Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Price We Need to Pay

I am a techie. I like gadgets and I enjoy learning various details about them. I think men are inherently audio-visual, and gadgets, with their inherent appeal to the senses and fancy specifications are natural temptations.

I am also a prudent shopper. I study my purchases well. I canvass for the best prices and scrutinize products for the quality that I want. I rarely buy on impulse.

So imagine me trying to buy a new laptop, one of the most complex gadgets in the market. It takes me ages to make a choice. My approach is systematic, taking into consideration every facet of the product. I prioritize over my preferences for mobility, computing power, cost and brand quality. I read reviews online and ask my fellow techie friends for their opinion. It looks like a lot of work but surprisingly, I actually find it fun.

Last August, I was finally able to buy my laptop. After months of intensive research and canvassing, I finally committed to a Toshiba M600-E630 Portegé. It’s a sleek 13” laptop balancing portability with processing juice. This was my second choice though. I actually wanted a Sony 11” TZ series Viao. But the darn thing was priced at 150,000 Php. Even with the promotional discount of 25,000 for cash purchases (and I cannot pay in cash), I was still not prepared to pay 125,000 Php for a laptop. So I decided to go for the Toshiba instead.

Now it turns out that the same Vaio is available in Malaysia at a price equivalent to 90,000 Php and at Singapore for the price of 85,000 Php. When I found out about this, I actually felt bad, not because I felt I could have bought my laptop there (because I still could not) but because I felt bad for the Filipinos who have no other choice but to purchase expensive electronic products.

It’s not just laptops. Almost all electronic products are cheaper in a lot of our Asian neighbours. It’s cheaper in Singapore, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China ... it’s even a bit cheaper in Malaysia, Thailand and unless I heard wrong, Vietnam. On behalf of my fellow techies, I really cannot help but feel bad.

My guess is that is has to do something with the taxes. A lot is imposed on imported products that by the time it ends up on our stores, they have almost doubled their original price. But then again, don’t we have trade liberalization agreements that prohibit excessive tax imposition? Besides, normally, you tax excessively to protect the local market. That would be strange considering that I have yet to hear of a Philippine laptop brand.

Perhaps our legislators have a different definition of the word “excessive”.

Ah, perhaps indeed.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

is the Philippines still the text capital of the world?

A resounding Yes, according to ICT Statistics Newslog.

"The Philippines retained its title as the
text messaging capital of the world - sending a remarkable 1.39 billion text messages
from a subscriber base of just 50 million."

This must be why PLDT and GLOBE don't want to make unlimited texting a standard feature. There's just too much money to lose if they do that.

Other interesting stats:

-An Estimated 43 Billion Text Messages Were Sent Globally on New Years Eve

-The world's largest market, China, crossed the 500 million customer barrier in Q3 2007 to end the quarter with just under 506 million mobile customers.

-300 million mobile devices were shipped during the fourth quarter alone of 2007.

-For the entire year, total shipments reached 1,144.1 million units in 2007

-Nokia is still the worlds leading vendor.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hi-Tech Robberies

According to the latest Yahoo! news, a "brazen" scheme intended to rob a Swedish bank of "millions" was foiled at the last minute by an alert bank employee. Reports indicate that the would-be robbers were thwarted when the employee literally pulled the plug on a device planted on his work station, which had been accessing his files and directing his computer to transfer funds from one account to another.
I was pleasantly surprised to read about the frustrated robbery, not least because it indicates that sleepiness is not a necessary qualification for employment in a bank. However, I was taken aback to realize that these exciting events happened in August 2007, with Swedish police successfully having arrested seven of the suspects just this past Wednesday. There are reports that the arrests were just in time to prevent another robbery scheduled this week.
While I assume that the Swedish police kept the story quiet for several months in order to make the necessary arrests, I am more than a little concerned about the possibilities of remote-control robberies on a massive scale. While the latest Philippine bank robberies continue to involve guns, masked villains, and getaway cars, the threatened use of technology in criminal enterprises could have long-term effects on the stability of the banking industry. Public perception is as susceptible to reports of flawed security in banks overseas as it is with regard to local bank security, largely because of the flow of capital between local and international financial institutions. It remains to be seen whether the Legislature (or even the Bangko Sentral) will come up with more stringent security measures for banks, with an eye towards preventing high-tech crime.

Please see:;_ylt=Alh.DPqdFU_4dY_vk77sUtBj24cA

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Latest Microsoft Development: Windows 7

Windows 7, which was previously named Vienna and Blackcomb, is scheduled to be the next major version of Microsoft Windows, a video of which has been available in YouTube in the past couple of days. Well, it is supposed to succeed Windows Vista, which was an apparent failure in marketing and in system reliability. Windows did not comment on the accuracy of the Youtube version, but it is availiable for both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions. The server counterpart which will succeed Windows Server 2008 will be exclusively 64-bit.

Microsoft is maintaining a policy of silence concerning the final version and and aspirations for Windows 7. The first-known build of Windows 7 was identified as a "Milestone 1 (M1) code drop". Features described include Gadget being integrated into Windows Explorer, a Gadget for Windows Media Center, the ability to visually pin and unpin items from the Start Menu and Recycle Bin, improved media features, and a new XPS Viewer. An included feedback tool reportedly lists the ability to store Internet Explorer (IE) settings on a Windows Live account, Windows Presentation Foundation versions of Calculator, Paint and WordPad, and a 10 minute install process. Leaked information from people to whom M1 of Windows 7 was forwarded also provide some insight into the feature set.

Of course, no mention was ever made of the new system’s ability to prevent from being pirated, so we just wait and see. The top wished-for features in a list in Neowin were recently leaked to the public and have popped up at various sites. Accordingly, Microsoft must have developed Windows 7 to suit these wishes.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mobile phone numbers, for sale!

It’s only natural that this digital era would change a lot of traditional concepts. Here’s a new angle in mobile phone numbers.

Naturally, mobile phone numbers have to be distinct. But when we acquire a SIM card, we really just pay for the card, irrespective of the number, right? But when I went to LB (Los Baños) Square one time, I noticed an advertisement for the sale of SIM cards with distinct and easy to recall mobile phone number combinations posted at the pay restroom. They were selling from P500-P2,000! The more repetitive the number combo, the better!

A blockmate-good friend also told me that there is a somewhat similar practice in China—that, because 8 is a lucky number, mobile phone numbers with a lot of 8s are sold for big bucks!

Personally, I don’t get it. Is it because such simple number combos are easier to memorize? What bragging rights does a unique mobile phone number combination have? I understand why you’d want your car’s plate number to spell your name or have your favorite number—it’s a prized possession and an extension of one’s identity. I guess the same argument can be made for the mobile phone, but I personally don’t get it.

Here’s what I can understand. When Paris Hilton switched to a new number (maybe because her blackberry was stolen or got lost, and her old mobile phone number along with it), her old mobile phone number was allocated to a new consumer. Some of Ms. Hilton’s friends who apparently didn’t realize the change in cell numbers still texted and called the old number, so this new consumer kept on getting invites to the biggest and latest parties! The new consumer says she didn’t mind. But given Ms. Hilton’s premiere status, I would understand why she’d be willing to pay big bucks to keep her old number from being recycled and allocated to another consumer. And for the big fans of celebs, I would understand why they would be willing to pay bigger bucks for their favorite star’s old mobile phone number. Here’s where property rights in mobile phone numbers are easier for me to comprehend.

Wii Must Lose Weight

Jacq, my blockmate, and I were looking for a gym to help us get rid of our excess baggage. The other day, Jacq told me that there was a newly-opened gym beside her condo building. We were thrilled. I asked her to check out the place so that we can start working out ASAP.

Then Jacq called me yesterday to narrate her funny experience regarding the new "gym." The poster said that the place was called "Frii Spirit." While it does not really sound like a gym's name, Jacq concluded that it was a gym because the model in the poster was an athletic looking girl. However, she was surprised not to find any gym equipment when she went there. When she asked the lady in the counter regarding the "gym", she was informed that it was actually an arcade for Nintendo Wii. The sales girl explained that Wii can actually be a form of physical exercise. On the side, Frii Spirit also sold healthy foods to their customers to complete the fitness experience.

I thought the sales girl was just trying to convince Jacq to try out the arcade. I seriously didn't think that it was possible to have an arcade and a fitness center in one place because I have always associated arcades with sedentary activities. Turns out that I'm wrong.

The Wii can actually be a form of an exercise considering that it requires some physical movement. Nintendo says it can help you lose a couple of pounds in just six weeks. Some say however that Wii alone will not suffice. I personally don't know what side to take. But I'm just glad that the Wii presents another exercise option for lazy people like me. One of these days, I might just take up Jacq's offer to try out Frii Spirit.


Sunday, January 27, 2008

the technology in LGUs

One of the salient features of our Constitution, among others, is the empowerment of our local government units. With the decentralization of power, the localized government units are believed to be able to answer the needs of each locality more specifically. It also makes it easier to administer public services to its constituents as it deals with the giving of services in their own communities. Governance, which is organization of collective action, is also made efficient with the decentralization.

How does ICT then come into play with the administration of these services, especially in the more rural areas? The use of computers in government offices is definitely different from utilizing information systems technology. You can probably find a computer in most government offices but I doubt if they utilize it to manage their information database. If you go to a government office, you’ll see several desktops at hand but they’ll still look for the hard copy at their records section for the information or document that you need. They will still process your requests manually despite the available technology. They may have the system but the people themselves refuse to avail of it.

It was mentioned that one of the major problems in the implementation of ICT is culture and the behavior of the people in accepting the new improved system. People are resistant to change, even if such change would be more efficient. And I’m not only talking about the employees of the government offices themselves but also of their constituents as well. Our LGUs have set up local websites, and I do commend them for that. However, the problem is that their sites are more for people outside the community rather than for their constituents. You see links for places to go, investor relations and other information that people from outside would wanna know to look into the community. They have yet to utilize ICT in developing databases and information systems in administering “public services”. Funny, even with the local websites installed, the constituents themselves have no idea about it and their employees have yet to use it.

To quash or not to quash . . . the state of Philippine copyright case law

The recent decision by the Philippine Supreme Court in case of Sony Music Entertainment (Phils.), Inc. and IFPI (Southeast Asia), Ltd., vs. Solid Laguna Corporation G.R. No. 156804 in 2005 dealt another blow to efforts to curb copyright violations in the country.
In affirming the quashal of the search warrants used to raid a factory suspected of manufacturing pirated CDs/DVDs, the Supreme Court stated that:

“To us it is not enough that the applicant and his witnesses testify that they saw stacks of several alleged infringing, pirated and unauthorized discs in the subject facility. The more decisive consideration determinative of whether or not a probable cause obtains to justify the issuance of a search warrant is that they had personal knowledge that the discs were actually infringing, pirated or unauthorized copies. … It cannot be overemphasised that not one of them testified seeing the pirate discs being manufactured at SLC’s premises”

In requiring the witnesses in such instances to have actually seen pirated copies of copyrighted material being made is such a heavy evidentiary burden to impose upon the complainant, considering that obtaining a search warrant is merely an ancillary proceeding to the prosecution in court of copyright violators.
Also, considering the patent illegality of the operation, manufacturers of pirated OMDs (optical media discs) probably won’t leave their activities open to just about anyone to see right.
The Supreme Court seems to have forgotten that one does not need to show proof beyond a reasonable doubt in determining probable cause.
The sad thing is this isn’t the only instance that showed a lack of understanding of the nuances of copyright law enforcement in the country consider the case of 20th Century Fox vs Court of Appeals 164 SCRA 655 (1988), wherein the court required the presentation of the master tapes of the films alleged to have been pirated in order to justify the issuance of search warrants.
Will a copyright violator simply turn over the master tapes to anyone?! The court could have evaluated other types of evidence in determining the existence of probable cause.
No wonder, despite the existence of copyright laws in the country for over half a century, we still have a dearth of copyright case law or doctrines, as the main cases never prosper considering the case concerning the quashal of the search warrants that facilitated the acquisition of the prosecution’s damning evidence usually go against the complainants.

Not so live disc

I can't watch YouTube in my laptop, cause I don't have flashplayer installed..there's this pop up window that asks whether I want flashplayer installed, but I always just ignore it--afraid that there's a catch.

I've had my share of online installing of applications, but only the really simple ones. And I've never updated a software online. But a friend told me that Rogue Amoeba has a snazzier way of updating softwares: through Live Disc. Apparently, what happens is that when you want to install an application in your computer and you put the installation CD, if you’re online, before your application installs, the Live Disc application will first check if there are any later versions on Rogue Amoeba's server. If there is, it will download that first, then it will install.

But I wonder if that will catch on here in the Philippines, especially given the proliferance of pirated installers..will Live Disc be as Live here?

mosquito ringtone

I was looking at google's listing on the top searched items. One of their lists included the "mosquito ringtone" as number one.

I found it really odd. As it turns out there's a site that claims to have a ringtone that has a very high pitch so as to be inaudible to adults.

Then I remembered something I saw on television a few months ago. This became an issue as school children were thought to have begun to use it in school so as to avoid detection from their teachers.

Anybody know if this is true?

Government and Technology

The government will greatly benefit with the use of technology. The proper use of technology has numerous benefits; it makes for more convenient transactions for the public, easier coordination with suppliers, reduced administrative errors, and better public service.

During class discussions, it was pointed out that one way of improving public service is by the interconnection of the different agencies. If government agencies are interconnected, you would not need to obtain a copy from one agency that would just be submitted to another agency. For instance, in order to take a licensure exam you would need to submit, among other things, a copy of your NSO certified birth certificate. You would also need the birth certificate to obtain a passport from the DFA. If the different agencies are interconnected then you would not need to submit different copies of your birth certificate. It was also pointed out that such interconnection can also result in increase revenues for the government via improved better tax collection.

Some argue that extensive interconnectivity may be dangerous. For instance, if a security breach were to occur there may be widespread effects as a result of the interconnectedness of the systems. In addition, the information contained in the system could be abused by unscrupulous people. These concerns are valid, however these failures can be prevented by ensuring that the proper security measures are in place.

If the government can actually make use of technology then the quality of public service can be improved immensely. Some of us may be cynical about the capability of our government to implement such an undertaking because of the culture of corruption complacency. But, I would still like to believe that things are not impossible for our country. We just need the proper people in government who have the will power to effect the change. The time may not be today but I hope that in the future, with the new batch of politicians, then maybe there would be change.

So, what can be done to change this type of culture in our government? There have been a lot of recommendations on how the Philippines can address this problem. Check this site for some recommendations:

For current initiatives by the government check:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

professional blogging

One of the developments care of ICT is blogging. People blog for various reasons, but the most curious for me was the idea of professional blogging. Last week, I attended a press conference held by Nestle to promote their new whole grain campaign. I was surprised to see "bloggers" among the media. They had their own IDs properly labeled as "blogger."

I met one of them and asked her what makes one a professional blogger. Her answer was simple, if you make money from blogging, you are a professional blogger. According to her, if you have about a thousand hits everyday from your blog, google will pay you to put their ads on your blog. I wonder how many hits our class blog gets everyweek. Hehehe. Maybe we can put google ads here and use the money buy snacks for our friday morning class. :)

Domain Names and Priority in Registration

A little over a year ago, while much of the world was waiting for the first glimpse of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt, lawyers for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were scrambling to register dozens of Internet domain names on the power couple's behalf. They managed to buy almost every domain name with a reasonable connection to Shiloh Nouvel, including the rather obvious shilohnouveljoliepitt, in an attempt to stay two steps ahead of the cyberspace entrepreneur. In fact, many Hollywood celebrities are particularly interested in owning eponymous domain names, if only to avoid potential publicity problems.

Of course, certain domain names are similarly coveted for business purposes, either because they're popular key words (i.e., or, or because they represent famous brand names. Shock value, or popular colloquial expressions also contribute to the mad dash of domain name registration, since owners of key domain names can earn considerable money by selling them to legitimate business enterprises, who are often at the mercy of enterprising domain name holders.

This poses serious legal questions, not only with respect to fledgling ebusinesses, but in relation to the intellectual property rights of legitimate enterprises whose trademarks or tradenames are prejudiced by the first-come, first-served registration process of domain names. Google, at least, has attempted to limit the practice of name tasting--the cancellation of registration of certain domain names within the 5-day grace period, where it appears that the domain name does not generate enough hits--by increasing the registration fees. Of course, whether existing businesses, especially those with internationally protected tradenames and trademarks, have a better right to certain inutile, registered domain names (particularly in the clear absence of good faith) remains an interesting legal issue.

For more information on the practice of name-tasting, please see:;_ylt=AocjbRdRXOAf6EbZSJ7b3fMDW7oF

Friday, January 25, 2008

Of messages sent

Another story attesting to the inefficiency of technology:

My friend had a business meeting in a mall and she was asking her boyfriend to give her a ride going home. It turns out that she needed to get home immediately that day because her house was getting renovated and she needed to talk to the carpenter.

But the boyfriend was not exactly ecstatic about giving my friend a ride. The trip is out of his way. It is further aggravated by the fact that he will be coming from a late business meeting and, as it was a Friday night, traffic would most likely be a headache. Nevertheless, after her insistent pleading, my friend got him to say yes.

Last Friday, my friend eagerly waited for her ride. Thirty minutes after the agreed upon time, her boyfriend was still not there. Thinking something was wrong she tried to call him up. Unfortunately, her boyfriend was out of coverage area. Not knowing what else to do and with the urgent need to get home, my friend decided to take a cab.

Barely five minutes after she rode the cab, my friend received a text message. It was from her boyfriend. The text message told her that he was already in the mall waiting for her at starbucks. As it turned out, it was not the boyfriend that was out of coverage area but it was her. She tried to call her boyfriend and while they were able to settle the matter (after a brief argument of course), the damage has been done. My friend already missed the carpenter and her boyfriend had already gone through the trouble of meeting up with her all for nothing.

When I heard about this story, I was reminded of a case I’ve read. I believe it was RCPI v Verchez. The case in summary discusses the liability of a company when it promised to deliver a message to its client but was not able to do so. In such an instance, the court upheld that the company is in breach of its obligation and that the client would then be entitled to damages.

The same should hold true for text messages. After all, the principle is the same. We are still relying on a company for the delivery of our messages, some of which can spell the difference between life or death. What is the promise in text messages anyway? What is the causa? Surely, at the very least, it is the real-time delivery of our messages. Does this mean that part of the causa is the understanding that there is a chance for delay or even inability to deliver the actual message? If so, what then does that make of text messages and cellular technology, a mere gamble?

What good is technology if we cannot rely on it?

Learning English and Gambling while Drinking

As the US economy slips into a recession, we can expect the prices of imported goods to rise and we can also expect the government to tax us even more. As a concerned citizen, I just thought that I would expose some business models that I came across that make use of ICT and that could become the proper target of more government taxation.

1. Call centers that allow Koreans to learn English. Perhaps the CHED could classify these call centers as schools and charge them for teaching English to Koreans abroad. The Koreans would get a degree or diploma and the government would get more money to be able to afford another project like ZTE.
2. Restaurants that Ge_a_do's that allow people to eat, drink and play gambling games online. These restaurants seem almost like a poor man's casino and a simple mayor's permit should not give them license to corrupt the morals of our countrymen by allowing them to indulge in their vices. We don't legalize jueteng because it is immoral and we should not condone online gambling. At least till they pay the proper taxes to PAGCOR perhaps.
3.CHOZDATE. An online dating service for the lonely hearts. Since only people with money can afford such a service, it stands to reason that they can be taxed more.

Of course, the more taxes are imposed, foreign investment will lessen. Or so the argument goes.
But between the Sumilao farmers, the Koreans and lonely rich men, it is the latter two who should bear the burden.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The OPAC Secret

I didn't know that the database of books available in the UP libraries can be accessed online. Thanks to my sister, who is not from UP, for helping me discover this secret.

One of my professors required our class to submit some sort of research paper as our final exam. Of course I needed to do some research and lucky me because UP has the best libraries. I used the OPAC or Open Access in the law library to search for relevant books available in the UP libraries. The OPAC's really useful because it gives you all the details you need regarding the book such as its author, call number, accession number, etc. and it points you to the library where the book is located. The first few minutes of my interaction with the OPAC was okay. But after some time, it stopped working. I tried to transfer to the other computers but I encountered the same problem. So I decided to go home instead.

When I got home, I asked my sister who studies in another school to help me look for books in their library. A few minutes later she told me that there were books available in their school. I was surprised. I didn't know how she managed to get that information in a short of span of time. Well, she told me her secret. The database of the books in their library can be accessed online. Interesting. But I didn't want to be outdone so I decided to check if I can do the same with the database of the UP libraries. And yep, it was possible. I was able to access the OPAC right here at home. No, I didn't need to go to the library to get a list of the books I needed. With my computer and internet connection here at home, I was able to come up with a list of the reference materials for our research paper. Afterwards, I just went to the proper libraries to borrow the books.

So, remember this tip - the next time you're given an impromptu research, try using the OPAC from your house or from your own computer. It will definitely save you more time.

Try it out here.

Information That Turned to Ashes

Coming from the maritime sector, I frequently visited the website of MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority) for the latest news in the maritima. This is where I seek new regulations, issuances, policies and future trends that concern maritime trade and the seafaring profession.

This site was also a valuable source of info concerning horrific events such as the Guimaras oil spill last February and how the government dealt with it (or neglected it?). That was until last May 31st, when a single floor in the Marina building burned at 11 p.m. It was not even an entire floor. It was a specific office dedicated to important documents on ship registration, mortgages, bareboat charter, etc.

The first press release from Marina indicated that there were no high-profile cases at that time. Therefore, according to Marina, there could have been no arson. Hmmm, good conclusion, considering that this statement was made while the office was still burning. The fire brigade finally put out the fire in less than 2 hours and announced that the fire is out and that the vicinity is safe. On June 1, at 4:30 am, just 4 hours later, it burned again. And yes, all the papers in that particular office finally turned to ashes.

The MARINA website has been out for the last seven months. I simply do not understand how and why our government cannot restore it, considering the international nature of shipping and the number of interested parties worldwide that utilize this site. Just a few days ago, I had the chance to ask a recently-retired high-ranking Marina official why the site has not been restored. He simply told me that the office is involved with more important things mean time.

And maybe there was no arson. Maybe there were no high-profile cases with crucial information that could turn into Pandora's Box. Maybe keeping a website for a very important government office is not so important. Maybe it's safer when certain information are turned into ashes. Just maybe.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Online Law Degrees

I have a friend who has a doctorate in law. He obtained his juris doctor from a law school in the United States. And he did it online. It cost him a small sum. But according to him, it was worth it since there is nothing quite like a degree abroad. Of course the law school is some obscure "university" I have never heard of and the curriculum consist of a set of law books with quizzes and an answer key. The grading system is based on the results of the quizzes which my friend sends to his "professors" via email. Heh. Predictably, my friend finished at the top of his class.

However, the women my friend tries to impress with his "law degree" seem impressed that he got a degree from the States. Now he intends to take a master's degree in business from the same school and via the same method. He believes that his degrees abroad will make him qualified to teach in girl's high schools. With our title obsessed society, he may just be right.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I came across a news report where a distinguished-looking professor from a foreign university was being interviewed regarding an online education program he established using the name of a prestigious university that he was affiliated with without it actually being accredited by the said university. By the time his fraudulent misrepresentation was discovered, tens of thousands of enrollees have already earned their certificates or diplomas.

Online degree programs have proliferated because there is a market for them. Whether they be a Bachelor's, Master's or a PhD degree, many are lured because they are quicker, easier and cheaper compared to the traditional education programs. The problem however is that there are fewer legitimate e-learning institutions than the fake ones. And while the bogus online degrees are clearly illegal, there seems to be some difficulty in policing them due to their virtual existence. If actual businesses could "fly-by-night", with more ease could online schools disappear without trace. How does an enrollee in Indonesia, for instance, make sure that an online university purportedly based in West Virginia actually exists; is affiliated with a real school; and endorsed by the education department? Even assuming proper accreditation of said institutions can be verified with ease, question remains as to whether the accreditation by one country's education department should be recognizable by another.

I know of someone who studied to be a yoga teacher online. When I was asking how the teacher checked on her, I became curious about whether it occurred to her that the teacher might not be a real "yogi". How could she know? She said it was okay since the teacher also had no way to know if she was a real yoga practitioner #%$@&. Even though what she obtained was not an academic degree, the same concerns arise from the other e-learning institutions. I guess online education thrives because for those who buy the idea, it serves its purpose. Whether or not they are legitimate becomes a secondary problem. But then again, what happens to the real academic degrees earned from the most prestigious institutions if we allow the procurement of bogus degrees to continue to exist with them side-by-side?

- Marichelle Recio

Call-boys and Call-girls

I was surprised during my last trip to Cebu when my Cebu-based cousin told me that being a “call-center agent” is a sign of “success” in life. The common stereotype of a “call-boy or call-girl” (as they are often called in jest) is that they are young and hip English-speaking college grads that frequent the local Starbucks and have enough dispensable income to buy a second-hand car.

I was surprised because here in Manila, the impression is that being a contact-center agent is just a job you take while looking for a better (supposedly, more respectable) job. Getting hired is easy plus the pay is pretty good; but, definitely, it is not a viable career path for most.

However, the trend of BPO’s looking for more practical and feasible outsourcing sites is causing an upsurge of development in ICT-enabled, BPO-friendly cities across the nation. These cities are now reaping the benefit of being favored sites for outsourcing companies. It has created a significant number of jobs across the archipelago and has enabled graduates to work well within their own provinces for the same salary, without the stressful traffic and the high cost of living in major urban cities.

The increased purchasing power of these ICT workers in turn fuels the growth of local SME’s. Sectors like housing, transportation, food, communications, clothing and entertainment have cashed in on the increased consumption, generating more revenues and more upstream and downstream jobs.

At the rate the industry is going, it is not farfetched to see the nation’s economy, both national and local, being boosted phenomenally by the ICT sector. The number of young and hip English-speaking college graduates with their own cars in places outside NCR will surely change how we, the less-enlightened people in the NCR, look at the contact-center industry.

Monday, January 21, 2008

blogging your way to free speech

Blogging indeed is a very effective medium to get your message beyond borders. The prevalence of internet use in the everyday lives of the people allows for the penetration of this media in every level of our society. Blogging is a means by which a person can write down anything ranging from various topics—from daily activities, reactions, comments, political views, to more or less anything that comes to mind. Each person has his own reason for blogging, be it an outlet to rant about a bad day, sharing of an anecdote or raving about a great experience, to expressing one’s views in the social as well as the political arena. The flow of information is limitless. As it is, content as to words on the internet remains uncensored. The internet remains to be a global domain and the role of law as to the regulation of information in cyberspace seems to be a hazy.

Such freedom of speech, like any other forms of expression is a right guaranteed under the Constitution. Art. III sec. 4 states that “ No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression xxx”. Such protection extends to any and all modes of expression. Posting online therefore is also constitutionally protected under this provision. Sharing your views in cyberspace is a legal right you can exercise.

Of course, such freedom like all rights, is subject to regulation. If a person posts a malicious article about someone else, then he may be criminally prosecuted for libel, coupled with a claim for damages. The more problematic area I guess would be when the entries involve political views or critiques to the incumbent administration. Would the government limit the bloggers rights in expressing their thoughts on the ground of national security or justify interference with police power? Should the blogger be indicted for the crime of sedition of be prosecuted under the Human Securities Act?

Blogging can be an effective mechanism of checking the effectiveness of the government as the comments can be taken as constructive criticism. The people should feel free to comment on the government’s actions as being constituents of this state. Bloggers rights in expressing their views should be protected under the freedom of speech, and the balancing of interest doctrine should be construed liberally in favor of the blogger.

It is Not Hard to Imagine

Coming from a province that ranks on the top of the country’s poorest provinces list, it is hard to imagine my hometown being ICT-enabled. The province has the deadly combination of being almost completely agricultural and of being run by an almost completely corrupt local government. The result: abject poverty. This lethal combination has maintained the backwards orientation of the province since after the Americans left. It is almost as if the province abhors development.

Not so long ago, the roads in my province were dust roads; a few years ago, some guy from the capitol building had the good sense to pave them; but the last time I went there for a visit, the paved roads, which were poorly done (probably due to intense corruption), became dust roads again. “Wow!” I thought, “This place is so backward even the roads refuse to improve.”
You’d probably understand by now, why the idea of ICT-enabled services in my province seems peculiar to me. But I believe, hope for the province lies in bringing in the BPO industries that come with the development of ICT.

The increasing demand for more practical and feasible outsourcing sites outside the big cities (Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao); have spurred the growth of ICT in the countryside.

But there is a long way to go before the province can compete with the other cities in the countryside that offer better business environment. Cities like Sta. Rosa, Lipa, Legaspi, Naga, Tagbilaran, Tacloban, Dumaguete, Bacolod, among others currently play hosts to some of the biggest BPO players.

“What attracts locators to these places are the availability of quality workforce, reliable telecommunication facilities, sound business and incentives package from the local governments, stable power supply, and an environment that supports a comfortable expat lifestyle,”* says Monchito Ibrahim, a consultant of Cyberservices Group of CICT.

If only the local government in my province would consider these factors in their development plan, progress is not so hard to imagine.

* Mentioned in his article “Sustaining Competitiveness in the Cyber Corridor, part I,” in his column “Cyberbytes” in ComputerWorld, June 2007. Vol. 17 No. 5.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yvan Eht Nioj in the MMO Games

"yvan eht nioj, yvan eht nioj"

In an episode of the Simpsons, you might remember the time wherein Bart formed his own boy/rockband sponsored by the government. Their breakout and very successful single was "yvan eht nioj". It was played continuously, and as a consequence a lot of people signed up for the navy and even the army even the most unlikely characters. It was only Lisa who was curious enough to play back the music video with the words running at the bottom. Of course she found out that it meant "join the navy".

True to form, the Simpsons indeed reflects the true American society. Because the US government now uses Massively Multiplayer Online(MMO) games to recruit people. The US armed forces already use online gaming as a recruitment tool. America's Army for example introduces players to the "seven Army Core Values" and now claims to be one of "the most popular computer games in the world".

And now it is NASA that is soliciting game makers and providers to simulate space travel as a game platform. They released a Request for Information (RFI) and asks that the providers submit it by February. Actually, NASA is already in the 3D virtual universe. It owns an island in Second Life where individuals and groups with an interest in the space programme can meet, share ideas and conduct experiments.

This time it wants to promote participatory exploration. The director of the project, Simon Worden said, "We are looking at how this island can be a portal for all to fly along on space missions," so that "When the next people step onto the surface of the Moon in a little over a decade, your avatar could be with them. "

NASA believes that games in virtual worlds with scientifically accurate simulations could permit learners to tinker with chemical reactions in living cells, practice operating and repairing expensive equipment, and experience microgravity. It calls for "powerful physics capabilities" that can "support accurate in-game experimentation and research". I wonder if scientific secrets can be obtained from this and then the powerful nations would againt race to who gets to do what first.

Not only can this nurture career options in the NASA and provide an effectively cheaper and shorter training compared to an internship. This also gives "opportunities for students to investigate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics career paths while participating in engaging game-play."

In my opinion, the NASA project is laudable. Maybe this is the solution to the out lagging Science and Technology problems. The government should sponsor alternative learning tools that the youth can actually use. Plus, it's a lot cheaper than creating and maintaining more Science Curriculum schools. this will boost the education of the minds of the pre-teens and teens that already spend most of their time playing online games.

On the other hand, I wouldn't want the government to subliminally recruit or manipulate people for jobs or acts that the person in his normal state would not take or do. I once read that there is a jihadist game that actually spur the players to do acts of terrorism. If the television and music are checked for dangerous and pornographic content, all the more should these games be checked. The target market of these games are the impressionable youth. We have constitutional and legislative mandates against this even if they also go against freedom of expression or art.


Searching A Computer... With A Warrant

I was just wondering, if ever legislature can manage to pass the implemeting rules to govern our law to combat cyber crimes, what will they do on the issue on searches?

Aside from the question of whether or not a warrant should specifically identify the hard drive that will the subject of the search, a more pressing matter comes to my attention. How can searches be effected without a witness?

Physical searches of premises, as it stands, requires that a witness, or better yet, the occupant of the house or building or office, to be present durign teh search. In terms of cyber crimes, the searches will be conducted on computers and will be done remotely. So even if a warrant is secured, the searching authorities can do it in their own offices.

Now, why is this a big problem?

The main problem, as I see it, is that their will be nothing to stop the authorities from planting their own evidence on a hard drive if their search proves unsuccessful. Let's face it, these people are fully capable of doing so. It is not only the hacker who is well versed in computer and data manipulation.

So, will the rules address this problem? Will they require an indendent third party to be present when the search happens? Even if there was, another computer could easily be accessing the computer being searched from another location just in case his services are needed.

Oh well.

Who wants to pay for content?

Blogging, as we know it, is a means by which we are able to broadcast opinions/random thoughts/even the fact that we have things for sale, to a very large and varied audience, through the Internet, for free (not counting the cost of Internet access of course).

In blogging, a lot of people merely post their random thoughts/opinions without exerting that much effort in organizing such thoughts in a manner that would enable their readers to better understand what they were trying to convey.

But some people do present excellent material and do take time to organize their thoughts and do exert a significant amount of effort in making sure that what they post are reliable statements supported by research.

Some people propose that to aid these creative minds, we should abandon the notion of free content and make it “affordable” instead, in order to give everyone a chance to become a widely read author and get paid for being so.

They suggest that a subscription fee should be charge for such content.

But do those bloggers who are passionate and diligent in providing worthwhile, maybe even revolutionary, material really need monetary incentives to disseminate their ideas?

It won’t stop with subscription fees. When content needs to be paid for, intellectual property rights issues will start to crop up, such as whether a “rebroadcast” of paid for content should be allowed or whether or not the “ideas” presented in such blog posts should be made copyrightable? Because everyone will be intent of ensuring that they make money.

Not only that, as it matures into an industry, regulations/rules/standards may be provided for to govern all aspects of blogging perhaps even for the content itself.

The Internet was designed primarily to provide an avenue for the free flow of ideas. It was designed to enable very different people, from very diverse backgrounds/geographical locations, to be able to exchange views/ideas/information, perhaps for the good of all.
Should we allow even the hint of a hindrance to the free flow of ideas?

So, anyone want to pay for content?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

BuyBack Plans

In the US there is a move for some companies to buyback electronic products. Their aim is to make it easier for the consumer to upgrade their cell phones, computers, ipods and other electronic gadgets. Their theory is that instead of letting your gadget gather dust it would be better to trade it in for an updated version. The strategy of TechForward is that consumers would pay a premium in order to avail of the guaranteed buyback plan. There is already a predetermined value that the consumer will receive when he decides to sell the product. On the other hand, the strategy of New Corp. is not to charge an additional amount but instead offer store credits to a customer who would bring an old gadget to be traded in.

This move would decrease the clutter in your homes because instead of accumulating useless products you can have the option to sell it back to the company. However, it is also possible that this scheme would actually encourage people to keep on upgrading their electronic gadgets at a faster pace. For instance, a consumer may rationalize that it is better to update his gadget earlier because he would be able to get a higher value for the product that he would sell back.

A downside of this program is that if the product is no longer operational then the company would not pay you anything instead they would just make arrangements to have it recycled. Well, at least it would still be better than just letting old gadgets gather dust in your homes.

Would this service actually work in the Philippines? Maybe, but it would depend on how competitive the trade-in prices are. In the Philippines, when you want to upgrade you could just look for a buyer who would be willing to buy your old gadget. For cell phones, it is relatively easy to trade it in and use the proceeds to buy a new phone. For other electronic appliance you can sometimes see advertisements of second hand products for sale. For instance, just go to the Shopping Center and it quite possible to see a flyer advertising a second hand computer or a laptop. There are also some waste market programs wherein you can actually sell your obsolete electronic equipments. Just check the schedule and go to the waste market area with your recyclables.


Friday, January 18, 2008

XP vs. Vista: Forcibly Replacing Old with Bug-ridden New

As I recall, the news that XP was being phased out by Microsoft came out as early as February 2007. The buzz was, Microsoft was going to pull the plug on XP sales before January 2008 comes to a close. Today is January 19, 2008 and so I recalled the news bit and went online to check out what’s the update on XP’s summary execution. Apparently, Microsoft postponed the death penalty to June 30, 2008.

I found that out in Interestingly, this web address also links to an online petition to “Save Windows XP.” The petition claims that “Microsoft will end OEM and shrink-wrapped sales of Windows XP on June 30, 2008, forcing users to shift to Vista” and urges everyone not to let that happen. In describing the forced shift from XP to Vista, the website declared: “It's like having a comfortable apartment that you've enjoyed coming home to for years, only to get an eviction notice. The thought of moving to a new place -- even with the stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and maple cabinets (or is cherry in this year?) -- just doesn't sit right. Maybe it'll be more modern, but it will also cost more and likely not be as good a fit. And you don't have any other reason to move.” Poignant ei?

Personally, I’d choose Old School XP over New Age Vista any day. Vista is just too darn slow, complicated, and bug-ridden. For me, it boasts of alleged value-added features, but which I find are not really user friendly. Simply, there are still a lot of bugs to be fixed. I’m all for change, but the change has got to be for the better. Let’s analogize this “forced eviction” with the process of amending laws. Of course the laws have to adapt to the changing times. Thus, new laws amend or repeal the old. But where the new law sought to be passed is too difficult to implement, or fails to achieve the rationale for it, or there is no particular reason to change the old law, then why amend or repeal the old law?

XP will be off the shelves but certainly not out of our computers. But of course, by this strategy of Microsoft, it would become increasingly difficult not to get a “new modern apartment” and let go of our “old comfy one.” I’m just hoping that by the time I’m forced to use Vista, all its kinks would have been ironed out. Microsoft owes at least that to us XP loving consumers.

Standards for the Telecom Industry

I hate text technology. Of all the telecommunication technology available, I dislike it the most. I think that we only use SMS because we do not have an alternative to cheap real-time telecommunication technology. I would not describe it as convenient, because it is not. I find it very difficult to text and I know that I am not the only one having a hard time. I also believe it causes as much damage as it does any good to our society. The way it warped our sense of the English grammar, not to mention the countless miscommunication and misunderstanding that have resulted from text conversations. It is a high price to pay for the ability to communicate.

You see, our thoughts are not entirely conveyed in a text message. It does not allow for tone, pronunciation, and non-verbal communication like facial expressions and hand gestures. Therefore, text messages filter out what I refer to as the “humanity in the message”, thus increasing the chance for misinterpretation. This in addition to the occasional lag, “wrong send”, or heck undelivered text message accounts for a big percentage of miscommunication and therefore conflict among human beings.

“But how about chat and email?” you might say, “Don’t they suffer from the same defect?” True, but then I honestly believe that they have characteristics that mitigate their inability to convey the humanity in the message. First off, they do not cost on a per message rate. Therefore, in bulk messages sent, you can argue that they are cheaper. Second, chat and email are practically borderless, spanning the entire globe. SMS on the other hand is limited by national boundaries. Furthermore, as far as I am concerned, having preference for a keyboard and being able to type correctly, chat and email is also more convenient to use.

If I were to rank telecommunications technologies on the basis of cost, ease of use and the ability to retain/convey the humanity in the message, it would look something like this (please take note that the ranking/scores indicated below is in no way substantiated and is simply a product of the author's personal opinion):

Criteria: Ease of Use (30%), Cost (20%), Humanity in the message (50%)
Personal conversation - 10, 10, 10
Phone call - 8, 8, 10
VOIP - 7, 6, 8
Chat - 5, 7, 6
Email - 4, 7, 4
Snail Mail - 2, 6, 4
Text messaging - 4, 5, 2

I look forward to the day when we develop a better alternative to text messaging. Either that or perhaps we can finally convince these telecom giants that phone calls made through cellular phones should be free. Until then, I guess I will have to make do with chikka text using my computer.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It is Ironic

It is ironic that a computer forensic analyst named Alexander Ramos was given the Timothy Fidel Memorial Award for 2007.
The Timothy Fidel Award is given in memoriam of Special Agent Tim Fidel, a pioneer and advocate of cyber forensics. The committee that evaluates the nominees consists of a wide range of leaders in computer forensics. Nominations come from around the world for individuals who completed a computer forensic investigation during 2006.
Ramos was chosen for his outstanding role and analysis of digital evidences in a multi-jurisdictional investigation involving 7,000 hacked PBX’s/voicemail systems worldwide. He also led the PNP team which investigated the hacking activities of a syndicate preying on the vulnerability of telecommunication networks around the world. He is also a key figure in the campaign to fight the spread of child pornography in the Asia-Pacific Region and have had success against crime syndicates and saved the lives of its young victims.
It is ironic because he is a Filipino. It is ironic because he came from a country whose ability to find and prosecute cyber-criminals faces technical, legal and resource challenges, a country that lags in technological, structural and social changes in ICT. It is ironic because this country has the world’s best computer crime investigator.
It is ironic that there’s no mention of any recognition from Malacanang for his achievement when we’re the one who needs his expertise the most. The fact that Malacanang recognizes Manny Pacquiao but not Alexander Ramos is indicative of our government’s thrust to improve the country’s ability to counter cyber-crimes. Ramos said in an interview with Computerworld Philippines[1] “Our country needs a lot of maturity to appreciate my work.” I think our country just needs a little less irony.

[1] Computerworld Philippines, June 2007. Vol 17 No. 5 page 4

The Latest Games

While most of my peers are fond of the latest game consoles such as Nintendo Wii and PSP (Play Station Portable), as well the successors of on-line games DOTA and CounterStrike, I am happy and very much content with the simplest of games, like Minesweeper and Snake (on Nokia phones)! I did not even got into the Playstation 1 bandwagon from a dozen years back.

The past few weeks are “hell weeks” for us in law school, with the numerous papers and homeworks required of us, and not even counting this weekly blog entry which, at least does not require intensive research and legal jargon. Hence I find myself in front of the computer for several hours a day, a couple of days a week. Of course, anyone needs a break, so I am quite grateful for these simple games that keeps my mind off of work for sometime, especially my new favorite: Gnometris.

What the hell of Gnometris, you ask? It is just a version of the old favorite Tetris or Brick Game, this time offered by the Linux operating system. It may seem brainless since one can play it using only four buttons (left, right, up, down) and the graphics is just composed of many colored bricks. But it is so addicting! Now I can barely start any piece of “work” (“work” meaning law-related) in the computer without playing at least one game. Sometimes even in a short entry as this one, I find myself looking for an excuse to take a break by playing this game! Sometimes while in bed or when I close my eyes, I can still see the bricks falling and moving around! I'm Diana and I'm an addict... help! :)

Well, all of us have our own addictions and I am proud to say that I am not into addictions that affects health, such as smoking and drinking. As one of our classmates said in his blog entry, this gaming is an addiction, too. For one, it may cause harm to my health if it causes me shorter sleeping hours. I guess it's time to do something about it before it is too late.

"Appearing" Naked in Court through Technology

Do you want to be completely relaxed while talking to the judge away from the stress of the physical courtroom? Is appearance really vital in every court action? Or do our laws just promote it because lawyers get paid more to appear? Can't our busy supervising lawyers in OLA just be on the speakerphone if we make simple motions in non-trial hearings? Frankly, personal appearance can be done away on some court days. And actually, if you are a lawyer here qualified to and are handling cases in California you can actually do just that.

Since 1988, the California Courts have allowed the "appearance" of lawyers by way of telephonic system. At first, I thought this meant that the lawyers must "appear" via videoconferencing, at the very least. But after reading more articles, I found out that this can be done not only by conference calls but also by speakerphone. This is not the ususal speakerphone we have at home, it is high tech enough to be regulated as to multiple parties and quality of the reception.

Of course, this is only allowed in civil cases in superior court for pre-trial conferences and non-evidentiary law, motions or probate proceedings and in special proceedings such as Unlawful Detainer. They can do so because their judicial council allowed in the California Rule of Professional Conduct, Rule 298 in 1988 this optional appearance within ten counties. And later in July 1998, it was ammended to specifically give the lawyers this right in every superior court in California. Their Rules of Court also was amended to make way for this.

This service is provided largely by a private company called CourtCall which was founded by two lawyers, and a lesser used one called CCS's Appearence by Phone. Some courts provide their own facility to further avoid costs. A study lauded CourtCall for its success and its innovation as it merged an IP telephony with a call center. It said that their reliability, security, productivity, seamless scale and deceased costs are impressive as well as their innovations through newer technologies. CourtCall even provides an online or by fax scheduling of your hearings. It would depend on the availability of the judge, your choice of open court platform or private chambers platform and your case. The schedule itself already avoids waiting time. In fact the service provides a TeleConference Specialist which only allows the proper calls in their proper time. It is really useful here in the Philippines because we only get to see the number our case to be called when we get there. The service also includes a privacy platform for sensitive issues where there is a TeleConference Specialist which acts as the virtual clerk for the judge.

By experience, it has been proved that this set-up has saved litigation costs on appearance fees and expenses, speeded up cases because of the cut of travel time if parties are from different states, avoided late or no show appearances and can allow the lawyers to multi-task even while "in court". It's now possible to attend more hearings than is "physically" possible. Appearing naked while on speakerphone is now a possibility if that is your kink. Technology allows you more freedom to do whatever you want.

Can we do this in the Philippines? Seeing as we are also plagued by traffic, postponement, even separation by water from different islands in the Philippines and heavy costs of litigation, this is very beneficial for the lawyer, the client and the courts. I admit fraud may take place, but this can be lessened if not avoided by proper security measures.


go gokongweis!

The Gokongweis are close to my heart. No, I do not know them personally, nor do they know me. We have no relations whatsoever, except that I am a fan of some of their companies and I would like to emulate their business attitude and the regard they give to their customers.

I first took note of the Gokongweis or at least one of their business enterprises during my “teen” years in Naga. I remember us needing a telephone for our new home. My mother was in some sort of dilemma choosing between Bayantel/PLDT and Digitel. Bayantel/PLDT had been in Naga for quite some time then, and its service was far from satisfactory. It took it a few years to approve and install new telephones and its after-sales support was notorious for making one wait for months. On the other hand, Digitel was a new comer. It had some reputation for reliability as allegedly their lines can stand typhoons due to the fact that most of their major cables were laid underground and their new poles were concrete. Eventually my mom decided to try Digitel, and lo and behold, we had a telephone line not even a week passed after applying! After-sales service was also prompt and efficient.

When I went to college after graduating from high school, I cured my home-sickness through long distance calls. I remember saving 250 pesos for those PLDT cards. I would call first our home and talk to my mom and siblings, then the remaining balance I used to call my girlfriend. The rate then was something like twelve (or was it nine) pesos per minute. I only stayed in Manila for a year. I transferred to Baguio the next year as I was having a hard time adapting to the environment in Manila which was making me sick. After sometime in Baguio, I was re-introduced again to Digitel, this time through its phone-cards that offered very cheap (four pesos-per-minute) long distance calls when PLDT had it at eight pesos . Eventually however, telephone booths became a bit redundant then later near obsolete as GSM cellular phone gained popularity with its free text messaging.

Years passed and I found myself studying in Manila again but this time with a family of my own left in the province. Again, communication became a grave necessity, and Digitel, through its Sun Cellular initially saved my day. However, the service was still unreliable so I reverted back to Smart as I needed to keep in touch and be within text-and-call distance for my family. (I’m amazed at how technology creates standards for what is necessary - a weekly call before the advent of cellphones was enough, nowadays, an hour of no signal creates anxieties of being out of touch). Cell cards were eating a large portion of my budget when luckily for me, Suncell offered its 24/7 service so I bought a sun sim which I used interchangeably with my smart sim. I was really thankful.

To be continued…

another privacy issue care of facebook

A social networking site called facebook has received flak for how they allegedly pry into users privacy.

As I was in the U.P. law library the other day, looking busy but not really being very productive, I picked up one of the issues of the Economist. An article related how an annoyed facebook user was complaining that his surprise gift to his fiance was ruined by facebook. Apparently, facebook, like many other websites observes the browsing behaviour of the users. The data allows the website to choose the most relevant ads to show the user. Facebook took it a step further and integrated the behaviour of a users contacts by displaying information about them. Information about what products have been viewed or purchased by a persons contacts is shared by facebook. According to this particular annoyed facebook user, his fiance found out that he purchased a pair of gloves for her that she had expressed interest in.

A blog I read put it aptly, and I paraphrase: Imagine walking around a mall with somone following you around. As you are about to leave, he comes up to you and says: "I noticed you were looking at a workout book in the bookstore, would you like to have a look at some gym equipment, gym membership options and health supplements?" It's annoying to say the least.

There are suggestions that governments should step in to regulate how far into one's privacy a website can pry. I wonder if this is really necessary as these websites are dependent on the public's use for their revenue. If they have too many features that people don't like, the users are bound to stop going to these websites. It's quite self-policing in a sense. Nonetheless, a good law on the matter would be comforting for an average user like me.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Recycling Electronics, Reviving the Environment, Stimulating the Economy

The latest advertisements for laptops, mp3 players, and cellular phones never fail to inspire my father to recall the technological monstrosities of the past--5-pound cellular phones with their own carrying cases, for instance, or the black karaoke people literally wheel out during special occasions. These days, gadgets are smaller, faster, and packed with more programs than ever--a peculiar status symbol in contemporary society.

Of course, the huge demand for the newest cellphones, iPods, and laptops invariably fuels a culture of temporary ownership. Consumers keep up with changing trends by buying the latest gadget, and the threat of obsolesence similarly encourages users to sell less than a year after purchase. One can only imagine the plight of discarded gadgets from three years ago: gathering dust in an unlucky seller's kiosk. Not that dust-gathering doesn't happen in our own homes, where a couple or more old computers are stored unused.
Two companies in the United States are attempting to recycle obsolete gadgets, reaping a profit while aiding the environment. The concept involves trading in old electronics for credit to buy new gadgets, with the old electronics recycled or resold if still in good condition. This solution not only promotes recycling, but stimulates technological development by encouraging consumers to upgrade.
Given the premium given to technological innovation and environmental protection under the Philippine Constitution, our government would do well to follow the lead of these enterprising U.S. companies. The government could either participate in electronics recycling, or pass appropriate laws requiring companies to adopt a recycling program whether or not consumers are interested in trading their old gadgets for credit. This would not only be environmentally sound and promote technological advances, but stimulate the economy further by encouraging purchases among consumers and providing employment opportunities in the services sector.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


CNN has just announced that the world is waiting eagerly for Steve Jobs to announce the latest Apple wonder for the year. And before switching to a report on the economic platform of Republican candidate John Mcain and Mitt Romney they mentioned that the latest updates could be found on a blog - The Marquee to be exact. This situation is the exact opposite of the case of "Saudi Arabia's most popular blogger", Fouad al-Farhan, who has been detained for questioning due to having used his blog, ALFARHAN, to criticize corruption in the 'Kingdom" and call for reforms. Mr Fouad al-Farhan has refused to sign an apology and continues to be detained.

Two blogs. Two vastly different situations. One blog gets feted by CNN while the other causes its author to be deprived of his freedom. While the internet is a site for some to surf porn and indulge in trade and games, for others it is the only means that they have of expressing their dissent and reaching out to a global audience. We Filipinos should consider ourselves lucky, we have a right to blog. We should not take that right for granted.
http://www. Foud al-Farhan's blog

Top Ten Reasons Why Blogging in "Law and ICT" is Better Than Watching T.V.

10. Nobody ever comments on whatever you say or do.
9. You can listen to any kind of music while blogging.
8. Even the worst blogs have some value.
7. You get to learn weirder stuff than from the National Geographic Channel.
6. The keyboard is never missing, unlike the remote control.
5. Some blogs can transport you to a farther dimension than Lastikman.
4. Blog authors never sue each other because of their ratings.
3. You can always view adult material on the same screen while blogging.
2. Some classmates can be funnier than Willie Revillame.
1. You never hear lies. You just read them.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Not too long ago, there have been attempts to levy some sort of sin tax (on top of E-VAT) on text messaging. For some reason, the law was not passed due to strong lobbying not only by the consumers but more so by the telecommunications companies who knew too well that taxing one of the most popular preoccupations of Filipinos would be detrimental to business. It seems the proposal to levy the additional tax has been revived recently and has been meeting similar resistance of enormous strength among the consumers and businessmen. Whether text messaging will finally be taxed eventually remains to be seen but imagine the effect on the development of ICT in the Philippines if and when the law is finally passed. It is in the mobile phone communications technology where the country experienced greater progress during the last 10 years, perhaps due to the relative affordability and accessibility of such compared to info tech. What happens to ICT if we pursue taxing this popular and progressive communications tech? Will not this hamper ICT growth in the Philippines in general? Doesn't it conflict with programs aimed at promoting ICT on which we rely to give us economic and commercial growth? It seems the government likes taking one step forward and two steps back with this idea. This only goes to show that while we try to achieve the common goal of growth and development, attempts to pursue the goal tend to show fragmented efforts and lack of coordination by the different offices/sectors of the government.

- Marichelle Recio

Online Home Study Program for Traffic Violators

My uncle who is based in the United States is in the country to visit us. I was pleasantly surprised to know that unlike other balikbayans, he is still optimistic about our country. He believes that there is more room for improvement. One example he cited was with regard to the rampant traffic violations in the country.

Over lunch, my uncle told my family and I that the Philippines should adopt the United States' home study online traffic school program. Huh? We were all clueless. So he explained some more. According to him, traffic violators in San Francisco may choose to enroll in an online course to dismiss a traffic ticket which will prevent traffic violations from damaging one's driving record. The offender will still get a ticket but he may choose to enroll online rather than to personally attend seminars for traffic violators. The online course may have several modules and each module will be followed by an exam to test the student's comprehension of the course. After finishing the program, the online school will issue a certificate as proof of completion of the course which will then be forwarded to the court.

I found this interesting. Imagine how convenient it would be for traffic offenders in our country. There will be no need to go to LTO to attend those seminars. I once accompanied a friend who was required to attend a seminar in LTO because of a traffic violation and we had a very horrible experience. They make you wait for the longest time in a very crowded place. And in the end, you won't really attend a seminar. They just make you pay the fine and then you're free to go.

But I admit that our country might not be prepared for the online traffic schools yet. First of all, a number of the offenders would be public utility vehicle drivers. We can't expect the jeepney or bus drivers to have internet access. Worse, they might not even know how to use the computer. Second, there might be a problem in ensuring that the real offender would be the same person taking the course. One can simply ask a smarter friend to take the course and the tests. This will defeat the purpose of educating the traffic offender. Finally, a friend of mine pointed out that this kind of program might not work in the Philippines because violators bribe the law enforcers anyway. After all, that would be the easiest, although not the most proper, way out of the violation.

There may be a lot of obstacles in implementing a home study online traffic school program in the Philippines at present. But it's definitely something that we should consider.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Paranoia and the BPO industry

Local government units (LGUs) all over the Philippines have formed or have started forming information and communications technology (ICT) councils in order to unite LGUs, and other sectors of society such as the business sector and the academe with the aim of developing regional locations conducive for the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, an already booming industry in the country.

This is a very laudable initiative by the LGUs which will lead to the further development of IT infrastructure in the country. But this initiative may have some potential long-term adverse consequences.

Let me posit one to tickle the imagination.

We are already suffering from a dearth of teachers, doctors, nurses, other health care professionals, etc due to the migration of such professionals to other countries providing better financial opportunities. But this situation could worsen by the overemphasis or "overfocus" of our LGUs to the development of the BPO industry within their respective localities to the detriment of other industries and other aspects of society.

Consider this: Filipino college students no longer pursuing careers in medicine, due to the long, arduous and quite expensive journey it will take to finish medical school or going into teaching, due to the fact that it is usually financially unrewarding. Instead, these students could just opt to become call center agents or medical transcriptionists in order to obtain relatively immediate financial gratification. I have nothing against entering such fields, but if such vocations were overly emphasized or pushed for by the regional LGUs it would be a very tempting proposition that may be too hard to resist for most of the youth of such localities thereby depriving other professions of new blood.

This further depletion of the nation’s stockpile of teachers and health care professionals may not be felt immediately, but it is a potential long-term consequence of an overzealous effort to promote the BPO industry.


Taxing MMORPG's

I just visited a friend who got hospitalized in Medical City to the tune of 100,000 plus php due to his having been confined in the ICU for a severe case of dengue. My friend is an obese fellow who is addicted to an MMORPG, World of Warcraft to be exact, and he had the bad luck to get bitten by a mosquito as he was embarking on one of his marathon gaming sessions. My friend's penchant for taking of his shirt and stroking his tummy while playing computer games contributed to his reduced line of defense against dengue but I digress. My friend doesn't smoke and he doesn't drink but he is addicted to a product that is just as addictive and destructive. My friend is a video game junkie and he has no one to blame but himself.

I smoke, although I have been trying to quit for the environment, and I drink and it is just not fair for me to pay a higher price just to indulge my vices due to sin taxes while my friend gets to pay a relatively cheaper amount in order to cover his addiction. Our vices are all destructive. It makes sense to tax them all. Instead of taxing text messages, the government should impose a sin tax on MMORPGs. Text messaging serves some purpose sometimes while MMORPGs do not. What MMORPGs promote is increased electrical consumption that translates into increased gas, oil or coal consumption that translates into increased environmental problems. MMORPGs are drugs, just like marijuana and cocaine, that lull the weak into an fantasy world where they can engage in unreal activities.

Tax MMORPGs! Leave text messaging alone =)

Saturday, January 12, 2008

technology without the communication

Like everyone else, I am fascinated on how technology paved the way to better, more efficient communication system we have today. Gone were the days when we would wait for weeks for aletter sent through air mail from a friend – although of course the novelty of such act is still well loved until now – for we just need to send an email and receive a reply almost instantly. Landline phones are not the only way now for real-time conversation but now we have webcams and the latest cellular phones. For a non-techie like me, technology's greatest and most-utilized contribution is improved and innovative communication – reaching out to people I care about. So what's the use of techonology if there is no one to communicate with?

I have been so bothered with this querry since watching the much-hyped suspense-thriller “I Am Legend” almost a week ago. In this movie, the protagonist, played by Will Smith, is the last person on earth. Literally. Because of a virus outbreak, most of the human population died, and the rest became vampire-like zombies. He is the only human left, and it has been three years already!

Sure, he has access to all the conveniences in life – a nice normal house with everything he needed – and the latest technology, with a whole basement laboratory with computers that seems capable of doing anything he needed for such a gargantuan goal: to find the cure. He may have all these and more, but the movie shows him going out of his mind and it is because he is alone. So alone. His only companion is his dog; he talks to the bitch (yes, the dog is a girl) but of course she cannot reply; she is not human! He talks to mannequins, but of course they do not reply; they are fake humans! He records videos of himself on his computer, but it is not like there is anything else left to happen after that, for there are no other humans left.

The setting of the movie is the near future and, for sure, advances in technology then will be greater that what we can even imagine now. But technology is not just computers and phones; that is only half of the equation. The other half of technology is us humans, we who make this technology work. Without us, what is technology for?

My Mom's Sari-sari store

My mother is a proud owner of a big sari-sari store for fifteen years. It is so big it is better than a convenience store. In fact, it is so big it’s probably illegal (just kidding). The sari-sari store sells everything from untested Chinese herbal store over-the-counter cosmetics, to rusty liquefied petroleum gas storage tanks, to frozen produce. In addition to that it also has an internet shop that no convenience store has and is open for most of the day (it closes only from 3-5 am).
Literally, it has everything for everyone. However, the single most important reason why the sari-sari story grew this big- the secret ingredient- is free delivery. Yes, the sari-sari store boasts of round the clock free delivery to every household within 500 meters or so from our house. It accepts orders through the landline, through the cellphone and through the internet (via y!m).
My mother’s sari-sari store started small but with the help of improved Information and Communication technology it grew phenomenally big. Now, the sari-sari store occupies the whole front part of our house and employs five people (2 delivery boys, 2 storekeepers, and 1 in charge of the internet shop). The benefit ICT offers to small and medium-sized enterprises is invaluable. It fosters innovation and efficiency, and provides employment to a good number of people, while at the same time broadens the market reach of the store. If the sari-sari stores all over the country will employ the same idea, the problem of unemployment will greatly be eased and sari-sari store success will be greatly increased.
My mother’s sari-sari store story is a concrete example of how improved communications can work for the interest of small businesses. And provide employment. Indeed the only hindrance my mom experiences is the fact that her knowledge of the internet is very limited

Random thoughts on online defamation (Part II)

Last week I shared my random thoughts on online defamation, leaving the discussion on the issue of the liability of the site provider for this week. Picking up where I left off, one of the issues that was raised in ANC’s Media In Focus episode on the MF controversy was whether a blog site author had the responsibility of “editing” or “screening” the contents of the comments by third parties on his site. The discussion in Media In Focus was limited to that query, but the issue could be developed further. If the web host did not take it upon himself to edit the contents of the site, could he be found liable for the defamatory comments posted thereat?

Our jurisdiction does not appear to have any legislation or administrative rule that precisely addresses this matter. But in the U.S., there is a federal law that functions to protect a web host from legal claims arising from hosting information written by third parties, Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act of 1996 (47 USC §230). Under this legal provision,

“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

Section 230 has been employed by US courts as basis for holding several Internet intermediaries free from liability for information given by third parties. For instance, in the case of Does 1-30, et al. v. Franco Productions, et al., a video scandal of a bunch of college athletes who were shot in different stages of undress circulated in the internet. The Chicago judge disallowed them from suing the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that hosted Web sites selling the videos. On MTD by the defendants-ISPs, the U.S. District Judge dismissed the case, holding that they are immune from liability under the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

In Lunney v. Prodigy, an unknown person posted offensive messages on an e-bulletin board, using the name of a certain Boy Scout. The imposter also sent an email to the local scoutmaster containing hostile and sexual messages, identifying himself as the said Boy Scout. The boy’s father filed a defamation lawsuit against the ISP, but the CA held that an ISP is merely a conduit for information, as opposed to a publisher, and consequently is no more responsible than a telephone company for defamatory materials transmitted over its lines.

In the case of Mr. Blog Author of the MF controversy, he is a blogger who has created the blog through a service provider. So if he publishes defamatory posts about MF, he may be made liable for libel. But he is likewise a provider himself, inasmuch as he allows third parties to post their comments or add other information on his blog. Thus, for the defamatory comments posted by readers of his site, he is covered by the protection given by Section 230. Had MF chosen to the run after Mr. Blog Author for having allowed his readers to post such “defamatory” comments on his blog, Mr. Blog Author would be protected by Section 230. That is, if we had a statute affording the same protection Section 230 does.

The field of online defamation is already greatly recognized in other countries, but given the extent that the Philippine society has embraced the tools of the cyber era, perhaps it is only a matter of time that our legislators get a wind of the need for specific laws that address these matters.

Free Wi-Fi Connection

If you need to connect to the internet and you have a choice between an establishment with free Wi-Fi connection and another one which charges P100 an hour which option would you choose? It is quite possible that you would opt to use the free connection. One may even argue that that paying a P100 per hour is too much for a service that you could actually get for free.

Free Wi-Fi services are no longer uncommon, for instance, Burger King Outlets now offers free Wi-Fi connection to its customers. It is easy to assume that having free Wi-Fi connection is comparable to other connection that charges an hourly rate. One can even think that there is no down-side in availing of the free connection. However, in one article Symantec pointed out that there is a downside in using free Wi-Fi connection. Free Wi-Fi connections offer little or no security and it is quite possible that the data transmitted could be intercepted by unscrupulous people. In that same article, it was also mentioned that wireless connection is generally secure because the data are transmitted as radio signals and it can be intercepted by some resourceful people. If there is no security in place, like data encryption, then it would be easier to use the intercepted data.

Of course, free Wi-Fi connection has its perks and you can continue availing of such service. You just have to carefully choose the transactions you make and the data you transmit when using such service. If you are not sure of your internet connection and you have to do some banking transaction then it is best to wait until you have a secure connection. If you would just like to surf the net and do some research then maybe it is okay to use such free connection.


Friday, January 11, 2008

Cloning and the Environment

Blame it on Dolly--any mention of cloning in polite company is sure to raise eyebrows and set tongues wagging. Though cloning represents years of research and a fascinating insight into how genetic manipulation improves the human experience, its use has been largely limited to laboratory research. Human cloning certainly remains a vague figure in the theoretical horizon due to the serious ethical and legal questions involved.

However, the most recent use of cloning technology is a commendable attempt to bolster the dwindling number of trees in New York City, where industrialization and the modern way of living has substituted metal and concrete for much of the area's natural landscape. New Yorkers are currently in the process of cloning some of the area's oldest trees for replanting throughout the city. These trees were chosen not only for their historical value, but for practical reasons as well; many of the majestic candidates have been around for over a century, and are therefore testaments not only to the passage of time but to their inherent hardiness and resistance to disease and modern-day pollution.

While the use of cloning technology in this instance has some real benefits, it remains a risk given doubts as to whether the cloned trees can mimic the longevity of their predecessors. Any amateur gardener would agree that plants flourish depending on a complex variety of environmental factors--things which have yet to be simulated by technology outside laboratory conditions. As with all things, technology should be used to supplement other efforts to restore a semblance of balance to nature, especially in areas outside of cities where the growth and health of trees are more feasible and easily monitored.

Please see:;_ylt=AtVxIC14XZZD5ZN0aU8lytqs0NUE

The paradox of communication technology

Communication technology has definitely changed our way of life. With the prevalence of cellphones, internet and laptops, one can certainly take down geographical barriers in communication. Before, one had to write a letter to relate information from one locality to another. Now, technology has provided us with cell phones and its roaming feature that allows us to communicate across the sea. With this feature, people can text from the phils to wherever the person is (provided that the telecom company has a connection there). The internet has provided us with programs like chikka, yahoo messenger & skype that allows people to send messages free of charge or at a minimum charge. I was actually amazed how skype works, one can actually call from the internet to a land line. I was used to having the net-to-net calls but I was amazed with the net-to-phone technology.

Imagine three people in a hotel room all with laptops and with internet connection. Everyone was eager to contact people back home. I was going on the internet for an hour when I looked at my roommates who were busy corresponding online. Then I laughed to myself, we were all busy communicating to the outside world that we failed to talk to each other. By the end of the night, we were all too tired to chat. I thought that this was just ok as we would be spending the day together anyway, so we could just reserve the topics for the next day.

We transferred hotels the next day. We ended up in a room without net connection, so we were kinda freaked out as we had to message people that night. My roommate was saying that she was having withdrawal syndrome and we even went to starbucks just for the wifi. But since we couldn’t do anything about it, we just packed away our laptops and decided to watch TV instead. Eventually, we ended up talking up late and bonding that night. That’s when I realized the paradox of communication technology. Sure, it bridges the gap between long distances and facilitates communication. However, at the same time, it also alienates people within the proximity. With the advent of chikka messaging, ym’s, skype and the likes, we become too dependent on the internet for communication that we forget about the conventional way to interact. Sad but true...

(Sorry benj, i just had to post it this week... :) )

Data Loss and ISO 32000

The Philippine Government consumes vast quantities of paper as it goes about the business of running the archipelago. From an environmental perspective, this is naturally abhorrent.

The E Commerce Act and the the Rules on Electronic Evidence have provided legal basis to justify the move toward a paperless office but actual infrastructure seems to be lacking. The type of file format as well as security measures to entail data integrity seem to be under wraps insofar as the general public is concerned.

Data stored electronically is susceptible to data corruption or data loss as the storage devices wear out, are damaged or corrupted. Government can't have that and the public should be informed as to security measures taken to insure data integrity. In the current system of doing things, paper documents are sometimes mysteriously lost, altered, fabricated and destroyed. In extreme cases, a city hall building catches fire "accidentally" and several important records and documents get reduced to ash. The original ZTE contract was even stolen and the Republic had to make do with a reconstituted copy. All of these underscore the need for an efficient and compact data storage and back up system.

There are two formats that I believe the Gov should look at. One is the PDF format championed and developed by Adobe. The PDF format is well known to desktop publishers and is listed by the Free Software Foundation as one of its High Priority free Software Projects that it seeks to have ISO 32000 certified. Not bad. The another format is Lizardtech's DjVu. DjVu as a format is more compact than PDF and is not as widely used. The advantage of DjVu is that it is not as widely known and very few Filipinos know how to edit or manipulate files stored in that format.

Of course whatever format is eventually chosen, data loss and data corruption must be addressed before a paperless system can be implemented. A backup system in the event of a Fire Sale ala Die Hard 4.0 would be nice but our country is probably at least seven years away from any paperless system. Why seven? Seven is the number of deadly sins. Seriously though, with presidential elections coming up, efficiency and the environment are the last thing on the mind of the Filipinos.