waves pounded the wall. A total of 68 people were killed in Malaysia, most of them on the island of Penang.
Police criticised the onlookers for staying on after the tsunami alert was issued to the coastal states of Penang, Kedah and Perak soon after the 8.4-magnitude quake struck off the west coast of Sumatra island on Wednesday.
A tsunami never materialised, but local police chief Azam Abdul Hamid was quoted by The Star as saying: ‘Heed our warning. It is for your own good.
‘If a tsunami had really hit that night, those who lingered on could have been seriously injured or even lost their lives.’
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BERNAMA”
From September 14, 2007 Straits Times:
“Private home prices, which have surged to decade highs in the past 40 months, are holding for now, but analysts say the market is increasingly vulnerable to a sudden downturn in sentiment. — PHOTO: BT
SINGAPORE’S housing market – which has seen prices skyrocket amid frenzied buying – is heading for a correction, as analysts predict a building boom could flood the city-state with new homes by 2009.
Private home prices, which have surged to decade highs in the past 40 months, are holding for now, but analysts say the market is increasingly vulnerable to a sudden downturn in sentiment.
Global property investor LaSalle Investment Management, which has US$6 billion (S$9 billion) of real estate assets in Asia, says Singapore residential property is ‘fully priced’ and will consolidate before appreciating any further.
‘By global standards, Singapore luxury apartments are very expensive. At some point, affordability and common sense have to come in,’ said Jack Chandler, LaSalle Investment Asia-Pacific Chief Executive Officer.
Property developers and agents say fewer deals were struck last month, slowing a buying frenzy that saw people queue overnight for some projects and that pushed Singapore real estate price gains past those of regional rivals such as Hong Kong.
‘A correction is going to take place. The question is: how severe?’ said Winston Liew, analyst at OCBC Investment Research.
Singapore luxury homes fetched an average $16,743 per square metre (psm) in June, up 52 per cent from a year ago, against Hong Kong’s 13 per cent rise in capital values to $18,286 psm.
Those who bought property as a sure-fire investment are fretting.
‘I’m nervous because I don’t expect prices to rise anytime soon. The signals aren’t good,’ said Charles Wong, who paid S$1.1 million (US$728,000) for a one-bedroom downtown apartment in April.
Housing supply has been tight as developers tore down old developments to replace them with newer properties, pushing thousands of displaced homeowners back to the market.
According to Jones Lang LaSalle, some 3,876 private apartments will be demolished this year – more than the 3,295 new homes expected to come on to the market.
These ‘en bloc’ deals – where entire housing estates are knocked down – have slowed since the government tightened rules on them. Collective home sales totalled S$11 billion in the first seven months this year but dropped to S$783 million in August.
Property market sentiment has been supported by Singapore’s long-term goal to boost the island’s population to 6.5 million from 4.5 million, but analysts forecast a glut of new homes from end-2008.
‘In terms of actual occupants, there will be excess supply by 2009,’ said Jones Lang LaSalle Head of Research Chua Yang Liang.
He estimates there will be 11,975 new private apartments available in 2009 – nearly four times the number expected this year and double the anticipated amount in 2008.
Car garages in the sky
At least four out of five Singaporeans live in state-subsidised high-rise flats, leaving the private home market dependent on upper-income residents and foreigners.
Investment firm Emirates Tarian Capital is betting these foreign investors, who comprise nearly half the buyers in most projects, will focus increasingly on high-end homes.
‘Demand is going to be selective and for branded, quality projects where the quantity is limited,’ said Kunalan Sivapuniam, managing partner of the firm, which is investing in two high-rises including one 30-storey block equipped with individual lifts to bring owners’ cars up to each apartment.
Developers, who usually sell their projects in stages, have held off launching their units for sale in recent weeks.
‘If we feel the market is slowing, we’re not going to push the project only to have buyers back out later,’ Cheng Wai Keung, chairman of luxury home builder Wing Tai Holdings said.
Analysts say a global credit crunch could constrain Singapore property firms’ ability to offer liberal repayment schemes that allow buyers to make a 10 to 20 per cent deposit and delay the bulk of payment until the property nears completion.
These ‘deferred payment’ plans, introduced after a property slump in 2001, have been key to driving market growth, with up to 90 per cent of buyers in some projects opting for them.
In July, the central bank warned that delayed payments plans posed ‘additional risks’ to developers and their banks because of the possibility of default. Those risks have only grown with the US mortgage crisis.
‘If the cost of capital rises, smaller developers will find it harder to offer deferred payment schemes,’ said an analyst.
Singapore’s biggest developer CapitaLand said it would continue to offer such schemes ‘where appropriate’.
CapitaLand, City Developments and Keppel Land have posted strong second-quarter profits, driven by strong contributions from their Singapore businesses.
They should, however, be largely protected against a fall in housing prices as most have diversified into office property and housing developments outside Singapore. CapitaLand, for example, earns up to 80 per cent of its profit overseas.
‘Major developers have lower gearing, sufficient cash or unutilised credit lines to prevent a squeeze,’ wrote Deutsche Bank strategist Gregory Lui in a recent report. — REUTERS”
I was reading the Straits Times today when I stumbled on an article about a parrot that was incredibly smart.
“IT KNEW its colours and shapes, it learnt more than 100 English words, and with its own brand of one-liners, it established itself in TV shows, scientific reports and news articles as perhaps the world’s most famous talking bird.”
Sadly, the parrot passed away just a couple days ago. Alex (the parrot) was 31.
What I found interesting were the final words that the parrot said to its long-time handler on the night before it died:
“You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you.”
I was sitting around thinking about how most of us (who are single) don’t have anyone that would say those same words to us on a regular basis.
Where can I buy one of these parrots?
I don’t know anything about Fred Thompson and I don’t watch his Law & Order tv show, but apparently he is being touted as the savior of the Republican party. He announced his candidacy today.
Could Al Gore hurry up and announce that he will run for president so we don’t have to pretend that any of these other candidates have a chance?
A few random links that I’ve read today…
Going After Gore – Article from Vanity Fair that analyzes the media coverage of Al Gore during the 2000 presidential campaign. It’s also the first time where Gore talks about that coverage and how it affected his family. Scary to think about how much influence just a few members of the media can have on a presidential election.
Windows Home Server review from AnandTech. Finally – streaming media, backup, and administration for my cluster of computers running at home. I’m looking forward to this Microsoft product. While SQL Server, Visual Studio 2008, and other productivity applications are launching this year, they’re not exactly the most exciting things to be running at home.
Facebook attracts developers and controversy. At a going away party last night, I spent at least an hour talking with various people about Facebook. A sign of success that so many people are able to take this online activity and have it be an offline interaction point as well.