Monday, December 31, 2007

Concerns About What Kids Play

I came across this blog just recently. It was a mom ranting about how easy it is for kids in the U.S. to purchase Mature video games. She's really concerned that cashiers don't really pay much attention to the purchaser, and that parents really have no idea what the rating system is all about. Most American parents blame overly-violent video games for their children's bad attitude.

Big whoop.

Here in the Philippines, if you can buy it, you can have it. Besides, it would be weird if we actually followed the rating system when most of what we sell are pirated games. Filpino parents don't really mind their kids playing violent games like Grand Theft Auto or Scarface, but when the kid steps out of line... it's smackdown! I really pity American parents for not having this option to resort to.

Anyhow, I don't think Americans should worry about what kind of video games their kids play. It's actually a good thing that they get their kids hooked on video games. If it weren't for those, their kids might just surf the internet and find BETTER things to do...

Now that is something everyone should be worried about.

Devlin, Dory. "Survey: Kids Can Easily Buy Mature Video Games".;_ylt=Ah74iEXJepU52hsNNt.WdOQ9MpA5

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bringing Techie Toys to Work

Consumer Technology in Professional Settings. Ever wondered why companies still allow personal gadgets and software to synchronize with their IT system? If these connections create gaps in the companies' IT security, why not totally ban it? I used to think it was easy to do that, just hand over whatever gadget you bring to the office so you cannot download, upload or access unauthorized data. Well, it looks as if, the benefits that the companies gain in allowing the use of these technology at work outweighs the gaps on the security that these might create. The companies just also risk having the employees hide their use of softwares and gadgets if they ban it. IT will be harder to detect and stopped.

But sometimes these companies might think otherwise, such as drugmaker Pfizer. Its 17,000 current and former employees' social security numbers were compromised when an employee's spouse loaded a file-sharing software into her company issued laptop. The investigation showed that 15,700 of those employees actually had their data accessed and copied.

Truth be told, companies can only limit the gadgets or softwares that are prohibited from being synchronized to their system. They will lose more if they completely ban these connections.

Not only will the employees lose more efficiency in failing to use all available technology to make their work faster and more competent, the companies will also have to spend more money to develop their own independent software or system to assuage the non-use of technologies already available and at a cheaper price at that.

"The fact is, much technology aimed at consumers is more innovative and cheaper than products made for companies and just makes good business sense", according to Douglas Neal, a research fellow at Computer Sciences' (CSC) Leading Edge Forum Executive Program.

Employees cannot compare the ease of using a 2.5-5 gigabyte space allowance in free email providers to a 100 megabyte limited corporate email account. These employees do not set out to open the companies data to compromise, they just find the consumer technology easier to use.

Furthermore, according to a study by "the Financial Times newspaper and researchers at the Leading Edge Forum, which brings together researchers and executives to explore IT-related subjects, two-thirds of surveyed U.S. and British FT subscribers said they had equipment at home that was as good as or better than the equipment they had at work. "

Moreover, to develop your own independent software fit for your system will be more costly, and sometimes might even fail to succeed. When you are talking of company funds, the bottomline is to save money and not to sponsor innovation. The KLM airlines experienced it firsthand when they wanted to put a search function on its corporate intranet, it spent much time and money testing a costly conventional corporate tool that simply didn't work well. The answer finally came in the form of the Google Mini search appliance that cost all of €2,995 ($4,128).

What the companies can do are only creative risk avoidance shemes like giving more freedom to their employees in the choice of the technology they use. Some give an allowance to buy personal computers instead of giving standard issues. Others allow access to their firewalls from the internet only from the 18,000 laptops it issued with beefed up security. Creative linkups to consumer technology providers can also help to maintain privacy. Like it or not, companies must innovate to keep up with the times.

Additional sources:

Department of Information and Communications Technology ... old wine, new bottle

Just recently, I found out that Congress is expected to come out with a bill creating a Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). This new department is supposed to take over the functions of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), an agency currently under the Office of the President.

It seems like a ho-hum piece of news, so what if the government is creating a new department, right? But there are a lot of underlying problems that need to be addressed in the implementation of this piece of legislation, in case it gets enacted into law.

Considering that the CICT has been in existence for several years now, it has an organizational infrastructure already in place to handle the functions of the new department to be created. It also has the personnel already in place. As such, the implementation of the law creating the new department will probably just entail changing the name of the CICT to the DICT, and other minor organizational reshuffling (of course it won't be as simple as that).

What then is the problem? The CICT, despite being a relatively young agency, has already been involved in a multi-million pesos fiasco. The “Telepono sa Barangay” or TSB project was started by the CICT in 1998, its aim was to install telephone systems in rural barangays in selected areas such as the Mountain Province, Benguet, Abra, Apayao, Ifugao, Kalinga, Quezon, Negros Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Nueva Vizcaya and Misamis Occidental, and Cagayan de Oro.

The implementation of the project, in each of the abovementioned provinces or areas, entailed expenses ranging from Php 50,000,000 to Php 100,000,000 that is for each area or province. Of the 50 or so barangays targeted for the project, only 4 have been outfitted with a telephone system, but even these 4 barangays received defective equipment thereby rendering the telephone system inoperable. And millions of pesos have already been paid out to contractors despite the failure of these contractors to perform their corresponding obligation to install working telephone systems. And the CICT even proclaimed in its website that “All systems are now operational in provincial levels ...”

Was there a lack of internal checks within the CICT, was there a lack of trained personnel to oversee the project, and were there too many loopholes in the CICT’s standard procedure for awarding projects to contractors? These and other problems have to be addressed in the creation of the DICT, otherwise, this new department, which will be tasked to regulate information and communications technology in the country, which is a major factor in the continued economic development of the Philippines, will just be the same old stinkin' wine in a new bottle.


For more information on the TSB project, check out:

Saturday, December 29, 2007


SECURITY. This is perhaps one of the most expanded concept in recent years, courtesy of technology. Not too long ago, the term denoted protection and preservation of the integrity or existence of something real (physical)- our limbs, tangible properties such as money, valuables, houses, cars, etc.

For an average household, security used to mean "locking the doors" in order to be safe inside the homes together with our belongings. Taking it a step further in case of valuable movables, meant putting them inside a safe. At present, aside from securing the things themselves- wallets, the cash and cards contained therein; cellphones, PC's, laptops, PDA, Ipods, and what-not's, people also worry about the security of the "intangibles". There arose the need for securing information inside mobile phones, other gadgets and even securing the WiFi connection! [When we had WiFi installed, we were not too big in installing a password so the children would not have to bug us each time they went online. As to the "neighbors" who might access our Wifi, assuming they did not have their own, we never considered it a loss if someone once in a while benefited from our connection. Over the Holidays, though, a guest at my house alerted me about someone with an unsecured WiFi in Canada who got implicated in an investigation for pedophelia.]

For the businesses, merchants needed only to secure their wares, amount of cash sales, the very premises where they conducted their businesses. But now we here of merchants whose customers' databases are being hacked to steal information.

Whereas breach in security used to leave obvious traces of broken locks, windows, and doors, these days it is possible to have intruders in our personal lives and businesses without even knowing it. Since security breach in the virtual world is not only harder to detect but also leaves us robbed of the more important things in life such as identity, privacy, etc., virtual security should be the next big thing soon after any new technology comes out. With all the money-making effort spent by some genius on creating computer virus, the same if not many times more efforts should be spent on creating hardwares and softwares to address security for
virtual information and property.

More importantly, future laws (as well as, ahem, the "new" government body) on ICT should also be big on security.

- Marichelle B. Recio

of queues & technology

Hundreds of people in long snake-like queues at five in the morning, this was the scenario you’d see at the Department of Foreign Affairs this season. I needed a passport asap so I initially looked if the DFA had a website. When I googled passport in the pages from the Philippines, I found the government’s website ( with information regarding the passport (i.e. what it is, its purpose, how to get it, the requirements & the payment rates & schedules). They even posted an online application form, which apparently is just a sample that you couldn’t use. I was still happy coz it was my first time to apply and they laid down the rules & requirements you need on how to get it. I procured all the requirements I needed including the birth certificate I applied for with the NSO online. So we decided to go to DFA at 5am to get a head start but apparently a couple of hundred people thought of doing the same thing. The DFA had shifted from the normal passport to a machine-readable one, that’s why processing and verification took several steps therefore the applicant would have to go to several windows only to be turned down for lack of requirements coz apparently different tellers have differebt standards in the documents they need to process your application.

While waiting in line, I heard people complaining about the services in the DFA. People commented how inefficient the system was & how there could have been a better way. Several commented on how they should have an online application like the one is NSO.

I silently agreed but also considered the repercussions of such process. I actually commend the DFA for trying to upgrade their technology in their information management. However, the transition creates revisions in the system that people would have to adjust to. The DFA are undermanned and with the new system, the employees themselves are also trying to adjust. Coordination between the employees and the applicants is important as this would affect not only the process but also the atmosphere. DFA has posted several notices advising the people on what to do and handing out leaflets and asking for their patience and understanding. If the applicants would just stay in their lines and maintain their temper, things can proceed smoothly. Even if the lines are long, each one would have their turn. Temper plays a major role in this long queues coz when one erupts, the fury spreads like wild fire.
What people see as a nuisance, I see as a first step towards a better system. True, it would be better if there would be an online application even if it would entail higher rates (like the one in NSO), as people value their time more and would not mind paying extra for the convenience that online transactions provide. However, the requirements of the personal appearance & fingerprinting would still have to be done in person in order to ensure the identity of the applicant. Another consideration would be the documents that have to be presented in the originals. If these forms can be submitted online, fraud can easily be committed, with the advent of photoshop, making it hard to authenticate such documents, unless the entire government system would have a database that can easily coordinate information from one branch to another. If the government can allocate resources in developing a central database for all the relevant public information, and maintain the integrity of that system, then the government can maximize its resources. The government should invest on information technology and the management of its public data, and I’m not talking about private information but public information contained in the governments records. Coordination between the government agencies is also very important so as not to duplicate transactions (i.e. the processor asked me to get a copy from the local civil registrar even if i gave them the one given to be by NSO). Employing IT & the proper management of this information system within the government system will definitely reduce processing time in half & in effect increase productivity that affects not only public transactions but also private operations.

All I Want for Christmas is...Something with Tech!

I'm still hung-over from the Christmas holidays so allow me to boastfully enumerate the gifts my family and I exchanged this Christmas! I got Mamu - a huge bag for her school stuff (she's a professor in UPLB), Dadio - ankle length socks (so he'd stop wearing his calf-length brown office socks to badminton night), Manang Jesselle and Kuya Ogie - a tube of shuttlecocks (they're level A badminton players), Nikko, Jhofer and Auntie Ferns - pretty slippers each (in lieu of Nikko's neon green and silver ones), and Mike - a pair of baseball gloves (we love playing catch at the Baker Field in UPLB, but my ratty old gloves gave out months ago).

My gifts were traditional and, well, within a student's budget. In contrast, the gifts my (employed!) loved ones gave were thus: Mamu got Dadio "Magic Sing", Manang Jesselle got Kuya Ogie a pricey watch, Kuya Ogie got Manang Jesselle a China-made dual-sim cell phone branded "Hug, Always Beside You" (with camera, mp3, organizers, etc.), and Mike got me a polaroid camera with 2 films, 10 shots each.

So came gift-giving time, I felt pretty cheap having gotten my loved ones such simple gifts that don't require battery. It really felt like the theme this Christmas was "Give Each Other Something Techy". I wonder if Santa's big red sack has also become "technofied"? Does he now put digi cams and cell phones in the good kids' Christmas socks? Maybe if you're really really good this year, he'll get you a Mac Book!

And it's not just Christmas that got that way! A lady friend of mine gave her boyfriend 20 hours of free gaming time at his favorite computer shop as a birthday gift. I know of some guy who gave the girl he was courting a PSP. And I heard that in some parties, the traditional "pabitin" had USBs instead of candies and toys as the stuff "na naka-bitin" on the bamboo thingy! Are the days of giving the "walang kamatayang" picture frame as gift now gone? Will my future son's ninong get him an iPod when he gets christened? (Although I certainly wouldn't mind a credit card which the ninong will pay for.)

But I suppose this is another change that this technological revolution has made in our culture. And come to think of it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it! Because for as long they are given in the spirit of Christmas, the gifts we give, whether techy or old school, are perfect. As always, it's the thought that counts.

Built in IT departments in filipino families

I can still remember the first computer my dad brought home. It was a 286, with two floppy disk drives. They were for the large, thin floppy disks that what quite literally, floppy and could hold less than a megabyte. The machine had no hard drive, no mouse and only a black and white monitor. I would need to have a boot disk to start it up each time.

As a child, I didn't bother much with manuals. I tried things out. I experimented and I learned how to use a computer far more quickly than did my parents. It was not long after that when the pentium came along and so did other nice things like the "graphic user interface." Much to my surprise, the older generations in my family were slower to accept the new technology than us little ones barely above a two digit age.

Through the years, I noticed that it was not only my family that behaved this way. Many other filipino families happily left information technology to be learned by the children. Both the grumpy grown ups and the curious youngsters were happy about that. It was a strange place for me. To be teaching things to my folks was pleasant in many ways but also a bit disconcerting in some other ways. I would always wonder if I would be so incredibly slow to understand technology when I grew up. If the "IT department" of my own family one day would be my kids as well. Would they roll their eyes at me when I clumsily fiddle with the newest gadgets?

Looking back, I think Filipino families have saved small fortunes through the curiosity of the children. For years, they served as little, informal, built-in IT departments. I remember agonizing over the thought of computer classes when they were first included in my grade school curriculum. It was a ridiculous idea for me because the computer was always a toy. I thought it was ridiculous that anyone would pay money to be taught how to use it. Silly me. Nowadays, IT is big business. People pay good money to have their homes wi-fied, to learn how to use software and to protect their data. As the cost of knowledge increases, so do the savings of many Filipino families with monstrously curious children who, at young ages, seem to always be gifted with tremendous TQ.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Egroup Wars: The Time Factor (Part II)

Last week, I posted a blog regarding what I call egroup wars. I defined it as the heated exchange of emails by various people over an egroup that was not intended to become a venue to such conflict. I discussed how the absence of anonymity in egroups somehow adds fuel to a conflict. This week I will address another aspect that makes an egroup rather unique compared to messageboards and chatrooms: the time factor.

Responses sent via the egroup are not made in real time. They are sent whenever the person concerned happens to login, stumbling upon the last email that was sent thus causing such person to reply. This is the reason why egroups, in the context of an egroup war, is worse than chat in my opinion. Whereas in chat, you can respond to a potentially destructive post immediately, in an egroup, you will have to wait. It can take days before a person can reply so as soon as you are able to send your email, for example, you have no choice but to forget about it temporarily. You have to hold the point of conflict in abeyance while you live your life, unfortunately in paranoia, constantly thinking if a reply has already been sent to your message. This problem is worsened by the potentially bad timing of a reply. Say when the other person replies the night you are about to take the bar exam. Now that’s really bad timing. Other times, it is not as bad, but still inconvenient nonetheless, especially in cases where you feel you have no choice but to reply.

Finally, I think conflicts in an egroup are unique because of the fact that egroup wars cause great inconvenience to people who are not involved in the conflict. It is funny that observers in an egroup war end up as stakeholders as far as the conflicting parties are concerned. They are perceived as judges, with both sides usually arguing to gain their favour. However, the fact is that some observers do not seem to care at all about a conflict. People like my brother for example simply feel amused watching people trade blows in an egroup war. The inconvenience comes in when you find your mailbox with 20 messages from just two people. And while it is easy to delete messages, it can be a bit bothersome if it goes on for several days.

In writing this particular post, I have been contemplating as to how the law should come into the picture. Is it considered private or public sphere if a defamatory speech is made in an egroup? Where do we draw the line?

Or perhaps it shouldn’t interfere. After all, we have that thing called freedom of expression right? A term that may perhaps be the most used (or abused, depending on your position) legal shield in human history. But still, maybe egroup wars are a natural phenomenon, a result of the technology melding with an imperfect human society.

Leaving it alone is the easy thing to do. Now, whether it is the right thing is harder to say. It is easy to let it be because most of us are mere observers if not totally innocent to the phenomenon. But I know people who have been seriously hurt in egroup wars, and for them, the answer is not as simple.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Cellphone Security

It’s a common practice for us to sell our old cellular phones. It is actually practical, why would you store it when you know for a fact that you will no longer use it? You may pass on the phone to people that you know or you may opt to sell it to a stranger. We think that it doesn’t really matter if we sell it because we assume that we will just reset/restore the original factory settings of the phone and it will automatically delete whatever data we have stored. Well, this is what I thought until I read an interesting/disturbing article. The article discussed that even if you reset your phone it is still possible to retrieve a lot of information from the cell phone.

This prospect of being able to retrieve deleted information is actually scary especially if you are the type who uses the cell phone as a storage device for sensitive information (ex. Bank account number, password etc.). The possibility that someone may actually obtain this information about you opens up a lot of possibility for abuse. For instance, a person may buy a second hand phone with the intent of obtaining this information. With such information the buyer may profit from it or he may blackmail the seller if he was able to retrieve some confidential information.

This article made me think of what remedy cell phone manufacturers are doing in order to avoid such occurrences. Are the manufacturers doing any steps to ensure that when the user reset his or her phone that all the data previously stored would really be erased? Can the manufacturers be compelled to find a solution to this? Well until such time that there is a solution to this problem I think that it is best to follow the warning/moral story in the article: “So the moral of the story is do not use the mobile phone as the repository of sensitive information that you do not want other people to have access to.”

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Shopping on-line?

Shopping is a hobby most Filipinos have, me included, but what usually hinder us “shopaholics” from doing what we love are the unbearable weather, the excruciating commute, and the ridiculously long line that awaits them at the cashier. This was the case before the advent of eBay Philippines.

Today, it’s a whole different story. People can now shop for the things they need (or just want) from the comforts of their own homes or office cubicles. Anything, from clothes, to food, to electronics, to services may be found in this amazing site! The catch: buyer protection. Yes, E-Bay does offer ways to lower the commission of on-line shopping fraud through suspension of online-shopping violators, and a feedback system which warns possible buyers, but these do not really prevent certain unfair business practices of sellers. Sometimes, the product description may be fraudulent. On certain occasions, the product is totally different, or worse: fake!

Unlike shopping in malls, online shopping does not (or, if so, rarely) give a guarantee or an exchange policy. A huge amount of trust goes hand-in-hand with each transaction. So who protects the buyer then? It most certainly is not eBay; they have too many other concerns to worry about, not to mention an international online empire to oversee.

No, I have not tried ebay yet; the little I know about it is based on my friends' own experience, though. I guess I'm too scared to try, with the uncertainty that comes with it. Maybe I'll just wait for the day that the government will regulate the transactions through this site.

Online Videoke

My family, especially my relatives in the father's side, loves to sing. We sing whenever there are family gatherings, parties or even when we're just bored. As kids, my siblings and I were introduced to thick song books, the song hits you buy from the market, the karaoke, the multiplex, the minus one, the videoke and later on, the magic mics. Hence, we were really excited when my brother discovered

The website allows its registered members to sing-along videoke-style with the songs in their database. The songs are divided into different categories such as rock/pop, r&b/hip-hop, 70's, 80's, etc. This allows the user to pick a genre of his choice. The songs are also sorted by title and by artists which makes it easier to search for songs.

Each song is accompanied by graphics which change every six seconds or so. Don't expect too much though. Guys might be disappointed when they don't find the usual sexy bikini-clad women found in videokes.

The professional and competitive videoke singers might not like the fact that there is no scoring system in ksolo. Also the songs are not that updated. So don't expect to find Irreplaceable there. But don't worry, the website has more interesting features to keep one hooked.

One such feature is the record function which allows the user to record his version of the song. The user can upload his version and allow other users to listen and to rate his recording. My siblings and I record our versions but only for our own use. We love listening to our recordings because it makes us feel like real singers. ;-) The user can also listen and rate the versions of the other members. It's interesting to find a number of Filipino members who upload their recordings.

Another interesting feature of ksolo is that it allows users to listen to the vocal version of a song. This means that if a user is not that familiar with a song, he can choose to listen to the version recorded by a professional singer to help him learn it. Later on, when the user has mastered the song, he can now choose the instrumental version and start his videoke session.

I love ksolo because it allows me to sing my heart out in the privacy of my room without anyone judging me even if I am out-of-tune. I'm sure a lot of closet singers will love this website too. It's very easy to use. One just needs a fast internet connection, a free account at ksolo, speakers, and a microphone. Once all of these are ready one can launch his videoke career here. Enjoy! ;-)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

DVD Piracy - A Good Thing

I took a leap of faith and watched Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla jr's movie entitled Resiklo and I must admit that I liked the robot designs if nothing else. They seemed to resemble the robot designs of the "mechs" from the Mechwarrior franchise but that observation is probably greek to anyone else but a fellow hobbyist. The point I am trying to make is that the Metro Manila Film Festival has left me with scant movie choices other than Shake, Rattle and Roll and Enteng Kabesote ad infinitum and the dearth of entertainment options has forced me to resort to pirated DVD's for viewing pleasure.

Piracy is a crime, against international conventions etc but if not for piracy I wouldn't have been able to view, strictly for academic research, cough, cough, Marvel's latest Direct to DVD animated feature Doctor Strange nor would I have been able to watch every episode of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited. Through the magic of pirated movies, people I know have discovered foreign culture and modes of thinking that they couldn't have picked up anywhere else. Piracy of DVDs works for me and I believe that it works for all student members of the class as well as most of our fellow Filipino citizens. Let's face it, life in this country is hard. Without small pleasures like illegally acquired movies, the regular Filipino would have little to entertain himself with besides his regular drinking spree and WOwowee. The laws on intellectual property are not being strictly enforced at least with regard to DVDs and that is how it should stay. The government may be hostage to US aid and concurrently to US policy on intellectual property and thus have no choice but to enact the strict laws that the US demands if it is to keep its trade quotas but for once its inability to enforce the laws it makes is good for its people. If only such ineptness were an actual policy, the pirates would not have to pay police and local officials for "protection" and we could get our pirated DVDs at a cheaper rate. Or perhaps the government could just tax the makers and sellers of pirated DVDs. But that has as much chance of happening as jueteng becoming legal. Which is nil. Another fine example of government making laws for the benefit of everyone but itself and its people.

As an aside, I have never bought pirated DVDs of Filipino movies and the vendors I know don't keep them in stock. So Sen Ramon "Bong" Revilla has nothing to worry about. Filipino movies are not, on the whole, worth pirating anyway.

Business as Usual

The holidays are the perfect time for a bit of family togetherness, a common time amidst the demands of professional lives and schoolwork. The end of the year is much anticipated not only for the festivities, but because it is the best time to reconnect with the rest of the family.

Considering how the holidays are supposed to be a welcome respite from the day-to-day stress of our ordinary lives, it is such a shame to witness how indispensable computers and other gadgets intended to enhance "connectivity" have become to our everyday lives. There is something very sad about watching grownups setting up their laptops right after christmas dinner, and children's offhand acceptance of the necessity for it. Seeing relatives receiving business phone calls on Christmas Eve, and checking their email for important correspondence, brings to mind the simpler celebrations of my childhood, when my parents used a noisy typewriter but left their work at the office.

I realize the practicality and importance of remaining connected at all times, given the increasing globalization of industries (Japan, after all, does not celebrate Christmas). However, it is more difficult than usual to ignore how intrusive technology has become at a time traditionally spent privately and--unless age has improved upon my childhood recollections--far more enthusiastically. Since work could only take up so much of people's time, people brought something home-cooked; people sang carols with gusto instead of breaking out the bulky karaoke system, and in the absence of cable to keep them busy, kids took naps before the clock struck twelve. These days, it seems easier to order at least part of the noche buena, hook up the iPod, and put the Cartoon Network on. It's an easier, more convenient way to celebrate, but to my mind technology has taken away a lot of the excitement and anticipation my family has always associated with the yuletide season.

Crop Circles and the Internet

I have always wondered if aliens have ever used yahoo or google or something and looked at some of the sites out there to research us. Of course, these are not the sort of aliens that had an altercation with Predator (as in “Alien vs. Predator”), but rather the friendlier version (such as Filipinos like us invading the earthly continents). If these extraterrestrials were really that interested, the internet is the best way to access information. Maybe that’s how they found out about us. Or maybe not. I can’t understand how they could possibly receive a S-MAIL or something (S for SETI), then reply to it. If aliens do exist (which I’m sure most of us believe that they do), I’m certain they have some sort of internet of their own that is certainly more advanced. They must have also checked blogs to find out what we think about them.

On the other hand, it is possible that our language is not really universal. This would make “crop circles” a more reasonable means of communication. These patterns, although quite artistic, are hard to explain and their meaning, if there is any, could be understood only if streamed through the uuu (universally understood uttering), of which our www is simply a hybrid of. For the benefit of those who think crop circles are nonsense, well, it has been found that in the soil of some crop circles, the crops were bent and that small particles of magnetic iron which were found inside the circles were more than those found outside the circle? The soil inside the circle differs from the soil outside in such a way that the soil which is found inside the circle is more fertile than the one which is outside. All crop circles that have been located are perfect. Where do they (whether humans or aliens) get time to make these circles? In any event, these are similar to our programming zeros and ones, making crop circles tantamount to our internet language.
Considering the level of technology that we have as compared with other intelligent life forms in the universe, there is very good possibility of having more intelligent extraterrestrial life than ours. This is based on the astronomical calculation that our own Milky Way Galaxy is 15 billion years old, and the fact that it took 5 billion years to evolve from single-celled ocean creatures to where we are today in our evolution. Yet, despite this long history, we have had modern technology only in the last 100 years. Communication may exist in ways believed not possible, such as through our thoughts or dreams or silent signals sent to sleeping people. Not even the internet.
For those familiar with the July 1947 Roswell crash of a UFO, computer technology was reverse engineered from computer chips found at the crash site. This would mean that the great earthlings (Americans?) learned computer technology from the aliens. Is it probable that the aliens may be monitoring everything we do on the Internet? I won’t doubt it.
The advanced aliens would certainly have the technology to monitor the Internet or communicate by e-mail, or post on their own blog site. But whether or not they would is anyone's guess. How we can invite them to blog is something we can all think about. But if an alien posts a comment on this blog, I would dare not say anything further.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Free ringtone … my @$$

I‘m sure most cellphone users have received, at one time or another, one of those text messages offering ringtones and/or wallpapers for Php2.50 to Php10. These messages are really annoying if your cellphone and/or simcard has a very limited amount of storage memory, as you’ll be obliged to keep on deleting messages quite often.

But there is a sinister side to this little annoyance. Several years back, a friend of mine told me he suspected that telecom companies automatically charge their cellphone subscribers for unsolicited text messages regarding cellphone content, such as ringtones, wallpapers, games and the like. Back then I wasn’t 100% in agreement with the guy, as I knew him to be somewhat paranoid (the man lists down every single text message he sends, no joke).

It turns out; he was right. Just recently, I read in an online news article ( that there is in fact a company engaged in the selling of cellphone content to the subscribers of a leading telecom company, which automatically charges the telecom company’s prepaid cellphone subscribers for unsolicited cellphone content.

What this cellphone content company does is send prepaid cellphone subscribers “free” ringtones and automatically bills them for the “free” ringtone. The unsuspecting subscriber either deletes the ringtone or saves it to his cellphone’s memory all the while assuming that he got it for free. There was no contract perfected in that instance, as there was no meeting of the minds, there was no consent on the part of the subscriber-buyer, he was not even aware that such a purchase took place.

“Theft”, plain and simple, comes to mind. There was taking, of the property of another (the amount deducted by the cellphone content company from the subscriber’s cellphone load), without the subscriber- owner’s consent (the subscriber never even had knowledge that his cellphone load was being deducted a certain amount due to the transaction) and there was no attendant circumstance, like violence.

Administrative sanctions by the National Telecommunications Commission won't be sufficient to penalize this kind of "racket". Considering that this “racket” is perpetuated against millions of unsuspecting Filipino citizens, most of whom are poor; involving millions, if not billions, of pesos; and is detrimental to the credibility of an essential industry for progress, the telecom industry; our legislators should think of crafting harsher laws against this kind of "large-scale" machination , preferably something involving the use of the death penalty.


When Internet Connection Fails

More than 2 two weeks ago, we started experiencing trouble going online during evenings, the time we use the internet the most. So we called up the 24-hour service hotline and learned that internet connections in a wide area which we are part of are under some maintenance work and that we should get back soonest. Days passed and there was still NO INTERNET. For someone who did not learn to go to WiFi spots to gain internet access, this is quite debilitating! For days [to weeks] they kept promising that it should be normal within the day and I kept hoping that it would be so. But after missing important announcements in the e-group of one of my classes; after the very cumbersome routine of going to a cafe, buying the internet card to be able to post a blog as well as check e-mails, I decided I wanted to leave being diplomatic to my spouse and go ballistic in complaining. When I called early Saturday, the Customer Service Rep told me that their system reflects that the service had been restored as of the previous day and that he would just schedule a visit of their technical team to my house. I said I wanted it to be on that day but he quickly replied that the earliest would be the next day, a Sunday. Out of frustration, I ranted about their poor and inefficient service and inquired about what they would do with my subscription fee. As I have been practically deprived of my connection for 2 weeks, I thought I should get a rebate of at least half of my monthly fee. The CSR said that he would make the report to convey my request. Sunday (today!) came and the technical team arrived, did some tweeking in our line right outside my gate and my server went ONLINE. When asked what went wrong, the guy replied that they mistakenly put a filter in my line 2 weeks ago. The team which supposedly did "noise-tracking" as part of their maintenance work mistook our connection as a tap, so we were filtered. They filtered us!

Wait a minute . . . . what really happened here? They "disconnected" my service. Without cause. How terrible.

When power interruption occurs, despite the inconvenience, we do not ask for rebate because we do not get charged continuously for an intermittent or inexistent service. I also know for a fact that the electric company may not just terminate your connection, not even for non-payment of the monthly utility bill. But what did my internet service provider do to me? They filtered me. What was that? They cut me off for 18 days! Hmmm, they should pro-rate my subscription fee.

- Marichelle B. Recio

business and IT (1)

My friend works as an accountant in a processor-hardware company whose finance-accounting department was relocated to Malaysia some 7 months ago. She’s back here in the Philippines for the entire duration of the Christmas season. I asked her, "Wow, your boss actually allowed you to take a 3-week leave?" She laughed and told me, “I’m technically on-leave for only 2 weeks. I told my boss I’ll be working off site (or rather on-line) for the week." She’s been here for a week & her leave officially starts tomorrow.

Information Technology has definitely changed how people do business. Since this is the age where information itself is traded as a commodity, the development of information systems within the business became necessary. Conversion of data from one transaction to another, management of information from one department to another became an important tool in business systems. Business solutions evolved from management of resources to management of information. Coupled with technology, information systems were developed to make business processes more efficient and more responsive to the actions of each industry. Suppliers were contacted virtually, clients were within reach through the net, inventories were updated on real time, assets were maintained online and decisions were formulated based on information generated from this system. Aside from removing geographical barriers, info tech is definitely becoming the way of doing business.

Since management of information can be done online, people can work anywhere and have the job done on time, regardless of their geographical location. With the coming of age of info tech, business process outsourcing became prevalent, with companies maximizing their profits and at the same time minimizing costs. With BPO’s, companies look for places where they can get their resources at the lowest rates, since geographical location does not affect the process itself. The onslaught of the call centers & medical transcriptionists are some cases in point. The downside, I guess, however, is that while we do get most of the HR here in our country, our skilled and technical workers are recruited abroad, draining our homeland’s own pool of white collared workers. With information technology, jobs done in our country can concomitantly be done outside. But with the rising costs in the Philippines coupled with the lower tax rates of other neighboring countries, BPO to other states, where profit can be maximized while minimizing the cost seems like the informed decision to go. In the age of info tech, laws should be enacted to attract companies to establish their businesses here in the Philippines. Incentives should be offered, taxes should be tempered, and the government should recognize these industries, otherwise, we will soon be facing a brain drain of our own…


Someone asked me before why go for a complicated phone when you can get a basic phone and just use the money that you can save to buy a camera or a music player. He pointed out to me that I do not even use all the features of the phone that I am using. For instance, he asked me if I really use the music player or the net. Well, at that point in time, I somewhat saw how having the net via the cell phone is redundant because it is a function of my phone that I seldom use because it is still easier to connect via the conventional desktop or laptop. But, for instances wherein you don’t really have a computer at your fingertips having your cell phone is the next best thing since it would also allow you to be online. Recently, I was glad that my phone can connect me to the internet because it allowed me to check my mail even if I didn’t have a computer with me and I also didn’t have any access to an internet shop.

Having internet connection via your cell phone is a convenient tool but it still has a few problems. For one, the speed of the connection is slower compared with the conventional broadband connection. There is also a limited screen size and the lack of the qwerty keyboard. I suppose, the problem with the qwerty keyboard will depend on what cell phone model you are using so if you would really need one then you can opt for a built-in keyboard or you can go for a wireless keyboard. I do hope that, in the future, our providers would be able to improve on the speed of the connection so that it would be a more appealing alternative.

At the moment I would definitely not replace my broadband connection with my cell phone but having an alternative option will surely be appreciated especially during those times when I need to be connected. But who knows, maybe in the future I will be making more use of this function of my cell phone.

Exploiting Generosity and Technology

I had the good fortune of picking the most unfussy exchange gift "baby" in my block's Christmas party. She just wished that our P300-minimum gift be donated to UNICEF. Sounds pretty laborious but I was actually able to make her Christmas "wish" come true in under a minute. I just had to type "UNICEF 300" on my mobile phone and send the SMS to 2899 and the donation was made! So fast, so simple. But was my donation really sent to the right charity?

Good Lord, I hope so!!! But apparently, there are a lot of charity schemes out there that turn out to be scams. Opportunists particularly prey on the generosity of people during the Christmas season. Usually, they'll snail mail you as legitimate charities and con you into donating your "goodies" by heart-tugging pleas for kindness, humanity, compassion and goodwill. But charity scammers have also reached the cyberworld--a sad reality of technology being used for evil purposes. Online charity scammers are after two things: at best, they want to get your money; at the least, they want to get your personal information which they will use later to get your money. This latter scheme is called phishing, i.e., "an attempt to criminally and fraudulently acquire sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords and credit card details, by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication" (Wikipedia definition).

Scammers are a fact of real and cyber life and so, we must make a conscious effort to protect ourselves from them. If there aren't sufficient institutional safeguards against the regular charity scammers, more so with the cyber charity scammers. But whether the charity scammer be just the regular type or a cyber one, the most effective protection lies in ourselves--we just have to be a little more wary of these allegedly legitimate entities (see this link for some protective tips:

But, hey, don't let these thieves dampen the Christmas spirit either! Give love and dough on Christmas day to the less fortunate ones (like me!!!)! Just make sure the proper donees get them (ehem, ehem...). Advanced Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Close Shop

My brother and I are members of our friendly neighborhood Videocity shop for several years already. We would rent CD's (not DVD's because these are not available at this outlet), at 30 pesos per movie back then. We were still young then and were with a limited budget, and would just ride a tricycle to the store and back, so we would rent just one or two for up to 60 pesos total. Ironically, unlike most other goods the prices of which rise every year, the video rentals dropped to as low as 15 pesos per movie or even 25 pesos for two, just when we were old enough to rent more than two movies and would not mind driving a car.

Recently, when downloading from the internet became more than just a fad, my brother found it a hassle to take a trip to Videocity to rent a movie and – the part he hates most – going back there to return what he borrowed. Would not it be much more convenient to make some clicks with your mouse and, viola, a movie! And being the engineer/mechanic/techie that he is, he found a way to connect some wires from the PC to his TV and sound system so that we can watch these downloaded videos on his TV and the sound coming out of the stereo speakers. This may not be a big deal for most people our age, but for me it is! Imagine typing this blog entry on OpenOffice Writer with the TV as monitor!

We have one rule, though: Never download a Filipino movie! Support our local entertainment industry! No, he is not very fond of local movies, not at all, but recently, we both thought of watching this funny local movie from last year. We first thought of buying the original DVD or VCD but spending 300 pesos to watch a movie at home once is just too much. So what's our last resort? To go to our friendly neighborhood Videocity shop! And surprised we were: they will be closing shop soon, Deember 31 to be exact. For the next few days, the store will be just selling the used CD's at very cheap prices. No, the movie we were looking for was sold already.

Why did this happen, video rental stores closing shop like this? Maybe because of people like my brother and I, who find it inconvenient to take a trip to the store for a movie to be watched at home anyways. With the closing of our this Videocity shop, what my brother and I lost is not the joy of watching movies, which we can do in other ways, or some money, which is not much anyway, but part of our childhood, of long walks and tricycle rides.

Egroup Wars: Anonymity (Part I)

I will coin a term today: egroup war. Simply put, I will define it as the heated exchange of emails by various people over an egroup that was not intended to become a venue to such conflict. Have you ever been caught in an egroup war? A heated argument or perhaps a principled debate over an egroup? I have seen it happen many times. It does not look nice.

Yesterday, my brother told me about an egroup war that erupted in his high school egroup. It all started with an innocent comment which unfortunately offended a few people. What followed next was a heated exchange of emails that ended up going on for days. Even as I write this post, my brother tells me that the onslaught continues.

I think arguments over an egroup are unique compared to arguments in other venues, such as say a forum or a chat room. There are various aspects of an egroup that make it more difficult for parties to resolve a conflict.

The first aspect that makes an egroup unique is the fact that there is little anonymity in egroups. Normally, people who create egroups are people who know each other. As such, people are likely to argue over real issues and there is an incentive for people to really make and insist on their opinions. What they will not allow in the outside world, they will not allow in an egroup. Therefore, if anyone gets insulted, it is unlikely that they will let it go. If anyone’s sensibility is offended, chances are that person will react in the same forum to air out his opinion. Because of this, I honestly would not consider egroups as part of the virtual world, since people who participate in egroups do not normally assume any other identity or role.

As there is no anonymity as far as the people who argue, the same holds true for people who are not involved in the conflict. People who end up in an egroup war end up as gladiators performing not only for people who know them but also for people that they know. The whole setup serves as ready fuel to any potential fire. Knowing that a conflict can affect how one is perceived by others, people who may be friends, those who are in conflict are forced to defend themselves and their reputations, aggravating the situation.

In the Internet, we have seen that anonymity can be bad because it can run counter to accountability. It is strange therefore that in the case of an egroup war, it appears that the alternative appears to be just as bad. (To be continued)

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

GPS-Got Packed Shortcuts

The shortest way is not always the best way. Some small rural villages in Britain have asked to be taken off the map. GPS has identified them as the fastest alternative routes. This has led to non-moving traffic on their narrow one-way streets, which were primarily constructed for horses and carts. Barrow Gurney, a village which is too small to have a sidewalk is swamped by 15,000 vehicles a day en route to Bristol Airport. The residents complain of traffic, damages on the streets because of heavily loaded vehicles, and pollution.

Nowadays, there are real time GPS which updates the users with traffic situations in metropolitan areas. But on small localities, this real time service is just not practical.

The residents then ask the government that they be taken off the map. This is in fact a demand that GPS information be regulated. They are asking the police power of the state to be able to regulate this private service owned by paying users. Can they do this? Will their municipal order suffice in ordering this action? Or is this an issue for national deliberation and consequences? Don’t the municipal government technically own these streets?

Constitutionally, on one hand, the government is protecting public policy and welfare, by the nuisance of traffic and destruction of public property. On the other hand, the government will go into the right of the people to know the best possible routes when subscribing to GPS. The information having been paid for and of public knowledge shouldn’t be suppressed to be used merely of a select few, an unlawful discrimination of sorts.

This may not even be a national issue but merely solved by a municipal order not only regulating traffic entry between certain hours but also to bar entry of certain heavy vehicles. Or they could petition the courts to compel the GPS providers for some regulation.
To me, this is really just an issue of government intervention. Is this within the public domain? Can the government regulate technologies in these situations? Or are we going to lay a dangerous precedence of having the government curtail certain developments by unintentional off the mark results of government action. Is this even proper for state intervention?

I remember the issue years past wherein typing in the search engine of google for a certain religion resulted in links which were against the religion. This led the followers to petition the courts to have google take specific actions, which google said they cannot do. Their engine has an unbiased calculation of the most relevant and popular links. They in essence said that to intervene will be tantamount to fooling the system of the engine resulting to arbitrariness in the search. In the end I believe it got dismissed, google didn’t even have to do anything. After a few days the religious links came ahead of the anti-religion ones. It was in fact the religion’s ruckus that urged people to check out the sites, similar to banned books which become instant bestsellers.
also published in Times

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Internet dating, Hot texting, Pizza & Beer

It’s funny how my officemate HTP (not his real name) thinks all of the qualities he listed in one internet dating site are supposed to make him such a babe magnet. It’s even funnier to think that he had to list himself on that site if all those qualities are true. HTP is proud of his accomplishments. Apparently, he’s a walking résumé.

He says he’s an electrical engineer who models and plays with the stock market on the side. According to his website, he is 5’11 and has been in a toothpaste advertisement. He also mentioned that he enjoys rock-climbing, surfing and scuba-diving. His other credits include being great in chess and in bed. Of all these things mentioned, only the first is true (well, not even, because he is an ECE).

HTP is extremely image-conscious, which is why the events of this week have extremely vexed him so. Since early this month, a sad woman named Micah used the blogosphere to turn his pride against him – in a big way. Just call it cyber-wushu.

Here’s what happened.

Micah “winked” at HTP’s profile three weeks ago on the online dating service The wink consisted of an electronic notice to HTP telling him she was interested in corresponding further. HTP responded by trying to impress Micah with a list of accomplishments.

HTP didn’t send Micah an income tax return, but he did tout his snazzy home (in a Makati condo), his snazzy education (U.P.Eng. kuno), his snazzy physique (”I work out 4 times a week at Gold’s Gym”), and his snazzy job (”high-rise buildings” in MBD). He also asked her to send him photos showing more of her body. He even complained why her profile has only six pictures of her head. He finally mocked her for probably trying to hide something.

Micah apparently was put off by HTP’s letter. She simply sent him a canned response that said they weren’t a “personality match.”

But instead of moving on, HTP made a colossal boo boo. He sent her an angry, defensive, sarcastic letter relisting his vital stats – stats that he thinks makes her a fool for spurning him:
“9.0 on Richter scale, U.P. Diliman grad, Mensa member, can bench/squat/leg press over 600 lbs., has had lunch with the secretary of public works, has an ongoing MBA from A.I.M., lives in a Makati high-rise, drives a BMW convertible, has been in a Close-up TV ad, and recently rejected the offer to be Shaina Magdayao’s leading man in her next movie, etc.”

Micah forwarded HTP’s e-mail to a popular media blog: It then published HTP’s letter and picture, along with mocking links to his website, which can be viewed by perhaps tens of thousands of people.

In his anger, HTP decided to trick Micah on a date. Micah agreed but warned him that he’ll get a slap. “OK, give me your cell number.” So there’s the consent of both parties to a date…at Pizza Company in Market Market so there will be a lot of other people.

Last night, my officemate Mike asked me to drop him off at Market Market. I agreed because it’s along my way to get home from office. But when we got there, I decided to park to buy my wife a 4GB flash disk from “CD-R King” as Christmas gift (you all know how affordable it is to buy there).

On our way up, Mike asked me to accompany him to Pizza Company and told me that it’s his treat. As I entered, I was so surprised to see HTP sitting there alone. HTP was even more surprised as we approached him. We sat on his table, while he blushed and sweated profusely.

Mike asked HTP what he will order. But he won’t order anything until “his classmate” arrives. Finally Mike laughed out so loud. As it turned out, Micah is really Hakeem, a.k.a. Mike. No, it’s the other way around.

By the way, about HTP, those are his real initials.

So HTP had to buy us all pizza and beer. Otherwise, we’ll tell his wife.

The Wonders of Wikimapia

Elgene made an entry about Google Earth. I tried to use the program. But I decided against it when I learned that I had to download some software first before I can use it. Then I remembered Wikimapia.

My brother introduced me to this website a few months ago when I was so desperate to find my way to the Antipolo RTC. I was pinch-hitting for my OLA buddy in a hearing in that city. I talked to the client and she gave me directions. But I still felt uneasy going to an unfamiliar place. Then Wikimapia saved the day.

Wikimapia is a website with one large world map wherein you can click on the different countries. Within each country, you can also click on the different cities. You can see the different roads, streets, establishments and even houses on each place. The zoom feature helps you get a closer look at the different places. Each identified location is marked by a box and you can simply put the mouse pointer over that boxed area to know the place you're looking at. It looks crowded, confusing and complicated. But it's pretty easy to use. You just have to get used to it.

An interesting feature of Wikimapia is that it allows users to mark the different places, similar to the way information is added on the Wikipedia websites. Once in a while, you'll get funny location markers such as "Yuseco St. dating Tayabas St., yung mga orig na tao jan ang tawag Tayabas, yung dayo Yuseco...gets?" or "Dito binugbog si Inchan at Benjamin nung 2nd year sila high school sila! Gabi na umuwe! Tumakbo kami! Haha!" and the usual "bahay namin."

I'm assuming that Google Earth is a better and more accurate program considering that Wikimapia actually uses Google maps. But for something free and very accessible, I'd say that Wikimapia is a good alternative. While there's the risk of getting mismatched places and names, so far, the program has been reliable for me. It helped me get to the Antipolo RTC. Perhaps, you'll also find some use for it.

You can explore the website here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sex, Dolphins and Wikipedia

Aside from man, one of the few mammals that engage in sex for pleasure are dolphins. Dolphins are also one of the few animals aside from man that possess "higher intelligence". Definitely a species worth protecting if not due to their intelligence than because of the appreciation of sex that they share with us as a species.

Sadly, dolphins residing in Tanon Straight, which is a part of the Philippines, are in danger from the oil exploration being undertaken by a certain multinational corporation which was issued a permit in violation of several environmental laws. The cetaceans are subjected to constant torture from the noise and shockwaves caused by round the clock blasting. And Atty Oposa, a great man, has decided to do something about the suffering of dolphins and other marine life.

As a volunteer "paralegal" for Atty Oposa, I volunteered to research laws on animal rights. After a fruitless search in the law library for relevant jurisprudence to champion the plight of my flippered fellow earth beings, i threw my hands in the air and checked out wikipedia.

Binggo! Wikipedia contained a link to another site that had all the arguments and I wondered why there was no such site for Philippine laws? Chan robles online, lawphil and the supreme court website have cases and laws but the sites, even though they are free, by themselves alone are insufficient. Westlaw is a good source of materials but subscription to westlaw costs money.
And the aforementioned mentioned sites don't allow users to add their opinions, comments and trivia to the text of the law itself. The capacity of the users to create pages on wikipedia and edit existing pages to a certain degree has kept the site relevant and interesting.

Star wars fans have wookiepedia in their study of the Force while we Filipino law students have to rely on xerox, printouts and reviewers for our study of the law. If the laws and cases as well as the comments of professors and students were online on a sort of "FILAWpedia" then the study of law would be both more interesting and accessible to Filipinos.


The wealth of information available in cyberspace has kept pace with the development of advanced medical exams and sophisticated equipment used in hospitals. In many cases, this has proven to be a convenient and less expensive alternative to consulting with the doctor; where symptoms appear to be more serious, most people take the time to read up on their medical complaints and symptoms even before they enter the doctor’s office. Consequently, medical practitioners are often spared the necessity of explaining the details and nature of their findings to their patients, ultimately increasing the bottom line given the decreased time involved per consultation.
However, even the most avid Internet user must remember that doctors do not exist merely to confirm a preliminary diagnosis generated through the Internet. The additional time and effort on the part of doctors in explaining the nature and purpose of every test conducted is important because information obtained from the Internet is not necessarily accurate or even up-to-date. Websites which list the common symptoms of diseases and illnesses are hardly reliable, simply because each patient’s history and habits are pivotal elements in a correct diagnosis. Similarly, patients must be vigilant in having their questions answered and concerns addressed by a licensed practitioner, who has the professional and contractual responsibility of correctly diagnosing one’s symptoms.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, anyone who has ever gone to a hospital to be treated will attest to the fact that each visit is not merely an intellectual exercise. More often than not, people are scared and apprehensive of finding out that they are even sicker than they had thought, or secretly imagined. Even with the patient’s rudimentary understanding of the medical procedure involved, it remains essential for doctors to translate the information available into layman’s terms, or at least something infinitely more accurate, personal, and understandable. Thus, while the Internet is especially useful in obtaining a general background on one’s medical condition, it remains a poor substitute for the personal and professional attentions of a licensed practitioner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

local school sues Microsoft for copyright violation

Add to the list of lawsuits against the software giant a local school, Southeastern College from Pasay City.

The School is represented by Estelito Mendoza. The suit is a P100 million copyright infringement case. It is alleged that Microsoft illegally copied and distributed a copyrighted teacher training manual developed by the school. (

Wouldn't I be annoyed if I was in Microsoft's shoes! I am not about to take Microsoft's side in this case, but I would like to point out that this software giant is a victim to a plethora of intellectual property (IP) violations in our great Republic. If they were to be found liable to pay P100 million, I would find it pleasantly ironic. I think they make too much money off poor countries like ours. But there may be another side to it.

Hidden Agenda?

A suit like this may be just what Microsoft needs in pursuit of its own agenda. Though it be the defendant, they may stand to gain. For while we have advanced laws on IP, as a nation we seem to still be in the process of deciding how much we truly value this kind of legislation. If, by this suit, Microsoft is held to pay a high price for their IP violation. Would they not use such a decision as ammunition to fight their war against our own local software/tech industries. Would it not give precedent to make IP violaters pay a high price?

For the meantime, I have mixed emotions as regards our IP laws and suits of this nature. My concerns include how it is not clear whether these will help us advance in technology creation or if it will suck us further into dependence. In addition I wonder how we will tell our wage earners that they have to pay months of wages for one operating system? How do we tell Filipinos that they must pay a week's worth of groceries for one DVD? Who are we really protecting?

Ships' Information and Communications Systems After 9/11

Immediately after 9/11, the U.S. was able to influence the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) to require Automatic Identification System (AIS) to be fitted aboard internationally-trading ships of 300 or more gross tonnage, and all passenger ships regardless of size. It is estimated that more than 50,000 ships currently carry AIS class A equipment. The AIS is a system used by ships and Vessel Traffic Services (VTS) principally for identification and locating other vessels. AIS provides a means for ships to electronically exchange ship data including: identification, position, course, and speed, with other nearby ships and VTS stations. This information can be displayed on a screen or chart plotter. AIS is intended to assist the vessel's watchstanding officers and allow maritime authorities to track and monitor vessel movements. It works by integrating a standardized VHF transceiver system with an electronic navigation system, such as a LORAN-C (LOng RAnge Navigation Version C) or Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver, and other navigational sensors on board ship (gyrocompass, rate of turn indicator, etc.).

When a ship is navigating at sea, the movement and identity of other ships in the vicinity is critical for navigators to make decisions to avoid collision with other ships and dangers (shoal or rocks). Visual observation (unaided, binoculars, night vision), audio exchanges (whistle, horns, VHF radio), and radar or Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA) are historically used for this purpose. However, a lack of positive identification of the targets on the displays, and time delays and other limitation of radar for observing and calculating the action and response of ships around, especially on busy waters, sometimes prevent possible action in time to avoid collision. While requirements of AIS are only to display very basic text information, the data obtained can be integrated with a graphical electronic chart or a radar display, providing consolidated navigational information on a single display.

AIS transponders automatically broadcast information, such as their position, speed, and navigational status, at regular intervals via a VHF transmitter built into the transponder. The information originates from the ship's navigational sensors, typically its global navigation system (GNSS) receiver and gyrocompass. Other information, such as the vessel name and VHF call sign, is programmed when installing the equipment and is also transmitted regularly. The signals are received by AIS transponders fitted on other ships or on land based systems, such as VTS systems. The received information can be displayed on a screen or chart plotter, showing the other vessels' positions in much the same manner as a radar display. Now, that is the good part.

In relation to the issue of freely available AIS-generated ship data on the world-wide web, the publication on the world-wide web or elsewhere of AIS data transmitted by ships could be detrimental to the safety and security of ships and port facilities and was undermining the efforts of the IMO and its Member States to enhance the safety of navigation and security in the international maritime transport sector. So now, pirates, terrorists and enemy ships have a better grasp on very vital information concerning multi-million dollar ships and their cargo worldwide. And that is really bad.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cellphone Misuse

For the past 10 years or so, the population of mobile phone users grew largely due to this text messaging feature which we now avail for a fee and have become a major and sustainable business for cellular phone companies. Just like the PC, the mobile phone has become a standard in both the business and personal affairs of an average Filipino. As the number of subscribers grew bigger, so did the incidence of abuse or misuse. We hear numerous stories involving stalking with the use of a mobile phone and even crimes being perpetuated with more ease and while these phenomena continued to be so prevalent in the Philippines, our laws sadly have not kept up with the technology that has become embedded in our daily routine. Once in a while, we hear legal scholars tinker with the idea of using the abuse of rights provisions in the New Civil Code which is probably the closest we could get to the stalkers until we come up with a law that particularly deals with mobile phone misuse.

Last Tuesday, a 17 year old girl was charged in the U.S. for misuse of cell phone after a text message was traced from her which prompted a 37 year old man to appear naked at the doorstep of a house for some “good time” with 2 friendly women. The girl was not convicted but was asked to put up a good behavior bond.

Although a cell phone misuse statute probably leaves much to be desired, it could also be a start. It sounds more promising than the catch-all abuse of rights statute we have so far. I guess the beauty in criminalizing misuse of cell phone lies in that a person injured can have more than a civil action for damages.

---- Marichelle B. Recio

Sunday, December 16, 2007

" O T Y"

There are currently over 200,000 call-center agents in the country today, and according to the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP), the umbrella organization of the call-center industry, the number of agents is expected to increase to 940,000 by 2012. CCAP also predicts that the industry’s current yearly revenue of US $2.2 billion will rise to US $13 billion in 2012, or a whopping 490% increase within 5 years.
The industry usually offers monthly salaries double or more than those of other entry-level jobs in the country. For a lot of people, this is a financially rewarding line of work, but it is not as easy as most people seem to think.
First of all, call-center agents typically start work at 8:00 in the evening and get-off between 5:00 to 7:00 in the morning. This requires a huge adjustment in one’s lifestyle, aside from learning to eat lunch at around 12 midnight; most agents get off work when most places to unwind or socialize, such as bars or restaurants are still closed, and when most of their friends and members of their families are hurrying off to start their day.
They also have to learn a lot of technical data required by the account they are currently handling, all this after having undergone extensive training seminars on the English language.
Most agents see these sacrifices as bearable, because they are adequately compensated for the work they render.
But what if they are in fact no longer financially compensated for the amount of work they do? What if the amount of work they are required to do, daily, cannot be done within their work day? What if this is a daily occurrence, and yet their company only authorizes a very limited amount of paid overtime?
If reaching their quota is a major factor in their performance evaluations, which determines how long they stay employed in the company, then these call-center agents will be forced to render overtime work, without pay, in order to reach their daily quota. What if, because of loopholes in our labor laws, the company can simply justify this practice by pointing to the quota requirement?
Wouldn’t life be a little better for call-center agents if these were just hypothetical, what-if situations? By adopting adequate amendments to current labor legislation or by crafting new labor laws that squarely address these issues, it can be.

SOURCE: "Agents on the Prowl" an article by Jesse Edep in the December 2007 issue of Entrepreneur magazine (p. 58)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Smart - Anywhere Broadband

Smart has a new offering to the public – wireless broadband (plug it anywhere broadband). Technically speaking it is not really wireless because you still have the USB antenna to the laptop but at least it comes close to being wireless. The advantage of this product is that you can have a broadband connection even when on the go. Also, you need not worry about losing your internet connection due to a brownout (Well as long as your laptop was charged). Download speeds are relatively decent given that data can be transferred at the speed of 384 to 768 kbps. Currently the platform of the modem works only with Windows 2000 and XP but the good news is that Smart expects it to achieve compatibility with other operating systems by the end of the year. The important question is: Will the target market of Smart really avail of this product?

I wonder how this new product compares to using your mobile phone to connect to the internet? The idea of having mobile connection is nothing really new since cellular phones can now be used as modems. For instance, if you have Smart as your mobile provider you can access the internet by paying P10 for every 30 minutes. Given this, how will Smart’s new product compete with other so called wireless internet services? Maybe they can offer unlimited broadband? Hmmm that would definitely be an incentive to avail of this new service.


WESM... a potential for energy generation efficiency

WESM… Wholesale Electricity Spot Market, an entity created under R.A. 9136, the "Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 or also more commonly known as the EPIRA Law. WESM is like a stock market where seller- IPPs (Independent Power Plants) trade in their generated electricity to the buyer-distributors who search for power generators to fill in their quota for electricity distribution. In this virtual spot market, electricity is treated as a commodity and is supposedly traded in real time. Trading IPPs submit in their bids and the lowest bidder usually gets to be initially dispatched to satisfy the demand provided by the Market Operator. With the privatization of the industry of the electricity & power generation & transmission to end consumers, WESM was created to establish a more competitive & efficient electricity market.

Designed to provide private entities with an efficient venue for trade and investment in the power industry, the WESM aims to: 1) provide incentives for the cost-efficient dispatch of power plants through an economic merit order, 2) create reliable price signals to assist participants in weighing investment options, and 3) protect a fair and level playing field for suppliers and buyers of electricity, wherein prices are driven by market forces. (

With WESM, a virtual online trading hub, with IPPs submitting their lowest bids in order to be sell their generated power, and an independent market operator who dispatches the generators in accordance to their bids, one would think that this would reform our country’s highly controlled energy line and create a fair, transparent and efficient trading environment that would engage new investors and encourage healthy competition among the players. Aside from this, it would hopefully benefit the end consumers as the players in power generation & transmission would try to be competitive not only as to the prices but also with their services. The entire concept of the online spot market shows very high potential if only the entire process would be ensued. In reality, the bidding and the dispatching is done online but the payments are done outside of this online market. With this arrangement, the IPPs already awarded with the dispatch for generation, would enter into a different contract price with the distributor. The distributor would agree to this set up as it would not really affect its profit margin, as the value paid to the IPPs are merely treated as costs-expenses in its books. In the end, we, the end-consumers, are really the ones suffering the burden. The online energy market shows potential. But then again as always, the Filipinos found a way to circumvent the it.

"Maling Daan, G@g%!!!"

Driving in the Philippines is no easy task. It takes skill, smarts, and guts. If you can drive in the Philippines, you can drive anywhere in the world. Save perhaps for a few traffic violations here and there, Filipino drivers can survive in any country and get to where they're going. Foreigners, on the other hand, especially First-World-ers, can't drive for sh*t here. The overly offensive driving should actually be the least of their concerns. They should be more concerned with the routes.

Road signs pointing to destinations are severely lacking. If there ever was one and you manage to notice it, it'd be too late to take that crucial right-turn. Furthermore, a huge number of side streets are one-way without the corresponding one-way signs. "Enter at your own risk" is always on my mind whenever i'm in unfamiliar territory. Maps also mean nothing. Ok, fine, they can help a little, but you can't really survive with just reading it.

Why am i bringing this up? What has this got to do with the law and information technology?

Answer is... GPS for cars.

I remember having a talk with a friend of mine who's a geodetic engineer, he said that the problem why we don't have GPS yet in our country is that the Philippines hasn't been 'surveyed' properly yet. Hmmm.. i think there's more to it than that. In my opinion, no company in their right mind would invest to keep maintaining GPS. With the constant change in traffic flows, the no left- and right-turns, u-turn slots, it would be next to impossible to have a reliable GPS.

How can law help?

Honestly, i don't think it can.

There's just too many cars, driven by very angry drivers, in extremely inadequate road space. If this can't be solved, we'll just have to rely on our day-to-day route changes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

From Google to Global

I love google earth. I love the fact that I could look at various parts of the globe in great detail. It’s like travelling for free. It only takes a few keystrokes to get from Japan to Europe and from Europe to the United States. I find it fascinating just looking around clicking at various destinations. Indeed, the world is at our fingertips.

But the wonders of google earth are not purely for leisure. I use google earth for a variety of reasons, some of which are very helpful.

I remember a time when I had to go to Paranaque Metropolitan Trial Court for our clinical legal studies program. I was attending a hearing. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of finals week and the notice got delayed and arrived only few days before. Needless to say, I was pressed for time. The night before the hearing, I suddenly realized that I did not know how to get to the Paranaque court. It was 2:00 AM. Having no one to turn to, I decided to turn to google earth. I was excited to find out that it was able to point out the location. I carefully studied the route and the next day, my trip was practically hitch-free.

Google earth is also useful whenever you are travelling abroad. It not only allows you to get a better idea of where you are going, it also helps you see the location of the airport, your hotel, tourist destinations and the distance between them. It also contains pictures in case you are getting tired of seeing just roads and rooftops. It also has links to other services such as lodging and transportation to help you plan your travel in the most convenient way.

In the course of using Google earth, whether for leisure or a specific purpose, one cannot help but develop a global perspective. You begin to see how small the world is and how countries and governments interact. You begin to understand the rationale of regional organizations such as ASEAN, NATO and the European Union. You begin to think about the pattern of economic development and the cooperation /competition that exists among nations.

In Asia, we have some of the richest and poorest countries in the world. On one hand, we have first world countries like Japan and Singapore and on the other, we have struggling countries like Afghanistan and Myanmar. It is as if countries like the Philippines are being asked to make a choice: which path do we want to take? Countries like China and India seem to have made the choice towards development. I hope the recent economic stability we have been enjoying, as it is seemingly true, is indicative that we have made the same decision.

Perhaps we should tell our government officials to use google earth. That way, they will be reminded at how petty some of our issues are and how vital it is for our country to become globally competitive. Countries are unshackling their borders. We cannot afford to be stuck with dead-end politics, petty quarrels and useless bickering when everyone else is gearing up for the global arena.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Thursday, December 13, 2007

uneasy over blogging

I remember a time when a” computerized” paper was just an option for students, and that the standard was a handwritten paper, or, in more formal writings, type-written ones. I used to get extra points from teachers just because my paper was “computerized”. Those were the days of the DOS, (Disk Operating System) where you have to insert a 5”x5” diskette just so that the computer can operate, and the Wordstar and Lotus, the main document and spreadsheet programs that made the typewriter a dinosaur. The PC’s speed barometer then was whether it was a 286 or 386, and later the faster 486. Navigating was made by typing commands on the “A/B/C prompt” or pressing the control or alt buttons of the keyboard. Knowing how to navigate by using these commands and controls somehow made one an expert on computers and allowed a claim to a special skill or talent.

For a time, this was the standard for computing machines, until the first Windows program (was it Windows 3?) appeared which made using a computer an ease. Windows also had the Winword and the Excel bundled with the Operating System with the same navigating ease. Contrast pointing the cursor and clicking buttons to work and navigate the computer against having to memorize and type “directory\q\s” on the letter prompt or pressing “ctrl F” to go to the files then “ctrl S” or whatever letter that corresponds to the command.

With the development of faster, bigger memory computers came more complex application of the computing machine. Wordstar and the DOS became obsolete and computerized works became more common, until eventually computerized work was the standard, the required form. I wonder what the reaction would be if I submitted a type-written pleading or paper today.

The interconnectivity of computers through the internet allowed also not just writing but also publication of a work in an instant, for millions, nay potentially billions of people to read. Sharing and accessing information has never been so easy. This may be good news to many, and I agree to its positive consequences. However, in this instance - writing a blog for INFOTECH- I wish otherwise. I feel a bit uneasy knowing that random thoughts I write become accessible for others to read. If only for this, I long for the handwritten papers submitted to professors for compliance, knowing that only them can read and judge my thoughts. However, as is with familiarity and constant use, I'll probably get used to this in the near future.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

$150 laptop

check this out... this is cool:

I find this to be another notable first world initiative to help the developing world. Although designed for young children, I think even college students in poor countries can use something like this.

I especially like the fact that you can charge it manually since our library doesn't allow us to plug in laptops without paying an annoying fee! :)) It can come with a crank, a pedal or a push cord... hahaha. It can even come with a solar charging thingy.

Maybe we can find a way to put lex libris in it. With a power consumption of as low as one watt, it seems ideal for long hours of reading... or pretending to read.

The Holy Union of Law and IT

A chunk of “interning” at the U.P. Office of Legal Aid involves drafting pleadings. Said task is made easy by scavenging through drafts previously made by other law interns strewn all over the OLA computers. But where none of such “left-over” pleadings suit your need, a traditional lawyer would direct you to a form book. A more “technologically-aware” one would direct you to the Internet, where you can search for websites that provide online legal forms.

This is a crude but concrete example of what Anja Oskamp and Arno R. Lodder (Information Technology Law, 2006) calls “IT for Lawyers.” Oskamp and Lodder explain that the field of Law and IT consists of two components or areas of research. The first is IT Law, which is concerned with analyzing the legal implications of IT. This is the area in which lawyers feel most at ease. The second is IT for Lawyers, which is concerned with how IT may be used in the discipline of law.

As a neophyte in Law and IT, I have all the while conceived said field as merely concerned with the legal issues and problems arising from the advancements and developments in IT (i.e., IT Law). This bifurcation of the field of Law and IT identified by Oskamp and Lodder calls attention to the reciprocal relationship of these two separate domains—the holy union of Law and IT. While technological advancements have given rise to novel legal issues (a fact recognized in the area of IT Law), said advancements have likewise given rise to a whole new world of possibilities in the practice of law (which is what IT for Lawyers is concerned about)—Law shapes IT, and IT shapes Law.

The subdiscipline of Law and IT is a rapidly growing field of law in the Philippines. The consciousness of the legal community of IT Law may be gleaned from the thriving discourses over legal issues spawned by the IT Revolution. But IT for Lawyers is not to be left out. It is already at its practical stage in this country, although perhaps many of us do not realize its existence as a particular area of Law and IT. IT is increasingly being integrated in the Philippine practice of law. The government’s promotion of electronic information and communication and law firms’ adoption and development of legal data bases and information retrieval systems are already progressive steps in IT for Lawyers in the Philippines. There are also individual efforts, such as that of Atty. Ralph A. Sarmiento, who has developed “Everyone’s Legal Forms, Professional Edition”, a legal forms software with automatic adding of pleadings requirements. (

Given the Filipino ingenuity, there is much promise in the area of IT for Lawyers. But resource is a likely limitation. That’s where academic development and policy kicks in. IT for Lawyers must ripen into a recognized academic discipline, sufficiently mature so as to provide basis for government policy that will address the needs of this potentially rich branch of Law and IT.

Tiangges Onscreen and Online

Are we maximizing the markets out there? We have tiangges or retail markets when others have warehouse or wholesaling onscreen and online. Are we not losing out?

As of today, I have counted 6 channels solely dedicated to online shopping in my cable provider’s lineup. Although several of these channels are all showing the Home Shopping Network, two local shopping channels are catching up, even doing better if the additional products and improvements are any indication. Even if Valuevision had a headstart, Venta5 of ABC5 sells products much better. Targeting locally made or assembled products with a few stray imports, the channel is very current and buyer-friendly. Gone are the days when the only things you see on the tube are growth hormones, breast enhancers and nose lifters from Chinese speaking countries. But these channels are still in retail. Higher costs jack up the price because of fancy commercials demonstrating the products and the target market is too specific. Mainly limited to housewives with the household products.

Apart from these channels, there are also the channels that use mobile commerce intensively. They feature merchandise sold by individuals, such as personal items from bargain clothes, perfumes, dogs and used cellular phones are uploaded via the internet with the necessary information and flashed on TV. The sellers can be contacted by the given cellphone numbers. There are also channels that show trivia games on TV, and like auctioneers, the personality selling the game can will you to vote in answers so that you get a chance to win money or a hi-tech gadget. A professor once said that these networks don’t pay gaming taxes over these because they justify these as sales of legitimate merchandise, like operator logo, mms messages, or ringtones. Even primetime TV has joined in with guess the title, sale of mobile downloads and other electronic merchandise. Almost all the shows offer some sort of text in craze. Mobile-retail.

TV over internet. Is TV more popular because of the captured audience and the human touch? Like it or not, people are TV scanners and one way or another our attention will have to get to these shopping networks. And buying from their hotlines, we at least get to talk to individuals like in the department store, these agents cater to our every need to the point of bullying us to need their items. But is this why TV is more popular? Maybe it's also the access of more people to TV that causes this.

Tiangge online over wholesaler priced or direct sellers. Why are the smaller boutique style sites of multiply gaining more popularity than direct online markets? If there’s anything, the popular e-commerce growth in the Philippines are not from local websites catered to shopping at manufacturer's prices like amazon, ebay, and the likes. What we have are pseudo tiangges in multiply sites. There are those who sell bags, shoes and accessories just like any other tiangge. We hardly have the manufacturers directly selling online. Actually, they don't have to be big time industrialist, they just have to sell without the jack up of additional costs of advertising, loss of inventory and miscellaneous costs outside of production. It's even better to just have one website to carry all their goods so that each one can maximize on another's customers. And the customers themselves can avoid search costs.

Maybe the problem is lack of capitalization? But we already have, but as a classmate points out, it doesn’t beat the prices from the stores so why bother? And we just risk our credit cards, return policy and warranties. It could be because of the COD and bank draft payment schemes of these small sites or channels. Direct seller websites just cannot do this kind of specialized service, it's an additional cost and effort. People will have to be content then to just risk their neck in meeting unidentified people in eyeballs to exchange goods, than have their financial information stolen.

This is an area that government policy can go into. I think that providing a better payment schemes, IT education and consumer protection will enhance the online markets. This is a good deal for the government, with the revenues that the government can collect with more legitimate businesses who will have to declare taxes. I imagine a bigger business will be a more rewarding collection, unlike the small tiangges online wherein the government will lose more in auditing them for taxes. If these online markets are able to have a foothold in the market and then through economies of scale, a bigger market with no increase in costs, then the prices will have to go down. Ultimately, the bigger the market, the more the price can be competitive. We can say goodbye to retailing which we culturally subsrcibe to and usher in price buster wholesaling or at least direct selling online.