End of Robinsons

End of Robinsons

COVID-19 has claimed another victim. It’s not a person but the iconic Robinsons department store in Singapore.

When news broke this morning, social media was all abuzz with people lamenting the end of the 162-year-old retail institution. I was saddened too as it’s a place that I’ve visited since my schooldays.

The deaprtment store is synonymous with quality products and offering great service by long-serving staff. Its regular “The sale worth waiting for” sales never fail to pull in the crowd. I know of people who take leave just to grab the sales items. And there are even those who spend thousands to snag a free mobile device.

Why close?

If it’s so popular, how then did it reach this state, you may ask. Well, the pandemic definitely played a major part — no tourists, people losing job or taking pay cuts, safe management measures are just a few key reasons.

Admittedly, Robinsons also carries a range of products that is way beyond my means in my younger days. And I’m sure the products are still more pricey for this current generation of youngsters who are more accustomed to buying more affodable products online.

With the pandemic, e-commerce has boomed. Amazon, Aliexpress, Lazada, Qoo10, and Shopee are packed with products available at competitive prices. Consumers get to see which products are popular, how many are being sold, and the all-important customer review and rating.

Plus, the platforms offers the convenience of ordering from the bed or in a park and having the products delivered for as quickly as the next day.

Robinsons’ online presence becomes a work in progress

The sad thing is that even going online is not a viable option to keep Robinsons afloat.

“In our experience, the online model is not one that works for department stores, due to individual brands wanting to maintain brand ownership online, as well as stiff competition from full-fledged e-commerce sites,” a spokesperson told CNA.

More closures ahead?

Robinsons is not the first and neither will it be the last of the retail giants to be dealt the death knell.

With a new normal dawning, more and more may have to transform to a onsite-online business, go online completely, or risk closing shop for good.

Seeing parts of our growing up years disappear is a tough pill to swallow but it’s a sad reality that all of us have to face.

The crowd headed to the Heeren outlet after hearing about the impending closure

If it’s any consolation, crowds headed to the two outlets after hearing the news of the closure. If only they were out in force throughout the year, Robinsons may then have a fighting chance of surviving the downturn.

Jurassic Mile rocks!

Jurassic Mile rocks!

With travel almost non-existent, many in Singapore are suffering from a massive withdrawal. While the government is trying to encourage local tourism, it just doesn’t feel like the real thing of hopping on to a plane, landing in another country and taking in the sights and food!

As we struggle with the travel withdrawal symptoms, there was a glimmer of hope when social media broke news of a new attraction in Singapore. Dinosaurs (not the living kind) were spotted near Changi Airport.

As an avid cyclist who enjoys riding along the airport route, this was right up my alley and I started planning for trip to the said part of the airport. However, my plan had to be shelved when the authorities boarded up the location and placed a “Coming soon” sign.

Imagine my delight when a friend messaged me that the new attraction was opening on October 11.

The next day, I packed my bike and headed to the nearest car park in East Coast Park. Even though it was a Monday, that part of the park was surprisingly busier than usual with walkers, joggers and cyclists, including a couple of young ladies who were struggling big time on a tandem bike.

I joined them and headed towards the freshly-minted Jurassic Mile at Changi Airport Connector. The route was fairly straightforward, just cycle towards the Eastern end of East Coast Park and follow the signs.

Jurassic Mile is a one-kilometre stretch with dinosaur exhibits making for lovely Instagrammable opportunities.

The path is wide enough for three bikes to ride astride so both bikers and walkers/joggers need to exercise lots of grace and patience, especially along spots where people stop for photos.

A surprise is that beyond Jurassic Mile, the park connector extends all the way past Changi Airport Terminal 4 to Terminal 2.

The end point is the Terminal 2 arrival hall next to the car park.

Here are my thoughts on Jurassic Mile:

  1. It’s free. I can’t think of many places we can go for free but this is one and one that’s worth a repeat visit. Next time, I may consider putting my bike in one of the lockers and walk to Jewel for a meal.
  2. It’s open 24 hours a day. You can technically go anytime but bookings are needed for visits on Fridays to Sundays. This is understandable as the path is quite narrow and overcrowding may lead to mayhem.
  3. It is easily accessible. Take your pick. Cycle, walk or jog. It’s so convenient to get there. Park at T2 if you want to get some exercise or nearer at T4 if you want to reach the destination faster. A bicycle rental kiosk is located between Terminals 2 and 4.
  4. It offers loads of photo opportunities. The dinosaurs make great backdrops and photo companions.
  5. It’s a good way to spend family time. When I was there, both adults and children were awed by the displays. Besides posing for photos, the attraction is also great for walking and cycling at your own pace.
  6. It has cycling facilities. From renting to parking, everything is taken care of for cyclists, including a self-service bicycle repair station where you can pump your tires or tighten screws. And if you like, you can even take a shower before heading home.
  7. It has a cafe. This is so thoughtful. The Hub and Spoke Cafe is just reward for that exercise from the dinosaur adventure.
  8. It provides an access to airport terminals. I can now cycle to the airport. Before this opened, it’s always a case of so near and yet so far. I have cycled on the outskirts of the airport but could not get to the terminals before.

If there are areas of improvement, my wish is for some form of interactivity with the exhibits instead of them being purely static. Another is for the path to be wider so that it’ll be safer for all.

Overall, this is a place that is worth visiting at least once. I can foresee myself heading there again and again.

Verdict

Quality of exhibits: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Facilities: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Experience: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Value for time: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Overall: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Secretlab chair: Not just for gamers

Secretlab chair: Not just for gamers

Working from home means that I spend lots of time with my work chair. Over the years, I have worn out quite a few — from an Ikea version to one bought at a hefty price (for me at least) just a couple of years ago.

Unfortunately, the pricey chair did not last long before the hydraulic gave way. It will slide down after a short while of sitting. And it’s handle broke off easily one day.

Enough of the justification. I started keeping my eyes out for a good chair — one that is durable, comfortable and sturdy.

With more people working from home, my Facebook feeds began showing people with their Secretlab chair. It became something like a badge of honour for them.

I never considered Secretlab in the past because it was positioned as a gaming chair — and I am not a gamer. However, the folks who bought them are not gamers either.

So, I began reading up and was intrigued by how a Singapore company found a niche and is now a household name in gaming chair.

The price of its chair was close to my previous one and the reviews were generally good.

I decided to give it a shot and ordered one online with delivery more than six weeks’ away because of the demand.

The package promptly on the expected delivery date. It comes unassembled so some work is required to put the chair together.

Here’s why I enjoy the Secretlab chair buying experience:

  1. Pleasant ordering process: Secretlab has nailed it. The customer experience was great. Buying a chair at this price is a big investment for many so it helps that the site was informative, right down to choosing an appropriate chair based on height and weight, and stating up front the delivery timeline.
  2. Easy assembly: The chair came in a box with assembling instruction. For added convenience, there is an instructional video that shows step-by-step assembly. The caveat is that the parts are pretty heavy so it helps to have an additional pair of hands to put the chair together.
  3. Great final product: The chair is as I had imagined it to be. It feels sturdy, sits comfortably and gives me confidence that it’s doing to be durable — having a five-year warranty helps give peace of mind.

As with others, I posted about my purchase and the general response was “Wow!”. After a few weeks of using it, I would highly recommend it if you’re working from home and spend hours on your chair — even if you’re not a gamer. If you’re keen, order it from Secretlab.

Verdict

Price: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Quality: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Overall: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Slice of Love brownie: Rich and so intense

Brownie is a word that stirs the mind and dispatches saliva to the mouth. So far, most of the brownies I’ve tasted in Singapore and during my travels have been good.

Pair a hot slice with ice cream and all the good feelings are released. Problems and worries just disappear, if only for a while.

I was gifted with a slab of brownie, lovingly made by Slice of Love, a home-based bakery in Singapore. The Fudge Brownie made of dark chocolate was packed with walnuts.

My family, including our Filipino expat, tried it and the verdict was unanimous — it’s great. It’s so rich and intense that a slice was enough for us — and most of us have a sweet tooth!

Here are four reasons why we think it’s worth the calories

  1. Rich and dense. The moment we sunk our teeth into it, we could feel just how decadently rich it was. And it was so dense — packed with dark chocolate fudge — that we stopped at just one inch cube each. It just means that we get to enjoy it again and again.
  2. Great bite feel. Inside the brownie are chunks of walnut that gives a great complementary bite feel. The soft crunch and bitter taste go so well with the slight sweetness of the brownie.
  3. Loaded with antioxidants. We think that using dark chocolate is a masterstroke. Besides not being too sweet, dark chocolate also packs more antioxidants.
  4. Nice packaging. The packaging speaks volumes with its simplicity (without been overwhelmingly loud) and practicality (the slab fits nicely in the box). Having it in brown is a wonderful way of creating a sense of expectation of what’s inside without exposing too much.

This is one fudge brownie we’d go for if we feel the urge for something rich and intense, or as a gft to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Actually, anytime is a good time to have a slice of this dessert.

Priced at S$37 (750g) and S$27 (480g), the fudge brownies are available for order at mysliceoflove@gmail.com.

Verdict: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Ruten Japan offers free shipping to 13 countries

Sixty million Japanese products. Available in 13 countries outside Japan. Free shipping for orders above U$50. This is a no-brainer. If you’ve missed travelling to Japan, it’s time to head to Ruten Japan.

For the uninitiated, Ruten Japan is a leading online shopping platform in Japan. And the e-commerce site has just opened up to the rest of the world — 13 countries to be precise, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Indonesia, and New Zealand.

Ruten Japan carries a massive 60 million products, including most of the popular products that we buy from our Japan sojourns. Royce chocolates, Ishiya Confectionary white chocolate, coffee jelly — you name it and it’s likely to be there.

Better yet, a quick check on Royce’s potato chip chocolate showed a price of US$9.04 (S$12.36). This is an 18 percent savings from buying from Royce’s outlet in Singapore where a similar pack costs S$15.

And if you say “Wait, what about shipping cost?” Every order above US$50 comes with free shipping. Delivery is expected to be about seven working days later.

So, if you’ve been missing Japan and things Japanese dearly, you can do the next best thing — hop on to Ruten Japan and relive your memories.

Huawei MatePad T8: An entry level essential

This week has been filled with all the razzmatazz associated with Apple’s new iPads, which incidentally are really good devices for those who need them.

I own an iPad (the 2012 edition) and all that it has to offer. There hasn’t been a need to upgrade that since as I have other devices to play with (oops, I mean use). And this goes to show how good the iPad is.

When Google launched the Nexus 7, I happened to be in the US so I ordered one — just for kicks. OK, seriously, it was because I wanted to see what Android OS is about.

Since then, it has been many years of tablet silence — that is, until this month.

And no, I did not go for them new iPads. Instead, I was drawn to a new low-cost Huawei tablet. Huawei was busy making announcements on smartwatches, headsets and notebook computers this September. What stood out (for me at least) among all these was the Huawei MatePad T8.

More to the point is that I felt that the S$198 price point makes it worthwhile to satiate my desire to try out Huawei’s ecosystem with Google pulling the plug on the China tech giant.

The 9/9 offer sweetened an already good price as the package comes with a cover and Huawei bluetooth speaker worth a combined value of S$86.

Surprisingly, my order from Lazada Singapore (where Huawei’s official store resides) arrived in two days — even though the expected delivery was a week later. Talk about under promising and over delivering.

Setting up was easy. Everything was in English. And at first glance, it looks just like any Android tablet — the device runs on EMUI 10 which is based on Google’s OS.

After using if for a week, let me share my experience:

  1. AppGallery is limited. While it is said to haveΒ 96,000 apps, many of those I need were not there. Other than Telegram, there weren’t Facebook, WhatsApp and the entire range of Google apps. Credit must be given to Huawei for recognising this and providing a workaround. Under the built-in Petal Search, I could find most of the apps I wanted — Facebook, Messenger and Netflix. If the app is not there, there are alternatives. For instance, while Google Maps is not available, there’s a Tom Tom GPS app, which is pretty good. Also in AppGallery are many Singapore apps such as banking, food delivery, government, and online shopping.
  2. No home button. The on-off and volume buttons are the only ones available. Huawei has kept design simple without a home button. I’ve learnt to get used to just swiping up, down, left, and right to do what I need to do. It’s not difficult — just a bit of learning and getting used to.
  3. Face and password unlock. Where this device scores is that it comes with a decent face unlock for security. In poor lighting condition, it’s accessible using a six-digit password.
  4. Good battery life. This is a good device to bring around for an entire day. The battery seems to go on forever. OK, that’s just an expression. I got around 12 hours of usage before rejuicing.
  5. Enough grunt. The octacore Mediatek MT8768 is nothing to shout about but delivers enough performance for work and watching video. The 2GB of RAM and 32GB of memory are unlikely to be able to handle graphics intensive games but that’s really because this tablet is not built or priced for gaming. And there’s a card slot for bumping up memory using microSDXC.
  6. Connectivity counts. Surprisingly, the MediaPad T8 comes with LTE connection on top of wi-fi and bluetooth. This matters lots to me because I can pair it with our family’s Xiaomi MiJia Youth Projector to cast movies on our 100-inch screen. The resolution’s not that great but it’s watchable for most.
  7. 3.5mm jack delight. While wireless earbuds are the in-thing, nothing beats having a 3.5mm jack to plug in a wired headset or external speaker.

Overall, I enjoyed using the tablet and experiencing the Huawei ecosystem. On a personal note, I love it that the tablet and cover both come in blue — one of my favourite colours.

While iOS and Android may be more established, Huawei can become a strong competitor with its own HarmonyOS and ecosytem of partners. It is certainly working hard at winning customers outside of China. This message in the photo above probably answers questions on privacy — the security issue that the US has been trying so hard to raise.

At its price point, the Huawei MediaPad T8 is great value for money and can handle essential tasks well. But, if you’re into gaming and doing stuff that demands more performance from your tablet, look elsewhere.

Verdict

Price: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Performance: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Overall: πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘πŸ‘

Do you need a new iPad?

By Edward Lim

Apple unveiled two new iPads early this morning — the 8th generation iPad and 4th generation iPad Air. If that has gotten you excited, it’s understandable because the specifications and features are amazing.

Just take the new iPad Air. It has impressive credentials. A secured touch screen with 10.9-inch liquid retina display. A powerful A14Β Bionic chip that can capture and edit 4K video. An array of colours to choose from. And who could not be attracted to the 2nd generation Apple Pencil?

Of course, it packs much more than these but let’s focus on these for now.

Are these good enough reasons to dunk your current device for this newbie? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting down the new offerings.

I’ve owned the first and third generation iPads and am proud of Apple for their innovations. In fact, it’s because of the reliability of Apple’s products that I’m still using the third generation iPad bought in 2012 today. It does everything I need it for. Whatever it cannot do, I will use my notebook or smartphone.

7 reasons not to get

Here are seven reasons why I won’t be getting a new iPad.

  1. My current device is still working fine. It’s a testament of Apple’s quality.
  2. I can still do what I need with my well-used iPad.
  3. I don’t play games that require graphics grunt.
  4. I don’t need a more powerful device — the old chip is fast enough for what I need to do.
  5. I don’t need an iPad in another colour — I can always buy a cover of any other colour. Admittedly, it’s harder to find these today but not impossible.
  6. The display is good and bright enough for me.
  7. I don’t shoot and edit 4K videos on my iPad.

I can think of many more reasons but these seven are good enough to convince me not to part with my cash to get more dash.

And 7 reasons to lay hold of a new one

To be fair, I will also provide seven reasons why you should consider getting one.

  1. If you’ve not owned an iPad, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s the original tablet and leader of the tablet pack.
  2. If you intend to make the iPad your primary device. Gone are the days when the iPad has to play second fiddle to the notebook computer. I know of people who use just the iPad for work and play.
  3. It can handle tons of stuff. Β The new chip is powerful enough for Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoship CC and even games that require graphics grunt.
  4. The Apple Pencil is a game changer. If you’re the creative sort, it’s all you need to bring around with you on your sojourns.
  5. Weighing just 458 grammes for the wi-fi version, it is light and thin — plus points for bringing around anywhere.
  6. If you’re into shooting 4K video, this is it — you can even edit your videos on this device.
  7. If you’re an Apple ecosystem fan, this is a must-have to complete your collection. Everything works seamlessly across the Apple products.

So, whether to buy or not really depends on your needs. I don’t need a new version at the moment but your needs may differ from mine.

The light giant

Look at the massive cake

There are pandan cakes. And great pandan cakes. Like everything else, not all pandan cakes taste alike though the ingredients are similar for most.

As someone who has tried baking pandan in my teens, I know that while the recipe seems simple, getting it right is not so easy. After several attempts, I decided that it’s better to buy than bake — eating a good cake makes the calories more worthwhile.

At a recent celebration, I was intrigued by a huge chiffon cake. One bite and I was sold.

So, I had to find out more about it and order it for my family to try.

Turns out it’s called The Giant Chiffon and home-baked by Mama Soh.

According to the website, they “work with local suppliers to source the freshest and most authentic ingredients, and use old-fashioned techniques to ensure the highest quality. The ingredients we use in all our cakes are 100% natural, with no preservatives, no chemical.”

“Our goal is to make your tastebuds happy and your belly dance,” it read.

I like that. I’m no belly dancer but it

We ordered one only — the cake costs S$35 plus $13 for delivery — but couldn’t wait so went to pick it up ourselves.

Here’s what I like about the cake:

  1. Light and fluffy — Getting the cake baked right takes lots of know-how. If not baked properly, pandan cakes can turn out dense or have the bottom denser than the rest of the cake. This cake is just right.
  2. Pinchable — I love it that the cake can be pinched without being squashed.
  3. Rich taste — My tastebuds were certainly happy.
  4. Lovely smell and colour — What’s a pandan chiffon cake without pandan, right? The smell is just nice, without being too overwhelming. And the colour is the right shade of green — neither too light nor dark.
  5. Lasting — Since it doesn’t use preservatives, the cake is best eaten fast. But with its ginormous size, it does require quite an appetitie even for my family of four plus helper to finish it at one or two gos. Even after a few days in the fridge, it still tasted just as good.

At S$35 per cake, it is pricey compared with others in the market. But with all that goodness and the sheer size, this cake is really worth every cent.

Overall, I give this my double thumbs up (top rating). You can order it from The Giant Chiffon to check this out yourself.

Drive hunger away on World Food Day

For a food secure nation like Singapore, it’s hard to imagine that there are people who wonder when their next meal will be. In fact, one in 10 in the island-nation faces food insecurity challenges.

Armed with passion and guts, The Food Bank Singapore (FBSG) has made it its mission to eradicate food insecurity in Singapore.

From October 16 to 18, FBSG is targeting to receive 100 tonnes of food donations for 360 beneficiary organisations that feed more than 300,000 individuals.

It is rallying car owners and clubs to β€œDrive Hunger Away” by donating, collecting and delivering food items to FBSG on those three days.

β€œWith many unable to work and some losing their jobs during this season, the observance of World Food Day is of extra significance this year as we raise awareness on prevalent hunger issues in Singapore and ensure that vulnerable individuals and families do not go hungry,” said Nichol Ng, Co-founder of FBSG.

Other than staples and non-perishable food items such as rice, oil and preserved food, FBSG is looking for donations of healthier food items such as canned protein, whole wheat products and bread spreads.

Members of the public can make their donations at collection points in malls and Shell petrol kiosks across the island, where cars will collect from and deliver the food items to FBSG.

Among the car clubs that are supporting this initiative are Breakfast Drive by Assure Group Insurance, Eagles Car Club, Jeep Owners Club Singapore, Outlander Passion Club (Mitsubishi), and Tridente Automobili (Maserati).

If you’d like to do your part in tackling food insecurity, contact Margarita Seah at margarita@foodbank.sg by September 30, 2020.

Countering facial recognition

Source: Sand Lab

If you’re reading this, you are probably using social media as well. One of the biggest worry about social media is the loss of privacy. Every photo that you post of yourself and your loved ones are processed by artificial intelligence (AI) tools that enable facial recognition. In case you’re never wondered why, this is what lets Facebook suggest names to tag when you upload a photo.

Facial recognition works by establishing invisible relationships among the pixels that make up a computer-generated picture of a face. It then compares it with other photos available online to look for matching ones.

This makes tagging photos in Facebook or looking for photos in Google Photos convenient and easy. However, it may also be used by others — organisations and individuals — to do likewise, venturing into the domain of personal privacy.

The good news is that researchers at the University of Chicago have developed an algorithm that counters that. Named “Fawkes“, it alters your photos slightly to deceive the facial recognition software.

Fawkes uses a process called image cloaking to make tiny, pixel-level changes that make it difficult for facial recognition software to connect your photo to other images.

Altered images look the same visually but the subtle change fools facial recognition software, protecting your privacy in the process.

Caveat. I’ve not tried it myself but if you’re keen to check it out, download the free algorithm (for Mac and Windows) at http://sandlab.cs.uchicago.edu/fawkes/#code.