Monday, March 17, 2008

Data mining as a tool to improve business

In some countries credit card companies gather extensive information on the purchases of their clients. This data is stored in large databases not only for record keeping purposes but to discover ways to better serve the card holders. Data mining, which is the process of discovering patterns, is conducted on the contents of the database. When patterns in the purchasing behavior of customers are found, these are used as a basis for determining what purchases may not have been made by the customer. When the information system detects card purchases that deviate from the usual pattern this prompts the system to call the card holder to verify the purchase.

This creates value for the card holder because the information system helps protect them from fraud. Some additional benefits of the data mining the purchases database is that helps the card company determine what freebies and promotions that the card holder would likely be interested in. Also, information generated from this data helps management decide on the features of their credit card to further improve customer satisfaction.

The use of data mining is not only limited to credit card companies. For instance other businesses that are engaged in retail can make use of data mining in order to improve their marketing techniques.

It is unarguable that data mining has a lot of benefits; however, data mining has also its concomitant issues that have to be dealt with. For instance, there is the issue of privacy. Will the data mining techniques violate the privacy of a person? What should be the guidelines for this? Should there be limitations as to its possible uses?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The state is watching you...

European states have adopted a directive in 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed with publicly available electronic communication devices or public communication networks. Data retention in the telecom field generally refers to the storage of call detail records of telephony, internet traffic and transaction data by government and commercial organizations. In government data retention, the data accumulated are usually phone calls made and received, emails and web sites visited. The main purpose of data retention is traffic analysis and mass surveillance. With the analysis of the data accrued, the government can then identify the location of an individual, his associates, monitor his transactions and determine membership in groups especially those who are politically involved.

The Members of the Parliament of UK enacted a act that facilitates a voluntary data retention system on telephone operators and internet service providers. This system deals with the use of retained information from correspondence through the telephone and internet service. This Code allows the state to gain access to subscriber information, telephony data, SMS, EMS & MMS data, email data, ISP data, web activity logs and other collateral data. Private citizens are being subjected to this intrusion in the interest of national security, public health, safety and other police power justifications. Talk about another case of balancing state interest versus the right to privacy of the citizens. However, last month though, Members of the Parliament were surprised to discover that they themselves were not exempted from the state surveillance that they themselves created. The MPs are troubled coz all of their correspondences are being monitored despite the MP immunity from snooping known as the “Wilson Doctrine.” How is that for equal protection… Now the MPs know how the rest of their constituents feel regarding the privacy and confidentiality of correspondence.

Imagine if Congress enacted a Data Retention Act in our country. Coupled with the Human Securities Act, the overreaching police power of the state would violate even the most basic provisions of Bill of Rights. Right to privacy, freedom of speech and expression would be rendered nil especially in this time where the people are getting tired of all the government’s inability to uphold public trust. The political discourse has continually been fueled as more and more government under tah table transactions are being brought to light. I just hope GMA does not get any idea from this... otherwise, the police power would definitely be up for abuse....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Advertising in Technology or Technology in Advertising?

The advertising has propelled the creation of various industries and technologies. Gone are the days when advertising served as lifeblood only to the Tri-Media. Today, advertising has not only grown alongside certain industries, it has even given birth to industries of its own.

Events are examples of the offshoot of advertising. A few decades ago, events would never have been a viable form of marketing. Now however, it has become such an acceptable way of promoting and creating a brand that even students are able to raise funds through advertising in their own college events. Below-the-line advertising as they call them or sometimes public relations has become practically a way of life.

New Media is also very much a creature of advertising. New Media consists of interactive media, namely text messaging and Internet technology. Whenever you text to vote for anything on television or radio through text messaging, that is new media. Whenever you download the latest ringtone or logo, that is new media. Whenever you go to a website to participate in a forum, that too is considered new media. It is everything digital that bridges the gap between advertiser and consumer. It is inescapable, practically permeating all aspects of our modern-day life.

However, in terms of Technology, the impact is so significant that advertising does not only give birth to new industries, but it also giving birth to its own technologies.

Case at point: the Philips Lumalive technology is a technology that allows light patterns to be displayed from clothing. As a result, Philips can now offer shirts and jackets that not only light up but animates its display into a variety of images. Prototypes were available since 2005 but actual production has only begun recently.

The product is trivial at first, but Philips actually designed the shirt with advertising in mind. So when you think about it, it is technology with a purpose. In creating this technology, Philips not only enhanced its brand recognition, it also created a new platform to promote products and services. In cases like these, advertising is not just a passive onlooker eager to play with the latest available toy, but rather an active participant, shaping and moulding the technology it uses, technology that will affect our lives tomorrow.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Truth About Spratlys - Nothing to hide

The 1935 Constitution specifically set Philippine territory as being the metes and bounds set by the treaty of Paris, When Arturo Tolentino and the Philippine delegation went to the UNCLOS, they accepted the proposed archipelagic baselines on behalf of the Philippines. The result was a reduction of Philippine territory. The country's exclusive economic zone that we claim the Spratlys as being within does not confer sovereignty but merely sovereign rights. The two are not the same. The latter merely confers the right to exploit.

Word around the grapevine is that the Spratlys agreement with China for seismic testing used to be posted on the DFA website before it mysteriously vanished. Whoever is responsible for its disappearance should repost it on the net as there is nothing illegal about entering into an agreement for joint exploitation of a sovereign right.

An RTC judge in Zambales came up with a decision quite some time ago saying that it was not clear whether or not the Spratlys is a part of the Philippines. That decision was published in China. Heh.


Forums exist all over the net and every forum seems to have one resident troll, an asshole out to purposely irritate others by posting irreverent and sometimes stupid remarks. Trolls often get banned for being a nuisance but sometimes they somehow stick around and continue to spread their poison .

One such example can be found in the Lightninghoof server forum of World of Warcraft. Some bigot started a thread that Obama was the Antichrist and to my surprise, people dignified the bigotry by posting their replies. It is not that I prefer Obama over Clinton or that I believe in equality and brotherhood for all mankind but the tread that was started was simply stupid and illogical.

My God, the internet is still full of assholes and immature people.


I got a Pldt my DSL line installed over a year ago. I wanted an auto connect line but the technician installed a dial up. And he left no installer cd. I bought a new PC recently and since the PLDT technicians have yet to come to my house to change the line from dial up to auto connect, I had to do my internet work over my friend's house. Lousy.

Another thing I have noticed with Pldt my DSL is that it does not seem to perform as advertised. The speed doesn't seem up to par with what I am supposed to be paying for. Typical

Retroactive Copyright Protection

Relic Entertainment pulled a fast one on people buying pirated copies of their software Company of Heores. The original version had no copyright protection aside from the usual cd key entry requirement. Upon applying the update patch, users of pirated software found that they needed to log in to Relic's online service in order to play even non online games. It goes without saying that the pirated version of the games were rendered unusable . Tough luck .

Gutenberg and the Internet

From the time Gutenberg invented the movable type press and revolutionized information technology to the time Internet has connected people all across the globe and made information easily accessible, Man has strived to improve the way he shares and receives information. Because of this, it is quite inevitable that Man will marry both printing and Internet. Thus, we have the web-to-print industry.
Web-to-print is a process that allows a printer, a client and a graphic designer to create, edit and approve computer-based online templates during the pre-press phase. With web-to-print services, printers enable clients to place orders online, print proofs on their own printer, and specify delivery details – all from the convenience of their own desktop.
The web-to-print industry is starting to boom in the US and the business possibilities of the technology makes it a fruit ripe for the picking for Filipinos in the printing business. Web-to-print will help broaden Filipino printers’ customer base by offering the service to corporate businesses as some sort of print department in their offices; as they can easily access materials and edit them from their own page using only the internet; not to mention, Filipino printers’ can now start accepting orders from abroad.
As of now, I know of one Filipino-owned printing company in the industry, this is “Fax Parcel ‘N Print”, a shop for communication, business and printing needs. They use the Fuji Xerox DocuColor 5000 Digital Press, a printer equipped with web capabilities.
“Since we are already on the Internet age, it’s time we establish a web presence for Filipino printers,” explained Rosemarie Ngo, managing director of the company. Likewise, Fax Parcel ‘N Print expects a smoother, faster and more convenient transmittal of draft materials between clients and artists or among their branches with their Machine.
I’m actually thinking of the possibility of the technology being used to print materials coming from abroad, which will cut drastically the cost of shipping. Hardbound books just like as published abroad (not the e-book type) then will be available for a fraction of the price.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Mobile Social Networks

Tired of the same old same old? Social networks can now be found in mobile cellphones, easy exchanges of messages and mms and real-time on dits on a friend's location. Using a GyPSii search, a leading mobile social network, will show users a map of their environs dotted with photos, videos and information from other members. Currently there are about 30 upstarts, most coming from Asia and Africa, in countries where there is less PC orientation and there are more cellphone users than internet users.

I can just imagine that stalking will be a breeze. Locating a "friend"? Surprise him, right around the corner! I hope the users know what they are getting into. If we now have problems with privacy in social networks online, how much more in mobile social networks? I can just imagine these networks selling your whereabouts to marketers. It's like carrying a homing device and a target everywhere with you.

And don't be fooled of a delete option. I quote from a Facebook subscriber as regards the delete option of his Facebook account, "it's like the Hotel California, you can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave!" Better treat your sim card number as a disposable one then.


Social Networks not for Antisocials

Sexual offense is an antisocial behavior. Many cases have already come up abroad where these social networks in the internet have been used for crimes to be committed. Now New York is trying to pass a bill against internet access of sex offenders. They have tried to do so in the past but it wasn't approved. They wish to ban sex offenders from social networks.

1. The bill would make it a parole condition for sex offenders with child victims or a history of using the Internet to commit sex crimes to register their screen names and other identifiers for instant messaging, e-mail, and other Internet communication.
2.Those offenders would not be allowed to access social networking sites, view pornography, or communicate with anyone to promote sex relations with minors. It would also prohibit Internet communications with people under age 18, in most cases.
3.The bill would allow the Division of Criminal Justice Services to release offenders' information to networking sites and some other Internet services to help private companies prevent offenders from joining.

It seems that the internet has become a right of the users that can be trespassed and violated. There may be protests on the constitutional ramifications on freedom of expression, freedom of association and privacy vs. state interest. Isn't this already penal in nature?


The Internet as our Personal Space

In the United States, a teenager is charged for criminal contempt of a protection order prohibiting all communication to a woman and her children. The woman, whom the teen’s father briefly dated, obtained the order because the teen had harassed and threatened her in real life. The teen sent a MySpace Friendship Request which asked the woman whether to deny, accept, ignore or spam future messages from the sender. The judge let the charges stand by construing the indirect request as communication.

In the United Kingdom, a husband was charged because he invited his wife to join his network in Facebook using an e-mail message. He joined Facebook to look at his friend's wedding pics, was sent to jail after the site automatically sent a "friend request" message to his estranged wife. The magistrates automatically considered this as a violation of their stay-away order from his wife.

Are the spaces we create in the internet necessary extensions of our persons? Is our actual expectations of protection and privacy in real life the same in our internet spaces? Can we demand this in our courts here?


Is there a private social network?

Social networking sites are forums for keeping in contact with old acquaintances and meeting new ones through the service. Users create their own webpages and post details about themselves. The users can form networks with their friends and their friends’ networks. They can also link to others who have the same details like schools, work , hometowns and other shared information. Basically, a user joins in the network to open himself up to others. He posts his personal information in the pages to advertise himself. In reality this should lower his expectations of privacy.

The issue of privacy arises because of the access granted to everyone. And not only can marketers scout for information but the sites themselves provide collated information for these marketers. The users now believe that the access should be limited. Rather than lose their users some of these sites have created privacy settings to try and fulfil the demands of the users. These users want the same level of privacy that one is entitled to in real life to be the same as in the virtual world.

The nature of publishing your information in online social networking sites is really to let others have free access to you. Does one expect to publish something and not let it be used for or against you? Remember this is a voluntary disclosure of personal information. Facebook in its terms and conditions of use claim that they own all the contents of their site. Even if we contend that one can still control the use of their dislosed information, didn't they agree to give it to Facebook? But, I guess their opt-in option was a recognition that the users still owned their information.

E-Lagda Anyone?

Back in the year 2000, at the height of the Erap controversy, I received an invitation to join the e-group, e-lagda. It was headed by a man named Enteng Romano. The e-group aimed to gather a million electronic signatures to form part of a petition to pressure Erap into resigning. I joined the group because like most Filipinos I was tired of Erap and his schemes. I'm proud of that e-group. We received messages from Mr. Romano asking us to forward letters to the e-mail addresses of senators to let them know that we were watching them as they conducted the impeachment trial. Most of the messages sent to the senators bounced back but we felt that it was an achievement because we succeeded in flooding the inboxes of the senators.

E-lagda was not able to deliver the million signatures. But it succeeded nonetheless in forcing Erap to resign.

Eight years later, we find ourselves in a similar situation. Our government is in the middle of several controversies again. People are asking for different things - some want GMA to resign, some want snap elections to take place, some are just indifferent. I'm pretty sure that people want to know the truth and they want change. But I don't think we'll ever achieve anything if we remain divided and if we continue asking for different things. Perhaps we need another e-lagda or someone like Enteng Romano to help unify the people. An e-group might not be able to do so much but we have to start somewhere and I'd say that it is worth a try.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wanted: Filipino Digital Artists

Digital design has been around for quite some time in the country, but it was only recently that it has become recognized as a rapidly emerging industry that is seeing a sharp increase in manpower demand. Envisioned to grow at a much faster pace because of the developments in film, publication, animation, Internet gaming, photography and advertising – employing more and more graphic, multimedia and web designers, 2D and 3D animators and cinematic artists – a career in digital arts can be one of the most lucrative jobs after the nursing and the BPO boom.

Unknown to many of us, a small but thriving community of Filipino graphic design wizards is impressing the bigwigs of the industry abroad. Filipinos have been getting various awards for their exceptional digital design talents. Realizing the Filipinos’ potential to succeed in the field here and abroad, the First Academy of Computer Arts (the first and only computer training institution in the country to offer digital arts, 3D animation and web design certificate programs) is embarking on a mission to help Filipinos realize their dream of making it big in the said industry by presenting an alternative career path that offers a high earning potential. The Academy has the most comprehensive digital arts curriculum designed for the modern multimedia artist and animator who has the passion for computers.

Just like other BPO’s, the industry is slowly gaining recognition as a viable career option for the very artistic Filipinos. Personally, with the flak the call-center industry has been getting from some high-brow yuppies, the digital design industry is an option that…well… sounds better.

Sorta Kinda Laptop

Last week I blogged about Suzy, my Asus EEEPC. I hesitate to call it laptop, because it's not quite a laptop. Technically, it's an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), also called sub-notebooks by some, which functions pretty much like a laptop but with very minimal specifications. Perfect for word processing and connecting to the net on the go, but not for programming, gaming and big applications.

Suzy's great, but here's another UMPC ready to give Suzy a run for her money: The Astone UMPC. It ships with Windows XP, 1.2 gigahertz processor, 30 GB HDD, & 1 GB memory. Battery life is up to 5 hours. Its display is a 7-inch touch screen LCD and has handwriting capability. It has wi-fi, bluetooth & Ethernet capability. And the best part, it's just P21,000!

So if you're game for portable notebook, UMPCs are now in the market to satisfy.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


When it comes to operating systems (OS), I have always been of the belief that the older system has a lesser number of “bugs” than the newly released versions. Which is why when Microsoft XP was released years ago, I still stubbornly stuck with my Windows 98 OS. Fast forward to 2008, now I am a Microsoft XP user and I still refuse to “upgrade” to the new Microsoft OS, “Vista”, which supposedly could provide more multimedia features.
An online article, They Criticized Vista. And They Should Know, published in ( seemed to have proven this “theory”.
In the article, internal communications between Microsoft senior executives seem to indicate that Vista had a lot of compatibility issues that still needed to be resolved, as well as performance and graphics-related problems when it was released to the public. There must be something wrong when even a Microsoft VP refers to his “Microsoft Vista Capable” laptop, in exasperation, as “a $2,100 e-mail machine.”
After Vista’s release, Microsoft was subsequently flooded with numerous customer complaints about the Vista OS and a class action suit was filed by several of these customers alleging that Microsoft’s “Windows Vista Capable” stickers were misleading when placed on PCs which could not support the features that Microsoft was marketing as distinctive benefits of “upgrading” to Vista.
Putting aside international law issues and the question of adequacy of legislative protection, the more important question to ask is: If our laws, such as the Consumer Act of the Philippines, are adequate enough to protect our consumer rights, do we have the mentality and the wherewithal to fight for our rights as such consumers?
I believe, as a country, we still have a lot to go in order to properly attain a “the customer is always right” mentality. Yes, we occasionally hassle restaurants for lousy service or return defective department store items, but we don’t sue. Even if the circumstances warrant litigation, such as when we get horribly sick by unknowingly eating crap-ridden restaurant food or if we buy a $2000 laptop, due to a "Vista Capable" inducement, but we end up with one very expensive "e-mail machine," which does not even run our peripheral devices.
Consumer rights laws are useless if we don’t use them.
Microsoft rakes in billions of dollars every year, but it has consistently been releasing products which still have a lot of “bugs”. That may be excusable, but when it resorts to a practice which tends to mislead consumers into thinking that the product they’re buying offers more features than what it actually can, then that is false advertising. Microsoft is not some semi-anonymous seller from E-bay, whom we probably couldn’t find in order to sue; it is one of the biggest companies in the world, which is why it should be made accountable for any type of misleading practice.
So ... class suit anyone?

Portable Strip Search

"A British company [ThruVision] has developed a camera [T5000] that can detect weapons, drugs or explosives hidden under people's clothes from up to 25 meters away in what could be a breakthrough for the security industry."

This technology is going to be a hit. I'm pretty sure we all can see how useful this device can for security purposes. When the T5000 becomes available commercially, banks will probably be their biggest customers. For one, they need it. Second, they can probably afford it. But when you think about it, it should be governments that ought to buy these cool gadgets. Not only are they useful in airports and other high security government establishments, they could be used for general police purposes. Can you just imagine if every policeman had one of these in hand (assuming that they are portable)? Don't worry, body parts aren't actually identifiable. The T5000 captures only electromagnetic signatures.. kinda like infrared.. i think. If the T5000 were available to our law enforcement officers, they wouldn't have to worry the about constitutionality of stop-and-frisk searches. Suspicious behaviour and law enforcement experience need not be anymore looked into. If the T5000 sees somthing, that should be enough reason to search. However, if the T5000 were to become available, rules and guidelines must also promulgated in order to curb their possible abuse. We don't really know how accurate they can be yet.

The problem with any new bit of technology is the price. Hence, we probably won't be seeing the T5000 being utilized by our government anytime soon. For now, I guess we'll just have to settle for strip searches.
Source Article:

Death and Technology

A program was recently held at malcolm law to celebrate the birthday of hazing victim Cris Mendez. More importantly, the event was intended to remind the public of Cris' tragic death in the hope that the incident will not be forgotten.

After his death, it was not unusual for people to see Cris' face. After all, it was shown in almost all the news networks. The strange thing is that most of these photos were actually taken from his friendster account. Up to now, his friendster account is still up and running and you can see all his friends posting heartfelt messages in his site. I sympathize with the Mendez family for what happened to their son, but for the purposes of this blog, I find his friendster account a bit strange bordering on the eerie.

It is strange indeed to be survived by your friendster account. When you see someone on a networking site, you assume that they are still alive. Ever thought that some of the people you might be checking out on friendster, facebook or what have you may have just passed away?

If people are now used to running virtual lives distinct from the lives that they lead, what happens then when they are no longer alive? It is easy and I believe it has been exhausted in conversations, this blog included, that if something happens to our virtual lives (we lose our password, our identity gets hacked etc.) then it becomes a big inconvenience. Worst case, it becomes an intrusion to privacy. However, it seems as if no one is talking about what could happen if it was the other way around.

My mom had an officemate who recently passed away. Now, what some people in her office did was to text people using the officemate’s old cellular phone. It was done it jest and my mom told me that these people had a lot of laugh after reading the various replies of their worried and scared common friends. Replies such as "Ser, 'wag n'yo na po akong dalawin. Ok lang po ako dito" or, "Di po ba lumulusot yung daliri ninyo sa cellphone sa pagtext?"

My point for telling this story is simple: if people can use a dead person’s virtual identity for fun, what keeps them from using it for other purposes? What would keep them from using it to defraud others or perhaps inflict harm?

I can make a guess but it would probably just be as good as yours.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Saturday, March 8, 2008

in the interest of national security

The US Defense Department has banned Google Earth from filming and documenting the detailed geography of the inside of the US Military bases. Google Earth has launched “Street View”, a mapping service that allows web users to virtually drive along landscapes with ground level views of on-site locations. It offers a detailed satellite & 3D images of locations around the world. It allows you to see the left and the rights and the ups and downs of a location virtually.

The action of the Pentagon has been triggered by the discovery of the detailed, three-dimensional panaromas of the Fort Sam Houston army base in Texas. The site provided for the 360-views of the base including access control points, barriers, headquarters, facilities and community areas of the army facility. Obviously, this detailed mapping indeed poses a potential threat to national security coz you would be giving relevant information on a silver platter. Security of the military base is compromised, and it seems like an open invitation for anyone who’s an adversary of the US to attack.

Aside from national security reasons, privacy concerns have also been raised by individuals who were depicted in the images.

The ban on the continued action of Google Earth is a perfect example of the government invoking national security. The Army is part of the country’s defense and exposure of information regarding the location would definitely compromise the security not only of the base itself but also of the country in effect. This is a proper matter of national interest and security,
Now, will our government (executive in particular) be able to tell what issues should be kept privileged in view of national security or interest? It seems that Malacanang is invoking the “Executive Privilege” left and right whenever there is an inquiry regarding their transactions. Even if no national security or national interest is involved, they hide under the cloak of that privilege, even if the matters being protected are their own self interest. Tsk.

The so called Streisand effect

Do you know the “Streisand effect”? This term was coined after Barbara Streisand discovered online pictures of her Malibu home. She filed a case to force the website to remove the pictures but the case generated publicity and more people started to access the website. Instead of achieving her goal she unknowingly made her private Malibu home more public.

This Streisand effect is more of a human reaction to something that is generally a secret. If she didn’t file a case then it’s possible that the website would not be accessed by a lot of people mainly because they did not know that it existed at all. It is natural for people to satisfy their curiosity. For instance, if there is a rumor going around people tend to want to know more details about it.

Would it be better to just keep silent about the issue or the intrusion? Maybe this is not the best solution because it is quite likely that this news would still leak out to the public. For example the website developer may find other ways of promoting his/her website containing unauthorized pictures. If a case would be filed, it is quite likely that the people would have already accessed such website even before the court could render a decision. As seen in the case of Streisand filing a case can defeat your purpose of protecting your privacy.

Given this scenario, what would then be the best alternative of the offended party?

DVD format wars resolved

At last, the DVD battle between Sony and Co.'s blu-ray technology and Toshiba and Co.'s HD-DVD formate has come to an end, with the latter conceding to the more expensive blu-ray technology. The last string for Toshiba was said to be broken by the decision of a major Hollywood movie producer to support the Sony format, making the Toshiba format commercially unviable.

This development supports the argument for governments to back off or adopt a wait and see attitude towards technological battles, similar to what happened between VHS and Beta-max. Recently, it has been reported that the EU Government had considered steping into a similar battle between two available and competing technologies for allowing TV programs to be viewed in cellphones which were being offered by rival carriers in the EU market.

Hopefully, this incident in the DVD arena will show the Government that the market can decide for itself which is the better format, insulating the governemnt from any criticism of bias and from unnecessary expense at regulating a field better left to the private sector.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Writing in Open-Word Harmony

When I first got my Asus EEEPC Ultra Mobile PC, I hated it. I loved the size, look, and weight, but I hated the OS. Although it's XP compatible, it ships with Linux OS. So the word processor was Open Office Writer, which sucks cause I'm more used to MS Word. I couldn't use Suzy (yes, i named the gadget Suzy) for two weeks! Because Suzy didn't have a built in optical drive, I had to buy/borrow an external optical drive to install XP. Imagine my utter happiness when I finally got the XP installed! I really hate Open Office Writer. Sadly, the only computer in OLA that can read USB flash disks doesn't have MS Word installed--only Open Office Writer.

But here's fantastic news for obsessive compulsive people like me who just can't stand Open Office Writer. You can actually tweak the settings of the Open Office Writer to work in harmony with Word documents! Check out this webby: It contains tips on how to configure your computer to perfection and prevent anal days when dealing with Open Office Writer. Not that it's much use to Suzy, which is now sporting a spanking new OS!

When business cut costs through technology

Among the opportunities made possible by ICT for businesses is cost-cutting in their customer service operations. As we know, multi-national companies outsource not just simple directory assistance but also customer support from the basic to technical kind, hence the establishment of Call Centers providing support services tailored to specific products or a range of product lines for the clients/customers of a given company. The convenience of dialing hotline numbers to inquire or request certain services cannot be denied but there are limits as to the quality of support that could be extended via a hotline. Still, those who became too spoiled in transacting basic requests or inquiries online or thru the phone instead of going "over-the-counter", resent the idea of having to do over-the-counter again.

My daughter's wallet with her ATM got lost in school one day. When efforts to recover the wallet failed, I dialed the bank's hotline number and asked for the card to be blocked. Upon inquiry of recent transaction history, the person on the other line refused to give me the information because I am not the account holder. But note this, i was able to have it blocked.

[My daughter is a minor. It was not a regular account but a special product of the bank's. The only way it could be opened was through a parent/guardian's account with which the account could be linked. Such was the nature of the special service offered by this bank. It exists not independently but as some extension of a "regular" account. My daughter was more of a beneficiary than a real account holder. She does not make independent deposits but draws funds directly from my linked account. Through her account, my daughter becomes a pseudo client of the bank.]

In order to get the info I desired, I thought I had to explain to the customer service specialist the nature of the bank account my daughter had but she would not hear of my explanation. She required my 12-year old daughter to make another call to personally inquire about the transaction history and balance. It didn't matter whether my daughter even understood what it was for; that even and when she did, it would definitely be WITH MY COACHING.

Normally, I would not argue about such a policy. I would even appreciate it since it sought to protect bank's clients from the prying of third parties. But I also thought that while I am not a co-account holder of my daughter, I was not exactly a third party. No matter how hard I tried to explain to the other person the nature of our accounts and my "interest" in the matter, she could not accommodate and make the exception for me. Anyway, my husband visited the branch. He asked about the requirements for replacing lost ATM for his daughter's account. The branch staff automatically looked up the account and assured my husband that there was no unauthorized transaction from the time the ATM was lost.

So, what was that? Did the staff personally know "us"? NO. What prompted her to serve my husband's need? My only guess is that the bank personnel knew the nature of my daughter's bank account. She acknowledged the interest of the parents in the matter, specifically in obtaining transaction history information. The branch personnel was in the position to understand the peculiar nature of the product it offered, something which the Call center agent could not do because the latter, I realized, was simply not a bank personnel. Most likely, the hotline person was equipped only with a "manual" that listed answers to the STANDARD inquiries, requests, transactions and services usually demanded by customers through the hotline. The manual was not designed to meet peculiar services beyond the basics. In other words, the company which authored the manual dictated the limits or the extent of assistance they would render.

This is the side of technology that we cannot help but sigh about. ICT only gets credit for making things fast, convenient, more accessible or cheaper in some cases. It is after all designed to streamline and provide short-cuts. However, the downside is that in pursuit of cost-cutting with the aid of technology, the inevitable result is that little wisdom is used on how, when or which aspects of business it should be used. The idea of a Customer Service hotline automatically and reasonably breeds expectations on the part of customer-callers. In my belief, there can be no limit as to the problems that can be subject of inquiry. Therefore, if companies wish to avail of technology in reaching out to clients, measures should be taken so as not to lose the essence of the service. In outsourcing Customer Assistance to parties who are total strangers to the line of business of a bank, the quality of assistance is diminished because they do not know anything other than the English proficiency training and the Standard Manual for customer support. And while callers who have developed reliance on hotlines for assistance might tolerate its being impersonal, the lack of real and meaningful help can be frustrating.

Without saying ICT is to blame, I think businesses can also be compromised if use of technology is done indiscriminately for "savings" purposes.

- Marichelle B. Recio

Monday, March 3, 2008

Some More on Lozada and his Text Messages

Smart and Globe representatives have spoken. According to the two mobile networks, they don't store text messages, as a general rule. They only keep logs of the messages, i.e., information regarding the numbers of the sender and the recipient and the date and time the message was sent and received. But they store messages of subscribers who are offline or outside the provider's network. And these messages are only stored for one day.

I am relieved to hear this news. I was afraid that if these text messages were stored, we would once again be subjected to modern-day "partylines" or high-tech eavesdroppers. I'm glad to know that my messages are safe from the prying eyes of other people. Now I can peacefully exercise my freedoms of speech and expression.

I wonder how Senator Enrile would react to this news. Perhaps, the issue on these text messages would be added to the growing list of Enrile's unanswered questions addressed to Lozada. We'll just have to wait and see until the next Senate hearing.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Love-Hate Relationship between Microsoft and Intel

Microsoft used to inspire dread in the tech industry. With a few notable exceptions, most rivals and partners did their best not to get on Bill Gates' bad side. But recently, we find that Microsoft agreed to a two-tiered Vista upgrade program that its managers probably knew was a mistake.

By far, Microsoft managers have allowed their partner Intel to drive their consumer experience. Computer makers supported Intel’s goals and they've made graphics investments to drive the user experience with consumers. Therefore, Microsoft had to be soft to allow the potential development by Intel to drive the full user experience.

Historically, the love-hate Microsoft-Intel relationship goes back years. But back before getting clobbered by Google and the Web 2.0 crowd, Microsoft was famous for throwing its weight around even with Intel. Remember how much they hated each other during the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit in the late 1990s? In fact, Gates said, “Intel could not count on Microsoft to support Intel's next generation of microprocessors as long as Intel was developing platform-level software that competed with Windows. Intel's senior executives knew fully well that Intel would have difficultly selling PC microprocessors if Microsoft stopped cooperating in making them compatible with Windows and if Microsoft stated to OEMs that it did not support Intel's chips. Faced with Gates' threat, Intel agreed to stop developing platform-level interfaces that might draw support away from interfaces exposed by Windows.”

That was then and this is now. The antitrust case era has gone, and Microsoft has new and equally pressing concerns. In the meantime, I think Intel is likely to get an earful from its customers as more e-mail revelations surface detailing backroom pressure on Microsoft over its "Vista Capable" program. Along with this, the bedroom partners will have to resolve their worries -- back in bed.

Farmers online.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) announced last year that it plans to put up electronic kiosks and establish computer centers for farmers all over the country. This is in line with the Department’s “Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture” and “Mobile Internet Bus” projects which aim to provide farmers with various online services, such as updates on current market trends and recent advancements in agricultural technology and techniques, as well as provide training courses in new farming techniques.

On its face these are very laudable efforts, but the problem is the first thing that came to mind when I read about these projects, aside from “Is this another ZTE-NBN scam?” was “Will the farmers ever know about these projects and will they ever use them?”

Will the DA launch an extensive information campaign in order to inform farmers about these projects which may possibly help them improve their way of life? Will these electronic kiosks ever be used at all by the farmers; will the farmers even be trained to use them?

Using IT to provide certain services for farmers may seem to be a good idea at first, but are these the services that Filipino farmers really and urgently need? What good are electronic kiosks to farmers? Will getting recent market trend information help them till their fields if they don’t have access to farm equipment and materials?

What I’m driving at is this; there are better ways to spend millions of pesos for the benefit of farmers. The DA can provide farming equipments for rent, at a very low cost. And with regard to educating farmers, the DA can disseminate new farming techniques through seminars which its various regional offices can conduct in coordination with local farmers’ cooperatives. It does not need to spend millions of pesos to establish computer centers which, at this stage of development of the Philippine agricultural sector, will just gather dust and eat away at the DA’s budget.

IT has many uses in many different fields, but it should not be blindly adopted by any and all agencies just for the sake of going along with the current trend.

How JK Rowling sued a publisher for making a book out of a website

World-renowned author of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, sues a publishing company for its plans of publishing a “Harry Potter Lexicon”. Rowling and Warner Bros., which owns the copyright for the seven books, say that it is common knowledge already that she plans to come up by herself of a Harry Potter encyclopedia the proceeds of which will go to charity. The defendant RDR Books claims that the contents of the book will actually just come from the website of the same name, and by the same people. If Rowling herself sanctions, and even praise the website, why would she file suit over a book of exactly the same contents?

Because these people, who do not have copyright over Harry, will profit from the (future) book, unlike the existing website, which is free for everyone, Rowling says. But how can she be sure that the makers of the website do not earn from the said site? What if they let companies pay for advertisement on their site, or they sell the partial contents to others, for whatever other reason, probably also for publishing purposes? There are at least 46 other books about Harry Potter (or his world) created by other publishers who do not have copyright over the franchise; why aren't these publishers sued?

I think Rowling was too selective of who to sue and why. I have never read any of those spin-off books, but at least I saw them at bookstores, and browsed over them. There seems to be little difference between these books and this planned Lexicon: all are about Harry Potter or about his world (historical wizards, for example, or Quidditch), and all are not created by the Rowling. Why this one? Just because it transfers the contents from something that is supposedly free – the internet – to something that would profit a person who is not Rowling? Anyway, this is one case I will really be watching out for.

Big Mommy Is Watching You

I came upon an article about how high school kids in the U.K. are being monitored via micro-chips embedded in their uniforms. "The devices are used to monitor pupils’ movements and register their arrival in class on the teacher’s computer. Supply teachers can also be alerted if a student is likely to misbehave. The chip connects with teachers’ computers to show a photograph of the pupil, data about academic performance and whether he or she is in the correct classroom. It can also restrict access to areas of the school..."
The Radio Frequency Identification System (RFID) raises so many objections, especially from the kids themselves. They say it's a lot like George Orwell's Big Brother. But c'mon... is it really that objectionable??
If i were a parent, it would be nice to know that the school has a way of keeping tabs with my kid, making sure he/she attends class during class hours and even find out where he/she wanders off to after school.
The right to privacy, like all other rights, can be encroached upon by the State when overriding interests are present. Although safety hasn't really been the main concern for the installation of the RFIDs, it seems obvious how much RFIDs can help in this area. And besides, even without trying to figure out whether or not the right to privacy can be encroached upon by other compelling State interests, we just have to look at the persons whose rights are being violated... kids. Just how much right to privacy can high school kids have?? When it comes down to knowing where you are and where you go, kids must always be answerable to the higher authority-- their parents. If their parents agree to the use of the RFIDs, then that's that.

Earning through traffic ... Internet Traffic ...

I have always advocated saving. My friends know this. I believe that our fate is in our hands and in saving for a rainy day. I also believe in the biblical parable of the good steward and the notion that God does not want us to be wrapped in poverty. I do not advocate materialism mind you, as I do not wish to promote attachment to worldly things. However, because of my advocacy for saving and financial literacy, I frequently stumble upon various investment and business proposals.

I have this friend who has been asking me to invest in an online business model. I have not had the time to fully understand his proposal, but according to him, it is viable and it actually works.

The online proposal is called Giblink. From what I know of it so far, it is a business that feeds off Internet traffic. Simply put, it earns through advertising. I do not know the details of the business yet, but apparently, Internet traffic can be a very profitable business.

This is how it works: let us say you are an excellent writer and that you have a blog. As you post in your blog, hundreds of people visit your site to read what you have written. Now if say an advertiser like Jack ‘n Jill (I use Philippine brands to promote Philippine Products. Ah, the little things I do) wants to put an advertisement in your website, surely that advertiser must pay you for it.

Now imagine if instead of just having hundreds, you have thousands ... nay, millions, wouldn’t your advertising space be worth so much more? Of course. Apparently this is how various websites make money. This is the reason why google bought Youtube for millions of dollars and this is the reason why we have tons of networking websites (as I call them) proliferating cyberspace today. Advertising. Internet Traffic is equal to advertising and advertising is equal to cash.

Traffic is easier to monitor as individual clicks can be measured. This together with the fact that IP addresses can be identified to make a verified count of every distinct user that views the site, and you have a system that tells you how much your website is viewed far better than the darn AGB Nielsen television rating system. No TV station fist fight here.

Now, the million dollar question is this: are there safeguards for this type of business? In other countries perhaps; in the Philippines, who knows. Do these things get taxed? Well, definitely not here.

So the next time you open your friendster, facebook, my space, yahoo, google, gmail, and msn whatever, perhaps you might want to try to look and notice the advertising. Companies are paying millions of dollars just to make you take a glance ... or is that actually an enticing reason not to do so.

- Elgene L. C. Feliciano

Environment and E-commerce

Besides the fact that shopping on-line is definitely much, much cheaper and a lot less stressful, it would be interesting to think about the environmental impact of e-commerce.
According to Industrial Technology Research Institute’s Jih Chang Yang, who conducted a study entitled Environmental Impact of E-Commerce and Other Sustainability Implications of the Information Economy, on the effects of e-commerce on the environment, “It is hard to imagine the environmental impact of e-commerce (since),\ after all it doesn’t emit any pollutants, or uses much energy and natural resources. It would also be hard to imagine it is connected to the now familiar topics of sustainability, such as climate change, and biodiversity and habitat loss.”
But Yang says the environmental impacts are there. In the next three to four years, the size of business-to-business e-commerce is expected to grow by up to 1,000 times to $12.5 trillion (from the current $1.3 trillion). “Looking further out, by 2010, it will likely grow to account for half of all commerce,” Yang says. “What is happening here is nothing short of mass migration of the world’s buying and selling from their existing physical and material based ‘universe’ to a virtual parallel universe.”
This shift, she adds, brings two inter-related changes. Firstly, since the buying and selling take place on-line, costs are bound to be reduced dynamically, which in turn, and secondly, will lower the prices. “(And) if buying and selling are becoming a lot faster and a lot cheaper because of e-commerce, then what’s going to happen to the underlying driving force of our sustainability problems- the demand and consumption of materials and natural resources?” queries Yang. “The answer is obvious.” As prices fall, demand and consumption will rise. This is elementary economics. And with accelerating consumption of natural resources, our sustainability just spirals downward that much faster.”
To deal with the issue, Yang recommends the need to “dematerialize,” meaning the “reduction of the consumption of materials, such as energy, water, land, forests, minerals, et cetera, in each unit of consumption.” “We need to accelerate dematerialization so that it catches up with growth,” Yang says. “Furthermore, once we (have dematerialized), we need to keep going at that kind of speed year after year. That’s our sustainability challenge.”
This may sound complex, but knowing what one is buying is already a good start towards greening e-commerce, since it can help turn “e-commerce become material-less, or at least very material-light.”
This awareness is influencing online shopping habits now, “with something as seemingly small as knowing where the items bought online are manufactured hopefully helping in preserving what they have left there,” he says.
This, in turn, is where the hope of greening e-commerce lies, says Yang. “The only force powerful enough to solve the problems created by creativity would be creativity itself. Men create. Men create problems. Men must solve these problems. It’s that simple, and that tough.”

Saturday, March 1, 2008

blowing the whistle online...

Whistle blowing seems to present itself not only in our national politics but is also prevalent in the international scene and in the virtual world. A California court recently issued an order for, a website that allows the anonymous posting of government and corporate documents, to be taken off-line. The case was instituted by lawyers of a banking group regarding the posting of several hundred documents about the bank’s alleged off-shore activities. The court ordered Dynadot, the controller of the site’s domain name, to take it offline and to remove all traces from the server. The documents allegedly reveal the bank’s involvement in money laundering and tax evading activities. Wikileaks claim that such order was unconstitutional as they were forcibly censored. Even with the cutting off of Wikileaks, other similar sites are still available online in other countries, which pretty much are still accessible in the US in this global-virtual community.

With the anonymity feature of the website, people are free to post relevant and incriminating documents online without recourse to the poster. The threat and danger to the life and security of probable witnesses are obvious especially if the cases involve high-profile personalities i.e. high-ranking government officials. With the resources and power that they have, it would be easy to quash the voice of truth. They will find ways to ruin the credibility of the witness, even ruin his life. With this website, people who know something can post relevant documents online (leading to the truth) and at the same time, protect themselves from the possible retaliation of those involved.

However, a concomitant issue of the anonymous posting would be the integrity of the document. How can they verify that the contents of the documents posted on the website are genuine? What would regulate people from posting false documents in order to spur the people’s emotions on a certain issue? Plus, how will the right of the accused to cross examine the witness against him be protected? These are some of the points we have to consider should a similar issue come up in our national scene. How can the basic constitutional rights of the parties be protected in search for the truth?

Zoom Player - Simply the Best

As file extensions become more and more obscure due to the proliferation of "made in China" merchandise, DvD home players and even PC DVD players are finding it more difficult to read and even recognize the data in these Dibeedees. DVD home player owners have no choice but to buy the latest NEXTBase product but PC users can traverse the web to find that perfect media player that can play anything.

Common knowledge points to VLC as the king but in my online quest I have discovered that the
best free online media player that can play mkv, vob and other exotic file formats that Windows Mediaplayer and Realplayer do not support is not VLC but Zoom Player. Zoom Player plays anything and has a downloadable free version that puts Windows Media Player and Realplayer to shame. Zoom player has the most up to date codecs and looks much better skin wise than VLC.

Give it a try

Loading Vault - for the credit card less

The collapse of Demonoid and the castration of Zcult and DCPsearch has made it difficult for comic book downloaders to find scanned copies of their comics. Most of the illegal comic content has been placed on Rapidshare but without knowledge of the specific link corresponding to the file, credit card less downloaders will not be able to download anything as the search function of Rapidshare is disabled for the freeloaders.

However, Loading Vault solves the woes of the plastic impaired. Loading Vault is a free search engine that can peruse Rapidshare, Megaupload, Free4U and other file hosting sites. Tsk, tsk.

Illegal. Wrong. Or so the copyright holders say.

Underwater Cars - The answer to Kingtide?

Global warming is causing the polar ice caps to melt. High tide is becoming progressively higher all across the globe and high tide in some areas are so high that they have been renamed as "king tides". Roads and ports will be covered by rising water and rendered useless. Well, maybe not.

The Swiss have invented a car that runs on land and underwater.

It's called the "sQuba," and conjures up memories of James Bond's amphibious Lotus Esprit from "The Spy Who Loved Me."

The sQuba can plow through the water at a depth of 30 feet and has electrical motors to turn the underwater screw.

You'll have to break out the wetsuit, however.

The car has an open top, meaning that the two passengers are exposed to the elements.

Passengers will be able to keep breathing underwater through an integrated tank of compressed air similar to what is used in scuba diving.

The sQuba's top speed on land is about 77 mph, but it slows down to 3 mph on the surface of the water, and 1.8 mph underwater.

Working with engineering specialists, Rinspeed removed the combustion engine from a sports car and replaced it with several electrical motors. Three are located in the rear — er, aft — with one providing propulsion on land and the other two driving the screw for underwater driving.

The company calls the sQuba the first real submersible car. Unlike military amphibious vehicles, which can only drive slowly on a lakebed, the sQuba travels like a submarine — either on the surface or submerged.

The interior is resistant to salt water, allowing the skipper to drive into a lake or the sea.

Will this technology allow man to disregard the coming of the "king tide" and carry on? Only time will tell.

Moderate Your Greed

Corruption, no matter how small, is still corruption.

There is no such thing as moderated corruption. Either you are corrupt or you are not. Either you accept bribes or you don’t.

Fundamentalists, extremists, moralists and utopians would say that at no level can corruption ever be acceptable. Alas, man has made it necessary, even practical. Or is it?

Does the bible say, “Thou shall not steal in an unacceptable level”? It does not.

Moderate corruption merely translates as an expedient excuse for the crooks and the crocs to betray the public trust where the true nature behind the matter is the varying tolerance of greed depending on who is to be accommodated in the hierarchy. For instance, a small boy is supposed to nibble, while the “big boy” is expected to glut over the pie on the table.

The system is tailor-made to suit traditional politicians.

Moderate greed is acceptable only if we want a country that is fundamentally disordered.

Every single centavo from people’s taxes should be accounted for not for the benefit of any avaricious individual but for the benefit of the greater masses.

We, the people, should demand a culture in our government that will not tolerate any graft. Otherwise, history will repeat itself.

We, the people, should likewise get rid of the culture of patriarchal mendicancy in our society. Lest we want our trapos to recoup the money they spent from taxes better spent for public service and social services.

We don’t need another EDSA revolution. What we need is a cultural revolution.

A small spark can create a conflagration. Let’s fight corruption. If this is Lozada’s call then I’m with him. If not, then this whole ZTE-NBN affair is merely a sham- a noon-time soap to entertain us all.

Enough is enough. GMA resign!

Obsolescence = Electronic Waste?

How many times have you changed your computer? Was there a real need for you to upgrade? Do you really use your computer to its full potential? Is it possible that the things you do with your present computer can also be done with your old one? Well, it is possible those computers nowadays are more powerful and can support more programs. For instance, graphic intensive work would need higher computers specs. However, it is likely that some computers are rendered obsolete due to new operating systems. Some computers that are capable of supporting Windows XP cannot support Windows Vista. This development can lead to the obsolescence of computers that are incapable of supporting Vista. In an article Greenpeace expressed its concern that companies may feel the need to upgrade which would result to massive electronic waste that must be disposed of. Greenpeace maintains that the useful life of computer equipment should be prolonged as much as possible. Manufacturers should also design their products in such a way that it can easily be upgraded, disassembled and recycled.

This is a valid concern. Most of the time you can see stacks of obsolete computers that are left to gather dust. It may be argued that parts that can still be used are salvaged and the rest could be sold to waste markets so that it can be recycled. However, it would be better if almost all of the part of the computer can be upgraded or it can be disassembled in order to meet the current specs. It would surely help in minimizing our electronic waste.


technology gap; Abalos' achilles' heel

The rapid development of technology played its part in thwarting the corrupt deal involving ZTE and the proposed NTN.

Assuming that Lozada is telling the truth. Abalos may have managed to moderate his own greed if he had a working knowledge of the technology they were buying.

Abalos was allegedly asking for more than a hundred million dollars in kickbacks from a project involving a network. With all the advancements in technology, things have gotten quite cheap. His request was just way too large according to Lozada that it will be too obvious. Had he been more familiar with recent trends in related technologies, he may have gotten away with another bucketload of greenbacks. But he didn't. His ignorance in the subject matter did him in.