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Recording Attendance

As a lecturer, one of my responsibilities is to record students’ attendance. At least for me, this data can be used later to determine whether I should give lenience to some of them in special circumstances.

COVID-19 changes that definition of “attending”. One can just show up at the beginning of a virtual class then leave, switch his/her screen to a computer game, or leave the presentation open while he/she is playing a mobile game. That is why for my classes, I don’t really care about the students attending. I even allow my students to record their attendance, a feature that fortunately provided by the university IT department.

Mid-term and final exam, however, are different. They are more “sacred”, hence I took extra steps on ensuring my students attend the class. Again, I cannot ensure that they are present during the whole exam. I also cannot fully ensure that they do not cheat by working cooperatively or being worked by someone else (a.k.a. joki).

However, it is possible to record some kind of authenticity. I can ensure that each student is present and, well, alive and doing well, at the time of exam. This may help prevent some weird situation in the future, like, giving a degree to a deceased or even a non-existent person. This may sound like a joke, but if we’re being honest, most likely nobody from the university side have ever met freshmen of 2020 in person!

To perform such attendance record, I called each student by name at the beginning of exam. When a student’s name is called, he/she has to turn on his/her camera and answer “hadir” (present), so his/her face is spotlighted in the Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, or whatever platform used.

Below is an example of such recording.

This was the third attempt of recording this semester. It took about ten minutes to call and record about 47 students, and as you may see in the video, there were some interruptions and imperfections along the way. Earlier attempts took 15 minutes, because I didn’t use Microsoft Teams’ native app, hence video didn’t show up very quickly.

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Yes, I will fix your computer (for $250/hour)

We, computer programmers, all have this mantra: “No, I will not fix your computer”. It made sense, because we study hard to solve complicated problems, that is solvable by having a machine works for us. Fixing computers and networks are the job for the IT people. It was engrained to me when I graduated and stayed there for some time.

Fast forward, I worked, took a master degree, tried to make a startip, taught in university, and build commercial websites, and things change. I don’t take that mantra so much anymore.

Let’s see some of the IT problems:

  1. Internet does not work because cable is unplugged. What you had to do was to check the if there are blinking lights both on the PC side and the router. Looking from another point of view:
    • How can we avoid such problem and repetitive checks? One solution is wi-fi. Some computer scientists developed robust protocols for wireless connectivity. Businessmen popularize wi-fi, and today general consumers don’t have much cable problem anymore.
    • How can we automate troubleshooting? Some programmers at Microsoft developed Windows Troubleshooters. Though it is not very popular, but they did some problem solving exercise using computer programs.
  2. Finding the proper drivers. It was common problem that a hardware does not work because the driver did not exist. It recently occurred to me that I couldn’t connect to internet because the Wi-Fi dongle needed a driver that should be downloaded from the internet.
    • Again, those programmers are developing some standard, to ensure that minimal driver is required to make OS work with hardware. Plug n Play, they said.
  3. Data loss of computer reformat. Do you remember the days when your Windows is full of junk it had to be reformatted and reinstalled, and repeated again every year? One problem is to backup the files, and restore them afterwards.
    1. You may know that they are plenty of storage solutions nowadays, and they are competing each other (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, etc.) Who built them? developers

So my point is, even the silliest IT problem nowadays, can be seen as a potential problem to solve with a product / software / app.

However, I do understand that you should not waste your time doing so much of IT works (if you’re a programmer). That’s why you should also consider to charge some money (except if it’s your mum and dad). You will be surprised that some people are actually willing to pay some large amount, if you ask for it. It’s a win-win anyway: they get their problem fixed, and you get money and potential problem to solve.

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2013 in Review

It feels good to write again, after a long time of busy days in year 2013. I write this, to keep the spirit of writing, as well as to, well, keep at least one post per year on this blog. Boy, I really miss those days when I have time to write. May be sometime.

Work

As the year before, the professional part of my life are shared between the startup I am building, and teaching at a local university.

kiriThe startup, KIRI, started as a personal project that I worked on after office hours in Singapore. When I returned to Indonesia in 2012, Budi joined in, and we mostly worked at either a McDonald’s in Jakarta or my in-law’s house in Bandung. It was a weekend project, with lots of promises and some fanatic supporters.

In early 2013, I heard a surprising news that our project was selected as the finalist of Mandiri Young Technopreneur 2012. As a finalist, our team had to attend a week long bootcamp in Jakarta, and unfortunately it coincided with my wedding day. Luckily, Budi could attend most part of the event, while I attended few days of it. Other than the privilege to stay at a 5-star hotel, we also had the chance to participate in seminars led by important people like Bill Reichert from Garage Venture. Most importantly, we were able to build network with people. Though in the end we failed to be a winner, we had a lot of takeaways from this event.

We also participated in Blackberry Startup training, where we attended weekly sessions of startup trainings. Here also, we met with interesting speakers and people. We even managed to be the finalist of their business plan competition. As with Mandiri event, we again failed to nail the winning position here.

Mid 2013, we gave it another shot by submitting our proposal to Telkom’s Indigo Incubator event. After series of pitches, we managed to be shortlisted as a winner. For that, we received a grant of Rp 10M and seed funding of Rp 120M. Moreover, we also got a slot in their coworking space in Gegerkalong, plus networking and seminars with fellow startups and important people. In exchange: a share for them, and we had to follow their program, under the lean startup framework. We were happy with that, but not without some downsides. More features were implemented, and more business plans were developed, but it means that I have less time with my code to play with. You know, those little details and tweaks a hardcore programmer would like to code.

During this journey we were glad that Hudi temporarily joined our team as an intern, for a crowdfunded event organized by Wujudkan. He helped us to implement TransJakarta feature of KIRI, and paved a way for future expansion. Later of this year, Jovan also joined our team as a part time developer. He helped implementing the KIRI API, KIRI Widget, and other minor features.

Finally, though we are yet to receive our first revenue, I am very happy that KIRI grew a lot in terms of user base and usefulness. Not to mention that we participated in AngkotDay event led by our friend Saska, and featured in one of National Geographic Indonesia blog post.

For my teaching part at Unpar, it was not less interesting. We were short of teachers, and that means we had to teach more students that we should. At one side, it means that keeping up with the job was very challenging (e.g. skipping lunches with colleagues). On the other side, I became more creative in making things more efficient. Luckily I was helped with my background of working in Singapore, regarded as one of the most efficient countries in the world.

I also took the position of being a dosen wali (mentor) for new students as well as supervisor for final year projects. That means I got to know more of my students, not only in academic life but also their personal life. It is interesting to understand the challenges they have now, compared to myself as a student many years ago.

In many parts, my teaching job and KIRI actually synergize. For example, a final year student Nathan helped me developed a KIRI-based android app. On the other side, I have stories to tell to students about my experience building a startup and knowledge of many recent technologies that I can only learn in practice, rather than in university.

Personal

_MG_6762On the personal side, 2013 also gave me a radical change in my way of life. As mentioned earlier, I married my college friend Yunnie. Preparing the marriage was exciting yet challenging, as we prepared most of everything by ourself, and helped by some relatives. Just few days before wedding, Jakarta was struck by a heavy flood disaster. The government official issued emergency state, making the guests thought twice to come, especially those from other town. Luckily, two friends from Singapore, Abhineet and Christine managed to come and attended our wedding safely.

Being a married man has its own challenges and excitement. No matter how much I understood my spouse before, there were always new things I learned after marriage. If before, I took full responsibility of my own actions, after marriage, the responsibility is shared among two. The 24-hour-in-a-day slot is now also shared among us, meaning less “me-time” compared to before marriage. The consequences: less time for meeting friends, watching youtube videos, or, well, writing this blog. Having said all that, there are also benefits of it: a friend for life, a chance to learn new ways of thinking, and learning of new responsibilities. Anyway, we are happy that we are going to celebrate our 1st wedding anniversary soon It’s young, but as Confucius said, journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.

Travel

I didn’t really travel a lot this year, aside from Bali for late honeymoon and Malaysia for my brother’s rugby game. I do miss traveling to non-mainstream places like museums and parks, but those places are not for everyone.

Next year, we are planning to visit my brother in Brisbane for his baptism ceremony. This paragraph is just a little reminder for me to write a story about that.

Conclusion

The rapid progress of KIRI really took my time in 2013, and I don’t think it’s going to stop in 2014. More busy days ahead, but it should be exciting. I am not going to do this forever though, in a couple years from now (after KIRI can stand on its own), I am expecting to settle down and find more challenges in personal and family life. And travel. (Don’t you think it’s a coincidence that our website is http://kiri.travel?)

Happy new year!

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Faith in Humanity Restored, with Public Transport

Live with angkotIn case you didn’t know, I have spent about a year in Bandung building this website to help people navigate using public transport. In the meantime I also teach at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan. For both reason, I take the local buses, called angkot, to transport me back and forth between my home and office. Interestingly, taking this angkot means to know more about people’s life stories, much more than driving my own car. And of those stories, there are some worth to share, to restore faith in humanity.

Let’s start with the first one. Every morning, the angkot I rode passed through Jalan Cicendo, which is the center for blind people rehabilitation. Of course the blindness could not be cured, but one can strive to improve the patient’s quality of life. Almost every day I saw blind people have the confidence to use angkot to travel from their place to another. Angkots in Bandung are most easily differentiated by their colors, not numbers. This clearly gives more difficulties to the blind. However, with their perseverance, the blind patiently waits for almost each angkot passing by and ask the driver if they are driving the route they want to take. On the opposite side, the drivers who are usually famous for being rude to people patiently check if the blind want to ride his angkot, and notify the blind when the destination has been reached.

Another experience came when I rode an angkot to Padalarang, and return. I did this to complete the website’s database, and it took more than three hours on the road. Sitting at the front row seat, I had a chance to have a conversation with the driver, an guy, perhaps in his 60s. It turned out that he is a pensioner of Kopassus, a military group locally known for their achievement being the #3 top elite forces in the world. He proudly showed me his ID card, and told stories about himself when he was young and sent to various countries, like East Timor and Cambodia. From his salary (which he claimed only IDR 7.500/month in the 80’s) and pension fund, he started the angkot business, in which he bought an angkot bus by credit and let himself and another driver ride it everyday to pay for the installment. At the end of our conversation, I realized something, that he shared all his stories enthusiastically, without any complaints about the government or anyone. If you live in Indonesia, you will know that, well, other than this guy, you will not spend a single day talking to people without complaining about things.

Lastly, about a father’s love to his child. In an ordinary day during my trip to my office, a father and his son boarded the angkot. The son seemed to have suffered from down syndrome, and judging from the transport mode they were using, they were clearly didn’t come from a rich family. Along the way, the father tried to start little conversations with his son, though thanks to the syndrome each topic didn’t last long. Some of the topics that I overheard was a suggestion to fight back when other children mock on him, about asking permission to his son to go to Jakarta to work for a couple of days, and about promise to play together on a future visit to Trans Studio theme park, after he had returned from Jakarta. That sounded simple, but immediately touched my heart. It must have been hard to raise a child with some disabilities, but the father seemed to work hard to give the best for his son.

Those are the stories worth sharing. Reality show at it’s best, when it comes from reality, not from television.

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Ping? Pong!

This post is just to let you know that I am still alive. I have been occupied with a lot of activities for my startup project with my friend Budi; and other small stuffs (relocation, catechism, etc…). Unfortunately that means lower priority to maintain this blog.

And as wise men say, a picture worth a thousand words. And turned out it takes much lesser effort than writing, too 🙂 So here are 7000 words of decorations in my new house, that are gifts from friends and relatives.

A book called On a Street in Singapore, gift from my badminton friends Abhineet, Albert Quah, Albert Tjipto & his girlfriend, and Heldi

Notebook with messages and greeting cards from my ITB friends in Gemalto, along with other gifts.

A unique wall clock, gift from other ITB friends, who were with me since I moved to Singapore.

Singlish candies from my former landlord Christine, Pineaple cake from Budi, and a nice Paul Allen memoir from my brother Daniel

Swan doll made of unused cement paper from my aunt Meme, along with some decorations I bought myself.

A cross to help me feel safe. A gift from my aunt Veronica more than 5 years ago, but I still keep it until now.

Finally, a celebration to start using my new workshop! With help of my girlfriend and her family. Thanks Budi for taking the picture.

 

It’s hard not to miss Singapore after that four years, but the gifts helped me to remember the good (and bad) times there. I feel very grateful to have friends and relatives that gave those gifts!

And as you may notice that I’ve changed the blog title. I still hope that I can write frequently again in the future.

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Sayonara Singapore!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbN0g8-zbdY]

It has been almost 4 years since I moved to Singapore, and that is not a short period. Shortly I will be leaving this so-called red dot country to start a new journey in Indonesia. There were ups and downs during my stay here, but all gave a wonderful experience.

It all started when I joined Gemalto, early 2008. I arrived here with my dad, to meet Ronny who became my roommate for about a year. He just graduated from NUS, and looking for an inexpensive room before securing a job. To save money, we shared a non-airconditioned room near Commonwealth MRT, living with the landlord who is an auntie (old lady).

Though Ronny moved out after about a year, I stayed at the very same place for the rest of my life in Singapore. The place is not exceptional, though. I didn’t install an air conditioner, and since it’s located next to a main road, it’s quite noisy during the day and sometimes at night. At some months, the room temperature at night can be up to 35 °C, leaving the bed drenched with my sweat. However, I am the type of person who prefer to accept things and avoid troubles (or as the Chinese says, cincay), so I kept staying here. Anyway, what doesn’t kill you just make you stronger, no? The good thing about it is the location, being near to MRT, my office, campus, as well as Orchard road; all accessible within 20 minutes. And here’s a little secret for you to save money, if you can live peacefully with a single auntie or uncle, usually the room price will be discounted, since it’s more important for them to have someone to talk to than the money itself.

The cincay policy also applied to my job, which I have been taken also for the whole life in Singapore. It is very clear until today that working in this company does not give you a lot of money, but instead more of experiences, upgrades (in term of trainings) and flexible working hours. There is one thing I was trying to prove, that you don’t have to work late to perform well at work. I am glad to say it proved well, at least in the work environment I was. The key is to give as much as your time in the office hours to work, and strive to optimize the way you work to make it even more efficient and effective. It is also important to spend your time outside the office hours not to work, so that you’ll start afresh when you work the next day. And lastly, especially in Singapore, be prepared to accept your colleagues saying “Wow, your team is always relax one, never go OT (overtime) what!” (Singlish pun intended).

After my first few days in Singapore, I visited a friend who had spent more than 4 years in Singapore, and he gave me this wise advise “You’ll get bored here in just a few months”. It is true that one can get easily bored in Singapore. Singapore may have more shopping malls compared to Jakarta, or larger than the town of Kuta (Bali), but everything here seems to be, well, in order. I don’t know how many times I got lost in a new HDB (residential) area, because all the building looks the same. When I go to work, I take the same bus through the same road everyday, unlike in Jakarta where you have to find alternative roads everyday due to traffic jams. Having said those, there is small hope to go out of boredom in Singapore. If you have more cash, flying abroad to nearby places in Asia is a good option. Otherwise (or if you want to save), it’s also good to look for alternative interesting places in Singapore, as you can see in my blog posts. Public parks and museums are good start, and they are usually free or very affordable.

Photo by Egon
Photo by Egon

It was surprising at the beginning to know that Singapore is in the top 10 of highest life expectancy countries in the world, despite the stressful life here. However after spending few months here, the reason became clear. People really care about their health, watch what they eat, and do physical exercise – a lot! Countless of marathons are held every year, also running events with lesser distances like 5km and 10km. Realizing that me and my family has history of hypertension, I started to follow the healthy habit. I started with the child’s play distance 1-2 km, until my boss told me that running shorter than 15 minutes would not have significant impact to the heart. Despite whether it’s true or not, I started to push myself to run longer, up to 7km. For variation, I also went swimming in nearby swimming pools, which is ridiculously very cheap, ranging from $1 to $2 per entry. Finally, I managed to gather few fellow Indonesians to play futsal almost weekly. Ironically that futsal sessions led me to a knee injury that forced me to get a surgery and absence from sport for few months (see the story here). Despite that, I am glad that I now have the physical and mental capability of living a healthy habit, which I look forward to keep when I am back to Indonesia.

Last but not the least, life is not complete without friends. And one of the most important friends I knew here was those people from Institut Teknologi Bandung. Starting from a friend I knew in a project back in college days, she introduced me to several other friends from various departments in that university. All being new to this country, we were close together in our early years. We even managed to visit Phuket together for a vacation. Unfortunately, after that few years each of us started to settle down, and occupied by different priorities: me taking my master degree, a guy committed to his girlfriend, a lady getting married, others went abroad for study, and et cetera. However we do try to meet once in a while during birthday celebrations and keep in contact through social media means.

Well, those are a bit of story of my life in Singapore. When I post this, it should be few days before I leave the country. Whether I will still write in this blog, that’s a question for me, too. Thinking about the places in Indonesia that I can write about…

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Get lost, in the name of development!

If there is the time I don’t like Singapore, it could be this weekend. It happened few days before my last day here, so it could be bias though. However, read on and you judge me.

Last Saturday, I went to the library to read a book I was interested at. I went out from home at 9, but forgot that the library actually opens at 10. This was not the first time I arrived too early at the library, but this time was different. Few months back, when I was too early, I just stop by a nearby hawker center to get a cup of coffee while doing something productive with my laptop. But this time, the hawker center was not there anymore: it was demolished and replaced by construction of new HDB. All right, there’s no hawker center, but I remember there was a small park nearby with chair and table made of stone. So I went there, only to be disappointed since they were not there anymore. In the end, I spent the waiting time by sitting at the floor in front of the library, as with other fellow nerds who wants to be the first people inside the library when it opens.

The second disappointment came when I was about to meet my friends at Raffles City mall. I came the earliest, so I had to wait there. Given my recovering leg condition, I preferred to find for a place to sit. Similar story, I remember that months before there was a convenient place to sit in front of a small man made waterfall (and the way the water fall is programmed in such a way it can form simple pictures), just few steps from the MRT entrance. It was not there anymore, and guess what, it was replaced by yet another shop. There was another free place to sit at the basement, but as expected it was full of people. It was very obvious that if you want to sit in that shopping mall, you have to go to one of the cafés there and buy an overpriced drink. There were plenty of seats, unoccupied. Luckily, I finally found a sofa at a CD shop, where I could sit for free. But as you know, the future of physical music stores is gloomy, so I expect that sofa won’t be there anymore in near future.

Lastly, another incident on this Sunday, where I was about fight boredom by having dinner at my favorite Japanese food restaurant, Sumo House. Located in Clementi, it claimed to have the  “cheapest sushi in Singapore”. The restaurant occupies a small building with other shops, you can say it as a small plaza. Compared than the newly built Clementi Mall, this mall is a bit old and unpopular. And perhaps that’s why they were already closed when I tried to visit the restaurant. Almost the whole building was closed, leaving only 7-11 and KFC. It’s sad that I couldn’t have dinner there for the last time.

Well, there’s always another point of view to look at this problem, and the same problem happens in other countries, too. That’s a fact that we have to accept, but, quoting a reader comment in a local newspaper about Cantonement Close HDB tear down… “In our efforts to evolve, do we sometimes forget to stop and sniff the flowers?”

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Pascal’s Guide to Everyday Happiness

I love Sunday, because it’s a holiday.My New $24 watch. It's not beatuiful, but very useful: dual timezone, alarm clock, stopwatch and background light

I love Saturday, because it’s a holiday, too.

I love Friday, because it’s the last day before Holiday.

I love Thursday, because tomorrow is TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday).

I love Wednesday, because I would start to enjoy the days starting from tomorrow.

I love Monday and Tuesday, because without them, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday would be just an ordinary day.

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Travel Marathon Recap

That five weeks has been very interesting to me. I’ve flown four different return trips (two were company paid), to five cities in four countries, using five different airlines. At some point I felt like George Clooney in Up in the Air movie. Two of my journeys were recorded in my blog, but I don’t feel like writing the other two, hence let me just do some recaps and point several interesting things here.

Airlines
The first airline I took was ValuAir. Compared to few years back, they had rearranged the seats so that the cabin could contain more seats. Unfortunately that also meant lesser space for my legs. On the bright side, the seats were new and clean. The next flight was Air Asia, but there was nothing special about it. As usual we were served by prettier flight attendants and was subject to flight delay due to unavailability of the airplane.

Air France was the first non budget airline I took after several years. Generally they had a good service and delicious meals, especially on their long flight (my flight was from Singapore to Paris). The shorter flight (Paris to Napoli) used smaller planes with only snacks provided but same hospitality.

On my Beijing trip, the company provided me Air China, which was surprisingly unsatisfying. With larger cabin size compared to budget airlines, they provided only two restrooms for economy class. As you can imagine, I had to queue for few minutes before I could answer my nature call. And as you can read in my other post, there was an incident during my flight back to Singapore, where the engine stopped just before we taxied to the runway.

For my last trip to Indonesia, I tried to use the Indonesia’s national airline Garuda Indonesia. Whilst the online booking process was harder compared to other airlines, I was truly impressed by the revamped on board services they had given. Costing only +/- SGD 250 for round trip to Jakarta, the plane was equipped with brand new seats and in flight entertainments (though the flight was only 1.5 hours long). Free local newspapers were also provided before we boarded the plane. Unfortunately the last flight back to Singapore was plagued by almost two hour of delay.

Effect on Weight
Just few weeks before my first travel, I bought a digital weight scale with the interest of tracking and trying to reduce my weight. With help of Excel, I managed to plot a chart of my daily weight. Though until now the weight reduction program has not been fruitful yet (partly blame to the travels), but when combined with my travels the chart has become more interesting. A copy of the chart is shown here, with real values blurred for privacy reasons 🙂 however, I can tell you that the distance between the lowest and highest point is 3 kg.

The straight lines determines the oversea travels, since I don’t have access to my scale. On my first trip to Indonesia, it did not affect much on the weight. What was contrary to my initial assumption was my Napoli trip turned out reduced my weight significantly, though I ate a lot of pasta and pizzas there, and sometimes double dinner in the plane due to time zone shift. The Beijing trip gave more body fat to me, since there were more beers and fatty and oily foods (you know, Chinese food..). I also gained weight on my last trip to Indonesia, especially due to the fact that this was my final trip during this year summer break.

One conclusion I can take from the statistic is, your body may well use your calories reserve during long flights and jetlags. Therefore when you want to reduce weight, try to spend more time on planes 🙂

English Grammar
Finally, if you think that the English grammar in my blog posts is awful, well, you’re not alone. My friend Paulus who noticed the same thought that I should revisit basic theory of English by reading some English grammar books for high school students. Kindly enough, he gave these books during my latest visit to Jakarta. Therefore you can expect my grammar improves on the next posts (will be a challenge for me..) Thanks Paul!

If you think that nothing is wrong with my grammar, well, you’re not alone too. I think that my grammar is still at acceptable level 🙂

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Singapore MRT Tips: Get a Seat from Airport to City

It’s been a very long time since my last post. During my semester term at NUS, it’s practically impossible for me to write a story.

Anyway, just a short post on a tip to get a seat in the MRT (Singapore’s train system) when you land at Changi Airport and want to go towards the city. As you may know, from Changi Airport, the only train available is the “green” line. You will surely be able to get a seat here, since the train in fact departs from Changi Airport.

However, after two stops you will have to switch train in Tanah Merah Interchange. And if you do the same thing as every other people here, most likely you won’t get a seat in the new train, since many people from airport (and possibly from Expo station) will transfer to this train, too. That’s pretty bad especially when you need to bring those heavy bags with you.

The trick very is simple, that to just wait for the 2nd train to come. Most passengers from airport would take the 1st train available for them, therefore occupying the train to city. Since the frequency of the latter is higher, you may get the 2nd connecting train before another train from airport comes; of course with much fewer people.