Monday, September 29, 2008

Teh Wurld of Lolz

While browsing the big bad world of the interwebs one day, I encountered the early manifestation of a strange internet phenomenon. I was checking out a tv show thread and I saw a post that was severely butchered grammatically which made it quite indecipherable (to me at least). At first I thought that the poster was just typing in haste hence the mangled statements. When I saw him post in the same manner in another thread, my next thought was that English may not be his first language and if he did speak English, he might not be the sharpest tool in the shed. I just did not think that the poster was doing it deliberately. Because if he did, wtf is wrong with him?!

That was a year ago.

Now, lolspeak is everywhere. For the uninformed, lolspeak is somewhat similar to textspeak. It is writing words with different letters (but sound the same) than the original spelling or it can be misspelling on purpose. Lolspeak now basically includes any form of typed text language that is not in proper English (usually in reference to cute cat pictures because it originated as the captions for images of teh kitteh). A fairly easy sample of lolspeak which I will proceed to translate later goes like this: “teh lolspeek iz fun. i wud liek any tipz on improovin mah language. i can has ice scream?” In English: “The lolspeak is fun. I would like any tips on improving my language. Can I have ice cream?” It’s like gay lingo for the internet junkies.

What started as a style of typing for people who often couldn't spell words properly, it has now turned into a "cool" method of social communication between humans. (Well, at least some humans seem to think so.) Several acronyms and misspelled words later, lolspeak has slowly overtaken not just everyday speech but also the written word of God. Seriously, some lolspeak aficionado is trying to translate the Bible in LOLcat. I kid you not! I hope the Pope never gets wind of this development. There’s only so much LOLs he can take.

Who Has Got IT Covered? (The Obama and McCain ICT Agenda)

(Last of Three Parts)


Part 1:

Part 2:


IT Goes With the Territory

Information Technology Industry Council (ITIC), a technology industry lobby, relays that both candidates acknowledge the effect of technology to innovation and economic growth. The same group notes McCain’s posting of a 90 percent rating over 10 years of voting on technology issues, and Obama’s participation in six key technology votes during his brief Senate tenure and five-time pro-technology votes.[1]

Another major commonality between both candidates is their acknowledgement of the need to court the Communications Sector. A Center for Responsive Politics analysis of Federal Election Commission data released on 02 June 2008 reveals $10.3 million dollars of contributions made to Obama’s campaign from the communications sector during the 2008 election cycle. McCain, on the other hand, was said to have raised $2.4 million from the sector. Both camps were also reported to have already met with technology and media executives.[2]

Both parties’ Technology Agenda, too, actually revolve around common points. After scrutiny, one would think that there are clear-cut solutions to current technological concerns, as they are contained in both presidential platforms though differently stated. That is, without taking into consideration that one agenda came out eight months later than the other.

· Obama’s “Comprehensive Technology Agenda” (CTA)

The salient points of Obama’s plans could be categorized under three objectives:

.Advancement of ICT Rights – includes network neutrality, diversity of media ownership, the right to privacy and freedom of expression (subject to appropriate parental control for minors), and transparency

.Revolutionizing ICT – includes the appointment of a Chief Technological Officer (CTO) and the deployment of the next-generation broadband

.Improvement of the Usage of the Internet as a Tool – includes addressing the country’s most pressing problems (i.e., health care energy, education) through the use of ICT, investment in sciences, tax credits on research and development, comprehensive immigration reform, promotion of American business abroad, ensured competition in the market, protection of intellectual property rights, and reformation of patents laws.

Much has been said by a number of critics that Obama’s CTA may find difficulty in application. What's evident, though, is that it is a written recognition of the importance of ICT both as a means and as an end in any modern society.

Obama prioritizes the advancement of the rights of all stakeholders to maximize the benefits and development of ICT. Maybe one of the most liberal technological platforms ever put forward, the Democrat categorically promises network neutrality, a concept sometimes referred to as the “First Amendment of the Internet”, [3] which he couples with programs anchored on long-standing ideals that America is known for -- free competition, freedom of expression (with a concomitant regulation in cases of minors), and the right to public information -- limiting but not discounting, the Government’s role to the appointment of a technology czar and the putting up of a next-generation broadband.

Simultaneously, Obama aims to utilize this next-generation technology to address other government priorities. When asked on The View by Ms. Barbara Walters of the three first things he would do if he gets elected, Obama replied that aside from sending the troops home, he would focus on health care, energy, and education. The inclusion of these priorities in his CTA, together with his other policies on immigration, businesses, and intellectual property laws, ties up his technological agenda with the rest of his plans, and shows among other things, the cohesiveness and well-thought out integration of technology in his general platform.

Specific concerns are raised, however, as to certain assumptions and implications that this CTA puts forth.

The program on transparency[4] seems to imply the readiness of Washington to open up matters to a huge constituency, and a categorical declaration of abandoning the “secretive” acts of the Bush Administration, identified to be “one of the most secretive, closed administrations in American history.” Still, the level of transparency spoken of here would have to be further defined, taking into consideration that opening up decision-making on federal matters would somehow delay certain government process. Too many cooks might just spoil the broth as well.

Also, the aim to preserve freedom of expression subject to parental control in cases of minors, presupposes that all American families have a strong support system, something that the whole world knows to be not precisely true.

· McCain’s Technology Agenda (TA)

True to Powell’s words, McCain’s agenda is a typical Republican market-oriented approach. If main points were to be abstracted from McCain’s plans, there would be six definite programs to note:

. Encourage and promote favorable conditions for investments in innovation;

. Skilled and ready workforce for the technological revolution;

. Promotion of free and open competition through internet use;

. Protection of investors’ IPR;

. Freedom from government regulation; and

. Modern computer infrastructure.

To McCain, technology is an integral sector of the free market and should abide to all the ideals of free competition, subject to very minimal government regulation. If McCain’s platform could be summed up in a statement, it would be that a sector of the society, such as ICT, will function well if left to be governed to market forces, and will eventually benefit the society as a whole in the long run.

A perfect embodiment of Republican ideals in McCain’s TA is the “People Connect Program” under the Modern Computer Infrastructure Plan. It rewards companies offering high-speed Internet access services to low income customers by allowing these companies to offset their tax liability for the cost of this service. The program incorporates the tax-cut scheme, private sector participation, and public benefit principles usually associated with Republicans.

A closer and just-on-the-text reading that reveals very similar points between McCain’s and Obama’s agenda, coupled with McCain’s public admission that he is no tech savvy, led many to conclude that McCain’s rejoinder is just a rehashed Obama CTA.

It could not be helped to agree with many critics, though, that what seems rather odd is despite McCain’s statement that society is about to welcome a time of technology revolution, his platform does not show as much zest. That while he has worked with the technology sector as a politician for quite a time, his platform does not reveal any tinge of expertise derived from such years.

But giving more credit to McCain who has had a long history with the Senate Committee on Technology as well as to McCain’s adviser and former Federal Communications Chairman Michael Powell, who supposedly drafted the TA, would lead to the perhaps better conclusion that similarities in both technology agenda show the more important programs that require immediate attention. After all, Powell was quick to point out that many of Obama’s technological issues “aren’t ‘President of the United States’ issues.” [5]

Is IT in the Bag?

With the release of McCain’s Technology Agenda, many say that information and communications technology is definitely, and finally, in the bag. Americans and the rest of the world, in this age of free and unbounded trade, are about to expect major changes in terms of policies on technology in the next years, granting these plans find their way to actuality, whether it be Obama or McCain.

If it be McCain, it is hoped that his actions and future policies speak better than his plans. If it be Obama, may he be true to his promises and may the universe conspire to make all his grand plans happen.

After all, as many have pointed out, this much attention from the government has been long overdue the technology sector. I just could not help but agree.

(for the week 28 September to 04 October 2008)

[2] ibid


[4] Includes among others, making government data available online, opening up government decision-making, and conduct of significant government business in public

Sunday, September 28, 2008

US economic crisis

Last 25 september 2008, JP Morgan Chase formally announceed that it has aquired all assets and liabilities of Washington Mutual Bank (WMB). MWB was previously declared insolvent and its assets were subsequently auctioneed for sale. Being one of the biggest and most stable banking companies in the US, JP Morgan Chase bought the banking portfolio of WM for $1.9Billion.

Immediately after the announcement, the website of WM was changed to reflect the aquisition by JP Morgan Chase. Clients of WM were immediately informed of the consequences of the bank aquisition and advised not to panic.

The WM website timely posted on the internet the guidelines on how to access WM bank accoounts and ensure their clients that all deposits shall be backed up by the fiancial strength of JP Morgan.

Imagine if the internet was not yet developed. Imagine what an event like this could cause in the finacial transactions of bank clients. If this happened in the Philippines, I'm almost sure that a major bank run would happen immediately the day after the aquisition.

Thanks to the internet, the banking institutions in the US can effectively inform and assure their clients that their money is safe and sufficiently insured.

Remote Presence (Not of the Ghostly Kind)

Communication technology has gone a long way from the rotary dial telephone my grandparents owned when I was a kid.  The rotary dial was later on replaced by the touch dial and then evolved to the cordless phone.  Then came the big and bulky cellular phones which, after a huge makeover, became the thin and tiny camera phone we can’t live without today.  And, of course, there’s videoconferencing.   Videoconferencing probably embodies the ultimate in communication technology – visual and vocal communication that is almost equivalent to physical presence (minus the warm hugs and sweet scent… wtf?). 

In the past videoconferencing was mainly utilized for business purposes.  Nowadays, however, the Internet has made it cheaper (some would consider free) and more accessible to the public so that the technology now serves personal communication purposes ranging from the innocent to the perverted.   Courts have likewise found use for videoconferencing.   In the Philippines, for example, presentation of a child witness in family courts can be done via videoconference.   This method was setup via a joint effort with the UNICEF having in mind the welfare of the child witness.  Allowing the child to testify from another room prevents him from being intimidated or influenced by anyone present in the courtroom and from being traumatized by the experience.  Australian courts, on the other hand, broadly use the technology and admit any kind of testimony and certain appearances rendered through it.  Certain courts in the state of Maine in the United States use videoconferencing to secure the presence of the accused during arraignment or other court appointed hearings.  The use of the technology purportedly reduces delays and transportation costs of the accused from the prison to the courthouse.  Perhaps our courts could adopt such similar procedures as well and expand the use of videoconferencing technology to give more meaning and effect to the constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy trial.  Indefinite delays because of the inability of the accused or the witness to appear in court due to physical impossibility (i.e. recuperating in the hospital or out of the country) will be prevented.  The long run savings would benefit the government coffers as well (although I doubt that given the present state of corruption in our country).   However, presence of the witness or the accused rendered through videoconferencing may face certain legal and practical criticisms.

Our laws give the accused the right to face the witnesses against him and to be present during arraignment.  The rules on evidence also provide that the witness should testify in open court.   Would videoconferencing violate these rules?  The courts may consider presence rendered through videoconference as a substantial compliance with the law as long as the purposes for which such rights exist are served.  Basically, the presence of the accused in the courtroom is required to make sure he is informed of the charges against him so that he can, in turn, answer these charges and react to statements made against him promptly.  The witness’ presence is required so that he can be cross-examined by the opposing party and observed by the judge to determine whether he is telling the truth or not.  Clear and uninterrupted communication through videoconferencing would preserve these purposes.

On the practical side, some may view the installation of videoconferencing equipment in every court as superfluous.  Is it really necessary to install them now when most of our citizens can’t even afford to go to court?  Some might consider the money better spent on projects that provide indigents with better access to the courts and better legal assistance.  It is perhaps difficult to weigh which is more important between the two constitutionally guaranteed right to speedy trial and right to access to the courts.  However, should there really be a choice?  Is it not possible to fund both?  I will do the math.  Actual tax collected minus other expenditures minus money allotted to keep politicians in the lap of luxury equals negative balance for installation of videoconferencing equipment in courts.   Oh crap!  It really is not feasible.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fussing Over FOSS?

Since I entered Law School, admitting that I do not know some things (many things, rather) became as easy as ABC. This next admission shall be no exception.

It was not until Mr. Patrick Reidenbach gave a lecture on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) last September 5 that I heard of the concept.

Wikipedia defines FOSS as software which is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code[1]. Simply put, the source code is available for everyone’s access, subject to certain duties and responsibilities.[2]


For a UP Shopping Center frequenter, Open Office is not a novel program. For someone who spends hours watching youtube videos and downloading mp3s, Mozilla and Limewire are just the best deals in town.

Still, I was not aware how these kinds of software, or FOSS, were in any way different (aside from the fact that their not from Microsoft), as well as how they were conceptualized and are being continually developed. And why, despite the presence of overwhelmingly convincing reasons, there is still a need to explain, and even defend, the preference of their usage over closed-system applications (i.e. Microsoft).


In a time when value and usefulness of a thing are defined by the price tag attached to it, it is hard to trust any software that Bill Gates (or his empire) did not manufacture; much so, if these could be availed for “free.”

There’s no such thing as a free lunch, as they say.

This still holds true in the case of FOSS. Mr. Reidenbach was quick to say that “free” pertains to the freedom that goes with the usage of the software and not to their amount or pecuniary value.

Subject to such freedom of use, the software is open to further development of the software in less time. Users are encouraged to report bugs [3] to the administrator of the website where the source code was made available to the public, or to debug [4] the application.

This is exactly why technology-neutral advocates lobby for the availability of FOSS, which they believe to be also a solution for the problem of piracy in the country, for why would there still be a need to install pirated Microsoft office systems when there are free and open sources available online?


I may be admittedly amazed by with the concept of FOSS, but I could think of a number of reasons why it might be difficult for Filipinos to prefer it over closed systems applications.

Aside from the belief that everything comes at a price, it seems that not too many people know much about FOSS. When I was relating Mr. Reidenbach’s lecture to my brother, who’s more technology adept than I am, he said he only knew as much as I know. We agreed that more lobbying needs to be done to inform the public, who has been heavily reliant and trusting on Microsoft for the longest time.

People may also be apprehensive as to who shall be held accountable in the event the free and open software causes irreparable damage, when the Microsoft Terms of Agreement also exonerates the manufacturers from liability in the event the same damage happens.

Basically, possible hindrances could be based on public perception, which could be best combated by intensive information campaign. After all, the principle behind the use of FOSS does not require the use of advance technological knowledge on the part of the public who will hear these advocates out. As a matter of fact, it is best explained in plain language.


I just realized that the same principle behind my opposition to monopolies and oligarchies just escaped me when it came to technological matters.

As it has been proven in time, where services and products are left to the hands of a selected few, the quality of these products and services, as well as the satisfaction of their intended recipients, are reduced. Due to the absence of competitors, manufacturers and service providers become complacent and they lose the needed motivation to better their products and services. Add the fact that the prices and/or costs of these goods and services may be arbitrarily increased due to the lack of any other option available to the intended recipients.


Any software that is not free and open is akin to a monopoly or an oligarchy.

And it does not really take a genius to know what needs to be done about it.

(for the week 21 to 27 September 2008)

[1] A source code is any sequence of statements or declarations written in some human-readable computer programming language. It is in written in a programming language, which is usually a simplified form of the English language to reduce ambiguity. It allows the programmer to communicate with the computer using a reserved number of instructions. (

[2] These conditions include free redistribution, well-publicized means of obtaining the source code, allowed devising of the code, subject to the same conditions of the original license, integrity of the source code, absence of discrimination against any group or person or field of endeavor, license must also be distributed, must not attach to or restrict a specific product and must be technology-neutral. (

[3] In computer technology, a bug is a coding error in a computer program.

[4] The process of finding bugs before program users do is called debugging. Debugging starts after the code is first written and continues in successive stages as code is combined with other units of programming to form a software product, such as an operating system or an application After a product is released or during public beta testing, bugs are still apt to be discovered. When this occurs, users have to either find a way to avoid using the "buggy" code or get a patch from the originators of the code.

Hacktivism: Inspiring a New Revolution

In the heat of the US Presidential elections, more and more people are finding new ways to express their opinions regarding the candidates, and their staunch supporters. We have recently witnessed one of the more high profile ones in Palingate, when Republican Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin's personal email was hacked.

Now, they have gone a step further and hacked the website of Bill O'Reilly, a prominent political commentator. The attack trailed after the personality commented harshly on the Palin internet scandal. And it didn't target merely O'Reilly alone. Over 200 website members' passwords were leaked given away on the internet by the hacktivist.

The attack (On Palin) was supposedly facilitated by using Wikileaks (, where the leaked information from Palin's personal email was hosted.

O'Reilly in his commentary wondered why government officials aren't hopping into their cop cars and arresting the people behind the controversial site. He said "everybody knows where this stuff is, OK, and they know the people who run the Web site, so why can't they go there tonight to the guy's house who runs it, put him in cuffs and take him down and book him?"

The reason is that Wikileaks guarantees that its users enjoy the benefits of the site without having to worry about accountability. You leave no virtual footprints, making your online actions (guerilla-like though they may be) the perfect "crime". claims that it limits its protection to documents which purport to prove corruption, be they in the political, corporate, or religious scheme. The site encourages whistleblowers to post sensitive documents on their site, documents which, if shared with anyone anywhere else, would definitely land them in jail. Its developers call the process "ethical leaking".

Not ironically, the site was purportedly founded by a happy mix of political dissidents from China, and technologists from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. Patterned after Wikipedia, the site is powered by volunteers around the world who post the information and work hard to protect it from threats to shut it down. It ensures protection of the leakers by using highly technical coded software, provided by techies who are only too happy to help the cause.

Though the site's primary targets are highly media-oppressive, it welcomes documents from all over the world, for as long as they aim to expose corruption.

The fundamental policies for its operation is laudable indeed, no one can argue that "transparency in government activities leads to reduced corruption, better government, and stronger democracies". Technological advances allows an entire world of users who share in this information the benefit of discussing issues with an almost real-time dialogue and a sharing of important points of view, all while lowering the cost (politically and financially).

Its proponents argue that it is not only the citizens of a particular government who is responsible for ensuring a government's honesty, such duty also belongs to the people of other countries who are watching that government.

However, those against it are quick to bring up the dangers of such a site as well. For instance, if a nation's defense plans could be dispersed by nothing more than an email on the pretext that they are corrupt in nature, other hostile nations could very well take advantage. Then it would create the very chaos that the website seeks to prevent. When you think about it, the important ethical decisions of what to post and when to post it are left to the discretion of the site's creators. For another, because of the "secret" nature of the leaked documents, how are the creators sure that the documents they are posting haven't been doctored or manufactured to create instability?

For now, the only assurance that Wikileaks can provide against these possible threats are that the documents are subject to review and revision by a world of users. But that is not necessarily reassuring. However, the site claims that in all of the over 1.2 million documents leaked, there has never, as far as they are aware, been a mistake.

For now, all we have to bank on is that the individuals who submit the documents and the individuals who assess their value and post them have high moral standards and apply the same of their own free will. Or at the very least, that there are more good people out there than bad, who will undo any wrongdoing before any untoward damage is caused.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Technologically Stressed

X went to the store to buy pancit. He did this because he felt sharp needles in his stomach area. After eating the pancit, X still felt the sharp needles. He wonders aloud why his stomach still hurts. His housemate, Z, told him that even stress, not just skipping meals, can be a reason for ulcer, thus the stomach pains. And then X felt the stab of the needles even more.
X thinks that he should consult via Osaka Iridology, a technology which intimates your past, present and future sickness, mild or strong, or medium.
X goes to Osaka Laboratories. On his way, he thinks he should start his studying marathon for the nearing finals week. He brings his mp3 player with him which features all the Audio Codals the UP LSG had been promoting as fundraising for the Bar Operations.
He is now in the MRT Cubao station. He hears an ominous male voice reciting Section 42 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court – “So, also, statements accompanying an equivocal act material to the issue, and giving it a legal significance, may be received as part of the res gestae.”
What are equivocal acts again? Damn! X feels another part of his stomach area stabbed by needles.
When X was in the MRT Ortigas station, X checks his cellphone. 1 message received. He reads, “Hi X, I’ve finished making my share of the mini-digests for Hearsay until Weight and Sufficiency of Evidence. Sent them to your email, 56 all. When are you sending yours?” X finished making 20 mini-digests. Finals will be 10 days later. He feels more needles.
Arriving at Osaka Laboratories, X meets Kiyosaki. Kisyosaki tells X that he has ulcer.
X: But I eat my meals on time!
Kiyosaki: Too much stress can cause ulcer, too.
X: You sound like my housemate.
Kiyosaki: Your housemate is right. Learn to control your stress levels. Learn to control yourself. We control our brain. Our brain controls our emotions. If you notice, our moods are dependent on our ideas.
X: You have an advanced technology for detecting diseases even at an early stage. I unwarrantedly get stressed all the time, even for the simple thing of listening to my mp3 player!
Kiyosaki: Hmmm… Osaka Laboratories does not have the technology to dictate your feelings. It cannot dictate you at all. It can only assess you as you are right now, “sick” or not.
X: You mean that in spite of the advanced state of technology, man remains an autonomous, individual being?
Kiyosaki: Yes :D Technology is morally neutral. It is man’s use that determines its course, left or right.
X: Okay, thank you Mr. Kiyosaki. I’m signing up for the Breathing Sessions later at Edsa Shang.
Kiyosaki: Take care :D

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Stereotyping of computer geeks in movies

As computers are more and more used in virtually all aspects of society, it has become common in Hollywood movies for the story to involve facet wherein a computer system has to be accessed, hacked or used. For some strange reason, Hollywood has developed a formula to present a computer-related situation in a movie: there is a computer geek to solve the problem. This formula has evolved into one of the squarest stereotyping in movie characters. Here are the common stereotypes about computer geeks in movies I noticed:

First, the geek is always a skinny white dude in his early 20’s. He is always a supporting character (note: "He" not "She"). Except in the Matrix, never has there been a main protagonist good in computers (maybe computer geeks are less sexually attractive so they remove any computer skill from the main character and replace that with rock-hard abs). He usually has the aura of a not-so-tidy person who can’t macholy defend himself like the main character. His hair is usually untidy (crowning glory of geekiness) and he is not a good public speaker. He never has a girlfriend (he’s the one who looks away when the main character kisses the girl in the end).

Second, the geek can hack into any system without explanation. Movies nowadays become more realistic and detailed when it comes to explaining military or scientific concepts; gone are the days when Godzilla suddenly grows into a vicious monster without reason. Nowadays, the weapons, technology and historic trivia used are based on real “cool” facts. There is always a scene where experts from NASA or CIA explain to the President of the United States the seemingly realistic reason how the situation came to be. This is true for all parts of the movie except computing. When a geek hacks into a system, it is not explained how he hacks it. Just a series of computer animations showing how numbers flip and fly across the geek’s laptop is shown. Furthermore, the geek can hack into any system, whether it be an average person’s computer or a Government database. By the way, they always do the hacking in less than five minutes.

Third, there is no distinction which field of computing the geek is adept in. He just can do anything. He can change database records, hack surveillance cameras and intercept phone calls. In reality, all these disciplines require very different skills. In movies, the geek’s talents and resources are unlimited. You never see a geek have a hard time hacking. By the way, the geek’s laptop always has internet access even if he is miles away from a wifi zone.

I can go on and on, you get the picture. Computer geeks are stereotyped in movies. I doubt that I will live to see the day that Arnold Schwarzenegger or Nicole Kidman save the world through computing. The world will always be saved through a daring cowboy plan in which somewhere along the story all goes wrong. Although computer use is essential in every story line, it is never glorified and always conveniently packaged with a geek.

Is this a problem? Not at all. It is way cooler to see Rambo shaving heads off bodies using his machine gun and impenetrable chest or see Lara Croft acrobat her half-naked body through a jungle than to see a geek save the world through a click of a button.

Witnessing History from Half the World Away

My farewell to the House that Ruth Built.

Six thousand, five hundred and eighty down, one to go.

Sunday night baseball in the Bronx, New York marks the end of one of the most iconic and beloved sporting venues in the whole world. The Yankee Stadium, home of the most successful sports franchise in the world, will host its penultimate baseball game before meeting its fate courtesy of a wrecking ball.

I was in high school when I started watching baseball through ESPN on cable. A few playoff games later, I was hooked. I became an avid fan, not only of the Yankees but the game itself. It was a dream of mine to actually watch a game at the Stadium. Having watched countless Yankee games on tv, I have become accustomed to its facade and lay-out – from the white frieze to the short right field porch – and there really is no other one like it.

From 1923 when it was first opened to the public, 6,580 games have since been played in the House that Ruth built. George Herman “Babe” Ruth’s first homerun, Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series, Lou Gehrig's moving farewell speech in 1939, Roger Maris's towering 61st home run in 1961, Charlie Hayes’ catch for the final out to win the 1996 World Series – are just some of the great moments all witnessed at Yankee Stadium. (The much earlier footage I’ve been able to watch after browsing through the archives of

Moving to a bigger and dare I say better stadium next year may be inevitable at this point. It just saddens me that the last game to be played is between a 3rd place home team against the last placed Baltimore Orioles. This was not how it’s supposed to end for the great stadium. The last game it should have hosted won’t have happened until mid-October, or until the clinching game of the World Series (preferably by the Yankees) whichever is nearer. But a year of freak injuries and underperformance later, such a victorious send-off is nothing but a pipe dream.

No matter, tomorrow morning is an important piece of Baseball and Yankee history that I eagerly await as I write this post. I may not have cable access in my boarding house, but at least I have a wi-fi enabled notebook. Thank God for my neighbor’s broadband!

The Misadventures of the Palin Hacker

I gotta say, if I’m going to do some shady business in the net, I would never hang around a message board to boast about it without taking measures to ensure virtual anonymity.

Not so for the boy genius who is claiming to be the hacker who obtained access to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's private Yahoo e-mail last week. He has posted a supposed first-person account of the hack, revealing the relatively simple steps he says he took to crack the private e-mail of the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

As detailed in his posts at the 4chan forum, the Palin hack didn't require any real skill. Instead, the hacker simply reset Palin's password using her birthdate, ZIP code and information about where she met her spouse -- the security question on her Yahoo account, which was answered (Wasilla High) by a simple Google search.

The simplicity of the attack, of course, makes it no less illegal.

Once the hacker had read the e-mails in Palin's account, he said he suddenly realized what he'd done and how vulnerable he was to being caught, since he'd used only a single proxy service to hide his IP address.

The hacker said that he read all of the e-mails in the Palin account and found "nothing incriminating, nothing that would derail her campaign as I had hoped. All I saw was personal stuff, some clerical stuff from when she was governor…. and pictures of her family. Yes I was behind a proxy, only one, if this shit ever got to the FBI I was f*cked."

F*cked indeed. Bloggers of the forum were able to connect his handle to an e-mail address, and tentatively identified the owner as a college student whose father is a Democratic state representative in Tennessee. What’s this, a democrat spawn looking for dirt on Palin? Hmmmm... I sense a conspiracy in the offing.

Pity the boy who thought he could do such a blatantly wrong and illegal act and get away with it scot-free. I can only imagine the raging furor this fiasco would have caused if he unearthed some potentially career-ending information on the Alaskan Governor. I’m betting this hacker wannabe thought of cracking Palin’s e-mail but seriously doubted he could do it. So when he easily got through, he was so proud of himself that he wanted the whole world to know that he did the coolest thing ever! Sadly, such an illegal act is without repercussion to him and maybe his father to a certain extent. This whole snafu just goes to show that one must avoid to do illegal things and if it can’t be avoided, keep the damn thing to yourself.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

“A society swamped with comment” need not be decadent

Many column writers and staunch activists bewail the apathy that engulfs us, youth. They say we don’t go to the streets anymore. We don’t care. When Horta visited, we did not ask a question. When Lozada came, we did not troop.

Yet we say, we may not be out there but we do our share. We express our indignation elsewhere.

News says that Philippines next to South Korea had the highest incidence of blog reading among Internet users at 90.3 percent. And about 65.8 percent of Filipino internet users write blogs.

What may not be visible on the streets can be glaringly evident on the Internet. Consider the amount of information that is generated by us, bloggers. While it is true that we blog mostly about ourselves, blogging can not be considered entirely an activity but is in itself an accomplishment. We may be talking about fashion, relationships, and gadgets, but we know of issues that beset our nation. We are full aware of the foul stench of graft and corruption.

Thus we remind you not to underestimate the power of youth armed with technology. Technology was once catalytic in toppling the Estrada administration. And until we declare our indignation come election time, we wait for leaders who are worthy of our following. And while we do, we spend some blogging time.


Spirituality in the Age of Technology

When I was a kid, I used to skip Sunday mass just to watch my favorite Chinese martial arts movies on TV. And when caught which always was the case, I would be severely chastised by religious elders in the family.

I remember my grandmother listening to Sunday mass through the radio when she got sick. Until now daily broadsheets contain passages of the Bible with commentary. These days I have received and read biblical quotes being forwarded through text messaging. I have also had my share of email messages usually in Powerpoint presentations reminding recipients about the Bible. There are also some blogs which proselytize. And today, Father Reyes launches his, which makes available the Sunday homily through a pre-taped podcast and guarantees that confessions can be made and absolutions can be obtained.

I grew up in a religious family and community. But getting older helps me gradually define and constantly redefine my spiritual being. And perhaps getting into UP gave me opportunities like getting atheist professors, having Muslim friends and INC orgmates among others. Add to these the advent of the technological advancements abovementioned.

I can only welcome these developments not because I would rather watch my favorite series of legal dramas on Sundays but because they make easier finding one’s own spirituality and not adhering or focusing too much on religiosity. Very true indeed to its nature as a postmodern phenomenon, technology i.e. the Internet offers various ways and the fields it engulfs does not excludespirituality.

Beware of the Bad Pitt

I had a nasty encounter with malware a couple of years ago. The fraking thing practically wiped out all the MS word documents in my hard drive by converting them to .exe files. If I remember correctly, it was a case of over-clicking that triggered such onslaught of bad mojo in my pc. I happened to click an unnamed folder in my flash drive (after scanning for viruses, worms and other types of malware of course) and then voila! Worm unleashed. As it was, the worm that infected my hard drive was a fairly new one which explains why it went undetected by my anti-virus application. The damage was significant enough to cause me to reformat my system.

It was quite an irksome and tedious experience I must say. But at least that was the extent of the havoc such malware caused me. There are innumerable types and species of harmful software in the wonderful world that is the internet. Malware generally encompasses any malicious code, including viruses, worms, spyware and Trojans, which are often silently installed on users’ PCs unbeknownst to them. Reasons for planting malware range from promoting a spam product to more insidious objectives such as stealing passwords or financial and personally identifying information. Its effects vary from mild annoyance to downright despair.

Lately, authors of malware have expanded their venue for distribution of such from the usual e-mail and IM services to the more novel idea of planting them with celebrity lures. The big draw for this method is the obvious volume of searches mega celebrities incur within a day. I for one, search a certain baseball player’s name for news at several points of the day. One can only imagine the sheer number of searches Angelina Jolie, Will Smith, Scientoloman Tom Cruise, and other superstars accrue for a single day - millions, easily.

According to the latest findings of McAfee researchers, none other than Mr. Brad Pitt (other half of the Brangelina franchise) has bumped Paris Hilton off the top of the list as the most dangerous celebrity to search for on the Web. The report notes that fans surfing the Web for “Brad Pitt,” “Brad Pitt downloads,” and Brad Pitt wallpaper for items like screen savers and images have an 18 percent chance of becoming infected with online security threats such as spyware, spam, phishing, adware and viruses.

Imagine that. Good thing I’m not a Brad Pitt fangirl then.

The BSA Manhunt

I was riding the MRT the other day when I noticed the Business Software Alliance poster offering a bounty as high as P1 Million pesos for anyone who would be brave/stupid enough to narc on one’s employer for using pirated software on company network systems. What an ingenuous approach, I thought. Any regular schmo could not care less whether his office has genuine software installed in his/her computer as long as it’s running fine. But for 1 million pesos, why the hell not, right? The juicy prospect of earning money with the added bonus of sticking it to your dictatorial boss and your uber-stingy company does make one sit up and take notice, most especially any one of those disgruntled employees who ride the MRT every day.

It made me wonder though, if the BSA is willing to fork out a considerable amount of money just to encourage people to rat out their employers, does it mean that they actually think that they stand to gain a significant amount as a net effect of this plan of theirs? The answer would seem to be in the affirmative. From their perspective, the substantial loss of income would be enough justification to conduct this type of campaign to deter companies from using those dastardly pirated software. The reward money is chump change considering the king’s ransom they would demand from companies for the installation of genuine ones.

It’s not the BSA’s problem if some of these companies cannot afford to have their entire system outfitted with the genuine stuff. So what if most companies are in a vulnerable financial position at this point in time? When small businesses like internet cafes have their equipment confiscated and left to rot in a storage facility somewhere effectively paralyzing the business and causing its eventual demise thereafter – not the BSA’s fault. And if companies get fined a bankruptcy inducing amount for their infraction, well BSA should not be blamed either.

After all, the companies reported did violate the law. It serves them right to be fined and punished. These are not some lowly person’s rights being trampled upon here. We’re talking about the rights of the software companies – the big guns. It’s not as if there are more important rights being violated that need more immediate and effective attention from our government. It’s not like we’re a 3rd world country with more pressing issues than upholding the precious property rights of copyright and patent owners.

If I have to offer my two cents though, I believe that if BSA’s actions are truly dedicated to inhibiting piracy, then it should instead promote the use of FOSS in the Philippines. In countries like ours (economy cellar dwellers), FOSS represents an ethical approach to software use that supports IP laws. Greater FOSS adoption means the piracy index of the Philippines will go down. In sum, go FOSS!

Over a Decade of Text Messaging

Maybe very few among us recall the very first local advertisement on short message sending (SMS) in the late 90s.

With a soft and melodramatic instrumental music on the background, two young urban professionals, a male and a female, were exchanging SMS via their unordinary (read: not analog) mobile phones. Seconds later, they meet and communicate through sign language.

Originally designed for the speech- and hearing-impaired,[1] SMS used to be a free service offered by Globe to its post-paid subscribers. Though SMS usage picked up late worldwide, Filipinos became addicted to texting not too long after this first local advertisement came out. For a time, mobile unit ownership became a status symbol in Philippine society and text messaging was a hobby associated with the ABC crowd. But with the flooding of mobile unit models that seem to come out every six months, exchanging text messages became available for all social classes, to the point that some consider a cellphone as a basic commodity among Filipino families by the turn of the millennium. It was subjected to government regulation due to the pervasive effects of its increased usage. In the latest State of the Nation Address, it was even made as a development indicator and/or government program by the President.

At present, many mobile phone features have cropped up, but SMS remains to be the most commonly used, and maybe the most important and controversial, of them. For a number of times, text messaging made it to the headlines of modern history:

  • In 2001, the “GO TO EDSA” text message eventually led to the toppling of a President of the Texting Capital of the World;[2]
  • In 2002, Hitotsubashi University in Japan failed 26 students for receiving exam answers on their cell phones, while in Taiwan, questions from students taking a university admissions exam were caught being sent to a man, who wanted to use the questions to start a school to train students for the test;[3]
  • In 2003, telecom company Telekom South Africa allowed the world to greet Nelson Mandela, the most admired and inspiring political leader, on his birthday, through text messaging, proceeds of which went to Mr. Mandela’s foundation for children’s rights;[4]
  • In 2004, the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium branded text messaging as an addictive habit and this study was later confirmed by the Queensland University in Australia, which described the habit as "the equivalent in addictiveness to cigarette smoking.";[5]
  • In 2005, students were disqualified from exams in England for malpractice (i.e., cheating) involving mobile phones;[6]
  • In 2006, Finland Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (dubbed as Finland’s Sexiest Man) allegedly broke up with his girlfriend with the infamous “IT’S OVER” text message;[7]
  • In 2007, the first text message only book (“The Last Messages”) was published by a Finnish author, telling the story of a fictitious information-technology executive in Finland who resigns from his job and travels throughout Europe and India, keeping in touch with his friends and relatives only through text messages.;[8] and
  • In early 2008, text messaging played a primary role in the implication of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in an SMS sex scandal[9] and in forcing New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to resign for being involved in a prostitution ring, after being identified as “Client No. 9” of a prostitute identified to be “Kristen”.[10]

More than ten years after its commercial and international launch, text messaging continues to change society, both positively and negatively.

The RAC Foundation’s study reveals that despite the fact that a motorist who is texting is significantly more impaired than a motorist at the legal limit for alcohol, 48% of 18 to 24-year-olds admitted to texting while driving.[11] In the Philippines, the latest government data shows similar results -- more road accidents are caused by texting while driving than those caused by being drunk while driving. As a knee-jerk reaction (and hopefully, they go beyond that), Congress announced that it shall be passing legislation to curb this occurence.

In England, parents wished to be updated by school administrators about their children’s progress through text.[12] It is worthy to note that in the Philippines, the Ateneo de Manila Grade School and High School Departments have been texting school announcements and updates to subscribed parents and guardians since the start of this school year.

Like any other device, text messaging is a neutral tool, which could either be utilized to improve life or to contribute to its demise. How text messaging will further change the society in the future is really dependent now on how people will make use of it.

(for the week 14 to 20 September 2008)



[2] Burton, Sandra. “People Power Redux” (

[3] “Students dial up trouble in new twist to cheating” (


[5] Bogert, John. “Txt msg slang slipping into English” (

[6] Exams ban for mobile phone users (

[7] Scuitto and Livingstone, “Text-Message Scandals Sink U.S. Politicians, Save European Ones?” : Finnish Foreign Minister's Approval Ratings Rise After Steamy Texts Released (

[8] Text message novel published in Finland: Story about traveling former IT executive staying in touch only through IMs (

[9] Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Christine Beatty In Sex SMS Scandal (

[10] “Call for Spitzer’s Resignation as Details Emerged” (

[11] “Text Driving ‘Worse than Drink’” (