Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Apple Gets Sued For Its iPhone


The iPhone is a wonderful, wonderful device, one that I've admittedly been enamoured with for months now (since I first saw how it truly works in this video). It claims to be the most advanced phone, the most advanced ipod and the most advanced internet browser rolled into one sleek and handy device. It launched a couple of months back in the US. While it is getting raving reviews, it is also getting a lot of flak for its expensive price and its major flaw - its short battery life.

Such flak has escalated such that some consumers who were even the first in line to purchase an iPhone, have launched a class suit against Apple for the iPhone's short battery life.

Click here for more details

Scans of court documents could likewise be previewed here.

CTC your honor?

Last night, while i was crammed in a cab with my relatives, an interesting ad feature/interview in the radio managed it's way through my lola and tita's tsismisan/conversation to reach my ears. It was about using the internet to conduct job interviews via live video. Instead of having to spend money that you don't have (because you don't have a job nga), you can go to your job interview without leaving your house. And, aside from the obvious savings in transportation costs, this scheme also opens up your employment opportunities. You can consider applying for a job at any place, agency or company that allows this innovation regardless of where they are located.
I wonder how long til our judicial system gets a wind of this and integrates it into our procedures. Just think of the cab fare or gas money that you'll save if you don't have to go all the way to antipolo to tell the judge that your client has chicken pox.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Social Networking and Sex Offenders

The past week or so, there have been so many new items published on the web and on the papers regarding the number of sex predators on the site MySpace. It is estimated that there are 29000, more than four times the initial estimates. That's a lot. Is it the same with other social networking sites?

Makes one more afraid of what one's child can access online, and what the child is vulnerable to.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flying Cars

Another software commercial with a point:

The problem with large government tech projects (like RPWEB, or the NBN) is that it would require the government to bet on the future of a technology.  And, as the ad points out, the future is a moving target.

This task is hard enough for firms coordinated by markets. Twenty to thirty years ago, the predominant view of the future involved personal jet, rocket, and atomic power for everyone, not  a globe-spanning network of computers. For structural or cultural reasons,  governments are pathologically bad at making technology choices. 

Saturday, July 28, 2007


"Advergaming", a coined word which is used to describe advertising within video games, is a new concept in the Philippines which, according to Philippine online game publisher Level Up! Philippines, needs to be pushed in the local market.
But the executives of such company admit that a lot of convincing work is still needed for local advertisers to explore such territory.

Advertisements within online games could be made in different ways. One strategy involves offering branded in-game items or costumes. Advertisers may also choose to hold special in-game competitions or mini-quests to enable players to win branded in-game items.

With millions of registered users and thousands of people logging in everday in online multiplayer games, this type of genre could very well reach a substantial amount of consumers as a target market.

Who knows maybe someday we might see the PCSO jingle flashed in some online game they are sponsoring.

Then again may not. Horrendous.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ice With That?

I think the video below neatly summarizes how abusive some EULAs (End User License Agreements, the contracts you are supposed to consent to when you buy software or use a web site) and pricing schemes of most proprietary software companies are.

See also the slashdot discussion on abusive EULA's. Bet you didn't know about this provision in most Microsoft products:

You may install and use one copy of the software on one device. You may install multiple copies of the software on one device provided that you have a license for each copy. You may install and use a second copy of the software on a portable device for use by only the primary user of the first copy.

So you can copy your original, non-pirated MS Office to your laptop, but you can't let anyone else use it! You are actually in breach of contract for sharing (not a copy, but the very use of) software. Isn't this insane?

Good Enough Technology

The post (and the after-class discussion) about the One Laptop Per Child Initiative (XO computer) and the Asus EEPC, and how I actually want to have either, or both of these machines made me think about my own technology use.

None of these machines are exactly performance champions - the XO Computer has a 433 Mhz processor and the EeePC's CPU runs at 900Mhz. They're not gonna be any good with the latest operating systems and apps. But really, slap in a scaled-down version of Linux (the default OS for both XO and EeePC) and these machines are good enough for most of my needs - word processing, web surfing, and email. Chances are, they're good enough for most of anyone's needs.

For me, this could mean an alternative paradigm of technology use. Do we really need the latest greatest hardware, bigger and fatter software, when older, cheaper tech is enough? When the personal lust for newer technology (upgrading for upgrading's sake) make less and less financial sense (plus, they also harm the environment with ever increasing demand for power), is there still a need to go behind the rush of Moore's Law?

Unfair Use?!

Universal Music is claiming that this is a copyright violation???!!!

A $199 Ultra Portable Laptop?

Wow. It's a challenge to the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) Program that seeks to provide cheap computers to impoverished countries to help their kids improve their level of education. The OLPC Program so far has suffered numberous setbacks. It's been around for a few years now.

Asustek, in a bold move, is releasing this new laptop without any government support. They expect the private sector to drive the market and maybe even lower the prices later on.

I want one! :D

(Posted by Elias Omar Sana - PeoplePowered™ - something's wrong with my blogger account)

Police Surveillance

In New Orleans, Lousiana, a former police officer accused in the videotaped beating of a man in the French Quarter after Hurricane Katrina was acquitted Tuesday by a judge who heard the case without a jury according to an article in CNN.com. The judge found that there were several times during the struggle that the man tried to resist the police officers and the whole incident could have ended more quickly and peacefully if the man had stopped trying to fight back.
Despite the negative finding of fault of the judge in the New Orleans case, it might be a good idea to have surveillance cameras following our own policemen to keep them in check. The cameras would be particularly needed during drug buy bust operations, check points and even during traffic enforcement where there have been frequent reports of bribery and abuse.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Big Brother gets under your skin

Citywatcher.com, a surveillance equipment company caused much debate when two of its employees had microchips implanted in their arms.

The company said that the “chipping” of two workers with RFIDs — radio frequency identification tags as long as two grains of rice, as thick as a toothpick — was merely a way of restricting access to vaults that held sensitive data and images for police departments, a layer of security beyond key cards and clearance codes. Currently, the company is encouraging hospitals to use the same chips to keep track of their "high-risk" patients -- diabetics and people with heart conditions or Alzheimer's disease.

The chips are basically medical-grade glass capsules which holds a silicon computer chip, a copper antenna and a "capacitor" that transmits data stored on the chip when prompted by an electromagnetic reader. These chips last for 10-15 years and are difficult to remove from the body (a surgeon must cut the scar tissue that forms around the chip).

With technology like this, it appears that the right to privacy can become a thing of the past. Apart from it being excessively invasive, another major concern is that the data can be accessed by unauthorized persons quite easily with use of readers which are now available in the market. For just $300, techno savvy thieves and stalkers can obtain 10-15 years of personal data. I fail to see why Citywatcher could not employ less invasive and less risky security measures.

Halamka, a physician who has been "chipped" quips, "My friends have commented to me that I'm 'marked' for life, that I've lost my anonymity. And to be honest, I think they're right."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Virtual Taxes Being Considered in the US

It is said that there are only 2 inevitables in life – death and taxes. Through computer or video games, we escape the harsh realities of life and, only run into “death.” But now, at least in American massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, even the payment of taxes for “virtual transactions” may become another stressful reality!

According to Dan Miller, a senior staff economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress, they are considering whether the sale of “in-game” goods should be taxed and that they are at 'the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions “virtual economies” raise -- taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth?" The MMO “Second Life” is cited as an example of a large in-game economy based on the purchase of virtual items like clothing and vehicles, which generates as much as a half million dollars in sales a day.

A congressional report is due to be issued next month (August), and it would be very interesting to see what it contains because the taxation of virtual properties and transactions would mark a milestone in the blurring of distinctions between reality and cyber-reality.

"What that report will say is unknown, as the committee has kept entirely quiet about its thoughts. However, it's clear that something will happen. 'Given growth rates of 10 to 15 percent a month, the question is when, not if, Congress and IRS start paying attention to these issues,' [senior economist Dan] Miller, who is a fan of virtual worlds and economies, told CNET News.com in December. 'So it is incumbent on us to set the terms and the debate so we have a shaped tax policy toward virtual worlds and virtual economies in a favorable way.'"

Source: http://shorl.com/gevugrabebofro (GameDaily); http://news.com.com/8301-10784_3-9733848-7.html

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Sysiphean Task of the State Regulating the Internet

Try doing this when you are surfing the net. You must use the Mozilla browser for this. Upon viewing a particular webpage, try highlighting the text, say for example of a news item. Then right click over the highlighted text. Your object is supposed to be to copy the text. It amused me that when I did this, the first option is not the Copy option. It was "Steal the website content." This may be a reminder to everyone that what one is copying is not one's own, and one would be stealing the content.
I think this is a manifestation of Internet companies regulating themselves. it is a very difficult task for the State to come up with regulating measures concerning the internet considering the blistering pace of innovation and development in the knowledge industry. It would be a better idea to pursue a State policy of self-regulation. Take the case of Google, although it may be said that what they did in China was also driven by profit concerns. Google regulates the content that the Chinese can access when they use Google.
One other regulatory measure is that users regulate themselves online. This way, a certain code among users must be followed when they use a particular site. Users must also bear in mind the concept of regulating oneself when one is online, which brings to mind the credo of doing unto others what one wants to be done to oneself.
Considering also the pace at which government does its job, and the lack of knowldege of lawmakers, it may be proposed that the companies regulate themselves. The experts are working for these companies, and they have the knowldege to pursue this. One important aspect that muct be taken into consideration is that most tech companies are already being traded publicly. As such, their stock prices are vulnerable to public opinion. In this sense, they must ensure that the content they offer are for the most part not very adverse to public opinion.
It may be said that the internet is the embodiment of democracy and the idea of regulation, even self-regulation is repugnant to this concept. But, we may be treading on dangerous ground if we push this idea to the hilt, and end up with the stone rolling back on us.

Bad Girls

A magazine may not be all that reliable but when I read an article from a local magazine about a woman who picks up guys off the internet it sounded all too familiar to be untrue.
I had a friend a few years ago who had a similar M.O. He'd pick guys (yes, guys) up off the internet, meet up with them and proceed to some obscure motel or parking lot and take care of business. When my friend shared his stories with me I was surprised at how casual and brief these encounters can be but it never occurred to me that there is a more disturbing aspect to it. These kinds of encounters can be very dangerous. According to the author of the magazine article that I read, she can hook up with basically any random guy in the net. She wouldn't know their real or full names or much else about their backgrounds. Before the face to face meeting, she sometimes wouldn't even know what the guy looks like. I've heard of safety features in ebay more stringent than this. It's strange that things can be better protected than people.

CICT rethinking ICT department strategy

Due to the lukewarm response of Congress to the creation of a Department of ICT (DICT), the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) is reconsidering its plan of action. According to De Rivera, CICT OIC, they are looking into the possibility of creating a "think-tank type" group (like NEDA) instead of a department. Read article

Think tank group or not, I think the ICT agenda would not be one of Congress' top priorities. First of all, most of the members of Congress know very little about ICT, more so its impact on society and government. Second, pushing for an ICT department will not further the personal interests of the Congressmen or Senators. It will not get them votes nor campaign funds. So unless the CICT is able to surmount these hurdles, the establishment of the DICT might remain a pipe dream.

legal services outsourced

outsourcing of business services (HR, IT, accounting, support business processes) is a growing trend in light of advancements in ICT, which allow workers to telecommute. with the prevelance of these global trend, even legal services are now being outsourced. India is benefitting largely from advancements in this area as shown by the following articles.


will the Philippines be following suit? when? (or is this already a practice in the country that i'm just not aware of)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


China’s government has promulgated a new policy banning the use of “virtual money” from online games to buy real-world products. According to a government notice/order, there must be a “strict differentiation between virtual exchanges and online commerce in material products.” It further states that virtual currency can only be used to purchase virtual products and services, and users are forbidden from exchanging virtual money for real money for a profit.
The notice also provides that the People's Bank of China will "strengthen management of the virtual currencies used in online games and will stay on the lookout for any assault by such virtual currencies on the real economic and financial order.” Policy analysts are pointing at the popular Hong Kong-based online game provider Tencent, which issues virtual "QQ Coins" through its games, as one of the impelling forces behind this new policy. This company’s games have become very popular in China, and its QQ Coins have been accepted as payment by other businesses and have been exchanged for legal tender.

While it may seem that the Chinese government is over-reacting because the use of the QQ Coins seems to be an ordinary barter, this trend/ practice was probably perceived by them as a potential mode of “money laundering” or even perhaps a venue to evade taxes.

Source: http://shorl.com/brusihokibetre (GameSpot) and at: http://shorl.com/preganokebrobro (Financial Times)

Monday, July 16, 2007

SIM Card Registration

There are 2 pending bills in the Senate dealing with the mandatory registration of SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) Cards.

In Senate Bill 289, filed by Sen. Richard Gordon, entitled “An Act Requiring the Registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards in Mobile Phones,” buyers of SIM cards would have to present a valid identification card for registration purposes. The Gordon Bill includes a provision imposing stiffer penalties for theft of cellphones and other electronic gadgets.

On the other hand, Senate Bill 191, filed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, regulates the sale of prepaid SIM cards by requiring buyers to register information that will be stored in a database to be maintained by telecommunications providers. The Lacson Bill provides that the SIM owner's registry will be transmitted to the National Telecommunications Commission and the Bureau of Internal Revenue. The information contained in the SIM registry can be used by law enforcement agencies to retrieve information concerning the owner of a pre-paid SIM card used in a criminal or illegal activity.

One problem with the Lacson Bill is that it only involves the sale of pre-paid SIM cards. How about in post-paid plans? I'm not sure how post-paid plans work but I know that certain information need to be given to the telecommunications providers before one gets a post-paid plan. Are these plans covered? If not, the law can easily be skirted. There would also be problems in the implementation of the law. How would the law address the use of lost pre-paid cards in criminal/illicit activities? What measures must be taken by the government agency to ensure that information from the SIM registry are kept confidential?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Identity 2.0

The discussions and earlier blog posts made me think about the problem of identity over the internet. It's no small matter for the law. Identity leads to community to accountability, to enforceability and all these things we take for granted in meatspace.

Identity can be thought of as a bundle of information, relationships, and preferences. Computers and the internet make it easier to deconstruct and disaggregate this bundle, hence the identity problem of the internet (and our legal woes). Dick Hardt, open source hacker and CEO of sxip media, thinks aloud about identity and proposes some solutions. (streaming videos)

On Friendster, Policewomen, and the Bill of Rights

Read this. It's very interesting. it makes one think about what our guys and gals in blue are up to nowadays. Follow this link: http://services.inquirer.net/express/07/07/14/html_output/xmlhtml/20070713-76517-xml.html.

Check out her Friendster profile: http://www.friendster.com/user.php?statpos=bc&uid=46397375

This is very interesting to me because right now, everyone has accounts either on Friendster, Myspace, Multiply or the newcomer, Facebook. In today's world, apparently, the lines on what is or what is not private is blurring by the second. People's lives are already out in the open, either through the accounts they maintain on these sites, or through their blogs also. Will estoppel work against a person who has such an account, if he or she invokes his or her right to privacy.

Now, regarding this policewoman who bared herself wearing provocative clothes, whether you agree with me on the word or not, doesn't she enjoy the Constitutional right to free speech or expression through her Friendster account? If one has an account in either of these sites, isn't it an exercise of one's basic civil liberties?

I have an account on Friendster. What disturbed me was that in making my account, apparently another person made an account with the same name as mine. And I did not make this. The person who made the account apparently knows some basic information about me. Is this a case of identity theft then?

As my father always says when he hears about these kinds of things, "the kids of today, tsk tsk."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Radar" software monitors kid's cellphones

EAgency Systems, a California-based security company, launched its Radar software that can monitor incoming calls by sending real-time message alerts on another phone or online whenever someone is trying to call who is not on the approved call list. Although it has limited scope since it is currently working on BlackBerry devices and other smartphones, the company is said to be negotiating for its software to be compatible with Motorola Razr phones.

"A lot of what was happening online is moving to the cell
phone--cyberbullying and harassment--and most of its use is unmonitored."
--Bob Lotter, founder, EAgency Systems

Radar software can help parents monitor their kids' incoming calls and help secure them through constant monitoring, real-time actually, from say harassers or cell phone scammers. In addition to this, there are also added services such as Global Positioning System (GPS) software that can help parents locate their kid's whereabouts.

According to the security company, it has developed a web-based software that lets parents log onto a secure site, called Mymobilewatchdog.com, to manage their account. Once a parent signs up for the monthly service, Radar will download the software wirelessly to a compatible phone. The parent then goes online to set up a child's friends and family call list, and can log back on anytime to see a record of all calls (numbers and duration), full text messages, and soon, MMS picture messages, which have been sent to the Radar-installed phone. And if anyone who's not on that approved list tries to call or text-message the child's phone, Radar sends a real-time alert to the parent's phone, regardless of his or her carrier or hardware.

But one drawback is the child's ability to fend off over the top nosy parents that clever kids will often find a way around tracking software. For example, youngsters have been known to use web proxies to work around filters installed in school computer labs. There is also news of kids using aluminum foil to disable GPS locators on the cell phone (gotta try this out haha).

On the upside, this software can be used by law enforcement agencies someday in obtaining evidence against harassers, predators and scammers.

Corporate Ethics and Message Boards

Check this out.

At what point does putting in a good word through online groups become unethical? And at what point does unethical become illegal?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Terrorist groups being funded by pirated DVD sales?

Buying pirated DVDs helps terrorists. That's what Jeffrey Williams, a former a special agent with the United States Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) stressed during a discussion of intellectual property rights protection. Read news article

According to him, there was now more evidence showing links between terrorist groups and counterfeit goods.

"Sounds incredible? So were the plans to fly commercial airliners into the Twin Towers in New York City that were seized in the Philippines in 1995 during an operation targeting Ramsey Yousef, until six years later,:" added Williams.

Wow. Did he really think that this would convince people to stop buying pirated DVDs? Yeesh.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Internet-related Labor (and productivity) Issues

The Intenet has been shown to have greatly improved productivity in the workplace. However, there are innumerable cases when unrestricted and unmonitored use of the net is a primary cause of inefficiency and even disputes in the workplace.

Case in point is a labor dispute in New Zealand, which involved a woman who was held to have been unjustifiably dismissed by her employer after she forwarded an email she received from her father, which contained naked pictures. This woman allegedly forwarded the email during work hours despite two previous warnings from the employer. (details in this article). The New Zealand Employment Relations Authority (their version of our NLRC) ruled in favor of this woman employee, ordering her company to pay her $9000 as damages for her unjustifiable dismissal.

We do not need to travel beyond the nation's shores for examples of employees who send personal emails and surf and download as they please during work hours, using company hardware, network, utilities and other resources. These are employees who would go to friendster sites, download music/videos or forward jokes and other similar emails during company meetings or instead of finishing a business review or a similar deliverable. Some of these downloads are even gateways of viruses which infect the company's network and immensely slow down productivity.

I myself, was and still am guilty of doing such things. While I believe dismissal is a rather harsh penalty for an employee who surfs and emails during work hours, using company computers, there ought to be a limit as to such personal use of the company's internet resources. (I guess that's why some companies' network administration policies restrict the sites that employees could visit and even monitor the emails that employees send - arguably an invasion of privacy, as viewed from the employee's eyes). For me, an employee's use of his company's net resources for personal purposes is of no moment for as long as it is not unreasonably excessive (e.g. he does nothing but surf & send personal emails for an entire day or half of it) and for as long as he is able to deliver quality output expected of him on time.

Easier to just learn to speak Nipponggo!


A lot of legal implications are involved in fansubbing. A fansub is a free service wherein a group of people take an anime or a foreign tv series and provide subtitles in english or any language. Some of the more popular fansub groups are dattebayo, doremi, uremai, etc. These fansub groups provide free downloads of the series or anime they sub.

The issue is, some of these groups get sued by the licensed distributors of these series. Generally, fansubbing groups come up with a code of conduct specifying that whenever the series becomes licensed to a particular country, they will block access to the IP addresses of those countries. And, the only reason they allow subs to those countries is because there are no licensed distributors of those anime/series. The unwritten agreement is that if and when a series is licensed in a country and an original DVD copy is released, the people who downloaded the sub will purchase the DVD.

Most fansubbing groups work for free. They set their sights on series that they like, and since the series is usually in a foreign language, mostly Japanese, they make it understandable to most people by subbing it in English so that the popularity of the series will increase. But since they work for free and make the series readily available, the original creators of the series resent it and view fansubbing as a major contribution to their loss of potential income instead of seeing it as increasing the popularity of their anime/series.

Orewa tensai! Dattebayo! :D

I Will Never Get Lost Again

I will never get lost again. Sigh. If only the Philippines were included in google maps. Google maps not only gives directions to desired locations within the US but also provides pictures with zoom options. Aside from that, according to a CNN.com article (http://money.cnn.com/2007/07/11/technology/bc.google.maps.reut/index.htm), "Google Inc. will introduce Wednesday a new feature that lets users create personalized maps which plot the locations of everything from cheap gas locally to the latest earthquakes worldwide". Aside from from this new feature, Google maps allows a potential property owner to overlay local crime statistics on their new neighborhood. Plus, "tourists could check out photos posted by other tourists to sites such as Yahoo Inc.'s (Charts, Fortune 500) Flickr to figure out what the hotel or the surrounding region looks like before they book a reservation". Looks like you can really find anything these days, even when you don't know where to look.

Securities and Exchange Commission Online

Our Corporation Law professor asked us to get some files for a certain company at the Securities and Exchange Commission. I found out that getting a copy of an 8-page document at the SEC would take me about 4 hours. This includes lining up, waiting for your number to be called, paying at the cashier, and being assisted by a technician who would be the one to print the document.

I got the chance to talk with one of their technicians/staff personnel. She told me that I could have easily accessed and printed the document online. Apparently, the SEC has now an Online Facility. It is called the SEC i-View and i-Report Project. Because of this project, the public can now access and print documents thru the Internet, such as Articles of Incorporation, By-Laws, General Information Sheets, and other documents submitted by corporations to the SEC. This project is a pay-per-use system. One needs to buy a pre-paid card at the SEC, which costs P100. Looking for pertinent documents can now be done using Internet-enabled PC units or laptops at our homes or offices. Though the system is only operational from 8 am to 8 pm, from Mondays to Fridays, still this is better than lining-up at the SEC. It saves more time and is more convenient.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In the Beginning Was The Command Line

(Comic panel from xkcd)

During the break in last week's class, some of us were able to talk to Professor Quimbo about browsers and operating systems. Windows, of course, is a cesspool when it comes to security and reliability. Those who have used it long enough have sort of internalized the need to install and update antivirii, or reboot once or twice every day, thinking perhaps that this is just the way things are with computers.

Of course, Mac users don't have to install antivirus programs or reboot. That's not the way things always were though. I used to have classic macs running apple's proprietary OS, and crashes and reboots were a way of life. Mac OS X's vaunted reliability is largely based on it being a prettified version of BSD Unix.

Unix (now available widely and cheaply through it's opensource flavor, Linux) is the granddaddy of operating systems, the workhorse of Internet servers everywhere. And when you're an OS designed primarily for network servers, reliability is a must. I've been using Linux for years now. It seems rather insane to say that I've never crashed or restarted - not even when I install new programs or upgrade the OS.

An operating system is not just a bucket of code. It's also a metaphor for the particular ordering of resources and people that produced it. Neal Stephenson, my favorite "cypherpunk-SF" writer, talks about operating systems-as-metaphors in his essay "In the Beginning was the Command Line", available as a free download. Linux may not have (at the moment) the sheer number of apps available to Windows. It may not have (at the moment) the sexy pizazz of OS X, but it is, among operating systems, the best metaphor, and the best underlying system of production. Stephenson compares OS's to cars. Microsoft is running a standard dealership selling bigger and bigger SUV's. Apple is selling stylish and fuel-efficientt European cars. This is what he has to say about Linux, and I think the symbolism is right-on:

"Linux...is not a business at all. It's a bunch of RVs, yurts, tepees, and geodesic domes set up in a field and organized by consensus. The people who live there are making tanks. These are not old-fashioned, cast-iron Soviet tanks; these are more like the M1 tanks of the U.S. Army, made of space-age materials and jammed with sophisticated technology from one end to the other. But they are better than Army tanks. They've been modified in such a way that they never, ever break down, are light and maneuverable enough to use on ordinary streets, and use no more fuel than a subcompact car. These tanks are being cranked out, on the spot, at a terrific pace, and a vast number of them are lined up along the edge of the road with keys in the ignition. Anyone who wants can simply climb into one and drive it away for free."

It's an enjoyable read. I hope you check it out :)

Monday, July 9, 2007

Eben Moglen Speaks on GPLv3

Version 3 of the GNU Public License (or GPL) is out. Eben Moglen, who is counsel for the Free Software Foundation and one of the chief architects of the GPL, recently spoke at the Scottish Society for Computers and Law. You can see a video of his speech here.

For those not yet familiar with the GPL: it is the "free as in freedom" legal arrangement (a license really) that provides a legal framework for free software.

It can be fascinating from both a legal and technical perspective. What I like about Moglen is that he frames the issue of free software and access to knowledge
as a compelling moral question. An excerpt from his speech:

"We can produce anything of value, utility, or beauty that can be represented by a bitstream, which increasingly means all beautiful and useful human activity, anywhere, at any time, to anyone, at no more cost than the fixed cost which created the first copy of the relevant bitstream. That fixed cost may be, under certain circumstances, very substantial. There is no question that it continues to cost money to acquire knowledge and to represent it in beautiful and useful ways.

But what has changed is that the marginal cost of the additional copy of each bitstream has gone to zero, and with that change fundamental economic reordering begins in global society. By the end of the first quarter of the 21st century, almost everything which it has been in the past the purpose of industrial civilisation to put into analogue representations of information - music, video, art, useful information concerning the operation of the physical environment, political ideas, comedy, drama - will all be universally represented in dephysicalised forms that it costs nothing to make, move, and deliver.

The consequence of those changes is the onset of a very powerful moral question. If it is possible, easily possible, to give to each human being who wishes it, anything of utility or beauty in our world of civilisation, if it is possible to deliver any such entity anywhere at any time at low cost or at zero cost, why is it ever moral to exclude anyone from anything she wants?

Why is it ever moral to deprive people of that which they could have for nothing and which they wish to have, and you already have made? If you could feed everyone by baking one loaf of bread, and pressing a button, what would be the moral case for permitting the price of bread to be higher than the poorest hungry person could pay?"
As a teacher (I teach 6 computer-related units here in the university) I am concerned about access to software. We are evolving into a society of knowledge workers - and software 
will soon be the most meaningful way to work on knowledge.  It will be as essential as air and bread. A monopoly on software is like a monopoly on mathematics - a serious limitation on how we engage the world around us. And denying basic access to the poorest nations can no longer be just a legal or economic question, but a moral one.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

UCLA student gets Paris Hilton's number and calls!

Celebrity stalkers should drop their cellphones in the toilet. Pronto.

Just look at what happened to Shira Barlow, a UCLA student. While she was at a party, she accidentally dropped her cellphone in the toilet. When she had it replaced, her wireless company insisted on assigning a new number with a 310 area code rather than 415. Lo and behold, Barlow had been given a recycled phone number that previoulsy belonged to Paris. The practice stems from efforts to conserve phone numbers to minimize area-code splitting.

Since then, she has been receiving Paris' messages and calls including numerous invitations for parties as well as greetings from men with foreign accents. Despite the many invitations, Barlow has resisted the temptation to pose as Hilton to get into exclusive parties. I'm not sure I would have done the same thing though.

According to her, she plans to keep the number because she says it has been a greater source of amusement than a hassle and also out of convenience.

First, the Internet sex scandal and now this. It seems ICT has not been very kind to Paris Hilton.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Cyber Scams

Several news items have come out about the latest pyramiding scam in the market. They are now offering to double a $1,000 investment in just 22 days. But this time they are doing it over the internet. The schemes are being marketed through http://www.franswiss.biz and http://deutchfrancs.com.

We can recall that in history there has been several schemes of this nature where the investments of the later members is what’s being paid to the earlier members so that only they can get their investments back while thousands are left with nothing. In the past though, at least some of the culprits are held answerable. But with the use of the internet now the people behind the schemes are faceless, nameless and could potentially get away scott free and just put up another website. This is because Filipinos have always been fascinated with the idea of get rich quick schemes.

On a personal note, I actually know several people who got into this early and now have more than $4,000 out of their initial investment. But I can’t say I approve of what they are doing because there will be countless others from whom that money came from who will no longer recover their hard earned money. Or at the very least the money they put in could not possibly be invested in something clean and legal because then the people behind it should not be afraid of going through the normal process of registering with the BSP as a quasi-banking institution.

Cyber crime laws could be a solution in the prosecution of crimes like these. In the proposed law as discussed in class, this kind of activity will be punishable as it uses IT as an instrument to the commission of the crime. (One of the four means of committing a cyber crime.)

Friday, July 6, 2007

Esquire is Porn

I like reading Esquire magazine. I also like other kinds of magazines like Time, Newsweek, Maxim and also GQ. But among these my favorite is Esquire. The internet is a godsend for me because i don't need to buy any more off the rack in order to read these magazines, especially Esquire, which costs on the average 400 to 500 pesos per issue. Whereas online, it's free. although there are some articles that you can only access if you have gor a subscription, which I don't really need. At some point in the future, access to these articles will become free. People say that paper media will go the way of the dinosaurs. They will become extinct. I don't think so. There will always be people who want the feel of paper on their hands when they are reading. One advantage of paper media is that you can bring it anywhere, even the crapper. There is a difficulty in bringing electronic devices to the comfort room. With the introduction of the iphone, people may get the hang of it. I myself have gotten the hang of reading news items on my computer screen, although my eyes will say otherwise. Which brings me to my point. When I access www.esquire.com on the UP local area network, I cannot access it. Why? Because it is classified as porn! Amazing! I mean, who judges what is and what is not porn? Porn is even permissible speech. What is not permissible is obscenity. What is the reason for this? To save on the bandwidth allocation of UP? If one goes to the Esquire magazine, I bet you will not see any breasts there. However, on a more interesting note, I can access www.maximmag.co.uk Go figure.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Google loses court battle against a young German enterpreneur for using "Gmail" brand

Interesting news.

I've read recently that a regional court in Hamburg, Germany handed down a decision against computer behemoth company Google from using the brand "Gmail" for its expanded e-mail services. The court ruled in favor of a 33 year old businessman saying that he had the copyright in using such name for his own e-mail service. The enterpreneur has been using the "gmail" name since the year 2000, 4 years before Google launched its own expanded e-mail service.
Although this decision applies only in Germany, imagine the sum Google has to pay to this businessman for compromise if the company wants to continue using the brand "Gmail" in Hamburg! Nice

Philippines ranks 17th among 191 nations in UN’s survey on e-governance

The Philippine Daily Inquirer today came out with an article with this headline. According to the article the DFA at the 7th Global Forum on Reinventing Government at the UN headquarters in Vienna on June 28 cited the partnership between the Philippine government and the private sector to monitor polluters through the Bantay Usok and Bantay Kalikasan programs as a model of how technology was enabling citizens to actively take part in government. I couldn’t believe what I was reading! This is probably only the second time I have ever heard of the Philippines as being a model for anything positive. The first time was when our BOT laws were being copies by other nations as a model for laws governing project finance.

The article goes on to say that this citation was an affirmation of an earlier UN report on Global E-government Readiness where our country was named one of the 25 employing technology or e-government tools to the fullest. The same UN survey also said that the Philippines’ integrated portal www.gov.ph was on par with the best of the world.

My initial reaction was to conclude that either the country’s e-governance was really something to be proud of and that maybe I was just not aware of its extent; or that the other 174 countries just really sucked! But after the initial shock passed, I came to think that maybe there is something to this article. IT may in fact be a useful tool for the Filipino people to take part in governance. We are after all one of the most active “texters” in the world and this texting habit of ours in fact helped rally people to topple the previous administration.

Although the government does deserve some credit for this, I would like to give the most to the Filipino people themselves who have creatively and actively used Information Technology to be heard and take part in governance. In fact not only in governance and not only in texting; the Filipino people were once again heard in the last Miss Universe Pageant where our candidate was awarded Miss Photogenic by garnering the most number of votes cast over the internet. If we won against all the other countries in the pageant by voting online, then this is just a testament to how active we are in using IT to express our views.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

New Business Models

Here's one interesting example of how the Internet is creating new markets and models.

And how the challenge to the status quo is creating conflict.

Would you want real ads in your virtual world?


With the shift in business models of providers of Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) from pay-to-play (P2P) to free-to-play (F2P) and buy-to-play (B2P), it's become much harder for game developers to make MMOGs and expect a decent amount of return. The F2P model especially is banking on "advergaming" to become the next big thing in advertising and give game providers their main source of revenue.

The P2P model, applied in such popular MMOGs hosted on Philippine servers as Ragnarok Online and Rising Force, requires that users/players purchase prepaid cards or "load" to keep their accounts active for a fixed amount of time. The F2P model is as simple as it's name...the games using this model are free. The B2P model is the same as the F2P model except that you can purchase online items and powerups to enhance your gaming experience.

Advergaming means that advertisements will be added onto the virtual worlds that players of MMOGs explore. It hasn't become very popular because unlike advertising on websites which can be easily tracked based on the number of page views, "hits," or clicks on ads, it's difficult to track how many times an online character has "viewed" a particular ad. Also, advertisers are still unsure about the effectiveness of advertising in MMOGs. Let's wait and see na lang :D

"Growth" through the Internet

Hi guys. Check out http://www.sunstar.com.ph/static/dum/2006/05/11/oped/joy.g..perez.sensitivity.html.

I wish there was something like this when I was elementary. If there were, maybe my mongo seed wouldn't have shriveled and died.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Reexamining the right to privacy in light of ICT

The recent case of US v. Barrows, decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals on April 3, 2007, has similar factual circumstances to the case mentioned by Sir Alampay. However, in this case, the gadget searched was a personal computer.

In the case, City Treasurer Barrows brings his personal computer to City Hall,placed it in an area which was accessible to the public, and had it connected with the city’s network. Barrows did not have a password to prevent access by third persons and he left the computer running at all times. When there were glitches in the network, a policeman and computer salesman went to check the Treasurer’s PC without permission and found child pornography. A warrant was obtained thereafter.

The Court acknowledged that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their home computers. However, they went on to say that no such expectation exists if the person uses his personal computer in a public place. Barrows could not claim that the data in his PC should remain private because he placed the PC in a public place and failed to prevent other people from accessing his files.

In my opinion, this decision carves out a dangerous precedent. The right to privacy should not be dependent on a determination of the physical surroundings. The fact that the computer of Barrow’s was in a “public place” or did not have a password shouldn’t thereby transform his computer into something entirely devoid of any expectation of privacy. If such were the case, then any laptop left in SBC without a password would necessarily be fair game. It places the burden of protecting one’s right to privacy on the individual thus stretching the Constitutional guarantee of the right to privacy to the point where it begins to be useless.This shouldn’t be the case.

In portraying the right to privacy as a personal zone of seclusion, Justice Brandeis in Olmstead vs US stated:

" They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men... "
Thus, we should discontinue the notion as espoused by the Court in this case and dissociate expectations of privacy from place and zone altogether.

Code is Law (Introduction)

This is not a how-to course on ICT. We're supposed to go "meta": elevate ourselves to a level where we can see patterns and implications. But we can't start theorizing in a vacuum: Conditions "on the ground" are also relevant.

I am a programmer. Or at least, I used to be one. That is probably why Lawrence Lessig's notion that "code is law" appeals to me. Law, for all it's self-important bluster, is often the weakest form of constraint in a digital environment. It is code - programming - that will ultimately determine the allocation of rights online.

A lot of my blog entries will focus on specific chunks of technology. I'm NOT going to start writing tutorials, but I hope to describe the technologies in such a way that can be correlated with concerns like convergence, or privacy, or intellectual property.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Philippine ICT Strategic Roadmap

To learn about the Philippines' official strategy for the ICT Sector, click here.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

How about an International Cyber Tribunal & a UN Treaty on ICT?

An introduction to ICT was given in last Thursday's class via a presentation on the relevance of Information Technology to Small & Medium Enterprises (SME's). Included in the presentation was a section on the factors which hindered SME's from access & use of IT. Among the factors enumerated was that of legal uncertainty.

With a global market, legal uncertainty is bound to exist as transactions span different countries with different commercial, criminal and civil laws. In the United States, however, an SME does not need to market globally to experience such a hurdle. Different state laws already subject the SME, with a national (US) market, to similar legal confusion.

An article, entitled "Internet conduct that crosses the state line?", provides an example to such a barrier.

In the said article, Global Payday Loan, a Pennsylvania and Salt Lake City-based lending company, which offered loans online, was ordered by the state of Illinois to stop issuing loans to its residents. Illinois deemed illegal the six day payment term, and the amount of loan fees, interest rates and finance charges given by Global Payday Loan. In the article's last paragraph, a suggestion on internet regulation was made to eliminate or at least minimize legal uncertainties in interstate commerce: for the federal government to have the sole authority to uniformly regulate inter-state/cross-border transactions in e-business.

The aforesaid suggestion seems reasonable to me as regards e-business transactions in the US. Following such train of thought and applying it to international e-business transactions, it also seems that there ought to be a single authority to perform such regulations for global e-business transactions, which SME's need to be competitive in the face of globalization. What if the UN convenes a body to draft a Treaty on ICT, to be signed by all countries who wish to engage in global e-commerce? (Has the UN already formed such a body or taken steps to draft such a treaty? I have no idea yet) Perhaps an International Cyber Tribunal (similar to the International Criminal Tribunal) could likewise be created. With such initiatives, legal uncertainties brought about by different laws in different countries could be minimized, if not eliminated.

Warrantless Search of Cell Phone Content

Here's an interesting article demonstrating how new technologies are testing the limits of established jurisprudence.

In brief: A Kansas state trooper stopped a truck driver, arrested him for alleged drug possession, and downloaded the contents of his cell phones. The court held that the copying of cell phones' contents was permissible.

To learn more, click here.

Note to our students: This could give you ideas for your final paper - i.e., you could explore how ICT affects or clouds people's rights to illegal search and seizure, as well as privacy. And it's not just cellphones. How could this case apply to, say, data contained in your home computers or laptops?

About this Blog

This blog chronicles the random thoughts of students of the UP College of Law enrolled in a class on Contemporary Problems in Information and Communications Technology Law and Policy.

A few suggestions for our students:

1. It would be good to provide links to interesting articles or info that you may find interesting, but it would be better if you inject your own thoughts and views in your entries.

2. There is no word limit, but try not to ramble. Keep it interesting. Remember, brevity is the soul of wit.

3. English is the preferred medium, but your tone does not need to be formal. Conversational english, in fact, might be more effective here.

4. Pictures (if relevant) would be nice.

5. Intelligent comments to postings on this blog would also be good and will be greatly appreciated.

Finally, the mandatory disclaimer: All posts on this blog are those of their respective authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of other participants.