Best Music Streaming Service / Website for Singapore

These days there are more than a few ways to listen to free music online that one could become slightly overwhelmed by the choices. We’ve done a quick run up for some of the music services out there that works in Singapore and the plus and minus of each service. Services like Pandora which is the Grandaddy of music streaming or Spotify check your IP location so you can only access them through a VPN.

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Outlet.com.sg Closed Down. Were they a scam?

My friend was horrified when he came across news that outlet.com.sg had went bankrupt. Over 600 consumers and merchants have taken their grievances online. They operate similarly to Groupon, and he had bought things from them previously, such as gelato buffets. On hearing the news, we went to check if we had any unused coupons, which thankfully we didn’t. But what will happen to those that do.

The coupon business has been the darling of online shoppers over the last two years. Their short titles grab your attention with “Daily Deals!” and “70% off!”. The deals are no longer as valued for money and many are of the same types: ‘dubious’ travel packages or spas, facials, and bikini waxes! Too many new players, less interest by consumers spells trouble and it appears that the first sign of the bubble popping has appeared with Outlet.com.sg filing for bankruptcy. Yet, only in June, Outlet.com.sg was ranked the 5th highest coupon website in Singapore and there are many more that I have never heard of.

Apparently, since 10 Aug 12, Outlet.com.sg has been placed under liquidaton and there have been many complaints of consumers who have paid but not receive their items.

What you should do if you have unused Outlet.com.sg items:

  1. Join the Outlet.com.sg Victim facebook page
  2. Check with Raffles Corporate Consultants if your item is listed as delivered prior to the filing of insolvency. You may have a chance of retrieving it. This was stated from the website.
  3. Check with your bank or Paypal if you paid by credit card and attempt file a dispute claim. They might be willing to refund you the money. Comments from facebook indicate that successful refunds were obtained from AMEX and POSB. So at least try and see how it goes.
  4. Else, you can choose to file a Proof of Debt (Form 77) for Company Liquidation through IPTO (http://app2.ipto.gov.sg/) Direct link to the form is here. It will cost you $8.

Unless it can be proven that Outlet.com.sg was involved in fraudulent conduct of their business, otherwise under Singapore regulations, once a company has filed for insolvency,

“ their assets would be handled by an independent appointed liquidator. The liquidator would then investigate into the company’s affairs and the conduct of the company’s officers, and make the appropriate recovery from them. All business is ceased and the assets/goods are frozen for computation and distribution. Consumers are considered unsecured creditors and they are paid on a pari passu basis, i.e. they are paid out of the company’s assets equally. Any balance is then distributed among the contributories of the company 

For the distribution of assets, it would be in accordance to:

Section 328 of the Companies Act in the following order:

  • Costs and expenses of winding-up, including the taxed costs of the petitioner and the remuneration of the liquidator
  • Wages or salary including allowance or reimbursement
  • Retrenchment benefits or ex gratia payments under employment contracts
  • All amounts due in respect of workmen’s compensation under the Workmen’s Compensation Act accrued before, on or after the commencement of winding-up
  • Contributions payable by the company as an employer
  • All remuneration payable to any employee in respect of vacation leave, accrued in respect of any period before, on or after the commencement of winding-up
  • All tax assessed under any written law before the commencement of the winding-up or assessed at any time before the time fixed for the proving of debts has expired ”

And lastly, the unsecured creditors otherwise known as the consumers.

By that time, hopefully there are still some scraps for the consumers, so that’s why my advice really is to not cry over spilled milk. Take it as a lesson (albeit painful) in life and move on. If you are angry and think that I’m just making snide remarks or 风凉话. I just want to share that I have also been a victim of companies that had folded. It was the case of Frankel Motors and my first car purchase in 2008. The episode left a nasty unpleasant taste in my mouth for months. Suffice to say, I lost my deposit after the protracted saga and really, on hindsight, there was not much I could have done about it other than to move on.

So What’s Next for Other Consumers?

Beware of the domino effect. Now that the first has fallen, it just shows that this business model may not be that ideal and we may start to see more such coupon companies follow in the footstep of Outlet.com.sg. If you already have coupons, use them soon!

CASE executive director Seah Seng Choon said, “Consumers should conduct research to ensure the credibility of the business and find out how the group buying system works before making any purchases.” I feel that the Consumers Association of Singapore has really not much power in such instances. In fact, the only resolution from CASE is through meditation and that involves the consent of two parties. CASE could be useful when the company you have a complaint against has a reputation to keep. But in this case for Outlet.com.sg, nothing is left and consumers are out of luck if they pursue this venue.

End of the day, buyers need to be savvy and realise what they are in for. Quite a few comments on the internet suggest that the authorities should step in to prevent such incidents. My opinion? The internet is a free market. Its like buying an iPhone from a Nigerian seller that wants you to transfer him the money first. Would you do it? Since the start of commerce, there have been business deals falling through, bankruptcy being declared, and its normal. Is it fair? I don’t know but I know for sure that is legal. Bankruptcy laws are designed to protect troubled businesses and provide for orderly distributions to business creditors through reorganization or liquidation. Thus, whenever we enter into a transaction, we, the consumer, actually undertake a risk that the deal would not materialise or well, that you acquire a ‘lemon’. Luckily now, there is the lemon law. But for instances where the company declares bankruptcy, this is not going to help you either. And this risk, is exactly the advantage of buying from a reputable dealer, because the risk of them closing or putting their reputation at stake is reduced. Reputation counts and that is why, some people only buy and/or willing to pay more from the bigger, better established companies. Does this mean I am going to stop buying cheap items off unknown sellers from eBay? Nah, but I would be more careful when it comes to more expensive items.

This is a sad day for e-Commerce especially with the growth we have seen in years but its a painful reminder for us to be careful of the risks of internet shopping. Caveat Emptor – Let the buyers beware.

htpc-xbmc-vs-plex

HTPC: XBMC vs Plex… Winner? Read on

Interested to hear about the Pros and Cons of XBMC and Plex?

Well, I have been messing with Home Theater PCs or HTPCs for short since I bought the xbox in 2005 and loaded XBMC on it. Computers have evolved, becoming much more integrated with our daily lives.  The term, HTPC, had been coined years ago but has grown popularity in the recent years with the booming growth of the HDTV market. The phone is also the new age media device, just look at the number of people watching shows on their iPhones and S3s on the buses and trains. TVs have become smarter too, but I still like to use a HTPC for now. Its more customisable, can load more types of streaming content and I can even game through it. But its a matter of time before more efficient devices like the Android miniPCs take over.


XBMC on top, Plex on bottom, don’t they look similar

Well, I digress. The original topic of discussion was XBMC vs Plex. They are both HTPC software. XBMC is a standalone media center that you install onto your device, Windows, Mac, iOS and now even Android. Plex is more complicated. It is divided into two portions, a server where you host local media, as well as to load and share plugins and web-content. Plex Media Center is the front-end media player component and you might realise that it looks very similar to XBMC, that is because Plex had the same developmental roots and forked off in 2008. I would possibly consider XBMC to somewhat like an OS replacement as it is able to launch applications with the plugins and is inherently more customisable wheras Plex strength lies in the fact that the server can support multiple clients.

Installation & Setup: XBMC wins. XBMC as a single piece of software and is way easier to setup and get it off running. Plex requires a bit more attention, due to the uniqueness of the host and server setup. There might be firewall issues to navigate as Plex uses a MyPlex online server setting to broadcast your server. There are some advantages when you start to load it to more devices as basically, only the server needs to be setup. The applications and library are all pulled from the central server. XBMC while easy, requires more effort to duplicate the setup. Due to the initial ease of use, XBMC wins.

Media Support & Playback: Both have no issues supporting streams, MP4s, rmvbs, H264s, avis, etc. Certain reviews do indicate that Plex have issues playing 1080p media files as compared to XBMC but I do not face that problem yet. However, one key area which to me Plex is lacking is the availability of Airplay. The beauty of XBMC is that Airplay is built-in. With XBMC on my HTPC, I can stream media from my phone or video that my friend sent to me over email or Whatsapp directly to the TV. That is something not achievable in Plex. XBMC wins.

Device & Media Distribution: Plex allows small clients to be installed onto devices like Smart Samsung/LG TVs, Android Phones, iPhones etc where they retrieve the media from the server. The advantage here is that Plex supports transcoding and delivery of a format that can be played to these devices. XBMC on the other hand, does not offer the ability to transcode or stream media. With XBMC now available on increasing number of devices, the difference is that the media needs to be duplicated across all or at least shared via a local library. Today, XBMC has made its way to the iPad and Android devices and can play just about every filetype that is available (Android, not so, due to hardware decoding issues). Over the coming years, these devices will, more and more, be cheap enough and simple enough to erase the need for thin clients a thing of the past, to the point that the only value of a server will be in maintaining a consistent library of watched and unwatched material across devices. For now, Plex wins. If you have a Samsung or LG Smart TV, do try out the Plex application to make your Smart TV even smarter.

Database Management: All of us have plenty of data stored in our computers. This ranges from music collection to movie librarys and personal photo albums. A HTPC provides access to all this in a consistent and often elegant interface. It is meant as an entertainment device and provides easy access to your data through your TV or projector, without the requirements of digging deep into our PC folder structure. Both have no problem doing this. Plex has a central database which means all clients get their metadata from a central place. This allows global ‘watched’, ‘resume from’, metadata edits etc. In comparison, XBMC is a distributed model. Each client has it’s own database which means you can’d do things like start watching in the lounge and ‘resume from’ the bedroom. Or watching a show on the bus and continuing where you left off on the living room TV when you return home. If you have multiple device support, all can share the same database so its streamlined across all.

Addons: XBMC has a way larger database and this shows with the number of addons. If you are looking for a specific type of application, there are much better chance to find it on XBMC. However, the popular video channels such as Youtube, Revision3, Hulu etc do make it to both XBMC and Plex. With that being said, Plex offers the Plex It bookmark to easily transfer web content to your Plex Media Center or media devices. The addons also look more polished on Plex, perhaps the API and backend might be better for acquiring content. Draw.

Cost: While both are free, Plex clients for the Android and iOS do cost money. Just today, PlexPass just launched as well at US$3.99 per month and it provides premium features to the subscribers. One of the newest feature is the Plex web client which allows easier management of your media and to play it straight from the browser.

To summarise it all, it is a close call between this two very similar piece of software and it really depends on your usage. I currently am swaying towards Plex due to the multiple client, single setup feature as I do own a couple of devices that i watch on the go, an iPad and an Android phone, and for the ability to synchronise the playlist. Next is because some of my channel plugins just seem to work better on Plex. However, for instances when I want to deploy a standalone media center such as an Android PC connected to a TV, I would greatly prefer XBMC for its standalone features. I still have both software installed, and I do use the XBMC addon PleXBMC which grafts the Plex Media Server access into XBMC. Its not the best implementation and it feels rather clunky to use as a separate addon, but with some dedication to it, it might be the solution that brings the best of XBMC and Plex together.

Google Maps Navigation – Enabled anywhere in the world

Google Maps Turn by Turn Navigation is one of the best features of having an android phone. It can navigate to any location that you can identify in Google Maps, has turn by turn voice instructions including street names, live traffic updates, street view and its one of the best app for an in-phone GPS. The live traffic updates and street view are but two features that commercial GPS would find it hard to match. The deal breaker for some is that requires a data connection to operate and  there isn’t an offline navigation feature yet.
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The iNo-Sun A908 (iNo-One) Non-Camera Phone

This is the next non-camera phone that is expected to be launched in Singapore. It is a factory removed camera phone model and certification would be provided as well. It is expected to be priced at a relatively low cost of S$228 and would appeal to those whose contract is not up for renewal yet.  It is currently on pre-order and is expected to launch in August. Besides the price, the next interesting feature is that it has Dual-SIM support and could appeal to those with multiple phone lines to manage.At its price point, it could be the next mass phone for reservists to have access to a smart phone, browser, and more importantly, GAMES to pass time during their in-camp-training.

http://www.inomobile.com.sg/

Specifications

  •  Android Gingerbread 2.3.6
  • 1.0 GHz Single Core
  • 512 MB Ram
  • Dual-SIM card slots
  • 4.0″ capacitive 480 x 800 screen
  • GPS and Bluetooth
  • 124 mm x 64 mm x 10.95 mm
  • 4GB internal storage, expandable with microSD

The phone specifications are nothing to shout about and in fact, I would expect some minor slowdown due to the processor and lack of RAM as compared to the superior Huawei Honor. I would only recommend this phone if you are looking to use this phone for short periods of time and/or if the Dual-SIM feature is important, else the Huawei Honor especially at the promotion price of $400 would be a much better deal. Lastly, they really should have came up with a more attractive name for this phone.

Update (11 Aug 12): The iNo-Sun A908 has been replaced by the iNo-One. Read more about it here.