June 2nd, 2016 By Scott Savage Categories: Health

3 rice logoAsianGut officially launched today, with a great press release from the University of San Diego!

AsianGut actually started as my MBA major project, partnering up with a surgeon from KK Hospital in Singapore. We wanted to find a way to bring eastern and western approaches to gut health together, leveraging the best of both worlds.

We soon realised that American Gut was at the forefront of western efforts to use DNA sequencing of the gut microbiome to understand exactly what was going on inside us. I loved the citizen science nature of the project, which makes the anonymised data open access so any researcher around the world can work on it for the common good. Open access is a principle I hold very closely.

The launch of AsianGut represents me starting a non-profit distributor of American Gut kits into Singapore initially, and eventually Asia as a whole. There are many logistic, storage and other challenges to overcome, but I’m confident I can scale it up quickly. I’m doing it because I find it an exciting space, and one which can scale to have a really significant impact on humanity. Professionally there’s also a selfish benefit to me, I get the experience of becoming a non-profit director of a health-tech startup.

Now that the project has begun, the focus is on marketing and scaling the volume of samples so we can build the best profile of the multitude of Asian gut microbiomes. This will ensure future researchers can develop treatments and diet plans especially for us. I honestly have no idea what comes once we reach scale and establish strong perspectives on what good gut health even looks like. All I can hope is that we helped, and that we find a further direction that accelerates progress even more. So please sign up for a test today!!

January 19th, 2016 By Scott Savage Categories: Hardware, software, youtube

I recently bought  Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 and Note 3 phones off Lazada in Singapore. Both times the standard ROM was installed, but some modifications had been made. The phones were rooted and some apps had been installed (Kingroot, Google Play Services etc.). The most annoying part however was that if Chrome hadn’t been used for ~10mins and you opened it, then it would open a popup with a full screen advertisement. I started researching how to remove this annoying Adware.

I found one really good article which detailed the debugging process. There are a few pre-steps however:

  1. Root the phone
  2. Install ADB tools on your computer
  3. Plug in the phone via a USB cable

As per the article above, you can then use the ADB logcat to debug what’s going on. Do the following steps from a terminal prompt on your computer:

  1. adb logcat > log.txt
  2. Open Chrome on your Android phone, wait for the ads to load. Take note of the Ad URL that loads (there might be a couple, so try and get the first one)
  3. Ctrl+C to kill logcat
  4. Open the log.txt file in a text editor and search of the URL you noted in step #2

My Ad spam URL was “ymtracking.com” and so I searched for that in log.txt. It came up with this line:

I/ActivityManager(  808): START u0 {act=android.intent.action.VIEW dat=http://global.ymtracking.com/trace?offer_id=111090&aff_id=27742 flg=0x10000000 cmp=com.android.chrome/com.google.android.apps.chrome.Main} from uid 10035 on display 0

This line tells me that a process running under UID 10035 is calling the ad URL. Time to hunt and kill that UID!

  1. adb -d shell
  2. su

Then you need to view the file /data/system/packages.xml. The Xiaomi phones don’t seem to have vi as a text editor installed, so move it to /sdcard/ to download it to your computer, or open it on the phone itself in the browser. Look for the package line that matches the UID you find earlier (10035):

<package name=”<<PACKAGE NAME>>” codePath=”<<DIR>>”  sharedUserId=”10035″>

Now you know the package name and the location. Normally you could enter the following command from the ADB shell as su “pm disable <<PACKAGE NAME>>”, but when I tried that it was not allowed (read only). Trying to reinstall the package didn’t work either. I found I had to actually use the code path and delete the .apk file itself:

  1. cd /system/priv-app/Youtube (what you had as <<DIR>> above)
  2. mount -o remount,rw -t yaffs2 /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system
  3. rm -rf Youtube.apk

That was it! Reboot the phone and the ads are gone. You can then use the Play Store to install YouTube as normal, from the official source.

December 23rd, 2015 By Scott Savage Categories: Business, Personal, University

insead mba infographic17 months, 52 days of full time study, 3 major assignments and 10 exams later I have finally graduated with my Global Executive MBA from INSEAD! Given I now have the benefit of hindsight, let me try and answer some of the big questions I had going into the program:

Should I do the MBA or EMBA?

The MBA has an average age around 28, and the EMBA 38. If you have minimal exposure to the basics of finance, marketing and operations for example and can afford a full year off then do the MBA. If however you just need to know enough to ask smart questions of your team, the cost of a year off is very high, and you have 8+ years experience then you should do the EMBA. Many people doing the EMBA are almost there in a mid-life crisis scenario – they have achieved a lot and are financially very comfortable, but have no idea what really makes them happy. The EMBA program is really set up to help you explore that.

Do the MBAs and EMBAs cover the same content?

Overall yes, however in a much shorter time. EMBA’s cover in 3 days what an MBA would cover in 12 days over 3 months. That means EMBA’s have more assumed knowledge, readings must be read and you never walk into an exam feeling really confident as you often have 12 hours post-lecture to prepare. The EMBA course is also more practical, it doesn’t go into the theory as deeply but is very strong on the implementation and case study side.

Why INSEAD over a US School?

INSEAD celebrates diversity in a big way. It’s a constant throughout teaching, participant selection, group selection and even social programs. I genuinely think part of the selection criteria is to maximise the number of participant countries more than pure test results. Group exams, simulations and projects are quite common. Traveling to electives is organised in groups, often with people sharing accommodation. Sharing summary sheets before exams is common. There is a real sense of shared destiny. One key observation I had was that in US programs the exam results are published to all members, and the bottom 5% given a warning – three warnings and you’re out. At INSEAD no results are published, and make-up exams are held quietly at a later date. Don’t get me wrong, people still fail and drop out, but everyone bonds together and that makes for a strong shared rather than individual experience. Networking is 50% of the reason people are here, so don’t underestimate the benefits of this culture. It’s also the #1 or #7 school in the world, depending on which program you take.

What was the hardest part?

The hardest part for me was the switching cost. By that I mean having a tough week at work, and then flying out to take a tough lecture on a totally different subject. I have learned that my brain loves to follow a long term focus and become great at it, so constantly disrupting that was at times even physically painful. I had to become comfortable with taking a day or two of constant effort to switch focus. If you don’t switch off work emails for example, then your brain never really internalises what you were meant to learn. You can’t look back at notes, it’s really experiential learning. By that I mean that the actual MBA content is pretty standard across all the programs I have seen. The exceptional part about INSEAD is the quality of lecturers – they are incredibly passionate, entertaining and challenging to listen to. As an introvert, I walked away from many lectures just needing and hour or so to sit and reflect on everything I had just heard.

Prioritising under pressure would be the second hardest part, but I feel that the program was structured in a way that it gradually made this harder rather than hitting you from day 1.

What was the best part?

The people. 95% of the participants were “just like me”, similar life stage and questions. It’s funny when you bring a group of highly successful people together and they all realise how lost each of us actually is. The first few modules are academic focused and people are still presenting a facade, but then one by one people open up and confess their flaws and insecurities. Some people have total breakdowns, some people quit their jobs and some get divorced. That’s not great in itself, but if people are actually facing issues that have bubbled under the surface then I do think that’s a great thing. Be warned though that taking the time to hold a mirror up to yourself can be dangerous! If you push through that phase though then you will have a more honest view of yourself and the world. You can address some things while in the program, but not all. I walk out of the program feeling more confident that I know myself and have the tools to make my life and the life of those around me genuinely better. I just hope I can hold onto this feeling.

How have I changed?

I don’t think I can objectively answer that. I filmed a before and after video, so maybe you can tell me?

December 21st, 2015 By Scott Savage Categories: Google, Internet, software

Google Photos iconGoogle Plus photos has been split out into a separate product, Google Photos. As part of this move there were some API changes, in particular an newly enforced requirement to use OAuth 2.0. With some help we managed to get the tool updated after a period of 1-2 weeks of downtime in late June 2015.

Usage volumes have since been steadily increasing: over the period June – December 2015 daily usage has doubled. I’m not sure whether it’s due to a decline in Flickr usage, and increase in Google Photos usage, or a combination of both (my guess). I need to spend some time working on improving the efficiency of the tool over the holiday period, but until then would ask for your patience. It’s working, it’s just a bit backlogged.

January 3rd, 2015 By Scott Savage Categories: Australia, Internet

Many people feel that a National Broadband Network is a recent, poorly thought through and unnecessary initiative. The reality is that the Australian Government has had a litany of national broadband plans over the last 12 years. Failed tenders occurred in 2003 (Government – Liberal), 2005 (Private – Telstra), 2006 (Private Optus/Elders + Government – Liberal), 2007 (Government – Labor) before finally in 2009 Labor founded NBNCo to build a Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) network. The demand and planning has evolved exponentially over this time period.

The question therefore is (and has been for 12 years) not if we need a National Broadband Network, but which method is the best? Side by side, you can see that the original NBN plan went through a number of revisions over the years, and also see it presented alongside the new MTM plan produced by the current Australian Government:

2012-15 2013-16 (v12) 2013-16 (v13)(Last NBN revision) 2014-17(First MTM plan, post 2013 election)
Revenues to CY2021 AU$23.1b AU$21.7b AU$19.4b AU$18b
Total capital expenditure AU$37.4b AU$37.4b AU$37.4b AU$30b
Total premises covered 13.176m 13.176m 13.274m Not specified
Total premises activated 8.286m 8.757m 8.788m Not specified
Opex to CY2021 AU$26.4b AU$26.4b AU$26.9b AU$27b
Funding: Government equity AU$30.4b AU$30.4b AU$30.4b AU$29.5b
Funding: Debt AU$13.7b AU$15.2b AU$13.8b AU$12b
IRR 7.1% 7.1% 7.1% 3.2%-5.4%
Rollout method FttP Build drop FttP (NBN 2.0) Build drop FttP (NBN 2.1) MTM
Total premises passed by end FY2015 3.664m 3.202m 2.507m 1.093m
Average Download Speed 100Mbps 100Mbps 100Mbps 46Mbps

From ZDNet

Overall the maths and tradeoff is fairly clear, a 20% reduction in cost (capex reduction of $7.4b) results in a 54% reduction in speed. Of course given the current economic pressures this can be seen as a necessary evil, despite the significant deterioration in cost benefit.

There are two hidden factors that make this seemingly simple tradeoff more painful:

 

1) Copper produces incredible variations in connection speed

 

MTM speed estimates for Woy Woy, NSW

MTM speed estimates for Woy Woy, NSW

Full transparency, I work for YouTube. We are a service that is greatly affected by variable connection speeds, but we are not alone: Netflix, Pandora, Spotify, Quickflix etc. are all impacted. When someone like Netflix or Apple looks to bring a service to Australia, consistency of service delivery is an absolute requirement. It took Netflix 7 years before they would launch in Australia. If Netflix can’t justify launching in Australia, how can a start-up every achieve scale within the already small pool of Australian connections? It’s not possible, and moving overseas quickly becomes the obvious solution. To the right is a graph of what connection speeds will look like in one of the cherry picked MTM trial sites in Woy Woy, NSW. This doesn’t even take into account variations in speed due to weather, something copper is prone to. The fibre NBN on the other hand delivers almost uniform consistency across the country at all times.

 

2) Copper costs $1b a year to maintain (as of 2014, the government’s problem)

 

Copper lines are a very expensive asset that is rapidly declining in value. In the original NBN deal the copper was not included, instead NBN only got access to ducts and would pay Telstra as lines were decommissioned – a way to link pit remediation to Telstra’s financial incentives. Under the new MTM deal with Telstra signed in December 2014 there was almost no change, except that the copper was given by Telstra to the Government for $0 extra. Of course the devil in the detail is that the copper network currently comes with a $1b annual maintenance bill. If the government now needs to take over this maintenance bill, and rework the entire Telstra HFC network, who could they turn to for help? Of course Telstra will win the majority of this contract, they know the infrastructure better than anyone and are already winning 50% of the new contracts the NBN is handing out post-deal. That’s why I bought shares in Telstra.

 

So in conclusion, what’s the real trade-off?

 

The $7.4b capex reduction from the MTM to 2021 is neatly replaced by 7 years worth of copper maintenance at $1b a year. Even if it’s slightly less then $1b, the overall benefit at 2021 will be less than $1b in savings for a 54% decline in speed.

This also completely ignores the facts that the NBN fibre network will have lower ongoing maintenance costs, power costs, has near complete speed uniformity across the network, delivers a 2%+ higher IRR for the government and will be upgraded to 10x (1000Mbps) speed for absolute minimum cost.

Unfortunately in modern politics is seems anything beyond a 4 year term is irrelevant to the debate, and instead the focus is on what can be delivered as cheaply as possible before the next election on or before Jan 2017. That’s about the only time in history where the MTM will look even marginally better.

August 13th, 2014 By Scott Savage Categories: Personal, University

Tomorrow I am starting the Global Executive MBA Asia programme at INSEAD, Singapore. The decision was a huge one, and many months after doing the entrance exam I am finally ready to start. I wanted to capture my feelings before I start, because I truly hope that I see significant change upon reflecting at the end. We’ll see in 17 months.

 

December 24th, 2013 By Scott Savage Categories: Hardware

DIR-615_frontMy D-Link DIR-615 N300 wireless router has serious issues with dropouts whenever you use any kind of wireless security (WPA, WEP etc.). This is a big problem that a large number of people have also reported, and there were no official firmware updates available. This lead me to stumble upon DD-WRT, an open source based router firmware for Broadcom based routers like mine (hardware C2, firmware 3.03WW).

Installation was pretty simple:

  1. Do the 30-30-30 reset: Hold down reset button while power is in for 30 seconds, out for 30 seconds and then in for another 30 seconds. This drops you to an emergency firmware update stage.
  2. Upload the latest DD-WRT firmware for your hardware version. Mine was the C2 version here, but you can search for your device here. Wait 5+ minutes, there is no activity/process notification.
  3. The device should start running the DD-WRT firmware and ask you to set a new admin username and password.

There are more comprehensive instructions here if you need them.

I then needed the device to be an additional wireless access point on my network, so I followed the setup instructions here. The only trick was that the wireless radio wouldn’t turn on at all. Turns out there is a bug in the firmware, and you need to enable the “MAC Address Cloning” option in order for the radio to turn on. Go figure! Anyway it’s working perfectly now and has so many more options than the default firmware.

Now if only I could upgrade my carrier provided Cisco modem with the same firmware so my Sonos worked…

March 17th, 2013 By Scott Savage Categories: Personal

front cover of bookContrary to the title, this book is not a study in “how to be popular” in a modern world. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The central theory that the book proposes is that simply by being an authentic and positive person you will receive what you are hoping for without even asking. Every one of the 30 lessons is indeed simple, however putting each  into practice in a consistent way, on a daily basis, is anything but simple.

How to Win Friends and Influence People was, for me, a complete revelation. Perhaps the fact that it is written by a male engineer helps, as it clearly lists the ideas and provides simple, but nuanced, examples of it being used in practice. Some of the examples are pretty weak, however at least half of the ideas in the book benefit from a simple real life situation that helps you visualise how it might be implemented. It’s probably the most enlightening book I have ever read.

So what’s the big secret of the book? I would argue that it’s probably different for every person. For me, I was in a professional situation that many engineers can probably sympathise with – I was a strong technical leader, but was insecure in my communications and relationships where technical knowledge wasn’t the defining factor. These interactions were necessary, rather than enjoyable. I remember doing a personality profiling course, where it was revealed that some sales people (extroverts) actually needed to talk to people to recharge – the concept of this seemed so foreign to me!

The lesson that this book taught me, was that you get as much out of a person as you invest into them. Be genuinely interested in them, share your ideas freely, focus on the positive, don’t publicly criticise, use their name and be humble. It all sounds so simple, but ingraining it into your personality so it is a fluid and natural reaction takes a lot of repetition of both reading the book and implementing the ideas. I guess this is why neuroscience has emerged in such a massive way lately! Anyway I am now reading it for the second time in a row, and I am still learning new things and finding things I do wrong on a daily basis. I recommend this book to anyone, but particularly “green” engineers who are self-aware enough to know they could interact with the world better.

January 1st, 2013 By Scott Savage Categories: Google, Internet, software
FlickrToPlus.com Screenshot

FlickrToPlus.com Screenshot

I have been using Google Plus a lot more lately, and now feel that the social layer (permissions and annotations) adds substantially to the photo experience. I know this is not a new revelation, but as a long time Flickr Pro customer I felt that the options of “Friends” or “Family” visibility, when I don’t really have either on Flickr, were not enough. Therefore over the 2012 Christmas holiday break I decided to work on a new web tool, FlickrToPlus.com.

There are two really annoying things about doing this migration for me:

  1. Losing metadata – especially titles and geo data
  2. Downloading/Uploading every file

This tool solves both these problems with the help of the Flickr and Picasa API’s. In fact my server doesn’t even see the photo files, you can pass a Flickr original image URL directly to the Picasa API. This means the service is fast and reliable. All you need to do is log in with both Flickr and Picasa, and then check the box against the set you would like to migrate. The site will then provide a progress update on the migration status. Google Plus albums and Picasa albums are currently pretty much the same thing, so these migrated albums are available straight away in the Google Plus interface for sharing with your friends.

Please give it a try and let me know what you think!

August 17th, 2012 By Scott Savage Categories: Internet, youtube
Final Olympics 2012 YouTube Live gadget

YouTube.com/Olympics gadget currently Live

The London 2012 Olympics was the highest profile program I have worked on for YouTube. I was responsible for the IOC YouTube Channel – youtube.com/olympic. This channel only displayed the full content experience for 64 countries during the games across APAC; the largest being India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. These 64 countries received 11 live channels running 1200 live events in 1080p HD for 18hrs a day, plus nearly all archived content available. It was a huge process to get this content uploaded, named, categorised into playlists and keywords, and finally navigable in a custom gadget.

The result was well worth the effort, we received 72 million streams just during the 2 week period. Subsequently the content geo-restrictions were removed, and the channel view count has since broken the 100 million views mark. All the global statistics are wrapped up in this official blog post.

This first Olympics has built a solid subscriber base for future events, lifting the number of subscribers by 360k to almost 500k. This is a huge and engaged audience that will be waiting for the next big Olympics event to start. It was great to be a part of this program, and I hope it is seen as a template for how large events can play out online in the future.